Five Things to Know About Living in Amsterdam

This week, American expats Louie and Laura Pinna make the case for going Dutch in retirement.

In an essay in Encore, The Wall Street Journal’s special section on retirement, the two 50-somethings tell readers what life is like as “partial retirees” in Amsterdam, where they have lived, worked, and, of course biked since 2009.

But the Pinnas’ essay offers some helpful hints for people any age who might be considering calling this corner of the Low Countries home. Here are five:

1.       The insurance situation might (unpleasantly) surprise you
Lots of Americans associate Western European countries with universal, free medical care. That’s not the case in the Netherlands. According to the Pinnas, “private insurance companies must provide a level of basic care for a minimum payment of €720 per person per year, with a €365 deductible.” While there is a minimal copayment, the couple says they can go wherever they’d like to get care. They also note that because they live outside the U.S., they cannot qualify for Medicare.

2. Speak English? No problem! / Spreekt u engels? Geen probleem!
According to the Pinnas, the country is “essentially bilingual.” The couple writes that they have rarely come across a local who couldn’t converse in English, which they think might make it easier for expats to deal with Dutch institutions. That said, the couple says their Dutch is unfortunately just “as bad as ever.”

3. Get ready to get physical
The Dutch have a “disdain for a sedentary lifestyle,” note the Pinnas. What is more, all walks of life seem to travel by bicycle. On bicycle, they report having seen:
"Businessmen in suits, mothers with several children on multiseat or cargo bikes, workers and tradesmen towing seemingly impossible shapes and weights, pregnant women, as well as young and old couples riding while holding hands. All this regardless of the weather."

4.       Don’t mind the forward questions
The Pinnas have found the Dutch people friendly and generally open. But they also find locals “unusually direct.” Some questions that, while considered normal to the Dutch, might surprise some expats: “How old are you?”, “How much do you make?” and “What do you pay for rent?”

5.       You’re never too far away
Need a break from the city’s canals and tulips? The Pennas find Amsterdam incredibly convenient for getting out of the Netherlands, too. A high-speed train will take you to the heart of Paris in under three hours, and if you want to see Manneken Pis or enjoy a bit of chocolate, Brussels is just two hours away. The Pennas also consider the city’s airport one of the best in Europe.

Published http://blogs.wsj.com/expat/2015/01/23/five-things-to-know-about-living-in-amsterdam/

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