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Amsterdam - Overview

Amsterdam is a popular city for expatriates. According to information from the official Amsterdam website, there are some 100,000 expats living, working and studying in the city, and the majority of those tend to work in creative industries.

Amsterdam is the capital city of Holland in the Netherlands. The city is governed by a mayor and council of aldermen, and is divided into fifteen individual boroughs. Each borough has a government of its own that is responsible for many local decisions and actions.

The population of the city of Amsterdam is about three-quarters of a million people. In addition to the city proper, there are several smaller villages in the area that are generally considered to be part of Amsterdam.

The city is a wet area with marshlands in the region and a series of canals across the city. There has been a continuing effort to retain the natural ecosystems and the city boasts more than two dozen parks where nature lovers can get a taste of the region without leaving the confines of the city. Trees line the canals and are protected by law. Gardens are very popular and there are even some areas of the city set aside for animals.

According to a combination of history and legend, Amsterdam was founded by a pair of Frisian fishermen who landed on the shores with their dog and established a fishing village during the early 1300s. Dutch independence became a fact in the 16th Century and the area flourished, known for its trading and for the tolerance of various religious beliefs.

Trade has always been vital to the city and by the 17th Century Amsterdam was the richest city in Europe. Wars have been the bane of the region with several taking a tremendous toll on the city's population and finances. Even when the city remained neutral during World War I, riots over shortages were expensive in property and lives. During the second World War, many Jews were taken from the city, including Anne Frank who left behind diaries of her years of hiding.

One point of historical significance of the city is the botanical gardens, where you'll find many plants indigenous to the area along with varieties carefully cultivated for display. The botanical garden includes a coffee plant, said to be the "grandfather" of the coffee industry in Central and Southern America.

The language spoken in Amsterdam is Dutch, a point many expatriates will find to be the greatest challenge. Language classes are offered from several sources, including area colleges. Those who are moving to Amsterdam from another country for their retirement years may think there's no reason to learn the language. While a formal education in Dutch probably isn't necessary, there are some vital reasons to learn to converse in the language - not the least of which is the ability to fully take in the culture of this place you've chosen to call home.

But what happens when you need to call a plumber, have a telephone installed or just need a bottle of aspirin from the local pharmacy? Language barriers can lead to serious issues. You'll find several groups that meet to learn conversational Dutch to help them make the most of their lives in this new country.

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