I have been living in the Netherlands for all of my life and not once have I wished I was born elsewhere. The Netherlands is a safe and successful country in which I have gotten plenty of opportunities to explore and develop myself. I’m pretty happy with where I live, so I would like to tell you what the best things about living in the Netherlands are.
The Netherlands is a good place to live because it’s a wealthy country, has a good healthcare system, great education opportunities, has freedom of speech, is multicultural, politically stable, great work-life balance, and many job opportunities.
There are several good things about living in the Netherlands. The healthcare system is very different from the American healthcare system, for example. The Dutch are known to be direct but don’t confuse this with rudeness. Read on to find out more about those reasons, but also how a Dutch person experiences living in the Netherlands. And did you know the Netherlands ranks high in terms of happiness?
Best Things About Living in The Netherlands
The Netherlands is a good place to live in. This statement can be supported by both objective and more subjective facts. The Netherlands is a country that is relatively tolerant and free, this comes back in both the law and how the Dutch people behave.
When people around the world think about the Dutch and the Netherlands, often images like cheese, tulips, clogs, and cows come to mind. But speaking from experience, I know Dutch people don’t walk around wearing clogs all day, and most Dutch people probably never wore them at all.
Below is a list of reasons why the Netherlands is a good place to live in and what the best things about living in the Netherlands are. Some of those reasons are based on facts, such as the good healthcare system. Others are more based on cultural and social aspects.
As a Dutch person myself, I agree with all of these reasons. Dutch tolerance is quite important to me too, but more about my experiences later.
The Netherlands has a good education system
The Netherlands has a really good education system and is a great place to study. There are several universities throughout the country, some of them specialized in a certain field and others offering a wider range of studies.
Not only are there a lot of different choices, but the universities also score very well on global rankings. In the QS World University Rankings of 2020, two Dutch universities ended up within the top 100. The Delft University of Technology is currently the highest-ranked Dutch university at 50th place. All Dutch universities ranked within the top 500.
The Delft University of Technology is ranked 50th. The university of Delft is the highest-ranked Dutch university
On average, Dutch people have mastered the English language pretty well. This means universities in the Netherlands attract students from all over the world. Lots of courses are offered in English, which contributes to an international classroom.
The Dutch healthcare system is based on solidarity
Another reason why the Netherlands is a good place to live is because of the Dutch healthcare system. The system is based on solidarity and access for all. It consists of four acts: the health insurance act, the long-term care act, the social support act, and the youth act.
The health insurance act covers the biggest part of the healthcare budget. It covers general practitioner care, hospital care, medication, and mental healthcare. The long-term care act is for vulnerable people. This covers vulnerable elderly people, chronic illnesses, and severe mental or physical disabilities.
The social support act takes care of helping people to live at their homes independently for as long as possible and helping people to participate in society for as long as possible. The youth act tries to increase preventive care support for children.
If you want to get Dutch healthcare, but you do not earn a lot of money, it might be possible to get a special healthcare allowance provided by the Dutch tax authority.
For short-term care, which is covered by the health insurance act, there is a mandatory insurance plan regulated by the state. This is paid for by income-related taxes and income-related allowances. This way the Dutch strive to make healthcare accessible for everyone.
Freedom of speech is very important in the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, freedom of speech is a human right. It is stated in the law that Dutch people can say what they think and express their opinions without needing the government’s permission. This also means that people can openly criticize the government or other important organizations.
Although this freedom of speech is considered to be important in the Netherlands, it does not mean that anyone can just say anything. People cannot be punished for disagreeing with a certain statement made by the prime minister, but they can be punished if their words cross a line. People are not allowed to discriminate based on race, gender, s.e.x.u.a.l.i.t.y, disabilities, or religion.
Other exceptions to the freedom of speech rule are related to violence. Encouraging others to be violent against a person or group is a crime as well. Encouraging others to express and form hatred against a certain group is not allowed either. Freedom of speech is not a reason to commit a crime either.
It is not always clear when something is simply the expression of an opinion or when it is an insult based on race, for example. In the Netherlands, some of those unclear cases are taken to court. When this happens, the judge has to decide whether or not someone will get punished for what they said. The judgment is based on what the accused has said, but also on the context and the consequences for the person who was the subject of the insults.
