Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Move To the Netherlands

The idea of working remotely at an Amsterdam cafe may sound romantic and ideal, and the Netherlands is indeed a dream to visit. On the other hand, living in the Netherlands has many drawbacks that might make you think twice before moving there.

The top reasons why you shouldn’t move to the Netherlands are:

  1. High taxes
  2. Weather
  3. Owning a car is expensive
  4. Difficult parking and expensive taxis
  5. Poor customer service
  6. Lack of housing
  7. Absence of luxury
  8. Low salaries
  9. Food portions are small and prices are high
  10. Retail is expensive
  11. Dutch people are brutally honest
  12. Not the best air quality
  13. Hard to fit in if you don’t speak Dutch

There are many great things about the Netherlands. After all, it has an impressive history, architecture, as well as some of the best education and healthcare in Europe. You can enjoy the amazing unique energy of Amsterdam and Rotterdam and then quickly escape to a beautiful country field of flowers while riding your bike.

The overall picture of life in the Netherlands is beautiful, but the reality can be a little bleak and claustrophobic. If you are considering moving to the Netherlands, you should read below to understand some of the less-than-ideal aspects of life there.

1. High taxes

The tax rates in the Netherlands are much higher than the world’s average. Tax rates start at around 37% and reach almost 50% for the country’s highest earners. Since the Netherlands is “socially conscious” it expects those who earn the most to pay the most in taxes.

Although the high taxes help fund great schools and healthcare programs, it can be very difficult to save large sums of money. If you are looking for cafe culture, you may enjoy the Netherlands, but if you are looking to bank lots of savings you may want to look elsewhere.

Nonetheless, some expats coming to the Netherlands to work could benefit from the 30% tax rule, which gives some exclusions and a lower overall rate. Read more about the 30% rule in this article about Dutch salaries.

2. The weather

Here, we probably don’t even need to explain. Everyone knows about nasty Dutch weather. Be prepared for plenty of rain and wind with a grey sky.

Moreover, many locals in the Netherlands will make jokes about its constantly unpredictable weather, but the constant weather fluctuations are very real. In theory, the Netherlands has fairly mild winters and cool summers. 

In actuality, the weather can change significantly at the drop of a hat. It’s not uncommon for it to be sunny, rainy, windy, and then chilly all in one day. The unpredictable weather may be fun for a day, but it can involve difficult strategic planning and many headaches if you face it on a regular basis.

3. Car ownership is expensive

If you love to ride a bike, then the Netherlands is going to be your idea of heaven. If, however, you require the use of a car every day, then you may want to look into other EU countries before you move to the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is one of the most expensive countries in the EU to own a car. Not only are cars expensive to purchase and park, but the Netherlands imposes a motor vehicle tax, which all cars must pay every 3 months. 

This tax was imposed because the Netherlands is working hard to improve its sustainability rating, and is trying to significantly reduce automobile emissions. It likely will not go away any time soon.

4. Difficult parking and expensive taxis

Even if you choose not to own a car, there will inevitably be times when a bicycle or public transport will not work for your needs. You can rent a car in Amsterdam and elsewhere in the Netherlands, but good luck finding parking. Just as there is a housing shortage – there is a massive parking shortage. 

Taxis are an alternative if you require the use of a car, but they are also quite pricey. Uber can be a bit cheaper than taxis, but overall the Netherlands has one of the top 10 highest average taxi rates in the world.

5. Poor customer service

The Netherlands prides itself on the concept that everyone is equal. Unfortunately, this equality also results in a lack of customer service, at least the type Americans are used to. “The customer is always right” is not a sentiment shared by the Dutch. Instead, they will often let you know why you are wrong.

It is certainly possible to adjust to this style of service. However, if you are easily triggered, or don’t like getting “talked back to,” then the Netherlands, and specifically Amsterdam, will not settle well with your spirit.

6. Lack of housing

Housing in the Netherlands currently suffers from a major supply and demand problem. This housing shortage means that housing is both expensive and difficult to come by.

