At Booking.com, we relocate people from all over the world to our headquarters in Amsterdam. Whether they’ve come from near or far, we do our best to make them feel at home when they get here. Fortunately for us, the Dutch capital already has a lot to offer. We sat down with two Booking.com expats – and the stars of our recent relocation videos – to talk about what makes Amsterdam such a great place to live.
Hello both, just to start, could you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Andy: I’m a senior UX designer. I’m from Worcestershire in the UK and I moved over to Amsterdam with my partner and first child just over 5 years ago.
Melody: I also work in tech as a UX copywriter. I’m originally from South London, but I was living and working – for Booking – in Paris before I moved here in May 2016.
What stands out to you as something you enjoy here that perhaps you didn’t back in the UK, or Paris for that matter?
Andy: For me, it’s time. Before work everyday I take the kids to school. Often, I’ll grab a coffee on the way to work as well. Back in England, I had an hour’s commute each way. It meant getting up really early, leaving the house before the kids were even awake and driving to work. It also meant I got to spend very little time with them after I came home. Here, the work-life balance is great. I spend a lot more time at home; I’m back in time for dinner every day.
Melody: Being on the housing ladder. I bought my first house in July last year. It’s very exciting to own my own home. I love the area I live in. It’s really close to a park, where I go running, and close to Central Station. It’s very different to London. I would love to be able to buy in the area I used to live, in Brixton, but it’s become kind of impossible.
Was it a difficult process, Melody?
Melody: Not really. It took about 3 months. It’s fairly easy to buy here and Booking.com helps out a lot. The bank I’m with gives discounts to Booking employees on mortgages, which is also very helpful. So, as a first time experience, it was pretty straightforward for me.
Andy, what about the kids and school, is the language thing an issue?
Andy: You don’t really have to worry about the language. The schools here have onboarding programmes to help the kids get up to speed quickly. And if you don’t want them to learn in Dutch, there are bilingual, international and speciality British schools where lessons are in English. For me, there’s been absolutely no language barrier. I’ve never met a Dutch person who doesn’t speak English perfectly, to be honest.
Melody, you’re from London and lived in Paris before, how does Amsterdam feel in comparison?
Melody: Amsterdam is built around its parks. There aren’t many high-rise buildings here, so it doesn’t feel like a concrete jungle. Every neighbourhood has its own unique characteristics. You can spend time in each area and not feel like you’re in a big city.
What differences did you notice, Andy?
Andy: Yeah, the thing I love about Amsterdam is that it doesn’t feel like a city. It feels like a big village. There’s lots of green space. And the population is fairly low, well, in comparison to say London, so it’s not lots of people crammed into a relatively small space. In fact, living in the centre of Amsterdam, as I do, I thought it would be kind of cramped, but it’s not. At one end of our street we have a big play park, at the other end a busy square with lots of restaurants.
And you never feel like you’re missing out. There’s always something going on here. There’s a really vibrant tech scene. Loads of meet-ups going on all the time. Amsterdam is a real tech hub, but you know, we’re not out in a science park somewhere, it’s happening right here in the city centre.
So this small city feel, how is best characterised do you think?
Andy: You can be anywhere in a short space of time. And it’s not like London, it’s not like the underground. You can jump on a tram, get a seat, there’s always lots of space. Plus, having so many green spaces around you is great for the kids, we can run off a bit of their energy.
Melody: The parks here are open really late, they’re well lit and really safe. One of the things I love is that I can go for a run at any time of the day or night. And I can cycle back from a bar at 3am and feel totally safe, all of which is great as a woman living by herself.
Do you think Booking.com’s culture matches the city?
Andy: Absolutely. Booking.com really encourages you to innovate in every aspect of our life, whether it’s in the way we solve problems for our customers, or the way we run our teams, or the way we identify the problems we’re working on. And one of the great things about Booking is how flexible they are. For instance, if my wife can’t do the afternoon school run, I can just go and do it, and make the time up later.
Melody: Yes, I think because there are so many people here from different cultures and different backgrounds, that there’s a relaxed, open vibe. Because so many of us have relocated here, your colleagues become your friends.
Outside of work, does Amsterdam allow you to pursue your passions?
Andy: Having a community of creative people around me and my kids is really important to me. And there are few places as creative as Amsterdam. There are maker-spaces and hacker-spaces all over the city. It’s a great place to be a creative. I run a Raspberry Jam, called AmsterJam, where Raspberry Pi enthusiasts get together, and we have speakers from all over the Netherlands and from across Europe.