Foreigners who move to the Netherlands often moan about how much better things are back home. We beg to differ. Here’s a Frenchman’s list of 10 reasons why French people are glad they live in Les Pays-Bas.
1 There is less red tape
It might be hard to believe but in France getting anything official done is usually really complicated. Even the French president François Hollande recognizes this and is demanding simpler procedures at all levels. But it is still a mess ! For instance, starting your own company takes 30 minutes in the Netherlands and days in France. And the worst thing ? Communicating with French council workers. It’s hard to get them on the phone, they are not always polite, they don’t have much patience… The Netherlands is a breeze compared with France.
2 School bags are lighter
Imagine a six-year-old pupil going to school in France – the average school bag weighs in at 8.5 kilos per kid! Sometime school bags are 20% of your body weight but doctors say they should be less than 10%. According to the French national PTA, 64% of the French school pupils complain about their back. In the Netherlands, kids do not get so much homework, they don’t get any at primary school and you have schools where everything is done by iPad.
3 The television news has news in it.
Interested in news about what is going on in the world? Do not watch the French national news. We call it la Grande Messe (the big mass). On both the private channel TF1 and public channel France 2, you’ll get local news and magazine reports. And after a measily 10 minutes of what really happened in the world today, you have to undergo 20 minutes of reports on traditions, the habits of the French population and an awful lot of weather. In Holland the weather is pretty much the same all year round and the country is so small nothing much happens, so you get heaps of foreign affairs on the telly instead.
4 Hardly anyone goes on strike
Going on strike is a national sport in France. Striking is a legal and a necessary way to protest against government policy, pay offers, jobs, Brussels… everyone does it. The Dutch hardly ever strike and if they do, they take care not to inconvenience people. Take last year’s industrial action at Air France/KLM – only the French pilots actually stopped working .
5 Flowers are cheap
Living in the Netherlands makes you happy when you love buying flowers. In France, flowers are a luxury. €7 might buy you 10 tulips in Paris but in the Netherlands, you can pick up a gorgeous bunch for €2.50.
6 Cyclists are cherished
Hosting the most famous cycle race in Le Tour de France does not mean the French actually want you to cycle. And if you do risk your life trying to cross la Place de la Concorde, remember, unlike in the Netherlands, bikes are not allowed to ride everywhere they like. And should you go down a one-way street the wrong way, which is second nature to all Dutchies, you could be fined up to €750.
7 The Dutch are optimists
Pessimism is actually a French way of life. According to a poll in 2009, 60% of the French worry about becoming homeless and only 43% claim to be happy. France is by far one of the most depressed country of the world. The Dutch, by contrast, constantly top world happiness polls.
8 People clean up after their dogs
Around 20 tons of dog mess is collected in Paris each year – that is one kilo every five seconds! Many towns have taken steps to improve this and introduced fines but it is still a big issue. In the Netherlands, there are special places where dogs can go and do their business and in some towns you get free plastic bags. Amazing.
9 No-cash shops
Try to buy your pain au chocolat with plastic and the baker will look at you like you are mad. No cash, no croissant. He might suggest you add a few more items to the bill and then they’ll accept your credit card but pin? Forget it. In the Netherlands, by contrast, no-one turns a hair if you pay by pin for a cheese roll.
10 No endless family meals
Those long French family meals might be the stuff of Boursin adverts on the Dutch telly, but to those who have to suffer them, they can be a nightmare. French families can spend hours and hours eating, drinking, telling stories, talking politics… apéritif, three courses, cheese, dessert, digestif, it never ends… An ovenschotel or stamppot at 6pm sharp never seemed more attractive.
For more on the French in the Netherlands, check out website CanalDutch.com