Increased immigration and a lack of available space are two of the main reasons good quality and affordable housing in the Netherlands is hard to find.

For example, the average one-bedroom in Amsterdam is 1,078 EUR per month, with many apartments charging over 2,000 EUR per month. However, the Netherlands has more affordable “social housing,” which caps off at just over 750 EUR. Unfortunately, this housing program has a long waitlist that is very hard to get on as an expat.

7. Absence of luxurious space

The lack of available space in many areas in the Netherlands also means an absence of certain luxuries Americans are accustomed to. Many apartments, businesses, and even restaurants maximize every ounce of space they occupy. 

You will not find many extra rooms, vast open spaces, or pampering “extras” unless you pay top dollar for them. In fact, the majority of homes in Amsterdam have less than 75 square meters of usable space.

8. Low salaries

If you are able to find an affordable apartment in Amsterdam or another Dutch city, you also need to make sure you have a job that can pay the rent. While there are some exciting employment opportunities in the Netherlands that attract expats, the salaries can be lackluster. 

The average annual salary in the Netherlands, including bonuses, is 37,230 EUR. Learn about salaries in The Netherlands in this article. When you factor in the cost of living and the fairly high taxes, this does not leave significant money to play with.

Keep in mind if you do find a high-paying job, you will end up paying even higher taxes. This means your take-home pay may not increase all that much.

If you are looking for a job in the Netherlands, check this article.

9. Food portions are small and prices are high

Americans often experience major culture shock when they first dine out in Europe. Portion sizes are usually much smaller in Europe than in the United States, and the Netherlands is no exception.

Not only are food portion sizes smaller, but drink portions are smaller as well. The prices, however, are often more than you may be used to paying in the States. You will have trouble finding a pint of beer in Amsterdam, as it usually comes in glasses much smaller than a pint. 

The concept is chic and cute, but the cost can start hurting your wallet if you have a large appetite and a bit of alcohol tolerance.

10. Retail is expensive

Clothing stores and other retail establishments in the Netherlands will also cost you a pretty penny. Sure, they have some of the same inexpensive retail chains like H&M and others, but if you are after higher quality then prepare to pay for it.

The hours of operation of many retail operations can also get frustrating. It’s common for many establishments to close by 8 pm, especially in more rural areas. Many stores outside of the major cities are also closed for business on Sundays.

11. Dutch people are brutally honest

The Dutch folk communicates with a direct honesty that can be a lot to adjust to if you are unprepared for it. Where in the United States, there are standard niceties and friendly ways of phrasing observations, the Dutch cut right to the chase. 

This bluntness is not meant to be rude. It simply shows that the Dutch hold honesty in very high regard. Still, you should make sure you have thick skin before you decide to become a full-time member of this brutally honest society.

12. Not the best air quality

You may think that by moving to Northern Europe near the ocean and vast fields, the air will be clean and crisp, but you would be wrong. Not only is the air in the Netherlands not the cleanest in the world, but it actually ranks at “moderately unsafe” according to WHO guidelines for air quality.

Even with this ranking, there are some countries in the EU with worse air quality than the Netherlands. Amsterdam’s air quality is sometimes ranked “good,” and the country continues to work to improve the air quality score. 

Read about the quality of life in the Netherlands in this post.

13. Hard to fit in if you don’t speak Dutch

Most people in the Netherlands speak English. This can be helpful when it comes to dining out or shopping at a store. But it doesn’t mean you don’t need to learn Dutch. When it comes to making friends with locals, on the other hand, you should brush up on your Dutch. 

Just because many Dutch citizens speak English perfectly does not mean they want to cater to the Americans who aren’t able to speak Dutch. Learning Dutch is not a requirement to live in the Netherlands, but if you want to mingle with the locals you should learn the language.


Anna is an enthusiastic expatriate with experience of living in Germany, Austria and Greece. She shares her passion for living abroad on this website.

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