Expat’s guide to living in the Netherlands
Industries and income
It’s known as the Gateway to Europe, so the huge range of sectors and opportunities shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s a big banking and financial center, leads in electronics and tech, and has a strong chemical industry. Automobiles manufacture, agriculture and horticulture, and services also form important parts of the economy. Some areas of skills shortage are science, engineering, architecture, IT, and teachers.
The average salary in 2016, according to Statistica, was €29 230. Payscale has some information on salaries based on job title – engineers, managers, and IT professionals tend to have higher salaries.
Tax is high in the Netherlands. Tax brackets range progressively from 36.55%, 40.85%, and 51.95%. For foreigners, keep in mind the 30% ruling. The country also grants a tax-free allowance of 30% of the gross salary to stay ahead on the international market.
If you’re not an EU or EEA citizen and you plan on staying in the Netherlands for more than three months, you’ll need a residence permit. Applications for this are normally done by your employer and will go hand-in-hand with a work permit. Make sure you get a BSN (Citizen Service Number) from your local municipality.
The Netherlands government has information about work permits on their website. You may like to look at the details for all visas for the Netherlands and about the Schengen visa. Work permits are specific to employers and skills, and generally are only given to those who work in an area of skills shortage in the EU. If you’ve lived in the Netherlands for five years, you’ll likely be able to apply for permanent residence and will no longer need a permit to work.
Being such an important country for business and travel, you’ll find many languages are spoken in the Netherlands. The official language is, of course, Dutch, but most people can also speak at least some English, and German, French, and Spanish are also very common. If you want to try learning Dutch, they’re always pleased to hear people try!
Cost of living
In 2017 Amsterdam made it onto the list of the world’s top 20 most expensive cities. However, over all living costs in the Netherlands are still lower than many other European countries. Some other lively cities with lower living costs include Rotterdam, Utrecht, and Groningen – a one bedroom apartment in Amsterdam, for example, will cost around €1,492.40 a month while in Rotterdam you might pay €950.00. Numbeo can help you estimate your costs and compare cities.
Networking plays a big part in the job market. If you have someone, or know someone who knows someone, try levering that connection. For many industries it can be difficult to secure a job in Holland unless you’re from the EU, simply because of employment regulations when it comes to non-EU or EEA citizens. However, if you work in an area of skills shortage or have an employer based overseas it may be easier.
Finding a place to live
Just under half of Dutch people rent, and there is a high amount of social housing. Rent prices for lower-value properties are controlled. But for those just out of the controlled bracket, prices have been increasing rapidly, particularly in Amsterdam where demand is so high. Keep in mind that the Netherlands has an excellent national public transport system, and it’s a fairly small country. Commuting is common.
Living in the Netherlands as an expat you’re unlikely to qualify for social housing, so you’ll need to look for a rental property on your own or with an agent. The cost of property is assessed on a points system called “woningwaarderingsstelsel.” Three useful renting websites are Pararuis, HousingXL, and Only Expats.
If you think you’ll be in the Netherlands more than three years, it may be worth buying a house. There’s no restriction on foreigners buying property. However, one little quirk is that you will generally will own the property but only have a leasehold or share on the land it’s on. This is one reason an agent may be worth working with. The costs of buying often total to around 6% of the house price. In addition to the above sites, you may like to look at online portals such as Expatica and Perfect Housing.
School is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 18, although many children will begin earlier at a preschool and start school just after their 4th birthday. If you’re relocating to the Netherlands with children, the good news is the country has a good reputation for education, and there are broad education options – anyone is allowed to open a school based on their beliefs as long as they meet governmental education standards.
There are a range international schools, some of which are subsidised. However, international education is also available at most local schools. If you’re staying for a long time, or want your child to integrate, it may be worth choosing a local state school (which also has the benefit of being free). The Access NL website has useful information about the schooling system and your options. You can find a list of international schools on the Dutch International Schools website.
Fact: “Holland” actually refers to just two provinces; the country’s official name is the Kingdom of the Netherlands.