19 ways to actually make friends as an expat in the Netherlands in 2024

You get by with a little help from your friends ๐ŸŒป

Making friends in the Netherlands as an expat can be truly difficult. So, first of all, big kudos to you for being here. ๐Ÿฅฐ

But meeting new people can be hard at the best of times, and doing so in a country known for its directness is even harder. 

I’ve spent years living in the Netherlands, both studying and working, and I’ve seen it all: loneliness, making friends, and having a great friend group.

That’s why I’m bringing you the best tried and tested ways to make friends in the Netherlands, including tactics used by us at DutchReview, passed on by previous internationals, and told to us by our readers!

Whether you’re hoping to make friends with Dutchies or other internationals, here are the top tips for finding friends in the Netherlands. 

1. Join a sports club โ›น๏ธโ€โ™€๏ธ

There’s nothing like a bit of competition to bring people together! Image: Pixabay

There’s nothing that gets people together like seeing each other sweat. Seriously!

It might seem weird, but there’s just something about physical exercise that loosens people up and lubricates the conversation. 

READ MORE | 6 outdoor sports to try this summer in the Netherlands

Additionally, if you join a club that’s focused on a specific sport, say rowing or salsa, you’re sure to at least have an interest in that sport in common โ€” a.k.a. ready-made conversation topics.

Plus, Dutchies tend to be pretty sporty, so it’s an excellent way to mingle with both internationals and locals. ๐Ÿ’ช

2. Use Meetup to make new connections ๐Ÿ‘‹

Your besties are waiting for you out there! Image: Depositphotos

If you have a specific interest that you’d like to continue in the Netherlands (or if you want to discover something new!), you can find a group to do it with on Meetup.

Some Meetup groups are also just for hanging out with new people and making friends โ€” no hobby needed!

There are already hundreds of Meetup groups in the Netherlands, so you’re almost sure to find something in your area. Alternatively, you can create your own group and let other people come to you!

3. Find events near you on Facebook ๐Ÿ“†

Turns out Facebook can be useful every now and then! Image: Depositphotos

While many of us may not use Facebook as our main social media or be huge fans of good old Zuck knowing which events we go to, it’s a very handy platform for meeting new people and making friends when arriving in a new city.

READ MORE | These are some of the best Facebook Groups for internationals in major Dutch cities

Many social events, from poetry and spoken word hangouts to openings of trendy new clubs, will be shared on Facebook so you can get an easy glance at what’s happening in your area. 

4. Take the initiative and create your own club! ๐Ÿ“ฐ

You don’t need a crowd to have fun doing something you love. Image: Freepik

If you aren’t a fan of big events or just want to get to know a few people with similar interests as you, why not make your own club? Sure, it may sound a little middle-school-project-ish, but people admire it when someone takes the initiative!

Creating your own club is a great way to put yourself out there and show people what you like doing. 

If you’re nervous about potentially spending a whole afternoon or evening with strangers, don’t overthink it!

Having something to do together, whether it’s knitting, hiking, or attempting to make fancy cocktails, makes the conversation flow much easier than if you just invite people over for coffee. (Especially with the latter option ๐Ÿธ).

๐Ÿ’ก Some ideas: Invite your neighbours to cooking evenings and alternate whose place you dine at, start a book club, a board-game group, or organise themed drinks evenings. The possibilities are endless!

5. Take hobby classes ๐ŸŽญ

Making friends and learning a skill โ€” what’s not to like? Image: Freepik

Are you the type of person who would’ve dragged your best friend to a flower-binding workshop or barista course back home?

While we know it’s not the same without having someone to giggle with over your lacking lattรฉ art skills, there’s no reason why you can’t go to hobby classes alone!

READ MORE | The best extra-curricular groups for expats in Amsterdam 

In fact, it’s an experience that’ll likely boost your sense of independence and confidence. Plus, it’s a great place to meet new people who may not be in the same social circles as you. 

6. Join a group for internationals in your area ๐Ÿ™Œ

Share all your travel stories with others who know what it’s like to move around. Image: Depositphotos

One of the great things about being an international in the Netherlands is that there are plenty of internationals in the same boat as you, especially if you live in the Randstad region!

Every year, people move to the Netherlands for their studies or work and โ€” luckily for you โ€” they all need to make friends. 

With so many people in the same lonely boat, that means there are tons of groups and networks for internationals scattered across the country. Some groups are general and welcome all, and some are for a specific nationality.

