Moving To Holland: The Ultimate Dutch Expat Guide For Living In The Netherlands

If you didn’t know already, I currently live in Rotterdam in The Netherlands with my girlfriend Trudy. I’ve only been here for about 4-5 months so far, but I’m really enjoying the experience of living somewhere completely foreign to my homeland of Australia.

I want this guide to be the BEST resource for those who might be planning to move and live in The Netherlands like us. I’m going to put up everything we’ve learned from setting up our life here, from where to buy a bicycle to the best websites for finding an apartment.

I feel comfortable giving you all of this information because I just spent the last 4 months living it and breathing it. I truly think this will be way more valuable to you then some ‘Dutch Expat’ information written on a company website. I wish I knew some of this stuff before we moved here!

Registering & Getting Your BSN
How To Get An Apartment
Buying A Bike
Public Transport
Opening A Dutch Bank Account
Working In The Netherlands: Finding A Job
Dutch Health Insurance
Supermarkets
Rotterdam vs Amsterdam

The Cube Houses in Rotterdam and a funky building in the background.

When You First Arrive In The Netherlands – Registration With The “Gemeente”

Registering And Getting Your BSN

The first thing you’ll need to do when you arrive and plan on staying in The Netherlands is register with the ‘Gemeente’ – this translates as municipality in English, but it basically means the local council. Every city will have a Gemeente where you can do this. In Rotterdam you can show up without an appointment before midday, but you’ll need to make an appointment if you can only come in the afternoon.

You have to register to obtain your BSN (social security/tax file number) – so there is no way around the process. If you don’t do this you’ll essentially be living illegally in The Netherlands, plus you’ll want your BSN as quickly as possible anyway as you’ll need it for work and to open a bank account.

If you’re here on an EU passport, then the registration process is relatively simple – you’ll have a quick interview, they’ll have you fill out some forms and then check your documents and your BSN should come in the mail over the next 2 – 4 weeks. They’re not known for their speedy service unfortunately, mine took about 3-4 weeks to arrive.

If you’re not on an EU passport, then you’ll need the relevant working visas, Australians can get a one year visa under a reciprocal agreement between the two countries. We found them to be truly hopeless though when it came to organising Trudy’s work visa. We got there in the end but it was such a drawn out process, and all of the work Trudy did in Australia for her Dutch visa seemed to ultimately be a waste of time.

The Catch In The Process

A problem that can arise is that they will want an address from you to post the BSN paperwork which needs to be either your new house or apartment (they may want to see your tenancy agreement as proof) or the address of the friend or family member’s place where you are living whilst you search for your own place.

I was living at a family member’s house, so they wanted them to fill out a form and provide copies of their own ID – it was basically a vote of confidence in me that said “he’s an alright guy, I mean we’ve got him in our house, don’t we?”

If you don’t know anyone at all in The Netherlands, don’t worry. As long as you have some money saved (which would be wise if you’re trying to setup in a new land) you can get an apartment BEFORE registering and getting your BSN. The apartment sites I’m going to discuss next in this article both cater for Expats and even offer English contracts and translations.

If you really get stuck in this process, I would suggest getting down to the local expat desk, and they should be able to help you out.

Amsterdam ExpatCenter
Rotterdam ExpatDesk

How To Get An Apartment In The Netherlands

The two best websites in my opinion for getting an apartment in Holland are:

Pararius.nl – Has the largest selection of houses, apartments and units. A great place to start and caters for expats.
Rotsvast.nl – Not as large as Pararius, but still has a lot on offer. It’s worth checking both sites.
Funda.nl – A website recommendation from Chantal (see comments). Thanks for the tip!

What’s great about these sites is that they both have English buttons for their sites AND they even offer contracts and contract translations into English. This is awesome, and is definitely not something you would find in France for example. This makes the whole process a lot easier for expats like you and me.

We managed to find a great apartment in central Rotterdam for a reasonable price, and we’re really happy with it. I don’t know if we got lucky or what, but we found it through Pararius. There always seemed to be new listings going up every day.

Be aware that getting an apartment in a nice area of Amsterdam is not going to be cheap. We’re in a great area of Rotterdam, but we must pay about 50% less than an equivalent apartment in Amsterdam.

Our Apartment in Rotterdam.

A Final Point About Apartments – Hold Onto Your Hats!

We’re from Australia, and in Australia as a tenant you don’t pay a cent when you sign a tenancy agreement for an apartment or house. In The Netherlands however, you pay the real estate agent a ‘finder’s fee’ which equals to one month’s rent. This doesn’t go to rent or bond or anything like that, it is a straight fee from your pocket to the agents.

I KNOW, IT’S CRAZY, RIGHT? (Or is it just me?). See more on this in the comments from a Dutch native.

So be prepared for that, we got a nice little shock at any rate.

Buying A Bike In Holland

There’s no way you can consider yourself a Dutch Expat unless you’ve acquired your very first bicycle. There are bicycle paths literally everywhere in Holland, and you’ll find people riding past no matter where you are. Bicycles are very much a ‘tool’ to them to be used for getting around.

I remember I was riding with a friend here in Rotterdam, and I was yelling with glee like a school girl because riding is so fun. I asked him, “Don’t you enjoy riding?” to which he replied, “Not really. We’ve been riding them since we are little. We just use them to get from Point A to Point B”.

Anyway, I cannot paint them all with the same stereotypical brush, but rest assured you’re going to have a lot more fun riding around then a lot of the locals – and that’s the way it should be, right?

The best place to buy a used bike would have to be Marktplaats.nl – this website is basically the Dutch eBay.

There are no guarantees that the bike you buy isn’t stolen though, but don’t let that bother you too much (it doesn’t really bother anyone else here in Holland). It means you won’t have a receipt and the bike won’t be registered (whether it’s a legitimate bike or not).

If you’re happy to buy a brand new bike then you’ve got loads of options. The cheapest ones tend to start at around 160 Euros at places like Halfords. The better bikes and the ‘best’ brand names normally range from 400 – 1000 Euros – there are heaps of bicycle shops that can cater for you here.

