22 September 2017

Susanne Christensen - Expat in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Susanne Christensen - Expat in Amsterdam, Netherlands

We’ve had the chance to talk to Susanne Christensen, 28, a Danish expat who has moved to the Netherlands alone. Ms. Christensen who has been living there for more than three years, now works as a project manager working on websites. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I was born and raised in Denmark. When I was 19 I moved abroad and I have only been back to Denmark for holidays since then.


Q: What made you move out of Denmark?

A: The reason I decided to move when I graduated high school was simply to experience a different culture. I never expected that I would be an expat for this long! The first place I lived was London, which was very chaotic and exciting. After London, I moved to Berlin.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: The beautiful city of Amsterdam. I came here as I was offered a job so I thought: “why not give it a try?” I am happy with my decision, as I absolutely love living here.


Q: How long have you been living in the Netherlands?

A: More than three years now, time flies!


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I don’t have any family in the Netherlands. But I live with my best friend from Denmark who also decided to move to Amsterdam. She moved here a year after I did because she was offered a job at my previous workplace.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Yes definitely. I go back to Denmark at least twice a year: for Christmas and one time during summer. In my family, Christmas is very important so I make sure I always get time off from work during this period. Luckily my work has been flexible in this regard.

Otherwise, I keep in touch with family via phone and email. I also watch Danish television and films, which reminds me of home. It can also be nice to meet up with other Danes living in Amsterdam so we can speak in our native language.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: The Dutch are very friendly and laid-back. I like the way everyone bikes here, no matter if you are a student or a successful business owner. You will also notice that in many workplaces the dress code is relaxed and everyone, including the boss, hang out at lunch or stay for a beer and a chat after work on Fridays.

On the other hand, it can be difficult to become close friends with the Dutch. I have heard this from many expats living here but I’m not sure why this is the case. Because of this most of my friends in Amsterdam are expats like me.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Netherlands? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: It’s quite easy meeting people as an expat. You will find a lot of people who are interested to hear about your experiences. In an international city like Amsterdam, you will also meet many other expats who are also looking to find a new social circle. When I first came to Amsterdam I mostly met people through work, but I also met some friends at expat meet-ups – this can be a great way to meet people when you move to a new city!


Q: How does the cost of living in Netherlands compare to your home?

A: Prices are generally lower in the Netherlands compared to Denmark. The prices below are from my experience living in the Netherlands.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: Around 2-3€.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: 10€.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: 30€.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Wine: 5-10€, cigarettes: 7€.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Netherlands?

A: Amsterdam has an expat center where you can get help with your move and, most importantly, how to get a BSN number. Once you have this number you can open a bank account. At several Dutch banks you can book an appointment with an English speaker.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: As an EU citizen I did not need to apply for Visa or work permit. However, at times I’ve found living the Netherlands to be a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare. You get send a lot of paperwork, usually in Dutch and with no one speaking proper English when you call. I’ve even heard some locals are struggling with the paperwork at times, so for a foreigner it can be hard to understand what’s going on at times!


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Netherlands is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: It is reliable and of high quality. Make sure you get health insurance and sign up with a local doctor though otherwise it can be expensive.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in Denmark or the Netherlands? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: You have to make sure to sign up for medical insurance. This is paid on a monthly basis and is compulsory (you can get fined if you don’t sign up). Even the cheapest option should provide pretty good cover, unless you have many health concerns.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Netherlands? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: I moved just with a couple of suitcases! I have collected more stuff during my stay in the Netherlands though. I even had to get furniture, as my apartment was unfurnished.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Not speaking the language. It’s not a problem in daily life as everyone speaks perfect English in Amsterdam. However, in regards to paperwork it can be difficult, as they are often not translated to English.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Netherlands?

A: The best thing about living in Amsterdam is that you can bike everywhere; it’s a very bike-friendly city. It’s also a beautiful and cultural city. The worst part is that I don’t speak Dutch fluently yet. It makes you feel more like an outsider.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: If you move to Amsterdam you should get a bike straight away! It is really a city that is best experienced by bike.  You should also go sailing on the canals.

If you like films and good food I can recommend Filmhallen and Foodhallen. Also check out the North of the city (take the free ferry from Amsterdam Centraal). Here you will less touristy places and events. 


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Yes, I am planning to move to Newcastle for a year to study. And then I will probably move back to Amsterdam again. I might go back to Denmark eventually, but I’m not sure yet.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Take a Dutch course! Although almost everyone speaks English you will feel more at home when knowing at least a little bit of Dutch.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Netherlands?

A: At my work I get to read a lot blogs. There are so many great expat blogs out there that we decided to promote some of them, for instance in this list over some of the best expat blogs about the Netherlands. And our Indonesian expat blogger award 2017.