Amsterdam, the largest city in the Netherlands, prides itself on being an ambassador of culture. Art, music, dance and theatre are firmly anchored at the core of this city’s identity.
Similarly, the Dutch reputation for tolerance is strongly in evidence in Amsterdam; the city’s sense of “samenleving” (community/living together) reveres the individuals’ freedom to live life as they choose. With roughly 13% (100,000) of the workforce in Amsterdam being expat, this is nothing short of wonderful. Amsterdammers are welcoming, easy-going and open-minded.
As firmly as Amsterdam embraces culture, it embraces healthy living. Here in this city, there is a strong belief that sport and exercise is key to a healthy, happy life. For starters, there is the bicycle: the locals regard their bicycles as a primary means of transport for everything from themselves to their groceries, and even their furniture.
In milder months, its residents downsize; hundreds take to the city streets and parks on in-line skates. When temperatures plunge in the depths of winter, they trade in the wheels for blades. You’ll find Amsterdammers swishing around skating halls, the public rinks on the Museum and Dam Square, or the odd frozen canal.
Traditional Dutch fare comprises dishes such as Dutch split pea soup with bacon, a tasty selection of smoked fish – salmon, eel, mackerel and trout – with salted herring and tiny sweet shrimps, and a mélange of meatballs, sausage, carrots, cabbage and mashed potatoes. Its colonial heritage can be readily found in the abundant array of ethnic cuisine, making eating out a fun and exciting experience. Amsterdam’s plethora of bars and its liberal nightlife make it an exhilarating city for singles and young couples. Just as equally the city is geared toward families, with countless parks, playgrounds and kid-centric facilities. While expat singles and couples might opt for the busier, central areas of Amsterdam, families often prefer to dodge the often cramped living quarters and narrow stairways of central for the stylish, calmer Old South district, or the more reasonably priced Rivierenbuurt district.
What is special or unique about your city?
The capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is known as “the Venice of the North” due to its many beautiful canals. Amsterdam is considered as one of the happiest places to live in the world, for its laid-back culture, and diverse city life.
Expats moving to Amsterdam will find a city rich in history, including 7,000 national monuments, from 15th century fortifications to the grand gables of the Golden Age.
Amsterdam is synonymous with the arts. Clustered around the Museumplein at the southern end of town, there are three renowned museums (van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum) and a world-famous concert hall. The city is also home to the Dutch National Ballet and Opera company.
Some of the greatest pleasures in Amsterdam are the simplest, such as a walk along the canals, admiring the stately houses along the way. And for a break from city life, many Amsterdam locals visit nearby Het Groene Hart (The Green Heart), a largely agricultural area east of the urban Randstad zone.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
In Amsterdam, everyone is accepted and the locals are welcoming. The population of Amsterdam is comprised of over 171 nationalities, which does a great deal to promote an atmosphere of cultural and religious tolerance.
What is the local language?
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch. The majority of Amsterdam's residents speak English well and are often fluent in one or two languages on top of that.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
The majority of Amsterdam's residents speak English well and are often fluent in one or two languages on top of that. It’s good practice for expats to learn some Dutch as it will help them to settle into their community.
What are some good cultural practices to consider in the city?
The Dutch speak directly and use a lot of eye contact. To expats this might appear abrupt, but it is just their manner of communicating. Wearing sunglasses or covering the face otherwise while speaking to someone might be seen as a sign of having something to hide.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
The warmest months of the year are June to August, when temperatures range between 21 and 26 degrees Celsius. There are rarely extreme temperatures and even in winter the temperature does not often fall far below freezing point.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
A compact city with a population of just around 779,808, Amsterdam is not extremely large. You can cross the city in half an hour on foot - or by bicycle if you are a true Amsterdammer!
The Netherlands ranks as one of the top gay-friendly countries in Europe, with the superstar of the country’s gay and lesbian scene being, of course, Amsterdam – here attitudes are tolerant, bars are excellent and plentiful, and support groups and facilities unequalled.
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