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How To Become An Expat In The Netherlands


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Corella Jahn



The Netherlands, also known as Holland, is a country famous for its picturesque windmills, tulip fields, and charming canal-lined cities. With its rich history, vibrant culture, and high quality of living, it’s no wonder that many people dream of becoming expats in the Netherlands.


Whether you are seeking career opportunities, a change of scenery, or a new adventure, moving to the Netherlands can be an exciting and rewarding experience. However, like any international relocation, it requires careful planning and preparation.


This article will guide you through the process of becoming an expat in the Netherlands, providing valuable insights and practical tips to help you make a smooth transition. From researching the country and understanding the Dutch culture to navigating visa requirements, finding a job, and settling into your new life, we’ve got you covered.


The Netherlands offers a diverse range of opportunities for expats, as it boasts a strong economy, a high standard of living, and a well-functioning infrastructure system. It is known for its global business hubs, such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, which attract professionals from all over the world.


However, becoming an expat in the Netherlands goes beyond just finding a job. It involves adapting to a different lifestyle, embracing a new culture, and building a network of friends and contacts. This article aims to provide you with the necessary guidance to navigate these aspects and make the most out of your expat experience in the Netherlands.


So, if you’re ready to embark on an exciting journey and discover what the Netherlands has to offer, let’s dive into the steps that will help you become an expat in the Netherlands.


Step 1: Researching the Netherlands

Before making the decision to become an expat in the Netherlands, it’s important to start by conducting thorough research about the country. This will help you gain valuable insights into its culture, lifestyle, job market, and other essential aspects.


Begin by exploring the geography and climate of the Netherlands. The country is known for its flat landscape, with about a quarter of the land lying below sea level. Familiarize yourself with the major cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague, as well as the smaller towns and rural areas that offer a different pace of life.


Learn about the Dutch culture and their way of life. The Netherlands is known for its tolerance, liberalism, and forward-thinking mindset. Take the time to understand their values, customs, and social norms. This will help you integrate more easily into the local community and avoid cultural misunderstandings.


Research the job market in the Netherlands to determine if there are opportunities in your field of expertise. Consider the demand for your skills and qualifications and investigate the industries that thrive in the country. It’s also helpful to explore the cost of living and salary expectations to ensure financial stability.


In addition, familiarize yourself with the taxation system, healthcare system, and education system in the Netherlands. This will enable you to understand the benefits and obligations that come with living in the country. Researching the housing market is also crucial, as finding suitable accommodation can be a challenging task in popular areas.


Furthermore, learning about the language spoken in the Netherlands, which is Dutch, will greatly benefit you. While many Dutch people speak English fluently, knowing some basic Dutch phrases will help you navigate daily life and connect with the locals on a deeper level.


Make use of reliable sources such as government websites, expat forums, and travel guides to gather information about the Netherlands. Engage with other expats who have already made the move and ask for their insights and recommendations. Their personal experiences can provide invaluable firsthand knowledge.


By investing time in researching the Netherlands, you will have a better understanding of what to expect and be well-prepared for the challenges and opportunities that come with becoming an expat in this beautiful country.


Step 2: Understanding the Dutch Culture

As you embark on your journey to become an expat in the Netherlands, it’s crucial to have a good understanding of the Dutch culture. The Netherlands is known for its distinct cultural values, traditions, and customs that shape the way of life in the country.


One of the defining aspects of Dutch culture is their famous directness and straightforwardness. Dutch people are known for being open, honest, and direct in their communication style. They value transparency and appreciate directness in both personal and professional interactions. It’s essential to be prepared for their candidness and not interpret it as rudeness.


The Dutch also have a strong work-life balance, with a focus on efficiency and productivity. They highly value punctuality and expect others to respect their time. It’s important to be on time for appointments and meetings, as tardiness is generally frowned upon in Dutch culture.


Another aspect of Dutch culture to understand is their emphasis on egalitarianism and equality. The Netherlands is known for its progressive social policies and commitment to equal rights. Gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and inclusivity are important values in Dutch society. However, it’s crucial to note that while the Dutch are generally accepting, it’s essential to respect their cultural norms and practices.


The Netherlands also has a rich tradition of art, design, and architecture. From world-famous painters like Rembrandt and Van Gogh to modern and innovative architecture, the Dutch have a deep appreciation for creativity and aesthetics. Take the time to explore the museums, galleries, and architectural wonders that the country has to offer.


