Whenever I tell my friends and family back home that I live in the Netherlands, the first reaction I get is: So, you live in Amsterdam? While the reaction is predictable and even understandable, after all, Amsterdam is the capital and most famous city in The Netherlands, there is much more in this country than Amsterdam. I cannot blame people for directly assuming that I live in Amsterdam but I can blame them for assuming there are no better places to choose to live at in The Netherlands. While I could think of 100 reasons why I prefer to live in Haarlem rather than in any other city in this country, here I have outlined 8 of the biggest benefits of living in Haarlem.
- (EXPATS) Friendlier. Amsterdam is undeniably a multicultural hub but this does not necessarily come along with friendly faces. Understandable, Amsterdam is also the most popular tourist destination in this country so it is to be expected that local bus drivers, business owners and bikers get grumpy when tourists invade the bike lane or when they don’t know how to pay to ride the bus. Instead, you live in Haarlem, the city where the bus driver will welcome you with a Hoi! Goedemorgen and greet you with a Fijne dag! when you leave the bus.
- Not mainstream. Amsterdam is a big city, the type of city where it is assumed that all working opportunities are. While there may be some truth to this, there are also plenty of emerging small-medium businesses in Haarlem that offer professional opportunities. Additionally, Haarlem is close enough to Amsterdam so even if you work in Amsterdam, commuting should not be a problem; after all, we are just a 15-minute train ride away from Amsterdam’s scene.
- Few to zero tourists. When you are a tourist in The Netherlands, you may not realize how exhausting it can be to endure tourism. The trash around the cities like Amsterdam, the endless lines to enter museums, shops and restaurants and the constant waves of tourists can get the best of you. This is something that Haarlemeers do not have to deal with. While Haarlem is a beautiful city to make a day trip to, it hardly gets as much attention as Utrecht, Leiden, Den Haag and Delft. Big crowds, endless cues and lost tourists are not something Haarlemeers have to worry about.
- Exclusive local shops. It is indisputable that there are plenty of local shops in Amsterdam, but chances are you will bump into an equal amount of international than local shops in Amsterdam. Haarlem is a small city that supports its local producers and entrepreneurs earning popularity for its constantly emerging businesses. In Haarlem, it is possible to find exclusive boutiques selling clothes, art, decorations accessories and other products just available in Haarlem.
- All in one. Haarlem is like The Netherlands in a nutshell. The city is big enough to offer everything you need but it is also quiet enough to allow you to enjoy everything there is in it. From a boat ride to a brunch, a shopping or museum day, a fancy dinner or a night out. Haarlem encompasses culture, history, Dutch architecture and traditions, all in one vibrant and joyful city. In Haarlem, you can get all the fun and none of the mess.
- Family friendly. Haarlem is a smaller city than Amsterdam, hence a place where it is easier to be in control of the safety of its citizens and of its landscapes. It is a city that is flourishing with young families and that offers different family activities year-round, most of them organized by the Gemente.
- Well connected and well located. Haarlem is conveniently located at a 15 mins train ride from the capital of the Netherlands. Therefore, for Harlemeers, spending time in Amsterdam becomes more of a choice than an obligation. Haarlem also offers easy access to the beach (20 mins bike ride) and secluded lakes (10-15 mins bike ride) to refresh during those days when it gets too warm. Additionally, cities like Alkamaar, Leiden, Den Haag, Delft and Rotterdam, among others, are one direct train ride away. Whether you need to commute for work or just want to make a day trip, Haarlem is the perfect starting point to explore other beautiful Dutch cities.
- Meet the locals. Have you met a Dutch during your time in Amsterdam? Certainly, there are plenty of Dutchies living in Amsterdam, but it is easy to oversee them when immersed in that sea of tourism and other Expats living there. I have even encountered people that believe Dutch people in Amsterdam to be like unicorns (their existence may just be a myth). This is nothing Haarlemeers people can relate to, and I believe this to be an advantage of living in Haarlem, after all, there is no better way to understand a country than to coexist with its natives.
Choosing to live in Haarlem rather than Amsterdam or any other city in the Netherlands is a matter of personal taste, objectives and lifestyle. If you are looking for a student experience or you are planning to be a short-term resident of The Netherlands, perhaps living in Amsterdam is a nice idea, after all, that’s where most of the action happens;
but if you are looking for an authentic Dutch experience in a nice city surrounded by friendly neighbors, windmills and beautiful canals, then perhaps you want to reconsider your decision.