Housing, healthcare and cultural life

Challenge

When settling in and trying to make arrangements regarding daily life, internationals often come across a number of obstacles that make it more difficult for them to find their feet. Many of these barriers relate to the Dutch housing and healthcare systems.

Unfortunately, there is a serious housing shortage in the Amsterdam Area for all residents. This issue is further intensified for internationals as information about available properties and rentals is often not easily accessible. Meanwhile, the content that is widely available in English is often targeted towards the ‘stereotypical’ expat, offering services at inflated prices. Many internationals risk falling victim to bad landlords and scams because they are not familiar with the laws and regulations pertaining to the housing market.

Similarly, access to information about healthcare is often scarce and many internationals do not fully comprehend the Dutch system, e.g. issues such as health insurance, the role of the GP and medical appointments. Information about how things work and where to turn to would make life a lot easier for them. This challenge of presenting clear, accessible communication is equally relevant across the board, be it about access to Dutch language courses, comprehending the municipal taxes that all residents pay, dealing with income tax and all municipal issues (such as registration or other official matters). At the moment, information is typically only available in Dutch, or, at best, summarised in English. And last but not least, many internationals do not find their way to Amsterdam’s first-class cultural institutions and lack necessary social connections at the beginning of their stay.

Next step

We want to improve the accessibility of information about the housing market for internationals, both in terms of finding available housing and increased familiarity with rules and regulations. We will work closely with the WOON organisation (formerly known as Wijksteunpunt Wonen) to support internationals with housing issues and legal matters. Furthermore, we will cooperate with public and private housing developers to create more housing options across the Amsterdam Area.

Together with several partners (for example, Stichting Gezondheidscentra Amsterdam), we will run a healthcare pilot project for internationals. Within this pilot project, information on the healthcare system of the Netherlands and consultations will be offered in English. Besides this, we are supporting a pilot project wherein GPs in the Amsterdam Area receive additional training in cultural differences, such as the specific sensitivities of particular international groups. In addition, renewed efforts will strengthen official multilingual communication from the City of Amsterdam, covering topics more comprehensively in both English and Dutch.

Furthermore, the Amsterdam Salon will host three events per year for internationals to get to know Amsterdam’s first-class cultural institutions and strengthen their network.

Goals

International talent coming to Amsterdam, be it students or professionals, must be able to easily find their way to suitable housing and to quickly settle in the Amsterdam Area. Information must be readily available to ensure that internationals understand their rights, have access to all available properties (whether for renting or buying) and can easily avoid scam situations.

Communication and a better understanding of cultural differences in healthcare are key to the success of our pilot project. As a result, internationals will be able to receive the healthcare they need.

Improving communication, presenting multilingual information and connecting internationals to Amsterdam’s cultural life helps them feel at home in the Amsterdam Area, adds to their sense of wellbeing and ensures they feel like a true local rather than an outsider. This will undoubtedly bolster their sense of quality of life, encouraging them to stay longer and to share their positive experiences with other potential new Amsterdammers.