Are you thinking of moving to the Netherlands? Good choice! The Netherlands is a great place to live in. It is super safe and has one of the highest qualities of life in Europe.
Almost everybody speaks perfect English and the healthcare system is good as well. Here is everything you need to know before moving to the Netherlands as an EU citizen!
I moved to the Netherlands back in 2015 for my study. I loved it so much that I also did my Master degree in the Netherlands before leaving for good in 2019. However, I would love to move back at some point because it is a great place to live in.
Now, moving to the Netherlands as a student I suppose is a little bit easier than moving there for work. But most things will be the same. As an EU citizen I did not have to get a Visa or anything so I do not know how that would work if you are coming from a country outside of the EU.
But if you sort out your Visa or permanent residency then the rest of these points will be relevant for you as well.
Housing, Registration and Health Insurance
The part that is not so fun when moving to a new place is definitely all the paper work involved. However, it usually is the most important part to make your move official, so let’s get it out of the way first. Here are some of the things that you need to take care of first when moving to the Netherlands as an EU citizen.
The first thing you have to get once you move to the Netherlands is a BSN number. This number will stay the same throughout you lifetime, even if you move abroad in between and move back at some point. It stands for Burgerservicenumber which translates to citizen service number. You will need this number for all kind of application processes, such as getting a job or getting a bank account.
Get BSN number by registering at the Gemeente
The Gemeente is the municipal register that you can find in almost every city. It is mandatory to register there as soon as possible once you arrive in the Netherlands. There you will be issued your BSN number if it is your first time moving to the Netherlands.
You should contact the Gemeente within 5 days of arriving in the Netherlands. But since you can often make an appointment online, you can also already schedule one before arriving in your new home.
Make sure to check in advance what documents you will need. You will probably need a birth certificate. Also if your documents are not in Dutch, English, French or German, then you might need to get them translated beforehand.
Also, bring some form of identification and your rental agreement with you.
Housing can be difficult to find
And here is the problem! Housing in the Netherlands is really scarce, especially in the Amsterdam area. Therefore, it can be really difficult to find a place to stay and even if you do, prices could be really high just for a small room.
You will need to provide an address in the Netherlands to the municipality. So you will need to have a place to stay before moving/ registering in the Netherlands.
Places to look for housing:
Definitely make sure to check Facebook groups such as: Rooms in Amsterdam, Utrecht House/Room hunt, etc. But be aware of housing scams and don’t ever make any payments before seeing the place and signing a contract. A lot of people also find housing on Funda.nl.
That makes it a bit tricky as not all places are eligible for registration. A lot of apartments also require a job before being allowed to move in or a Dutch Bank Account. And you can not get a job or bank account without a BSN number. And you can not get a BSN number without housing.
Dutch Bank Account
Speaking of a Dutch bank account, you will definitely need one. Employers often require a Dutch Bank Account instead of a European one. Most places do not take cash anymore and others do not take credit cards. Instead pretty much every place only takes debit cards so you better get one as well.
Dutch people in general do not really carry around cash at all because you can pay anywhere by debit card: in the grocery store, university canteen and even in the clubs and bars.
If you want to get a Dutch bank account you will need to make an appointment at the bank beforehand. Popular banks include ABM AMRO, ING and RABO bank. If you do not speak any Dutch then I would recommend ABM AMRO as they offer most of their services in English as well.
Health Insurance is mandatory and you will have to get it within four months of registration at the municipality. If you are studying in the Netherlands and have a EU health insurance card, you can also keep your European health insurance. However, as soon as you start working, even if it is part time next to your study, you will be required to get Dutch Health Insurance.
The basic plan starts at around 106€ a month but it of course depends on your insurance company. Make sure to compare health insurance prices beforehand.
Heath Insurance Allowance
But there are good news as well! If your income is under a certain amount then you can get part of your health insurance money reimbursed every month. Definitely make use of this if you are a student or are only working part-time. This is called Zorgtoeslag. And it is not just for Dutch residents but for everybody that legally resides in the Netherlands.
