6 things I like about The Netherlands

12 07 2013

ImageMoving to a new country always comes with differences. Some things you like more, some you like less.

I decided to compile my list of the top 6 things I like in The Netherlands. I wanted to do 10 but I couldn’t think of moreūüôā I may update the post if I remember something else.


In no specific order:

  1. The public transports. They are usually very punctual and you can use them to go almost everywhere in the country. They are very well inter-connected (trains, buses, trams, …) and there is a web site (http://9292.nl) that recommends the best way to get from A to B using public transports.
  2. Work hours. People typically work their 8 hours and go home. Working long hours is not a rule, it’s the exception.
  3. Work schedule. It’s possible to work part time, 36 hours a week, 3 days a week, you name it and someone does it. Companies are open to this flexibility and accept well the employees that don’t want to work 8 hours a day for the full week. This means a mother and/or father can spend more time at home with their children, as an example.
  4. Travelling. It’s easy to find cheap flights for many places in Europe. The country is very centrally located¬†and it’s therefore easy to reach most places in Europe. You also have a lot of options regarding direct intercontinental flights.
  5. Cycling. Being a flat country it’s easy to cycle. And a lot of people leave the car at home and do a lot of their travelling in their bicycles.
  6. Life quality. The vast majority of people are not counting their pennies at the end of the months. There is a huge middle class that can enjoy life without many concerns. Salaries seem to be more balanced than in other countries, which creates a more equal society. You don’t have many poor people neither you see a lot of opulence.

Reactive medicine

15 08 2011

I’m undergoing surgery soon, for a knee ligament reconstruction (details here).

As I’m preparing for it I get to know in more detail how the health system works in Holland.

Andorinha, a fellow Portuguese in Holland, summarizes it pretty well in a recent post: “Medicine in Holland is reactive and not preventive”. I would only add that it cares more about costs than with the patients.

And why do I state this, you ask?

The surgery will require general¬†anesthesia. It’s common practice, since the 70’s, to have a battery of tests done to make sure the patient won’t have problems from the anesthesia. Those tests include an ECG, a chest x-ray and blood analysis. For the Dutch health system, that’s not needed. You just answer some questions in a piece of paper and you’re good to go.

It’s also common practice to keep the patients in the hospital for a period ranging from 24 hours to 48 hours after the surgery, in case there are complications from the anesthesia and surgery. In Holland: Surgery starts at 08 am, 4 hours later I’m ready to go home. Yes, 4 (four, quatro, vier)!!!!!!!!!

This is cutting costs and hoping for the best at their lowest. If I didn’t have my health insurance here, I would definitely do it somewhere else.

How a boring commute turns interesting

15 08 2011

While traveling by train from Cologne to The Hague, I had the chance to overhear a conversation between a Dutch mother/son and a Chinese guy traveling in Europe.

From the conversation I deduced the Dutch were well educated and traveled people.


Context: the Dutch explaining Holland and Europe to the Chinese.

– “Holland and Germany are pulling the European Union”

– “Protestants are hard workers and save money. That’s why Ireland is going through an economic crisis, because they are¬†Catholics.”

– “If you want to try real Dutch food you have to go to snack bars. Hering, dropje, patat met” ¬† (raw fish, disgusting candy, fries with mayo)


In those 2 hours the Dutch provided us with some good laughs, for their borderline arrogance and for their sense of pride for fries with mayo.

To spit or not to spit….

20 07 2011

One thing that annoys me in Holland is a disgusting habit a lot of people have: spitting on the floor.

Men and women, young and old, from all colors (spit and spitter), it’s a widespread habit in the country. I like to think it’s done by uneducated people but I’m not convinced about it.

In my opinion, police should start fining these people. Spit once, 50 euros fine, spit twice, tongue out. There, problem solved.

I hate is as much as the habit of leaving trash everywhere. But that’s another post…

Sharing files between your computer and your mobile devices

8 07 2011

Recently I wanted to transfer photos from my Android based phone to my PC.

I could connect the two through cable or try to do it¬†via bluetooth, but I just didn’t feel like it. There had to be an easier way.

The solution: Dropbox

Dropbox is a cloud service that allows you to store files in the internet and access them from a variery of devices. The data you store in Dropbox is personal, no one else can access it. You can easily keep those files synchronized between a variety of devices (Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry).

For implementing this:

  • ¬†Go to http://www.dropbox.com/ and install the application in your PC/Mac/Linux. You will¬†have your account setup in the process.
  • In Android, go to the market and download the Dropbox app. Connect it to¬†the account you created.
  • Follow the instructions for¬†synchronizing the files in your Android with Dropbox.
  • As an exercise, if you copy a photo you took with your phone to the dropbox folder, the application will¬†upload it to your personal space at Dropbox and¬†your computer will automatically see it and download it to the dropbox folder.

This works for iPhones, iPads, Androids and BlackBerry. There is a limitation of 2GB of free space in Dropbox, but it can be extended by purchasing extra space.

