Ah, Amsterdam – the charming city of the canals, tulips, cheese and bikes. I visited this city for the first time six years ago and, if someone had told me that a few years later I would be living here, I would be… pleasantly surprised.
Truth be told, I had never imagined that I would be living in Amsterdam. I had always envisioned myself living in a bigger European capital, such as London, Madrid or Berlin. But life brought me here, and I’m so glad it did.
Living in Amsterdam has been one of the best and most enriching experiences of my life. I’ve truly been enjoying my time and life here – the city is amazing and The Netherlands has just so much to offer. So, let me tell you how life unveils in Amsterdam, and how it is to be an expat in this ultimate guide to moving to Amsterdam.
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Why I moved to Amsterdam
When I moved here almost two years ago, I was 24 and in need of a big change in my life.
I had only been working for one year and a half and was already tired from the Portuguese corporate life. Plus, I had had a brief experience of living abroad in Madrid, while I was studying, and it left me wanting more.
I knew that, at some point in my life, I would like to live and work abroad. I dreamt about the experience of setting up my life in a barely-known city, meeting new people, working for an international company and just experiencing the world.
This, combined with my desire to evolve in my very unsatisfying Portuguese career, made me take the next step and start applying to companies in several cities in Europe.
A few months later, I got a call from my current company, saying they would like to hire me. I still remember being at my old job, answering the phone in the hallway, and feeling a mix of enthusiasm and fear.
I couldn’t believe it was really happening! I was finally stepping out of my comfort zone and pursuing my dream of living and working abroad.
Thankfully, I had two months to prepare everything and get ready for the move. My boyfriend, André, also came with me, since we shared the dream of working in another country. Since then, we’ve been enjoying our life as expats in The Netherlands.
The Pros and Cons of Living in Amsterdam
To be completely honest, it’s easier to find pros about living here than cons – and that says a lot about life in Amsterdam.
Pros of Living in Amsterdam
Did you know that the Netherlands was considered the country with the best work-life balance?
Dutchies really value their personal life, so it is quite rare that you will have to work long hours. Also, salaries here are quite high, when compared to other countries in Europe, which makes the after work life even more enjoyable!
The Netherlands has an extensive system of bike lanes, so you can get pretty much anywhere on your bike. This means that you won’t have to spend money on a car & gas, and won’t be polluting the environment! Plus, it’s so nice to bike around when the weather’s good.
Very good connections
Amsterdam has one of the largest airports in Europe, Schiphol Airport. You can get anywhere in the world pretty fast, and the prices are usually very competitive. Plus, Amsterdam is so close to other fantastic European capitals, like Paris, London, Berlin, Vienna…
Culture and activities
You can find remarkable museums in Amsterdam, such as Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum.
If art is not your thing, then I guarantee you won’t get bored, as there’s always something to do – whether it is renting a boat, trying that new restaurant in De Pijp, seeing the tulips in the Spring, or just walking by the canals.
Price of flowers
This is a random one, but I really love this. Flowers here are very cheap and they will make your house more lively!
Cons of Living in Amsterdam
I now understand why people warned me so much about the weather – it’s terrible!
For me, this is definitely the worst thing about living in The Netherlands. With this weather, you never know what to expect, and the Winter seems never-ending. It also rains a lot, especially in the shoulder months. I would advise you to take your vacation days in the Winter and travel somewhere nicer!
The housing market
Whether you’re looking into buying or renting, the housing market in Amsterdam is crazy. It is often difficult to find a rental property, and the prices are very high. There are not many houses in Amsterdam, and that’s why the market is crazy: a lot of demand, and barely any supply.
Making friends with the locals
The truth is, it’s not always easy to connect with Dutchies on a deeper level. It’s not that they’re not nice – they’re actually really nice – it’s just that they usually have strong friendships with older friends. If you’d like to connect with locals, you’ll probably have to learn Dutch and live here for a few years!
