Moving to Amsterdam
With more than 4.5 million visitors each year and about 780,000 permanent residents, Amsterdam is not only the capital of the Netherlands but one of Europe’s most popular destinations. Amsterdam sits in the western province known as Noord-Holland and is the Netherlands’ largest city.
You’ll find Amsterdam filled with all different cultures, and the city is generally very welcoming towards newcomers. When getting to know your new city, you won’t want to miss the museums, coffee shops, and nightlife. This is an extremely colorful and dynamic city, but also has a beautiful romantic side, and you’ll find that you can spend relaxing time together with your loved one taking in the museums, ancient houses, famous canals, and lovely bridges found throughout the area.
The weather in Amsterdam is mild, and extreme temperatures are rare. The warmest months are June, July, and August, with the average high temperature around 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit). In the winter, temperatures can drop below freezing, but the average low is around 2°C (35°F). Once in a while it does snow, but this is relatively rare. Fog is common during the spring and fall. And, rain is just a way of life.
The Job Market
Although one of the smallest countries in Europe, the Netherlands is also one of the richest. Amsterdam and other cities in the area are quite dependent upon trade, with the main industries being gas, oil, chemicals, and food processing, and the most important sectors property, retail, communications, transport, and financial services. The unemployment rate is low compared to nearby countries (3.5%).
While the official language in Amsterdam and throughout the Netherlands is Dutch, the vast majority of Dutch people are able to speak English very well. Not speaking Dutch will typically not be a big problem when you are looking for a job, but a working knowledge of Dutch is likely to help.
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The cost of living in Amsterdam is comparable to that of many other European cities, but the prices of some items may sound a little high to those moving from places such as the United States. 1 kg of chicken will run you about 7.33€, while 1 kg of apples costs around 2.08€. Expect to pay less than 1€ for a liter of milk. Depending on the type of restaurant, you’ll spend anywhere from 7€ to 30€ on a meal out. A beer in local bar or restaurant will set you back around 4€.
Amsterdam, and the Netherlands in general, has an extensive public transportation network, including trains, trams, the metro, buses, and ferries. You can spend about 2.80€ on a one-way, single trip, but locals who use public transportation often choose the 89€ monthly pass.
Looking to rent an apartment? The location of your home affects the price greatly, as is the case in most cities. A one-bedroom apartment outside the city centre will cost on average 769€ per month, while a place of the same size in the city centre runs closer to 1075€ per month. A three-bedroom apartment in the same area goes for about 1863€ per month.
After several years of declines, home prices are rising in the Netherlands as the economy recovers. Apartments are the most common type of housing available in Amsterdam and far more people live in apartments than houses. The average price of an apartment in the city centre is 5171€ per square meter, while a similar apartment outside of the city centre will cost much less, around 2886€ per square meter.
To approach house hunting, you can look for New builds, use online searches, use Estate Agents aka Makelaars, or peruse the local paper's advert sections. Papers publish property sections on Wednesdays and Thursdays under the heading Woon.
It’s important to note some accepted practices in the Amsterdam market. If a property lists as kosten koper (KK), it means that you will have to foot the bill for all the costs. Remember to include a provision, subject to raising finance, in your contract and take note that while you are still negotiating, the estate agent may continue to show the property to other prospective buyers.
Amsterdam is separated into boroughs, or districts, which are each divided into smaller neighborhoods. It can be very helpful to have a basic understanding of these neighborhoods, their locations, and the kind of people or families they are best suited for. For example:
- Family-Friendly: Old South, Old West, and Rivierenbuurt are all neighborhoods that not only offer lots of living space and ideal family accommodation, but also tend to be home to a large expat community. This is probably due to the area’s close proximity to international schools.
- Upmarket: Oud-Zuid (Old South) is one of the city’s most desirable locations. This neighborhood boasts major shopping as well as famous museums.
