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Living in Amsterdam?

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Living in the Netherlands, from India

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Living in the Netherlands, from Argentina

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Amsterdam at a Glance

Living in Amsterdam

Thanks to our expat guide to living in Amsterdam, with info on housing, education, and healthcare, you will quickly find your way around your new home. Like most expats, you will love Amsterdam for its multicultural charm, easy-going attitude, and picturesque flair.

Amsterdam enjoys the reputation of being a cosmopolitan village. There is a large international community in Amsterdam, and the city is dedicated to welcoming all kinds of nationalities and catering to their needs.

Life in Amsterdam is dynamic and yet relaxed. The city takes pride in its liberal attitude and international character. Living in Amsterdam hence offers you a lot of personal freedom, as well as a variety of cultural events. A cherry blossom festival, the annual dragon boat race, as well as the former Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag), now King's Day (Koningsdag), are highlights you should not miss.

Public or Private Housing?

When planning your life in Amsterdam, you have two options when it comes to renting a flat: public housing (sociale huurwoningen) and the private (particulier) sector. Rental property in Amsterdam is subject to the House Value Rating System (woningwaarderingsstelsel). Every apartment or building receives points for standards, size, location, and facilities. This point system will help you determine if the rent you pay while living in Amsterdam is fair.

The Netherlands has the biggest public housing sector in Europe. This type of housing is mostly meant for lower-income groups. The maximum rent is determined by law. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to find public housing on short notice. The waiting list is between 5 and 10 years.

Also, public housing permits are obligatory for those who want to rent in the public sector. Your landlord will have to organize the application for you. You must meet certain conditions to receive this permit, e.g. your income must not exceed a certain limit. Dienst Wonen has some great information on everything related to housing in the Netherlands.

Renting: The Best Option for Expats

A housing permit is only necessary if you plan on living in Amsterdam’s cheaper apartments, where the monthly rent cannot exceed a certain limit. Apartments with higher rents or owner-occupied housing do not require such a permit.

Private rentals are usually the first choice for expatriates. They are more expensive, but they can easily be rented for short-term stays by foreigners temporarily living in Amsterdam. Most landlords ask for a residence permit and for a deposit of 1–2 months’ rent. Tenancy agreements are usually signed for a fixed period of time.

You can find private housing by checking the classified sections of local newspapers such as DutchNews or online housing boards like jaap.nlRooftrack, a website offered by WoningNet, is another valuable source for expats on the housing search. Alternatively, you can hire a real estate agent (makelaar) or contact a specialized letting agency (verhuurbureaus) to help you find your perfect home in Amsterdam.

Going to School in Amsterdam

Primary school (basisschool) is compulsory for all children in Amsterdam starting at the age of 5. You should register your child with your school of choice early on. Some schools have long waiting lists, and if you are too late, you may find that all places have been filled. Amsterdam has 224 primary schools. About 13 of them cater to children with special educational needs.

You can find about 66 secondary schools (middelbare school) in Amsterdam. Many of them follow a special curriculum, based on different pedagogical ideas or religious faiths, thus reflecting the diversity of the people living in Amsterdam. Some schools cater to the needs of children with disabilities or behavioral problems.

There are also 6 international schools in the city specifically for expat children, and several others in the metropolitan area. Apart from the Amsterdam International Community School and the International School of Amsterdam, you can find a British, French, and Japanese school as well as one community college in the city.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine