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Terry Boyd: 10 reasons why the Netherlands is the best country in Europe for American expats … and one big problem

(Editor’s note: This post about moving to the Netherlands is the fourth in a series looking at the best countries in Europe for American expats. You can read the introductory post here.)

Bloomberg and other media are documenting an unexpected new trend of Americans seriously thinking about getting out, including buying property in Italy, France or wherever.

We as Dispatches come to this issue from a different perspective. We see things through the lens of highly skilled internationals – the engineer, physicist or manager – recruited by global corporations.

Since we’ve been posting on this topic since 2016, we can say without fear of contradiction that the Netherlands makes more sense for Americans than any other country in Europe.

Here are 10 reasons garnered from our six years hanging out here, traveling and having fun:

Beyond the quaint windmills and canals, the Netherlands is Europe’s most advanced and industrialized country. (Photo by Terry Boyd for Dispatches Europe)

No. 10 – International schools. This was a big consideration for us, and one of the reasons we chose EIndhoven is International School of EIndhoven. It had a place for our daughter Lale, and it was far less expensive in the other cities we were considering. Every major city in the Netherlands has an international school, and there’s a new one opening in Leiden as of September 2022.

No. 9 – Ease of migration. With the 90 days under the EU, that’s plenty of time to come to the Netherlands as we did as DIY expats, register with the local government, start a business and get a long-term visa. The process here is about as easy and straight-forward as in any country in Europe.

Here’s how we did it.

No. 8 – Familiar culture. This is, for better or for worse, a very Americanized culture. American TV shows and music, American consumer products and even (too many) ads for American products in English with a line or two of Dutch dropped in. So many Dutch people ride Harleys and drive Dodge Ram trucks in our area that’s it’s kind of weird. Moreover, a lot of “American” stars such as Michiel Huisman and Femke Janssen are actually Dutch. (See “The Dutch rule the world … the rest of us just live here.”)

The exception is customer service, which isn’t nearly as seamless as in the States.

No. 7 – Lots of American companies that might hire you. Everyone is here, from Tesla (assembly operation in Tilburg) to Nike (their Europe headquarters is in Hilversum) is here in force and talent is at a premium. Amsterdam is very much a headquarters city. And of course, there are also a lot of Dutch companies such as ASML hiring highly skilled internationals.

Weird fact: IKEA is actually a Dutch company for tax reasons.

No. 6 – Healthcare. Healthcare is incredibly affordable compared to the U.S., and it’s pretty good. We hesitate to say “great” because my wife and daughter had some access issues. Doctors weren’t available either because they were on a long, long vacation (which is a thing here) or because they didn’t think the symptoms warranted a visit. The joke among long-time expats in the Netherlands is that you go into the doctor’s office with a broken leg, and they prescribe paracetamol (Tylenol.) The idea is that physicians don’t want to over-burden the system.

And honestly, I haven’t had a negative experience personally.

No. 5 – Affordability. In a lot of ways, the Netherlands is more affordable than the U.S. Or, about the same. That’s certainly true with food, which is much cheaper here than either in the American grocery or restaurant. Of course, fuel prices are more than double than in the U.S., and are utilities, including electricity, water and gas.

Still, public transportation, including a great train system, will cut your travel costs if you’re a drive everyday American.

No. 4 – Weather. This will surprise you, but the weather here is better than most places in the U.S., unless you live in San Diego or Honolulu. It doesn’t get nearly as hot, cold or humid in the Netherlands as in The South, where we’re from in the States. There are no hurricanes, tornadoes or severe thunderstorms.

If we had to describe the climate where we live near Eindhoven, we’d say it’s Northern California-like.

No. 3 – Openness. We’ve lived in Germany and Turkey, and this is a pretty easy place to make friends for people who make friends easily. Yes, Turkey is the friendliest place we’ve ever lived, but it’s not uncommon here in the Netherlands for people to strike up conversations on the train or waiting in line at the supermarket.

That never happened in Germany.

No. 2 – A high-functioning society. When my wife and co-CEO returned to U.S. on business earlier this year, she couldn’t believe the state of the roads. But crumbling infrastructure is the tradeoff for cutting taxes, which the Americans do compulsively.

Taxes are higher here, but they pay for this high-functioning society, which has far less crime and corruption than the U.S.

And, because we’re Americans, we have to throw in gun control. There are no mass shootings here. Enough said.

No. 1 – You guessed it, English. English functions as the unofficial second official language, and the official language of business. Almost all college courses in the Netherlands are in English, and all international school classes are in English. The Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden have the highest percentage of English speakers. Personally, we can’t afford Scandinavia.

You will not have to come here and fumble around while learning a language that’s completely alien, and that makes life so much easier.

That one big problem

Okay, that one reason why you might want to take one of those villages in the middle of nowhere Italy up on their 1 euro house scheme – the Netherlands has a huge housing shortage, and that’s not going to improve anytime soon. There is no empty village in the middle of nowhere you can buy for cheap. That doesn’t exist because this is a country less than half the size of my home state of Kentucky with 17 million people. The Netherlands has Europe’s third-highest population density behind Monaco and Malta.

Because the Dutch economy is booming, people are pouring in from around the world, and schools depend on tuition-paying foreign kids to cover the almost-free tuitions of Dutch kids while industry depends on them staying here after graduation.

If you think your student is going to find an affordable apartment in a university town such as Maastricht or Delft, think again. There’s no such thing, and universities are telling prospective students not to come unless they’ve arranged housing in advance.

No matter how fast the Dutch build new housing, people are coming here faster than they can build it. That’s the problem with safe, prosperous countries – everyone wants to live there.


See more here about best countries for Americans including Italy and France.

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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