The 8 Secrets of Dutch Kids, the Happiest Kids in the World

19 September 2013

According to Unicef’s most recent Child Well Being in Rich Countries survey, Dutch kids ranked as the happiest kids in the world. Dutch kids led the way in three out of the five categories, namely- material well being, educational well being, and behavior and risks.

happiest kids in the world

Unicef Germany isn’t the first research organization to come to this conclusion. Surveys conducted by Britain’s Child Poverty Action Group, the World Health Organization, and Unicef International have all reached unanimous conclusions as to the happy state of Dutch children.

Why exactly are Dutch kids the happiest in the world? As a seasoned expat mom living in stereotypical Dutch suburbia, it isn’t too hard for me to indulge in 8 secrets as to why I think Dutch kids are the happiest kids in the world.


1. Their Dutch parents are among the happiest people in the world.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the happiest kids in the world also have parents who are also among the happiest people in the world. According to  United Nation’s first World Happiness Report just released last week, the Netherlands ranks fourth as the happiest nation on earth. Happiness, measured as an indicator for social progress, was taken quite seriously. It’s definitely a no brainer that in general, happy parents equal happy kids.


2.  Their Dutch moms are genuinely happy.

happiest kids in the world


Dutch psychologist and journalist Ellen de Bruin has written a book titled “Dutch Women Don’t Get Depressed” illustrating the phenomenon. According to Ellen de Bruin, “Personal choice is key: in the Netherlands people are free to choose their life partners, their religion, their sexuality, we are free to use soft drugs here, we can pretty much say anything we like. The Netherlands is a very free country.”

Unlike their American counterparts and the rest of women in the world, glamour, hospitality and charm do not rank high in a Dutch woman’s priority list. De Bruin makes several sweeping generalizations about Dutch women, namely that Dutch women don’t know how to dress (mainly due to choosing practicality when biking everywhere), will send someone away if they arrive unexpectedly during dinner time, and are quite bossy to their men.

Perhaps a main factor why Dutch women are so happy is that they’ve found the perfect work-life balance. Dutch mommies are leading the way with the largest share of women working part time of all OECD countries, with 68% of Dutch women working only part time, roughly 25 hours a week.

In journalist Lisa Belkin’s Huffington Post article “What Mothers Really Want: To Opt Inbetween (Infographic)“, an overwhelming majority of moms would actually like to work part-time as an ideal balance between home and work.  According to Belkin, Hulafrog’s survey of 2,127 U.S. women with children at home under the age of 18 concluded that 65 percent would work part-time, only 9 percent would work full-time and 26 percent would stay home.


3. Their Dutch Dads play a more equal role in child-rearing by also having part-time jobs and being more hands on.

happiest kids in the world

A New York Times article “Working (Part-Time) in the 21st Century” highlights the Dutch culture of part-time work. By 1996 the Dutch government gave part-time employees equal status to that of full timers, paving the way for a more balanced work-life reality for its citizens. Like their female counterparts, more and more Dutch dads are squeezing in a full-time job in just four days and dedicating one day a week with their kids. “Papa dag” (Daddy day) has become not only part of the Dutch vocabulary, but becoming more of a standard norm as one in three men are also opting for part-time work. Dutch dads take their parenting seriously, playing a more balanced role in parenting.


4. Dutch kids feel no pressure to excel in school and have very little stress. They have no homework or have very little and thus have plenty of time to play after school.

Dutch elementary students under the age of ten usually do not have any homework and are simply encouraged to enjoy learning.Upon completion of primary school at the age of 12, Dutch pupils take a multiple choice CITO test which determines their relative intelligence level and heavily influences what corresponding high school they could attend.

Thus, Dutch high school students also do not face the notorious pressure of taking the SATs or ACTs or ever attaining academic excellence. There is, for the most part, no formal competitive university application process.

This happy relaxed attitude towards school for Dutch kids really hits home for me. I can still vividly recall the external and internal pressure to get into the “right college” from the moment I stepped into my first Freshman class in high school. To think that my son can simply attend school just for the sake of learning rather than focusing on his actual academic performance boggles my mind.


5. They can eat chocolate sprinkles, or slices of chocolate with butter on their white bread for breakfast. Every single morning. No kidding.

happiest kids in the world

I was actually tickled when the United Nation’s assessed that the Dutch kids ate healthy breakfasts.
A traditional Dutch breakfast, whether you are a child or an adult, actually often consists of a piece of white bread, butter and chocolate sprinkles. Their Dutch lunch, which often includes a variation of a slice of bread with a piece of cheese, or a thin slice of ham, doesn’t seem to be too much healthier either.

On a serious note, Unicef concluded that Dutch children and teens reported eating breakfast with their family on a regular basis. In no other country do children have breakfast with their families as regularly as they do in the Netherlands. Not only is eating breakfast associated with better performance in school and decreased behavioral problems, but eating breakfast daily as a family creates opportune time for family bonding and fostering individual identity and growth.


6. They have a right to express their own opinions.

Dutch children are the type that are both seen AND heard. From the moment they can formulate an opinion, Dutch children are given a voice and Dutch parents intently listen.


7. They have Oma day!

If you ever find yourself at the playground on a weekday, chances are you’re also going to run into a Dutch Oma (grandmother) with her grandchildren. A lot of Dutch grandmothers take great pride in helping out their children, playing a pivotal role in their grandchildrens lives. By having regular, once a week childcare services from Oma, moms and dads can better attain their life-work balance. Having Oma around is great for a child’s self-esteem.


8. The Dutch government gives families money every month to help with expenses.

We all know that raising children can be very expensive. According to USDA,  a child born in 2012 to age 18 will cost parents approximately $241,080. That’s a whole lot of money.

Despite the looming economic crisis and various cuts in subsidies on this side of the pond, Dutch families will still continue to get money from the Dutch government. Specifically, Dutch families will continue to receive a child allowance,  a child benefit stipend (an income-dependent allowance for the cost of children), the combination discount (a fiscal break for combining work and caring for children) and the childcare allowance. I don’t know about you, but I’m not one to complain if I’m given money to raise my child.


Obviously, our current reality doesn’t fit the Dutch model for a stereotypical family setup. My husband is an entrepreneur with no option for working part-time and I am a stay-at-home mom. We are, however, also quite happy because we’re living the life that we want to live. Living in the Netherlands has afforded us the luxury to live this more traditional model. And despite how exhausting it is for me to be chasing around my precocious toddler son all day long, I thank God everyday for having the opportunity to do so. Here’s to finding happiness in Dutchland!


P.S. Like the photos that you see you? Than you’ll probably enjoy my Instagram or come connect with me with me at my Facebook page. We’re a friendly bunch. I promise.


P.P.S. Care to learn about another secret of Dutch kids? Check out Postpartum Care and What We Can Learn from the Dutch

  • Rosalind Van Aalen

    Hi just stumbled across your blog and loved this post, think Dutch children are much happier. One thing i would add is the freedom and safety to be outside and play also helps.
    Will be popping by more often

    • rinamae

      Hey Rosalind, Thanks so much for the compliment! I definitely agree that the overall freedom and relative safety is a major positive for children in the country. Thanks for reading my blog! Cheers, Rina Mae

      • Ruth Anne Mak

        Absolutely! Add less depression in moms and it does sound great.

    • Ruth Anne Mak

      Now that leads to much happiness right there! We can’t say that for many areas here in the US. That is really sad to have to say.

  • Daniela Sandoval

    Hi! I am Mexican married to a dutch guy and I just read this and totally loved it! So true… I also think that dutch kids are happy because they are independent at a really young age… Around 7-8 they start going to school by themselves by bike… Their lunch break from school is of one hour and a half so they can go back to their house and eat something, relax a little bit and go back to school to finish the day off…but what I’ve also seen here is that dutch kids tend not tohave rules in the house and always do whatever they want… My experience with kids that I know or just random kids at the IKEA or supermarket is that there is indeed lack of discipline which a think is not right but might make them happy… Nice weekend! Danny

    • Daniela Sandoval

      Which I think***

    • rinamae

      Hello Danny! Thanks for enjoying my blog! I have a particular soft spot for Mexican culture (I spent a summer in Cuernavaca as part of a summer school high school program). I also love the independence of the Dutch kids. In terms of the discipline issue, I can totally understand how it can be quite different, but they are happier right (we’re trying to find the right balance too between teaching our son manners and giving them certain freedoms)? Hope you have a nice weekend too! Cheers, Rina Mae

      • Daniela Sandoval

        well Cuernavaca is nice!!!! Well whenever you feel like real mexican food and by real i dont mean tex mex 😉 let me know! 🙂

    • Ray Doetjes

      Daniela thank you so much for bringing up this point! Dutch kids are indeed very undisciplined these days. Sometimes I watch with great amazement how a mum keeps saying: “No” and explaining in great detail why not and the kid still doing it and often the mum just cracks. That never happened in my generation because mum or dad would raise their voice! And in the worst case gave you a corrective “pat on the bottom”.

      I think that discipline is also a very important part of being happy. I was perfectly happy as a kid and we had pretty liberal parents but “No” meant “No” and we could try to test it but we ended up in our rooms.

      • Daniela Sandoval

        Well but I also think its something from this generation… But well I still don’t have kids! So I’ll see when I get some 🙂 but I do agree that a balance is neccesary… 🙂 greetings!

  • Diana Koster

    Thinking of moving instantly to this ‘Dutchland’, sounds to good to be true, and so it is….
    I’m a dutch midwife and women’s counsellor and my practice for women suffering from anxiety or depression around childbirth and motherhood unfortunately has a waiting list of over 3 months!! (point 2 dutch women don’t get depressed).
    Point 3 all men work 4 days: I’m afraid it’s more like 20% (if that). Most women work part time, but try to achieve the same production in 25 hours as they did in 40 a hour work week before, adding to work stress and less satisfaction career wise.
    Point 4 at school, the CITO testing starts at the age of 4!!! two to three times a year, and if you don’t get the right amount of points at this CITO, you don’t get to go to the highschool of your choice. The pressure on children at school is increasing every year unfortunately.
    And yes (point 5) we eat bread for breakfast and lunch, but certainly not only white bread with ‘hagelslag’ (chocolate sprinkles). Fruit and vegetables are a normal part of the menu for dutch kids and moderation (not eating in front of the television but with the whole family at the dinner table) do help. Still being able to play outside and cycle to school and sports activities also proves to be a nice ‘exercise’.
    The ‘kinderbijslag’ (allowance for children) is decreasing, but still a nice ‘gift’ from the governement once every three months.
    Not every oma (grandma) is babysitting every week, as more and more oma’s need to work themselves untill they are 67.

    Dutch kids do have a great amount of freedom (religion, relationships, fulltime/partime work or study) and live a relatively fearless life (no war or religious threats), their parents try to listen to their childrens thoughts and feelings and take these seriously (half of the Dutch population (I’m one of them) are working as counsellors, counselling the other half and their children 😉 which makes Holland a great country to live in and raise your children in.
    I’m happy and proud that the Dutch are so happy, but I think (and that scientifically proven too) that’s because happiness is contagious.
    So being surrounded by millions of other happy Dutchies helps!

    • Aleksandra Kot

      So true!
      This comment really adds to the story!

    • rinamae

      Hey Diana,

      I think you made very valid points and I really appreciate you pointing them out! It would be wonderful to further correspond via email if you’re interested in sharing more of your valuable insight as a midwife and women’s counselor with me.

      Thank-you for reading my blog and your overall positivity. Happiness is contagious and I’m on a mission to joining this “Dutch happiness bandwagon” too.

      Rina Mae

      • Diana Koster

        Will be happy to correspond, as I also counsel quite a few ex-pats who are fearful of the dutch midwifery-system and who miss their moms being around when their babies are born (or are sick, or around the festive season, or the strange ways in which us Dutchies show ‘hospitality’ and the directness of our conversation).
        Are you able to read any dutch? Since my book ‘Perfect mothers do not exist’ hasn’t been translated (yet 😉
        My webaddress is the same as my name .nl)
        Greetings back to you and keep blogging!

        • Ray Doetjes

          We are a weird bunch aren’t we 😀

    • Angela

      I would not clal the Allowance a gift but more like a tax break… the taxes are crazy here.

  • Sandra

    I am a Dutch mother, and please let me repeat what Diana Koster already said in her post. Namely, that your interpretation of the Dutch school system appears overly optimistic, to say the least.

    Indeed, as already mentioned, if a child doesn’t get the right amount of points at CITO (age 12),then (s)he can’t go to the highschool of his/her choice.

    But more importantly, the child also cannot go to the educational level of their choice. At age 12, many kids are assigned to the lower vocational level (LBO), or medium educational level (VMBO).
    Please be assured that these educational levels do not ever grant a child admission to a university.

    Just to underline my point: I’m talking about 60% of all Dutch children here (see:
    So, you see, that your son can “simply attend school just for the sake of learning rather than focusing on his academic performance”, should boggle your mind! Very likely, it means that he is in VWO (Atheneum or Gymnasium), thus the highest level which does grant direct admission to University. That’s great! Yet, it is appr. only 20% of all Dutch children are taking highschool at this level who are in this privileged situation….
    The other 80% of all Dutch children, at age 12, have been assigned to other educational levels. They may work their way up, eventually, and get into university at some point later in adolescence, but it is a tough route which takes years and years and requires extreme perseverance.

    • Lianda

      It is a tough route and rightly so. Why would you want kids to get educated at a level that is too high for them? Your comment suggests that all kids attending VMBO would, at one point in their lives, want to go to university. Most of them don’t and most of them shouldn’t. Their intelligence isn’t measurable through tests and essays. They are often very talented when it comes to arts and crafts. My point is, if children get the advice to attend a certain type of education, then that’s what’s best for them. Sometimes a primary school teacher can be wrong, sure, but if so, it’s up to the child to prove that teacher wrong.

      • Sandra

        Hello Lianda,

        I very much agree with you! Not everyone would or should want to go to University, and academic achievement is not a guarantee to a happy life, not at all. My own son is in MAVO and he is a great person who does not aspire a career in school. I would be the last person to say that he should and I support him in becoming the person he wants to be, whatever that is.

        I was arguing against what was implied in the blog post, namely that one of the reasons why Dutch children are so happy, is because they can get into university “with no formal competitive university application process”. This is in fact a rather big misunderstanding of the Dutch school system, of course (80% of children/adolescents do not have VWO and are not qualified to enter university, with or without SATs, ACTs etc).

        The blog poster compares this to the American situation, where there is so much stress among kids over getting in the ‘right college’, she says. But I reckon that not every American etc. child would aspire to go to College either, let alone want to get into the top-ranked Colleges.
        So, the situation seem fairly similar, and I really don’t see how this point could explain why Dutch children are happier than US or other kids in the world, as the author suggested.

        • Lianda

          Ah I understand! I fully agree!

          • Lukas

            Totally dig your opinion, not everyone aspires a universal agree and they shouldn’t. With all due respect there are more practical jobs to be practiced in this country which do not require almost a decade of theoretic studies. Experience and craft are much more appreciated in some areas.

            This does not mean people will not be happy because of their lack of academic titles.

