Living in the Netherlands as an American Expat

Queen's Day in Utrecht, right outside of my apartment! You've got to experience Queen's Day in Holland - it's a blast!
Queen's Day in Utrecht, right outside of my apartment! You've got to experience Queen's Day in Holland - it's a blast!

An American's Observations about Holland

My husband is Dutch and I’m American. Moving to the Netherlands and living there for almost four years was rewarding but sometimes challenging. Based on my experiences as an American expat, I put together a list of the pros and cons about living in Holland for your reading pleasure:

People & Culture

  • Large expat communities. There are many American expatriates living in Amsterdam and other parts of the country for either work or study, and there are a variety of expat groups you can join to meet people and make friends. I found a bunch of cool groups on where people meet weekly or monthly for a ‘borrel’ (i.e. meeting up for drinks and socializing).
  • The Dutch have an amazing sense of style. You won’t see anyone here who looks like they just rolled out of bed. The fashion sense of Dutchies is quite impressive!
  • Marijuana and prostitution are legal. But don’t think that everyone who walks around smokes weed and prostitutes for a living. In fact, the majority of the Dutch people I know don’t even smoke weed. And prostitution is very much regulated and contained to certain parts of the country (e.g. Red Light district in Amsterdam).
  • The parties never end! Many clubs don’t close until the crack of dawn, and many don't charge a cover fee.
  • Annoying etiquette and norms. For example, you must take off your coat when entering a building, otherwise it's considered rude. Also, to hang out with people you have to make an ‘afspraak’ (i.e. appointment) with them beforehand. Many have agendas where they plan everything out in advance - who they're going to hang out with that day, what they're going to do, etc.
  • Almost no two houses are alike here. Everything is so different and the culture here is so rich. Say goodbye to boring townhouses that all look the same.
  • Sinks with no garbage disposals. It seems like most houses here were built before the 1900s, so say goodbye to modern interior amenities. So make sure that food doesn't go down your kitchen drain, otherwise it might come back up through your shower drain. That happened to me several times in my apartment in Leiden. Gross much?
  • The customer service is sub-optimal. Most waiters make much more than minimum wage, so they have less incentive to deliver the best possible service. I've gotten yelled at several times while talking to a customer service representative. Evidently, in Holland the customer is not always right.
  • The crime rate is very low. Maybe it’s because much of what is prohibited in other countries is legal here and easily accessible. On numerous occasions, I’d find myself walking back home at night. Not once did I feel like I was in danger.
  • Nearly everyone speaks English. This makes it easy to get around. Whenever I’d attempt to speak Dutch, people would respond to me in English. This was both good and bad: Good because I had no difficulty communicating with the locals, and bad because there was no incentive for me to learn Dutch other than to communicate with my husband’s non-English speaking grandma.
  • It can be hard to blend in with the locals - if you don't speak Dutch. The Dutch tend to have closely knit communities of family/friends. Although they’re friendly towards expats, becoming part of their inner circle of friends can be quite a challenge. If you truly want to fit in, you'll have to learn Dutch. I learned Dutch primarily by using Rosetta Stone (and of course with the help of my Dutch husband). I found Rosetta Stone to be incredibly helpful as it uses pictures to convey Dutch words. I'm a visual learner so the program proved to be very intuitive and instrumental in helping me learn the language.
  • People are very friendly. If you look lost on the street, or you have a flat tire, or an asteroid suddenly plummets on top of you, people will flock to you and offer to help. One time, I saw a man fall off his bike, and within seconds, strangers flocked to him offering assistance. Bystander mentality here? Not a chance.

Cruising through the canals of Holland with my brother and husband. It was a great way to spend a cool summer day in Leiden!
Cruising through the canals of Holland with my brother and husband. It was a great way to spend a cool summer day in Leiden!

Jobs, Employment, & Money

  • There are many expatriate jobs in the Netherlands for educated, English speaking people. I used to work for Philips for nearly four years, and we primarily communicated in English. In fact, most of my colleagues were from Spain, Italy, England, India, etc and could hardly speak Dutch. If you’re seeking employment, definitely check out jobs in Amsterdam, Leiden, or other expat city hubs as that’s where most large, English-speaking multinational companies are located.
  • A month of paid vacation days! Companies in the Netherlands provide an average of 30 days paid time off. Add to the national holidays, and you're looking at over a month of paid vacation time. Compare that to an average of 2 weeks of paid time off in the states...
  • If you’re doing poorly at your new job, don’t fret! It’s almost impossible to get fired from a job in Holland because the Dutch system tends to support employees rather than employers. And even if you do get fired/laid off for whatever reason, you’ll receive unemployment benefits that can sustain you for months. When I worked at Philips, several of my colleagues got laid off and they received 9 months of full time paid unemployment.
  • High income taxes. If you make around 80,000 euros a year, you’ll likely end up paying more than 40% tax. The higher your income bracket, the more taxes you’ll have to pay. Filing for taxes can also be a bit confusing as you have to go through the Dutch tax bureau (Belastingdienst) which can be time-consuming and frustrating. Consider getting expat tax services from a reputable company to save you the hassle. Or have a local walk you through the process.
  • Monthly road taxes. Exorbitant road tax has to paid no matter if you drive or not - simply owning a car means you have to pay at least 50 euros per month for using roads (thanks Jericho for the tip!)
  • Everything in Holland is done through online banking. Paper checks are a thing of the past.
  • Affordable expat health insurance. Since health insurance here is mandatory, there are many subsidies available for those with lower incomes.
  • High interest rates for credit cards. it is almost impossible to get a credit card with no fees. (Thanks Jericho for the tip!)

