5 Things You Need to Know Before Coming to the Netherlands

Do you want to move to the country with the best quality of life in the world? From learning where to start and what the most challenging part of being an expat is, let me share my personal experience to provide some helpful tips and, hopefully, make your move to the Netherlands easier.

1. Job opportunities

The Dutch market has many interesting and well-paid job opportunities for expats. Moreover, before moving to the Netherlands, I found out that expats need not pay taxes on up to 30% of their salary (30% ruling), but to be eligible to use this opportunity you need to be hired abroad and have a certain level of a salary here. That is why I decided to look for a job while in my country directly using Linkedin or Indeed and by contacting a recruitment agency. I would recommend the last option because, as I realized, almost 80% of the job opportunities in the Netherlands are in the hands of agencies and they can educate you on how to be successful in a recruitment process. For example, I have found that due to the very dynamic labor market (a lot of job opportunities and many candidates) most companies have an automated recruitment process, which means that resumes are read by software first so your CV format should be as simple as possible (e.g., word or plain pdf).

2. Accommodation

Frankly speaking, at the beginning I was not aware that there is a huge housing crisis in the Netherlands. This means that in the major cities finding a place to live is expensive and difficult, not only for expats but also for local people. I've realized that for families with children and with good salaries (salary needs to be 3 times higher than the rent) it is easier, but it still took us a couple months to find a flat to rent. That is why I recommend being financially and psychologically prepared for that. You can consider that in most cases a high deposit is requested (value of 2 months of rent). Relocation packages or temporary stay with friends or family here may help, which is how we managed it as well.

3. Education

I was positively surprised by the well organized and free education system for the children of expats. An Internationale schakelklas (ISK) is a special type of school in secondary education, where children learn Dutch and a second language (mainly two years) and get prepared to continue regular high school education in Dutch. There is also a similar system in primary education. Besides this, there are also English education options (private, paid in most cases), but we decided not to go for that since we were planning to stay in the country. I also saw that my teenage son’s adaptation was very fast and easy. He loves school and his teachers here.

4. Integration in a local community

The biggest challenge for me, as for most expats, was loneliness and the feeling of being excluded in a new place. I left my family and friends in my country and was looking for a way to meet new people here. There are several ways which helped me integrate in the Netherlands.

First, speaking Dutch as quickly as possible (it would be perfect to start learning even before moving, but this was not the case for me). I see that most Dutch people do speak very good English, but I still hear the local language all around me and receive all official correspondence in Dutch. I've realized that using a language is a commitment to the country and local people are more open to interacting in Dutch. Moreover, career development opportunities grow if you speak Dutch.

Second, finding a group of people who have the same hobbies I do. For example, in the Netherlands outdoor sporting activities are very popular, and it was a great opportunity for me to meet local people and other expats in my area.

Third, engaging in some voluntary activities. I was surprised how it is developed in this country. There are pages like https://www.nlvoorelkaar.nl/, where you can offer your help or to search for it (e.g., looking for someone with whom you can speak Dutch). Thanks to that resource I met a group of local volunteers and felt included in my community because of the voluntary activities we did together. I also met some people from my country, who have been living here for a long time and we became friends very fast.

Finally, going out and talking to the locals is always a good idea. From my experience Dutchies love small talk and are very curious about newcomers living in their area.

5. Work-life balance

From the beginning I noticed that for most Dutch people dinner with the family at 18.00 is very important, which means that everyone finishes work on time. Treating family as important as business for me was a first sign of work-life balance here. The second was the way local people love sporting activities and how they are aware about healthy eating. A third sign, was the way you can enjoy the beautiful nature and clear air around the Netherlands, this helps you to switch off of work mode very easily and just simply enjoy your life every day.

Moving abroad for my family was a big step with a lot of challenges and uncertainty in a new place. It was also a huge chance to discover a different, better life. For me the biggest advantage in the Netherlands is the quality of education for my son and work-life balance, which we didn't have before. One year after living in this country we can say that it was worth it. I hope you will find my story interesting and useful. Maybe it will motivate you to make a next step and discover life in this amazing country.

About the Author:

Alla Radzimovska

Mother, wife, sales professional, people, and sport lover. Originally from Ukraine and has been living for 21 years in Poland. Alla is in love with the Netherlands from the first sight and believes that this love is mutual. Lives with her family in Hoofddorp, North Holland.

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