Looking for a place to do a PhD? Maybe doing a PhD in The Netherlands is more interesting than you thought.
You should also enjoy the place where you’ll do your PhD. There are plenty of non-scientific reasons to do a PhD in The Netherlands.
But what does The Netherlands have to offer you as a PhD student?
I have done a PhD in The Netherlands for the last 4 years (and something). The academic part was excellent. I couldn’t ask more. But life outside the lab has also been awesome.
Let me share with you some of the treats The Netherlands has for you in store if you decide to come to do your PhD here.
Most of the PhD students in The Netherlands get a salary. A salary like in a real job, paying taxes and getting fresh money every month.
PhD salaries are the same for everybody and they have yearly increases. From my experience and my fellow PhD students, this salary is enough rent an apartment/studio, groceries, going out and the occasional travel.
I know of people who even managed to pay a mortgage for a small apartment with their PhD salary.
Check this: because you are paying taxes you are entitled to unemployment benefits once your PhD contract is over. This will come in handy if you are a bit delayed with finishing your PhD.
It gets even better with the taxes. If you come from abroad to do your PhD in The Netherlands, you can ask for the 30% rule. In short this rule allows you to pay less taxes, which translates in even higher salary. The downside? The unemployment benefits will be more thin.
Tall, handsome, blond, friendly, adventurous, smart, polite.
If you are looking for a partner this is your country. Either if you look for a tall blond partner or if you are more into exotic racial mixtures (there are many immigrants from former Caribbean and Asian colonies).
Dutchies are no-nonsense people. If they are at work, they are working, so don’t disturb them. They want to do the work that is expected of them and finish on time to go home and have dinner at 6pm.
In general they are honest, hard workers, they have integrity and they don’t like to cut corners. They are also welcoming towards foreigners.
They mind their own business if you want to, but they can also be warm and caring.
On the downside they are money minded, not greedy, they just like to save money, buy things with discounts and accumulate coupons.
Something else you should be aware is that Dutch people like to speak their minds. Everybody has an opinion and they are willing to share it with you, even when you don’t want to hear it.
Weather is not good. Cold never-ending winters. Many overcast days in a row. Lack of sun. Abundance of rain.
Sounds depressing right?
Well, on the one hand this weather will motivate you to stay inside finishing your PhD as fast as possible. On the other hand, living in a crappy weather will teach you to a) appreciate the weather back in your home country and b) enjoy your holidays to the fullest.
Are there sunny days? Yes, not many, but yes. Oh boy what you’ll do on a sunny day! You will go nuts organizing barbecues, touring the city channels on a rented boat, or you will put the sofa out in the street and drink cold white wine like there is no tomorrow.
4. Work/life balance
Like mentioned before, most Dutch people like to be at home for dinner around 6 or 6:30pm. They try to have their work done on time so they can enjoy the rest of the evening with the family or enjoying their multiple hobbies.
In this sense, it’s good if you live in the same city where you do your PhD. The ride back home will be short and you will feel like your days are longer than expected.
Also as a PhD in The Netherlands, you will get plenty of holidays and national holidays to travel back home.
A good tip is combining attending a conference with holidays.
If your boss is nice, which is often the case, you can do the following. Since the university has to pay your plane tickets to the conference, you could extend your stay at that country. The extra days you will pay yourself, but the plane tickets are already paid.
Not knowing Dutch is not a problem. Everybody speaks English quite well. As soon as you land in Schiphol you can find your way around by just talking in English. You will be fully functional and independent from day one.
This is great if you plan to stay temporarily in The Netherlands. You won’t need to learn the local language.
If you plan to stay long in The Netherlands after your PhD this is negative. You will not be forced to learn the language. Most of your friends will be either international or Dutch who will speak English to you.
The result is that after many years you will barely say two sentences in Dutch. In this situation you have a disadvantage to land a post-PhD job and to create a social life composed of mostly Dutch people.
Cities in The Netherlands are small, even for European standards. Think of Amsterdam, the largest city and it only has 800K inhabitants.
As a contrast, the region called Randstad is where most of the important cities in the country are and it’s one of the most densely populated conurbations on Earth.
As you can see, you have tiny cities, which you can easily cross by bike. They are not oppressive, you see a lot of green and water around. Truth be told, despite this you don’t see real (wild) nature in the Randstad. For this you need to drive 3 hours away and then you are already in Germany or Belgium.
In The Netherlands you also find small student cities that are perfect for doing a PhD. Cities like Leiden (where I live), Delft, Wageningen, Nijmegen, Groningen, Enschede and even the larger and Philips dominated Eindhoven have great social life, history and they are cute.
In these cities there are always activities for students. You can go out almost every night, as long as you do well next day in the lab, you party boy. Students don’t stop organizing barbecues or BYOB parties.
