Living in the Netherlands?

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Living in the Netherlands

Thanks to the country’s diverse and liberal society, expats rarely have difficulties adjusting to life in the Netherlands. No reason, however, to treat your future expat life lightly! Get useful tips on living in the Netherlands including housing, healthcare, and education on InterNations.
The Netherlands is a great place to live for expat families.

At a Glance:

  • It is a challenge to find reasonably priced accommodation, particularly in popular cities such as Amsterdam.
  • A point system is used to evaluate all rented properties and can sometimes decide the fixed price.
  • The Netherlands has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, ranking 5th in a recent 2017 report.
  • After finishing primary school, children receive a recommendation about their further academic options.


Over 17 million people currently live in the Netherlands and it is the 66th most populated country in the world. Foreigners and ethnic minorities make up about 19% of the country’s population, with most of them living in bigger cities like Rotterdam, Amsterdam, or The Hague. It is a very tolerant and internationally oriented country, with trade being essential for its economy.

Expat life in the Netherlands will make you realize that the Dutch themselves are welcoming and cordial, albeit rather reserved. Indeed, it is not common for the Dutch to let themselves be overwhelmed by emotion. In conversation, they tend to be friendly, but also straightforward and honest. If you are used to distantly polite interaction, this may come as a shock.

Renting an Apartment in the Netherlands

There are only a limited number of rental apartments available to foreigners living in the Netherlands, with more than 40% of the Dutch living in rented properties or social housing. Especially in the bigger cities, it is quite difficult to find affordable accommodation. While Dutch nationals have the option of contacting building cooperatives for available housing, expats can only go house-hunting on the open market. This means paying higher rents and, if necessary, moving to the suburbs. A property valuation system (woningwaarderingsstelsel) is used to assess all properties. This establishes a base rental rate which acts as a fixed price. 

Most apartments are offered through real estate agents who usually charge a fee of one month’s rent plus taxes for their services. In addition, you will have to pay between one and two months’ rent as a deposit to your landlord. This charge may be even higher if you decide to rent a furnished (gestoffeerd) apartment. Rental prices vary depending on where exactly you will be living.

Buying Your Own Home

If you are planning to spend of the rest of your life in the Netherlands, buying an apartment or house is an attractive alternative to renting. Fortunately, there are no restrictions on buying property for foreigners. An agent can help you find the right place for you and your family. If you want to save the agency fees, you can also check the classified sections of local newspapers.

The following offices provide model contracts for property purchases (in Dutch only):

The sales contract does not have to fulfill any formal requirements, but it should state the basic rights and responsibilities of both parties. The transfer of property needs to be attested by a notary living in the Netherlands.

The Best Healthcare for Everyone

Leading a healthy life in the Netherlands is quite easy with the country’s comprehensive healthcare system. The government invests a significant share of the annual GNP in the health sector. About 117 hospitals can be found all over the Netherlands, as well as 213 Independent Treatment Centers (ITCs), and 106 private clinics. The Dutch healthcare system came in 5th in a ranking of the world’s best healthcare systems in a 2017 report by Business Insider

The Health Insurance Act (Zorgverzekeringswet) makes it obligatory for everyone living in the Netherlands to have health insurance. Private health insurance providers are committed to accepting every resident in their area. The insured person pays an annual fixed premium of approximately 1,200 EUR to their insurance provider. Unfortunately, dentist fees are not covered. Employees further pay an income-based contribution that, while reimbursed by their employer, is still taxable. The insurance will in turn provide them with a standard package of essential healthcare services.

Twelve Years of School

School is obligatory for all children living in the Netherlands aged 5 to 16. Most Dutch schools are privately run, but supervised by the state. They are free of charge for all children in the Netherlands up to the age of 18.

The Dutch school system is divided into primary (Basisonderwijs) and secondary education (Voortgezet Onderwijs). After eight years of primary school, a recommendation regarding further academic options is issued to all children.

In 2017, the Dutch education system ranked 11th in the world, according to the World Top 20 Project.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

If there’s something you’re still not sure about, check out the InterNations Forum.

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"With InterNations as my network, I have been able to make many friends learn the ins and outs about living in The Hague."

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