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Living in the Netherlands as an American—it’s totally possible!

Living in the Netherlands as an American

Picture a living in a country with a high quality of living, low crime rates, a melting pot of cultures, a robust economy, fantastic transport, and healthcare that doesn’t break the bank—sounds too good to be true, right?

If you’ve ever dreamed of moving to the land of bikes and tulips, you’re not alone. While you might think it sounds like a pipe dream, we want to show you that living in the Netherlands as an American is totally possible!

amsterdam

Over 30,000 US citizens call this small yet diverse country home with the majority moving to Amsterdam. As the capital city and a major tech hub, Amsterdam offers the convenience of English being widely spoken. However, this advantage comes with a catch—it makes learning Dutch a bit of a challenge.

But there is more to the Netherlands than Amsterdam. And tulips and bikes are just the beginning; there’s a lot more to discover about living in the Netherlands as an American, so let’s get to it! We’ve answered your most FAQs about living in the Netherlands as an American.  

How hard is it to move to the Netherlands from the US?

This is the right question to be asking. The answer unfortunately is…it depends. A move abroad is never easy because there are so many factors to take into consideration and overcome before you can uproot yourself and start from scratch in a new country, however, the journey is worth it!

Things to consider before you move that will make your move easier (or harder) include:

  • Knowing your “why,” why do you want to move to the Netherlands
  • Understanding the costs of living in the Netherlands
  • Knowing how you will financially support yourself
  • Understanding which visa you qualify for

While there are many expats living in the Netherlands, in general the biggest hurdle to moving there is obtaining a visa. More on this below!

Can U.S. citizen live in the Netherlands?

This is the number one question we get and the good news is that the answer is yes! However, it’s not as easy as packing up your bags and hopping on the next plane to Amsterdam. US citizens can visit the Netherlands for a total of 90 days within a 180-day period as a tourist. But to move to the Netherlands from the US you’ll need to obtain the right paperwork to do so. In other words you will need to obtain a visa; don’t worry you’ve got options! 

You can also move to the Netherlands if you obtain Dutch citizenship. Some Americans meet the requirements to obtain Dutch citizenship by descent. If you’re eligible, you could gain a Dutch passport and all rights to live and work anywhere in the European Union.

Visas for the Netherlands

The Netherlands has a few visa options for Americans who’d like to live in the country for an extended period of time. If you’re ready to make your move here are your best options:

Student visa: A student visa allows you to live in the Netherlands for the duration of your studies, either by enrolling at a university or certain approved language academies.

Work visa: A work visa is extremely difficult for Americans to obtain but if you’re lucky enough to score a job offer from a company in the Netherlands, this might just be your ticket in!

DAFT permit: The Dutch American Friendship Treaty is a special arrangement between the Netherlands and the U.S., which allows American citizens who are self-employed to live and work in the Netherlands. 

For more information on all your viable visa options, their requirements and how to apply, get your copy of I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe. In this digital book you’ll find more information on the aforementioned visas as well as 50+ other visa options for the 18 easiest countries to move to in Europe!

Reasons to live in the Netherlands

Americans move to the Netherlands for many reasons, the typical catalysts are a job opportunity, to pursue a degree, or follow a spouse. However, as we’ve just learned with the DAFT visa you can move to the Netherlands to start a business or live as a freelancer. 

Why the Netherlands, though? Here are a few reasons why people choose to live in here:

  • Tolerant culture
    The Netherlands is a society that values tolerance and egalitarianism. Dutch people are known to be open-minded, logical and very straightforward. Their directness might feel inconsiderate at first, but in Dutch society there’s simply no beating around the bush. 
  • English is widely spoken
    While the official language is Dutch, most people in the Netherlands speak English, and speak it well. This makes it particularly easy for Americans to navigate, but as we mentioned above, it also leaves little incentive to learn Dutch. 
  • Healthy work-life balance
    The Netherlands always tops the charts of countries with the best work-life balance. On average people work 35-40 hours a week, very few are putting in major overtime.  
  • Cycling is a part of life
    Did you know there there are more bicycles than people in the Netherlands?! There’s actually over 23 million bikes compared to 17.5 million people! Biking is a way of life and the main form of transportation for millions of people. The country’s infrastructure is set up with roughly 22,000 miles of bike paths to support life on two wheels. 
  • Well connected by land and air
    The country itself is very small making it convenient to get from one city to another easily and efficiently by train. You can even take the Eurostar–the international high-speed train that connects the UK to France, Belgium and the Netherlands–to go from Amsterdam to London in just 4 hours. Believe it or not, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is the worlds 2nd largest hub airport!

Is it expensive to live in the Netherlands?

If you are looking for an affordable place to live then it’s best to look elsewhere because a move to the Netherlands won’t exactly lower your cost of living. Amsterdam, has become one of the most expensive cities in Europe. This is mainly due to skyrocketing housing costs. As in most cities around the world, Amsterdam (and the Netherlands as a whole) is facing a housing shortage. 

Daily expenses like movie tickets and groceries are similar to what you’d find in the United States. However, plan to spend around 20% more than what you’re used to for utilities and clothing. Gas prices may also shock you—coming in at around $7.00 a gallon. This is one of the reasons why the Dutch promote driving electric cars and biking where you need to go. 

Also, if you’re living in the Netherlands you may be subject to local income taxes which can be much higher than in the US.

Can I move to the Netherlands without a job?

As previously mentioned, to move to the Netherlands you’ll need to secure a residence or work visa. Unfortunately if you need to work while you are in the Netherlands you won’t be able to move until you’ve secured your work permit. 

