I moved to the Netherlands back in the spring of 2016, not having a single clue what I was doing. Sure, the information is out there if you go looking – and there’s certainly been more out there since then (a lot actually was written by me on DutchReview). However, I was too stupid to find it, or I just didn’t know what to search for. The longer you live in your new country, the more you learn and the more you wish you knew before you arrived. So, here are 8 things to know before moving to the Netherlands:
1) Things to Know Before Moving to the Netherlands: Find Somewhere to Live and Sort Your Registration Before You Arrive
I hotel-hopped before I found somewhere to live in the Netherlands, purely because I found it so difficult to find somewhere suitable while I was in another country. “This is fine”, I thought. However, you can’t register to the country officially unless you have a proof of address. You can’t book an appointment to register until you know for sure that you’ll find a place on time. Then once you do find somewhere to live and you book your appointment, you may have to wait up to 3 weeks, which is what happened to me. Without this registration, you won’t have a BSN. Without that, you can’t sort your bill and rental payments properly and you can’t open a Dutch bank account.
Can you see what I mean? It’s a chain reaction. It was incredibly stressful and would have just been much easier if I tried harder to sort it out before I arrived. It’s hard either way, but everything is soo much less stressful if you just try and sort at least something before you go.
2) Things to Know Before Moving to the Netherlands: Public Transportation Is Easy to Use in the Netherlands
I avoided the metro like the plague the first very, very first time that I arrived in the Netherlands. It scared me because I had no idea how it worked and I didn’t understand the route, but it’s hardly the London Underground. In Rotterdam, it’s literally one way or the other, with a few branched out routes, with rarely a change (and then it would only ever be one). It’s easy as pie and I was being a massive wuss.
There are also apps such as NS which makes planning your route easy. 9292 is another great app for this. This includes all forms of transport in the Netherlands and so it’s easy to find your way around that way. This leads me on nicely to the next point…
3) Things to Know Before Moving to the Netherlands: You Can Get Cheap Train Tickets Easily in the Netherlands
I wouldn’t say it’s particularly easy for tourists, but as someone residing in the Netherlands on a more permanent basis, then there are definitely easy ways to get hold of cheaper tickets. It took me around to 8 months to realise that affordable subscriptions existed and also that you could buy incredibly cheap day tickets from supermarkets. I’d actually toured the whole of the Netherlands beforehand, paying full price EVERY damn time.
You can only imagine my face when I realised, but it was too late by then. All. That. Wasted. Money.
Cheap Dutch Train Tickets from Supermarkets:
The cheapest train tickets by far are from Kruitvat for €13,99. However, nowadays you can only get them that cheap if you buy more than one. This gets you a day ticket across the whole of the Netherlands for one whole day on any normal Dutch train (apart from high-speed trains). Imagine being able to go as far as one side of the country to the other for only 14 euros? When I used to buy them, I would train hop across the country and I managed to see many different cities in one go. Of course, this was after I saw most of the bloody country while paying for full-priced tickets.
Cheap Dutch Train Tickets Online:
Cheap Dutch Train Tickets from NS Subscriptions:
You can also get cheaper trains if you’re a resident, by buying train packages or NS Flex. I pay just 5 euros per month and get 40% off all trains out of the rush hour and at the weekends. You can change the subscription monthly and tailor it your needs – it’s a lifesaver!
4) Things to Know Before Moving to the Netherlands: Missing Your Home Comforts Gets so Much Easier as Time Goes On
Here I’m talking about food! Okay, so the food isn’t great in the Netherlands, I’m not going to lie. Much like the British cuisine, it’s not very dominant and memorable. However, home comforts are home comforts and when you first move you don’t think you’re going to be able to cope without them. When I first moved, my partner and I went to the supermarket to buy our first food shop and we came home with nothing particularly edible. We were bloody clueless. I missed everything and I struggled until I went home. Every time we go home (once or twice per year) we fill up the car to brim with home comforts.
