As well as receiving messages from prospective visitors to Amsterdam, I am also often asked for information by people who are considering relocating. And it’s not surprising. Amsterdam is one of the most diverse cities in Europe with over 180 different nationalities rubbing shoulders with each other and only 50% of the population native Dutch.
As Russell Shorto says in his “180 Nationalities Project”:
Maybe it’s stretching things to say that Amsterdam invented diversity, but it is certainly the case that Amsterdam’s growth – its rise to Golden Age greatness – had precisely to do with its diversity. And it’s not a stretch to say this: in becoming the melting pot of Europe in the 1500s and 1600s, the city set the template for modern urban life.
– Russell Shorto, 180 Amsterdammers / 180 Nationalities Project
The Netherlands also has the highest English language proficiency in the world (yes you read that right). And many companies in Amsterdam are more than happy to employ people with little or no Dutch at all which makes relocating significantly easier for English speakers by comparison with other European cities.
I recently helped a friend who was looking to relocate and thought it would be useful to share the following resources:
For many people, deciding where to live, how much it will cost and how to find rental accommodation is the first and one of the biggest considerations.
The City of Amsterdam website, has a brilliant resource which you can find here, and which helps give a sense of the city’s different neighbourhoods and districts.
Then, once you’ve decided on an area, there’s only one place to head – Nestpick.
Nestpick’s Amsterdam website has the largest database of fully vetted partners in the city making it the ultimate one-stop-shop for finding fully furnished mid and long term rental accommodation – whether you’re looking for a room, an apartment or a student residence. Not only is the platform available in multiple languages, but by using their filters you can ensure you receive notifications when new properties get listed. One of the biggest expat gripes in Amsterdam is finding suitable and affordable accommodation and having looked at a variety of websites, I haven’t come across anything better!
If you are planning to live or work in the Netherlands you’ll need to register with the Gemeente or municipality. This is a fairly straightforward process that assigns you a citizen service number which will allow you to work, open a bank account, make use of health care services and apply for benefits. You can find more about it here.
Finding work in the city
If you haven’t already found work, there are lots of opportunities available for non-Dutch speakers. Tech skills are in particular demand and the city runs fantastic initiatives such as Project Amsterdam aimed at welcoming highly skilled migrants. Recruitment agencies are also a good place to start and this link will help with leads to recruiters who don’t require Dutch speakers.
Studying in the city
As with work, there are lots of opportunities to study in Amsterdam even if you don’t speak Dutch. The city has some of the world’s top universities and vocational institutions and many courses are in English. Take a look at this excellent resource from Iamsterdam for a range of Amsterdam’s higher education institutions.
Although strictly speaking you can happily live in Amsterdam for years without speaking a word of Dutch, you might like to brush up your skills and impress the locals. There are lots of options from courses to podcasts and at a very minimum, be sure to learn how to pronounce the Dutch G so you can say the word gezellig!
If you’re a parent or a prospective parent, you’ll have even more questions and logistics to figure out. There are some invaluable resources in this regard and none more so than a wonderful Facebook group called Amsterdam Mamas. The group is an incredible support network with expat mums helping to answer any and every kind of question from the smallest to the most serious. There are also two additional groups run by the team – The Dutch Education group which can advise on both International and local schools, and Amsterdam Business Mamas for all questions work-related.
You’ll definitely need to get yourself a bike and learn how to cycle like a local! Get hold of a copy of Xing Cheng’s new book Learn to Cycle in Amsterdam and you’ll be off in no time.
Finally, if you want a bit of a one-stop shop resource for expats head to the IamExpat website which is an English-language site packed with news, information, housing and job listings. The team also run the annual IamExpat Fair in both Amsterdam and The Hague which is a great way to connect with other expats across the country.
So that’s it. Have I convinced you yet? If so you won’t be the first. Amsterdam is hugely welcoming to expats and you’ll feel at home in no time at all.