The Hague, The Netherlands Report of what it's like to live there - 01/28/19

Personal Experiences from The Hague, The Netherlands

The Hague, The Netherlands 01/28/19

Background:

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

No. We have lived in Central America, Asia, and Europe.

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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?

USA. It usually takes us ten to eleven hours total, eight hours to just to DC. Schiphol airport is fast, efficient, and clean.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Almost three years.

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

Diplomatic Mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is very nice. Most diplomats are issued townhouses near the expat town of Wassenaar since that is where the American School is located. We have ample room, a small yet functional backyard, and a wood-burning fireplace. Most Dutch houses are multi-storied and have treacherous stairs so those with mobility issues take note.

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

I find the groceries in line with what we pay in the USA, but if you look around and go to some of the weekend fresh markets, you can get much better prices especially fruits and vegetables; usually one-third the cost of the grocery store.

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

Strong garbage bags, which we order online. The Dutch ones are very thin. I can't think of anything else I can't get here.

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

Everything. There are multiple food delivery options and any type of restaurant you can might want.

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

None.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO.

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

You can get part-time domestic help for $15-$18/HR. It's not cheap but there are agencies that provide cleaners and individuals that will come to your house weekly.

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

American style gyms from US$35 per month up to $100 per month depending what you need. Loads of options.

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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?

Yes.

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

All.

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

None is really necessary, everyone I've encountered knows English fluently or at least well enough to communicate effectively.

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

Some in the old part of the City and in Amsterdam because of the old cobblestones but it's doable.

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Transportation:

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

All are affordable safe, reliable and clean. Taxis can be a bit pricey but you can make due on the trains and buses.

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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?

Any really, though it may be difficult parking a large SUV. We brought a medium-sized USA SUV and have had no problems.

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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?

It s available and fast. We have had no issues. You can have it installed within a few days of arrival.

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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?

We use Vodaphone and Project Fi and both work fine. There are many other options as well. It's less expensive than the USA. I pay US$30/month for unlimited talk and text and 6GB of data (WiFi is everywhere).

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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?

Yes. We don't have pets so I'm not sure about the rules.

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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?

There is a bilateral work agreement so EFMs can work on the local market . We currently have about 18 EFM positions at post (including Amsterdam) and usually have vacancies available.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Loads.

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

Business. The Dutch don't dress down.

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Health & Safety:

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

No really. Just be on your guard at busy train stations, etc for the usual city stuff-pickpockets, etc.

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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?

None.

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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?

Excellent.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Some pollen issues year round but nothing out of the ordinary.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

None that I'm aware of.

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

It does rain a fair amount but it hasn't stopped us from enjoying ourselves. It doesn't usually rain all day when it does rain. The winters are dark, cold and wet like most of Europe.

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Schools & Children:

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

Lots of options. We had a good experience with the American School and our child liked it and made it into a good college.

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

Not sure but I know of several families with special needs children who have had good experiences.

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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?

Yes, similar to USA preschools.

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

Anything you can think of. Not expensive.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge expat community that organizes functions and get-togethers. There are USA companies that have headquarters in the area and employ Americans that share information and resources. It's a close-knit, and welcoming group. A nice way to ease your way into a new environment not affiliated with the Embassy.

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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?

Lots of outdoor activities. Biking of course, paragliding, kite surfing, running, swimming, sailing, you name it. The Dutch love their sports and take advantage of the nice summer weather to go all out. Amsterdam is a short train ride away with a myriad of museums and cultural experiences. We have never been bored. Our older kids have complete freedom to explore here since it is such a safe environment and public transportation is easy to navigate. We have thoroughly enjoyed it.

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

All.

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

YEs! They are a very tolerant and welcoming society.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

We have. Some consider the Dutch to be insulated and stand-offish but we haven't found that to be the case.

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

None that I've seen.

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

Travel, outdoor activity, museums, sports, restaurants, the beach. Our favorite posting so far.

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

Too many to list. It's all marvelous. The college town of Leiden has been my favorite hidden gem, it's a smaller and more laid back version of Amsterdam.

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

Not really.

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

Easy access to everything, museums, restaurants, theater...

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had bought my ebike earlier. I held out for a year before buying one and I love it. Makes those 12 mile weekend bike treks a lot easier.

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

In a heartbeat.

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

It has everything.

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4. But don't forget your:

Tylenol and NyQuil. They prescribe paracetamol for everything.

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

The Miniaturist.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I'd recommend this post to anyone, we have thoroughly enjoyed it and will miss it when we leave.

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