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A Comprehensive Guide about Living in The Hague

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  • Pascal Tremblay

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Life in The Hague

At a Glance:

  • Finding accommodation in the city center can prove difficult and expensive — The Hague’s most beautiful neighborhoods often require a generous housing budget.
  • Having a real estate agent is a great option for making the local housing search easier.
  • The quality of medical care is very high, and you can choose your general practitioner freely.
  • Expat parents in The Hague can choose between publicly and privately run Dutch schools, as well as a wide range of international schools in and around the city.

Located on the western North Sea coast of the Netherlands, The Hague has a relatively mild maritime climate. While summers are often cooler than in an inland location, the city is at least sunnier than many other places in the country! The Hague is also home to the seaside resort Scheveningen, which is very popular for its beach clubs, harbor promenade, and leisure activities like sailing, windsurfing, or kiteboarding.

But Scheveningen isn’t the only reason why expats living in The Hague are in for a treat. While the city is not particularly large, which allows for a comfortable small-town feeling, it is also the political center of Europe and home to several international organizations, such as the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and Europol.

Living in The Hague is a truly international experience: the multicultural atmosphere is not only prevalent in The Hague’s political and judicial world.

In 2017, only 46% of the city’s population were Dutch nationals. There are large Turkish, Moroccan, and Surinamese communities, among other nationalities. The expat community in a narrower sense of the word — diplomats, embassy staff, foreign assignees, employees of international organizations, etc. — is estimated at about 50,000 people, and there are over 3,000 international students living in the city.

If you are looking for a large selection of international food and goods, you will feel right at home at the Haagse Markt on Herman Costerstraat. In addition, Chinatown, located around Wagenstraat, is home to various authentic Asian shops and restaurants.

Apartments and Town Houses

s-Gravenhage — the old name of the city, from which The Hague originates — offers a variety of housing opportunities. Living in the city is suitable both for expats who want to settle in vibrant urban areas and for families looking for quiet residential neighborhoods. However, space is quite limited in the city, which is why many people are choosing apartments or town houses over stand-alone buildings in The Hague.

Not only are small stand-alone houses hard to find for people living in The Hague, parking is also extremely rare. You may have to rent a parking spot separately if you want to or need to own a car. (Moby Park is a website that can help you find a parking spot in your area at your desired price.) On the upside, many homes for expats come with a balcony or even access to a small garden.

Where to Live?

Most neighborhoods in The Hague benefit from the city’s moderate size, great infrastructure, and excellent transport connections. However, these are some of the most beautiful and popular areas to live:

  • Archipelbuurt: Although this neighborhood is located right in the Centrum district, it contains many fairly quiet residential areas. Romantic 19th-century villas and generous green spaces like the Willemspark are typical of this affluent corner of The Hague.
  • Belgisch Park: This neighborhood in the district of Scheveningen is just a stone’s throw away from the North Sea, with its famous pier overlooking the beach and offering plenty of leisure activities. For this reason, it is unfortunately one of the most expensive areas in The Hague.
  • Benoordenhout: This luxurious neighborhood with its large family homes and semi-detached buildings has housing prices to rival those in Belgisch Park. While it can’t boast direct access to the sea, it does feature lots of natural areas and a charming Japanese Garden.
  • Duinoord: Belonging to the district of Segbroek, this posh neighborhood is less than a 20-minute bike ride from either the city center of the sea. It is especially famous for its stately townhouses and the Reinkenstraat shopping street.
  • Kijkduin en Ockenburgh: Part of the larger Loosduinen district, Kijkduin is The Hague’s second seaside resort. This green residential area is home to a family-oriented community, but its wonderful beachside location requires a generous housing budget.
  • Mariahoeve & Marlot: This “twin neighborhood” includes two planned residential areas, each with its distinctive character. The park-like 1960s style of Mariahoeve forms an interesting contrast to the large villas in Marlot.
  • Statenkwartier: This international neighborhood in the district of Scheveningen is particularly popular among expats. Such significant organizations as Europol are located here after all. And let’s not forget about “De Fred”, the charming Frederik Hendriklaan shopping street, which is the heart of this area.

Due to the negligible distances within the Rotterdam The Hague Metropolitan Area, you should consider searching for a new home outside the city as well. Today, smaller municipalities like Rijswik (which houses a branch of the European Parent Office and a Shell research campus), Leidschendam-Voorburg, the village-like commuter town of Voorschoten, and the beachside town of Wassenaar (home to many diplomats) have turned more or less into suburbs of The Hague. Other cities like Delft or Leiden also within easy reach by public transport.

