Is Amsterdam a cheap city?

By Mike / On / In Appsterdam

Among the many things that make Amsterdam the world’s most livable city is the fact that it’s relatively inexpensive. That’s not the same thing as saying it’s cheap. If you want to live in a cheap city, move to Taipei. If you want to go even cheaper, look at Buenos Aires.

But first be warned—if you live in a city below the median cost of the Western world, you give up a lot. Taipei is amazing, but a bit harder to navigate if you don’t speak Mandarin and read Hanzi. Buenos Aires is wonderful, but you can’t walk down the streets alone at night, and I wouldn’t want to raise children there.

On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who insists on living in a city like San Francisco, London, or Tokyo, you’re going to find things cost 2 or 3 times what they cost in most places. Moreover, because wages have to keep pace with the cost of living, every person you hire is going to cost 2 to 3 times more.

When you start to look at things this way, not as a tourist, but as a businessman, Amsterdam does really start to look cheap. Aside from lower rents than the aforementioned cities, there are other cost-saving factors as well.

Cars are expensive. Gas is expensive. Insurance is expensive. If you can cut cars out of your life, your living expenses decrease dramatically. Amsterdam is that rare city where the bicycle is the dominant form of transportation.

The city is designed in such a way that everything is close enough to bike to. There is an impressive bicycle infrastructure, going beyond bike lanes to include freeways and parking garages. Bikes have right of away over cars, of course, but also pedestrians.

I love cars, and I love my car in particular. I will always treasure the memory of driving Toru Kumagai along 280 with my windows down and my radio up. But what I love even more is not having to have a car. Total cost of ownership for my bike, including maintenance and the possibility of being stolen, is less than the insurance on my car—and I have 19 spotless years of driving.

Then there’s healthcare. The healthcare system is fundamentally broken in the United States, and every attempt to make it better seems to focus on increasing the burden on employers. For huge corporations, this is great, because it makes it harder for people to work for themselves. We don’t have that problem here.

Then there is that intangible thing we call quality of life. As the most livable city in the world, Amsterdam is filled with happy people who don’t need to make a ton of money to be happy. If you move here from the valley, you can make half the money and be twice as happy.

Again, from the perspective of a businessman, which an App Maker certainly is, lower cost of living means lower cost of employees. As purveyors of virtual products, our revenue is not tied to the local economy, but our expenses still are.

Of course all of this has nothing to do with Appsterdam. It’s just a feature of the city, like personal liberty, open data and net neutrality are features of the city.

Appsterdam is also a feature of the city. App Makers who come here are plugging into a network of passionate and like-minded people. The knowledge exchange, free and low-cost workspace, and vibrance our movement brings make Amsterdam’s value proposition unbeatable.

So, yes, in that sense, Amsterdam is a very cheap city indeed!