Considering moving to the Hague, the Netherlands? The Hague has been my home for some months now and after having some difficult decisions on where to live in the Netherlands, my husband and I chose to move to the Hague. Living in the Hague was right for us for a number of reasons, in particular its low cost of living (for Holland), central location, and its international community. I got into the cost of living in the Hague, how to find housing in the Hague, the best neighborhoods in the Hague, and what the expat community in the Hague is like.
Covered in this article about living in the Hague
- Living in the Hague
- Why we chose to live in the Hague
- Do you need to know Dutch to live in the Hague?
- Cost of living in the Hague
- Public transportation in the Hague
- Expat community in the Hague
- Steps to keep in mind with moving to the Hague
(Note prices current as of 2018.)
Living in the Hague
If you’re moving from a major capital city, the Hague might be a bit of a let down. If I had moved directly from New York City here, I would have called it a small town. However, I lived in Amsterdam before this. Coming from Amsterdam, which can feel like a small town after you’ve lived there long enough, the Hague felt right. I was looking for somewhere quieter without the rowdy tourists in Amsterdam and without the crazy housing prices. Similarly, my husband wanted to minimize his commute to Delft.
Why we chose to live in the Hague
I’ve been here less than six months, but I’ve already really fallen for this city due to its cost of living, diversity, and key location in the Randstad. Although not great for singles looking to party, the Hague is a great city for couples and families looking for a stable base in Holland. Similar to Amsterdam, the Hague is incredibly diverse with numerous nationalities due to the presence of consulates in the Hague. I still feel that there are enough neighborhoods that I can do something different and I’m still amazed by the numerous restaurant/grocery stores from all over the world here.
As an expat myself, I love that my friendship network here is so diverse with friends from all over the world and it’s been very easy to meet fellow entrepreneurs. I’ve felt that compared to Amsterdam, it’s been much easier to make friends in the Hague as I’m not much one for going out at this point and I think that Amsterdam attracts a lot of people who are interested in this. (It’s not to say that I don’t enjoy a good beer, but I don’t go out that much.) The key location of the Hague makes it easy to go to Amsterdam for the day, Schiphol for flights, or any of the nearby cities in Holland to get out of the Hague.
In addition to Amsterdam, we also considered Rotterdam and Delft. However, my husband wasn’t the biggest fan of the architecture in Rotterdam (I know!) and the idea of living in a new modern building didn’t appeal to him. Rotterdam has similar prices to the Hague, so the added commute time was the final straw. I like Rotterdam, but I felt that we had to agree on this. However, Jacob loved The Hague as he wanted to live in a city that looked Dutch and the availability of other rock climbing gyms.
However, we seriously considered Delft. Delft is one of the cutest cities in the Netherlands and only fifteen minutes from the Hague. Some people told me that living in Delft made it difficult to meet people if you’re not a student as it’s really a university town and it feels too small after a while.
That said, Delft is a beautiful city and I seriously did look at houses in the historic center of Delft. I loved the building that I viewed that dated back to the 1600s (the low beams were a deal-breaker for my husband), however there’s little housing available compared to The Hague. I was in a unique position on the housing market as someone who fell into the “expat” housing range who had all their own furniture and was seeking an unfurnished apartment rather than a furnished apartment. A lot of the non-student housing comes furnished or did not allow pets, which was an issue for me as I have a cat.
Some people do find the Hague a bit a boring if you’re looking for partying, but Grote Markt is a lively area to go out. It’s not Amsterdam, however I’ve found some great beer in the Hague as well some great beer bars. I’m not really one for clubbing, so I’ve actually been very happy with the nightlife here, which tends to be more laid back. For more of a club scene, Rotterdam has more bars and clubs.
Do you need to know Dutch to live in the Hague?
….Not really. The Netherlands has one of the highest rates of English proficiency in the world. As someone who learned Dutch (to a sufficient level) and who is a native English speaker, I feel that it’s easy to get along without ever learning Dutch if you’re not staying long-term in the Hague as long as you know English.
