amsterdam students by ivy building

Diversity in Amsterdam

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CIEE wants all our students to feel welcomed, supported, and empowered to succeed while studying abroad. On this page, local CIEE staff have provided details about conditions and cultural attitudes that students with specific identities might encounter at their location.

The information below is just a broad overview so if you have specific questions or concerns not covered here, please email We would be glad to have local staff share their perspectives, talk with you about accommodations, connect you with resources, and/or put you in touch with a program alum who could speak about their experiences navigating a program in this location.

No matter where you choose to study abroad with CIEE, our staff—all of whom receive regular and comprehensive training in diversity, equity, and inclusion—will be on hand throughout your program to provide advice, resources, and support regarding these issues. 

Body Size/Image

Government statistics show that about half of the Dutch population is overweight, and that number continues to grow. Although more men than women struggle with excess weight, women are more often dissatisfied with their body image. Recent accounts in the media have revealed the detrimental effects of Western beauty standards in Dutch culture by uncovering how Dutch women grapple with shame about their bodies and the popularity and misuse of steroids among men at gyms around the country. At the same time, the Netherlands has seen a promising increase in positive body perceptions, which, in part, is due to successful body positive underwear ad campaigns by a major Dutch department store. Bolstered by the role of social media in community building and development, the representation of alternative body types has encouraged plus size women to come together to promote body positive content that aims to challenge mainstream beauty ideals.


Gender and Gender Identity

The Netherlands ranks 5th in the European Union on the Gender Equality Index. Yet, research shows a widening gender inequality gap, partly because of the limited number of women in high-level business positions. The Dutch government is currently working on legislation to ensure that at least one-third of executive board members of Dutch companies are female. 

Although the visibility of transgender people has significantly improved has in the past 10 years, they continue to suffer from prejudice and discrimination despite legal protections against discrimination provided by the government. In 2020, the Dutch government decided that in five years it would no longer include gender markers on national identification documents (IDs). The move to remove gender markers is to a certain degree based on the recognition that IDs do not accommodate non-binary people and that legal gender recognition procedures cause needless burdens on transgender people to change their gender markers. In a recent ruling of the Amsterdam Court of Justice, it has been decided that the gender of individuals who consider themselves neither male nor female, living entirely outside the gender binary, are permitted to officially register an X on the birth certificate.


X Gender Marker

Overall, the Netherlands recognizes the X gender marker on travel documentation. There will be no problems with visa application, course registration, or housing for students with this gender marker. There is a legal process in the Netherlands in which people can receive an X on their passport or ID, but this is a lengthy process that takes place in court, and not recommended for international students studying for just one semester. While their passport or ID will be recognized with the X gender marker and during visa application processes, they will have to choose within the gender binary (male or female) for their Dutch residence permit. However, the Dutch government has instated a plan to remove gender markers all together from IDs by 2024, which will eliminate this situation for X gender marker passport holders in the future. X gender marker passport holders will likely have to choose a binary gender for logistical processes such as buying plane tickets. It is recommended that any students who use gender-affirming medicine such as HRT (hormone replacement therapy) bring enough needed for their time in Amsterdam as accessing these medications may be more difficult than in the US.


Sexual Orientation

The (self-proclaimed) reputation of the Netherlands as one of the most progressive countries in the world on LGBTQ rights and acceptance was cemented in 2001, when it became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Amsterdam had long been known (and styled itself) as the “gay capital of Europe,” and it has boasted a thriving gay scene, hosting the annual “Canal Parade” and Pride festival since the late 1970s. That said, this reputation has faced increasing scrutiny in recent years, and on a number of fronts. 

The Netherlands writ large (and Amsterdam in particular) have seen a troubling increase in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, which LGBTQ activists attribute to a skin-deep and qualified “acceptance” of LGBTQ individuals only, as well as a stalling of LGBTQ politics since the early 2000s. Many LGBTQ individuals self-censor their public behavior as a result and feel uneasy walking hand in hand in the street and engaging in public displays of affection. At the same time, the LGBTQ community is reckoning with the dominant role played by White cis-gendered gay men, and the ways in which the “gay scene” has centered them, while marginalizing and discriminating against the other constituent members of the community. Race plays a powerful role here, and a new generation of LGBTQ activists of color has taken the lead in reanimating LGBTQ politics – and re-making Amsterdam’s “gay scene” into an intersectionally inclusive LGBTQ community.


Socioeconomic Status

Buoyed by tourism and the emergence of an expat-centric knowledge economy, Amsterdam is one of the most expensive European cities to live in, with housing prices in particular soaring to ever greater heights. As a result, many people in Amsterdam feel that they are being priced out of living in the city and blame the city council for turning Amsterdam over to moneyed interests. Students should be aware that Amsterdam is an expensive city to live in, but, that said, these expenses can be minimized by going to discount grocery stores, cooking at their student housing accommodations, and biking instead of using public transportation. Those costs (or savings) can add up quickly and studying abroad in Amsterdam on a budget is possible, if students are mindful about where, how, and what they spend their euros on.

Programs in Amsterdam

Live from Amsterdam

What was once a small fishing village in the 12th century has bloomed into both the cultural capital of the Netherlands, one of the top financial centers in Europe, and the biggest city in the country. Study abroad in Amsterdam and live and learn in one of the safest and most open-minded cities in the world! Follow us @cieeamsterdam.