Moving to another country might be a great adventure, especially when you’re a student. You can expect a lot of drinking, new place and new friends from all around the world. I was extremely excited moving to Holland to start my second Master’s degree. My goal was to complete my Master’s degree within the official given time-frame, with no delays.
The truth is, however, that most people have no idea what Dutch bureaucracy is really be like and how many things you have to deal with to survive in Holland even if you only want to study here. Settling in here (even for a short term) takes a while.
You’re lucky enough to go smoothly through the University application system that takes forever. In my case it took over 3 months and the acceptance letter came last minute, a month before the school started (my experience with Leiden University is a topic for the next post).
Guide to Moving to Holland
Housing in the Netherlands
The most important thing when moving to a foreign country is to find a place to live. You have to be careful when finding a place, because you need to make sure that you’re able to register at the Local Town Hall at this accommodation.
There are plenty of rooms to rent, but most of the time they don’t give you an option to register. In Holland without registration you can’t do absolutely anything – you can’t study, you can’t work, can’t have a bank account and health insurance, so registration it’s unenviable.
However, without a semi-fluent Dutch finding a room and a job, is almost impossible. That’s why I’d say it’s easier to accept University accommodation to start with, even tho it’s expensive due to some ridiculous fees for tiny and crappy spaces.
If you really want to find something on your own account on Kamernet might be quite useful in finding a room and searching through various facebook groups, but be prepared to attend a few hospiteerabond – sort casting for a roommate, when current flatmates are going to ask you tons of (often ridicuous) questions.
In terms of rent – depending of a place – the price of a room varies from approx. €350+ in Leiden and €550+ in Amsterdam., however a nice place like for instance the The Student Hotel, where I lived, is 650 euros a month.
Registration in the Netherlands
To work or study in the Netherlands, as mentioned above, you need to have a BSN – special identification number. To get a BSN you need to register at the Town Hall (Gemeente) by booking an appointment in advance and depending of the time of the year you might have to wait up to 2 weeks for that.
To register you need a birth certificate (translated to English or Dutch), contract for a house and a job contract or university acceptance letter. Within 2 weeks you’re going to receive your BSN by mail.
Applying for DigiD
When you get your BSN you should immediately apply for a DigiD number that will give you access to Studielink (if you study in Holland) and health insurance online page. When applying for DigiD you’ll experience your first problems – the whole website is only in Dutch.
Opening a bank account in the Netherlands
Opening a bank account is easy, as long as your either a student or have an income. The only trouble you can come across is that online banking is obviously all in Dutch, so my advice is to learn some basics. A lot of foreign students might think they don’t need a bank account.
But without a Dutch card it’s card to pay for some things, such as for example train tickets. Basically, from my experiences, it’s hard to pay for anything with a foreign card. Although the same conditions apply when you’re trying to purchase something abroad.
As mentioned in another post, health insurance in the Netherlands is compulsory. If you’re not going to organize it within the first 3 months you’ll get a €350 fine and the Dutch service will automatically assign you for one. Dutch health system requires you to pay at least €100 per month for the basic insurance coverage. Does it cover everything? My answer is: NO. Let me explain the system for you:
I used to €108 per month and I wasofficially insured. This fee covers only my basic GP visit, because I didn’t add any ‘extras’ such as physiotherapy, dentist care, maternity costs etc. My insurance (as any other) asked for the amount of €360 so-called ‘your own risk money’ that you have to pay for yourself to make your insurance cover anything else exceeding this amount. Therefore for example if I break my leg I’ll need an ER, X-ray etc and I’d have to pay the first 360 euros of the costs.
If you feel like you’re never sick you may lower the cost of your monthly fee to €75 a month and then your own risk will be reduced to €860. Be careful tho, because for example ER is not covered automatically and goes into your own risk money. The minimum charge for the ER – just the entry- is €350.
When you live in the Netherlands for over half a year you may apply to ‘toeslag’, which is a governmental help in case you don’t earn enough. You can ask for zorgtoeslag – health insurance support, huurtoeslag – additional money for your rent, and other ones concerning for instance your kid. Again, the whole process requires you to have a DigiD and ability to read Dutch. Make sure not to make ANY mistakes in your predicted yearly income (including holiday pay and other extras)! Dutch social services are very precise and you might be asked to pay some of the money back if you claim an income lower than actual.
Taxes are foreigners’ biggest nightmare when moving to Holland. Not only taxes are extremely high and every month eat a huge part of your salary, but declaring them at the end of the year is even a bigger problem.
If you haven’t lived in the Netherlands for longer than a year or lived part of the year abroad, you’ll have to fill a form M. It’s basically a form containing over 80 pages of questions to fill in – all of them obviously all in Dutch, concerning the income and expenses for the past year.
If you’ve lived only in Holland for the past year you are required to download the digital program to fill in your tax declaration and send it over to the Belastingdienst office. You can’t count on any help from the Belasting office, because by law they aren’t allowed to speak English to you.
Finding a job in the Netherlands
Not to scare you, but finding a job is almost impossible for expats in the Netherlands unless you’re a very lucky IT specialist or PhD candidate in the science field. Why? It’s hard to say, but my impression is that Dutch people are quite hard to get to know and they aren’t very keen on interactions with foreigners.
Ironically, most of the jobs require native or extremely fluent Dutch, even tho the main language of the company is English. To give you a background – when you check a job board for big companies, such as Google, Microsoft etc, hire only Dutch speakers, opposite to company policy in other countries where fluency in English is lower, such as Poland or Hungary. Here nobody cares about your English, because Dutch comes first.
Don’t bother finding an internship in the Netherlands. Country law says that internship salary has to be standardized and it cannot extend over €300-400 euros a month brutto, which doesn’t really make a lot of sense – Dutch tax ranges between 35 up to 42%.
You’re probably thinking I’m trying to scare you away. Well, I’m not – at the end of the day moving to the Netherlands is your own choice. However, you have to have a lot of patience to live here and you simply can’t give up in the beginning.