Moving to Holland

A Newbie’s Guide to The Netherlands

Seeing as I’ve been living in Holland for a year and half now, I’m practically an expert, right?? ūüėČ

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.

2. Accommodation

We found our house through¬†(other house search websites are available… the other big one is¬†though not quite as catchy, right?)

3. Health Insurance

This is mandatory in the Netherlands and basic packages start at around¬†‚ā¨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 or 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.

In the beginning, I got my hands on everything Dutch I could.¬†Dutch textbooks, grammar books, children’s books.¬†I used Michel Thomas CDs and online courses: Duolingo and Babbel are both good.

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!

5. Shopping

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:


© Romy2702 / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

6. Cycling

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*

The best place to find a bike is on Marktplaats (the Dutch version of Ebay). Read more about riding a bicycle in Holland in The Dutch Guide to Cycling

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 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?

Hayley x

Reverse Expat Bucket List

Inspired by Amanda’s (of Expat Life with a Double Buggy) amazing list of things she has done whilst living for 14 years as an expat in the Netherlands. Here is my list after 3.5 weeks…

Any excuse for bitterballen...

Any excuse for a bitterballen photo…

1. Load all my worldly belongings into a van (thanks Dad) and move to the Netherlands.

2. Get Paris the cat a Pet Passport and move her to NL too.

3. Plan (most of) a Dutch wedding… August 2014!!

4. Speak on the telephone in Dutch… eek.

5. Speak to strangers in Dutch (and have them speak Dutch back to me.)

6. Visit Amsterdam, twice.

7. Navigate way round Amsterdam, without help! Assist two Danish guys to find their hotel.

8. Visit Utrecht.

9. Visit Spa in Belgium.

10. Navigate way to Hilversum Gementeehuis on foot and only get lost once.

11. Learn that Dutch (rented) houses do not come with light fittings. Successfully purchase and fit light fittings.

12. Cook a Dutch meal. (Zuurkool.)

13. Attend a Dutch verjaardagsfeest (birthday party)… which started at 2pm and ended at 6pm on the dot.

14. Celebrate the first ever King’s Day.

15. Wear head-to-toe orange.

16. Successfully avoid speculoos and hagelslag.

17. Join a Dutch gym.

18. Ask for (in Dutch) and successfully receive an Albert Heijn Bonuskaart.

19. Eat more bitterballen than is strictly necessary.

20. Receive a Dutch Bathroom Calendar as a present and be genuinely excited.

21. Have a bike stolen before I’d even purchased it.

22.¬†Speak to sister’s potential “suitor” in Dutch, during her visit,¬†and piss her off incredibly ūüôā ūüôā

23. Realise¬†and accept that¬†colleges are closed over the summer so Dutch courses cannot be started until September ūüė¶

24. Sign up to an online course in the meantime.

25. Find suitable local kroeg.

26. Finally get an iphone!!!!

27. Start an instagram account.

28. Start a twitter account.

29. Discover lots of cool street art in the Netherlands.

30. Rearrange alphabetical spice rack due to new Dutch spices: cumin being komijn and coriander koriander.

31. Be unable to accept that list ends at 30 when my age is 31.

32. Oh shit, I’m 32.¬†

Hayley x

Easter weekend and trip to the Gemeentehuis

This weekend was our first full weekend in the Netherlands, so instead of relaxing, enjoying our new home and adding the finishing touches… we did what any normal household would do (right?) and spent the entire weekend running around and seeing friends and family!

It was super fun of course, but now it feels like we need a break to get over the Easter break!

Easter chicken

RIP Easter chicken

In true Dutch (and English) style… the sun was out, and boy, did we make the most of it!! Three days… three BBQs. We made our own hamburgers, potato salad, sides and dips!! Yum! As well as buying everything BBQ-related we could lay our hands on at Lidl and Albert Heijn!

The Dutchie playing with fire

The Dutchie playing with fire

On Saturday we went to a friend’s verjaardagsfeest (birthday party) luckily not a circle-party;¬†there weren’t enough seats for everyone, no tea/coffee and no cake!! Just lots of alcohol and chicken wings! Gezellig! However it was typically Dutch in that it had a start and end time: 2pm til 6pm and everyone really did leave by 6…

… so we invited a couple of friends back to ours for a BBQ after party! BBQ #2 was on Sunday, some more friends came over from Rotterdam and then BBQ #3 was on Monday with the Dutchie’s family. Ook gezellig, but I don’t think I can look at a BBQ for… well, a week at least! ūüėČ

Vandaag¬†had ik¬†een afspraak op het gemeentehuis… (Today I had an appointment at the Town Hall) to register myself as an inwoner (resident). Well, technically at the stadtskantoor¬†(Town office) but Gemeentehuis is a lovely word to say in Dutch ūüôā (There are a few, honest!)