There are alternative cloud services from providers such as Microsoft, Amazon and¬†Google but I’ve chosen Dropbox because it’s compatible with a larger array of devices.

Knee ligament injuries – My story and advices

7 07 2011

Disclaimer: This is a warning to everybody who sprains his knee, based on my personal experience. Any problems caused by following my advices are not my responsability!



I live in Holland and I injured my knee playing badminton, in December 2010. I jumped, landed awkwardly and twisted the knee. I could flex it and stretch it in the full range of motion immediately after the injury took place.

I went to the hospital a couple of days later, to have it checked.¬†It was very swollen and painful, I couldn’t bend or stretch the knee.¬†I got a pressure bandage on and had to¬†return to the hospital¬†in 5 days. I left in crutches.

5 days passed and I went back. No improvements. I got an x-ray done, nothing was broken. I got another pressure bandage and was booked for another appointment in almost 2 weeks time.

Almost 2 weeks passed and¬†I went for my 3rd appointment. Still no improvements. We are now getting close to 3 weeks after I got injured. I was recommended to do fysiotherapie, because I couldn’t strecht my leg. I was told that if I didn’t stretch my¬†knee soon,¬†I would¬†not be able to fully stretch it again ever (!!!).¬†I left without pressure bandage and with a document stating I should start fysiotherapie. I also had a new appointment in 2 weeks, with an orthopedic surgeon.

I got to the fysiotherapie 4 or 5 days after I was recommended starting it¬†because New Year’s eve delayed my start. We are now 3 weeks¬†after the injury.

I had some tests done in the fysiotherapie which pointed at potential problems in my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and in the meniscus. My quadriceps muscle had already disapeared. This is a common situation when you injure your knee and stop using your leg: the muscle shrinks to oblivion in a couple of weeks. I started immediate fysio with 2 sessions a week, to recover the muscle, and I had exercises to do at home to regain the ability to stretch the knee and to regain muscle mass.

During the recovery I managed to have an MRI done, which I almost had to beg for. It’s an expensive test, doctors may be reluctant to do it. My¬†orthopedic surgeon¬†prefered to do the surgery ratter than the MRI. He thought I had a problem in the meniscus and not in the ACL. I argued that I prefered to have the confirmation via MRI before jumping to a surgery. He conceded, and the MRI showed no meniscus problem and a rupture of the ACL. Without the MRI I was going to have a surgery in the knee to fix a meniscus that was ok,¬†and no ACL reconstruction. Then I would have to go¬†to another surgery to fix the ACL. Yes, astonishing!

After 6 months I’m still doing fysiotherapie, the quadriceps is much stronger but still not up to the level of the one in the other leg. I can’t run and¬†I have to be careful while¬†stepping because the knee is unstable without that ligament.¬†I’m up for surgery soon,¬†in which I will have¬†ACL reconstruction using a piece of my hamstring tendon.


  • If you ever get a sprained knee, go to the hospital immediately.
  • Ask for an X-Ray and have yourself booked for an MRI as soon as possible. If you are a sportive person and have ligament injuries, you want to have it operated as soon as possible and the MRI is invaluable in the diagnosis. You can live without that ligament, but the knee will never be stable enough if you do activities that involve knee rotation such as tennis, badminton, handball,¬†etc. If you are not a sportive person and you¬†have a sedentary life, you may be able to skip the surgery. Letting your knee heal while having fysiotherapie and building muscle around the knee should be enough to make it stable.
  • Ask for fysiotherapie from day 1. The fysiotherapist¬†should tell you to contract the quadriceps muscle¬†often. This will minimize the muscle loss and¬†cut¬†several months out of your recovery process. Remember, in 3 weeks I lost all my muscle and, after 6 months of weights training, I’m still building up the muscle to get to the normal strenght levels.
  • Push the doctors, ask questions, inform yourself. Some¬†doctors just don’t care about your recovery time. After the rocky start I lost trust in the doctors that I¬†had and for this reason I¬†started to prepare the meetings with them. I read about the problem, I talked with people that went through the same process, I studied the different techniques used in ACL reconstructions to choose the one I¬†thought was better.
  • Don’t try to shorten the recovery time by cutting on¬†fysiotherapie. Think about your future and do it properly. 6 months is the minimum recovery time after the surgery, 1 year for complete healing of the ligament implant.

Some reading material

Knee sprain

Anterior Cruciate Ligament

Anterior Cruciate Ligament reconstruction

If you have such a problem, all the best to your recovery. In case of questions, just let me know.


10 12 2010

One of these days I was in the office and a colleague tells me there is a call for me in the company’s general phone number. Strange, I think….

In a nutshell:

– A UK based headhunter saw my profile in LinkedIn;

– As I don’t share my contacts in there, he looked up my company’s contacts;

– He called my company, asking for me;

– He offers me a job in another company.


How sick is this?!? How do they have the nerve to call a company, asking for an employee, just to offer him a job in another company?

The crisis is officially over!