Commuting in the Netherlands

About a month ago, I started my new job in the Netherlands. Yay! But because my work is located on the outskirts of Amsterdam, and because my temporary apartment is in Amsterdam West, it took me an hour an a half each way to get to work. It’s as bad as it sounds… well, not quite. Because public transport in the Netherlands is fantastic! Through my daily commute via tram and train, I learned a few things about Dutch culture.

The most surprising thing (to me) that I discovered was that the Dutch don’t like to wake up early. OR, perhaps more accurately, they don’t like to get to work as early as Americans do. So here I am, week one of my job, leaving my apartment at 7:50am expecting to be amidst a flow of car and bike traffic, and so many people that I would need to elbow them to get in the tram. Not. at. all. The traffic doesn’t start flowing until 8:30. It’s only when I get to Central Station do I see a throng of people and I think, “this is the shit show I was expecting! Now get out of my way; I’m late, I’m late!” Ahhh, good times. My train at 8:30 is always packed. I like to arrive at bit early (American) so I usually manage to get a seat, but there are people STANDING. At no point during any of my several stays in the Netherlands had I witnessed a train so full. I bet you’re thinking that maybe Dutch people don’t take the tram– they bike! Of course the tram is empty and the trains are full during de spits (peak travel times)! Nou, nou…

Week 2, my schedule changes a bit. I’ve started taking an earlier train, around 8am. The trams leading up to the train EMPTY. The train? There’s no one standing at 8am! Sure, the seats aren’t empty as they are on a Wednesday afternoon, but the difference is surprising. Rush hour traffic calms down at 8:45 where I’m from, but not in the Netherlands. The 8am train is much better. People are still waking up, the woman next to me is eating her oatmeal, some middle aged men are chatting, college kid sitting across from me is drinking her coffee on her phone. I love it! I’ve had my doubts about being a morning person, but now I know. I am all about that 8am train!!

All of this has made me really appreciate the Dutch way of life. Even with all the commuting, I’m not stressed. No one on the train is stressed. People are simply enjoying their mornings, enjoying their commute on the very comfortable Dutch trains. I respond to my friends and family in the US, others listen to podcasts, some are reading. It’s really fantastic. And from other people’s commute, I know that getting to work after 9 is not unusual. I don’t know people in the US who have that luxury, unless of course, you’re working a later shift. The Dutch are in at 9:30 and out at 5! I also know this from the trains, where the later train in the evening that leaves around 6 is MUCH emptier than the train leaving around 5. I think now I understand why the Dutch always seem to be so relaxed and happy. It’s not just the weed, folks! That’s obviously a joke, tourists definitely smoke more than the Dutch.

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