stroopwaffle in haarlem

Roughly a year ago, I moved to the Netherlands after securing a job in Amsterdam. To be very honest, I wasn’t even that sure I wanted to move here. I just wanted to get out of Portugal and have the experience of living and working abroad, so I had been applying to jobs in a bunch of cities in Europe. I happened to apply to one – just one – job in Amsterdam, and guess what? I got it! 

I had already been to Amsterdam twice in my life, and my impression was that it would be a really small city to live in and that I’d get easily bored. In reality, I was more interested in finding a job in a large city, such as Berlin or London. I had envisioned myself being a big city girl, walking among the crowds, taking the metro from one side of the city to the other, going to fancy restaurants and cafés with my future expat friends – and I just couldn’t picture that in Amsterdam, for some reason.

canal boat cruise amsterdam
A canal boat ride in the Summer is my favorite activity!

Looking back, I was so wrong! After living here for one year, I’m so glad that I got this job and decided to move to Amsterdam, even though it wasn’t in my top cities to move in to.  Let me tell you why I love living here so much (and also what I dislike – spoiler alert: I don’t dislike that many things about living here).

Let’s start with the pros of living in the Netherlands:


Work-life balance

This one has to be on the top of my list! After coming from Portugal, where you normally work 10 or more hours per day and earn miserable salaries that won’t even let you move out of your parents’ house, the Netherlands work-life balance was a breath of fresh air for me. 

Here, you usually leave work between 17h and 18h and the salaries actually allow you to have a decent life. Plus, if you’re hired from abroad and meet certain criteria, you may be eligible to have a tax benefit called 30% ruling (read more about it here). So, by moving here, I was able to reduce my working hours and more than double my net salary. This represented a huge improvement in my quality of life! 

Biking everywhere
biking in the netherlands
There’s nothing like discovering new places on your bike

The Netherlands is probably the flattest country in Europe and has an impressive system of bike lanes – this means you can bike anywhere! Cycling is actually the fastest way of getting to places and is also pretty enjoyable (except when it’s raining or the weather’s windy) – believe me, there’s nothing like cycling around the canals when it’s sunny outside. Yes, this means you won’t have to spend money on a car lease, gas, insurance and will also decrease your ecological footprint!

Great restaurants and food

You might have heard that Dutch food is not the best, but actually the Netherlands (and especially Amsterdam) have absolutely amazing restaurants with cuisines from all over the world. After all, Amsterdam is the European capital with the highest number of different cultures living there. You will never get tired from food, since there’re so many nice restaurants – I have an almost endless list of restaurants that I want to try. Meanwhile, you can read about some of my favorite restaurants here. Lekker!

There’s always something to do
Paining lesson in Rijksmuseum
Rijksmuseum Summer Art School!

Remember when I wrote that I thought I would be bored living in Amsterdam, since it’s a relatively small city? Well, I’ve never been more wrong. I’ve never been bored here, as there’s always something to do. 

You can purchase the Museum Kaart for only 65€ and have unlimited access to museums all over the Netherlands. There are always new exhibitions going on, and appreciating art is always a nice plan, especially in the Winter. I also know that Rijksmuseum hosts cheap and fun drawing and painting workshops during the Summer, which is also pretty cool!

You can also head to Boom Chicago for a comedy show (in English), or even try the scariest escape room in Amsterdam. Or maybe you’re feeling stressed and you want to go to one of the many nudist spas.

If you prefer outdoor activities, guess what? You have a huge system of cycling routes and can explore cute villages and national parks by bike. If cycling is not your thing, strolling around Dutch cities is an activity itself, as they’re so pretty. Make sure to stop for a coffee or brunch and then go sunbath in one of the many parks.

Now, because nothing is perfect, (except, eeerm, Stroopwaffles from Albert Heijn) let’s talk about the cons.


The weather

When people warned me about the weather, I didn’t take them that seriously. I thought they were being dramatic and exaggerating. Well, it turns out that they were right. The weather sucks and can be depressing, especially when you haven’t seen the sun in 2 or 3 weeks, or when you want to go somewhere and can’t even go on your bike because it’s so freaking windy, it won’t move.

This being said, Summer months are usually nice, and you can even enjoy the beach. You just need to learn to live with the weather and have a lot of rain-proof clothes!

The housing market

This one mostly applies to Amsterdam, as I don’t have much experience with other cities. The housing market can be crazy – prices are high, houses are small, and it is quite hard to find an apartment to rent. If you’re looking into buying a house, make sure to have enough savings to pay for whatever the bank may not lend you.

A solution for this is looking for a house in other cities, like we did. We actually live in Haarlem, a more affordable city, and it’s only 15 minutes away (by train) from Amsterdam Centraal.

Hot dogs in zaanse schaans
“Hot Dogs” in Zaanse Schaans!

These are the cons I can currently pinpoint! Overall, my experience has been very positive and, although I don’t see myself living in the Netherlands for many years (I want to return to Portugal at some point to be close to my family), I’m sure that I will enjoy the few years to come. I think the Netherlands is a great choice if you plan to stay only for a few years (like me) or even if you want to stay here in the long term.

If you’d like to find out why and how I ended up here in the first place, then check out my restrospective post!

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