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19 Important Pros and Cons of Living in the Netherlands

The people of the Netherlands welcome visitors from across the globe to discover their amazing history, but what about foreigners who decide to make their visit permanent? How does the Netherlands treat its new residents?

Can Western expats expect to struggle daily to learn a complex system of societal norms? Or is it easy to jump into life in this northern European country and pass for a Dutch person? After moving my small family and me to the Netherlands from Minneapolis, I learned a few things directly from experience.

Overall, the Netherlands is a welcoming country to foreigners, and the population takes seriously the treatment of all its citizens and visitors in an egalitarian and just manner.

More than half of Amsterdam’s citizens weren’t born in the country’s capital, which shows that the Dutch people have a welcoming attitude toward outsiders.

Nonetheless, you may find it helpful to learn more about the country’s quirks, history, and standard modes of behavior before packing up everything you own and making the big move. Here are some pros and cons of living in the Netherlands, which may help you as you decide whether to make Holland your home country.

Let us now discuss the ups and downs of living in the Netherlands. As you read through these pros and cons, remember that this list is subjective, and what might appeal to you may not appeal to someone else.

You may find that some of these drawbacks don’t actually apply to you, or you don’t care about them.

Pros and Cons of Living in the Netherlands

Before we launch into a discussion about all the awesome things about the Netherlands and the not-so-awesome things, let’s learn a little about the country, its people, and its history.

Thousands of years ago, the area was inhabited by various Germanic tribes that would eventually become conquered by invading Romans.

Through the centuries, different groups would control the area. Still, the culture of the Netherlands, as we know it today, would cement itself in the 1600s during the expansion of the Dutch empire and the rise of the Dutch East India Company.

One of the most unique facets of the Netherlands is its language. The fog of history conceals the earliest language history, but to the untrained ear today, Dutch sounds a little like German.

For foreigners, the Dutch language is one of the toughest parts of moving to the Netherlands, mainly because of the conversational English that nearly everyone speaks. The English language is widely spoken here.

1. Pro: The Netherlands Has An Affordable Health Care System

Exterior of academic hospital Amsterdam UMC, University medical centers
Milos / Adobe Stock

The Netherlands offers its citizens a robust and beneficial healthcare system. The country’s universal social health insurance allows citizens to select their preferred private insurance policy and pay for it through taxes.

At one time, citizens could choose whether to buy private or public health insurance policies, but a change by the government in the early 2000s merged the country’s healthcare insurance into one system.

In particular, expats from the United States may benefit from the Dutch system of healthcare services since they’ll never need to worry about going bankrupt due to medical bills.

2. Con: Credit Card Payments Aren’t Universal in the Netherlands

Geldmaat (Dutch ATM) in Amsterdam
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

In some European countries, you don’t need to deal with physical money; you only need a credit or debit card. In the Netherlands, some industries and entire regions prefer cash.

For instance, you need cash to buy groceries because most grocery stores, talking to you Albert Heijn, don’t accept cards. Not even if you use a European debit card from Wise.

Moreover, you may encounter areas in the countryside where cards aren’t accepted or where the merchants that accept cards add an extra fee for convenience.

It’s not like living in Iceland, where you rarely see cash, and everyone uses cards for everything. If you move to the Netherlands, be prepared to keep cash in your pocket.

3. Pro: Dutch Transportation is Easy and Versatile

Train Station in Zwolle, Netherlands
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Even though some beautiful rural areas outside major cities like Amsterdam exist, Holland is not an expansive country. With its small size, the country has constructed a robust public transportation system, meaning owning a car is not always necessary.

As a visitor, you can enjoy your entire vacation with the Dutch people without ever having to get behind the wheel of a car, and you can enjoy the same lifestyle when you move to the country.

No need for car insurance and expensive petrol! Trade your car keys in for a bus pass and a bicycle and enjoy an excellent public transportation system. There are train stations in nearly every city and town, with many larger cities having multiple stops.

Don’t worry; you can always rent a car for a few days should you need it, and if you’re particularly opposed to public transportation, you can indeed buy a car and own your wheels.

4. Con: Accommodations Aren’t The Cheapest in Big Cities

Houses on Amstel River
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

One of the more expensive facets of living in the Netherlands is the cost of housing. Like other countries worldwide, the Netherlands suffers from a housing shortage that has increased severity over the last few years.

According to figures published by the NL Times, the housing problem has gotten severe enough that the country is short almost a quarter million homes for its residents. As such, the Netherlands does have higher housing costs than other European locales.

