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Ahh Holland. I very much love you for changing my life, really. So quaint, so cute, I’ll go into why living in the Netherlands is so unique and how to move to the Netherlands from Canada!
I’ll go over some tips and tricks, give useful resources, and my real thoughts & opinions on what living in Holland is like and what you may experience if you make the move. This isn’t exactly a guide to the Canadian-Netherlands Working Holiday Visa program but more of a general overview. Check the Table of Contents below to skip to certain sections!
Table of Contents
DISAMBIGUATION – NETHERLANDS VS HOLLAND
For the purposes of search rankings and such, I use the term Holland in this text.
Holland is not the correct definition. The Netherlands is the correct word for the country. Holland is often used by tourist boards and such and there’s no easier way to spot a tourist than if they refer to the country as Holland.
For all intents and purposes, call it The Netherlands. I use the word Holland only for search engines. Calling the Netherlands Holland is somewhat like calling North America America.
Link here to read more about Holland (Wikipedia page)
Why you should move to the Netherlands from Canada
- You want a stable, comfortably life
- You enjoy multiple cultures
- You enjoy cannabis
- You like beautiful architecture
- You’d like somewhere nice to study and ‘progress’ in life.
- If you like biking
- You want to get a taste of a healthy lifestyle
It’s a pretty tiny country, however this doesn’t limit your options. In fact, the Netherlands is ~0.06 the size of Alberta, my home province. Still, it’s packed with great people, cities, art, and things to do.
The architecture is very beautiful (in places not impacted by WW2), there’s a healthy art, music, and cultural scene, and still is a rather tidy and safe place to be.
Ideal for beginners.
It’s a perfect first place to move to if moving to Europe is an idea on your mind and you’re not sure where to start. It was my first and was perfecto!
This is because the Netherlands and Dutch people are open to foreigners, are excellent with multiple languages, and are ‘stable’. For English speakers you’ll have no problem communicating with people, though I’d recommend learning a little bit of Dutch of course!
The lifestyle is cozy, respectful, and calm. Though things can get wild in places, most cities in the Netherlands are chilled out and people aren’t frantic. It feels familiar in a way, even if you’re a thousand kilometers from home – like a place that just feels right.
Those darned Dutchies! No, it’s not legal and it’s technically ‘tolerated’, however the Dutch are very relaxed about this sort of thing and the coffeeshops are great.
Of course cannabis is now fully legal in Canada but it just feels different. In the Netherlands it still feels a little underground and not mass-consumerized. Lets not forget these guys practically started the whole advanced cannabis scene back in the ’80s and beyond.
Warning: Please beware the space cakes. As a seasoned consciousness adventurer myself, half of a medium space cake threw both myself and a friend for a very wild surprise!
The Dutch are also friendly towards psychedelic truffles, substance use, and other aspects and in a very healthy way of which the world should take note and model themselves after. More on that later though!
It’s not cheap, but it’s not otherworldly expensive. This depends on where you live, obviously, but in Leiden as a young adult I was able to afford a gym membership, rent, utilities, drinks, transit, food, and so forth without feeling jipped. It’s far different than living in Denmark which is expensive and not quite as cheap as living in Croatia.
If you’re moving to the Netherlands from US or Canada, it’ll all feel fairly similar – except for the food. Food is quite a bit better than in North America.
Why you should not move to Netherlands from Canada
- If you want mountains
- If you want intense nature
- If you hate bikes
- If you dislike the rain
- If you don’t like grey weather
- If you dislike house music
- If you hate smoking & substances
Nature and climate of the Netherlands
It’s a small country. Formerly a submerged swampland which somehow they’ve engineered into a thriving nation, the Netherlands doesn’t have anything in the way of unexplored nature or mountains.
Wow, the Netherlands is so flat!– You, probably.
It’s grey, rainy, and marshy often. If you don’t like the rain, you should likely avoid this chunk of the world (Northern Europe). It’s nothing cold like the winter of Canada, however it’s not exactly pleasant either. I’m ‘meh’ about it – I found it to be much better than Denmark but poorer than other nations in terms of weather.
If you don’t like bikes
Bikes are part of the culture in the Netherlands. Everyone and their dog bikes everywhere. Old ladies, politicians, children, doctors, everyone.
Cars are the way of the past and bikes truly are the way forward. Bonus – they’re much healthier for the body and everyone is fairly healthy! If you are irked by bikes, people cycling, or are not a bike person – moving to the Netherlands is likely not the choice for you.
Substances & smoking
The party scene is much more open and acceptable here than in other nations. These people also smoke cigarettes a lot. To be fair, all of Europe does – but the Dutch do too. That and they’re very friendly towards other substance here. Psychedelic truffles, MDMA, cannabis, etc – it’s relatively accepted in the Netherlands.
It’s not like you’re going to find everyone and their dog taking xtc on the streets, but there are available testing facilities to verify the integrity and safety of your sample. Really, the smoking of cigarettes everywhere (even indoors) was what bothered me most. This is still fairly common around Europe though to be fair.
Cost of living in the Netherlands vs Canada
Coming from Canada, the Netherlands isn’t really what I’d consider to be cheap. In fact, I’d say it’s almost on par all things said and done. While food and drinks are cheaper from supermarkets and vendors, electronics/clothing and transit is quite pricy. Who needs transit when you have a bike though!
Depending on where you live, you’ll expect to pay around 300-700 euros per month on average. Bump that up by a few hundred if you plan on moving to Amsterdam.
My place in lovely Leiden, single room in shared house/apartment in the city center overlooking the canal was €280/mo all included. This is a pretty rare find and others around me would often pay around €350-€500 monthly for a room in a shared flat, or €800-1000 in a solo apartment. Budget for that.
It’s not cheap by any means, but it’s not exorbitant like Vancouver or LA. Amsterdam is quite expensive though, be warned.
Sites focused on renting to expats and foreigners will be exorbitant in price. Avoid sites which are primarily in English and check out Dutch rental sites instead. Also, forget about AirBnB – it’s a business model which is ruining many cities’ rental situation.
The transit is incredibly effective but quite expensive to say the least! Using an OV-Chipkaart is a good way to save on those fares, but in general you can expect to pay 5 euros for a 20 minute train ride from Leiden to Den Haag. It’s very high quality and very timely compared to most places in the world, but you pay a price for that!
Food and drink prices
I was mind boggled when I landed – everything seemed so cheap! From cheese to oats to fruits and drinks – everything was so affordable. Not only that, the quality was miles better than in Canada.
Lets talk about cheese for a moment. Back in Canada 250g of cheap Gouda would usually cost ~$6-10. In the Netherlands? Try €10 for a kilo of the most delicious, 3 years old aged Gouda you’ll find. The cheese shops know what they’re doing and are more than glad to let you taste test their goodies.
I fell in love with cheese and would buy it by the handful. So cheap, so tasty, so plentiful. Same with yogurt – the Dutchies love dairy!
You can find kebab and other fast food for reasonable prices. ~€3-6 for a little meal and another euro or two for a drink. Alcohol in places is akin to what it’s like in Germany – affordable. Supermarket prices are €0.50-€1 a bottle and even at bars or clubs it’s still within reach.
Real restaurants and places in chic areas are expensive though. Fast food like McDonalds is quite a bit more expensive but why would you buy McDonalds anyways? If you buy food in the city center of Amsterdam often – you’ll be broke quickly.
Internet, cell, and phone prices.
Oh if you’re moving from the US or Canada to the Netherlands you’re going to be blown away. What if I told you that you can get 10gb of data and unlimited call/text for 10-25 euros per month?
Internet speeds and such are much better than back home, and I was surviving on a 5 euros per month phone plan which still had some data and all the talk/SMS that I could need. Bye bye, Telus, Rogers, and Comcast.
How hard it is moving to the Netherlands & Visas explained.