Hilversum Gemeentehuis

Hilversum Gemeentehuis as seen from the entrance to the stadtskantoor

The building was designed by the Dutch modernist architect, Willem Marinus Dudok and the Town Hall in Hilversum is his most famous work. It took 3 years to build and was completed in 1931.

Unfortunately, the certified copy of my birth certificate isn’t certified enough… it needs an¬†Apostille Stamp, so I’ll be back at the Gemeentehuis again soon… and for our ondertrouw (notice of marriage). Looks like I’m going to be a regular customer ūüėČ

Hayley x

Ons huis een thuis maken

(Making our house a home.)

So, I’m officially an expat. Eek!! I moved to the Netherlands late on Saturday evening so this is my third full day living here. The past two days have been spent unpacking what seems like a million boxes! How on earth we fit all that stuff in a one-bedroom flat is beyond me…

Home is where the tea is.

Home is where the tea is.

Naturally, the first thing to be unpacked was the kettle and tea making facilities! Actually the kettle is new, can you tell? ūüėČ

Second on the priority list was our music. The Dutchie and I are massive music fans, so our “CD wall” is one of our most prized possessions!

CD wall - before

CD wall – before

It was also a quick and easy way to empty at least 10 boxes!! After picture to follow… we need to get our London Calling framed album on the wall first! ūüėČ

After a really early start on Sunday morning we worked hard all day and decided to get out of the house for some fresh air and something to eat about 7pm or so. It’s amazing how you forget to eat when you’re that busy!! We discovered a lovely local kroeg (pub/bar) called¬†Het Cafe van Aemstel. I was confused by Aemstel¬†at first but the Dutchie¬†explained that it’s¬†old Dutch and that the pronunciation is just¬†Amstel –¬†exactly the same. Phew!!

Our local - Het Cafe van Aemstel

Our local – Het Cafe van Aemstel

On Monday, while the Dutchie was at work,  I took on the role of Wonder Woman and transformed our house (at least the downstairs anyway!) into a home. Gone are ALL of the boxes and packing stuff and it actually looks like a real home, instead of a warehouse. I worked tirelessly all day and got more done than I thought humanely possible! It was all worth it though to see the reaction on his face when he got back from work Рpriceless!

Ons huisje

Ons huisje

The Dutchie’s Mum also came over for een kopje koffie (a cup of coffee) and paid me the ultimate Dutch compliment… that I had made the house gezellig!!¬†If you’re Dutch, learning Dutch or have visited the Netherlands¬†you will know that this word has no direct translation in English. It can be most closely described as cosy, comfortable or homely… but that doesn’t quite do this unique¬†word justice. I won’t go into too much detail as¬†I’ve explained the word gezellig here¬†so you can read more there if you want to. Anyway, it’s a huge compliment and I was so happy that all my hard work paid off.

Hayley x


The countdown has begun! 10 days to go!! I’ve been running around like a headless chicken for the past couple of months, but finally, in 10 days it will all be worth it when I move to the Netherlands! Our new home is in Hilversum and I am so excited I’m about to burst!!



I have **just** about time enough to finish packing, see all of my close friends and family and sort out any last-minute things in the UK and then it’s Bon Voyage¬†to start my new life in NL.


Hayley x

Living in the Netherlands: Test Run

This week I’m living in the Netherlands. Naarden to be precise. We’re staying at our friend’s place (good timing – he’s on holiday). ¬†So I’m here to work, test out my new kit and spend some time with the Dutchie after being apart for 2 weeks.

After two dreary days of weather on Monday and Tuesday, yesterday was glorious and I made the most of it by going for a walk to Bussum centrum (centre). As you can see: Spring has sprung!!

Spring in Naarden

Spring in Naarden

Even though I’ve visited the Netherlands countless times before, I’m now looking at it with different eyes. In just over 3 weeks, I’m going to live here. That’s strange to get my head around. One of the first things which made me chuckle was bike lanes compared to the space given to pedestrians. This is something you’d NEVER see in the UK. I’m looking forward to buying a fiets (bike) and joining the cycling community asap.

Cycle lane vs pedestrians

Cycle lane vs pedestrians

Bussum is a very pretty place – who knew? I’ve only been here a handful of times, by car, so it was great to explore on foot and check out the local sights. This lovely church has an even lovelier name: Mariakerk¬†(kerk = church) and it looked simply stunning in the spring sunshine.

