I can imagine that moving to a new place is a confusing time, especially if there is a different language involved. Nothing seems logical and you will start doubting some of your basic instinct. During my introduction week last semester one guy told me that he had trouble finding chicken (or any meat for that kind) in the meat section at the supermarket, since everything was in Dutch. And the first thing all international ask is if you are allowed to cycle drunk (because that of course is important knowledge). I took the liberty to break down some of the most important information you need to know upon arrival here. Let’s start from the beginning.
Getting to places
It is no secret that we are all about cycling here, but in the first few days you will probably use public transportation until you buy a bike. It is recommended to buy a ‘anonymous OV chipcard’. You can buy this chipcard at various locations, but if you are at Schiphol and you have to take the train to Utrecht you can just buy it at the service counter. This card costs €7.50 and you have to charge it every time you have to use the train or bus/tram. All busses in Holland have a number and direction. One number has (sometimes) two directions, so always check if the number and direction match. If you are ready to buy a bike then always go for a second-hand, since bikes get stolen very often here. You can check Facebook for second-hand bikes or you can buy them at bike shops. One shop I can recommend is Fietspunt at Nobelstraat 293 in the city centrum. A good second-hand bike cost around €45-65, but you can also get one for €20. Also make sure to have a good lock (or maybe 2 locks) and lock your bike from the mid frame to the back wheel. Imagine not having your main source of transportation. No one wants that right?
Basic supermarkets/shops in Utrecht
In Netherlands we have two sorts of supermarkets: the A-label supermarkets and discount stores. Popular A-label supermarkets are Albert Heijn and Jumbo. They carry brand products plus private label products. So there is a big difference in prices, but also a wide variety of product types and brands. Good to know is that private labels are sometimes just as good as a well-known brand. Popular discount stores are Lidl and Aldi. They mostly carry cheap import products and they don’t offer a variety of brand (1 or 2 max), but the prices are most of the time lower. Lidl is known to have the best price and quality balance, plus best fruits and vegetables. Next to these shops there is the Action at Utrecht Central Station. Action offers a variety of product. You can get really cheap detergent and cleaning products. Plus if you want to decorate your room a bit then Action is the place to be. Just check their website here. Kruidvat is a cheap drugstore (cheaper than supermarkets) where you can find good deals on products. There are several Kruidvat spread across Utrecht, so there is always one in the neighborhood. There is a flea market every Wednesday and Saturday, and the environmentally-friendly market is on Friday (the prices are here a bit higher). At the flea market you can get fresh fruits and vegetables for a good price, cheap flowers/plants, and good cheese and fish. At the end of the day (around 4pm) the prices starts dropping, plus at this time they are more willing to negotiate.
I think that this is essential knowledge you should have, but of course surviving in a new place take more than knowing the basics. So here are some general information and inside tips:
– Being sloppy drunk in public is “illegal”, thus so is cycling intoxicated. I never heard of someone actually getting busted though, but if it ever happens to you I would love to hear that story.
– One thing you are more likely to get fined for is cycling without lights and not stopping for red lights. According to car drivers this is highly dangerous. But who are they to decide, right?
– It is also not allowed to park your bike everywhere (especially in the city centrum). Though you probably will see people dumping their bike everywhere and anywhere, there is the chance that they take it away and you have to pay to get it back. (See rule #3 of the previous blog post ‘Bicycle Bloopers: Kick off’.)
– Cyclers here hate pedestrians, and so will you when you’re cycling. So watch out for bikers, because they are not afraid to ran you over or drop a Dutch translation of the F-bomb.
– I believe that Utrecht is a kind place, but sometimes our bus drivers can be a bit cranky. So if you need some directions and the driver is not being very helpful just ask a passenger. I’m sure they will help.
– If you like visiting museums (and you probably will visit some), then consider buying a museum card. With this card you can visit around 400 museums in Netherlands for just 54,95 a year.
Now that you are all geared up, the only thing left is to sit back and enjoy your new crazy life. I wish you good luck my friend!
By Omaily Lucas