It is that time of the year again: frozen hands when we bike to work, exposure to darkness from the moment we leave our houses to when we return to the safe, warm hub that it is our home. Yet, instead of an advertising promised, beautiful winter wonderland, the Netherlands still stick to their rainy and foggy days – as they do the rest of the year.
For expats, this is winter in Holland and, those who are used to live in sunny places all over the world with mild winter temperatures and a never disappearing sun, this may be a harder period. This is known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It is a type of depression related to changes in seasons that starts in autumn and continues during the winter months.
As a German born expat, I have been exposed to the change of weather commonly associated to four seasons. So, I have plenty of advice for everyone who is struggling with the dark season of the year in the Netherlands (and everywhere!). I hope after having read this you can enjoy the beautiful winter in the Netherlands as much as I do!
How to dress properly in winter
First of all, a cold winter requires the right clothing. Although some people who come from places like Spain think that the Netherlands is the coldest place on earth, I can give the all-clear: Winter in Holland, from December to February, is cold but not freezing, with daily average temperatures around 3°. That is around 0° at night and about 6° during the day. Compared to other European places like Estonia, for example, where people have to deal with up to -20° in February, living in Holland seems like a paradise!
However, I can recommend everyone to buy some warm and cozy clothes. Now, since you have an excuse to go shopping, you have to equip yourself with some warm sweaters, thermal under-layers, long socks and most important, a warm winter jacket. A must-have for people who cycle to work (yes, this is possible in winter) are gloves, a scarf and a warm hat.
What to do in winter?
The cold season also means lots of beautiful Christmas lights in the city, Christmas markets and the sweet smell of Oliebollen. Why not having an after-work stroll through the streets and enjoy the amazing lights everywhere? As the sun goes down around 5 pm, this is even more enjoyable! In the Netherlands, many cities offer winter attractions such as ice-skating rinks and cute Christmas markets. Here you find the top 5 Christmas markets in Holland that I definitely recommend to visit!
- Magical Maastricht
- Royal Christmas Fair The Hague
- Kerstmarkten Valkenburg
- Amsterdamse Winterparadijs
- Christmas Market in Dordrecht
If you are lucky and you have some time-off during the winter holidays to travel to other places, read here about 4 top Christmas markets in Europe that are definitely worth a visit!
But let’s be honest: even the nicest Christmas vibe cannot make up the lack of sun we are all experiencing. People who are not used to this can feel tired, low on energy and moody – only because one very important thing is missing: Sun! There are studies that prove that there is a strong link between a person’s happiness and the absence of light. To fight against this deficiency, here is a tip – take some vitamins in form of supplements, such as Vitamin D or B-complex vitamins.
Other than that, stay active and exercise! It might be sometimes hard to find motivation after a day of work or in school, but trust me: working out makes you feel so much better, it recharges your batteries and brings back some energy!
Soul food is always a good idea!
Soups, Hot Chocolate, Pancakes, Oliebollen, Glühwein or Macaroni and Cheese. Whatever type of food comforts you most, you should definitely eat it in winter. The science of happiness has figured out that certain foods make us happy. So just listen to your body and reward yourself a bit more in winter: You deserve it!
Finally, winter time also means cozy time. It is the perfect occasion to decorate your flat with fairy lights, scented candles, a lot of fluffy blankets and pillows to just enjoy the atmosphere at home. Watch some Christmas movies, get cozy and enjoy some time for yourself.
Last but not least, there is a little hope for everyone who still is not convinced of this season being nice: spring and summer are coming back! Wintertime is also a good occasion to dream about all the sunny days that will expect you again only a few months later. For sure, there are other countries in which living in winter is easier, sunnier and most of all warmer. However, with this guide you can make it through the cold season and even enjoy Christmas with all its niceties.