Almost all government affairs can be done in either Dutch or English. If you encounter a Dutch-only phone menu, try hitting zero to get someone on the phone as it’s likely that the person who picks up the phone will speak good English. To improve your Dutch, you can go to the central branch of the library for their free Dutch language workshops and resources.
That said, I’ve heard that there’s been a cultural shift in recent years where Dutch residents are pushing harder for others to speak in Dutch in public. I find that speaking Dutch here in the Hague is far easier than Amsterdam as random people are far more willing than in Amsterdam. As long as I start in Dutch, it’s uncommon that people switch to English. (In Amsterdam, this is not the case.)
Cost of living in the Hague
Cost of apartments in the Hague
Depending on your needs, expect to pay between 650 and 1100 euros per month for a one bedroom apartment, depending on whether it’s furnished, catered to expats, or located in a good neighborhood. If you hit three of these criteria, you’re likely to be paying on the higher end of the rent as many expat houses in the city center ask for up to 1100 euros per month (or more). I viewed a few apartments in the 850 euro range that were in great neighborhoods although unfurnished.
Expect to pay around 900-1000+ euros per month for a furnished apartment in the Hague. Ask to find out if utilities are included. I pay less than 900 euros per month for an unfurnished two bedroom apartment in a 1930s building that I found on Funda. (More tips on finding an apartment in the Hague below.)
I’ve not been impressed with the speed of my personal internet in the Hague, which slows down around 5pm and 10pm each evening. I pay about 44 euros per month for my internet that is supposed to be 80 Mbits/s, but probably closer to 10 last time that I tested it. You can pay less. (Note, I don’t have cable, but you can get an internet/cable package for about the same.)
Expect to pay the gemeente tax (city tax) as well as the water tax. Although a bit confusing, you’ll need to have a supplier for your fresh water and a fee for having your dirty water taken away. For fresh water, Dunea is currently the main clean water supplier and the people in charge of the dirty water will get in touch by mail. (This is three separate bills that will come in the mail.) Expect to pay about five hundred euros for the year for two people.
You’ll need to choose your energy provider. I personally am a fan of the green companies Vandebron and Greenchoice, which allow you to choose your energy sources. Most apartments in the Hague do not have air conditioning, which saves you money in summer at the expense of mosquito bites. However, heating can be pricey during the winter, especially if you’re living in an older building. The cost varies although it can cost between forty and eighty euros per month, depending on how much energy we use.
Health insurance in the Netherlands costs between 85 (ish) and 110 euros per month depending on your health insurance and how many extras you choose to have. For instance, you can include your dental insurance for a small extra fee.I recommend getting a supplement that allows you to go any hospital rather than only specific hospitals. This supplement is relevant if you get seriously injured as it allows you to see the same physician at the same hospital that you were admitted to.
Your employer may give a discount for one insurance carrier, but you can compare the rates of all the insurance on the market prior to choosing one. Most insurance plans are similar although some insurance companies are more expat friendly, such as Zilveren Kruis.
Depending on your needs, you can get a subscription for your cell phone for as low as twelve euros per month for basic calling and some data. For more data, expect to pay up to twenty euros per month. I think that I pay around fifteen euros per month for my plan.
There are a number of gyms in the Hague. Depending on what you’re looking for, expect to pay up twenty euros a month for a gym in the Hague with unlimited access although more if you want to attend classes. Check to see which gyms are closest to your apartment prior to committing as not all gyms are in every neighborhood. You’ll also find other fitness options in the Hague, including two great rock climbing gyms and indoor skiing if you prefer to stay active in other ways.
I’m not sure that my food costs are necessarily normal as my husband and I do our weekly vegetable shopping at the Haagse Markt. This open-air market is where to go in the Hague for reasonable vegetables (including four avocados for one euro!?). We usually get most of what we need for less than twenty euros, which lasts us a week.