Randstad is a Dutch multinational human resource consulting firm that helps expats get English speaking jobs
Randstad is a Dutch multinational human resource consulting firm that helps expats get English speaking jobs


  • There are many universities in the Netherlands and the education system is quite advanced. I actually got my graduate degree from Utrecht University, a top university in Holland, and found the program to be very well structured and educational. What I noticed though is that the competition level among students here is lower compared to the United States. Students feel less need to prove their worth and intellectual capacity to others.
  • Great student life. There are many groups to join, lots of activities all the time, lots of partying, lots of socializing, and did I mention lots of partying?
  • The government takes good care of its students by offering them generous financial aid packages. You can take up to 10 years to pay off your loans, which generally have a low interest rate (think 3-5%).

Utrecht University - one of the best universities in Europe.
Utrecht University - one of the best universities in Europe.


  • The weather can be unpredictable. One second the sun is shining, the next it's pouring cats and dogs – this drove me crazy! The number of sunshine hours in Holland is on the lower end compared to the states. That's because the climate there is moderate maritime, making the summers quite mild. You can expect clouds, rain, sleet, hail, sun, and wind – oftentimes on the same day!
  • The summer days are very long. In July, it doesn't get dark until 10 pm! My husband and I enjoyed many beautiful summer nights on our terrace sipping wine and having a nice chat.

Holland is the place to go to to capture amazing shots like this one!
Holland is the place to go to to capture amazing shots like this one!


  • Amazing bread. There are dozens of bakeries in Holland that make fresh baked, delicious and affordable bread. Toast has never tasted so good!
  • Excellent dairy products. The yogurt here is amazing. And so is the cheese. A lot of the dairy comes from organic farms, too.
  • Delicious herring, or 'haring' as they call it here. There are many fish trucks all over the country that sell haring and other fish snacks. Haring is eaten raw and it's amazing. It’s also full of Omega 3’s!
  • Limited selection of decent Asian restaurants. Craving sushi? It’s way overpriced here and the quality is mediocre. However, there's a delicious Korean BBQ place in The Hague. If you're in town, you've got to visit Seoul Garden!
  • Portion sizes are small – good for your waistline, bad for your pockets.
  • Excellent tap water. Best quality in Europe, hands down. Plus, the Dutch don't fluoridate their water, which is a great thing if you're health conscious.
  • You have to pay for water at restaurants. You can't simply ask for a cup of tap water - unless you want to get weird looks from your waiter/waitress. You're obliged to pay for the expensive bottled kind, which can run around 2-3 euros.
  • Unique restaurants. You won't find a ton of restaurant chains in Holland. The Dutch celebrate local, unique restaurants that have a story to tell. Oh, and you'll never run into those fake candles that some American restaurants place on tables. The experience of eating at Dutch restaurants is always unique, and, as the Dutch say "gezellig"
  • The Dutch have become more health conscious in recent years. There are 3 health food stores around the corner from where I used to live that sell fresh, organic produce.

A Dutch speciality: Hollandse Nieuwe (herring with onions). I love it, but some people think it's gross.
A Dutch speciality: Hollandse Nieuwe (herring with onions). I love it, but some people think it's gross.


  • Fantastic seasonal sales. You can buy decent, quality top from H&M for 5 euros.
  • During the non-sale season, clothes and shoes can be VERY expensive. Don’t expect to pay anything less than 40 euros for a good top. As for shoes, everything is at least 50 euros and above. If you opt for cheap and buy a pair of sneakers for 20 euros, I guarantee the sole will fall apart after a month of use. I bought a cheap pair of pumps and the heel fell off after the second time I wore them. I had to walk heel-less back home, which was pretty embarrassing to say the least.
  • Unless you're in the Amsterdam shopping area, most stores close at 6 pm during weekdays and weekends. Many stores are not even open on Sundays.
  • Prices in the Netherlands always include tax, which is great.. (Thanks to DB for this suggestion!)
  • People use reusable tote bags when they go shopping. Plastic bags are a thing of the past!
  • Pack your own bags. No one will pack your grocery bags for you here - you've gotta do it all yourself!
  • Grocery shopping on your bike can be a hassle - especially in the winter. Unless you have a car, you'll have to carry your groceries back home on your bike. Think about it: bikes, icy roads, foggy, crazy drivers. Need I say more?

Getting Around

  • Everything is within walking distance. This is especially so if you live close to city centers. It was about a 5 minute walk from my house to get to the movie theater and to all the shops in town.
  • Cities are bike friendly. You’ll end up having to buy a bike to get around. A car is really not necessary if you have a bike and have access to public transportation. Riding a bike is also great for your health! I ended up losing weight and my legs got toned simply because I was riding my bike every day.
  • Excellent public transportation. Lots of options - trains, trams, metros, horses, etc.
  • Trains can be unreliable – especially during the winter. One time during an autumn day, the train I was supposed to take to Amsterdam got cancelled because there were too many leaves on the track. I kid you not.
  • Paved roads everywhere! You don't have to worry about driving through a pothole in Holland - there aren't any! The country has one of the most advanced motorway systems in the world. The asphalt is porous, so when it rains the water will actually drain into the asphalt, thereby preventing the water from splashing up and distracting your driving.
  • Terrible parking. The roads are small and narrow and parking is a nuisance. If you're visiting a friend, good luck finding a decent parking spot that's not miles away from their house.
  • Traffic fines are expensive. Imagine getting a parking ticket of that's more than 100 euros (thanks Jericho for the tip!)
  • Buying a car can be expensive. It seems like nothing sells for less than 25,000 euros.
  • Poor air quality. Because it's oftentimes so cloudy here, pollution tends to settle over the land. It also seems like the Dutch have no regulations on moped or scooter emissions. As a result, jogging or even biking can be pretty unbearable - unless you enjoy the tingly feeling of car and motorcycle fumes permeating your lungs.
  • The country lags behind in terms of sustainability. In 2011, only 4% of energy in Holland was produced from sustainable sources. Compare that to other countries like Sweden who derive almost half of their energy supply from sustainable sources.
  • The cost of living here is comparable to other major cities in the United States. However, the cost of living in Amsterdam is a little higher. That makes sense, since it’s a large and densely populated city.

