Dutch vs American: How Do These Countries Differ?

December 28, 2020

As you may know from previous blogs on this site, the Netherlands and America have a long history with each other. For example, the Netherlands has had a major influence on American culture, but also, for example, on the language. This time I want to discuss the differences between the two countries. Not in the cultural field, but more in the administrative field. 

Some of the most prominent differences between these two countries include their education systems, their politics, their healthcare systems, and just their overall day-to-day life. It seems that the Netherlands and the United States tend to have more differences than similarities as a whole.

In today’s blog, we will go into extensive detail about some of the differences that exist between the "Dutch vs American". If you want to find out more, keep on reading to learn about what exactly these differences are.

How do the Dutch and Americans Differ?

Exactly how do the Dutch and American people differ in their everyday lives? The two cultures differ greatly and the citizens in each respective place are brought up with very opposing understandings of “normal”. 

The Netherlands is fairly used to discussing more controversial subjects, such as drugs and sex than America is. 

Topics such as the political campaigns run in the Netherlands are an entirely different world from how politics look in the States. Education and the overall lifestyle between each of these countries are extraordinarily different, as well. 

Let’s go into more detail about each of these differences.

Dutch Education vs American Education

A major discrepancy between the Netherlands and the United States is their education systems. 

Up until about the 6th grade, the two countries are not too dissimilar in the way that school is structured. After that year though is when things start to switch up. 

In the Netherlands, there is a tier system of sorts when students enter what is considered high school in America. These tiers divide students up based on a test taken to determine skill levels. 

Everyone is technically always in the same grade in “high school” in the Netherlands as well. For the first 3 years, you do not get to choose your classes and they are spent with all of the same students. After the 3rd year, classes can be individualized more and changed up.

In the United States, you are in a different grade level each year, and your classes change each year as well. There are typically different levels of classes, such as intermediate, honors, and college-level classes, which are called AP courses. 

The system of colleges and universities in the Netherlands and America does not differ that much from each other. In the Netherlands, the level of higher education that one gets depends on the level that they have completed in high school. 

Higher education is also extremely affordable for the Dutch, while many young individuals go into immense debt in America from trying to pay for their university education. In the Netherlands, students also have the option to borrow money from the government to pay for their study costs. This must be repaid afterward within a certain period.

Each education system works in its own unique way for each respective country. But the biggest difference is ultimately the study costs for the colleges and universities. This is a lot better in the Netherlands so that less wealthy students can also afford a good study.

The Netherlands is a Kingdom

The next thing that is a major difference between the Netherlands and America is the fact that the Netherlands is a kingdom and America is not.

The Netherlands is considered a kingdom due to the result of Napoleon I’s overthrow in the 1800s. The Netherlands achieved liberation from France and established the Netherlands as a kingdom under a new leader, known as Prince William I.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is comprised of the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. These other countries do rely on the Netherlands when it comes down to political and foreign policy affairs. While this is the case, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten are still recognized as being independent entities and they have their own parliaments.

America is comprised of its 50 states, and it does have other territories outside of it such as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The United States is a nation, with a president instead of a king and branches of government in place of a parliament.

Dutch Politics vs American Politics

The topic of politics could not be more different between the Netherlands and the United States. Not only are political campaigns run entirely different between these two countries, but the overall views and the acceptance regarding policies such as healthcare and guns contrast deeply. 

The Netherlands also has a King, who is comparative to the president of the US. The Dutch King is not in the limelight all too often, but he is still a full functioning member of the Netherlands government. However, political decisions in the Netherlands are not taken by the king, but by the government.


Political campaigns run in the Netherlands are nothing like you will see in the US. In the Netherlands, you will not see political candidates on tv touting on about their religious beliefs or their personal family lives. 

The Netherlands does have way more political parties than the US (think around 10-17), while America historically only focuses on the Democratic and Republican parties. 

Political candidates are typically also a lot more civil and respectful of one another in the Netherlands, while in the US it is all about defamation of the other opponent.


It is no secret that most countries outside of the United States have healthcare systems that greatly benefit their citizens. In America, there are millions of individuals that do not receive quality healthcare benefits and are hit with massive bills after only staying a short period of time in the hospital. 

In the Netherlands, there is a small annual flat-rate deductible, and health insurance is an undeniable right and is mandatory for every individual no matter their yearly income.

