New Year’s Day
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Public Holidays in the Netherlands
Doing Business in the Netherlands
Doing business in the Netherlands is an attractive prospect thanks to its strategic position in Europe and its buzzing international economy. Plenty of expats are making the move to the Netherlands for its modern work environment where equality is valued and hard work is appreciated.
The Dutch are used to dealing with foreign associates and it shouldn't take expats long to adapt to Dutch business culture.
Dutch is the official language, but English, French and German are also widely spoken and understood.
Business hours are usually 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Business attire is usually smart casual. Suits are often worn but ties aren't always expected.
A firm handshake with direct eye contact is the usual form of greeting between both male and female associates.
Gifts aren't usually exchanged during business dealings.
Dutch society is very liberal, and men and women have equal rights.
Business culture in the Netherlands
Although business structures are hierarchical, the business culture in the Netherlands is collaborative and the input of all workers is valued when it comes to decision making. But this means that decisions can take time.
The Dutch are hard working and disciplined, and tend to be quite formal and reserved in the business environment. Self-control is important in business dealings and showing emotions is rare.
Punctuality is vital and it’s common to skip pleasantries and get straight to business during meetings.
The Dutch are generally considered to be private people and prefer to separate work and personal life. It's unusual to socialise with colleagues outside of the office.
The Dutch communication style is direct and expats will likely always know where they stand with their local associates. Answers will be clear and straightforward, which often comes across as being blunt, and it may take a while for expats who are accustomed to more indirect communication to get used to this.
Honesty is expected and appreciated, and it’s best to be open and direct when dealing with Dutch colleagues.
Personal space is valued and it’s unusual to stand too close to or touch colleagues when conversing.
Dos and don’ts of doing business in the Netherlands
Do be punctual for meetings and expect them to adhere to a strict agenda
Don’t expect much small talk at the beginning of a meeting as the Dutch prefer to get straight to business
Do maintain direct eye contact when speaking to associates
Don’t show emotion or use over-expressive language or gestures when dealing with Dutch associates
Do expect decision making to be a drawn-out process where every detail is examined and everyone's opinion is considered
Keeping in Touch in the Netherlands
Keeping in touch in the Netherlands is easy. Service standards are good and the options are many, with internet, mobile phone and postal services available. Expats can also stay informed with news channels and sites aplenty.
Internet in the Netherlands
As one of the most connected countries in the European Union, dozens of companies provide internet access in the Netherlands in various forms, including DSL, cable and fibre.
Expats intending to opt for DSL may need to have a phone line installed in their home. A cable network, on the other hand, doesn't require a separate phone line and can be a bit cheaper. Cable service is often available in packages with cable television services. Unfortunately, cable internet is dependent on location, so customers can't always choose their cable provider.
Mobile phones in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has an extremely high percentage of mobile phone usage. The largest companies in the Dutch mobile phone industry include Vodafone, KPN and T-Mobile.
Phone services from other countries can be used in the Netherlands, provided the network operator allows international roaming. Expats can also buy a Dutch SIM card as long as their phone isn’t locked by their service provider.
The two major calling plans available in the Netherlands are prepaid and contract. Costs depend on the average number of calls made, the time of day the calls are made, whether the phone is used overseas and whether calls are made to mobile phones or fixed phone lines. Contract plans typically have cheaper calling rates and include a pre-determined number of free calls over a certain period of time. While contract plans require a subscription fee, prepaid plans do not.
Postal services in the Netherlands
Post offices are usually open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm. Some post offices in major cities are open late on specified shopping nights, usually Thursday or Friday.
PostNL is the major postal delivery service provider, operating in the Netherlands as well as Belgium, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Postal services are generally reliable. Mailing within Europe usually takes two to five days, while postage times outside of Europe vary, depending on destination.
English media and news in the Netherlands
Several international news channels are available in the Netherlands, including CNN and BBC. Good local English news websites and resources include DutchNews.nl, NL Times and Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
There are also various English news sites available. An expat newspaper called The Holland Times is also available via subscription or free at several locations around the country.
Articles about the Netherlands
Education and Schools in the Netherlands
The standard education in the Netherlands is high. While choosing a school is a big decision for expat families, there are plenty of good education options in the Netherlands, so expats are sure to find something that suits them. Most schools in the Netherlands are government-run, though there are a few independent international schools.
Keep in mind that older children usually find it easier to adjust when they study with peers who speak their home language. Almost all public schools teach in Dutch. However, bilingual public school programmes are starting up in select schools across the Netherlands, most of which are in or around Amsterdam. In addition, there are a handful of public schools that offer non-Dutch curricula such as the International Baccalaureate and the International Primary Curriculum. Both these options are good middle-ground choices.
Should these schools be inaccessible or not fit families' needs, the numerous independently-run international schools throughout the Netherlands are well worth considering.
Public schools in the Netherlands
Public schools are government-funded, and all children, including expats, can attend them free of charge. Most schools do ask for what is known as a 'parental contribution' (ouderbijdrage). This covers activities such as excursions and extra-curricular activities. From the age of 16, school fees apply but as these are subsidised by the government, the cost of public schools remains far lower than that of international schools.
Some public schools offer specialised programmes to help non-Dutch-speaking students learn the language and culture of the Netherlands. Between the ages of six and 12, these are known as newcomers' classes (nieuwkomersklas) or reception classes (opvangklas). Students aged 12 to 18 can join an international bridging class (Internationale Schakel Klas, or ISK). Students remain in this programme for a year or two before integrating with mainstream classes.
Teaching standards in Dutch public schools are generally high and schools are efficiently run, albeit with a more laid-back feel than some expats may be used to.
Attendance of primary school (basisschool or lagere school) is discretionary for the first year and becomes compulsory on a child’s fifth birthday.
While there aren't strict catchment areas in the Netherlands, children in a particular neighbourhood are usually given priority spaces at the closest schools. Applying outside of a priority area is possible, but there is a lower chance of being accepted. Many parents therefore choose to find accommodation in an area close to their preferred school.
Most students live within cycling distance to school and tend to go home for lunch. Supervised lunchtime programmes (overblijven) are available for children with working parents, but a small fee is charged.
The benefit of local public schools is that expat children learn Dutch quickly, which makes it easier to adapt to their new surroundings and make friends with local children.