However, as time goes on less and less goes on that British shopping list. You find equally as good alternatives for some things and sometimes they are even better. Some things you simply can’t beat (I LOVE Cadbury’s everything), but now I settle with Tony’s chocolate (the salted caramel though) and hot fresh Chocomel. Some things aren’t necessarily better but are just as good in their own way. If I went back home, I’d miss those Dutch things just as much.
5) Things to Know Before Moving to the Netherlands: Dutch Healthcare Is Difficult to Navigate If You’re Not Used to the System
It took me almost 3 damn years to get my head around the Dutch healthcare system, mainly because every time I asked anyone they wouldn’t tell me correctly, it would be contradicting or not detailed enough. Admittedly, again, more English info has sprung up online since 2016 thankfully, but it took us to go through 3 different years of insurance to finally understand it fully (I think I’m just far too used to the NHS).
It’s too much to explain here, but I’m going to compile the dummy’s guide to understanding health insurance in the Netherlands. This way it should make complete sense to a newbie coming to the Netherlands.
6) Things to Know Before Moving to the Netherlands: Supermarket Deals and Cards Are Always Worth It in the Netherlands
I never really bothered to look at the supermarket folders as they weren’t that big and I assumed the deals weren’t as good. In the UK you rarely bother to look because there are thousands of deals and in general something you want is always on offer. Some discounts are excellent in the Netherlands though and if you miss them, you could end up paying double the price the week after. The app ‘allefolders’ stores all of these discount folders all into one place. On a Sunday or Monday, these update and it’s worth looking every week to see (especially near Sinterklaas/Christmas time).
Also in supermarkets, if you join up for free with their shopping schemes you can get additional discounts. For example, Albert Heijn has ‘Bonus’ card scheme, where you can get special discounts every week and you can collect points.
7) Things to Know Before Moving to the Netherlands: The Netherlands Is Going Cashless (Yet It’s Not Visa Friendly)
This is something that we all learn when we first arrive in the Netherlands and don’t have a Dutch bank account yet. Not all places accept visa and many places only accept card (no cash). It has got better over the past few years, but there are still places when you can not use your visa card. This is made even more difficult by the fact that many places you go to in the Netherlands now are cashless. So if you first arrive with only a visa, then you’re in trouble.
Don’t ask me why it’s this way, no one seems to know the answer and we’re all just as baffled about the whole visa thing. Welcome to the 21st Century NL. Another banking rant follows…
8) Things to Know Before Moving to the Netherlands: The Dutch Banking System Is Called iDeal but It’s Not Ideal (Get an Online Bank!)
I wish I opened an online bank as soon as I arrived in the Netherlands and registered. With this, you can easily make payments outside of the country you live in. The Dutch payment system is called ‘iDeal’, which is so far from iDeal that it’s unreal. Yes, sure, you can pay for online purchases within the Netherlands fast through an app, but the minute you want to buy anything outside of the country, chances are iDeal is not a payment option. Dutch bank cards do not have the usual card numbers and details that you’re used to, meaning that you can only pay through an iDeal online payment system.
This means you have to get a credit card, but good luck if you’ve just arrived because you probably won’t be allowed one. They need to know that you will pay it back and so it’s not something you can just randomly get – especially if you’re a young person or your job doesn’t pay well. The Dutch are known for being frugal with their money and the banking system shows that.
Online banking is the way forward
It seems bizarre to me that I’m from an island with a different currency, yet you can easily make these payments, yet a tiny country surrounded by other countries of the same currency, yet can’t hack a decent and easy-to-use payment system (oh and you have to pay to use these Dutch banks every quarter too, so you pay for the pleasure). This continues to grate on me as it always affects how I spend my money, so open an online bank ASAP, because it’s so much less hassle if you travel.
As you can see there are plenty of things that I wish I knew before I moved to the Netherlands. 😉 Did you find similar or do you have any different ones to share? Drop them in the comments!