Everyone cycles in Holland!
Everyone cycles in Holland!

Additional observations

  • Excellent, unbiased news channels. NOS Journal is Holland's primary news channel and their coverage of local as well as global news is great. It usually lasts for about half an hour, but trust me, you'll walk away with more knowledge about current global events than if you watched three hours of CNN. The NOS Journal focuses only on important news, and is totally unbiased.

Do you want to live in the Netherlands?

  • Yes! I would love to.
  • Maybe one day.
  • No, it's not the place for me.
  • I already live there.
See results without voting

What do you think about living in the Netherlands as an American expat?

Comments 77 comments

Valoric Fire 5 years ago

Very informative article. Like yourself I am from the states (NYC/Florida) and considering the same relocation for graduate studies. By any chance, did you attend Utrecht University?

Novembersky95 profile image

Novembersky95 5 years ago from Sunny California! Author

Hi Valoric,

I actually attend Utrecht University at the moment. It's a great school! Most universities here are very international and welcoming towards international students. Good luck!


Simon 5 years ago

I don't agree with the bad service comment, I think it's quite good. In Germany it's bad, I've been on holiday so...

tjdavis profile image

tjdavis 4 years ago from Moscow, Texas

I've never been to Holland but would love to visit. I have many friends living there and have always wanted to live there..not really sure now if all the ppl are super model types..I am definitely not that type and would hate to be looked at strangely lol.

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Vanderleelie 4 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

Interesting hub, showing your thoroughly North American perspective. I would have to say that your comment about the food not being too healthy in the Netherlands really surprises me! The Netherlands has excellent fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, organically grown food is readily available and it is one country (unlike the U.S. and Canada) where genetically modified wheat and corn are not used. Generally, I would say that the Dutch are very health conscious, pay attention to physical fitness (all the bike riding helps), have good preventive medicine programs and are way ahead of North Americans in addressing environmental issues. If you are looking for an excellent all-you-can-eat sushi bar, go to Delft - and by the way, the service is top-notch!

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tjdavis 4 years ago from Moscow, Texas

Vanderleelie...I like your point of view. I had asked my friend how lives in Holland about the super skinny models and he said the women there were not all skinny..most were just normal women and he also agreed about the fresh food and he rides his bike many many miles a year lol.

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Vanderleelie 4 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

I lived in The Netherlands and discovered that it is a progressive, sensible country. I was most impressed by the very practical and economical ways that Dutch society looks after people and addresses its social problems. It should be a model for other nations that are struggling with the fallout of inequality, overcrowding and growing poverty.

Roland 4 years ago

I lived there in 2000 and 2001. I loved it, but I knew people from there so it was easy in many respects. I am considering living there 4 months out of the year. The rest in the US and balance in China.

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tjdavis 4 years ago from Moscow, Texas


It's nice that you can afford to do that..sounds like fun. I also have a friend there but have not been able to visit yet..hopefully one day.

Lu 3 years ago

I think you should rename this post Living in Utrecht, not Holland in general. What you're saying about Asian and South American food isn't true at all. In basically all parts of this country you can find one on every corner. The prices may seem higher in restaurants here (and the portions tiny) but that's probably because portions in the US are simply HUGE. Anywhere in Europe, you're more or less gonna get the same as here. (though you always get less depending on how many courses, and how expensive the restaurant). Also, you can't really judge the weather in this country by being here for one year, because it really varies from great summers to oceans of rain year by year. And also, most people have what's called a vuilnisbak (trash can) or two in their backyards, which is very big, and gets picked up once or twice a week depending where you live.

Jill 3 years ago

I have spent quite a bit of time living in the Netherlands and I disagree with 90% of your comments.

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TravelinJack 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

Interesting observations, I love living in foreign countries with your own outside perspective.

curtadalbert 3 years ago

well I have been here for over 20 years and some of what you say is valid (more or less) but it is a very Amsterdam-centric viewpoint and if I dare say it is still very American tourist for someone who's been here for three years. Have you learnt to speak any Dutch at all? I would be willing to laid odds on no. Amsterdam is a wonderful city and Holland is a wonderful country - but as a citizen you pay for that - 40% is for folks earning over 120k a year so most of the time its more like 30% but hey they do do a good job with that money and run an extremely well organized country. No falling bridges will ever happen here. So you take your choice. Also saying Amsterdam is Holland is like sating New York is the US - it's not. So yes very very broadly speaking there are some things here that stand up but only to the vaguest of scrutiny. Take it with a pinch of salt, and try and learn to speak another language English speakers makes all the difference.

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Novembersky95 3 years ago from Sunny California! Author

Curt, I actually speak fluent Dutch now, but it still doesn't change how I feel about the points I made. I've lived in different parts of the country too. I do agree with the fact that the society is quite well organized and that has a lot to do with the fact that citizens pay a lot of tax for that. Holland is definitely a great country to live in, though I can never call it my home. But I know others can - and that's great!

RAY 3 years ago

Thanks so much for this article and all the comments. Trying to gauge the real thing. I stayed in Utrecht for three weeks a few years ago. I've got scholarships to study in both Sweden and Holland this year, and the decision part is nerve-racking. Anybody know both countries well to say how it would be to live two years as a student in them? Thanks for the laughs

Lola 3 years ago

Vanderleelie, in a supermarket chain here try finding a yoghurt which would not contain GMO corn or wheat. Same with a lot of products. Much worse than the UK, which is the only country where GMO ingredients are banned.

