Help me move to the Netherlands!
December 14, 2007 9:27 PM   Subscribe

I think I want to move to the Netherlands. Help!

I'm an American, due to graduate from college this year.

I've recently become very interested in moving to the Netherlands, for various reasons. This would be a 'long-term goal,' not something I plan to do the day I graduate from college in May.

I've been outside the country for two weeks (to Africa), and the only foreign language I speak is a little Spanish from high school. So I have a bit of work to do, obviously.

There's a lot of information, but it's hard to get much useful information. I'm going to ask some specific questions, but what I'm really looking for is references to websites that give useful information to people like me, as opposed to tourists or existing Netherlands residents.

- Immigration: Is it straight-forward?
- Economy: I'm due to graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Management. I'm an avid fan of the high-tech world as well. What are the job prospects? Should I expect a standard of living similar to what I have here in the US?
- Language: Obviously, Dutch. I don't want to be the "ugly American" that doesn't learn it, but is English widely spoken?
- Foreigners: Will I be ostracized for being an American expat?
- Sanity: Can anyone here speak from experience on whether I'm a nut for wanting to move to the Netherlands?
posted by fogster to Travel & Transportation around The Netherlands (12 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For info regarding moving to and/or emigrating to the Netherlands be sure to check out ACCESS and the IND websites.
posted by ericb at 9:36 PM on December 14, 2007

English is indeed widely spoken. You won't be ostracized. Folks in the Netherlands are some of the friendliest people I've ever met.
posted by ericb at 9:44 PM on December 14, 2007

Best answer: My sister emigrated to the Netherlands. She had to requalify for her job (nurse) but that kind of thing happens to some professional classes when they migrate. She tells me that people in the major cities often speak English but not so predictably in smaller towns, and of course if you intend to stay there and integrate you will want to learn Dutch.

If you have any grandparent born in a European Community country you might look into establishing your citizenship there first (my sister got permission to work in the Netherlands initially based on getting a UK passport because our dad was born in England, although she had never lived there herself).

From what I understand, as in any country some people will be curious about your reasons for going there. Don't forget that until recently Europe expected to provide emigrants for the New World, not receive immigrants from there, so people may still expect a story. My sister has not, to my knowledge, encountered any hostility.

She does say, however, that there are good reasons there are no such things as Dutch restaurants.
posted by zadcat at 9:58 PM on December 14, 2007

Oh, as a footnote, I should add that she was emigrating from Canada. Older Dutch folks are still well disposed towards Canadians because Canadian troops helped liberate their country at the end of World War II and also because Canada gave their royal family a place to live during hostilities. I don't know how different it would be for an American.
posted by zadcat at 10:01 PM on December 14, 2007

Best answer: There are Americans all over the place in the Netherlands. Nobody cares ;-) Amsterdam has more foreign-born residents than Dutch-born - more than 50% of people in the city were not born in NL.

In terms of standard of living, that's an incredibly broad question which could fill a book. Let's just say that things are different here. Grab a copy of The UnDutchables, laugh and believe it. Also check out

As for whether you're crazy for wanting to move here - maybe. But there a lot of us crazies over here ;-)

Start with Expatica, like I said. Read and learn, and ignore the naysayers who will inevitably show up in this thread. Also learn about the Dutch American Friendship Treaty. I personally know people who have done things this way. Expect a "paper mill" (as they call it here) whatever you do, but you are in good company.
posted by different at 11:08 PM on December 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding UnDutchables. This time in 1999, I was working in Amsterdam, in a multinational office where English was the lingua franca and the Americans were mostly MBAs, brandishing Gantt charts from above.

Visit for more than a vacation. And check the family tree for any chance of an EU passport.
posted by holgate at 11:27 PM on December 14, 2007

The Netherlands almost legislated university courses in all areas to be taught in English - that's how universally English is spoken (at least in the cities and vaguely educated classes.) And Dutch isn't hard to learn, but you'll get lots of pronounciation-induced "laughs" at first.

There will be differences in your standard of living. Places are smaller (typically), things are pricier, many people do without cars (because they can, unlike in America where it's tough to do in many places) - but it's in the same league as America. The job market is tough without some sort of specialized experience or advanced degree. Many citizens of other (EU) countries can move to the Netherlands at will, and it's a popular disadvantage. This puts North Americans at a disadvantage unless it's a job that gets them there. You certainly won't be ostracized; the Dutch are wonderful. You're not nuts either.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:17 AM on December 15, 2007

Best answer: I'm an American living full time in London with a second flat in Amsterdam. My wife is Dutch, we spend one week a month in The Netherlands for family reasons and I'm usually there every other week for a day or so for work. I'm considering moving to Amsterdam full time as well, due to proposed changes in how the UK taxes "non domiciled ex-pats".

Lots of good advise upthread, I'm not really sure where you've moving from, but as a New Yorker who moved to London who spends significant amounts of time in Holland, I don't find the size of flats an issue. And The Netherlands is definitely cheaper than England for food, price of flats and other basics.

You're going to have some problems with taxation that haven't been addressed.

