Have you ever wondered how it looks like to live in Europe, The Netherlands or to be more precise, in Amsterdam?
What else that magical city hides besides dozens of bicycles, canals, tulips and cheese?
To be frank, many people asked me about those two questions above and about my life in Amsterdam.
That’s why I decided to share in this article my experience of living in Dutch capital.
I will include all the knowledge and tips about paperwork and all the other aspects that are important to know before moving abroad to The Netherlands in 5 crucial steps.
I was a resident of Amsterdam for almost 4 years and I will speak openly about pros and cons of living there.
I hope my tips will be useful to you or to your friends for easier deciding on future life.
PLANNING TO MOVE ABROAD?
You are not satisfied with you current location for whatever reason? Totally fine!
You are still not sure where you want to move? That’s also totally fine!
FIRST, ASK YOURSELF QUESTIONS!
1.Where do I want to live? (warmer countries/colder contries)
2. Where do I want to work? (your profession, your knowledge vs. your wishes and possibilities + available jobs in desired country)
SECOND, DO YOUR RESEARCH!
If you already have some countries in your mind, research about all the necessary documents for moving there, their health system, prices of living/public transport, tax, job opportunities etc.
It’s essential that you take a closer look at what everyday life is like in the country.
WHY THE NETHERLANDS?
The Netherlands is a popular country for expats especially students.
Dutch society is known for its tolerant vibe and the country has a high standard of living. Amsterdam is a charming canal city that keeps attracting many international workers.
Tech and finance industries are growing there rapidly.
Other cities are also home to large expat communities such as The Hague, Utrecht and Rotterdam.
The whole country is well connected so you don’t have to worry about transport.
If you’ve decided on moving to the Netherlands (Amsterdam) there are certain things to be aware of before you make that move:
ADVANTAGES OF LIVING IN AMSTERDAM:
- More than 180 nationalities
- High paychecks
- Ability of opening your own company for only €50
- Full freedom & tolerance
- Great infrastructure (easy travelling)
- Entertainment 24/7
- Plenty of life opportunities
DISADVANTAGES OF LIVING IN AMSTERDAM:
- Rain, rain, rain and some more rain
- Grey, cloudy and foggy days
- Strong winds
- Lack of sun
- Hydroponic food (growing on water plus lack of sun – food has different taste)
- High prices
- Dutch language
5 IMPORTANT THINGS BEFORE MOVING
- Have a place/option where you can always return
2. Bring as much money as you can
3. Have some kind of insurance
4. Bring all your personal documents
5. Notify somebody where you will be staying
Let’s move on to checklist of all you need to do as soon as you move to Amsterdam:
1. LEGAL STATUS
The Netherlands is one of 26 countries making up the ‘Schengen’. It’s an EU member state, meaning EU/EFTA residents can enter and remain in the country without requiring a visa.
Any EU/EFTA residents staying longer than four months will need to register with the government. Make sure to have always your ID or passport with you.
Non EU/EFTA residents need visas for entry and residence permits. For more information on this, read the complete guide —> Dutch visas & permits.
2. CITIZEN SERVICE NUMBER (BSN)
To work in the Netherlands, you need to have a BSN number. It’s the same as OIB in Croatia or N.I.E in Spain.
HOW TO GET BSN? You need to first register with the Town Hall (Gemeente). As a result of registering with the municipality you will be assigned a burgerservicenummer (BSN).
WHY DO I NEED A BSN? Anyone coming from abroad to work or study still requires a BSN number, even for short stays. BSN is required in order to be permitted to work, open a bank account, make use of a health care institution, voting, starting a business, studying, apply for benefits or an allowance etc.
WHICH DOCUMENTS I NEED TO BRING? EU citizens will need to provide a valid proof of identity (such as a passport or ID, not a driving licence) and their address to be registered, while for non-EU citizens other documents (such as your residence permit and employment contract etc.) have to be presented too.
If you’re non-EU citizen, your employer will typically need a work permit (tewerkstellingsvergunning or TWV) for you, and you must also have a residence permit.
IMPORTANT TO KNOW: If you currently don’t have an address in The Netherlands, you will receive a temporary BSN (RNI) and in the next 4 months, you will have to bring some address registration (if you want to have a permanent BSN.)
BEWARE Not all documents are automatically valid in the Netherlands. The civil registry will only accept official documents in Dutch, English, French or German. An official translation will be required for other languages. Make sure to ask all in advance.