        • Gabriel Holden

          Thank you for your perspective, Sandra. What you have to understand is this article is from an American’s perspective. The Dutch (and European) educational systems are a stark contrast to the American system. Here in the colonies all students must be treated the same. ALL of them. And there is this expectation that every child is a rocket scientist just waiting to emerge. So as an example, I’m very bad at math. I cannot even do simple algebra. Not that I haven’t tried, I’ve had tutors and everything. I just cannot do math. Even so, I was expected (and required!) to take higher math classes in high school. Can you really expect someone who can’t even do long division to do calculus?
          That may not be the best example, I’m honestly not very familiar with the Dutch system compared to the American one.

          What I’m trying to say is the idea that there is even a hint of understanding that not every child has the same high academic potential is foreign to us and very appealing. The stress comes from the fact that every student is expected to get into university or college and thats how they are taught, regardless if they actually have that ability.

          • chillenious

            But there is much more variety in the colleges in the US. Many of the community colleges would be considered MBO in the Netherlands for instance, and in general people would think it is a good idea to at least study something after high school, as is the case in the US.

            I’m sorry to read that you struggled with math. On the other hand, you now know that it is really not for you. You tried. Hard. Still wasn’t for you. I’d argue that’s a lot better than being put in a swim lane that eliminates anything that might be a challenge for you because the grown ups around you decided that that would be beyond your intellectual capabilities.

            The end of the day, I think it all comes down to schools, teachers, parents being supportive, challenging at times, but also understanding that every student learns different (and often peak at different times when they grow up). Measuring with a single size like your school did isn’t ideal, nor is the Dutch system dividing students into intellectual classes early on.

          • Jane5

            Hahaha, the university system in the US is outrageous. It is an open field of opportunity if you have a trust fund, otherwise it is pressure-filled debt slavery, and that is if you are middle class enough to avoid the school-to-prison pipeline. Please see this and count your blessings if education is not used as a way to squeeze citizens for profit in your country:


          • rinamae

            @Jane5:disqus Are you referring to your own experience having studied in the United States yourself or are you simply reading from what the popular press is telling you? If it’s the popular press, I can completely understand your misconception of the United States higher educational system. If I were simply an outsider looking in, I too would believe that.

            Then again, perhaps I too am being misled by the infamous “six culture” of the Netherlands (

            And just for your information, I graduated college from a relatively prestigious university without having a trust fund or crippled by debt.

          • Angela

            You only have to make it to Algerbra and it is a pre algebra class. You can not fail if you fail one class btw.

      • chillenious

        My personal experience with Dutch education being a late bloomer was that it actually wasn’t helpful at all to have everybody and their dog recommend I take the easy route. I did initially, and when I started to develop an interest getting a better education at like 17, most of the interesting routes were already shut due to choices I made (under guidance) when I was 12. I feel I really would’ve benefitted from an environment where kids are more pushed to develop their potential instead of just channeling through their teen years in the easiest way possible.

        Up until my mid-twenties I thought of myself as being pretty average – maybe less even – until I was at a point where I actually tried. And then I tried hard for a while. Studied every spare moment I had, got a higher education, and after that worked my ass off to get into a profession that my school didn’t quite yet warrant. I succeeded and I am a different person today because of it. But I have no doubt I would’ve developed much more of my potential had I had a more simulating environment around me during my formative years.

        There is a lot to like about the Netherlands, including the fact that education if affordable for everyone, but I find the whole idea of putting students into swim lanes according to their intellectual capabilities determined early on in life extremely patronizing. It is actually telling of one of the big themes in Dutch culture, where the ideal is to be unremarkable (‘ze is zo gewoon gebleven’), where one of the most popular sayings is that you work to live, not live to work, and where people live from vacation to vacation. All very nice on the surface, but I feel a lot more at home at my newly adopted home country (USA) where people are excited about starting their own business and where most people that I know take pride in their work and want to be the best at it that they can be, which is generally appreciated, not snubbed at.

        • Tettje

          Hi Sandra,
          If a child is going to a VMBO school, it is still learning right? Furthermore, although it takes a little longer, it is still possible to attend college/university (notice that what we call HBO would pass in other countries as university, but there it would be a university of lower rank). Maybe the CITO test puts pressure on children, but you do not mention here that the teachers of elementary school still have a say in this progress. For example my two brothers: the first had a very high CITO score, but the teacher adviced to actually go to a lower level than indicated by his CITO score, because it would be better to learn at his own pace instead of running after all kids at the higher level for 5 years. My other brother on the other hand, had a very low score, but his teacher got him into HAVO by talking to schools and he actually just finished high school with very good grades. With these examples, I”m trying to illustrate that your story is not complete either (I understand that leaving things away is simply a way of convincing people of your opinion).

          What I am saying is: the CITO toets puts some pressure on children, but it stops NOBODY from learning. Our system gives everybody the oppurtunity to learn at his or her own pace. If this turns out to be too slow or fast, children can either choose to take a higher level after the first or second year (brugklas) or by doing a MBO education first and HBO after. This takes a little longer, that I must admit, but I still think that you cannot compare this system to swimming lanes – unless you mean that it is possible to change lanes.

          What I am trying to say is that I think our system is actually really good. The amount of pressure that children feel when taking the CITO test, is only determined by the amount of pressure that parents put on their child when taking the test.

          I would like to thank the writer of this article for doing so, because I have one big concern: altough Dutch children are scored to be the happiest and adults to be one of the happiest in the world, I don’t think many of my fellow Dutchies feel this way and this negative attitude might be getting us into a downward spiral in many ways. I hope this opens their eyes so that they can see how cool this country is and that they realize how lucky they are.

          Kind regards from a 23 year old student from Amsterdam


          • chillenious

            My reply was of course entirely my own experience, and much of that the end of the day is determined by individuals related to it (like my teachers who recommended I should not take the Havo/ Vwo route, which I actually wanted buy they thought I wouldn’t be able to pull off).

          • Jesse RainWulff

            now, i can see that it depends on the parents, what they say to their children when they have exams or CITO. because normally i child is nervous but not when the parents pushes their child to do it good.

            If you know what i mean XD

          • Angela

            It is much harder for children to get out of the lane once in it. Yes not impossible but why make it so hard on someone? Also why would I just trust what a teacher says about the future of my child? What makes them an expert in my child potential? Why not just have the kids make choices upon graduation and offer an education that all children can go on to university afterwords? There is not any reason why this can not be done? the fact that most kid here do not go onto higher education ( and few are female at that) shows it is not good for NL or the children.

        • Maria

          This article is about the happiest kids in the world, not about the happiest career makers. And if you look at it from an other point of view, maybe the freedom of taking the easiest way, helped you to discover what you really wanted to do. It was because of your own motivation to get higher education and not because the society said so. Nevertheless I’ve respect for you reaching your goals and I’m happy for you that you feel more at home at your newly adopted country.

          • chillenious

            Fair enough Maria. Childhood was a good experience in general, certainly before high school, and much of that is due to how safe and accessible Holland is. As for my feeling more at home in the US, well, I should say that that’s when it comes to particular aspects of it, like work motivation. There are plenty of other things where I miss being in Holland dearly 🙂

        • obas1

          CITO toets combined with teacher evaluation (and in some schools psychological profile) try to predict what level is most appropriate for the child, not what is most easy. Sure it can be wrong but tho claim they are swimming lanes is flat out wrong (I went from MAVO to HAVO to VWO). I don’t see why at 17 most of the interesting routes were already shut. Differentiation high school levels ensures (or at lest does a better job) that smart kids are not being held back by the less smart kids and more advanced subjects can be taught. Compare that to the US where many freshman classes teach subjects that were taught at VWO.

          I agree with the typical dutch “ze is zo gewoon gebleven” type of remarks; hate those. On the other hand, I also don’t like the typical american notion that if you are successful you must be a better person, or the worshiping of famous people; hailing every inconspicuous thing they do as if they invented fire.

          P.S. I don’t think most people take pride in their work and want to be the best; many people just don’t want to get fired.

          • chillenious

            Nothing was shut off indefinitely of course, but doing Mavo first and then a non-technical MBO made it practically impossible to get into a more technical study on a higher level (e.g. HTS). Once you are 21, you have more (or at least had when I lived in NL) more options again, as then you can try to get in based on entrance examination.

      • Angela

        I have to disagree, I feel that a childs potential is not reached by age 12, silly and all education should be equal until they graduate.

    • rinamae

      Dear Sandra,

      As a fellow mommy who really values education, I understand your valid concerns about the Dutch education system. We all want the “best” for our children. I am simply trying to understand and learn why the Dutch kids are the happiest in the world (according to Unicef).

      My son is only 17 months old and thus his “intelligence level” is not yet evaluated. As an American “outsider looking in”, I am still trying to understand the Dutch education system myself.

      Thank-you for your insight though!


      Rina Mae

    • Guest

      Thank you for your perspective, Sandra. What you have to understand is this article is from an American’s perspective. The Dutch (and European) educational systems are a stark contrast to the American system. Here in the colonies all students must be treated the same. ALL of them. And there is this expectation that every child is a rocket scientist just waiting to emerge. So as an example, I’m very bad at math. I cannot even do simple algebra. Not that I haven’t tried, I’ve had tutors and everything. I just cannot do math. Even so, I was expected (and required!) to take higher math classes in high school. Can you really expect someone who can’t even do long division to do calculus?
      That may not be the best example, I’m honestly not very familiar with the Dutch system compared to the American one.

      What I’m trying to say is the idea that there is even a hint of understanding that not every child has the same high academic potential is foreign to us and very appealing.

    • Angela

      This is so true and something I worry about. Children also worry of it. They know the drill.
      I have my child in private intentional Education, that uses the IBS. I did this to avoid the pitfall in the system here.

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  • www.cloggingalong@wordpress

    So glad i found you! I also wrote about this phenomena on my blog. I find that the Dutch really are on to something. As you mention, not only the kids are happy, most everyone is. I think living here is fabulous!

    • rinamae

      Hey fellow blogger! I am glad that you are having a great time here and you’re definitely right that the Dutch must be onto something. I’m on a mission to really uncover it and share it with the rest of the world. 😉

      • stefan

        Living in Holland has got its own typical challenges, believe me. But I do think the Dutch are, on average, doing pretty well and could set an example for the rest of the world.

        I remember my expat exgirlfriend (Turkish) saying something in the
        likes of “the Dutch are so goddamn confident and happy! It can’t be
        real!” She set out to find proof that it is actually a
        facade and deep down the Dutch are no different then any other nation, but could not really find it (which is not to say there is none). Eventually she came up with the theory that the Dutch are at least missing something in their being happy and confident, which is melancholy and sadness.

        Qualities that do not prima facie make you happy, but are nonetheless essential for a rich fullfilling life. She claimed ‘the Turks are the most depressed people on Earth, and I love them for it.” She continued ‘blaming’ me (not outright but I felt it) for not being depressed, because in being satisfied and confident about who I am and what I have and want, I could relate to her less. She actually went so far as to be really condescending about it. As if there was something wrong in my brain, that made me incapable of understanding life is in reality complete shit. It was true. I could not relate to her, because I did not want to relate to her, because I was thinking the reason she felt so at home amongst said depressed Turks, was merely because they wouldn’t remind her of the responsibility she was not taking for her own wellbeing.
        In this sense, the Dutch are pretty damn cold. If you are unhappy, that’s your problem. With all due respect of course. But just do something about it. Having said that, you do need the resources and the tools to be able to do something about it. And Holland’s got them; as long as you are not strongly impaired, you have all the opportunities you need, for which I am very grateful, but so do many nations.
        What I am trying to discern from this anecdote, I think, is that the ‘something that the Dutch are onto’ is in the field of personal and social(!) responsibility. Individualism has got its flaws, but it can be a merit. We all know it, the Dutch (try) to live by it.

        Its not fair to generalize though, especially not from just a singular instance such as I just happened to describe. But I find it an interesting topic and just throwing something out there.

        • Yes, i thought the happiness was fake too but my Dutch husband says it isn’t – that being happy will get you through most things, staying positive. As a pessamist, this is a battle which i really hope I can win!

  • Ray Doetjes

    I think my generation 35-40 was the happiest Dutch generation. Because back then mummy or daddy was often still at home full time — cost were lower so it was possible. We went home during the lunch break, sat down with mum to eat indeed a sandwich with sprinkles. Play outside for a bit and then back to school for the afternoon. After school we sat down and had tea with mum and we had to tell what we did in school — socializing aspect.
    Back then parents were very much into stimulating their children to interact — not today!

    These days children are far less challenged to do things themselves. School doesn’t stimulate children to be the best they can — which in our time was sometimes a bit stressful especially on me because I was no A-level student.
    Now these kids are like American kids seen and treated as snowflakes… Which I am totally against, raising a kid to tell them that they are special and they are so unique is the bad.
    So the kids are now very happy the can ease their way through primary school, secondary school and even most who go to tradeschools (college) can coast along. The once that go from tradeschool into university or some that has taken higher-level of secondary education straight into University suffocate.
    The mandatory education has been significantly dumbed down the academic world has obviously not. So most trip up there and thus most kids end up studying esoteric rubbish because it’s simple. Well the world doesn’t have a great demand for art-historians, expressionist artists, creative writers, communication specialists (non technical), psychologist, social workers.

    So they maybe happy now but in 20 years time they are unemployed, or working a dead end job just to pay the bills and their kids grow up in an unprivileged house with unhappy parents doing jobs they have not studied for and those kids end up being unhappy.

    • Valerie Boswinkel

      Isn’t funny how every generation seems to idealize the good old days which just happens to be, coincidentally, exactly whatever time and space applies to themselves.

  • Jeroen Biegstraaten

    Probably the most ungrateful kids in the world too. 🙂
    As a Dutchman i can say this!!!

  • Sebastiaan van der Pal

    To bad the whole world sees this and the Dutch keep complaining…. 😉

  • gessler

    watching a documentary on the school / teachers system in the states ( i think called the bolier room? ) and i think dutch people have no idea how fortunate we are to have our schooling system.. all the teachers i have dealt with are dedicated and love their job!

  • Rhea Ong Yiu

    This is exactly what I’m talking about. Continue to let your words give life and enlightenment to many. 🙂 I cannot be more than happy to know that you have found your will to write again… keep on sharing your voice with the rest of the world!

  • Elsbeth van der Spek

    and also: they may get wet and dirty while playing!

  • Tomas Merkies

    i’m dutch & happy:)

  • Theo Legters

    Reading these comments I have the impression that (and 37 years of teaching experience proves it) a lot of parents think that a higher education leads to more happiness. Which is of course not true. Happy kids/people are balanced people (which means their Emotional Quotient is great; Intelligence Quotient does add just a little to happiness).

  • Sue F

    I think children in some other countries grow up too quickly, Dutch children are just children and there is less peer pressure, a lot more freedom to be who they want to be. I would much prefer my daughter to grow up here than back in the UK.
    I am surprised that the Dutch are so high in the happiness stakes, I tried to be friendly to people in my community when I first moved over here, but have met with hostility and coldness which surprised me a lot.

    • Carrie Preston

      It likely had to do with a dissonance in the when and how of being friendly. Here if you’re new to a neighborhood it’s expected that you make the effort to connect rather than your neighbors will approach you. Often people try to give you space unless you indicate otherwise, which is the opposite to how it is in some other cultures.