Erick 3 years ago

Being an American, I`m sure you`re digging the amazing universal healthcare of Europe. We all know your American healthcare system is the worst joke in the industrialized world. Imagine trying to convince yourself everyday that having a healthcare system based on high premiums which excluded tens of millions of people from healthcare due to it being too expensive, is somehow a sign of freedom and brilliance. The freedom to choose, healthcare or no healthcare, now that`s laughable and idiotic. That`s lack of freedom I`d say, 47 million with no health insurance makes you look like a totally stupid country, I assure you. And it does not give anyone a sense of freedom. Wake up yanks. Oh yes, and I`m convinced that BIG government is an excellent thing. I live in Norway, we love our socialism and would never trade it for the world.

Roger 3 years ago

Nice article! I'm a Dutchie myself and compared to the US I really dislike Holland to put it mildly. You're right, customer service is fantastic in the US and stinks in Holland. I bought a watch once in Stockton, Ca. Bought it at Sears and even after closing time the salesperson would walk up to me and ask if my watch fits allright. I was like whoa! Now that's service.

What do you think of doing business with Dutch people? So far I've only had bad experiences compared to doing business with Americans.

Chrissy 3 years ago

the quality of life in general is superb in European countries...In US you get a lot of is land of QUANTITY you get more and more on credit cards and sink yourself deeper and deeper every day just because you have this option to use credit card doesn't mean it is land of opportunity..I myself don't owe much on cards and try to purchase within my limits and not overdue...another thing that is very common in the US is SUEING and if you don't want to do it some profit making attorneys encourage and show you ways to sue for this for that for anything possible...Education is poor starting from first grade (just this year the core comments have changed and now they kind of see that the education so far sucked) a poor student who becomes a doctor or lawyer or scientist is already under so muuuuuch debt that it will take all his life and next generation to pay it off if ever possible because interest rates are adding up and keep rising...No job heath care for part time workers and for a lot of full time workers as well because it is not mandatory. the cost of living is very high and minimum wage stays extremly low. No safety to walk wherever you want just certain places that must be carefully chosen. Didn't know what hoarder and clutter meant until I made to US. I work in medical field and see how middle age people don't have hygiene and don't care if others smell their body odors they don't even shower before they leave their home let alone the elderly. It is just not what it sounds or looks from have to live in US and experience yourself to see what a difference there is between civilized Europe and US.

Sam 2 years ago

I don't think we have bad service in the Netherlands. In America they are just pretending to be VERY nice.

Sometimes that is very annoying to both party's, so we don't have a smile plastered on our faces while personnel is serving you. Instead you can expect respect and a proper reaction Most of the times...

I still like it better that way because it won't give you a distorted view on how great the service is in comparison to the PRODUCT you are buying.

Alex 2 years ago

I must agree 100 % with what you wrote i am a Romanian student living in Arnhem.

DB 2 years ago

Other than the fact Holland is not a country (North- and South-Holland are actually provinces of the Netherlands by the way), this article is very accurate.

I only disagree with the very last one, but that's probably because I live in a newly built house.

One thing you should add: prices in the Netherlands (and the rest of Europe as well) always include tax in prices, whereas the USA excludes them and adds them at checkout.

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Novembersky95 2 years ago from Sunny California! Author

Thanks for the suggestion, DB! I've added your point about taxes.

Chris 2 years ago

I felt compelled to add on the perspective of a native of the US. Now, I've been in Europe, spending most of our time in Portugal and the UK, so I'm not too knowledgeable on the Netherlands, but I've been all over the US. I think there are a lot of generalizations flying around about the US, while any generalizations made about the Netherlands seem to be challenged.

Firstly, customer service is mostly excellent in the US, because businesses and owners make it a priority. They actively interview people and emphasize skills in service. Are some faking it? Sure they are. Many are simply just good at it and it's part of who they are. I mean, that's why they went into that job. We aren't all shallow and fake.

Secondly...yeah, that's about it. I guess you're right about everything else.

I will say this though. There are many people in the US trying to change things. We are a pretty big country with a lot of different races, religions, cultures and values. We also have a pretty broken political system. Hopefully we will have a peaceful revolution.

Interestingly enough, we met a wonderful family from the Netherlands, while we were in Portugal. We spent about a week together, when our children (8 & 3) and theirs (9 & 6) started playing together. It was an amazing thing to watch. The children shared not a word of language. Seriously...not a word. They played for hours and there was not a single moment of conflict or stress. I have never seen anything like it. We keep in touch to this day and the kids still ask for each other all the time.

Johan 2 years ago

It does not rain as often as mentioned.

People are not clothed as well. Related to the USA sure, related to Italy they dress more what fits nice, than what looks good.

trains, unreliable? its in the eye of the beholder. Yes, the railsystem is sensitive to extreme weather conditions, but generally they ride in time and there is a great transportation system.

The nice thing about dutch television is that political correctness looses from telling it like it is, which leads to interesting discussions.

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Novembersky95 2 years ago from Sunny California! Author

Johan, I guess I'm a bit biased because I am from California and it's almost always sunny here. And you're right about the style - the Italians sure know how to dress! Us Americans could use a few tips...

Jericho 2 years ago

Few more things:

1) it is almost impossible to get a credit card with no fees. They are not credit friendly.

2) exorbitant road tax has to paid no matter if you drive or not, just owning a car means you have to pay at least 50 bucks a month for using roads

3) interest are extremely high, there is no such thing as credit history to help you when you apply for a loan, for a car loan you often pay 8% interest.

I am not American but lived many years in MA and CA. I have to admit I miss them both.

