Whether lured by dreams of windmills, clogs and learning Dutch or offered an attractive job opportunity, expats must bear in mind some key aspects of working in the Netherlands.

Expats usually find employment before they arrive in the country, and there are plenty of resources online to aid in the job hunt. What is critical is understanding whether a visa and work permit are needed and if so how to go about them. Obtaining a Dutch work permit can be a tricky affair since local companies must prove there are no better local or EU candidates if they want to hire a non-EU citizen.

Job market in the Netherlands

Job openings are available across a range of sectors in the Netherlands. Key industries include engineering, construction, chemicals, oil and natural gas as well as financial services, retail and transport.

Different provinces and cities boast various employment opportunities. Amsterdam is a financial and business hub – as well as home to a vibrant tourism sector. The Hague is internationally renowned as a city of peace and justice, where human-rights law, sustainable development and renewable energy are at the heart of the local economy.

Academia and research are emphasised in cities and municipalities where top universities are located, such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht as well as Wageningen and Leiden. University students and recent graduates typically find internships and trainee positions as well as volunteer work.

International companies are a major source of foreign employment in the Netherlands. Despite an economic hit as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, expats can still find work in large multinationals as well as some smaller businesses, while some expats may start their own business. The e-commerce, tech and entertainment industries remain strong, as well as the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector.

Highly qualified expats with skills in demand are more likely to find employment, especially in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. While many of the highly skilled expats already living in the country are formally integrated into a company, around 20 percent work independently. Independent work and freelancing are popular career routes to follow, with much work done online and working from home becoming increasingly relevant.

Finding a job in the Netherlands 

Many expats relocate to the Netherlands because of a job offer or intra-company transfer. Others will need to pursue multiple routes in their search for employment. 

When looking for a job from outside the country, the internet is the best resource. Job portals and social media, such as LinkedIn, Indeed and Glassdoor, are particularly useful as they advertise vacant positions. Recruitment agencies also provide support to both employing companies and job seekers, and can be contacted online and visited in person from within the Netherlands.

Having local contacts and networking are important parts of the job search. The Dutch take personal recommendations seriously, and it's often the best way to find a job. Expats who wish to pursue a start-up in the Netherlands will find support through online forums as well as networking at local job fairs.

Dutch is the official language, while English, German and French are also widely spoken. Although many expats get by without Dutch, having a basic understanding of the language is a definite advantage for job seekers.

Work culture in the Netherland

Dutch work culture consists of working hard and, equally, enjoying free time. The Dutch are known to be disciplined and hardworking, and their communication style is quite direct. On the one hand, expats may appreciate clear instructions and responses; on the other hand, colleagues may seem overly blunt. Once expats get accustomed to this, they can prioritise getting the job done.

Most expats will be happy to find out the many ways in which the Dutch labour law protects employees. For example, employees are entitled to at least 20 days of paid leave per year in addition to public holidays, and some companies offer more than this, along with additional benefits, such as covering transport expenses for the daily commute.

As part of the 'play hard' aspect of life in the Netherlands, employees will likely encounter borrelen. Borrelen can be described in many ways from a cocktail business networking mixer to an informal social gathering with work colleagues. After a week's work or once a month, colleagues celebrate and wind down with drinks and food and socialising.