After completing primary school at age 12, students have three options for public secondary schools in the Netherlands. Primary schools often make recommendations to ensure students are matched with the avenue that best suits them. The three options are:
- VMBO (voorbereidend middelbaar beroepsonderwijs), a four-year stream
- HAVO (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs), a five-year stream
- VWO (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs), a six-year stream
They all begin with a generic curriculum for the first few years before going on to specialise in different areas. VMBO offers a practical and vocational programme, and the HAVO and VWO streams are more academically focused, preparing students for university.
International schools in the Netherlands
International schools in the Netherlands are often the best option for older children or students only staying in the country short term.
International school curricula vary depending on the institution and their educational philosophy. Some schools teach a particular country's curriculum and main language. This could be advantageous for children who will return to their home country when they leave the Netherlands. There are also international and local private schools that offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, which is a worthy alternative to any national curriculum and makes for an easy transfer to other IB schools around the world.
Fees are high, however. Expats working in the Netherlands who are lured by a lucrative employment package should try to negotiate an education allowance in their contract, if possible.
Places at international schools can also be scarce so it’s important to apply early. If placed on a waiting list, some parents send their children to a local public or private school at first while waiting for space to open up. Enrolment requirements vary between schools and can be seen on their individual websites.
Nurseries in the Netherlands
Early childhood education under the age of five is not compulsory in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, a wide range of options is available. This includes childcare facilities, from daycare centres and preschools to childminders and after-school care, and childcare services such as playgroups, babysitters and au pairs.
Toddlers from three months of age can attend daycare in the Netherlands, and these centres are open for most of the day.
Preschools are typically for infants aged two to four. In some areas, such as Amsterdam, infants are eligible to attend preschool for 16 hours a week for a fee based on parental income.
Special-needs education in the Netherlands
There have been great moves towards inclusive education in the Netherlands and many schools offer specialised services for students with disabilities and disorders. Support groups can be found online or through schools or local organisations.
Expats moving to the Netherlands must enquire at their local municipality upon registering to find the right school for their child. Children may be evaluated and tested, and parents interviewed, to see which educational option is most suitable.
Apart from mainstream schooling, there are two types of schools specifically dedicated to special needs: speciaal basisonderwijs (SBO) and speciaal onderwijs schools. While SBO schools have parallels with mainstream curricula, smaller class sizes allow greater attention, and primary school is extended from the general 12 to 14 years. Additionally, speciaal onderwijs schools are split into distinct clusters, based on the type of care and need: visual impairments, hearing or speech impediments, physical or cognitive disabilities, and behavioural or social problems.
Homeschooling in the Netherlands
By law, children from ages five to 16 must attend school, which means that homeschooling is not legal in the Netherlands, and parents who continue to pursue this without going through relevant channels and processes could face punishment. There are exceptions to this under very specific circumstances where parents must prove they are unhappy with the formal education options available.
Expat parents who wish to homeschool their children in the Netherlands are advised to address any concerns to the local municipality.
Tutors in the Netherlands
Expats can easily find a tutor in the Netherlands. Children needing extra support outside of the classroom can benefit from individualised one-on-one classes with a tutor, especially during exam time. Adults, too, can hire a tutor specialised in a particular subject area that interests them – private tutors prove useful for expats who want to learn Dutch and overcome the culture shock of language barriers.
Private tutoring companies can be found and online resources and portals such as Apprentus and TeacherOn are also a great starting point.
Brief History of The Netherlands
- The area now known as the Netherlands was inhabited by various Germanic tribes, including the Frisians, Saxons, and Batavians.
- 4th and 5th centuries: The Netherlands is conquered by the Franks, a powerful tribe from what is now France.
- Middle Ages: The Netherlands is divided into a number of feudal territories, including the County of Holland, the Bishopric of Utrecht, and the Duchy of Brabant.
- 13th and 14th centuries: The Netherlands experiences significant economic growth and urbanisation, with the rise of trade, commerce and crafts.
- 1579: The Netherlands sees the consolidation of the Dutch provinces into larger political entities, including the Duchy of Burgundy and the Habsburg Netherlands, which are ruled by powerful European dynasties.
- 16th century: The Netherlands gains independence from Spain after a long struggle known as the Eighty Years' War, led in part by figures such as William of Orange.
The golden age
- 1602: The Dutch East India Company is established, becoming one of the world's first multinational corporations. The Netherlands becomes a major maritime and economic power, with a flourishing arts and culture scene, with notable figures including Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Hals, as well as the emergence of Dutch Baroque architecture.
- 1618: The Thirty Years' War begins, a war fought across most of Europe in response to Ferdinand II's attempt to make Christianity absolute, with the Dutch Republic playing a key role in the conflict.
- 1648: The Treaty of Westphalia is signed and ends The Thirty Years' War, recognising the sovereignty of the Dutch Republic.
- 1689: William of Orange becomes king of England, consolidating the ties between the Netherlands and England.
- 1652: The Dutch establish a settlement at the Cape of Good Hope, laying the groundwork for the future colonisation of South Africa.
- 1795-1813: The French invade the Netherlands and establish the Batavian Republic, which modernises the Dutch political systems and lasts until 1813.
- In 1815, the Netherlands became part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands after the defeat of Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo, which also included Belgium and Luxembourg.
- 1830: Belgium declares independence from the Netherlands owing to religious differences and a general lack of autonomy.
- 1848: A series of political and social upheavals across Europe known as the "Spring of Nations" leads to constitutional reforms in the Netherlands, including the expansion of the right to vote. The Netherlands also becomes increasingly involved in global trade and colonialism, establishing colonies in the East and West Indies, as well as Suriname and the Caribbean.
- 1863: The Netherlands abolishes slavery in its colonies, although the legacy of slavery and colonialism continue to have significant social and economic impacts.
- 1890: Wilhelmina becomes the queen of the Netherlands at the age of 10, marking the beginning of a new era of royal leadership that would last for more than 50 years.
- 1860-1890: The end of the 19th century also sees the rise of new artistic and cultural movements in the Netherlands, including The Hague School of painting and the Amsterdam School of architecture.
- 1919: The Netherlands adopts a new constitution expanding the right to vote and establishing a parliamentary system of government.
- 1914-1918: During World War I, the Netherlands remains neutral but experiences shortages and economic difficulties.
- 1920s and 30s: The Netherlands experiences a period of economic growth and cultural flourishing known as the "Roaring Twenties."
- 1940: During World War II, the Netherlands is invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany, resulting in significant loss of life and destruction, including the deportation and murder of more than 100,000 Dutch Jews.