Bike theft is rampant in The Netherlands (only because there are so MANY of them), so if you get a new bike try and lock it inside or get a super thick chain. We had a bike stolen out the front of our apartment – it was Trudy’s and she LOVED it, so we were bummed when it happened. Still, they say you’re not a real Dutchman until you’ve experienced some bike theft firsthand!

Riding my bike in Rotterdam. This is near Kralingse Plas (the big lake) - look there is even windmills!

Is Riding A Bike In The Netherlands Dangerous?

Not at all, and to answer my question check out this amazing table I remade with statistics I got from ibike.org:

Bicycle Kilometres & Killed Cyclists Per Kilometre Cycling Kilometres Per Person Per Day Killed Cyclists Per 100 Million Kilometres
GREAT BRITAIN 0.1 6.0
ITALY 0.2 11.0
AUSTRIA 0.4 6.8
NORWAY 0.4 3.0
SWITZERLAND 0.5 3.7
FINLAND 0.7 5.0
GERMANY 0.8 3.6
SWEDEN 0.9 1.8
DENMARK 1.7 2.3
THE NETHERLANDS 3.0 1.6

I mean check that out, on average per person people ride three kilometers per day in The Netherlands and the death rate is the lowest out of all the other countries. This table really puts it into perspective.

No-one wears a helmet in The Netherlands either, it’s just that the place is BUILT for bikes and the cars completely respect bicyclists if they happen to be sharing a road. You’ll be hard pressed to find that respect in another country (I know motorists in Australia HATE bicyclists).

A handful of bikes on the train near Rotterdam.

Public Transport In The Netherlands – The OV-Chipkaart

There is a travel card that is worth getting straight away and that’s the OV-Chipkaart. It gives you access to the rail system in all of Holland which is NS.nl The OV-Chipkaart will also work for all of the local transport systems in the major Dutch cities. These are:

All in all it’s a pretty powerful card and is useful to have to save you buying paper tickets all the time. The only annoying thing about it is that if you’re an expat and don’t have a bank account yet it can be frustrating to top it up with funds.

A lot of the machines (the yellow ones) won’t accept international cards, so you can find yourself at the ticket office loading it with cash. Having a Dutch bank card is incredibly useful for all sorts of things, a lot of the machines and payment methods are not as ‘international’ as you might think.

How To Open A Dutch Bank Account In The Netherlands

The three major Dutch banks are:

  • ABN-AMRO
  • RABOBANK
  • ING

I found the entire process a bit exhausting. I kept hearing different things from the bank and would go into the office and then be told that I cannot open an account after all.

What happened was that the banks flat out refused to open an account for me as I didn’t have a work contract yet. I was still LOOKING for work at the time, and the annoying thing was that without a Dutch bank account I couldn’t go on a decent phone plan (I had to get prepaid) and I couldn’t join the gym or do anything else that required a direct debit.

I found this baffling as I was on a UK passport, could prove that I had funds saved in Australia and already had an apartment in Rotterdam – but because I didn’t have a job yet I couldn’t open an account. One lady at the bank even told me it was because of the ‘Polish people’, screw her and her politically incorrect statements, it’s ‘the bank’ not ‘the Polish people’ that are refusing to open an account for me.

I was advised I could open a ‘savings account’ without proof of work – but this wouldn’t have Internet Banking access or the ability to direct debit, thus making it completely useless to me. Anyway, I digress, let’s move on.

We did eventually open a joint account with no problems as Trudy got a job and could provide a work contract. As much as they annoyed me initially, ABN-AMRO are probably the best option for expats, as they offer a number of expat packages and will send letters and have Internet Banking in English. The best thing to do is to call them and arrange an appointment with the “Expat Specialist” prior to going in.

In summary, this is what you need to bring into the bank to get an account with no hassles:

  • Passport
  • Work contract (they say for 12 months, but as long as you have something that should be good enough)
  • Proof of Residence (tenancy contract or utility bill)
  • BSN

It's time to start looking for work!

Working In The Netherlands: How To Find A Job

I know a lot of people actually come to The Netherlands BECAUSE of work, whereas we just came here for fun and as an access point to travel Europe. They get to avoid a lot of the problems we’ve run into for that very reason, as they already have a work contract and often the company will help them get setup with an apartment.

Once you get your BSN, it’s a good idea to register with these companies as soon as possible so you’re in their database. If you ONLY speak English and no other European languages (like us), finding a job might be a bit harder than you think!

So if you’re like us, and have moved here without work already lined up, then these are the best agencies and websites that we found and used to get a job.

Netherlands Expat Job Agencies

Undutchables.nl
AdamsRecruitment.com
Unique.nl
Abroad-Experience.com

Netherlands Job Search Sites

TogetherAbroad.nl
TopLanguageJobs.nl

There are more, but I found when I was searching for jobs that most of them were always listed on the above two sites.

If you’re comfortable with Dutch or your Google’s ability to translate it, check out:

MonsterBoard.nl

Dutch Health Insurance – Yes, It’s Mandatory

If you plan on staying, living and working in The Netherlands, you have to get Dutch Health Insurance. If you start working and you don’t have it, you could be up for a hefty fine.

We just recently purchased our health insurance; it’s not exactly cheap at around 110 Euros each a month, but then again you’re fully covered and get the best care for any surgery or emergency health problems you might have down the road. I can’t say the same for private health insurance in Australia, and we all know the ‘waiting lists’ when you use the public system can be horrendous.
So it is nice to know that if the need arises we have access to decent health care. Still, the price stings me a bit I’ll be honest.

Depending on how much you trust your Dutch (or your browser translator) here are a couple of the popular Dutch Health Insurance comparison sites:

Independer.nl
Zorgkiezer.nl

We ended up going with ZilverenKruis.nl as they also have their site in English and Trudy’s new job has them as their company insurer, so down the track we should be able to get a small discount on the premium. They’re not the cheapest available though, so if budget is key for you then go with someone else.

I found the explanation of the National Healthcare System here on the ZilverenKruis website to be a nice summary of how the whole system works.

Trudy doing some gymnastics at Kralingse Plas. We didn't have health insurance then!

Supermarkets In Holland: Introducing Albert Heijn and Jumbo

The two big local supermarkets are Albert Heijn and Jumbo. There are lots of other brands of course, but you will run into these two a lot. Albert Heijn is traditionally the more ‘up market’ supermarket whilst Jumbo has cheaper prices.

This is all very subjective though. I have a friend here who claims Albert Heijn is the cheapest now because they stock the ‘Euroshopper’ brand and their own ‘Albert Heijn’ brands which have extremely reasonable prices. Whereas Jumbo stocks a lot of the big brand names, which whilst still a good price are not as cheap as the ‘Euroshopper’ and ‘Albert Heijn’ brands.
Either way I wouldn’t let it bother you too much.

The only tip I have for you is when you’re in Albert Heijn ask for a Bonus Card (they’re free), because what you’ll find is all of the specials and discounts will only apply if you have one of these cards and they swipe it before you pay.

Rotterdam versus Amsterdam

The two rivals.

As any diehard local football fan will tell you it’s either Feyenoord FC (Rotterdam) or it’s Ajax (Amsterdam) – you’re not allowed to go for both!

Speaking from a slightly more objective position (I do go for Feyenoord of course) Amsterdam is a beautiful city to visit. The great thing about The Netherlands is I can go to Amsterdam from Rotterdam on the train and be there in about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

The key difference between them in reality is that Rotterdam is a lot more ‘modern’, there is a lot of funky architecture happening here and after the World War II (where the place was bombed to bits) they filled in the canals that ran right through the central part of the city with sand – so it doesn’t have that stereotypical ‘Dutch Canal’ feel that Amsterdam is so famous for.

Either way both cities are fantastic for different reasons. Rotterdam is great to live in if you know what streets to go to for cafes and where to eat and where to party. Amsterdam is fun to visit with all the canals and the traditional Dutch housing close to the centre of the city.

In terms of cost of living, then Rotterdam is definitely cheaper then Amsterdam. As for work, Rotterdam has a massive port (one of the largest in the world), so as you can imagine there are heaps of logistical and chemical company related jobs. Amsterdam is more the area for financial related/marketing etc jobs. But by no means is this a hard and fast rule, it’s just something to think about.

People outside of The Netherlands often think that Dutch people are ‘rude’ – I don’t think that’s the case at all. It’s actually just the fact that they are very direct and don’t like to beat around the bush about things. I think this directness is often misconstrued as rudeness – a classic cultural faux pas!

It's us!

Thanks For Reading My Moving To The Netherlands Expat Guide!

As I said above, if you’re stuck or need help setting up, check out the local Expat Desk – Amsterdam and Rotterdam both have them, and I’ve heard fantastic things about them from other Expats about the help they can provide.

Well, if you made it to the end then power to you, I know I like to ramble on and on sometimes! Thanks for checking out the guide, if you have anything useful to add or know someone who is planning to move to The Netherlands, then feel free to comment or share the link around!

85 Responses to “Moving To Holland: The Ultimate Dutch Expat Guide For Living In The Netherlands”

  1. Agnieszka says:

    This information is super useful! Thanks a lot for putting it all here. This is exactly what I was looking for. First-hand information from someone who experienced what my husband and I will go through soon.
    We’re moving to Rotterdam in July. Leaving Oregon behind and starting a new chapter in our lives in the Netherlands:)
    Greetings!

    • Tom says:

      Greetings Agnieszka! Great to hear this guide is useful to you 🙂 Awesome to hear you are moving over here in July as well!

      Feel free to email me when you arrive in Rotterdam and we can show you around to a few places!

      • Agnieszka says:

        Tom, thanks a lot for your offer. It’s very kind of you.
        In the meantime, I’ll poke around your great website a bit 🙂

      • Ursula Peterse says:

        hey This is great information. I am planning on moving myself and need to do this soon but have been putting it off due to not been able to speak Dutch. I only speak English and have been nervous to make the move. I have a relative in Amsterdam but we have lost contact many years ago therefore I have no place to stay and don’t want to be a bother. Also is age a problem as am now just turned 50 years

    • Hi,

      Great to read you enjoy the Netherlands and also mention the Expatdesk. Every Expat is welcome for information or help. Please email us on [email protected] or call at 0031-10-2053749/2829.

      Agnieszka, who left a commend on this website is actually someone I met last month!

      • Tom says:

        Hi Natascha, thanks for dropping by and leaving a direct contact email/phone number 🙂

        I wish we had used you guys as soon as we arrived in Rotterdam to help us get set up, but alas we plodded through it on our own!

      • Lucky says:

        I want to to come to Holland pls i need ur help

  2. Louise says:

    Another greatly informative post tom..xoxo oh and always entertaining

  3. Yash says:

    The finders fee is a bit rough!! Great article Tommy!

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Yash! We thought the fee was a bit rough for sure haha, but it’s pretty standard over here. Good place to be a real estate agent I guess 😀

  4. Rich says:

    Wow Holland, it looks beautiful from the pictures. I’m curious to see where your Kerouac-escue adventure takes you next

  5. Chantal says:

    As a Dutch native, I just wanted to comment on the finder’s fee you’re talking about: it actually is ILLEGAL to charge such a fee for the “bemiddeling” or mediation. These companies are fairly shady businesses that abuse their position. The market is tight and many owners don’t want to deal with the hassle of finding a tenant themselves (which would include rooting out the weirdos). Combined with heaps of people who need to find a decent place quickly, these agencies get away with charging utterly ridiculous mediation fees. In fact, this is illegal because they don’t really mediate for you. Mediation means you ask them to find something for you, but what ends up happening is that you yourself respond to the ads they put up on their websites, a privilege for which they tend to ask a fee of 35-40 euros as well! Absolutely idiotic, but as of yet the government hasn’t stepped in with tough enough rules to root out the practice.

    So my big tip is to NOT use any agency that charges a one-month rent as a fee. Instead, go for a recognized and trusted real estate agent (called “makelaar”) that’s part of an established union for such agents. The main unions are NVM and VBO, so any agent that doesn’t inform you about their union affiliation is by definition shady. These unions e.g. offer help if there’s a problem between you and the agent.

