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Moving to Rotterdam

Expats moving to Rotterdam will find themselves in a unique and endearing part of the Netherlands. The city has overcome significant historical hardships, and today Rotterdam is often thought of as a symbol of resilience and regrowth.

In 1940, in an event known as the Rotterdam Blitz, German forces bombed the city, destroying the historic city centre. After the bombing, only one building was left standing – St Lawrence's Church, which was restored and can still be visited today. While the Blitz resulted in the loss of many historic buildings dating back to the medieval era, the subsequent reconstruction of the city centre gave Rotterdam a unique opportunity to rebuild and redefine itself. Today, Rotterdam's experimental architecture is unique among Dutch cities, and the city's vibrant energy makes it an exciting place to live.

Most expats moving to Rotterdam do so with a job offer in hand. Those seeking employment in the city may, however, struggle to find work, particularly if they don't hold EU citizenship. That said, once a job is obtained, expats can enjoy the city's low cost of living, especially in comparison to other major Dutch destinations  – for example, accommodation in Rotterdam can be up to 80 percent cheaper than in Amsterdam.

Expats with kids will be pleased to know that there are many good schools in the city, including a handful of international schools. Fees for private schools can be pricey, but the Dutch schooling system is considered to be of a high standard and is known for making provisions for foreign students, with some schools having international or bilingual sections. This can save a great deal of money.

Rotterdam is a lively city with plenty of opportunities for fun things to see and do, and there are numerous exciting events to attend throughout the year. The shopping, nightlife and restaurant scenes in the city are thriving, and young singles and families alike are sure to find plenty to keep themselves amused.

With so much to offer, Rotterdam is a city well worth considering if planning a move to the Netherlands. The attractive combination of the city's lifestyle perks and low cost of living brings many an expat to Rotterdam. Thanks to the variety of excellent amenities available, expats are sure to settle down in no time.

Working in Rotterdam

While Rotterdam is an exciting, cosmopolitan city undergoing constant development, expats looking for work there often find that the search is tougher than expected.

Compared to the national average, Rotterdam's rate of unemployment is high, so competition for jobs can be tight. This goes double for non-EU citizens, as their hiring company would need to prove to authorities that no EU citizen could fill the vacancy. Expats who can offer specialised skills and speak Dutch have a better chance of finding work.


Job market in Rotterdam

Known as the gateway to Europe, Rotterdam is home to the continent's largest seaport. Needless to say, the city's most prominent industries are shipping and trade. Energy, chemicals, business services and logistics are other major sectors. Unlike in Amsterdam, tourism is only a small part of Rotterdam's economy.


Finding a job in Rotterdam

Expats looking for work can make use of online job portals or join a recruitment agency. It helps to have contacts in Rotterdam, as word-of-mouth will often yield better results than responding to job postings. Another good strategy is to contact the HR or recruitment consultant at one's desired workplace regardless of whether a position has been advertised – this rather forward approach shows initiative, a quality valued by Dutch employers.

Cost of Living in Rotterdam

As a whole, the Netherlands is on the lower end of the price scale compared to neighbouring Western European countries. While some parts of the country can be expensive, Rotterdam's cost of living is relatively low, and the city offers a good quality of life without the high price tag attached to cities such as Amsterdam.


Cost of accommodation in Rotterdam

Accommodation is likely to take up the biggest portion of an expat's income – however, rental prices in Rotterdam are reasonable and are generally significantly lower than those in other major Dutch cities such as Amsterdam and The Hague. However, as Rotterdam grows, prices are rising so it's a good idea for expats to go for a good deal if they find one.


Cost of transport in Rotterdam

Cars in the Netherlands are expensive but with cycling being such a popular form of transport, most expats find driving unnecessary. Apart from the one-off expense of purchasing a reliable bicycle, costs are minimal. Rotterdam is a small city and, like most of the Netherlands, has extensive cycling infrastructure in place.

On rainy days, expats can make use of Rotterdam's well-integrated public transport system, comprised of the metro, trams and buses. Buying individual tickets can be expensive, but using a travel card lowers the costs considerably.


Cost of education in Rotterdam

Public education in the Netherlands is largely free. Some government schools even offer services for foreign students such as bilingual classes, language integration programmes or international sections. This does come at an extra cost for parents, but fees are subsidised by the Dutch government and are therefore still well below those charged by private international schools. However, if private international schooling is preferred, parents should ensure that their budget has ample space for the extra expense.


Cost of healthcare in Rotterdam 

While the quality of healthcare in the Netherlands is excellent, costs are fairly high when compared to those of other Western European countries. Once an expat starts working in the Netherlands and registers at their local municipality, they will be obliged to take out a Dutch health-insurance policy within the next four months. Monthly payments vary based on how comprehensive one's insurance package is, though it's recommended that expats prioritise this in their budget, otherwise they may pay more in the long run.


Cost of living in Rotterdam chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Rotterdam in October 2019.

Accommodation (monthly)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

1,100 EUR 

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

900 EUR

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

1,900 EUR 

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

1,300 EUR

Groceries

Milk (1 litre)

1 EUR

Loaf of white bread

1.20 EUR

Rice (1kg)

1.80 EUR

Dozen eggs

2.40 EUR

Chicken breasts (1kg)

8 EUR

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

7 EUR

Household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

0.15 EUR

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

41 EUR

Utilities (monthly for average-size home)

160 EUR

Eating out

Three-course meal at mid-range restaurant for two

50 EUR

Big Mac Meal

8 EUR

Cappuccino

3 EUR

Local beer (500ml)

4.50 EUR

Coca-Cola (330ml)

2.10 EUR

Transportation

Taxi rate (per km)

2.20 EUR

City centre public transport

3.50 EUR

Petrol/gasoline

1.70 EUR

Accommodation in Rotterdam

Expats headed to Rotterdam will be pleased to know that accommodation in the city offers excellent value for money and is significantly cheaper than in other major cities like Amsterdam and The Hague. Demand is high, however, and rental prices are rising, so if expats spot a place they like at a reasonable price, it's best to be prepared to act quickly.


Types of accommodation in Rotterdam

Rotterdam is famous for its exciting modern architecture, and housing is no exception. From quirky "cube houses" and towering apartment blocks to traditional Dutch row-houses, expats are sure to find something they like.

Most accommodation in Rotterdam comes unfurnished and sometimes even basics such as carpeting and curtains may not be included – this is indicated by the word "kaal" in rental ads. Fully furnished housing (gemeubileerd) is rarer and more expensive but is often the ideal for expats who aren't settling in the Netherlands for the long term.


Finding accommodation in Rotterdam

In general, the Netherlands is not an easy place for foreigners to find long-term accommodation. This is because the majority of the country's housing is social housing, which is in high demand with years-long waiting lists. In addition, tenants must fall below a certain income bracket to qualify. Since most expats don't meet these requirements, they are limited to private-sector housing. Again, competition is tough, since only a small percentage of rental houses are privatised.

Expats can search for accommodation using online property portals and local newspapers. However, if they don't speak Dutch, the language barrier can be a problem. In this case, it's usually best to hire a real estate agent (makelaar). 


Renting accommodation in Rotterdam

The typical length of a lease in the Netherlands is one year, and most landlords require one month worth of rent as a deposit, along with the first month of rent paid upfront. If using a real estate agent, their service fee is usually also the equivalent of one month's rent, meaning that the total start-up cost of renting accommodation is approximately three months of rent. Utilities are usually for the tenant's own expense and must be paid in addition to rent.

Areas and suburbs in Rotterdam

When deciding where to stay, there are many exciting areas and suburbs in Rotterdam for new arrivals to choose from. From trendy, upmarket areas in the city centre, to quieter, family-friendly suburbs on the outskirts of town, there's something to suit everyone. 

Here's a list of popular expat areas in Rotterdam.

Kop van Zuid

Resting on the Maas River's south bank, Kop van Zuid is a vibrant area home to many of Rotterdam's architectural marvels. Though the area was once a disused port, the government invested in major redevelopment in the 1990s and today it's a cultural and business hub. Expat professionals, in particular, are likely to enjoy Kop van Zuid's close proximity to the city centre.

Kralingen

As the home of Erasmus University, Kralingen is naturally popular with students. However, its close proximity to the city centre, along with the excellent schools in the area, also make it attractive for families and executives. There are plenty of restaurants and cafés to enjoy, along with the natural beauty of Kralingse Bos, a forested area with a lake. Kralingen has a distinctly international feel and housing in the area ranges from humble apartments to sprawling villas.

Hillegersberg

This upmarket suburb is situated to the northeast of the city centre and is one of Rotterdam's most prestigious addresses. Due to high demand among locals and expats alike, accommodation in Hillegersberg tends to be pricey, but those who can afford to live there will enjoy close proximity to international schools and good public transport links, all in a lush, green environment.

Oude Westen

Oude Westen is a charming, artsy area that acts as a hub for the city's creatives and is especially popular with expats. The area has a distinctly multicultural atmosphere and there's lots to explore in the form of specialty shops, cafés and restaurants, many of which are owned and run by fellow expats. Though close to the city centre, prices in Oude Westen are affordable and this is a good option for those on a budget.

Healthcare in Rotterdam

Expats moving to Rotterdam can rest assured that the Netherlands is credited with having one of the best healthcare systems in Europe. The city is home to Erasmus Medical Center, one of the most prominent academic hospitals in the Netherlands, so those relocating to Rotterdam will have access to excellent healthcare facilities and highly qualified medical professionals. However, it is important to do some research and invest in the right health insurance policy before arriving in the Netherlands. 

Most medical staff at hospitals in Rotterdam speak good English so expats should not have too much of an issue when it comes to communication.

Here is a list of prominent hospitals in Rotterdam.


Hospitals in Rotterdam

Erasmus University Medical Center

Website: www.erasmusmc.nl
Address: Doctor Molewaterplein 40, 3015 GD Rotterdam

Franciscus Gasthuis

Website: www.franciscus.nl
Address: Kleiweg 500, 3045 PM Rotterdam

Ikazia Ziekenhuis

Website: www.ikazia.nl
Address: Montessoriweg 1, 3083 AN Rotterdam

Maastad Ziekenhuis

Website: www.maasstadziekenhuis.nl
Address: Maasstadweg 21, 3079 DZ Rotterdam

Education and Schools in Rotterdam

While options for education and schools in Rotterdam aren't as extensive as those in Amsterdam, parents still have a few options to choose from. As is the case throughout the Netherlands, both public and private schooling in Rotterdam are of a high quality. In public schools, teaching is in Dutch, while private international schools teach in the language of their country of origin.

Younger children are able to pick up a new language relatively easily and are best suited to public schools in the Netherlands, while older kids and teenagers are less likely to adapt to full-time schooling in an unknown language. In this case, an international school is recommended.


Public schools in Rotterdam

Compulsory education in the Netherlands begins at the age of five, but most parents opt to begin their child's schooling at age four, especially as this non-compulsory year is funded by the government. Tuition at Dutch public schools is free for children between the ages of four and 16. However, some schools may ask for an additional parental contribution (ouderbijdrage). Teaching is in Dutch, though, which means that public schools aren't always a viable option for non-Dutch-speaking families or those that aren't staying in the country for the long term.

Some public schools have international sections offering bilingual education (tweetalig onderwijs) designed for native English speakers. For some families, this is an ideal solution. Though not free, these programmes are subsidised by the government and are considerably cheaper than private international school fees. At present, the tweetalig onderwijs programme is in the testing phase throughout the Netherlands, and is currently offered by only one primary school and one secondary school in Rotterdam.


International schools in Rotterdam

Private international schools are accredited to offer foreign curricula in the Netherlands. Generally, these schools provide a good standard of education with excellent facilities. However, fees can be high, so if opting to go this route, parents should ensure they can afford it, especially as education subsidies in relocation grants are becoming increasingly rare.

Choices for private international schools are limited, with just two or three schools in Rotterdam offering international curricula. Because there are so few options for expat parents, demand often outnumbers available seats, so it's best to start the application process as early as possible.

Lifestyle in Rotterdam

The lifestyle in Rotterdam is varied and exciting, and there always seems to be something new to explore. Whether expats are in the mood to indulge in a shopping spree, dine on fine cuisine, dance the night away (or all three), here are a few tips on making the most out of what Rotterdam has to offer. 


Shopping in Rotterdam

There are plenty of opportunities to shop up a storm in Rotterdam. Two main open-air shopping streets characterise the city's shopping scene: Lijnbaan and Hoogstraat. These are connected by a sunken passage known colloquially as the "koopgoot" (literally "shopping gutter"). It's more than just a passageway, though, and visitors can indulge in even more shopping as they cross from one street to the other.

The Markthal is a large futuristic building shaped like a horseshoe. Beneath the wide arch of the building, there's a market full of interesting tidbits and artisanal goods. This is a great place to pop in for a snack or purchase mementos.


Eating out in Rotterdam

Rotterdam's culinary scene is growing, and there are several Michelin-starred restaurants in the city. International fare is a favourite and there is a rapidly expanding range of Thai, Spanish, Chinese, Indian, Italian and French restaurants to choose from. Fusion cuisine is also popular.

Many of Rotterdam's most popular restaurants can be found in Witte de Withstraat, though it's worth checking out a few hideaway spots too. For example, Fenix Food Factory is a food hall housed in a converted harbourside warehouse that can be found just beyond the city centre.


Nightlife in Rotterdam

There's a seemingly endless array of nightclubs and bars for revellers to choose from in Rotterdam. Expats may find themselves drinking cocktails in a dazzling rooftop bar one night and dancing to house music in a converted underground train tunnel the next. 

Witte de Withstraat is the city's nightlife hub and is home to some of Rotterdam's best-loved bars and drinking haunts. Another popular clubbing hotspot is Binnenweg, not far from Witte de Withstraat. Oude Haven and its numerous clubs, cocktail bars and live music venues are also well worth a visit.

See and Do in Rotterdam

Thanks to Rotterdam's rich history and lively culture, expats will have plenty of things to see and do in their new city. From museums, galleries and churches, to abseiling, zoos and boat tours, Rotterdam has much to offer. Here are some of the must-see tourist attractions in the city.


Attractions in Rotterdam

Euromast

This 607ft (185m) tower is the tallest building in the Netherlands. It offers stunning panoramic views of Rotterdam, and there are even hotel suites available for those wishing to spend a night above the city. The tower has a coffee shop and a revolving restaurant, and guests can even enjoy a traditional High Tea. If that sounds a bit tame, there's something for adventurous expats too, who can abseil or zipline from the top of the tower.

Markthal

One of Rotterdam's most distinctive and unique buildings, the Markthal is an 11-storey glass building in the shape of an arch. Beneath the arch is a market hall, where visitors can browse more than 90 shops and stalls. The inside of the arch is covered from floor to ceiling by an awe-inspiring artwork measuring 11,000 square metres.

Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk

During WWII, the medieval centre of Rotterdam was completely demolished by a bombing known as the Rotterdam Blitz. In the wake of the bombing, only one building remained standing, though seriously damaged: Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk, a church built in the 15th century. After the war, extensive restorations took place and today the church is not only a beautiful example of Gothic architecture, but also a reminder of the city's resilience through past hardships. 

Cube houses

Another famous instance of creative Rotterdam architecture, the cube houses are experimental living spaces designed by Piet Blom in the 1970s. Constructed on top of a pedestrian bridge, each house has diagonal walls, giving it the appearance of a cube shape. Today, some of the cubes have been converted into hostels while others still have full-time occupants. One cube is used as a 'show cube', allowing visitors to tour the interior of a cube house.

What's On in Rotterdam

With Rotterdam's exciting calendar of annual events, there are plenty of opportunities for new arrivals to get out and about in the city. From music and film to sports and parades, there's something for everyone. Here's a list of the top yearly events in Rotterdam.


