There are a number of things you need to know before entering the job market in the Netherlands, such as: the make-up of the Dutch employment market, finding a job here as an expatriate, Dutch labor law, the Dutch social security system etc.
History and Poldermodel
In the Middle Ages, there were many countships and the occasional duchies on the territory of the Netherlands, which for the larger part coincide with the current provinces. When the King of Spain inherited all of these in the second half of the 16th century, he had plans to end the privileges of the cities and rural districts. His ideas were therefore not met with much enthusiasm and there was a successful uprising – in which a central role was played by William of Orange, the patriarch of the Dutch royal family. The uprising against Philip II resulted in the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands.
The Netherlands is no longer a union of states, but instead a democratic state whose unity is symbolized by the King – a descendant of William of Orange’s older brother Jan. However, the mentality of the Dutch has remained the same. Even though Dutch society has become strongly secularized, it is still greatly influenced by Calvinistic philosophies. This Protestant work ethic is further reflected in the way in which the country is run, a system generally referred to as the ‘Poldermodel’. It might be going too far to say that it is solely responsible for making the Dutch a democratic people, however, it is clear that they are partial to detailed agreements, to which they must strictly adhere – for all are responsible for ‘their part of the dike’. This coming together to reach a consensus, characterizes Dutch society and Dutch politics and can be summarized in a ‘new’ word, invented by the British press in 1997: Poldermodel.
The Netherlands has a representative democracy and its parliament (Staten Generaal) is made up of two chambers: the Upper House (Eerste Kamer), whose 75 members are elected by the members of the provincial councils; and the Lower House (Tweede Kamer), whose 150 members are elected directly by the people. The government is what one calls a ‘monarchical government’, meaning that the King, together with the ministers, form the government. It was determined in 1848 that the ministers, and not the King, are responsible for acts of government. Laws that have been passed by the parliament, and Royal Decrees, are signed by both the King (Queen) and the minister in question, lending them the authority of the Head of State and placing the responsibility for them with the minister.
Traditionally, the three largest are the PvdA (or Labor Party), a social democratic party that has its roots in the trade union movement; the CDA (Christian Democrats), a merger of three confessional parties that bases its ideas on religious principles; and the VVD, a liberal party. However, as of the most recent election, the three largest parties are VVD, the PvdA, and instead of the CDA; the Party for Freedom (PVV) and the Socialist SP.
The Royal Family
Since April 30 of this 2013, the Netherlands has a new Head of State, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander. Willlem-Alexander was not crowned, but rather inaugurated. This has to do with the fact that from the start – which is only 200 years ago – the Netherlands has been a constitutional monarchy.
After Paris, London and Milan, the Randstad (the area including, and between, Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht) is the largest economic urban area in the EU, measured in terms of gross domestic product. This is largely due to the strong presence of financial and commercial services; which happens to be one of the motors of Dutch economy.
As the ‘gateway to Europe’, the Netherlands’ most dominant sector is the services sector, accounting for approximately two-thirds of both its GNP and its work force. Another dominant sector is that of mineral extraction, particularly the production of natural gas. Two other sectors that consistently contribute to the Dutch economy are the restaurant, trade, and repair services sector, and the health care and related services sector. A final important sector is the agricultural and food sector; it generates approximately 10% of the GNP; 75% of the agricultural produce is exported.
It’s sad to say, but the Netherlands simply does not have the most exciting of climates. Granted, there are magnificent winter and glorious summer days but, sadly, not very many. This can be very hard to take for those who have not grown up here (and even for those who have!).
Customs and Etiquette
Generally, the Dutch do not like company to stop by informally, if they just happen to be ‘in the neighborhood’. If you know someone very well, you can call in the morning to ask if you can come by that evening, but normally you should call further in advance. The greater the social distance between you, the longer in advance you need to call. Grown children even call their parents – and vice versa – to see if it is all right to come by for a visit.
