Netherlands ranked as one of the world’s worst countries for making friends

Netherlands ranked as one of the world’s worst countries for making friends

The Netherlands has secured a spot in the bottom 10 in a new report ranking countries around the world for how easy it is for expats living there to make new friends.

Finding Friends Global Ranking 2020

The 2020 report examined 58 countries around the world, placing the Netherlands in the 50th spot. The Netherlands was out-ranked by a number of European countries, including Spain (13th), Ireland (26th), the United Kingdom (43rd), and France (45th).

The ranking was published by InterNations, a network of expats around the world, as part of their annual Expat Insider survey. InterNations asked over 15.000 expats living in 181 countries around the world to provide information on various aspects of daily life. Participants rated 65 different aspects to expat life on a scale of one to seven, considering both emotional and factual influences.   

Making friends in the Netherlands

Responses to the survey made it clear that, on the whole, expats living in the Netherlands find it difficult to connect with people and make friends. 52 percent of expats in the Netherlands find it difficult to make friends with the locals, compared to the global average of 38 percent. 

InterNations discovered that 51 percent of expats in the Netherlands belong to a friendship group made up of other expats, compared to 35 percent of expats globally. Only 11 percent of expats in the Netherlands are mainly friends with locals. This is likely due to the fact that a fifth of internationals living in the Netherlands find the Dutch unfriendly towards foreign residents. 

A number of participants in the survey stated that the Dutch were generally not very keen on making friends with expats. One Swedish expat living in Eindhoven said “People are friendly but not very open to making non-Dutch friends,” while an American expat living in Maastricht explained that it was hard to meet and befriend locals, and that the Dutch language presented a significant barrier. 

The rankings have revealed a trend among Northern European countries, as Germany (47th), Austria (49th), Switzerland (53rd), Finland (51st), Norway (55th), Sweden (56th), and Denmark (58th) all performed poorly in the survey. 

The best countries for making friends

According to the findings of the survey, these are some of the best countries in the world to make new friends as an expat:

  1. Mexico
  2. Bahrain
  3. Ecuador
  4. Colombia
  5. Panama
  6. Taiwan
  7. Malaysia 
  8. Indonesia
  9. Argentina 
  10. Philippines

The worst countries for making friends

These were the countries occupying the bottom 10 spots, making them the worst countries when it comes to reaching out making new friends:

  1. Denmark
  2. Kuwait
  3. Sweden
  4. Norway
  5. Japan
  6. Switzerland
  7. South Korea
  8. Finland
  9. The Netherlands
  10. Austria

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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Leave a comment

CrazyOrphelia 09:33 | 7 August 2020

I direct the ukulele club and orchestra of Amsterdam and I am an American expat.. I have wonderful friends in Amsterdam both Dutch and international’s.. We have a great club and are meeting via Zoom..Join today at

Suri Jay 18:52 | 7 August 2020

I am not totally agree with everything what you say here. I am not sure where this stats are coming from. Making friends can be define in many ways. Making friends has both sides. Dutch people are totally direct. They don't act and say things indirect that reason might uncomfortable for others. Also can be the language barrier. As the blog says about Maastricht is qua close to German boarder so it is quiet possible some people won't speak English. As a person who came to live ve here 25 years ago I never had problem with making friends. I see lots of multicultural community in Utrecht having lots of fun together.

Helena Rebelo 18:49 | 8 August 2020

I find this article to be quite accurate. And I do believe the main contributor for the lack of more personal relationships with locals is the language. Dutch people more often than not resort to English if they have to communicate with a foreigner, regardless of whether said foreigner can speak dutch or not. When lamenting that fact (my knowledge of the language is very good, but don't have the possibility to speak it on a daily basis), I was told "learning dutch is your responsability". True, but the result is that if every time a dutch persons perceives an accent, they immediately switch to English, because "they want to help", we'll never get anywhere speaking dutch or integrating a culture that uses that as a password to enter their world. Also, this fact tells me the locals see us as "temporary people, so why bother". They are friendly and nice, but it stays superficial...because "we are not staying anyway"

Helena Rebelo 18:50 | 8 August 2020


MARIANOSLUTZKY2 12:43 | 9 August 2020

hahaha, how weird to see Argentina in the top ten of best countries to make new friends. Absolutely not! Or only in the case that people see you as a walking ATM. Besides, Being grumpy is the national sport in Buenos Aires! There's even an expression for that: mala onda porteña. And yes, I'm from Argentina.

Mandoist 09:26 | 10 August 2020

Ex-Pat American living here since 2009... touring and visiting NL since 1987. In short, making friends here is no different than most countries. You make a lot of friends then, when you have a real need for help or something happens to you which causes you to ask for help, that's when you find out who your real 'friends' are.

Mandoist 09:27 | 10 August 2020

So why is this site hijacking my photo??

MaxG2 07:51 | 14 August 2020

About bluntness: Yes, dutch and germans are direct, and it sounds cool, but! We are still human, if you criticise something we like there will be a reaction. To prevent that reaction one needs to create a wall and remove vulnerability. The result? Lack of warmth.

pilarbalandro2 21:52 | 14 August 2020

True story! 9 months here by now and no dutch friend.. quite sad, not that they are not nice but they just do not want to relate with foreigners

Matthijs van Doorn 14:19 | 17 August 2020

Ah really? Where in Holland are you? If you're anywhere around Delft/Rotterdam/Leiden I don't mind if you tag along for a couple of beers with my friend. My wife is Colombian so I'd love to learn more about your culture. My experience in Holland is that you meet people when you're going out with some other people.

BruceSanders2 20:31 | 29 August 2020

I dunno, I find it easy to make friends here, maybe it's the non-Dutch that need to look in the mirror.

CorinneDeVault2 09:44 | 3 September 2020

I agree with this. I have been living here for two years now and while I have a Dutch boyfriend and some Dutch friends, most of the friends I have made here at Uni are internationals. Whenever I meet my boyfriends family or friends they refuse to speak english so they don't try to get to know me or speak english around me so I know what is going on. That has often created an environment of exclusion where I spend whole evenings in silence. In contrast I have many spanish friends, but if it is ever just me and a group of spanish-speakers they reserve spanish for one-on-one conversations and stick to english for the group conversations. So yeah I agree with what this article is saying.

MarthaJones2 09:18 | 15 October 2020

Yes, exactly. I totally feel your pain because I am in a very similar situation. They know English, but won't be considerate enough to use it, even when it means I sit there feeling quite alone and uncomfortable. I am doing my best to learn Dutch and to speak to them in Dutch when I can. I think if they once had to sit in our situation, maybe they would be a little kinder to the strangers among them.

MarthaJones2 09:12 | 15 October 2020

Sadly, I have to agree, but I think it is perhaps worse for me because I live in a small village. There is clear animosity towards all foreigners, regardless of where they are from. I try really hard to follow the cultural rules and be friendly, but it seems like every time I shop I get yelled out or Pffff! at or a dismissing hand waved in my face. It's enough to make you sit down and just sob. I hear a lot of people say, "the Dutch are just direct, they don't mean to be rude." No, that is not true. Direct I appreciate. They are just being unkind. Being from America, I have been told Americans are vain, spoiled, and dirty, and so it becomes a sort of protectionist mentality to find your friends elsewhere. I have been able to make friends with expats from other coutries, but not with the Dutch.