Where is the best place to be an expat?

22nd May 2012, Comments 63 comments

Where is the best place to be an expat? If you think it's a European country, you're incorrect. In fact, according to HSBC's global Expat Explorer survey, only one European country made the top five.

Western European countries tend to be well above global averages when it comes to measurements of wellbeing such as income, social enjoyment, and healthcare. But according to internationals such as you, Western Europe falls far behind when it comes to top global locations to live in as an expat.

In fact, according to a survey into global expat attitudes by HSBC Expat, the best places in the world to live  are Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Egypt, in that order.

Of European countries, Switzerland is the highest at 5th. Other European countries are not even close, with Belgium 21st, Spain 23rd, Germany 26th, France 28th, and the Netherlands 31st.

But hold on, I hear you say. That doesn't make any sense. What about the cornerstones of a happy life abroad, such as healthcare, education, and quality of life, and the ability to interact with locals and make new friends? For expats from western countries, surely Eurozone countries should rate above places such as Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Egypt with regards to these factors. 

Well actually, the picture is more complicated than you may suspect.

First off, education is a clear winner for the Eurozone. France and the Netherlands are the best countries globally in which to raise children as an expat and come highly recommended by expat parents, as they provide an environment where children can easily integrate and experience a healthier lifestyle.

It's generally true that expats in the Eurozone find local healthcare to be excellent, with France coming in 1st, Belgium 2nd, Germany 3rd, Spain 4th, and Switzerland 7th.

So if education and healthcare tend to be better in the Eurozone, why are these countries so far behind as preferred expat destinations?

One reason, somewhat surprisingly, could be the social life. According to expats who completed the last survey, the Netherlands is the most difficult of all 31 countries surveyed for making friends in general, and the second-most difficult for making local friends. And Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany have similar difficulties.  

Another big factor is income - expats in the Eurozone tend to earn less and have less disposable income than their counterparts. Despite the continuing fallout from the global financial crisis, expat wealth in countries such as Egypt, Bahrain, and Japan has remained widely immune to global economic troubles - and this is one of the key reasons that they are so highly favoured by expats globally.

63 Comments To This Article

  • Julie posted:

    on 19th January 2014, 11:35:45 - Reply

    I've been living in singapore for almost 4 years and I can honestly say that , from a human point of view it is the worst place I've lived and I can even say I have travelled. ( lived in 3 differents country and traveled to over 40 ) Singaporean have been voted the least emotional country in the world. So now who on earth would appreciate living in a country filled with robots that don't even look down at you when you fall on a sidewalk? Well after researched my husband and I are really excited to be moving to amsterdam in few months. We found the People there really welcoming, friendly and helpful, the air is clean, the place is just gorgeous, there is culture ( something non existent in singapore if you want culture you need to fly out.) now I understand that loads of expat expects the residents to adapt to them while it should be obvious that it's to us expat to adapt to the new place we are calling home. Maybe singapore ranks high in a place to live as an expat because it is so easy to get a Filipino living maid that will cook, clean, take care of your children and do all sort of chore while you relax by the pool of your condo, you can pay her absolutely nothing and have her sleep in a bombshell ( seriously I have seen that too many time to count. ) [Edited by moderator]
  • Geoff posted:

    on 10th May 2013, 13:35:24 - Reply

    The Dutch are as friendly as any other people. No more no less. If you make the effort you'll get your reward. I've known expats who've lived here for 12 years and haven't learnt more than a handfull of Dutch words. The result... they only had other expat friends. What a surprise!
  • Henry posted:

    on 10th May 2013, 13:29:32 - Reply

    I couldn't agree more, Dutch are by far the unfriendliest people when it comes to welcoming an expat (be it at work, or for socializing). I agree they are in a sense close to how Swiss are perceived. But at least Swiss do not run around being 'blunt' all the time, thinking it is cool -or worse- it is normal to say things 'as they are'. Dutch are the kind of people with little table manners when it comes to making conversation with them, if you get what I mean. Sure, the French are not that open either, but at least they ARE POLITE, and GRACIOUS, and free of this 'undercurrent of anger' which Dutch constantly seems to have.

    To Jon: I am half Dutch, and honestly can't possibly have anything against Dutch. And i currently work between Bejing, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. I have accumulated MORE friends in the past 2 years than in a life time in the Netherlands! I am well educated (been in NL all my life), speak Dutch without accent, left NL recently while in a managerial position of a large multinational manufactoring company, own a large house in the best neighbourhood in AMS, and am blond caucasian- I tick all the 'boxes' to be acceptable. Yet, the fact alone that I have half Dutch heritage was enough to label me as 'not Dutch enough'. Asia is well-known for welcoming people. For a start, they know about etiquette, and try to be gracious, even see themselves as embassadors of their country and therefore automatically assume their DUTY to be welcoming to the expat. What's more: they are genuine too.

    Ever since a decade ago, very worrying signs reach the local expat community in the larger cities in Holland: Dutch experienced a political murder (Fortuin) on a guy running for PM who had questionable and intolerant views towards foreigners, followed by another murder on an artist (this one too made a lot of anti foreigner propaganda), then the news of a PM/cabinet guy called 'wilders' reached the news all the way down to Asia because presumably he had a great portion of the population behind him, and was slowly 'legalizing' defamation of expats through opening a website that was encouraging hate as it was called polenmeldpunt [dot] nl, which basically encouraged natives to please list the name of expats whom they believed had stolen their jobs!!