- 1944-1945: Food supplies are disrupted as the fighting between German and Allied forces continues leading to what is now known as the 'Hunger Winter'.
- 1945: After the war, the Netherlands participates in the rebuilding of Europe and becomes a founding member of the United Nations.
- 1949: Previously occupied by Japan during World War II, The Dutch East Indies, gains independence as Indonesia after a four-year struggle against Dutch colonial authorities.
- 1949: The Dutch abandon their neutrality policy and become official members of NATO.
- 1957: The Netherlands becomes a founding member of the European Union, along with Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Italy.
- 2000: The Dutch Parliament legalises euthanasia, setting strict conditions for doctors to operate under.
- 2001: The Netherlands legalises same-sex marriage and also permits homosexual couples to adopt children.
- 2002: The Netherlands adopts the euro as its official currency.
- 2006: The Dutch send troops to join NATO-led forces in Southern Afghanistan.
- 2009: Seven are killed as the royal family survives an attempt on their lives at a parade.
- 2010: After four years, the Netherlands withdraw their troops from Afghanistan following growing public discontent.
- 2014: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 is shot down over Ukraine, with 193 Dutch citizens among the victims. The Netherlands takes a leading role in the investigation, concluding in 2016 that a missile fired from Russia downed the plane.
- 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic affects the Netherlands' economy and results in the death of more than 22,000 people.
- 2021: Prime Minister Mark Rutte's party wins the election once again, and he forms his fourth coalition government since coming into power in 2010.
Accommodation in the Netherlands
Expats have a number of options when it comes to accommodation in the Netherlands. The country is known for being tolerant and cosmopolitan, and in large cities, dozens of cultures live side by side, so it’s common to find expats from all over the world living and working together in different areas.
Short-term leases are available, but demand for accommodation is high in larger cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Housing in these cities is expensive, but accommodation in their outlying suburbs is generally more affordable than city-centre living.
The state of housing in the Netherlands is generally good because of strict laws concerning the environment and construction regulations. Still, when buying or renting older houses, it's best to check for damages, which many people do with the help of a consultant who knows about construction and building. Expats should also note that housing may be more compact than what they may be accustomed to.
Types of accommodation in the Netherlands
The Netherlands offers a range of accommodation, including standalone, semi-detached and terraced houses, as well as apartments ranging from small studio units to larger units with multiple bedrooms. The Dutch housing market also distinguishes social from private housing.
Social and private housing
Expats earning below a certain threshold can apply for social housing which guarantees a maximum rent and annual rent increase. Several housing associations operate in different regions in the Netherlands and applicants must register with the appropriate one and get a relevant housing permit. Specific guidelines must be obtained from the designated municipality.
Housing queues are typically long, as demand outweighs supply. So, many expats opt for private housing. Such housing has liberalised tenancy contracts, where homeowners are free to set the rent as they wish, a potentially daunting prospect for expats on a budget.
Apartments are the most common form of accommodation in large cities and are usually conveniently located near transport links. Self-contained apartments are popular, as are flat shares, which are typical options among local and international students studying at a university in the Netherlands. This involves shared kitchen and living room facilities and spaces but private bedrooms, and often works out cheaper than renting as a single tenant.
Expats can also find serviced apartments, which offer all the luxuries of hotels while still providing privacy. Serviced apartments normally have fully-equipped kitchens with crockery and cutlery and pots and pans, weekly cleaning services and amenities, such as gyms, WiFi and restaurants. These top facilities do come at a price, though.
Expat families may prefer to live in a house, whether standalone, semi-detached or terraced, with a garden and greater privacy. Housing located further from city centres tends to be more affordable, and students and colleagues looking to save can find house shares.
Furnished vs unfurnished
While specific expat-oriented accommodation, such as serviced apartments, are usually fully furnished, houses in the Netherlands are often unfurnished. Expats will need to factor this into their budget as they may have to either buy or ship their own furniture.
Expats can buy new or second-hand movables or even rent home furniture, which is beneficial to those staying short term. Note that major decoration changes, such as painting walls, must be approved by the landlord.
Finding accommodation in the Netherlands
One of the best ways to search for accommodation is by word of mouth. Networking with local colleagues, friends, family or reaching out via social media can be fruitful as landlords may prefer a tenant recommended by a personal contact. Not all expats will have existing contacts in the Netherlands, in which case, online platforms, agencies and relocation firms provide helpful services.
Expats can find property to buy or rent using various online property portals, such as IamExpat Media, Engel & Völkers and Pararius.
Real-estate agents and rental agencies, such as Rotsvast, are also available and offer houses and apartments throughout the Netherlands. Sometimes real-estate agents have access to listings before they go onto the open market, which can be useful in beating the crowds. The downside is that agencies normally charge the equivalent of a month's rent for their services.
International students can request information on student housing corporations from their university, while expats looking for social housing must do so through their municipality and local housing association.
Renting accommodation in the Netherlands
When renting accommodation in the Netherlands, expats should confirm what exactly is included in the rental agreement.
To rent accommodation in the Netherlands, expats will need to provide their citizen service number known as a BSN (burgerservicenummer). Expats working in the Netherlands may need to provide their employment contract, while students need to provide a bank statement as a guarantee of credit.
The two types of rental agreements in the Netherlands are fixed-period rental contracts and indefinite rental contracts. Fixed-period tenancy agreements set a minimum fixed period for rent, usually six to 12 months. Some leases include clauses which allow early termination in specific contexts provided sufficient notice, normally of at least one month. Alternatively, indefinite rental contracts have no set termination date, allowing a more flexible, open-ended lease.
Although verbal contracts are legally viable, it is best that the rental contract is a written agreement, not a verbal one. This contract will stipulate all the necessary details, including notice periods and specific property rules, such as if pets are allowed and what the smoking policy is.
Deposits typically vary from one to three months' rent and are returned when the tenant moves out, provided the house is in the same state as it was when they moved in.
To avoid any issues of a withheld security deposit, tenants must ensure they receive an accurate inspection list and inventory when they first move into their new home. The inspection list describes the condition of the property and an inventory details any items of furniture included. Normally, close to a tenant's leaving date, the landlord or housing agent will undertake two inspections to check everything is in order.
Utilities aren't always covered by the landlord and are usually an additional expense for the tenant. Landlords will be responsible for general maintenance and insurance.