Conversely, do not invite Dutch acquaintances to ‘drop by anytime’. Set a specific time and date, and specify what you intend to serve. ‘Come by next Tuesday at two for coffee’ and they will be there at the stroke of two. ‘Fashionably late’ in Holland is waiting for the bell on the tower clock to finish ringing before you ring the doorbell.
A visit to someone’s home invariably calls for a hospitality gift. Flowers, cookies, or candy are almost always appropriate. If you think that your host(ess) might be dieting or diabetic, take flowers. Flowers are quite inexpensive in Holland, as this is the world’s largest flower exporter, and are a welcome present.
The King’s Birthday (April 27)
Throughout history, the Dutch Royal Family has been very popular and the Family’s birthdays have been celebrated with enthusiasm. As of 1898, Queen Wilhelmina’s 18th birthday, the holiday has been officially referred to as koninginnedag (literally Queen’s Day). Since this year, it is called Kongingsdag, in honor the new king. You can celebrate the King’s birthday either by visiting one of the two annually chosen towns or cities the King visits on this day – and witness traditional entertainment and games – or you can visit some of the bigger cities. Amsterdam, in particular, goes all out on this day, with a vrijmarkt, a free market that fills the streets in the center of Amsterdam with stands run by people age 5 – 105, selling anything and everything. Another option is to visit the traditional ‘King’s Market’ of your own town, where the locals sell just about anything for a song, a great opportunity for bargain hunters and antique buffs.
The Dutch Language
Almost everyone speaks virtually fluent English in the Netherlands and in the beginning, the Dutch think it’s perfectly fine if you speak English, and they will respond in English. But don’t be fooled into thinking that their own language is not so important to them. If, after a year, your Dutch is still non-existent or barely so, they will become considerably less patient – like it or not, you must realize that you are a guest in their country, not the other way around, and that, by right, you should learn your host’s language if you’re going to live here for any length of time.
Decide whether you would prefer to follow an established course or take private lessons. The Netherlands has a national network of language institutes that offer courses in Dutch to foreigners (usually, these courses are referred to as NT2, Nederlands als tweede taal – Dutch as a second language). The local city or town hall will advise you as to where the nearest institute is, so that you can make an appointment. During an interview, they will probably ask you what type of school you went to at home, what diplomas you have, whether you interact with a lot of Dutch people, whether you have time to go to a school and to do homework, etc. They may also ask you to take a placement exam to determine what level you should pursue. Depending on your specific needs, the institute may suggest an intensive course for quicker immersion.
Although modern Dutch society is very secular, and not many Dutch people identify with an organized religion, you will see plenty of churches and other places of worship, and you will have plenty of opportunity to practice your own religion if you wish.
The southern provinces of Brabant and Limburg are predominantly Catholic, and the other provinces are predominantly Protestant. Of the Dutch people who nowadays claim church affiliation, only about 5% of the population attends services regularly, and though there are more registered members of the Roman Catholic Church (4.2 million) than of the Protestant Church (1.7 million), only 6.3% of the Catholics go to church regularly, while 22% of the Protestants do.
With approximately 1 million (practicing) Muslims living in the Netherlands (6.25% of the population), Islam has become one of the country’s main religions. Mosques have been built in most of the larger cities by communities of immigrants from Turkey, Morocco and Indonesia, and the Dutch public is gradually learning more about Islam – enough to make allowances for colleagues and pupils who are fasting for Ramadan, for example.
Before and during the Second World War, when Hitler’s anti-Semitism took hold in Europe, many Jews came to the Netherlands. Unfortunately the Netherlands was occupied during the war and could not be the safe haven they had hoped for. Currently, a sizeable Jewish community, with around 35,000 members, remains in the Netherlands, of which the center is in Amsterdam, though synagogues can also be found in other cities.
Other religious affiliations that have active communities in the Netherlands include Hinduism, Buddhism and Baha’i.