    In fact, when I tell people I am Dutch, I constantly have to defend myself and explain that i am not like 'them'. It is very embarrassing. I am now considering taking up another nationality after I marry my asian husband.
    If I hadn't had my education at international private schools, I would probably turned as blunt and as 'socially illiterate' as the Dutch.
  • John posted:

    on 3rd May 2013, 17:51:43 - Reply

    I am Dutch and I am expat in Vilnius, Litouwen. The people here are so helpful and friendly, they always go many extra steps to help me. They even drive me to other cities to show me around, all at their cost, never asking me for any money. The local litounians they buy me food and always invite me to their family dinners where I am offered to eat so much food that I gained weight. I have never experienced a more welcoming and a more hospitable and dignified people like in Litouwen and I am surprised no one ever mentions here the countries beyond German or Austrian border. Those are the best countries by my opinion and very well developed as well.
  • Jon posted:

    on 28th April 2013, 15:59:36 - Reply

    This is the 3rd blog site I found on this topic as a response on the expat survey. There is a consistent thread going through the responses, which I recognize being Dutch myself and having experienced the same with my direct foreign colleagues when I lived and worked in Holland.

    I have now been living for many years in Asia, and got to say that it is no different here. How many western expats really have a close relationship with the local people in let's say China, Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand, besides a romantic relationship? Even if language is not the issue.

    Since this is not just a Netherlands forum, how is the experience in other European cities like Munich, Brussels, Antwerp, Paris, Copenhagen, etc. Would love to hear what the experience is of integrating in these places and if their experiences are opposite from expat live in the Netherlands.
  • Sagar posted:

    on 26th April 2013, 13:28:20 - Reply

    I am American living in Amsterdam on and off for 20 years with English as my only language. I have made great and lasting friendship here in the Netherlands. I go to have coffee at the same place for years and just started talking to people. Next thing I, know I am invited to drinks birthday parties, boat rides. My suggestion is just be yourself. People are people, list to them be honest and friendly. If it's not returned move onto someone else. I have meet poets, street artists. Just talk to people say hi smile be interested and it is returned. If you want to know more just send me an email.
  • Dave Ward posted:

    on 7th March 2013, 15:28:17 - Reply

    [Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]
  • 4ever15 posted:

    on 15th February 2013, 11:04:40 - Reply

    Europe is so so not integrated which I LOVE.. I'm australian currently living in Nice France, many years in London. One of my favourite cities is Amsterdam I spend one or two months there every year and we seriously considered an apartment there. I find everyone so friendly with fabulous english and love the way things work. The water, the laid back atmosphere especially the cats. Nice I have to say is the easiest place on earth I've ever lived it's full of people from all over the world and I have made some great friends here. France tho and dealing with anything adminsitrative is frequently a total nightmare - even for french people stuff goes wrong. I have an Amsterdam visit scheduled for the summer and we will really enjoy it. Nowhere is perfect thats for sure but simply thrilled to be able to move so freely between different lives. Love apartment swapping working on the Internet and my iPhone.
  • Di posted:

    on 1st February 2013, 13:25:33 - Reply

    I agree with the post saying the Netherlands has changed in the past decade - I have been here 10 years and have noticed the same. I associate with many Dutch people and they are also, sadly of the same opinion - people unfriendly - everyone has an opinion and an undercurrence of anger within the society here. I must say tho the more south you head, the more open people become. Maybe it's not only directed towards ex-pats.
  • Angela posted:

    on 11th January 2013, 10:13:22 - Reply

    I am not surprised of the insights gathered in the research. As others pointed out “friendliness” seems to be less and less an attribute as you go north in Western Europe. My Dutch father in law was an expat in Switzerland, he felt so isolated and lonely he left as soon as possible. So I suspect and speculate that if you are from say Finland this country will seem to be very warm and welcoming. However if you are from other cultures it seems to be a barren cold place. What this speaks to me is that it is about culture. It seems to be a natural idea that some cultures will clash more than others.
    I come from one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world, the USA. In addition I was raised in areas that were very diverse even from my country. In cultures such as where I am from you must learn to look for similarities and embrace differences. This is not something you are born with in my opinion. You need to learn it. Life becomes very hostile, lonely and depressing if you live in NYC for example and can never accept differences. Foreigners come from all over the globe, hearing forefingers speak is common, Finding help and information in your language is possible but even better others tolerate you lack of English and find it common but you must also embrace and tolerate them in order to receive invitations for possible friendship. If you wish to only be involved with people just like you, and refuse to try to understand and be open to differences you will likely have a lonely and small fate.
    I have lived here for 7 years. I find it less polite of a society than I am use too. In fact it surprises many when I find I clash less with cultures such as in parts of Africa, Asia and the likes. I have yet to see the so called tolerance so widely promoted of this country. I do feel however my ideas of what defines tolerance is much different than many here in NL. Again this is culture.
    I refuse to say what is right or wrong when it comes to politeness. I know what is right and wrong for me but what can I say of others manners? This is not my culture but I do my best to embrace the best of it and look at what some find the worse of it like the weather, it is not fun but you can't change it. Challenges such as making friends can be hard but not impossible. I just try to not have expectations of others and be open. I do think learning a language has more to do with just the Dutch wanting it. It truly is the window to fully learning a culture. It does not mater that Dutch is not the world language and a bit obscure what matters is it is the language of this country. So if you really want to make friends you will have to take the challenge to learn the language. I find many who do not tolerate my bad Dutch, who have make assumptions etc. I also find many are just intimidated to speak English. Not to matter. If one can't tolerate me, I move on. Simple as that. I find other doctors, I may have to travel further. I look into international schools and business if needed. I can't change the whole country, Why would I want to do that in the first place? I can only change me. If in the end if I am so unhappy I must take on a new challenge as to change it. It is not the fault of anyone but myself if I blame the nation of the Dutch for my unhappiness it just may not be a place for me.
    In the End I like my life here. I feel the pros out weigh the cons. I enjoy what my challenges have taught me. I have grown to realize there is not such place on the planet that is perfect. I only tolerated the imperfections of my own country because the culture is the fabric of making it comfortable. Once that fabric was removed I felt naked, vulnerable and that is scary as hell. Naturally I wanted to run to a place and people like me... well that maybe seemed natural but the truth is I am not in the USA with Americans, it is not like me! I am from another place in the world and I am in a new place.
    I still complain, but not all the time. I hate parts of the medical system. I find the USA I had it better Quality wise. But the access is better here for some things but worse when it comes to wait list esp. in mental health. Pros and cons.
  • Jimmy James posted:

