Rotterdam, The Netherlands Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Rotterdam, The Netherlands 03/08/16

Background:

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

I lived in 4 other countries before moving to Rotterdam.

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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?

Having lived in the Netherlands for 13 years, by now, my home base is here.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I have been living in Rotterdam for over 6 years now, after spending 7 years in nearby Delft.

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

Came here as a student at first (studying at Delft University of Technology). Met a local girl, married, had children. That sums it up pretty much.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

City centre is apartments mostly. Further out it's typical suburbia. Commute time in the Netherlands is among the longest in the world, which is surprising for such a small country. But given the amount of cars per square km, which is one of the world's highest, its not that surprising that rush hour traffic is best avoided here.

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

Everything is available. If you choose where you buy, the prices are quite OK. Fresh fruit and vegetables are relatively cheap, especially on the markets.

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

An abundant supply. In recent years, a major change for good has happened, in terms of price/quality ratio, diversity and overall quality.

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

Mosquitoes are a nuisance at some parts. Ticks occur in the countryside. Wasps in late summer. But it's not a major issue.

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Daily Life:

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

Yes, although I don't use them myself. The prices vary, but I hear you get what you pay for in terms of quality. There are cheap ones, but if you're serious about your workout, it may be best to pay more.

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

Credit cards are not really welcome here. Not even all ticket machines at train stations accept them. ATM's are everywhere.

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

Many. Its a major harbour, so quite a few seafarers churches here.

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

Everyone here speaks English. Learning Dutch is actually a challenge; locals don't understand why anyone would bother.

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

It's Holland so famous for its flatness. More seriously, most bus stops and such are wheel-chair friendly, and public buildings seem to be fairly accessible.

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Transportation:

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

Safe - yes. Affordable - not really.

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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?

Small. Gas prices are among the highest in the world and parking space is very limited. Buying a second-hand one here is probably better; Dutch are known for keeping their cars well-maintained.

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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. Around 30 Euro per month for regular connection, high speed may cost more.

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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?

Are you?
-Proficient in Dutch
-An EU citizen (or have a work permit)
-A skilled professional in a high-demand job (IT specialist, teacher of math/physics/German, electrical engineer and so on)
-Prepared to take any job

If you score on all 4 points, you'll have employers begging to hire you. Comply with 3 of the 4, and you'll get a job within a week. Two out of four and your chances are OK. One out of four; its a start, but don't count on much. Otherwise don't bother.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

A lot. Really a lot.

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

Smart-casual, although the office dress code is more relaxed compared to Germany or France. Rotterdam's blue-collar roots do show in the relatively high amount of sweatpants worn in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

Compared to the rest of the world, no. The locals do complain, but it's a national hobby. Fact is that crime rates have plummeted in the last decade or so, and in Rotterdam there are no real no-go areas (anymore).

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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?

Healthcare quality is good and very professional. Dutch doctors are quite reluctant to prescribe medication (which I think is a good thing). So don't expect to get a prescription every time you see your GP.

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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?

The Dutch air looks clean. It's not. Especially in Rotterdam, with its oil industry, fine particles pollution is a serious problem.

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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?

It's sometimes hard to tell what season it is without a look at the calendar. They say it can be sunny, warm and calm here, but never all 3 on the same day. That said, it's not as bad as some would make you believe. The biggest downside is that good weather seldom lasts longer than a couple of days in a row. The Mediterranean is always within a couple hours by plane and tickets are dirt-cheap nowadays.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are a few, a recent trend is dual-language education (classes are in Dutch and English).

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

Depends a lot on which school it is; quality varies greatly.

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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?

Available, yes but only if you book way in advance. Expensive, too.

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

A lot, outside the school system usually.

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Expat Life:

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

Lots of foreigners, not sure about the morale.

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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?

The above mentioned International Film Festival Rotterdam is a highlight. So is De Parade - a summer theatre festival. Summer carnival is big, especially with the Caribbean community. The Rotterdam Marathon is huge, with hundreds thousands of spectators along the track. Other big events are Museum Night and Open Monumentendag (Heritage Day).

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

For singles and couples great. For families it can be challenging to find affordable housing and good schools in the same neighbourhood.

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

Yes. Another recent trend is that Amsterdam hipsters and LGBT's are moving to Rotterdam due to the excessive costs of living in Amsterdam.

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

Immigrants and their descendants complain about discrimination. Native Dutch grumble about high crime rates and low work-morale among immigrants. You don't get shot for running while black, so I guess its better than many North-American cities. Zwarte Piet might be a shock for visitors from overseas, but even that freaky colonial legacy is slowly being taken care of. I won't say too much about the attitudes of many in the local Muslim community towards women, LGBT's and other religions, especially Jews, enough has been said about it elsewhere. Let's say there is plenty of room for improvement there. To close this on a positive note - the current mayor of Rotterdam is Ahmed Aboutaleb, of Moroccan origin, who is highly respected by all and is known for his harsh criticism of intolerance in the Moslim community.

