The Netherlands is a lonely country for expats, survey finds

The results of this year’s InterNations Expat Insider Survey are out — the Netherlands has been ranked 33 out of 59 countries when it comes to life satisfaction as an expat. Ouch.

This year 12,000 expats from 174 nationalities were surveyed about their experience living in 59 different countries. Whilst the Netherlands ranked highly as a great place to work, the survey also found that life as an expat here can be lonely and hard to settle into.

Happy at work, sad at home

Did you find it hard to settle in and make friends when you arrived in the Netherlands? If so, never fear, you aren’t alone. This year’s survey indicated that whilst the Netherlands is broadly recognised as a friendly country, it can be one of the most difficult countries in which to make friends and connections.

According to the survey, the Netherlands came ranked in the bottom 10 for making local friends. According to the survey, many expats in the Netherlands also do not feel at home here.

One of the best countries to work in

The working abroad category encompasses job security and work-life balance. The Dutch are known for striking a great work-life balance and this is reflected in the findings of the 2021 survey.

Considering moving abroad for work? The Netherlands is a great destination for this! In the survey, the Netherlands ranked 13th best country to work out of the 59 countries assessed.

Personal finance and cost of living

Whilst working in the Netherlands is great, the cost of living can be a source of stress. With the crazy housing prices, cost of public transport, and price of groceries in Albert Heijn, it’s no surprise that the Netherlands was ranked the 47th most expensive country to live in out of the 59 surveyed.

In this section of the survey, respondents were asked two questions: to what extent expats feel satisfied with their financial situation, and whether they feel that their disposable home income is enough to cover everything that they need for daily life.

Nevertheless, the Netherlands still ranked in the middle of the range in terms of people’s disposable income — so luckily people still have money for holidays and biertjes on the newly opened terraces.

Quality of life

Overall, these figures suggest that whilst the Netherlands can be a great place to work, settling in and making friends can be hard. The pros and cons of life here are reflected in the quality of life index for expats. Here, the Netherlands comes out in the middle, at position 30 out of 59.

Last, but certainly not least, the Netherlands ranked as having the sixth best public transport system so hop on the train and go and explore the windmills, tulips and canals.

The winners and the losers

Taiwan, Mexico, and Costa Rica came out on top as the best destinations to live and work worldwide as expats. All three countries have been considered generally friendly, safe, and where expats can feel secure in their personal financial situation. Meanwhile, South Africa, Kuwait, and Italy ranked in the bottom three out of the 59 countries surveyed in terms of the working abroad index.

Do you feel at home in the Netherlands and are you surprised by these results? Tell us in the comments!

Feature Image: EtienJones/Deposit Photos

Jen Lorimer 🇿🇼
Jen Lorimer 🇿🇼
An avid tea drinker, Jen was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She moved to Utrecht in 2017 to pursue her history degree. She loves people-watching, canoeing the Utrecht canals, and observing how the Dutch come alive in summer. Having been traumatised by a Dutch circle party, Jen wants to help equip other internationals with tips and tricks to survive and thrive in this wonderful flat country.
  1. The Dutch are lonely among themselves too. They are social when you meet them in the pub. Especially in the urban areas, friendship and good neighbors, is difficult to find, never mind the Covid aggravation. The underlying cultural reason for this is the overall ‘quit pro quo’ mentality. I my family, of Italian origin, it was normal for friends to stay over for dinner if the presence of friends happend to be at dinner time. In a typical Dutch family, you would be sent home. ( i have experienced that many times) friendship I’d often based on the quit pro quo concept, “ this Friday dinner at your place, next time at ours” the upside is they are very easy to lightheartedly socialize with, and easy to access and go along with, provided you go out to places, like festivals, bars and events.

  2. I live in Amsterdam for 5 years ( still hardly speaking dutch) Almost all of my fiends are Dutch! My partner is also Dutch – founded here.
    Agree rent prices are steep.. but can compare to Oslo or Spain where I lived before and the Netherlands is great for me;-).

  3. Hello!! Thank you for sharing. Already 6 years living here, and I feel very lonely – plus the weather – and I have tried making friends but it’s hard. So I don’t feel that I would stay here forever. Although I have lived in other countries like Panama or USA, where I thought that I could about settle down.
    Now I am thinking about moving to Spain, Barcelona – great weather, plus I have a lot of friends there.
    Actually knowing this info, is making my decision of moving easier.

  4. I’m not surprised. I’ve lived here for over 20 years and can count the number of Dutch friends (not acquaintances) on one hand. Normally you’d pick up friendships as you course through life, work or other associations, but not here – virtually impossible to maintain relationships once you leave a position. A Dutch colleague once described it this way (paraphrasings) — They made all their real friends in grade school or uni, so they don’t have time for new people, especially expats who might be gone at the end of a contract. He wasn’t alone – several other Dutch colleagues also have agreed with this opinion. While I can’t blame them, particularly when it come to temporary expats, the cold casualness of the discussion revealed something about the nature of Dutchness and the bottom line that I struggle to be comfortable with.

  5. I’ve lived here for more than 40 years and have no Dutch friends. I have lovely neighbours but after 25 years I’ve come no closer than a chat if I bump into them outside. If you have a Dutch partner it’s a little easier but living alone in NL is a very lonely experience. All my friends are English, French, Hungarian, Cameroonian and Belgian. Now I’m retired I’m thinking of moving to Spain if that’s still possible after Brexit.

    • Totally agree. Every other third Dutch person I know has had/ is having a burn out.
      This is coming from someone with a Dutch husband

  6. This my 16th year here. My social life was more active with a dutch boyfriend, but those were his friends, I found out afterwards.
    No I wouldn’t recommend this place to make friends, but hey, if you are lucky enough with the rent and you don’t live with a psychopath is worth to give it a try for finding some juicy income. Fish is good, museums also a plus. Weather and social life are the big downers. They really make clear what is your place as and expat since they openly show their dislike to tourists, expats and such.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related posts

Latest posts

Thousands of people in the Netherlands have just lost their GP: here’s why

If you've been hit by a particularly irritating ailment, need to pop down to your local doctor, and are registered at a Co-Med practice......

Save the date: for the first time ever, no trains will run to or from Amsterdam Centraal

Usually, you think of positive things when someone tells you that history is about to be made. However, in this case, you might just...

7 places to live near Amsterdam: the ultimate guide

Looking for the best places to live near Amsterdam? We get it.  So the inevitable happened: you spent some time in the Netherlands’ biggest metropolis,...

It's happening

Upcoming events

The latest Dutch news.
In your inbox.