Relocating to The Netherlands?

Since the 1960s, The Netherlands has been an important destination for Turks moving abroad. In 1964, the Dutch government entered into a ‘recruitment agreement’ with Turkey allowing increased freedom of movement for Turkish nationals wishing to come and work in The Netherlands. Although there have been several increases and decreases in numbers since the 1960s, the Turkish community in The Netherlands remains influential and many Turkish nationals continue moving here well into the 21st century.

In 2009, it was estimated that first-generation and second-generation Turks made up approximately 2.29% of the total Dutch population. The majority lived in the large cities in the West, approximately 36% in the Randstad – an area which includes Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Zaandam and The Hague. Other locations with high populations are in the Limburg area of the south, in Eindhoven and Tilburg in the east, as well as Deventer, Enschede and Almelo.  

In this article we look at some of the main population centres in The Netherlands which still attract Turkish migrants, using populations figures from 2016.    The 2017 numbers are not yet available.


Rotterdam is the Dutch city with the highest number of first and second generation Turks – in 2016 this was 42,900 people or approximately 7.8% of the city’s population.   

Rotterdam is the second largest city in The Netherlands with the largest port in the world. The city has long been one of the main centres for shipping in the Netherlands but also for the whole of the EU. Because of the port and the city’s size, Rotterdam does attract many people seeking jobs especially in the lower-salary ranges. There are several well-known companies with their headquarters in Rotterdam, but it also has a  12% unemployment rate, one of the highest in The Netherlands.

Well known streets in Rotterdam include the shopping centre,  the Lijnbaan, the Hoogstraat and the Coolsingel with the city hall. A modern shopping venue is the Beurstraverse, better known by the informal name: ‘Koopgoot’ ( Buying/ Shopping Gutter) because of its low-lying position, crossing Rotterdam’s main street Coolsingel, below street level. The main shopping venue in the South of Rotterdam is Zuidplein, which lies close to Ahoy’s Rotterdam: an accommodation for shows, exhibitions, sporting events, concerts and congresses. Another prominent shopping center, called Alexandrium lies in the East of Rotterdam.

There are several international schools in and around Rotterdam, as well as  one of the only 2 Islamic High Schools in the Netherlands -  Avicenna College in Rotterdam. Dutch schools can be found throughout the city, and there are a small number of faith-based Muslim primary schools.  Rotterdam is one of Europe’s most vibrant cities, known for its University (Erasmus University), its cutting-edge modern architecture and cultural life.  The city is currently going through a sort of renaissance, with some urban architecture projects, nightlife and many summer festivals celebrating the city’s multicultural population and identity.


Amsterdam is the largest population centre and the capital city of The Netherlands.  In 2016 the Amsterdam metropolitan area was home to 42,500 Turks or approximately 5.3% of the city’s inhabitants.  

About 750,000 people live in Amsterdam and over 3.5 million visit each year. Amsterdam is the 4th most visited city in Europe, and has the highest number of different nationalities living here worldwide (177 at last count).

Because of the high population density, it can be challenging to find a rental property in Amsterdam. Especially in the central areas, most people live in apartments. Historic buildings can be found in the most central areas, with purpose-built blocks more common towards the outskirts.   The neighbouring suburb of Amstelveen also  has a large expatriate population and many multinational companies. This leafy  town is located on the edge of Amsterdamse Bos (woods) and approximately 12 kilometres from Amsterdam city centre.  Amstelveen is easily reached from Amsterdam by bus or tram, and no parking permit is required in many areas.  The town is also convenient for Schiphol Airport, and there are plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops.

Amsterdam is the financial and business capital of the Netherlands, ranked fifth in Europe for international business. Many large companies have their headquarters in Amsterdam or the surrounding towns and cites. Although some businesses are located in the city centre, many are centred around financial or industrial areas in the outskirts including Zuidas (South Axis), Amsterdam Sloterdijk, around Amsterdam Arena and close to Amsterdam Amstel train station. The port of Amsterdam is the 4th largest in Europe and a new lock will open in Ijmuiden in  2019 allowing a growth of 125 million tonnes in capacity. Tourism and retail are also significant employers in and around the Amsterdam area.

There are several international schools in and around Amsterdam and Amstelveen as well as in the neighbouring towns of Haarlem and Hoofddorp. Amsterdam has a number of Muslim primary schools, and since September 2017 also one Islamic secondary school. The Cornelius Haga Lyceum close to Amsterdam Sloterdijk station one of only 2 Islamic secondary schools in The Netherlands. 

The Hague

The Turkish population of the Hague in 2016 was 38,300 or 7.5% of that city’s total population.

The Hague, officially s’ Gravenhage, is the capital city of the province of South Holland.The total populations is around 500,000 people making The Hague is The Netherlands’ third largest city.The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government and parliament. The Hague is the seat of the Dutch government and parliament, the Supreme Court and the Council of State. The Hague is not the capital of the Netherlands, which constitutionally is Amsterdam.

The economy of The Hague is very service-oriented. There are a large number of civil servants and diplomats in the city, with a high proportion provided by either the Dutch government or international institutions.  Tourism is also an important sector.

There are several international schools in and around The Hague, including schools teaching in French or German. There are Muslim primary schools but no Islamic secondary schools in The Hague.


Utrecht is the 4th largest city of The Netherlands, and located in the Eastern part of the Randstad.   The total population in 2016 was 345,080 including 13,700 with Turkish origins or 4.2% of the city’s total population.

Utrecht is almost 2000 years old.   In the ‘Middle Ages’, Utrecht was the ecclesiastical centre of the Netherlands and its skyline was dominated by dozens of church towers. Today, the city has eight medieval churches including the tallest Church tower, the ‘Dom Tower’.    

Because of it’s geographically central location within the country, modern Utrecht is an important transport hub for both rail and road transport, and for the economic functioning of The Netherlands.   The city hosts many conferences and business meetings, and has a strong services sector.  The workforce here tends to be highly educated, with a higher proportion than the Dutch or EU average working for business and the public sector.

Utrecht has many primary and secondary schools, enabling parents to educate their children according to different philosophies and religions.   There is 1 international school offering English-language education from children aged between 4-19, and 2 Muslim primary schools.  Utrecht University is the largest university in the Netherlands, and there are several other higher education institutes in the city. 


The municipality of Zaanstad is a group of towns are rural areas located north of Amsterdam. The main towns in this area include Assendelft, Ijmuiden, Koog aan de Zaan, Krommenie, Westzaan, Wormerveer, Zaandam and Zaandijk.  In 2016, 11,500 Turks lived in this municipality making up 7.7% of the area’s local population.  

Zaanstad is one of the oldest industrial regions of the world. In the 17th and 18th centuries this area was an industrial centre manufacturing wooden planks for shipbuilding as well as producing cocoa, mustard, paper and dyes.   A modern sea lock is due to open in Ijmuiden in 2019, allowing Amsterdam’s port a growth of 125 million tonnes in capacity.  Zaanstad today is an important centre for the Dutch food industry, and an attractive location for companies investing in research and development, food packaging and laboratories.  Zaanstad is an important centre of the logistics industry in The Netherlands, with many companies involved with supply chain management.

At time of writing, there are no international or Muslim primary schools in the Zaanstad.


Eindhoven lies in the southeast of The Netherlands close to the German and Belgian borders.   The total Turkish population of this city was 10,500 in 2016 making up 4.8% of the city’s population.

Eindhoven is the 5th largest city in the Netherlands located in Noord-Brabant.   Apart from the city itself, there are several villages and small towns surrounding the city many of which are also popular with new arrivals to The Netherlands. Eindhoven is a comparatively new town, with a large proportion of housing and buildings dating from the 20th century.   Accommodation in the city center is mainly in new apartments, which are more expensive than in the outskirts or nearby villages.

Many of the industries based out of Eindhoven developed and grew in the 20th century as a result of the presence of Philips, and to a lesser extent DAF Trucks and Brabantia.  Eindhoven today is a centre for many hi-tech companies, with around ¼ of all jobs in the region associated with technology or information technology.

There is one international school in Eindhoven, and a small number of primary schools offering faith-based Muslim education. There are also internationals schools located a short distance away in the Dutch city of Breda and at Mols in Belgium.  There are four public institutions for higher and adult education in Eindhoven, as well as a number of private institutions offering courses and trainings.


Enschede lies in the eastern part of The Netherlands, a few miles away from the border with Germany.   The Turkish population in 2016 was 9,200 or 5.8% of the city’s total population.

Previously Enschede was a centre for the Dutch textile industry, but this declined during the 20th century.   Today one the most important employers in the region is the tyre manufacturer Apollo Vredestein BV, another being the beer-makers Grolsch.    The University of Twente is also located in Enschede, offering mainly technical studies.   Because the city is so close to Germany and attracts many German visitors or shoppers, the majority of residents speak fluent German.

International School Twente is an English-language international school located in Enschede offering both primary and secondary education.  Aside from the Dutch schools based in Enschede, some children in the city also attend schools across the  border in Germany.   There is currently one Muslim primary school in Enschede.


Arnhem is a large city in the eastern part of the Netherlands and close to the German border. It is home to 8,500 Turks making up 5.5% of the local population.   

The Arnhem-Nijmegen region is home to a number of different industries including chemicals and automotives. The region plans to become the second largest economic area of The Netherlands by 2020.   In order to achieve this, there is a focus on healthcare and life science, energy and environmental technology including innovative greenhouse farming, semiconductor technology, tourism, smart and sustainable logistics and fashion & design.

There is 1 Muslim primary school in Arnhem, as well as 1 International school offering English-language education to primary and secondary school children.


Are you considering a move to The Netherlands? Check our destination guide or contact us to see how we can help you further with your relocation.