Before moving to the Netherlands and becoming an expat, you should know quite a few things about the way the Dutch live their life. If you’ve decided to come to Europe and live in the “lower countries,” there is some preparation to do. Regardless of whether you’re relocating to Amsterdam, the nominal capital, or Rotterdam, the busiest European port, you should brace yourself for the differences that await you and plan your international move thoroughly so you’d know what to expect.
Every move demands that you learn as many details as you can about the new place, especially if you’re planning to go to another continent. It’s smart to get an idea of what the people here are like, what are their work habits, what is the climate like and so on. We gave our best to summarize all of the essential information in a short expat guide to relocating to one of the most tolerant, diverse, and prosperous nations in the world.
The First Step of Moving to the Netherlands as an Expat – Do Your Research
The things you should inform yourself about depend on the reason you’re relocating abroad and whether you are coming alone or with someone. But getting some basic info about the country you’ll soon be calling home wouldn’t hurt in any case.
This small picturesque country in Northwestern Europe takes pride in breathtaking nature and splendid architecture and is often listed as one of the best European countries to live in. With a population of around 17 million and only 16,100 square miles (the land itself takes up 12,900 sq mi) of territory, it is one of the most densely populated countries in the whole world. Despite this land scarcity, the Dutch managed to become the world’s second-largest exporter of food after the US – just another example of their hard-working mindset and inventiveness.
It is a constitutional monarchy with twelve provinces and a few territories in the Caribbean. The official language is Dutch, but the English proficiency of the locals is impressive and well-known across the world.
The Dutch People Are Tolerant and Kind, but Also Very Straightforward
This is an egalitarian society and nobody will judge you through your race or nationality. It won’t be a problem to find somebody to help you out or to make new friends since the Dutch have no issue with approaching and talking to everyone, and they might expect the same from you. They are welcoming and open, so you’ll easily make a good relationship with your first neighbors.
Have in mind that when you want to see somebody, you’ll have to wait for them to check their schedule, and you’ll probably hear that they are available in two weeks or so. Everyone is organized and every single thing is planned – both in private and business life.
The Netherlands Is Home to Many Expats From All Across the Globe
You won’t be the first or the last person to come to live here as an expat since there are so many international students and professionals moving in every year. In 2018, total immigration was nearly 250,000, and it has been above the 200,000 mark since 2015. In other words, foreign-born people make a significant portion of the population. When it comes to US expats, there were about 30,000 of them some ten years ago. They are mostly concentrated in the west of the country, in the provinces Utrecht, South Holland, and North Holland.
You can join some of the many expat groups if you’re up to meeting new people and making friends. There will probably be no need to break the language barrier with the locals since a lot of Dutch people (almost everyone) speak English, and you can choose to move to one of the best neighborhoods for expats. They have international schools, vibrant culture scene, a lot of shops, parks, and cafes for every urban newcomer.
The Costs of Living Are Not to Be Taken for Granted
You should have some savings and money in your bank account, but that might not be enough. The cost of living in this country can be high, especially in larger cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hague, and Utrecht. The cost of renting and utilities are high, and the food can be pricey, as well, but you can always find a place to shop for lower prices. Traffic fines and parking tickets are also expensive, so try to avoid them.
To make it easier to comprehend all of this data, we compared large US cities with the Dutch capital, which is relatively small by American standards (it has slightly more than 800,000 people). Everyday expenses in Amsterdam are lower than in New York City but compared to Los Angeles, consumer prices and restaurants are more expensive.
Keep in mind that people in the Eurozone (which includes 19 EU member-states) use euros, so you should convert your dollars before your arrival.
It’s Very Easy to Get Around
The country is so small that it takes only three hours to get from one side to another. Don’t be afraid to use their trains – they’re reliable, cheap, and fast. People drive cars, of course, but this place is famous for having more bikes than residents. It’s a part of their tradition.
If you’re not a big fan of cycling, overseas vehicle shipping is always possible so that you can have your car with you. One more good thing is that when you live in the Netherlands, all of the other European countries are just a quick drive away.
You’ll Get to Reside in One of the Best-Regulated Countries
That could probably be the reason why you are thinking, or you already chose to relocate here. Every aspect of this place is like clockwork – and we’re not exaggerating. Education, healthcare, the legal system, and public transport are functioning without hiccups. Although some of those things might cost a bit more, this is still one of the wealthiest countries in the European Union with a high standard of life.
