The Hague, The Netherlands Report of what it's like to live there - 11/14/10

Personal Experiences from The Hague, The Netherlands

The Hague, The Netherlands 11/14/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Frankfurt, Ankara, Tunis, Doha

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington DC, 8 hrs one way

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Familes tend to live 5-7 miles to the north of the city in Wassenaar where you find large duplexes in south Wassenaar and smaller townhomes in central Wassenaar. Wassenaar is closest to the American School. Couple and singles live in the city of at the beach in Schevinegen. Your looking at apartments and small narrow townhouses or rowhouses. Commute times are:Wassenaar to the US Embassy 15 min by bus or 10 min by car;Schevinegen is 10-12 min by tram.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are two main grocery chains - Albert Heijn and C1000.C1000 has cheaper prices but the number of their stores are a little more limited than Albert Heijn. We buy all our meats and dairy locally and use the US Military Base at Schinnen which is 2 hrs away for everything else. We make a once a month run to the base. For our family of five we spend USD 1k per month on groceries.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

rain gear is a must

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McD's, KFC, Burger King, Domino's and Subway are about it as far as American Fast food. A medium sized McDonalds Big Mac meal costs USD 9.There are really good Indonesian, Greek and Lebanese take out places which are a little cheaper. Best deals are Italian, Greek and Indonesian as far as cost and value. I took my family of five to a local pub one Saturday for lunch and spent USD 150 one two cheesburger platters, two chicken nugget platters and two grilled chicken salads with drinks.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

All available in the local grocery stores.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

very few - a few flies or mosquitos in the summer

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

At the embassy via APO or pouch mail; Fedex and UPS also offer service.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

This depends - the going rate is euro 12-15 per hour which currently is USD 20 per hour. That said, we are currently paying someone euro 9 per hour for 40 hrs per week and she requested that salary and she is doing a remarkable job.you just have to shop around. Hiring non-EU citizens is difficult due to sponsorship. We hired an EU citizen and it was quite easy. What we are paying her is still expensive euro 9 per hour for 40 hrs a week equates to USD 2,200 per month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

yes

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

This is a joke - The number of places that accept US Credit/Debit cards is slim. Major hotels and maybe major restaurants. Even in the major train stations they do not accept US credit/debit cards. Typically you have to hit an ATM which will take such cards, withdraw the cash and pay for your expenses. Major ATM's include ABN and ING. - They charge up to USD 5 per transaction.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, there is an English-speaking Catholic Church - www.parish.nl

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Wall Street Journal, Herald Tribune, USA Today and New York Times can be found if you look hard enough for them

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can get by without it..plenty of people speak English. Dutch is very hard to learn, and unless you are living here for longer than 3 yrs you will never use it again.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

uneven sidewalks made of cobblestones.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, they are safe - I commute daily using the bus system. Currently they accept cash payment with bills no larger then a euro 20 mote, or they take strippenkarts which are purchased at kiosks in the train stations or they take the OV-Chipkart which is like a pay as you go card with a chip in it.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Nothing bigger than a small SUV or minivan like a Honda Odessy. Streets are very narrow and parking garages are not made for larger vehicles. Service locations are available locally - if US Spec vehicle I would order my parts off the internet or get them from the US Military base.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes - typically it is bundled with cable tv and land line telephone. The high-speed bundle with the premium cable channels is euro 90 per month or USD 125 per month

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

They are a dime a dozen and there are many plans available.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes - vets are everywhere and very good.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Mostly with Shell and ESA.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business, business casual or smart casual at work. In public, jeans and blouses/shirts in winter and summer you see shorts and t-shirts.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I would say the healthcare is not as great as everyone would think it to be. The Dutch have a social healthcare system where the use of referals is huge. They tend to not medicate what Americans do, and that is frustrating, especially for families with children. The Dutch tend to let ailments run their course or let them get worse until they are more or less forced to medicate. They do not believe in preventative medicine or testing. There are neighborhood doctors called Huisharts or House Doctors and they are a notch below a GP.You have to be registered to use them.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

good - no pollution

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Wet Wet Wet and Windy Windy Windy - rains probably 5 days out of 7 and is cool. Bring rain coat/pants. Umbrellas are usually broke up pretty quick in the wind. Spring is in late March through mid May with temps in the 50's; June-August is supposed to be summer but temps rarely climb above 75;September - December is the fall time and it rains and wind blows with temps in the 40's/50's; December through March is cold and wet with dustings of snow almost every other night - no major accumulation - just enough to throw the morning commute into a tizzy.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

American School of The Hague (ASH) is considered one of the best in Europe and it better be considering it is USD 28k per student per school year. They offer pre-k through 12th grade and the campus is located in north Wassenaar -www.ash.nl. My kids attend ASH and love it - we find that they challenge the children completely. The British school has several campuses throughout The Hague.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I have heard that the British School is better equipped for special needs children.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Both are available and expensive - roughly USD 20k per year for full time.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

yes at ABF in Wassenaar which is a sports club.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large - there are expats with Shell Oil and European Space Agency as well as USMIL retirees.

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2. Morale among expats:

Among expats it's good.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Cinema, stage, concerts (rock, country, classical), plays, festivals, movies.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I would say yes with a little hesitation - Singles and couples most defintely. Families yes but if your have 3-4 children or more the cost of living will kill you. For example to travel from The Hague to Frankfurt or Paris which is a 4 hr train ride it is roughly USD 400 per person RT so if you have a family of 5 that equates to USD 2k just to travel to destinations 4 hrs away. Hotels are another USD 200 per night so a family of 5 or more can easily spend USD 3-4k on a 4-5 day excursion. Travel via car is almsot as expensive with gas costing USD 7-8 per gallon.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I would say yes.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

no

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

My kids love the American School of The Hague and have made many friends; Visting Leiden, Delft, Amsterdam.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The beach at Scehvinegen or Wassenaar in the summer.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Tulip bulbs, Delft pottery, wooden shoes, cheese, antiques, art work, Dutch bikes.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Culture, location

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11. Can you save money?

No - it's too expensive to save money unless you sit at home and go nowhere.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Maybe later in life when the kids are out of the house and we can enjoy living in Europe without going broke.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

large SUV.

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3. But don't forget your:

rain gear.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?


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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:


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6. Do you have any other comments?


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