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11 Important Things to Know Before Moving to the Netherlands

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Moving to a foreign country is like walking into the unknown, even when familiar with the locale. Moving to the Netherlands may represent a considerable culture shock if your home country does things differently, or the process might feel like you’re simply moving across the country rather than to an entirely new country.

You’ll need to accomplish some important tasks before you arrive in the Netherlands and accept the keys to your new home. I’ve learned the hard way with a few key things that I learned throughout the process.

After living in the Netherlands for over two years, I’m here to help you make the big move to the Netherlands so you can level-set expectations and embrace your home in whatever Dutch city you plan to live in.

Do you need to learn Dutch? What is necessary to ensure you are properly insured?? Should you pursue becoming a Dutch citizen? Can a Dutch employer hire you when you arrive?

Let’s dig into the answers to these questions, which should help make moving to the Netherlands a smooth, rewarding, and exciting experience.

At a Glance: What Do I Need Before Moving to the Netherlands?

Lekkeresluis Brug, Brouwersgracht, Amsterdam
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

To move to the Netherlands, you’ll need a Dutch bank account, an iDEAL account to pay for things, a valid residence permit, a job (or a job sponsor), a place to live, a health insurance plan, and a bicycle.

Only the last item is negotiable, but you’ll also need to make arrangements to get a Netherlands citizen service number (BSN) and register with the Dutch authorities to get listed in the Personal Records Database (BRP) to ensure you are eligible to apply for the housing benefit, healthcare benefit, and childcare benefit, should your income qualify you to receive them.

The most important facets of moving to the Netherlands are the legal documents and accounts you must set up before and after your move. All the cultural, culinary, and recreational things you need to know about becoming Dutch will follow these official requirements.

Now, let’s discuss these items more in-depth so you can create a step-by-step plan for your move to the Netherlands.

1. Health Insurance is Compulsory

Centraal Station Metro Stop in Amsterdam
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Everyone in the Netherlands must have a health insurance policy through the country’s compulsory health insurance program. The cost is less than 160 Euros a month, and the Dutch healthcare system is considered one of the best in the world.

According to the Dutch government, you can’t get a Dutch health insurance policy without a permanent residence permit, which may leave you without coverage during your international relocation. You may want to consider getting a travel insurance policy that will cover you after you leave your country and before you qualify for a policy in the Netherlands.

Some insurers will give you a policy during your move to the Netherlands, so if your current policy doesn’t cover you until you secure your health insurance from a Dutch insurer, you can pick up a temporary policy from a company like Cigna Global.

See Related: Best Travel Insurance for the Netherlands: Top Plans

2. You Must Have a Permanent Residence Permit

Amsterdam Canal Houses in March
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

You’ll need to secure a permanent residence permit to relocate to the Netherlands. However, depending on your timing and how early you begin applying for a residence permit, you may need to secure a visa before your move, especially if your residence permit isn’t approved before your relocation date.

If you’re moving from the United States, you can apply for a long-stay visa to cover the time between your move and when your permanent residence permit is approved.

A company like iVisa can assist in the process, should you find yourself overwhelmed by paperwork, and ensure you have a valid passport, a copy of your birth certificate, and your original marriage certificate.

The most important thing to consider when relocating to the Netherlands is starting the process of getting residence permits as early as possible.

The longer you wait, the more hassles you’ll experience when trying to find work (if you don’t already have a job waiting for you), getting into the country, and remaining for more than a short time. Don’t book your one-way ticket to the Netherlands without a visa or residence permit.

3. Get a Dutch Bank Account

Wise Landing Page
Wise / Wise

Not only do many places in the Netherlands not take cash as payment, but they don’t even take credit cards from accounts based in other countries. Living in the Netherlands requires a local bank account from a service like Wise or Revolut and iDEAL Access, a nationwide digital payment system.

You might find setting up your bank account a little hairy when you first arrive in the Netherlands because you might not have a local physical address.