7. Take Dutch classes ๐Ÿ“ฃ

Hey, learning het Nederlands can bag you some really great friends. ๐Ÿ’๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ Image: Depositphotos

A great way to kill two birds with one stone is to take Dutch classes. That way, you’ll meet other internationals who are either new to the country or have decided to integrate further, plus, you’ll learn the Dutch language. Leuk! ๐ŸŽ‰

FIND A | Dutch Language School

Taking Dutch classes is a great way to make friends because you and the other students are all struggling through the five stages of learning Dutch together.

Seriously, nothing can be as bonding as seeing each other try, fail, giggle, grow, and finally master the guttural Dutch ‘g’-sound!

8. Get to know your colleagues ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ’ผ

The easiest way to make friends at work? Borrel! Image: Depositphotos

Before venturing out of your immediate social circle, why not draw on the network you already have? We asked DutchReviewers on our Instagram, and many said their first friends in the Netherlands came from work! 

This will be easier if you work in one of the many companies in the Netherlands that hire internationals, but you can also make friends with Dutchies โ€” even if you don’t speak Dutch at work.

To break the ice, you could always try to pull off a few Dutch workplace idioms! ๐Ÿ™Š

9. Plan ahead (and buy an agenda) ๐Ÿ—“

Take a leaf out of Dutchies’ books and buy an agenda! Image: Freepik

After you’ve made the initial introductions, whether at the office or out and about, you’ll need to find a time to meet and hang out.

That’s where the Dutch agenda comes in. Since Dutchies are notorious for having plans lined up months ahead, you shouldn’t count on arranging a last-minute gathering. 

So, even if it feels unnatural to you, make sure you find a date well in advance (even if it’s just going for a cup of coffee!).

Planning a coffee date or a movie night weeks in advance is very typical in the Netherlands, so you’ll get used to the planning mania that is Dutch life pretty fast. 

10. Be direct ๐Ÿ‘‰

Unleash your inner Dutchie and be direct! Image: Depositphotos

Hand in hand with the last tip, and especially if you’re trying to get to know some Dutch folks, be direct. Cut the fluff and just tell your potential friend you’d like to know them better โ€” after all, everyone likes compliments. 

And, if you struggle with the Dutch directness, just ask yourself whether you’d rather have friends who are honest and to the point or who sugarcoat. If you’d vote for the former, you’ll love having Dutchies as friends.

11. Ask for an introduction ๐Ÿค

Let some Dutch directness rub off on you and go make some new friends! Image: Depositphotos

Rolling with the Dutch directness, don’t be scared to ask people for introductions!

If you keep hearing about this one person who just sounds like your friend-made-in-heaven, ask people who know them if they can work some magic. ๐Ÿ™‹โ€โ™€๏ธ

Simply say that you’d love to meet the person they’re talking about and tell them why you think you have something in common.

The mutual connection will likely let you know if they think it’s a terrible idea, and, if not, you might have yourself a new friend!

12. Use Bumble BFF ๐Ÿ“ฑ

Seriously, finding friends in the Netherlands has never been easier. Image: Depositphotos

A tip from our readers is to use Bumble BFF. Perhaps you know Bumble as the dating app that lets women make the first move โ€” but they also have a version for making new friends in your area. ๐Ÿ˜

Similar to the dating version of the app, you complete your profile by uploading pictures, interests, and indicating what you’re looking for (e.g. a travel buddy, workout partner, fellow coffee addict, or crazy cat lady โ€” the possibilities are endless!).

Then, it’s ready, set, swipe, and soon you’ll hopefully have met new people with similar interests as you in the Netherlands! 

13. Looking to make friends as a couple? Download Party of 4! ๐Ÿ‘จโ€โค๏ธโ€๐Ÿ‘จ

It’s one of the best apps to expand your social circle as a couple. Image: Freepik

Have you moved to the Netherlands for love and are now looking to meet people outside your partner’s friend circle? Or do you simply want to organise some fantastic double dates

Developed by a fellow international, the Party of 4 app is a must-download for any couple in the Netherlands.

It’ll help you find couples in your area in the same phase of life as you and your partner and who enjoy similar activities. ๐ŸŒ๏ธโ€โ™‚๏ธ Create a bio, set your filters, and start swiping โ€” your new best friends could be just around the corner. 

14. Head along to a borrel ๐Ÿป

Say a big cheers to making new friends! Image: Depositphotos

Borrelen is typically described as the Dutch art of going for a drink with co-workers, but you can also borrel with friends or any social gathering.  

It’s the Dutch way of winding down after a long day, eating some deep-fried snacks (which, honestly, are pretty delicious), and bonding over a few beers or glasses of wine. 

And while you can’t always join a random borrel, you should certainly accept when invited by your colleagues or Dutch acquaintances! 