The maximum. monthly payout is around 94€ which would leave you with only around 10€ that you have to pay by yourself for health insurance. You can apply for it at the website of the Belastingdienst. It is pretty easy!
Coming to NL as a student? 10 Things you should know before Studying Abroad in the Netherlands
Transportation in the Netherlands
Of course you don’t only need to move to the Netherlands but also make your way around this beautiful country. So here is what you need to know about bikes and public transportation.
Bikes are essential
Most Dutch people use their bikes to get around the city, university or to and from work. Public transportation of course is great as well but in most cases it is actually easier to just rely on your bike. And it is cheaper as well.
However, there is a reason why there are more bikes than people in the Netherlands, because they do get stolen quite often. Therefore, there are a lot of shady places that sell stolen bikes which can get you into trouble as well if you purchase from one of these places.
And once you do have a bike make sure to always lock your bike twice so that it will less likely be stolen.
If you want to use public transportation you need to have a ticket that you need to scan when entering and leaving. Unless you want to buy a single use ticket every time you take public transportation you should get a OV chipkaart.
These are cards that you can top off with money and then scan every time you leave and enter public transportation. It can be used for the metro, tram, bus and trains. It is also cheaper than buying single use tickets. There are two different types of OV chipkaarts: the blue and yellow one.
The blue ones are anonymous ones that can be purchased for a small fee at the train stations. You can top it off with money at the train station and some metro stations.
The yellow OV card is a personalised one and will have your picture on it. You can order it online and connect it to your bank account so you will not have to top it off individually. Instead the money for public transportation will be taken off your bank account on a monthly basis. You will need to have a Dutch bank account for that option.
Cheap one-day train tickets
Every now and then there will be some specials where you can get cheaper one-day train tickets. These will cost you around 16€ and once validated you can use it for train travel for the entire day (sometimes not during peak hours). These tickets will sometimes be sold at Albert Heijn or Kruidvat, just keep an eye open.
Percentage off of OV
When you get a personalised OV card which you can purchase online (you will need a Dutch Bank account), you can also purchase monthly travel subscriptions. These for example can give you 40% off during off peak hours or 40% off on weekends etc. You can also cancel them on a monthly basis.
Apps and Resources
In the next section I will list a couple of apps or resources that you need or that might come in handy when living in the Netherlands.
Albert Heijn Bonus Card
Speaking of Albert Heijn, which is a famous supermarket chain, you should definitely get an Albert Heijn Bonus Card. You can usually get them at the cashier or just ask an employee. With the card you can make use of the discounts displayed in the store. Without it you will be paying full price and nobody wants that.
IDEAL is a Dutch payment system that you will probably encounter a lot of times when living in the Netherlands. With IDEAL you can purchase something online and pay directly with your bank account. You will need a Dutch Bank account to be able to pay with IDEAL.
Tikkie is an application which lets you easily send money to your friends. If you have dinner with your friends and one of them pays for all, you will often hear them say “I will send you a Tikkie”. In the Netherlands often it is not possible to split the bills at the table so that will happen quite often.
Tikkie’s can be send via Whatsapp message and they will state the amount of money that you owe that specific person. It just takes a few second then to transfer the money from your bank account to your friend’s bank account.
A Digi ID (digital identity) is a way for you to identify yourself and to be able to log yourself into some of your accounts. You for example need a Digi ID if you want to log into the website of the Belastingdienst, where you can apply for your health insurance allowance or do your tax returns.
Swapfiets is a great way if you do not want to purchase your own bike or are only in the Netherlands for a couple of months. It’s a company where you can get a bike for a monthly subscription fee. When your bike is broken you can call Swapfiets and they will repair it or switch it against another one. Swapfiets is available all around the Netherlands and there are now also available in Germany, Denmark and Belgium.