Jericho 2 years ago

I had to post the following two as well:

4) traffic fines can be VERY HIGH: imagine a simple parking ticket of 80 bucks!

5) lights: they seem to enjoy dim lights, they don't like bright lights. Stand out in your street one evening and check lights in your neighbors' house, all dim. They turn off road lights from 11 p.m. to save energy too.

Jericho 2 years ago

6) Wealth tax: if you have about 27,000 bucks in your bank account, they will tax 1.2% of it each year regardless how much interest you made or if you had it all in your checking account! Blind 1.2% tax on any savings beyond $27,000.

7) Deposit insurance: in the US all bank deposits are FDIC insured up to $250,000. In the Netherlands that is not the case.

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Novembersky95 2 years ago from Sunny California! Author

Jericho, thanks so much for the additional insights! I checked these facts with my Dutch husband and he agreed with most of them! I will add them to the article, thanks again!

Marty 2 years ago

Hello NovemberSky,

Funny, to read your story, engaging it "the other way around":

i'm a Dutch (You forgot the Frisians, Ice skating, Elfstedentocht, and the famous Frisian Holsteiner Cow ( I am Frisian ;-) and am living since 2005, first as Dutch expat, in Greater LA. Married a native Californian, etc. I also lived in Leiden, Wassenaar and Amsterdam, and know the "Coffee Boat" very very well. Specially the winters in Leiden are amazing. Like the old dutch painters sometimes painted. One of you last photo's in your blog above, are taken from my old apartment /or my neighbors apartment, looking sideways over the coffee boat. Anyway, you made me a little proud, and recognized exactly what you described. However, you can't imagine how badly i miss all of that. The dropjes, hagelslag and my "Old Amsterdammer morning sandwich with REAL bread and REAL milk....or do i sound now very bad ? ;-) Thank you for taking the time to write this down, made my life in Torrance a little better. Also great to see that you describe HOW different this is...

Again, Thank you very much! I enjoyed myself reading it twice!


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Novembersky95 2 years ago from Sunny California! Author

Marty, many many thanks for your positive feedback! I hope you are enjoying LA. I did think the winters in Leiden are amazing. Very picturesque, as you've mentioned. Thanks again! :)

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Thelma Alberts 2 years ago from Germany

This is a very informative hub. I live in the neighbouring country Germany so I know a lot of what you wrote. My sis is married to a Dutchman. Thanks for sharing.

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Novembersky95 2 years ago from Sunny California! Author

Thank you Thelma!

Emma 2 years ago

Great info article

sounds fun

DB 2 years ago

It's me again, I just recently figured out Americans censors all the swearing from the radio, TV and newspapers. Here in the Netherlands it's all uncensored. If you listen to Radio 538 or watch GameKings on TV for example, they use words like "kut" or even "fucking" without any 'bleeping'.

Ann 2 years ago

The Dutch has one of the worth customer service I have experience. They motto is 'het is niet mogelijk'. And in top of that, you have those wonderful 0900 nummers you must call for help. Why bother buying service if you also to pay to get help?

anna 2 years ago

Thank you for the article. I am an expat from Italy living in USA for the past 10 years and just recently visited Amsterdam with my husband (who is from NY). We all have different reasons why we fall in love with a place or at some point dislike another. We fell in love with Holland and want to give it a shot. Have been doing lots of research but it seems pretty difficult to find out if the prices for housing among real estate websites are reliable or not. I have been looking at dutch websites (te huur) which seem to offer cheaper rentals than website in english (expat oriented). Would you mind directing me to a good one? We are looking at both amsterdam area or Haarlem (commuting to us isn't a big deal as you may imagine!) Thank you! Anna & Chris

marchiskey 2 years ago

Nice blog. Netherlands is definitely a beautiful country. I have been living here since 15 months and it is a great experience. I must say the experience can be even better if one does not have to struggle so much for a job. It is true that everyone speaks English but when I click on 'apparently English job titles' I discover that job descriptions and requirements are all written in Dutch. Having said that it is also true that there are few international vacancies which are advertised as well but most of them say "Dutch will be a plus, French will be a plus etc". The left over jobs which only require English are then competed among 1000s of candidates which include European (Dutch + others) and non-European candidates. This leaves no room for non-European candidates who first of all cannot compete for al the jobs and then have to compete for interntional jobs with Dutch speaking and non-Dutch candidates. Thus for a non-European person finding a job in Netherlands is no less than a nightmare despite all the "everyone can speak English" rosy stuff. You are lucky to have a job and thus can see and enjoy the true beauty of Netherlands because of internal comfort.

Nadia 2 years ago

It's great to read it the other way around. Im living in NY shortly now, for about 4 months, and will only be staying for 5 months, because I'm studying in Amsterdam and doing an exchange here in NY.

I started to have all sorts of thoughts about USA and my own country, and didn't think my country is that great, (you missed the bullet point where we Dutch people complain a lot haha), but now I've read your blog, I feel more friendly towards my small beloved Dutch country ;)

Now I've said this, one small thing you might have to change, the student loan interest percentage is even lower than you wrote, I am a student, loaning my ass off, but it's only 0,88% (at this moment).

Thanks again for the blog, it's nice to read about how other people think about Holland :)

YoungIlluminati 2 years ago

Amsterdam is one of the locations I consider rellocating :-)

Please guys,I would like to meet people from Amsterdam or the Netherlands,to tell me more about their experiences living there :-)

There are many awesome things about Amsterdam and it is one of my favourite cities :-)....I would like to know more about other places in The Netherlands also :-)

Lanna 2 years ago

Hi - some info right on and others not so accurate in my experience. I feel it is very easy to make friends and develop your own click - you don't have to be dutch speaking - just be friendly and curious and you'll have great friends who are also curious and concerned about you. Also, I have always found the food service attendants very helpful and friendly with a lot of dutch sense of humor - which is abundant everywhere in Holland. Thank you

Christel 2 years ago

thanks for the post. it was really helpful :)

Novembersky95 profile image

Novembersky95 2 years ago from Sunny California! Author

You're welcome!

