Het Gooi, the “green heartland” of the Netherlands, is an affluent area to the south east of Amsterdam which includes Hilversum, the media centre of the Netherlands, and a number of smaller stylish villages such as Laren, Blaricum and Naarden.
Being within easy commutable distance of both Amsterdam and Utrecht, Het Gooi it is very popular with those working in the city but wanting to live in leafy environs.
Its proximity to Hilversum also makes it popular with Dutch media celebrities, which gives it a certain notoriety within the Netherlands and has only been added to by a Dutch television series about “Gooische” women detailing the trials and tribulations of wealthy, beautiful, blond, designer-clad, shade-wearing, 4x4 driving ladies who lunch. It is also an area that is very popular with expats, although if you live here you certainly won’t have the feeling that you are living in an area dominated by expats.
Life in Het Gooi is essentially life in the countryside or a country town/village with all that entails, along with the convenience of being close to the capital city. It is a beautiful area in which to walk and cycle with lots of nature reserves, lakes, woods and moorland. It is also an area full of large country villas with huge gardens the like of which you cannot find in Amsterdam itself.
If you value your privacy you will enjoy the fact that you are likely to be a distance from your nearest neighbours and may in fact seldom see them unless you make an effort to do so. On the downside the transport connections, both within and to and from Het Gooi, are fairly poor and so you are reliant on your car to get about. In addition, the roads between Het Gooi and Amsterdam are some of the busiest in the Netherlands, so a theoretical 20 minute journey can take a lot longer in the rush hour.
There are some very good Dutch schools in Het Gooi: for example the Gooische School in Laren, a primary school with a very good reputation. It is always worth checking with Dutch contacts if you are intending to send your children to a Dutch school, as reputations can change fairly quickly. Also be aware that for the best primary schools, there are waiting lists.
There is also an international school in Hilversum which does attract some expats. Another option to bear in mind is a daily commute to school in Amsterdam. For the international school, there are school buses from Het Gooi which can use special lanes so they don’t get held up in rush hour traffic.
If you are a keen sportsperson, there are sports clubs with excellent facilities in Het Gooi. These have differing levels of stringency with regards to membership. Bear in mind that waiting lists are commonm so it is worth putting your child’s name down for hockey, tennis, football etc even if when the time comes they've lost interest; at least they will then have the option. To join other clubs, you may need to be recommended by existing members so it is worth seeking out members via work or other contacts. For the best golf clubs, you may have a chance after 10 years on the waiting list.
In summary Het Gooi is a good option for expats looking to live in beautiful surroundings and willing to put up with a few traffic jams in order to do so.