Moving to the Netherlands: an Insider’s guide to relocation.
Living and working in a different country is on many people’s bucket list. Spending a few years or longer somewhere other than your home country can be a life-changing experience, giving opportunities for personal, professional, and financial growth. Yet while it might be an exciting prospect, international relocation is rarely easy. There are good reasons why the past few years have seen the rise of professional relocation service providers and consultants; a smooth relocation often requires specific knowledge, research and time-consuming preparation work.
There are many aspects to take into account when considering relocation. Some of them are common to any destination, others extremely country-specific. Over the years, we have seen countless guests choose YAYS Aparthotels as their temporary home. Our fully equipped apartments have been the first stepping stone for many relocations. In this guide, we’ve condensed our local knowledge to outline some of the most important challenges, and solutions, of relocating to the Netherlands, hoping to make your research a bit easier.
Relocating to the Netherlands is of course a lot easier if you’re a citizen of an EU / EEA country or Switzerland, with less bureaucracy to worry about. If you’re British, then Brexit has undoubtedly made things more complicated, but not impossible. You’ll need to refer to the Dutch immigration rules to best understand your position and visa requirements. However, our expats’ guide to the Netherlands will be handy for anyone planning to relocate.
How do expats find a home in the Netherlands?
Finding a new home in cities such as Amsterdam or The Hague can be an exciting, fun process, but it’s not always an easy one. This is the case with Amsterdam especially, which like many popular European cities has a housing shortage. That pushes up prices and demand, and can put expats at a disadvantage if they don’t already know their way around.
So, whether you’re looking to buy a place or to rent, the best advice for relocating to the Netherlands is often an extended stay in a serviced apartment. Not only are YAYS aparthotels fully-equipped and unpretentiously stylish (and pretty awesome too), but they are also conveniently situated.
You’ll find them in sought-after neighbourhoods outside the main tourist areas, such as Bickerseiland in Amsterdam, and the Old Town in The Hague. Extended stays in Amsterdam and The Hague give you time and space to explore properly, get a feel for the local vibe, and make the right choice on where you want to live. Just don’t be surprised if you don’t want to leave at the end.
An aparthotel is an ideal solution whether you’re relocating on your own, as a couple or as a family, with a private, fully equipped kitchen and weekly cleaning, so there’s no need to remember the Do Not Disturb sign every morning.
Additionally, there will always be a YAYS Insider available to you, either a friendly face waiting in the lobby, or easily reachable via direct message or email. There to help you find your feet with trustworthy information, advice and unusual recommendations, YAYS Insiders pride themselves on their local knowledge and connections. After all, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
As well as knowing the best place for pancakes within a five-minute walk, where to find fresh flowers, or where to find an open pharmacy on a Sunday, they’ll provide you with indispensable tips, insights and stories to help bring the neighbourhood to life. The first step, in fact, towards becoming an insider yourself.
You’ll benefit from our comprehensive Neighbourhood Guide that tells you what’s going on, when, and why you ought to be there. You can also enjoy a range of handpicked experiences to help you get to know the neighbourhood, and put a name to a face with your neighbours, including personalised walking tours.
You could even hire bikes from your aparthotel – the Netherlands is one of the world’s most cyclist-friendly countries, not least because it’s so flat. In the cities, virtually everywhere is easily reachable on two wheels. But remember – most Dutch bikes have no hand brakes, instead you brake by reverse-pedalling. It can take a little getting used to!
Commuting and parking
You could also live outside a city and commute in, as the Netherlands is not a large country and the public transport system is generally excellent. YAYS central aparthotels in Amsterdam and The Hague make a suitable temporary base for exploring further afield – think of it as your place in town. There are options with secure underground parking for additional convenience. In Amsterdam, a good parking spot is worth its weight in gold, or tulips.
Do expats in the Netherlands need to speak Dutch?
If you’re thinking about problems with moving to the Netherlands, the language barrier should not be one of them. There are two official languages: Dutch, and the ancient language of Frisian. But you won’t need to speak either, and in fact you’ll rarely get the chance, as Dutch people are so fluent in English that they will typically revert to it even when you attempt their own language. Which is useful, except when you’re hoping to practise your Dutch.
That said, taking a few lessons, carrying around a phrasebook and getting a little practice is one of our most useful tips for relocating to the Netherlands. It will show you’re making an effort and will no doubt be appreciated by the neighbours, even if they do immediately reply in English anyway.
Healthcare advice for expats in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is one of the healthiest countries in Europe, and a big part of that is down to their superb healthcare system, and what’s known as the basisverekering (basic insurance). This is a compulsory health insurance scheme that while not cheap – expect to pay around €100 to €120 for everyone in the family aged over 18 – offers excellent value. It ensures that your basic medical costs are covered, from medication to rehabilitation, maternity care to therapy. Children up to the age of 18 are covered for free, and dental work is also included for them. So while you can’t guarantee that yours will grow as tall as the Dutch kids, you can be confident they’ll be just as healthy.
