For Western expats, moving to the Netherlands is generally a painless experience. The Dutch strive for an egalitarian society and are known for their liberalism, welcoming religions and traditions from all over the world. That said, the Netherlands certainly has a rich culture and history of its own, some of which may seem unusual at first. Here are some of the pros and cons of moving to the Netherlands.
Accommodation in the Netherlands
+ PRO: Variety of accommodation
Expats can either rent or buy accommodation in various styles and locations to suit their budget – but it makes sense to live where amenities and new friends will be close by. Though Dutch accommodation can be pricey, especially in major cities, houses and apartments are generally of a high standard.
- CON: Extra costs
Apartments in the Netherlands are either furnished, unfurnished or advertised as a 'shell'. Shell apartments may seem like a bargain, but renting one often means having to buy everything, including carpets and major appliances.
Some rental agencies charge a month’s deposit and a month’s rent as a finder’s fee on top of all the other relocation costs.
Lifestyle in the Netherlands
+ PRO: Great social life
The country's easy-going cafe culture and the summer music festivals that pop up in parks and public spaces are ideal for meeting up with friends and making new ones. There are also well-supported cultural events throughout the year, where museums and galleries open their doors to the public for nominal fees.
Safety in the Netherlands
+ PRO: Lower than average crime rates
The Netherlands compares favourably to the UK and the US when it comes to crime statistics. Expats will feel secure, and even large football crowds are usually family-friendly and require little policing. Nevertheless, as with anywhere, there are areas it’s probably best not to hang around at night.
- CON: Irresponsible cyclists
Most safety issues in the Netherlands seem to come from bicycles. Cyclists often weave in and out of traffic without safety helmets, and it’s worth bearing in mind that in a collision between a car and a bicycle, the motorist will be held responsible.
Working in the Netherlands
+ PRO: 30 percent tax ruling
The Netherlands has one of Europe’s lowest rates of unemployment which, combined with the 30-percent-tax-free allowance available to people moving to work in the Netherlands, makes for an attractive work destination. But this tax allowance is mainly for people with specific skills that are rare within the local labour market.
+ PRO: Great work-life balance
The Dutch are known for their healthy work-life balance and many people work part-time.
- CON: Not many opportunities for non-EU expats
If a Dutch employer wants to hire someone from outside the EU, they have to prove that a Dutch citizen or someone from another EU country can’t fill the position – which is rarely the case. Researching appropriate work visas is a must.
Culture shock in the Netherlands
+ PRO: An egalitarian society
Moving to the Netherlands from another Western country will entail little culture shock. Almost everyone is tolerant of non-Dutch speakers, and most Dutch speak English. They also have a highly inclusive culture.
- CON: Learning to speak the language
While the Dutch are happy to speak English to new arrivals, they’re justifiably proud of their language and expect expats to learn the basics. Dutch is something like a cross between English and German, so many of the words sound familiar, but getting to grips with its guttural "G" sounds can be challenging.
- CON: Misreading the Dutch
The Dutch are known for their directness, which may take expats some time to get used to. It can be misunderstood as rudeness when it’s more a desire for clarity and understanding.
Healthcare in the Netherlands
+ PRO: Efficient healthcare service
Healthcare in the Netherlands is efficient, waiting times are usually short, and doctors generally speak good English.
- CON: Healthcare is expensive
Health insurance in the Netherlands is expensive and doesn’t always cover what expats might expect, so it’s important to read the small print. Finding a doctor or dentist after arriving can be difficult and expats may find that dentists don’t offer enough pain relief. Local anaesthetic may cost extra. Doctors’ automated phone systems can also be challenging for non-Dutch speakers – expats may want to note the numbers needed to press to make an appointment and keep them by the phone.
Transport and driving in the Netherlands
+ PRO: A nation of travellers
The Netherlands hosts one of Europe’s busiest airports – Amsterdam Airport
+ PRO: The Dutch cycling habit
Almost everyone uses a bicycle for any journey within a few miles. Embracing this habit will increase expats’ fitness levels while doing their bit for the environment and blending in with the locals. Cars aren’t necessary for city residents and it’s possible to travel throughout the country using its extensive network of trains and buses.
- CON: Traffic jams and cancellations
Due to the sheer density of the population, rush hour congestion is common. The usually efficient Dutch trains can be prone to unexpected cancellations, and it’s important to keep bikes chained as theft is widespread. Also, while cycling in the Netherlands is good for fitness, the rain can make for an unpleasant experience at times.
Weather in the Netherlands
+ PRO: Each season boasts its own charm
Each of the seasons brings its own magic to the Netherlands. Skaters fill the frozen canals during winter, while the blooming tulips are an iconic sight in spring, and the almost-Mediterranean summers afford sunshine till late in the evening. But autumn is best of all, when the turning leaves transform parks and forests into a golden blaze of colour.
- CON: Unpredictable weather
Even though it sometimes feels Mediterranean, the Dutch weather can turn quickly, especially in the summer.
Shopping in the Netherlands
+ PRO: Independent shops
Independent stores are common in the Netherlands, and shopping at specialist cheese and chocolate shops is a particular treat. The supermarkets may be smaller than expats are used to, but shoppers should still be able to find a few of their favourite home brands. Most places host weekly food markets that sell an abundance of fresh produce. Another bonus is that it isn’t necessary to buy bottled water – the Netherlands has some of Europe’s best drinking water.
- CON: Restricted hours
The restricted opening hours may take a while to get used to. For example, banks and most shops are closed until around noon on Mondays. Most shops close at around 5pm and are open for restricted hours on Sundays. Luckily, large supermarkets in main cities do tend to stay open until 10pm most nights.