Known as the City of Keys, Leiden's key motifs feature all over the city, and refer to the 1293 city seal depicting St Peter carrying the keys to the City of Heaven. Situated in the province of South Holland, Leiden’s two branches of the Old Rhine join in the city, and with many small canals and quays there is a cosmopolitan atmosphere, with restaurants, bars and cafés filled with residents and visitors alike. Almost a third of Leiden’s inhabitants are non-Dutch nationals, thanks to the significant international student and expat population within the city. Much of Leiden’s 16th and 17th century center remains intact, whilst remains of earlier fortifications include two city gates and the castle de Burcht. The Leidse Hout Park, a small deer park, and the Van der Werf Park provide a peaceful setting. As an expatriate living in Leiden, you will find the large student population takes up much of the available rental properties. The nearby towns of Oegstgeest, Zoeterwoude and Voorschoten, however, are within 10-15 minutes cycle ride away, making them viable housing alternatives. Cycling is a passion with the Dutch, and with the flat terrain and the many cycle paths, getting around Leiden and the surrounding area by bike is easy. Finding fellow expats living in Leiden should not be too difficult, and an InterNations membership offers expatriates in Leiden the opportunity to socialize, network and maybe even organize a meet up with like-minded individuals.
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Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is twenty minutes by train from Leiden. The Dutch are renowned for their integrated and efficient transport system, making journeys within the city and elsewhere easy. Buses run from the train station to all parts of Leiden and surrounding areas. Expatriates moving to Leiden should take advantage of the ‘OV’ card, a prepaid card which gives cheaper access to buses and trains in Holland. Leiden is small enough to retain a sense of community, and an expatriate moving to Leiden should not feel too isolated. The InterNations community is nevertheless often the best means of finding specific advice and help relating to your move to Leiden. Some of the expat members of InterNations will have moved to Holland in the past, or are currently based in the city, and by networking on the online forums on the InterNations website you should soon find help from a trusted InterNations member. General queries may be answered by browsing through the InterNations Expat Magazine, an exclusive collection of expatriation-related articles.
Although Leiden is very much a multilingual city thanks to its mix of nationalities, working in Leiden often requires the expatriate to become a Dutch speaker. The presence of the European Space Agency, international pharmaceutical companies and the University of Leiden, with over forty national and international research institutions does mean English is widely spoken, it is however only in The Hague and Amsterdam that the working language is predominantly English. Learning Dutch for example through the local Gilde Samenspraak, which matches a compatible Dutch-speaking volunteer mentor to you, is an option worth considering. Meeting with fellow expatriates working in Leiden through InterNations furthermore allows members to organize social gatherings and events, e.g. in order to practice their Dutch together. And enjoying the many restaurants and bars, or cruising on the canals are also popular options. Visiting the nearby spectacular bulb fields in spring on a social bike ride together, exploring the many cycle routes, or visiting the many museums Leiden has to offer are just some suggestions for InterNations expats working in Leiden to consider.