    An excellent website to find rentals is funda.nl. It is mainly for house sales, but there’s a “huren” section as well. As the housing market has slumped, plenty of homes are being offered both for sale and rent. I found my own apartment this way, and the only fee I paid was a 125 euro administrative fee, which seemed fair as the agent came along for a viewing, organized the contract, etc.

    I hope this is helpful to anyone who’s looking for a place to live in NL!

    • Tom says:

      Hi Chantal, thanks a lot for taking the time to comment!

      That’s extremely interesting about the mediation fees being essentially illegal, we had no idea! We did ask some Dutch locals and they told us it was a pretty standard fee, oh well. We love our place and what’s done is done.

      However, for those who are about to move to NL then definitely keep Chantal’s advice in mind – if you don’t have to pay that finder’s fee then even better!

      • Chantal says:

        Hey Tom,

        That’s exactly the problem with this: most people have no idea that these fees are actually not allowed, including plenty of Dutch people. If you go looking around a bit, you find so many agencies charging these fees that you start to think they’re normal. Expats are obviously an easier “target” for those companies, but trust me when I say that every day a good amount of Dutch people end up paying these fees.

        As of now, the only way to deal with these agencies is to first pay the fee they demand and then sue them in court for unfair charges. Obviously, hardly anyone does this as it’s far too much a bother and you may rack up quite some legal charges (especially if you don’t have legal aid insurance).

        The only thing consumers can really do at this time is avoiding those shady agencies, which is often easier said than done, particularly if you don’t speak the local lingo. Apart from that, the wait is on for the government to take action. They’ve already banned “sleutelgeld” (key money) which was a fee agencies charged in the past for getting the key to your place. I hope that somehow the realization hits The Hague that these mediation charges are the same deal just in a new package.

        • Tom says:

          Hi Chantal,

          Very interesting. Let us hope that soon in the future The Hague will ban this practice. I agree that expats are definitely a target for this sort of thing, as when you first arrive you really have no idea what to expect or how it all works. Although it’s amazing to think that a lot of local Dutch people have no idea that this practice shouldn’t be happening either!

          You normally just blindly trust that the laws and the agent know what they’re doing (which is not always the way to go haha).

          I’ll be on the lookout now for when/if this law gets put through!

          Thanks for adding value to this post, Chantal 🙂

          • valerie says:

            what exactly is a finders fee? as I have seen on several sites the ask for one months rent plus a months rent that goes to the agency. so I do not understand …. also when you talked of finding a bank, you listed things you need to open a dutch bank account one of the things you mentioned that’s needed was bsn, what is a bsn???

  6. Chantal says:

    Glad to help! I only recently went through the process of finding a place, so it’s all still fresh in my mind. There actually seem to be quite a few empty apartments where I live now in Capelle aan den IJssel, so if anyone is looking in Rotterdam, consider that place as well. I have a 70m2 apartment with nicely-sized kitchen, bath, bedroom and a large living room for 525 euros a month. I do have to pay an additional 120 for maintenance fees of the surroundings and as an advance on the hot water and heating. Anyone who wants to live next to the action had better find something in the center, but I prefer a little bit more quiet. There’s a subway stop pretty much on my doorstep and to the city it takes 10 minutes, so it’s ok by me.

    More info on this topic from consumer show “Kassa” at http://www.uitzendinggemist.nl/afleveringen/1100170 (all in Dutch, from 7:20 onwards)
    For anyone who wants to demand repayment of their mediation fee, use this form: http://www.huurgeschil.nl/onlinebrieven/form_terugvordering_bemiddelingskosten_sleutelgeld.php You can fill in your information in the form, which is then put in a sample letter to the agency, bascially threatening to sue them if they don’t repay you the fee.

    • Tom says:

      Hi Chanatal, thanks for the links!

      I did find this excerpt from Expatica.com in the Housing/Rental section:

      “Properties to rent (te huur) and to buy (te koop) are in newspapers and agency websites including Funda.nl, the national database of the Nederlandse Vereniging van Makelaars (NVM), the Dutch Association of Estate agents. There are many agencies specialising in expats (be wary of those which charge a registration fee) which can steer a path through the local market. The downside of using an agency is the commission or finder’s fee. A month’s rent (plus 19 percent tax) is the going rate. On the other hand, by not using a reputable agent, you run the risk of renting an illegal apartment, being removed by a handhavings action, not recovering your deposit, being bound by an unreasonable contract and paying too much.. Most agents who list their rentals at http://www.funda.nl do not charge tenants a brokerage commission since they charge their fee to landlords. If you’re baffled by real estate terminology, try a website like http://www.pararius.com with searches in six languages. “However,” says Mike Russell of Perfect Housing, “Be aware that pararius.com lists unscreened properties and there is no verification that the listing agent has actually seen them.” In urban areas, rentals start at EUR 900 upwards, although most people will not qualify for these properties as they either earn too much or have no required link with Greater Amsterdam.”

      Sounds like it is one of those things that needs to be dealt with by the government!

      • Hi,

        I wonder how come you recommend to go to a Makelaar to avoid paying the fee for one month, because they also ask for this. I think by now every makelaar, even the VBO or NVM ones ask the fee. Maybe it is illegal (I do not know) but going to a Makelaar does not necessarily means you avoid it.

        • Chantal says:

          It’s been my experience that the union-affiliated makelaars don’t charge new tenants such high fees. They will have some administrative fee, but nothing like this one-month rent deal. I suspect this is because they already receive income from whomever asked them to find a tenant. It’s possible though that things have changed in the past six months; I can’t seem to find an answer very quickly online.