Annual events in Rotterdam

International Film Festival Rotterdam (January)

Film buffs are sure to enjoy Rotterdam's annual film festival, known for screening eclectic and unusual films made by independent filmmakers. Filmmakers of various levels are included, whether well-established in the industry or just starting out. Throughout the festival, there are more than 500 screenings, ranging from short films to full-length feature films. Other highlights include talks held by actors, directors and other filmmaking professionals.

Rotterdam Museum Night (March)

One night a year, dozens of galleries and museums throughout the city take part in Rotterdam Museum Night. For a small fee, attendees can visit as many participating places as they like, all of which stay open into the small hours for the purpose of the festival.

Rotterdam Marathon (April)

Whether a fitness fanatic or an enthusiastic spectator, the Rotterdam Marathon is not to be missed. This marathon is the largest in the Netherlands and is an exciting event with thousands of participants each year. There are several options for those wishing to join in, from kids' and beginners' runs to full-length marathons.

Rotterdam Unlimited (July)

Rotterdam Unlimited is Europe's largest street festival; a five-day-long extravaganza packed with things to see and do. Highlights include live music performances by international artists, a carnival-style street parade, and a vibrant market.

World Port Days (September)

Home to the largest port in Europe, Rotterdam celebrates all things maritime once a year during the World Port Days festival. Each year is themed and consists of exciting events such as nautical demonstrations, exhibitions, ship tours and more.

Getting Around in Rotterdam

Most expats will find that the public transport system is more than adequate for fulfilling their day-to-day needs, with cycling filling in any gaps. For this reason, it isn't necessary to own a car and most expats find that it's not worth the trouble (and extra expense) especially when there are so many good alternatives available.


Public transport in Rotterdam

Rotterdam has a well-integrated public transport system consisting of buses, trams and the metro.

The OV-chipkaart

Public transport in Rotterdam and throughout the Netherlands can be accessed using the OV-chipkaart. This smart card is loaded with credit and is swiped at the beginning and end of each journey. There are different types of cards available, ranging from daily to yearly subscriptions.

Metro  

The metro is a quick and easy way of getting around Rotterdam. There are five different lines, each with a corresponding colour and a letter. Though coverage is widespread, even extending beyond Rotterdam into The Hague, the metro network isn't comprehensive. Any gaps are generally filled in by tram routes. 

Tram

There are nine tram lines operating permanently in the city, with additional lines that operate only during big events or festivals. While the tram route is more comprehensive than that of the metro, many nevertheless prefer to take the metro.

Bus

Though a slower way to get around than the tram or metro, buses serve a wide range of areas and can be used for regional travel. There are also night services, which are useful if travelling very late at night when other forms of public transport aren't operating.


Taxis in Rotterdam

There are two options for taking a taxi in Rotterdam: by road or by water.

Regular taxi cabs can be hailed on the street throughout the city as long as the light on their roof is lit up, indicating availability. Otherwise, a cab can be called via phone or mobile application. 

Watertaxis traverse the Maas River and are a fun and speedy way to get around. Though not necessarily the most practical for day-to-day transport, this is something that should be experienced at least once.


Cycling in Rotterdam

The Dutch are known worldwide for their love of cycling, and expats living in Rotterdam will find that joining in is not only an easy and convenient way to get around but also has the desirable side effect of getting some exercise and fresh air. Although Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands, it's still relatively compact and there are plenty of cycle paths to make it easy to get around on two wheels.

Bicycles can be taken on board the metro and ferries. However, only certain types of compact bicycles can be taken on buses and trams. Expats can rent a bicycle or can purchase their own either new or second-hand.


Driving in Rotterdam

Rotterdam's excellent public transport system, along with its well-developed cycling infrastructure, means that it's easy to get around the city without a car. In fact, the government actively discourages driving, with measures such as high taxes and expensive parking being in place to deter the use of private vehicles. Those who do decide to drive will need to find out if their current drivers' licence is valid or if they need to exchange it. When purchasing a vehicle, be sure to take the cost of tax, fuel and parking into account.