BUT FIRST…MAKE A CALL! You have to call to make an appointment in order to get your BSN. (usually it takes up to 3 weeks)
3. BUY A LOCAL SIM CARD
This step is crucial before looking for a job or anything like that. I noticed that no one was calling me until I bought a Lebara sim card. I guess is very clear.
When people see your foreign telephone number, first what they think is that you are not serious enough, you are not a resident yet and above all, they are not sure about how much money they will spend calling you. Local sim cards you can get anywhere and usually they are free (you have to top up the credit).
I advise you to choose Lebara as it worked out perfectly for me for the whole 4 years.
The most important thing to do when arriving to The Netherlands is to find a place to register. As soon as possible! Until you don’t find a place to register, you can’t really continue with anything else.
WAYS OF FINDING AN ACCOMODATION: The best way to find an accommodation is via friends or people you know.
1.) ON INTERNET: In addition, apply for everything that comes up on website called Kamernet. (to rent: Te huur). It costs around €25 a month, but at least you know all the people who are putting adverts there are real, not scams.
Actually, in Kamernet there are scams too and you need to be careful, but there’s the smallest chance you will run into one via this website.
I advise you to be careful when looking for an accommodation on social medias like Facebook groups because there are plenty of scams. Never, I repeat, never give or send someone money before you see the place and have the keys. Funda
2.) ASK anyone you meet about an accommodation or a job you are looking for. Even if they can only give advice or information, it is still incredibly valuable.
3.) REAL ESTATE AGENCIES AND REAL ESTATE AGENTS personally, I know bunch of people that found their place to live via real estate agent. You have to pay few hundred of euros for their service, but in general, it’s totally worth it because they are struggling to find accommodation, not you.
All you have to do is tell them what are your wishes and financial possibilities. I advise you to look for real estate agents that are having NVM sign which indicates registration in Dutch Cooperative Association of Real Estate Agents and Appraisers. (means they are legit!)
Wondering where to live in Amsterdam? As further from city center you go, less you pay. Amsterdam North is a great area and very well connected.
Amsterdam West and Oud West are my favourite parts of the city. Here, I’m still speaking about rooms or studios because flats are expensive in these area. But, you never know. Who looks for something all the time, he/she eventually finds.
Prepare to live in a room in a sharing flat for beginning. Moving with your partner/friend/family is always easier because you can share the costs and at least you know each other well.
ACCOMODATION PRICES: Try finding something for 500 euros or less. That is the cheapest you will most likely be able to find and it will be a room. An entire, small flat, you won’t find under 1000 euros plus deposit, agency fee and probably 6 to 12 months proof of your salaries.
Amsterdam has one of the most expensive accommodation in the whole Europe so be prepared. I can tell you from my experience, I was really missing a “home” when I was living in Amsterdam. You know, your own mattress where only you were sleeping, your own toilet seat etc. 🙂
But, as I already mentioned, if you look for something long enough, you will find it or it will find you.
5. START LOOKING FOR A JOB
Many people moving to the Netherlands will already have a job offer, but many won’t. Luckily, the Netherlands has plenty of job opportunities for expats, especially in the tech and finance sectors. Actually, there are loads of job opportunities in the whole country.
DO I HAVE TO SPEAK DUTCH IN ORDER TO FIND A JOB? You don’t have to speak Dutch to work in the Netherlands – in fact, English is the main business language in many companies. Although, remember that your employment chances will be limited if you don’t speak Dutch.
You will probably end up working for a large international company if you don’t speak it. For example, finding a full time job is almost impossible because many of them require either fluent Dutch or fluency in any language other than English.
Dutch people are usually working part time, leaving at least 3 days a week to rest. Many of them are freelancers too. (you are able to open your own company for only 50 euros in KVK). A regular Dutch working week is 38 hours.
The majority of full time (voltijd) jobs are between 36-40 hours. If you work less than 36 hours a week, but more than 12, then you are considered as working part time (deeltijd). A high proportion of women in the Netherlands, approximately 74 percent, work part time.
Unlike many other countries, regularly working long hours overtime is not so common in the Netherlands.
Highly-skilled workers are wanted in Netherlands so much so that there’s a fast-track immigration process to get them in. If you are highly skilled in something even as a butcher, you can easily get a high paid job. There are also tax benefits (the 30% tax ruling) for some international employees.
