Is the Netherlands expat friendly?

29th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

Lesley Thomas asks whether expats are running up against an impenetrable barrier erected by a Dutch society which just doesn't want strangers around here no more.

No people on Earth are such bad-mannered, rude, ultra-nationalistic, racist, tasteless and stiff pigs as the Dutch, and besides, the weather is awful, the country is too flat, healthcare is sickening, the traffic is like war, the Randstad is overcrowded, the streets are full of dogs excrement, one can buy drugs everywhere, there is legalised killing called euthanasia...
(from Expatica's Discussion Forum)

Some expats feel they are being closed out by the Dutch

Complaints by expats in the Netherlands are nothing new, but an internal survey by the International Organisations Staff Associations (IOSA-NL) set the cat among the pigeons recently.

One of the startling findings was that 70 percent of the expat staff of international organisations based here do not want to stay in the Netherlands.

The main messages were that the Netherlands is unwelcoming, too bureaucratic and not at all 'user friendly'. 

IOSA Secretary, Eva Ekstrand, said IOSA knew interest in the survey would be high (the results of which will be made public on 12 October) but was surprised that more than 60 percent of the workers represented by the organisation responded. 

IOSA-NL's members include the European Patent Office, European police agency EuroPol, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.


Two experts have been asked to give their opinions on whether the survey results — which were leaked to the press — reflect a general attitude of expats living in the Netherlands.

*sidebar2*Some of the specific complaints include dissatisfaction with the Dutch bureaucracy, childcare, language and housing.

The difficulty of getting the correct information from public servants drives many expats to despair.

"I swear the officials in Wageningen municipality, where I live, don't know the rules.  If they do, they have a hard time informing buitenlanders (foreigners)," says Canadian expat Barbara van Maanen.

Having been quoted the incorrect fee for a non-Eu citizen applying to join a family member, she received a second demand for EUR 397. She was given 30 days to pay this or risk having her application thrown out and losing the original payment of EUR 433. "Between lawyer fees, IND fees, my residence permit will cost me EUR 1,600," she says.

Managing Director of Expertise in Labour Mobility, Nannette Ripmeester, an expert on international work issues,  remarks that she found it particularly Dutch to carry out such a survey. She said could not imagine that in other countries such surveys are carried out.

Director of Access in The Hague, Hazel O'Dea, wonders just how representative the IOSA workers are of the rest of the expat population. IOSA staff workers make up 20 percent (± 5500) of the total expat population in The Hague (27,000).

Hazel explains that because of the security needs of the organisations which fall under the IOSA umbrella, most of these expats are inward-focused, as opposed to other expats who interact daily with Dutch society.

It isn't clear to Hazel just how long the workers who took part in the survey have actually lived or intend to live in the Netherlands. She finds it hard to speculate about a report which still has not gone public yet.


ACCESS, an English-language organisation which helps expats adjust to the Netherlands, thinks organisations involved with sending expats to the Netherlands should paint a realistic picture of the Netherlands.

Dutch bureaucrats seem to delight in taking the fun out of life

Part of this picture is the increasing Dutch wariness of immigrants since 9/11. The degree to which an expat is confronted by this distrust depends upon an expat's skin col

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