A checklist (official matters)

Administration

Registration

If you plan to stay in the Netherlands for more than four months, you need to register at the town hall of the municipality you’re staying. This is called the BSN (burgerservicenummer). It’s pretty important to have – especially if you want to get paid and open up a bank account. You can take an appointment even before finding a room, as you will most likely only get an appointment three weeks away from the day you call.

DigiD

It’s a digital identification system used to authenticate you so you can do fun things like your taxes digitally and securely.

Housing

See finding shared housing in Amsterdam.

Healthcare

It is mandatory in the Netherlands to have healthcare insurance. If you don’t register, the government will start charging you a fee for every month you do not have it. It’s quite a complicated topic, but basically, you will pay around €100 for “basic insurance” which includes emergency treatment and GP visits etc. You can pay extra for dental, eye care, contraceptives, physiotherapy etc. You can compare plans at Zorgwijzer.

Driving license

Planning to stay long term in the Netherlands? It might be worth exchanging your foreign driving license for a Dutch one. If you’re from the EU, you can use your license until it expires; if you’re not from the EU, you need to exchange your license within the first six months of your entry.

Phone

You have moved to a country notorious for being the most expensive when it comes to telecommunications in the developed world. Well done! It’s not completely terrible though.

You can pick up good SIM-only deals from companies like YouFone (monthly terminable) and Lebara (if you want to keep it really low-key).

If you know you’re going to be here for a while, T-Mobile has excellent yearly contracts (€37,50 month for unlimited data, calling, texting) with possibility of SIM + phone.

Do shop around though — there ain’t much competition, but there’s still competition.

For long-term contracts, usually, they’ll require you to have a Dutch bank account.


Banking & finances

Cash

The Dutch are notoriously credit-averse which means cards (like Visa, Mastercard, and American Express) are not widely accepted. For grocery shopping and cafes, the most common method of payment is by PIN aka Maestro. For hipster jaunts, PIN is usually the only way to go; some of these places won’t even take cash.

30% ruling

Did you move to the Netherlands for a job? Congratulations! You may be eligible for a 30% tax ruling. Check out the conditions with the Tax Office, double-check your eligibility, and discuss it with your company.

Banks

The big Dutch banks are ABN Amro, Rabobank, and ING. (I have a soft spot for Triodos which is focussed on ethical banking.) Make an appointment to open an account – often, you need to bring proof of residence (like your housing contract) and sometimes employment.

Online banks

There’s been a fintech boom! OK, but really, if you’re not keen on physical banks and their hourlong processes, check out mobile banks where you can be up and running in a jiffy:


Day-to-day life

Language

How do you learn Dutch in a city that is considered an English-speaking capital? With difficulty…but you can get there!

If you like courses, check out:

I have heard good things about, but have not yet personally tried, Taalcursus, a course given by the city, free for EU citizens.

Leef en Leer is a good online local resource to find groups and other courses available in the city. (You can also volunteer with this organisation too.)

Bicycle

The city is best lived in with a bike. Not sure if you want to buy one? There are a few companies that offer Bike as a Service (BaaS). Try Swapfiets for €15/month.

As a former employee, I’m kind of obligated to push VanMoof+ – for flashy folks who want to ride in style. The monthly subscription starts at €19/month and you have to pay a €98 key fee.

Groceries

In terms of food shopping, there’s quite a lot of choice. In terms of food shopping places, there isn’t so many.

Maybe you want cheap meals?

Dining out

There are so many food options in Amsterdam! An average three-course dinner costs around €35 with some wine. If you’re into dining out but want to save some money, there are a few companies in this space: