Expat Essentials

Expat Essentials: IJburg is ideal for families, yet minutes from Amsterdam’s city center

Bigger houses than in the city center; more space for children to play around and a strong community feel that resembles that of a small town.

All that is just 15 minutes from Amsterdam’s Central Station.

A look at the expat community in IJburg

Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 5.43.57 PMAmsterdam is a beautiful and lively city and an overall great place to live. Moving to Amsterdam, however, has it challenges.

Due to the high demand, housing prices are sky-high. Whether you buy a house or are renting an apartment, living in Amsterdam comes at a price.

While looking for affordable housing within Amsterdam, many expats end up in IJburg.

(Editor’s note: IJburg is pronounced “ayj-burgh … sort of, though this is a name perhaps only Dutch people can pronounce properly. Hear the proper pronunciation here.)

This is an extremely child-friendly neighborhood just out of the city center where you get more space for your money and –  as an extra bonus – can enjoy the community feel of a small town just minutes away from the big city life of Amsterdam.

“When we were looking for a house, we visited all the areas in Amsterdam,” says Karina Sandoval, who is from Peru and lives in IJburg with her husband and their baby.

“We saw the house that is now our house and we liked it, but what really made the decision for us was the neighborhood. I remember we entered a café in IJburg and the first thing we heard was English and Italian.

“I told my husband, ‘I like it here!’

“He is Dutch but he loves international people and all the different cultures.

“As soon as we ended up in IJburg for a house viewing, we made the decision the same day.”

History of IJburg

Amsterdam_-_IJburg_24IJburg, famous for its “floating houses,” is filled with people from all over the world.

Most of them are young families with children. In no other area of Amsterdam live as many children as in IJburg. The neighborhood itself is as young as its people.

IJburg was built on three artificial islands in the east of Amsterdam. Its first citizens moved there in 2002. The newer houses were another reason for Karina Sandoval and her husband to move to IJburg.

“You can buy an apartment close to the Jordaan if you have the money. These houses look really nice from the outside, but they are really old,” says Sandoval.

“We’d rather put our money into something that is newer. In the long run we are not going to be bothered with all the maintenance. We wanted to be in Amsterdam, but we also wanted to be smart with our money and make sure we would make a good investment.”

According to Brit Seija Beth Kingston, who moved to IJburg with her family in 2012, many expats are used to living in bigger houses, which are hard to find in Amsterdam. “A big house in Amsterdam is just a regular sized house in the UK. That was the main reason we moved to IJburg.

“You also have more freedom and space in IJburg. We also looked at houses in Oud-Zuid and I remember taking my children to the Vondelpark around rush hour. It was just too crazy and stressful.”

The expat community in IJburg

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SEIJA BETH KINGSTON

While Amsterdam is a constant stream of noise, tourists and bikers rushing their way through the city’s traffic, IJburg is about as easy-going as Amsterdam gets. It is a neighborhood fully equipped for young families with good schools, parks and playgrounds.

Our first summer here felt like a real holiday,” Kingston said. “Kids were swimming in the canals, people were barbecuing in the streets and neighbors where hanging out together outside.”

The strong community in IJburg helps newcomers settle in their new country and environment.

Through Facebook groups such as IJburg International Mamas, which now has over nine hundred members, people get together and help each other out. The parents get in touch about things such as schools, sport clubs and activities or to organize play dates for their children or to get a babysitter.

Willemijn Maas, a 25-year old college graduate living in IJburg with her boyfriend, gets jobs through the Facebook communities and her neighbors. Maas helps her neighbors out by babysitting and teaches Dutch and Italian.

“A lot of expats live in IJburg. They do not know anyone when they first move here,” Seija Beth Kingston said. “Especially as a stay at home mother it can be very lonely at first in a new country. Through the Facebook group people can get in touch and help each other.”

The group has grown very quickly, people post more advertisements and it’s “not as personal anymore,” Kingston said.

“That is why I am moderating the group now to get it back to its roots: a support community for people who are new to this country.”

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