When we decided to move our office to Amsterdam (Capital city of the Netherlands), the decision was not made lightly. Many readers will know that Amsterdam is also already the home to many international businesses and multinational corporations who have made the same choice. But what makes Amsterdam such a good choice?
Envious competitor-cities cite the generous tax arrangements that many businesses benefit from by having their HQ’s situated here in the Netherlands, but tax-breaks alone do not make a location a viable option for a HQ, not least as these Tax breaks tend to apply to only a select type of business model (and many cities around the world offer similar arrangements via their national tax regime). No – the big differences can be summarised with three points:
- Skilled workforce
- Business Infrastructure
- Quality of life.
The Netherlands is the proud home of people from all over the globe, many of whom have arrived directly as a result of their precise, specialised skillset. If you are lucky enough to be born Dutch, the education system provides the opportunity to learn a number of languages to a high standard, and the opportunity to gain applicable skills that directly translate into success in the work environment. Vocational training is given equal weight in the education system, so people working in the Horeca/Hospitality industry, for example, will by necessity have qualifications that enable them to succeed.
The Netherlands was built by the Dutch. Much of the land has been reclaimed from the sea – created by industrious and innovative people over hundreds of years of co-operative, long-sighted industry. This strong spirit of ‘Thrive to Survive’ is deeply ingrained in the Dutch psyche and can be evidenced by their generally progressive attitude and their global outlook. The Dutch workforce is multinational, multilingual, and highly skilled, making it easy to recruit regardless of industry or sector.
The business infrastructure here is superb. The main Dutch cities are connected by fast and frequent trains, the cities are serviced by efficient Public Transport, and the Netherlands is easily accessible from Cities throughout Europe by train (or car). Amsterdam Airport (Schiphol) is also one of the busiest and most efficient airports in the world, making Amsterdam superbly connected to the entire world. People in business often choose Schiphol as a place to meet, flying in from locations in Asia, Africa and the Americas just to conduct a face-to-face meeting at a place where everyone can get to by a direct flight. But it isn’t just the transport.
Amsterdam has an excellent communications infrastructure too – with a fast internet connection available throughout pretty much all of the City (true also for the Hague, Rotterdam and Eindhoven to name a few), and excellent mobile phone signal which enables fluid working in any environment.
Quality of Life
This last point should really feature more in business decisions. The Dutch are famous for having one of the best qualities of life, with the population reaching a ripe old age, and enjoying relative health throughout. Perhaps a part of this is the active lifestyle-environment here. Few people drive, and most Cycle or Walk to work – or perhaps use Public Transport for longer journeys. Car ownership is pretty low here, and if you take a train into Amsterdam to do business, it is easy to rent an electric car for a few hours to get around. So a part of this goes back to the solid infrastructure.
And the stairs. They don’t warn you about the stairs, but after a few months you’ll understand why there are no mountains here – they don’t need them.
Perhaps the reason that Children growing up in the Netherlands are among the happiest in the world (according to UNICEF) is that they have an excellent work-life balance here. Parents often share the household responsibilities pretty evenly, and it is common to see all genders Cycling to school in the mornings with their children balanced across the handlebars. Until pretty recently I am told it was normal for kids to go home for lunch during the school day.
The Dutch work shorter days than the British, taking more breaks, often starting the working day later and finishing earlier – but they get more done. Their focused attitude to work means that they are never ‘killing time’ – this is a pretty much alien concept to a society which is so punctual. Instead they work hard and play hard, enjoying their free time doing sports, spending time with their families, or just having a cozy drink with some friends.
Most people don’t realize this until they are here for a while – but Amsterdam, and the Hague for that matter, are also both really close to the beach. Just a quarter-hour train ride from Amsterdam Centraal and you are actually AT the beach in Zandvoort- they are trying to re-brand it as ‘Amsterdam Beach’ so that more people will discover it, but I think we should keep it secret. The journey from the Hague to the coast is even shorter.
So it’s pretty easy to see why the Netherlands is such a top destination for businesses around the world – though the Dutch are often too humble to see it, the Netherlands really has it all.