Expat Life
February 22, 2023

The Essentials: Employment, Costs of Living, and Jobs in Rotterdam

Despite being a key part of the ‘Randstad’ region, Rotterdam is an often overlooked destination for expats. However, the sprawling city offers residents a great deal; a wide selection of housing possibilities, great transport connections, and a generally lower cost (and high standard) of living. The selection of Jobs in Rotterdam for expats is also very good.

According to the Education Institute’s English Proficiency Index, Rotterdam has the highest standard of non-native English in the world – above even Amsterdam or The Hague (but it’s pretty close). In fact, the Netherlands as a whole is the #1 country in the world for English proficiency. This makes the city a very welcoming place for expats, and there’s plenty of jobs in Rotterdam for English speakers.

Finding work in Rotterdam

As a skilled expat with great English skills (or other languages), you’ll find little difficulty in securing well-paid work in Rotterdam. You do need a little patience and a structured approach to succeed in finding work, though - and you need to have the right to work in the Netherlands.

If you’re from another EU country, you will benefit from the ability to work and live anywhere in the union. However, if you’re from a country outside the EU, you will need to apply for a work visa and residence permit.

Assuming you have the right to live and work in the Netherlands, there are several ways you can find great jobs in Rotterdam. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can secure fulfilling employment in the city and the surrounding area.

Shake-down your network

Many jobs are filled by personal recommendations and personal contacts within an existing network. For this reason, it can be worthwhile reaching out to any contacts you might have that can recommend you to someone, or let you know if a vacancy is available.

Check the vacancies

Sometimes the old approaches are the best. Checking the vacancies online in your sector or industry can help you find jobs that match your educational background and experience. Using LinkedIn is a great way to find vacancies within your sector, and being active gives you extra visibility.

Register with agencies

You may be surprised at just how many agencies offer jobs for English speakers in Rotterdam, The Hague, and other parts of the Netherlands. Some job agencies are specialized in this and others will just include these jobs in their regular listings. Agencies that specialize in jobs for English speakers include: Adams Recruitment, Authentiek, Blue Lynx, Hays, Undutchables, Yer, Trinamics, and Unique Multilingual.

You can also hit the ‘regular’ Dutch and international employment agencies as well as ‘temp’ agencies (uitzendbureaus), like Randstad, Indeed, Glassdoor, and Young Capital.

Send prospective applications (cold CV)

Sending an open (prospective) application to a company might seem like a long-shot, but it’s actually a great sign to the company that you’re interested. Hiring an employee is a time-consuming and expensive business, so many companies are delighted when someone applies for a job before they have a chance to post the ad! This is especially true for niche industries and skills that are rare, because the search for the right employee could take a while.

When you send a prospective job application, make sure you follow the guidelines below and write an impressive motivation letter.

Applying for jobs in Rotterdam

There are always adverts for jobs in Rotterdam for English speakers. These adverts are often written in English, which makes it easier for the employers to find the right people and vice versa.

You should be aware that applying for a job may be different to what you are used to. The Dutch normally expect a short CV, and a motivation letter that is no longer than a single A4 sheet.

The motivation letter is the most important part of your application because they’ll only read your CV if the motivation letter is interesting enough.

Make it clear in your motivation letter exactly why you are the right person for the job, but also why the job is right for you. This is where the ‘motivation’ part comes in, because the employer will only want to hire you if you are going to enjoy the job enough to stick around for a while.

Employees benefit from great legal protections and rights, so an employer is usually careful about making permanent ‘hires’. Short initial contracts are common, and as long as everything goes well, this might be extended into a longer or permanent contract.

What kinds of jobs in Rotterdam are there for expats?

If you’re looking for expat jobs, Rotterdam should certainly be on your list. There are numerous companies that are based in the city, and many of them are international companies that have English as their main language in the office. Even a lot of Dutch companies still have English-speaking, or bilingual workplaces that are easy for everyone to get along in.

Some English-speaking jobs in Rotterdam are ones where fantastic English skills are specifically required, such as in the area of sales and customer relationship management. However in Rotterdam, there are many other jobs in all sectors and specialties where Dutch isn’t needed, or where English is an added advantage.

As we touched upon already, the jobs in Rotterdam for English speakers are frequently in offices where the ‘main language’ is English, but that the job itself doesn’t exactly require it. This is common for international companies that have a multinational workforce; they often have English-speaking offices, even when the majority of the staff are Dutch - because it’s easier for everyone to use a common language.

However, even when the main language is Dutch, an employer may be very happy to hire a qualified English-speaker (with no Dutch skills whatsoever) if they are the best candidate. Your colleagues will happily switch between English and Dutch, as needed. Just be clear about your language preferences when you apply.

For most expats, they already have a chosen profession or area of expertise, and this is the prime driver in determining the kind of job in question. Instead, the focus shifts towards finding the right company to work for, so you should see if the company culture matches you and the way you work. If you speak English, you don’t necessarily need to worry about whether it's a ‘Dutch company’ or not. You will find that your specific skills and expertise will count for more than whether you speak Dutch, and your colleagues will be quite adaptable.

Find companies in Rotterdam to work for

Rotterdam is a prosperous city, with connections to a wide array of industries. As a result, there is a great mix of different companies in the city, including numerous international companies. Rotterdam is very active at encouraging new international companies to the city, and it’s an attractive destination for companies setting-up a European office.

Top international companies in Rotterdam include Unilever, Erasmus University, Mendix, Bynder, Dept, Procter & Gamble, Shell, PwC, Deloitte and EY.

Costs of living: how expensive is Rotterdam?

You’ll find that the Rotterdam cost of living is less than that of Amsterdam. So exactly how expensive is Rotterdam?

As a rule, most of your running costs will be about 5% lower than Amsterdam, however there are situations when you can expect your heating costs to be slightly higher. Why? Is it that much colder in Rotterdam?

Surprisingly, not – rather it’s that many of the buildings (and housing stock) were built before good modern insulation and other energy-saving systems were the norm. Newer apartments will be better-insulated, but it’s something to be aware of because it will be (on average) €7 more expensive per month if your apartment is less modern. Most of the properties in the ‘free sector’ will be more up-to-date and therefore come with lower running costs. Additionally, Rotterdam benefits from numerous modern housing developments which boast comfortable living and accessible amenities.

The biggest difference in prices is those smaller ‘luxuries’ and ‘extras’. These are about 20% cheaper in Rotterdam in many cases, when compared to Amsterdam. This includes the cost of drinks in a café or restaurant, gym membership and childcare. Maybe these are not ‘optional’ to you, but they’re optional enough for most people that there’s much lower demand in Rotterdam.

Housing is also cheaper in Rotterdam; by about 20-30% if you’re renting, and up to 40% cheaper if you’re buying.

Your new life: Living and working in Rotterdam

Rotterdam is a vibrant city that is well-connected to the rest of Europe and other cities in the Randstad. It has a far-reaching Metro and public transport infrastructure that runs all the way to the Hague and beyond. This means that living in Rotterdam can give you a great base for working across a wider area, translating to more opportunities.

While there might be fewer jobs than in Amsterdam, you may find that there are more jobs in Rotterdam that suit you and your sector, and that your money in this city goes further too.

You’ll also find that there are many different neighborhoods and suburbs in the city that offer a great selection of different kinds of housing – to suit every budget. The only difficulty is choosing the right one for you! Don’t worry - we can advise you on all the details you need to give your new life in Rotterdam the smoothest and most enjoyable start.

Last updated: August 8, 2022