Moving to Rotterdam
Rotterdam is a major logistical and economic center located in South Holland within the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt river delta. Rotterdam is home to the largest port in Europe and over 600,000 people live in the city proper, making it the second-largest city in The Netherlands.
This city is known for its rich cultural life, its maritime heritage, its riverside setting, and its large university (Erasmus University). Much of the city was destroyed during WW2, and since then Rotterdam has been not so much rebuilt as radically modernized. Its varied architecture now includes skyscrapers as well as many completely unique and delightfully unexpected building styles.
The climate in Rotterdam is temperate and fairly steady throughout the year. In June, average temperatures range from around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, getting down to the mid-50s at night. But the weather here can be unpredictable; 90 degrees one day and 75 the next is not uncommon. Temperatures in the winter months will stay around the 30s and 40s for the most part.
The Job Market
Rotterdam is one of the country’s main shipping industry centers. There are also many well-known companies with headquarters located here, including Unilever, Shell Downstream, Pfizer, and Proctor & Gamble, to name a few. Being the largest port in the country and one of the largest cities, Rotterdam draws many job-seekers, and the unemployment rate here is about 8.5%, somewhat higher than the national average. However, the large number of multinational and international companies here mean numerous opportunities for expats. The population here is diverse and well-educated, so even non-Dutch-speakers with the right experience and education can find work.
In Rotterdam, you can eat out at an inexpensive restaurant for as little as 7€, or you can spend as much as 30€ or more at a more upscale restaurant. One beer will add 3€ to 4.40€ to your bill. At the market prices are a bit lower, with bread, apples, oranges, tomatoes, and potatoes all coming in at under 2€ per kg. Expect to pay around 80€ for a pair of jeans in a local clothing store.
Public transportation is readily available and a one-way ticket on the tram or bus costs 3€, or you can get a one-day pass for 7.50€, a two-day pass for 12.50€, or a three-day pass for 16.50€. However, the best options for most locals is the OV-chipcard, which you can reload and use for travel anywhere in the city.
In the city center, the monthly rent on one-bedroom apartments is on average 707€, while three-bedrooms go for about 1110€. Farther out from the city center, the apartments get a little less expensive; one-bedrooms run about 535€ per month while three-bedrooms cost about 840€ per month. The monthly utilities such as water, electricity, and heat average about 177€ per month, while a 6 mbps Internet connection with unlimited data will add about 22€ to this amount.
Home prices are on the rise in Rotterdam as well as throughout much of The Netherlands. To own an apartment will cost around 2,564€ per square meter in the city center, while those outside the city center go for around 1668€ per square meter. While some expats do move to the area and purchase homes, it’s more common to find renters.
The terraced house is the most common type of housing in The Netherlands; this is a two- to three-story family home which is usually adjoined by other identical homes, each with its own front and back garden. However, Rotterdam offers a wide variety of housing options and architectural styles.
When you consider buying a property in the Netherlands, you are often expected to sign an exclusive contract with an Estate Agent, who should be working for you and not the seller too. These agents have insight in the local market that can help you avoid common pitfalls. When buying an apartment investigate the Vereniging van Eigenaren (VvE), of which you will become a member. It handles maintenance and repairs. If it is not well-managed, you may well be buying some unexpected debt with your apartment.
Rotterdam offers plenty of different neighborhoods where expats can feel at home. Whether you want to live in the city center or in one of the city’s beautiful green suburbs, Rotterdam has the perfect neighborhood for you.
- Family-Friendly: With its quiet, peaceful atmosphere and its numerous playgrounds, the Ommoord/Zevenkamp neighborhood attracts many expat families. This area is also well-connected to public transportation and convenient to the city center—a mere 20-minute metro ride away. It’s also located in close proximity to the renowned Alexandrium mall.
- Upmarket: The Maritime Quarter is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in The Netherlands. From the magnificently transformed warehouses and luxury apartments to the museums and restaurants lining the streets that surround the historic harbor, this upscale neighborhoods offers Rotterdam living at its finest. The central location and the breathtaking views over the Maas River draw many to this area.