      • Sue F

        Hi Carrie. Thanks for replying. I am a friendly type, and when I saw my neighbours in the street I said “hello” to them – and for 9 months no one replied, they didn´t even said “hello” back. So I did try, I went more than out of my way to make an effort, and kept trying despite being given the rude cold shoulder.
        In the next 3 years things didn´t progress any further than “hello”, and you can understand after my original treatment that I was reluctant to make any more first steps. Things have improved slightly since my daughter has been born, but I haven´t really had a conversation with any of them. My ability to speak Dutch has slipped a bit as I haven´t been able to practice, that also has had an affect of my self-confidence to speak the language.

  • sofie

    Hi there,
    I had written this whole comment, but then I seem to have lost it while registering.
    Anyway, my point was this:
    In Holland, as a mom you’re not valued for being this perfect, never failing mom who always has everything her child could ever need with her. You’re more appreciated, and you’ll have more friends is you can admit that yes, it is sometimes very difficult to have kids, and get them to school on time, or make them eat greens, or handle their tantrums. To admit that you too don’t have all the answers to all the questions motherhood can raise, and that there is no such thing as ‘the right way’ to raise a child.
    In other words: the moms don’t have to be perfect, so the children also don’t have to be. At least, this is my experience.
    Keep up the good blog! I know it is just harder raising kids as an expatmom, I was one in Switzerland and it was much more challenging to have kids there than it was here, at home.

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  • Wendy Hagen

    My kids wouldn’t totaly agree because they’re not alowed to eat chocolate pringles on their sandwich every day. For their own health of course. And they know why because they asked me 🙂

  • jfproost

    I am a retarded teacher. LBO doesn’t excist anymore. The CITO test is not the only way to go to the next school. The teacher knows more about the pupil than the CITO test. I had classes for 3 yrs. There are schools that mix both teacher and CITO or NIO test.
    The VMBO school has various levels. Basically you can start low and end high. Not every child is ready to choose at the age of 12. They don’t even know what next school is, what they have to do. I know kids that started on VMBO and ended on HBO or University.
    The Netherlands IS a nice country to live in. Due to laptops.PC etc children play less outside. Only in snow and skate times most of the kids are outside.
    I coulc go on for an hour, but this will be enough.

    • Lau Rakett

      I hope you mean a retired teacher?

  • Maria

    Nice article! and although it’s maybe more optimistic than real life in The Netherlands as those reasons don’t apply for every Dutch kid, I really agree with it. The Netherlands is a great country to live in and especially if you’ve been living in another country for a while, you start to appreciate even more how good everything is organized in The Netherlands.

  • Noa

    I’m a Dutch mom, living in Canada now. And I can tell that people raise their children quite differently in North America. The level of education seems to be a lot lower, especially in High School! In Holland you have to actually study and work for your grades, some might even not graduate if they don’t pass the exams at the end of their school years. In Canada, I have never heard of someone not passing high school. I have even heard of teens that dropped out that were given the option to carve a pumpkin and do other activities to gain high school credits. What I also noticed is that there is not a lot of time for play when children are young. Parks are outdated and school yards consist of paved slabs with maybe one tree. There are maybe a few soccer balls but that’s it! Kids in Holland have so many more stimulating toys to play with. And there are no conditions, not everything is a contest or a lesson. Play is a way for children to express themselves, to grow. That I think makes children happy. And children in Holland learn to play by themselves, they don’t need an adult to constantly interact and stimulate them. It teaches them imagination, creativity and independence.

    • marieke

      thank you

    • Carrie Preston

      In North America there are very good, very competitive school systems but, alas, they are not available to everyone. Schools, at least in the US, are funded by local taxes and as such wealthier communities tend to have better schools. My high school was far more challenging and a far higher level than a HBO study I followed here.

  • Lenny

    But the Dutch school system allows you to do a lower level and after graduating, do a higher level. It is even possible to end up at univeristy.

  • Kiran Hayes

    As a child raised in four countries across the globe, I firmly believe that the Dutch way of life is the one which resulted in the happiest childhood. I always say that I will go back there to raise my own family. I’m a proud Nederlander no matter how long I’ve been away now!

  • Mildred Berenschot

    Hello, great to read this! Back in the Netherlands after 4 years abroad I am glad I see still the advertisement at the primary school for a training, how to raise kids. I followed it in 2008 first and being so enthousiastic my husband did the next course half year later too. Not only because of the good information like how to punish your kid less, but more because of meeting other parents with very good ideas and tips ;-). So I do believe in education and it’s a fact that it’s easier to learn if you are younger, but worst is parents with to high expectations.

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  • Suzanne Hoogendoorn

    Dear everyone,

    I think everyone should put this more into perspective. Fact is, that according to Unicef, Dutch kids are the happiest in the world and aren’t we all thrilled about that. It seems to me that the writer of this piece just wanted to share with us what her thoughts are on this news. The 8 reasons she came up with aren’t the results of a big survey, which makes them assumptions. As a matter of fact Rina says ‘it isn’t too hard for me to induldge in 8 secrets as to why they are the happiest kids in the world.’

    Even though Dutch kids are the happiest kids in general, it doesn’t mean that every kid is happy. And off course, the Dutch school system doesn’t suit every child. But according to Rina, the American school system pressures children (in general) even more. These assumptions are assumptions in general, just like the fact that not every Dutch child eats white slices of bread every morning (I know mine doesn’t).

    Let’s all just be happy with the news that Dutch kids are doing pretty well. Let’s worry about the children in other countries who don’t get the opportunities ours get.

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  • Dirk Scholte

    Papa dag” (Daddy day) is the best invention ever!

    My daughter is 1,5 years old and since she was born I stay at home on Fridays.

    We do the grocery’s together every week and when the weather is good we
    go in to town by bicycle, go swimming or go to the playground. I love to hang
    out with my daughter!

    And I definitely notice the difference between me and some other fathers
    who have to work fulltime. (no offence , not everyone has an employer who let’s their employees work a day less)

    My bond with my daughter is great and I wouldn’t want to miss it, not
    for anything in the world, and yes…… I like to think that my Papa dag makes my
    daughter a happier child.

    • Tracy Shackelford

      All – as an American woman married to a Dutchie and having birthed two kids in NL but now living back in the US for 8 years, this is fascinating! My brother-in-law works 4 days and still maintains a great career. Not only does it afford him a day with the kids but also, as in most of my Dutch friends, he has time and energy for his own friends. Moving back here was a shocker in a lot of ways:
      1) the pressure on kids to perform is stunning — I know a 10 yr old with anorexia and multiple tweens who are in counseling for “stress”. Whether academic or athletic pressure, parents and schools pile it on here
      2) kids don’t get as much free time to just play and imagine
      3) “doe maar gewoon” does not exit in the US – something I love being back to. It’s OK to excel in some way – for us, that translates into career
      4) one of the reasons I believe there is more “happiness:” (although Dutch love to complain) is there is not as much financial pressure (although I know it is growing) in NL – many people still have pensions and the social system is alive and well. I am in the financial planning business and the pressure to “keep up with the Jones’s” stresses a lot of Americans out!
      5) vacations – Dutch take time off and enjoy it. The average American might take 5 days off and when I worked for ABN AMRO in Amsterdam I had 35 days per year (a bit extreme but I loved it). We met my in-laws in Canada this summer for a 3.5 week trip — we returned home to work the next day and they took off an additional 5 days to re-acclimate themselves and the kids.
      6) Dutch people are not “warm” per se and it might take years to make good friends but they are friends for life! Americans go through friendships more, and I attribute that to the mobility of our society. Dutch people don’t move so they don’t often feel the “need” to make new friends.
      7) I’d give birth with a Dutch midwife and baby nurse any day of the week — even with no option of an epidural, I would do it again tomorrow. It is such a more natural approach to childbirth. On the day I went into labor (my water broke at the Rijksmuseum) with my 1st, I biked to the train station in our village, took the train to Amsterdam, tram to the museum and then once my water broke, my husband told me to tram back to Centraal Station and he’d pick me up there. No panic.
      8) We strive daily to hold onto the best of both countries – trying to raise happy, balanced, polite, open-minded, ambitious (but not stressed) kids in a country that values individual liberty and in a part of the country (the south) that is often at odds with those values. I’m just fortunate that I know both systems!
      Off to eat some white bread (NOT) and hagelslag 🙂

  • Susan de Vriend

    Great Article Rina! My husband sent it to me. 🙂

    • rinamae

      Thanks Susan! Hope to see you again at another Mama’s Friday night out. 😉

  • Lau Rakett

    I love the idea of spending 9 months with your newborn child. But doesn’t it lead companies to refrain from hiring capable woman just for the risk of getting pregnant? Or are there rules & regulations keeping them from it? I mean, even here the 3 months lead to some inequality (in my company, if you have a temporary contract and your maternity leave coincides with the last few months of it, your contract will for sure not get renewed) but I can imagine that this kind of practice becomes even more common if the leave is longer. It’s super expensive to keep paying an employee who doesn’t actually work.

    • Dee Ishani

      Yes, there are laws to stop companies from not hiring women in case they get pregnant – not everyone will comply but at least the protection is there. Statutory maternity (SMP) only applies if you are an employee – a temp contract would be unlikely to be renewed but it would also be unlikely that you’d be entitled to SMP anyway. SMP is paid by the government but a company can choose to extend or enhance the package.

      Fathers get 2 weeks.

  • Lau Rakett

    It’s funny, cause I (Dutch, 30y.o.) was indeed a very happy kid (at least for the part that my parents could influence) but I could have done with a little more pressure in school. I’m not unhappier currently but I couldn’t always deal with all that freedom in the right way (i.e. I took 10 years for a 4,5 year degree because that didn’t have too many consequences). And that also led to some regrets. Maybe I was a little too Dutch. Had it been less easy for everyone to get into and stay in university, I maybe would have appreciated the fact that I was there more and worked harder. But hey, in the end I have only myself to blame which is fine.

    • Tudor Coman

      great point on the motivational factor.. and i could add that even just the fact that you are now capable of looking back with a bit of regret is a sign of an educational system (parents and family included, not just school) that raised you with a much needed sense of responsibility.. where i come from (i`m romanian, 27) a big part of my generation was raised without that feeling of ”i`m mostly responsible for myself, not just the system” which makes them always blame the system, and never themselves. huge, huge mistake. but yes, the motivational factor is big, i studied in germany for 4 years, and i felt very motivated because i was spending extra money and time away from home and i was shocked at how few of my friends there were truly motivated and how many were just content..

  • gadjodillo

    I found recently more gratifying to stay with my 4,5 old son than doing anything else. in professionally competitive environments, this would be seen as an anti-feminist stance. but God, how I love it.

    • Kate

      this is in no way anti-feminist. it’s choice that matters in feminism, and you made a choice. very feminist, actually!

      • gadjodillo

        actually, I never thought I threw my education away, since I still have a full time job in higher education (university). but the eight hrs a week schedule allows me to stay with my son most of the time. meanwhile, I write and think, but my main education by now is transferred into my son, and that’s the idea. when mothers are hunted by black thoughts (about money, security, etc.) they cannot pour into their sons anything but bad feelings&education (with exceptions, of course). so yes, we’d better be happier mothers than stressed out professionals. since kids are the future.

    • Sonja Gortzak-Hughes

      I know how you feel! Being a stay at home mom in the center of Amsterdam I am real rarity and I often have to explain why I am throwing my education away…..I agree with Kate that it should be about ‘choice’ and luckily our family was able to make that choice for the benefit of our son. And boy was it tough at times but he’s 4 now and going to school and loving it. A happy, inquisitive, active, smart little man. I am proud of what the two of us accomplished, I never once thought that I was throwing away my education. I thought I was getting another one;-)

      • Lesley Wilton

        I agree with you. I do not see looking after your children as anti feminist. Even if it was, you can be the feminist you want to be there are no rules. Commenting on the fact that I stay home with the children, a friend said to me ‘ you are too young to retire’……. As if caring for kids is retirement!!! Even if it is through rosé tinted glasses, this has been the most encouraging article I’ve read in ages.

  • Greg Loftus

    Yunhave to like the Dutch They spil me rotten every time I visit.

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  • Sonja Gortzak-Hughes

    Seems to me your main message is that children who get to spend a lot of time with people who care about them and genuinely want to be with them (either to raise them as parents or to teach them as teachers) are happy kids… matter how much ‘hagelslag’ they put on their ‘boterham’ in the morning:-)
    Let’s hope it stays that way though, more tests are given to children in Holland at younger and younger ages, more pressure put on them to ‘perform’ on language and maths and lots of pressure is put on all school kids to conform to the ‘average’ child. Not a happy perspective for me as a Dutch mom to a 4-year old boy. But I will do whatever I can to protect that individual development and consider myself very lucky to have found a very good school that shares my values and I do indeed see lots of happy kids:-)

    • rinamae

      Thanks for commenting Sonja! You really do get the point. 😉

  • Tineke Plooij-van Wageningen

    I am such a grandmother, and it makes me very happy; and my grandchildren too, I think. Dutch parents are very busy, is my opinion, especially organizing all the time schedules.
    Pressure at school exists anyway, and quite a lot for the teachers in the Netherlands.
    The system using the CITO scores doesn’t make everyone happy.
    I can’t compare with other countries, but I do appreciate the possiblities parents have to choose how they divide the workload. However: the tax laws make it more difficult for those who choose for only one person to have a job, while the other is staying at home looking after the kids. Thirty years ago it was just the opposite.

    • rinamae

      Tineke, thank-you for commenting! Your son/daughter and grandchildren are very lucky to have an Oma like you. You understand perfectly well how difficult it is to raise a child. My son unfortunately does not have a grandmother who wants to take care of him one day a week (so I can work/clean/laundry) – it breaks my heart BUT at least I can stay with him.

      I definitely understand the CITO scores being very controversial – there have been many complaints from all ends.

  • that is simply amazing and it really makes me want to live in Holland!
    Here in Switzerland the schooling experience is replete with stress. Children are graded from grade 4 on, which is way too early if you ask me, and then based on their average for grades 4-6 they are “allowed” to attend one of three levels of secondary school: A, B or C. Only students in the A level will have the chance (once again, based on grades) to access the gymnasium, which is the only way to have free reign as far as what to study in university. And in gymnasium, they have a trail period where if they perform well they are *allowed* to stay, if not they are kicked out and have to wait a whole year before having the chance to take an exam to see if they are *good enough* for the gymnasium.

    The students in the B level of secondary school will often not have the chance to go to university at all but will instead go into a half work, half apprenticeship type of school which is a sort of business school.

    The students in the C level won’t have many opportunities at all as what they have access to is extremely limited, and are the ones who will end up doing menial work.

    It is a ridiculous system and really stressful for both parents and children.

    Thank you for giving us a peek of something better!

