Going Dutch: is now the perfect time for HR professionals to make a move to Amsterdam?

February 25, 2017

Might Amsterdam be the ideal place for HR professionals to take their career to the next level? Renowned more for its canals than its corporate opportunities, the picturesque Dutch capital is nonetheless attracting a growing reputation as a global business hub.

Since the Brexit vote last June, there has been some commentary that UK companies may look to Amsterdam. While this remains to be seen Amsterdam is seen as an ideal location for many organisations across Europe to set up operations. What is clear is that we are entering a period of widespread change in Europe as people and organisations are more global in their outlook and flexible in where they base themselves.

Why choose Amsterdam?
A New York Times article, cited Amsterdam as a great city for business, taking into account factors ranging from the regulatory environment to the restaurants.

With great talent and an amazing lifestyle, a number of major businesses are already expanding their Dutch workforce – not least the Japanese bank MUFG, there will be clear opportunities from an HR point of view.

So what are the advantages of relocating? And, if they do make the move, what can an HR professional expect from Amsterdam?

Moving to the Netherlands
The city is certainly well equipped to help expats feel at home. Dutch society prides itself upon being inclusive and internationally oriented, harking back to the country’s seafaring heritage. What’s more, over 90% of the population speaks English, often with near-native fluency.

It is no surprise that the Netherlands lures its share of foreign workers. There are estimated to be around 500,000 internationals living and working there – a high figure for a small country with a population of just 17.1 million – and that number is growing fast. Last year, the population expanded by 111,000 people, substantially higher than expected and dwarfing the population growth the year before.

It helps that relocation to Amsterdam is relatively straightforward. Those with EU passports have an automatic right to live and work in the country, and that group includes Brits for the time being. On top of that, the Netherlands has one of Europe’s lowest rates of unemployment, and its 30% tax ruling gives a tax break to highly skilled migrants moving here for a specific role.

The Dutch lifestyle
While other European cities may have the edge when it comes to salary size, Amsterdam is undoubtedly leagues ahead in terms of atmosphere. The city is not only stunning to look at (witness the distinctive architecture, the ubiquitous canals, and the tulip fields ringing its outskirts) – it is vibrant to the nth degree. There are many cultural options, with a strong music scene and a buzzing nightlife and, as befits its cosmopolitan outlook, cuisine from every part of the world.

The Netherlands consistently scores highly on quality of life indexes, ranking in the top five in the EU on almost all metrics. The nation is remarkably civic-minded and unconcerned with markers of status – crime rates and homelessness are low, and there are many good international schools.

From an expat’s perspective, Dutch culture can seem full of contradictions, in that liberal-mindedness is counterbalanced by an emphasis on rules. As a highly law-abiding society, processes can tend towards the bureaucratic – which may give HR professionals an extra layer of red tape to grapple with.

Then there is the famous Dutch directness – a lack of concern for niceties that others may read as rude. Don’t misinterpret the intent; the Dutch are generally very friendly, and keen to help expats settle in.

Where are the biggest opportunities?
The city is cementing its status as an emerging technology hub with the likes of Tesla, Netflix and Uber basing their European operations here. A 2015 Forbes article went so far as to call Amsterdam an ‘alternative to Silicon Valley’. Biosciences and medicine are strong too, and Amsterdam is one of the cities in contention to host the European Medicines Agency after it relocates from London.

Another factor in Amsterdam’s favour is the convenience of the location. Just a two-hour train journey from Brussels, and well connected to the rest of Europe, the city is far better positioned for international companies than other leading cities such as Dublin.

Amsterdam is an exciting and growing international business hub and we’re excited to see what opportunities this brings over the coming years.