Every day life
In this section you will find information about every day life in the Netherlands, including: supermarkets, drugstores, post offices, garbage and recycles.
The Netherlands has numerous supermarkets. The cheaper and more basic supermarkets are Lidl and Aldi, and the more exclusive and more expensive ones are Albert Heijn, EMTÉ and Jumbo. The latter offer a bigger product range, and more specialties. Almost every supermarket has a separate counter where they sell tobacco products, flowers and lottery tickets.
Some hints for shopping in supermarkets:
• Remember to bring a 50-cent coin with you for a shopping cart!
• Some grocery stores have weight/price machines in the fruit and vegetable section. You are expected to price your own product before going to the cash desk. The process is simple enough. Grab a bag, fill it with the required product quantity, take it to the scale, push the corresponding button (the buttons carry pictures of all vegetables and fruits, so no Dutch required), and hit the bon (ticket) button. You will get a sticker with the price; put it on your bag and you are ready to proceed to the cash desk.
• There is no such thing as a bag boy! You are expected to pack your own groceries — and stores do not provide free grocery. You can ask for a bag (tas), which will cost you about 10 cents per bag. You can also grab a recycled cardboard box at the entrance of the store.
• Remember to bring your used soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. If the word statiegeld (deposit) is printed on the bottle, you have paid a 25-cents deposit on them, and can get the deposit refunded when you turn the bottles in at the store. So make sure to get it back. All other glass bottles (jars, wine bottles, etc) must be taken to a bottle bank outside the supermarket (often located in the parking lot).
• Alcohol like wine and beer are sold in the supermarkets. The legal drinking age in the Netherlands is 18 years old. The sale of alcohol to children under this age is illegal.
• Most supermarktes will sell tobacco as well. The legal smoking age in the Netherlands is 18 years old. The sale of tobacco to children under 18 is illegal.
All Dutch supermarkets have weekly offers, and sometimes you need a discount card to get these special prices. For example, Albert Heijn has a bonuskaart. Ask for a bonuskaart at the counter in the supermarket. (It is for free.)
Opening hours are usually from Monday – Friday 08.00 – 21.00. Saturday 08.00 – 20.00, Sunday 12.00 – 17.00 (be aware that in smaller cities the shops and supermarkets are closed or with limited opening hours on Sunday).
The markets in the Netherlands do not take place every weekday at the same location. Instead you can visit a market every day at a different location! Dutch markets do not only sell food, but also clothes, flowers and household items. Do not be scared to try to make a good deal. The people selling their products are ready to negotiate.
Markets in the Twent
In the Netherlands, organic products are sold more and more in conventional supermarkets but there are special supermarkets as well. These products are more expensive, but they are top-quality and healthier than non-organic.
Shops with international products
Apart from the specific sections in supermarkets, you’ll find specialised shops as well. Due to the historical connection the Netherlands has with Indonesia, you’ll find “Toko’s “ in every city. These shops sell Asian herbs and spices, typical Asian cooking utensils and other appliances. Also shops with a Northern Africa, Caribbean or Turkish background are quite common.
Drugstore or Pharmacy
You do not have to register with a specific pharmacy, but it makes life easier if you do, because in most cases they will then send the bill for prescription drugs directly to your health insurance provider. The easiest time to register with a pharmacy is at the same time that you register with a doctor. Pharmacies have 24/7 coverage, based on the same system as doctors.
There is a difference between a drugstore (drogist) and a pharmacy (apotheek). Drugstores (such as Kruidvat, Trekpleister and Etos) supply non-prescription medications, baby items, general toiletries, cosmetics, etc. Pharmacies are the only outlet for prescription drugs. Pharmacies also sell over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, special baby foods, etc., and will provide advice to help ensure that medications do not interact with any other drugs you may be already taking. There is no standard with regard to which medications one can buy with or without a prescription. But the Dutch system is rather restrictive and you may find you need prescriptions for things you were able to buy over the counter at home.
There are no post offices in the Netherlands. Instead there are mini-post offices located inside of certain grocery stores, and other stores (mostly book stores, for instance Bruna or the Read Shop). To mail a letter go to one of the orange mailboxes on the streets or in shopping malls. But before you put your letter in the mailbox, check the postal code of the address on your letter, and place your letter in the slot below the relevant postal codes. Also make sure that you have put the correct postage on the letter! Mailboxes will be emptied every day in the evening, and mail within the Netherlands will be delivered the next day.
Garbage and Recycle
As in other developed countries, the Dutch are keen to lessen their impact on the environment by reducing landfill and energy use.
Several recycling (kringloop) schemes are in existence, although these may vary slightly depending on the community where you choose to live. At these “Kringloop winkels” you can bring your old (but in good condition) goods like furniture, clothing, toys and books. These items will be sold in the store for a very low price. It’s worthwhile to have a look if you want to furnish your house in a low-budget way.
In every community there are green and grey bins. The green bin is used for biodegradable kitchen and garden waste, and the grey bin for other household waste. Bottle banks (usually green) for recycling glass can be found outside many supermarkets, and there are containers (white) for unwanted clothes and shoes. There are often bins inside stores where you can put old batteries. When you buy most bottled beers and soft drinks (but not canned drinks), you will pay a small deposit, which is refundable when you return the empty containers at recycling stations in grocery stores. Recycling of plastics is also done; you can leave those in the orange containers.
Most municipalities are changing their policy on waste management and try to convince the public to recycle more and more. This is done for instance by collecting the grey bin only once a month and the orange and green bins every other week.
Larger goods like broken furniture or garden waste can be brought to the waste recycling site of Twente Milieu. You can even arrange for them to collect it if you can’t bring it yourself.
Check your local Community Guide for more information about what is available in your city or visit the website of Twente Milieu.