    • Valerie Boswinkel

      Actually Eliza, don’t be fooled our system here in Holland is almost identical to what you say you have in Switzerland it’s rather misguided to say that academic achievement is unnecessary here. Most of the parents I meet at school are, as I am, committed to helping their children achieve their full potential. The difference is perhaps that we allow for the possibility that their full potential will fall short of our dreams for them and that’s ok. We don’t
      generally have a trial period to return to gymnasium (it’s even called the same here). You get bumped down a level to Havo, after which you can go to a Hogeschool which sounds very much like your model of business school. After attending the Hogeschool you have the option to continue on to university or start working. It seems like you’re system is practically identical to ours. Believe me we worry as much as the next parent where our kids will end up and so do the kids. But Iagree with the author of this article that it’s a pretty good system because it caters to different abilities. In many countries if you can’t keep up there are no options for further education at lower levels. So yeah us and yeah you!

      And I can’t resist commenting on the ‘white bread with
      chocolate part while I’m putting my two cents in because even if ‘the author
      says it with a wink people take these things for truths especially since most
      of what the author says is fairly accurate and rings true. I really don’t know
      anyone who feeds their kids white bread with butter. Most dutch kids eat brown
      bread with halverine (margarine light). Yes, sometimes they get chocolate
      sprinkles,but sprinkles on dark bread beat sugary cereals any day. School’s
      encourage (and often enforce) children to only bring healthy snack and fruit to
      school. We don’t have cafeterias, so no hot lunches that are thinly disguised
      calorie bombs, we all brown bag it.

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  • Lukas

    Love the article and growing up as a kid (raised in Holland) you take most of it for granted. But since I’m been traveling around the world I see that we are very blessed with this way of living. Unfortunately things seem to be changing rapidly, with all new technology I feel that children focus more on play stations and iPhones instead of playing outside.(Of course this is not solely a problem for Holland)

    Another troubling issue is the aftermath of the financial crisis leading to tax raises, cuts on education and I guess that the part-timers will be less favorable for employment since they are often more expensive.

    But apart from the shit weather for 11 months out of 12 I still love my country dearly.

  • rinamae

    I am glad for your honest opinion! 😉 I hope that you also understand that I wrote this with a sense of humor, a “knipoog”/light-hearted tone.

    Of course I know that some Dutch kids don’t get hagelslag every morning. See it as a means for me to “connect” with other fellow Dutchies who hold the hagelslag very sacred.

    Also, keep in mind that I am writing from an American perspective. Dutch stress at school does not even remotely compare to American high school stress -it’s just a whole different ball game.

    In terms of medical school. You’re only partly right about that one. You have heard about the lottery system right? SO even if there is a quota, with students getting 8s, students from the highest level high school, even with a lower average, like a 6 and a 7, can still have a chance at entering medical school.

    Thanks though for your post. It’s inspired me to really respond to the “no stress” in the education system. 😉

    • Jelle Kouwenhoven

      Thanks for your reply.

      In terms of the lottery, you are correct, everyone has a chance. However if you have an 8+ or so, you have much more “lottery tickets” than someone who gets a 6 average. So students still need to do well to have a realistic chance of getting in highly competitive studies.

      I just think that you make Holland sound a bit nicer than it really is 😉 Better than the other way around though! And the picture of the mum on the bicycle is very accurate 🙂

      • rinamae

        I know the Netherlands is not utopia. However, my fellow Dutch person, you are very blessed to have been born in a country that really does a great job taking care of their own.

        Please forgive me for having a biased opinion. Papers like the Volkskrant paint an image of the “zesculture”.

        Thanks for reading my blog!! 😉

        • Tirza

          I am really sorry, I you told this, lets say for me ten years ago. Iwould fully agree…but now not anymore. The goverment is taking everything from my famliy… They are not taking care of their own

  • alis

    What ‘Dutchland’ are you talking about?? This article certainly doesn’t describe The Netherlands as we experienced it. My kids fell about laughing at your description of the ‘no stress’ school system. There are compulsory state standardized tests at every step of Dutch education – starting at age 7. They determine what your child is allowed to study, and what school they go to. They cause a lot of stress, and fear. And home work – even in primary. Also, don’t expect to hang on to Oma much past the age of 75 – especially if she gets dementia – not now the Dutch have embraced euthanasia so whole-heartedly. Seriously – this seems a very misleading article to us.

  • alis

    Yeah – try that – see how it feels!

  • marleen

    I don’t really agree… and i am a dutch kid. well i am 16.. and i know a lot of other dutch ‘kids’ that also aaren’t that happy.. school is stessfull and there really is alot of presure.

    • rinamae

      Marleen, I am so sorry that you and your friends are not really happy. You have every right to feel that school is really stressful and that you feel the pressure. Your feelings are valid and I am very touched that you commented on my post.

      I hope you understand that I wrote this post with not only a light hearted tone, but also as a way for myself to understand and figure out why surveys keep telling the world that Dutch kids are indeed the happiest in the world. I’m trying to understand the experience of the collective rather than the individual. Does that make sense? And obviously, it is a generalization.

      Keep in mind that I am writing this as an American, and the American experience is quite different than the one that you and your friends are currently experiencing. Perhaps if you’re interested in learning more about it, you can read this:

  • Judith Dijkstra

    I read the article and though I think it is a very optimistic outlook on life in the Netherlands (which we Dutch need to read so we can be reminded that we have pretty good lives here) I do agree that the Dutch children could be considered happy in comparison to other countries.

    What I think is the secret of the Dutch being happier than most other world citizens is the mentality of working to live and not living to work. Our Children also get this message when growing up thus making live a lot less pressuring on them.

    Tides are changing fast in our little corner off the world and just like every other country we suffer from the global crisis, making it harder to work for a living and not the other way around. Sometimes it seems all we can do is complain about everything that’s wrong in our society but we always take it as it comes and make the best of it though we never stop complaining 😉

    • rinamae

      Judith, I totally agree with you -my article is a very optimist view. I have more to write about this matter, but I’ve come to realized that living in the Netherlands is quite a blessing. It’s a country that really has managed to take care of its own –it’s definitely not a perfect system, BUT it’s a country that is quite generous with it’s people. Thanks for commenting!

  • Kristen S Lin

    Hello ! This is Kristen from Taiwan, a easten asian country. Currently I am living in the Netherlands, and I think the article is true and I am really jealous of dutch children. By comparison with asian educational ways, here the children are living in the knowledge of heaven. I remember since I was thirteen everyday I needed to go to school from 8 to 5. I went home for dinner but came back to school at seven to study till 10 PM. But there would be too much exam everyday so even after I got home after 10Pm I still needed to study till maybe 12 or 1 Am, and to wake myself up at around 3 am to continue to study a little. That is my memory about how I passed my 13- 17.:(

  • Lesley Wilton

    Cheered me up – so much of what I read us gloom and doom and the part about education really has given me the permission I needed to remove all pressure from my children. In future Si am only reading positive stuff about child care.! THANKS!

  • Lesley Wilton

    Cheered me up no end. I seem only to read negative stuff which highlights all we are doing wrongly. The part about low pressure at school is just what I needed to hear at this point in my children’s lives. Only reading optimistic stuff from here on in. THANK YOU!!!

    • rinamae

      @lesleywilton:disqus Thank-you for your kind words. It really means a lot that I cheered you up. I’m learning to embrace the wonderful possibilities that life in Holland can bring. It’s not perfect and there are still challenging days, BUT I choose to be more positive and it has made my life a lot happier. ((hugs))

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  • Diederik Linders

    I am Dutch too and partly agree with you. I didn’t work hard to get into university, I sort of coasted through the years, failed one year, and at the end of every year I put some work in to pass the year just barely. I also know of people who worked their butts off and also just barely made it. So it depends on the person. I can in all honesty and shame say I was lazy in high school. And as having a lot of American friends and working with them for years, I can say that with the attitude I had in high school, I would not have gotten into a good university in the States.

    I don’t know which system is better, I do know I finished my bachelors degree with a 3.6 GPA (7,6 in the Dutch system) and am now working on my master’s degree.

    I totally agree with you on the hagelslag 😉

  • Elizabeth Coleman

    The documentary “Happy” also talked about the common practice of communal living in this part of the world (specifically it was Denmark I think). Families live in close proximity to each other and share a lot of the cooking, cleaning, and childcare, to provide more family time overall and less housework. Communes obviously aren’t common practice here, but there’s something to be said for having a close-knit neighborhood where people know each other and kids play together. Those were my happiest childhood memories– playing outside with neighbors.

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  • Katie

    Enjoyed the post, added it to related content on a recent one of mine–hope you don’t mind. My husband will enjoy this too because he works 4 long days a week to have more time at home. We love our schedule. I would like part-time work though, which is why I’m trying to get into writing. It has definitely helped me feel more whole already.

  • Meghan McSweeney

    Great article! Any idea what company makes that amazing bike?

  • Jacqueline Bax

    Another thing that I felt as a blessing growing up in Holland was we had different kind of sports clubs where we would meet instead of sports in North America are most of the time High School related. We could play field hockey, team handball, soccer, korfball all year through, or even become a member of swimming clubs, ballet, tennis, gymnastics, judo. You name it and we could participate.

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  • Marco Otte

    Personally I do think points 4 and 5 are true (nothing is black-and-white of course). I work at a Dutch university and getting more students in is more important than getting only the best in. That means that it’s dead-simple to get into a university and finishing it. I’m not saying that all studies are equally easy, but there is a clear tendency to create more “society-related” studies that should be accessible “for all”.
    And looking at the average supermarket, the amount and diversity of breakfast “beleg” is amazing. There’s not one kind of sprinkles but 15, jams, chocolate pastes, coconut bread, etc. Sure not everyone eats it for breakfast, but the fact that these items are available means plenty of people buy and eat them.

  • Rick Calvert

    “Upon completion of primary school at the age of 12, Dutch pupils take a
    multiple choice CITO test which determines their relative intelligence
    level and heavily influences what corresponding high school they could
    Thus, Dutch high school students also do not face the notorious
    pressure of taking the SATs or ACTs or ever attaining academic

    Respectfully, doesn’t this just move the SAT/ACT pressure to a 12-year old?

    I think points 2, 3 and 8 really make the case here. I mean, if my wife and I could work part time and retain benefits *and* get money from the state for our kids, we’d have a lot less stress as parents as well! On a side note, I’ve enjoyed seeing debates between American and Dutch feminist friends over this usse; the former sometimes feel that when Dutch women acknowledge they want to work less when they have children, this is somehow a betrayal of the struggle for equal rights. My wife candidly admits that she’d love to go part time for the kids, but economic reality is what it is, and we both have to remain full time employed.

    Which is why I wanted to again, respectfully ask: is this system sustainable? Can the Dutch govt continue to afford these benefits? If so, that’s amazing–I’m just wondering how they maintain such generous social programs.

    • rinamae

      Thanks for your questions Rick! The first time I heard about the CITO given at age 12, I was a bit shocked. How could an education system basically categorize children this young upon “intelligence level”. It is not like the SATs in the sense that the results are suggestion only (according to the official Dutch website), there is not a lot of preparation for it (from what Dutch kids tell me), and there is not the same pressure level to perform a certain score. It’s hard to translate this to someone outside the system because it is such a foreign concept – the idea of doing “good enough” as compared to “being the best”. It’s a system where being “average enough/good enough” is more than acceptable. Can you differentiate the subtle but key difference?

      As for the other questions, I’m still trying to figure out how this very generous welfare state with very high taxes is sustainable in the long run. It’s one of the on-going themes I plan to write about. Hope you continue reading! 😉

      • Leroy Lotulung

        Hi i’m from Holland. My apologize for my grammar, but I hope you will understand me. The childeren takes every year an CITO test. This test is like an IQ test. You can not learn for it. They measure how the child develop. They look at mathematics, dutch grammar and reading ability. When they are 10 they test the English grammar and reading ability as well.
        Childeren learn better when they get the education at their own level. So we split them in 7 levels. Each level has it’s own name. Average is Mavo (middle general secondary education) they gave this level a new name vmbo-tl. The first year at the high school the teachers look individually to each kid. At the end of the first year they decide if the student is at the right level. When they child average grades are above 80% they level up.

        We live her with a social system. That means that our government give the family’s who need help gets money. This is a very difficult system to explain with this comment. But they can afford it because our social system. They say people who have more money can give more money. And people who have less money give less money. So when you earn a lot of money you pay more tax. So the rich people take care of the poor.
        But the rules to get money from the government are really strict. Not everyone gets money.

        The goverment pay also for the education of the student when they go to an university or academie. That’s make sure that everybody who wants to get a master or bachelor can go to a university or academy.
        Hopefully I cleared up some of your questions.

        Kind regard.

        PE teacher

        • Imke van der Vaart

          It is only me that sees that or the kid pictured in the article is not Dutch but Asian? Soon we’ll have little muslin kids pictured as Dutch as well.

          • rinamae

            The kid in the picture is my son. His father is Dutch, making him half-American and half-Dutch.

          • Arnold J. Rimmer

            I am happy not all Dutch people are as narrow-minded as she appears to be. Freedom of religion is still one of the key parts of the Dutch constitution.

          • Eric Rietzschel

            Because Dutch kids are blond and have blue eyes?… I mean, really?..

          • Eva

            Because you can’t be muslim and Dutch at the same time? Being muslim does not have anything to do with your nationality…smart ass

          • Nederob

            Imke, aren’t we a multi-cultural society? You are reading an English article about your own country. Says enough in my opinion. But, regardless. If I’m not mistaken this photo you are talking about is taking inside the inner atrium of De Dom in Utrecht. (might be wrong). And face it, it doesn’t get much Dutcher than De Dom. ^_^

            Besides, muslim is a religion and not a nationality.

          • Gemma

            If I’m not mistaking, in the Dutch society you already have many Dutch muslims. And how about the many generations of immigrants’ children that are muslim and were born in the Netherlands? Dutch as well indeed… U sound a bit racist… Hope I’m mistaken

          • Jean Dubois

            Shame yourself! Friends with Wilders? Did you not know that real Dutch women have blond hair.

          • Pam Forrest Spann

            It is the blogge’rs child. She/he is a Dutch kid. They live in the Netherlands.

      • Robert Brink

        The welfare state isn’t so generous anymore, and the taxes aren’t so high as they appear (especially if you see what you’ll get in return). Yes, the system has been built around the theme of “the stronger carry the weaker” (de breedste schouders dragen de zwaarste lasten) and “the polluter pays” (de vervuiler betaalt), hence our system of progressive income tax and hence the highest tax on gasoline anywhere in the world. But then again, there are no people here working three jobs and still living on food stamps, the infrastructure is great considering the amount of people cramming on it (be it for roads, railroads or cycling paths) and we generally feel secure. Yes, there is an increase of poverty, and there are more and more people needing the “voedselbank” to feed their stomach, but this is what the general public doesn’t want. We (the Dutch) don’t want to see people being filthy rich, while others are starving. We don’t accept “bad luck” as a reason to live (and die) on the streets. The Dutch are a compassionate people, that is also the reason children are not forced to excel and it is generally accepted that you put your family above your career. We don’t like to see people having success at the expense of others, though that also makes a downside to Dutch culture: having success is being met with envy (kop boven het maaiveld uitsteken).