Holland or the Netherlands
Now there’s a good question: why is this country sometimes referred to as Holland and sometimes as the Netherlands? The official name of the country you have come to live in is the Netherlands, or ‘Low Lands’; a country where 60% of the people live below sea level.
Then why is this country so often referred to as Holland? The answer to this question lies in its history. A few centuries ago, the province of Holland (which included today’s North and South Holland provinces) was economically the strongest of all the Dutch provinces, and the one from which virtually all foreign trade originated. Most of the Dutchmen that foreign traders dealt with were Hollanders, literally from Holland. Hence, when talking about the Netherlands, this became the accepted way of referring to the country and its people. Over the years, both names have come to be accepted, although the official name, of course, remains the Netherlands.
Some statistics and facts (2012 – 2013)
The total land surface area is 33,948 km2/21,218 mi2. This excludes all inland and territorial waters wider than 6 meters/20 feet. If all the water surface area is included, the Netherlands has an area of 41,526 km2/25,954 mi2
The Netherlands’ North Sea coastline is longer (642 km) than its border with either Belgium (407 km) or Germany (556 km)
About 60% of the population lives below sea level
The highest point in the Netherlands is the Vaalserberg in the province of Limburg; is 321 meters/1,053 feet above sea level
The lowest point in the country is 6.76 meters/ 22.18 feet below sea level. It is in the Prince Alexander Polder northeast of Rotterdam (Nieuwerkerk a/d IJssel)
Head of State: King Willem-Alexander
Type of state: constitutional monarchy
Seat of government: The Hague
Population: 16.77 million
‘Non-Western’ non-natives: 1.94 million
‘Western’ non-natives: 1.56 million
Number of households: 7.39 million
Average life expectancy men born now: 78.5 years, women: 82.6 years
Average age: 40.1 (gradually increasing: in 1990, it was 36.6)
Population growth: 48,000 (2012: 80,300)
Number of marriages: 72,000
Number of registered partnerships: 9,500
Number of gay marriages: 1,350
Number of divorces: 31,000
Healthy to very healthy: 81.4%
Immigrants: 162,962 (up from 150,000 and largely due to an increase in the number of labor migrants from EU-countries)
Emigrants: 133,194 (up from 118,000 – mostly Dutch/EU-born emigrants)
Countries of origin of asylum-seekers: mostly Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan
Labor force: 7.95 million
Unemployment: 592,000 (7.5% of the labor force)
Predicted unemployment: 8.2% (2013) and 8.5% (2014) (EU: 11%)
Unfit for work: 819,000
No. of jobs: 7.8 million
No. of self-employed persons: 1.4 million
Inflation 2012 (CPI): 2.5%
Economic growth 2012: -0.9%
Predicted economic growth 2013: -0.8% (a year ago, it was predicted to be +1.3% in 2013)
Predicted economic growth 2014: +0.9%
Budget deficit: 3.6% (2013) 3.6-4% (2014)
Gross National Product per capita: € 31.542
Religion: 4 out of 10 persons profess to being religious
Household consumption: -2.3%
Consumer confidence: -35
Most important trade partner: Germany
Average income: € 33,000 gross
Average price of a house: € 217,500
A volunteer not-for-profit organization that serves the needs and interests of the international community in the Netherlands. Its dedicated volunteers representing an impressive cultural and linguistic variety work to:
• provide guidance, advice, information to help individuals with settling, and/or living and working in the Netherlands
• promote friendship, understanding and well-being of the members of the international community in the Netherlands
• contribute to community development through skill training schemes and courses
• serve as a bridge between local and international communities
OUTPOST THE HAGUE
(at Shell Headquarters)
The center of a worldwide spouse-to-spouse network that provides Shell families with practical information about living conditions in expatriate locations around the world.
All Outpost locations provide career and development resources and relocation resources to Shell expatriates and repatriates.
Postal address: P.O. Box 162, 2501 AN The Hague
Visiting address: Carel van Bylandtlaan 16, HAG C30, 2596 HT The Hague
Tel.: 070 377 65 30 www.globaloutpostservices.com/thehague
EXPATRIATE ARCHIVE CENTRE
The Expatriate Archive Centre welcomes contributions from retired, repatriated or current expatriates and their children.