Where an expat lives determines the supplier, but as the Dutch energy market is privatised, homeowners can choose their own electricity suppliers. Among the largest suppliers are Essent, Greenchoice and Engie, and tenants can ask their landlord about this.
Expats moving into a new place must also check internet and phone line connectivity. Often, WiFi and fibre connections are already in place. This will help new arrivals keep in touch with their friends and family and in many cases work from home.
Transport and Driving in the Netherlands
Transport in the Netherlands is considered advanced by international standards. Most of the country is connected by an extensive road network as well as trains and buses, while larger cities often have tram and metro services too. Thanks to the efficiency of public transport, it's easy to get around without a car – expats who do choose to own a car will need to consider driving regulations, parking and taxes.
Of course, a discussion on modes of transport in the Netherlands would be incomplete without mentioning the infamous cycling culture. It’s said that the Netherlands is home to more bicycles than people. So, the sooner expats get hold of a bicycle, the sooner they'll feel at home.
Public transport in the Netherlands
The country has an extensive public transport system, and expats will find that getting around the Netherlands is easy, safe and relatively inexpensive.
A contactless smart card system, OV-chipkaart, is used to pay for the metro, buses, trams and trains across Dutch cities, as well as city-specific public transport ticketing systems. Depending on how long an expat will be in the Netherlands and how often they intend commuting, there are different options for the OV-chipkaart. All cards are valid for five years but can be renewed.
The Dutch rail network is said to be one of the busiest in the European Union, with trains running between all major cities as well as across national borders. The main railway operator in the Netherlands is NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen), which connects the country with top destinations, including Antwerp, Berlin, Brussels, Paris and London.
There are two different types of trains in the Netherlands: intercity (express) trains that connect main cities directly and are faster; and slower trains connecting small stations, with multiple stops along the way.
There are a number of ways to travel by bus, with city and regional connections available. For longer distances, most travellers prefer to use trains. Within cities, buses normally have lines covering routes that are not met by other forms of transport, such as trams or the metro.
Several inter-city – and inter-country – bus companies operate in the Netherlands, such as FlixBus, which provides an affordable international travel option.
Both Amsterdam and Rotterdam have well-developed metro systems that mainly run on elevated railways outside the city and underground within the city centre. The RandstadRail Line E consists of a light rail system integrated with Rotterdam's metro system and it connects the city with The Hague and areas in between.
Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht all have efficient tram networks. Although the tram system can be difficult to navigate at first, it’s one of the best ways for expats to explore their surroundings and commute to and from work.
Some Dutch cities, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, offer ferry services. Boat travel provides a unique way of getting around and offers an opportunity to explore different areas and get a new perspective. In some cases, ferries and water taxis simply prove a convenient way of getting around.
Ferries allow the OV-chipkaart as well as cash payments or online booking. We advise expats to follow up with the relevant ferry services online for more on their routes, schedules and regulations.
9292 provides the latest travel information for transport across the Netherlands.
Taxis in the Netherlands
Taxis aren't a common form of transport in the Netherlands. They're pricey and in some places they can't be hailed off the street, with commuters instead booking by telephone beforehand, getting one at a taxi stand or calling one via a ride-hailing application such as Uber. All official taxis have blue licence plates.
Driving in the Netherlands
There are pros and cons of driving a car in the Netherlands. Driving is relatively easy thanks to the Netherlands' good roads and clear signage, but traffic congestion can be a problem, and hidden costs and tedious procedures are further hindrances.
Fuel is notoriously expensive in the Netherlands, as is parking, particularly in metropolitan areas. In moves to be more environmentally friendly and to reduce congestion, some Dutch cities have Park and Ride facilities where drivers can park their vehicles in large garages and car parks and complete their journey to the central business district or city centre by public transport.
Getting a car
While public transport is highly recommended, some expats may still choose to buy, lease, ship over or rent a car in the Netherlands.
Buying a car in the Netherlands comes with extensive processes and heavy expenses. Car owners must register their vehicle with RDW (Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer), the national vehicle authority, and cars older than three years must be tested annually to ensure they continue to meet road standards.
Taxes are charged when the vehicle is purchased and in some cases where a car is leased from an expat's employer and used privately. Insurance is essential, but costly.
Generally, expats with a valid foreign driving licence in the Netherlands can use it for up to 185 days. Thereafter, they must check with their local municipality whether they're eligible to exchange their licence or if they must apply for a new one. When applying for a local licence, applicants must pass both a theory and practical test.
Cycling in the Netherlands
Cycling is at the very heart of transport in the Netherlands and is an equally popular form of recreation.
Cyclists are well catered for with dedicated cycle paths, which are regulated with their own set of rules and systems, including traffic signals and lanes. Just as the sidewalks are not meant for bicycles, pedestrians should watch out for cyclists and not walk in designated bike lanes. When driving, expats should give priority to cyclists if they turn across a cycle lane.
The thought of getting on a bike may seem daunting at first, but it's easy to learn and expats can even take lessons – many schools also familiarise children with cycling.
Expats taking public transport should check whether they can carry their bike with them and if so what rules apply to them. For example, only folding bikes are permitted on trams or buses, while train passengers are recommended to register their bicycle before their train trip.
While safety isn't a major concern in the Netherlands compared to other major destinations, expats should be aware of the risk of bike theft and must ensure they lock their bikes up safely. This can be done at bike stands or around trees or other permanent objects.
Getting a bicycle
Most locals would recommend buying a second-hand bike in the Netherlands as it can save a decent amount on buying a brand-new one. Those who opt for the latter are advised to invest in insurance for their bike. It's also easy to rent a bike, and there are several rental companies to go to. As part of the Netherlands public transport system and integrated OV-chipkaart, rental bikes known as OV-fiets can be rented for a period of time for a small fee.
Air travel in the Netherlands
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is the main airport in the Netherlands. Regional airports include Eindhoven Airport, Maastricht Aachen Airport, Rotterdam The Hague Airport and Groningen Airport Eelde. Airports are easily accessible by public transport and taxis.
Owing to the country’s small size and abundance of other transport options, domestic flights in the Netherlands are limited, and there's no real need to fly between destinations within the country, though the great number of affordable airlines does make international travel easy.
Larger airports serve both major and budget airlines, from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the flag carrier of the Netherlands, and British Airways to easyJet, Vueling Airlines and Ryanair.
