Moving to the Netherlands from the US

The Netherlands was ranked as the happiest country on earth in 2011 by the OECD, and if you choose to move there you’ll quickly see why. You probably associate it with wooden shoes, tulips and bicycles – but there’s so much more to discover.

The Netherlands is a very progressive, egalitarian country to live in. It was one of the first nations to have an elected parliament, and the first country to legalise same sex marriage. It’s rich in art and culture, it’s architecture is lovely and charming, and the cities have an abundance of quaint cafes and leafy green parks in which to relax.

You’ll probably enjoy a more active lifestyle when you live in the Netherlands – most people commute via bicycle due to the flat terrain and the excellent bike lanes. Approximately 70% of people can speak English, so you’ll be able to get around fine while you are still learning Dutch.

US cities compared to the Netherlands

You’d be wise to consider a move to Amsterdam as it has a lovely historic feel, with period architecture, great nightlife and scenic canals. Rotterdam is much more modern and industrial. It’s hard to make a comparison to cities in the US, as the cities in the Netherlands have so much more history, are so bike-friendly and have such a different European feel to them.

Becoming a Dutch citizen

It’s possible to gain Dutch citizenship by naturalization or by being married to a Dutch citizen for at least three years. To gain naturalization you will need to hold a valid residence permit, and you’ll need to be able to speak Dutch fluently. If you are immigrating with your Dutch partner they will need to show proof that they have sufficient income to support you.

When you become a citizen you will need to give up all other nationalities, unless your partner is a Dutch Citizen. The cost for renouncing your US citizenship is currently $2350. To learn more about the process of becoming a Dutch national, you can visit the Netherlands’ government website.

Job market

The economy in the Netherlands is healthy, and there is a large financial industry. The strongest industries at the moment include chemicals, electrical equipment, construction, fishing and agriculture.

Many expats find it easy to find work in the Netherlands because so many people speak English. However, learning Dutch will improve your prospects if you plan to stay long term.

House prices and renting

House prices in the Netherlands have been falling for the last five years, which has made it one of the best places to buy property in the world. Since the public transport systems are so good, it’s possible to choose a less expensive home outside of the city center and commute to work even if you don’t own a car.

The rent prices are lower on average than the USA. The average price of a one bedroom apartment in the city centre in the Netherlands is $910 while the equivalent apartment in the USA would be $1,113. Amsterdam has the highest rents, as well as the highest costs for transportation, groceries and housing.

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Education in the Netherlands is very high quality and the schooling is often quite personalised to the needs of each student. Pupils are divided into different streams according to their educational levels. Compulsory education starts at the age of five and most schools will accept children as young as four.

Education is compulsory until students are 18. When it comes to higher education, students have the choice of attending a university of applied science (hogescholen) or a research university (universiteiten). There are several excellent universities in the Netherlands, including the Delft University of Technology, the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University.


The Netherlands is very multi-cultural – half of the population is made up of over 170 different nationalities. The society is modern, individualistic and egalitarian. Dutch people generally value independence and see themselves as self-reliant. Spending a lot of money is seen as showing off and it is more acceptable to live a modest lifestyle. You’ll note that Dutch manners are no-nonsense and even blunt. The directness might feel rude at first, but it’s really about being open, fair and honest with each other.

Art is very important in Dutch culture and the many superb art galleries and museums in the Netherlands are home to world famous treasures by Dutch artists such as Vermeer and Van Gogh. The Dutch are very proud of their cultural heritage and many are interested in art and culture.

Food and drink

Dutch cuisine is humble and straightforward, with plenty of vegetables and a little bit of meat. Cheese and carbohydrates feature prominently, as the energy was needed by the labourers who built the country. Dutch butter and cheese is world renowned.

If you want to sample the finest in Dutch cuisine, try the seven course menu at De Librije (located in a 15th century abbey) with dishes such as blood sausage and foie gras. A budget option is PIQNIQ, which is a charming Amsterdam cafe known for its delicious coffee and cake and it’s friendly resident cat.


From the student nightlife of Groningen to the nightclubs of Rotterdam to the marijuana bars and red light district of Amsterdam, the nightlife of the Netherlands can be very diverse. The atmosphere is generally quite casual and the clubs and bars don’t close until early in the morning. Some of the most well known nightclubs in Amsterdam are OdeonSugar Factory and BitterZoet.

The culture in the Netherlands is quite LGBT friendly and there are several excellent gay bars in the main cities. The Amsterdam Gay Pride Festival takes place around the end of July to the beginning of August.