What’s It Really Like Living In Amsterdam?

Hi everyone! I’d like to share an interview with Steph. She’s originally from New Zealand and we met while we were both living in Hamburg. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time together there as she moved to Amsterdam in 2018, but we’ve kept in touch. It has been great watching her make the most of living in one of Europe’s most popular and visited cities. In this post, she shares her experience of living and working in Amsterdam. I hope you enjoy it! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section.

Hi Steph! You’ve been in Amsterdam since October 2018. Did you have a job waiting for you there, or did you have to look for one? How did you find your apartment?

I didn’t have a job waiting for me, so I searched for a lot of entry-level customer support jobs in the beginning, looking within start-ups. I knew there was a big start up culture in Amsterdam. I now work as a project manager for an electric bike company.

In terms of accommodation, I found a temporary room for 3 months. Funnily enough it was with three German guys from Hamburg, where I was previously living. Now I live in Erasmus Park, which is a great neighbourhood and really underrated. You can reach the centre by bike in 15 minutes, but it’s far enough out that it’s quiet.

According to research into happiness and the quality of life, the Netherlands is reportedly the fifth happiness country in the world. What do you enjoy most about living in Amsterdam? Has it lived up to your expectations?

Biking everywhere and the freedom it gives! To be honest, in the beginning I really didn’t like Amsterdam because it is super touristy and small (small compared to number of people/tourists) and it feels a bit like everyone is in their own world. However, I’ve really come to love it, I feel at home here.

Has it been easy to meet people and make friends? Are most of your friends Dutch, foreigners, or a mix of both?

I didn’t find it difficult to meet people, Amsterdam has a huge expat community, but if you don’t speak fluent Dutch, it can be difficult to make local friends. Not because they don’t speak English, but because it’s more of a cultural norm for Dutchies to only have Dutch friends.

What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced living there?

In the first months I broke my ankle badly and needed to have two operations. I felt super alone, as I wasn’t here long enough to make enough good friends by that time (but I had some great colleagues). Integration is also difficult. I expected it to be easy because I was living in Germany and spoke German, but you’re in an expat bubble here. It’s important to try and learn Dutch; don’t worry about the difficult grammar or being perfect. Just speak!

How does the cost of living in Amsterdam compare to home? 

Compared to New Zealand, I honestly probably can’t tell you! I’ve been gone for 6 years, but moving from Germany to the Netherlands, I was shocked. Amsterdam is so expensive, and the cost of living is much higher. You need to be really creative with your money here to stretch it out. Renting a 30-40sqm apartment would be around €1500 per month, but it can vary a lot depending on location. It’s expensive to eat out in restaurants and prices are rising along with inflation. For example, dinner for two people in a restaurant would be at least €100.

What Dutch food do you like the most and least? Do you have any favourite restaurants you keep going back to?

I don’t eat a lot of Dutch food, but my favourite is probably a fried snack called Bitterballen (beef or veal mince made into a thick stew, rolled into balls then breaded and fried!). I normally eat at home because eating out is so expensive nowadays. Luckily my boyfriend is an amazing cook as he’s lived in Asia before.

Based on your experiences, which of the Dutch stereotypes have some truth in them and which are completely false?

Some stereotypes are true! Dutch people love leopard print, hair gel, and techno music. However, it’s not true that they’re closed off from expats. Once you break down the barrier, they’re awesome friends to have.

Have you picked up any typical Dutch habits?

This is from living abroad, but I do speak a bit of broken English now and then, or say Heuh?!” when I don’t understand something (which is also typically German!)

Have you travelled much outside of Amsterdam to other places in the Netherlands? What are some of your favourite places you’ve been?

Yes a bit! There are some very sweet Dutch villages I would recommend such as Voldendam, Marken, Zaanse Schaans, Edam. I also recommend the Hague and Leiden.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to move to the Netherlands?

Be prepared, be patient and keep an open mind. Times have changed a little and it is getting more difficult to find an apartment but if you really want it, you can do it! Don’t expect to love the city within two days, it can take a while to find your place and settle in. Also move in the spring because the grey, wet, winter can hurt a little!

Amsterdam is a good mix between a new country with new experiences (food, language, people), but somewhere where you can also find a lot of familiar, “home” feelings, with all the expats and international influences.

Thank you so much Steph. It was really interesting to learn about your adventures in Amsterdam. If you enjoyed this interview, check out my other interviews with people living and working abroad. 

Ciao for now

The Curious Sparrow

Feature photo by Chait Goli

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