Amstelveen is often overlooked as Amsterdam’s more suburban neighbour; yet in addition to its easy access to the buzz of Amsterdam, there’s much to be said about the expat community of this liveable city, including international schools and social clubs.
A stand-up comedian in a small Amsterdam venue once joked that he wanted to make a T-shirt that said: “Amstelveen: Because not everyone can live in Amsterdam.” The mostly English-speaking audience roared with knowing laughter. Yet, as Amsterdam housing becomes increasingly scarce and rent-prices continue to raise, the idea of getting a bit more space for a bit less money starts to be less of a joke. But Amstelveen’s greatest downside – the fact that it’s quietly nestled next to the international force of Amsterdam – is also one of its greatest strengths.
“Amstelveen is quite densely populated with expats and international families,” says David Porritt, the principal of Amity International School in Amstelveen. “When people move to the Netherlands, especially with their families, they may find it hard to find housing – and there’s also been a shortage of spots at international schools.” With that in mind, many quality-of-life focused expats have looked to Amstelveen as an alternative to the bustling cities of Amsterdam, The Hague or Rotterdam.
Amity International School
Amity International School is a new international school that provides students with an engaging and challenging learning environment. Catering for ages from 3 to 13, Amity is an International Baccalaureate (IB) PYP Candidate School, offering a globally recognised curriculum that challenges students to take responsibility for their own learning and encourages them to become active world citizens.
International companies in Amstelveen
So, what does Amstelveen offer to the expats? A stone’s throw away from Schiphol Airport and adjacent to the business district of Zuidas, it’s wildly attractive to many companies and industries. It’s home to the Royal Dutch Airlines KLM, for example; but also to giant multinationals such as Ricoh, Fortis and Canon. With these have come an influx of expatriates from all over the world, especially from Asia. Thanks to them Amstelveen boasts an incredibly multicultural flair, which reflects in its infrastructures (it is home to many international schools) and its cultural initiatives, from the Cherry Blossom festival in Spring to the busiest Diwali festival in the country, and festive celebrations for the Chinese New Year.
International social clubs in Amstelveen
Communities have always formed around shared interests, but nowadays, with the introduction of Meetup and Facebook groups (such as Foodies @ Amstelveen), it’s easier than ever to find likeminded friends or activity groups. There are bike-riding clubs, Toastmasters clubs, movie nights, and more.
If you’re looking to meet people from your home country, the InterNations organization offers ways for you to connect with other Americans, Brits, Italians, Indians, Germans, French, Spaniards, Russians, Romanians, Turks… and more! Facebook is ripe with community groups such as Indians in Amstelveen, Tamilans in Amstelveen, or a more general “Group of Expats Amstelveen”, all of which will help you find your marks and get settled in your new hometown.
There’s famously the Japan’s Women’s Club in Holland in Amstelveen, which coordinates meetups, workshops as well as a special event at the Cherry Blossom Celebration, and an American Women’s Club in nearby Amsterdam.
And – not to toot our own horn – there’s always the Expatica events calendar which can help you meet other expats in the Netherlands.
If you’re religiously minded, or even curious, you can check out some of Amstelveen’s international church communities. Crossroads, for example, prides itself on having a community of very diverse backgrounds. On their staggeringly brand-conscious website, they write: “Whether you are still exploring faith or have been a Christian for a long time, you will be welcome at Crossroads.” They plan events, offer courses on Christian faith, and even post the last ten sermons on their websites, if you’d like to listen first before visiting.
There are also informal groups you can join outside the church/temple/synagogue context, for example in the many Buddhist meetup groups of Amstelveen, including meditation, mindfulness and reiki.
It may take a little trial-and-error to find the expat communities that fit you, but with so many expats in Amstelveen, the odds are in your favour to find meaningful connections.
For the techies and introverts, you might first let your fingers do the talking with an online community. The Amsterdam-based Facebook group Laughing at Potatoes boasts more than 15,000 members, and definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously. The group Expats in the Netherlands has a bit more practical purpose, and has more than 6,000 members.
And, if you’re looking for local businesses that are friendly to expats… there’s a group for that too, Expatfriendlylocals.
Who you gonna call? Facebook Mamas
For expats with young kids, you’ve got even better odds for connecting to an international community. The Amsterdam Mamas Facebook group with more than 14,000 members currently, or the wildly specific Amstelveen mamas Buy/Swap/Sell/Donate group with more than 5,000 members. There are also specific parenting groups, such as Indian mummies in Amstelveen and Indian parents in Amstelveen.
If your kids go to an international school like Amity International School, it’s even better. “The fact that you often bring young kids to school, or collect them, or plan playdates, means that you get connected into a community of adults through your children,” explains David. “An international school can’t be underestimated in terms of providing a safe place of belonging for expat parents, who often feel very isolated a long way from their home country and families. The school can really compensate for that in a very dynamic and powerful way.”
Business and Pleasure
Even if you’ve just arrived to the Netherlands, chances are you’ve been invited to a borreltje after work, in which colleagues can have a beer and some bitterballen after hours in a friendly atmosphere. This can certainly be a welcome ice breaker for trying to socialize as an expat without a strong network.
Beyond that, there are networking meetups, group and clubs that you can join, like the Amsterdam American Business Club, Australian Business in Europe, the Club of Amsterdam, the Global Business Development Network, the European Professional Women’s Network Amsterdam, the Institute of Directors, and many more.
You can see more in our article Business networking groups and organisations in the Netherlands.
Get your fix of home comforts
Amstelveen boasts authentic foods aplenty. For example, Tom van Dijk of the city council, who describes Amstelveen as “the expat city of the Amsterdam region,” suggests the market stalls as a great place to find food from home. He names as an example that, “the Friday market is renowned for its Japanese fish stand held by a guy in a kimono.” Specialty shops bring in the flavour too, such as the Indonesian fast-food joint Toko Madjoe, with its close neighbours the French bakery Le Fournil and the Italian deli Pane e Vino.
One of the particularities of Amstelveen is the sheer number of authentic Asian grocery shops it holds, such as Japanese-Korean deli Shilla (with one supermarket in Gelderlandplein and on Westwijkplein).
Embrace the diversity
Amstelveen has a truly international flavour and a large community of primary and secondary school students from around the world. New families arriving in Amstelveen should feel right at home quickly, especially given that the Netherlands is consistently rated as having “the happiest kids in the world.” Rina Mae Acosta, who wrote about the phenomenon first as a blog and then as a book, emphasizes that part of the magic of growing up in Holland is that they’ve figured out how to let kids be kids. How? She explains: “The emphasis for preschoolers is to play and get along with each other. They focus on social skills first – the social-emotional well-being of a child.”
So, regardless of the expat communities that you find yourself drawn to, what’s most important is that you get out in the world and make those connections. “We know enough now that people that have a sense of belonging have a much higher sense of well-being than people who have a sense of isolation,” David says. “It’s important to find a place of belonging in a dislocated community.” So, no matter whether you start at your children’s international school, or by taking a course at nearby Vrije Universiteit, or finding a running or cooking group, it’s all good for making yourself at home in Amstelveen.
Principal of the Amity International School in Amstelveen, David Porritt has been a head teacher and principal for 20 years in the UK, Singapore, the Netherlands, and China. Outside of school, David is a keen road cyclist and musician. When time allows, he plays in a band in his Church and enjoys long rides with friends in a cycling club.Come meet us!