An app that you will need when living in the Netherlands would be Buienalarm to check the weather. Most importantly at what time how much rain will fall. That is important because you will be biking a lot and therefore best to know when it’s best to bike to avoid getting soaked when on the way to work.
Other Things to Know about Living in the Netherlands
Finally, here are some other things you might want to know about before moving to the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands you can encounter a lot of fried snacks such as Bitterballen, Krokets or Frikadel. These can be purchased in these sorts of vending machine type stores such as FEBO. You can find these all around the Netherlands and they are awesome.
Dutch people in general are rather direct and tell you things the way they are. That’s something that you need to get used to if you are from a country where that is not really the case.
To be honest, I have not really noticed, my country is rather direct as well so I have not really noticed any differences in terms of directness. But it is something that people from for example the US have pointed out.
You probably know that coffeeshops in the Netherlands are not the same as Café’s. In a café you can purchase coffee and cake but in a coffeeshop you can purchase and smoke cannabis products. Technically it is not legal but for personal use it is tolerated by the local authorities.
You can find coffeeshops all over the Netherlands. Despite what you might think, most Dutch people do not visit coffee shops themselves (some of course are) and especially in Amsterdam you can find mostly tourist purchasing cannabis products.
The Netherlands and Holland are not the same thing
The Netherlands describes the whole country, whereas Holland only describes a part of the Netherlands. The province in which Amsterdam is located in is called North Holland. Rotterdam for example can be found in South Holland. That is also the most densely populated province. However, there are 12 provinces in the Netherlands in total, such as for example Overijssel or Zeeland.
Interested in travelling around The Netherlands? 7 Incredible Day Trips from Amsterdam!
You don’t necessarily need to speak Dutch
Almost everybody speaks English in the Netherlands. So you will not have any issues communicating if you don’t speak any Dutch when moving to the Netherlands. And even if you just speak a little it can be difficult to practise it as Dutch people often switch to English when you are talking to them in Dutch.
But even when that is the case, you should still make an effort of course learning the language, especially since you are moving to the country. And learning a language is just part of the culture. If you speak German it is pretty easy to learn, if not then I think it might be a little harder.
The best way to learn Dutch? I’d always recommend speaking with a native speaker. My favourite way to study languages is taking classes on Italki.
If you sign up now, you’ll get $10 of Italki credit extra if you ever spend $20 on classes (Referral).
And these were hopefully all the main things you need to know before moving to the Netherlands. If I missed anything than I’m terribly sorry but if you have any more questions please leave a comment below.
I am happy to try to answer all of them.
Talk to you later x
This was super interesting to read about everything from the perspective of moving to the Netherlands vs just travelling there! Such a beautiful country so would be a great place to live 🙂
Thank you so much, happy to hear that! It really is an amazing country to live in 🙂
This post is so helpful, I’ve been thinking about moving to Amsterdam someday so am definitely gonna keep this handy! 🙂
Thank you! Amsterdam is a great place to live in 🙂
I would love to live in Europe. Working on it now applying for jobs in Italy and Germany. But, I would definitely live in the Netherlands. Amsterdam is such an amazing city. I cannot wait to return and explore more of the Netherlands.
Good luck! Hope it will all work out for you 🙂
Great post.. very informative! Thank you for sharing!
Thanks a lot! 🙂
So much great information here! I never knew Holland and The Netherlands aren’t really interchangeable. We pretty much use them interchangeably in the US, and my ex-MIL who is Dutch refers to it as Holland so she must be from one of the Holland provinces.
Thank you! Some Dutch people do say Holland as well when referring to the whole country. It is just so commonly used everywhere 🙂
This is so useful for anyone planning on moving there! Good to know about the one-day train tickets, and I’d love to try out those snacks!
Thank you! The snacks are amazing, you should definitely try them one day! 🙂
I would love to move to another country, it’s harder from the US but one day I’ll at least spend a summer abroad!
Ah yes I can imagine it’s a lot harder moving to a new country from the US! Hope your summer abroad will work out one day! 🙂