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Where to Live, for Expats in The Netherlands

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: April 2016

Finding the right place to live in the Netherlands depends on many factors. There are practical considerations, such as proximity of workplace, accommodation prices, cost of living and availability of amenities. Then there are emotional criteria, such as the desirability of an area – whether what you desire is happiness, safety, friendly locals or an active social life. The many attractions Holland offers include a relaxed pace of life, tolerance and sense of inclusiveness.

Holland is a very densely populated country and accommodation may not be as spacious as you are used to. Or at least it may appear not to be. Houses were once taxed based on the width of their frontage, so many houses are narrow at the front but longer than would be expected.

Inner cities in Holland are not the neglected wastelands or hotbeds of crime they are in other countries. They have been cared for and are well-presented, reasonably safe places. They are of course largely hectic and rather expensive, and you may want to live somewhere quieter and more spacious.

Amsterdam, the country’s capital, is justifiably famous for its beautiful canals, architecture and peaceful atmosphere. As it is popular with tourists and expats alike, Amsterdam’s property prices are at least half as high again as those in the other cities. Fashionable, less expensive suburbs include Amstelveen in the south and Oud West and Westerpark, both in the west. A little further out to the north-west, Haarlem is attractive option, as it is the centre of the world famous tulip-growing industry. There are also overspill towns such as Almere in Flevoland. Built entirely on reclaimed land, it is the fastest-growing city in the country.

Holland’s top financial centre, Rotterdam is a bustling city that is more affordable than Amsterdam. Rebuilt after the Second World War, Rotterdam has some modern, adventurous architecture and has an excellent scene in contemporary art. There are few tourists in this city, and though it not so glamourous and a little on the functional side, family friendly neighbourhoods are in development.

The Hague (Dutch: Den Haag or ’s-Gravenhage) is a quieter and more genteel city than Amsterdam. Home to all the country’s foreign embassies, it is also cosmopolitan, and is particularly renowned for its Indonesian cuisine. The Hague is quite affordable and is particularly suitable for expat families as it has many international schools, particularly in the western district of Loosduinen. It is also close to the country’s favourite beach at Scheveningen. To the north-east of The Hague is Leiden, a quiet and elegant university city.

Utrecht is well-known as a university city. It has a highly educated population and is second only to Amsterdam in terms of culture. The suburbs of Voordorp and Nieuwegein are popular with expats. As Utrecht is on the eastern edge of the Randstad conurbation, there is more countryside surrounding it. This means it is easier to get out of the city and enjoy outdoor pursuits.

Away from the Randstad region, the southern, eastern and north-eastern parts of the Netherlands are considerably more rural and traditionally Dutch. Housing is cheaper with more space for what you pay. Houses are also less densely packed together and there is more garden space. The pace of life is also slower here, but in general there are concomitantly fewer jobs.

Eindhoven, in the south-east, is the largest city outside the Randstad conurbation. The electrical company Philips was founded in Eindhoven, and the city is a major centre of technology and research. Another large city in the east is Nijmegen, which is near the German border. One of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, it has a wealth of history.

The north-east is the most distinctive part of the Netherlands, though there are few expats in the area. The largest city is Groningen, in the province of the same name. Groningen city is a lively university town which, even for Holland, is extremely cycle-friendly and hence has few problems with traffic congestion. The province has considerable natural gas reserves, meaning that work in that industry is often available.




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