Moving and Living in Netherlands
What you should know – moving to the Netherlands is rewarding but sometimes also challenging.
I am a Romanian, that came to the Netherlands after studying in Paris, France. Therefore, compared to a non-EU citizen, my experience was easy peasy. I put together a list of things to do before hand also pros and cons about living here. Make sure to comment below and let me know your thoughts.
Do Your Research
This is crucial in having a smooth transition into your new life. I took into consideration firstly overall quality of life, rent levels, goods’ prices, foreign language tolerance to give me an idea if I could actually afford to live a better life there and secondly on factors that will determine my spare time: from how many friends I have there or how easy I can make new ones to culture, history and the possibilities of new adventures.
Tip: Netherlands is an expat friendly place but if you do not have a job offer to move to, you should check the job market based on your industry and be sure you have at least 3-6 months worth of income to go on.
Sort Out Your Documents
As a non – EU citizen, you might be refused to entry into the country, therefore, I advise you to either visit a Dutch embassy in your current area or check online the specific visa requirements for your situation. I would advise you to have your documents translated into English if it’s not your mother tongue. As a citizen coming from one of the countries of European Union or European Economic Area (EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland which is planning to stay in the Netherlands for more than 4 months you need to register with the Municipality Administration (GBA) in the city you live and get a citizen service number (burgerservicenummer or BSN). You will be required to provide certain documentation in order to register. If you stay for less than four months, you will not need to register but still you will need to get a BSN for any official matters. For more information contact the local Town Hall (Gemeentehuis) where you plan to stay. If you are not part of the above-mentioned countries and you’re not coming to join an EU/EEA or Swiss relative in the Netherlands, then you will probably need a provisional residence permit (MVV) to enter the country and/or a residence permit to stay for more than three months.
Establish a Budget
When moving, you need to consider where you are going to live. Make sure to know if you plan to rent or buy a place and which of the two options are affordable for you.
Big luggage can be transferred, so try to bring only what fits into a bag, like essential things: clothes, toiletries and the most important of all: money. The official currency is euro. With regards to language, do not worry if you cannot speak Dutch fluently (or at all), that will be a long way to go, but almost everyone is able to speak English in Netherlands. For electronic devices, the voltage is 220 volts. Be sure to pack lightweight raincoat for summer and warm clothes suitable for windy 0 degrees Celsius in winter.
Everywhere in Netherlands you can use online banking, almost nobody is using paper notes in here nowadays. To open an account, you will need to make an appointment, but the systems is a rather simple and nice procedure. In order to open a bank account, you will need first to register to Town Hall and receive your BSN.
Get a health insurance policy and find a Huisarts (doctor) in your neighbourhood. If you are not insured, you will get the basic medical aid, but you have to expect high bills coming your way, this is about 1000 euro a year. You will never be denied urgent medical aid. When choosing the insurance company, you can opt for some additional insurance packages for expenses not covered in the basic package. Within a four-month period of arriving in the Netherlands it is mandatory to purchase health care coverage. The basic Dutch health insurance (basis verzekering) will cover general medical care, such as visits to local GP or hospital and basic dental care. Prices start at approximately €100 per month. For more extensive policy coverage, to suit individual needs you can shop around to find the best insurer and best price. You can find out more about how to plan for your healthcare if you are going to live abroad on a permanent basis on the NHS website. Before you go to the Netherlands on holiday make sure you bring a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you, and take out private travel insurance.
If you can sign up for a Dutch class, that will be great, if not, try buying some books for starters. Dutch language is a tricky language to be learnt, but it’s easier to learn if you come from countries like Germany or Austria.
Your pet will need a European passport with a legible tattoo or chip. This should be done weeks or even months in advance, so contact your vet immediately. The pet will be in quarantine for 30 days minimum. For more information, contact the Dutch Tax & Customs Department.
These moments will be very emotional and will make you think twice about the decision you just took. Bring tissues, hug everyone and welcome them to visit you any time they want.
Brace Yourself for Culture Shock
Things like low temperature, very tall people and lots of bikes are just a few that you will need to get used to.
Meet New People
Even though is very well known, that Dutch people are very direct and fairly extroverted, they do not invite you to their home, unless you’ve made it to the inner circle e of friends. This is Netherlands, not Spain.
How to meet people? In pubs, gym, school, work or a club. Once you have been invited to someone’s house, our status has been upgraded to friend. The invitations, usually have a started hour but as well an ended hour.
Become a Dutch Citizen.
There are a few ways to do so:
o By birth, if at least one of your parents is Dutch.
o “Optie procedure” – children of immigrants born and lived most of their lives in Netherlands can obtain the Dutch nationality
o Naturalization Procedure, by applying for a Dutch citizenship. You need to be 18 years of age or older and lived in the country for at least 5 years, or 3 years if married with a Dutch citizen. One thing to bear in mind, Netherlands doesn’t not accept dual citizenship, so you will need to be prepared to give up your current citizenship. Extreme and rare cases exist and dual citizenship is allowed. The whole procedure costs around 1300 euro and takes up to one year.