We buy some other ingredients at supermarkets (Jumbo/Albert Heijn) as needed, however I’d say that our food/random stuff budget can be as low as 300 per month with us cooking most meals at home. (I eat a fairly healthy vegetable-based diet and prices are pretty standard for the Netherlands.) I’m a huge fan of the de Vegetarische Slager, a plant-based butcher who has a shop in the center of the Hague. I find that Jumbo has lower prices than Albert Heijn, but a good sale at Albert Heijn can work in your favor if you’re into checking the flyers!
Going out to eat in the Hague and drinks in the Hague
Depending on your taste, you can expect to pay 10 euros per person on the low end for cheaper dinners out in the Hague. (Click for my tips on where to eat in the Hague.) An average nice meal out is about fifteen to thirty euros per person at a nice sit-down restaurant for dinner with drinks and an appetizer. Expect to pay between 3-5 euros for a craft beer (depending on the venue) or 6-9 euros for a cocktail (depending on the venue). For lunch, you can do better with meals as low as 5-10 euros at many restaurants in center. A nice coffee in the Hague is usually around 2-4 euros.
Transportation in the Hague
I bike most of the time, so my transportation costs tend to be on the low end. Although some people in the Hague have cars, parking can be an issue and getting a spot will be difficult. It’s easiest not to have a car unless you live in one of the surrounding areas and/or have a garage at your home. I bought my legal bike from a used bike shop for 120 euros and my VIRO chain for 40 euros.
If you’re not into biking, the Hague has a robust public transportation system although it’s easiest with an OV chipkaart. I usually pay around 1-2 euros per journey depending on the distance. I have been particularly impressed by public transportation in the Hague although it generally shuts down a bit early (12-1am on Fridays/Saturdays).
Expat community in the Hague
Due to the many consulates and international agencies located in the Hague, you certainly have the diplomatic community here, however there’s far more diversity here. The Hague has also attracted entrepreneurs as well as freelancers who enjoy the city’s laid back sophisticated atmosphere coupled with the decent cost of living. As a result, you’re likely to encounter expats from all over the world in all different work situations here. (There’s actually a thriving co-working community here!)
I’ve found that Meetup is a great way to meet people with your specific interests although there’s also a number of Facebook groups that are well-suited to finding friends. For women, I recommend Expat Ladies in the Hague. For those seeking a place to vent and aren’t easily offended, I recommend Grumpy Expat. Some of the other expat groups in the Hague are kind of weird, however Expats in the Hague is always solid for recommendations/questions. For a fun group that combines running and drinking, check out the Hague Hash Hound Harriers. For younger female expats, Girl Gone International for the Hague is a good community. You’ll also find some Dutchies who have returned from abroad in some of these groups.
I don’t personally have children at this point, however there’s a large community of families with expats. Those with children coming from schools abroad who don’t want to disrupt their child’s education might be interested in the private schools catered to the international community, notably the British International School, American School of the Hague, and the German International School. However, many expats send their kids to the local schools. I’ve heard positive things about both options and it actually surprised me how often you’ll hear kids/teenagers switching between English/Dutch/another language while in the Center. (Before you ask, I’ve heard that kids pick up Dutch very quickly.)
Steps to keep in mind with moving to the Hague
- Find a hotel, apartment, or house for your first month if you don’t have your housing set up already. I used Airbnb for my first months here and I found a few good deals out in Scheveningen. A long-stay apartment might be a good option at first. Keep in mind that summer is the most popular time, so prices will be higher.
- The Student Hotel allows registration if you’re in a bind and/or struggling to find housing.
- Register with the Gemeente for where you live once you have a legal apartment. If you live in the Hague, register with the Hague Gemeente (city government). You’ll need to get a BSN number, which is used on many official forms.
- Get health insurance as soon as you have your BSN number. You’re required to have health insurance within 4-6 months of moving to the Netherlands (depending on your origin). You might be forced to back pay.
Do you live in the Hague? Anything else that you’d recommend for new expats considering living in the Hague?
Curious about the Hague? Tips for what to do in the Hague.