The Hague, The Netherlands Report of what it's like to live there - 02/04/21
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?
No, second overseas post after Cairo.
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: It is easy to travel. There are direct flights from DC to Amsterdam. Takes between 8-10 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
1 1/2 years.
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 families have a townhome, many with a small backyard. We have lots of space, a lovely backyard with space for a garden, fire pit and grill. Although, there are plenty of people in The Hague and surrounding areas, most families are located in Wassenaar where the American School is. The commute to the embassy by car is 15-20 minutes and 30 minutes by bicycle (there are direct bike paths). Public transportation is also an option with a stop just down the street from the embassy.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The cost and availability of groceries is comparable to any major city in the US. If you shop at the farmers and weekend markets (and some local food stands), you may find better pricing than the grocery store.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
We ship only a couple of American snack foods that our children really like. We have also shipped a couple of condiments. There are expat stores and even the grocery store will carry some imported American items, but they are quite expensive.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
You have many choices in restaurants. Many are just okay, but some are quite good. Especially in light of COVID, most restaurants have a delivery or takeaway option. There is also Thuisbezorgd, a food delivery service that plenty of restaurants use. In addition to food, there are wine, liquor, and coffee shops that will deliver as well.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Nothing out of the ordinary.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help can be about $15-18 dollars/ hour. Many people hire a cleaning person weekly/biweekly. Full-time childcare with a nanny or au pair is expensive compared to other posts. There are laws about how many hours per day they can work and how many days.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Many gyms, some more expensive and nicer than others. Many great options. You can find specialty gems for CrossFit, yoga/Pilates, boxing, and martial arts. Pricing is comparable to the US.
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 run off of bank PIN. This has been nice during corona because contactless payment is widely accepted everywhere including local markets. Some places do accept credit cards, but it’s better to ask instead of expecting it. ATMs are widely used and safe.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I imagine you can find most types of services available in English somewhere in or near the city.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You don’t need it. It’s nice to learn a few things because the Dutch are pleasant and neighborly, but if they hear you speaking English, they will just switch over to English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would depend on where you are. There is a bit of cobblestone and especially in the older parts of the cities, it may be difficult. However, I see many people in wheelchairs, motorized scooters and with walkers making their way around town.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes and yes. Currently all of these require a face mask for ages 12 and up. Public transportation is very convenient for getting places, but they do not always run often. If you miss your bus, you may have to wait another 40 minutes for the next one (and make sure you wave to the driver signaling them to stop at the bus top for you). Taxis are available, but may be a little more expensive then public transit
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 car will do. A smaller car may be nicer because the roads in some places are narrow. The parking spots are smaller here as well. You will be fine with an SUV though. This may be a better option if you plan to travel through Europe by car.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, once you have a Dutch bank account internet can be set up in a few days.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Brought an unlocked iPhone and stopped at the first phone store I saw, Vodaphone. No complaints.
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, the Dutch love animals. There are many good veterinarians and specialists. There are also many petsitters and services as well as kennels. Animals do not need to quarantine upon arrival.
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 are some EFM positions at post (embassy and consulate). There may be opportunities at the American school or on the local market.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business/ business casual depending.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Not really. Be street smart and lock your bike. We feel quite safe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
If you have seasonal allergies, prepare for spring. While it is absolutely lovely come spring, the pollen can be crazy. Bring antihistamine.
Medical care is quite good. You may experience some language barriers, but you can work through them.
One thing that some people struggle with is a physician’s hesitation towards antibiotics.
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?
Air quality is excellent. The only issue you may have is in spring and summer when everything blooms.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
It’s common to get the winter blues. Come November/December, it is dark by 5. Also, you will find yourself at the kid’s AM school bus stop in the dark as the sunrise isn’t until 9. I suggest getting a “happy light” (light therapy lamp) and taking vitamin D.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Winters are very wet and cold, but rarely cold enough to snow. Spring and summer are absolutely beautiful. In August, there may be a couple weeks where it reaches the high 80s/90s, but otherwise very enjoyable.
Keep in mind that the rain does not stop life from happening here. Children often still have recess outside and you’ll find many people on the hiking path and bike paths.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Most children attend the British or American School. I have heard wonderful things. The children I know seem very happy at ASH and the ASH community is really great and welcoming.
2. 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, many preschools and daycares (full-time and part-time) are available. Plenty of options in English. The cost can range, but they are not cheap. Some places offer before and after school care. There is also a Dutch Montessori school where some people send their young children and have good experience.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes! Many options.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There is a large expat community. Morale seems high.
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?
There are plenty of social clubs and groups. There are lots of outdoor activities to enjoy and it’s a great way to meet people.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes, yes, yes. There is much to enjoy in the Netherlands; many places to go, play, eat, drink, socialize.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Yes, it is easy if you make the effort. I suppose some ethnic groups may feel uncomfortable, but we have not experienced this.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Unfortunately, much of our post has been come with some sort of COVID lockdown or restriction which has made much of the tourism and travel unavailable to us. However, we have truly enjoyed riding our bikes, going to the beach, wandering through all many of the Dutch cities, and hiking in nature. It has still been very enjoyable for us. We love living here.
In non-COVID times, the ease of travel throughout Europe (by car, train, or plane) is awesome. Many of our friends have covered a lot of ground in only a couple years. There are also a lot of museums and wonderful sites to see when business and tourism can resume.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
So many cool things!
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There is some fun shopping here, but I wouldn’t call it a shopping post. Delft blue pottery.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Ease of living. Many things to do.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Buy a bike and enjoy being able to ride it around with ease.
Always use the handrail on the stairs, they can be treacherous.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
In a heartbeat. Absolutely!
3. But don't forget your:
Waterproof shoes, pants, and jacket. Your bicycle. Bring cold medicine, NyQuil, and children’s Benadryl.
4. Do you have any other comments?
This is an awesome post. Even living here through a global pandemic, we have truly enjoyed our time here so far and are looking forward to more adventures.