Where to live in the Netherlands?

(14 Posts)
Bunnielish Thu 24-Sep-15 13:17:13

DH was offered a really good job opportunity in Hoofddorp just under a week ago, which is wonderful, and we're almost 100% sure we're going. However, what started out as a bit of light-hearted, fun research is now making me feel a bit sick with the stress of it all.

We have 4 girls coming with us aged 15, 11, 10 and 7. The plan is to educate my 15 year old 'internationally' and the younger 3 'locally'.

My eldest is very easy going and seems happy enough about the move, even down to the switch from future A-levels to the unknown (to us, anyway) IB.

Due to the above and the fact that DH's company is not offering to pay any school fees for my 15 year old, and given that we aren't of the mindset that private education is better, we have asked the company's relocation consultant to look at school places in 'Almere', 'Oegstgeest' (Rijnland) and 'Hilversum'. The first 2 have space for her - not sure about the last one.

Which one should we choose? I guess they're all much of a muchness. My daughter is 'VWO' quality, if that makes sense and would have been expected to get all A/A* at GCSE, so hopefully a good IB candidate. I really can't find much insider info on any of them to be honest. I'm a bit of a traditionalist if I'm honest, so trendy videos with kids in shorts and flip-flops, lying on sofas and not a lab coat/bunsen burner in sight, freaks me out a bit! But then it's not about me.... ;-) I guess we'll get a better feel, when we visit next week.

Then there's my other girls (aaarghhh).

Have spent some (a lot) of time researching the best primary and secondary schools and obviously the areas in which they reside. I think this is where I'm going wrong and tying myself in knots. I didn't think we'd be able to buy a house for a year or so, so I matched up rentals with desirable schools (e.g. anything in Bussum, Flevoschool in Huizen etc, although I've no idea if they're oversubscribed) and I found a lovely house 100m from the Gooiland school in Bussum. Result! Or so I thought. ABN Amro promptly phoned and said we could have a (pretty generous) mortage. DH is sold on this and whilst I agree it does cost a fortune to move house, I'm back to the drawing board - the rental would cost 1.7 million to buy (gulp).

Have looked online at some lovely houses over the water in Almere (overgooi), but the schools don't seem to match up in quality. Wondering where all those well to do Dutchies send their little ones to school? I thought driving was taboo. Should I stick to the Leiden and 't gooi/Loosdrecht/Loenan aan de Vecht areas, or just relax a bit about school quality in Flevoland?

Sorry for the long and rambling post!

P.S. We're aware everyone thinks the traffic is a nightmare. DH probably won't do 'traditional', back for dinner at 6 o'clock hours! ;-)

goodiegoodieyumyum Thu 24-Sep-15 18:07:37

I live in Almere, I have also lived in Hilversum, the school my daughter goes to his fantastic, actually I have never heard a bad school. Rich Dutch people send their children to local schools even the Royal family send their children to normal school
I understand the international school in Almere had its problems but I believe it has new owners and has massively improved. You will certainly get more for your in regards to housing in Almere.
My husband used to travel to Hoofddorp in just over an hour to work and we are the furtherest station in Almere thwre are six teain stations in Almere.

Bunnielish Thu 24-Sep-15 19:21:52

Thanks for the reply goodiegoodieyumyum. Good to know that there are some people who don't live in the typical expat areas.

I have no desire to live in the centre of a big city. We have too big a family, a large car and an even larger motorhome. So not a good fit for Amsterdam! grin. Plus most of my husband's family live north of Harderwijk, anyway.

What I meant about well off folk is (and as far as I'm aware, The Netherlands don't have private schools as such), do they concern themselves with school result statistics and drive their kids to the better area (not sure if this is allowed even if you could be bothered), or do they think, 'oh well never mind, the local school is good enough, besides we parents have a high enough education etc. to compensate'?

The royal family all live in Den Haag/Wassenaar, don't they? - some pretty high scoring schools there, compared to Almere - although to be fair, there are quite a few low ones, probably just because it's (Den Haag) a large city, with a diverse population.

I don't know why I'm fretting so much, except that I've never been given the freedom to choose an area to live, nevermind a school, before. Oh, the terrible power lol.