        Considering happiness, my children have a lot of friends to play with every day, they can play safely outside, they eat healthy food (no, not white bread – that causes constipation, there has to be fibres in it – but yes, it MUST be covered in chocolate spray or “muisjes”, though my oldest child fancies old Dutch cheese) and the whole family goes on holiday at least once a year for three weeks. When one of the children falls ill, there is no fear of angry bosses when my wife or I have to take a sudden day off to take care of them – actually they will do the same when one of their loved ones needs attention! And today, it’s “oma” day, the day my youngest child is looking forward to every week. My wife and I both have part-time jobs, cramming a 40-hour working week into 32 or 28 hours, so we both have a full day in the week to take care of the children, and we have chosen our jobs carefully so we commute by bicycle (hence no traffic jams or other delays in our commute) and we’re not only having breakfast with our children together, we also have dinner together and we put our children to bed together. There is a genuine atmosphere of love, safety and “just be the person you are”. And there’s time to bring them to sports, theatre and music lessons too! (Apart from the life my wife and I are leading – we do have time for ourselves and for each other, this is what we teach our children as well)

        I think, when you are used to a dog-eat-dog society, where greed and selfishness is the norm, you will have a kind of culture shock if you are entering a culture of “act normal, then you’ll be acting stupid enough” (doe normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg) 😉

    • Tiel van Kersbergen

      I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we pay more taxes in The Netherlands. The Dutch tax-system is a progressive system, meaning people with higher incomes pay a higher percentage of taxes (this leads to a 60% tax-rate for the highest incomes), thus generating enough state-income to sustain these benefits.

      Also, I think it’s important to point out that there is not just 1 CITO-test, which kids take the year they turn 12. Most schools regularly administer CITO-tests all throughout elementary school (about three times a year), starting at the age of 4. Ofcourse, it is not referred to as a test when administering it to young children. Most teachers present the test as a small group assignment, which keeps the children from getting stressed. As they get older and get used to CITO-tests, the teacher gradually explains their importance. But by that time, most children are completely used to the them and so they don’t get too anxious. (And ofcourse most high-schools take great interest in the elementary school teachers’ personal evaluation when a child applies, as well – kids who score below their teacher’s expecations on their final CITO-test can often take a second test when applying to a high-school.)

  • Angela

    I have put two children through school in the USA and now have a 5 year old in the Dutch school system. (American married to a Dutch man)
    No school is great for every child.
    As far as Dutch schools go, I would rather have my child in Dutch public schools over USA public schools. Safety being the number one reason. Children here feel secure, safe and happy at school. Next options, I have many, I can put my child in any primary school I choose as long as I can get her there. I can choose from all kinds of education from christian, Montessori etc. Although some have wait list, so get them on it early.
    Even better if I choose and I did a private school, the government subsidizes it so we can afford it. We pay 1/4th of what one would pay for tuition for private education in the USA.
    Next, the kids are happy because the parents do not work as much, the family is important and so is being home with them.
    There is plus and negatives to any system for me the pluses over rule the negatives.
    I do think they start the kids young here for testing and in first year at age 4. If I could go back my kid would have not started any earlier than age 5.
    I do not like the idea of a teacher having so much influence over my child potential. I hate the CITO test and wish it did not exists for primary at all. It is used too much the wrong way.
    The class room sizes are too large and only increasing… sad but true nothing will be done of it. The minister thinks it is okay. (another reason why we choose private).
    My daughter is happy also because she can be a child! She is not a little adult, she is not judge by her beauty or talents etc. She is just a normal kid and normal is okay. She does not have to wear expensive clothes, nor do we have to live in a big house. In NL we are more equal and there is little gap in economic class.
    Over all I love it here and plan to stay here and I can say I am happier and so are my kids! The little Dutch one always has had it good.

  • broertjepau

    Well it was my and my sisters breakfast when we were little every single day with a glass of milk and fresh orange juice. The bread with hagelslag was cut into pieces by my mother. The part in the middle was the best because it did not had the crusty sides. Now I eat it sometimes and it still gives me a nostalgic and happy feeling :). Further dutch kids are very happy kids… world as a child was amazing and is the reason why I now can think about making this planet a better place and take action in stead of arranging food and being scared for gun shots. Dutch people and especially people doing politics should realize this, instead of wining about the economic crisis and migrants.

  • broertjepau

    Yes and how many work part time and want a fulltime job ? or are sitting home depressed… we are still searching for a fine peace of mind to deal with dissapointments… that is one dark side of the happy child hood. We are used that everything goes our way.. if this is not the case at one point in life many collapse and get confused and start doubting their capabilities. But at the end we should be happy and learn how to deal with this and appreciate the lives we have as Dutch people.

  • Aleid

    Just a note on breakfast. Being Dutch, with dutch childeren, They and I never had white bread with choclate for breakfast. NEVER! Most certainly a hard to get rid of myth of the Dutch to get rid of…. we eat porridge and fruit for breaofast, but yes, together, as afamily….

    • Tristan

      I, as a dutch, eat bread (although not white) with chocolate sprinkles daily. So no, it’s not a myth…

  • Noa Brume

    Rina, I’m very proud of you that the Israeli “Super Nanny” had copied you almost word to word in one of Israel’s most read online papers.
    Check for yourself guys:

  • Imke van der Vaart

    I’m with Jelle, the whole article is out of contest and doesn’t depict the real reason the level of satisfaction amongst us is so high; mostly because we are happy with things that for other cultures is count as unacceptable.

  • Alexander

    Point 8 (the money) is very income dependent and recent cuts penalize
    families with two part-time parents having a negative effect on 2 and 3.
    A pity that the government did this without really understanding the consequences.
    Anyway, it seams not to be
    predominantly the money. In European comparison, the Dutch state spends
    even very little money on families – check for example the German or Austrian
    system! Still there are more children in the Netherlands and they are
    happier. So it is about culture and other factors. I guess 2 and 3 are key to this. The right to part-time plays a crucial role here.
    A point that I miss is the following: It is normal that kids go to the crèche very early (< 5 months – something most part of Europe considers inhumane and would consider the mother to be a bad mother…) and school starts at 4 years. Early and regular contact with many other children of a similar age makes a huge difference. I see this every time in the direct comparison with friends' families abroad.

  • Aragornius

    Lot of True stuff here, although I never liked White Bread myself 😛 but exceptions make the Rule 🙂 we do get to choose and that is what matters 🙂

  • Ivonne Meeuwsen

    Ah, but you forgot about rusks (beschuit). Nothing better to kickstart your day with than a rusk with butter and chocolate sprinkles. (unless it’s peanutbutter and chocolate sprinkles on white bread)

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  • martha

    Omg…. Hahahh.. I think tht you do not know good enough the netherlands. Behind the beutiful façade is hidden a no so wonderful world.

    • lk

      I agree. If Netherlands are a such great country, they give more reason to mothers when they dont see that the presence of the father is important. Why their social assistant for young kids judge always fathers like bad. Why some many crimes by killing their own kids?? The dutch law is completly unfair! And far away to make a kid happiest there than in another country! Believe me!

  • Judith

    Yep, I’m happy in Dutchland, with my Dutch kids! I work part time in the Dutch education system and my husband works 4,5 days a week. This allows us to be home after school to attend to our kids’ needs (13 an 14 years old). I firmly believe that time spend with your children, both in childhood and adolescent years, will pay of eventually. The ‘sacrifice’ we make for this is no high-flying careers but providing a steady income for our family. In a couple of years our daughters will start university; now is the time to be there for them. So, if that means a terraced house, second hand cars and a camping holiday: so be it!

  • Blacksheep013

    Yep, i am dutch and i did eat Bread with chocolate sprinkles everyday since my childhood but also bread with peanut butter. And… when i came back from school, my mother always waited for me at home with a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate. Happy happy 😉 Nowadays i live in Brazil with my wife and daughter. I can easily see the difference with The Netherlands, for most having breakfast and lunch together, that is different here. Education in Brazil .. totally different and not in a positive way. The education of my daughter i will have to do partly myself to get her on a good level. And no support by the government here… you have to do it yourself. Ofcourse it is not perfect in The Netherlands, but i think they do well considering a lot of other countries. I will pass my experience in the dutch way onto my little daughter … she is already happy in Brasilland some dutch additions will even make her more happy 🙂

    • rajdatta

      I ask the following question very respectfully, and I don’t mean to be snarky at all:

      Obviously you had a very happy childhood in Netherlands; so what are the factors driving you to give that happiness up, and live in Brazil?

      As I said, I don’t ask this in a mean way or as a joke. I myself had a childhood that had *many* things wrong, and I moved as soon as I could to another country that gave me freedom and *respect*, that I would never get in my home country (if anything, while income has gone through the roof, socially things are worse in my home country than it was in my childhood).

      • Blacksheep013

        It is easy @rajdatta:disqus .. I am still very happy, even in Brazil 🙂 My wife is from Brazil, and she cannot stand the long cold winter period in The Netherlands. I can easily stand the Brazilian temperatures, and for my company it is an opportunity. Brazil is also a free and pretty easy country to live in. It is not perfect, but also Netherlands is not perfect. It feels like home here. When this should chance, i will move like you did for sure, because freedom and respect is very important.

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  • Pien Wekking

    I really loved this article. I’m a 15-year old girl from the Netherlands and I’ve never thought of my country this way. It opened my mind. I’ve always wanted to move, to a big city like New York, but I understand my parents for letting us grow up here. Dutch children are happy. And at this moment, I couldn’t be happier.

  • Marja Demper

    No way is it a myth, we always look forward to having bread with chocolate sprinkles (dark/puur) whenever we are back in the Netherlands. Our grandchildren have it as a special treat on weekends. And yes even with two busy jobs, my son and his wife manage to have breakfast and dinner with their two children, breakfast at 6.30 am! Mind you, so does my other son and family living in Switzerland.
    The only thing about Dutch children is: they are very loud and not always very well behaved! We work on campsites throughout Europe and compared to their Danish and Belgian counterparts e.g. that is very noticeable.
    Having said that, yes we are very lucky and happy in the Netherlands.
    When we “grow up” we shall definitely settle back there.

    • Jolanda Snell

      I agree with your remark concerning the behaviour of some Dutch children. I think, however, that maybe the reason that they’re the happiest in Europe lies in the fact that they cán express their thoughts and feelings, no matter where they are. And as all children, worldwide… it just takes a few years to outgrow the loudness and adjust behaviour to a more “accepted” level…

    • bart

      The only children who don’t behave are the immigrated one. The typical Dutch kids are very well behaved.

      • Marja Demper

        I beg to differ. We do not deal with “immigrant” children but with your typical Dutch ones, who can be very cheeky, impolite and inconsiderate. I just hope they will outgrow their attitude. Mind you I lay the blame with the parents who will not correct their little princes and princesses. Ask anyone working on a campsite outside of the Netherlands and they will, for the most part, agree with me.

  • Piet (Peter) Goemans

    I was raised in Nederland until my 13th birthday, when we immigrated to Canada in 1957. Man of the Dutch traditions remained with my family and were continued when I married and had my own family. Breakfeast together in the morning, sports and other activities were always a family affair. I’d say that you can take the Dutchman out of Nederland but you can not take Nederland out of the Dutchman. Great site and thanks for sharing it.

    • Werner Rampp-Kaufmann

      modern NL is different, from your memories

      • Aukje Regeling-Versendaal

        I disagree Werner, sure even the dutch society has moves ´forward´ by technological advances, however sports and even church life (in one of the many forms) is still highly regarded in most parts of the Netherlands. You’ll always see a divide between rural and city social life. However, the attitude Piet Goemans has kept alive all those years is one of the few dutch trades i can be proud of.
        I’m happy my husband is having a pap dag and my mother taking on a oma dag. It’s really a blessing! But having said that, Dutch people are master at moping. If you ask them, or me, about our opinion we tend to be very negative. So i find it surprising we’re seen as one of the happiest!

      • Jolanda Snell

        Not thát much! Born and raised “Nederlandse”, I can vow for the fact that many things haven’t changed that much! Things have become more modern, maybe, but we still have the same values as the ones I grew up with!

      • Piet (Peter) Goemans

        I am sure it has changed from when I was there, so has Canada, nothing seems to stand still as my sainted mother used to say..

  • Silvia Borgers

    I am very happy with my life in “dutchland!’ and think your comment is almost the thruth… except the white bread and all the chocolate. We encourage our children to eat a lot of veggies!!! That’s one he;ll of an important reasen lot’s of our children are very healthy ! my children were thinking tomatoes and cucumber are “sweets” during there childhood.. And i think it is very very very importand to tell your children all truth about , health ,alcohol ,drugs and last but not least sex!

    • Iem Apac

      Yes! My son loves tomatoes (still does, he is now 23) and you could always please my daughter with a raw carrot. Being Dutch gives me a proud feeling; our liberal outlook on life and the fact that basically everything is open to discussion -especially with your kids, talk about sex, drugs, economy, life in general from a young age makes that they get a realistic view on the world – makes us less stuck-up’ and more ‘down to earth’; happier for not having to hide behind a shield.

  • Richard Collins

    The only thing that prevents us achieving the Dutch model is capitalist greed and avarice. Americans are conditioned to equate personal wealth with personal worth.

    • Yasmeen El Sarky

      I agree! When visiting Amsterdam I noticed the shops having really small signs on top of their doors instead of huge shop signs found any where else in the world

  • Jean Dubois

    Dutchland – Duitsland – The Netherlands – Holland – Low Countries – Germany – Friesland – They are a bit confused I think. Maybe the whole story is wrong and they mean ”Groot Duitsland”.

    • Arjan

      No, they don’t have ‘hagelslag’ there 😉

      • Bauke

        Technically they do, they just use it on cakes. 😉

      • Jolanda Snell

        Ohhhh… poor you! At which “Nederland” do YOU look? We háve “hagelslag” (dark, light ánd white!), we háve “pindakaas” (peanut butter, wíth peanuts!), and a wide variety of jelly’s (jam). Also an almost uncountable variety of chees…
        It’s true: my (french) godparents always were bedazzled by the things we eat… Luckily we also were bedazzled by what’s normal in France (tripes… andouille…. brains….. pieds panés…..). So it’s all back into balance again!

    • Werner Rampp-Kaufmann

      nonsense comment

    • Jolanda Snell

      Cher Jean,
      Let me explain it to you. We (the Dutch) call our own country “Nederland”, in which “neder” is a dutch word for “low” (below the sea level, in this case). People from other countries call my people “dutch”, which has nothing to do with Duitsland (Germany, Allemagne). A “groot Duitsland” was what Hitler wanted!! Friesland is one of our provinces, where they do have their own language. They still are people from “Nederland” (whether they like it or not). So you see, the confusion is not because of my fellow “Nederlanders”, but merely because of the way that other countries name our country. “Pays Bas” also means “low countries”, which is the same as “Nederland”. However “Nether” doesn’t mean anyting, especially not “Low”. Compris?

      • Peet

        The Low Countries are Belgium AND the Netherlands ….

      • Guest

        Why do you think that I’m a French speaker? Nether, madam, does mean something. It means ‘low’ in English. Get it! By the way, my comment was a joke about the stupidity of nationalism. Unfortunately, some jokes are too subtle for some people.

        • Sanne

          Nehh. It just wasn’t very funny.

      • Winecycling

        Actually, “nether” means “low”, as in nether regions.