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biatch0 2 years ago from Utrecht

Stumbled across your page when I was searching for garbage collection days in Utrecht - somehow I still can't clearly recall what days they are despite spending 3 months here every year for the past 5 years. Always interesting to read about others thoughts/experiences here (although they may be significantly different depending on the province you stay in). I absolutely love Utrecht, but I find Amsterdam a little too "noisy" for my liking :]

Stef 2 years ago

My first comment was wrong but wasn't you surprised how bored and like whatever the people were with a big amount of money, if you win 1000 dollars in the states everyone goes crazy but here it's just okay thank you. Really think that's a big difference and we often say people who overreact: She/he could've been an American haha. Really nice article, thanks. Don't know if my English was completely okay but atleast I tried haha.

GPershing 2 years ago

Typical expatriate. No concept of Dutch history/colonial past - Indonesian restaurants abound, but you're only looking for Chinese it seems. And it seems you want everyone to wait on you with an appropriate tug of the forelock.

Marius Koch 2 years ago

Nice article and very interesting to read how foreigners (especially U.S. Citizens) view our society/country. Many of your points are valid, some made me laugh (most houses built over 100 years ago = no garbage disposals. Never had one, never needed one: I throw my leftovers in the bin where it belongs) and some made me realise how lucky we are to live here (low crime rate, besides petty crimes like theft we do have very low violence related crimes, virtually none compared to the US... no gun owners!).

Income taxes however are a bit more complicated and fair than you describe.

-18k EUR = 2,3%

-33k EUR = 10,8%

-55k EUR = 42%

+55k EUR = 52%

This works in scales. No matter how much you make, you go through all scales. If you earn 100k EUR a year, you pay 2,3% over your first 18k. Then over the next 15k, you pay 10,8%. The next 22k you pay 42% and everything beyond that, you pay 52% to the state. This way, everybody pays more or less equally in relation to their salary.

Also, road taxes start at less than 20 EUR a month (small cars on gas. LPG adds 10/15 EUR and Diesel nearly doubles it). The heavier your car, the more road tax you pay.

Plus, you can get PLENTY of cars under 25k, starting at a mere 7 or 8k for a small car like the Toyota Aygo, Skoda Citigo or Renault Twingo. A good mid-size one will set you back 15-25k whereas big cars (BMW 3-series and up) will cost a lot more. Second hand you can get much, much better deals (think 2500 EUR for a 6-7 year old small car or 10k for a nice mid-size Renault, Volvo or VW.)

Rene W 2 years ago

I agree with Marius, €50,- a month for road taxes applies for heavy and/or luxury cars. Most of the cars in " the Netherlands" are smaller and lighter.

Overall I like to read the blog as I am Dutch myself. It's funny how people abroad experience our small country in a slightly stereotypical way. However we live in a small country, there are some big differences between cities and/or regions. For example.. the differences between Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Because of the 2nd world war bombings you will find a huge variety of modern architecture in Rotterdam and more skyscrapers. Also there is a difference in mentality (maybe that's also stereotypical haha). In Amsterdam people like to talk and discuss about everything. Rotterdam has a more no nonsense mentality. (niet lullen maar poetsen..translation: don't talk sh*t but get it done). If you travel to other parts of the country you will find that same mentality in the smaller villages.

If you really like to fit in and experience the Dutch lifestyle, I would advise to learn the basics of the language and learn some things about our history. Travel to some small villages and try to blend with locals in the many pubs we have. The big cities are just a few percent of the whole experience.

Thanks for the nice blog. It's fun to read and a great way to see the things we take for granted through the eyes of people with an other side of view.

(sorry for my English. It's not my native language but I hope you understand the text)

Pharmc64 2 years ago

Very nice site!

Tim van Hasselt 2 years ago

I am a Dutch student and really enjoyed reading your article. It is always fun to read what foreigners think about your country.

Almost everything you said is true and recognizable as well. Except for one thing though. The 'cheap' student loans you explained are actually way cheaper. We get 30 years to pay everything back at a yearly interest rate of 0,8%!

AmsterdamTruth 2 years ago

How much did they pay you for this marketing propaganda of Amsterdam?

Hakan 2 years ago

The NOS is not unbiased at all, they parrot the same western propaganda as in other countries.

Jordan 2 years ago

I just recently moved to Amsterdam from US to be with my girlfriend as she studies at the university of Amsterdam. I loved reading your article and giving insight to the city. I still am having difficulty to find a job here, but am continuing to look every single day. Trying to explore the city when the crazy weather allows me to do so!

yup 23 months ago

I don't miss the customer service of the Netherlands. For anyone who hasn't lived there, here's how it differs. (I've actually experienced the scenario below in both Canada and the Netherlands.)

Situation: You attempt to access a train boarding area but can't make the gate open because you have the wrong transit pass type. You're new and don't realize that there are various train systems in this area and they don't operate on a single transit pass. You go to the customer service desk for help.

Canada (Vancouver): The customer service agent realizes quickly that you're new to the area and patiently explains that the reason you can't enter the area is because you have the wrong transit pass. The agent then explains the different passes and tells you where you'll need to go to purchase the right pass. You look a bit confused so she pulls out a tourist map, gives it to you with a smile, and then calls an assistant to come out and give you detailed instructions on where to buy the additional pass.

