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From ice skating to rainy days: what winter weather in the Netherlands looks like

From ice skating to rainy days: what winter weather in the Netherlands looks like

January has arrived, and it has brought cold winter weather with it to the Netherlands. Although we are still waiting for the sneeuw (snow) to fall here, temperatures are getting closer and closer to freezing. Did you know that talking about the weather is a typical Dutch trait? Let’s follow this Dutch tradition and talk about what a typical Dutch winter looks like. And what to do to survive it!

Harsh or mild winters?

Since the Netherlands has a zeeklimaat (maritime climate), winters temperatures can be relatively mild. When you think of Dutch winters, you might picture a typical Dutch painting of a picturesque scenery of a snowy landscape with windmills and people ice skating. Back in the days, weeks of sneeuwval (snowfall) and vriezen (frost) were not uncommon in the Netherlands. But Dutch winters have gotten much milder and warmer, and snowfall is becoming a bit more rare (unfortunately!). Nowadays, grey and rainy days are more characteristic for Dutch winter months..

 Schaatsen on the frozen canals

In the increasingly rare case that it freezes a few days in a row in the Netherlands, and a layer of ice has formed on the waters, the Dutch don’t know how fast to get their schaatsen (ice skates) out from under the dust. Speed skating as a sport originates in the Netherlands from around the 13th century, and it is no coincidence that the country is number one in speed skating in the world. The many grachten (canals) make the Netherlands extremely suitable for ice skating. Every year, the Dutch skating enthusiasts hope for the historical event of the Elfstedentocht (‘Eleven cities tour’) to take place: a skating competition on natural ice in the northern province of Friesland, that passes through eleven cities. It was first organised in 1909, and has taken place 14 times since. The last time the ice was thick enough was in 1997, but the hope for a new edition is still widespread every year..

A Dutch winter wardrobe

How to survive the wet, cold and grey Dutch winter days? First of all: make sure you get the right outerwear! Laagjes (layering) is key for the Dutch to adapt to the changeable weather. A good winterjas (winter coat) is your best friend, ideally with a capuchon (hood) to protect yourself from the endless rainfall. Wrap a large sjaal (scarf) around your neck to stop the wind, put a muts (hat) on your head, pack your hands with handschoenen (gloves) or wanten (mittens). Make sure you wear a cozy trui (sweater) and some dikke sokken (thick socks), and you’re ready to brave the winter weather on your bike like a real Dutchie!

Are you ready to spend winter in the Netherlands, or would you rather skip it and stick to the summer days? The Netherlands is a country of different seasons, which makes it such a fun place to be! Would you like to learn more about Dutch seasons and everything that goes with it? Take a look at our many Dutch courses!