15. Join a study association ๐Ÿ“š

You’ll make friends AND ace your courses! Image: Depositphotos

Although studying in the Netherlands means that you’ll have a network of peers, you don’t necessarily click with the person sitting next to you in the lecture hall or find someone to talk to during the rush to the coffee machine during the break.

So, if you’re new to the Netherlands as an international student, we’d highly recommend joining a study association.

Study associations in the Netherlands are connected to your degree and organise academic and social events. Essentially they’re a great way to hang out with the people you’ve seen every week but may not have talked to yet. 

16. Become a member of a student association ๐Ÿบ

While it’s part of it, student associations aren’t only about drinking. Image: Depositphotos

Not to be confused with study associations, student associations are a big deal in Dutch culture.

They encompass everything from the big sororities and fraternities you see on American TV (but are waaaaay different) to just very active clubs of all sorts.

They can be a bit of a culture shock but potentially a great way to integrate and get the authentic Dutch student experience. 

READ MORE | Dutch sororities and fraternities: yep, they exist (and are ‘echt’ bizarre)

Though many student associations in the Netherlands only accept Dutch-speaking members, some do welcome internationals. ๐ŸŽ‰ If you join, you’ll get to dress up fancy, drink lots of beer, and join sub-committees that spark your interest. 

Usually, they have open-door parties or events at the start of the academic year, so you can always drop in and see if it’s something for you.  

17. Join Girl Gone International (GGI) ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿผโ€๐Ÿ’ป

It’s girl power, ladies! ๐Ÿ™Œ Image: Unsplash

This one is for the ladies out there. Girl Gone International is a global community for women who travel and work abroad.

Along with a solid online presence, GGI has local communities worldwide for you to meet up with like-minded women. Their motto is “Friends make our world go around!” and as corny as that sounds, they are a forward-thinking, inclusive, and passionate community.

There are chapters in every major Dutch city, and if yours isn’t on the list, you can volunteer with GGI to open a new community in your area. ๐Ÿ‘

18. Find a volunteer opportunity ๐Ÿฆฎ

Volunteering with some cute, furry friends is a real mood-booster! Image: Depositphotos

Just like you can volunteer with GGI, there are tons of other organisations that’d love for you to help them out. 

Since people aren’t in it for the cash, volunteering in the Netherlands is a reliable way to make friends because you get to work with people who are passionate about the same thing as you. 

Additionally, a volunteer position is usually more chill than a regular job, giving you more time to chat with your colleagues and โ€” since you’re all there for a reason โ€” you won’t have to search long for something to talk about!

In our experience, people who volunteer also tend to be kind-hearted and easy to talk to.

Plus, the Netherlands is home to stacks of international organisations and local initiatives that look for volunteers, so you can take your pick. ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™€๏ธ 

19. Use online communities like Discord or Reddit ๐Ÿ•ธ

Joining an active Discord group is a fabulous way of making new friends. Image: Freepik

Lastly, for the introverts out there, there is quite a strong presence of people living in the Netherlands on platforms such as Discord and Reddit.

Online communities are a perfect way to make new friends on days when you don’t feel like changing out of your PJs or if you want to lay the groundwork for your Dutch life before moving to the Netherlands.

The benefit of online communities is that you aren’t reliant on connecting with someone living in your area. Perhaps you’ll become friends with people in different places and can even organise a physical hangout one day โ€” road trip, whoo! ๐ŸŽ’ 

The ability to join a subreddit or Discord also means that you can find people who share similar, and perhaps niche, interests. ๐Ÿง™โ€โ™‚๏ธ

So, there you have it! 19 ways to actually make friends as an international in the Netherlands that’ll make your stay (whether temporary or indefinite) so much more fun.

What are your best tips for making friends in the Netherlands? Tell us in the comments below!

Editorโ€™s Note: This article was originally published in May 2022, and was fully updated in January 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Freepik
Christine Stein Hededam ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ
Christine Stein Hededam ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ
A Dane with a special place in her heart for Minnesota, Christine is now falling in love with everything Dutch. Between finishing her bachelorโ€™s degree, learning Dutch, and doing yoga teacher training, you will find her wandering about the Hague. Always up for visiting new places, she loves to explore the Netherlands with friends and takes pride in scoping out cute cafรฉs (wherein to discuss books, big plans, and food).

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  1. I completely agree! I’ve been an expat in the Netherlands for a few years now and making friends can be tough. I’ve found that joining local groups and clubs related to my interests has been a great way to meet like-minded people. DutchReview’s tips are spot on, especially the one about being open and approachable. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily routine of living abroad, but taking the time to put myself out there and connect with others has made a big difference in my experience. Great post!


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