What goods do expats miss the most in the Netherlands?

…and what Dutch treasures did they discover here? We asked expats from Italy, Sweden, Poland, Russia and US to share their observations. Get ready to be surprised!

Anthony (US)

Anthony from US

hospitality industry professional // moved to the Netherlands 4 weeks ago // experienced living in Amsterdam

I’m from Connecticut, and there’is a big Jamaican population, so I really miss in the Netherlands all kinds of Jamaican food. It’s delicious: oxtail, beef patties… Couple of times I searched for it on the internet, but I couldn’t find a real deal here. I tried Suriname dishes in Amsterdam, and I should say it was the closest to Caribbean food.

I miss here Chick-fil-a, the fast food restaurant. It sounds so american, I know! Their chicken sandwiches are amazing, and if they were here in Amsterdam I would probably go broke, cause I did it almost every day in US — it was soooo good! What else… The Netherlands need to get better with hot sauce. I like to use the hot sauce in my food, but it’s not that popular here, so I definitely will miss it here. Besides that, I miss potato chip fries, but very spicy ones, beef jerky, jalapeño chips, Arizona iced tea… Oh yes, if you go to US, you will probably eat very unhealthy, quick, easy and convenient food. Luckily I maintained to survive there and not to become really fat.

S’more is also a good thing to miss, it’s a campfire speciality which basically consists from marshmallow, chocolate and cracker — you put it over the fire and it becomes incredibly delicious! Everybody does it in the summer time, I already started to miss stuff like that.

For groceries here I mostly go to the supermarkets like Albert Heijn. For fruits and vegetables I prefer street markets, where you can buy everything you need. In Connecticut we don’t have so many markets, and it’s great to have the variety here: they are available in every neighbourhood.

My greatest Dutch discoveries so far are waffles and frikandellen. I also like bitterballen, it’s a tasty snack. Even though I mention a lot of meat, I never had more vegetarian dishes in my life since I come here. It’s very popular here, and it makes your body feel fresh. I’m more a meat person, but I liked the feeling.

I also discovered here Alfa beer: it goes down nice and smooth, it’s really tasty. Back in the days in US Heineken was one of my favorite beers, but now I want to explore more, and not only Dutch but also German and Belgian beer.

* While having this interview Anthony tried Two Chefs Brewing beer from local Amsterdam makers. Guess what? He liked it!

Maria (Russia)

Maria from Russia

e-commerce consultant // moved to the Netherlands 4,5 years ago // experienced living in Rotterdam and Amsterdam

Here, in the Netherlands, I mostly miss Russian sweets. For example, pomadka with candied fruit — it’s a kind of fudge which I associate with good times from my childhood. Another thing that I miss is pastila of any kind — basically, it’s light, airy sweets with a fruit flavour. And, of course, I can’t forget a very special Russian cake called Ptichye moloko (or Bird’s milk), especially the traditional one in the cardboard box with a bird — it’s absolutely fantastic!

When I just moved to NL, I went back to Russia quite often, almost every 3 months. Now it’s more likely 2 times a year, and every time I bring a lot of Russian goods in my suitcase. What is usually there? Different sweets (including halva in chocolate which my Dutch boyfriend likes a lot), porridge sachets with fruits and all the different kinds of medicines. I should say, I miss the quality and variety of medicines here, so I usually bring the strong antiviral pills (in case of flu it helps to recover incredibly fast!), antibacterials like chlorhexidine and many more.

For Russian specialities I shop mostly in Russia: either I bring it from home, or my parents bring it when they come to visit me. In 5 years I went to Russian supermarkets in Amsterdam only 2 times, even though there are 2 or 3 of them here. I do not go to Russian restaurants: there was one, but now it doesn’t exist any more. The only one type of Russian place I really miss here is banya. It’s Russian type of sauna with it special rituals like ‘massaging’ the body with bunches of dried branches and leaves from white birch, oak or eucalyptus. I miss it so much that I even have the idea to open one here, in Amsterdam.

My greatest Dutch discovery so far is all kind of vegetables and roots which are very popular in Dutch cuisine. I never had such a big choice in Moscow! Pastinaak, witlof, boerenkool, palmkool — I started to discover amazing products which I was never familiar with. I observed a lot how locals made their groceries on the market and began to experiment in my kitchen. For recipes I mostly use Jamie and Delicious magazines and culinary shows on 24Kitchen tv channel. I should say, they share a lot of great tricks. For example, witlof is very nice when roasted in orange juice: the sweetness of orange covers up the bitterness of the root.

Oh, and I remembered another Dutch discovery. Maybe you will hear not even once from other expats about Speculaaspasta — a special biscuit paste that you can spread on top of the bread. Basically, it’s bread on bread — which is absolutely typical Dutch thing to do!

Sofia (Sweden)

Sofia from Sweden

intern at the cardiovascular physiology department // moved to the Netherlands almost 3 years ago // experienced living in Leiden and Amsterdam

I really miss here simple to make, cheap and healthy food. Let’s face it, a lot of Dutch specialities are fried or deep fried.