This means that while there are some exceptions, it is perfectly fine to express your opinion in the Netherlands. The exceptions that are made make sure that the country stays safe for everyone. Most Dutch people agree that your sexuality or the color of your skin should not be an issue. This is known as the Dutch tolerance, which I talk about some more later on.
The Netherlands is a multicultural country
People from all over the world move to the Netherlands. The Dutch are used to this, so if you move to the Netherlands for work, safety, or love, the Dutch don’t mind if they hear an unfamiliar language. Especially in the bigger cities, it is normal to see people of all kinds of cultures and in the stores, English is commonly spoken.
More than 200 different nationalities. The Netherlands counted more than 200 different nationalities in 2020
One of the reasons the Netherlands is such a multicultural country is that most Dutch people have mastered the English language. This makes it easier for foreigners to move to the Netherlands, as the language barrier will not pose any major problems. In fact, the Netherlands has been ranked as the best at speaking English worldwide, natively English countries excluded.
When you enter a shop or restaurant and ask a question in English, they will have no trouble answering you. If you struggle with speaking Dutch, sometimes they even automatically speak English to you instead.
In large cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam, it is even possible to work in a cafe or lunchroom, for example, if you only speak English.
People in The Netherlands are very tolerant
Another reason why the Netherlands is a good place to live in is that in general Dutch people are very tolerant. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001. Soft drugs, prostitution, and euthanasia are legalized as well.
The Netherlands used to be home to some important tolerance philosophers, such as Desiderius Erasmus, Baruch Spinoza, and Hugo Grotius.
The Dutch tolerance dates back all the way to the Eighty Years’ War. When the Protestant Willem van Oranje had just been crowned king, he decided to let the catholic minority just do as they pleased. They got their freedom of religion. This was a big deal, as there had been plenty of tension and conflict between the Protestants and the Catholics. This can be seen as the foundation of Dutch tolerance.
The Dutch are a liberal population overall, which means that you get accepted fairly easily when moving here. Especially in the bigger cities, such as Amsterdam or Rotterdam, people don’t think twice when they meet someone of a different nationality.
The Netherlands is a wealthy and rich country
The Netherlands is a rich country and the Dutch economy is very prosperous. This is mainly due to trade with foreign countries. One of the biggest reasons the Netherlands has taken on an important role in global trade is that the country is an important transportation hub.
The biggest port in Europe is in Rotterdam, and the airport in Amsterdam is among the biggest in Europe as well. Due to the location of the country, plenty of goods and products get spread throughout Europe from the Netherlands. This is also due to the large rivers that flow through the Netherlands to Germany, Belgium, and France.
Besides this, the Netherlands has also produced quite some companies that are relevant worldwide. The biggest multinational that is headquartered in the Netherlands is Royal Dutch Shell. Some other well-known Dutch multinationals are Heineken, Philips, and ING. Heineken is known for its beer, Philips for its electronics and technology, and ING is a Dutch bank.
The Netherlands is the 14th richest country in the world. According to the 2020 ranking, the Netherlands is one of the 14 richest countries in the world
Dutch politics is based on democracy
The Netherlands is a democratic country. Inhabitants get to vote for the people they want to make the big decisions about their country. There are lots of parties who can earn chairs by having enough votes.
Once those chairs are assigned to the parties that got the most votes, the politicians try to form a coalition. Due to this system, the voice of the people will be heard through the parties they voted for. This means that minorities can be heard too and that it is not just one group of rich men who get to decide everything.
The Netherlands is a politically stable country
In the Netherlands, the government is organized according to the beliefs of French philosopher Charles Montesquieu. This means that the government is divided into three different branches.
Those are the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. Those three branches are independent, but they do keep an eye on the other branches to avoid corruption.
The legislative branch consists of the States-General. The States-General is a collective term for the First and Second Chambers of the government. When a new law gets proposed, the Second Chamber has to vote.
When the majority of the Second Chamber votes in favor of a law, this does not necessarily mean the law will be accepted. The First Chamber has to vote in favor as well. This is to make sure all laws are reasonable and don’t benefit just a small portion of the population.
The executive branch consists of the people who make laws and decide on what is best for the country politics-wise. Officially, this branch consists of the King, the Queen, and the ministers. The ministers, led by the Prime Minister, make the decisions and propose laws. In the Netherlands, the royals are more of a formality.
The judicial branch consists of the judges. When something gets taken to court, the judges decide if there should be a punishment and what that punishment should be. It is of utter importance that those judges are objective.