People & Culture
Marijuana and prostitution are legal – But do not think that everyone is smoking weed and/or making a living from prostitution. In fact, the majority of the Dutch people I know don't even smoke weed. And prostitution is very much regulated and contained to certain parts of the country (e.g. Red Light district in Amsterdam).
Almost no two houses are alike here - Everything is different, so you should just say goodbye boring townhouses that look alike.
The crime rate is very low – This might be because of less restrains compared to other countries (see about “marijuana and prostitution are legal”)
Nearly everyone speaks English - This makes it easy to communication and if you try to speak Dutch, people will automatically respond in English. The good thing is, no language barriers at all, the bad thing is there is not incentive to lean Dutch.
It can be hard to blend in with the locals - if you don't speak Dutch – It’s quite complicated to get into the inner circle of a Dutch community. Although everyone is very friendly towards expats and immigrants, it’s a very big challenge to become part of certain communities.
People are very friendly - If you look lost on the street, or you have a flat tire, or an asteroid suddenly plummets on top of you, people will flock to you and offer to help. One time, I saw a man fall off his bike, and within seconds, strangers flocked to him offering assistance. Bystander mentality here? NOT a chance.
Jobs, Employment, & Money
There are many expatriate jobs in the Netherlands for educated, English speaking people – In fact in my department only the managers and one or two people are speaking Dutch, all the other 20 people have a basic to non-existing level of Dutch. If you’re seeking employment, definitely check out jobs in Amsterdam, Leiden, The Hague or other expat city hubs as that’s where most large, English-speaking multinational companies are located.
If you’re doing poorly at your new job, don’t worry! - It’s almost impossible to get fired from a job in Holland because the Dutch system tends to support employees rather than employers and even if you do get fired/laid off for whatever reason, you’ll receive unemployment benefits that can sustain you for a while depending on how long you worked. When I started working several of my colleagues were laid off and they received 9 months of full time paid unemployment.
High income taxes - If you make around 80,000 euros a year, you’ll likely end up paying more than 40% tax. The higher your income bracket, the more taxes you’ll have to pay. Filing for taxes can also be a bit confusing as you have to go through the Dutch tax bureau (Belastingdienst) which can be time-consuming and frustrating. Consider getting expat tax services from a reputable company to save you the hassle. Or have a local walk you through the process.
30% Ruling – As an expat, you are entitled for 8 years to this benefit. This means that you will get back 30% of your monthly paid taxes.
Everything is done through online banking - Paper checks are a thing of the past.
High interest rates for credit cards. - It is almost impossible to get a credit card with low fees.
The weather can be unpredictable - One second the sun is shining, the next it's pouring cats and dogs – bummer! The number of sunshine hours in Netherlands are close to non-existent. If your residence is a city close to the sea, your foggy windy days will be around 360 per year. You can expect rain, hail, clouds, sun all in the same day.
The summer days are very long – For example, in July, it doesn't get dark until 10 pm! But then again, in the morning and late evening the temperatures can be around 7 to 10 degrees and during day can get up to 28.
Excellent dairy products - The yogurt here is amazing. And so is the cheese. A lot of the dairy comes from organic farms, too.
Limited selection of decent Asian restaurants - Craving sushi? It’s way overpriced here and the quality is mediocre. However, there's a delicious Korean BBQ place in The Hague. If you're in town, you've got to visit Seoul Garden! Also, most of the Asian places are “All You Can Eat”
You have to pay for water at restaurants – I came here from France, where water and bread are free and refilled all the time in restaurants. Here, you can't simply ask for a cup of tap water - unless you want to get weird looks from your waiter/waitress. You're obliged to pay for the expensive bottled kind, which can run around 2-3 euros.
The Dutch have become more health conscious - There are 3 health food stores around the corner from where I used to live that sell fresh, organic produce. Lots of great farmer’s market too.
Everything is within walking distance. This is especially so if you live close to city centres. It was about a 5-minute walk from my house to get to the movie theatre and to all the shops in town.
Cities are bike friendly. You’ll end up having to buy a bike to get around. A car is really not necessary if you have a bike and have access to public transportation. Riding a bike is also great for your health! Don’t do it like me, I bought the bike and it’s in my living room as house decoration.
Trains can be unreliable This is especially so during the winter. One time during an autumn day, the train I was supposed to take to Amsterdam got cancelled because there were too many leaves on the track. I kid you not. Also, please do not plan important stuff on Friday, apparently all the depressed suicidal people decide to throw themselves in from of a train, Friday mornings.
Government of the Netherlands: Health insurance
Government of the Netherlands
Ziekenhuis.nl - search engine for hospitals and clinics in the Netherlands
EXPATICA.COM - information for expats in the Netherlands
iens - search engine and rating system for restaurants in the Netherlands
Certificate of Good Conduct NL
Certificate of Good Conduct UK, Disclosure and Barring Service
I amsterdam - a guide to visiting, living in, working in and investing in Amsterdam
ACCESS - not-for-profit organization supporting the international community in the Netherlands
AngloINFO Netherlands - information for expats in the Netherlands
Mortgage Advice from the SNS Bank Website
Please note that this information is provided as a guide only. Definitive information should be obtained from the Dutch authorities.