WHV/YMV: The Working Holiday Visa/Youth Mobility Visa
Ah it was quite easy, and they made it very easy!
Warning/disclaimer: My experience may not be representative of your experience. My experience was in 2015/2016.
Getting my Working Holiday Visa was a piece of cake and all I did was have a written permission from my landlord (scribbles on a piece of paper worked), have proof of funds, and health insurance. A brief talk with the immigration agent in Den Haag and then fingerprints was all I had to do.
I applied for my WHV/YMV when I was already in the Netherlands. I was on the Schengen Visa for 2.5 months before I applied. To apply I simply printed off the application documents, filled them out, and then went to the office. Maybe it’s different now than when I did it (2016), but that was my process.
To be honest, I’m not sure about other visa types, but I had almost no knowledge on how to apply for the Working Holiday Visa for the Netherlands as a Canadian before I did it, but I was surprised as to how easy it was.
Check out the official Dutch website here for info on the Netherlands Working Holiday Visa for Canadians and the requirements.
Best places to live in the Netherlands
You’re probably thinking of moving to Amsterdam, aren’t you? I’m not here to tell you what to do, but I advise against it.
Mostly because Amsterdam is packed, expensive, and full of tourists. It’s a whelming city, especially for first-timers.
Rather, I highly recommend the beautiful city of Leiden. A small and cute student city, Leiden is full of young energy, things to do, and is very affordable. Bonus – it’s only 30km from Amsterdam. A short train ride and you’re in that wild place.
Utrecht is also quiet and nice, and Haarlem is also quite close the Amsterdam. Den Haag and Rotterdam have some cool stuff and a party scene, but aren’t nearly as cozy or attractive. I can’t comment much on other places but I really just recommend Leiden with my whole heart – student cities are the way to go!
But I really feel like moving to Amsterdam!
Good luck to you! Absolutely, you can find a place and live there, but the prices are very high. If you come from money then you’re in luck – you’re going to need it.
Amsterdam is surprisingly big and moving to Amsterdam is a bit of a challenge – finding a good place is going to be like playing 4D chess. You’ll have better luck by setting up somewhere, visiting a few times, and then deciding if it’s the right thing to do. Trust me.
Finding work in the Netherlands as a Canadian
Once you get your Youth Mobility Visa or Working Holiday Visa and tax number, you’re ready to get to work! Thankfully there are many entry level positions at studios, cafes, restaurants, and even bike delivery jobs. It’s easier to find work than it is an apartment here. Technically, on the Working Holiday Visa, you’re not able to work full time though (30+ hrs weekly).
To be frank though, if you’re looking for a proper high-end salaried position, you may struggle if you’re not adept in Dutch. After all, why would someone hire a foreigner with no native language skills than a born Dutchman? Either you’ll be doing small part-time work or have a job lined up if you plan on moving to the netherlands.
Entry level salaries
You can expect ~€10-14/hr for entry level positions which is fine enough to get your life settled in.
Bike couriers, cleaning jobs, restaurants, hostels, and other places which hire students will likely be on your radar. Apply in person, talk honestly, and hope for the best!
Social life in the Netherlands as a Canadian
I found the young people here to be much more open for connection and to talk, and the student scene to be vibrant. This is in Leiden of course however I reckon that places like Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Den Haag all have their opportunities.
There are many student organizations that curate events for young people, and you don’t even need to be a student to join. One example is ESN Leiden (formerly ISN Leiden) which is a great way to meet new people from around the world. This is what I used to make friends with others.
With that being said, I found the older generation to be extremely pleasant and people over 50 years old are very kind and often have a youthful energy to them. One friend I made, Rob, was in his mid 50s. We went for drinks, would talk often, watch Formula 1, and it was just like hanging out with a good friend. It’s a nice atmosphere overall in the Netherlands.
Remember: Your vibe attracts your tribe.
Other aspects of living in the Netherlands and more opinions
Wow they really like Tulips here or something.Me – 2016.