A Residence Permit Is Required, and so Is Registering With the Local Authorities
The bureaucracy tends to be the most challenging part of every international relocation. As a US citizen, you don’t need a visa since the Friendship Treaty is in place between the Netherlands and the US. Even though you don’t need a visa, you need to apply for an appropriate residence and work permits to live and work there permanently. For more information about the visa requirements, feel free to contact the Dutch embassy in the US.
In any case, you’ll need to register at your local municipality within five days of your arrival, and here’s how to do it.
You’ll Need to Report an Address
You can do all of this as soon as you have your rental agreement signed. It doesn’t have to be in written form – it can be oral, but it’s harder to prove because you need a witness with you. You’ll receive the citizen service number – a unique number of a person who resides in the country, which is required when opening a bank account or when purchasing insurance of any kind.
Find a Place to Live in, but Have in Mind That It Can Be Pricey
Find a home via a real estate agent or contact a private landlord if you want to avoid paying agency fees. Some websites offer rental properties for expats – Only Expats or Expat Rentals. Housing costs are significantly higher in the big cities, so if you try to save money, rent a place outside of the city. That can cost you $965 for a one-bedroom or $1,500 for a three-bedroom apartment. The most cost-effective way of living would be to find a roommate with whom you can split the expenses. If you wish to buy a home, the average price increased to $332,000 since last year.
Living and Working in Amsterdam Can Be a Smart Decision
There are many American expats here, and they say that it’s the best place to reside in the Netherlands, so you might consider moving to Amsterdam. It’s easy to get employed, stores and shops are working longer (they usually close at about 6 PM), it has a vibrant culture, and the people are very friendly. Although the cost of living is a bit higher here than in the rest of the country, and it’s rather challenging to find a place to live in, this city offers an excellent quality of life. Amsterdam is clean, safe, and it has excellent infrastructure and economy.
It Would Be Good to Move Your Household With You
Most of the places you can rent come unfurnished, so it would be best to get international moving services and take your household with you. A licensed company with guaranteed prices would be the optimal choice, and you won’t have to buy the furniture as soon as you come to the country. If you don’t find a place to live the moment you relocate, you can always rent a storage unit.
Find a Job and Start Learning the Dutch Language
If you’re not moving for work, it would be smart to find employment as soon as possible to offset the somewhat higher cost of living. It’s simple to get hired as a foreigner, and having a job will make everything easier. You’ll have a regular income, and you won’t have to worry about the everyday expenses. We recommend getting a job before you come here to avoid the stress of applying and waiting to be invited for the interview, which can sometimes last for months. Besides, you’ll get the residence permit easier if your employer vouches for you. In fact, highly skilled migrants do not require an employment permit.
There are many international companies that you can apply for without knowing any Dutch, but if you want to fit in, you’ll have to learn at least the basics. After all, you’re coming to live abroad, and speaking the language of the locals is a thing of respect. Just a few phrases in their mother tongue will make a huge difference in how they perceive you.
Install a Language Learning App as a Guide
If you don’t have time for taking classes of Dutch, try the time and cost-effective way of learning a foreign language. Every guide to learning a language abroad includes Duolingo, which has excellent courses for all global languages for beginners. Only fifteen minutes a day will help you learn some basics and allow you to greet people on the street or get around the city.
You Can Get Health Insurance as an Expat
They have universal healthcare, but every adult who lives and works there has to have basic insurance. Since you plan to move for good, know that health insurance is mandatory, and you risk a fine if the government finds out that you are not covered. Even if you have an existing policy with some private insurance company, you’ll need to get a Dutch one within four months of receiving their residence permit.
The basic one costs around $110 per month, and covers stays at the hospital, appointments with the doctor, blood tests, medicine prescriptions, handicapped care, aged care, and many other services. Ask around or contact the local general hospital and see which provider you should choose. Healthcare is one of the perks of living in this European state, and if you’re on a low income – don’t worry, the government will cover for your healthcare.
You’ll Feel Like a Local Soon Enough
It won’t take long before you start feeling like you’ve been there forever. Everyone can easily get used to good things like the food, tap water that you can actually drink, unique architecture and culture, an exceptional school system, and friendly people. The crime rate is very low and some things that are illegal in other places are decriminalized here. You might even like the fact that marijuana is allowed here for personal use. Soon, you’ll find yourself riding a bike everywhere, knowing all the train lines, enjoying the view of tulips and windmills and speaking almost fluent Dutch.