Mariakerk, Bussum

Mariakerk, Bussum

I also stopped briefly in Bilderdijkpark which looked zo mooi (so beautiful). Everything looks better in the sun, right?! I found out afterwards that the Dutchie used to go to school just around the corner and had spent many a happy afternoon chilling in this very park with his friends.

Bilderdijkpark, Bussum

Bilderdijkpark, Bussum

This friendly little fella was certainly enjoying the sun too!! ūüôā

My ginger friend

My ginger friend

I’ve always wanted a ginger cat so I’m drawn to them. Now to persuade the Dutchie we need another one ūüėČ

My gorgeous spring walk concluded with a little Dutch pride. I saw loads of flags flying on my walk, but none so proud as that attached to the local NH hotel.

Dutch flag

Dutch flag

Bussum – you’re beautiful – I will be back!

Hayley x

Mijn tuin (My garden)

I am REALLY going to miss my garden. We’ve been house-hunting almost 3 weeks now and the one thing we simply can’t compromise on is having a garden, or at least some outside space. I want to be able to grow veg, sunbathe and read outside, the Dutchie wants somewhere to put his BBQ ūüôā and Paris is an outdoor cat. She would go crazy staying in all the time, so it’s top of our priority list to have a garden.

Mijn tuin (My garden) circa 2008

Mijn tuin (My garden) circa 2008

Also, once you’ve had one – it’s very hard to go back. The Dutchie used to live in an apartment on the 4th floor in Hilversum (around 30 mins from Amsterdam) where he only had a balcony. Now he’s used to having that extra space, he doesn’t want to go back to an apartment either! Our current garden is pretty large, considering we only have a one-bedroom flat. In fact, our garden is probably as big as the flat itself!!

Garden in full swing

Garden in full swing

Much to the amusement of my friends (they think it’s hilarious that anyone under 50 grows their own veg) I’m a keen gardener. I started off with the easy stuff:

  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • French beans
  • Courgettes
  • Marrows
  • Tomatoes
Veggies from garden

Veggies from my garden

All pretty successful except the tomatoes. Somehow I could never get them all to go red… and I tried all the tricks (bananas, dark place, cardboard box etc) but alas, I still ended up with loads of green ones. There was a simple answer though – I just made green tomato chutney!

Green tomatoes

Green tomatoes

I’m going to miss that lovely view from my kitchen. It always brings a smile to my face… even when I’m washing up! (And believe me – ¬†that’s a hard thing to do! I hate washing up. The Dutchie is chief bottle washer in our household!)

So, the search is on to find a place in Netherlands with a nice garden. Can we find an equal (or better) view? Fingers crossed!

Hayley x

Bye Bye, Basingstoke

It has just dawned on me that despite repeating for the past 6 years “I only live in Basingstoke because I work here” there are actually some things I’m going to miss. The biggest being my little flat – the place I have called home for the past 6 years, the place I have made home. It’s filled with so many memories – getting my kitten who is now a full fledged beast, growing veg in my garden, throwing BBQs and parties for friends and family (ok, I don’t remember all of those!) and best of all – welcoming the Dutchie to England to share my home with me.

My loves <3

My loves

When people think of Basingstoke they think: ¬†lots of roundabouts, Festival Place shopping centre and chavs hanging around drinking cider, but it’s actually a very pretty place. ¬†I think I appreciate Basingstoke’s beauty even more since I got an SLR camera and took a photography course. ¬†For 5 weeks we had to hand in homework on various subjects, so I made it my mission to capture the beautiful, but simple, everyday things. And there are a lot of those in Basingstoke!

One of our favourite things to do is go on a nice long walk and warm up in a cosy pub afterwards. Basingstoke has some great pubs:

  • The Hogget – ok, not strictly Basingstoke, it’s in Hook – but close enough. Great gastro-pub, the salted caramel ice-cream is to die for.
  • Barton’s Mill – Old Basing (formerly The Millstone.)¬†Excellent location with beautiful trees, ponds and a bridge. Very close to Basing House, so nice local walks. Food a bit pricey and overrated, but nice place for a drink.
  • The Hatch – on the A30. Great place for drinks, large garden to enjoy in the summer – think jugs of Pimms ūüôā Don’t order food here, it’s terrible. If you’re starving, just get chips! Everything else is soooo disappointing.
Walking home from the Hatch towards the Crabtree Plantation