I’ll quickly dive into some other thoughts and opinions about dating, cultural views, and other aspects of living in Holland.
Dating scene in Holland
Dutch women are gorgeous. The men and handsome too. Hell, the people here are very tall with the men having an average height of ~6’1″. This was quite the shock to me at first! It seemed like every day walking to the supermarket I’d see a woman taller than me (I’m 6’3″). What a different place!
The majority of people are heathy and attractive with bodies shaped from biking often and eating Stroopwafel. On the other hand since so many people are attractive, you may feel a bit at a disadvantage – at least that’s how I felt!
Speaking Dutch as a foreigner
I love this language so much! It’s cute, fun, and surprisingly easy to pick up. While I’ve lost most of my Dutch skills in the last chunk of years, I often am reminded about how fun and pleasant it is compared to German ever since I moved to Berlin.
If you have no foundation in German and such (like I did) then you likely won’t become fluent quickly. That’s okay since as long as you put forth an effort, people will be glad you at least tried. Lekker is one word you need to know!
Besides, most people speak English extremely well in the Netherlands. Even my 80 year old landlady spoke English quite well! They say that the Dutch are some of the most multilingual people in the world and I don’t doubt it. Still, try and learn some Dutch – it’s fun and it’s only the right thing to do since moving to the Netherlands is on your mind.
Surprisingly, Dutch people like deep fried food a lot! Oliebollen for example are a fine holiday treat and quite good on the tongue. Fries, chicken, hot dogs – it’s all quite odd to see actually as I expected much different.
They very much like pastries, grains, breads, dairy, and the more traditional cuisine reflects to locally available fruits/vegetables.
In all honestly, food in the Netherlands isn’t quite anything special if you have places like Turkey, Italy, or Croatia in mind. Regardless though, it’s a massive improvement over what we have in North America and I enjoyed it a lot.
While we’re on the topic of food we can talk about beer! Like the Danish, Belgians, and Germans, the Dutch people enjoy drinks in a fairly responsible yet frequent manner. Prices are fair and cheaper than Canada and the quality is miles ahead of Bud Light. I’m more of a cannabis person myself so I didn’t really drink too often, but it’s quite good nonetheless!
Art, history, and culture
Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and M. C. Escher are just a few names among the thousands of brilliant Dutch artists. Of course there’s an excellent art scene here! Alongside that there is exceptionally gorgeous and quaint architecture in places which weren’t affected by the war.
If you’re moving to the Netherlands from Canada or the USA then you’ll simply be enthralled on the daily by the civil design, bike lanes, cozy architecture, and general atmosphere. The building I was living in was erected in the 1500s as were all the others surrounding it – hundreds of years before Europeans even discovered Canada!
There is so much history in many places and the museums are terrific. If you’re anything like me and love to learn about the past, then you’ll love living in the Netherlands.
Cars still exist of course but bikes reign supreme. After all, biking is the way of the future! In fact, driving in the Netherlands intimidates me as the streets are quite cramped!
Work and societal culture is more focused on equality. While people still have varying levels of self-importance and ego, I found there to be a lesser sense of superiority from people. This is reflected in workplace hierarchy whereas even CEOs and people of ‘importance’ are referred to by first name and bike to work. This isn’t universally true in the Netherlands but definitely common.
Lastly, the Dutch are quite open to people of different races, creeds, and sexual orientation. In fact, Amsterdam and surrounding has for the longest time been one of the biggest LGBT hotspots in the world. My daily walk to Dirk van de Broek would have me pass 2 gay bars and 3 coffeeshops. Pretty chill place honestly!
I seriously loved living in the Netherlands. It’s comfortable, safe, and beginner-friendly. It’s a well-structured and fairly organized society in comparison to the vast majority of the world. The people are kind, fairly open, and honest in most cases. Of course there is variance in regards to that last statement.
If you’re moving to the Netherlands on a Working Holiday Visa or Youth Mobility Visa then I think you’ll have a blast! I learned very much about general European culture and discovered the sort of lifestyle I envision for the future.
