The Hague, The Netherlands Report of what it's like to live there - 02/08/15
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?
This is our 3rd overseas tour.
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?
NYC. Easy nonstop flights from most major East coast cities, between 7.5 and 9 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
We arrived in August 2014.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most houses are attached homes or duplexes, all have 2 or more floors, steep stairs, small yards. Families tend to live north of The Hague in Wassenaar near the schools. Easy commute.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get products similar to U.S. with few exceptions. If you like to bake bring powdered sugar because Dutch stuff is not the same. Prices are about 20% higher.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Most stuff is available here.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
No U.S. chain restaurants except McDonald's, Burger King, Dominios, Subway, KFC. Lots of local restaurants and the quality is not the best.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes, but not bad.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch but you can also use local postnl which is not too expensive for local stuff.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very high cost due to strict EU labor laws.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Everywhere and same as U.S. prices.
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?
You have to have a Dutch bank account to get anything done and it takes a bit of time. Always have cash because before you get your Dutch ATM card with the chip and PIN it's the only way you can pay. Even U.S. credit cards with chip and PIN are not accepted in most stores.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Here's something everyone knows but will not tell you: A LOT. Yes, everyone speaks English but it helps to read Dutch since directions are all written in it and if you want a job outside of the Embassy you must be fluent. Jobs at the Embassy are rare and jobs on the local market that don't require fluent Dutch are rarer still. Maybe you want to start your own business? Great! It's easy and cheap to get a business license but the tax office (belastingdienst) will NOT speak to you in any language other than Dutch.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Maybe. There are an awful lot of stairs and not so many lifts so I guess it would depend on the disability.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
All safe, not as affordable as you think. 8 Euros round trip to the Embassy and back on the bus. Still cheaper and less of a hassle than parking.
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?
Roads are great so no issues there. Preferably something small and European because they're easier and cheaper to fix. Small SUV will work but it's a hassle to park.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Super available but it takes about 2 weeks to set up. Ours is 80 Euros/month for cable and super fast internet.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Cheap to get here or you can bring an unlocked phone and get a sim card.
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?
Good (but expensive) care and even a pet ambulance. No quarantine if shots are up to date.
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?
If you speak Dutch yes, TONS. If not, nada.
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?
Business at the Embassy. Depends on the nature of your business otherwise.
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?
Good if you are assertive. Don't let them tell you to take paracetamol and go home. If you're sick make them help you. They WILl, begrudgingly. Bronovo hospital knows the drill with expats and it's not too much of a challenge with them. Also, doctors make housecalls!
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 do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Mold can be an issue. I have terrible pollen allergies and no problems yet but it sometimes take a couple years for me to really start suffering. If you're unsure, bring your own Benadryl because they do not sell it here.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Horrible. Rain, cold, wind, ice pellets in winter, dark 17 hours per day in winter. Summer is fairly comfortable but never really gets above 75F and it's daylight 17 hours per day.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Our son goes to BSN and we love it. Most kids go to the American School but the waiting list can be more than a year long, which is something the Embassy doesn't usually disclose. The British school is a great option and there is also the International school of The Hague as well.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I've been told BSN is the best at handling special needs.
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?
Some but they are costly.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Tons. Soccer, baseball, rugby, swimming, horseback riding, just to name a few.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge expat community. Not sure about other Embassy personnel, I get the impression morale is low at post but all my friends and neighbors are from the UK and they like it here just fine.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Travel, museums, amusement parks, pottery, etc.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Excellent for everyone.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes, Dutch people are pretty tolerant.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes. As more and more immigrants settle here, the native community is becoming increasingly more uncomfortable with it, especially with immigrants from Morocco.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Housing is great, pet friendly, school is fabulous.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Delft pottery, stroopwafels.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Culture, travel within Europe.
9. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
That you need to speak Dutch to get a job (duh?) How truly miserable the weather is.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes! Despite the weather, it really is a cool place to live.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Shorts. U.S. bike, buy a local bike.
4. But don't forget your:
Winter coat, rain boots, umbrella, ear muffs.