Walking home from the Hatch towards the Crabtree Plantation

  • The Portsmouth Arms – decent food for the price, occasionally disappointing. Gorgeous building with a thatched cottage. Large garden with lots of tables, so another great place to go in the summer.
  • Rhu bar – London Road / High Street. The only decent bar in town. Very quirky with low ceilings and beams, cosy seating upstairs. Great cocktails and shooters: Slippery Nipple, B52s, Sex on the Beach etc etc.
  • The Mill House –¬†North Warnborough, Hook. Does what is says on the tin – you can see the workings of the old mill inside. Great garden and impressive lake! Again, the food is overpriced (is there nowhere decent to eat in Basingstoke!?) but great place for drinks and to impress people with the view!
The Mill House, North Warnborough, Hook

The Mill House, North Warnborough, Hook

Shopping in Basingstoke is pretty good. Not the High Street – which is mainly charity shops (unless you like that kind of thing – my Mum certainly does) banks and bars, but Festival Place and Primark are fab!! The Basingstoke Primark is the best one I know – it’s tidy, well laid out and has the nicest range I’ve seen – even compared to their Brighton, Southampton and London stores! Festival place has pretty much every shop you can think of – from Debenhams to Topshop, River Island to Zara. Gap, H&M, Next, Monsoon… the list goes on and on. Really handy to have everything under one roof. I’d recommend skipping Saturday though – it gets soooo busy. Go on Sunday instead for stress-free shopping. Massive geek alert: the best place to park is Churchill Way¬†– about 100 spaces, short walk through the park past the pretty St Michael’s Church, ¬†up the steps and you’re at the entrance to The Malls¬†and 30 seconds to the entrance of Festival Place. Much easier than parking in the hideous¬†Festival Place multi-storey!!

If you want to get out of town… Basingstoke is well-situated to do so: 20 min drive to Newbury, 30 to Reading or Southampton, ¬†45 mins to New Forest, 1 hour-ish to Oxford, Luton airport, Gatwick or Bournemouth. 1 hour 30 mins to Brighton – my favourite place ever!! Being close to the motorway does have its advantages!! ūüėČ And of course you can be in London Waterloo by train in 45 mins, not bad, not bad at all!

London Eye Feet

London Eye Feet РYou can get to London Waterloo from Basingstoke in 45 minutes! 

The highlight of Basingstoke’s summer calendar, is the town’s free festival: Basingstoke Live! Held every July, it’s a two day event in the War Memorial Park, in central Basingstoke. It showcases local artists as well as national and international performers (apparently… you’ve probably never heard of them, but hey – it’s a free festival – what do you expect??) The Dutchie and I have been 3 years running and it’s always a great experience! We discovered Bellyeyesmile¬†(formerly Kinky Boot Beasts) there back in 2010 and now they’re playing at our wedding!! Plus, you can take your own booze into the festival… what’s not to love?

Kinky Boot Beasts, Basingstoke Live 2010

Kinky Boot Beasts, Basingstoke Live 2010

Other Basingstoke attractions include Odiham Castle.¬†Construction began in 1207 and it was completed in 1214. It’s now described as a ruin, but don’t let that put you off. It’s well worth a visit especially if you like walking, the area around it is very pretty.

Planking at Odiham Castle

Planking at Odiham Castle

Milestones Museum¬†is a great place to go on a rainy Sunday afternoon –¬†the museum is a recreation of Victorian and 1930s Hampshire.¬†It was opened on 1 December 2000 as a joint project between Hampshire County Council and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It currently costs ¬£8.70 entry (adults) which will rise to ¬£8.95 in April 2014… not bad considering a cinema ticket is around the same price. The most fun we had was trying on the Victorian clothes and taking silly pictures. Also visit the pub and the old-fashioned sweet shop, it’ll make you feel like a kid again! ūüôā

Milestones Museum

Milestones Museum

The Crabtree Plantation¬†is a great place for walking and you get¬†panoramic views of Basingstoke thrown in too! A ¬†beautiful nature reserve of open space and partial woodland – it attracts lots of dog walkers, families as well as kite flyers and pilots of radio controlled aircraft due to it’s open location.¬†Recently a children‚Äôs play area was added – including a zip line, climbing frame and swings. Perfect for kids… and big kids!!

Zip line at the Crabtree Plantation

Zip line at the Crabtree Plantation

Bye Bye, Basingstoke! You will be greatly missed.

Hayley x

Oh My God… I’m moving to Holland!

Yeah, yeah ok… the Netherlands…

The Dutchie had not one, but two job offers on Thursday, just as I was leaving to visit my friend in Norway. He has accepted one of the offers, will sign the contract tomorrow and start in early March!

Oh god

Sooooo exciting and so scary at the same time! It’s all go, go, go!

Forget the wedding plans (temporarily)!! We’re verhuizing! (Moving house!)

Now, where’s my to-do list??

Hayley x