Welcome to your new study in Holland! We hope you have an amazing experience! In order to ensure that you do, here are some quick tips that will help make the process of moving a bit more manageable. The best thing to keep in mind is to stay patient and take it one step at a time so you don’t get too overwhelmed in the first few days and weeks!
1. Finding housing and registering for your BSN number
Finding accommodation in the Netherlands, especially in student cities, is one of the most important and potentially most difficult steps to moving. Because the demand for housing is often much higher than the supply, you should make sure to arrange housing before arriving in the country. Begin looking for places well ahead of your move and ensure that the place you are staying at will allow you to register with the municipality in order to get your BSN number.
If you need furniture or other items, the easiest thing to do is get things second-hand. The Netherlands has many weekly or monthly flea markets and offers a number of local alternatives to sites like eBay. There are also a number of large chain stores that sell housewares and other items for decent prices, such as Blokker, HEMA, Xenos, Media Markt, and Ikea.
2. Getting your BSN number
As a resident in the Netherlands, you are required by law to be registered with your gemeente, or local municipality. Registering will allow you to get a burgerservicenummer, a social service number, which you need in order to open a Dutch bank account, get a Dutch mobile phone, and more.
You will need to have your rental agreement, ID, and a letter of acceptance from your institution in order to register at the gemeente. Once you have your BSN number, you can begin resolving other administrative issues.
3. Health insurance, bank account, mobile services, and other administration issues
You are required to have health insurance while residing in the Netherlands. There are multiple ways to meet this requirement, including through your health insurance in your home country. Make sure you are covered properly in case of any emergencies.
You can also open a Dutch bank account, if you’d like. Most of the Dutch banks (ING, ABN-AMRO, Rabobank) will be able to open a student account for you and will only require a couple of items (such as your BSN, ID, and proof of enrollment at your university).
Another thing you’ll need to do is get mobile services in the Netherlands. There are two main options in terms of a phone plan. You can either get a SIM-only card or you can get a subscription (abonnement) with a contract, typically for a year.
Other administrative things may arise in the meantime, especially if you plan to work or receive tax benefits such as huurtoeslag, zorgtoeslag, or studiefinanciering during your time in the Netherlands. You will need your BSN number and ID for the majority of these issues.
4. Transport around the country
There are two main ways to get around as a student in the Netherlands. The first is using public transport and your OV-Chipkaart. As an EU student, you may be able to receive a transit card from the Dutch government as part of your study financing. The OV-Chipkaart system is used across the country so you are able to travel on most trains, trams, metros, and buses using this card. Feel free to explore and familiarise yourself with Holland by taking advantage of its developed transit system.
The other way to travel, especially locally, is via bike. The Netherlands is renowned for its exceptional cycling infrastructure and it really is one of the quickest, cheapest, and easiest ways to get around in this small, but crowded country. Getting a good bike should be one of your priorities when you arrive. Make sure to buy your bike from a legitimate seller (a market, a bike shop, or through the old owner) as bikes that are sold very cheaply by people on the street are most likely stolen. Also invest in a good bike lock or two.
Be sure to take advantage of Holland’s geographical location as well. Cities like Paris and London are just a few hours away and you can often find cheap bus, train, or plane tickets if you are looking to explore beyond Dutch borders.
5. Learning Dutch
If you’re planning on staying in the Netherlands for a longer period of time, it may be a good idea to learn Dutch. Although the majority of Dutch people speak English very well, it doesn’t hurt to be able to communicate in their own language as well. There are many different options as to which course to take. It’s very likely that your university offers Dutch courses, but there are also many language clubs, groups, and organisations outside of campus that you can enrol in. The majority of courses will have a fee, but there are also a number of free options and online tools you can use.
Once you’ve settled in and have resolved some of these issues, you can begin to relax a bit more and shift your focus to making new friends and starting to study at your new university. Many of the higher education institutions in the Netherlands offer various orientation activities during the first few days of the semester. Be sure to get informed about what your school offers and join in on the fun!