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What it’s like to live and work in the Netherlands | #ukscams | #datingscams | #european | #datingscams | #love | #relationships | #scams | #pof | #match.com | #dating

The Netherlands offers a soft landing for many prospective expats from the UK. Its charming landscape of canals, dunes and dikes is served by an extensive public transport system of trains, trams and buses. An excellent cycling infrastructure means that bikes outnumber cars, while a healthy outdoorsy culture prevails. English is virtually a second language here too.

As well as magnificent art museums, a superb metropolitan gastronomic scene and endless sandy beaches, you’ll find the HQs of multinationals such as Philips, TomTom, KPMG and Booking.com. Amsterdam is one of Europe’s fastest-growing startup hubs and there are many exciting academic research opportunities too, with TU Delft ranking highly for engineering and technology.

What to know before you go

Before booking a one-way ticket from the UK, there are a few key consideration to bear in mind. Work and residency permits, for instance, need several months’ planning and you’ll need to check immigration procedures with the IND, the country’s immigration and naturalisation department. Members of the European Economic Area naturally have it the easiest, with no work permit required. 

For other foreign nationals, the simplest way to move to the Netherlands is with the sponsorship of an employer. Startup founders and the self-employed are not out of the running, but there are strict visa qualification criteria.

Healthcare is excellent and starts at €140 (£119) per month. People in all income brackets are entitled to generous child benefit payments. If your children have a registered childminder or attend daycare, you can apply for a partial refund. State education is strong and the number of (fee-paying) international schools is rising. 

The bike is a popular form of transport for commuters in Dutch cities such as Amsterdam

Although employers will often pay relocation costs, health insurance and perhaps a few weeks’ accommodation, the growing popularity of the Netherlands with expats has meant that firms have tended to do less to attract foreign talent. 

London-born Michele Bar-Pereg runs her own relocation consulting bureau in Amsterdam and is the co-founder of relocation service Tzuza. Reporting that few firms are “giving handouts for relocation any more, unless we’re talking about really senior transfers”, she adds that big players such as Shell and Unilever are the most likely employers to go the extra mile for expats. 

“The biggest challenge here is finding accommodation without any real practical support,” Bar-Pereg says.

An acute housing shortage has led to a cutthroat (and scam-riddled) rental market in Amsterdam, with monthly rents averaging €25 (£21) per square metre, while they are closer to €18 in The Hague and Rotterdam. This has made nearby Haarlem and Almere popular alternatives.

Bar-Pereg recommends trawling expat Facebook groups for leads, viewing a property as soon as it’s advertised, and ensuring local estate agencies have you at the forefront of their minds. Explore job options in Eindhoven, a thriving tech hub, or unspoilt Groningen with its attractive canal houses, she advises. Both have booming expat communities but are cheaper than the Randstad (the crescent-shaped area in the West of the country that houses the Netherlands’ four largest cities).

What is life like for entrepreneurs in the Netherlands?

Mérida Miller, who moved to Amsterdam from the US in 2017, was one of the lucky ones. Her employer, Under Armour, provided 60 days of accommodation and arranged for a relocation specialist from expat centre IN Amsterdam to facilitate her paperwork. 

In 2019, she left her job as an innovation designer to found Project Fearless, which runs confidence-boosting programmes for girls in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. “I’ve never lived somewhere where people feel so confident about going into freelancing,” she says, describing setting up a company as “a very simple process”.

“There’s a lot of vibrancy in the different businesses that are here,” she adds. “There are a lot of incubators for each type of business and there’s all these different hubs and networks you can tap into.” 

But people also know when it’s time to take a break. “I love seeing how the Dutch really make the most of their holidays,” Miller says, although she admits to cutting her own break short this summer. “I missed Amsterdam and I missed being on my bike,” she explains. “I really feel at home here.”

Which Dutch sectors are recruiting?

Workers in high tech and engineering are most in demand, says Olivia van den Broek-Neri of the Holland Expat Center South in Eindhoven. Companies such as ASML and Itility seem to be “constantly recruiting”, she says, with the healthcare and agrifood sectors in the south also offering openings for expats. 

People are attracted to the lifestyle here. They’re not coming and going, they’re staying

Van den Broek-Neri, a marketing and communications specialist, emigrated from the US in 2007 at a time when she seemed to need Google Translate for everything. “In the past seven years, I’ve seen an increase in accessibility for expats,” she says, citing the new Relocation App as an example. With no plans to leave, she is typical of a wider trend. “People are attracted to the lifestyle here,” she says. “They’re not coming and going, they’re staying.” 

Two-year contracts are the norm in the Netherlands and some highly skilled migrants can claim a five-year 30% facility to receive 30% of their earnings tax-free. Here, as elsewhere, salaries have failed to keep pace with the property market and soaring energy prices. Income is generally lower than the US and the UK, and is taxed higher, at up to 49.5%. The country is in light recession, but with unemployment still below 4%, vacancies exceed demand. 

What is the work culture like in the Netherlands?

The country that founded the world’s first stock exchange was also the first to legalise same-sex marriage, so expect a culture that is both innovative and tolerant. As most people bike to work, dress tends to be informal, as are lunches – often just a sandwich or salad and kept reasonably short.

Work hierarchies are flatter than in many countries and ‘poldering’, a consensual approach to decision-making that’s said to date from the cooperation needed to manage water on the sub-sea level polders, means that whole teams may be consulted before you get the go-ahead on a task. And brace yourself for some forthright feedback: the Dutch have a reputation for being direct.

Lunches In The Netherlands Are Typically Short And Usually Involve Eating A Sandwich
Lunches in the Netherlands are typically short and usually involve eating a sandwich

Shared work spaces have cropped up throughout the cities, enabling entrepreneurs to expand their networks, while hubs, such as BlueCity in Rotterdam and Amsterdam’s Startup Village, speak to the supportive startup scene in the Netherlands and the opportunities here for young businesses.

Welfare at work is well embedded with a minimum wage, a maximum of 60 working hours per week, and a strong support system should you become unwell and unable to work. In additional to the national holidays, workers are entitled to a minimum of 20 days off per year, although 25 is typical.

Pieter Joep van den Brink, of the Carla van den Brink estate agency in Amsterdam, has noticed that clients frequently return to the Netherlands after living for a period elsewhere − perhaps Paris, Munich or Rome, where, he says, “you have to speak the language to blend in”. 

“Social control is high, children are well protected and the quality of work/life balance is so good,” he continues. “I see a lot of expats, after 10 years or so, coming back to the Netherlands and taking a longer-term view. They come back to Amsterdam from São Paulo, Hong Kong, New York and Tokyo, and they say: You have no idea!”

You can read more from our Working Around the World series here.


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