It’s a great first country to move to if you’re interested in the YMV/WHV program and really have no idea on where to start. I went in blindly and had an excellent outcome.
Take the leap, it’s worth it! You’ll learn so much in the first life and it’ll be, dare I say, life changing! I have very fond memories of living in the Netherlands and still miss it.
Thanks for reading and drop a comment down below with any questions or thoughts!
USEFUL RESOURCES IF MOVING TO HOLLAND.
Rent/housing in the Netherlands.
Marktplaats.nl – The Kijiji of Holland. Marktplaats is the Craigslist of the Netherlands and not only a great way to find housing, but just to buy/sell anything like any classifieds app.
Facebook groups – There are many different groups out there to find rent and is a great option. BEWARE OF SCAMS – There are many scammers on there and you really need to be diligent when using any housing platform.
In person – Get to know people – friends of friends are always moving and one day you may find a dream apartment in a groovy place;
In person – Print out a classic flyer with pull tabs and just tape it to lampposts, buildings, and bulletin boards. Describe yourself and make it work. Older generations love this approach and perhaps you’ll end up in an affordable and cute place with a lovely landlady too.
At a hostel – Hostels often offer discounted weekly or monthly packages and even give discounts. If you’re just moving and want to sort out housing in person, then this might be a good option. Ask around!
Work in Holland
Marktplaats and Facebook groups are a good place to look.
Applying in person works better as well. While digital applications are a thing, you’ll likely be overlooked for someone who is a natural Dutch speaker.
Keep an eye out for now hiring signs or simply go in and ask restaurants, cafes, hostels, and so forth if they need more staff – never hurts to ask!
Socializing in the Netherlands
Hit up CouchSurfing, local student Facebook groups, bars, pubs, clubs, and other social spaces. If you hear music that you like – go there! The young blood and atmosphere is inviting and I found little problems with developing new friendships and connections.Workaway.info – Work and live abroad for free – a host will offer you accommodation and food in exchange for labor/work. A very awesome way to setup life abroad and live with a local.
Banking in Holland
TransferWise – for everything money related around the world, I use this. Amazing currency conversion rates, great speeds, direct banking, and they will provide you with a MasterCard debit card which works for in-person and online transactions. I’ve used it for living in Croatia, Denmark, Canada, etc – works everywhere and is amazing.
My TransferWise referral code is here: https://transferwise.com/invite/u/jamesc1224. Using that link will credit me and support me, and it’s free!
ATM and transaction fees will stack up after a while and honestly I can’t recommend TransferWise enough – that sh!t saved my life as a freelancer and digital worker who moves around so much. Revolut is also an option.
iDEAL payments are quite common in the Netherlands and requires local banking information to process payments that way. Of course the majority of storefronts will accept Visa and Mastercard and online storefronts usually take PayPal as well.
Thanks for reading my guide on moving to Holland from Canada!
Throw me a message down below or on my social media channels – I’m genuinely glad to help out and assist people with making the move. If you’re interested in other countries, check out my Moving to Croatia, Living in Denmark, Moving to Berlin, and other posts!
Until next time 🙂
4 thoughts on “Living in the Netherlands as a Canadian – my experiences”
Lol sorry for the spam this doesn’t need to be posted on this page but I just can’t get my head around this. I was looking for barefoot cleat info and struck on your webpage. I’m a guy born and raised in Leiden and thought it was funny what you were writing about us dutchies. And now I find our you are living in the Algarve where I have an ultimate frisbee tournament (Portimao) upcoming october. Small world man… Fuckit i’ll donate you some tea haha
hehe yay I love Leiden so much and yeah the Algarve is amazing! Feel free to message me on any social media or here if you’d like to hang out when you come down here! 🙂
Came here via your barefood content. I’m from Leiden and it’s funny to read this. Good luck with your goals man. Respect for what you are doing.
Came here via your barefood content. I’m from Leiden and it’s funny to read this. Good luck with your goals man. Respect for what you are doing.