The Netherlands is an incredible country – it’s unique blend of tradition and innovation is everywhere – from historic masterpieces, windmills, tulips and traditional canal-side houses through to ground-breaking architecture, cutting-edge design and a famously healthy, outdoor lifestyle. What’s not to love!
Cities with many international residents often have an expat desk. This is a place supported by the local government where you can get a variety of information and access to services you might need during your stay in the country. You can find the contact details of all of the country’s expat centres as well as the cities they serve on the ACCESS website.
Where to Live
The relatively small country shares borders with Germany and Belgium, but other countries are within easy driving distance. With 17 million inhabitants, the Netherlands is densely populated, with the majority of its inhabitants living in the west of the country, in the so-called Randstad.
Many of the BSN school families live in The Hague (Den Haag), where our Junior Schools and administrative offices are located. Others live in the surrounding cities, including Voorschoten, where our Senior School is located, Amsterdam, Rijswijk, Rotterdam, Delft, Voorburg, Leiden, Leiderdorp, Oegstgeest, Wassenaar, Leidschendam, Zoetermeer, Nootdorp, Ypenburg and others.
Finding a Home
For both renting (te huur) or purchasing a house (te koop), you can retain a real estate agent (makelaar). That person can assist you in finding a home and with the appropriate paperwork for a fee. Funda is a popular housing website, though there are many others, though there are many others.
The Netherlands has one official language: Dutch. English, however, is widely spoken. At the BSN Language Centre, we can help you become proficient in both Dutch and English.
The Netherlands has a number of large supermarket chains including Jumbo and Albert Heijn. There you will be able to buy most basic necessities. Your town will also have one or more bakers (bakkerij) where you can get fresh bread and pastries, a butcher (slagerij) where you can purchase cuts of meat as well as sausages and prepared salads, and places to buy fish (vishandel), a fruit and vegetable store (groentewinkel) and a cheese shop (kaaswinkel). Other common stores include a chocolate shop (chocolaterie) and a liquor store (slijterij).
Many cities have a weekly (or more) market where you can buy fresh produce, cheese, meat, fish and cut flowers. Your gemeente (local authority) website will tell you the dates of these markets.
The Netherlands also has a very efficient system of public transportation (openbaar vervoer or simply known as OV). In The Hague region, you will find national trains, light-rail, a metro system and various bus routes. The national rail service is called NS and you can plan your journey via their website. They also have a mobile app. The light-rail, metro and bus services are all operated by private companies. You can plan your journey on their websites as well or use the more popular 9292 site. This site combines all forms of public transport for the Netherlands.
It is unlikely that you will be able to purchase tickets during your journey. To travel on NS, you must have a valid ticket and conductors may check your tickets during your journey. It is still possible on some bus and rail lines to purchase tickets on the spot, however, it is much more common to use an OV chipkaart. These cards are accepted on all forms of public transportation. You must have a minimum balance on your card to use it. Cards can be linked to your bank accountant for automatic recharging. They can also be used to rent bikes at the NS stations, known as OV fiets. There are various discount and subscription opportunities with NS as well as other public transportation providers.
You may have already noticed that the most popular form of transportation is the bicycle in the Netherlands. Cyclists generally have the right-of-way but that is not universal. Helmets are rarely worn. Lights are mandatory, both in the front and in the rear, when cycling at night. You should familiarise yourself with the cycling rules or risk one of fifty possible fines.
Health insurance in the Netherlands is compulsory. You must buy your insurance from a private health insurance company. In order to purchase health insurance, you will need a BSN (burgerservicenummer) which you can get at your local Gemeente or via your expat desk. The Dutch government regulates what insurance companies can charge for a basic insurance package and what must be covered, but you should compare what each company offers in each package and what they charge before you purchase one.
In the Dutch medical system, the general practitioner (huisarts) will be your main point of contact. You should register with a local doctors’ office soon after you arrive. Your health insurance company and your local Gemeente should be able to provide you with a list of local general practitioners. Once you are registered, you should contact your doctor’s office with all medical issues, except for life and death emergencies.
In the event of an emergency, you can dial 112 to contact emergency medical services, the police or the fire department. For less serious medical issues that require medical assistance after normal business hours, each city has an after-hours doctor’s office and pharmacy (apotheek). Your local Gemeente website will have this information. If you live in The Hague region, you can find that information on the website of The Hague.
If you need prescription medication or have a minor ailment, a pharmacist may be able to help you. For over the counter medications and basic first aid, you can visit a drug store (drogisterij).
Registry and Tax
Anyone moving to the Netherlands must register with the local government. If you are the resident of a city with an expat desk, you can often do this through the expat desk. Otherwise, you must go to your local Gemeente to do so. During this process, you will obtain a BSN (burgerservicenummer), which is the Dutch equivalent of a social security number. You will need this number for everything from obtaining medical insurance to a bank account.