    on 22nd December 2012, 12:21:57 - Reply

    I know a lot of expats in Amsterdam, and the one thing I can think about those expats would be doing wrong is being lazy. In the Netherlands you are expected to learn our language and not doing so seems arrogant. The Dutch work hard and when you come you're expected to the same as well. Many expats are lazy and just come thinking it's comes via magic or something.
  • maria posted:

    on 9th December 2012, 18:27:02 - Reply

    Yes, people should try their very best to adapt when they move to a different country. Adaptation means learning the language and respecting the culture, BUT those two great actions and intentions are not going to ensure positive outcomes becomes because we human beings are too complicated and biased. Some individuals' complications and preconceptions reach unhealthy levels, and that shows in their poor interactions with other people.

    When we work very hard toward accepting other people and being accepted by them, we expect great results. When -- in spite of our mindful efforts -- we find ourselves isolated or quite reduced to our daily small talk (i.e. hello, good morning/afternoon, bye, and so on), we begin to experience the invisibility syndrome. This is to say we start to feel invisible to others. If you are invisible, how can anyone hear you? How can anyone acknowledge your existence and your impact in their lives? Do you exist? Yes, you do, but it's you the one who knows that. However, after a while you start doubting yourself, your life, and each of the choices you've made. Thus you make a few more attempts to overcome what seems too painful in your life -- isolation. When those attempts have failed a few times, you become bitter. The world outside is dark, cold, and dangerous. Thus you do your very best to stay in your comfort zone to make sure you don't get hurt -- again.

    There are days when someone says something nice to you. When that happens, you can hardly believe someone has taken the time to be congenial, decent, respectful toward you. Scary but true, you don't know what to make of it. You've lost some of the nice touches of your social skills. That's a hard moment of realization, and one that takes time to get in the great shape it used to be.

    Well, having said all that, we've a few things left to consider, ask ourselves. We owe ourselves those answers. So we must come to terms with us, with the choices we've made, and the results that those choices have produced. We can't change the past. What's done is done, and it's that simple. But we can change where and how we go from here. We can't continue to be invisible to others or to ourselves. We do exist, and there is not a single question about that. We do matter!

    So yes, it does make a giant difference to love the self first before we expect other people to love and to respect us. If we love ourselves, we are not going to tolerate to be treated as second class people. We know we deserve better and less than that shouldn't be an option. This isn't to say that we are going to snap at people, to have bad attitudes toward them without giving the strangers a fair chance. In the end, it is us visiting/staying in their native land. Thus it's us the ones having to prove that we mean well, that we're good people willing to learn their ways of doing things. When should we stop trying? Well, the truth is that it's in our human instinct to keep on trying till we die because hope is always present, hope for a better time/future. But we part ways -- take a much different approach -- the moment we observe and receive abuse from others. We must never tolerate verbal, physical, or emotional abuse in any way, shape, or form from anyone.

    When we find ourselves in a society that sees us like mere animals and therefore treats us that way, we need to start thinking of ways of changing our situation. Take note: Animosity for the heck of it (from one group of people to another) is not normal. Animosity has its roots in sociopathic behavior! This has been the excuse of those who commit crimes against humanity. This has been their most "useful" tool to get away with crime because too many people walk around with an "insanity" card that allows them to commit those crimes. This is how we become their sources of their hatred without us having to do or say anything wrong to make someone snap at us, look us "weird", or go so far as in to strike us physically with or without witnesses.

    Once more, be pragmatic. The abnormal shouldn't be the norm in your life! Be honest with yourself. If you've given a way of life years of your life and the results are poor, it's just about time for you to change the course. You're captain of your ship. You're your very own ship, the owner of your life. You're no one's slave, and it's that simple.

    If necessary take the road less traveled, but make the trip to a better life for your own sake. Isolation affects one's health and mind negatively. We aren't meant to live isolated. You're intelligent; thus take advantage of yourself.

    Remember only the strong survives, but in all honesty life is much more than surviving one bad experience after another. Life can and should be beautiful, and that we shouldn't take for granted. Stand up, count yourself among the living, say No to abuse and mean it!

    Yours truly,
    maria g. :-)

    P.S. If you need my help, I will -- at the very least -- answer your e-mail.
  • George posted:

    on 7th December 2012, 17:27:08 - Reply

    Lots of interesting comments. Having spent 41 years here my observations of the Dutch have changed over the decades. In the beginning I found some to be rather reserved but this changed as I began to be more fluent in the Dutch language. I think a lot comes from the family ties and for some the endless birthday visits!! In the U.K. a persons birthday is only important with the close family circle. Well after all the years here I feel completely intergrated with a Dutch wife, daughter and grandson.
  • Jim Mooney posted:

    on 28th November 2012, 10:52:15 - Reply

    After 22 years in NL without children or a dog as conversation starters my experience may not be typical. Our neighbours are well educated and have good English but appreciate the effort my wife and I have put into learning and speaking Dutch. I play regularly in orchestras in Zuid Holland and with a volkstuin (allotment) I must speak Dutch! Reciprocal hospitality - a norm in my home Scotland -is limited. On balance life here is easier because things like transport work well but most of our social circle are ex-pats or Dutch who have been ex-pats and know what it is like. I suppose 22 years says it all - we like being here!
  • Kaccie Li posted:

    on 26th November 2012, 03:14:48 - Reply

    @Susan You are absolutely spot on regarding the difference on being a tourist and actually living there. I would recommend staying in the UK or coming here to the US. If you like Dutch whether, may I suggest Seattle?
  • susan posted:

    on 29th October 2012, 11:25:38 - Reply

    I've just read through all the comments and I think I may have changed my mind about moving to the Netherlands. My husband and I want to leave the UK and love the Netherlands for holidays. Maybe its different to live there. We've got 9 months to make up our mind and I'd quite like to live on the coast. [Edited by moderator. Please post (elaborate) questions on Ask the Expert or on our Forums. If you have questions for the Expatica staff, please contact us directly.]
  • liz posted:

    on 28th October 2012, 12:15:01 - Reply

    Caroline - If Tilburg is boring, imagine life in a village 1/4 its size!
    AR - I guess being a friendly and open person in NL doesnt help. I have had a coffee invite from my neighbour and still waiting. Sadly I have no or hardly any clubs, groups or fellow foreigners on my village. Generally - I am screwed :-(
  • Caroline Otieno posted:

    on 24th October 2012, 15:03:43 - Reply

    I feel sad reading most of these comments. I have had good experiences with the dutch and most especially in Amsterdam. When I moved to Tilburg to do my Law Masters in Human Rights, the city is quite slow and boring..but I still live here. I prefered to live here despite the drudgery as I lived in a dangerous part of Amsterdam, that is not so good to raise my 5 year old. I'm from kenya, maybe I see things from a different angle..in Amsterdam when I entered a store, it was okay..in Tilburg I get stared at and followed about because I'm black..lol! Like I would ever shoplift, it's not my character to do so..
  • AR posted:

    on 23rd September 2012, 13:03:43 - Reply

    I am originally from the UK and have lived in the Netherlands for 5 years. I am still struggling after this length of time to integrate. I live in a town. My husband is Dutch. I speak Dutch fluently. I have children at the local primary school. There is a Dutch saying "what the farmer doesn't know, he doesn't eat". This is how I feel is true for a lot of the Dutch people here. They are very wary of foreigners and would much rather not make the effort. I have joined a sport club, I help out at school and still I have not made real Dutch friends. I have heard of other foreigners suggesting having coffee and the Dutch have said what for? I get ignored and I get the impression sometimes that I make people feel uncomfortable when I come into the room. I have contemplated going back to the UK as I miss the friendliness and wonder if this is the right place for my children to grow up in. In my last attempt to make it work, I am going down the expat route in the hope that I can make some friends here. The sad thing is that I am friendly and outgoing and have felt that I have lost confidence to arrange anything with anyone. It's too difficult. I am also busy with my family commitments, sport etc but have always got time for anyone. People here want to put you in a box that they can understand. I will not change myself for other people and the behaviour towards me will not change. I said to a Dutch woman once I find the people here distant and cold. She said I know a foreigner who has lived here for 8 years and she still finds it difficult. Is that an answer? I think it shows that I have been barking up the wrong tree with trying to make an effort with Dutch people and now I need to focus on more outgoing, friendly people via the expat route. Wish me luck!
  • DdC posted:

    on 13th September 2012, 22:48:46 - Reply

    Here some features of the Dutch society that may play a role in
    connecting up with individuals:
    -- The country imported foreign laborers in the fifties. The next
    generations are still not properly integrated and cause a lot
    problems. This led to a two-tiered society where the original
    population is quite unhappy with the newcomers.
    -- The welfare state has created yet another dichotomy: a narrow
    well-paid top layer with a large bottom majority that depends on a
    large array of free/subsidized social services; where the latter are
    not happy campers and certainly not thankful.
    -- Secularization and a high divorce rate have teared the social
    -- The population outside of Amsterdam is quite small minded, while
    the population in Amsterdam is quite nutty; and they cannot stand each
    -- The Dutch character is straight forward, but often unsophisticated
    if not rude.
    -- The state is too powerful and intrusive, micro-manages processes at
    all levels; the tax code is horrendous.
    I suspect that life for many Dutch is quite frustrating and so they
    have not much bandwidth left to deal with foreigners, which may
    disappear anytime anyway.
    BTW, I am Dutch, and have escaped the Netherlands because I couldn't
    stand it anymore. There is no good nature and the population density
    is not "my cup of tea".
    Staying for up to two year may be fun, but after that one get sucked
    in the muck of a dreary society ...
  • Mau posted:

    on 10th September 2012, 15:49:20 - Reply

    Different people different experiences, above all that needs to be clear! The netherlands appears to be an inviting country when you are on the outside and abroad. My personal experience tells me that dutch do not accept well outsiders with a better career than themselves and they often try to limitate your progress when you have (unfortunately) to submit to them. I like the fact that this country is a mix of sea, city and countryside, though there still seem to be some historical scars reflected on society... which reflect on dutch culture having a hard time accepting foreigners. There seems to be an unexplained sense of superiority (without a reason for it) (I guess Its because they all live bellow sea level :/ Like Kaccie said, when you come from such a "polite" education you will definitely have trouble adapting due to the fact that dutch are "consumer product society" [Edited by moderator] They don´t hesitate do make "race" comments even when those who are being commented on have a lot more to teach them. I come from a country with well rutted traditions and values of respect and dutch are definitely not a country known for their welcoming tradition. People from the northern europe countries are not so welcoming people, it must be from the cold, leaves them to stiff I guess.:/ Appart from this notices I must say that Holland is part of europe and europe is a whole nation, although some "close minded" people do not really realize that ( nevermind because they don´t have so much time left). I am a Christian and the Bible says that you should not put up with Phariseus, even being a Christian you do not have to be spitted on your face and say thank you. God encourages you to forgive and forget but not to let yourself be disrespected.Whenever you can make sure you are respected (without disrespecting others)obviously.( like GHANDI said and I quote " EYE for an EYE and the whole world will go blind). Aside of all of this the weather here seems like Antarctica and people shout in the streets to make sure that they are noticed. The food is all pre-made which means lots of healthy nutritious cancerous substances in your body, aswell as fat and celulites.:/ ( check out wemens legs ). Holand definitely looks like the next Sodoma and Gomorrra. After all of this I guess Im the ALIEN here! :/ Im still KIND and GOD still LOVE me! GOD told me that in case you do not publish this text you should be your own blog and let the truth out. Im just a creative writter and im just joking, GOD also told me to inform you about this! PEACE!!!! GOD is coming to EARTH! OH Common !!!!!have a sense of humour?!
  • Kaccie Li posted:

    on 22nd July 2012, 01:30:59 - Reply

    Hi Lia, these forums typically don't publish comments that contain too much criticism. -Lex, I get what you mean since I grew up Christian and still very much believe in the excellence of traditional Christian values (at least how I understand them). Comments like this though, no matter how sincere you actually intended to be, leads Dutch people to place you in a box before they even finish reading your comment. I like to see it from a slightly different perspective. For example, the Bible teaches kindness and respect toward each other, but I don't think that one needs to believe in the Bible (and/or God) to realize kindness and respect is a good thing and should be carried out.
  • lia van der steen posted:

    on 19th July 2012, 11:41:42 - Reply

    I sent in a comment for this discussion on July 16. why was'nt it put on the site? ( It was adressing Lex's comment on July 12)
    Best regards, Lia van der Steen
  • lex posted:

    on 12th July 2012, 01:37:04 - Reply

    I live in NL 12 years and can say that this problem is not only an issue between Dutch and foreigners, but also between Dutch themselves. If you are Amsterdamer and go live in Friesland, or Brabant or wherever else in the land, you will have same great difficulty adapting there. They dont even understand each other well. This is an interesting phenomenon for such small country, but it has not always been like this.
    I think this has happened because Dutch, like other European nations, have put God outside the door. This was a Christian land before. Now only atheists, 99%
    I would say. Church buildings are turned into mosques and warehouses. The right of homosexual is more important then to be right with God. This leads to spiritual and intellectual emptiness that we all can see here. T
    his is my angle.
  • Nick posted:

    on 11th July 2012, 13:56:46 - Reply

    Fascinating how this piece about ex-pat life in general became largely one about whether the Dutch welcome foreigners. OK the country came bottom of the list for making friends and that does say something.

    Language is a barrier in the NL. People talk to you in English if you’re not fluent in Dutch then after five years ask why you haven’t learnt Dutch. I lived there for nine years –and developed my Dutch enough so I could do most of my daily business but not enough to chat or follow multi person conservations, so often felt excluded at social gatherings.

    But language isn’t the only issue – the Dutch are very attached to their ‘kring’: their circle of family school and university friends. It’s difficult to break into this. But they are very loyal to this group. So networks are very strong aspect of Dutch life. Dutch people also find this – those I know who have moved from one city to another have told me how hard they found it to find friends and integrate. Some moved ‘home’ because of this. Another downside is that when Dutch people go out socially in a group they stay with their group and don’t mingle.

    I found the NL was a great place to do business and a far more inclusive (economically) society than my own (the UK) but saw my social life being whittled down, so after nine ears I have moved to Brussels-where people are much more latin in their day to day dealings with each other.

    By the way this survey has an in built bias as it is of high earning ex-pats (I forget the threshold but it is at least twice the national average income in western European countries). As such the sample is much more successful (and probably older and more materialistic) than the average. It would be interesting to see what would change if they lowered the threshold.
  • Sam posted:

    on 5th July 2012, 05:01:56 - Reply

    I was born and raised in the uk but came to den haag for a job 10years ago and I absolutely love the place! I had no problems making friends with my white colleagues and neighbors....the Hague or Amsterdam has a unique feel missing in a lot of uk cities
  • Lilly posted:

    on 25th June 2012, 15:30:51 - Reply

    I took the survey and I decided that unless you have 3 proficient languages under your belt, a 5 year degree, and 100,000 euros to start and your under 30, it's best not to come to Europe to live. Holland is predominantly made up of thousands of quaint towns full of townies that you can find anywhere in the world [Edited by moderator] and it can be miserable without a good pay check and nice people to talk with. Although Europe has alot less violent crime, that is about all I can say what is better than in the USA. Although the men are very charming in Europe and sweep women off their feet. I could think of alot more activities that are going on back home in Boston, and free ones at that.
  • Christophe posted:

    on 23rd June 2012, 21:04:02 - Reply

    I am living now for 7 years in The Netherlands and still struggling with the language. But it didn't prevent me to make good friends (starting with our neighbors, who just invited us for their wedding).
    What is missing in most comments is the exact location where you are living.
    I assume most of you live in large cities like Amsterdam or Den Haag. Personally we live in Eindhoven. I know this city is looked down in the country but people there are far less formal and arrogant than in the Ranstadt. Either at the local school or at work, this has been quite easy to meet new people, keen to socialize with us.
    Actually I believe the problem is true in many countries. Being French, I can tell you that Parisians are really different from the rest of my compatriots... Any large city pushes for selfish behaviors.
    Everything isn't perfect (the msot difficult part being this relax approach towards healthcare. I do hate this "It's normal. Just take a paracetamol" approach but which country/society is?
    So my advise is: run away from Amsterdam / Den Haag / Rotterdam!!
  • dredknots posted:

    on 23rd June 2012, 12:48:07 - Reply

    I'm a Londoner, living here for 6 months....and I LOVE IT. I have met some lovely dutch people through work and my expat colleagues. My best friend ironically is dutch and lives in the UK. I think generally the dutch are straighttalking, and do not beat around the bush, which I like as I know where I stand. Apart from the people, the environment has a very organised but laid back feel. Its easy to relax as soon as I leave the office. People are usually smiling, chatting, cycling......I feel safe walking home late in the evenings. I dont feel this in London AT ALL. And I love the fact that it's small so the country is easy to explore. I am a 39 year single female. At this time of my life and working career, I just want to relax and I find NL environment is allowing me to do so with ease :-)
  • nandini posted:

    on 21st June 2012, 13:02:32 - Reply

    I've been living in NL ( Amsterdam) for 11 years. Moved here from India. I just read all the posts here. Yes, I think it is up to us foreigners in the first place to learn the language, to communicate, to reach out ( with or without the help of having kids). However, why would one learn a language like Dutch in god's name if one knows one is going to move soon? But on the other hand, why do you expect the Dutch to speak in English if they don't want to?As an 'expat' do you feel you should be welcomed, on your terms? I'm curious about this and would welcome your inputs.
    I think I was more motivated to invest more because I felt I will be here for a while. I imagine this calculated decision with how much one wants to 'invest' in integration and how would apply anywhere in the world....to an extent ...or not? Anyone who can enlighten me?
    To be honest, i still speak imperfect Dutch, but I speak it anyway and always in public. I have intimate conversations without having the full vocabulary!!!! I just did a radio interview with the mistakes quite audible!!! I'm convinced that I've convinced most of the Dutch people I speak to that I want to connect with them. I've never felt isolated, but I have felt that I could not so easily feel ownership over this place the way my Dutch partner can. He and other Dutch people i know who are born on this soil find it easier to confront neighbors, speak up to the director of the school, and yes congregate together in their safe networks.
    Just having Dutch citizenship through a passport didn't make me feel 'entitled' like them. But once I realized this very deeply, I was able to behave more like them - to believe I have a stake in what is going on around me in very immediate ways.
    I think the question from me is , do you move around to different countries primarily for the sake of a better job, or do you have other reasons? Because the short and the long term can make a difference in how much you want to 'invest' towards integration.

  • tim posted:

    on 13th June 2012, 17:59:44 - Reply

    Apartheid was invented in South Africa at a time when the Dutch had left that country more then 100 years before. I wonder, does Francis think that Americans of British descent are British? Or Australians of Greek descent Greek? And Canadians of German descent German? Probably not, so I wonder why South Africans of Dutch descent are considered Dutch? Is it to white wash the atrocities the Brits have done in SA?
  • Francis posted:

    on 13th June 2012, 10:00:46 - Reply

    You are absolutely right Goinghome and although I did not articulate it too wonderfully, there are, indeed, many aspects of life here that are completely detached from all of us ex-pats. Regardless of whether we speak Dutch fluently or not, we will always be seen as outsiders stalking other peoples lives. I agree, it is apartheid on a social level and as this word APARTHEID was invented by the Dutch I guess it still lives on in other forms.
  • Goinghome posted:

    on 11th June 2012, 10:20:58 - Reply

    In NL it is more than music which is in English, also many TV stations, movies, public print ads. Many of the largest Dutch companies are not Dutch, they are Dutch Anglo. All the global corporations here require English. It is puzzling that English or a non dutch person is so shocking, or offensive to so many dutchies.
    Per Francis, I think the key to survival is expecting a sheltered lifestyle here in NL. Apartheid on the social level.
    There is a weird issue with blame in the dutch culture, everyone will tell you its your problem, no matter what the issue is, it is never theirs?

  • enniamerrican

    on 8th June 2012, 09:51:21 - Reply

    Kiwidutch – Whilst I agree with most of your comments, I dare say, from my own experience, that even when you try your best, sometimes your best isn’t good enough.

    When I first came here, I was promised/told that once I learned to speak Dutch, I could easily find a job and make friends, especially when my child later goes to school. Things looked promising but even when I began speaking reasonably well Dutch, nothing improved. In fact, I have been invited to places where I was basically ignored. I even stopped visiting my in laws because nobody spoke to me, even when I tried to initiate conversations. True, I didn’t really share much in common with them but I thought that was what getting to know each other was about – learning things about each other and trying to bridge the gap. Boy was I naïve – in fact, I think I was downright stupid for being so idealistic!

    It is a lot of work learning a new language and when you do, the people already speaking the language should try to help you along but more often than not, you’re left to your own devices. I learned Dutch so that I could communicate with the people here but nobody wants to talk to me. Short-lived menial conversations with store employees don’t really help to better your Dutch, no matter what people say. Of course there are nice people who exchange pleasantries with me but it’s still not the same as having an actual real friend. Most people here seem to think that because they’re open, that they’re friendly – those are two very different things.

    It is human nature to stray into a group of people you have the most in common with but it seems to be like a cultural obligation here. Dutch people are so cliquey that an outsider coming in, especially a foreign one, has to go through so many obstacles just to be accepted, regardless of whether we speak Dutch or not. My experiences are not exclusive to myself as I have spoken to my other foreigner friends here in other parts of NL and most have encountered similar, if not the same experiences I have with Dutch people.