  7. Mary&Andy says:

    Tom, thank you for having such an awesome site for people moving to the Netherlands. We are from the United States and we are planing on moving to Holland in a couple of years. My husband wants to get his citizenship in the Netherlands. I of course will to now that we are married. His mother is from Rotterdam, and she moved to the United States in 1955. We own an wireless internet service provider business here in the United States, and we would like to start one up in Holland as well. Maybe you and Trudy will still be in Rotterdam when we move and you can help us find our way around. My husband has been to Amsterdam before with his job a few years back before we met, and he loved it. I get so excited learning about the Netherlands and doing research on what to do when you get there. This site of yours will be bookedmarked on my PC and I will know everything by the time we get there. Thanks again Tom for a great website it will defanatly be useful for us. We are starting to learn the lingo and language so by the time we get there we should sound like locals.

    Greetings from the USA 🙂
    Mary&Andy

    • Tom says:

      Hey Mary & Andy!

      Thanks a lot for leaving such a nice comment, and it’s great to hear the article will be useful 🙂

      Are you planning to move here permanently to start a new life? That’s exciting! I did hear that they are thinking about passing a bill soon so that you cannot hold dual citizenship as a Dutch person, so that might be something to look into before you head over and if your husband wants to get citizenship here.

      Best of luck to you guys learning Dutch. We are learning a bit, but it’s quite a hard language! I really need to do one of those intensive full immersion courses haha.

      • Mary&Andy says:

        Well Tom if they do pass the bill I guess we will just have to become a full Dutch citizen. I don’t mind having to get a visa to come and visit the United States. Ha Ha. The States are not what its all cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong, it does have some good qualities. I’m thinking….. still thinking. I know I’ll think of some if I think hard enough……

  8. chris says:

    Tom,
    Thanks for your tips mate! Great place to start with.

    Im moving to Leiden in August and will need to go through all this aswel. One question i do have is in regards to the health insurance. If i purchase a travel insurance policy, will i also be required to purchase the dutch health insurance policy aswel? Ive struggled to find information regarding this and wanted to know if you have any idea.

    Thanks!

    CM

    • Tom says:

      Hi Chris,

      If you register with the ‘gemeente’ (council) as living in Leiden, you are required by law to have health insurance. Pretty sure you can basically go off the date that you begin actually living in The Netherlands and register your address.

      We thought our travel insurances would suffice as well, so we just had that up until the point we started working here. Unfortunately we got charged a massive backlog of days (going back to the date we registered as living here) – couldn’t fight it with the health insurance company either, they simply said they were required by law to charge it so nothing they can do!

      The health system might be pretty good here and everything is taken care of…but a hefty chunk of your pay cheque goes towards it 😀

      Let me know if you have any other questions and I hope this helps.

  9. Kim says:

    Tom,
    I’m glad I found your site – it’s very fun and useful information. I’ll be moving to Rotterdam after Christmas this year for 2 years but haven’t yet visited NL. Keep the observations coming!
    Kim

  10. Louise says:

    Hi Tom, Really glad I found your article. I moved to Rotterdam this week and have temporary accommodation provided by my employer, but I’ve already started looking at apartments and have been shocked by this 1 month fee. At least I know it’s not just me. Also, I’m very surprised by the rent here. It’s nearly as much as the rent I charge on my apartment in London, which is pretty central, so I was expecting to pay a lot less. Never mind. It’s Such a beautiful city, it’s worth it!

  11. Caitlyn says:

    Hey, cool article! May I say how lucky you are, having an EU passport. One tip I can give in terms of health insurance for Aussies is going through Medicare. I did this for my first year in the Netherlands – one of the companies has a reciprocal agreement with Medicare which means you can get Dutch healthcare for free for a year.

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Caitlyn 🙂 Yes, I know I’m extremely lucky to have an EU passport, it certainly makes things easier. That’s great you got free healthcare for a year, my girlfriend looked into that reciprocal Medicare agreement…and the gemeente told her she couldn’t do it. I’ve noticed some massive discrepancies in the knowledge of the gemeente here between one day and the next. Maybe she just got the wrong person and that’s the reason she didn’t get the reciprocal healthcare this whole time!

      Essentially all the work she did in Australia for the 1 year working visa over here they just discounted (even though the embassy back in Australia said it would be a piece of cake as long as she did this and that) – she had to like re-apply again and wait for ages to get her BSN. It was a really stupid process haha!

  12. Kirsty says:

    Hi! We seem to be in a very similar position to you guys. Me (Australian/British) and my bf (Australian) will be moving to the Netherlands next year. I have a job in Rotterdam but I will actually be paid for by the Australian government. My bf is currently job hunting and at present it looks like he will be working in Leiden (altho with a salary from Australia). We are trying to navigate our way through all the dutch regulations. I was wondering if anyone knew whether our not the dutch government will recognise our de facto status and if this will give my bf some of my EU rights. I was also wondering about insurance, I know that the dutch government wants everyone to have dutch insurance but because my salary is coming out of Australia can I just get away with expat insurance from Aus? Any info would be very much appreciated!! Hartstikke bedankt!

    • Tom says:

      Heya Kirsty, whew, that’s a tough one. As far as I was aware, if you’re living, working and getting paid in The Netherlands you need Dutch Health Insurance. But since you guys are getting paid by the Australian Government I really have no idea (will you be paid into a Dutch bank account?) I would highly suggest getting in touch with the expat desk and raising the question with them as it’s not something I have any experience in.

      It is possible to get a partnership/de facto type visa if one of you has an EU passport, but like any visa it’s an application that needs to be done. The good thing about it (so I hear) is that you’re applying for it as an EU citizen instead of a Dutch citizen so it’s actually cheaper and easier to get apparently. I heard this second hand from another expat though so research on the ‘ole official government sites needed! With us, Trudy went on the much easier-to-get 1 year working visa available to all Australians for The Netherlands whilst I am here on my UK passport. Since we are leaving to go travelling again this December that has worked out well for us. Hope this helps you 🙂

  13. Kirsty says:

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for your response! Yeh its very complicated trying to figure out stuff especially because our income will go (for the most part) go into an Australian account…I contacted the expat desk in Leiden but they were very unhelpful so I may try contacting the expat desk in Rotterdam. In regards to the 1 year working visa, what happens at the end of the one year? Do you just have to leave the NLs for a bit then reapply or is one year all you get! As a UK citizen, did you officially register for a resident permit (VVR) or did you just not worry about it because of the EU laws that cover you? Although all the websites seem to recommend it for EU citizens it sounds to me just like a lot more paper work and Im not sure whether there is any benefit to me to apply for a resident permit. Any info you could provide would be very much appreciated (and we can shout you a thankyou beer when we arrive!)
    Thanks!