- Hip & Trendy: Jordaan is one of the hippest and trendiest neighborhoods in Amsterdam. It was once filled with the working class and emigrants, but has since been renovated and has become a haven for students, artists, entrepreneurs, and tourists. It is also home to a thriving weekly organic market, as well as a traditional market. Both of these markets have been in existence for several decades with stall holders remaining the same.
- Up & Coming: De Baarsjes hosts a young, multicultural population and is very much an up-and-coming area in Amsterdam. Close to the city center, this is a popular area with young professionals, artists, and families. Noord is another up-and-comer, located across the water from Centraal Station. Until lately, Noord has been just another suburb. However, that is changing with new entertainment and dining venues opening up.
Cost of Moving
The cost of the move itself is a major part of the expense of moving overseas or into a new country, but exact costs depend on where you are moving from. Expect shipping costs from New York to cost around 2907€, while moving from London will only run you about 526€, on average. Moving from Sydney can cost around 6231€. All of this depends on the size of container, speed and if you pack yourself or hire others to pack and unpack for you.
Schools and Education
Amsterdam has a range of schools that boast high success rates and excellent teachers. Among these are a number of international schools. From the Albert Einstein International School and the Amsterdam International Community School to more specialized options such as the British School of Amsterdam and the Japanese School of Amsterdam, there are plenty of schools for expats to choose from that cater to children of a wide range of ages.
There are also approximately 30 colleges and universities in the city. Notably, the University of Amsterdam (UvA) is the Netherlands’ largest university with over 30,000 students. Amsterdam is also home to various other schools for those seeking a specific education, such as the Amsterdam School of Real Estate, the Europoort Business School, and Webster University, the Netherlands’ only accredited American university that offers BA, BS, MA, and MBA programs.
Ranking Against the World
Amsterdam is the largest and most developed city in the Netherlands, and as such tends to be pricier than others. For example, rent prices in Amsterdam are about 55% higher than in Rotterdam on average, while groceries run about 6% higher. Amsterdam is largely a service center, like most modern cities, and about a tenth of employed individuals in the city work in manufacturing. However, Amsterdam’s business service component is rapidly expanding, including information and medical technology, consulting, and telecommunications. For centuries the lifeblood of the city has consistently been trade and transport, but banking, insurance, healthcare, social services, and tourism are also important industries in Amsterdam.
New residents generally find that Amsterdam is very open to and tolerant toward expats. Those moving from areas with more conservative traditions and laws may be in for a bit of culture shock, as Amsterdam is known for its relaxed attitude toward things such as recreational marijuana usage. But Amsterdam is also known for its rich history and culture, thriving arts and music scene, and highly diverse population. People in Amsterdam also tend to live a healthier lifestyle than in many other places, putting an emphasis on being active on a daily basis and taking part in many physical activities such as bicycling, skating, swimming, and yoga.
A Day in the Life
There are so many wonderful things to do in Amsterdam that it’s difficult to choose among them! Fortunately, if you’re moving there, your choices aren’t as hard as they are for someone who’s just visiting. If you can’t fit in everything you want to do this weekend, there’s always next weekend.
While museums tend to be tourist attractions, the selection in Amsterdam should not be missed, even by permanent residents. From the Anne Frank House to the Rijksmuseum to the Van Gogh Museum and numerous other options, the city is full of rich history and interesting sights. While you’re sightseeing, pay a visit to the famous flower market, and then stop by De Gooyer, a famous windmill located right next to an award-winning artisan brewery where you can relax and sip beer with your companions.
Or explore Amsterdam’s Canal Belt. The city’s waterways form a lovely border to locales such as the Museum Quarter and the Jordaan. If the weather is nice (which it frequently is), check out Vondelpark, a large green park where you can bring a picnic and take in the sculptures, or attend a summertime music, dance, or kids’ festival. You can also rent a bicycle to get around Amsterdam, as the city has plenty of bike lanes. End the day in style with some live music at Melkweg or Paradiso, and enjoy a drink or two at Twee Zwaanties, Wynand Fockink, or Café Thiissen, all local favorites.