Finding work in the Netherlands 2; Bars and Hostels – Amsterdamned

In the first part of this post, I talked about my experience finding work in the Netherlands by handing out resumes. In this part, I am going to discuss trying to get jobs in Amsterdam at the typical backpacker places; pubs and hostels.

As I stated in the last article; to put this into perspective, I am 26 and studied economics and HR, worked for five years in various customer service roles, and worked for two years in property and projects. I am a native english speaker and I can speak intermediate french and basic dutch.

Working at a bar or hostel in Amsterdam can cause a continuous hangover
Working at a bar or hostel in Amsterdam can result in a permanent hangover


Bars and hostels

First of all, it seems like a great idea to try and get jobs in Amsterdam in bars and hostels. Finding work in the Netherlands can be tough if you don’t speak Dutch, and bars and hostels are one of the few places that wouldn’t need Dutch. Plus, if we are all being honest, working at a bar or hostel seems like one big party. From friends who have worked at bars and hostels, they agree with this. However, the downside is that there a lot of other people in the same boat.

To try and get work in the Netherlands in bars and hostels, I used several methods.

It's difficult even by Hobbit standards
It’s difficult even by Hobbit standards


Handing out resumes

Much like in the previous article, I found out the names and addresses of all the bars and hostels in Amsterdam. For hostels, I found this information was easy to find using hostelworld and similar sites. I also did a search online for all the tourist bars in Amsterdam and found out their address. I then spent a few days visiting each and every one of these hostels and bars, and handing in a CV.

The one thing I really learnt from this, is that the time of the year has a huge impact finding work in the Netherlands. When I searched for work in the Netherlands, it was during the months of November and December. Many hostels and bars said that these were their quiet months, and that hours for existing staff were being cut. A lot of places said that they would not be hiring until the next summer months!

This idea of arriving of finding work in the Netherlands during summer is very common! These are the peak tourist months, and most people I meet tell me that during summer that it is extremely busy and you can find a job in Amsterdam within a day. Whether or not it is this easy, I can’t say. But I can definitely recommend that if you are planning to move to and find work in the Netherlands, try and plan your move for summer. From what I have gathered there are a lot more jobs to be found, and once you find a job in summer you can work hard and then hold onto that job for the quiet winter months. However, if you are like me and you have already arrived, then this advice is about as helpful as a punctured lifejacket.


Emailing bars and hostels directly

Following on from handing in resumes, I decided to follow up by emailing bars and hostels directly. My theory was that the people working on the front desk are employees, and are unlikely to want someone else to start working there. My hope was that I might reach someone more senior, or at least get a copy of my CV into the system. To do this I took the list of bars and hostels in Amsterdam and looked up their email address. This took about a day or so to find all this information. I then went through and sent an individual email to each of the places, with a cover letter in the email giving an introduction to myself and my experience.

Poor doge
Poor doge


To cut a long story short, I have only heard back from one hostel. They offered me an unpaid position to start with in exchange for accommodation. Personally, I think this is a great idea for people who have just arrived in the Netherlands and aren’t renting already. However, this was not an option for me as I was already renting a place. I have heard of people who started off doing this and then got a paid position with the hostel!

I came to realise that applying for hostel and bar jobs is incredibly competitive. Most travellers are trying the same thing, so it ends up being a bottleneck situation.

Overall, I think it is more possible to find work by targeting bars and hostels directly. However, it definitely depends on the time of year. If you want to target hostels and bars I recommend sending them an email with a dedicated cover letter first, and then following this up by visiting in person and bringing a paper copy of your CV. It is more effective if you start with an email and follow up in person.

Many thanks for reading! Please share the article if you agree, and check in tomorrow for the final article of the trilogy; Agencies!

Henry Stokes
Henry Stokes
Henry is a writer of fiction novels, and is passionate about issues of inequality and women's’ rights. He completed a Bachelor of Economics at the University of Sydney, graduated with First Class honours in Human Resource Managemen. Information on his novels can be found at the Henry Stokes facebook page.


  1. OMG, your memes are the best! haha But next time someone tells me to try to get a job in a bar/hostel I will send the link of this article. Last summer my husband told me to do it by the beach (scheveningen and kijkduin), however they all demanded good Dutch skills and after ten no’s in my face, I got so frustrated,

    • Hey Ludmila! Haha thanks so much! I really appreciate a good meme myself. I know exactly what you mean! It seems everyone throws around the advice of ‘apply at bars and hostels’ but they haven’t really done it themselves. It is especially different if you aren’t Dutch! You encounter a lot of ‘no’, I agree. Many thanks again for reading!