Oh, also, do most primary schools close for lunch? Not completely thrilled at the idea of my lovely children coming home before 3:30, but I won't be working, so will have to get used to 2 school runs a day, I guess until my 7 year old can bike by herself.

goodiegoodieyumyum Thu 24-Sep-15 19:41:32

Yes most schools close for lunch but you can pay for them to staywe pay 1.50 as we psy 20 days at a tome do discounted, it depends on the school. My daughter went to what was supposedly one of the best basis schools in Hilversum, but I think the school she goes to now is much better. i have a friend eho teaches in basis schools dhe says there are no really bad schools as if they dont improve quickly they get closed very quckly.
Almere has a fabulous International group which had drinks once a month, a quiz night once a month plus other activities throught the year.
The one thing I really like is there is lot's of green areas as Almere is based on an English garden city, like Milton Keynes.

goodiegoodieyumyum Thu 24-Sep-15 19:42:12

Sorry typing on my Ipod lots if mistakes

Bunnielish Thu 24-Sep-15 20:04:40

Haha, no problem. :-)

We currently live in a 'new' town in South Cambridgeshire and ironically moved from Milton Keynes before that.

It's a bit like marmite (probably like Almere) - you either love it or hate it - not a thatched cottage in sight, but you have a good choice of large houses and gardens, balancing lakes/reservoirs in the manmade 'country park' and a bridleway all the way around which everyone uses for jogging, dog walking etc. and you can walk/bike to school safely and hear woodpeckers through the many woods, and see squirrels and Muntjac deer on your way to the dry cleaners/coffee shop/gym etc. Plus the broadband is really fast, but I don't think that's an issue in The Netherlands.

Which school does your daughter go to goodie?

goodiegoodieyumyum Thu 24-Sep-15 20:34:38

The school is called Het Kristal it is Catholic but I doubt most of the students are catholic.

goodiegoodieyumyum Thu 24-Sep-15 20:38:21

I mean they teach religion but uou certainly dont have to be Cstholic to go to school there. The Director (head) greets the children most mornings at the door a shakes their hands, I really like him.

Iflyaway Fri 02-Oct-15 03:07:27

Haha.

You'll soon find out not to ask locals for the nearest coffeeshop grin.

DS went to the local Montesorri and the headmistress also would shake hands with the kids in the mornings.

Lots of info for you on this site - www.expatica.com/nl/

Bunnielish Sat 03-Oct-15 14:44:01

Thanks for the info goodie and Iflyaway. :-)
I've only just discovered the huge number of school 'methods' they have over there. I've heard of Montessori, but I thought it was just for nursery kids, where they 'decide' if they want to play with lego, or do some drawing. Shows how little I know!
Anyway, we spent 4 days over there last week, checking out areas that looked good to live in.
Much preferred the less 'busy' places (and we drove through a lot!) and have settled on probably buying a property either side of the Gooimeer, so Huizen or Almere Hout etc.
We also visited the Taal centrum in Almere, to see how they could help integrate our youngest 3 into the Dutch school system.
Does anyone have any experience of that school? It seemed a bit depressingly situated, although looking on Google maps, I'm struggling to find any bassischolen with any grass inside the railings and if it facilitates them slotting into local school and learning with everyone else,I'm sure it will be fine. Just feeling a bit bad for my 11 year old who has just started at a lovely newly built school with huge playing fields for football/athletics etc and who is enjoying all the usual lunchtime and after school clubs that most good secondary schools here provide for peanuts, with the exception of music tuition of course.
Currently also trying to find a music school that would support the girls with their continuation of learning the flute and clarinet using the ABRSM syllabus. Or a Dutch exam program, if one exists. Lessons seem even pricier than the UK; 28 euros versus 11.50 GBP for 30 mins. Perhaps they don't have the demand to be more competitive.
Dare I ask what Dutch kids do at lunch time or after school for fun?
Also, (a bit of a premature question, I know) what do (almost) secondary age English-speaking kids do during English lessons? The same lesson as everyone else, or more Dutch?

goodiegoodieyumyum Sat 03-Oct-15 18:18:17

Bunnielish the Nerherlands is an expensive country, food, clothing activities are all expensive. One example my dd's swimming lessons cost 43 euro for four lessons. My dd does scouts on a saturday morning, children go to each others after school and sometimes at lunch. Look up kidsproof almere it shows all the activities for children in Almere, other areas also have kidsproof.

Are you certain you want to buy a house, tge market is improving, but our neighbour has had his house in the market well over a year and when we lived in Hilversum the house next door took four years to sell.

Bunnielish Sat 03-Oct-15 21:05:14

Hi goodie, yes everyone keeps telling me how expensive everything is. Parents-in-law moved back there 12 years ago and I remember how shocked they were when they got their first utility bill after having the gas fire on lots, for the first month. Ooops! Now I understand why the Dutchies store wood like it's going out of fashion. ;-) Personally, I just wear several layers at home in winter.

