Surviving the Unpredictable Dutch Weather:

A Student’s Guide to Triumph Over the Rain, Wind, and Cold

By Ana Clara Dondoni Braz | Culture | November 8, 2023

Cover Illustration: A typical rainy day in Amsterdam, October 24 2023. Malia Kader / The Amsterdammer

Culture reporter Ana Clara Dondoni Braz provides advice about an issue familiar to every international student in the Netherlands: unpredictable weather.

The Netherlands is considered a country with unpredictable and dreary weather. These conditions can be shocking for international students, especially those who come from warmer regions or are unaccustomed to the wetter climate. The winter months become bleak and gloomy, making the average person feel generally unmotivated. However, there are still many activities that can entertain students during their study breaks and days off. So, what can you actually do in Amsterdam when the rain, wind, and cold weather sets in?

Two students share their opinions about Dutch weather and their favorite wintertime activities. Maro Petsou, 20 years old, is a second-year Greek student in International Business at the Vrije University. Rolland Levestone, 24 years old, is a third-year Dominican student in Sign Language and Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam. They come from the Mediterranean and Caribbean respectively, both of which have a warm and dry climate.

“I think everyone’s challenge is the bike. We are students, we bike a lot, and every time I have to use my bike, it is windy, raining, or both at the same time. That is the worst for me,” says Maro. 

A typical rainy day in Amsterdam, October 24 2023. Malia Kader/The Amsterdammer

Dutch winters pose a great challenge for people who use bikes as their main mode of transport, which is common in this bike-centric country. Public transport could be a viable alternative, but unfortunately, many students do not possess free travel products for trams, trains, and buses. It is essential to be prepared and remain adaptable, as well as seek pleasure, happiness, and motivation.

“Very unpredictable weather. You can leave with your jacket and come back without needing it, and then another day, you leave without one – but then this was the day you actually needed it. You never really know here,” Rolland elaborates. 

Maro and Rolland list a number of activities for other students’ consideration. Some are as simple as going to cafes such as Coffee Company, Bagels & Beans, and American Bakery, or shopping at the city center near Dam Square. More specific recommendations include indoor swimming at Zuiderbad and bowling at Aloha. They also mention seasonal activities like ice skating at Rembrandtplein with family and friends, or going on covered canal boat tours to see the Amsterdam Light Festival.

Their coping strategies include app usage, health considerations, and clothing choices. They recommend tracking the weather via an app called “Drops” and taking public transport instead of biking when it is heavily raining. In terms of health, they mention the importance of taking vitamins D and C and eating well. Lastly, they recommend wearing waterproof jackets, hoodies, hats, and gloves, wearing shoes with enough grip to avoid falling, and putting on thin to thick layers of clothes to avoid sweating and being uncomfortable. 

Rolland also suggests: “Stay well connected to your friends to avoid seasonal depression. Embrace it and know that you are not the only one going through it, and maybe you can also help someone that is feeling down.”

As a student from Brazil, I found myself needing to make cultural adjustments and implement new coping methods to deal with the weather conditions. Adapting to Dutch weather can be challenging, but this journey has given me unique experiences that my home country could never offer. I have no doubt that anyone can discover new interests and enjoyable activities here. 

Personally, experiencing snow for the first time was an immersive encounter with the true essence of Christmas spirit. Ice skating in the gorgeous outdoor rink of Museumplein and appreciating gluhwein with friends during evenings at local bars are my favourite activities. Studying in cafes has always been motivating for me, especially at aesthetically pleasing cafes such as the Rise Bakery, Coffee & Coconuts, and Anne & Max. Finding time to visit museums and host small gatherings with friends are also part of my winter routine.

Surviving the Dutch weather is possible with the right mindset, preparation, and entertaining activities. If you are a first-year student (or not), this can serve as a guide for future periods of cold. Socializing, seeking support from fellow students, and starting new hobbies are of extreme importance in any season. Nevertheless, winter always seems to accumulate more complaints than summer. I wonder why…

“Stay well connected to your friends to avoid seasonal depression. Embrace it and know that you are not the only one going through it, and maybe you can also help someone that is feeling down.” — Rolland Levestone, third-year UvA student

Ana Clara Dondoni Braz is a university student in Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer. 

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