If you’re an expat or a tourist in Amsterdam, you might notice some cultural differences in the gym too. Here is a short list of things I noticed about Dutch gyms compared to gyms in other countries. These are just subjective observations, but some things might be good to know if you just arrived and don’t know a lot about Dutch people :) You’ve been warned!
Dutch gym goers are not very expressive
Trainers don’t scream during group lessons. Participants don’t react verbally. Music during classes is never loud. People in the weight room don’t grunt. This may sounds great if you don’t enjoy an over-the-top, up-beat fitness atmosphere but I actually find it a bit boring and dull. In my view the gym should allow you to feed off of other people’s good energy. Otherwise why not just workout out at home and get a great workout on your own? When I go to the gym I usually have the right energy and mindset to go workout, but I find that when I’m around a crow of people who doesn’t have a positive energy force behind them it doesn’t motivate me to push for more. I’m often missing this aspect going to the gym in Holland.
Dutch gym goers are not morning people
Many Dutch gyms open at 7 am (most of the time 7 am is the earliest time, I don’t know any Dutch gym opening at 5 am like in the US), yet the gyms don’t get busy before 9 am. Gym rush hours are essentially Mondays & Tuesdays from 6 pm to 7:30 pm. A great tip is thus to get to the gym early in the morning to get your workout done before everybody.
Dutch men don’t look or stare at women
The biggest advantage of North European gender roles: as a female you can do all the straight-leg dead lifts and glute bridges you want, nobody is going to give you a single glance. Glute kick backs with your butt up in the air, abductor machines with your legs wide open, nobody cares and nobody will stare. If a Dutch guy starts talking to you in the gym it’s probably to ask you: “When are you done with this machine? I wanna use it”.
If you’re a woman from a latin country this may feels really rude compared to how men behave in your country. But once you’re used to the absence of any special consideration, you’ll enjoy working out without worrying about creepy stares. You’ll be able to use all kinds of exercise positions you thought were suggestive without worrying about it.
Dutch gym goers tend to have a flexible approach to putting things back
Weights and plates tend to be unorganized. Don’t get me wrong: Dutch people are very organized people: they do like structure, agendas and lists. For example, in most gyms, you have to sign up for a class to be able to participate. However, when it comes to keeping things neat, nobody really puts dumbbells and plates back at the right place or in any logical order. I personally don’t mind as long as I can find the equipment I need. But I understand that some people may find it annoying: if other customers don’t do it, at least gym employees could take the time to re-organize the weights at the end of their work day.
Many Dutch gym goers are a bit sissy
Cross Fit-style workouts are still very unknown. Bootcamp classes are never very popular. Dutch people don’t enjoy extreme trainers that shout in your face the way Jillian Michaels does. Dutch people’s favorite workouts are usually spinning, body pump (group class from Les Mills) and yoga. Yoga is very popular and there are many expensive-trendy yoga studios in big cities that target high-income Dutch women.
Dutch people aren’t that appearance-oriented
Dutch people train to be healthy first. There is less pressure to change the way you look or to look a certain way. Some American gyms for example features mirrors everywhere and lights that enhance muscle definition. You probably won’t find a gym like this in the Netherlands, even in Amsterdam’s gayest gyms where people tend to want to ‘show off’ a little bit more than in the average Dutch gym.
Dutch people walk around naked in the changing rooms
Like other North Europeans, Dutch people usually go to the sauna naked, men and women alike, in the same room. Most Dutch gyms have a sauna and a steam room. In the changing rooms, Dutch people don’t mind starting to talk to you when they’re still completely or half naked. Dutch people are not extremely talkative, but they like to show that they’re ‘social’ and can get along well with each other. It’s important for Dutch people to say hello and goodbye in the changing rooms (again, even if they’re right in the middle of putting on their underwear). Being polite implies saying goodbye before leaving, even when you didn’t have any conversation with anybody.
What about gyms in your country? Do you feel like there are some differences with other countries? What are the most popular workouts at your gym?