Monday, March 28, 2011

The A-Z guide for moving to Amsterdam

On a regular basis I receive emails from people all around the world hoping or planning to move to Amsterdam, they ask for all sorts of things from how to find a job and an apartment to how to cope with the weather. I try my best to get back to everyone but a couple sometimes slip through the cracks – If I never got back to you I sincerely apologise, and if you’re still thinking of moving and need advice email me, I will reply this time, I promise… or you can just read this post.

I keep hearing (and reading) that good apartments are hard to come by in Amsterdam, however most people I know who have stable full time jobs have found great apartments and found them relatively quickly too. I won’t lie though, apartments in Amsterdam are expensive and space is sparse, but the further you move from the city centre the apartments get bigger and cheaper.

Also, before you can get an apartment you need to show a work contract to confirm that you are able to pay rent.

And most importantly, do not use a rental agency, these agencies charge you the first months rent, a rate I think is ridiculously high after the costs involved with moving overseas in the first place. I always suggest the Marktplaats, an online Dutch trading site great for finding an apartment.

You will need a job/proof of income, a local address and a BSN to open a bank account. I have been using ABN-Amro and I find them easy to deal with, I am not sure what experiences other people have had with them, there are of course plenty of other options.

You wont need a car in Amsterdam but one of your first purchases should be a bike, it’s quicker, healthier and much more pleasant. If you’re a newb (like I was) Amsterdam is the perfect place to become confident on your two wheels, the bike lanes are amazingly well structured and a breeze to ride on. Because they get stolen often, go for something second hand and don't pay more than ~€150.

Almost everyone in Amsterdam speaks fantastic English, so like myself it might be hard for you to find the motivation to take a Dutch class if you don’t really need to.  However, if you want to intergrate (better than I have) and meet new people there are plenty of options and the local municipal also holds courses
click here for more info.

If you’re not an EU resident you will probably find it’s almost impossible to land here without having a job lined up and finding a job without speaking fluent Dutch isn’t easy, there are however a handful of international companies that don’t require Dutch language skills. Success on finding a job will mostly depend on your field and experience (a recent geology graduate like me has no luck) however I know several people in industries like finance and marketing who picked up positions fairly quickly. Click here for a list of recruitment agencies.  

Accept that you’re in a new place, that life here is different and don’t compare it to home otherwise you will never be truly happy (and you will probably bore the people around you).

Pray to god you never need surgery or anything else that requires painkillers, Dutch hospitals have a weird stance on them, that is they don’t think you need them (which I find totally contradictory when they allow pot smoking for leisure but not painkillers for… pain). A friend of mine commented something along the lines of home births being so popular in The Netherlands because at least then women can role a joint to ease the pain of labor.

Once you’ve settled in make sure to register with a local doctor and dentist, click here or here to find the closest to you.

They’re everywhere and there’s not much you can do to keep them away for very long. Unless you don’t mind mice you should probably do as the Dutch do and get a cat.

Don’t leave home without it, Amsterdam moves at a slower pace than most other places, you will find yourself waiting longer than usual for service in most bars, cafĂ©’s and restaurants but the best thing about it is no one rushes you either.

When you move here you need to register yourself with the IND and get a BSN, if you have a job already lined up then your HR department should be able to help you with the details for this otherwise click here for more info.

There is a HUGE expat scene in Amsterdam, you will probably not have a problem finding friends unless you don’t make an effort is a great place to start, there are several meet ups for both  Dutch and foreigners in Amsterdam to choose from.

I mean minimarkets. Be prepared to find that the supermarkets here are small and have a small selection, but there are some great alternatives if, as you will soon find, you are not tempted by the local Albert Heijn on your corner.  My favourite place to shop is Noordermarkt a small farmers market in the Jordaan and the Albert Cuyp Markt in the Pijp. Marqt supermarkets have a habit of disappointing me with overpriced, not really bio, just pretty packaged food so I opt for a NatuurWinkel or BioMarkt instead

I’m not even going to try and help you with this minefield, like most other expats I know I have a consultant to do my taxes. Talk to your HR advisor they should be able to help you find a trusted tax consultant. Also prepare to wait a looooooong time before you see any €’s return.

It doesn’t rain nearly as much as people think or say it does. The autumns and winters can drag out a bit but Amsterdam is perfect for cosying up in your local bar or cafe with your friends over a beer or hot chocolate plus the vibe in spring and summer is incredible and totally worth the wait.

The XYZ’s 
The I Amsterdam website on living in The Netherlands is by far the best and most updated resource, I would definitely recommend having a good read of it.

And finally, avoid the Expatica forums at all costs, they are full of negativity and whining that can really make you tear your hair out.


Anonymous said...

Nailed it

Invader_Stu said...

Wow. Nice list. I think you covered everything.

Vallypee said...

Excellent post Angela! I think I should show this to a few people I know, especially the negative whiney ones:) It should be required reading for anyone coming to live here...hmmm, maybe I should do something similar for Rotterdam!

Lily said...

A very helpful list you've got. We used to search for our's a bit time consuming but quite handy and you save a lot by not hiring a relator!

Karla said...

I should do one of these for norway. I get so many questions. Maybe I'll just copy yours and tweak a few things (kidding) here and there, it's a great fast guide!

kira said...

Very good post! Respectful, truthful and helpful!


Anonymous said...

Great list, but I have to disagree with the weather part.. for me it rains far too often, and actually way more than I had expected!!

Anonymous said...

Great post! Just arrived in NL and probably will end up in AMS so will bookmark this page. Naomi

Jenzie said...

I just moved to Amsterdam, and this is very informative, thank you so much!

RIFIFI said...

Excellent guide, I like your blog!!!

Anonymous said...

Not a bad elementary blog. Is Amsterdam a decent tax haven from the (US) IRS? Any decent links for established orofessionals looking to exPat to Amsterdam?

Brittany said...

So helpful! It is so much nicer to take advice from someone who has actually done this versus reading about it from an anonymous source.