Why Can’t an Expat be an Amsterdammer?

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“Why can’t I be an Amsterdammer?” – was the social media highlight showing my face with an ironic smile planted on it while I was thinking about the Socialist Party’s campaign targetting specifically expats and blaming the

Amsterdam Confessions of a Shallow Man

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“Why can’t I be an Amsterdammer?” – was the social media highlight showing my face with an ironic smile planted on it while I was thinking about the Socialist Party’s campaign targetting specifically expats and blaming them (us) for the rise in rental prices and housing shortages in Amsterdam.

Anouk’s box

What I didn’t know is that I had opened the Pandora box of the “Amsterdammers preservation society”. First, I had pronounced that (out of context) words in English. Second, I wasn’t born here. What a daring statement for a foreigner… but oh, surprise surprise, it seems that many other commenters, new Amsterdammers, were also rejected by the real, the echte ones because they were not born in the city, hadn’t lived here for enough generations, or they just didn’t like them enough. I didn’t know that this was a club that I was not allowed to join – but it seems it was.

Ben ikgeen Amsterdammer?

That was the extract that AT5 selected as the headline for a special made about expats, where I was featured, together with makelaars, sociologists, economists, and Irina, another foreigner in the city. Before doing the interview I had already warned AT5 that I was not going to play the game of the ignorant expat, to be mixed with tourists, AirBnB, English-only speaking shops in the city, or any other nuisance that can be blamed on foreigners. Perhaps we are also to blame for the rats and mice cohabiting in so many homes in Amsterdam.

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

The interview with them was quite smooth. A reporter and a cameraman came home to show a “normal day” and we took some shots around our home. Breakfast, exercising, using the computer. Then, I had offered to record at my company as they facilitated it – and we took some shots while working (oh surprise, I have a job here and I am actually very happy working in a Dutch company with many international colleagues, and Dutchies from all over the country).


Then we jumped onto the questions – which I didn’t know beforehand, although I knew there would be some special interest in housing. Some of them were a bit repetitive: ‘is there’s an expat bubble? If I am privileged? if it’s not unfair we got the 30% ruling?’… Kind of expected.
But with the intro clip touching that unexpected pride, anything would work to just throw attacks at me. My accent, that I make too much money, that I bought an apartment after renting… Not much would help that I explained a bit to them, or that many Dutch people would show their support. Haters gonna hate.

What not so many people could deny is the whole core of what I was saying. Expats living in the city is only a consequence of the campaign to attract foreign talent made by Dutch companies. With an unemployment rate of less than 4%, the Netherlands needs to import talent for competitive sectors (such as the financial, engineering, waffle and ice cream stores, coffee shops, IT…), or otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the competition. It’s a global game, Amsterdam is only one of the players, and we come here to just keep the economy running and remaining competitive.

Yes I'm a kut expat no I don't have the 30% rulingContrary to popular opinion not all expats have the 30% ruling. There’s even a t-shirt about it.

We contribute to the Dutch economy, help create more jobs for all nationalities (Dutch, EU and non-EU), and of course, we get paid for our knowledge and skills. When we have the right experience, we get paid accordingly, and when we move here, OH SURPRISE AGAIN, we want to live in the city where we moved to work.

Shocked woman looking at a laptop reading a story about an expat that wants to be considered as an amsterdammerExpats not only want to work in Amsterdam they expect somewhere to live?


The consequence is that the pressure on the housing market, which is as dry as some of the bread they sell in bakeries in Amsterdam, increases. And we need to use a considerable amount of our savings to spend on the expensive rentals that try and often succeed to milk foreigners for. Like the locals, expats often end up moving out of the centre, or in some cases, buy a house to avoid the rent bleeding. Low-interest rates + high rent = more people interested in buying. And the gap, for now, is only increasing.
Somehow, we are to blame for the situation. We’re only one of the forces in the market: investors hoarding valuable properties to rent, or to speculate with them, Dutch people moving from other towns to the city, families that want to switch places, housing corporations, lack of free-market housing, people living in social housing despite being able to pay for their housing – those are not bad actors. Only the evil expats and that pisses me off. Because you can blame us for many things; but putting an entire city against us, when we moved to the city to work and that’s the intention of our housing investment… it’s, at least, unfair. We didn’t grow up here – so how are we to blame for a market we didn’t create? Wouldn’t it be more productive to redirect that pride that Amsterdammers were showing towards finding creative and effective solutions for a problem which, by the way, is not particular to the city, and is spread all over the world? Ja, ik denk het wel…


Adrián Moreno Peña

No property speculators were hurt during the writing of this post

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