Yet, Americans who decide to move to the Netherlands will actually pay lower rent, on average, than they might in the United States, where the housing shortage has reached critical levels in many states.

Rent in large cities like Amsterdam is expensive, but it’s actually less expensive than in North American cities like Los Angeles, Toronto, San Francisco, and New York City.

See Related: Cheap Places to Visit in Europe

5. Pro: The Public Schools Are Excellent

Sunny Dutch classroom full of educational materials and colorful decor
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

 If you have children coming with you on your move to the Netherlands, they’ll enjoy a free public school system, but you might need to pay for some things during the year, like field trips and school projects like student gardens.

The only drawback is that instruction at most schools is conducted in Dutch, which is difficult for older children who are already set with English as their primary language. The solution is usually finding a dual language school that offers instruction in Dutch and English.

6. Con: Dutch is a Difficult Language

Ij-Hallen, Amsterdam North
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Schooling brings us to one of the biggest difficulties anyone might experience when moving to the Netherlands. The language!

The Dutch people speak English incredibly well, and your new Dutch friends will probably speak English when they’re around you and in private settings. That’s one of the reasons it’s so tough to learn Dutch.

Not only is the language rather difficult for English speakers to conquer, but it’s tough to speak Dutch with your coworkers, friends, and random people you meet when everyone speaks English most of the time.

Whether you’re young or old, you’ll need to make a serious effort to learn Dutch since it’s not like sitting in a cafe in Mexico where you’ll hear Spanish everywhere or a coffee shop in France where it’s all French all the time. I’ve been using the Babbel app as well as watching TV shows or movies in Dutch with English subtitles to pick up new words or sayings.

You might need actual instruction since it’s tough to find places where everyone speaks Dutch all the time, and it’s a lot better when you can fully immerse yourself in the language.

7. Pro: Everyone Speaks English and a Few Other Languages

Picture-perfect Amsterdam cityscape
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The difficulty you might have in learning Dutch naturally is actually related to our next positive feature of living in the Netherlands. Everyone speaks English, and many citizens also speak another language (French and German are popular).

It’s safe to say the whole country speaks English, and you’ll only run into minor hassles in rural areas where English isn’t as prevalent. For the most part, though, everyone speaks English, from coffee shops to job interviews.

8. Con: Towns & Cities in the Netherlands Aren’t 24/7

Amsterdam View from NEMO Science Rooftop
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

 One of the biggest differences you might experience when moving to the Netherlands from large cities is that the Dutch culture doesn’t support the go-go-go 24/7, always-on approach that you’ll find in countries like the United States. Even in Amsterdam, you’ll find that some businesses close shop at 6 p.m. and won’t even open on the weekend.

If you hail from a culture where everything is available all the time in every way, you might need to adjust your expectations while living in Holland. The Dutch have a rather impressive work-life balance, which means avoiding crazy work schedules and creating unnecessary stress.

See Related: Most Beautiful Villages in the Netherlands

9. Pro: Dads Get Time Off for the Kids

Private Amsterdam Canal Cruise Boat, one of the best tours in Amsterdam
My Daughter Driving the Canal Cruise Boat! (Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers)

For the Dutch people, all parents are a crucial part of the family unit, and it’s not uncommon for fathers to spend time with their children away from work, even if that means taking time off.

Per the Dutch government, all parents are entitled to “ouderschapsverlof,” the Dutch word for parental leave. Some rules guide your ability to apply for parental leave, but it’s always there for you should you take it for your child.

Any parent may take the time as long as they’re an official parent of the child or are the adoptive or foster parent. It’s worth noting, too, that parental leave is only available as long as your child is less than eight years old.

10. Con: Scoring a Residence Permit is Difficult

Picture-perfect Amsterdam cityscape
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

As you should expect, moving to the Netherlands means getting a bunch of paperwork handled. The Dutch are happy to share their beautiful country with others, but they request that you complete all the necessary paperwork before you become a permanent part of their country.

For example, anyone who isn’t a citizen of the EU/EEA or a Swiss citizen must obtain a temporary residence permit, and you need to have a good reason for getting a permit, or you might not get one.

The easiest way to obtain a residence permit is to find a job, which isn’t easy either but will ensure you can get a residence permit. You’ll also need a Dutch work visa to actually work in the country, so that’s two permits you need.