This group includes engineers, those with technical skills, IT specialists, those working in finance, as well as people with a great experience of working in sales and marketing.
HOW TO GET A JOB IN AMSTERDAM? I can tell you how I did it. First time when I came to Amsterdam, I printed around 30 CV’s (CV should be translated to English and you should always attach a photo on the first page) and I went around the city choosing the places I would love to work in.
I was seeing many places with a sign: “Employees needed” and you will see them too. There’s always something to do in Amsterdam. Come inside and politely ask for a manager or a boss. Never leave your CV to an employee because he/she might throw it away (happens often). If there’s no manager or an owner of the place, come another day.
It’s always a season in Amsterdam but let’s say months: November, January, February are the quiets and March to September are the busiest. (in hospitality or ‘horeca’ in Dutch).
I found my first job on that way: ‘from door to door’.
Next time when I was looking for a job, I got a bit lazy to walk around. I wanted to work in a nice hotel so I googled all the existing hotels in Amsterdam plus the closer area, and I’ve send to all of them an email with my CV and motivation letter included.
Day after, I already received two phone calls. Even if you don’t have a job yet, I advise you to move and look for the job in your new country, not from your birth country or country where you are not satisfied living in. Main reason? Success of finding a job is much higher.
ONLINE SITES WHERE YOU CAN LOOK FOR A JOB:
6. APPLY FOR A FREE DUTCH COURSE
As soon as you solve your registration (address), you can apply with your documents and your contract (flat, house, studio) to Gementee for a free Dutch school. It is usually held in ROC van Amsterdam and you will be attending the school that is the closest to address you provided.
Learning a language in this country will open many doors for you. Plus, you will be able to read the ingredients on products lol. (everything is on Dutch or French). This course helped me a lot. You will be set in a group of 20 to 30 people and your classes will usually be 2 times a week lasting 3h (morning or evening).
However, it’s always better to take a paid Dutch course with a smaller group. You will learn more and faster. In this free course, the main focus is on group work and it’s very laid back. Beware that you need to have 80% of attendance if you want to have a free course.
If you are not attending, you will have to pay. (yes, it’s a real school, only in this one you have to pay if you are absent).
Government of the Netherlands: government.nl
Local government informations/tips for expats: iamsterdam.com
LIVING IN AMSTERDAM
My personal experience? I was very satisfied with my life in Dutch capital. Although I came to the Netherlands when Croatian people still didn’t have a right to work legally and although it was very hard in those times, I gained an enormous life experience I couldn’t gain nowhere else.
I was able to travel much more than I could ever travel If I have stayed in Croatia.
Amsterdam is very unique European city. If you are coming from Balkan area, or any other further country, you will notice a great difference in the way of living as a resident of Amsterdam.
It’s unlike any other city with more than 180 nationalities which makes it a perfect place for finding a business partner, a friend or a lover. Or meeting such an interesting person that you only could imagine or see on TV screens.
WEST VS. EAST: The Netherlands is a very modern country, rich kingdom where every person has its strong rights. I think that makes the biggest difference with Eastern Europe. You will be amazed by many things how smooth they function, how fast Dutch people are making and repairing things etc.
THE WEATHER: One thing is for sure: you will have to get used to rainy weather and strong winds as well cycling in these conditions. To be frank, I cried everyday when I first came to Amsterdam. Rain didn’t stop for the whole month.
Actually, I realized rain in the Netherlands is like sun in Spain – often and strong. The worse kind of rain you can experience is a “spray rain”. You don’t even see it, but after a short time, you are completely wet. After a while, you get used to it and you actually start loving the rain.
CYCLING CULTURE Believe it or not, the only thing I miss about Amsterdam is cycling. It may look hectic, but it’s the safest in the world.(just avoid tourist groups, they are the most dangerous on the cycling paths). If you decide to move to Amsterdam, you will dig deeper into a cycling culture after a while.
But I promise, you will fall in love with it. Bike in Amsterdam is not just a bike. It’s like a car, camper and a house. IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT CYCLING CULTURE IN AMSTERDAM YOU CAN DO IT IN ONE OF MY PREVIOUS POSTS.
I highly recommend moving to Amsterdam at least for 6 months. It’s a magical city and totally worth your time.
I hope my article will help you with your decision. If you need more informations or you’re having some more questions/doubts, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments below, on any of the social media or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I will be more than happy to help! 🙂