Thanks SO much for the 'kidsproof' tip. I'm less enthusiastic about afterschool clubs than I was when I only had 2 kids, but I don't mind one each/week and having options for more if it felt doable/affordable. Showed the website to my 11-year old and it actually drew a smile.

As far as buying a house goes, yes I would rather rent than buy initially, but I'm naturally cautious and my husband is more optimistic about these things. However, we're moving across for the foreseeable future, well at least as long as it takes my 7 year old to finish school (bit mean to make them learn a fairly pointless language, apart from social integration purposes). We initially thought about Lelystad, but got cold feet after seeing exactly how long stuff remains on the market - 5 plus years for an immaculate house with pool etc-OMG! I think Almere is a more sensible bet and with the (albeit yearly decreasing) tax break on mortgages versus renting (not much choice around I've noticed), as long as you accept it may take a lot longer to sell than the UK (housing market just a different beast, I guess) and you're not greedy, hopefully it will work out. We're keeping our UK property anyway, and not putting all our eggs in one basket so to speak. So fingers crossed!

Thanks again for the info - much appreciated!

ChinUpChestOut Mon 12-Oct-15 11:21:21

Bunnielish I first arrived in Amsterdam 10 years ago, and am now currently on another overseas posting but still expect to return to the Netherlands. That's partly because we too bought a house there - in our case the Rabobank fell over themselves to offer a mortgage to us. We would have sold our house when we left, but the market had fallen so much that we still had negative equity following the property crash, after owning it for a further six years. Fortunately the Amsterdam property market is now bouncing back, although Amstelveen is still slow. Our previous owners bought near Bussum - they had four girls, and within 2 years wanted to move back as their daughters' social life revolved a lot around Amsterdam. But as they lived outside Amsterdam, their beautiful thatched house with land was in a much much slower property market, and they are now stuck there. I have 3 other friends in similar circumstances. Beautiful houses, but can't move from them either due to negative equity or slow sale times - having a house for sale for 2-3 years limits your choices.

I suggest two things: (1) rent for 6 months and consider very very carefully exactly what you buy, and where you buy. Do not just "buy". You don't know enough about any of the areas, the over supply of a certain type of housing, where the next new development or road will be, or the traffic patterns. Traffic on the motorways around Almere can be beyond hellish at certain times of the day. And (2) try to live somewhere within cycling distance of everything your family will want to do - your children will be cycling everywhere by day 2. That includes being close to a train station so that your elder daughter can make her own way in to Amsterdam - which is what she will want to do as soon as she has made friends.

Have you considered the Amsterdam International Community School for your elder daughter? Nowhere near as expensive as the ISA, or ISH (Hilversum) and has a good reputation. Very close to the Amsterdam Zuidas area and train station, so easy in and out.

Good luck!

Bunnielish Thu 15-Oct-15 14:04:48

Thanks for your insight, ChinUpChestOut

People do seem keen on Amsterdam. :-) Not sure why it's the 'go to' place when relocating to the Netherlands, (unless you work there and you're single/can't drive), but I guess everyone's different.

We've been checking live traffic, morning and afternoon on Google maps and as long as you have some flexibility at work with start and finish times, it doesn't look any worse than the usual London jams.

I haven't seriously considered the AICS for my teen as I thought it has had several bad reviews, but then I know many parents find the International schools to be fairly mediocre, probably due to their target audience and the transient nature of both the student and staff population. Hopefully it shouldn't matter too much given my daughters age. If she doesn't know how to study by now, there's probably no hope. ;-)

The one thing DH and I don't really understand is of course the housing market. Asking prices aside, do the Dutch typically not move as often as your average Brit and does that mean that even in a relatively fluid housing market, larger properties simply take a lot longer to sell, than they do in the UK. Is 2 years plus common in any kind of market there? If so, I guess we'll have to be prepared for that.

Does anyone know why the market is so stagnant compared to the UK? Did the banks agree to lots of 100% or interest only mortgages before the crash?

We've been stalking funda and immospy since the summer and can obviously see that many new to the market homes have been on sale for up to 5 years. I'm surprised so few people rent out their homes in order to move on, but maybe they're not allowed to by their mortgage company (is this common?), or perhaps they're downsizing.

Another interesting fact I discovered today is that less than a third of sellers in the UK will accept less than the asking price and it's quite common for people to ask for 'offers in excess of...', I just wish I knew how hard your average Dutch buyer would go in with an offer, for a house that had been languishing on the market for a few years. I guess it's a case of either employing someone to negotiate for you (with knowledge of offers refused) or taking the plunge yourself and walking away if necessary.

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