Living in the Netherlands

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.

Opening a Dutch bank account can be done at several banks. The three most well-known banks are ABN AMRO, ING and Rabobank. To open a Dutch bank account, you must have a valid identification document (ID/Passport), Dutch address where you will live during your stay, proof of enrolment at the university, and your residence permit If you are not an EU citizen. The minimum age to open a bank account is 18 years. If you are under 18 a parent or legal representative should accompany you. Is our parent or legal representative not able to travel with you then Bunq bank might be an option for you.

Get a bike

The easiest mode of transport in the Netherlands is the bike (bike = 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!

In stead of buying you can also hire one. For a fixed monthly fee you get a Swapfiets. Swapfiets bicycles are not available in all cities. Please look online where you can get a Swapfiets Bicycle.

Get an OV-card

The OV-chipkaart is the payment method for all public transportation in the Netherlands. Anonymous and disposable cards are suitable for short periods of time or single use. These usually work out more expensive, especially if you stay here for a longer period. A good alternative is the personal OV-chipkaart, which allows you to add travel products and discounts. You can buy a OV-chipkaart at all public transport stations.

Another option is Felyx. This organization offers shared electric scooters.

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.

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. At the website of Study in Holland you will find places where to learn Dutch.

Get health insurance

You are not allowed to take out a Dutch health insurance if you are in the Netherlands for study purposes only. You can remain insured with the health insurer in your home country or take out a private international health insurance. If you are from the EU/EEA you may be eligible to receive a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which covers your necessary medical costs during your stay.

Some of you are probably considering applying for a (part-time) job to supplement your income or to gain experience in a field that is relevant to your studies. Some of you will have to apply for a job to meet the requirements of Student Finance, for EU students (the 56-hour requirement). Please be aware that in all cases, when working in The Netherlands, taking out a Dutch health insurance is mandatory. Non-EU students are allowed to work a maximum of 16 hours per week.

You are only required to take out a Dutch health insurance when working, regardless of the purpose of their stay. When not performing any work under contract, the health insurance from your home country suffices. Students performing volunteer work are exempt from this rule, meaning that they will not have to apply for a Dutch health insurance. You can contact Zorgverzekeringslijn for any questions about the Dutch healthcare insurance.

Register at the City Hall (Municipality)

All students intending to stay in the Netherlands for more than 4 months must register with the Municipal Personal Records Database (BRP). Therefore, you need to make sure that you are legally allowed to live at your new Dutch address.

You will need to bring the following documents:

  • valid passport or identity card (driver’s license is not enough!)
  • non-EU members also need to bring a residence permit
  • address to be registered

After registering yourself you will be provided with a Citizen Service Number (BSN). You need this number when you open a bank account or take out a health insurance. Registration regulations may vary from one council to another. Please check online how to register at your location.

Find accomodation

Unfortunately, Inholland cannot guarantee accommodation for our international students. The shortage of student rooms makes finding accommodation very difficult and we advise all students to start looking for accommodation at least 4 months prior to arrival.

More about accomodation