When imagining your life in the Netherlands, you may think about tulips, windmills and cheese-serving women with blonde braids. But even if you clearly recognize these stereotypes for what they are you probably expect to find a laid-back, romantic European country, with a high standard of living. And this expectation is not entirely unrealistic.
The Netherlands are considered a very liberal and cosmopolitan country. 19% of the population are foreigners or belong to a racial minority. Among them are many expats from all over the world. Amsterdam has the highest number of foreign visitors each year and also the biggest expat community, together with Rotterdam and The Hague.
The Dutch are in fact a friendly and welcoming people. While a little reserved at first, they generally enjoy the contact to expats and the chance to practice their English (which 90% of the population speaks). However, the Dutch are also said to be blunt, very blunt indeed.
You should prepare yourself for a way of addressing issues and speaking one’s mind which, in your home country, may be considered extremely rude. The Dutch do not beat around the bush. However, they rarely mean to offend you. You will soon find yourself amused by their straight-forward attitude and enjoy the freedom to say whatever is on your mind without having to tiptoe around the issue.
Many buitenlanders (foreigners) also enjoy the relaxed pace of life in the Netherlands. Instead of spending hours on the subway or hurrying to the office early in the morning, they take up a whatever-happens-happens attitude. The Netherlands have always been an attractive destination. From the Renaissance on, it was considered Europe’s artistic center and attracted quite a few art aficionados.
After living in the Netherlands for a while, you will soon begin to pick up on certain habits and local customs. One of them is cycling. The Dutch love to cycle everywhere: to work, to the lake or seaside or to meet with friends. They cycle for fun or for exercise or simply to get around. Alone in Amsterdam, over 600.000 bicycles can be found all over the city.
If you are used to traveling and commuting by car, it may take a while for you to get used to this. But eventually almost every expat joins the high number of Dutch cyclist, making his bicycle his favorite mode of transportation.
While it is commonly known that getting stuck in the expat bubble will deprive you of the best your new home has to offer, a strong expatriate network is more than important. Not only can more experienced expats help you with basic issues (like health care, visa, housing etc.), they will also understand when almost being run over by cyclists or trams, leaves you baffled, why you are taken aback by the (supposed) rudeness of your landlord, neighbor or mailman or how the unpredictable weather is putting you over the edge (the latter is especially true if you are used to warmer climates).
While there are many ways to get in touch with other expats, InterNations, a global expat community with its headquarters located in Munich, offers a way to meet and mingle with global minds. InterNations is a global online network which allows you to connect with expats all over the world and exchange ideas in forums. However, it also offers local communities and monthly events in over 250 cities all over the planet.
At the monthly InterNations events you will have the chance to have a few drinks, to chat or dance the night away at an exclusive venue. While some events are rather relaxed get-togethers, others have more of a party-feeling to it. Either way, you will get to meet great people and make some new friends. “I come back to the events every month” Brenda, an expat from London, tells us. “I love how I can discuss typical expat issues in such a relaxed atmosphere or just enjoy the party. I have actually met some of my best friends at an InterNations event.”
While InterNations has two major communities in the Netherlands (Amsterdam and The Hague), local groups also organize informal get-togethers for members from other cities. That way, you will be met with a community reaching out to you, wherever you move to in the Netherlands.