Living in these student cities means that a €100 bike is all the transportation means you need. All your friends will live 5 minutes away.
If you like music, specially electronic, The Netherlands is the place to be. Many superstar DJs are Dutch. Think of Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, Afrojack or Hardwell. There are plenty of clubs and festivals where you can dance to the tunes of your favorite DJs.
In summer, The Netherlands becomes the land of the music festivals. Any music taste will find its summer festival. And they are very well organized. They are clean and have great camping sites. Check two of the biggest festivals, PinkPop and LowLands.
Something also remarkable is that you can expect most of big bands and big world tours to have at least a concert in The Netherlands. There are many concert arenas scattered around the country. Many concerts will not take place in Amsterdam but in other cities. Do not be afraid, great public transport takes you everywhere.
Public transport is great, although a bit expensive. There is a large railway network connecting most cities and towns. In large cities you can also find trams and underground. If you travel outside the rush hours you will enjoy a fair discount.
Of course, talking about The Netherlands I could not forget to mention the bike. Ah the bike! Before leaving my home country I only used bikes for leisure. Here I discovered the pleasure of commuting by bike.
The Netherlands has everything a biker could dream of: a flat country, an extensive network of bike lanes (within and between cities) and car drivers that are careful with bikers.
There are many shops where you can buy a second-hand bike. You can expect anything from €50 onwards. For your first bike you are good to go in the price range €50-€100. Once you become experienced with biking in the city you can upgrade yours to a fancier one. Remember to use two locks, a fixed lock for your back wheel and a thick chain with a sturdy lock to attach your bike to street lights.
Center and Western Europe produce some of the finest beers in the world. They are known for their quality and variety.
We agreed you have to enjoy your social life, right? Why not do it in a country with excellent beer?
Check this: the best-selling import beer in your country, Heineken, is the standard in The Netherlands. You’ll find it everywhere. There also lots of other brewers of the liquid gold available.
Even better, it is located close to Germany and Belgium, other great beer producing countries. But watch out with Belgian beer, its high alcohol content can knock you down by drinking only three of them.
Remember to drink smartly. You need your brains in good shape to do in your PhD. Don’t overdo it with the alcohol. And if you know it’s going to be one of those wild nights, drink every now and then a glass of water to reduce dehydration and the chances of suffering a headache next day.
10. Open Minded Society
The Netherlands has been a pioneer in laws about euthanasia, gay marriage and the use of marijuana. The country is also known for its international courts.
Apart from this, The Netherlands is a welcoming country for political and war refugees. In fact, Dutch people have been for centuries intrepid adventurers. They have sailed the seven seas to trade the finest goods. And they have had many colonies. All this makes them a friendly nation towards foreigners, different cultures and beliefs.
Hundreds of NGO’s take care of national and international issues, from helping orphan children in Africa to protecting endangered species in the jungle of Borneo. In fact, giving money to charity is a sort of national sport in The Netherlands.
If you want to live in a place where nobody will judge for who you are, how you are, what you like and what you belief, come to do a PhD in The Netherlands.
11. Location, location, location
This is one of the best things (IMHO) about The Netherlands. It’s central location in Europe. if you like to travel, The Netherlands is a perfect home base to explore Europe.
In 1-2hours flight you are in UK, Spain, France, Germany, Italy. Europe is full of history and its capitals make for excellent city trips. Enjoy that ton of holidays you’ll get by visiting the Old Continent.
The proliferation of low-cost airlines have brought down the prices of plane tickets. For €100 to €200 you will get a return ticket to most European destinations.
The main airport serving The Netherlands is Schiphol. It’s strategically located near Amsterdam and 30 minutes away by train from the other main cities in the Randstad.
Schiphol is one of the biggest, busiest and prettiest airports in Europe. The train station it’s right under the main departures/arrivals hall. As an example, I only need 30 minutes to go from my home to the departure gates.
And Finally, Good Science
OK, I said these were non-scientific reasons. But doing a PhD is not only about having fun, partying and travelling. Keep in mind that you are also expected to conduct good science.
So, is The Netherlands a good country for science?
Oh yes it is!
With a population of just 16 million people The Netherlands is one of the countries with the highest scientific output per capita. In a worldwide comparison, it ranks top #14 country in total number of scientific publications and top #4 in number of citations per paper.
Dutch scientists are well funded. They have strong collaborations, within the country but also across Europe and in America. This allows them to be involved in exciting research.
How To Find A PhD In The Netherlands?
I hope I convinced you to come to do a PhD in The Netherlands. Now it’s time to look around what’s available.
How can you find a PhD in The Netherlands?
In Academic Transfer you can find most of the PhD, postdocs and other scientific vacancies all over The Netherlands. They are even posted in English.
Go have a look in Academic Transfer and good luck with your PhD in The Netherlands.
(Here’s some extra information about coming to The Netherlands to work)