Friday, 2 March 2012

My A-Z of The Netherlands: C is for Children

On 14 February 2007, the United Nations considered the Dutch children the happiest in the world. On December of the same year I arrived in the Netherlands. Let me share with you my first impressions on Dutch children.


Mothers with two, three and sometimes four children by their hands. Absolutely fantastic! In the last two decades, I never saw so many children as here! It's amazing!

From Almere (III)

I used to live in Lisbon, a very beautiful city, but where the population is very old. Most of the young and middle age people working there are living in smaller cities nearby, where it is cheaper to buy an apartment. 
According to this study, in 2005, Lisbon was the portuguese city with the oldest population, and the European capital with the largest ratio of older people (134.000 per 564.000 inhabitants). As you can imagine, I was not used to see many children in the streets during the day. Unfortunately, the lack of children is not only a problem in Lisbon. Last month, the President of the Portuguese Demography Association, stated that Portuguese population is one of the eldest in the world. In 2007, 2009 and 2010 the number of births was lower than the number of deaths. Nowadays, most Portuguese couples have only one child.


According to my experience in Portugal, my generation, in general matters, is very anxious with their children. These are overprotected in my point of view.
Here I find the parents careful enough, giving their children the opportunity to experience small adventures and solve their own small problems. A light injury is not seen as "a great disaster".

From Katwijk aan Zee

From Texel


In my street, there are a couple of playgrounds for the children. Sometimes, there is an adult nearby, but most of the times, the children are playing together in small groups without an adult supervision. However, I perfectly understand that in Portugal probably we have more reasons to fear for our children's safety than in The Netherlands. Besides, Dutch mommies can always peek through the windows of their kitchens or stay in the front garden watching them.


Well, I see more people in public gardens in general than in my country, at least when I was still living there. 

From A-Z

In the last 15 years, I realized that most of the Portuguese families spend their Sunday afternoons in shopping malls. I remember to find this very depressing! However, there was a park in Lisbon where I used to find many children: Parque da Serafina in Monsanto. 
In The Netherlands, I see more children playing outside which I think it's much healthier. The Dutch appreciate very much outdoor activities and besides there aren't many shopping malls here as in Portugal. 
Lucky me when I was a child! No shopping mall and no playstation! My grandpa used to take me for long walks in the woods or to pick up figs and blackberries. I used to play in the street and went a lot to the park to have picnics, like the Dutch still do.

From Texel


I see that by the front door decorations. I used to have birthday parties at home too. However, in Portugal, this tradition has changed. In the last 15 years, most of the children celebrate their birthdays at the malls or in rented indoor playgrounds. I don't like it, specially because of the lack of fresh air and the noise, always worse in a closed place. I also found myself thinking several times, that they are growing up without homely birthday memories. Sad, in my opinion...

From Pasen 2010


On a Dutch table, we will find coffee, tea, juices, some snacks, birthday cake and sometimes pancakes. The most important, as far as I realized, is to be together with family and friends to celebrate the child's birthday. And if we think about it, that is what really matters.
However, I find the Portuguese traditions very lovely too. I have great memories of my birthday table full of different sandwiches, several cakes, puddings, mousses, jellies, arroz-doce, and Sumol, of course. Do you remember the Sumol green bottles? :-)


After my father's death and the economical crisis that Portugal faced in the end of the seventies and in the beginning of the eighties (IMF was there as it is today),  my mother couldn't afford big birthday parties as before. In those difficult times, I used to celebrate only with the family. If I was a Dutch child, I would have my big party, with many  friends and neighbours, in the same way. A lot of food on the table is not so important here as it is in Portugal. Only the juices, the birthday cake and some pancakes would be enough! No one would complain about my birthday party being "very poor"(you know what I'm talking about...).

According to my experience, in Portugal, the children go to sleep at 9.00/ 9.30 pm.
I used to go to bed at 11 pm when I was child ;-))) My father had a restaurant, so I stayed more or less awake to see him in the evening. I remember to watch José Corte-Real on TV and then listening to the national anthem at the end of the daily broadcast.


The Netherlands has a HIGH RATE OF HOME BIRTHS compared to other countries.
In 2010, 184 thousand children were born in the Netherlands. 

Three quarters were hospital births, one quarter home births. Most of them are attended by MIDWIFES. Early 2010, more than 2.5 thousand midwives were active in the Netherlands.