Real Estate Agents and Websites for House Hunting

Before you settle down in The Hague or the larger metropolitan area, you need to figure out if you want to rent (huur) or buy (koop) your new home. The latter mostly makes sense if you are going to stay in The Hague long term or maybe even forever.

Real estate agents can help you get ready for life in The Hague. They may even be able to negotiate a better price for you and will help you save money that way. There are always multiple listings for properties in The Hague. Your agent can find apartments or houses which are listed with other agencies as well. You will then have to pay a broker’s fee of one month’s rent.

When trying to find an apartment or house, you may find the website of the NVM (the Netherlands Association of Real Estate Agents) helpful. This association offers both rentals and property for purchase in The Hague. Alternatively, you can turn to Pararius, another independent real estate website for people living in The Hague or other cities in the Netherlands. Unlike Pararius, Huurwoningen is only available in Dutch. The site specializes in rentals.

Healthcare in The Hague

Top-Notch Healthcare

The Netherlands offers a comprehensive healthcare system with plenty of top-notch health centers and hospitals. Particularly bigger cities like The Hague have specialized hospitals and international medical staff who cater to the expat community. In 2016, the country invested over 10% of its GDP — more than 7.7 billion USD — in the health sector to ensure top-quality care.

All people living in The Hague or anywhere else in the Netherlands must have health insurance. This obligation was settled in the Health Insurance Act (Zorgverzekeringswet), according to which every resident has to have access to basic healthcare.

The Public Health Department

The Public Health Department in The Hague consists of different sections, the most important of them being featured in this list:

  • Nowadays, the epidemiology section also provides information on public health. You can get free materials on various health-related topics from nutrition to prenatal care at their information center (Westeinde 128).
  • The public (mental) healthcare office (OGGZ) is in charge of medical care and social support for vulnerable residents in need (e.g. homeless people or addicts).
  • The section for infectious disease control and hygiene is responsible for fighting and preventing infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, as well as controlling environmental health. In addition to this, they offer advice on travel health and tropical diseases, monitor health issues and hygiene in childcare, and run the Center for Sexual Health.
  • The department for children’s health services has to ensure the healthy development of all residents under the age of 20, from toddler to young adult. They are part of The Hague’s Center for Children and Families.
  • As the name suggests, the ambulance care section provides medical assistance and emergency transportation.

If you have any enquiries or issues you need help with, you can visit the main office in The Hague, located on Westeinde 128.

Choosing Your General Practitioner

The Dutch healthcare system allows you to choose your general practitioner freely. You may want to pick one who has a practice near your house or workplace or one recommended by your friends or colleagues. Of course, you can always try to find a doctor yourself.

Simply visit the website of Zorgkaartnederland; type in “Den Haag” under “Zoek op zorgaanbieder, persoon, plaats of postcode” and click “Zoeken”. You will then get a list of doctor’s practices in The Hague. By clicking on one of the categories on the right-hand side, you can further specify your search.

Click on “Huisarts” for a list of general practitioners. For a pediatrician, you need to look for “Kinderarts”; searching for “Tandarts” will give you a list of dentists in The Hague, and if you need an ob/gyn, just look for “Gynecoloog”.

Doctors and the Language Barrier

Expats living in The Hague do not all speak perfect Dutch, of course. By the same token, not every doctor in The Hague will be fluent in English or another foreign language, even though the Netherlands in general is the 2017 world leader in English proficiency. Nonetheless, dealing with complicated medical issues and the language barrier at the same time can make communicating difficult.

However, your doctor can call “Tolk- en Vertaalcentrum Nederland (TVcN)” and make use of their interpretation and translation service. The interpreter can listen along on the phone and translate what your doctor is saying. In some cases, an interpreter can even accompany you to your appointment. As long as your doctor makes the request, you will not have to pay for these services.

In Case of Emergency

The emergency number to call in the Netherlands is 112. Moreover, each of the seven hospitals in The Hague has an emergency room which is open 24 hours per day.

SMASH can provide emergency GP care outside of office hours, on weekends and public holidays. Their number is 070 346 9669. For dental emergencies, get in touch with Tandarts Spoedgevallendienst Haaglanden. They are available 24/7 via 070 311 0305.