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

After so many years here, it is hard to choose. Getting married in a medieval townhouse. Sailing on the Dutch lakes. Spontaneous weekends away to another country. The annual International Film Festival in Rotterdam. The insanity when the national team plays football. Cycling. Cycling. Cycling.

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

Plenty. For Rotterdam check out http://www.spottedbylocals.com/rotterdam (I used to write for them). In the Netherlands the Wadden Sea and the islands are worth a trip, Maastricht in the South is not to be missed, and I hear diving in the North Sea can be quite a thrill, even if a cold one.

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

Cheese, special beers. Antiques.

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

The classic painting-like Dutch countryside is beautiful, Dutch museums are magnificent, connections to the rest of Europe are superb. And of course cycling here is something quite amazing.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, with careful budget planning. And without children.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

For sure.

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

SUV.

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3. But don't forget your:

Cycling skills. Umbrella. Rain jacket.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

"Who am I?" with Jackie Chan (filmed here in Rotterdam).

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Rotterdam, The Netherlands 09/28/06

Background:

1. How long have you lived here?

7 years.

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

Moved with husband, worked in local company.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Seasons are weak: summers cool, winters wet, no real best or worst time to travel. Contrary to popular belief, quite centrally located in Western Europe: Paris 3.5 hour by train, Cologne 3 hours, Brussels 2 hours.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

in the city almost exclusively apartments, farther from center townhouses with small gardens. Space is at a premium. Commute times can be very short to over an hour. Amsterdam is considered commuting distance.

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

Availability: good. Choice in groceries may not be as wide as in U.S. or Germany for that matter, but food including some ethnic stuff (Turkish, Asian, Italian) is readily available. Price level feels neither particular cheap or particularly expensive in European context.

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

None.

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

Most international fast food chains are present, so is a number of nice restaurants, including one or two with Michelin stars. Recommended ethnic cuisine: Indonesian.

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Daily Life:

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

Not easy to find and expensive, especially if working.

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

Credit cards are accepted at department stores and the like though less widely used than in US (not in supermarkets for example).ATMs are widely available. Most everyday spending by residents seems to be done by debit card.

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

Yes, at least a Scottish church is there.

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

Newspapers: available with reasonable delays, TV very readily available since most English-language content on local TV (comedy, films)is subtitled rather than dubbed. CNN etc. is there also.

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

Very little, English goes far.

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

Not more than in other big cities, probably less. Most metrostations and the like have elevators etc. for the disabled, curbs are largely accessible, traffic lights for pedestrians often have audible signals for hearing impaired.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right.

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

Safe: yes. Affordable: not bad. On time: so-so.

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3. 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?

No rugged terrain whatsoever, so no need for jeep. Cars are expensive locally because of taxes, so check if you can import one tax-free when moving there. Service for most European and Far-Eastern brands is available, less for American cars. Gas is relatively expensive and parking space scarce, so small is beautiful.

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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?

Quality good, cost relatively expensive.

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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?

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

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Pets:

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

Don't really know but assume so since the Dutch keep lots and lots of pets, especially dogs wich are allowed in most shops and restaurants...

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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?

Yes if they have an EU passport and are willing to learn some Dutch, hardly otherwise.

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

Quite relaxed in generally, except at banks, major law firms etc.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate. Towards the industrial areas (petrol, chemical), it seems a bit more unhealthy.

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

Petty crime (car broken up by junkie) is quite widespread but one feels generally safe in most areas of town.

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

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Schools & Children:

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

at least two international schools (one American, one international part of Dutch school). No personal experience since kid was small when living there.

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

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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?

Not cheap but available with generous opening hours that enable full-time work for moms without the benfit of a nanny. Our experience with the quality of care was excellent.

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Expat Life:

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

Quite a lot of foreigners in general, hard to determine how many are expats in the classical sense. A couple of multinationals are headquartered here, so quite a few probably.

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2. Morale among expats:

Ok. Probably doesn't qualify as plum assignment in terms of quality of life but generally civilized.

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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?

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

Definitely good for singles as Amsterdam is only an hour away. Good for families in the sense of being able to combine work and family (see daycare).

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

Netherlands are in general very tolerant of gays / lesbians, though Amsterdam probably has more of a scene.

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

There weren't any during our time there (until end of 2004) but a few unpleasan tendencies seem to be cropping up lately.

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

Some great museums (art!), boat trips in harbor, interesting architecture.

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

Souvenirs: flower bulbs, cheese and paraphernalia

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9. Can you save money?

Yes if you stich mostly to Rotterdam. It's rather no-nonsense, businesslike, more a place for working than for hanging out. No if you blow it all on the weekend in Amsterdam...

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, has a great time there.

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

Rock-climbing equipment.

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3. But don't forget your:

Bicycle!!!

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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