As an outsider to Netherlands it was easy for me to find interesting things around. My girlfriend is Dutch but she is very active on Facebook or websites to try to find out what is happening. Reality is that not all the time something is happening and we have to make an effort. That's why we match so well.
When coming to the Netherlands it was all about the houses! I didn't care so much for most of the stores, as I could also find them in Portugal, so I have started to check architecture, people, habits.
1 - Get a camera!
I was all the time with the phone on my hand taking pictures of the houses and sharing it on Instagram was an eye opener for Dutch. My friends and colleagues started realizing how beautiful their houses are! Amazing doors, detailed windows and well presented garden. They were impressed and started doing the same. Taking pictures to something they were seeing everyday but not capturing them. A camera will give you more inspiration as you know that if you leave the house with it, you need to find something inspiring. Yes, quality of phones are amazing, but try zoom to check details. What a difference!
2 - Attend events!
I am still very surprised that I only live in The Netherlands for 1 year and I have already been in more Dutch places than most of my colleagues. There is a big focus on vacations and, of course, they all like to fly somewhere else. So they simply don't realize that inside there is big treasures to find. In Groningen many events are organized on weekends, but going to the market is one of my biggest interests. There are days when museums are free or with a low entrance fee, there is classic music on the street, there are races and even if you never thought about stopping to see people run, there is always something you can do in those days, like grabbing something special to eat. I realize now I don't mind seeing people running!
3 - Check stores!
This is full of Zaras, H&Ms, Berskas and so on and so on. But in the middle of all this franchise noise there are special shops that locals fight to have them open. And it is so amazing to find something special. Here in Holland, cheese shops are beautiful, but I can never stop entering vintage shops where I can see second hand items. It is like going in the museum. My girlfriend she is not so fond of it, but I love it because I really see things that are unique. She has the same feeling when in Portugal. Now she goes in with me and she realizes that are things worth of being in museums.
4 - Have a drink!
Do you ever stop to check your street? Do you wonder what people are doing or talking about? Well, I'm latin so it's in my blood, but this is really something I love to do. Terraces are the place to be. You can have your dose of oxygen and just enjoy a drink. In Portugal you would have 5 beers! Here in the Netherlands either you are rich or you can't just do it. So, I prefer to spend a bit more and order that special beer I never heard about. And it tastes good or bad, but one thing I promise. I don't forget that moment. I started doing terraces as soon as I arrive and this was my way of realizing people's habits.
5 - Take your bike!
Well... Easy to say when you are in a country where mountains are rare! I am very lucky that I can just decide to go somewhere and my bike can take me there, not spending money at all. I usually go to Google Maps and check what is around, lakes, small villages, and take my camera with me. I can bike for 2 or 3 hours, just calm and enjoy all the roads that take me there. Is is impossible to do it in a different country? No! In Porto, Portugal, roads are not plain at all, streets are busy, but still, with my Dutch friend, I decided to take him on a bike ride. He loved it! We were able to see so much and at the end of the day it was really nice to have to carry it on the side because people were walking everywhere!
6 - Check restaurants close to you!
Do you realize you are the one responsible for the ratings on Tripadvisor? Just go out and decide something different. Try restaurants and don't be afraid to repeat the experiences. If you really enjoy it, try to check what is special about it and write! Share your experiences with your friends. I love when my girlfriend goes out with her friends and tells me to try something out. She also loved that I wanted to try something specific and almost "force" her to experience something she never thought of. The best restaurants in Porto are far from the first rated ones. And this is because they are too small, out of touristic areas and the attention is just no there. Let's fight for it! We are the locals. We should be official reviewers!
7 - Read about history!
I am usually very lazy and the documented history of places I visit, I explore it only after being there. Is this good or bad? I am really not sure. Here in the Netherlands, many places are rich in history because of being so close to the II World War. For me it is impressive how much a place can be a picture of its history. Checking the pictures before and after can give us so much information on how the cities are growing and evolving. Take a historic route or read after being there. I am sure you will come back to the same place with a different perspective.
8 - Act like a tourist
Take pictures to the shops, to the people preparing your favourite snack, to the rooftops, gardens. It is free publicity and maybe someone will thank you. Every time I go to a different place in the Netherlands, close to where I live or a bit hard, I have a bunch of curious people who ask me where I have been, how was it, what can they do there, was it expensive. They know I am still the "tourist" here. And I promise you that next time, you are maybe part of a bigger group!
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