Furthermore, the Dutch pride themselves on their cycling culture. Bicycles are a popular mode of transportation, and you will find dedicated cycling paths throughout the country. Embracing this cycling culture can not only help you adapt to the Dutch way of life but also contribute to a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.


Lastly, embracing the Dutch cuisine is part of understanding the culture. Traditional Dutch dishes include stroopwafels (caramel-filled waffle cookies), herring, bitterballen (deep-fried meatballs), and cheese. Exploring the local cuisine and trying Dutch delicacies will allow you to immerse yourself in the culture and connect with the locals.


By familiarizing yourself with the Dutch culture and its unique characteristics, you will be better equipped to navigate social interactions, adapt to the local customs, and integrate into the Dutch society as an expat.


Step 3: Visa and Legal Requirements

When planning to become an expat in the Netherlands, it’s important to understand the visa and legal requirements. The Netherlands has specific regulations and procedures in place for foreigners who wish to live and work in the country.


The type of visa you need will depend on your purpose of stay in the Netherlands. If you are an EU/EEA citizen, you have the right to live and work in the Netherlands without a visa or work permit. However, if you are a non-EU/EEA citizen, you will need a residence permit and work permit to legally work and reside in the country.


The most common type of residence permit for non-EU/EEA citizens is the Residence Permit for Employment, which is usually sponsored by an employer in the Netherlands. Your employer will need to provide documentation to prove that there are no suitable candidates from within the EU available for the position you are being offered. It’s important to secure a job offer before applying for a residence permit.


It’s worth noting that some professions and nationalities may have specific regulations or requirements. For example, highly skilled migrants may be eligible for the Knowledge Migrant Program, which provides a fast-track procedure for obtaining a residence permit. Research the requirements specific to your situation to ensure a smooth visa application process.


Additionally, it’s important to have the necessary legal documents in order. This includes a valid passport, proof of accommodation in the Netherlands, and health insurance coverage. It is mandatory to have health insurance in the Netherlands, even for expats. There are various health insurance providers in the country, so you can compare plans and choose the one that best suits your needs.


Consult the official website of the Dutch government or the nearest Dutch embassy or consulate in your country for detailed information on visa and legal requirements. They will provide you with up-to-date and accurate information regarding the necessary documents, application procedures, and any additional requirements based on your specific circumstances.


It’s important to start the visa application process well in advance to allow for any necessary paperwork, processing time, and potential delays. Being aware of visa and legal requirements will ensure a smooth transition and help you avoid any potential legal issues as you start your journey as an expat in the Netherlands.


Step 4: Finding a Job in the Netherlands

One of the crucial steps in becoming an expat in the Netherlands is finding a job. The country has a robust job market with opportunities in various industries. However, it’s important to understand the job search process and the expectations of employers in the Netherlands.


Before starting your job search, it’s essential to have a well-crafted resume and a targeted cover letter. Tailor your application materials to the Dutch market, highlighting relevant skills and experiences. Be concise and direct in your writing style, demonstrating your suitability for the position.


In the Netherlands, networking plays a significant role in the job search process. Building a professional network can increase your chances of finding employment. Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and utilize online platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with professionals in your field. Networking can lead to valuable insights, recommendations, and even job opportunities.


Job vacancies in the Netherlands are often advertised on online job portals, recruitment agencies, and company websites. Popular job search platforms in the country include Indeed, Monsterboard, and LinkedIn Jobs. It’s also worth checking the websites of specific industries or professional associations for niche job opportunities.


When applying for jobs in the Netherlands, it’s important to follow the application instructions and adhere to local customs. Companies often prefer to receive applications in Dutch, so consider having your application materials translated if you don’t speak Dutch fluently. Additionally, include relevant documents such as your residence permit or work permit, if applicable.


Job interviews in the Netherlands typically consist of multiple rounds and can be quite formal. Prepare for interviews by researching the company, understanding their values and mission, and familiarizing yourself with common interview questions. Emphasize your adaptability, flexibility, and willingness to integrate into the Dutch work culture.


It’s worth noting that proficiency in English is common in many workplaces in the Netherlands, especially in international companies. However, learning the Dutch language can significantly enhance your job prospects and integration into the local community.


Lastly, consider volunteering or doing internships in the Netherlands to gain local experience and expand your professional network. This can not only increase your chances of finding a job but also provide you with valuable insights into the Dutch work culture.


Remember, finding a job in the Netherlands may take some time and effort. Stay persistent, seek feedback, and adapt your job search strategies as needed. With the right approach and determination, you can find a rewarding job that aligns with your skills and aspirations in the Netherlands.