    In short, after 11 years of trying, I’ve given up trying to make any Dutch friends here.
  • Robert posted:

    on 7th June 2012, 19:07:57 - Reply

    I live in Germany and enjoy many of the positive attributes of the nation like healthcare , respect for the law and general cleanliness but I have to say that I received my second invitation in 17 years from a German national. I am married to a German but I still find it difficult to make contact with many German people despite my ability to communicate as a teacher. They really are a funny old lot !
  • ldf posted:

    on 7th June 2012, 18:13:39 - Reply

    i completely disagree, unless perhaps you are speaking only of male expats. i'm a female expat who lived in thailand for four years until recently. i wrote and continue to write about my experiences there, one of the reasons being as a means of helping other expat women. the situation in thailand for expat women can be extremely difficult as the culture is class and gender based.a number of women have reached out to me for support.
  • Francis posted:

    on 6th June 2012, 12:33:54 - Reply

    I have lived for a long time and I can sypathise with people who find Dutch people a bit distant. [Edited by moderator] I speak Netherlands in my work and at home often but I never feel entirely at home with the language because if its gutteral intonations which are challenging to overcome. I know many Dutch peole but few I could consider to be friends in the obvious sense. What confuses me is that about 90 percent of themusic they play is in English and yet they struggle to understand it if you so much as dare to communicat in it. This is rather bewildering and I am not sure what the explanation is? I agree that you have to work hard to become accepted but where there is a will there is a way and the way to do it is try to adapt to a more sheltered lifestyle.
  • HIThere posted:

    on 4th June 2012, 16:06:28 - Reply

    If you are in your 20's No big deal. [Edited by moderator] If your partner is not helping you learn the language then they are not being supportive and this is probably a bigger issue. I think most Dutch partners help as it is pressured on them by their family, its a duty thing,. Unwritten. If you have a Dutch partner, yes you went to class and worked hard, but STFU its not the same. You have a 24/7 guide to life here and most important, someone to practice Dutch with. To everyone else, its tough, do your best, seek out expat groups if you feel isolated. You will meet great people, and enjoy your stay in NL, if you desire as long term life in NL change to fit their culture and enjoy.
  • grumps posted:

    on 4th June 2012, 14:16:47 - Reply

    OK, so what is the best and all the rest before Europe????????????????
  • Import Bride posted:

    on 1st June 2012, 13:30:01 - Reply

    kiwidutch, you may think it's because you "made an effort" to learn the language. In truth, it's because you "succeeded" in learning the language. All the effort in the world means nothing if you don't learn it fast enough.

    We've been shunned by most of my inlaws for exactly that reason.

    And yes having children will make a difference as there are more opportunities to get involved in your community. As an older expat (or "import bride" rather), these opportunities are pretty few and far between. Most Dutchies that I do get along with agree that this is a very insular country that prefer that you fit into their boxes before they feel comfortable with you.

    I'm still trying...with the help of psychotherapy. I have to come to terms with the reality that they won't meet you halfway; it's all up to me...
  • Sandra posted:

    on 1st June 2012, 10:56:10 - Reply

    Willie - I'm in total agreement with you - it's about how you let your experience impact you.
    I'm American (of latin descent) married to a Dutch. I've had some really bad experiences but also some really great experiences in my 2 years in the NL. There are good
  • willie posted:

    on 1st June 2012, 10:37:25 - Reply

    i am dutch by nationality, and can certainly sympathise with many of the opinions expressed, having lived in both the us and the netherlands for extended periods, i would say that this is a wonderful place to be, if you let it, with regard to the people, it's like Randy Pausch said so well, even the biggest jerks will surprise you in a wonderful way if you give them enough time. Folks it's not about the country, it's about the way you chose to let it impact you.
  • Kaccie Li posted:

    on 31st May 2012, 23:07:49 - Reply

    It is totally possible with the right amount of effort. I now speak Dutch fluently, and I know Dutch history more than most Dutch themselves. Could be a little fitter but I'm definitely in better athletic shape than 90 percent of the 27 yr old out there. I make a lot more money than most 27 yr olds too. These quality have done wonders.
    It is more difficult to change my skin color though. People here yell Ni Hao when they see me across the street and ask me why I eat dogs. This type of perception is more difficult to change. I learned mandarin in college and I definitely don't eat dogs.
  • sky posted:

    on 31st May 2012, 16:55:00 - Reply

  • Tiny posted:

    on 31st May 2012, 11:27:08 - Reply

    These surveys are from corporate types being moved around the globe. Generally Expats are people moving for jobs, not school or relationships. The later two are different and have more options than a corporate type. If you are a young hot person, especially a girl, you will have no problems in NL. The dutch Guys will be friendly enough. Average or below, you are a ghost, a little over weight your out. (Edited by moderator)
  • benny posted:

    on 31st May 2012, 11:03:13 - Reply

    KIWI congrats on becoming Dutch, you are correct, it is possible. If you married a Dutch partner its not the same as being an expat, you have a free 24/7 guide and family.
    In a way you sum it up perfectly. All you need to do is change. Learn the language have a baby so you can have an ice breaker, because the dutch love kids. It is always you never them. BTW they cannot handle a mistakes in their language, so speak it perfect or they switch to English. Other places ranked higher than NL on the social life side because culturally these other countries have different attitudes towards foreigners. The dutch are not bad people, there are many nice things about NL, but socially there are big, big barriers.
    If you must come to NL, a year or two max unless you like being an outsider. Stick to your time schedule and if you like it here, learn dutch and fight to fit in and prove how Dutch you are.
  • Kiwidutch posted:

    on 30th May 2012, 18:49:29 - Reply

    I've been living in the Netherlands for almost 20 years now and have seen a multitude of expats come/go/stay/move on...

