I live in the US, but I work for a company that is based in The Netherlands, and I may have an opportunity in the not-too-distant future to work in Belgium (specifically Brussels) or The Netherlands (more than likely Amsterdam). I've lived in the US all my life, and while I have lived pretty much everywhere around the US (except the Pacific Northwest and the deep south), I don't really have an idea of what to expect if I did go to another country.
I know there are a couple people on the board (amazingu, LuxKiller65) who are from the Benelux region, so I was looking to see if you guys (or anyone else) had any comments on what it like to live or work in Belgium or The Netherlands. What is the culture like? Is it possible to get by in the cities with just English, or would I need to make learning Dutch a top priority? Are the taxes really as insane as I've heard? Are there things I should be aware of in these countries that a quick internet search wouldn't pull up?
Thanks in advance for any comments.
I lived in the Netherlands for two weeks in late 1990. I recall the appliances were smaller, food portions were smaller, shopping carts required a coin, pizza used bleu cheese unless otherwise specified, and you basically had to carry around a pocketful of change. You might have to pay to use the restroom in a restaurant or even pay once inside the restroom, to get into a stall. I also remember being served alcohol (at age 14) after dinner in a restaurant. Oh, and there was porn on TV every night (for free).
Are the taxes really as insane as I've heard?
I wonder why people fear high taxes if they've used to give stuff like free healthcare, proper education to younglings, and actual social welfare for those on the bit of a poor side. Though, no idea how stuff works in Benelux.
And checked wikitravel guide for Benelux, and seems that Netherlands and Flanders (Northern Belgium) do have people who do speak english, thanks to stuff not being dubbed.
And I would suggest just going for it, if nothing else it will be a damn sweet experience, and who knows what you'll find there.
I fled from that horrible country as soon as I could, so good luck buddy
In all seriousness, there are plenty worse places to live than the Netherlands, and Belgium is probably even better because they've got better food and better beer.
Taxes are fairly high (but not as high as in Scandinavian countries) but what you get in return is legalized soft drugs, legalized prostitution and free porn on TV. I'm only partially being facetious.
Indeed, most people speak English so you will have no trouble getting by, but people will appreciate if you try to learn Dutch. You will have trouble adjusting to the weird sounds we make, but the vocabulary isn't too different from English, so you should be able to pick it up fairly quickly.
The Dutch are generally a down-to-earth, level-headed people who don't like acting big, and have a very dry sense of humor. You should have no problem being accepted and fitting in.
As for what Jodo, said:
- Yes, things in general tend to be smaller than in the US, including food proportions.
On the upside, this means less morbidly obese people, which is good.
- Yes, shopping carts require a coin. Or at least, they used to. I haven't lived there for a while anymore.
It is indeed wise to always keep a pocketful of change around, because you never know when you might need it.
Public toilets cost money at stations and such, but not at restaurants and generally not at bars either.
- The blue cheese on pizza thing is not true. If you get blue cheese on a pizza, you probably bought a blue cheese pizza. It doesn't even make sense for a country that is famous for its yellow cheese to only use blue cheese on pizza.
- I think the serving of alcohol to minors thing is a lot more restricted now than it used to be, but there were times when it wasn't hard for a 14 year old to get a drink, indeed.
- There are softcore porn shows on TV pretty much every day, especially in weekends, yes. Always only at night though.
Thanks for the information.
Razakin, the taxes thing is important to me for a couple reasons. First, any debt that I have was taken on with an expectation of paying current US taxes. If all of a sudden, taxes increased substantially, it would be much more difficult to service that debt. The same is true whether it's another country or it's the US/state/township raising taxes. That's the main reason the mortgage interest deduction is considered untouchable in the US. So many people own property under the expectation that they will be able to deduct any mortgage interest from their taxes. If that deduction were to suddenly go away, those people would be very upset (unless net taxes for them were lower overall).
Second, the taxes may be going to pay for things that I will never be able to use. A large portion of the taxes in Belgium go to pay for the Social Security program. Unless I remain in the country the rest of my life, I won't be able to get any benefits from that program.
As an update, the potential job opportunity in Brussels is not going to work out. I didn't know at the time I applied, but the difference in compensation would be severe (around 30% less gross pay, not accounting for taxes). Given that I have to support a family of four, it's just not workable. I'm still keeping my eyes open for other opportunities, though.