Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Expat Unfriendly Netherlands

Hard to make friends, difficult to learn the local language, fit into the local culture and integrate into the local community. Does this sound like your expat life in the Netherlands?

According to the Expat Explorer Survey carried out for HSBC Bank International the Netherlands placed last out of 25 countries, making it the most expat unfriendly country you could hope for.

Only 36% of expats relocating to the Netherlands find it easy to make friends here and 55% have concerns about the barriers that the local language put up. According to the survey, expats find the Dutch culture hard to fit in to and integrating in to the local community is far from easy here.

The difficulty of making friends in the Netherlands, particularly with the locals, is a common expat forum topic. Learning the language is a common talking point too but for the Netherlands to score so badly on these points did surprise me.

On the other hand, I did feel like shouting  "You see!" to someone who once posted a comment on an article I wrote for the Telegraph. A reader going by the name of "Kingory" commented,

"The Netherlands is about the easiest place in the world to be an expat, the language is really easy if you can hack the pronunciation, English is widely spoken, less than an hour east of London, there are loads of expats there already, and they even have the UK BBC for God's sake!!

Kind of missing the point about trying to integrate I think, but nonetheless you would think that a move to a far flung destination would be tougher than a move to a Western European country.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Have you experienced problems getting your social life on track after moving to the Netherlands? Is the culture too much to adapt to? Do the survey results surprise you or confirm your feelings?

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