When Media Profile announced a benefit encouraging employees to spend up to four weeks working from anywhere in the world, I had one destination in mind: The Netherlands.
My last name may be a tip-off, but the land of tulips, windmills and canals has always held a special place in my heart. The opportunity to spend my weeks biking through picturesque cities, sampling every Bitterballen and Stroopwafel I could get my hands on and blending into daily life in the city of Leiden was a dream come true.
Nine cities, four Airbnbs, two soccer matches and one engagement later, here’s everything I recommend for travelling in Holland.
The MOST important thing I encourage you to do is rent a bike for the duration of your stay. Dutch cities are meant to be biked through—while the busy streets that line the canals may seem daunting to even seasoned cyclists, I promise you the two-wheeled experience is worth it. A bike will unlock your stay in ways walking, transit, or even boats, simply can’t.
I spent the majority of my stay in a city called Leiden. A day that will forever be special to me was my “Tour de Leiden.” It was beautiful in its simplicity and I took my time biking anywhere and everywhere I could. I stopped at bars and cafes as I pleased and made sure to hit every local attraction and historical site.
Nothing felt better than starting every day by biking to the city centre for a delicious breakfast and freshly squeezed orange juice at the market. If you find yourself in The Netherlands, please, please, please find some time to bike through your surroundings—it’s an experience you won’t soon forget!
Next, the small cities and towns are where it’s at for the true Dutch experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love Amsterdam and always will. However, going slightly off the beaten path is highly recommended. Cities like Haarlem, Delft, Utrecht and Maastricht are must-sees for a more authentic understanding of what Holland is all about.
From quaint restaurants to local businesses that have been around for generations, these cities possess a unique charm that can’t be found elsewhere. Not that you asked, but my favourite was Haarlem—perhaps because I went there with little to no expectations and left fascinated by what the city had to offer.
On the topic of food, I will be frank—the Dutch do not have what can be considered a “robust” cuisine. What they do have is a bevy of tasty snacks, sweet treats and excellent pub fare. Bitterballen—comparable to a Dutch meatball—are the perfect bar snack and are best paired with a Dutch beer. Pro-tip, resist the urge to bite into these deep-fried morsels until at least five minutes after they arrive at your table; the roof of your mouth will thank me.
Also worth exploring if you have a sweet tooth are Poffertjes: A classic Dutch breakfast consisting of several toonie-sized pancakes, served with various accompaniments. My personal favourite is the banana Nutella combo. Of course, I would be remiss in not mentioning Stroopwafels. Get one freshly baked and let it speak for itself; trust me.
Oh, and as the great Marshall Ericksen says in How I Met Your Mother, don’t sleep on the Gouda.
Lastly, and this is not necessarily specific to The Netherlands, but every good vacation requires one instance of splurging on yourself. For me, this was a private canal cruise in Amsterdam. I kicked off the Work Away experience with a week of vacation, joined by my (now) fiancée. We decided that after two years of working from home without travel, we deserved to live a little lavishly.
Part of my eagerness to do so was driven by my plans to propose, and admittedly we may have splurged a little too much. But for two hours, we felt like royalty cruising the canals, munching on charcuterie and enjoying champagne. She said yes, and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it any other way.
So, in many ways, I have Media Profile to thank for helping me pull off the perfect engagement. Thanks, MP!
That’s all I have for an abbreviated tip list, but I also wanted to share a Dutch peculiarity I came to fall in love with: the importance of being on time. A tenant of Dutch culture is to be on time for everything you do. There is a saying in The Netherlands: “Being on time is arriving when the church bells start to ring. Fashionably late is waiting for them to finish.” I don’t know why, but I love that.
Being on time is one of the best ways to convey love and respect for the people and things that mean the most to us. I’ll be taking a newfound appreciation for what it means to be on time home with me.
Five unforgettable weeks have come and gone in the blink of an eye, but this was an experience I’ll cherish forever. A flight home to Canada is all that awaits, and the church bells are ringing.
Curious to learn more about MP’s adventures abroad? Stay tuned for future Our Take #PassportToMP blog posts where employees will share their work away experiences..