Being an Asian software engineer expat working and living in the Netherlands for the past four years, your points hit close to home. I agree that the language barrier is real, but speaking as someone who had the chance to live in four other European countries (Germany, France, Finland, and Norway) I have to say that the Netherlands is one of the most forgiving European country for English-speaking expats. (Excluding UK, for obvious reasons) I feel that the only major hassle that you will face in the Netherlands, language-wise, is when dealing with taxes, but even then there’s an English-speaking official hotline that you can call to ask for a free assistance in filling in your taxes.
I think salaries over here are quite on par with software engineer salaries outside the U.S., although the depreciating euro does make the discrepancy more pronounced. The high tax rate is problematic to say the least, but if you are hired from outside the Netherlands, you can get a special tax reduction called the 30% ruling for the first eight years of your career here. Unfortunately, this ruling does not apply to your situation since you graduated from a Dutch university, but it might help others that are considering to move to the Netherlands.
Regarding your point about the tech culture in the Netherlands, and speaking as someone who had first hand experience with the frenetic and highly demanding work pace that Asian tech companies have, I agree that many Dutch tech companies tend to take a laissez-faire attitude to their product and/or market. Finding a large Dutch tech company that pays more than a lip service for “innovation” and willing to take a risk in chasing that innovation is rather hard, but a few of them do exist. I might be biased, but I felt that my present company is one of such few. If you were still in the Netherlands, I would encourage you to take a look at the senior front end engineer opening at the company where I’m working on. I don’t know what is your criteria for “large” companies, but we’re currently at ~900 employees at the moment, with about 200 of them IT engineers.
As a rather amusing final note, I was in your shoes about two years ago, when I moved away from the Netherlands to Norway due to pursuing a PhD. That PhD stint didn’t last long, me and my wife moved back to the Netherlands when we found out that she was pregnant since we felt that raising our daughter in the Netherlands will be a much better experience for her compared to raising our daughter in Norway. Children living in the Netherlands are ranked among the happiest children in the world, and two years later we felt that the decision to move back to the Netherlands is one of the best decision in our life so far.
I hope I didn’t came across as generalizing your situation, I merely hoped to provide a different perspective as a fellow Asian expat. I perfectly understand that everyone’s situation and priorities are different, and we also felt similar longing for home that you expressed on this post. The Netherlands is the fifth country I’ve lived on after moving away from my home country (Indonesia), so I know firsthand that moving from/to another country takes a certain kind of courage, and I applaud you for your courage in taking the plunge.