29th July 2003, Comments 0 comments

Undoubtedly, the most popular expat enclave in the Netherlands, Wassenaar is home to numerous diplomats and foreign corporate executives, many of whom bring whole households with them. Laura Martz meets the city’s residents.


Publicists for the town of Wassenaar just outside The Hague like to point out the indigenous animals, including weasels, polecats, stoats and seabirds, that live in its woods and dunes. But expatriates may know Wassenaar best for its non-native residents: the droves of American and British company transfers who settle in the gated villas.

They include diplomats and foreign corporate executives, many of whom bring whole households with them.

"Wassenaar is nice for families with children. It's a typical village," said real estate agent Hanneke d'Haans, who specialises in properties there.

Well, perhaps not that typical.

Some call Wassenaar "the Beverly Hills of the Netherlands", recalled Canadian television producer Amy Griffin, a former resident. "After driving around the neighbourhood, we understood why. The houses are much larger than the traditional row houses."

They cost more, too. "My husband and I did look at houses in Wassenaar but were put off by prices," one British woman said. She chose nearby Voorschoten instead.

Wassenaar's invitation-only golf club is something of a symbol for the town's somewhat snobbish reputation. There's also a local polo club. A newspaper gleefully reported last year that the mayor wanted to revamp the annual town fair for being too tacky.

But Wassenaar isn't all white-shoe. An amusement park in the dunes, Duinrell, boasts rides like the Water Spider and the Aqua Chute. The American School is a strong draw, and the British School is a manageable distance away in nearby Voorschoten. "Most families choose Wassenaar because it's peaceful and green environment, close to the beach," said D'Haans.


But what with the long working hours and the kids, there's not much going on after dark. "The Hague is more fun for the bachelors," D'Haans said.

Critics also see enclaves like Wassenaar as hideouts where some expats go to avoid mixing with the natives.

But some transplants welcome the moral support from others in the same boat. "They can tell their experiences to each other and help each other," D'Haans said. "Women are alone most of the time, and it is nice to have some other expats around."

Subject: Wassenaar

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