Living and Working in the Netherlands


Living and Working in the Netherlands

by Mary Anne Thompson, Founder and President, Goinglobal, Inc

With a growing economy, high quality of life and reasonable cost of living, the Netherlands is a good choice for foreign nationals looking for a move abroad. 

Living in the Netherlands isn’t expensive by global standards, and the quality of life is high, with excellent health care, housing and transportation systems, making the small Western European country a favorite for foreign nationals. Also, for the past year, the Dutch economy has been on a growth trend, creating new jobs across a variety of sectors. All of these elements come together to make the Netherlands, particularly its major cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, an appealing place for foreign students, young professionals and experienced professionals with families.  

Average Prices

Students need at least 1,100 EUR monthly to live comfortably in the Netherlands’ large cities, with the majority of costs going to housing and food. Non-EU national students should consider a slight higher spending, around 1,400 EUR a month, as they should include the cost of visa and residency permit fees, as well as health insurance costs. The total monthly expenditure on goods and services, excluding rent, for an average four-person European family in Amsterdam is 3,450 USD, according to Numbeo.


The Dutch property market is unique in that historically it has had low owner occupancy and the largest social housing sector in Europe, with about 75% of rental homes belonging to housing associations. The Netherlands is one of Europe’s most densely populated countries; as a result, finding a place to live can be a challenge, especially in the larger cities such as Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Low- and mid-market homes are usually small in size although use of space is creatively maximized.

Detached homes (Vrijstaand), semi-detached homes (Twee onder een kap), townhouses (Rijtjeshuis) and apartments (Appartementen) are available in the Netherlands, with Rijtjeshuis being the most common type of housing.

If you are a newcomer who does not speak Dutch, it may be helpful to engage the services of a real estate agent (makelaar), both for rentals and purchases (especially for the latter). Be sure they are registered with the Dutch Association of Real Estate Agents (Dutch and English); if not, proceed with caution.

Most foreigners settle in the Randstad, the region encompassing Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, and the most densely populated area in the country. Many international organizations and schools are located here.


There is abundant mass transportation available in the Netherlands. To use the Dutch public transport system, you need an OV-chipkaart (OV-chipcard), a rechargeable electronic smartcard available at railway and bus stations and certain newsstands and supermarkets.

Rail: Train travel is very popular and reliable in the Netherlands. The network is quite extensive, with about 400 stations, and service is frequent. Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS, Netherlands Railways) is the country’s main passenger railway operator.

There are two different types of trains in the Netherlands: intercity (express) trains, which connect main cities directly, and local trains (Sprinter), which stop at all stations along the way. NS also offers night trains and other special routes.

Bus: In addition to the rail network, the Netherlands also has an extensive city and regional bus network, with numerous operators in each region. Services are affordable and efficient. Flixbus and Eurolines (available in many languages) are affordably priced international bus operators serving destinations in the Netherlands.

Car: The Netherlands has an extensive and well-maintained road network. From Amsterdam, you can reach Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague, Delft and Leiden in about an hour. Driving in Amsterdam, particularly in the center with its old streets, canals, and numerous cyclists and pedestrians, is not particularly efficient. It’s best to park your vehicle at Park+Ride facilities in the outskirts of the city and use public transport to reach central Amsterdam.

Car-sharing schemes are becoming more popular in the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, GreenWheels and Car2go provide these services. SnappCar, a new app for car owners to rent their vehicles - known as the AirBnB of cars - is also becoming increasingly popular in the country.

Bicycle: Bicycling is a very popular means of transportation in the Netherlands, where there are more bicycles than residents. The country has more than 32,000 kilometers of clearly marked cycle paths. In many Dutch cities, bike paths are completely segregated from motorized traffic, with separate, dedicated signs and lights.

Medical Care/Health Insurance

The Netherlands’ health care system, Zorgverzekeringswet (ZVW), is among the best in the world. The vast majority of doctors in the country can speak English. If you are working in the Netherlands and paying income tax, even if you are a foreigner covered in your home country, you are obligated to take out a standard Dutch health insurance package (basisverzekering) within four months of your arrival. An exception is made for employees of certain international organizations whose home countries may have social security agreements with the Netherlands exempting them from the Dutch health care system. If you do not register for health insurance, you risk being fined and billed retroactively.

All insurance companies offer the same standard package, and they are required to insure anyone who requests it and charge the same premium to everyone. To register for health insurance, you must have a social security number (BSN, burgerservicenummer).

Foreign students who are planning to stay in the Netherlands for a short time are not always obliged to present a health insurance coverage. If you do not plan to register with the Dutch health insurance, it is advisable to travel with a private international health care plan from your country of origin. EU students should obtain the EU Health Insurance Card from their home country.


The Netherlands offers a high quality of life thanks to excellent health care, a top-notch transportation system and a variety of housing options. The country’s economy is growing and jobs are plentiful, and these factors, coupled with the reasonable cost of living, make the Netherlands a popular destination for foreign nationals looking for a new adventure.