Netherlands (Amsterdam): The blonde, blue-eyed Dutch customer service agent lets out an exasperated sigh as you try your best to communicate in Dutch. You explain the situation to which she replies in a loud, stern voice, "It is not allowed to use that card for that train." You wait for her to explain what IS allowed, but she just stares at you, presumably waiting for you to leave. After 5 awkward seconds of staring at each other, you ask if she can please explain what you need to do. She sighs again and points to a booth across the hall and says, "Go over there." Blushing and embarrassed, you go to the other booth which is staffed by a man who witnessed the awkward exchange. You are immediately relieved when he smiles warmly and patiently explains the whole situation to you. His appearance and accent let you know that he likely didn't grow up in the Netherlands. Clearly he has been in your shoes before and remembers how awful it felt to be a nuisance.

I had the "it is not allowed!" exchange with too many customer service people in big businesses or government buildings in Holland to count. However, there IS hope. I found that young Dutch people (under 25) and immigrants of many nationalities are bringing the human touch back into customer service. They are also far more patient when you are experiencing linguistic difficulties.

LESLIE JENSEN 23 months ago

I live I The Hague and most everyone looks like they just rolled out of bed. The majority of people I see are really unkempt. Perhaps all the stylish people are in Amsterdam!

Tony 21 months ago

Thanks for all of your comments. I am an American, who is seriously thinking about moving to Holland this summer. I have been there on two occasions as a tourist, and really enjoyed the country. I guess living there day-to-day is a different story. I will give it a one-year trial period.

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Titia 20 months ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

Just like Marius Koch and Rene W. some of your findings are true, but I too had to laugh at some of your points. First: The Netherlands is far more than Amsterdam and Utrecht. I'm Dutch, but I won't go near Amsterdam if I can avoid it. I live in the South (Zeeuws-Vlaanderen), no big cities or air polluting industries in my neck of the woods, nor do we have a lot of crime here. I do travel a lot in my country though

However, just like the different states of the USA, each province in my country has a different mentality. No cars below 25k? I think 3/4 of the Dutch people can't even afford a car of 25k. I drive a little second hand van (costed me 2000 euros), we also have a second hand Fiat Punda (850 euros). I'm not gonna comment on all points, but of course there's an overall difference between my country and yours in many aspects.

I've lived in the States and Canada for a while, some 45 years ago. I travelled through the East Coast of the States again in 2002. I noticed that many things had changed over time. I witnessed today's sueing mentally up close when a car pulled out of a parking lot very slowly and 'hit' my host. I'm not even sure the car actually hit her, because nothing was bruised or broken, but the amok my host ran afterwards (the store manager had to come, the police had to come, she was yelling to this poor old man that she would sue him), made me feel very ashamed and I kept as far from it all as possible. Unthinkable in my country.

So in fact, all you have experienced in my country is only a tiny, tiny part of it.

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Dozie St Andre 20 months ago

Very interesting comments all around. I'm a super green newby to Holland by way of Southern California ( La Jolla ). My other half and I meet three years ago in Houston, TX, both in O&G industry. He has two small boys who are here with their mother and as luck would have it, we've decided to give The Netherlands a run for our money and hopefully we'll encounter great stories and experiences.

It's been crazy so far, just simply shopping for food is a challenge without my Dutch speaking husband

Dozie St Andre profile image

Dozie St Andre 20 months ago

Gaby this question is for you and with a lighthearted touch. Do you feel the Dutch to be sensitive? And am I totally off base to feel that almost everything is compared to "US ways vs European way"?

(another) Henk 18 months ago

I like the way you describe my country seeing it through the eyes of an ' outsider' (not really).

Buying a car can be expensive: has changed, 7.000 euro's for a new car.


Alexia 18 months ago

I Am from california and will be moving to the netherlands in a few weeks. I am going to miss my beautiful sunny weather. I am the most american person ever so I am a little scared for what my life in The netherlands will turn out.

Gerry1211 18 months ago

As a Dutch/U.S. national living in the U.S. who daily follows NOS Journaal I can say that NOS is anything but independent. It translates word for word American MSM and lies. As the daughter of a Dutch journalist, there is no journalism to be found in the Netherlands any longer.

To Alexa you will be astounded to learn what " real freedom" means! If you like freedom you will like the Netherlands.

I have a small flat in Leiden and after 51 years in the U.S. am returning to the Netherlands after I sell my home here.

Novembersky95 profile image

Novembersky95 17 months ago from Sunny California! Author

Thank you for your perspectives and comments, everyone. I read each and one of them. Your comments are enlightening and are helping all of us gain a better perspective of what it is to live in the Netherlands as an American expat.

Keep 'em coming!

Andie123 17 months ago

My boyfriend and I are planning to go study in the Netherlands, and your article has help a lot! Could you give us a range of apartment pricing? And how much opportunity of staying to live there after finishing a degree is there? Please help us with any/every tip you can give us.

We're actually between the decision of Switzerland, Sweden and Netherlands...Would like to hear all perspectives as possible!

Nadine 16 months ago

Hi Andie,

It really depents on where you're going to study. In Amsterdam apartments are really expensive, so many students choose to live in the cities around Amsterdam. If you look for a student room for hiring, the best is to look at Dutch websites. Many English sites count a higher hire price. You can look op for student rooms/ apartments. The price can be really different, but for 2 persons living together ( if you want a bigger space) you can count for 800 euro's or more. But it really depends on the city where you want to go. Plus you can get a lot of benefits as a student what makes daily costs cheaper. You must understand to live as a student in a city, you'll get a small room ( I have a room for my own 20 m2 in a student flat with shared kitchen and bathroom). But I personally really like it, I've got really close with my house mates and consider them as my friends. And it will not costs you hours of cleaning ;)!

gabe 15 months ago

I was born in Holland left when i was 2 would like to visit possibly move there.

