A Dutch Welcome: Make Yourself at Home!
Your home away from home in the Netherlands
Photo by Ian on Unsplash
Moving home is reckoned to be one of life’s most stressful events. So, imagine how challenging it can be to change house and country at the same time! Reassuringly, if your move abroad is to the Netherlands, then you are in for a pleasant surprise, as there is an impressive range of government, private sector and non-profit organizations here whose sole task is to make your international relocation go as smoothly and seamlessly as possible. So, what are you waiting for?
Historically open & welcoming
Throughout history, the Netherlands has been renowned as a place where people from all backgrounds and cultures and persuasions were welcomed. This freedom-loving culture still exists today and is underpinned by reliable legal and political systems. The result is a thriving multicultural, multi-lingual society, with Amsterdam and Rotterdam as two of the most culturally diverse cities in the world.
It must be a recipe for success as the Netherlands has risen to 5th place in the 2019 World Happiness Report. Furthermore, in 2018, the Netherlands overtook Denmark as the country with the best work-life balance. So states the OECD Better Life Index, which ranks countries on aspects such as how successfully households balance work, family commitments and personal life. It’s not only the adults that flourish here, as in report after report the Netherlands tops the list of OECD countries when it comes to high life satisfaction among teenagers.
Rolling out the orange carpet
Those who have already made the move and are settled here will invariably tell you the same story: how easy it is to assimilate and integrate; the fact that so many people here speak English as well as other languages such as French and German; the great support networks, most of them free-of-charge, that exist to make your life easier; the relaxed, inclusive society – with some of the happiest children in the world. Many of these people will have been assisted by an extensive support network of expat-focused organizations throughout the country.
The appropriately named Expat Centers (PDF) function as a one-stop-shop for international employees living and working in the Netherlands. They support international employees, and self-employed individuals, by offering fast and easy procedures for dealing with official administrative formalities and providing general information on the Netherlands. In addition to assisting expats with the formal procedures required for settling in the Netherlands, including registering themselves in the Municipal Basic Administration system, obtaining a social security number, and obtaining residence permits, Expat Centers also provide practical help such as opening a bank account, finding specialized healthcare or locating the nearest daycare centers.
Another key organization helping expats assimilate is ACCESS, which has been helping internationals, people on an expatriate assignment or those who have moved to the Netherlands, for more than 30 years. ACCESS is a not-for-profit organization, and most of the volunteers working there are themselves internationals. ACCESS is just an email or phone call away and provides a vast range of services from practical help with relocating, to careers advice for partners joining expats to mental health counselling. Deborah Valentine, Executive Director of ACCESS comments ‘We know from experience that speaking to someone who has been in your shoes, transforms that which may seem insurmountable into the manageable, firmly planting the first steps to settling-in’.
Expats everywhere seem to have a knack for connecting and finding other expats. As a result, there is a huge variety of expat activities going on at any given moment, and these reflect the many different cultures that settle here. In addition to large expat fairs such as ‘IamExpat’ fairs in Amsterdam and The Hague; ‘Feel at Home’ in The Hague; ‘I am not a Tourist’ fair in Amsterdam and Eindhoven; ‘At Home in Haarlem, to name but a few, there are many and varied social, national, cultural and community organizations through the country. There is also a wealth of local ‘no-Dutch-required’ cultural activities. Many expat communities use social media within their existing clubs to organize meet-ups and events. They help bring internationals together and to establish forums where questions can be asked, and communities found and formed.
Due to a long tradition of welcoming expats, there are many small- and sole- entrepreneurs in the Netherlands providing services specific to expats, such as international health care providers; special needs support; bookstores; job-coaches and job-portals.
Good job and career prospects
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash
Seeking employment in a new country can sometimes be a daunting prospect. However, no-Dutch-required job opportunities are readily available. There are ample opportunities for non-Dutch speakers looking to work in metropolitan areas. Unemployment in the Netherlands is currently amongst the lowest in the EU and as the Netherlands is a popular base for companies expanding into the European market and beyond: there are many global and European business headquarters in the major cities – some 450 in Amsterdam alone.
Many potential international job opportunities also exist within the significant number of embassies located in The Hague or within the more than 200 International Governmental Organizations and international non-governmental organizations that are situated in the city.
High quality and affordable education
Education is an important consideration when moving with a family in tow. The Netherlands values its international expat community and is determined to offer the highest standard of living. Consequently, the Dutch government provides a unique system of publicly-funded international schools. These are complemented by a number of private international schools with very reasonable fees. Currently, some 19,000 international students in the Netherlands are studying at the thirty-six international primary and secondary schools.
A multitude of housing options
People moving here can choose to live in a bustling city, a residential suburb, a village, or in the picturesque countryside. Housing in different segments is readily available and priced competitively in comparison to other major European cities (e.g. London, Paris). Also, as distances in the Netherlands are comparatively short, it is possible to live in the countryside and still access the center of a major city within 30 minutes.
Health and welfare
In the Netherlands, healthcare is provided by private healthcare providers. In accordance with the Dutch Health Insurance Act, everyone (legally) residing in the Netherlands is legally obliged to take out health insurance. The basic insurance package covers all essential medical care. Supplementary dental, and additional coverage can be arranged through supplementary packages. Reassuringly, for expats there is ample choice of English-speaking healthcare professionals and most hospitals have many English-speaking staff.
As you can see, there is much that we can be proud of here and we have a long tradition of embracing other cultures and societies in an atmosphere of inclusivity and tolerance. ‘Live and let live’ is our philosophy, and we work hard to enable that to happen.30 May 2019