You can find further details about emergency contacts on the official website of Den Haag.

Education in The Hague

Publicly vs. Privately Run Schools

In the Netherlands, there are three types of schools: publicly run schools, privately run schools, and fully private and independent schools.

Public schools provide education on the behalf of the state; for this reason, they can’t refuse to admit any students for religious or ideological reasons. Privately run schools, however, do often base their teaching on specific religious and ideological beliefs. They can therefore be selective and only admit students of a certain faith (e.g. Catholic, Muslim) or those whose parents support their pedagogy (e.g. Waldorf schools).

Both kinds of schools are entitled to funding from the Dutch government. Therefore, they need to maintain various quality standards set by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science — for example, the subjects they offer or the content of national examinations.

The Dutch Education System

At both publicly and privately run schools, the Netherlands offers a comprehensive education. Schooling is obligatory for all children between the ages of 5 and 16, although most children will start school at the age of 4. Primary and secondary education is usually free, although the schools may demand parental contributions for extracurricular activities or school trips. This contribution is voluntary, though, and depends on the parents’ income as well. It ranges from about 200 EUR to 2,000 EUR per year.

Primary education usually lasts for around eight years until the students have reached the age of twelve. Subjects must at least cover a core curriculum: Dutch, English, arithmetic and mathematics, social and environmental studies (e.g. geography or biology), creative activities (e.g. arts or music), as well as sport and movement. Primary schools often teach their students about life skills and healthy living as well.

After-school centers are also available for children attending primary school, after school hours, on Wednesday afternoons, and during the school holidays.

Secondary Education in the Netherlands

After eight years of attending primary school, students will receive a recommendation on further academic options from their teachers and receive (non-binding) advice on which type of secondary school fits them best. Generally speaking, there are three kinds of secondary education in the Netherlands.

  • The VMBO lasts for four years and is supposed to be a foundational course mainly for those who want to take up vocational training.
  • Taking five years altogether, the HAVO is supposed to provide students with a basic general education and prepare them for higher professional training.
  • The VWO is the academic pathway. It takes six years altogether and is supposed to prepare students for university. After the first three years, students have to focus on one of the following areas: nature and technology, nature and health, economy and society, or culture and society.

The Hague’s International Schools

Fully private schools still need to be officially recognized by the Ministry of Education and are subject to inspections and quality assessments. However, they don’t receive any government funding. Therefore, parents often pay considerable tuition fees if they want to send their children to such a school. For example, the American School of The Hague charges between roughly 14,000 EUR and 22,000 EUR in annual fees for the academic year 2017/18.

Fully private education is fairly rare in the Netherlands, but most international and foreign schools fall into this category. International education is available for children from the age of four and mostly prepares children for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) or International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma.

There are a number of international schools and third-country schools in and around The Hague:

Bilingual Education

If you want your teenage kids to attend a Dutch school but are afraid that they will not pick up the language easily, you also have the option to enroll them at a secondary school which offers bilingual education.

There, your children are instructed both in English and Dutch. Subjects like math, biology, economics, or IT are taught in English all throughout the six years of VWO (pre-university) level. The preparations for examinations, however, are usually taught in Dutch, and the exams themselves are taken in Dutch as well.

However, schools may offer an alternative to students with a lower proficiency in Dutch. In some cases, for instance, your children will be able to take the exam for the International Baccalaureate English A2 Certificate, which qualifies them to study at English-speaking universities.

There are quite a few secondary schools in The Hague which offer bilingual education:

These schools also offer a variety of international activities and exchange programs. For more information on the schools’ bilingual program, please contact each school individually.

Childcare Options

Daycare centers in the Netherlands accept kids between the ages of six weeks and four years, which is the age at which they can start primary education. In general, children can stay for up to ten hours in a daycare center (kinderdagverblijf), and opening hours are usually from 08:00 until 17:30 on work days. There are often long waiting lists for these services, so make sure that you register as early as possible!

Older children aged between two and four frequently attend a play-school (peuterspeelzaal) two or three times a week. Though these schools are supposed to prepare children for primary education, they mostly offer lots of opportunities for your kids to be kids and enjoy creative play.

Due to The Hague’s large international community, there are also various English-speaking daycare facilities and playschools in the city. Please note: These are usually private facilities and may therefore charge higher fees than municipal childcare centers. You can find a list on the Den Haag website.

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