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

Personal Experiences from Utrecht, The Netherlands

Utrecht, The Netherlands 01/28/07

Background:

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

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

5 years.

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

30 minutes on the train from Schiphol Airport.

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

Dutch partner.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Houses are beyond small. It's almost impossible to find a free standing house in the city. Most expat jobs are in Amsterdam (around 1/2 commute). The trains don't run on time (if at all).

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

Groceries are expensive. Don't buy meat/vegetables at the supermarket. In general avoid the albert hein

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

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

Snackbars with deep fried everything are on every corner. There are also 4 McDonald's in the inner city.

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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?

10 Euros an hour.

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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?

No problems! Easy to use.

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

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

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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?

Not much. You can get away with english but it's 'frowned upon' by the locals if you are here longer than a few weeks. Even when you learn Dutch you'll be an outsider, so I wouldn't bother if I had to do it again!

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

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Transportation:

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

Affordable but unreliable.

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

Right.

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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?

Best not to drive as there are many traffic jams. Bikes are a better option.

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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?

Cheap and good quality.

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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?

Don't sign up for debitel

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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)?

Very good.

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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?

A few banks and insurance companies in Utrecht but it's better to look in Amsterdam

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

Business casual. Women dress like men.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy.

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

Not really.

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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?

Long waiting lists, you have to fight your GP for referrals and antibiotics. Once in hospital they are good (until they kick you out too early).

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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?

Rain and grey skies in various forms and shades.

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Schools & Children:

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

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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?

Available but up there with the most expensive day care in Europe.

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Expat Life:

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

Small.

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2. Morale among expats:

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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?

Easy. Just buy a packet of pringles and the Dutch are happy. Don't go to 'circle birthday parties' they are awful!

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

Great for singles and couples. I wouldn't have a family here as there is no nature or open spaces.

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

Good for gay/lesbian. Pretty open-minded. Not many expats in Utrecht.

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

HUGE racial problems. The Dutch do not like foreigners and are incredibly xenophobic. This has dramatically increased in the past ten years. Also women are expected to stay home with the kids or work 2-3 days a week maximum in the community.

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

Lots of cafes.

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

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9. Can you save money?

If you are on a decent salary you can.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No.

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

Manners.

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3. But don't forget your:

Self-respect.

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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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