Speaking about authentic Swedish food, I miss blodpudding, it’s a very special dish. Basically, it’s a pig’s blood mixed with flour and milk, fried in a pan and served with lingonberry jam (which is also impossible to find here). Maybe it sounds strange, but it’s delicious and healthy! And yes, this dish has a lot of iron in it.

I also like herring, and in Sweden we have special one that’s called Inlagd sill — herring mixed with different sauces and herbs. It tastes very nice, it’s healthy, cheap and very filling! I also miss red caviar: it’s almost impossible to find here a good one.

Besides fish, I miss some meat dishes. My dad is a hunter — not by living but apart from what he does for living. Sometimes he would go up in north and shoot a moose — that’s really, really tasty. Last fall we had the moose heart, and it was incredibly delicious! Oh yes, I miss my dad’s cooking, cause he makes reindeer, moose and all kinds of great stews.

For Swedish specialities here I have to go to Ikea (laughing). Ikea sells herring and pick&mix candies that I really like. Other than that, I don’t think there is any specialized Swedish supermarket in Amsterdam. Also I don’t know any restaurant with authentic Swedish food where you can try reindeer, for example. But with shopping it’s way much easier: Amsterdam has a lot of Swedish clothing brands like Filippa K or Acne Studios.

My biggest Dutch discovery so far is beer, and especially the whole culture around it, like borrels, music festivals with a tasty and cheap beer to be had and popularity of local breweries.

Magda (Poland)

Magda from Poland

marketing specialist // moved to the Netherlands 1,5 years ago // experienced living in Maastricht, Utrecht and Amsterdam

What do I miss here? First of all, the quality of vegetables and fruits! For example, tomatoes that smell and taste like tomatoes. Or parsley that smells and tastes like parsley… I especially miss berries! Here you can buy it all the year round, but only in those tiny boxes in the supermarkets, which they are very, very expensive. It’s quite different in Poland. I miss a lot this feeling when on summer holidays you drive somewhere, let’s say from Warsaw to the seaside, passing by the forest. And people who live there pick the fresh berries and sell it along the road. So you can buy the full bucket of tasty berries! And the greatest part: it will cost you almost nothing.

Also nuts are rather expensive here, in the Netherlands. In Warsaw I used to buy on the market fresh, fatty ones that are almost wet inside, and once a month my mom sends me a parcel with those great nuts. I also miss apples a lot, but not the shiny, covered with wax 4-in-a-pack apples, but those that come in different shapes and colour right, from the tree. They have a great taste!

For Polish products I sometimes go to Eastern European supermarkets, but it’s hard to find there fresh food: they mostly sell preservatives and sweets. I recently moved to Amsterdam and I’m going to check one store on Van Woustraat, where they have a lot of Polish goods. I also go to Warsaw quite often: it’s a short journey and the tickets are cheap. Usually I take a big luggage, so I can pack it with authentic products from home. I usually bring nuts, dried fruits (which comparing to Dutch look horrible, but taste like heaven), super foods like linen seeds, sometimes even special bread from my favorite bakery. From time to time I also bring Polish cosmetics: usually I buy organic and delicate to the skin care products, which are rather rare here.

My best discoveries about Dutch food so far… Fish! Especially kibbeling, even though at first I avoided it: I thought it’s deep fried and not healthy. I also like herring, and I don’t mind to buy it in the supermarket, in those packs with chopped onion. I should say herring is much better here than in Poland!

Oh yes, and I also tried vla and I liked it. So I try now to buy it not too often: it’s easy to get addicted!

Giorgio (Italy)

Giorgio from Italy

sustainability professional // moved to the Netherlands almost 2 years ago // experienced living in Amsterdam

What do I miss here? Basically, just one thing — olive oil. But not the oil in general, only that special one from the seaside of Liguria. It’s called Olio Gaziello from Ventimiglia. Oh yes, it’s delicious! I ask my parents to give it to me every 2 or 3 months, and I really miss it when it’s not here. Other than that… I should say, I really miss here the price for espresso at the bar. Apart from the quality of coffee that is different, the price for coffee in Amsterdam is quite high.

For groceries I usually go to big stores like Albert Heijn. Except for that olive oil I can find pretty much all that I need for my Italian diet. Of course, they have some limited selection of authentic products, but they are all rather good, like pasta De Cecco, for example. Those products will still considered to be good in Italy.

When I want to go out for some Italian food, for dinner I often choose Fuoco Vivo on De Clercqstraat. They make authentic pizza which in Italy you will find mostly around Naples. It’s very simple, with a thin centre and thick borders — how it should be made. I can also name another Italian place called Pazzi, but I prefer Fuoco Vivo. For the coffee I usually choose places with signs ‘Illy’ or ‘Lavazza’. I’m not an expert, but usually coffee there tastes good.

Speaking about greatest Dutch discoveries so far, I would say Dutch beer is great! I especially like Brouwerij ‘t IJ. Other than that… I shopped for clothing a couple of times in Geitenwollenwinkel on Utrechtsestraat, and I really liked their concept. They sell sustainable products with all the explanations on how the items were made. They also do not use paper: if you want your receipt, you can get it by the email. For me as a sustainability professional it’s very important.

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