    • Tom says:

      Hey Kirsty 🙂

      Yeah, definitely get in touch with the Rotterdam expat desk and see if they can help (this comment thread actually has one of them reaching out to us w/ contact info if you need, see above).

      With the one year working visa, you are no longer allowed to work once it expires! One year is all you get 🙁 You then move onto the automatic Schengen rules that apply to your passport (90 days for Aussies) and you cannot work.

      As a UK citizen you do have to register with the gemeente (council) but you DON’T need a resident permit. If you are part of the EU you can live in The Netherlands but have to attend and register with the local municipality so they know who you are and where you’re living. Once you do this they will issue you a BSN (like a tax file number). I never applied for a VVR or anything else 😀

      I hope this helps, that beer sounds good but we leave The Netherlands soon so will probably miss each other!

  14. Fee says:

    Hi, I am really happy to find this blog with a lot of positive things about The Netherlands! I was getting a little depressed reading a lot of negativity about the Dutch people.. My husband and I are moving to Den Bosch very soon. I know it’s not Rotterdam or Amsterdam – but if you or anyone has any tips or insights into this area that would be wonderful!
    Thanks

  15. Trevor says:

    wow, i have been looking for a write up like this for well over a year. Glad i finally came across this page! Thank you so much Tom!

    I myself am actually moving to Gorinchem in a month and will be marrying my fiance of 2 years and becoming a Dutch citizen and renouncing my American citizenship.

    However i still haven’t been able to get a straight answer on the health care. I got a few good responses in the comments down below and all, but my question is this. To avoid back-logged fees from having the wrong/improper insurance. What companies should i go through to get the insurance i need before actually getting full on dutch insurance with my wife? Otherwise, what things should i look for when i’m getting my insurance? As of right now, we have all of our paper work ready and filled out and all of our dates set for meeting with the proper government affiliates to properly obtain our marriage visa. So any help on this question would be greatly appreciated 🙂

    • Tom says:

      Hey Trevor! Cool to hear you’re moving to Europe with the fiancee & future wife! That’s definitely a huge step, but very exciting!

      I would definitely check whether you can get away with NOT renouncing your American citizenship and still becoming a Dutch citizen. I do believe they still allow dual citizenship and 2 countries you’re allowed to live in and visit whenever you like is always better than one!

      Basically, in terms of healthcare, from my experience it comes down to this – you need to have official Dutch recognised health care when you are REGISTERED with the municipality in Gorinchem, and the date that this goes live can be when you are officially recorded as “living there” with your own address, as in when you sign a rental/housing contract. You’ll need an address BEFORE you can get a BSN (social security/tax file number), and you’ll need a BSN BEFORE you can get a job 😉

      If you haven’t sorted your healthcare you can still be living there, but once you apply for it the company will backdate to the date that you are recorded as living in The Netherlands and will not budge on this, as it’s required by law for them to do so.

      Hope that makes sense and helps you out!

  16. Stephanie says:

    Thanks so much for an amazingly efficient and concise article! I am graduating with my Bachelors Degree next spring and am very interested in attending the University of Groningen, so all of this information is very helpful in figuring out what my first steps would be before moving from the US! Having never visited, Im excited for the adventure that awaits!! Thanks again Tom!

    • Tom says:

      Hi Stephanie, it’s my pleasure 🙂 Glad to hear it will be helpful! Let me know if you have any specific questions that I can help you with.

  17. Nancy says:

    Hi! Tom,

    Thank God for this site. I just moved to Den Haag last week. I am a UK Citizen and have hold of an EU Passport. I went to the Gemeente today to try and register and the lady at the desk said to me I had to go to the Immigration Office first to register. Is that right or have things changed as I have always been told otherwise. Please help.

    Nancy

    • Tom says:

      Hiya Nancy, holding an EU passport should just be a matter of registration at the Gemeente, that’s what I did. What I would suggest is getting in touch with the expat help desk via phone and chatting to them about exactly what you need to do. We often heard conflicting information (as with most governmental departments – sometimes you wonder if they’re even talking to each other and always seem to be mixing up processes!) – so ring the expat help desk and get yourself some straight answers.

  18. Lola says:

    thanks for the post, some useful info! especially that banks will drill us for the work contract. we are leaving London, UK and moving to Volendam (little fishing village!), just getting up and going, with no jobs waiting for us. and we have a small child, to make it even more interesting! we used funda.nl, found a couple of properties for rent, flew over the other week and viewed them in 2 days. steur (makelaar) were really good, no fee, though we had to pay 2 months deposit. so we have where to live, now need to get the utilities sorted, find jobs, childcare, etc. thanks for tips!

    • Tom says:

      Hey Lola! Great to hear the post was helpful, and very cool to hear you’re moving to Volendam! We went there (and to Marken which is close by) and it was awesome. Very picturesque 😀 Volendam is really famous for its families of singers haha – it’s going to be such a great experience. Good luck with it and grats on your new place. The banks in Rotterdam drilled us re work contract, but maybe in Volendam it will be a bit more laidback.

  19. Diana says:

    Wow Tom super useful information cause I’m moving to Utrecht next July. Specially I liked the part about where to find a bike and the travel card. thanx for posting stuff like this, just what I needed!

    • Tom says:

      Nice – Holland was a great experience for us, I’m happy you’ve found the article useful. Let me know if you have anymore questions!

  20. putulie says:

    Need help to decide, my dutch bf live in Rotterdam wants me to move and live together in Rotterdam. I have doubt, it is such small country compare to US. Btw I live in FLorida now. I wonder if I will survive there, dutch people are very relax and slow pace and I am very active person. Thanks for your advice.

