A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Some of you have been looking forward to this, others probably dreaded it. But it is undeniable: Winter has officially reached the Netherlands! The cold season has a special place in Dutch culture – so whether you are a winter grouch or have been decorating your student room since October, there are a lot of ways to enjoy this time of the year.
I’ll start with the obvious one: The cosy cafés that are scattered around Leiden are the ideal place to hide from unfriendly weather. Dutch people love their coffee and always find an excuse to get caffeinated, so it’s no surprise that they’ve gotten very good at making it. You can meet your friends for a nice social outing or take your study materials, most cafés allow you to stay and work for as long as you like. Or how about taking your favourite book and curling up next to the window with a hot beverage? Who knows, it might even be snowing outside…
As soon as it gets cold, ice rinks start to appear seemingly out of nowhere all across the country. You don’t even have to be good at skating: just grab some friends, remember to take your gloves and the fun begins! When the weather is nice, you can also skate at exciting outdoor locations, such as the Museumplein in Amsterdam.
Oh, and if you ever wanted to feel inadequate in your skating skills, I absolutely recommend to go and watch Dutch kids whirl over the ice – they are incredible!
This is for the people who love food (basically everybody) and the people who have an oven (so just some selected individuals). Baking Christmas cookies is not just super tasty, you can also make a whole social event out of it! Everyone brings their favourite recipe, some ingredients and a Christmas playlist – what better way to get into the holiday spirit? And while you wait for the cookies to bake, you can watch cheesy Christmas movies!
New Year’s Dive
You might have heard about this one, it’s that crazy Dutch new year’s tradition (not the one where they set stuff on fire in Scheveningen, the other one). At over 200 locations in the Netherlands, countless people will gather to jump into the freezing water. Afterwards, there will be soup and hot drinks to get your body temperature back to normal. I couldn’t come up with a more fitting metaphor for a fresh start into the new year.
Go to the Beach
This might be my personal favourite. In winter, the usually bustling beaches in Katwijk and Scheveningen are almost deserted. It’s incredibly peaceful and a great opportunity to get a change of scenery. You can take a long walk along the beach and if you get cold, you can stop for a hot drink in one of the cute beach pavilions. As an added bonus, you can watch the sunset, as it gets dark scandalously early in winter. If you have a free afternoon, I really can’t recommend this enough.
For the crazy people around here: Dutch surf schools are open all year round, so you can rent a board and go surfing before getting your drink. More on that will follow in my next blog, so stay posted!