After getting through an interview with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, you’ll need to secure your work and temporary residence permits. It’s technically illegal to work and live in the country without these permits, so take the process seriously!

11. Pro: The Dutch Are (Generally) Friendly and Outgoing

While the government might throw up a few roadblocks when it comes to getting a work permit and a residence visa, the Dutch love interacting with visitors, especially as many businesses rely on the tourist dollars that come into the country each year.

If you decide to move to the Netherlands, you can expect a similarly friendly attitude, polite interactions, and generosity. The Dutch are fun people striving for a healthy and friendly outlook. You may find your overall outlook on life improving as you explore your new home and interact with your new friends.

12. Con: Sex Tourism is a Real Thing

Red Light District in Amsterdam
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

It’s difficult to label sex tourism as an absolute con in the Netherlands because the industry is legitimate throughout the country and not just in major Dutch cities like Amsterdam. Amsterdam is famous for its Red Light District, but prostitution is regulated.

If you have moral objections to the sex trade, you’ll need to put those objections aside since the industry in the Netherlands is an accepted and mainstream part of the country’s economy.

See Related: Best Nightclubs in Amsterdam

13. Pro: The Netherlands is Excessively Covered in Green Spaces

Klompenmakkerij in Marken - Handmade Wooden Shoes
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Whether in Amsterdam or the rural countryside, you’ll see a lot of green in the Netherlands. Not only are cities filled with parks and green spaces, but there’s a focus on creating easily accessible and beautiful outdoor spaces for all residents, tourists, and visitors.

The Netherlands is a pretty small country, but it actually has 20 official national parks, in addition to an endless number of playgrounds and green spaces in its urban areas.

The Dutch spend much time outside, and activities like camping and cross-country bicycling are popular. However, the Dutch aren’t quite as crazy when it comes to outdoor activities as, say, the Germans. They love getting out into nature, but coffee shops and sitting in the comfort of a café are just as popular.

14. Con: Lots of Tourists Crowd the Netherlands

Volendam Netherlands – Beautiful Dutch Scenery
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Tourism isn’t the biggest industry in the Netherlands but brings more than 18 million visitors annually. Unfortunately, those 18 million visitors are responsible for creating traffic jams and making it a little tricky to get a good photograph of most tourist hotspots (trying to get a picture of a windmill without tourists in the way is almost impossible!).

If you hail from a place where tourism isn’t a big thing, or you’re not used to the big crowds and tours, you might find the tourists a little annoying even though you might have started as a tourist before moving to the country.

After living in the Netherlands for a few weeks, you’ll probably stop noticing the tourists and likely figure out when and where to go to avoid them in such great numbers.

15. Pro: Dutch Employment Means a Month Off Every Year

The Dutch enjoy a total of seven national holidays each year, in addition to an entitlement of vacation days of around 20 days each year.

It depends on how much you work and how many days you get off each year. Most Dutch citizens take all their vacation days off each year, which often means a month of no work.

By contrast, there is no guaranteed allotment of vacation days given to American workers, and most employees aren’t even guaranteed not to work on federal holidays unless they work for the government in a federal job.

Receiving guaranteed time off is a massive perk for Americans who aren’t always used to having significant time away from work outside of unemployment.

16. Con: Getting a Job is a Job In and Of Itself

The Netherlands is a bit peculiar regarding getting a job as a foreigner. The country enjoys a higher employment rate for its citizens than the average in Europe, but landing a job as a foreigner isn’t always easy.

You might need to contact an employment agency accepting foreign applications to find a job, especially before you move to the country and become eligible for a work permit.

You may find getting a job in the Netherlands easier with a college degree since highly skilled workers are always welcome.

If you’re itching to immigrate to the Netherlands and make your residency permanent, the government offers a fast-track immigration process if you have a work skill that’s in significant demand.

17. Pro: The Climate Isn’t (All That) Crazy

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The climate of the Netherlands is pretty sedate overall, and you’ll only rarely experience extreme temperatures.

Although there is concern in the Netherlands about climate change and the future impact of sea level rise, the climate of the Netherlands is fairly unexciting. You may experience a heat wave here in the summer, and some chilly temperatures in the winter, but extreme weather events are rare.

If anything, you’ll probably need an umbrella or raincoat because regular rain showers are much more important than extreme weather.

Technically, the Netherlands does experience all four seasons, which you may enjoy if you come from a place where it’s always hot or where there are only two seasons rather than the traditional four.

See Related: Best Time to Visit Amsterdam: When Should You Visit?

