By Bianca Pellet
Bianca Pellet, a teacher, moved to The Hague from Paris in 2017 when her husband found a job in the Dutch city. Their son was born last year.
The Hague has a diverse spread of neighbourhoods, but foreigners are drawn to areas such as the Statenkwartier or Archipelbuurt because of their proximity to international schools.
Bomenbuurt is recommended for its expat-friendly community and small beach clubs, while Scheveningen, with its seaside setting and woodland, remains popular.
Finding somewhere to live was relatively easy, although some landlords and rental agencies can be unnecessarily aggressive once you have expressed interest in a property, telling you you cannot look elsewhere even if you have not signed anything with them. Others impose absurd prohibitions, such as not allowing children.
Rents compare favourably with Paris, where we lived previously. A property in The Hague is at least €500 a month cheaper than a comparable place in, say, the 15th arrondissement of the French capital.
The Statenkwartier has an excellent range of amenities such as supermarkets, medical services and gyms, as well as being near beautiful areas such as Visserijbuurt and Zorgvliet in which to walk or cycle. We are also very close to our workplaces and our son’s crèche.
The air is clean, there are abundant playgrounds and the lifestyle is very outdoors, so we feel we are offering our son a good quality of life as he grows up.
As part of this, we enjoy visiting museums: those in The Hague are first-rate and much less busy than in Amsterdam. A €60 annual Museumkaart offers unlimited entry to many of them.
Closest to us are the Gemeentemuseum and the Museon. The former has large collections of Mondrian paintings and Delft blue porcelain, as well as art from different eras arranged thematically rather than chronologically.
The Museon, meanwhile, is similar to London’s Science Museum and has an on-site Imax cinema and frequent high-quality National Geographic photography exhibitions. The adjacent Fotomuseum has also introduced us to the work of many award-winning photographers.
Further afield, the Mauritshuis hosts wonderful paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Bruegel. Its small size makes getting round the displays easy.
While the local cuisine has much to offer in the way of waffles and fries — and the Dutch love of ice cream is not to be sniffed at — it has limited appeal to us. Man cannot live on bitterballen (deep-fried meatballs) alone. We have enjoyed discovering Indonesian food, especially at Keraton Damai, a local restaurant.
Public transport is good, especially if you live near a tram line that serves one of the city’s two main stations. However, it could be expensive to bring your car to the Netherlands if you have owned it for less than six months. If that is the case, it is not considered part of your removal goods and you will have to pay the private vehicle and motorcycle tax (BPM) — based on CO2 emissions and potentially running to thousands of euros — to register it.
The tax regime in the Netherlands is less punitive for some — us included — compared with other countries, especially if you benefit from the 30 per cent ruling (a tax discount that lasts five years if you were recruited by your employer from abroad).
My husband has adapted well to his new workplace, but it has not been as easy for me, as I was obliged to accept a job in a primary school, even though I am trained to teach secondary school pupils.
Having your professional qualifications recognised can be tricky, as the Dutch are more inclined to interpret the letter rather than the spirit of the law. As a teacher who qualified via a non-traditional route (assessment only, rather than the more common postgraduate certificate in education), my difficulties with the Dutch education authority recognising my qualified teacher status are still ongoing, two years after we arrived.
If the authorities refuse to ratify your qualifications, as in my case, you are barred from a permanent contract at work and therefore will find it difficult to obtain, say, a credit card. The Dutch are not keen on credit generally and rely heavily on Maestro debit cards and bank transfers. Even cash is often not accepted.
Nevertheless, we have had an extremely positive experience in the Netherlands and would certainly like to stay to have another child.
However, even though we are trying to learn Dutch, we would perhaps prefer — given the right professional opportunities — eventually to return to a francophone country. As a bilingual household — we speak French and English at home — we feel most comfortable in such a linguistic and cultural setting.
What do you wish you’d known before you moved?
Depending on where you come from, childcare may be expensive. Subsidies and even places can be difficult to come by unless both parents are working. Expect to pay €700-€900 a month.
Photographs: Getty Images/iStockphoto; Gemeentemuseum Den Haag; Jan Kranendonk; Sergey Figurniy