Most useful languages for working in the Netherlands
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If you have ambitions to work in the Netherlands, Dutch may not be the most valuable language you can speak. Strange as it sounds, it is quite easy to get by in major Dutch cities without speaking the local language at all!
English, the language of international business
The most valuable language you can speak is English; particularly if you want to work in one of the many multinationals that enjoy the "welcoming" tax situation in the Netherlands.
These days, international business requires employees to move around the world, communicating via a common language. English has become that language by default.
In the Netherlands you won’t be alone speaking English as most young Dutch people speak the language at an excellent level. Dutch schools focus on teaching English from an early age.
However, the focus on English in Dutch education has had an unexpected consequence: over the past 10 to 15 years there has been a gradual decrease in the number of young Dutch people who can speak German and French.
German and French: neglected languages
Both German and French used to be widely taught at Dutch high schools, but with the renewed emphasis on English, young people speak "other" major European languages less well than they did in the past.
In a country which is home to the European headquarters of some of the world’s largest companies, this has led to a shortage of staff with language skills.
The spluttering global economy has encouraged European firms to be more active in seeking foreign markets for their products and services.
News from China and the USA may grab the financial headlines, but the combined economy of the EU nations is still considerably larger than any single national economy.
The Netherlands’ main trading partners
For the Netherlands, Germany is by far the largest market, both for imports and exports, while Belgium and France also count among the top destinations for Dutch goods. Combined with the UK and Italy, these five nations make up more than half of the Netherlands' foreign trade.
Neighbouring languages in demand
Smart companies understand that language skills are at the heart of international business. The immortal words of West-German Chancellor Willy Brandt still ring true four decades later, "If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen."
However, it is increasingly difficult for Dutch companies to find staff with a good level of German and French. Foreign language skills are a major asset for anyone seeking a job, especially in the Dutch environment, where non-English languages are being sidelined.
The result is that jobseekers who can speak English and either German or French to a working standard are at an advantage in the Dutch job market.
Think global, speak local
In areas close to the border with Germany, and in the southern part of the Netherlands, the demand for German and French speakers is especially high.
Multinational businesses may rely on English, but businesses with more localised trading partners place a greater emphasis on the neighbouring languages.
Integrate more easily: learn Dutch
With freedom of movement enshrined in EU law, it has never been easier to move between European countries. If you want to stay longer in the Netherlands, learning Dutch becomes increasingly important.
When living in the Netherlands you can work in English, and make expat friends, easily. However, to really appreciate and enjoy this country, it is important to grasp the national language.
Benefits of learning Dutch
Although Dutch people don’t typically expect expats to learn their language to fluency, this is an important step in assimilating in any country. Outside of working hours, you will find your social life benefits dramatically from speaking Dutch.
What's more, these language skills will make you more employable anywhere in the world.
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