Tips to Move to Amsterdam
If you’re considering moving to Amsterdam, then there are some things you should know! If you’re an EU national, it will be very easy for you to move here. You can come whenever you want, and make sure that you’re bringing:
- A valid passport
- Your birth certificate and the translation to English or Dutch. The translation needs to be done by a certified translator and authenticated
The first step would be to find a job. You can do this either from your home country or when you get here. If you’d like to get a corporate job, LinkedIn will probably be your best friend!
If you’re looking for any other type of job, you can easily find it in any shop, restaurant or café. Because Amsterdam is a very international city, you won’t need to speak Dutch (although it would help, of course).
Tip: it’s always easier to search for sales related jobs that require you to speak your native language!
You can then register as an Amsterdam citizen – just book an appointment with the Gemeente (city hall), bring your passport, translated and authenticated birth certificate and rental contract. You will be provided a BSN number! After having the BSN and being registered at an address in Amsterdam, you can then open a bank account.
If you’re a non EU-citizen, I would advise you to look out for more information in the official iAmsterdam website.
Why You Should Move to Amsterdam
If you’re still debating whether you should move to Amsterdam or not, maybe this section will help you decide.
You should move to Amsterdam if:
- You’d like to live in a lively, but not overly large, European capital. Amsterdam does feel really cosy, but at the same time, there’s so much to do!
- You value work-life balance, want to have free time after work and would like the chance to earn a competitive salary in the corporate world.
- You don’t mind the weather and long winters. For people from warm countries, this can be quite shocking and have a toll on your mental health.
- You enjoy travelling: due to the great connections, Amsterdam will make it easier to travel anywhere in the world.
- You want to move abroad and are looking for a nice city that has so much to offer!
Moving here will ultimately be your decision, but I seriously think it’s a good choice.
Since moving here, my quality of life has improved and I’ve been really enjoying my life as an expat in Amsterdam!
Plus, it’s very easy to settle here, everyone speaks English, there is a huge expat community and I doubt you will ever feel lonely. It’s the perfect city for expats!
Is it expensive to live in Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is the most expensive city in The Netherlands – it’s the capital and everyone wants to live here. The biggest difference between Amsterdam and other Dutch cities, in terms of costs, really is the rent and the services.
A lot of people work in Amsterdam but live elsewhere, such as Haarlem, Almere, Amersfoort, Utrecht, The Hague, etc. Public transportation here is extremely effective and you can be in Amsterdam really quickly. From Haarlem, for example, it’s only 15 minutes!
How much money do you need to move to Amsterdam?
I would say it would be nice to have at least 3.500€ in savings if you’re coming with a job already. You’ll have several initial costs, such as the deposit for your rental property, buying a bike and winter gear if you need it and having spare money for your first month.
Is Amsterdam a good place to live?
Overall, it’s very good! Some people prefer to live in smaller cities near Amsterdam like I already mentioned before. These cities are quieter and also lack the international feel that Amsterdam has, and some people prefer that.
This being said, living in Amsterdam is awesome, as there’s so much to do and to explore!
Is it hard to get a job in Amsterdam?
There are a lot of job opportunities in The Netherlands! It will ultimately depend on what you’re searching for and your qualifications. You can get a job at a shop, café or restaurant really easily, even if you don’t speak Dutch.
If you’d like to get a corporate job, it can get a bit trickier – you have to search in LinkedIn and your network, and usually look for an international company that doesn’t require you to speak Dutch. If you’re working in IT, this will be very easy for you!
Is it worth moving to the Netherlands?
Very worth it! Like I mentioned before, The Netherlands is an amazing country to live in. The work-life balance is great all over the country, and Amsterdam has so much to offer, with its international feel. I don’t regret moving here at all!
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About the author
Hey there, I’m Beatriz! In 2019 I moved to Amsterdam, from sunny Lisbon, after landing a job in the city of the canals and funky herbal smell, if you know what I mean.
A year and many adventures later, I decided to start writing about my endeavours in Amsterdam, my travelling diaries and more personal stories I believe are worth sharing. You can learn more about me here!
Visit my blog: https://beatrizpaula.com
Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/beatrizfpaula/