Coronavirus has got a lot of us questioning our lifestyle. We’re yearning for shorter working weeks, a less polluted environment and easier commutes. For anyone who can’t give up city life post pandemic, but still wants a healthier routine, moving to Amsterdam is a great option. But like any place, living in Amsterdam still has its pros and cons, as Expater and blogger Meghan explains.
Meghan is founder of digital marketing agency Late Nights & Weekends and editor of lifestyle blog The Monday Edit. Here she shares the lowdown on life in the Venice of the North…
Firstly, tell me about your experience of moving to Amsterdam
I’m Canadian, originally from Calgary, Alberta, but was living in Toronto when I made the decision to move to the Netherlands in 2015. Like many other expats I’ve met, I moved here for love. I met my Dutch boyfriend while on vacation and, after a year of dating long distance, made the move to Europe to be with him.
The initial move was from Toronto to Tilburg, a small city in the south of Holland. Being a big city girl at heart, we eventually ended up in Amsterdam — a much better fit for me!
I live in the bustling Zuidas district of Amsterdam, often referred to as the ‘Manhattan of Amsterdam’.
What is the Amsterdam lifestyle like?
The culture is very open and accepting, which I love. It’s very what-you-see-is-what-you-get. In fact, many people leave their curtains wide open all day, every day, which has resulted in some interesting uncensored moments!
As for the lifestyle, it is incredibly relaxed. The work-life balance is unlike anything I ever experienced in Canada. At 5 pm most people clock out and go enjoy the rest of their evenings with zero obligation to check email or be reachable for after-hours business.
At my last job here, I had 40 paid holiday days, in addition to the standard bank holidays! People at the company had so many vacation days that they would often take a week off just to sit at home, because you really had more days than you could even use going on vacation.
This positive work-life balance is one of my favorite things about living here. I come from Toronto where the hustle culture was huge and I was working an average of 70 hours a week with only 10 days off a year. After moving to Amsterdam and experiencing the Dutch way life, I don’t think I could go ever back.
As for living in Amsterdam, what are the pros and cons?
There are a lot of pros. The slower pace of life is unbeatable.
The bike culture is a major pro for me as well. The infrastructure is built with cyclists in mind and riding your bike through the city is so freeing, though you need to get comfortable with dodging obstacles that will inevitably cross your path (most likely a clueless tourist walking in the bike lane).
Every corner you turn, it’s a postcard view. Another huge pro is how easily and inexpensively you can explore Europe being based in Amsterdam. With Paris and London only a short train ride away, and Schiphol airport nearby, you can get ridiculously low travel to basically anywhere in Europe. I’ve crossed dozens of countries off of my bucket list, which wouldn’t have been possible if I were still living in Canada.
As for cons, I suppose the cost. Like any major city, it is expensive! Rent is outrageous and extremely competitive. You don’t get much space for what you’re paying in comparison to other cities. Due to space constraints, I had to cut my wardrobe in half when moving to Tilburg, and then in half again when moving to Amsterdam.
What are your thoughts on moving to Amsterdam with family?
I don’t have kids, but I think moving to Amsterdam with a family would be quite the adventure! You’d have to give up any dreams of having a big backyard for the kiddos to play in (unless you’re pretty wealthy), but the rich history and culture they’d be exposed to would make up for that.
As a parent, you’d have to be comfortable toting around your children by bike, (see this pretty wild video!) but this is a way of life for the Dutch since driving a car in the city is a bit of a nightmare.
Also, from what I’ve heard there are many international schools here, so if you’d want your children to continue their education in English, this is certainly possible.
What are your top tips for anyone moving to Amsterdam?
My top tips for living in Amsterdam would be, first, get a bike. It is the fastest, most cost efficient way to get around, and the city is small enough that you can bike basically everywhere.
Another tip if moving to Amsterdam would be get health insurance right away. It is mandatory in the Netherlands to have it, so even if you think you can get by for the first few months without having coverage, you will be surprised that when you finally do enroll with an insurance company, you will get a bill for the months you skipped even though you didn’t use them!
If you’re exploring the country outside of Amsterdam often or if your work commute will take you beyond the city, invest in a NS frequent traveller subscription pass. It dramatically cuts transport costs.
Lastly, ensure you have a large amount of money set aside for your deposit on a rental. For our current apartment, we had to pay first and last month’s rent, plus a deposit of two months rent, which is a huge chunk of cash to put down in one go.
What about the cost of living. Is it expensive to live in Amsterdam?
It is quite expensive living in Amsterdam, yes. The rent is high, dining out is expensive, and train costs are super pricey. Taking a train to the South of Holland, which used to be my daily commute for work, will cost close to 40 euros for a round trip.
But, most people seem to get by just fine financially. As long as you budget properly you will be okay.
What is a good salary in Amsterdam?
A good salary would be anywhere from 2500-3500 euros per month for a mid-level job.
If you’re moving to Amsterdam keep in mind that the tax rate is extremely high here so you will be waving goodbye to a big chunk of that before it even hits your bank account.
However, in return, you get to live in an immaculately kept country that will be there to support you if and when you need it.
What about jobs in Amsterdam? Is it easy to find work?
Landing the perfect job can take months as it’s a super competitive market. Ideally you’d want to have a job here first before moving over. It is possible to move without a job first, but you might have to forego your dream job while you hunt.
All in all, is Amsterdam a good place to live?
Amsterdam is an incredible place to live. Out of the six cities I’ve lived in thus far in life, it’s hands down my favorite. I consider myself lucky to call this beautiful place home.
Meghan is founder of digital marketing agency Late Nights & Weekends and editor of lifestyle blog The Monday Edit. Be sure to sign up to her weekly curation of the most beautiful fashion and home finds.
Thanks for the info! I am from Calgary and moving to Amsterdam this summer. I’m nervous and this blog really made me feel more comfortable! Thanks 🙂
That’s great to hear Kristi. I hope you move goes ok. Nina x
What about retiring in Amsterdam?
Hi Allan, Meghan isn’t of retirement age, but I found these links which may be useful:
https://aginggreatly.com/how-to-retire-in-the-netherlands-as-an-american/ (From US perspective)
Friends (of working age) tell me they love Amsterdam for raising their kids but the cost of living is quite high that it might not be their first choice for retiring.
Of course, it’s personal…
Wishing you all the best