However, you might also find it tough to get an apartment when you don’t have a local bank account. Getting everything you need for day-to-day life is one of the biggest hassles of moving to the Netherlands.

With various services and accounts dependent on other accounts, you may run around in circles for a short while as you try to cobble together a new life with entirely new accounts, addresses, phone numbers, and everything else that comes with Dutch life.

4. Getting a Job Is One of the Hardest Aspects of Relocating

attractive travel agent in headset working near laptop

Getting a job is like getting an apartment or a bank account. You need a visa to get a job, but it’s a lot easier to get a visa if you have a job.

Competition for jobs in the Netherlands is actually pretty tough, and you may need to outperform other people to secure employment. For example, you’ll score points if you can speak another language besides English (it doesn’t need to be Dutch; Spanish, French, or German will help you).

You may need a work permit if you’re not otherwise applying to work as a highly skilled migrant, and your employer might need permission to work in the country. If you’re not self-employed or a business owner and must find a job, some of the most in-demand job opportunities are in the business sector, engineering, and law.

One thing you’ll definitely want to investigate if you’re moving from America is the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty, which makes things slightly easier if you’re from the United States.

American entrepreneurs may secure a Dutch residence permit by establishing a business in the Netherlands. If you have the financial means to start a business and invest well in the country, the Netherlands will welcome you as a new resident.

5. Learning Social Cues is More Important Than the Language

Dutch-English dining vocabulary for language learners and travelers.
Me Trying to Learn Dutch (Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers)

Almost every Dutch resident speaks English, and it’s not uncommon for a native to address another native in English, even when there aren’t any native English speakers around. If you’re not good at learning foreign languages (let’s face it, not everyone can easily pick up another language, even with schooling), don’t panic. You can get around the Netherlands only by speaking English.

However, if you don’t speak Dutch, you might miss out on some of the finer points of Dutch life after moving to the Netherlands, as well as some of the best TV programs and newspapers.

The Dutch speak English, but that doesn’t mean everything is in English. Brush your Dutch grammar before moving so you’re not left out in the cold.

The Dutch people have absolutely zero problems conversing totally in English with foreigners, immigrants, and new residents. You’ll find this is true in large cities like the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, as well as The Hague, where you’ll find all the major government buildings.

There are other options if you’re not interested in pursuing higher education or learning Dutch in a classroom environment. You may find using a language-learning app like Babbel or Duolingo helpful.

And what about the expat community in the Netherlands? The Dutch are friendly, and you shouldn’t have trouble making friends, especially with your neighbors.

You’ll find various bars and hangouts that expats frequent, which is nice. If you plan on living in the Netherlands for the foreseeable future, you should try to go where the locals go and interact with them.

6. Educate Yourself on the Dutch Education System

Maris College Belgisch Park building in The Hague, Netherlands
Menyhert / Adobe Stock

If you’re moving to the Netherlands with your children, you’ll need to explore the options for placing them in a Dutch school. The Netherlands offers excellent quality schools, and your children will enjoy free government-funded schooling when you move to the Netherlands.

Although the population speaks English regularly, Dutch public schools are conducted in Dutch, which may make things difficult if your family does not know the Dutch language. You may be able to locate a bilingual program if you search for it in your future town.

As a parent, you may be called upon to pay for some activities at the school, such as field trips and extra-curricular activities, but these costs aren’t high. Some fees kick in when students reach 16 years of age, but the government does subsidize these fees for residents who cannot afford them.

7. Buy a Bicycle Because Driving and Owning a Car Can Get Expensive

Bikes along Canal Amsterdam
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Like myself, many residents in the Netherlands don’t own cars because of the costs involved. I love not having a car. If you purchase a vehicle, you’ll need to come up with an extra 25 percent for the VAT tax, as well as other fees the Dutch government lumps on top of the purchase.

