The Netherlands ranked as a great place to work, but not necessarily to live

The Netherlands ranked as a great place to work, but not necessarily to live

In the latest Expat Insider Survey, the Netherlands achieved an overall ranking of 33rd out of 59 countries, performing particularly well when it comes to career prospects and work-life balance, but proving to be exceptionally unwelcoming and expensive. 

InterNations Expat Insider 2021 Survey

Published by InterNations -  a network of expats around the world - the Expat Insider 2021 Survey had over 12.000 respondents sharing their insights into expat life in 59 countries around the world. The survey covers topics across five different indices:

  • Quality of Life Index (leisure options, safety & security, public transport, etc.)
  • Ease of Settling In Index (language, friendliness, etc.)
  • Working Abroad Index (career prospects, job security, etc.)
  • Personal Finance Index
  • Cost of Living Index

This year, InterNations also investigated the impact of COVID-19 on expat life, looking at whether the pandemic led to a change in relocation plans and how satisfied expats were with how their local government responded to the crisis.

The survey found that Taiwan, Mexico, and Costa Rica are the best expat destinations, offering expats a comfortable and friendly living environment as well as good personal finances. Kuwait, Italy, and South Africa occupy the bottom three places, performing particularly poorly when it came to the Working Abroad Index. New Zealand ranked the highest for expat satisfaction with COVID-19 response and communication.

The Netherlands as an expensive and unfriendly place to live

This year, the Netherlands dropped a couple of places, from 28th in 2020 to 33rd in 2021. The indices that really let the country down were Cost of Living (47th out of 59) and Ease of Settling In (42nd out of 59). Nearly a third of participants in the survey said they did not feel at home in the local culture, and 54 percent said they found it hard to make local friends. A US expat living in the Netherlands said “Dutch people are friendly but are not looking to make friends with you - they already have their own friend groups and do not mingle with expats.” 

However, expats were positive about some aspects of life in the Netherlands. The country came in 13th place in the Working Abroad Index, with 83 percent of expats praising the state of the local economy and 68 percent feeling positive about their job security and work-life balance. Responders were particularly pleased with the local transportation infrastructure, and 87 percent spoke positively about the availability of government services online.

While many expats reported that they had found it difficult to settle in and make friends in the Netherlands, the language barrier does appear to be an issue, as 80 percent of respondents find it easy to live in the country without speaking Dutch.

The impact of coronavirus on expat life

This year, the survey acknowledged how big an impact coronavirus might have had on expats’ responses and outlook on their lives, and InterNations added several questions that focused solely on the impact of COVID-19 on expat lives. 

The majority of respondents said that the pandemic had not affected their relocation plans or the length of their stay in the Netherlands. Interestingly, 68 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with the official communication regarding COVID-19 and restrictions put in place by the Dutch government.

Overall, the survey found that only five percent of expats would move back home sooner than initially planned as a result of the pandemic, with 26 percent deciding they wanted to be closer to family and friends, while 19 percent has lost a job or job opportunity. On the whole, expats pointed out the effect of the pandemic on their personal travel and social life in both the long and short term.

To find more information about the Expat Insider survey, visit the InterNations website.

Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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