"Most midwives in the Netherlands work in primary care where they are the lead professionals providing care to women with 'normal' or uncomplicated pregnancies. They are independent practitioners, like general practitioners or family doctors, and work in single-handed, duo-, or group-practices. In case of complications or an increased risk of complications during pregnancy, during labour or in the postpartum period, the midwife will refer her client to secondary care, where a gynaecologist will take over responsibility. The indications for referral have been agreed upon by all professional groups involved (gynaecologists, midwives and general practitioners) and are laid down in the so-called Obstetric Indication List [2]." (

ONLY 10% of Dutch women (2009) use ANAESTHETICS in their labors.

"The rate of epidural use in the Netherlands is low and there is an absence of anaesthetists available out of ‘normal’ hours so do your homework to find out which hospitals can honour your request for pain relief." advise Amanda van Mullingen in Expatica.

The Netherlands has the worst scores in Europe related to childbirth rates according to the PERISTAT-II STUDY:

"In Peristat-II from 22 weeks gestation, after France, The Netherlands had the highest fetal mortality rate (7.0 per 1,000 total number of births). Of all western European countries, The Netherlands had the highest early neonatal mortality rate (3.0 per 1,000 live births). Over the past 5 years the perinatal mortality rate in The Netherlands has dropped from 10.9 to 10.0 per 1,000 total births but this drop has been faster in other countries."
Take a look at this post for further information.

KRAAMZORG is probably the main positive aspect of giving birth in The Netherlands.
We are talking about a week of postnatal care at home which includes caring for the mother and the baby, light household duties and guidance on breast feeding.


Less than 10% of Dutch women work full-time. In Portugal, it's very difficult to work in part-time, except in call-centers. My friends are always exausted. They complain a lot about spending so little time with their children. They arrive (tired) at home around 8 p.m. and barely have the time to diner and put the children to sleep. In the Netherlands, the families  enjoy their time together in a more relaxed way. I don't notice either any prejudice against staying- at-home moms as I have noticed in Portugal. Also the fathers enjoy more time with
their children because of the weekly day they spend at home with them, the "famous" Papadag.

From Amersfoort
This photo was taken in the morning, a year ago, in front of a children's bookstore in Amersfoort. You can see a couple of mom's bikes very well prepared to carry their children on.


Take a look at this Teresa 's post. In this childcare center, for example, a day per week costs €284 per month, and five days per week about €1420. Are you still there? ;-)) Most of the children are in childcare on a part-time basis.You can know more about the Dutch Childcare System and the Childcare Allowances by reading this Expatica article.


Take a look at this  experience of a Portuguese mother living in Groningen.

If you are a mom in The Netherlands and you want to share your experience with us, please do. You are very welcome!
For those who are thinking about leaving their home country, I strongly advise you to get all the information you can about your future host country before your departure, specially if you have children or intend to get pregnant. Expat life is emotionally very demanding, even more with kids.


Unknown said...

Very interesting post! Your perception of how children are raised and the rest is very similar to mine, probably bec. both of us come from a Latin country. I am amazed at how well trained children are here in the NL. Our children in Arg., for example, are more unruly, are less used to structure - that's why probably they don't eat at the table but take bites between running wildly around the house :) and things like that.

Presépio no Canal said...

Sometimes I wonder if there are differences regarding children between Dutch provinces...

Interesting what you describe about Arg. children. May I ask for a post about it? It would be fun to look at the cultural differences :-)

See you linda! ;-)

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh how I just am fascinated with the Dutch culture in this regard. I think it was YOU dearest, who pointed out a while back that a study had shown that Dutch children were he HAPPIEST children in the world/Europe...I can see why. They have more parent contact!!!!

THANK YOU FOR COMING TO VISIT ME to celebrate my 30th anniversary; it is a great satisfaction knowing that I have had at least that much happiness! Peace to you precious Sandra! Anita

restlessjo said...

Some interesting points Sandra and I can relate to much of what you're saying. I see a lot of Dutch parents in the Algarve and their attitude does seem to be more relaxed. At the beach they always have practical towelling coverups and are the first to throw themselves headlong into the sea.
Some of my Polish family have the same attitudes too- "let them explore their boundaries, that way they'll learn". But a high standard of behaviour is expected.

Presépio no Canal said...

Anita :-) Enjoy your day with R.! FIESTA!FIESTA!!!


Jo ;-)

Interesting what you're saying about the Dutch parents and children in Algarve ;-) Confirms what I watch here.

I would like to go to Poland one day :-) to visit Wroclaw, an old wish of mine :-)



Sami said...

Interesting the difference between children in Portugal and the Netherlands. When we went from South Africa to Portugal, I also noticed people spent weekends in the shopping malls instead of enjoying the fresh air with their kids. Even in a village where I lived kids don´t play outside! Crazy!! Here in Australia it´s very similar to Holland, kids play in the parks, the beach, ride bicycles ....I just find they get a bit unruly when they are teenagers, not respectful of elders and authority.