If you are wondering about jobs in the Netherlands for US citizens, the truth is that 
getting a job offer is very difficult. However, if you are a skilled-worker you may qualify for a highly-skilled worker visa. This visa option allows employers who need to higher highly-skilled workers to fast-track qualified applicants. Learn more about the highly skilled visa for the Netherlands here

What jobs are in demand in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands is a hub for international and multinational companies. The most in-demand industries for highly-qualified worker are tech, engineering, science and finance.  Once you land an interview you will need to go through a rigorous application process similar to the process in the United States.

Where to live in the Netherlands

Moving to the Netherlands from the US is a big life decision. That’s why you’ll want to find a city that checks all your boxes before making the leap. To help you decide where you’d like to live, here is an introduction to the most popular Dutch cities.

Amsterdam

Aside from job opportunities, foreigners are drawn to the Dutch capital for its diversity, progressive views, and access to other parts of Europe. Since almost everyone in the Dutch capital speaks English, it’s an easy European city for Americans to get acclimated. 

 

While there are many perks to living in Amsterdam (see below), keep in mind that the city is one of the most expensive in Western Europe. However, if you come to Amsterdam with a job at an international company, salaries are comparable to the cost of living in the city. 

Rotterdam

In addition to being the second largest city in the Netherlands, Rotterdam is the biggest port in Europe. Aside from being on the water, Rotterdam is a modern city that’s attracted internationals from all over the world. Therefore, if you’d like to live in a vibrant city that’s rich in culture and more affordable than living in Amsterdam, consider making Rotterdam your new home.

The Hague

Along with being the government capital of the Netherlands, The Hague is a popular place for foreigners interested in living in a quieter city that’s affordable, has an excellent transportation system, and is convenient to other parts of the country. Since many of the consulates are based in The Hague, it’s also easy to make friends from all over the world.

What's it like to live in Amsterdam as an American

The majority of Americans in the Netherlands live in Amsterdam. Because the city is rich in diversity, there are plenty of opportunities to build community and make friends with both locals and expats. This includes joining social groups on Meetup.com and volunteering. 

Aside from being an easy city to tap into expat communities, locals tend to be very welcoming to foreigners living in the Netherlands. These factors make residing in the capital city a good experience for Americans who’ve moved (or are planning to move) to Amsterdam.

girl riding bike in amsterdam

While there are many benefits to living in Amsterdam, there are some challenges too. For example, it’ll take a while to adjust to Dutch customs like making appointments to meet with friends, learning the local transportation system, and getting used to Dutch directness. Moving abroad is an exciting adventure but it does come with its stressors. To help you adapt to expat life, take a look at our advice for managing life abroad.

Cost of living in Amsterdam

We can’t stress enough that living in Amsterdam isn’t cheap. In fact, prices have gone through the roof thanks to the capital city, and the country as a whole, being a top tourist destination for visitors from all over the world. Housing prices have also jumped due to the lack of inventory and the influx of Airbnb rentals in the city. 

 

If you’re from a medium to large city in the United States, expenses in the Netherlands will be slightly less than what you’re used to paying. For example, rent in Amsterdam for a one-bedroom apartment can run anywhere from $1500-$3000 a month.  

 

Other costs to consider  include transportation and utilities. Amsterdam has an excellent public transportation system that’s much more affordable and convenient than driving a car in the city. And utilities such as electricity (and even internet) can average 20% more to what they’d cost in the United States.

Can Americans retire in the Netherlands?

The idea of retiring in the Netherlands sounds like an appealing option for Americans seeking a better quality of life, topnotch health care that’s affordable, and living in country with low crime. However the bad news is that the Netherlands does not offer a specific visa for American retirees. In order to retire in the Netherlands you need to spend five years legally residing in the country and then apply for permanent residency showing proof of funds to support yourself without working. 

tulip fields in the netherlands

Is there free healthcare in the Netherlands?

Residents need to apply for public healthcare that runs about €100 a month. If you’d like extra coverage, you can opt for a private plan too. For more information about insurance options for Americans living in the Netherlands, check out I’m Outta Here: An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living In Europe.

Do I have to learn Dutch to live in the Netherlands?

Even though Americans in the Netherlands can get by with English, it’s helpful and respectful to learn a little Dutch; especially if you’re planning to live or visit some of the smaller towns throughout the country. If you are moving for work, although English is the primary language spoken in large companies, it’ll be useful to know a few Dutch words and phrases.

How to move to the Netherlands

If you have your heart set on the Netherlands know that it’s totally possible. We hope that you’ve learned a lot about living in the Netherlands as an American! Let us know, are you ready to go? 

If you want more information on how to move abroad, check out our resources:

All information included in this piece is based on most recent information available at time of writing – January 2024.

 

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1 thought on “Living in the Netherlands as an American—it’s totally possible!”

  1. Having lived in the Netherlands for almost 40 years, I can say it has been a wonderful place to raise a family. However it not all roses for US Persons.
    1. Salaries are generally less than the US, so building up a extra pot of money is difficult. The average income of a employed professional will not be a luxurious as it can be in the US, for example, a free standing house, more than a 1/8 acre land here is a luxury.
    2. You will have to continue to file taxes in the US, no matter what. And depending on your salary in NL and the source of your incomes (eg investments), will have still pay taxes in the US
    3, You can only invest in individual US company stocks – no ETFs, etc. At least its difficult, and there are extra tax filing requirements, and sometimes prohibitively high US extra taxes.
    4. The above means, if you have duct employer pensions of a certain type, (soon to be the standard) you can not buy annuity like pensions based on investments that typically pay out more. You can only buy fixed income pensions that are not adjusted for inflation.

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