It never even crossed our minds that we might want to retire in the Netherlands – until we’d been there! We live in the northwest US and retirement has always said “go someplace warm!” to us. Well this wonderful little country changed our minds! Winters in the Netherlands can be very cold and really windy so we’re thinking of going back and spending six months during the warmer weather to explore. Here’s what we found.
First of all, the Netherlands is located on the north coast of Europe with Belguim to the south and west, and Germany to the east. The North Sea is the northwest coast. Only half of the land is above sea level. Most of the land they have is man made and protected by dikes. My Dutch friend explained that when these clever people wanted more land, they encircled more of the North Sea with dikes, dredged out the water, and let the land sit for many years. Then they brought in soil from wherever they could and, eventually, had more land. Pretty smart! They’ve been doing this for hundreds of years and they know how to control and keep out water.
The three main cities: Amsterdam (the Capital), Rotterdam, and the Hague are centuries old and were very prosperous long before America was settled by Europeans. Amsterdam’s oldest building is the Oude Kerk (old Church) which was operational in 1306! Much of the city is elevated above sea level on pilings and the canals ringing the city center were used for both transportation of goods and travel. The Venice of the north.
The rest of the Netherlands has industry and farming of all kinds, quaint villages and quite large towns. They have a very efficient train system and few people feel the need to own a car if they live in or near a city or town. Thousands rely solely on their bicycles to get around. We saw several American bicycle groups taking tours around the flat countryside.
The Dutch learn English in their secondary schools so while you may be able to communicate quite well in the cities, rarely do younger children speak English at all. You will have no problem getting along in a larger city. The Dutch are quite formal in their manners. You are expected to say “Bonjour Madame” when greeting a woman or entering any shop. I found that if I said “Bonjour Madame – Good Morning!” they would immediately know I was English speaking and switch for me.
Foreigners can buy property in the Netherlands for their own use or as an investment, but that does not establish residency. Housing is hard to find and expensive. Homes and flats are much smaller than in the US. Homes mostly come unfurnished and you will supply everything including light fixtures. Electricity is 220 volts. The Dutch are quite proud of their homes, which are spotlessly clean. The cities are also well kept and you rarely see trash or any kind of littering.
We found a furnished two bedroom furnished apartment in the outskirts of Amsterdam for $1,600 euros (in 2014, that’s $2000 per month). If we go for our six month stay, I will contact a rental agent and find a long term rental in a small hotel. There will be furnishings, utilities, and some cleaning services. Rentals in smaller cities are considerably less and with a quick train ride, you could be in the big city, if you like. Flats on the Amsterdam canals can run in the millions of dollars. This is not a cheap place to live.
You will find excellent healthcare in the Netherlands. Home doctors (general practitioners) are quite common. There is a mandatory national healthcare system with some out-of-pocket expense for its citizens. Make sure you have your own policy before you go.
We found the Dutch to be outgoing, polite, welcoming and extremely proud of their country and culture – and they have a lot to be proud of. They may seen a bit brusk at first, but smile and be nice. They warm up quickly.
There is so much to see and do in the Netherlands! There are fabulous museums (go see the Dutch Master’s paintings at the Rijksmuseum if you do nothing else!), visit the north cities and walk along a dike. Visit Nijmegen and see the WWII cemeteries. Pop over to Germany or down to Belgium. Visit Rotterdam (the largest Port in Europe) and see where the heart of the city was almost completely destroyed in the WWII bombings. It is now a huge modern center of trade and transportation for all of Europe.
So while the Netherlands is not the most economical place on earth to retire, it definitely made us think about how we could pull it off. This is a prosperous, proud, modern country with so much going for it. The Netherlands is a gold mine of architecture, art, history, culture, and education. You just have to go!
A note: The country is called The Netherlands. Holland is a province within the Netherlands. The people and language are called Dutch. Just so you know.
Living in The Netherlands
Pros: Culture, Architecture, Art, Landscape
Cons: Cold in the Winter, Expensive
Best Places to Live: Utrecht, Amsterdam
Favorite Inexpensive Events: Queen’s Day, the gay pride boat parade is very entertaining!
Did You Know: Prostitution and cannabis are both legal and strictly controlled in Holland. There are over 1,000 windmills in Holland!
Ask anyone who's been to Amsterdam what they liked best and then be prepared to spend some time while they go on and on about what a wonderful place they found. The street cafe's, the canals, the museums, the excellent trolley car and train system, the countryside,...read more
We had the great good fortune to retire in Nijmegen on a recent trip to the Netherlands. Our American friend was visiting family and they took us to visit other friends and it became one big party of pigeon, sign-language, English/Dutch speaking people! We rode the...read more
Centrally located in the lower portion of the Netherlands is the college town of Utrecht. With over half a million people in the metropolitan area, the town is a commuter city into Amsterdam, the Hague, Rotterdam and Arnhem. All trains go in and out of Utrecht,...read more