Relocating to the Netherlands from the US can be an exciting and life-changing opportunity for many. Miles away from home, navigating this transition to such a foreign country may be tricky. The journey of relocating to the Netherlands will bring many benefits and new experiences to your life. If you are an American relocating to the Netherlands, here’s a list of things you should know and can anticipate.
Preparing for the move
As a third-country national who does not possess EU, EEA, or Swiss nationality, you will need a residence permit to stay in the Netherlands for more than 90 days. There are different types of visas, residence permits, and work permits depending on your employer and your specific case. Discover which required visa applies to work and live in the Netherlands by visiting the official government website. This helpful government survey can serve as a roadmap towards your visa qualifications and provide useful information to begin your journey.
Did you know The Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (DAFT) visa allows eligible American entrepreneurs and freelancers to work and reside in the Netherlands. You can visit the Dutch government website to see if you can benefit from the DAFT visa.
During your immigration process, you will be applying through the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND). IND is the official government department that deals with everything immigration-related. Please note that you will often need to apply for a visa through the Dutch Embassy in the US before you arrive in the Netherlands.
Tip Getting in touch with Dutch embassies and consulates-general for the United States is very easy thanks to an online appointment system and their availability through WhatsApp to answer quick questions.
Once your immigration process is complete, when you arrive in the Netherlands, you can pick up your permits at an IND location. Within the first week of your arrival, you will also need to register at the town hall (gemeente). During your registration, similar to a social security number (SSN), you will be provided with a citizen number (BSN). You will need this number for further interactions with Dutch authorities. Alternatively, you can complete both of these tasks at an expat centre with an appointment if hired by an IND-recognized sponsor.
Note During your immigration process, you will often need to file documents. It is important to pay extra attention to the document specifications requested from you.
When you arrive in the Netherlands, finding housing will be your next mission. Finding your desired housing can take time, thus, arranging temporary housing before your arrival can be smart.
While searching for your new home, you will find out that housing in the Netherlands can be quite different from the US. Apartments and townhouses in the Netherlands are smaller in size and overall have less space and features. It is advisable to be open-minded during this process. The housing you view may be different than what you are accustomed to in your home state, maybe not New York. If you have your requirements prioritized and act decisively, the perfect Dutch house awaits you. There may be changes you need to adapt to, like less storage space, but starting a new chapter in the Netherlands has many benefits that make these transitions worth it.
Aside from their common love for pancakes, the Dutch and American cultures could not be further apart—but opposites attract. First of all, grandiosity is not a part of Dutch culture. Bigger rarely means better in the Netherlands, and the Dutch are used to modesty in most aspects of life. The ‘hustle culture’ isn’t that prevalent in the Netherlands, because the Dutch are famously good at maintaining the work-life balance. This means that you often won’t be expected to work overtime, and can fully enjoy after-work hours. The Dutch are even modest about their reactions; even if they are passionate about a subject, they will not react grandly.
Another famous Dutch characteristic is their directness. For example, many Americans coming to the Netherlands will impulsively ask the cashier at the shop how they are out of politeness. You may get strange reactions to this question, as the Dutch often find small talk insincere and sugar-coating unnecessary. This straightforwardness may seem foreign at first, but in time you may come to appreciate it and adapt.
One thing that greatly helps the transition of relocating from the United States to the Netherlands is the English skills of the Dutch. Not only will most of the people you encounter in the Netherlands speak advanced-level English, but often people will approach you or start conversations in English, especially in major cities. This metropolitan and international nature of the big cities of the Netherlands is perfect for relocating US citizens and their families.
Tip If you are an American relocating with your children, a popular choice for schooling is the American School of the Hague. Located in Wassenaar, this school follows the American school system by offering AP classes. In addition, other schools in the Netherlands follow an international program that you can choose for your family. For more helpful information for American expats, you can visit the US Embassy website.
Cost of Living
The average cost of living in the Netherlands is around 20% cheaper than in the US. The average salary is also relatively lower in the Netherlands than in the US, but expats often get paid more than the average. Additionally, the cost of living in the Netherlands will depend on which area you live in. For example, living in the centre of a big city will cost you more than living in municipalities outside the centre. Many people opt for this solution to cut costs like rent to a minimum. You can also take advantage of larger living spaces for a lesser price. Since the country’s public transportation system will get you to city centers smoothly and fast, this option is manageable for many residents.
Tip Dutch cities are some of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. If you want to avoid public transportation costs, opt for cycling!
Furthermore, the quality of life in the Netherlands is one of the most significant selling points for expats. According to the World Happiness Report, the Netherlands ranked as the fifth happiest country, while the US ranked fifteenth.
Working in the Netherlands
In order to work in the Netherlands as an American citizen, you will need a valid residence permit. There are different cases in which you can be qualified to get a residence permit. If you want to find out whether you pass these qualifications, you can check out the Dutch government website. If you are relocating as a highly-skilled American migrant, you will need a valid sponsor as your employer.
Getting used to the work environment in the Netherlands can take some time. There are a lot of differences when compared to the US. Most importantly, the Dutch value egalitarianism the most. This means that they treat everyone as equals with respect. Often anyone has the chance to prove themselves over time and with their experience. The Dutch are very tolerant of other cultures, which makes relocating from other countries more desirable and seamless.
Healthcare in the Netherlands
Upon your arrival in the Netherlands, it is advised that you register at your local GP (general practitioner). Through this registration, you can book an appointment and visit your local doctor whenever you are in need of medical assistance. During later hours and weekends, you can visit huisartsenpost (out-of-hours GP service) for urgent (not emergency) health matters.
Although very different from that of the US, the Dutch healthcare system is number one in the European Healthcare Index. Every resident of the Netherlands is legally obliged to take out healthcare insurance. The type of insurance you may take out will depend on your background and employer. For more information on this topic, you can check out the official health insurance website.
Beware that the Dutch healthcare system may seem foreign at first. Doctors are often against overmedication and are careful with prescribing. On the other hand, in the case of an urgent situation, healthcare professionals will provide detailed assistance and can even send a doctor to your house if needed. It is always important to trust your local doctors and follow their instructions.
If you are aiming to make new friendships and connections during your stay in the Netherlands, most people will advise you to socialize as much as you can during your first month. Meeting new people and establishing new relationships in a foreign country may take time and patience. Still, it is always good to put in the effort by joining borrels (after-work drinks) or the famous King’s Day celebrations dressed in orange.
One common custom of the United States and the Netherlands is their love for pancakes. The Dutch version of this dish will not be like the traditional American pancakes, but many are fans of it. The grocery stores in the Netherlands may also seem small, but they are compact. There isn’t an excess variety of products, but there are always popular American snacks on the shelves. One benefit you can not find in the US is tap water. Unlike in the US, in the Netherlands, most people drink water from their kitchen taps or use a water filter. You can also ask for tap water in restaurants if you prefer this cheaper option.
Relocating to another continent, thousands of miles away from home, can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For Americans relocating to the Netherlands for work, once you are done with immigration, finding housing, and registering, experiencing the Netherlands can help you get a new perspective on life from the European and Dutch points of view. Coming from ‘the land of the free,” the USA, to the European capital of freedom, the Netherlands, will be an exciting and unforgettable journey.