Paramaribostraat 20, 2585 GN The Hague
Tel.: 070 427 20 14 www.xpatarchive.com
THE HOLLAND HANDBOOK
Published yearly since 2000 by XPat Media
The indispensable guide for expats in the Netherlands.
This richly illustrated book offers 256 full-color pages of essential information on all aspects of living and working in the Netherlands www.xpat.nl
THE HOLLAND GUIDE App
Published by XPat Media
The Holland Handbook on your iPad
With extra features, almost a thousand live references and hundreds of stunning photos
Available in the App Store www.xpat.nl/hollandguide THE UNDUTCHABLES
By Colin White and Laurie Boucke
Published by White – Boucke Publishing Inc.
A tongue-in-cheek observation of the Netherlands, its culture and its inhabitants. www.undutchables.com
THE LOW SKY, UNDERSTANDING THE DUTCH
By Han van der Horst
Published by Scriptum/Nuffic
The book that makes the Netherlands familiar.
A detailed exploration of the reasons for desire of the Dutch for independence, their sense of respect and their business sense www.scriptum.nl
AT HOME IN HOLLAND
Published by The American Women’s Club of The Hague.
A practical guide for foreigners moving to the Netherlands. www.awcthehague.org
Published by Eburon Academic Publishers
By Sheila Gazaleh-Weevers
with Shirley Agudo & Connie Moser
Colorful two-in-one guide to Holland for travellers and expats alike.. www.heresholland.com
THE DUTCH AND THEIR DELTA
Living below sea level
By Jacob Vossestein
Published by XPat Media
The fascinating account of how the Dutch manage to live below sea level www.jacobvossestein.nl
To order: www.hollandbooks.nl
ONLY IN HOLLAND, ONLY THE DUTCH
By Marc Resch, Published by Rozenberg
An in-depth look into the culture of Holland and its people. www.rozenbergps.com
MANNERS IN THE NETHERLANDS – DUTCH DITZ
By Reinildis van Ditzhuyzen
Published by Uitgeverij Becht
Reinildis van Ditzhuyzen is known in the Netherlands as the ‘Queen of Manners’ and has published a series of ‘Ditz’ books such as the Dikke Ditz, or its summary version, the Dunne Ditz, and the children’s KinderDitz on etiquette and manners. www.rildis.nl
HOW TO SURVIVE HOLLAND
By Martijn de Rooi
The author manages with quick wit, sarcasm and slightly self-deprecating humor to more than adequately convey a rather candid assessment of the Dutch people as a whole. His ability to really explain a country and its folk in such a clear context obviously has a lot to do with the fact that he is both a sociologist and a journalist. www.hollandbooks.nl
VISIONS OF THE NETHERLANDS
Photography: Frans Lemmens
Text: Martijn de Rooi
Like a consummate Dutch old master, photographer Frans Lemmens has painted a rich and colorful portrait of this often-surprising country, the people who live in it and the places and things worth seeing. www.dutchshop.nl or www.hollandbooks.nl
A MOVEABLE MARRIAGE
Relocate your Relationship Without Breaking it
by Robin Pascoe
Published by Expatriate Press Ltd. www.expatexpert.com
A Spouse’s Guide to Repatriation
By Robin Pascoe
Published by Expatriate Press Ltd. www.expatexpert.com
XENOPHOBE’S GUIDE TO THE DUTCH
By Rodney Bolt
Published by Oval Books
A guide to understanding the Dutch that goes beyond the tulips and windmills to reveal their real personality and peculiarities. www.ovalbooks.com
A BROAD ABROAD
The Expat Wife’s Guide to Successful Living Abroad
By Robin Pascoe
Published by Expatriate Press Ltd. www.expatexpert.com
A MOVING LANDSCAPE
By Jo Parfitt
Published by Summertime Publishing
Over 20 years abroad described in moving poetry to which any traveller will relate. www.joparfitt.com
BLACK AND ABROAD
By Carolyn Vines
Published by Adelaar Books
Experiences and perspectives of a black American woman traveling and living abroad. www.blackandabroad.com