    • Tom says:

      Hi Putulie, The Netherlands is indeed a very different place from The States. Neither is better then the other, they just offer very different living experiences. Dutch people might be relaxed, but I would be hesitant to say they are slow paced 🙂 Many that I met were fit, active, and always keen to travel and explore! I think you might be surprised! It’s a great location to travel and see more of Europe as well. Why not give it a go? 🙂

  21. Mike says:

    Hello Tom,

    I am a US citizen who will be moving to the Amsterdam area of the Netherlands this fall. I have a question for you that I have been having trouble getting an answer for. I am obviously a non-EU citizen, what type of things do I have to do BEFORE I leave for my move to the Netherlands. I know it is relatively easy to acquire a residency permit, but I see your mentioning non-EU people need a some type of work visa. Can you elaborate on what I will need before I leave? Thanks in advance for your help.

    • Tom says:

      Hi Mike, I would definitely recommend ringing the Dutch embassy in the US for your answers on this one. We are Australian so the work visa setup will be a little different to US folks. Talk with the embassy to get an official answer, but I imagine there will be a Dutch or even Schengen work visa that you may be eligible for that it would be good to line up and get approved before leaving.

  22. Ocean says:

    Hey I am so pleased to find your page and have extra advice. I was wondering what amount of money did you save up to move over there? Me and my boyfriend are planning to move over there from england and we need an idea of how much to save. Thankuou!

    • Tom says:

      Finding jobs can be tough without the Dutch, as you’re specifically looking for english only speaking jobs where they really want a native speaker (unless you have a unique skill set). Definitely save enough so you can live for a couple of months without work. It was a great experience though!!

  23. Erica says:

    Hi Tom! I have no idea if you will even see this! haha I liked this entry you wrote . Very well written. I have already lived in NL for a year and in Belgium a few months but I am returning to NL in October. I already have a BSN from living and working there a year. This time I will be moving in with my boyfriend. This is common sense I suppose but I guess since I already have a BSN it would still be valid? So i would just go to the Town Hall and register at our address etc…I’m almost sure I am right I just want to make sure. Also I forgot to cancel my bank account before I moved back here for a couple months. Will I be in trouble for not doing that since I technically don’t live there but I will again in October?I am concerned they would not like that and like not let me move there or something drastic like that haha. I know its crazy but been stressed getting everything set up so I want to be careful. I would need that bank account anyways but maybe they would make me cancel it and open another. If anyone know about that please let me know:) Btw its nic eto know about Rotterdam! I lived part-time in Amsterdam area and Zeeland on weekends. But he and I are talking about moving to Rotterdam area. Its nice to know it is cheaper than Amsterdam!
    thank you!
    Erica

  24. Zoe says:

    I’m looking to relocate to the Netherlands and I’m struggling a little with what to do first?

    I assume finding an apartment would be the easiest…how much would you recommend to save before I move?

    Thanks

  25. Saravanan says:

    Hi Tom,

    Lovely information. Thank you so much.
    With regards to registering with Gemeente, I initially registered with Gemeente with the house address where I rented so I got the BSN, opened the bank account, got the residence permit but now I had to move out . In the apartment which I rent, the landlord said I can’t register with Gemeente. Now I’ll have to de-register from the old address else the previous house landlord will have to pay extra taxes. So can I just de-register from Gemeente and live in Netherlands without registering for a while? Is it illegal? But I have BSN. Will the Gemeente registration be required incase of residence permit extension? Say if I have completed my 5 years of stay in The Netherlands but haven’t registered with Gemeente for an year, this one year wouldn’t be counted for the stay in The Netherlands which means I had only stayed 4 years and I won’t be eligible for Permanent Residence?

    Please could you clarify the above questions?

    Thanks,
    Saravanan

  26. Geraldine says:

    Hi Tom, thanks for the great blog – it’s always best to learn from other peoples experiences! I just wanted to check – this one year working visa for Australians that Trudy is on, this is only applicable if aged 30 and below correct? What sort of options are available for those aged 31+ to live and work there on an Australian passport?

  27. Thanks for a great starting point. I am from US and if things go the way I think they will go in the next election (2016) I will be looking to move my family back to where our ancestors came in the 17th centurt.

  28. Mona bates says:

    I love this. Thanks for all the super useful info. I am moving to Rotterdam in August and this has really enlightened me. I have one question though. I am coming with my 14yr old and will need to register her in school. We speak only english. Apart from the expensive foreign schools, are there any state funded schools that have special sections for english speaking students? We want to learn dutch of course but before then…
    Thanks a lot.

  29. Christian says:

    Hey, thank you for all the useful information.
    I got some questions about the BSN Number left.
    Currently I live in Amsterdam but I am not registered with the gemeente, I got the BSN for “niet ingezeten” which is only for 4 months.
    Now I got a job and want to stay longer but cant find apartment where I can registrate at the gemeente. Has someone got experience with what happens after the 4 months?
    Will my health insure for example still cover the same the same amount?
    Can I get a dutch license plate for my motorcycle? etc…

    I would be glad about any information regarding this topic as its really hard to get information out of the official channels 😉

    Groeten Christian

    • June says:

      How did you mange to get a BSN? I just moved here in October from the US and registered with the gemente but was told I had to go to the IND for the BSN?!

  30. Roy van Broekhuizen says:

    Great info Tom, I’m considering living back in Holland part of the year. I have always been a Dutch citizen, immigrated from Holland to the U.S. in 1961 and a legal permanent resident, current Dutch passport, have a lot of family throughout Holland, Dutch is my 1st language. What do you suggest I do first? Thank you.

  31. Casey says:

    Great info! My Husband, 1 year old son, and myself are moving to the Netherlands in May of next year! We are trying to find a place to rent for an apartment now. With the sites you listed, could we rent from overseas? Like, pick a place and pay what we gotta pay now from the states so that it is all ready when we arrive? Or no? We are planning on living in Rotterdam. Thanks!

  32. marjanne says:

    Tom’ i am planning to move back to Holland, but I am running into problems with finding housing. It feels like an catch 22. i read that you did not have an work contract when you applied for a bank account. How did you get housing without a work contract? All the big sites you mentioned require a job contract and 3 times the amount of income compaired to the rent. At this point it seems not possible to do the required registering whitin 5 days when I will be staying at a hotel with my son. We both have Dutch paspoorts en I have a bank account just no way to do the required registering! Any suggestions?

