You’re ready to pack your bags and move to the Netherlands for work, but there’s one problem: you don’t speak Dutch!
Will you be able to find a job? Or are you destined to sit homeless by the side of a canal (with a dreamy view, at least).
The Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, is a real hot-spot destination for internationals. Great infrastructure, innovative attitudes, and amazing transport links with the rest of Europe all make the Netherlands a dream destination for expats.
Add in that the Dutch are the best non-native English-speakers in the world and it’s a perfect recipe! Right?
Well, not quite. While the Dutch can speak great English, that doesn’t mean that it’s the language of choice while you’re living in the Netherlands.
So can you work in the Netherlands without speaking Dutch? Here’s the full answer — and some handy tips along the way!
Can I work in the Netherlands without speaking Dutch?
You don’t have to speak Dutch to work in the Netherlands. That’s the simplest answer to this question. Plenty of expats move to Amsterdam (or other Dutch cities), find jobs at international companies, complete their work entirely in English, and speak English outside of work as well.
But there’s a big caveat: you don’t have to speak Dutch to work in the Netherlands — but it’s much better if you do. Here are some of the main reasons why:
Your job opportunities are limited if you don’t speak Dutch
No surprise here: you’re living in a foreign country that has its own language, and as such, most business is conducted in Dutch. The Netherlands has plenty of companies that do operate almost entirely in English (examples below), but the majority of companies speak (you guessed it!) Dutch.
The job competition in the Netherlands can also be pretty intense, so even knowing some conversational Dutch can give you a huge leg-up on other candidates.
You may miss out on the social aspect of work-life if you don’t speak Dutch
The Dutch are famous for having one of the best work-life balances in the world. If you don’t work for an international company, social aspects like afternoon drinks (borrelen), company outings and even conversation around the coffee machine will generally be conducted in Dutch.
You may be blessed with friendly local co-workers who go to a lot of effort to speak English when you’re around. But remember: their main language is Dutch and that’s what they’re most comfortable speaking. Don’t be surprised if as the beers go down, so does the amount of English spoken.
Living abroad just isn’t as fun if you don’t try to integrate
The Netherlands has a thriving international community, and you can definitely find plenty of expat friends to form your inner circle. But if you want to truly be part of Dutch life and all the quirks that come with it, you should try to learn the language.
Learning Dutch is surprisingly fun, gives you a new skill, and — even if you can only order a coffee in Dutch — the locals will really appreciate it. Plus, you’ll have a great new party trick to show off if you ever return home!
It’s considered polite to learn your new country’s language
Ah yep, this is a biggie. We’re not saying you have to completely forget your native language to move to the Netherlands — but you are living in a foreign country, so it’s polite to make an effort to speak the local language.
This will be appreciated in the workplace — after all, a little goedemorgen in the morning can go a long way 😉
I speak a different language — will that help me find a job in Holland?
Alright, we’ve covered the Dutch and English aspects of working in the Netherlands: but what if you’re armed with a different language? Can that help you land a paycheck?
The Netherlands is a very international country; there are more than 180 nationalities represented in Amsterdam alone. With so many international companies, it makes sense that there is a lot of demand for languages other than English and Dutch.
In particular, languages from the Netherlands’ closest neighbours are in the highest demand: German, French, or Scandinavian languages in particular. If you possess one of these languages you may just be in for a shot at a job!
Which businesses hire internationals in Amsterdam and the Netherlands?
- Liberty Global (Vodafone, Ziggo, Virgin Media, etc.)
- Tom Tom
- Under Armour
How can I find work in the Netherlands?
You’re convinced that the Netherlands is the right place for you, and maybe you’ve even started learning a little Dutch on an app.
Next up: you’re ready to find a job! It will need to be well-paid, obviously, with great colleagues, and perks galore. If you find one — let us know where it is so we can join you.
But in all seriousness, the Dutch job market can be competitive. Unless you work in a high demand field (like tech or medicine), you may find it takes some time to find a perfect job in the Netherlands. Here are some tips:
Make sure you can work in the Netherlands
First things first: make sure you’re all good to go! If you’re from an EU country, you’re likely cleared to work. If you’re not, you should check if you need a visa to work in Holland, or if you might be eligible for a sponsored job in the Netherlands.
Polish up your CV to Dutch standards
Not all CVs are created equal — and what flies in your home country may not be the Dutch way. Make sure your CV is fully optimised for Dutch recruiters and lookin’ snazzy.
Update your LinkedIn
LinkedIn is BIG in the Netherlands, and it’s likely that if you make it past the initial screening process, a recruiter will be checking you out. Make sure it’s up to date and active. It’s also a great place to search for jobs in the Netherlands!
Register with job websites
A larger net catches more fish — so don’t forget to check in with different job advertisement websites. Indeed.nl has the biggest market share in the Netherlands with 54% of active jobseekers using the platform (and you can filter by language!), followed by LinkedIn (26%). De Nationale Vacaturebank, Monsterboard.nl, and werk.nl are also popular choices.
Take advantage of a recruitment company
If you want to make finding a job in the Netherlands a little easier, a recruitment company may just be your best bet. A good recruitment company, like Undutchables, can match you with the perfect job for your skills and experience.
While you don’t have to speak Dutch when working in the Netherlands, it will be of huge benefit — both socially and in your Dutch career!
Are you ready to find a job in the Netherlands and speak Dutch? (Klaar om een baan in Nederland te vinden en Nederlands te spreken?)
Succes! We’re rooting for you!
Are you working in the Netherlands? Do you find that you do, or don’t, need Dutch? Share your experiences in the comments below!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in March 2021, but was fully updated in September 2022 for your reading pleasure.