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.
It’s a digital identification system used to authenticate you so you can do fun things like your taxes digitally and securely.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
bunq, based in the Netherlands, the only e-bank that offers iDEAL. It’s free to use online (i.e. through your phone) and you’ll pay monthly for a physical card. Support can be a bit shaky and they have this whole ethos of “not being a regular bank” (but a cool bank).
Revolut, based in the UK, offers debit/credit Visa/Mastercard/Maestro cards. There are a bunch of other fun features too like the concept of “virtual cards”, spare change savings, and, depending on your plan, excellent travel/cancellation insurance.
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:
- MORE than les. For the full-time worker who wants to centre their learning on getting comfortable speaking the language. Groups are small which means there is a lot of individual contact time with the tutor. The lessons are low-key and fun.
- UvA Talen. For the learner who wants to go fully into learning Dutch, most likely in an immersive environment, for passing a language test purposes.
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.)
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.
In terms of food shopping, there’s quite a lot of choice. In terms of food shopping places, there isn’t so many.
Albert Heijn, aka “appie”, pretty much has a monopoly on supermarkets in this city. Get a bonus card for discounts – unless you’re paranoid about your shopping being tracked. They’re everywhere.
Aldi, Lidl, and Jumbo are low-cost competitors. There are only a handful in the city.
EkoPlaza costs a little more money because they’re focussed on biological/organic products.
Marqt is card-only and a little more high-end. If you used to shop at Marks & Spencer, this is their Dutch cousin.
If you’re lucky enough to live by a market (i.e. Albertcuypstraat, Dappermarkt) – these are almost always better value for nuts, fruits, and vegetables. If you head there when the market is closing up, you’ll be in a better position for haggling.
My friend saves a lot of money buying fresh and frequently from his local Turkish grocers.
Maybe you want cheap meals?
Save money on “rescuing” food destined for the trash. ResQ partners up with restaurants and cafes – including juice bars – to offer overstock at discounted rates, from 40-70% off. I’ve saved a pokébowl or two here. It’s good. Another food rescue app is Too Good To Go.
In a similar vein, Farmed Today is an organic/bio-focussed venture saving things like malformed – but still edible! – veggies and fruits (ununiformed items that wouldn’t make the cut in a supermarket).
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:
- RestaurantKaart is a €6,99/month subscription for 50% discounts on a hundreds of restaurants in the Netherlands.
- Iens is the Fork, the Tripadvisor reservation system, complete with reviews and sometimes discounts of up to 50%.
- Heerlijks means delicious. Here, they do Netherlands-wide discounts and promotions at top restaurants including Michelin star places.