Another big difference you will find between the healthcare systems in the Netherlands and America is the reality that doctors in the Netherlands will not go prescribing antibiotics and other medications in abundance. 

You will have to be so apparently ill to receive pharmaceutical medication in the Netherlands. In America, it is almost always too easy to receive a prescription for antibiotics or pain medication.

The Dutch healthcare system is much different from the American system:


In the United States, it is a 2nd Amendment right for all citizens to be able to own a gun. It is all too easy to obtain one in America, and gun violence is all too common in the US. 

In the Netherlands, owning a gun is not allowed by law, and this is why the crime rate in the Netherlands is much lower than in the US. In America, people own guns out of fear of feeling like they need to protect themselves, but in the Netherlands, it is generally always for hobby purposes, and the rules attached to this are very strict.

At its core, America was founded on violence and on fighting for freedom. The Netherlands is even over 100 years older than America, and the full size of the country is comparable to some of the smallest states in the US. 

A lot of United States citizens vote heavily on whether they believe guns are an indisputable right or not, and it constantly creates tons of controversy. At the end of the day, the Netherlands and the US could not be more different in their stances on guns.

These are just some of the ways that America and the Netherlands differ when it boils down to political topics. The Netherlands is typically more laid-back and civilized when it comes to government issues, and America really could not be any more opinionated and divided if they tried.

Hopefully, things will settle in the States sooner than later, and more compromise can occur.

An article that fits this topic well is our article about Dutch police versus American police. If you are interested in this, be sure to read it.

Overall Culture: Dutch vs American

The overall culture of the Netherlands and America showcases many differences, as well. For starters, in the Netherlands, you will see enormous amounts of bikes in the streets rather than cars. There are even more bikes than people in the Netherlands! In the United States, it is generally understood that everything is large-from vehicles to portions of food. Even the country itself is colossal.

In the Netherlands, it is typical to kiss your friends and family 3 times on each cheek when you greet them. You will never see this in America, as a handshake or a hug is most of the affection friends give one another when they say hello. 

The culture surrounding work and the expectations for the employed in each country varies greatly, too. In the US, many employed citizens are overworked and do not receive ample time off in a year. In the Netherlands, they highly value their workers, and it is not typical for the Dutch to work ridiculously long days.

In addition, there are large differences in vacation days for employees. For example, employees in the Netherlands are given at least four weeks of vacation. In America, this number is only two weeks.

Living in the Netherlands vs America

When it comes to actually residing in each of these countries, a lot of differences will become apparent if you are Dutch in the States or if you are an American in the Netherlands. 

While both countries have public transportation systems available to the citizens living in each respective country, it is not as practical for someone in America to be able to just jump on a train or subway to get around-unless they are in a big city of course. The Netherlands has a very convenient public transport system that can bring you throughout the country.

As discussed earlier, the Netherlands does not tolerate guns remotely as much as the United States does. This means that the Netherlands is an overall very safe place to live, and you do not have to really be concerned about random violence. In the States, unfortunately, there is a lot of violence, especially in major cities.

Since the US is more than 200 times the size of the Netherlands, it goes without saying that there is much more space to live. The Netherlands, on the other hand, is very densely populated, so there are few remote places in the country. Apartments in the US are usually a lot larger than those in the Netherlands, and the layout of the living space differs enormously from country to country.

Learn more about living in the Netherlands

If you would like to know more about how it is to live in the Netherlands, then please check out our article about: "why is the Netherlands a good place to live".


To sum up, there are countless ways in which the "Dutch vs American" differ in the way these two countries are run.

The United States is very much a melting pot with so many different cultural influences and clashing opinions, so it is a way different experience than being in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is so much smaller than America, and it has a solid culture that the citizens are incredibly adapted to and proud of.

Each of these countries is unique and special in their own separate ways, so you will just need to spend sufficient time in each place to fully form your own opinion on which culture you prefer as a whole. 

You can now see which main differences are upheld between the Netherlands and America. From education to politics to everyday life, America and the Netherlands differ greatly, but they both still have astounding opportunities to offer to the people residing in each location. Although the two countries are very different, they maintain a good relationship with each other.

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Written by

Leo van den Berg
As a Dutchman I am extremely proud of the beautiful country in which I live. My goal is to convey my passion and love for the Netherlands to as many people as possible.

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