The Hague, The Netherlands Report of what it's like to live there - 06/28/14
Personal Experiences from The Hague, The Netherlands
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
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?
U.S. - 8 hour direct flights to the east coast are available through AMS.
3. How long have you lived here?
2011 - present.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Government - U.S. Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Dutch housing is typically attached (townhouse style) or apartment flats. Detached, single-family housing is rare in The Hague.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Most U.S. comparable foods are available here. Marks & Spencer recently arrived, creating an outlet for British foods as well. Costs are higher than U.S. prices by about 35%.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Gas / Charcoal Grill - They're priced by the carat weight here. Leave your U.S. bike at home.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Major U.S. chains are here.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
None. Don't expect window screens at home.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We use the Diplomatic Post Office at the Embassy.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
They are everywhere.
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?
The Dutch primarily use a PIN (debit card) system. Your U.S. cards will work at major tourist areas but in general, if you have to swipe it, they won't accept it. You'll need a credit card that includes a gold foil chip and requires a PIN number. We maintain a local bank account for general use.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
A variety. The American Protestant Church has a significant expat population.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Polite exchange is appreciated but the Dutch speak English better than many Americans and often with less of an accent.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Trains = Yes and they run on time. They're expensive - about 5 Euro / day for me.
Buses / Trams = Yes and they're very safe.
Taxis = Only for expense account travel or to the airport. Think Metro car not Yellow cab.
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?
Bring a small car - please. Full-sized SUV's are present but they are ridiculous here. Fuel is heavily taxed and road taxes vary based on fuel type. Currently gas is about 1.75 Euro / liter. Diesel is cheaper and very common - but road taxes are much high for non-exempted personnel.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, through a variety of vendors. About 50 Euros / month for broadband.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Buy one here - or bring one unlocked. Service is everywhere and low-cost.
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?
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?
Not so many.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Dutch men seldom wear a tie but often wear a jacket.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
"Take (2) paracetamol and visit your huisarts in 5 days." Overall, the Dutch are very low intervention when compared to the U.S. Western quality care is available.
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?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Northern marine. We previously lived in Seattle for about 5 years. Weather here is sunnier, but similar overall. The weather changes quickly. Don't expect much snow in the north of the country. For winter break, many Dutch will travel south to Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland to ski.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
The American International School is well-respected and in our experience is comparable to a good quality private school in the U.S. Full-tuition students from oil company families, IKEA, and other multi-nationals and governments keep the school well-funded.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
No experience. Some families elect to use Dutch pre-schools.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Everywhere - lots of options to compare. Swimming is a big deal here - the diploma program can be something akin to organized crime so shop around. Horseback riding is common and relatively inexpensive.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large and positive. Shell, IKEA, and multiple international law organizations create a large and lively expat community.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I can only speak for families; yes, this is a great environment for a family. Low-crime and high-quality bicycle and public transportation allows kids, tweens, and teens a lot of freedom to travel safely on their own.
3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
The Dutch collectively are quite liberal. In my experience, individuals are less progressive on issues of race than typical Americans. The Dutch people continue to struggle how to integrate their new immigrant population into main-stream public life. Thus, attitudes toward north Africans, Turks, Poles, Romanians, etc vary widely.
5. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
The Japanese Garden in Clingendael, 'second' cities such as Leiden, Utrecht, Haarlem, and even Delft offer typical Dutch life in a much more comfortable density when compared to Amsterdam. The Hague can be sleepy and less 'real' than these other towns. Rotterdam is broad-shouldered and proud. The flower auction (Flora Holland) is interesting.
6. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Fresh flowers, travel to any of the major European capitals, just about anything.
7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
High quality of life: The Dutch people have worked for nearly 500 years to create a comfortable, practical, and beautiful place to live. They have literally created much of the land that comprises the most densely populated metro region in Europe.
8. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Your U.S. bicycle. Buy one here.
3. But don't forget your:
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Murder in Amsterdam: Liberal Europe, Islam, and the Limits of Tolerence. It addresses some of the challenges facing an increasingly multi-cultural Netherlands.