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Moving to the Netherlands

Settling in guide

Published on : 31-07-2014, 17:44 by Joost Luttge

Whether you're a serial expat or are living abroad for the first time, make the most of your time in the Netherlands! Wondering how you get started? This guide will get you through the first bumps of moving to the Netherlands.

1. Announce your arrival in the Netherlands

Expats who will be in the Netherlands longer than 4 months are required to register with the City Hall and Immigration and Naturalization Services (IND). Registration will get you a BSN number, which is a bit like a Social Security Number. This is important, since a BSN number is necessary for all official transactions, including opening a bank account and visiting a doctor here. If you'll be here for less than 4 months, you can skip the registration step when moving to the Netherlands, and go directly to the tax office to request a BSN number.

2. Make yourself at home

Make settling in easier by getting the basics out of the way before moving to the Netherlands. Depending on your rental apartment or housing agreement, you will probably need to arrange your own telephone, internet, cable and whatever else you need to settle in (and remain in contact with home!). A few of the top providers of these services are:

3. Tap into the resources before moving

There are an incredible number of resources available to help expats settle into Dutch life. Some of them are offline, such as Access or the Expatcenter, while others offer virtual support and communities, including Expatica and Facebook's the Netherlands Mamas page. Take advantage of what's available and let yourself focus on the business of enjoying your new home! Here are some of our favorites:

  • Expatcenter: the Netherlands expat portal, with a useful book entitled "My first month in the Netherlands"
  • IamExpat: online media platform for the English-speaking community in the Netherlands
  • Access: non-profit organization supporting expats; based in The Hague, but offering country-wide support on everything an expat may need help with
  • Expatica: top English-language news site and community portal for expats
  • Move to the Netherlands: general information site about relocating to the Netherlands
  • Holland Books: website selling books about the Netherlands, e.g. Kids Guides of things to do in the Netherlands
  • general information source for expats
  • Amsterdam-expats: information for expats relocating to Amsterdam
  • Easyexpat: expat info, community, blog and more
  • IENS: restaurant review site where you can discover local favorites
  • Special Bite: another restaurant review site
  • Amsterdam Mamas: Facebook page and community for parents in Amsterdam
  • American Women's Club of Amsterdam: social community for American expats in Amsterdam
  • British Society of Amsterdam: social community for British expats in the Netherlands

4. Talk the talk

It's easy to live in an expat bubble in the Netherlands, especially since most of the population (willingly) speaks excellent English. Instead, why not sign up for Dutch lessons and make the most of your expat experience by getting in with the locals? You'll be spoiled for choice - total immersion courses, group lessons, private sessions - there are many ways to learn the language. Find something that fits your schedule, budget and enthusiasm.

In some cases learning Dutch may be a requirement for obtaining a visa or resident's permit before moving to the Netherlands. Access provides detailed information and recommends where to look for lessons:


5. Get peddling

There's a reason there are so many bikes in the Netherlands: it's by far the best way to travel and see the city centres, especially in Amsterdam. There, two wheels are often the fastest way to get from A to B and certainly provide the most flexibility to explore all the side streets and areas of Amsterdam that public transport bypasses.
Don't save your biking for within the city limits - there are extensive biking networks throughout the country. Just outside the ring road you can already find some beautiful routes. Be sure to take a trip north to Twiske, a large park, or down south towards Oudekerk aan de Amstel.

6. Relax, but look both ways!

the Netherlands is a beautiful, vibrant and relaxed country that fully embodies the Dutch notion of "gezelligheid", a concept which can best - but inadequately - be translated as cozy and atmospheric. Get into the spirit by taking the time to discover Dutch gezelligheid in yourself: linger over a coffee or wine on a terrace on a sunny day, stroll through one of the parks at sunset, and explore as many restaurants as you can.

In other words take the time to relaaaax... but just not when crossing the street! Trams, cars, scooters and buses seem to come out of nowhere and make it complicated enough. Add in the bikes, especially with bikers ignoring red lights, with no lights, chatting on the phone... Watch out!

7. And finally...

We recommend that expats just arriving read the book "The Undutchables" by Colin White and Laurie Bouke. It's a humorous look at the foibles and quirks of the Dutch. Being an expat is the perfect time to embrace those differences, try new things and make the most of your time away from home.


For a more comprehensive overview of services to help you with your move to the Netherlands, check our expat providers Netherlands overview.  


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