Work Permits for the Netherlands
EU citizens don't need a work permit for the Netherlands and don't have any restrictions when it comes to finding work. Non-EU residents, however, face a number of restrictions that have been put in place to avoid flooding the job market.
Getting a work permit may seem confusing at first, but fortunately, employers often bear most of the burden.
Foreign nationals must contact the nearest embassy or consulate and they can also check the Government of the Netherlands website, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service site, or The Netherlands and You official website
Work permits for the Netherlands
Types of work permits
There are two main types of work permits for the Netherlands: the employment permit (TWV) and the single permit (GVVA) or combined work and residence permit. For employment periods shorter than three months, only the TWV is usually required, which employers apply for. Non-EU/EEA expats planning on working in the Netherlands for over three months must apply for the GVVA.
Getting the TWV
Dutch work permits (TWV) are employer- and job-specific, so non-EU expats will have to apply through a company. Unfortunately, employers who hire foreign employees must prove that the applicant’s skills can't be found elsewhere in the EU. It is worth noting that those with highly sought-after skills or on an intra-company transfer may find that they are exempt from the labour market tests.
In some cases, applying for a work permit through an employer isn't necessary. Instead, foreign nationals must apply for the relevant residence permit, specifying their situation or line of work. For instance, self-employed expats or expats starting a business in the Netherlands must apply for the relevant residence permit. The Immigration and Naturalisation Service provides more information on this.
Generally, a Dutch work permit is only granted for a maximum duration for one year.
Upon arrival in the Netherlands, expats should register at their local municipality and apply for a citizen service number known as a BSN. It's not possible to work in the Netherlands without a BSN, which is also needed to open a bank account, receive a salary, take out insurance, and claim other benefits. Expats must also note that health insurance is essential in the Netherlands.
An expat may wish to change jobs during their stay in the Netherlands. While EU citizens won't encounter any restrictions to this, non-EU nationals must follow certain procedures. Both the former employer and the new employer are obligated to notify the IND about the employment change, filing relevant documents, usually within 28 days.
*Visa and work permit regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.
Visas for the Netherlands
Visa requirements for the Netherlands are dependent on the applicant's nationality, other visas presently held, and the planned duration of stay.
As the Netherlands is a Schengen and EU-member state, expats from other EU and Schengen countries, including Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, can travel to and live and work in the country without a visa. Holders of valid Schengen visas residing in other countries are generally able to travel to the Netherlands without need for further visa applications. Certain conditions may apply, such as the need for a valid ID document or passport.
Expats from non-EU countries will likely need a visa to enter the Netherlands, whether for work or a short visit. For stays shorter than 90 days, non-EU nationals must get a Schengen visa; for stays longer than 90 days in the Netherlands, a residence permit is likely required.
Foreign nationals must contact the nearest embassy or consulate and check the Government of the Netherlands website, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service site, or The Netherlands and You official website
Schengen visas for the Netherlands
Expats who need a Schengen visa, also known as a short-stay visa, must complete an application form, gather supporting documents and submit them to their closest Dutch embassy or consulate before they travel. All documents must be in English or Dutch. The supporting documents normally consist of a travel itinerary including travel dates and accommodation information. In some cases, applicants may have to provide additional documents at the discretion of the Dutch embassy or consulate.
Expats should bring their documents with them when travelling to the Netherlands in case border guards request them.
Schengen visas allow entry into any Schengen state for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. To stay longer, a residence permit is required.
Orange carpet visa facility
Expats who visit the Netherlands frequently for business purposes can obtain the orange carpet visa facility. This facility benefits business travellers as they won't need to provide as many documents to obtain a visa, visas are valid for longer, and in-person applications will only be required every five years.
It is not available at all foreign embassies, and expats should request more information from their relevant embassy or consulate.
Working holiday visas for the Netherlands
Nationals of select countries between the ages of 18 and 30 are eligible to live and work in the Netherlands for one year on a working holiday visa. These countries include Argentina, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and Uruguay.
The Working Holiday Program or Working Holiday Scheme allows holders of the visa to reside in the country on a temporary residence permit. Expats who are part of this scheme are only able to work to financially support their stay.
Residence permits for the Netherlands
Non-EU/EEA citizens will need a residence permit (verblijfsvergunning or VVR) if they intend to stay in the Netherlands longer than three months. Residence permits are generally valid for one year.
For expats already in the Netherlands, residence permits may be applied for at the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service, also known as IND.
In some circumstances, it may be necessary to apply for a long-term entry visa before travelling to the Netherlands. Long-stay visas are also called authorisation for temporary stay visas or MVV (machtiging tot voorlopig verblijf). MVV allows entry into the country as a prospective resident rather than a tourist. An application for a residence permit is usually lodged at the same time or after arriving in the country.
Registration with the local municipality
Although EU citizens don’t require a residence permit, they do have to register with their local municipality if they live in the Netherlands for more than four months. Once they've registered, expats will receive a BSN Number (citizen service number), which is also necessary when paying taxes or opening a local bank account.
Note that all foreign nationals living in the Netherlands must have health insurance arranged within four months of arriving.
Permanent residence and Dutch citizenship
Expats can apply for permanent residence in the Netherlands if they've lived in the country for an uninterrupted period of five years. Alternatively, foreign nationals can apply to become a Dutch citizen through naturalisation.
Once they have this, they no longer need an employer-sponsored work permit.
*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.
Pros and Cons of Moving to the Netherlands
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.
Moving to the Netherlands
Located in northwestern Europe, the Netherland's coastline lies on the North Sea, while its inland waterways, rivers and canals are symbolic, geographic and economic features of the country. Clogs, tulips and windmills are some of the iconic and somewhat archaic stereotypes that may come to mind when considering the Netherlands, but expats moving to this small European country are bound to encounter so much more.
Living in the Netherlands as an expat
The Netherlands is a country of mid-sized towns where even the capital, Amsterdam, has only around a million residents. That said, the Randstad – which contains Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht – is populated by over eight million people. Nevertheless, from the smallest town to the largest city, there is an abundance of things to see and do, and, given the excellent and extensive transport system throughout the country, it's easy to get around.
Famously liberal and modern, the Netherlands is a global trendsetter in governance, banking and commerce, and consistently ranks as one of the top destinations in the world for expats to live and work in.
It is a secular state that respects diversity. The Dutch, in general, are known for their tolerance and liberal ideals, and like-minded expats typically have no problem integrating into a laid-back society that is at complete ease with 21st-century living. Some expats do experience elements of culture shock, and while English is widely spoken, learning the Dutch language may prove to be one such element.