    Observations I've made over this time: the ones who make the effort to learn Dutch properly and make an effort to get to know their neighbours , make friends, integrate etc are the ones who are readily accepted into Dutch society and who "blend in"without difficulty.

    The ones who don't bother generally have a hard time and feel like outsiders.

    Sorry folks but it takes real effort and some time! People don't just line up at your door because you are an expat!

    Don't just judge the few Dutch who will drink your beer because it's free, there ARE more Dutch around who love offering hospitality and getting to know you, it's just a matter of finding them.

    This goes for integration into ANY new culture not just here in NL, and believe me I've seen it all in my time here, the bad the ugly but also the best!

    Get actively involved not only with your neighbours but also in your street and community... learn the language and don;t sit complaining all the time ... it makes ALL the difference in the world :)

    BTW our home is an expat one and we are like grand central station with people from the neighbourhood some days LOL just last weekend we had no less than 5 sets of different neighbourhood kids knocking on our door asking if our kids were home and could come out to play... earlier we had a B'day party where 3/4 of guests were Dutch...

    It IS possible to be accepted here :)
  • Shirley Rosebud posted:

    on 30th May 2012, 18:08:38 - Reply

    What rubbish! I've worked in Switzerland and Geneva is bourgeois
  • Marty posted:

    on 30th May 2012, 13:27:56 - Reply

    We are a Middle aged expat couple, we have been in Holland 3.5 years and hope to leave within the next year. if you are counting on getting to know many Dutch, good luck. I agree its very isolating as an expat in NL Its a shame because the Dutch speak other languages well enough. Who knows the exact reason for this out come, but it is reality. The up side is there are expat groups where you can meet people.
    Not so strange, the dutch people I do know were once expats themselves.
  • Lilli posted:

    on 28th May 2012, 20:38:29 - Reply

    If you are very different with the Dutch people, I mean you are from another culture and behave very differently, you dont know so much about the Dutch habit. YOU WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED IN THIS SOCIETY. On these grounds they will not mix with the other nationality and the other words : They are not open to foreigner or expat, it could be very difficult to make good contact with the Dutch.
    They are not very flexible in dealing with another nationality or expat and Very stiff. They are good to condemn anyone but difficult to give compliment ( according to my experiences here and i have been living here for many years )

    TIP : Please dont waste your time to seek contact with the Dutch. If they are not open, is difficult to make contact. Try to make contact with other expat. It will be easier because you can share the nice or unhappy experiences together. You will enjoy your stay in the nederlands with nice and friendly people around you.
    Good Luck .
  • Kaccie Li posted:

    on 28th May 2012, 12:25:39 - Reply

    I hear ya alvaro. I sometimes feel being Asian American works a bit against me with the locals in the Netherlands, but it is super individual dependent and I do may best not to generalize. I love your attitude Alison. I need to adjust my personality a bit and maybe dye my hair blond again like in college :)
  • alvaro posted:

    on 28th May 2012, 01:25:07 - Reply

    I'm a south amrican (uruguay) expat living in Germany since 2009, and I agree that healthcare and safety are fantastic, and make the life much easier, but in addition to the horrible climate, it has been very hard for us to get used to live in a place where neighbours are all the time looking at you and somehow "testing" your compliance with the million of rules have. You feel permanently observed, and if you put your garbage outside your house on the wrong day, or your dog makes a bit of noise, or you barbecue late in the evening and there is some smoke......they just call the police instead of being open and talk to you directly. Very complicated place for social life outside the expat community.
  • Shelly posted:

    on 26th May 2012, 00:45:22 - Reply

    The survey seems to lean toward expat men prioritizing money. Saudi and Thailand good for an expat single woman?! Would agree that integrating into Dutch culture and making friends seems more challenging than one would expect.
  • Rhys posted:

    on 25th May 2012, 23:32:55 - Reply

    Maija, Alison, Glad to hear there are people out there who find the Netherlands a great place to live!
  • Alison posted:

    on 25th May 2012, 16:44:03 - Reply

    I'm an expat from the US now in the Netherlands and I love it. I've had no trouble making friends here with Dutch people and I've found them to be very welcoming and inclusive. It's the expats who are always complaining that I find more off-putting. ;)
  • Maija posted:

    on 25th May 2012, 16:21:34 - Reply

    I am very happy to have moved to the Netherlands. It trumps my home country of Finland in every possible regard (e.g. the "healthcare" in Finland is a dangerous disgrace). I also find that people are very nice, open, pleasant and helpful compared to the Finns and open to making new friends, contrary to what is often said about Dutch people.
  • Shane posted:

    on 25th May 2012, 12:08:38 - Reply

    Good luck Farrah!
    Be aware, if you invite Dutchies over, they'll gladly come for the free food and drink, but don't hope to be invited back.
  • Farrah posted:

    on 24th May 2012, 20:41:21 - Reply

    Ack! I'm moving there (Netherlands) as an expat with my family this October.
  • Victoria Raw posted:

    on 24th May 2012, 16:57:28 - Reply

    It's an interesting article. Not sure how comfortable I'd be living as a woman in an Arab country though.
  • Taw6 posted:

    on 23rd May 2012, 22:53:03 - Reply

    Saudi Arabia is third, guess they did not go there. Then again HSBC is a bank, its probably a great place if you are an anker.
  • Steve posted:

    on 23rd May 2012, 21:38:27 - Reply

    I also agree with the assessment of Netherlands, it's a cold and closed society to foreigners.
  • Ellen posted:

    on 23rd May 2012, 21:24:38 - Reply

    Living in Saudi as an expat woman does not seem to score this high on the list I think.
  • Paul posted:

    on 23rd May 2012, 11:51:32 - Reply

    I agree with the assessment of the Netherlands. In the last decade there has been an incredible shift away from being a socially open society.