Having resided in the United States and Western Europe, I’ve come to realize that both regions have more things in common than one would think, but also their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. And this may vary according to an individual’s preference, lifestyle and personal experience. After living in London, Paris, Amsterdam and now Utrecht a lot of these differences became more apparent. So I would like to share my thoughts on the pros and cons of living in the Netherlands for those who are considering moving or visiting.
The Netherlands is Centrally Located
Being so centrally located and within close proximity to other countries, the Netherlands is a gateway to Europe. Schiphol Airport can have you arrive at any major European city within an hour or two. When I lived in London and visited my boyfriend in the Netherlands, my total flight time was only 40 minutes. Driving distances to neighboring countries such as Belgium, Germany and France is too easy. Enjoy a long weekend in Brugge or Cologne and expect arrival to your destination to be anywhere from 2-5 hours. Also, Dutch cities are strategically planned in a way that everything leads to the city center. You’ll easily find your way around since it’s all easy to navigate.
Public Transportation and Accessibility
With all the trains, trams, metros and buses that run regularly, it’s easy to get around. There is no need to own a car because the public transportation system is extremely efficient and reliable. Unless you live in a place that’s far from transport, everything is very accessible. Not to mention owning a car is super expensive due to all the road tax – even if it’s a cheap car. Additionally, obtaining a permit can take years! Getting around in the Netherlands is relatively easy and I love that the trains offer free wifi!
The Bike Culture
With biking being an integral part of Dutch culture, it’s easy to get around most places with a bike. It’s much easier to access places with your bike because you won’t have through the hassle of finding and paying for parking. You can easily buy a secondhand bike anywhere from 100-200 euros or rent a Swapfiets for a monthly subscription. When you get accustomed to biking you may even decide whether taking public transport is worth it.
Safety and Security
Is it safe to live in the Netherlands? During my time residing here, I have never felt scared, paranoid or fearful. Whereas back in my hometown I’m used to looking over my shoulder and avoiding walking down dark streets by myself. The Netherlands has a relatively low crime rate. That doesn’t go to say it never happens, especially in bigger cities, but generally, it’s safe.
Is Living in the Netherlands Expensive?
The Netherlands is one of the most expensive countries in the world. According to Numbeo, the cost of living in the Netherlands is higher than in the US. But of occur this depends on your personal lifestyle, location and expenses. But the short answer is yes, living here can be quite expensive. Public transportation and connections are great but fares are costly. And maybe you’re thinking you can get around with an Uber. Uber is not too popular here and you will end up paying double the price for very short distances. I believe you can live comfortably in the Netherlands on 3000 euros a month.
Learning the Dutch Language Can be Hard
You can get away with not speaking Dutch since English is widely spoken. However, the most standard advice you will receive is to try and learn the language. If you’re planning on staying here for the long term then I would advise starting taking lessons. It will help with assimilating, integrating, making Dutch friends and generally making your life in the Netherlands much easier.
If you’re not a native Dutch speaker it may be harder to find work opportunities. The job market has changed significantly in the past year and companies are less likely to hire candidates that don’t speak Dutch. I can personally attest to this even with my Dutch level increasing. That being said, I would not suggest moving to the Netherlands without a job. Otherwise, save a substantial amount of money beforehand. However, there are a number of international companies doing business in the Netherlands that are willing to hire foreigners. Expats from all over the world migrate via these companies which take may take care of sponsorship, visas and relocation packages. Your best bet is to move to a metropolitan area like the Randstad area, which will provide more opportunities.
What are other factors that make the Netherlands so distinguishable to the international community? Windmills, scenic canals and of course let’s not forget the ever so flat landscape. One-third of this country is below sea level! Even though the geography of the country is like this it’s still hard to grasp at times, especially if you are an outdoorsy person. A lot of nature here is man-made and manufactured. When you are missing mountains, natural lakes and real trees head to countries like Germany or Switzerland instead. Although some may call the Dutch landscape flat and boring, I embrace the scenery for what it is. And honestly, the flat landscape can either be one of the pros and cons of living in the Netherlands for some individuals.
You may be thinking, what is a good salary in the Netherlands? Compared to other European countries and definitely America, the Netherlands is on the lower end of the spectrum. The reason for this is because Dutch employers must pay for social security. A decent salary would be considered 3,000 euros before taxes. This should be able to cover rent, utilities, food, insurance, entertainment and miscellaneous things.
Lack of Space
At 44km the Netherlands is a small country. And with over 17 million people living here, it’s evident that it’s densely populated here. In fact, it’s one of the most densely populated countries in the world. For better reference, the city of Los Angeles has nearly a quarter of the people that the Netherlands does. Since the Dutch have to be methodical about how they utilize and optimize space you will notice that cities, streets and houses feel small. So at times, it can feel quite crowded. An example of this is the unique style of Dutch row houses. These houses sit connected to one another in rows and have various stories. It’s comparable to residing in a multi-living space with less privacy.
Housing is Expensive
Whether you’re seeking to rent or buy, housing is expensive. This is especially the case for larger cities such as those in the Randstad. For instance, Rotterdam, the Hague and definitely Amsterdam will be harder to find a place. Everyone wants to live here so the search will be challenging. Unless you’re willing to shell out more money and lower your expectations for a smaller place, this may not be the case. Paying 1800 euros for a one-bedroom that 60 meters won’t be a challenge to find. It’s all about location and the truth of the matter is that you’ll be spending more for a small space. Affordable housing in the bigger cities is hard to come by. But also depending on where you live housing can be expensive and dare I say scarce?
There are two occasions during the year that I would go as far to say we have good weather. And that is May-June and September. What about the other 10 months you ask? July and August can be unbearably hot, humid and sticky. The heatwaves can be very uncomfortable to experience especially since air conditioning is not typical in the Netherlands. The rest of the year is rainy, wet, gloomy and overall depressing. When it starts nearing winter, the days get shorter and the lack of sunlight food even 3-5 months can start affecting your well-being. Long-term foreigners and residents recommend the use of sun lamps and increasing your Vitamin D intake. However, there is only so long you can go without the sun. Even Dutch people themselves will leave the Netherlands during the colder months to sunny destinations such as Spain or the Caribbean. If you want to learn more check out these tips on how to survive Dutch weather.