Are you thinking about moving to the Netherlands, or are you perhaps in the midst of organising your move? Then you’ve probably got a head full of burning questions. Do I need to learn Dutch? Will I enjoy the working culture? What’s the cost of living in the Netherlands?
This expat guide will answer at least a few of your questions and give you a better picture of what to expect when moving to the Netherlands. Get ready to move beyond the stereotypes of cheese and windmills and read what it feels like to live among the Dutch!
1# The Netherlands isn’t As Expensive as You Might Think
You might be under the impression that the cost of living in the Netherlands is high – however, you don’t need a big budget to live comfortably in the Netherlands. Sure, rental prices are at an unknown high (more about that later), but the average four-people household spends only € 100 in supermarkets a week.
Do you like to eat out? Don’t worry! There are many inexpensive yet cozy restaurants where you can eat and drink for around € 10-15 per person. You’ll save on gas or public transport money by doing what the Dutch do: cycling everywhere. For clothes and household utensils, stick to the larger chains – here you will find the best deals.
2# Finding a Home is a Daunting Task
We’ll be honest: finding a place to live in the Netherlands is a complicated and nerveracking process. This counts not only for foreigners but for Dutch people too. This is why many people opt for living in smaller, more rural towns just outside of the larger cities.
If you decide on living in the city, be prepared to look for accommodation in the suburbs. Buying property is also popular with expats. It’s best to hire a broker who speaks Dutch and English.
3# Amazing Walking and Cycling Culture
Nowhere in the world will you find a better cycling infrastructure than in the Netherlands! Getting a bike will be one of the first things on your to-do list. The Dutch cycle everywhere, rain or shine, and four-year old children already ride their own bicycles. And here’s the best thing: it’s not even dangerous, since the entire traffic infrastructure is geared towards protecting cyclists.
The Dutch also surely love to walk. Outside of the cities you will find wonderful paths leading through the country’s woods, moors and dunes. A great weekend getaway.
4# Plan Your Activities According to the Weather
We’ve got news for you: your weather app will become your new best friend. Dutch weather can vary extremely from day to day. They say it rains a lot in the Netherlands, and unfortunately, you will find this stereotype confirmed.
The Dutch have adapted well to this and like to play board games or go to the cinema on such days. When the sun shines, make sure to take full advantage of it and head for your local park, or perhaps even the beach. Getting some fresh air is considered a real activity, and the Dutch have a beautiful word for this: uitwaaien (literal translation: blowing out).
5# English is Widely Spoken
The Netherlands has the highest proficiency of English as a second language in the world. It’s taught in schools from the age of eight. Most children, however, are exposed to it when they are even younger, since none of the English cartoons and shows on television are dubbed over. It’s very unlikely that you will find a Dutch person that doesn’t feel comfortable speaking English with you.
6# Learning the Local Language Will Open Doors (though you’ll get along with English mostly)
Especially in the larger cities, you’ll find that your attempts to learn Dutch are futile – as soon as Dutch people hear that you’re not a native speaker, they’ll switch to English. What many people don’t know, though, is that Dutch people secretly love it when foreigners try to learn their language. So don’t be put down by them switching to English – your efforts are seen as a respectful gesture to the local culture.
Of course this might be frustrating at times, but it also means that getting into contact with Dutchies is relatively easy. Barriers between you and the locals are brought down pretty quickly.
7# People are Awesome but Making Friends is Challenging
Dutch people are generally friendly and very open. It’s common to say hello to neighbours and even to strangers you pass on the street. However, when you get past the niceties you will find that it isn’t that easy to make friends in the Netherlands. People like to invite each other over for coffee and a chat, but don’t expect conversations to go deep very soon. You’ll need patience.
Curious about Dutch culture? Learn more about social norms in daily life.
8# Dutchies are Brutally Direct
There’s no beating around the bush: Dutchies like to tell it to you straight! When they are asked for their opinion, they’ll give you the unfiltered version. Honestly though, even when they’re not asked for their opinion, you’re likely to hear it anyway. This is not considered rude in the Netherlands. Dutch people appreciate transparency and efficiency, and will actually dislike people that hold back their honest opinion on things.
9# Great Work Life Balance
Dutch people take a work/life balance very seriously. Working hours are respected, even in large companies – in fact, when you stay past five, you might get a few odd looks from people. You should be at home spending quality time with your kids, or relaxing on the sofa with a glass of wine! Hierarchies on the Dutch work floor are relatively flat, and employees are treated equally, also in respect to their working hours.
Dutch people love their holidays. Be prepared to hear long stories on what they did on holiday, or where they’re planning to go next. When your colleague is on holiday, it’s futile to try and reach them for a quick opinion on something. Dutch people don’t read their emails when they’re away, and definitely won’t answer phone calls.
10# Public Transportation is Reliable, but Quite Expensive
You can get literally everywhere in the Netherlands by public transport and it tends to be quite reliable. Trains between Utrecht and Amsterdam run every twenty minutes, for example. The downside is that it’s rather expensive – you’re likely to pay as much as € 30 for a one-hour train ride.
Discount cards (40% off) are available, and they are certainly worth getting, even when you travel by train only a few times a year. Supermarkets or chains like Hema and Kruidvat often have day tickets on sale. Be sure to research these discount options before buying a ticket – it will save you quite some cash!
11# The Netherlands is Pretty Diverse
The post-war period has seen a lot of migration to the Netherlands. There were waves of migration from countries like Indonesia, Morocco, Turkey and Japan, but in Dutch large cities you’ll find people from basically every nation. You certainly won’t stand out as a foreigner.
Although the Netherlands is a small country, there is huge diversity across various parts of the Netherlands as well. The North, South, East and West all have their own dialects, traditions and ways of being. Traveling within the Netherlands is therefore exciting and bound to give you new perspectives!
12# You’ll LOVE the Netherlands
Whatever complaints anyone might have: the Netherlands is a great place to live. People are friendly, the cities are beautiful and lively, and the Dutch have an awesome work culture. The laid-back, no-nonsense attitude of people will feel like a breath of fresh air. Just bring your curiosity and be prepared to have a great time!