They cannot create any laws themselves and their main focus is to make sure everyone gets a fair process. A judge may have to decide whether a law is against human rights, for example. This illustrates perfectly how important it is to keep the judges independent from the government, otherwise, corruption is right around the corner.
Because there is such a clear system with plenty of moments where possible laws and decisions can get reviewed, Dutch politics are fairly stable. Of course, there are conflicts of interest and not everyone agrees with the current government, but overall the system works well.
The Netherlands is among the 15 safest countries in the world
The Netherlands is a relatively safe place to live. When comparing it to other countries, the Netherlands usually ends up being above average. Crime rates are relatively low, and multiple prisons have been closed due to the lack of people to fill them with.
A fact that can cause some safety concerns is that the Netherlands lies below sea levels. Fortunately, there has been gathering lots of knowledge by the Dutch about how to protect themselves from the water. There are plenty of dikes and dunes to protect the country, along with more complex systems like the afsluitdijk and the oosterscheldekering. All these techniques ensure that the Netherlands is not underwater.
When thinking about Amsterdam, alcohol, and drugs often come to mind. Although it is true that there are plenty of coffeeshops in Amsterdam that sell cannabis, the Dutch do have some clear laws.
Alcohol is not allowed under the age of eighteen, and it is not legal to buy or sell alcohol where marijuana is being sold. Furthermore, hard drugs are prohibited and unless there is a festival, open containers of alcohol are not allowed on the streets.
The Dutch job market is fairly accessible
In the Netherlands, the unemployment rate is low. Before Covid-19, there were more jobs available each year. There are also a lot of people in the Netherlands who work for themselves. For people who do want a regular job at a company, there are plenty of ways to look for a job.
First of all, there are online vacancies websites on which hundreds of employers put their vacancies. Oftentimes you can send in your resume by creating an account on the vacancy website.
Another option is to go to the company’s website. Sometimes they have a special tab for vacancies. An approach that is often appreciated by Dutch companies is sending an unsolicited letter. You might not hear back from them right away, but when they do need to fill a position your resume is still in their system so it could be among the first ones they look at.
The Netherlands is a member of the European Union
In 1958 the European Union was founded. Which is now a political and economical union of 27 countries, that started with only six countries. Those six countries were Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.
The European Union works together on several subjects. Representatives of all member states come together to discuss problems that affect all of Europe. A lot of those countries share the same currency: the Euro.
The member states discuss important aspects such as fundamental rights, equality, freedom, and democracy. Migration, security and defense, and humanitarian aid are also discussed frequently.
This means that while the Netherlands may practice their own rules and beliefs, they cannot possibly pull something that’s too questionable. The European Union will put them in their place. But when the Netherlands gets in trouble, they can also count on help and advice.
The Dutch have a great work-life balance
Where in countries like the United States, China, and Japan people tend to live to work, in the Netherlands it is the other way around. In the Netherlands, people tend to work to live.
This means that while a job and a sustainable income are very important, the Dutch also recognize the importance of a good social and family life. Both employers and employees recognize the importance of a healthy work-life balance. The Netherlands has a lot of part-time employees, especially among women.
This does not mean the Dutch aren’t focused on their career, or fail to live up to their potential. According to the OECD, which is an intergovernmental economic organization, Dutch workers are highly efficient compared to other European countries.
Dutch people value their time off so much, there is even a word for the act of doing nothing. “Niksen” can actually boost creativity among people and help prevent getting a burnout. Due to the balance between working hard and having time off, people feel refreshed and motivated.
Dutch bluntness is a positive thing
We already discussed the Dutch open-mindedness, but there is another characteristic that perfectly describes the Dutch population, this is our directness. When moving to the Netherlands, this is probably something you need some time adjusting to.
Dutch people often say it as it is, without trying to use euphemisms or making a big fuss about it. This can sometimes be perceived as rude, but that is rarely the intention. Once you get used to this way of expressing thoughts and feelings, the advantages of Dutch bluntness become clear.
One of the advantages of being direct is that it’s often a lot more honest. Dutch people tend to tell you what they like or don’t like. This can prevent miscommunication, or projects not everyone is truly agreeing with.
Another advantage is that it can save a lot of time. Other cultures sometimes have customs to talk about the weather or wellbeing of others before they get to business. Where it is considered rude to get straight to business in those cultures, Dutch people usually appreciate it.
