Expats praise Amsterdam's quality of life, but feel left out

17 October 2012, by
(6)

In spite of some social difficulties, expats in Amsterdam generally consider the quality of life in the city to be excellent, according to the first research study organised by the Amsterdam Expatcenter, along with Bureau Onderzoek en Statistiek. 

Expats on Amsterdam quality of life

Expats gave the quality of life in Amsterdam an average score of eight out of 10, with 46 per cent of respondents giving it a seven or eight, and 40 per cent a nine or 10. Social life in Amsterdam scored slightly lower, with a rating of seven.

Both results showed little variation between age groups and were not correlated with the length of time the respondent had lived in the Netherlands.

Welcoming city for internationals

The majority (60 per cent) of respondents think that Amsterdam is "certainly a welcoming city for internationals," whereas one third found this statement to be only "somewhat true." Just one tenth found the statement to be "untrue" or disagreed completely.

Social & cultural expat life

The vast majority of internationals value having an active social and cultural life: 43 per cent consider it "important" and 48 per cent consider it "very important." The most frequently mentioned activities in the socio-cultural life of internationals are hobbies, concerts, pubs, clubs and social groups.

Internationals are also generally involved in Amsterdam’s cultural scene, with over 75 per cent having visited an exhibition, museum or gallery during the past year.

Making friends in Amsterdam

Having friends in Amsterdam was considered to be (very) important by 80 per cent of the respondents, but the majority (58 per cent) were dissatisfied with the number of friends they had in Amsterdam.

amsterdam expats
Photo by Flickr user Jim Bahn

Also, the majority of respondents (59 per cent) noted that their social network primarily consisted of other (non-Dutch) internationals.

Difficult for expats to integrate

Furthermore, 33 per cent of internationals found it "difficult," and a further 16 per cent found it "very difficult," to successfully integrate into Dutch society. The majority felt that they were not actually integrated and 57 per cent did not feel like they were a part of Amsterdam culture.

Survey participants

A total of 510 internationals participated in the research. More than half were European, nearly 20 per cent were Asian (with over 10 per cent from India), and 13 per cent were from Canada and the United States.

Eight out of 10 internationals had lived in the Netherlands for less than five years, and respondents were most commonly living in Amsterdam with their partner and without children (44 per cent).


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Comments arranged by date (Total 6 comments)  
GregoryWiner
October 17 2012, 11:07AM

It would be interesting to see how these stats break down by country of origin: In other words, do some cultures have more difficulty integrating than others. Are there any insights that can be provided?

carlyblair
October 17 2012, 01:00PM

Gregory, as far as I can tell from the report, they didn't look into any correlations between nationality and replies to a given question.

Enigma
October 18 2012, 12:52PM

Internationalisation is a two-way-street. How much effort does Dutch society make in order to make expats and other internationals feel welcome in the Netherlands? That would also be an interesting topic to research!

lucia21
October 21 2012, 02:50PM

As half of an international couple (my husband being Swedish, but surprisingly, often it is thought he is the Dutchie) I would add that the language factor is an issue. Has that been taken into account in the study? Speaking Dutch is seen important not as much, in my opinion, that native Dutch cannot understand others when speaking English but that they feel less natural, relaxed or able to be funny (very important in Dutch culture) in a language that is not their own. Often they then feel they are ''forced'' to speak a language that is not their own if there is one or a couple of persons in the group whose native language is not Dutch. Learning Dutch is a partial solution, but not quite. When in a group or at a party, and even more so after a couple of drinks it becomes harder to understand a language that is not your native language. I've experienced it myself in Sweden. Both my husband and I speak the other language to a certain level (actually his Dutch is quite good, he handles the electricity company as I cannot bear the bureaucracy involved), but sooner or later you felt left out. You can sense when people feel hindered in their behaviour (very important again, for the Dutch, I say this without either negative or positive judgement). Hence it is natural to move in circles where people do not see it as a problem, in our case, with other international couples or just friends who have lived/worked abroad/work in international companies. But at the end of the day, remember that speaking and understanding another language than your own is an effort for everyone, especially late (New Year's Eve) and/or when alcohol is involved.

lucia21
October 21 2012, 02:52PM

@Enigma: I agree. To our bewilderment, when waste deposit rules changed in our old neighbourhood, we received a leaflet in Dutch, Maroccan and Turkish...but not in English!

Enigma
October 22 2012, 01:25PM

@lucia21 I recognise the "loss of nuances" when speaking a language that is not your own. That is why I am quite sceptical about the often heard comment that Dutch people speak English very well. In my opinion that really depends on the circumstances in which English is spoken. When it comes to social talk en levelling in English with speakers of other languages (as a Dutch person would in his/her own language), things can get a bit more complicated.

I know from my own experience (studying in York, England) that looking for the right words to express my thoughts, feelings, emotions sometimes can be very tiring. Despite my fairly good English proficiency I sometimes felt too tired to speak English. Also, not being able to exactly express what you feel and with the right intention, one might end up having "shallow" conversations all the time or not feeling like having any conversations at all anymore. In that sense - as sad as it is-, I can understand both Dutch and 'internationals' living in the Netherlands, who at some point "give up" interacting with each other.

However, when 'internationals' decide to learn Dutch, Dutch people cannot not afford to "ignore" the other any longer. But it happens. I often heard my students complain about the impatience of Dutch people when they wanted to say or ask something in Dutch. The Dutch people did not always seem as patient to communicate in Dutch and would sometimes start to speak English to "speed up" things. There is no worse way to discourage a language learner!

When it comes to learning Dutch, I feel that Dutch people have the responsibility to a welcoming attitude to speakers of other languages. As Dutch people we should feel happy when speakers of other languages make an effort in learning Dutch. The least we can do is to be responsive to them... in Dutch!

 
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About the Author
Carly Blair

I am an Arizona export establishing new roots in Amsterdam. I love listening to and waxing philosoph...

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