Settling into Dutch life

A short guide to cover the basics to help you settle in and adapt to the Dutch way of life.

Get a BSN and open a bank account

Getting your citizen service number (BSN) and setting up a Dutch bank account are two of the first steps to establishing your new life in the Netherlands. Having a Dutch address is essential to do all of this. You need a BSN for many different reasons: to open a bank account, start a side job and to use the healthcare system. You will receive your BSN when you register with your address at the town hall.

To open a Dutch bank account, you can either make an appointment online or visit a local branch. You will need your BSN, passport or identity card, proof of address (such as a rental contract), proof of enrollment or your student card, and your residence permit if you are not an EU citizen.

Know your supermarkets

Supermarkets (supermarkt in Dutch) are plentiful and can be divided in two major categories: regular and discount chains. The big four are Albert Heijn and Jumbo (regular chains), and Lidl and Aldi (discounters). Some tips when doing your groceries:

  • Bring your own bag, because Dutch supermarkets do not offer free plastic bags. Strong bags are for sale from around €0,35.
  • Deposits of €0.10 or €0.25 are charged on larger bottles (glass beer bottles, large plastic bottles). The empties can be returned to the shop, usually to an automated machine which provides a receipt which can be redeemed at the till for cash.
  • Try to avoid peak times, as supermarkets can get very busy in the early evenings and on Saturday mornings with long queues forming at the checkout.

Get a bike!

The easiest mode of transport in the Netherlands is the bike (in Dutch: fiets). Markets and Marktplaats (the Dutch eBay) are ideal places to find legitimate and cheap used bikes. Before buying, check that bike brakes work, tyres are pumped and no spokes are missing. If your cheap fiets has something broken, you’ll pay the same amount again to get it fixed!

Another option is SWAP where you can rent a bike for a longer period.

Learn Dutch

We know Dutch is hard, but learning a little of the local language will make your time here easier and will help you connect more with the locals. There are plenty of Dutch courses and schools, with classes to fit every budget. Or try an online course on DuoLingo or FutureLearn. Once you have mastered the basics, join a conversation group, where you can put your new language skills into practice.

Get health insurance

If you’re here for more than a couple of months, then you will need to sign up for compulsory Dutch health insurance. The Dutch health system allows you roughly three months to register for health insurance, after which you can be fined by the Zorginstituut Nederland. However, international students aged under 30 who are temporarily in the Netherlands to study, are not obliged nor able to take out Dutch health insurance. If you are an international student with a residence permit applied for via Inholland, then Inholland will have taken out a student insurance on your behalf. If you are a European student under 30, you are obliged to take out a health insurance yourself, either from your own country (check the validity of your EHICard!) or an international student insurance.

Important: Once you start a (student) job in the Netherlands, even if just for a few hours per week or month, you are obliged to take out a Dutch health insurance, otherwise you risk a fine. Questions? Ask the international office!

Get an OV-card

The OV-chipkaart is the payment method for all public transportation in the Netherlands. There are anonymous cards and personalized OV chip cards. The personal cards allows you to add travel products and subscriptions, or have money taken out from your bank account directly. The anonymous cards have to be charged in the machines at metro/train stations. Both cards cost €7,50 and need to be topped up with travel credit. .

Useful websites/apps for planning your journey are and NS (for train journeys).

Find accomodation

Unfortunately, Inholland cannot guarantee accommodation for our international students. If you have not arranged residence yet, we strongly advise you to start looking for accommodation as soon as possible to avoid stress and disappointment. On our website you can find links to agencies, platforms and other recommendations.