    • Thierry Dumessie

      Groot Nederland 4de reich komt er nie van

    • Tom van der Vorm

      Dutchland is an americanism – not a real word. The Netherlands and Holland are used interchangeably – and do mean “The Kingdom of The Netherlands”. Friesland is a provice, much like US State (Oklahoma isn`t the US, just part of it) – and Germany is another country altogether. Low countries.. well, that could mean anything really – and when you start talking about “Groot Duitsland” it gets scary – as in a ‘fourth reich’ kinda scary!

  • Petra van Es-Prins

    The sprinkles every breakfast is not true, it’s possible, but most parents dont allow that 🙂
    Children 4 – 12 years old mostly lunch at home most schooldays, with mam or dad, or “oma”! My son is taking lunch for school 1 day.
    I bike this way; with my 3 boys And there is no engine in my bike 😉

  • Robin

    Okay. I see you have an opinion. Good for you! Now please share with us WHY you think this is a load of crap. Just saying that it is a load of crap is too easy.

  • Michel Ramelet

    As an expat leaving in the Netherlands, and father of 2 children, I agree with many of these aspects, but there is one I wanted to add:
    The spacial organization, ie compact cities but very often in a proper house rather than appartment, with a separated flows for walkers and bicycles, proximity of everything (school, supermarket, …). This was for us the main reason to chose the Netherlands over France where I’m from. It makes the whole life easier for the parents (and thus for the kids), but it also allows children to be very quickly independant. Go to bike at school at the age of 8 is simply something unthinkable in any country of the world expected the Netherlands (maybe Denmark??).

    Another important aspect is the work mentality. Between 5 and 6 pm, everyone has left the office. At 6.30, (almost) everyone is at home. That means you can really have a family life. I know other countries do the same, but for me coming from France where days usually end up at 8pm, it was a major change!

  • Portlandsun

    I am loving this post and this entire blog. keep it up. I am an expat living in Amsterdam and I thought you all may enjoy this related post, about BAMBs (bad ass mother bikers). The dutch mamas are simply amazing!

  • Liz Tidwell

    Have you ever lived in the Netherlands? I have and found most of these are true. I loved my time there!

    • refosco

      pardon me, but on the other hand, have you lived anywhere else than holland and spent time there, rising a child? is this all about having money, good job opportunities and chocolate for breakfast? seriously?
      can you just compare growing a child up in the netherlands and in any other countries on earth?
      i mean, seriously, is this a scientifically based article for real?
      silly thing

      • I can compare, having raised a large family in more than 1 country, and I agree with Liz. This is a good article and generally accurate. The article is also an opinion piece, not a scientific/academic article.

        This is a great country to raise children: they are allowed the time, space and opportunity to enjoy their childhood that children in some other countries (western and eastern) are not. They get Wednesday afternoons free from school, which most fill with an activity (sport, music, dance, or simply visit the library to choose new books for the next week). There are speeltuins (parks with children’s play equipment (swings, etc) in every housing area. Even smaller towns have their own swimming pool, speelbos (woods/trees area for playing in) and community petting zoo.

        So not, it’s not about having security of food, money and health – it’s about ‘everything’. I originate from the country which has a saying ‘children should be seen and not heard’. The Dutch would find this completely incomprehensible.

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  • Henriette Geerlings

    I like this blog as a Canadian with Dutch upbringing, I was born here in
    Quebec. Brought up
    with European values everyday. More then I can say for my North American
    friends. To see what is written and post it in face book and my friends
    read this blog and all the threads. Its a shame. I only wish I could
    hug my Oma and Opa. I only have my father left.I lost my mother many years ago.
    I have notice only the
    European people seem to be the only ones that take care of their elderly
    parents when they fall ill or age.
    So we are the happiest kids!!!
    We have the respect of our
    parents and our generations. When I visit Holland and they ask me for my
    Dutch Passport and then I say I am Canadian. I will still speak dutch, write
    dutch, read dutch till the day I die.
    Cause I am PROUD TO BE DUTCH and a
    CANADIAN also.

    • Debbie

      Actually, the Europeans are absolutely NOT the only ones to take care of and respect their elderly people. There are plenty of people in the Netheralnds who don’t give a da&^ about them, and there are plenty of Americans who do. And if you open your eyes to other cultures, specifically the Japanese and other Asian as well as Latin American cultures, every one can take a lesson from them. Everyone. Let’s not generalize. I am a proud Dutch person, too. But being sober/NUCHTER transcends all cultures/borders/boundaries.

      • Aron van Milaan

        Actually i would say that from knowing alot of arabic people in my school, the middle east is the most warm loving place on earth if it comes to family values and sticking together.
        Here in the Netherlands it’s real common to just put your grandparents or parents in a home when they become a burden.. It’s disqusting realy and the same in my family, and in a lot of other family’s too who just think it kind of normal. But if you talk about it in school in class with some arabic students they realy realy don’t like that about us dutch people (i’m not speaking for everyone of us dutch ofcourse) and i don’t blame them either.. I just think because of the free and mellow upbringing we get when we are kids you learn to become independant and distant from your family.
        We forget that our parents are the ones who fed, cloth and put us in the right directions when we were young.
        I learned over the years that we do not get alot of discipline at all and from seeing the effects of some hard ass discipline you don’t become fuckd up in life just so easily.. Discipline is healthy and i think you would learn to appreciate it when you get older and start to welcome you parent’s style of rasing and become more close instead of having too much of an own opinion. And that just my opinion.

        Still I know that a elderly home still gets enough visits from caring sons and daughters (I haven’t completely lost hope in people).. but the overhand from the family of the Alzheimer’s centre where I’ve worked did not show up alot.
        I think we have alot to learn from arabic culture when it comes to family values and maby even more ;D food for instance! yumm

  • Rosa Celine

    Hahaha we do have homework!

  • Sjeline Lukiman

    I think so too. I’ve lived in The Netherlands for more than a decade and found Dutch people are real people ; they don’t keep things inside. They are what you see what you get kind of people. I’m now a happier person because I adopt the Dutch ways of life. Our children and grandchildren are allowed to say whatever they have in minds. I find life easier if we don’t have to guess. I like Dutch motto “doe gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg” (just act normally, you already act crazily).

    • Renessa Bak

      which reminds of “ik ben goed, maar niet gek”

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  • Jason Mills

    Okay, I’m not Dutch and never been there BUT we try to raise our children the same way. We breakfast together (in fact most meals are eaten together), we encourage our children have an opinion and listen to it. Mom and Dad have an equal part in raising the children and the sentence “Go ask your Mom (Dad)” doesn’t exist in our family. My wife is happy and works part time so she’s a big contributor to the family income and we both make a point of leaving work stresses AT WORK. Frankly much of these ‘happy children secrets’ are, to my mind, good parenting secrets too. Now if only the Government would pony up more money!

    • Powder Brush

      don’t believe everything other tell you about the Dutch. I am dutch although I don’t live in the Nls any longer.. not everything that was said in the article is true.. most dutch these days eat cereal just as people in the US do.. and they complain more than people do in Canada for instance..

    • Tom Chandler

      Yea why don’t we go 20 Trillion into debt, seeing as (in the past “Five” years) we have increased it 11Trillion, what’s another 3 going to hurt? Wise up and get some kind of a grip!!!

      • Pete

        It’s all about priorities I guess Tom. Shame we’re (where I said ‘we’ I meant ‘you’ of course) spending our money on another all-important war. Our kids will have to wait, cos we obviously can’t spend our well-earned money on them, d0h!

  • Renessa Bak

    I am wondering if it does not go much deeper than that. . with fresh garden air all around. . the salty ocean air continually washing our spirit. . another dutch expression for a walk along the sea ‘I moet m’n geest uitwaaien’
    Also, with so many living below sea level, the oxygen is fresh, rich and thick with all of nature’s airing the scentimendical compound and propertyes. . all we need do is breathe them in .
    second is the language which has evolved . . when happy and stay combine in the words blij and blijf, do we not automatically connect the happy with staying and the HellO in goodbye . .
    top this with “God zij met ons’. . as once was scribe on coins. .
    does it say, God IS with us, or God, She with us?
    notice She is. . reads of being Zij zij. .
    while they are . . . reads of Zij zijn. . .
    this to me put a whole feminine slant on the language,
    while men, speaks of everyone and mens, of a person

    it leaves me think the missing links were left in Dutch
    much as there have been. . in fact there are clues left in every language on earth . .
    and all the old dialects . . a world in which you would recognize people by their particular take on life through the dialects. . they all begin vary according to earth’s signature . . . the molecular structures of its rockbed. . earth memoryes froze in stone . . grounding all the cosmic as in galactic sound vibrations grounding in earth and by the time they travel through all the plants. .
    by the way. . how much of their foods , are locally produced in their country, and better yet, in their own back yards. . this makes for happy people
    since we have an symbiotic relationship with the plants that absorb our DNA and the universe takes it back to the highest vibration. . in other words, there is no better doctor in the house than our live, off the plant we grow in our own backyard.
    so while ENGlish means, and is full of fight
    Dutch treats us to gezelligheid and sin, in my book of life, speaks of having lost your sense of humour. . zon/sun. zonde/sin, zonder/without ,
    adding up to in my book of life as being without light

    • Melanie Rijkers

      zij comes from the verb zijn (to be) – God is with us 🙂 and yes, I can all agree to the above… true freedom is found in the Netherlands – religion, parttime jobs, free society – it is ALL possible in this small country – we were the first country in the world to accept gay marriage for example… ♥ my country! ♥ my life!

      • Dolly

        “She” is a personal pronoun as in I, you, he, she, it etc. “To be” comes from
        ” zijn” . In this sentence the word ” zij” is in the subjunctive mood and has nothing to do with a ” she” person. God zij met ons means God be with us

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  • Melanie Rijkers

    Being a Dutch mother/wife/woman I can all agree to the above… true freedom is found in the Netherlands – religion, parttime jobs, free society – it is ALL possible in this small country – we were the first country in the world to accept gay marriage for example… ♥ my country! ♥ my life!

  • iris low

    I miss Holland. I wish I knew more Dutch women here

    • Andrewcobb

      You live in the US? Which state?

    • Marga Bos

      Ik ben nederlands en leef in Canada

  • Crista Kampert

    You forgot that they can go to friends and other places by bike easily by themselves. Now that I broke my ankle, I realize even more that going everywhere by bike, gives a lot of freedom!

  • Carl (Klaas) de Boer

    I was born in the Netherlands, in Friesland. I remember that we wore wooden shoes during the week, slippers inside school and house, but Sundays for church we could wear leather shoes and get all dressed up, which made Sundays a special day. Family life was tops, either with my own family or with many of my parent’s friends and their children. After church, friends would be invited for coffee and a “gebakje”, a piece of sweet cake. On family trips we would have our own bicycle and travel safely on the bicycle path away from car traffic. We immigrated to Canada in 1951 where a Canadian asked us if we were”Dutch”
    upon which my father responded strongly emotionally, “We are not Dutch (Deutsch)! We are Hollanders!” You see, we in the Nederland had never heard about the word “Dutch” so to my father it sounded like Deutsch (German people) against whom we just finished a war.

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  • phoebe

    I don’t now how much of this is true about the Dutch people or Netherlander as they want to be called, What I do know is while stationed in the Netherland (Coeverden) my neighbors and community that we lived in were very nice and friendly, after getting the news that we were going to the Netherland I thought that I would very homesick but quickly found myself and my family loving it my neighbors welcome us into the community and whenever their was get together we were always a part of it, I can not say that about my good ole USA neighbors, lived in one place 4 years and the other 10 years cannot say that about my American neighbors, my children played with the Dutch children in the park and they were not bullied or treated mean by them, we enjoyed the bike path having been able to have family outings by bike and not have to worry that anyone would get hit by a car, they attend the Dutch schools and were very happy with their classmates and teacher, I am not sure whether or not it was because they were in elementary school and not teenagers but they were happy each day going to school so that made me happy, I like the fact that for the most part of their living no one dictate to you what you should or should not eat as your meals, as in breakfast ,lunch or dinner, it does seem as thought the Dutch people are free spirited but of course there was a language barrel, even so if there was something not right you would feel it all we felt everyday was joy and happiness our race or nationality was of no barrel either, they really do seem happy and caring and of course kids are going to be kids regardless of their nationality or where they are from because when my neighbors went off they would come over and let us know and ask if we would keep an eye on their teenagers and their home. when my daughter was 2 she was injured she was not given much hope about a full recovery but because of the care the doctors and nurses gave her and my strong faith in GOD that 2 year old in now 27 healthy and no scars from her injuries, so on that note I believe how we support, work and take care of our communities and each other lay the foundation of our well being and children lives to come, we can not just sit and complain about what other countries, states, cities or towns have we all have to work to make it possible but greed stand in the way of progress and happiness.

    • Ronald

      Hi Phoebe, I was born and raised in Coevorden, I remember the NATO depot well, not much going on there anymore. Also the housing for the US service members became apartments for locals, but I believe they have been torn down for a shopping complex, there are still a few military that have stayed by marrying locals and are quite happy. I live in Tennessee now but go back every two years.

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  • rhakker

    You are missing the fact that the Dutch are more efficient in their jobs and running businesses. This allows more time for personal amenities. They actually work harder for a shorter period. Here’s why. If an employee were asked to do the same amount of work in one year, but with more vacation time, many would make the deal. Voila. Efficiency is born. This is what education combined with innovation can do.

  • Andrewcobb

    I can confirm this statement that the Dutch children are the happiest. Reading the other statements of people moving from the US to the Netherlands I can tell you the its different the other way around. We moved 2,5 years ago to the US. Florida. We have lived in several different countries over the past 18 years but the US is a “special one” on our list. in 2,5 years we were not able to make friends. Close friends. Americans are very nice, friendly and polite people…… but very different and very on distance. The surface is VERY thin. In 2,5 years we have had several dinner parties and invited our neighbors, trying to “socialize” but nothing came back. As soon as I walk on my drive way, the neighbours (left and right) taking the escape route in their garage. Sometimes I have the feeling that they dont like Europeans. Speaking about the World and everything is nearly not possible becasue they havent been anywere. Our daughter, 9 years had in the foirst year a hard time. No buddy to play with. The hapiest kid in her class room (so her teacher told us several times) a very open and friendly little person 9 years of age and speaks 4 languages fluent. In order to play with one of her class mates, she needs to make an appointment……at least 2 weeks ahead…and then only for an hour or so. No sleep overs. Nothing. There are unbelieveble many children in our gated community but you will see hardly one of those kids playing on the street. If we have some of these kids in the house, I sometimes have to look if they are still there becasue they dont move and / or make any noise. Waiting for their parents to be picked up by car althoug their house is around the corner. nowadays we have more kids comming to us. All around lunch time becasue we do not eat microwave food. A few weeks ago one of these kids during lunch time start crying and was asking us to bring her home. On our question what was going on and why she’s wanna go home, she told us that she cannot eat flowers. It was broccoli !!!! Children here are often very frustrated. Parents are working the whole day and there is no time for cooking. On the weekend is stress pure. Chearleading, Football, baseball, shooting, competition, competitions. competitions. Thats about life. School results??? not so important becasue if you are good in sports, you can go to the university later. Team sport is easier then learning your math. Knowledge about other countries….you’re kidding me. My dauchter knew more about the US BEFORE we moved to the US. Netherlands???? Dutch??? YEs!! we heard abour Deutschland…our family roots are from there. It is sometimes funny. And sad. I mis the Netherlands – DUTCH!! and know already now that we will go back as soon as we have finished our job. Again people pls do not misunderstand me. It is beautiful here but is is soooo different. Parents & Children.