Finding work in the Netherlands is often more challenging for citizens from outside the European Union, but the job market is broad, and expats employed here benefit from a great quality of life and a decent work-life balance.
Cost of living in the Netherlands
The cost of living in the Netherlands is undeniably high, particularly in the capital. Indeed, Amsterdam ranked as the 25th most expensive city in the world in 2022. But while other major Dutch cities such as Rotterdam and The Hague are by no means cheap, they do have a lower cost of living than Amsterdam.
Families and children in the Netherlands
Families can rest assured that they'll be well taken care of given the Netherlands' world-class healthcare system. The country is also home to excellent schools, and expat families with children will have access to both local and international institutions. There is also plenty for families to get up to in their spare time. The country's cycling culture is great for family outings, and when it's time for a getaway, expats will enjoy swapping the sophistication and bicycle-bustle of the country’s urban areas with the staggering beauty of its pristine coastline, rural villages and flat, picturesque expanses, which are interrupted only by occasional castles, canals and dykes.
Climate in the Netherlands
The country has a maritime climate that's fairly similar to England's, with rain throughout the year and variable changes in temperature. Owing to its small size, there's little variation between regions. We recommend investing in a good raincoat and umbrella, and having them at hand no matter the season.
With cosmopolitan and culture-rich cities, lush landscapes begging to be explored and friendly, accommodating people, the Netherlands offers an excellent quality of life, and expats who move here rarely regret it.
Population: Around 17.2 million
Capital city: Amsterdam
Neighbouring countries: The country is bound by Belgium to the south, Germany to the east and the North Sea to the northwest.
Geography: Situated on Western Europe's northern coast, the Netherlands consists of very flat terrain. Much of its land has been reclaimed from the sea and sits below sea level.
Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Major religions: Mostly secular with a Catholic, Christian and Muslim minority
Main languages: Dutch is the official language. English, French and German are also widely spoken and understood.
Money: The Euro (EUR), divided into 100 cents. There are ATMs everywhere, and expats can easily open bank accounts.
Tipping: Service charges are often included in the restaurant bill. If they aren't, tipping 10 percent for good service is perfectly acceptable.
Time: GMT+1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. Two-pin European-style plugs are used.
Internet domain: .nl
International dialling code: +31
Emergency contacts: 112
Transport and driving: Cars in the Netherlands drive on the right-hand side of the road. The country has an extensive transport system and it's unlikely expats will need a car.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Netherlands
Expats moving to the Netherlands are sure to have many concerns and queries about their new home. To ease these worries, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about life in the Netherlands.
Must expats be able to speak Dutch?
'Must' would be too strong a word, and it depends on how long expats intend to stay. For those who intend to settle in the Netherlands permanently, it's strongly recommended. Most Dutch people can and are happy to speak English, but the language is an essential tool for expats who wish to establish local relationships and navigate Dutch culture.
Are the Dutch friendly?
Expats in the Netherlands often criticise the Dutch for being closed to new arrivals. Office culture can be difficult to navigate and making work mates can be tricky. It’s more common for expats to make friends with other expats, but this is not to say it's impossible to make Dutch friends. Having children or a big passion for a sport or activity makes it much easier to meet others, both local and foreign.
Do expats need a car in the Netherlands?
It isn't necessary to buy a car. Public transport in the Netherlands is effective and affordable. There are few locations not on the grid, with most cities and towns connected by road or rail links, and within the major cities there are extensive, rail, bus and tram services. The only caveat is that those living in rural areas might need a car, but there's very little of the country that can be described as rural and inaccessible.
Is the Netherlands safe?
Generally, yes. Violent crime rates are low, and people are generally safe walking the streets alone. But there is one crime in the Netherlands that is fairly common: bicycle theft. Pickpocketing is also fairly common in crowded tourist areas and expats should be wary of anyone brushing past or bumping into them, as they may well be searching for valuables.
Is 'Holland' the same as 'the Netherlands'?
Many foreigners use the names 'Holland' and 'the Netherlands' interchangeably. While these terms are informally used frequently, they are not synonymous. The Netherlands is the name of the country and encompasses 12 provinces, while Holland, on the other hand, refers to only two provinces: North and South Holland.
Where are the best places for an expat to live in the Netherlands?
The Randstad, which incorporates Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Rotterdam, is the most popular area for expats to live in the Netherlands. Eindhoven is another good option.
Banking, Money and Taxes in the Netherlands
The banking system in the Netherlands is fairly simple, with most banks offering comparable packages. Expats living in the country will need to open a Dutch bank account to receive their salary and pay for various services.
Money in the Netherlands
The currency of the Netherlands is the euro, which is divided into 100 cents.
Notes: 5 EUR, 10 EUR, 20 EUR, 50 EUR, 100 EUR, 200 EUR and 500 EUR.
Coins: 1 EUR and 2 EUR, and 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents.
Dealing with money matters in the Netherlands is fairly easy as it is part of the eurozone, so EU citizens won't struggle with currency exchanges. Non-EU citizens who are unfamiliar with the euro shouldn't encounter many problems exchanging money when they first arrive either.
Banking in the Netherlands
The largest banks in the Netherlands include ABN AMRO, ING Group, Rabobank and De Volksbank. Expats should shop around to find which bank suits their specific spending habits; some banks charge more for cash withdrawals than swiping a debit card at a supermarket, for instance. Most banks offer internet and mobile banking facilities.
The Dutch generally do a lot of payments with direct debiting from their accounts, so expats should be prepared to set up this sort of system for their accounts. Debit cards are provided with most accounts, but credit cards must be applied for.
It’s impossible to rent an apartment or receive a salary in the Netherlands without a bank account, so it is essential to set up an account soon after arriving in the country.
Banking hours in the Netherlands are usually from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. Some banks stay open later on Thursdays or Fridays and are open on Saturday mornings.
Opening a bank account
To open a bank account in the Netherlands, expats will need to provide documents such as their passport, proof of address and their BSN number.
A BSN number is a Dutch social security and tax number, and it's needed to get a job or open an account. Expats must get a BSN number from their local tax office soon after they arrive in the Netherlands.
Credit cards and ATMs
Credit cards are accepted across the Netherlands, but the Dutch usually only use them for large purchases. There may be some trouble finding a pay point in some places, so carrying some cash is always advisable.
