Seeing as I’ve been living in Holland for a year and half now, I’m practically an expert, right?? 😉
On that basis, I’d like to share some things you need to know if you are planning on moving to the Netherlands, or have just arrived.
Welkom in Nederland!
1. First things first, go get your BSN (Bullshit Number)
Kidding, it’s short for Burgerservicenummer – a citizen service number. You pretty much can’t do anything without it (rent a house, open a bank account, sign up with a doctor, buy a beer) so go do that first. To get your BS number you need to make an appointment with your local Gemeentehuis (town hall) and turn up with as much ID and paperwork as you can. The Dutch love paperwork.
3. Health Insurance
This is mandatory in the Netherlands and basic packages start at around €100 per month! There are a gazillion health insurance companies out there so I would a) get a Dutch person to help you b) try comparison websites Independer.nl or Zorgwijzer.nl c) refer to the Government website.
4. Learn Dutch
Obvious, you might think… but so many people live here without speaking the language. I’ve heard all the excuses… “they’re so good at English you don’t need to speak Dutch” or “I try but they just keep speaking English back to me” blah blah.
Time for some tough love: if you’re going to live here, you need to make an effort to speak the basics – at least.
I put Dutch subtitles permanently on, no matter what I was watching. (I still do this now.) I also listened to Dutch radio (my faves are 3FM, Sky Radio and Radio 538), Dutch TV (in the beginning I loved Pim & Pom) and Dutch films… start with kids films and work your way up.
I also did a course at my local college as soon as I arrived.
Most people will love the effort you are making and will applaud you. Yes, some will speak back to you in English – but just do what I do… BE STUBBORN! Keep talking Dutch back to them and they will soon get the picture!
If your closest supermarket is Albert Heijn (most likely) then make sure you get a store card so that special offers / discounts are applied to your bill. (Btw – it’s often known as AH or Appie because really, who can be bothered to say Albert Heijn every time?) Take your own bags, otherwise you will need to pay for bags. If you’re buying large drinks bottles be aware that statiegeld will be applied. It’s a deposit so that you bring the bottle back for recycling. Statiegeld is around 25 cents per bottle and you get your money back when you return the empty bottles back to the store. Statiegeld also applies to crates of bottled beer and the machines to recycle your bottles look a little something like this:
You will need to buy a bike. Dat is zeker. Without a doubt, it is the absolute best way to get around in this lovely flat country… especially after enjoying a few beers in your local kroeg! *Inserts generic I do not condone drinking and riding disclaimer*
7. Bank account
I bank with Rabobank. The other big ones are ABN, ING and SNS. When I first went to open an account, they asked me why I didn’t just go to the same bank as my husband! Not sure why I let them take my money after that… but I did.
Similar to point 1 – take I.D. and lots of paperwork.
8. Getting support & meeting people
Most of the large cities have some sort of expat community group. For example, in Hilversum there’s a Facebook group. Others have websites or blogs. The Hilversum expat group is a great forum for questions and recommendations. I’ve found out lots of cool stuff there, hidden gems and so – like discovering there’s a small beach 20 mins from my house! (Vuntus strand, in case you’re wondering.)
You can also try Meetup.com. I’ve been to the one in Hillywood and met several lovely ladies, expats and Dutch!
For further reading on this subject: When you moved to The Netherlands what is the one thing you wish somebody had told you about?
What else would you add to this list?