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Moving to the Netherlands

Your guide to expat life in the Netherlands - more than just windmills, clogs and cheese

Want to move to the Netherlands?

The Netherlands is one of the world’s most popular expat destinations, and with good reason. Stunning landscapes, liberal cosmopolitan cities and a buzzing economy are just a few of the reasons expats are increasingly basing themselves here.

Famously liberal and modern, the Netherlands is a global trendsetter in governance, banking and commerce, and consistently ranks as one of the top expat destinations. Clogs, tulips and windmills are some of the iconic and somewhat archaic stereotypes that you might associate with the Netherlands, but it’s about so much more.

With a secular state that respects diversity, the Dutch are known for their tolerance and liberal ideals, and like-minded expats typically have no problem integrating into a laid-back, sophisticated society. Expats will enjoy swapping the bicycle bustle of the country’s cities with the staggering beauty of its pristine coastline, rural villages and flat, picturesque expanses. With a rich culture and friendly accommodating people, the Netherlands offers an excellent quality of life.

Basic info about the Netherlands

  • Population: Around 17.2 million
  • Capital city: Amsterdam (also the largest city)
  • Main languages: Dutch. English, French and German are also widely spoken
  • Main religion: Mostly secular with a Catholic, Christian and Muslim minority
  • Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
  • Time: GMT+1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October)
  • Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. Two-pin European-style plugs are used
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • International dialling code: +31
  • Internet domain: .nl
  • Emergency numbers: 112 (general emergency)
  • Road traffic: Drives on the right

Weather in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has a maritime climate, with rain throughout the year and variable changes in temperature. If you’re moving to the Netherlands, you should invest in a good raincoat and umbrella. The country experiences mild summers and cool winters, with temperatures averaging around 19°C (66°F) in summer from June to August, and 2°C (36°F) in winter from December to February.

Owing to its small size, there's little variation between regions. The flat landscape means that it's also quite windy, which is evident in the country's famed windmills.

Key phrases in Dutch

  • Hello Hallo/Hoi
  • Good evening Goedenavond
  • Goodbye Tot ziens
  • How are you? Hoe gaat het met u? (formal), Hoe gaat het? (informal)
  • Thank you Dank u wel
  • Yes Ja
  • No Nee
  • Do you speak English? Spreekt u Engels?
  • Can you help me? Kunt u mij helpen?
  • I am sorry Neem me niet kwalijk

Shipping to the Netherlands

If you’re shipping to the Netherlands, you’ll be glad to know that Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port. The port is efficiently run, so delays are unlikely. You should keep all documentation including invoices, inventories, carrier arrival notices and customs forms handy. Removals within Europe can be done quickly and affordably by train.

Air vs sea freight

If moving from outside of Europe, you will have the choice of sea or air freight. Shipping by sea takes longer but is usually the cheaper option. It's worth shopping around for quotes. It may be a good idea to send the belongings that you will need immediately by air freight, with the less urgent items to follow by sea freight.


You should check the website for the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality to find out if your animal can be brought into the country. You will need a pet passport, or an authorised veterinary certificate translated into Dutch, with proof of vaccinations and a microchip. Pets must be vaccinated against rabies at least 21 days before departure and may need to be quarantined for a month in the Netherlands. Dog owners may be charged an annual tax and must register their dogs with the local town hall and municipal tax office within two weeks of arriving.

Shipping a car

To ship a car to the Netherlands, it must pass a technical inspection and be formally registered. Within two weeks of arriving in the country, the vehicle must have a Dutch licence number. You'll also need to pay any relevant taxes and get car insurance.

Top tips for the Netherlands

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in Netherlands.

Spend the first year meeting as many people as you can. Life abroad is a lot easier and manageable when you've got a network around you. Also, Dutch people are nice, but can come across as quite direct. I still have to get used to it!
If you want a social life in the Netherlands you have to work hard. The people in big cities are used to dealing with expats, but in the countryside you will always be that stranger from abroad.
If you have the time and patience to look, don't move into a long-term contract flat straight away. Get to know the city first, especially the parts you'd like to live in, before you commit to a 2 year residential contract.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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