THE DUTCH TONGUE
By Ben van der Have
Written in the form of a conversation between a student of the Dutch language, Nancy, and her local linguistic expert, Thomas, Ben van der Have takes the reader on a journey of language learning which goes far beyond the rules of grammar and vocabulary teaching. www.scriptum.nl or www.hollandbooks.nl
DUTCH FOR EXPATS
By Maik Klaassen
Published by VanDorp Educatief/XPat Media
A comprehensive course book intended for adults living and working in the Netherlands who need to learn and practise the essential communication tools of the Dutch language in a limited timeframe. CD-rom included. www.nederlandsalstweedetaal.nl or www.hollandbooks.nl
DUTCH FOR DUMMIES
By Margreet Kwakernaak
Published by Pearson Education Benelux
Speak Dutch the fun and easy way. With dialogues from the book on audio CD. www.dummies.nl
A DICTIONARY OF DUTCHNESS
Published by DutchNews.nl
Do you have to visit the IND, are your children doing VWO and do you live in a Vinex area? Can you recognise bn’ers and do you know BOB? Have you got a DigiD and are you paying OZB? If this all sounds like double Dutch, then you need this book. www.DutchNews.nl
FOOD SHOPPERS’ GUIDE TO HOLLAND
By Ada Henne Koene
Published by Eburon
A comprehensive review of the finest food products in the Dutch marketplace and a very useful food dictionary.
DUTCH CULINARY ART
By Janny de Moor, Nico de Rooij and Albert Tielemans
400 years of festive cooking in the Netherlands. www.dutchculinaryart.com
DUTCH COOKING TODAY
Published by Inmerc
This book has typical Dutch dishes, honest stews, juicy one-pan dishes, the best snacks, the tastiest cakes and the yummiest desserts. It allows all – from lovers of the Hollandse Pot (Dutch Pan) to admirers of trendy cuisine – to become acquainted with old and new dishes of the Netherlands. www.zoekboeken.nl
Text by Sylvia Pessiron
Photography by Jurjen Drenth & friends
Published by Nilsson & Lamm
Learn what the Dutch eat and drink, graze through their eating habits and recipes, and when you’re done, try them. www.dutchshop.nl www.hollandbooks.nl
THE NEW DUTCH CUISINE
Text by Albert Kooy
Photography by Pieter Ouddeken
Published by KM Publishers
This basic cookbook offers possible guidelines for the contemporary cook.
You’ll find some old-fashioned Dutch dishes like hodge-podge, scrapple, head cheese, sausage rolls etc. The beautiful photo’s sometimes show a complete dish, more often they are taken while cooking so they show the method of preparation. www.newdutchcuisine.eu
For useful and fun information on what’s on in the Netherlands.
English-language news from business and politics to sport. Plus features, opinion and debate
www.expatica.com – News and community portal for expats in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Moscow, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
www.iamexpat.nl - For expats of all colours, shape and sizes.
News, life style, housing, career and education in the Netherlands
www.xpat.nl – The information platform for expatriates in the Netherlands with an event calendar, Dutch news, expat book reviews and a large archive of articles and books on the Netherlands published by XPat Media
www.outpostexpat.nl – Website of OUTPOST Expatriate Information Center with practical information about living conditions in a.o. the Netherlands.
Logbook of the Low Countries
by Wout van der Toorn
Published by Seaside Publishing
A handy and Informative book to make comparisons between the history of the Low Countries and the wider world. www.seasidepublishing.com
This is an excerpt of Chapter 1, The Netherlands in a Nutshell, of The Holland Handbook.
To order The Holland Handbook 2013 - 2014, click the botton below