If you’re moving to the Netherlands to one of the less populated areas of the country and then travel to a more crowded Dutch municipality, you’ll probably need to take out a second mortgage on the home you don’t own to afford the parking fees. Parking fees in Amsterdam are simply outrageous.

Further, fuel prices are sky-high in the Netherlands, and insurance costs a pretty penny. If you need a vehicle for a few days, a rental car can help in a pinch.

If you’re at all able, consider switching to a bicycle for transportation. You can often get away with renting a car here and there or taking the train whenever you actually need to travel a significant distance.

8. Prepare Yourself for a Strong DIY Culture

Couple doing a DIY Project
Lumeez/ / Adobe Stock

In some countries like the United States, moving into an apartment means seeing a variety of light fixtures, carpets or flooring, and a few appliances (maybe a fridge and a dishwasher).

If you expect a turnkey experience when you move to the Netherlands and sign your rental contract, get ready for a bit of a culture shock. The previous tenant might actually remove the light fixtures and leave a few bare wires behind. The Dutch society takes their ability to fix their own home seriously.

Not only should you get ready to conduct some installations and upgrades in your apartment, but don’t assume that you can take your item into a store should it break. Got a flat on that bicycle? Fix it yourself! The Dutch do, and you should, too, when you move to the Netherlands.

9. Many People Don’t Have Air Conditioning in the Netherlands

Turning the Air Condition On
maroke / Adobe Stock

Most households in the Netherlands don’t have air conditioning, and the temperature is often well below the threshold for needing an air conditioner. However, the Netherlands is a European country where the average temperature has warmed in the last half-century, and the number of air conditioners has increased.

If you rent an apartment and your town experiences oppressive weather, keep your doors and windows closed during the day to keep the heat out and open them at night when the temperature cools off. Curtains or blinds can also help you keep the heat out of your apartment. Fans are also a low-cost option for cooling.

10. Prepare for a Lot of Inclement Weather

Montelbaanstoren in Amsterdam
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Remember that quote from the mid-90s film “The Crow” where the little girl says, “It can’t rain all the time!” Well, in the Netherlands, it can. Yes, you’ll get some gorgeous days here and there, but it’s often cold, windy, and rainy than smooth, sublime, and sunny.

If you visit the Netherlands on a sunny weekend, you’ll see the whole country outside, where the beaches will be filled, and every square inch of outside gathering space will have twice as many people as the area can fit.

You might assume you’ll need to get into the habit of always having a raincoat and an umbrella on hand, but you’ll probably just default to having a tiny umbrella. It’s tough not to get soaked on a bicycle, and it’s raining, even if you have a raincoat (yes, riding in the rain is a thing in the Netherlands).

11. Tax and the Cost of Living in the Netherlands are Higher Than Many Other Countries

Woman doing her taxes
Malik/ / Adobe Stock

The Netherlands isn’t the cheapest EU country, but it’s possible to live frugally and not feel like a pauper, even if your income isn’t stratospheric. Avoiding costly endeavors like owning a car can save you thousands of Euros and make your living costs much more affordable.

Avoiding the most expensive cities, like Amsterdam, can also help reduce your costs while allowing you to enjoy the high standard of living in the Netherlands.

Let’s look at global tax rates as compiled by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). You’ll notice that you only need to make 70,000 Euros to reach the country’s top marginal tax rate of 49.50% but need to make more than half a million dollars in the United States to reach 37%.

However, consider the benefits you may obtain in the Netherlands when you pay tax, which might be new benefits if you come from the United States, such as the Dutch-American Friendship Treaty (DAFT) visa, where you are eligible for a 35% ruling. This means you get a 35% haircut on the Dutch tax rate to arrive at a similar rate as the United States.

Although some states in the U.S.A. offer their citizens a childcare benefit, subsidize healthcare, and provide housing benefits, these perks aren’t nearly universal, and they’re not usually as generous or easy to receive as you might experience in the Netherlands.

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