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Do I need to speak Dutch to move to the Netherlands?

With bustling cities, beautiful country side and a high standard of living, the Netherlands is a popular destination for immigrants. But few people learn Dutch, the language spoken in the Netherlands and its capital, Amsterdam, at school. Is it essential to know the language before you apply for a Dutch work visa?

The short answer is no, it's not essential – but that's ne  ver the whole answer, so read on before you make a decision.

Do you speak English?

The Netherlands is a small country in the heart of Europe and its citizens are accustomed to dealing with visitors and neighbours who don't speak Dutch. Up to 86% of Dutch citizens claim to be able to hold a conversation in English, and a casual investigation of the shops and restaurants in Amsterdam will bear this out. In addition, English is a compulsory element of Dutch schooling, so most teenagers will be learning English.

Are you going to study?

The total population of the Netherlands is just 16 million people. As a result, many courses at a higher level are taught and examined in English. The courses that are most likely to be taught in English are:

•      Masters level or higher

•      Specialist subjects

•      Taught to a relatively small number of students

•      Subjects where the international language is English

•      Non-vocational courses


For example, it is expected that doctors will practise in the Netherlands, and therefore should speak fluent Dutch to converse with their patients. On the other hand, mathematicians and computer scientists are expected to speak and read English to communicate with their international peers. 

Are you going to Amsterdam?

There is a much higher volume of English speakers in Amsterdam than in other major cities, and there are more English speakers in major cities than in towns and rural areas. Tourist areas have the highest proportion of English speakers, and in central Amsterdam it's possible to find an English speaking professional for every need, from house hunting to dentistry to childcare. However, this is not the case in rural areas, where you may struggle to make yourself understood in the local shop without speaking Dutch.

Do you want to work for an international company?

As in other countries, many global corporations based in the Netherlands use English as their primary working language. If you're sponsored by one of these companies, you can certainly get a Netherlands work visa without speaking Dutch and may be able to enjoy your entire stay in the country without learning more Dutch than you need to order dinner in a restaurant.

Do you have school age children?

Local schools will be taught in Dutch, and schools teaching partly or primarily in English or another language will usually be private schools. If your children are in a Dutch school, they will quickly pick up the language – and you'll have to, too, to help with homework and talk to their teachers.

Tips for learning Dutch

 Many people immigrating to the Netherlands find that learning Dutch isn't too hard. The language uses many words which are the same or similar to English, and the language is fairly forgiving of beginners as it's possible mangle the grammar and still be understood. The BBC offers an free online introduction to Dutch, and there are many online courses to choose from. 

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Disclaimer - MoreVisas immigration service Pvt.Ltd. does not offer consulting on student visas/ Overseas jobs/work permits/international or domestic placements.
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