Chances are Dutch people will ask you how your weekend was on Monday morning, but when you need something done they usually will not mind you getting straight to business.
What is it Like to Live in The Netherlands?
As mentioned before, I have been living in the Netherlands my entire life. I really like it here, I consider myself quite lucky to be born in such a wealthy and safe country. Below I will tell you about some parts of my life so you will get an idea of how Dutch people experience living in the Netherlands.
One of the things I have learned to appreciate, especially the last few months, is walking. Whether this is walking through the neighborhood, a park, or a forest, the scenery is never dull. There is a nice variation in the heights of buildings and houses, which does not lead to the feeling of suffocation or isolation.
There are no real mountains in the Netherlands, the country is pretty flat. This makes any place great for walking. There is lots of green and when you pass another person they usually greet you.
Contrary to what many foreigners think, the Netherlands has a beautiful nature and there is even a lot of variation to be found.
Sense of togetherness
Another thing I love about living in the Netherlands is the nationalism that comes out on certain occasions. When the Dutch soccer team is successful during the world championship, you will see people walking through the streets dressed up in orange. They will have silly hats and huge orange glasses, all in support of our team.
Each year at King’s day, there are festivals and markets full of people celebrating, once again dressed in goofy orange outfits. The Netherlands is a multicultural and sometimes divided country, but there is still this connection and pride of being Dutch among inhabitants.
Studying in the Netherlands
Studying in the Netherlands has never been a problem for me either. During high school, there are plenty of events to help you choose what you want to study. Students tell you about their experiences and teachers give you their best advice.
In the Netherlands, students can loan money from the government to pay tuition. This way higher education is made accessible for as many people as possible. I have always felt like this country offers me enough opportunities to develop myself and make sure I have a bright future.
Tolerance and acceptance
Dutch tolerance has been mentioned in the list of reasons why the Netherlands is a good country to live in. You might wonder how exactly Dutch people experience this though.
When I went to primary school, I remember there being a “Purple Friday” being celebrated yearly. This was a day to celebrate being who you are. No matter what your race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation might be, everyone deserves to be happy and treated equally.
Besides that, I often see mixed groups of friends. It does not matter who or what you identify as, as long as you treat each other with respect.
Traveling within the Netherlands
The Netherlands is not a very big country. This means that we can easily get from one place to another without needing to take a plane or lose a lot of time. I have gone on shopping trips to cities that aren’t in the same province I live in, and a weekend trip to the other side of the country is not uncommon either.
Every province has its own subculture, but it’s all Dutch. This means it’s both familiar and vacation-worthy, all without having to spend a lot of money on transportation.
The Netherlands is The 5th Happiest Country in The World
Not only is the Netherlands a good place to live in on paper, inhabitants themselves think so too. Every year a ranking of the happiest countries in the world gets made. It is based on self-reports, which means the inhabitants of several countries report how happy they are.
While the top 5 is usually dominated by Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands has not been scoring badly either. In 2021, the Netherlands got up to fifth place. This means that on average Dutch people are very happy.
5th Happiest country in the world. In 2021 the Netherlands was ranked the 5th happiest country in the world
To determine how happy someone is, the creators of the list looked at several factors. The social environment is proven to be very important for a person’s happiness. Generosity, trust, and having someone to count on are considered to be very important.
The natural environment is not to be overlooked either. A study in London showed that living close to green spaces, air pollution and noise also contribute to a person’s happiness.
Besides those subjective factors, there are also some factual numbers that contribute to happiness. The creators of the list have also looked at healthy life expectancy and income for example.
The reason the Netherlands scored highly is because of the high levels of institutional and social trust. Social connection plays a big role as well, just like prosperity. The Netherlands also scores high on life expectancy.
There has been discovered a difference between people in the cities and the more rural parts of the country. On average, people in the rural parts of the Netherlands are happier than people in Dutch cities.
I hope that through this blog I have been able to give you a good insight into why the Netherlands is a good place to live in. The Netherlands is a country with a lot to offer, both on paper and from a Dutch point of view.
It is a country where people can be themselves, receive good medical care, have good job opportunities, the study opportunities are endless, and much more.
All this together makes the Netherlands a good place to live in. If you are thinking of moving to the Netherlands, I hope my best things about living in the Netherlands have been able to help you to make the right choice.
By: Leo van den Berg/ aboutthenetherlands.com