How expats can maintain a healthy lifestyle while working in Amsterdam

Contributed by JustCantSettle, 24 January, 2018

The Netherlands is a country that has a long tradition of being an attractive destination for expats. With its blend of vibrant cities that maintain their old-world charm, a strong economy and an ethic of tolerance that underpins the Dutch culture, it's no surprise that it is consistently a top performer when it comes to best places to live in the world.

HSBC's Expat Explorer ranks the Netherlands 5th overall out of the 'top destinations for expats' in 2017. The InterNations 2017 Expat explorer Survey also scores it in the top 20 expat destinations for 'quality of life' score and in the top 30 for health and wellbeing – key contributors to maintaining a healthy lifestyle in your home away from home.

The Netherlands' capital city, Amsterdam, is hailed as being a major hub for business, culture and tourism. The historic city combines a cosmopolitan vibe with a 'village-like charm' and offers a diverse array of architecture, art, music, theatre and film. And with the Netherlands scoring in InterNations' top 10 for work life balance, you'll have plenty of time to take it all in.

This article explores how expats living in Amsterdam can maintain a balanced diet with locally sourced food and drink. It also offers useful advice on how to keep fit. From activities and events to simple changes in habit, these tips will help expats to balance a busy working life with a healthy lifestyle.

Traditional cuisine

The Netherlands are famed for traditional delicacies such as Dutch waffles, pancakes and its selection of cheeses. While these might not stand out as the healthiest of dishes to incorporate into your diet, it is possible to enjoy everything in moderation while still keeping a balance. Here are some delicious snacks and meals to try while living in Amsterdam:


'Erwtensoep' or snert is essentially a thick pea soup, often also including celery, leeks, carrot and pork. It's also traditionally served with rye bread, smoked sausage and smoked Dutch bacon for a hearty winter dish. This filling meal is full of nutrients and the perfect choice on cold days.


Amsterdam has grown from being a little fishing village on the river Amstell back in the 13th Century, to the much-loved city that it is today. It's unsurprising that fish, more specifically herring, or 'haring', is a local delicacy.

Traditionally the herring is served raw with chopped onion and gherkins, but it is also available as 'broodje haring', served inside a bread roll. Although the raw preparation of the fish may not be to everyone's taste, it is an incredibly popular dish that can be bought from many food carts in the capital, and is a great source of Omega 3.


More like a biscuit or cookie than the fluffy waffles that might spring to mind, a stroopwafel is two, thin layers of waffle with a sweet and sticky syrup filling in the middle. They are readily available from supermarkets, but as Amsterdam has a strong food market and street food scene, they are best enjoyed as a freshly made treat from a local vendor – resisting the urge to eat them every day is key!

Modern and healthy eating options

If the traditional Dutch cuisine is a little too rich for your taste, then Amsterdam's flourishing international community (boasting 180 different nationalities) is bound to provide something to suit your culinary desires. 

The village-like charm of Amsterdam isn't restricted to its culture and architecture either – wholefood-style stores like Marqt, are increasing in popularity in this modern city. The onus is on fresh, local and authentic produce (as well as shopping experience).

Foodhallen, Amsterdam's international indoor food market, is another mecca of culinary delights. There are vegan and gluten-free options, as well as a whole host of local, modern and world cuisines being on offer in the trendy, converted tram depot.


It would be remiss to discuss life in Amsterdam without mentioning its strong cycling culture. A bike tour is a great way to explore Amsterdam when first settling in, but it is also ingrained in the lifestyle and culture of the locals too. As well as being a great transport option – one that is far more catered to than in other cities around the world – it's also a great way to maintain overall health and wellbeing. Many believe that a love of cycling raises the quality of living in the Netherlands.


Another key element to maintaining a healthy lifestyle as an expat is ensuring that you have appropriate healthcare provisions in place. The Dutch healthcare system may work in a very different way to the country you are relocating from. It's therefore wise to familiarise yourself with it and make sure all the necessities are in place ahead of your move.

The Netherlands is renowned for having some of the highest taxes in Europe. However, these feed into a system of good public services, healthcare and education (which is reflected in its high quality of life scores). Dutch healthcare is deemed to be of a very high standard: the government funds hospitals and long-term care, and private health insurance is obligatory to pay for short-term treatments such as visits to the GP/ family doctor, emergency treatment, prescription medication etc.

For the most part this also applicable to expat citizens, but there is a government department (Sociale Verzekeringsbank) that can assist you in understanding further whether or not you'll require expat health insurance.

Relocating to a new country is an incredibly exciting time. It can be easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of immersing yourself in a new culture (and cuisine) and lose track of keeping a healthy lifestyle. Being as prepared as possible before the move and incorporating a few little good habits into your routine can help maintain a healthy balance in your new life in Amsterdam.

Tags: business | Healthcare | Europe | Healthcare | individuals | Netherlands | services | insurance | education | food | tax |



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