Step 5: Housing and Accommodation

When relocating to the Netherlands as an expat, finding suitable housing and accommodation is a crucial step. The housing market in the Netherlands can be competitive, especially in popular cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Utrecht. Here are some tips to help you navigate the housing process.


Start by determining your budget and the type of housing you are looking for. Consider factors such as location, proximity to your workplace, amenities, and the size of the property. Rental prices can vary significantly, so it’s important to have a clear understanding of your financial limitations.


Popular websites for finding housing in the Netherlands include Funda, Pararius, and Kamernet. These platforms offer a wide range of rental properties, including apartments, houses, and shared accommodations. Be prepared to act quickly, as desirable properties often get rented out within a short period of time.


Consider working with a real estate agent or a relocation agency to help you navigate the housing market. They can provide guidance, connect you with suitable properties, and assist with the negotiation process.


Another option is to search for housing within expat communities or through various online expat groups. These platforms often provide valuable insights and recommendations from fellow expats who have already gone through the housing process in the Netherlands.


Keep in mind that rental contracts in the Netherlands are typically long-term, with a minimum duration of one year. It’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions of your lease agreement before signing. Pay attention to the rental price, deposit requirements, and any additional costs such as utilities, maintenance fees, or service charges.


It’s worth noting that housing in the Netherlands is known for being compact in size, especially in urban areas. Adjusting to the smaller living spaces might be necessary, so consider decluttering and organizing your belongings before moving.


Additionally, make sure to register your address with the local municipality (gemeente) upon moving into your new home. This is a mandatory requirement for all residents in the Netherlands.


When it comes to utilities, such as electricity, gas, water, and internet, it’s important to set up accounts with the relevant providers. Compare prices and packages to find the best deals that suit your needs.


Finally, familiarize yourself with the neighborhood and the amenities available in the area. Explore nearby grocery stores, healthcare facilities, public transportation, and recreational opportunities.


Securing appropriate housing in the Netherlands may require patience and persistence, but with careful planning and research, you can find a comfortable and suitable place to call home as an expat.


Step 6: Healthcare and Insurance

Understanding the healthcare system and obtaining health insurance is a vital aspect of settling into life as an expat in the Netherlands. The country has a well-established healthcare system that provides high-quality medical care to its residents.


As a resident of the Netherlands, you are required by law to have health insurance. This applies to both EU and non-EU citizens residing in the country for longer than three months. Having health insurance ensures that you have access to necessary medical services and treatments without incurring significant costs.


There are two types of health insurance in the Netherlands: the mandatory basic insurance (basisverzekering) and additional private health insurance (aanvullende verzekering). The basic insurance covers essential healthcare services, including general practitioners, hospitals, medicines, and specialists. The private health insurance provides additional coverage for services such as dental care, physiotherapy, and alternative medicine.


You can choose from various health insurance providers in the Netherlands, each offering different packages and premiums. It’s important to compare plans and consider factors such as coverage, costs, and additional services when selecting your health insurance provider.


To apply for health insurance, you need to provide your personal details, proof of residence, and a citizen service number (burgerservicenummer). You can apply for health insurance within four months of arrival in the Netherlands.


Once you have health insurance, you can visit a general practitioner (huisarts) for non-emergency medical issues. The general practitioner acts as a gatekeeper and can refer you to specialists or hospitals if necessary. In case of emergencies, you can visit the nearest hospital or call the emergency services.


The healthcare system in the Netherlands operates on a co-payment model, which means you may be required to pay a deductible (eigen risico) each year before insurance covers the costs. The amount of the deductible is set annually by the government.


It’s important to familiarize yourself with the healthcare facilities in your area, including hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies. The Netherlands has a well-developed healthcare infrastructure, ensuring accessibility to medical services throughout the country.


In addition to healthcare, it’s also advisable to have liability insurance (aansprakelijkheidsverzekering) to protect yourself against any damage you may inadvertently cause to others.


Be sure to keep your health insurance documents and other relevant healthcare information in a safe place, as you may need to present them when visiting healthcare providers.


By obtaining the necessary health insurance and understanding the healthcare system in the Netherlands, you can ensure that you and your family have access to quality medical care as expats in the country.


Step 7: Education and Schools

If you are moving to the Netherlands as an expat with children, it’s important to consider their education and find suitable schools. The Netherlands offers a variety of educational options, including both international and local schools.


The education system in the Netherlands is known for its high standards and emphasis on quality education. Local schools in the Netherlands follow the Dutch national curriculum, which provides a comprehensive and well-rounded education. Dutch schools are usually taught in Dutch, so it’s important to consider language proficiency when choosing a local school for your child.


