Making the move: What's next once you have arrived to the NL
Updated: Mar 13, 2019
I can't believe I’ve been living in the Netherlands for 6 months already, and I can't believe this is my first post of the year!! Truth is, I’ve honestly been postponing writing this post because It has been quite tedious adjusting and living here but hopefully this post makes it a little bit easier for you.
The Netherlands is a country that works differently in so many ways. Its not just all weird but also complicated and expensive. My boyfriend would differ with me and would say it is not complicated, and its practical, anyways I might start talking about some cultural differences but today I’m here to talk about the boring and legal stuff on What to do once you arrived in The Netherlands.
Residence permit, Your agency, as your sponsor should guide you on this process, they will need to sent you the invitation letter to collect your residence permit and you will need to make an appointment to go collect it. I would recommend to schedule it prior to your arrival, so you can go as soon as you arrive, since without this residence card you can NOT start working. For this appointment you will need to bring the invitation letter sent priory by your agency and your passport. They will give you your residence permit card right there. Do not lose it because it costs 130 euros to replace. You are supposed to travel with it and carry it at all times but I must admit I went to London once without it, and I don’t know if I was extremely lucky but an explanation of the situation and a photo on my cellphone allowed me to enter back to the Netherlands.
Next is the BSN, which is like a social security. This you can only get after you have your residence permit and this means you need to register your information into the city hall data base, so to this appointment is where you need to bring your legalized and translated birth certificate along with your passport and residence permit. As you are being sponsored by your host family to live with them, one of them must come with you to this appointment or they will have to give you copies of their passport and sign a form. Some offices are busier than others, in my case the agency made the appointment for me and it was not but until a month after my arrival the good thing is they gave me my BSN number also at the moment.
After this you will receive a letter from the City Hall notifying your registration was successful, and you will need to go back to the City Hall and ask for a BPR extract which proves you are register at the same address as your host family. You don’t need an appointment for this and they just print it for you and you must pay 12 euros. Your agency will need a copy of this document.
After finally having a BSN number, you can now open a bank account. There are not many options here in Netherlands, the major banks are ABN AMRO, ING and RABO BANK. I went with Rabo Bank just because my boyfriend has it and, according to him is the safest one out there. I have no complains so far, only that everything they sent or in the app or atm is in Dutch! I've heard ABN AMRO is English friendly but Ive heard it is a pain in the ass to access the app, one thing for the other. With Rabo Bank I pay only 1.50 euro maintenance fee ( way cheaper than in France, thank God!). You will must likely get a debit account which with here in Netherlands its not possible to buy online unless you use IDeal (which is the Dutch online payment method) or PayPal so, make sure to ask your bank about the IDeal option. My bank gave me a little calculator-like thingy that authorizes and gives you a code when you want to pay with IDeal. One cool thing is that you can withdraw from any bank and you do not get charged a fee (Yay!).
Once you have a bank account you can have a phone suscription. I chose Youfone, there is no commitment (although if you commit to a one or two year contract it is slightly cheaper) and I get 100 minutes, 100 sms and 10 GB of data for 16 euros a month. They dont have offices, everything is online but unfortunately it is in Dutch but it is quite easy to understand. The only trick is to activate an alert while signing up, so when you are about to finish your data they sent a text message and stop the service otherwise they wont notify and they will still allow you to have data and bill you later for it! It happened to me and I had to pay 114 euros for 1 GB! at the end I spoke with customer service and they offered me a 20 euro discount, and 2 payments but still it is something that could've been prevented. In general Im happy with the service and I recommend it.
Another important thing to do is get your health insurance since it is mandatory to have one as a Dutch resident. My agency and host family helped with this, since it is quite a delicate topic. I learned there are so many different kinds of coverage for example if you want to be covered only in the city you live or in the whole country! I have my insurance policy with Zorg en Zekerheid and I pay 88 euros a month. I applied to it three months later which means they charged me for 4 months! the past 3 months and the current month which was around 350 euros in total!!! I almost fainted when I saw this amount was charged from my bank account, but then calmed down when I learned that you get an allowance from the government! this is called Zorgtoeslag and you need to apply for it as well. This whole process is what got me crazy no joke its like a four month process for a one year stay, makes no sense to me but okay. You will need to fill out a form including your personal information and the date you arrive to the Netherlands, or actually the date you are registered into the city hall. this is very important since it will determinate how much allowance they will reimburse you for example my date was August 14th so they didn't reimburse the month of August because I did not arrived the 1st! so must likely consider paying yourself that first month unless you are lucky and registered on the first of the month. To get this allowance in function took like another month, so be patient and prepared. I get 99 euros allowance so I have 11 euros left, which I was excited about I mean having extra 11 euros a month that's a win! but my heart was broken when I read that at the end of the year when you cancel the allowance and health insurance they check what you actually paid for the insurance and if there is any left over money you need to give it back! (I know...).
Once having your insurance card you need to go to the closest health center from where you live and register there and choose a doctor. This was for me way weird! like they gave me 2 options a female doctor Monday/Wednesday/Friday and a male doctor Tuesday/Thursday isnt it weird? its not like I can go any time I want, I need to go with the doctor I chose!
Another important thing I would recommend to do is register to a language course. As and Au Pair your family should pay for you a language course. I decided to take Dutch because I really want to learn it to integrate more into my boyfriend's life. It is a difficult language because there are no rules or common sense so you must practice a lot, same with pronunciation! I took my classes at Taalhuis which is in Amsterdam center but they have locations nationwide. And they not only offer dutch but a wide range of languages! I took a three month course for a basic A0 level and with material included it was a total of 320 euros. I really enjoyed the lessons! So I would definitely recommend it.
If you still want to learn some Dutch but you dont want to spend tremendous amount of money, I recently discovered 1 euro classes by Dynamo (click to find out more), these are imparted here in Amsterdam and I dont know if they are offered in other cities.
In terms of transportation, The Netherlands is an expensive country. You will need an OV Chipkaart, which is an electronic and rechargeable card to travel within the country. The Netherlands transportation system is also divided by train and metro/tram/bus. Your card can be used for all transport but if you are a frequent rider and would like to get a monthly subscription you would need then different ones. The train system is operated by NS and I would strongly recommend to get the Weekend Vrij subscription, which allows you to get free and unlimited rides between Friday 18:30 and Monday 05:00 plus you get 40% off during week days off rush hour. This is a one year commitment although you pay monthly so its better to do it as soon as you arrive. It costs 34 euros a month but depending where you live, doing only one trip it pays off.
If you like museums, you must know there is a museumkaart which gives you free entry to most of the museums in the whole Netherlands! including Anna Frank's house, Van Gogh's museum and even Rijksmuseum. The cost of this card is 64.90 euros and it is also valid for a whole year from the time of purchase. You can either buy online (but you will need a dutch bank account) or you can pay with cash and buy it at some participant museums. I love museums and this card has been a life and money saver. Even if you dont like museums is good to have it, on a cold winter day when there's not much to do, trust me you will appreciate it and it's also worthy, since museums are usually expensive (around 15-20 euros).
So here you have!! This are the basics on getting you started as a dutch resident! Hope you find it helpful and you are enjoying so far your experience in this little cute country, and trust me when I say TIME FLIES! all of the sudden you will be ha way there just like me wondering where will the next move be!! which by the way... Im still unsure about it!.