Moving to Amsterdam: an Expat Saga (2020)

So, you’re taking the leap and moving to Amsterdam — great! This city is expat heaven for many, but it sure comes with its own challenges and bumps along the way too. Luckily, I’ve been through it all so feel free to learn from some of my mistakes 😉

I came the Netherlands 3 years ago and instead of moving to Amsterdam, I initially chose the quaint city of Eindhoven. But the call of Amsterdam was too strong for me to resist, so I started a new job and hoped on the train up north. If you too are moving to Amsterdam soon, here’s a few pointers to help you in your first few months here:

Do not underestimate the housing situation

canal houses in Amsterdam
Moving to Amsterdam: a challenging task. Image: DutchReview/Supplied

Facebook groups, friends of friends or housing agencies start looking for a place in advance. Check out which are the best neighbourhoods to live in, learn from other people’s mistakes and be patient. Understand that Amsterdam outgrew itself too fast for its own good and it’s still settling in with its new-ish “cool capital” title.

It’s a small capital, but it’s big enough to make you commute

I was SO used to biking everywhere that I didn’t even think about getting a monthly subscription for public transportation. I mean, this is a capital that doesn’t even have 1 million inhabitants, right?

Fast forward to my first week here, I learned that I’m not only bad at mornings but I’m particularly bad at biking 10 km to work in the winter. Long gone are the days when I could wake up at 9 am and be in the office by 9:30 because my commute now take 45 times. It involves a metro and a tram change and a tiny bit of walking. Next month it will take me an hour, yay me!

The biking is aggressive


I bike like a granny and I’m proud of it. I enjoy the ride and I don’t like being in a rush. Yeah, that’s not really a thing in Amsterdam. God forbid you didn’t take off the second before the light turned green, they will bike-honk from the back of the line. I laughed the first time it happened. I hurried up the next time. Or if you really want to integrate, why wait for the green light? It’s still surprising to me how many people jail-bike (is that a thing?).

It’s an expat wonderland but it’s driving people crazy

From the housing crisis to its bustling business environment, people are not as relaxed as I’m told they used to be. Competition for jobs and internships is fierce, people are in a rush and it’s changing my outlook on Dutch lifestyle. I’m holding tight to my daily dose of gezzeligheid and I’m finding it harder to nurture new friendships. Yet again, they say it’s not as easy to make friends when you get older. Ahem, experienced, not old.

The city center is a forbidden area

Listen to me, Amsterdam receives 5+ million tourists every year. The city center where all the pretty canals are is only so big. When you move here, go there several times in a short amount of time and get it out of your system. It’s a bit like walking in a Disney park, a lot of sparkles and glitter, tons of noise and people bumping into each other. I think it’s pretty cool the municipality is finally starting to direct the way tourism develops.

It’s expensive AF

I don’t even know where my money is going to be honest. Ask me again in a couple of months, I just finished paying a deposit, contract fee and rent for the first month so I basically know nothing. But if you want to cry, take a look at the how much more expensive Amsterdam is compared to Eindhoven. 65% more expensive rent? Ah, the joys of living the dream. I know, I shouldn’t be comparing, apples and pears, I need a second to adapt here.

Go for it


You moved here, you did. Go on, live a little. Go to the awesome events you find all over the city, network, try all the local drinks, visit the museums, do some of the touristy things, eat all bitterballen. You’re here, enjoy!

What are your biggest concerns or things you look forward to about moving to Amsterdam? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow DutchReview on Facebook.

Feature Image: Ethan Hu/Unsplash
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January 2018, and was fully updated in September 2020 for your reading pleasure.

Madalina Buzdugan
Madalina Buzdugan
Madalina is a curious mind who loves PR, lives to travel and thrives on sarcasm. A Romanian expat turning Dutchier by the minute, she blogs at and is always up for good wine, artsy events and cultural shizzle.



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