Home Living in the Netherlands Cultural Integration The expat community in Amstelveen
Last update on October 26, 2020
Written by Katherine Oktober Matthews

Amstelveen is often overlooked as Amsterdam’s more suburban neighbor. Yet, in addition to its easy access to the buzz of Amsterdam, there’s much to be said about the expat community in Amstelveen, including international schools and social clubs.

A stand-up comedian once joked that he wanted to make a t-shirt that said: “Amstelveen: Because not everyone can live in Amsterdam.” The audience roared with knowing laughter. Yet, as Amsterdam housing becomes scarce, the idea of getting more space for a bit less money is less of a joke. But Amstelveen’s greatest downside – that it’s next to Amsterdam – is also one of its greatest strengths for expats in Amstelveen.

“Amstelveen is densely populated with expats,” 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. There’s also a shortage of spots at international schools.” With that in mind, many expats look to Amstelveen as an alternative.

Amity International School

Amity International School Amsterdam is a new international school in the Amsterdam region that provides students with an engaging and challenging learning environment. Being a International Baccalaureate (IB) PYP Candidate School, they offer education for students from the age of 3 to 13. Through this programme, they focus on teaching students to think critically and independently and how to inquire with care and logic.

International companies in Amstelveen

So, what does Amstelveen offer to the expats? A stone’s throw away from Schiphol Airport and adjacent to the Zuidas business district, it’s attractive to many companies. It’s home to 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 a multicultural flair, which reflects in its infrastructure and 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 always form around shared interests. Nowadays, with the introduction of Meetup and Facebook groups (such as Foodies @ Amstelveen), it’s easier than ever to find friends. There are bike-riding clubs, Toastmasters clubs, movie nights, and more.

Social clubs in Amstelveen

If you’re looking to meet people from your home country, InterNations offers ways for you to connect. Facebook is rife with community groups such as Indians in Amstelveen, Tamilans in Amstelveen, or a more general Group of Expats Amstelveen. All of them help you settle in your new hometown.

There’s the Japan’s Women’s Club in Holland in Amstelveen. This group coordinates meetups, workshops, as well as a special event at the Cherry Blossom Celebration. There’s also an American Women’s Club in nearby Amsterdam.

If you’re religious, 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 website, they write: “whether you are still exploring faith or have been a Christian for a long time, you are 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 of religious buildings. 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. With so many expats in Amstelveen, the odds are in your favor to find meaningful connections.

Online Communities

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 has more than 14,000 members; the Amstelveen mamas Buy/Swap/Sell/Donate group boasts more than 5,000 members. There are also specific parenting groups, such as Indian mummies in Amstelveen and Indian parents in Amstelveen.

Amstelveen by night

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 in the Netherlands, chances are you’ve been invited to a borreltje after work. Here, colleagues have a beer and some bitterballen 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. These include 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 guide to business networking groups 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.” Specialty shops bring in the flavor too, such as the Indonesian fast-food joint Toko Madjoe, with its close neighbors the French bakery Le Fournil and the Italian deli Pane e Vino.

Shilla, a Japanese and Korean grocery store in Amstelveen

One of the particularities of Amstelveen is the sheer number of authentic Asian grocery shops, such as Japanese-Korean grocer Shilla. They have one supermarket in Gelderlandplein and on Westwijkplein.

Embrace the diversity

Amstelveen has a truly international flavor 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.”

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.

David Porritt

David Porritt

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.

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