The Expat’s Guide: What you should know before moving to Amsterdam from the US

Moving abroad to Amsterdam is an exciting adventure. Whether you are planning to stay only for a few years or to build your life here, starting is the hardest part. Kinda like starting a blog post when you have so much you want to say but need to structure it so it’s not all over the place and you can understand it all 🙂

Anyway, I’m here to help prepare you for your move with what you should know before moving to Amsterdam because preparation helps to have less stress and anxiety when moving!

Jessica with support local box

Before moving to Amsterdam

Get your documents in order – Know all the documents you’ll need to move here and don’t forget the apostille. Seriously, so many people forget this and it’s a big ol’ pain in the butt to get it when you’re outside your home country.

Get prescriptions for any medications you need – You can stock up but always take the bottle with you so you can get a prescription here.

Start learning Dutch – Yes, you can absolutely get around with only English, but learning even the basics will give you a better quality of life. Start with greetings, numbers, days/months, and food items (for when you’re grocery shopping). Ideally, you can at least give your phone number and address in Dutch if needed. I’d check out Rosetta Stone (desktop & app), Drop (app), Memrise (desktop & app), and Duolingo (app).

Research banks – There are few different banks to choose from, but it’s good to do the research before you get here so you can set an account up as soon as possible. Here’s a great website with some helpful information.

Bring rain gear – If you think it’ll be less expensive at home, buy your rain gear before leaving and pack it. Otherwise, you can buy it all here. I mean, come on, we HAVE to be prepared for the many days of rain and even have specialized gear for riding a bike in the rain.

Join Facebook groups – In these groups, you should introduce yourself and ask whatever you need help with. Maybe you’re curious about neighbors, or schools, or a specific cuisine to shop for. People love to help! Just make sure it’s not a question Google can easily answer for you 😉 Some groups to check out depending on your interests: Expats in Amsterdam, Amsterdam Mamas, Amsterdam Cooks, Girls Gone International

Jessica by the Amstel for a picture

Once you move to the Netherlands

The first couple months might feel like a vacation because it’s all new and shiny. But use this time wisely! Depending on how you move, you might have to work right away or you may have some time for adjustment. Either way, you’ll likely have a few appointments to attend and it’s nice to balance that with having a little fun or at least to explore a bit and meet people.

Get a museum card – Amsterdam is famous for museums but there are incredible museums throughout the entire country. Buy the Museumkaart and start exploring! Not every museum will be part of the program, and you may want to make an appointment with some of the biggest ones, so always check the website of where you want to go before you head over.

Save money – Because the first month or so may feel like a holiday, I’ll encourage you to check out my post on how to save money when living in Amsterdam because it will come in handy. I mean, why pay more if you don’t have to?

Buy a bike – You could do what some locals tell you and just buy a used bike for €50 then buy a €50 lock, but I suggest going to a proper bike shop and getting a new bike. Get fitted and test it out first. I never knew there were so many differences in bikes, but there really are! And if you’re short, don’t let anyone bully you into a bigger frame than you can handle. You can always raise the seat, but you can’t go lower than the frame (lived and learned? Yes). Get clip-on bike bags, a massive lock, and be sure the back wheel has a lock as well. Always lock the back wheel and use the chain to lock through the front wheel, around the frame, and to something solid. There’s your bike lesson! Plan to pay around E500. Could be more, could be less, but know that it’ll be around that range for a daily commuter bike.

Get your Personalized OV-chipkaart – As soon as you move, you’ll probably buy a blue rechargeable OV-chipkaart to take public transportation. I have a whole post on how to use public transportation in Amsterdam, but just know that on a rechargeable card, you have to have a certain amount loaded to even be able to check in, learn the specifics on the OV-chipkaart website. That’s why the personalized OV-chipkaart is great, because you hook it up to your bank, you don’t have to reload or worry about how much is on it. You can also sign up for subscriptions depending on how much you travel and where. You can buy this online, you’ll just head a headshot, your address, and a bank account number:

Zero-waste shops – Ok, ok, I mean shops in general. Scour through the Facebook groups I mentioned to join before you move and find the shops you want to visit. Add them to your Google Maps so you don’t forget. I mention zero-waste shops because it’s a good habit to get into as soon as you move to find these. Here’s a great resource to read through. We also have online stores like Pieter Pot for bulk dry goods and some household items, DIYS Soap for skincare and Plastic Free Amsterdam.

Discover your local markets – We have outdoor markets all over Amsterdam, so find the one closest to you first and find which days they run. This is also a great way to go zero-waste because there’s less packaging at the markets! Just make sure to have your reusable shopping bags, bread bags, and produce bags!

Get your vitamins – Around here, many people take vitamin D due to lack of sunshine. Don’t let that scare you, we get a good amount of it, but for some people it’s just not enough. I’m not a doctor, but be sure to talk to someone who knows a bit more about this stuff than I do.

Get social – Seriously, meet people. Go out of your way to meet people. It can make or break your experiences in a new place. Read more about how to make friends here, but generally, just be open to talk to people you meet. You may not hit it off with everyone and don’t keep up friendships because you feel like you need friends. Make sure you feel good about any relationships you create!

You are well on your way to settling into your new home! I hope you love it! There’s always something to do, somewhere to go, someone to meet, and something to eat 😉 If you want more expat content, check out my playlist on YouTube!

Wishing you joy and travels!

Jessica Cutrufello wearing a green floral dress, glasses and pink lipstick

Hi! I’m Jessica, an American who made Amsterdam her home in 2014. I share European gems through food and memorable experiences. Want to know more? Head to my about page or check out my YouTube channel.

Travel with us - Tuscany October 2022