  33. Chase says:

    Hey Tom – your blog is fantastic and keeps me motivated. I’m ditching my scripted life and joining my Dutch partner there later this year on a partner visa, so like you, I won’t have a company coordinating everything.

    How did you deal with importing personal belongings, or did you really manage everything in just the suitcases you flew over with? I’m not talking furniture, but also suspecting I’ll have more than two suitcases worth. Did you deal with that?

  34. Kristyn says:

    Hi
    Thanks for the info. My daughter will be spending 6 months in Rotterdam attending the William de Kooning institute. Can you recommend where would be a handy and safe place to start looking for apartments to share?

  35. Jan Meurs says:

    Hi Tom,enjoyed reading about your journey so far, we are moving to the Netherlands soon and as we are dual citizens I’m assured the transition will be a pleasant one, however we are aware of some hurdles, we will take them on as they come.

  36. Erma Casey says:

    You moving guide is really helpful. I am going to move to Netherlands with my husband next year.We are living in London. I am still researching for information for Netherlands. I have a question , though… Do you use adapter for your appliances? Greetings!

  37. Nicolas says:

    Hi everyone,

    I am from Argentina but I got the Italian passport.And I’ll be moving to Amsterdam in January.

    I just wanna know which documentation is required at the moment i arrive at the Gemeente.

    – Passport.
    – The letter of the owner of the place where i will be living or go with him.

    And what else?

    Many thanks.

    Regards.

  38. Tamara says:

    Dear Tom, thankssssssssss so much for this guide!! I’m moving to Rotterdam in order to complete meu PhD sandwich program at Erasmus University and I just felt safe reading this. When I lived at Coimbra/Portugal (I’m Brazilian), I’ve made a blog with this kind of pratical tips and everyone who was moving there loved the idea too. =D

  39. Elif says:

    Hello is there anyway that I can contact with you? 🙂

  40. Ashley says:

    Hey Tom! This post is super helpful. My husband and I are moving to the Netherlands and trying to decide between living in Rotterdam or Breda….any comment on this? We hear Rotterdam is much “newer” and we are interested in the Dutch feel/culture and Amsterdam is too for from my husbands work. Would love anyone’s input!

    Thx!

  41. jamey says:

    One thing what is also important next to insurance is an energy supplier and in the Netherland you can save a lot of money when you choose the right supplier and switch from supplier once a year. Saving money is important when you just arive in the Netherlands. try sites like http://www.onlineenergievergelijker.nl you just fill in you basic adress info, street, postcode, and of you have an supplier or not than it sets all the companies for you in a list so you can choose yourself and even look into the contracts

  42. Desiree says:

    Nice article, I like the discussion about Rotterdam versus Amsterdam. I have rent apartment in Rotterdam and you see a obvious difference between the visitors who came to Rotterdam and not Amsterdam.
    It is fun to read you see as expat the difference that you have to know the locations in Rotterdam more than in Amsterdam.

  43. Tony says:

    hi iam moving to thr netherlands in october in or around aepldoorn i was woundering how i go about getting my 11 yr old son into school any information would be great.

  44. Tim says:

    Hi Tom,

    First of all, great article about the Netherlands. The best guide I have seen so far. I especially like the part where you compare Rotterdam and Amsterdam (I am from Rotterdam myself).

    I have some additions to the ‘How to get an apartment’ section. You could add the following housing websites:

    http://www.huurwoningen.nl/ (this is the biggest housing website in the Netherlands, the biggest offer).
    https://kamernet.nl/ and https://www.kamers.nl/ (these are the biggest websites for dorm rooms and studios).

    I also have two additions to the ‘Working in the Netherlands: how to get a job’ section:

    http://www.nationalevacaturebank.nl/ (the biggest local vacancy website).
    https://www.vacatures.nl/ (the Dutch indeed, with the best job offer).

    I hope my recommendations can help to improve the quality of the guide.

    Cheers,

    Tim

  45. Polly Morris says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks so much for all the super helpful advice. Me and my wife just moved to Rotterdam at the beginning of September so it has been a few weeks here. However we are having no luck finding a place to live! Everywhere needs job contracts and we can’t seem to find any of those either. How did you get you flat? We have saving but no income yet so a bit confused about how to do anything.

    Look forward to your reply,

    Polly

  46. Nika says:

    Hello Tom,
    I want to start my life from scratch since there isn’t anything for me here, in the Czech republic. I just wanted to ask, do you think that my cca €400 worth of savings will be enough to get trought that? Thanks for possible answer.

  47. steven lum says:

    dear Tom,

    this is steven from singapore. I will be coming to live in rotterdam by end of dec 2016. i need your guide and assistant if you could provide me with your experience.

  48. Dominique says:

    Hey Tom,

    I just wanted to say thank you for writing such a useful guide! All the information out there on the internet are lucky people that have been fortunate enough to have been offered a job or have a partner that was offered a job in Amsterdam.

    I have my heart and soul set on moving to Amsterdam, and I am struggling to find an avenue to get there.

    I am from South Africa and want to move to Amsterdam, but am not considered a highly skilled worker because I am in the digital arts field. So it is highly unlikely I will find a job over there.

    But I wanted to know if it is possible to go there without a job secured first on either a Resident Visa or Schengen Visa and then once there look for work.

    I have a boyfriend that lives in the Netherlands and I also have a bunch of friends there. So I am hoping that I can save enough money to survive a minimum of 3 months and live with a friend until I can find a job. But I just don’t know if it is a thing? Did you go there on a Schengen visa and then look for work once there?

    Surely moving overseas shouldn’t be as hard as it is seeming to be? I am even struggling to find relocation services that are willing to help.

    Any advice or help I would really appreciate!

    Dom 🙂

  49. Om says:

    Thanks Tom for writing this post. Just a question to you and anyone else, would you recommend living in a Dutch village with other Dutch folks or move to an area where other Expats live? I am considering relocating from America to Rotterdam.

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