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  • Writer's pictureLuana

Not speaking Dutch in The Netherlands

In this blog I will talk a little bit about my experience in Amsterdam as a non-Dutch speaking student. Before moving to the Netherlands, I was very indecisive with the dilemma: is it worth learning Dutch or not? Of course there is no right answer and it depends on the priorities of each person, thus I aim to bring some points to help you evaluate the decision. 

The first thing is that it is possible to live in this country without speaking Dutch, especially in bigger cities, such as Amsterdam and The Hague. According to the EF English Proficiency Index, The Netherlands was top ranked as having the best second-language English skills both in Europe and of 113 non-English-speaking countries globally. 

On the other hand, communication with elderly people tends to be limited as they don't know or they are not willing to talk in English. I have experienced that inside public transport, on the streets and in some stores. In spite of it being nothing really important, I felt lost and wished that I could have understood them.

Furthermore, when living here, it may be nice to make new friends and connections. In this case, I struggled to make friends with Dutch people because I don't speak Dutch. I'm sure that the language is a constraint in this situation and it would facilitate the interactions if I knew the language. There are many Dutchies that will socialize in English, but I do think that they are more reserved and sometimes, closed in a Dutch bubble. You will definitely make new friends, but I believe that it is an extra layer, making the process harder. 

In addition to that, if you plan to get a job here, learning the local language is key. Many positions require the language and it may also be an advantage for the role and integrating in the professional environment. If it is a side job, English is more than enough, despite having more languages is always a plus. 

Still, there are many expats working in the city for years that don't speak Dutch and they are perfectly fine with that. They don't feel the urge to learn it as they have an international social circle, the job is in English and almost everyone also speaks this language. Moreover, Dutch is useful in a few countries only, which may lead the person to choose another language to learn, such as Spanish, French or German.

Even if you don't plan to learn Dutch, I believe that you will get the main sentences and words for daily life, which I find beneficial. Also, being exposed to the language day to day facilitates a lot of the learning and it can be an incentive to study. 

Summarizing, it is always valuable to speak another language and it can enhance and ease your experience socially and professionally while living in the Netherlands. On the other hand, it is not necessary and people may prefer to learn another language that is more popular.

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