To stay or not to stay in the Netherlands: that is the question

To stay or not to stay in the Netherlands: that is the question

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As they move around in the world of expats, Peter Koijen and Ligia Koijen Ramos from In2motivation, an Amsterdam-based personal and professional development company, have found that there is one question which sparks a million others: Should you go back home, or stay in the Netherlands?

Lots of people who live in the Netherlands, and more specifically in Amsterdam, will not be here in five years. Some people come with a timeframe, but others come without a clear idea of how long they will stay. And it is also true that lots of people who are in a long-term relationship and live with their partner have different ideas about how long they will stay in this country.

The equation becomes complicated

Surprisingly perhaps (or perhaps not), a big part of this discussion starts when children are born into a family, and a totally new dynamic begins. Family, education, language and nationality become more pressing issues for parents than they were before.

Questions like: What language we are going to use with the kids at home? What type of education is ideal? Who will help with the schedule of work and family? These seem like they are very simple questions, but they are much more than just practical issues.

Staying or leaving should be a decision made by the whole family.

Burning questions

From our years of experience with internationals, we can say that the key factors when answering the aforementioned questions are as follows:


When it comes to language, making sure the child maintains a sense of belonging and connection with the country of one or both parents plays a key role. Perhaps, the parents are worried that the child will not be able to connect with their family abroad? Not being able to understand each other fully as parent and child may also play on a parent's mind.

Family support

In terms of support from the family, if this is available it can bring a great deal of security; the guarantee that the parents are not going it alone. This brings about more possibilities for relaxation and reinforces the belief that everything will be okay. This is even more significant for first-time parents, as the Dutch medical system deals with pregnancy and birth a little bit differently to other countries, even those in Europe.


With education, the key issues that arise are whether the parents will be able to help and protect the child from failures in school and whether they will be able to provide their child with the best preparation for the future.

Logic vs emotion

One of the things that we see in our groups is that a lot of these fears and doubts remain internalised. Couples tend to stick to logic and ignore reasons based on emotion and, of course, when this happens, disagreements are more likely to occur.

Searching for "real" communication

So, what is the solution to this problem? How can "real", honest communication be restored between a couple? After all, it is very difficult for someone to feel at home if they are always thinking about going back, right?

  1. Explore with your partner the "why'" more than the "what" or "how" regarding this change
  2. With an open heart, share your fears and insecurities
  3. Listen without judgment or looking for a fast solution from your partner
  4. Think together about strategies to decrease fears and insecurities. Decisions based on these two emotions can bring about lots of risks
  5. Create moments to check how the other person is feeling

Should you stay or should you go?

Staying or leaving should be a decision made by the whole family, where everyone is accorded the same value and can freely express their position. And if one person accepts staying (or going), that acceptance needs to be full of commitment and for the “right” reason. If not, when looking back some years later, someone will be blamed for the decision and this will cause conflict.

Peter Koijen and Ligia Koijen Ramos are life coaches and motivational speakers at In2motivation, offering personal and professional training courses to optimise individual and group motivation and performance. Follow In2motivation on Facebook to find out about future events!

Ligia  Koijen Ramos


Ligia Koijen Ramos

Master coach and founder of family dynamics at in2motivation. With more than twenty years of experience in different countries and contexts, Ligia has the profound belief that simplicity and dynamics...

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Leave a comment

Sjoerd Roijenga 14:13 | 8 July 2019

I'm Dutch but have been living in the usa for 16.5 years. I'm married and we have a 9 year old son who speaks Dutch and I have never spoken anything but Dutch to him. My parents and my whole family who still live in the Netherlands are very happy that they can communicate with my son in Dutch

Ligia Koijen Ramos 09:30 | 11 July 2019

Thank you, Sjoerd for sharing your experience.

Diogo Cardão 23:57 | 21 July 2019

Hello Ligia, I am Portuguese and living in the Netherlands since January, my wife and daughter will move in September. What did you meant with "Dutch medical system deals with pregnancy and birth a little bit differently to other countries, even those in Europe"? Thanks in advance, Regards Diogo Cardão

Ligiakoijen 15:33 | 29 July 2019

Hi Diogo, Thank you for your question. Many will be the differences if we relate to the Portuguese system. In Holland, the pregnancy is not such a medical situation (of course if nothing is in risk) That means that it is not a medical requirement the pregnant woman can just have and covered by some insurance plans. The family can also have the help of a Kraamzorgr, person that comes to the house in the first 8 days to help the family and the mom with the new routine. With the baby also you have a house doctor and a follow up with the child centre until four years old. If everything goes well you will only need the child centre to give the vaccines and check the growth. You can also decide if you will give vaccines or not to your child. And a lot more :)