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.
The Netherlands is a country of mid-sized towns where even the capital, Amsterdam, has only around a million inhabitants in the city itself. 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 people from all over the world to meet.
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. That said, anyone living abroad can feel elements of culture shock, and while English is widely spoken, learning the Dutch language may prove to be one such barrier.
To add to this, finding work in the Netherlands is often more challenging for citizens from outside the European Union. However, the job market is broad, and expats employed here benefit from a great quality of life, given the world-class healthcare system and extensive transport networks. The Netherlands is also home to excellent schools, and expat families with children will have access to both local and international institutions.
Indeed, the stereotype of the local cycle culture holds true in the Netherlands, and riding a bike consistently appears one of the best ways of getting around in Dutch cities. Nevertheless, 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.
These famed dykes, like the waterways that criss-cross the country, are a dominant feature of Dutch life. Most of the population live on land below sea level that's been reclaimed from the ocean. In fact, one of the country’s famous fables involves a small boy bravely saving his town by plugging a leaking sea wall.
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 17.1 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.
►Find out how to find the perfect house or apartment in Accommodation in the Netherlands
"I love the fact that, even though it's a very cosmopolitan city, Amsterdam manages to keep its Dutch charm, sometimes creating the feeling you live in a small town, where everyone knows each other, even if that is not the case." Read more about what Dana has to say in her expat life in the Netherlands.
"The quality of life is outstanding. Healthcare is top-notch and there is an extraordinary expat community. Public transportation will take you literally everywhere quickly, cheaply, and easily. Utrecht is one of the major cities in the Netherlands as well as a university city, so there is always something to do with lots of people and lots of diversity." Read about Tiffany's expat experience in the Netherlands.
Are you an expat living in The Netherlands?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to The Netherlands. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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