Linda Casey 14 months ago

While reading the blog and all the comments, I found myself pretty much agreeing while reminiscing about my own experiences as an American expat living in The Netherlands for over 30 years (5 1/2 years in the 70s and again from 1989 until the present). As a native Californian, I previously lived for several years like a stranger in a foreign land in both Texas and Virginia which may have unwittingly prepared me for adapting to Dutch customs so readily each time I came. One very important thing to remember as a guest in someone else's country (or State): Never make comparisons, not even in passing (i.e. everything's so small!). Learn the language WELL and not just haphazardly using the excuse that everybody here speaks English. Find Dutch employment and mingle with the Dutch people to learn their customs which often vary from city to city or province to province. Of course there will be things that you will miss from 'home', but you'll also notice that when you go back 'home' that you miss things from Holland (I always bring my own coffee when I visit the U.S.). I'm Vegan/Vegetarian and when I first got here (even in the 90s) there were no meat and/or cheese replacement products. Now the supermarkets are more well stocked with far more variety than I've been able to find in the U.S. Each country has its pros and its cons. Learn to accept that you will always be a guest in someone else's country, no matter how 'at home' you feel. Be respectful and appreciative of the things offered to you by your host country, follow the rules and your stay in any foreign country will be pleasurable. Be flexible. It will serve you well. Groetjes

jetante 12 months ago

Take any job you can, don't be corrupt or a criminal. Take in every language or accent you can. Expect nothing. Just ask questions. Make as many mistakes as you want. Be yourself and go with the flow, but don't hide your opinion of feelings. Follow the news, talk shows and soap shows. If you want to learn dutch don't be a fanatic, go for quality not quantity. Play with the language. There is no perfection we are just human.

jgoldSEA 12 months ago

Very interesting points of view throughout this thread. I have only visited the Netherlands as a tourist four or five times. I really loved my time there and my wife and I have decided to make a move to Amsterdam in about two years time. My wife is German and we lived in Berlin together for about two years. I really did not enjoy my time there as I found the German job market not too friendly to non Deutch speaking foreigners. We were not married at the time so it was difficult for me to get permission to work let alone find a job. We now live in Seattle and are just tired of the crazy inflation in cost of living and housing market, its out of control. Anyway... We plan on moving to Holland with hopes of myself opening a pilates and massage studio. I am a massage therapist and Physical therapy assistant. Does anyone have any lose knowledge of the market for these kind of services or how easy/difficult it is to get a business going? Now that I married to an EU citizen, I imagine it is a lot easier to get working permission. Correct me if I am wrong. Any feedback is greatly appreciated .


Jeff......P.S. I am currently learning Dutch:)

Iris 11 months ago


My name's Iris, I'm Dutch and I've just started a Premaster Program in preparation for a North American Studies Master at Radboud University Nijmegen. I would love the opportunity to practice and (hopefully ;) improve my English fluency with Americans living in the area who are around my age (27) and who'd be interested in a language exchange (of course I'd be more than happy to assist you with learning/practicing Dutch!)

Feel free to send me an e-mail! (


p.s. even though I'm studying in Nijmegen, I actually live near Den Bosch so if you're from that area that'd be great too!

Em 8 months ago

Hi, interesting to read about holland from an American perspective. I agree that it is a rather safe country and well kept. It also has a good social safety net many countries should imitate. I also think that the word "service " doesn't exist in the Dutch vocabulary. Horrible! On other points though I cannot agree. Dutch sense of fashion?! Are you kidding? As an Italian, I think the Dutch are among the worst dressed people. Every day in jeans and sneakers, messy hair... I am always surprised to go to work meetings and find people dressed as if they were in their living room! Healthcare? Perhaps it is gold for an American but as a European I find the insurance system expensive and not friendly. It is all about this "non interventionist" approach, pushed for by insurance companies themselves, so unless you get really really sick you will be just st told by the doctor 's secretary to take paracetamol for any problem. If your doctor isn't very good you are basically screwed because you are not allowed to see a specialist unless your gp says so.Screening is almost non existent (a smear test every 5 years?!) so you pay taxes and insurance and never see the doctor ( side note, the doctors in me town only work from 8 to 5...)

Denise 8 months ago

Hi Gabby,

Your post was really helpful and encouraging as I am thinking about moving to Amsterdam with my boyfriend! Can you share your experience working abroad and what it was like at Philips? I am in the process of searching for opportunities, however it has been difficult doing so from the states. I would appreciate any advice/insight you can share!

Thanks :)

Liser 4 months ago

My fiancé is Dutch and from The Hague - we would like to get married and I would like to move to the Netherlands.

Is there any way for me to get advice on how to do this?

Alex 43 hours ago

Thank you very much for such a great post!

My wife and I (Naturalized US citizens) went on our EU honeymoon (got back 2 weeks ago). We stayed in Amsterdam for 5 days and completely fell in love with the city and its occupants!

We were already thinking to immigrate to EU for about a year. Now that we've seen Amsterdam, we want to find the way to settle in this city.

So I have a question: will opening a franchise restaurant help us with the residency and naturalization?

About us: Male, 41 yo, Master’s degree, HR professional. Female, 31 yo, BA (IT related), Business Analyst.

Our plan:

To open up a Subway restaurant (we have enough cash) not so much to make profit but to have an opportunity to relocate to Amsterdam and eventually Naturalize.

So this is what we have came up with. But if you have any other ideas, please share with us hence we are very serious about the move.

PS. In this trip we visited Netherlands, Spain, and Italy but we fell instantly in love with Dutch people and culture.

Jack van den Hombergh 2 hours ago

Partying girl huh ? .... yeah sure... ever had a serious relationship with a Dutch guy... without cheating ?

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