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Utrecht, The Netherlands

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By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Sep 05, 2022

Summary: Expats, digital nomads and retirees discuss what it is like to live in Utrecht, Netherlands: Cost of living, Finding a home, Meeting People and more.

What do expats in Utrecht appreciate most about the local culture?

"For the first time in 20 years I am riding a cycle !...and using public transport. I love how everyone skates when there is ice - I purchased my first pair of ice skates during our first winter. Appreciation of the sun....I really took that for granted. Nederlanders worship the sun," said another expat in Utrecht.

"The Dutch are very outdoorsy and I love that. They cycle everywhere and any time there is sun, no matter what the weather, you will find them out basking in it. It's the cycling culture that I have completely fallen in love with. I also enjoy how environmentally friendly they are. Most companies will reimburse employees 100% of their travel expenses as long as they use public transportation. The bikes take people most places and rarely do you get a plastic bag with your shopping purchase unless you pay extra for them. Most people carry their own vinyl bags for shopping or stuff purchases in a large purse, backpack, or bag. Time is also appreciated. Employees get, on average, five weeks of vacation in addition to the many many holidays. The average work week is 36 hours and an astounding number of people work four days a week. Healthcare is also affordable and easy to come by. Everyone must be covered by law. The government also gives generous childcare aid and maternity and paternity leaves are recognized," added another person living in Utrecht.

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What do expats find most challenging?

"Visa, Inburgering, Language.... Fitting in - unfortunately you are always a foreigner - no matter how long you live here," said another expat in Utrecht.

"Of course, the language is challenging. It really does make all the difference when you speak the language. However, I would have to say that the biggest challenge is making friends. You really do have to start all over again from scratch. Thanks to the International Women's Club I joined, making expat friends has been easy and I've met some wonderful women. My Dutch classes have also proven to be great sources for friendships. But my only Dutch friends were those of my husband and, even then, they are still very much his friends and not so much mine. To meet more "locals" I joined an all-women Dutch singing group. The girls are lovely, but it has come to my attention that friendships here are valued much differently than in America. It is very American to have tons of "friends" that, in reality, are better described as acquaintances. The average American has several "best friends." Doesn't that sort of defy the meaning of "best friend". Because, there can really only be one best anything. In The Netherlands, once you have build up a strong friend base of 5 or so people, there is no longer a need for anymore friends. At a certain point, the Dutch aren't looking for any new friends. Because of this, they're much more difficult to develop friendships with. After several months in the group, I'm still working at it. But I have observed that once you break in, they are loyal friends for life. Something I think very few Americans really know about," added another person living in Utrecht.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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