10 Tips for expats who want to work in the Netherlands

Living in the Netherlands as an expat, you will find that there are many job opportunities. However, there are just as many challenges. Whilst it is important to learn about the Dutch work ethic, you’ll also want to learn and understand the local culture and customs. Boost your experience as an expat in the Netherlands with these ten practical tips.

1. Adjust your CV and cover letter for the Dutch market

A well-presented CV is a must to stand out to Dutch employers. Provide a clear structure, with a strong focus on your relevant experience and skills. “Personalize your CV and cover letter for each position you apply for and explain how you will contribute to the organization,” says an expert at CVwizard.

2. Go for a direct way of communicating

As an expat in the Netherlands, you’ve likely heard about or even experienced the “Dutch directness”. This direct communication is not limited to personal/social interactions but is also important in many Dutch work environments. Directness may seem confrontational at first, but you get used to it and realize that it is not personal. Furthermore, directness and openness can speed up work processes and prevent misunderstandings. Feedback is also often shared directly, but constructively. Consider that honesty and politeness go together. Rudeness, like indirectness, is not appreciated in most cases.

3. Find your own work-life balance

Dutch people prioritize their work-life balance. Flexible hours and hybrid working are common in the Netherlands. A full-time working week in the Netherlands is 40 hours per week. Overtime is almost always paid in Dutch organizations. A healthy balance between work and private life is encouraged in the Netherlands, because they understand that anyone who is not healthy or happy cannot do good work.

4. Learn Dutch as an expat

In larger cities almost everyone speaks English. Yet learning the Dutch language is useful for pleasant working relationships. Basic knowledge of the language facilitates your daily communication with colleagues and shows commitment to integrate into Dutch society. Employers sometimes make language training available to employees. If not, you can contact language institutes or try a language app such as Duolingo or Babbel. The first word to learn when moving to the Netherlands is “gezellig”.

5. Understand the importance of networking in the Netherlands

Networking is key to building your professional contacts and furthering your own development in the Netherlands. Making an effort to attend events and lectures related to your field can lead to new, interesting opportunities. Even after securing a job, it's beneficial to continue expanding your network with Dutch professionals. These connections can prove invaluable down the line.

6. Punctuality is not optional

Dutch people value punctuality, pragmatism and professionalism. Meetings are generally informal in atmosphere, yet they are almost always well organized. It is also not unusual that everyone in a meeting, regardless of position, can share an opinion or insight. So don't be surprised if an intern corrects a manager on something, in the Netherlands this is considered normal.

7. Understand the labor law and tax system

Labor legislation in the Netherlands protects employees, with rules regarding employment contracts, working hours, dismissal law, etc. As an expat it is important to understand your rights and obligations. In the Netherlands equal treatment of employees is laid down in law, so no distinction may be made on the basis of background, skin color or ethnicity or gender. Extensive information can be found about Dutch labor legislation. Prepare well, so you won't get into trouble and you can be sure that no one will take advantage of your ignorance. Just like labor legislation, the tax system is complex.

An advantage of the tax system for expats is the 30% ruling. This scheme offers qualified employees from outside the Netherlands a tax exemption for 30% of their gross income. This can be advantageous, which is nice to help balance the costs of your move.

8. Health insurance is mandatory, also for expats

In the Netherlands, health insurance is mandatory for every resident. You will have to take out Dutch health insurance within four months after registering with the municipality. What's great about this system is that it offers everyone access to healthcare. There are also options for additional insurance depending on your personal needs, for example additional dental insurance.

If you move with your children, children under the age of 18 do not pay health insurance premiums. Information about choosing the right health insurance can be found here Zorgwijzer.nl, a useful resource for comparing different policies.

9. Enjoy the simple Dutch lifestyle

The Netherlands has much more to offer than just a new working environment. The free culture and diverse and inclusive society make it an attractive country to live and work.

From historic cities such as Haarlem or Arnhem, to the vibrant art world and pub culture in Amsterdam, there is a lot to experience. If you want to learn more about the culture, take part in local traditions such as King's Day, where you should definitely dress in orange, or Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Christmas.

Festivals also come in all shapes and sizes, so you can enjoy the music style that suits you. Going out also helps you open up to making new friends and contacts. The more you connect with Dutch culture, the more it contributes to a pleasant experience as an expat.

10. Prepare for the Dutch climate and cycling culture

Depending on where you come from, adapting to the Dutch climate and cycling culture is not easy for some expats. The Netherlands is known for rainy days and cycling is part of Dutch culture. It's the most common form of transportation and a fun way to explore the city while working off calories from Dutch fries and stew. Invest in a good bicycle and learn the traffic rules for cyclists. This promotes your independence and helps you discover the landscapes and cities in an authentic way.

Working as an expat in the Netherlands

Working in the Netherlands as an expat looks good on your CV, but it requires adjustment and insight into the local culture and customs. By following the tips above, you can build a strong foundation for professional success and a positive experience.

If you properly organize the move for your dream job in the Netherlands, it will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience.

Welcome to the Netherlands and good luck!

About the Author:

Kim Vrij is a content creator from Amsterdam who is passionate about writing inspiring pieces to help job seekers find their ideal careers. She writes about a variety of topics, from education and coaching to business culture and job acquisition, to help people take their next step. Kim gets inspired by every new place she visits while traveling the globe with her laptop. When home in Amsterdam, she roams the city for vintage gems, and you can find her working from a local café.


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