Presépio no Canal said...

It's interesting how we find more and more similarities between OZ and NL. :-)
About the Dutch teenagers/young adults unruliness, there are two things I don't like it at all: they spit a lot in the streets (less common, but even girls) and leave everything dirty behind in public transports. I was not expecting that when I arrived here.

Sara said...

Muito interessante esta "overview", Sandra. Gostei também do contraste que traçaste, que pode ser uma base para várias reflexões sobre as crianças, as famílias e também o papel da mulher. Falamos de direitos, afinal.
(Fiquei boquiaberta com os preços dos cuidados extra-familiares. Em contrapartida, acho a possibilidade de trabalho em part-time muito apelativa, embora inacessível para as mulheres portuguesas. Uma pena).
Beijinhos e uma óptima semana! :))

Presépio no Canal said...


E para os papas tambem. Gosto muito da ideia do Papadag. :-)

Trabalhar em part-time tambem implica abdicar de alguns "luxos": empregada domestica (que aqui, sem ser declarada, anda nos 10/15 euros /hora), ter so um carro, alguma mobilia comprada em segunda-mao, filhos mais velhos na escola publica (creio que e onde anda a maioria, ate porque parece ser de boa qualidade), casas mais pequenas no inicio da vida familiar (eles aqui mudam muito de casa a medida das necessidades que vao surgindo), festas de aniversario mais modestas, compras com base em promocoes e descontos, etc, muito transporte publico, ferias de caravana e camping, etc. (mas esta e a minha percepcao, havera outras certamente).
However, sinto que o meu post esta muito incompleto porque nao aflorei a questao dos dentistas, do transporte publico, etc. Queria tambem ter trabalhado melhor os abonos de familia, etc.
Talvez ainda integre o que falta num outro post. :-)
Beijinhos! :-)

Teresa said...

Excelente post este e como mãe não podia deixar de comentar.

Uma das coisas que mais gosto na Holanda é que aqui posso ter uma carreira e ser uma profissional respeitada na minha área e ao mesmo tempo ser mãe.

Em relação à gravidez e parto, as estatisticas não deixam lugar para dúvidas e a Holanda está muito atrás de países como Portugal. Compreendo melhor agora algumas coisas que no início me faziam muita impressão como não ser acompanhada por um ginecologista ou não fazer análises para confirmar a imunidade à toxoplasmose. Falo a partir da minha experiência pessoal mas no caso de um segundo filho preferia tê-lo na Holanda do que em Portugal, por muitos motivos que não cabem num comentário :)

Finalmente em relação à forma como os pais educam os filhos, o mais importante do meu ponto de vista é o facto de os pais (os 2)estarem presentes na vida dos filhos e passarem tempo de qualidade com eles. Não complicam demasiado e dão a liberdade necessária para que eles possam cair, levantar-se a aprender por eles. Dão estrutura, disciplina e regras. Ensinam desde cedo a serem responsáveis e o valor do dinheiro (um bom exemplo são os trabalhos a distribuir publicidade e nos supermercados).
Sei que em Portugal há muitos bons pais mais muitas vezes, depois do trabalho, sobra pouco tempo para ser pai.

Fico por aqui que o comentário já vai longo :)

Presépio no Canal said...


Obrigadissima por teres comentado. estava a rezar para que o fizesses. :-)

Alias, hoje andei, vai nao volta para te escrever a pedir um "guest post". Mas sei que tens uma vida muito ocupada e nao queria abusar.

Mas, olha, abusando ja: :-)) vou continuar o comentario no teu blog :-))

ana said...

Gostei muito destes apontamentos que me mostram uma realidade diferente da que por aqui vivemos.
Apreciei as fotografias e contento-me por saber que ainda há países em que a família e a mulher têm reconehcimento.
Beijinhos! :)))

Presépio no Canal said...


Espero que outros paises, incluindo o nosso, possam equacionar outras solucoes mais amigas da Familia e respeitadoras de uma vida mais balanceada.
Beijinhos grandes! :-)

kelmarie said...

Great post! I like learning that there are still some countries and cultures out there with, what I consider, solid parenting skills!

Portugal sounds similar to Canada- with parents hovering over their children and having parties in rented centres. The Netherlands reminds me more of my childhood of playing outside alone, making my own mistakes, and getting a full nights sleep!

Presépio no Canal said...

Hello Kelly :-))

So good to see you here! I'm glad you liked the post.
The same goes with me:The Netherlands reminds me more of my childhood. Happy times! ;-)

alicejhon said...

off-course the childhood birthday party celebrations and places are non-forgettable for any one as my child birthday party was in Broward and Palm Beach make me so happy to remember.