International schools are a popular choice for expat families, as they provide education in English or other languages. These schools offer a global curriculum, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) or the Cambridge curriculum, and cater to the needs of international students. International schools are a great option for expat children who may be transitioning from a different educational system.


When choosing a school, consider factors such as location, curriculum, extracurricular activities, class size, and the school’s reputation. Visit the schools in person if possible, and speak to teachers, administrators, and other parents to gather insights and determine the best fit for your child.


Enrollment procedures vary from school to school, so it’s important to check the admission requirements and application deadlines. Some schools may have waiting lists, especially in popular cities, so it’s advisable to start the application process well in advance.


The cost of education in the Netherlands can vary depending on the type of school and the level of education. International schools, in particular, tend to have higher fees. Take into account the tuition fees, as well as any additional costs such as uniforms, transportation, and extracurricular activities.


In addition to formal education, the Netherlands offers various options for early childhood education, including daycare centers and preschools (peuterspeelzalen). These facilities provide a nurturing environment for young children and help prepare them for primary school.


It’s worth noting that the Netherlands has a strong emphasis on inclusivity and support for children with special educational needs. If your child requires additional support, there are specialized schools and facilities in place to cater to their needs.


Lastly, consider the support network available for expat parents, such as parent-teacher associations and community groups. These networks can provide valuable resources, guidance, and a sense of community as you navigate your child’s educational journey in the Netherlands.


By understanding the educational options available and choosing the right school for your child, you can ensure they receive a quality education and have a smooth transition into the education system in the Netherlands.


Step 8: Transportation and Getting Around

Getting familiar with the transportation system in the Netherlands is essential for navigating your new life as an expat. The country boasts a well-developed and efficient transportation network, making it easy to travel within and beyond its borders.


The Netherlands has an extensive public transportation system, consisting of trains, buses, trams, and metros. The national railway company, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), operates trains throughout the country, connecting major cities and towns. The train network is known for its punctuality and frequency, making it a convenient mode of transportation.


Buses, trams, and metros are commonly used for local transportation within cities or towns. Each city has its own public transportation company, and using a contactless payment card (such as an OV-chipkaart) is the most convenient way to pay for fares.


In addition to public transportation, cycling is an immensely popular mode of transportation in the Netherlands. The country is well-known for its extensive network of cycling paths and infrastructure, making it a safe and efficient way to get around. Buying or renting a bicycle can be a great investment and a fantastic way to explore your new surroundings.


If you prefer to drive or own a car, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of the Dutch road system. The Netherlands has an extensive network of well-maintained roads, but it’s important to pay attention to traffic rules, parking regulations, and speed limits.


Parking in cities can be limited and expensive, so it’s advisable to explore alternatives such as park-and-ride facilities or utilizing designated parking garages. The use of electric vehicles is also encouraged, and the Netherlands has an increasing number of charging stations available.


For those who want to explore beyond the borders of the Netherlands, the country has excellent connectivity with neighboring countries and the rest of Europe. International airports such as Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and Rotterdam The Hague Airport offer flights to various destinations worldwide.


It’s also worth noting that the Netherlands has a well-established bike rental system, with many cities offering bicycles for rent by the hour or day. This can be a convenient option for short trips or exploring tourist attractions.


Lastly, consider taking advantage of mobile apps and navigation tools to navigate through the transportation system. Apps like Google Maps or 9292 can provide real-time information about public transportation routes, schedules, and timings.


By taking the time to understand the transportation options available in the Netherlands, you can easily navigate your new surroundings, explore the country, and efficiently travel to different destinations as an expat.


Step 9: Embracing the Dutch Language

As an expat in the Netherlands, embracing the Dutch language can greatly enhance your experience and integration into the local culture. Learning the language not only helps you communicate effectively but also allows you to connect on a deeper level with the Dutch community.


The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch. While many Dutch people speak English fluently, especially in urban areas, making the effort to learn Dutch shows respect for the local culture and facilitates daily interactions.


There are various resources available to help you learn Dutch. Consider enrolling in language courses offered by language schools or universities. These courses provide structured lessons and give you the opportunity to practice spoken Dutch with instructors and fellow students.


Online platforms and mobile apps also offer language learning materials and exercises. Websites like Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone provide interactive lessons that you can complete at your own pace.


Immersing yourself in the Dutch language is crucial for language acquisition. Make an effort to practice speaking Dutch with locals, even if they respond in English. Many Dutch people appreciate the effort and are willing to help you improve.