ATMs are widely available and can be found outside most banks, as well as at airports and train stations. Cash withdrawals are usually free for local account holders. Dutch bank cards can be used in other banks’ machines, although withdrawal limits usually apply.
Taxes in the Netherlands
Expats considered residents for tax purposes are subject to tax on their worldwide income while non-residents are taxed only on their income from Netherlands-based sources. Expats must check which category they fall into and if their home country has a double-taxation agreement with the Netherlands, which would entitle them to foreign tax relief.
Personal income tax rates fall into three levels or 'boxes': work- and home-ownership-related income, interest, and savings and investment. Tax on income related to work and home ownership ranges from 9.7 percent to 49.5 percent. In addition, all residents must pay social security and income-related healthcare insurance contributions.
Expats who own a car in the Netherlands will likely be subject to a road tax, dependent on the car's weight and fuel type.
Expats bringing specific and scarce skills to the Netherlands can apply for the '30 percent ruling'. Employees who are granted this receive a tax-free reimbursement worth 30 percent of their salary over a five-year period. An application must be made and is accepted based on skill. The 30 percent ruling can make moving to the Netherlands a financially attractive proposition.
As with elsewhere in the world, tax regulations are subject to change, and we recommend enlisting the services of a tax consultant for specialised support.
Working in the Netherlands
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 secure 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 obtaining them. Getting a Dutch work permit can be a tricky affair, as local companies must prove there are no better local or EU candidates (if the applicant lives outside of the EU).
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 in-demand skills 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 remote working becoming increasingly relevant.
Finding a job in the Netherlands
Many expats relocate to the Netherlands because of a job offer or intra-company transfer. Those who move without a job offer in hand, have multiple avenues open to them.
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. 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.
Most expats will be happy to find out the many ways in which the Dutch labour law protects employees. For instance, employees are entitled to at least 20 days of paid leave per year in addition to public holidays, and some companies offer even 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.
Healthcare in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is credited with having one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Expats will have access to top-notch facilities and highly-qualified medical professionals.
There are a few key things to note regarding receiving medical care in the Netherlands, in particular the requirement for health insurance.
Public and private healthcare in the Netherlands
The healthcare system in the Netherlands is one of the few in the world that blurs the distinction between private and public care. Most healthcare facilities are non-profit and highly regulated by the government. The government generally funds long-term health treatment through tax, while short-term treatment is covered by mandatory private insurance.
What makes the system unique is that Dutch medical schemes have to offer certain basic services for a monthly fee and aren't allowed to refuse anyone based on risk. Belonging to a scheme is compulsory for all residents, including expats with permanent residency. Private schemes are also partially funded by employers.
Healthcare facilities in the Netherlands
High standards and specialist treatments can be found at most medical facilities in the Netherlands. All hospitals offer similar facilities and services, but some specialise in particular areas of treatment.
It’s important to note that the Dutch healthcare system is divided into different tiers, with GPs forming a large part of the first tier. It isn't usually possible to visit a specialist on the second tier without a doctor's referral.
Most doctors understand English, but expats often complain that local doctors sometimes lack bedside manner, and are often reluctant to prescribe medication unless absolutely essential. The latter largely stems from the general non-interventionist approach adopted by most Dutch medical practitioners.
Expats should try to find a general practitioner (huisarts) as soon as possible after they arrive. They're often busy and it can be difficult to find one who has space for more patients. After finding a doctor, expats will need to register with them.
Health insurance in the Netherlands
All residents and taxpayers in the Netherlands are required to have medical insurance from a private health insurance company. This must be organised within four months of arriving in the country.
Insurers are required to provide the same basic coverage for everyone. Health insurers are not allowed to deny coverage to any person who applies for a standard insurance package, and all policyholders must be charged the same premium, regardless of their age or state of health. Children under the age of 18 are typically included in the insurance package of their parents or guardians.
Some medical services are not covered by basic insurance plans, and additional health insurance is optional to cover such costs. We highly recommend that expats scrutinise these medical plans and decide if they require additional cover.
EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state healthcare here during a short-term visit. UK citizens can make use of their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC for UK citizens post-Brexit.
Medicines and pharmacies in the Netherlands
Pharmacies (apotheken) are plentiful in the Netherlands and stock both prescription and non-prescription medications. As mentioned, receiving an initial prescription for certain medication may take time, but once a prescription is issued, the medication is easily accessible from pharmacies.
Large cities usually have 24-hour pharmacies available alongside those operating during regular working hours only.
Emergency services in the Netherlands
Several private ambulance services are contracted to the Dutch government and operate within a particular service area. Response times are good.
The emergency number for an ambulance in the Netherlands is 112.
Shipping and Removals in the Netherlands
Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port. It's efficiently run, so there should be few delays on the Netherlands' side of the shipment. As always with removals, it helps to keep documentation such as invoices, inventories, carrier arrival notices and customs forms.
Removals from within Europe could be handled by train which should be quick and affordable. Expats moving from outside of Europe will have the choice of sea or air freight. Shipping by sea takes longer than air freight but is usually the cheaper option. It's worth shopping around for quotes.
It may be a good idea to send the most important belongings that will be needed immediately by air freight, while less urgently needed items can follow by sea freight.
Shipping pets to the Netherlands
When shipping pets, expats should ensure all the required documentation, including a pet passport or an authorised veterinary certificate translated into Dutch, is in order and that vaccinations and microchip insertion have been carried out.
Pets must be vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days prior to departure and may need to be quarantined for a month in the Netherlands.
Dog owners must register their dogs with the local town hall and municipal tax office within two weeks of arriving. An annual dog tax is charged in most Dutch cities, depending on how many dogs someone owns.
To find out if an animal can be brought into the country, expats must check the official website for the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.
Shipping a car to the Netherlands
Public transport in the Netherlands is efficient and cycle paths are extensive, so many residents don't feel the need to own a car. Those expats who wish to ship their car over to the Netherlands will need to hire a moving company that specialises in car shipping. The moving company will advise on options, including container or roll-on/roll-off shipping – where cars are simply parked and secured on a vessel for ease of transporting it on and off.
Cars must pass a technical inspection and be formally registered and follow the procedures required by the RDW (Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer), the national vehicle authority. Within two weeks of arriving in the country, the vehicle must have a Dutch licence number. Note that processes differ depending on whether the car comes from an EU or non-EU country.
