May 16, 2020

Expat life: Six months in Amsterdam

Expat life: Six months in Amsterdam

Today marks 6 months of living in Amsterdam. The time has flown by! Feels like I’ve moved here yesterday but it’s been 6 months already.

Yes, it’s a little milestone and I’m going to celebrate it by having a drink in Vondelpark later. Today I’m also launching a new ‘expat life’ series on my blog dedicated to living in Amsterdam and my observations and experiences in the Netherlands. I’m quite excited about the next six months!

I’ve decided to write this post to remind myself why I moved to Amsterdam and to reflect on the past 6 months of living here.

Why I Moved to Amsterdam

The Happiness Project

It all started simply enough. It was March 2019. After 7 years of living in London, I was feeling permanently exhausted. Despite landing a great job just 6 months ago, I was struggling to find joy in it. ‘There has to be more to life than this…’ were the thoughts running in my head as I was taking the tube to the office every day. Life felt scattered and fragmented.

I wanted to take ‘time out’ from London. Move away somewhere for a bit. Or maybe go travelling for a couple of months. Living in London wasn’t making me happy anymore.

And then, one wet Thursday evening, I got approached about a new job. In a whole other country. An email that came out of blue, getting in touch and asking whether I’d be interested in relocating…to Amsterdam! The country of tulips, canals, bikes, festivals and tall people!

When I read that little message from the headhunter about a job opportunity in Amsterdam – I fell off my chair. I mean, literally. And I knew it right then and there. I wanted this more than anything! No doubts. Absolutely none. It would be a perfect happiness project. 

Amsterdam is just the right size for me: it’s not a massive, fast-paced city like London, and yet it has the convenience and cultural benefits of a capital city.

There’s no shortage of world-class museums, international restaurants and green spaces in this city. But it is still small enough that it feels more like a compilation of villages rather than a capital city. 

I don’t like massive crowds or long commutes, but neither do I tiny towns with not much to do. Amsterdam is exactly what I was looking for.

It’s so easy to fit in

Almost everyone in Amsterdam speaks good English and you don’t really need to learn Dutch to live here. It was definitely one of the major bonus points for me when deciding to move abroad.

The Dutch government made getting paperwork like BSN number (the equivalent of NI number in the UK) very easy for expats.

Great work-life balance

I have read lots about great work-life balance in the Netherlands but you truly experience it when you move here. I can’t even compare it to London.

Most people leave work on time, and staying late in the office can be even frowned upon. I remember how the first couple of weeks after I moved here, I loved being home 6.15 pm and having a full evening ahead of me for doing absolutely nothing. It felt like a luxury. My new commute was just ridiculous – a 15-minute stroll along beautiful canals.

30% ruling – tax exemption for expats

The 30% reimbursement ruling was another advantage that drawn me to relocate to Amsterdam. It’s a Dutch tax exemption for employees who were hired abroad to work in the Netherlands. If various conditions are met, you get 30% of your salary tax-free.


Things I’ve learned in the past six months living in Amsterdam:


Things to do next month:

Get a bike! Yes, I still need to do this. I postponed getting a bike, as I didn’t need it to commute to work. Plus it was freezing cold all the time. But now that the weather is getting warmer by day, I’m going to get a bike.

Do the tax return! I need to file the M-form to Dutch tax office asap. This is 60-page tax book (I’m not kidding!) you need to fill out if you just moved here or moving away from the Netherlands.

Buy more plants! I’ve become a bit of a plant mum since moving here who’s trying hard not to kill her plant-babies.

Learn more dutch! 

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