    • Cassandra

      I am an american with two kids both born in Holland, where we lived for 6 years. I just want to tell you that I noticed a HUGE cultural difference with neighbors. It was almost like Dutch people take their role as “neighbor” seriously. They’ll take in your mail, feed your cat, wtc., not because they like you so much, but because “wij zijn toch buren!” Unless you have something in common with a neighbor (same-aged kids, same type of work, etc.) you can pretty much not talk to them FOREVER in the US. Also, Dutch social circles are notoriously hard to penetrate (this has been corroborated by Dutch friends who say they feel left out and ignored even when they belong to the same club/activity/sports team etc. as others). I felt extraordinarily lonely there. (Luckily, though, those nice neighbors picked up the slack!)

      The US has changed since I was a girl, too. There were impromptu sleepovers and kids would casually meet up outdoors and play for hours. (It’s an old but true stereotype – my Mom really did throw us out and say “Go PLAY! Don’t come back until the street lights come on.”)

      I commiserate with you. I am so sorry your having a rough experience. (Too bad you aren’t closer! Boston here.) My heart literally aches for you and your kids because I KNOW what it’s like the other way around. And do I miss my bakfiets?? Hells yeah. I had culture shock coming back, too.

      Hang in there and good luck!

      • Miss Indo

        I completely agree with you -it’s not he same in the whole USA. Just like it’s not the same in the whole Netherlands. I lived in the NL for 7 years before moving to the US. It’s not an easy transition; Americans are very private individuals. Once we have children though, it feels like another door is opened for us. I started making friends with other moms through playgroups and school. I think it takes TWO to tango. You have to go out and expose yourself and the community has to has this “open” characteristics. We live in a heavily populated blue state. 18 years ago I went to school in the US in a red state. Whether you like it or not, it DOES make a lot of difference. I don’t like to bring in politics, but it says a lot about the people’s openness to new cultures, and to some extend their geographical knowledge of the world!

    • Derk van der Zande

      Born in a smal dutch town .i see my neighbours every day . And we have a dutch saying . Beter een goede buur dan een verre vriend translate . Better a good neighbour than a far friend . We have bbq’s with our neighbours.
      We see our family a lot less . . And for the wooden shoes cloggs. I use them my daughter of 5 and my son of 2 wears them

    • Kim

      i’m an american raising my family in san francisco. i lived in amsterdam for two years when i attended graduate school. your story of life in florida saddens me…but here’s the thing: there are many “americas.” you simply can’t generalize about american traits when our society is so polarized (urban vs. suburban vs. rural; red vs. blue; rich vs. poor; etc.). many of the things you express yearning for happen *every single day* in our diverse community of san francisco families. worldliness? check. social spontaneity? check. neighborliness? check. adult palates? check. adventurousness in cultural consumption? check. probably, the only thing we’re habitually guilty of with regard to child-rearing that sabotages happiness is overscheduling (many of us are working on that). perhaps it will comfort you that many americans as well are troubled by the structures of suburban america — and consciously reject them. i grew up in a california suburb; there is no freakin’ way i’d raise my children in one. san francisco life has its challenges — expensive, gritty, unsupported, sometimes family-unfriendly urban living — but the rewards far exceed the costs. there’s a reason so many europeans make their american home here. it ain’t perfect (for us or for them), but it’s as close as you can get to a community that reflects european values (caring about the whole on par with caring about the individual; taxing to pay for community needs; social justice; socialized medicine; sustainable business and environmental practices; walking, biking and public transport over driving; etc.). the US has a long love affair with individualism that has become pathological and self-sabotaging (see: gun extremism, opposition to obamacare, anti-vaxxing). although it fuels some of our best traits (non-conformity, entrepreneurship, innovation, tolerance, ambition, creativity), it also fuels incredibly destructive policies and cultural practices. hang in there — and for godsakes consider moving.

    • Lane Mabray

      That might be Florida, but you would not be “shunned” in Texas….Try Texas….children sleep overs happen from 8-13+ Yrs. old every weekend. Nieghbors are friendly and look out for each other. The US is as different from state to state as Europe is from country to country.

    • Rebecca Sims Dale

      I’m sorry this has been your impression of the US as a whole. While microwave and fast food eating IS pretty widespread (that fact makes this avid home cook sad) as is the obsession with competetive sports, the other social stuff may just be the part of Fla where you live. What an earlier poster said is true. This is a big country. Our culture can vary dramatically from region to region–state to state. It’s not unusual for an American family to move from a region where they’re very happy to another area of the country and find themselves quite homesick for the old place because it’s so different. I’m a Texan born and raised and can tell you that small town TX kids have tons of freedom. Big city TX kids are more protected for good reason, but it’s still quite friendly. Sleepovers are completely normal and our neighborhood is practically crawling with kids playing outside after school. We just went to a BBQ place Friday for dinner and my kids made a handful of friends out of ‘strangers’ on the attached playground before we left. The trick for you may be to discover how to ‘plug in’. Many of the stronger social connections with young families take place through various types of groups: churches, the arts, sports (sorry!), groups that are formed within your child’s school, etc. I would encourage you to find a group that fits and try to connect that way. Hoping you’ll see a little more of the US before giving up on us! 🙂

  • g.klaaysen

    The whole picture of happiness in the Netherlands painted in this article is a bit outdated in my opinion. Our freedoms disapear in a rapid pace. We have a more controlling government, We have little control of what is coming to us from abroad since we are part of the one Europe and as a side effect we are also loosing our culture of free thinking bit by bit. Besides that this country is becoming more and more expensive for its working residents. However it’s still one of the better places to live.

    • steve G

      These are all just logical consequences of an economic crisis, everything will be more expensive since the government decided to cut expenses instead of investing in the failing economy. Furthermore without Europe the dutch economy would collapse. Tell me how does our freedom disappears, we still have freedom of speech, we still are able to do what we want when we want it. This “our freedom” disappears is just the way you view the world which doesn’t confirm that it is true. On the contrary you could also live in a world were you should watch what you say even when you’re alone so how are we not free. You are just a Wilders follower which disgusts me.

  • Lohner Lohmann


  • Manuela de Rooij

    I’m a 31 year old, born and raised and living in the Netherlands, therefor I’m actually surprised to read that a lot of things that I take ‘for granted’, are luxuries, compared to other countries.
    If the Dutch children really are the happiest in the world and the Dutch people in general are living in one of the happiest and richest countries… What are other countries waiting for then? 😉

  • Great little post. I am originally from Canada and I came here to study at both a Dutch HBO and university. I can attest that the dutch DO NOT CARE about their grades one little bit unless they fail.
    in Canada you get a year off for maternity leave, but in the Netherlands it’s only 3 months. I’m not sure how I feel about that… but I have yet to cross that road. Working part time is definitely nice, though. I’ve also heard that the Dutch are just as productive, if not more so than full-time workers from other countries. But that’s a different discussion…

  • MrsDoc

    It’s not because they are socialist, in fact it is in spite of socialism. It is because they are genetically Dutch. I know because I am Dutch and an American citizen and this describes me and the Dutch side of my family.

  • JLo

    My own personal experience of being a working mother in NL was a little different. I worked full-time because I enjoyed my job and I was building my career, and tbh we also needed the money. I was constantly being told that I should be at home with my child, or should only take a part-time menial job for ‘pret-geld’ and let my husband take care of the bills. My husband even had to give his written permission for me to opt out of my employer’s pension scheme!

    I will however say that I do think my children would have had a better lifestyle if we’d stayed in NL. We didn’t have a car so we walked and biked more, my kids spent more time outside, we ate so much healthier because fresh food was so much cheaper, it was a different life.

    • mom

      Hear! Hear! My “marked value” (on the regular job market) dropped ±50% since I gave birth and decided to work part time. Also I feel people are taking me a lot less serious. I’m back to freelancing, so I can be my own, well-paid, professional ME.

  • Hannah Carter

    Hey, is your husband originally from Maarssen? I think I met you and your little boy once at IND immigration Utrecht when we were both kept waiting a little while. I just got back to Canada from my one year au pair adventure in the Netherlands and my friend shared this post. haha, small world. Shared it too; great post :)!

  • Fedor Steeman

    This is simply incorrect. We aren’t called “Dutch”, because Americans confused us with Germans in WW2. The word goes way further back than that; to the Middle Ages in fact.

    Dutch, Duytsch or Diets go back to the Old Germanic word “Theodisca” meaning “of the people”. This referred to the common people who spoke the progenitors of modern Dutch and German dialects as opposed to Latin as used by the elite.

    For a long time the Dutch referred to their people and language as Diets, Nederdiets or nederduitsch. Only much later did Nederlands become common. The English word “Dutch” does therefore in fact go back to this original autonym. So there’s actually nothing wrong with using that word.

  • Fedor Steeman

    He responded to Iris not Marga.

  • Evil_Opstelten

    Children, once they are 10 years old, are free on their bicycles.

  • Penny

    Nice article! I am a working mom, I work 32 hours a week (4 days) but according to my boss (and the productivity figures) I am one of the most productive / efficient worker in our department (I’m a consultant – in a men’s world). I think this is also a reason why part time working is a success in Nederland, we are efficient (we know what we can get when we just work efficient -> we get a full day with our children in return). My husband works full time. I really enjoy my Fridays off and go baby swimming with my almost 2 year old son. My husband works irregular shifts and is also home one day a week to take care of our son. Also, our son goes to Oma 2 days a month. The other 2 days he goes to Kinderdagverblijf (daycare), which he really enjoys.
    I have not lived outside Nederland, but did a fair share of travelling and talked to a lot of people from other countries. I can imagine we have a good life here in Nederland compared to other countries.
    One other aspect I think is important to stress is that kids get good information early on about sex, drugs and alcohol. Sexual education started for me at school when I was 12 (I’m 31 now), I don’t know at what age it starts now, but I can imagine it being earlier. Sex is discussed and teen pregnancy in Nederland is, as far as I know, one of the world’s lowest rate compared to the rest of the world. Kids are well informed.

    Oh and white bread, my family only eats wholemeal bread (but with hagelslag!). Although my son prefers cheese over hagelslag… 😉

  • Rudi de Groot

    Great write up and great commentary!

    I was raised very Dutch, and I don’t mind hagelslag, I’d rather have melk vlokken op brood any day!

    However, there’s one other bread topping that I don’t ever hear much about and maybe it’s not even that “Dutch”, but I am addicted to Switserse Strooikaas! Especially on fresh, buttered white bread. Or on pasta, salads, soup, etc. I think I need help.

    The only way I even get the stuff is via my family when they come to Canada or sent in a package. Sobeys used to carry the stuff in Canada but not any more.

    Anyone else love this stuff?

    • Alex Bird

      I have never heard of strooikaas, but was brought up with hagelslag, chokolade paste and appelstroop. My family migrated to Australia in 1955 and my sister and I were first gen Aussies.

      • Linda Ringelberg

        Haha I use it on macaroni, and scare my kids with the smell!

    • Aliya Parcs

      Hmm not fond of strooi kaas but goudkuipje hmmmm 🙂 hagelslag, vlokken, berenpasta, duo penotti, muisjes, calve pindakaas all that is very popular and yes all loaded with way too much sugar……what kid wouldnt not make all that happy! ;p

    • Rob Born

      Stroop is quite good on bread as well. I miss the Frisian household I grew up in. I am first generation in the US.

    • Nel Schijf

      Hey Rudi, my dad used to love this as well. We used to call it “stinkvoetenkaas”which translated is “smelly feet cheese” because we thought it smelled! I live in the Netherlands bye the way. I don’t think it’s typically Dutch though. The name suggests it’s Swiss. I lived in Australia for awhile and they had some special delicatessen shops selling Dutch foods among other things. Maybe you could look on the internet and see if there are similar shops in your part of Canada.

    • rosele

      Yes, I do like “strooikaas” or “Zwitserse kaas”, as it is also called. It has low fat and is healthy.
      By the way my nephew, now living in Australia again, after having lived in London for a while loves the chocolate & coulored sprinkles. I used to get it for him, when he was living in England, Of ks can’t take it to Australia.

  • Jeroen

    I spotted de Domtuin in the first picture!

  • Leni Lambropoulos

    Having been born in Heerlen, Limburg and migrating with my family to Adelaide, Australia, as an 11 year old we had the best of both worlds. There was less contact with the neighbours in Adelaide and my parents did connect with Dutch people through my father’s work more than Australians. We were still brought up mostly Dutch but made many friends of very varied ethnical backgrounds. We are now a very multicultural family through marriage. My husband was born in Greece, and my sisters married an Englishman, one with aboriginal ancestry, a third generation Australian and a native Papua New Guinean. Because of this we have a great mix of culture and food. It makes life very interesting and although we regularly visit our countries of origin for us Australia is still the lucky country. My husband and I have a great relationship with our children, in laws and grandchildren as we regularly mind the grandies while their parents work.

    • Ischara C

      Hey! I live in Heerlen 🙂

  • Rogier Elsinghorst

    Well, that’s made me giggle and ever so slightly homesick.

    However, the article, and associated articles, were written by an American immigrant, and as such would warrant the romanticised views as opposing views to her native culture. Although the article rightfully emphasises the role of perceived freedoms in obtaining a feeling of happiness, we know this can easily be misconstrued with actual freedom and its subsequent sense of happiness. I think the author walks a thin line and generally lacks objectivity in her statements. That said, having grown up as a Dutch child I can attest to the joys to be had from smothering my slice of bread in chocolate sprinkles, chocolate paste and peanut butter, all simultaneously.

    The Netherlands have for the last 50 years benefitted from the largest onshore natural gas deposits in western Europe. This resulted in the government being able to generate large amounts of taxes from all households using gas for heating and cooking, and from further exports of that gas to neighbouring countries. However, since many earthquakes have announced the maximum volume to be extracted from the ground, the government has announced that it will very soon cease further gas production. All those years that social security was underpinned by these tax revenues are now drifting into fading memories, and no alternative means to compensate for that loss have been found yet. This is going to have a big impact on the level of welfare of the society as a whole, ultimately resulting in everybody having to work more hours and reversing the trend of parents working part time.But hey, I feel like I’m the happiest kid in the World!
    Happy to be able to critically look at information, happy to see the larger picture!

  • bob

    I went on an international exchange to Australia where dutch people came as well. They made me regret going there and not to the Netherlands!

    • Oh Bob, you should have caught up with me. You wouldn’t have been left with that regret. Australia IS the happiest place on Earth.

      • Shashi Sawhney

        A minor correction, neighboring country of Australia – NEW ZELND is the HAPPIEST place on this planet and Australians envy them (Kiwis).

