Adapting to expat life in the Netherlands


The Netherlands is a popular place for expats. It has great opportunities for work or study - and a balanced lifestyle for those who value socialising and staying healthy.

The country is also very well connected so you can easily plan a trip home or encourage your friends and family to book a last minute flight for the weekend.

To help you settle in, here’s a few things you need to know about the Netherlands.

What’s in a name

amsterdam map

Let’s clear this up first.

The country is called the Netherlands. It’s people and language are Dutch. Holland is the most populated part of the Netherlands, but it only makes up two out of its twelve provinces.

Saying Holland instead of the Netherlands is a bit like saying England instead of the UK. If you’ve ever met someone from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland then you’ll know why that’s a bad idea.

Clogs, flowers & windmills


These are the first things that come to mind when people think of the Netherlands. You’ll soon see why after arriving.

There are over 1,000 windmills, 6 million clogs made per year and 9 billion flower bulbs exported - that’s a staggering 80% of all flower bulbs in the world. You can even buy clogs with flowers and windmills on them.

Contrary to popular belief, very few people in the Netherlands actually wear clogs these days - it's usually just the tourists.

Learn the language


Good news if you can read this. Dutch is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn.

It’s similar to English, as well as German and Scandinavian languages. And the grammar is much simpler.

To make it even easier, the Dutch often drop English words and phrases into the middle of their sentences. That’s not surprising considering that nine in ten Dutch people speak English. The Netherlands has the highest levels of English language proficiency in the world.

That’s no excuse not to learn the local language. Check out these 6 apps to help you learn a language.



This is the most important word in Dutch so it’s very important you know what it means.

Gezellig means… er… actually there’s no English translation.

However, you’ve probably already heard the Danish equivalent hygge by now. It’s a feeling of contentment that can be used to describe almost anything.

For example, making a cup of coffee is so gezellig. That’s why they call it een bakje troost - a little cup of solace. This partly explains why the Dutch drink their coffee at home and consume more of it than almost anywhere in the world.

There are still coffee shops, however...

The “coffee shops”


Tell someone you’re moving to Amsterdam and they might give you a knowing smile.

The city has a certain reputation, particularly due to its “coffee shops” where the sale of cannabis has been decriminalised. Just remember that nowhere else can legally sell it.

Tourists are often tricked into buying cannabis-flavoured sweets and cookies in the shops. All they get is a slight sugar rush.

Amsterdam is keen to shake off this image and promote its thriving cultural scene instead. There is plenty of high culture here for you to enjoy - and no, not just like that.

Get on your bike

amsterdam bikes

There are nine million bicycles in Beijing, according to Katie Melua. That’s nothing. The Netherlands has twice that many.

There are 18 million bicycles in the Netherlands, despite there being only 17 million people. It’s not unusual to see bikes being used to move furniture or wheel the kids to school.

There’s plenty of space for cyclists too with 35,000km of cycle lanes. As a result, the Netherlands is the safest place in the world to cycle, with the lowest rates of injuries per miles cycled.

The food

dutch pancakes

Feeling peckish? You’re in the right place.

According to an Oxfam report, the Netherlands is the best place in the world to pick up nutritious, healthy, plentiful and affordable food.

Despite this, the Dutch also love lots of cheese and anything fried. Make sure you try some bitterballen (fried meatballs), kibberling (battered white fish) or patat (fries).

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