18. Con: Some Services are Expensive in the Netherlands

Utrecht Netherlands Cityscape
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Although the cost of living isn’t extreme in the Netherlands, you may need to learn to become handy by fixing things independently. Calling a professional for electrical or plumbing work can be costly.

If you currently live in an inexpensive country, you might find that it costs just a little more to do everything, from renting a house to shopping at the grocery store.

The public transportation system is exceptional in the Netherlands, but tickets on public transportation are a little more expensive than you might think. Owning a car can get pretty pricey, too, due to the high fuel cost and the monthly road taxes.

See Related: Best Brunch & Breakfast Spots in Amsterdam

19. Pro: The Netherlands is a Safe Place to Live

Overall, residents of the Netherlands enjoy a low crime rate, and you should feel safe in most circumstances, whether you’re meandering around the grocery store or bicycling to work.

The crime rate isn’t zero, but the country suffers from fewer crimes yearly than some less affluent European countries where petty crime is more of an issue.

Just as you might in any of the different cities across Europe, you’ll want to keep an eye on your wallet and phone to avoid any crimes of opportunity, but you won’t need to hire a bodyguard to keep you safe from roaming gangs and thieves.

The Netherlands is safe enough that you won’t need to concern yourself that much with crime.

See Related: Is Amsterdam Safe? Here’s What to Know

Why Move to the Netherlands?

Damrak street view in Amsterdam - Dutch architecture and tourism
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Netherlands is considered generally safe and offers visitors and residents benefits like a robust health care system, a low crime rate, and a pleasing population.

The nomadic and café culture of the Netherlands is certainly one draw of the country. Still, the Netherlands also offers its new residents a wealth of job opportunities and many opportunities for personal growth.

Is It Easy to Move to the Netherlands?

Moving to the Netherlands isn’t difficult as long as we’re talking about the physical act of moving to the country. However, getting all your paperwork in order and making all the right preparations does take some time and might be seen as a drawback to moving to the country.

But let’s not allow some paperwork issues to influence our overall opinion of the country.

The Final Word: Should I Move to the Netherlands?

If you live across the Atlantic but yearn to make a home in Europe, the Netherlands is a friendly and accessible option, but you will need to spend some time learning about and getting used to the Dutch way of doing things. 

Dutch citizens are, by and large, friendly and polite, and they’re quite used to seeing foreigners as new neighbors and tourists. If you’re coming from the United States, you may assume that the Dutch have to put up with excessively high taxes and that most people are low-income because the state takes all their money.

In reality, residents of Holland enjoy great healthcare, a healthy outlook on life, and the freedoms you’d expect from any progressive European locale.

As a foreigner, you might need to get used to quirks like grocery shopping before 6 p.m. and using the bike lanes to get to work, but aside from getting the correct permits in place, there aren’t any surprising or strict rules that will have you scratching your head when you move to the Netherlands.

If you’re keen on moving to the Netherlands, the first step is visiting the country to get a feel for the environment and its citizens.

If you’re already a big fan of Holland and want to start the process of moving to the Netherlands, your first step is to make an appointment with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

FAQs

What is the cost of living in the Netherlands?

Americans who decide to move to Holland may see slight savings when they move to the country, but the difference in cost isn’t too dramatic. Those who move from less expensive regions (perhaps southeast Asia or some Central American countries) may see their costs increase. Tip: Conduct a few searches for housing rentals before you move so you can compare the change in cost.

How difficult is it to learn the Dutch language?

Learning Dutch requires lessons and dedication, as would learning any language. Nonetheless, it’s not an impossible task, particularly for English or German speakers who already speak a language related to Dutch.

If you hail from an English-speaking country, the good thing is that the Dutch people won’t think less of you while you learn their language, and you won’t struggle to communicate because the entire country already speaks English.

What is the climate like in the Netherlands?

The Dutch climate is a maritime environment where you’ll never really feel cold, but you won’t suffer the high summer temperatures in the Mediterranean. You’ll experience rain throughout the year and only a limited amount of snow in the winter. The summer is beautifully warm and rarely oppressively hot.

What are the main cultural differences between the Netherlands and other countries?

As with any two cultures, comparing the Netherlands to other places will always result in numerous differences. Foreigners moving to the Netherlands will find that the Dutch place significant emphasis on personal freedoms, that employers support employees; rights, and that the Dutch focus on ensuring their citizens have a good quality of life and healthy work-life balance.

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