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An Expat Talks about Living in Utrecht, Netherlands

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Utrecht

How long have you lived there?

3 years

What activities, clubs and organizations would you recommend to newcomers to help them meet others?

Join the IWCU, International Womens'Contact Utrecht (English speaking womens'club). The club offers networking with other expatriate women of all ages (married or single) and has social activities for expats, i.e, Mum's & Tots groups, book groups, coffee get togethers, dinners, family activities, monthly general meetings and a bi-monthly newsletter. This club has been most helpful to me to feel less 'alien' in the Netherlands. The club also hosts a dutch practice group to help you get over the language problems (while English is widely spoken in Holland, you still need to be able to read signs, news, directions, menus, etc...). The club is predominately made up of women from the US and the UK, but also includes women from other countries, including the Netherlands. It is a non-profit organization. The IWCU webiste is: www.iwcu.non-profit.nl

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In terms of religious, racial, economic and cultural diversity, are the people of this city or town diverse? Are they accepting of differences? Describe.

The Netherlands is world famous for íts tolerance of other cultures and religions, ways of life, etc., dating back to the 16th century. Utrecht is no exception to that. The area is diverse in its people and religions. The general attitude is that "you can do what you like, as long as it doesn't bother me or is harmful to the well being of the society". I don't mean to imply that Holland is a 'lawless' country, for it is not, but it is a very liberal country.

What are the main industries in this city? What types of career opportunities commonly exist? How do most people find new jobs?

Utrecht is mostly a city of University and education. There are several hospitals (Medical Centers) in the area. Holland is not such a big country and therefore many people reside in the Utrecht province ,but commute to Amsterdam for work. The IT businesses employ many people here. If you have not re-located here through an existing job, then the best place to find work here (after you get the required work documents)is to go to an "Uitzendbureau"( a hiring firm) to be placed in a job (most of these are temp firms, but it's possible to get on permanently in a job here). There are many "Uitzenbureaus" in Holland.

In general, what are peoples' priorities in this city? For example, do lives revolve around work, family, socializing, sports, etc.?

Most everyone's life in the Netherlands revolves around family, but having said that, life here is really not that different from living in a big city in the states...work, socializing, entertainment( music/theater/art), sports, religion...its all here! Lot's to do for both single people or families.

If a friend of yours was thinking of moving to this city or town from far away, what other advice would you give them.

Make sure to check with both the embassy from the country you now live in and especailly a Dutch embassy , either in your country or in the Netherlands,to ensure that you have all the necessary documents ( including all official stamps "apostilles"on these documents) that you need here in order to get your resident permit. Unless you have been transfered here from your work, The Netherlands requires you to have some sort of sponsorship, or job and proof of self health insurance to be able to stay. Of course this is different if you are moving from another EU nation and different still for the US and Canada, etc. SO, my big advice is check with your individual emabassies and Dutch embassies BEFORE you move, to make sure you don't run into the 'document wall'! Which you probably will anyway, since the Dutch love to be paper pushers (I'm married to a Dutchman and even he agrees with this). MAke sure to get extra copies of these documents BEFORE you leave your native country/town/city, since it will be far less expensive to do this paper work from there than it will from Holland!

If you can, try to find some dutch language books or audio tapes and start to learn this difficult language right away...the more you know the language the happier you will feel here, even if you don't intend to stay permanently.

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