Expats can choose from a range of healthcare insurance providers in the Netherlands, and you can change your package annually. Note that a deductible will usually apply before the insurer reimburses you. How the healthcare system works is for many expats one of the most important things to know about relocating to the Netherlands. Luckily it is quite simple to navigate and of a very high standard.
Tips for moving to the Netherlands with children
If you’re moving to the Netherlands with your family, you will find a welcoming, tolerant society that’s great for children to grow up in. And there is no shortage of activities and destinations to keep them entertained. But some of the most useful advice for expats in the Netherlands concerns education and childcare.
The good news? The Dutch education system is one of the best in the world, and children in this country are among the happiest. Even taking into account homework. The bad news? Well, not much, but it can be a little complex, especially at secondary level.
Most schools in the Netherlands are free, although parents are expected to make a contribution depending on their income to help cover things such as educational trips. Attendance requirements are strict, and the school year lasts 40 weeks, with a six-week summer holiday. If your kids are going straight into school when you arrive, then an extended stay in a spacious and comfortable YAYS aparthotel will help them feel settled while you are finding somewhere permanent to live.
Childcare for young children
The Netherlands has an extensive range of childcare options for expat parents, from daycare (long waiting lists are common) to childminders, after-school activities and au pairs. Whatever your childcare requirements when considering how to move to the Netherlands, you should have little difficulty in finding a solution.
Most children in the Netherlands start school the day after they turn four (what a nice birthday gift!) but must go from the age of five. Primary education in the Netherlands has eight grades up to the age of 12. All fairly simple so far.
Children attend secondary school until 16 when they should earn their diploma, startkwalificatie – after which most will continue either in full or part-time education until they are 18. Secondary education in the Netherlands has three levels: VMBO, HAVO, and VWO, which determine the student’s higher education options.
The Netherlands subsidises international schools, and these are your best option if you don’t want a bilingual school, where tests will be in Dutch, and often at least one parent is required to be fluent in Dutch too.
Subsidised international schools usually cost around 4,500 to 5,500 euros a year, and are likely to have a waiting list. Private international schools tend to be around three times as expensive, but with shorter waiting lists and more amenities.
There is also a network of schools around the Netherlands for children with special educational needs at both primary and secondary level.
Relocating to the Netherlands with pets
It’s common to have questions about relocating to the Netherlands with your pets – after all you want their journey to be just as smooth as your own. First, the essentials that you need to know:
Dogs and cats need to have an ISO Pet Microchip fitted – it should be ISO 11784 / 11785 compliant
They must be vaccinated against rabies and various other diseases at least 21 days before travel, no more than one year before, and after the microchip is fitted – so a vet appointment should be part of your medium-term planning list. If your pet is under three months old, they don’t need to be vaccinated
Your vet should update your EU Pet Passport with details of microchip and vaccination status
If you’re relocating to the Netherlands from another EU country then this covers the basics. If you are coming from a country outside the EU, such as the UK or the USA, then you will also need an EU Health Certificate, signed by a licensed veterinarian, before travel.
A couple of other important points to note when relocating to the Netherlands with pets. Veterinarians, and pet insurance, are widely available. Some breeds of dog considered aggressive are banned, and all dogs must be registered with your local town hall on arrival. Many cities also impose a dog tax, which must be paid annually.
Relocating to the Netherlands with your own vehicle
If you plan on owning a car when in the Netherlands, it can make very good financial sense to bring your own. The reason is that it is usually exempt from registration tax and import duties.
If you are relocating from a non-EU member state, then whether you’re bringing a car, motorbike or campervan, you will need to exchange your own driving license for a Dutch one – a relatively straightforward process.
The procedures for shipping a vehicle to the Netherlands, having it technically adapted (if necessary), registered and tested, can be time-consuming and costly. There are plenty of services that will handle the entire process for you, which are not cheap but should still see you saving money in the long-run.
Once your vehicle is registered and insured, you’re then free to hit the road and start exploring the Netherlands.
This guide covers the essential information you need for relocating to the Netherlands, but naturally there’s a lot more to it than this. For one thing, you’ll need to ensure there’s plenty of orange in your wardrobe. If you don’t already have a passion for coffee, prepare to develop one. And if you don’t want to pick up a serious case of bike-envy, make sure you bring or buy your own as soon as you arrive.
One last thing: remember that if you’re staying at a YAYS aparthotel, our friendly Insiders are there to give you the lowdown on the city from a local’s perspective. There’s no better source of genuine advice on how to settle into your new life in the Netherlands.
meet the writer.
Mario loves Amsterdam and its history. Before becoming a YAYS Insider, he was a boy scout, a tour guide and a candy maker. His favourite place in Amsterdam is the kinderboerderij of Westerpark, a little city farm unknown to many locals. Even on a day off, he loves to hang out in the neighbourhood with his daughter or his friends, discovering hidden gardens. Mario speaks Mexican Spanish and Texan English, knows a lot of Polish words and is working on his Dutch.
Ready to pick your first apartment in Amsterdam? YAYS Amsterdam Docklands is the right place to begin your adventure!
Select some place.