Expats who own and drive a vehicle must pay relevant taxes in the Netherlands and get car insurance.
Culture Shock in the Netherlands
The Dutch are among the most liberal people in the world, so more conservative expats may experience some culture shock in the Netherlands. Prostitution is legal and regulated and is openly on display in Amsterdam's red-light districts. Though marijuana is technically illegal, it is decriminalised for personal use and is sold in coffee shops in certain areas of the country.
Making new friends can be difficult for expats moving to the Netherlands, especially if they don't speak Dutch, and establishing a social circle often takes time and effort. That said, the Dutch tend to say it like it is and expats will know exactly where they stand with locals. This can seem abrasive, but having an open mind and a sense of humour will go a long way to easing the transition of life in the Netherlands.
Language barrier in the Netherlands
The Dutch language could be the biggest hurdle for new arrivals. Locals are often multilingual and in the big cities most speak a reasonable level of English, French or German. Having said that, unless expats can speak at least some basic Dutch, they could end up feeling isolated.
Once they have a decent grasp of the language, most expats find that locals seem friendlier, more helpful and more encouraging. There are several options for learning Dutch, including private individual lessons and intensive courses at language centres and universities. The latter is the most efficient for expats working in the Netherlands. The courses are designed not only to quickly teach individuals to speak Dutch but also to offer a wealth of invaluable information about Dutch culture and history.
Work culture in the Netherlands
Concerning the work culture in the Netherlands, the Dutch love to have meetings or vergaderingen. They often run overtime since everyone, regardless of rank, needs to be heard. If a decision isn't reached then they simply adjourn to the next meeting. Rank is also unimportant and it's not unusual to find bosses to be more approachable than what expats might have previously experienced.
The Dutch generally like to keep their working life and personal life separate, so it can be difficult to socialise with colleagues outside of work.
Service in the Netherlands
The Netherlands isn't the most service-orientated country. It's normal to enter a shop and be left waiting unattended, and service in restaurants can be slow. Even the Dutch complain about the lack of good service in their country. One explanation is that employees get their salary no matter what. Commission systems, like bonus and percentage increases on every sale aimed at motivating staff to perform better, are relatively rare.
Religion and secularism in the Netherlands
There is a strong secular ethic in the Netherlands, and most people believe that religion should not play a role in politics. Across other spheres of life, such as in education or in social settings, religion sometimes plays a minor role, but the Dutch are generally atheist or agnostic. So, expats who follow and practise religion and are from a religious country may experience some culture shock.
Nevertheless, all religions are welcome and respected in the Netherlands, and finding a community with shared beliefs is possible. Catholicism and other Christian denominations are among the most practised religions, followed by Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.
Clogs and clothing in the Netherlands
Naturally, when thinking about Dutch culture, images of clogs and traditional clothing of dark suits, long dresses and striped skirts with floral aprons may come to mind. Clogs, traditional wooden footwear, are said to date back around 850 years, and while they are not commonly worn in today's Dutch cities, they may be found in some rural areas and they remain a key part of Dutch heritage – and make for a great souvenir.
Embassy Contacts for the Netherlands
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Washington DC, USA: +1 202 244 5300
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7590 3200
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 237 5031
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6220 9400
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 425 4500
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 269 3444
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 471 6390
Foreign embassies in the Netherlands
United States Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 310 2209
British Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 427 0427
Canadian Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 311 1600
Australian Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 310 8200
South African Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 392 4501
Irish Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 363 0993
New Zealand Embassy, The Hague: +31 70 346 9324
Cost of Living in the Netherlands
Prospective expats will have to consider the relatively high cost of living in the Netherlands, particularly in the capital. In the 2022 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Amsterdam was ranked as the world's 25th most expensive city for expats out of the 227 cities surveyed, in the same bracket as Vienna and Oslo. While other major Dutch cities such as Rotterdam and The Hague are by no means cheap, they do have a lower cost of living than Amsterdam.
Cost of accommodation in the Netherlands
Finding the right accommodation is often a difficult process and the Netherlands is no exception. This is especially the case in large cities, which tend to be on the expensive side. It's much cheaper to live in smaller rural towns. If expats do decide on city living but have a limited budget, it's best to search for accommodation in the outlying suburbs rather than city centres.
Buying a house in the Netherlands is complicated and is probably done best with an intermediary who can communicate in the expat's home language as well as Dutch. Once the house is bought, the buyer has to get house insurance and will also be responsible for sewerage, refuse and annual housing taxes. Renting a house exempts tenants from these costs as these will be the responsibility of the owner, but utilities are still often an additional expense on top of rent.
Cost of transport in the Netherlands
Public transport in the Netherlands is relatively cheap by European standards. Most of the country's public transport systems work with a chip card that can be used on trains, trams, metros and buses. While taxis are expensive, there is a service called the deeltaxi – a shared taxi service that's cheaper than a regular taxi, although they usually make several stops along the journey, which can be inconvenient. Several ride-hailing services operate in the Netherlands, which are ordered through user-friendly apps, and are also slightly cheaper than regular taxis.
Cost of education in the Netherlands
Tuition at local schools is free apart from a voluntary contribution. Teaching is usually in Dutch, but there are also a few government-subsidised public schools offering international curricula, with teaching being either bilingual or in English. Some public schools also have the option of a bridging year to allow non-Dutch-speaking children time to pick up the language and adapt before moving into mainstream Dutch schooling.
Private international schools are often the preferred option for families who won't be staying in the Netherlands for the long term, but fees can be high and often don't include extras such as school uniforms, textbooks, bus service and canteen lunches.
Cost of living in the Netherlands chart
Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Amsterdam in September 2022.
One-bedroom apartment in the city centre
One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre
Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
Milk (1 litre)
Loaf of white bread
Chicken breasts (1kg)
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)
Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)
Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)
Utilities (monthly for average-sized home)
Three-course meal at mid-range restaurant for two
Big Mac Meal
Local beer (500ml)
Taxi rate (per km)
City-centre public transport (one way)
Weather in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has a maritime climate that's fairly similar to England's, with rain throughout the year and variable changes in temperature. Owing to its small size, there's little variation between regions. Expats moving to the Netherlands should invest in a good raincoat and umbrella.
The country experiences mild summers and cool winters, with an average temperature around 66°F (19°C) in summer from June to August, and 36°F (2°C) in winter from December to February. The flat landscape means that it's quite windy, which is seen in the country's famed windmills.