1. Housing in the Netherlands
Searching for accommodation in the Netherlands can be VERY challenging, especially for expats once they choose to live in the big cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague. You may see a lot of options at the beginning of your search, but in reality, there're NOT that many available on the market. Even the locals have the same struggle and they need to wait at least one to two years until they can actually move.
Usually, on a house hunting journey in the Netherlands, I'll first have to go to an apartment viewing with about 10 other applicants. Next, you need to send a list of required documents to the landlord for checking and approval. If you're lucky enough or your profile is the best among the other candidates, you'll FINALLY get that house. Keep in mind that most of the houses are unfurnished, and a lot of them don't have a floor or walls aren't painted.
In order to avoid the troubles or scams in housing, it'll be MUCH better if you get help from your friends, your network or a relocation company in the Netherlands.
Dutchify is a relocation expert that help everyone to relocate and settle in the Netherlands. We offer not only housing services but also help on every aspect of your move to the country of tulips (registration, banking, health insurance, etc.). We would be more than happy to answer any of your questions!
2. Registration in the Netherlands
After arriving in the Netherlands, you need to register to get a BSN (citizen service number). This is very important and mandatory for all your administration in the Netherlands.
To get a BSN, you'll have to make an appointment at a City Hall in advance. Depending on the time of the year, the City Halls in the main cities can be very busy and overbooked. You may have to wait AT LEAST 2 weeks until you get an appointment.
To register at the City Hall where you live, you need to bring your birth certificate (in English or Dutch), a housing contract, an employment contract, or university acceptance letter. Most municipals require a registration within five days of arrival in the Netherlands. WITHOUT a fixed house address, you can't get your BSN to legally live in the Netherlands.
We understand that it's quite impossible to manage a lot of things before your arrival. Please do not hesitate to contact our relocation agent to get support!
3. It's really important to have a Dutch bank account
Do you know that the Dutch have their own banking system: IDEAL?
Your credit cards may be useless because many businesses in the Netherlands don't accept credit cards. Also, cash can be denied in a lot of places here. This sounds ridiculous but you have to accept it once you decide to move to the Netherlands.
Without a Dutch bank card, everything will be much harder than you can imagine. You can't pay for some things like train tickets, groceries, or your rent. That's why you should open a Dutch bank account to get fewer troubles with all payments.
It's not difficult to open a bank account in the Netherlands, as long as you are a student or employed. Banks to check out:
Dutch banks are open during the week from 9 am till 5 pm. No worry if you can't speak Dutch, they will help you out in English. Even the websites, apps of most of the banks are available in English nowadays.
4. Don't forget to have a health insurance
As soon as you get a bank account, you can arrange health insurance. Keep in mind that health insurance is compulsory. If you don't have health insurance within the first 4 months living in the Netherlands, you'll get a fine around €385.
However, there is an exception for international students since they are not always obliged to arrange a Dutch health insurance. To compare Dutch health insurances and prices, you should visit Zorgwijzer or Independer for more information.
5. The Dutch trains are great (most of the time)
The main railway operator in the Netherlands is NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen). They have a dense railway network that connects all major towns and cities.
In general, the NS trains are great but quite pricey! A return ticket from Rotterdam to Amsterdam can cost more than €30 if you don't have a season ticket. NS offers many different season tickets, supplements that help you save a lot of money on your travel. For example, you can get a 40% discount when traveling during off-peak hours and on weekends with the Dal Voordeel ticket.
However, when you're a frequent traveler with NS, you'll experience many train cancellations and delays on different routes. This can be extremely frustrating if you're on your way to work or to an important meeting in another city. The Dutch are mostly punctual, but when it comes public transportation, they still figure out how to have a better and more accurate system.
6. Many choices for groceries
With a variety of supermarkets and grocery stores everywhere in the Netherlands, you don't have to worry that you can't buy foods or ingredients that fit your taste. In the Dutch supermarkets like Abert Heijn, Jumbo, Dirk, there are thousands of food items you can buy to cook a basic meal.
If you're starving for fresh seafood or tropical fruit, you can visit the open markets which are organized weekly. Surely you'll be excited with many choices at bargain prices.
In crowded cities, there are also many small stores that sell Asian, African, Turkish foods. If you need to search for a special ingredient from your home country in the Netherlands, you can ask for a recommendation in any expat groups on Facebook. Most of the time people will help to get the answer right away.
7. Shopping: Shops aren't open late
Most of the shops in the Netherlands open from 10:00 to 18:00 on weekdays and from 12:00 to 17:00 on Saturday and Sunday. If you have a 9-5 job, there're not many options for shopping during the week because of the limited opening hours. However, most of the brands have their own web shops which allow you to shop online and get your packages directly to your home or office.
Each city has a different day of the week when the shops are open until 9 pm. It's called koopavond (shopping evening) and usually on Thursday or Friday every week depending on the city's shopping system.
- Thursday: Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Groningen
- Friday: Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Breda
8. Restaurants: No Dutch restaurant in the Netherlands
An interesting fact that any expats or tourists should know that there is no Dutch restaurant in the Netherlands. You can see a lot of Dutch cheese shops, snack bars, coffee shops, but if you want to try to eat in a Dutch restaurant, it'll be really difficult to find one. Traditional Dutch foods are very simple and you can easily buy stroopwafel, herring fish, bitterballen, fried potato, fried fish from the food stands or vending machines.
But no worry if you still wish to have a great dining out experience in the Netherlands. Thanks to the diverse community in the Netherlands, there are many restaurants with different cuisines like Italian, Mediterranean, American, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc.
9. Learning Dutch: Knowing some Dutch would be helpful
Learning some basic Dutch words would be helpful to get around by public transport or get informed about promotion in the stores and supermarkets. The first 2 Dutch words you should learn are korting (discount) and gratis (free), just in case the supermarket in your neighborhoods have many good aanbiedingen (offers) this week . Probably you don't want to miss a good deal, right?
Even though the Dutch can speak English very well, you should learn the local language to know more about the Dutch society and culture (or become a 'local' if you plan to live in the Netherlands for a long time). When you're able to speak a little Dutch, don't be offended if people still reply you English. You just need to keep trying many more times and your Dutch may be better in 1 year (or 2).
10. Leisure & outdoor activities: Tons of events every week
Are you wondering what else you can do in the Netherlands every weekend if not drinking and shopping? Well, there're always many interesting events for expats and locals in every city. As long as you keep looking and searching, you will not have a boring weekend.
Most of the big festivals, e.g. Keukenhof, Gay Pride Amsterdam, Fireworks Festival Scheveningen, Rotterdam Summer Carnival, are organized in spring and summer when the weather is warm and beautiful. In fall and winter, you can have a lot of fun at the indoor fairs or Christmas markets.
If you would like to know about the Dutch life on another topic or have any question, please leave a comment below. We're happy to help you and provide you more information!