As an American you have to file - and pay - taxes on your global income. That would include whatever you earn while working and paying taxes in Holland. There are tax treaties, so you won't be double taxed however get ready to pay nominally higher rates than you would living & working in the United States. That being said, foreigners can obtain what's called a 30% ruling, effectively capping your nominal taxes at 30%, as opposed to a max of 52% for native Dutch and those unlucky foreigners who have lost their 30% ruling. Time apparently is key here; the longer you live in Holland the more reluctant they are to exclude you from the 30% ruling (sidenote: this is the same problem I've got after living in London for almost eleven years, so its by no means a issue exclusive to The Dutch government).

Also the Dutch levy a wealth tax on global assets, "vermogensbelasting" of 1.2% of their value, liquid or not. Examples - if you've got a hundred thousand dollars in a US bank the Dutch tax authorities will want (the Euro equivalent) of $1,200 each year. Same thing applies if you've got a flat worth a hundred thousand (the non liquid side) - $1,200 please.

Curious about capital gains taxes (I'm very active in the equity and commodity markets for my personal accounts so this matters to me, may not to you) -- there are none. So that may be a plus.

Here are some links that you might find helpful. I've been using them for my research prior to engaging a professional, as you really should do before undertaking to move to a new country for a prolonged period of time.

The 30% ruling
A firm that helps foreigners get a 30% ruling
How capitial gains taxes are handled in The Netherlands.
A gentle introduction to dual taxation as it applies to Americans in The Netherlands.
Some high level information on how foreigners are taxed in Holland.
A no ListO'Links would be complete without the relevant Escape artist page.

Hope this helps! Don't hesitate to MetaMail if I can provide further information.
posted by Mutant at 3:20 AM on December 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Start learning Dutch - it really isn't as hard as you think. The effort will pay off in good will from possible employers. Also, the reason there are a lot of foreigners in the NL is that there is work for them, and the Ducth make obtaining a social security number ("a sofi" number") relatively easy if a Dutch citizen decides to offer you work. Once you have the sofi number you can take work anywhere in the NL. Consider picking strawberries or working on a cheese farm for starters.
posted by zaelic at 9:09 AM on December 15, 2007

You say you've been outside of the country once. To Africa. This would lead me to ask the following question: have you visited the Netherlands yet? I would strongly recommend you do this first and make sure you like the country before you do something extreme like moving there.

Not to mention that there are loads of wonderful countries. Not sure what your "reasons" for moving to the Netherlands are and it's none of business, but for someone who has apparently never been, and who speaks no Dutch, it seems strange to choose that country of all countries out there. For example, I hear that the Scandinavian countries are pretty nice places to live in also, the food is probably better in France or Italy, you're more likely to learn the local language in Egypt, and costs are a lot cheaper in China. It's a shame you didn't do the whole study abroad thing in your junior year. That gives you a lot of what I would guess you could call "sheltered" living abroad: generally the tough things like housing, visas, and social interaction are sort of taken care of so you can just focus on culture immersion.

That being said, I can offer my totally unrelated experience here. I decided, pretty much just for the heck of it, to go live here in Egypt for a year. It's been both easier and harder than I expected, but one thing that made it a little bit easier was knowing I didn't have to be here long term. If you commit to moving, that can be a pretty permanent thing. But you can get something like a tourist visa that will let you stay in a country for a nice long time and see what it's like to do all the grownup things in a foreign country. But I have never regretted going to live in or visit a foreign country. If you want to go, go.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:27 AM on December 15, 2007

I don't think that what Mutant says about "vermogensbelasting" is completely correct. It has been called 'vermogensrendementheffing' (capital gains tax) for a couple of years now, and that changes a few things about it, for instance that it does not apply to your main residence.

Also, regarding the 30% rulings: those will probably not be applicable to you for a while, because of your level of education and work experience. From one of those sites quoted above: "The expatriate must be an employee who is hired in another country by an employer or sent to an employer within the same group of companies at management level, with a specific expertise that is scarce or absent on the job market in the Netherlands." That latter part is not the case for you right now, so don't count on that too much.

In general though, nthing the advice to read Undutchables first, and this website has a lot of specific and useful information too. Last of all, depending where you live now, realise that the weather in NL is most likely very different to what you're used to. Never really hot or cold, snow is quite rare as are heatwaves, but things can be 'bleak' or chilly for quite a while in autumn and winter, and I've heard of expats who had quite a hard time adjusting to that, especially if those were the first seasons they experienced here.
posted by Ms. Next at 10:37 AM on December 15, 2007

Sanity: Can anyone here speak from experience on whether I'm a nut for wanting to move to the Netherlands?
It would help a lot if you shared why you want to move here.

The suggestions above are great. One thing I haven't seen mentioned yet is the lack of nature. Our country is a bit crowded. There are no vast amounts of nature. Our air is not that clean either. Politics are leaning to the right at the moment and people are wary of foreigners. If you are a white American with a job who does his best to fit in, you should have no problems, and plenty of none white people do fine too, but sadly you may have to work a little harder for it and you may face racism anyway.

Realize that, though the Netherlands is a tiny country, there are big differences between, say, Friesland and Amsterdam. You may prefer a bigger city (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag) at first.
posted by davar at 1:21 PM on December 15, 2007

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