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.
Clogs, tulips and windmills are some of the iconic and somewhat archaic stereotypes that one might think of when considering the Netherlands, but the little European country is about so much more. It is a secular state that respects diversity, while 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.
The Netherlands is a country of middle-sized towns where even the capital, Amsterdam, has less than a million inhabitants in the city itself. That said, the Randstad – which contains Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht – is populated by over 8 million people.
The country has an extensive transport system and one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Added to this, the Netherlands is home to excellent schools and expats will have access to both local- and international institutions.
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 lives 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 for expats.
Population: 17 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.
"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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