If you’re new to Holland you are most likely wondering how the Dutch people live and approach Dutch life. To help you settle in and adapt to the Dutch way of life, we’ve put together a short guide to cover the basics such as relocating your belongings, health insurance and opening a bank account.
Welcome to the Netherlands! As a new arrival, you are likely to have lots of questions about your decision to emigrate to Holland. Despite being proud of your new expat status, you won’t be alone in wanting to blend in and adapt to the Dutch way of life with little delay. This guide provides brief advice for those who are new to Holland.
Relocating your belongings
Unless you’re moving to the Netherlands from another EU country, you will need to make a declaration at customs for your household effects, although you probably won’t pay tax. Expats may also be exempt from Dutch registration tax and import duties on importing a car.
For detailed information on international removals, air and road freight, shipping companies, see reloocation options for moving to the Netherlands. There are strict regulations about bringing a pet to the Netherlands.
Immigration/registration when you are new to Holland
Citizens of EU/EEA countries or Switzerland can live and work in the Netherlands freely but almost everyone else will need a visa and a work permit (including, as from January 2017, Japanese nationals). As from 2017, there are new rules on intra-company transfers. Regardless of your country of origin, you must register in the municipality in which you’ll be living. After registration, you’ll be given a Citizen Service Number (BSN Burgerservicenummer), which you’ll need for tax and social security services. Once you have you BSN you can apply for a DigiD, which will allow you to access government websites, e.g. make hospital appointments and file tax returns. For comprehensive information, see Moving to the Netherlands: Guide to Dutch visas and permits.
Health and social insurance cover when you’re new to Holland
You must take out Dutch healthcare insurance, in order to access the Dutch healthcare system, even if you already have health insurance in your country of origin. If you’re from the EU/EEA/Switzerland, you must do so within four months of registering (see above); if you’re not working, or you’re studying, you can use your European Health Insurance Card. Everyone else must take out Dutch health insurance within four months of receiving their residence permit.
Almost everyone who lives in the Netherlands must also pay into the Dutch social security system and in return can claim various government benefits.
How Dutch people open a bank account
If you’re working in the Netherlands, your employer will pay your salary into a bank account; it’s faster if this is a Dutch bank account. You’ll usually need valid ID, proof of address and your BSN to open a current bank account and in addition, proof of income to open a savings account in the Netherlands.
Paying tax when you have emigrated to Holland
If you’re living or working in the Netherlands, you’re usually classed as a resident tax payer from day one and taxed on assets worldwide. You pay tax to the Tax and Customs Administration Board via your employer and local taxes to your municipality and to the water board. Highly skilled migrants may benefit from the ‘30 percent tax ruling’ (in effect 30 percent of the wage is tax free).
If you’re an employee, tax will be deducted from your salary each month but it still might be worth completing a tax return at the beginning of every year in case you are due a tax refund. Find out how in Doing your income tax return in the Netherlands.
Finding employment when you’re new to Holland
Its 2017 5.1 percent unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the EU. You must have your BSN (see above) in order to work in the Netherlands. Unless you’re from an EEA country or Switzerland you don’t need a work permit. Everyone else does. There are plenty of options for finding employment in the Netherlands.
Where do Dutch people live?
Three-quarters of rental accommodation in the Netherlands is rent-controlled social housing but higher earners and expats are unlikely to qualify, so you’re likely to have to rent privately. There’s a shortage of properties just above the rent-controlled level (EUR 710-1000/month) in cities like Amsterdam, so it can be hard to find accomodation. Consider using a certified rental agent; they’re knowledgeable about cities and different neighbourhoods, hear about property before it comes onto the open market, can negotiate contracts and help you with all aspects of the move. As soon as you have an address, you need to inform the municipality.
Setting up utilities and communications
It’s common for utility costs – gas, electricity and water – to be included in monthly rent charges in rented accommodation, with your landlord issuing you with an annual account showing payments and costs.
If they are not, or you have bought a property, you can usually transfer them from the previous occupants or get connected through the main providers. The same applies to TV (most of which is cable), internet and telephone. There is no TV licence in The Netherlands.
Enrolling in education when you’re new to Holland
The education system here is likely to differ to that of your home country. You must register your children with the municipality and with a school. Most children start school from the age of four although it’s not compulsory until five and formal structured learning doesn’t start until six. Full time education continues until 16 and at least part-time until 18.
Around the age of 12, children sit an exam (the cito-toets), to determine the type of secondary school they’ll go to: VWO (pre-university education), HAVO-school (higher general secondary education) or VMBO for vocational training – some schools offer all levels. Secondary school places are allocated by ballot so if you’re applying to a popular school, be prepared with a second or even third choice. Once at secondary school, as long as students score an average of six out of ten, they will be awarded a high school diploma and can have a place at a university or other further education.
Certain private and international schools in the Netherlands are subsidised by the Dutch government so might not be as expensive as you might think.
Dutch life: Driving
You must be 18 to drive in The Netherlands. Drivers from EU/EFTA countries can use their own driving licences (although Dutch laws are applicable) for up to 10 years if issued before 19 January 2103 or 15 years if issued after that date. Almost everyone else has to exchange their licence for a Dutch licence within 6 months of taking up residency and carry an international driving licence or permit in the meantime.
Dutch life: Childcare
Childcare in the Netherlands includes public childcare centres, child minders and playgroups but there are often waiting lists, so organise as soon as possible. You may be eligible for childcare benefit for certain registered childcare options.
Arranging insurance when you are new to Holland
The Dutch take out high levels of insurance compared to other countries. In addition to compulsory health insurance and social security, you’re advised to take out contents insurance and if applicable, homeowners/house and car insurance.
Many Dutch people also take out liability insurance (e.g. covering you in case you case damage to someone else’s property and legal insurance, giving access to legal advice.
Learn and speak the language like a dutchie (Dutch person)
Although English is widely spoken, learning Dutch will help you feel more at home in the Netherlands, will open up more job opportunities, and will make everyday interactions easier. It could also be fun and a good way to meet people. The Education Executive Agency lends money for lessons, municipalities sometimes run courses and you may be able to go on a course through your employer.
Retirement and pensions
The Netherlands is rated as one of the best places to retire on the Nataxis Global Retirement Index and has one of the best pension systems in the world according to the Mercer’s Global Pensions Index 2016. If you’re living and working in the Netherlands and making Dutch social security contributions, you’ll be eligible for a Dutch pension, supplemented by company/occupational and private pension schemes. You may be able to combine EU/EEA/Swiss state pensions and transfer international pension funds.
Dutch life: Social and cultural life
The famously liberal society, the high quality of living and the fact that many people speak English makes the Netherlands an attractive destination for expats. For a whistle stop introduction to the country, see A brief introduction to the Netherlands.
Don’t mistake the Dutch direct manner of speaking as rudeness – it’s just different to what you may be used to. While people are friendly it can also be slow to form deep friendships – but hang in there. To find out more about the Dutch people and culture, see Guide to the Dutch: society and working culture.
Get out there and join in. Check out the Top 10 places to visit in the Netherlands and the Top 10 things to do in Amsterdam. Find out The best places to celebrate Dutch carnival. Discover hidden gems in The Holland Handbook: places undiscovered by the masses. Go to one of the Top Dutch Festivals 2017.
According to a recent Oxfam report, the Netherlands has the most plentiful, nutritious, healthy and affordable food in the world! Start your culinary journey with our Top 19 Dutch foods – with recipes.
Click to the top of our guide to settling into Dutch life: Your first week in the Netherlands.