I’ve Lived In Amsterdam For One Month
It feels unreal that an entire month has already passed. I’m now officially an expatriate with a Dutch bank account, phone number, and residence card. In one month I visited multiple towns, saw some friends old and new, and found a place to call home. I figured it was about time to write about everything I’ve been up to since moving to the land of tulips.
So let’s jump right in.
First Week – Quarantine
I have had the pleasure of moving not once but twice during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus introduces some complications, including needing to secure clean bills of health before boarding the plane, getting a specialised visa, and mandatory quarantines after arriving. At first, I wasn’t looking forward to hunkering down in a dreary Airbnb all alone in a new country. I kept remembering the first couple of days after I moved to Spain for my study abroad program, jet lagged in my tiny bedroom scared and alone. I quickly recovered and was making friends and exploring in the next week, but I wanted to plan for those first couple of desperate days.
Then my sister surprised me: she lives an 8 hour train journey away, and she decided to take the first week off to quarantine with me. Then we could work together from the Airbnb for the second week and explore the country. Suddenly my arrival completely transformed. I booked this airy Airbnb loft and we made it our temporary home.
Start First Day At New Job
I had just one week to get settled, and then it was time to get to work!
Onboarding remotely proved interesting. My calendar filled up with ‘get-to-know-you’ coffee meetings. I drank a lot of coffee and found myself answering a lot of the same questions.
Why did you choose Amsterdam?
Where did you work before? What did you do?
How is moving during a pandemic?
My own story felt less interesting than getting to know my colleagues, who are from all over the world. Each person had their own unique story of how they ended up in The Netherlands working for a start up. In my first one-on-one meeting with my manager, he told me that my health and happiness is his top priority and it is a line item for every agenda. This felt weird to me as someone who has been a cog in a corporate machine for a while, yet I believe him.
I can already feel like the grind is letting go of its grip on my neck.
Explore The Netherlands
Eventually, our quarantine ended and my sister and I immediately booked buses and trains to explore. We made stops in towns like Utrecht, a University town with the largest train station in The Netherlands and canals where you can walk right next to the water:
We took a train to Haarlem, famous for its leafy courtyards, historical centre, and host of this pretty cool windmill:
Then we took a bus to the north where we checked out some fishing towns like Volendam. At the market, I tried a dish famous in The Netherlands: raw herring. I’ll be real with you, slimy raw fish with a side of raw onions and pickles will not be a dish I have again any time soon, but hey, I tried it!
Whether it was raining or the sun was shining, every place we visited had quintessential Dutch charm. There are fewer tourists because of COVID-19, which means we were the only ones bumbling around in supermarkets getting yelled at for not grabbing a basket (which is mandatory as the stores use them to count the number of people in the store to avoid crowding). Even though it has been a chilly spring, we got to see classic tulips and windmills everywhere.
When we could, we coupled exploring with apartment hunting. In the evenings I scrolled through hundreds of apartment listings online, poking my sister and turning the laptop screen towards her to display my top picks. In order to narrow down my options, I decided on 3 main criteria:
- Must have lots of natural light.
- Should be in a great location where I can head out for daily walks.
- Should have a good view, preferably of canal houses.
After viewing five apartments, I had two top choices I seriously waffled between. The first was located in Utrecht in a bright apartment with skylights and a view of a canal for €1,450 a month.
The second was always what I pictured when I thought of living on my own in The Netherlands: a view of canal houses in a row, richly furnished with an updated kitchen and bathroom. The downside? It was in the top range of my budget at €1,675 per month.
I spent the day weighing the options aloud until my sister teased me for starting every sentence with, “On the other hand…” Finally, I decided on the apartment in Amsterdam. It fit all of my criteria. If I walk down the street and turn the corner, I will end up in one of the largest parks in the city. I can walk to at least 3 grocery stores and can easily hit up all of the main attractions of Amsterdam once everything starts opening up.
Moving into this apartment on my own was a big step for me. It’s one of the most significant times I put frugality aside and chose what I really wanted. I’m beyond excited to have a place of my own.
Getting Social – Friends Old and New
Despite moving to a new country during COVID, I haven’t felt lonely since I arrived. In the first two weeks I had my sister, and then in the following weeks I got to see one of my good friends from when I used to live in Portland, OR. She moved here a few years ago and has all sorts of tricks and tips to share. I made it here just in time for King’s Day, a national holiday celebrating the King’s birthday and also apparently wearing the color orange. Together we ate every kind of dutch snack you can think of and watched people get rowdy.
In addition to seeing an old friend, I also had the opportunity to meet some new people.
The great thing about blogging is that you can get connected to people all over the world. After Ali & Alison wrote their guest post for me How Financial Independence Changed Our Lives – Pandemic Edition, we were talking about my plans to move. They put me in touch with two Dutch travel bloggers Roxane and Maartje. I met them in Utrecht for a picnic, where they taught me some Dutch phrases and also made me feel very short:
Even during lockdowns, quarantines, and curfews (oh my!) there are chances to meet people and have fun together. It helps that I received a vaccine before moving, because the rollout in Europe is going much slower than in the U.S.
How Much It Cost To Move To The Netherlands From The U.S.
In case you’re curious, I tallied up all of my significant moving expenses.
My company provided a moving allowance, so I decided to book a month of temporary accommodations to give me time to find an apartment. The Airbnbs and flight made up the bulk of the cost of moving.
|Expense||Cost in Dollars|
|First Airbnb (2 weeks)||$ 1,094|
|Second Airbnb (2 weeks)||$ 843|
|COVID test (PCR)||$ 250|
|Residency Permit Appointment||$ 373|
|Uber Ride #1||$ 84|
|Uber Ride #2||$ 40|
|Travel insurance||$ 35|
|Birth certificate apostilling||? TBD|
Of these expenses, €3,000 or ~$3,600 was covered by my new company as part of my contract.
If I were doing it frugally, I would have done a couple things differently:
- I would have attempted to find a place to move directly into when I arrived. Though it seems wild to rent a place sight unseen, with enough research, planning, and video tours, it can be done (I’ve done it!).
- I would have used credit card miles and points to defray the flight costs.
- If I did stay in Airbnbs, I would have chosen smaller rooms.
Ultimately there are so many things to juggle when moving that sometimes it’s worth the peace of mind to pay extra and be sure that things will go smoothly. The allowance from my company helped me let go of some of the “convenience cost” like paying a clinic for a COVID test that could guarantee results within 24 hours and getting an Uber from the airport instead of navigating the trains with my massive luggage.
Lessons Learned in the First Month
I’ve learned so much in just one month, from practical things like double checking the bike lane before crossing to fun things like the Dutch inclination to drag furniture out onto the street to sit on when the sun is shining. I learned that a common snack is sprinkles on toast, and that melted gouda makes a great grilled cheese sandwich.
Every day brings new challenges and new things to learn. Six months ago I mused about moving here, but could barely imagine how that would happen. Now I’m here and can’t believe a month has already flown by. There is still so much to do and see from my home base in Amsterdam.
What do you think? What are your tips for a new expat? How long does it take to get settled when you move to a new place? Let me know in the comments below!