(Editor’s note: The Netherlands as a whole has attracted huge numbers of expats. Eindhoven alone has an estimated 37,000 knowledge migrants such as engineers and physicists from the United States, India and China, working at such ultra-high-tech firms as ASML. But they generally aren’t concentrated in one municipality.)
BY JESSY DE COOKER
We all know everything about Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Den Haag. But these cities are surprisingly enough not the expat centers of The Netherlands.
There are currently at least 57,000 expats living in The Netherlands, according to the Dutch Bureau of Statistics.
The largest contingent of expats (7,350) are from neighboring Germany. The next largest group is from Great Britain (6,860 expats), and the French are represented by about 3,100 people.
The NRC Handelsblad, one of Holland’s best newspapers, tried to figure out exactly where all those expats were living. They succeeded and this Dispatches series will be focusing on who lives where across the Netherlands.
We will start with the surprising number one on our hotspots list. It’s not Rotterdam, Amsterdam or The Hague.
No, it is the small town of Wassenaar, which is really an (extremely) upscale bedroom community northeast of The Hague, (or Den Haag in Dutch.) Wassenaar is the second-wealthiest municipality in the Netherlands behind Bloemendaal, a suburb of Haarlem north of Wassenaar.
Wassenaar has the enviable position of being equidistant between Den Haag, which is the Netherlands’ political center, and Amsterdam, the largest city and capital.
In Wassenaar, expats represent about 8 percent of the total population of 25,931 people. Wassenaar has the largest contingent of American expats, but there are also a lot of Aussies. Most Americans in the community are assigned to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or work for the energy giant Royal Dutch Shell, the aerospace company ESTEC in Noordwijk or the American Embassy in The Hague.
Wassenaar is very expat-friendly, providing the Americans with everything they need. They can do their groceries at Kelly’s Expat Shopping or take a walk with Walky Barky, a dog walking group founded by the American Women’s Club. If you’re a dog fanatic, you can find more info on Facebook.
The children can even follow an American education at the American School of The Hague, which I can promise you is in Wassenaar.
There is even an American Protestant Church of The Hague in Wassenaar. You know that Americans like to go to church on Sundays, so the town’s municipality provided them with a place.
There is also an International Sports Club ABF where expats can play soccer, baseball and basketball. It’s been celebrating its 30th birthday lately.
If you are new to Wassenaar there is even an official bureau which will help you find a place as soon as possible. Expatrience will help with opening bank accounts, getting your driver’s license and more. Finally, Wassenaar also has a fairly undeveloped beach.
How sublimely Dutch is Wassenaar? Well, there’s also a Wassenaar in Sasebo, Japan, a Dutch-style village on the water inspired by the original!
Call me naïve, but I honestly didn’t know that Wassenaar was the expat hotspot of The Netherlands, and I’ve been living here for 22 years now!
Next week we’ll discuss another unexpected hotspot.
About the author: Jessy de Cooker is a journalist based in Tilburg, Netherlands who covers music and politics.