International Life in the Leiden Region
The Leiden region draws thousands of internationals to it annually, for study, work, and leisure. Yet what makes people decide to move here, and, importantly, what is life like for those who decide to stay? Although there can be many incentives to move to the Netherlands, discovering what the experiences are for those who do decide to make the move is an important part of understanding how we can improve life satisfaction for internationals living in the Leiden region.
From September 2022 to February 2023, one of our interns, Jing-Yi Magraw, chose to investigate the questions above in her research project as part of her internship. The research involved not only reading current literature about migration to the Netherlands, and demographics about the Leiden region itself, but also distributing a survey through different social media channels, and conducting follow up interviews with several internationals. The research focused on examining what influences internationals to move to the Netherlands, and how their experiences may affect their decision to remain.
Survey & Interviews
The survey was sent out to highly skilled migrants living and/or working in the Leiden region. In the survey, questions that were asked included why people moved to the Leiden region, whether they planned on staying, the importance of friends, family, politics, and religion in their lives, and how satisfied they were with their current life in the region. From the survey, several individuals were selected at random for follow-up interviews to provide more insight into their answers in the survey.
Why do people move to the Leiden region?
The research found that more than 50% of internationals surveyed cited that their partner was a very important factor in influencing their move to the Leiden region, usually either because their partner relocated due to finding work in the Netherlands, or because their partner was Dutch. Another common factor influencing the move to the Leiden region, and the Netherlands as a whole, was lifestyle. More than 50% of respondents stated that lifestyle was a very important factor in their decision to move. When asked to elaborate further upon this, several respondents noted that they were drawn to the perceived safety of the Netherlands and its reputation for being liberal and progressive. Other factors that respondents mentioned which influenced their decision to move included better work-life balance, more education opportunities, and more work opportunities.
How content are people living in the Leiden region?
When asked about how satisfied internationals were with their overall quality of life in the Netherlands, just over 48% responded that they were 'rather satisfied' and 38.5% reported being 'very satisfied' with their quality of life. However, although the majority of the respondents were either 'rather' or 'very' satisfied with their work life and family life in the Leiden region, 40% reported being 'not very satisfied' with their social life. Upon investigating this further, it appears that 60% of internationals surveyed who had not made local (Dutch) friends reported being 'not very satisfied' with their social life, and many participants struggled to meet new people. As a result, 94% of respondents, including those who did feel satisfied with their social life, stated that they would have found social events either 'rather' or 'very' helpful to them for settling into their new life in the Leiden region. Moreover, there was a correlation between making local friends and higher social life satisfaction, although whether people made more local friends because they had higher social life satisfaction, or whether making local friends directly results in higher social life satisfaction, was not clear in the results of this research.
Do people plan to stay in the Netherlands?
75% of the internationals surveyed plan on staying in the Netherlands for at least the next 2 years, and more than 60% of respondents have already been living in the Netherlands for at least 3 years. The majority of respondents found the Leiden region to be welcoming, which may positively influence the decision to remain in the Netherlands. Some respondents planned to remain only until retirement, or until their children had completed their education.
Helping internationals to settle in more smoothly and providing opportunities for them to meet others in the Leiden region can positively influence their social life satisfaction. Previous research conducted on migrants has demonstrated the importance of ensuring that internationals do not feel isolated when they move to a new country, and that having an assigned local buddy, or making friends with locals, can have a positive impact on their experience in their new country.
Practical steps towards ensuring that internationals feel welcome to stay in the Netherlands can include facilitating accessible ways for migrants to integrate into their new home, which can include joining sports associations, volunteering, taking Dutch language lessons in a more informal environment that allows for socialisation, and taking part in skills and hobby groups. Other events, such as Leiden International Centre's regular Meet&Mingles, can also play an important part in helping internationals create a social network and thus find support for the duration of their stay in the Leiden region.
This article is based upon research conducted by our previous intern, Jing-Yi Magraw. If you would like more information about any of the statistics or research mentioned in this article, you can contact her at email@example.com.