There are a lot of stresses that come with moving to a new country. When I moved to the Netherlands for a six-month stint at the University of Amsterdam, I desperately tried to squeeze all of my favorite pots, pans, and utensils into my suitcase, because I wanted the comfort of those familiar items. Ultimately, though, airline baggage fees and limited suitcase space forced me to leave my cherished cooking supplies behind.
For the first few days I was there, I didn't cook — I subsisted on fresh bread, cheese, and bitterballen (delicious, little fried croquettes). Then came the moment of truth. Was there a place in Amsterdam that could fulfill my need for high-quality yet cheap items to temporarily fill my kitchen?
Enter: HEMA. The one place every Dutch person suggested when they heard my kitchen needs. "It's like your Target, but better," they'd confidently tell me.
Now this is a bold claim. As someone who takes special pleasure in browsing the aisles of my beloved Target, I was ready to be disappointed by HEMA.
I was not!
To be fair, HEMA is not nearly the same size as Target, as the Dutch retailer only sells its own brand. It actually felt more like a cross between Target and IKEA. But for kitchen supplies, bedding, towels, basic cosmetics, and simple clothing, it is absolutely amazing.
Every item I purchased for my kitchen surprised me — such high quality and low prices!
I got this enamel baking dish for less than $10 and it was far sturdier than my one at home.
I also picked up some basic pots and pans, which were equally budget-friendly and very high-quality.
They also carry tons of adorable oven mitts, dish cloths, and aprons, most of which are less than $5.
I was able to fill my kitchen with all the basics I'd need for less than $75. (And that included groceries like olive oil and salt!)
Yes, HEMA also has some groceries! Perhaps the greatest part of HEMA has nothing to do with their spectacular cooking supplies: They sell very cheap, very tasty traditional Dutch smoked sausages, which make any trip there even better.
I will never stop loving Target, but my experience at HEMA taught me that sometimes you can have room in your heart for two favorite stores. Even though I left Amsterdam two years ago, I still have the bike route from my apartment to HEMA memorized — I don't think it's something I'll ever forget.
Have you ever been to HEMA? What'd you think compared to Target and IKEA?