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Why You Should Consider Living in the Hague, Netherlands

by Allied Van Lines on Feb 16, 2023

The Hague is a busy place with a relaxed, independent lifestyle. Though Amsterdam is the official capital, the Hague (Den Haag in Dutch) is the Netherlands’ administrative center. The nation’s Cabinet, Legislature, Supreme Court, and Council of State all reside here, along with the king and queen.

Besides being the seat of government, the city’s also a diplomatic hub. More than 200 international organizations are headquartered here, including the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, not to mention numerous foreign embassies and multinational corporations, such as Shell Oil.

Despite the city’s administrative and diplomatic status, the Hagenezen (residents born and raised in the city) and Hagenaars (residents born outside the city) don’t waste much time slaving away at the office. They have some of the fewest working hours in Europe. Many work part-time or freelance. Remote work may be new to the United States, but here it’s old hat. Hagenezen and Hagenaars have been working happily from cafes and kitchens for years. And when they do go into the office, few bother with suits and ties.

This same informality also extends to every other aspect of life. The Dutch are big believers in the concept of “alles mag” (everything is allowed). People here are free to live however they please, without judgment. What you do isn’t your neighbor’s concern, but neither is your wellbeing. Communities expect citizens to look after themselves. There are few rules limiting what you can do, so long as you take responsibility for it.

This type of personal freedom is one of the reasons people love living in the Hague, but it’s not the only one. People also enjoy the city’s:

International Character

Because of its diplomatic connections, the Hague has a huge community of foreign nationals, mostly Turks, Surinamese, Moroccans, Indonesians, and Poles. However, it’s likely you’ll find plenty of people from your home country as well. The enormous expat community is not only a chance to expand your horizons, it also helps new arrivals settle in. No matter where you're from, it’s easy to touch base and make friends with like-minded people. Even if you’ve traveled thousands of miles, somehow, after a few weeks, the place feels like home.

Gentle Climate

The Hague isn’t Bermuda, but its climate isn’t nearly as harsh as some of its European neighbors. Because it borders the North Sea, the city enjoys mild winters and warm summers. While there is occasional snowfall and temperature spikes, the weather here is mostly comfortable, rarely freezing cold or broiling hot.

High-Performing Schools

Good schools might not be a selling point for children, but living in the Hague gives them access to one of the best education systems on the planet. All of the city’s primary schools are publicly funded. There are fees for lunch and extracurricular activities, but these are small. Most schools are set up close to the major neighborhoods, so kids can bike there on their own, rather than hitch a ride with mom and dad. What's more, they’re open to everyone, including foreigners.

Secondary schools aren’t free in the Netherlands, but their tuition is subsidized by the government so the cost is low. There are also specialty programs that teach Dutch to foreign children, in order to integrate them into the school system as quickly as possible.

Parents planning to stay for only a few years may prefer to send their children to an international school instead. These offer classes in the student’s native language and follow the main curriculum of their home country, so after they leave, students can pick up right where they left off. Unfortunately, international schools aren’t subsidized. Tuition is paid out of pocket, but for parents who don’t intend to settle permanently in the country, the costs may be worth it.

Widespread English

The Hague is one of the few foreign cities where it’s not necessary to learn the national language. Practically everyone speaks English. Most are fluent, while the rest usually know enough to work out what you're saying. Because Dutch isn’t spoken much internationally, English is the Lingua Franca in the city’s business and diplomatic sectors, making it even easier for Americans to assimilate.

Low Crime Rate

Ironically, or perhaps fittingly, the city housing the International Criminal Court is one of the safest in Europe. While serious crimes are almost unheard of, petty crimes such as vandalism and illegal possession do happen from time to time, though not enough to register with most Hagenezen or Hagenaars. People living in the Hague don’t look over their shoulder when they walk down the street. Parents feel safe letting their children ride their bikes alone through the streets and countryside.

Parks and Outdoor Recreation

Most Hagenezen and Hagenaars don’t have to go far to enjoy nature. The city has a ton of green space. But while every neighborhood has its own parks, residents go out of their way to visit:

  • The Hague Forest (Haagse Bos). A 100 hectare forest in the center of town, carefully cultivated for over 400 years. Paved trails take you past towering trees, peaceful meadows, and babbling brooks. The central pond (Haagse Bosvijver) is particularly popular with picnickers and bird watchers.
  • Palace Gardens. A quiet oasis hidden behind Noordeinde Palace, filled with flowers, swans, and statues that make it the perfect place to relax on a sleepy Sunday afternoon. In the right back corner is an alleyway leading to a secret door. Ring the bell and the palace guards will let you through to the city center.
  • Dutch Dunes (Hollandse Duinen). One of the Netherland’s largest national parks and one of the most unique landscapes in Europe, a vast stretch of sand, peat meadows, grass plains, and fields of purple heather. Ride through the deep sand valleys or hike along the beach connecting the park to the North Sea.
  • The Pier in Scheveningen. The Hague is the only major seaside town in the Netherlands and the pier is its most popular attraction by far. Extending over 1,300 feet into the ocean, it's packed with shops, restaurants, rides, and hotels. Most of the city's festivals are held here as well, including the International Firework Festival and the Scheveningen Kite Festival. During summer, people come to swim, windsurf, play volleyball, or ride the 130-foot Ferris wheel that towers over the sands.

Hole-in-the-Wall Hangouts

Nightclubs are widely advertised in most cities, but in the Hague, you have to hunt for them. While the city has its share of pubs and taverns, the best ones are often tucked away. Wander down a side street and odds are you’ll encounter a drinking spot that’s survived hundreds of years or a club playing smooth jazz for select patrons.

Exploring these hidden gems makes nights here a kind of treasure hunt. Every neighborhood has its own lucky find, but there are a few spots worth seeking out, such as:

  • De Pass. Travel along one of the canals in the city center and you’ll come across this cozy spot, with a stunning number of beers on tap. Even when the bar’s packed, its nooks and crannies provide plenty of privacy. During summer, you can grab a seat on the vintage boat outside, which serves as the bar's beer garden.
  • The Hague Tower. A boring office block by day, an upscale club at night, the Hague Tower is the third tallest building in the city. Though most floors are occupied by businesses, the penthouse contains one of the city’s best restaurants and bars. Eat, dance, and drink while enjoying unparalleled views of the city below.
  • The Fiddler. Inspired by English pubs, but given a Dutch twist, the Fiddler is the Hague’s leading international drinking establishment. Its atmosphere is warm and inviting, its food is locally sourced, and most of its beers are brewed on site, including British stouts, German weizens, Dutch blonds, and English IPAs.

Moving to the Hague

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