Many companies have ramped up efforts to send employees around the world on international work assignments — and Amsterdam is one of the most popular destinations in Europe.
Even though Amsterdam has ranked as one of the best places to live for expats, some have struggled with adjusting to their new life in the city, eventually returning to their home countries with the assignment considered a failure. Holland Home Management explains how international employers can help ensure a successful short- or long-term work assignment in Amsterdam — and how to make it feel like home.
Work with employees to find the right places to live in Amsterdam
Companies want to keep costs down, of course, and housing is one of the greatest expenses in a relocation package. However, unsuccessful expatriate assignments can cost a company more in the long run — and one factor that can contribute to unhappy expats is inadequate housing. On the other side of the spectrum, some international companies have begun making assignments abroad more attractive by offering a number of perks, many of which come in the form of high-class housing. But simply providing luxury living may not make employees truly feel at home in Amsterdam, either — there must be a balance.
International companies will often work with local expat housing agencies in Amsterdam to locate suitable properties. However, finding a house or apartment in Amsterdam for employees should be done with the employees (and their family members, if travelling along with them) in mind — and with plenty of their input.
Find the right places to live in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is not a large city, but its diversity and accessible location within the Netherlands allows it to offer a variety of neighbourhoods: families might feel more at home in the lush green spaces of Amstelveen or Het Gooi, while single millennials might relish in the bustling city centre. Instead of simply picking the place that’s closest to the employee’s new workplace, help them determine the neighbourhood that they would be able to quickly call home.
Determine the type of home
It may be tempting to get the biggest house on the block, but a small family might soon feel overwhelmed with the maintenance of such a property — especially if one spouse is in charge of keeping it clean. Conversely, families that are accustomed to living in large homes with plenty of outdoor space may soon feel cramped in typical Amsterdam apartments, which can be small. Employers should be upfront with soon-to-be expats about their expectations with a home in Amsterdam.
Furnished or unfurnished
According to the Global Assignment Policies and Practices (GAPP) Survey 2016 from KPMG, a majority (57 percent) of employers will ship the employee’s own furnishings if renting an unfurnished apartment; just 12 percent seek out furnished apartments. Some expats may feel that having their own furnishings eases the transition to a new country, but for others, the reality of moving abroad leaves little time for decorating — and it may be more stressful. Furnished apartments in Amsterdam provide all the necessities — beds, couches, dining furniture — but still allow room for personalisation.
For those that are staying just a few years or fewer, furnished apartments ease the process of moving but still allow you to feel at home.
Provide cultural and language training before the move
Since English is widely spoken in Amsterdam, many English-speaking expats in Amsterdam end up failing to learn Dutch. Expats can go years without learning the local language, but it is one of the reasons expats may not ever feel at home in Amsterdam. Interactions are restricted to colleagues and other expats, and life outside the workplace can be an alienating experience.
In a survey from IN Amsterdam (formerly Expatcenter Amsterdam), internationals living in the area said they felt that “a better understanding of Dutch language and culture” would improve life in Amsterdam. And though knowing the language is an obvious way to help someone feel at home, a surprising number of companies do not provide language training as a core benefit, or only in certain cases; in fact, 10 percent provide no language training at all. Nearly a fifth of companies provide no cross-cultural training, and when they do, it’s most often as an option.
To better help expats feel at home in Amsterdam, employers should encourage expats to begin language training far before the move. Expats may feel far more confident in their ability to speak to locals, encouraging friendships with those outside the expat bubble.
Think about the family — and not just the kids
Employers will commonly provide assistance with children’s schooling, according to the GAPP survey, but spousal assistance is less common — less than half provide allowances for expenses related to employment or assistance with work visas. And yet “family issues” was the most common reason for international assignment failure, according to the 2016 Global Mobility Trends survey; more employees are choosing to go on a long-term assignment as single status primarily out of concern for the spouse’s career.
Keeping the partner of the expat employee happy is of paramount importance to ensuring a successful assignment — the spouse should be involved in the relocation planning, if possible, and have access to the same benefits such as language and cross-cultural training. Moving to Amsterdam for work as an expat is an exciting opportunity, but the reality of living abroad may prove too difficult. By working with employees on housing, providing language benefits and ensuring partners and children are taken care of, the chances are higher that an international assignment will succeed.