Offshore yourself: Making the move to Amsterdam

InfoWorld 12 hot cities: Embedded software, telecom, networking top the list of desired skills

Best known for its red-light district and its 300 coffee shops that are allowed to sell up to five grams of "soft" drugs to customers, Amsterdam has another face that could appeal to technology job seekers. Among those attractions are 1 million bikes, as well as canals and glass-topped canal boats. Its Van Gogh collection is world famous, housed in both the Van Gogh Museum and the Kroller-Muller Museum.

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What's hot: If you're Windows savvy and router certified, there's probably a job for you, according to Pat Linehan, senior vice president of worldwide sales for NetApp, a storage provider and data management software company with offices in Amsterdam.

In particular, companies are looking for designers/developers of embedded software systems, integrated circuit developers, systems integration developers, designers/developers of telecommunications systems, analyst programmers, and database and network specialists.

On the downside, IT workers with just general IT skills such as MCSE/MCSD or Web site developers have little chance of finding employment.

U.S.and multinational tech companies: Amsterdam is big in banking, with most of the major international banking firms located there. In manufacturing, there are Royal Dutch Shell, Philips, and many of the European telcos. American firms with significant presence include Cisco Systems, NetApp, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, and IBM. "All of those companies need skills targeted to their industry category," says Linehan.

Red tape: There's quite a bit of red tape to navigate if you want to work in Amsterdam, especially if you aren't a citizen of the European Union. An employer must prove that there are no local resources available to fill the position.

A resident permit also requires an "apostolized" gold-seal stamp from the country you are coming from. This stamp is beyond a notary and requires you to have a valid seal on your birth certificate. The authorities will also want to see your college diploma and proof of health insurance.

Many nationals need a temporary residence permit -- the MVV (Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf) -- when they enter the Netherlands. U.S., Canadian, Japanese, Australian, and New Zealand citizens are exempt from this added step.

Language: English is spoken everywhere and by just about everyone. 

Financials: Salaries from companies such as Cisco, NetApp, Juniper, Microsoft, and IBM are competitive. Lineman says most multinationals will make an adjustment to your salary to accommodate the differences in value between the euro and the dollar. "But when you go to an ATM machine and pull out dollars, that is where you get hit," says Linehan. Also, taxes are higher, he says.

The cost of living is high. A furnished two-bedroom apartment will set you back about $3,100 per month. A loaf of bread is about $2.30, a Coke $1, a beer 86 cents, a cell phone about $39, and a pair of men's shoes $116.

Family: Amsterdam is very family-oriented, with suburblike communities all around the city. There are also American schools, and all the local children are taught English from the primary grades on up. For family outings, there are plenty of bike paths and parks.

Health coverage is good. If you become a resident, all you need to do is show your residence card and insurance card from the United States, and you won't be billed.

Daily life and culture: Amsterdam is filled with stages and shows all around the city. There are 50 movie theatres, a world-class symphonic orchestra, and the famous Dutch National Ballet. There are performances by international singers as well as dozens of street performers. The bar scene is filled with live bands.

On the downside, America's diminished reputation in the world can be an issue. "Don't start reading an English newspaper in public," says Linehan. But then he backtracks a bit and says on a one-to-one basis, the locals are friendly and receptive. "They want to understand America."

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