From personal experience: What is it like to relocate to Amsterdam?
The world is a big place. And while the Netherlands only takes up a small part of it geographically, it makes up for it in the countless opportunities it offers. With a world-class academic tradition, robust startup ecosystem, efficient visa processes, laid-back quality of living and a huge diversity of talent, the Amsterdam Area is where both people and business thrive. But how have people experienced relocating to Amsterdam? And more importantly, why have they decided to stay? We hear the advice on how to get the most out of Amsterdam life from five internationals who now call the region their home.
“Just go for it”: Seize the endless opportunities in Amsterdam
With access to some of the world’s highest-ranked academic research institutions and a thriving startup scene, Amsterdam is the best city in the world for startup success. Endless opportunities lie at your fingertips in the Netherlands. And as Founder of B2B software startup Elementa Labs, Ahmed Khali soon discovered, all you need to do is reach out and take them: “I started joining incubator programs, researching information online and attending networking events. If you find yourself with an idea, reach out to people, explore and just go for it.”
Haven’t secured a professional network yet? No worries. In 2020, Manoj Tutika, co-founder of fintech company Sprinque, was in the same position. He made use of the early stage investor Antler, which brings together individuals interested in partnering up and building a startup: “They helped me find co-founders in Amsterdam, facilitated my move with a startup visa and managed all the immigration-related matters. I have to say, it was one of the smoothest immigration visa experiences I’ve ever had.”
And it’s not just about seizing the opportunities of today. For creator of Ore Energy, Aytac Yilmaz, there was no better place to make strides in the field of renewable energy than in a country that values innovative and sustainable enterprise: “We found that the Netherlands strongly supports the energy transition [and] there is also top-notch research going on in the field.”
Enjoy a healthy work-life balance
“In Amsterdam, people work less and live more,” Tatevik Tovmasyan, a software engineer from Armenia, was pleased to find. And it’s true: Amsterdam prides itself on the high quality of life that comes with valuing the lived experience in the city. Afterall, there must be a reason that so many of those who relocate to Amsterdam end up staying for the long-haul. For Manoj in fact, it’s enough to make him fall in love with the city every day: “Getting on my bike, going to a cafe, grabbing some coffee, and taking a walk in Vondelpark is a daily experience I really enjoy about the Netherlands”. So get out and explore the city’s many parks, waterways, restaurants, and museums… and wave goodbye to those Monday blues.
Build a support network
The best work-life balance in the world is no fun without friends. But as every resident will know, the region is home to a talented and diverse culture of people from all over the world. Such multiculturalism paired with an open, liberal culture makes it the perfect place to forge lifelong connections both in work and life. “There are currently more than 30 nationalities represented just in our Amsterdam office,” Tatevik proudly reports.
International mobility specialist Tim Zhang has found developing a community key to understanding the culture, the city and people around him: “Use your network. You want to connect with as many people as possible.” While there are many support systems designed to help you feel at home in Amsterdam, sometimes we get by with a little help from our friends: “[...] Regarding registration with a city hall, getting a BSN number, and finding an apartment you can use to register, I think that's all more complicated. That’s why I'm glad I had my friends to help me during this process.” Struggling to meet people? Try our tips on socialising the Dutch way.
Keep an open mind
When it comes to finding success in the Netherlands, you certainly don’t have to fit the mould. Tim now has a permanent position at Bol.com, an opportunity that arised after he started his own company and built up a network through freelancing: “In the Netherlands, there are different kinds of opportunities, so you don't need to look for employers right away,” Tim explains, “You can also start your own business, for example.” With over 20% of the Dutch population now self-employed, Tim is in good company.
There are a whole host of visa options if you want to live and work in the Netherlands – from one-year orientation visas, to highly-skilled migrant and startup visas. But no matter how you entered the country, try to keep an open mind about how your initial plan might change now you’re here. You never know what opportunities may come your way.