For those looking to move to Europe, there are few destinations as exciting as Amsterdam. The city is diverse and international, and its unique culture and excellent quality of life make it one of the continent's most popular cities. Naturally, there are also some downsides to living in Amsterdam, like the fast-moving (and pricey) housing market and the high cost of living.
As with anywhere else, expats will need to weigh up the pros and cons of moving to Amsterdam before setting their plans into motion. We list a few of those below.
Lifestyle in Amsterdam
+ PRO: Rich in culture and history
Tourists flock to Amsterdam from all over to enjoy the city’s wide range of cultural and historical attractions, and expats living in Amsterdam will be lucky enough to have all this right on their doorstep. There will be plenty of time to explore the city and surrounding countryside, stroll through world-famous art galleries and unwind in one of the city's many parks.
+ PRO: Shopping, eating out and nightlife
The lifestyle in Amsterdam is second to none. The quirky shops, world-class restaurants and legendary nightlife make the free-spirited Dutch capital one of the great European cities.
Accommodation in Amsterdam
- CON: Demand outstrips supply
As a city with a high population density, it can be hard to find accommodation in Amsterdam. There’s a lot of competition, and rentals are often snatched off the market just as quickly as they're listed. This drives prices up.
Once expats do find a suitable new home, they shouldn’t expect much space, as apartments in Amsterdam are often smaller than what many expats from abroad (certainly from the US) are used to.
Getting around in Amsterdam
+ PRO: One of the world’s most cycle-friendly cities
Amsterdam’s reputation as a city of cyclists is well earned. Around 60 percent of the city’s population uses bicycles for their daily commute. The government has invested in extensive cycling infrastructure, making it a breeze to get around on two wheels.
+ PRO: Good transport network
Getting around in Amsterdam is easy with many public transport options to choose from, including the metro, buses, trams and trains.
+ PRO: Easy to travel to neighbouring countries
Expats with a bit of wanderlust will be well positioned in Amsterdam. Trains are a popular and easy way of travelling to neighbouring countries such as France, Belgium and Germany. Even London is only five hours away by train, and even quicker by air.
Cost of living in Amsterdam
- CON: Expensive city
As a major European capital, Amsterdam has a high cost of living comparable to other large capital cities of the continent such as Rome and Vienna. The main expense for expats will undoubtedly be accommodation, but costs such as international school fees can also take a large chunk off an expat's budget.
+ PRO: Good quality of life
In Amsterdam, the old adage that a person gets what they pay for rings true. Pricey as it may be, expats in Amsterdam will be able to live well. In fact, Amsterdam has been rated one of the world’s top cities for quality of life.
Education and schools in Amsterdam
+ PRO: Free high-quality local schooling
With government-funded public schooling up to age 16, expat parents won’t need to worry about school fees for most of their child’s school career. Public schools in Amsterdam generally perform well based on international measures, so parents can rest assured that they aren’t compromising on quality.
- CON: Most public schools teach in Dutch
For expats with older children or those who are only in Amsterdam short term, the language barrier at public schools can be an issue. Young children pick up additional languages more easily, so the earlier they start speaking Dutch, the better. It’s also worth mentioning that there are a few public schools that teach bilingually in both English and Dutch. For many families, this is an ideal middle ground.
+ PRO: Wide range of international schools
As the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is a hub for international schools. Parents looking to take this option will find that curricula offered range from Japanese to French to British and beyond. The International Baccalaureate is also popular.
Healthcare in Amsterdam
+ PRO: High-quality healthcare
Expats in Amsterdam will find themselves in a country with one of the world's best-rated healthcare systems. Everyone working in the Netherlands is required to have health insurance so that services can be easily accessed. Doctors are highly skilled the facilities are top-notch.
►Find out the answers to some Frequently Asked Questions About Amsterdam
"I enjoy that there is always something happening in my area. Amsterdam never sleeps." Read more about Monique's expat experience in Amsterdam.
"Amsterdam combines big city attractions like museums, concerts, etc. with a small-town community vibe. The city generally feels very active, energetic and embracing. And, of course it is very scenic with the beautiful century-old houses along canals." Learn more about Harini and Eric's expat experiences in Amsterdam as a couple.
Are you an expat living in Amsterdam?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Amsterdam. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
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