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Complete Guide to Living in the Netherlands as an American Expat

Become an Expat in the Netherlands

Have you been dreaming of moving to the land of bikes and tulips? The Netherlands is an attractive place for Americans to move to for a variety of reasons including a high quality of life, low crime rate, a diverse society, strong economy, excellent transportation, and access to affordable healthcare, just to name a few!

amsterdam

The Netherlands is a small country and you’ll find that many expats in the Netherlands have opted to make Amsterdam their new home. It’s the capital city, English is spoken everywhere, a hub for jobs—especially in the tech industry—and English is spoken everywhere! While this can make for a smoother transition, it also makes learning Dutch challenging.

 

Aside from language, foreigners living in the Netherlands tend to appreciate the change of seasons and the country’s proximity to other parts of Europe. If this sounds appealing read on to learn all you need to know about living in the Netherlands as an American expat. 

Living in the Netherlands

While people from all over the world flock to the Netherlands for a variety of reasons, Americans tend to relocate to this part of Europe to work, study, or through marriage. 

The Netherlands is a society that values tolerance and respect and the Dutch are open-minded, logical and straightforward. Their directness might feel inconsiderate at first, but in Dutch society there’s simply no beating around the bush. Once you get used to the cultural differences, the country is welcoming and relatively easy to transition to, another reason that makes it a hotspot for foreigners.

The land of Heineken has roughly 22,000 miles of bike paths, sweeping fields of tulips and windmills, historic museums and so much more. Plus, it offers a special residency opportunity for American entrepreneurs through the DAFT permit—so if you’re sitting on a business idea or just want to work for yourself, then this might be the place for you (more on this later).

Can a U.S. citizen move to the Netherlands?

You might be surprised to hear that the answer is yes. However, you’ll need to obtain a the right paperwork to do so. 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 you’ll need jump through some bureaucratic hoops, which means you’ll need to obtain a visa, and there are a few that you can choose from. We’ll talk about more them in the next section.

windmills the netherlands

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 without the need for a visa or 90-day limitations. 

How to move to the Netherlands

As with any major life decision, relocating to the Netherlands requires time, patience, and research. If you don’t know where to start, check out our list of the 12 things to do before you move abroad. If you need even more guidance, download our free move abroad guide. Its the perfect resource if you’re just getting started!


In addition to doing your due diligence, try to spend as much time as possible in your future Dutch city so that you have a better sense of what to expect once you officially move abroad. This can help mitigate potential challenges like expat depression and the stress that comes with finding an apartment abroad.

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 17 easiest countries to move to in Europe!

Is living in the Netherlands expensive?

A move to the Netherlands from the US won’t exactly lower your cost of living. Amsterdam, where many expats live, is a moderately expensive city. As in many cities around the world, Amsterdam (and the Netherlands as a whole) faces a housing shortage. Rent will be your biggest expense and it won’t be cheap!

Daily expenses like movie tickets and groceries are about the same as what you’d pay in the United States. However, plan to spend around 20% more than what you’re used to for utilities and clothing.

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

Can I move to the Netherlands without a job?

As mentioned above, to move to the Netherlands you’ll need to secure a residency 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. 

Getting a job offer from a company located in the Netherlands isn’t easy, however, there is a fast-track work visa option for employers who need to higher highly-skilled workers. Keep in mind that you will need to secure a signed job offer that meets specific salary requirements in order to apply for a work permit, otherwise you’ll have to leave the country after 90 days. 

 

Although there are many opportunities for professional expats, knowing a little Dutch might help you stand-out. 

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.

After you’ve secured your job, you’ll get to enjoy a fantastic work/life balance that includes a lot of vacation days. You’ll also quickly learn that the Dutch work culture honors efficiency, being direct, and showing up on time.

Where to live in the Netherlands

Moving to the Netherlands 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

Approximately 30,000 Americans live in 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.

Living in Amsterdam as an American

Approximately 30,000 American expats 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. For more ideas on how to find your community once you move abroad, check out our guide on making friends abroad.

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 figuring out how to do basic things like open a bank account. 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

Living in Amsterdam isn’t cheap. In fact, prices have skyrocketed thanks to the Netherlands 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 $1000 up to $2000 a month. 

 

Other costs to consider if you’re planning on living in Amsterdam as an American 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

Retiring in the Netherlands is an appealing option for Americans seeking a better quality of life, topnotch health care that’s affordable, and living in country with low crime. Another major advantage to moving to the Netherlands as a retiree is the Dutch and U.S agreement preventing double taxation on Americans living in the country.

tulip fields in the netherlands

However the downside 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. 

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

Deciding to move abroad is both exciting and overwhelming. To help make your dreams of moving to the Netherlands happen, here are more useful resources:

Join She Hit Refresh’s thriving online community to connect with 10,000+ women age 30 and over who’ve chosen to live a life of travel.

If you’d like more personal assistance book a 1:1 consultation call where you can ask questions and discuss your ideas with a move abroad expert. 

If you’re still in the exploratory phase of deciding where in Europe you’d like to live, take a look at our complete guides to living in Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, France, GreeceEngland, and Iceland for more helpful information that’ll help you decide which country is the right fit for you.

All information included in this piece is based on most recent information available at time of writing – January 2023.

 

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