  2. Sorry to say, but this is really bad advice 🙂 No wonder you haven’t been able to find a bar job if this was the way you went about it. It’s not even advice, it’s a cautionary tale of what not to do.

    If you ‘re looking for a bar job, go visit the place with your cv and hope that you’ll happen to be that one person in the right place at the right time – it can be pure luck, and no other advice applicable. Emailing bars is a complete and utter waste of time.

    If you’re willing, look for a place with a kitchen – a lot of places are always looking for kitchen staff because everybody just wants the “fun cool bar job”. Get hired for the kitchen, work there a few months, prove you’re a good, reliable worker and you’ll have your foot in the door to ask for a transfer to the bar the next time there’s an opening (or you can ask to do alternating shifts).

    • Hey Arto. As I replied on the facebook comment; Emailing first and then following up was more intended for hostels, as the people doing the hiring and firing in hostels are not likely to be the person on the front desk. In terms of going in person to bars, definitely agree, but as you say; it is a matter of luck. You are one of the lucky ones 😉

      • I was indeed lucky, I stumbled across my first job through 100% pure chance. 🙂 I think the email strategy is probably more effective for hostels – like I said I don’t know much about them – but then again if the strategy hasn’t proven effective at all, maybe try a more personal approach there too?
        Anyway, just thought I’d offer my own opinion as someone who got lucky once and got to see the system for a few years.

  3. Have you tried searching on the internet for an online job bank specifically for expats in the Netherlands? Like the Iamexpat website, they have a few job postings for non-dutch speaking jobs. I’m sure I saw some more but I forget what they are called now…

    • Hey Jennifer! Many thanks for reading! Some of the websites can be helpful, but I am counting them with the agencies, as many double as recruiters 😉 That will be in the next article!

      • Hi Henry,

        This is such a great article. Amsterdam is tough in general due to a huge number of job-seekers. I’m not so sure but I did cross over many multinational companies’ ads looking for high-skilled employees, no Dutch required. Most of them asked for English native speakers and fluent in one of other European languages (French, Spanish, German mostly). It seems you do have hope for a professional full-time job. I don’t though 🙂

        However, I’m still wondering about the “Immigration” part in your previous article from the link. As far as I know, all non-EU citizens need an employer to apply a work permit for them (, how could you easily obtain one from the Gemeente to look for jobs with horeca (who will never apply such a thing for you)?

  4. Omg! If it has been this hard for a native English speaker, imagine for who speaks a broken English and almost no Dutch at all! I start to think my problems are bigger than what I expected! 🙁 And now, how is it going? Veel succes, man (for both of us!)

  5. Dear All,
    maybe you guys have information about job in cafe or restaurant? Help please And I really appreciate for that. Thanks. Z

  6. why go to amsterdam looking for a bar job in winter, go somewhere big for shopping with a bustling christmas market, i was in amsterdam this summer and despite not being a football fan with the world cup on the atmosphere was amazing. i work in a bar in the uk and plan to have a go at working in amsterdam this summer, so will be heading out in april/may to see if i can find myself a job before i quit my job etc here, this article only confirmed i should do that. if you’ve been to dam you know that its quieter in winter months.

  7. heres some advice from my experience (i did this in the uk but it applies to any country really).
    i decided one day i needed some extra money on top of my normal job so i went for kitchen porter jobs in any restaurant.
    the biggest problem i find is being the guy they remember when they decide “hey were busy lets hire more staff”.
    so i bought a bunch of banana´s and a black marker and wrote my name an number on each banana.
    they assumed i was selling banana´s and of course that was the perfect opportunity to smile politely and say “no im actually looking for work, i can run bars or am happy cleaning dishes im quite flexible. if you need any help you have my number and dont forget to eat the banana ill bring you something different next time”.
    hired on the spot!

  8. Hi, Henry, I understand you wrote this article 4 years ago, but I just stumbled upon it, as I’m moving to Amsterdam soon, and, so far, had no luck in finding any job online. Could you tell me are you familiar with the employment scene in the Netherlands today for expats, so I could at least prepare myself emotionally for it? I’m not a native English speaker, and I do not speak Dutch fluently. I’m only moving there because my partner got a really god job opportunity. I have master’s degree in languages, but that’s about it.
    I would appreciate just about any kind of advice


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