7 Things I Love About the Netherlands
Sometimes, when I’m walking around my Canal District neighborhood I think to myself - Amsterdam is seriously the coolest place on the planet (second to NOLA of course) … And I get to live here! It’s the perfect mix of all the places I’ve lived and the roamer in me thinks maybe I’ve finally found my tribe.
1. Cosmopolitan City with a Village Feel
I love the attitude of the big city and the intimacy of a small town. Amsterdam has a perfect mix of both. The international culture is that of a modern metropolis, but the iconic gabled architecture and picturesque canals give it the old-world feel of a quaint village. As an added plus, its resident's demonstrate a friendliness and patience with newcomers that makes navigating the city less intimidating.
2. More Than Just Coffeshops
Yes, Amsterdam has a reputation for being one of Europe's most freewheeling capitals, well-known for its laissez-faire attitude towards herbal refreshments and sex workers. Generalizations aside, there’s so much more to this amazing city than Coffeeshops and the Red Light District. There is over 800 years of history to appreciate, a broad range of over 300 festivals a year to enjoy, and acres of lush green spaces to explore. It’s also an incredible place for art lovers to indulge in the city’s many world-class museums and galleries.
3. Multicultural Environment
Diversity and progressive values are high on my list of priorities when considering a residence. To each their own, but I prefer a high level of cultural exchange where I choose to live. It’s one of the things I loved about living in New York. Since then, I’ve searched for a place with various cultures co-existing – sharing and appreciating each other. Amsterdam provides that in spades. With 180 nationalities calling it home, it boasts one of Europe’s most diverse populations and the notoriously tolerant attitude of the Dutch is icing on the cake. I’m not advocating that it’s utopia by any means. However, there is a sense of general acceptance as a human being first I’ve experienced that’s refreshing.
4. English is the Unofficial Second Language
I’m an avid believer that one should always at least attempt to learn the native language of their adopted country. That said, one of the biggest challenges I encountered living in Madrid was my ability to communicate effectively. I knew very little Spanish when I arrived, and even with my courses I struggled with a language barrier. In Amsterdam, connecting with others is a lot less complicated as English is spoken throughout most major cities the Netherlands. However, keep in mind, learning Dutch is essential for complete integration into society, and fluency considerably increases your job prospects. Dutch proficiency is also required for permanent residency.
5. Welcoming Environment for Expats
Obtaining residency in another country is not the easiest endeavor. Why? Bottom line, most countries don’t want migrants taking jobs from their citizens or draining their already strained resources. Most places I’ve researched have a high threshold for work visa allowances or require proof that you can financially support yourself for the duration of your stay. These factors are probably the biggest roadblocks people encounter in their quest to move abroad for work. Unlike some countries, the Netherlands is welcoming to expats. The Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (DAFT) makes it especially attractive for United States citizens. The best part? Dutch bureaucracy is straightforward, and interactions with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) are typically cordial and helpful.
6. No Car Needed
I prefer to live where having a car isn’t mandatory to quickly and comfortably commute. Obtaining a license in a foreign country is time-consuming and expensive. One of the things I considered when I relocated to Amsterdam were the available modes of transportation. Fortunately, the city is relatively compact and highly walkable and the comprehensive Metro, Tram and NS International Train system makes getting around painless. Also, the Dutch bike everywhere. In fact, they hold the title as the bicycle capital of the world. All ages and professions, the occasion doesn’t matter - heading to work, shopping with the kids, making a delivery or out running errands. It is truly the preferred mode of getting around. I can live here comfortably without a car and stay in shape. A huge plus.
7. Prime Travel Base
How does one go about seeing the world, or as much of it as possible on a budget? The truth is, international travel is much easier and cheaper on this side of the pond. The Netherlands is a great home base to begin exploring Europe on a moderate budget. Weekend road trips (via car, bus or train) are affordable with quick access to Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and the UK. There are also frequent low-cost, all-inclusive deals to Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and North Africa. I can quickly travel between countries here like I would between states! It’s awesome.