The Netherlands is a country where expats can adapt easily. The Dutch are generally hospitable and friendly to foreigners. Dutch cities are extremely well planned, and very livable where each has a character of its own.With the abundance of social and cultural activities available, living in the Netherlands can be a special and rewarding experience. By many, the Netherlands might not be a seen as a retirement haven. Nevertheless, the Netherlands is ideal for working expats.
The Dutch are known for their tolerance of other religions, viewpoints and customs. This is one of a very few countries to let resident aliens vote in local elections and the privilege may be expanded to national elections.
The Dutch strive for an egalitarian society, where every citizen expects to be treated with respect and has the same rights regardless of job or income. For instance, top executives are outgoing and do not stick out of the crowd by dressing differently or drive luxurious cars.
The standard of living is high, and unemployment rate is quite low when compared to other European countries. As a matter of fact, in particular knowledge workers are extremely welcome! The social welfare system is generous and only about 6% of the population falls below poverty line. The rate of violent crimes is low with only 1.2 death related crimes per 100,000 inhabitants as opposed to 8.2 per 100,000 in the U.S.
A downside of the Netherlands is the infinite red tape one has to go through when settling in the country. There are laws for everything and the tiniest thing of possession has to be accounted for and declared! The Dutch tolerance is visible as well in certain acts which are officially illegal but are not prosecuted for instance soft drugs such as marijuana and euthanasia. Although being not legal they are in a way tolerated.
The Dutch value their privacy and do not appreciate anyone’s dropping in unexpectedly. When someone gets invited, it is generally for a cup of coffee and a piece of ‘vlaai’. Dinner is usually served sometime between 1800 to 1900. In case one is invited to join a Dutch family for dinner be punctual and bring along a symbolic present such as flowers or a bottle of wine. In case you are doubting what to take, flowers are always welcome. Between friends, Dutch kiss or rather touch cheeks three times: right, left, right. Those who do not know each other well shake hands at first.
Dutch love conversations and discussing actual news. Politics and sports the two most popular topics. On the other hand, avoid talking about hot topics such as the fact that prostitution is legal or drugs.
Birthday parties are rooted in the Dutch culture and celebrated by everyone. Generally, the person having the birthday is expected to take a cake to share with colleagues at work and invite family members for a piece of ‘vlaai’.
When it comes to business, after shaking hands and introducing yourself, get down to business without too much socializing or small talk. Dutch like to be straight to the point during negotiations and are not particularly fond of indirect strategies.
The Dutch are proud of their sparkling clean homes and leave the curtain open to display them. Moreover, the Dutch are very fond of their gardens and take every opportunity to relax and do some gardening when the weather is nice and the sun shines!