Additionally, consuming media in Dutch can greatly enhance your language skills. Listening to Dutch radio stations, watching Dutch television shows or movies, and reading Dutch books or newspapers can help you familiarize yourself with the language and improve your vocabulary.


Participating in language exchange programs or language cafés is another effective way to practice speaking Dutch. These platforms provide opportunities to interact with native speakers and other language learners, promoting language practice in a friendly and supportive environment.


It’s important to remember that learning a language takes time and commitment. Don’t be discouraged by mistakes or the initial struggle of speaking Dutch. Perseverance and dedication will lead to gradual improvement.


Remember that knowing Dutch not only enhances your personal experiences but also opens up employment opportunities. Being able to communicate in the local language can make a significant difference in your job search and integration into Dutch society.


By embracing the Dutch language and immersing yourself in the local culture, you will gain a deeper understanding of the Netherlands, forge meaningful connections, and enhance your overall expat experience.


Step 10: Integration and Social Life

Becoming an expat in the Netherlands involves more than just finding a job and settling into a new home. Integrating into the local community and building a fulfilling social life is a key aspect of your expat experience. Here are some tips to help you with the process of integration and creating a vibrant social life in the Netherlands.


One of the best ways to start integrating into Dutch society is by getting involved in community activities or joining social groups. Many cities and towns have community centers, volunteer organizations, and cultural clubs that organize events and activities where you can meet locals and fellow expats.


Exploring hobbies and pursuing personal interests is also a great way to make connections. Join sports clubs, art classes, or music groups to meet like-minded individuals and engage in shared activities. The Netherlands offers a wide range of recreational and cultural opportunities, so take advantage of them to immerse yourself in the local scene.


Networking is an important tool for both personal and professional growth. Attend networking events, join professional associations, and participate in business gatherings to expand your network. Building relationships with professionals in your industry can lead to valuable career opportunities and insights into the Dutch job market.


Building relationships with your neighbors can also contribute to a sense of belonging. Introduce yourself, strike up conversations, and participate in local events or gatherings. The Dutch are known for their friendliness and openness, so don’t hesitate to reach out to those around you.


Embracing Dutch traditions and customs can also help in integrating into the local culture. Take part in local festivals, observe national holidays, and learn about Dutch traditions. Celebrating these occasions alongside your Dutch neighbors can foster connections and deepen your understanding of the local culture.


Learning the Dutch language, even if it’s basic, is another way to integrate and connect with locals. While many Dutch people speak English, taking the initiative to speak Dutch shows effort and respect. It can also enable you to engage in deeper conversations and understand the nuances of the culture.


Lastly, maintain connections with your fellow expats. Expats understand the challenges of living in a foreign country and can provide a support system. Join expat groups, attend social events, and make use of online forums to connect with other expats who are on similar journeys.


Remember, integration takes time, so be patient and open-minded. Embrace the Dutch way of life, adapt to their values, and be willing to step out of your comfort zone. By actively participating in the community, building relationships, and immersing yourself in the local culture, you’ll find that your expat experience in the Netherlands becomes richer and more rewarding.



Congratulations on taking the exciting step of becoming an expat in the Netherlands! By following the steps outlined in this guide, you are well on your way to a successful and fulfilling expat journey in this beautiful country.


From researching the Netherlands and understanding its culture to navigating visa requirements, finding a job, and integrating into the local community, each step is crucial in ensuring a smooth transition and creating a wonderful expat experience.


Through your research, you have gained insights into the geography, climate, culture, and work opportunities in the Netherlands. You understand the legal requirements, including visa and residence permits, and the importance of obtaining health insurance to access quality healthcare.


You have also learned about the education system and the options available for your children, as well as the transportation network that will help you navigate your new surroundings. Additionally, you have recognized the value of embracing the Dutch language and connecting with both locals and fellow expats to build a vibrant social life.


Remember, becoming an expat is a journey of growth and adaptation. As you navigate your new life in the Netherlands, it is important to stay open-minded, embrace new experiences, and be patient with yourself. The process of integration may take time, but with perseverance, you will find yourself feeling more at home in your new country.


Lastly, enjoy all that the Netherlands has to offer. Immerse yourself in the rich culture, explore the beautiful cities and countryside, and indulge in the delightful Dutch cuisine.


Whether you are moving for work, education, or a change of scenery, becoming an expat in the Netherlands is an adventure filled with countless opportunities. By following these steps and embracing the journey, you are on your way to a rewarding and unforgettable experience as an expat in the Netherlands.