  • I am a first gen American living in the US who’s parents came from the Netherlands. It wasn’t until Skype and social media came about that I was able to connect often with my family (outside of my immediate family) which all still live there. My cousin and his family who recently came to town for a 6 month stay spoke of things that seem a little different than your description of a Dutch family. I am one who craves to travel and I’m drawn to European culture, so this was a bit of a bummer for me. He mentioned that work is constantly on demand even in the evening hours. He and his wife work for good companies, but are working more than Americans, which surprised me. He dreams of coming to America as the conditions for family life are much better. I’m sure some people see things different, so I’m interested in hearing your response to this.

    • Interesting observation! Unless your cousin and his wife are business owners or working for consulting companies, chances are that the workload is much less for the Dutch. In fact, they are the part-time work champions of all of Europe. A simple Google search can yield the same results – the Dutch are among the ones to work the least amount of hours in all of Europe.

      For your reading pleasure, here is an article I wrote a while back:

    • Lexi

      Sounds like fiction to me. Unless your totally uneducated (which is a challenge on its own) and working in distribution or catering. I’m pretty sure your cousin will be bummed to find out that the US doesnt offer 20 days paid vacation minimum, unlimited sick paid sick days etc etc… As the dutch say… The grass is always greener in the neighbours garden. But in fact, its not.

      • Callista Bernard

        Yes, in the US… I get Christmas off.. as my one holiday. The other 5 are paid working holidays. You have to work somewhere about 3 yrs for 2 weeks.. 7 yrs before getting 3 weeks vacation. Often 15 yrs for 4 weeks. We can only call in sick..2 times per year. Many spend a long time driving to work.

    • C Young

      Happily this generally isn’t true. I’ve worked for UK companies in partnership with Dutch ones – spending months in Amsterdam. There really is no comparison. The Dutch work far shorter hours, are less stressed and frequently disappear for family events. (But they are paid less and taxed more.)

    • LiesbethSimsek

      Im Dutch and a fulltime job in The Netherlands mean: 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. 160 hours in a month. Maybe he earns a really good living and thats why he sometimes has to work in the evening aswell??? Also, put in mind that the Dutch LOVE to complain about EVERYTHING!!! 🙂

    • BCNexpat

      The whole story above is a bit of a stereotype, however I do recognize it.

      The story your causin is telling you about the hours, I do not recognize. Of course it happens that people work like that, but it is the type of job they haven chosen and what you make of it yourself. But with a minimum of 25 holidays, 10 bank holidays and in many campanies additional benefits based on a 40 hours work week. Overtime payed or compensated, a Dutchman van not claim a higher workpressure then in the states.

      Like Lisebeth states, the Dutch like to complain. I think this stereotype applies to your causin…

  • HG

    I love white bread with butter and chocolate sprinkles. Always had it when I was young and still love it now that I am over 50.

  • Cris van Hoogstraten

    I’m working for an American company in the Netherlands, and work full time 5 shifts….that means:
    6 days work 4 days off (av 32,3 hours a week)
    24 days a year holliday
    5 extra days because of my age (55)
    3 extra days because working shifts
    And we are more productive than any other plants all over the world, and make the most profit….
    anima sana in corpore sano

    • daj


  • Marjoke Westhoff

    I am Dutch, living in the Netherlands and please can somebody tell me were the country of this article is, because in the Netherlands where I live , only the sprinkles are correct.

    • Snownova

      The no depressions bit was exaggerated obviously, but the rest look pretty spot on to me.

  • Han72

    Shame on you Marjoke Westhoff. This is the trouble in our country, people who only can complain about everything and not see how blesses they are to be born here. I do not say that everything is perfect, but please open your eyes and see how the world is…..

    • EJ

      So you’re saying Americans should never criticize anything? That makes no sense.

  • Camille Aguila

    Seems pretty easy living in Netherlands. 🙂

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  • Nick den Uijl

    Nobody forces kids of 18 months old to be enrolled in preschool here in The Netherlands.
    Please stop reading whatever you were reading.

  • Stephii-Sarcastic

    I’m Australian & we put sprinkles (hundreds & thousands as they’re known here), on our buttered bread. We call it fairy bread here

  • muimui

    You can say they are the happiest kids in the world but not the healthiest regards to all the chocolate paste and chocolate sprinkles. I know it’s matter of cultural stuff. But it’s just depends on how you look at it. Happy or healthy. Relax or not driven. …

    • Nathalie

      Im from holland and I live in the us now, and I can honestly say that a loaf of bread is less fattening than the daily heavy processed food Americans intake even for a “simple” breakfast. Hell, even American pancakes are fat and fluffy, Dutch pannekoeken are more similar to crepes, thin and light. I have a great body, and I owe it to holland for feeding me good quality food and teaching me to stay active by offering free swimming lessons and teaching me to bike to school. It really has been a blessing to be from there and if I could, I would have stayed if it wasn’t for my parents. I’m only 18 but I plan to go back to holland and have a family there after grad school. America isn’t the worst country in the world, but being from holland sure makes it feel like it is.

  • rosele

    Well, It’s very nice that Rina Mae enjoys the Netherlands so much and has such a positive picture of the Society and its inhabitants. Thank you for that!
    I once saw an American talkshow where a right-wing American said: “would u like to live in a country like Holland or Denmark”, like it’s Sodom and Gomorra.
    I am glad there r people who have a slightly broader view. Altho it’s of course not the whole picture; but nice tht u are so positive. The comments that Dutch people complain a lot are justified; some wd call it critical, which is yr right and duty in my mind. After all, we citizens are the Goverment. If u wd like this kind of environment in the States, why not vote Democrats consistently. Who said: “every country gets the Government they deserve”?
    I was in the Sates for 5 wks a few years ago, and talked to many people, not just liberals but also very conservative. It did change my views on the US a lot. In fact, it’s, in my mind a true Democracy; u can vote for almost anything. I like that.

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  • Cassie Jones

    Homeschooling IS NOT allowed – here you need to have a teaching degree to teach children, plain and simple. It is also extremely important that children become social. Children here have playdates or extracurricular activities almost every single day, for at least 2-3 hours of their day after school.

    • vanessabq

      This is a real mistaken idea about homeschool and homeschoolers. I know many homeschooled children (and adults who were homeschooled) and becoming social is a total non-issue. Here is a PBS article:

      Here is an excerpt from another:

      “In 2004, Susan McDowell, a PhD in Educational Leadership, conducted a review of 24 studies on socialization of homeschoolers. She came to the conclusion:

      ‘It’s a non-issue today,’ said McDowell, who earned Ph.D. in
      educational leadership from Vanderbilt University. ‘All the research
      shows children are doing well.’

      Furthermore, when asked to find evidence that homeschoolers are socially
      deficient compared to traditional school students, she claimed that no
      one in the academic field had supported that hypothesis by research. The
      idea that homeschooled kids aren’t socialized is a huge myth.

      The same article points out that McDowell is not alone in her
      conclusion. She is joined by another researcher, Dr. Larry Shyers, who
      holds a Ph.D. in counseling:

      His studies found that homeschooled children are not
      disadvantaged when it comes to socialization. He said that those taught
      at home were more likely to invite others to play with them, they were
      not as competitive but more cooperative, and they kept their noise
      levels lower. ‘Homeschooled children also played with peers of both
      genders rather than with those of the same gender,’ he added.”

      A wonderful homeschooling blog:

    • David M Laz

      Why is that a freedom that is denied to the Dutch?

  • Cassie Jones

    I tend to agree. As a disclaimer, of course not all Dutch parents let their kids run wild and eat candy all day, but from my perspective it’s some of what I’ve observed over the years. We are and American mother and an Italian father living in the Netherlands.. our kids go to a Dutch school and play with Dutch children, which is great, for the most part Dutch kids are nicer to other kids than American kids are to each other, back in the States, but… We are pretty strict by comparison.. our children our taught to apologise for running into someone accidentally(Dutch kids and grownups NEVER do), our kids sit down and eat over their plates at dinner and we stay at the table until everyone is finished, there is no jumping or standing on any living room furniture and they must ask “please, may I,” there is no “give it to me, or I want” and also “thank you” or “grazie” are really important. Temper tantrums aren’t rewarded – our kids are 7 and 8 and they’re still not allowed to go to the playgrounds by themselves, there are no afternoon ‘snoepjes'(usually marshmallows, or gummies or even a bag of chips!), only fruit or veggies or pretzels here and I don’t think hagelslag(sprinkles) with “butter” (actually they use margarine, I’ve never seen any Dutch person use the real stuff) is healthy, so we just don’t have it in the house. I also don’t think the “Dutch Diet” is healthy either.. two cold meals of white bread with margarine with cheese and ham or hagelslag or jam for breakfast or lunch with a flavoured milk or “juice” that’s essentially corn syrup water… So you can imagine why Dutch kids are so happy, they really sort of run the show.. but it must be really difficult to get kids to transition into adulthood if you don’t start teaching them polite commonalities and healthful eating from the get-go. Again, this definitely doesn’t apply to ALL Dutch families and children, but I have seen drastically more of this here, than in the states or Italy. End rant.

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  • sander

    The story is true in the sense that parents are enabled to set up their family life this way. That doesnot mean that everyone is making use of it. (Though everyone receives the tax measures) However I do not know parents that are not making use of at least one of the elements mentioned here. And yes….dutch employees belong to the most labor productive of the world.

  • sander

    What is not mentioned, and to me at least just as important. The institutionalized possibility to step to a higher education level regularly. Children that are later in their social or cognitive development are not written off at an early stage. There is always a possibility to step stone your way into university.Dutch parents are always able to say….hang in there, there is a different route. Your time will come. I understood that that is not the case in every country. If you want to educate yourself there is a way. Whoever invented that in our country deserves a statue.

  • Viola Van Der Rhee

    dibaby1979, You have read wrong, when a baby is 18 months you can enroll your child in a kind of preschool but its not manditory but optional, it’s usually used when the parents have to work and people think its good for the child social skills, making friends from such a young age. also this kind of prescool is not free, you have to pay a lot of money for it.When a child is aprox 4 years old he/she starts school for real but some schools have the wednesday of friday off because going to scool for 5 whole days is really exchaudting for a small child.

  • Kelly V.

    From around 2 to 2,5 years they can go to a thing called ”peuter speelzaal” that means ”todler playroom”. that is one morning and one afternoon a week and all they do there is like the name is saying, play. Kids like it and they can get a bit used to how it goes in school but that is not the main purpose. The main purpose it to make friends and play with them in a save and controlled environment.

  • sabine munzebrock

    “Familymoney” : taxpayersmoney. The Dutch taxpayer is well aware of that, I never heard someone complaining about it. On the contrary, when they wanted to skip “kinderbijslag” for the highest incomes, the conservative liberal VVD party protested against it. As for happy parents, being myself of a family of 5 children, three of my brothers and sisters were able to share the task of educating the children by parttime jobs. My eldest sister later emigrated to France, where she found the pressure and the amount of homework in the schoolsystem very hard for children and not bringing any better results.

  • Saskia Struthers

    I love this! My dutch friend is sitting next to me, my mum is dutch, my dad is English, we were laughing as it’s all true from how we know it!! Thinking of making the transition to Holland as we prefer the system over there. Thank you for the article. Brought a smile to my face!

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  • Mat2710

    This article really underlines, why I like the Netherlands. Greetings from Germany!

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  • Yvonne De Rooij

    Mavo is not the lowest.

    The lowest is IVBO (individueel voorbereidend beroeps onderwijs), second is VBO (voorbereidend beroeps onderwijs), third is LBO (lager beroepsonderwijs) and then there’s Mavo.
    The sector that provides all of these is called VMBO.
    It is very easy to jump to a higher level if you go from IVBO to any other level (excluding mavo) within this construct because of the hands-on (practical) type of teaching they give.
    Mavo is kind of like the odd duck since it’s mostly theory based learning and much less hands on.
    It is very difficult to jump from the other levels to mavo since it’s so different.
    It is however much easier to jump from mavo to havo (which is as you know another construct of its own right).

    • Veronique

      Yvonne, that is not correct either. The lowest is PRO (praktijkonderwijs), then VMBO-BBL (basisberoepsgerichte leerweg), VMBO-Kader en VMBO-TL (they called it mavo long ago), then HAVO (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs) and VWO (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs).
      It’s not difficult at all to jump from Havo to mavo, the only thing you need to do is not doing your homework and get low grades. It’s very difficult (impossible) to jump from Mavo to Havo since Havo is a lot more difficult than mavo. Also, mavo (actually TL) is not theory at all, they try to get the students to do more with their hands because most of the mavo students are very bad at studying.

  • Veronique

    As a Dutch person myself, I can tell that Dutch kids DO have a lot of stress at school. It depends on the results of the CITO test. My daughter had 545, which is only 5 points away from the maximum score, and went to the high school with the highest level of education. Kids on HAVO and VWO (the 2 highest levels, although 20% of the population goes to VWO, the highest level) have A LOT of homework, stress and such. My daughter is ambitious and intelligent, and she had breakouts all the time. She cried, was depressed and didn’t want to go to school because of all the tests and the pressure. I talked to the moms of my daughter’s friends and they told me their daughters were very stressed too. The teachers told me alot of kids have stress on VWO, and that it was normal and that she just had to go through it. She’s still doing VWO (she’s in the 4th year). Dutch kids are happy but the only kids who don’t have stress at school are the kids doing vmbo (low eductation).

    • Jasper

      Hello Veronique. The CITO test is nothing compared to the situation in foreign countries, yet some people from the Netherlands take it too serious. The level if the CITO-test is set such that if children did little practice or a lot of practice, it won’t make a huge difference in the results. Elementary schools also provide good practice for the CITO test!

      It’s shown that children ‘pushed’ (mostly by their parents) to score well on the CITO test and receiving a higher score, have less chances of success in high school. Also putting children on a level that’s actually too high for them, may lead to social difficulties.
      [Source: Klarus, Ruud, and W. Wardekker. Wat is goed onderwijs?: Bijdragen uit de pedagogiek. Boom Lemma uitgevers, 2011.]

      Also if your CITO score is lower, it’s actually still possible to join a higher level of high school. And it’s also possible to move to a higher level of education during the high-school (as long as the notes are good enough and the school is willing to collaborate).

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  • June

    Dutch VWO student in the midst of final exams here. I’d like to add that I have 9 subjects (Dutch, English, ancient Greek, maths, history, art, economics, philosophy and music, so I’m still looked down on by people who do ‘The Real Things’ like physics and chemistry, but I digress), while my English friends have like… two. (Truth be told I don’t know how many subject is normal in the USA) That’s not exactly ‘no pressure’ (also more and more colleges are asking for high grades to get into courses like medicin, or ‘university college’).
    Side note I took an AP micro economics exam last year and, revised for about a day, didn’t even fully understand everything and passed (with a 3, but still). For my economics exam next week I’ve revised significantly longer and am still scared I won’t even pass. So ‘you have nine subject but they’re not as advanced as when you’ve got less subjects’ is not true. Rant over.
    (I don’t agree entirely with point 4 by the way, but it’s true that there wasn’t a lot of pressure on my in primary school, but obviously that’s not the same for everyone)
    (Still like the Netherlands a lot)

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  • Tiemen Staal

    A lot must have changed, I had plenty homework growing up.

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