- Hip & Trendy: Oude Westen is a lively and culturally diverse area near Central Station which attracts entrepreneurs as well as artists and other creative types. The city’s Chinatown is located here and hip cafes, trendy restaurants, small theatres, and cozy pubs line the streets. There are also amenities such as schools, banks, a library, and a local swimming pool.
- Up & Coming: Kop van Zuid is a new neighborhood in Rotterdam that sits along the Nieuwe Maas’ south bank and has already become quite popular with business professionals and expats. An interesting collection of modern apartment blocks and renovated warehouses can be found here, along with exciting architecture such as the Erasmus Bridge. This neighborhood also sits close to the city center—10 minutes by metro—and the football stadium.
Cost of Moving
The cost of moving your belongings to Rotterdam depends on how many items you are bringing with you, their size, and from how far away you are moving. The fewer items you bring with you, the less expensive it will be, but many people choose to ship rather than to replace all of their furniture and other belongings. Based on the cost of shipping a 20-foot container, you can move from London to Rotterdam for about £380, from New York City for around £2100, and from Sydney for roughly £4600.
Schools and Education
Residents of The Netherlands place a large emphasis on education, and those in Rotterdam are no exception. Here you can choose from a variety of primary and secondary schools, including public schools, private denominational schools (Catholic, Protestant, Islamic, etc.), and international schools. The city’s international schools include and American and a Japanese school, among others.
There is also a university in Rotterdam: the Erasmus University, with two campuses in the city. Students at this university can receive degrees in economics, law, or medicine. The Erasmus Medical Center is The Netherlands’ largest trauma center and is located in the western part of the city, while the Rotterdam School of Management is located in the east and is one of Europe’s leading business schools. With graduate programs taught in English, this is a popular option with foreigners. Rotterdam is also home to other higher education options such as CodArts (a music and dance school).
Ranking against the World
Rotterdam is often thought of as Amsterdam’s “rival” city. However, the two cities are quite different in many ways. While residents in Amsterdam experience more canals, historic homes, and the famous Red Light District, those in Rotterdam are more likely to encounter unique architecture, multiculturalism, and an extensive arts and festival scene.
Amsterdam is also more expensive than Rotterdam on almost every count. In addition, Rotterdam can offer more of an authentic Dutch experience than Amsterdam, which heavily caters to tourists. Another nice thing about Rotterdam is its location—you can easily visit Amsterdam and many other nearby cities while enjoying the job market and family-friendly expat neighborhoods in Rotterdam. The cost of living is also lower in Rotterdam than it is in Utrecht or The Hague. However, all of these cities offer their own unique charms and welcoming expat communities.
A Day in the Life
Want to fill a day in Rotterdam with fun local activities? There are many things to do and see here for visitors and residents alike. For example, going to see a performance by the city’s own orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, is a popular activity. There are also several theatres and cinemas, as well as various exhibitions and concerts throughout the year. Or you can visit Diergaarde Blijdorp, a large zoo located in the northwest part of the city; while you’re there, be sure to take in the Oceanium, the walkthrough sea aquarium.
Pick a day with nice weather and visit the quaint Delfshaven, a popular place for strolling and one of the few places in the city to survive the war. You can pick up a walking-tour brochure and explore this lovely area, complete with a reconstructed 18th-century windmill, and the nearby De Dubbelde Palmboom, a museum housing a large collection of historical items—or visit one of the city’s many other museums.
Depending on the time of year, you might also be able to catch an arts festival. Look for the International Film Festival in January; in June you can find the Poetry International Festival or in July attend the North Sea Jazz Festival. Or simply spend the day getting your shopping done on Lijnbaan, the busiest shopping street in the city housing a range of shops from small boutiques to large stores, or one of the other shopping areas in or out of the city center.
Whatever types of activities you enjoy, you can find them in Rotterdam. This is a growing city that has something to offer everyone, along with a thriving expat population.