Living in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is not a large country. It takes about four hours to travel by train from Groningen (in the north) to Maastricht (in the south). As approximately a quarter of the Netherlands lies below sea level, it is good to know that the excellent and famous Delta Works keep the sea at a safe distance. The population of the Netherlands is expected to increase to 18 million by the year 2050. The total area of the Netherlands amounts to more than 41,000 square kilometres, which means that we have a relatively high population density of almost 500 people per square kilometre.
The Dutch climate features cool summers and mild winters. The average temperature in the summer months is 16.6º C and 2.8º C in the winter months. It is a typical maritime climate as one would expect if consulting a map and noting its position in respect to the North Sea.
Further information regarding the Netherlands
You can peruse further official information regarding the Netherlands via the official Dutch website, www.holland.com. Further ‘light-hearted’ information about the Dutch is included on the website, Stuff Dutch People Like and further information regarding studying in the Netherlands is included on the website, www.studyinholland.nl.
the Dutch weather
"The weather is changing constantly, in my backyard it's sunny and in the front of my house it's raining.."
According to the ‘Economist Intelligence Unit’ (‘EIU’), the Netherlands is not an expensive place to live compared to other countries around the world.
Experience has shown that students living and studying in the Netherlands for one year spend an average of between EUR 800 and EUR 1,100 per month.
The Dutch currency unit is the Euro (i.e. abbreviated to ‘EUR’ or ‘€’). One Euro is made up of one hundred Euro Cents.
Managing your finances
On one of the fixed arrival dates, you will be issued with information regarding the procedure for opening a Dutch bank account.
Not all Automatic Teller Machines (ATM’s) accept bankcards from other countries and, due to occasional computer problems, you may not always be able to withdraw money from your bank account at home.
Therefore, it is a good idea not to rely on being able to use your home bank account at all times and to open a Dutch bank account, particularly if you are planning to stay in the Netherlands for any longer than five or six months.
Telephones & post
Telephone booths are now rare, but you may still find them located at railway stations. Therefore, if you have a mobile telephone, you will need to check if it will function correctly here in Europe. Your mobile telephone (GSM) should have the capability to support tri-band and/or quad-band. However, this will not be the cheapest way to use your mobile telephone whilst you are in Europe. If you hope to be able to make calls inexpensively, you may need to arrange to have your SIM Card unlocked.
Of course, during your stay in the Netherlands, another way of communicating will be by post. You will notice that the orange letterboxes on street corners have two slots. Usually, the slot on the right is for local mail (check the postcode) and the slot on the left is for everywhere else in the Netherlands and the rest of the world.
Depending on where you find your accommodation, you will most likely buy your daily groceries either from a supermarket, such as ALDI, Lidl, Albert Heijn, JUMBO, Konmar or C1000, or from a local (weekly) market.
It is useful to note that according to the general rankings, the ALDI and Lidl supermarkets tend to have the lowest prices, the Albert Heijn supermarkets tend to have the highest prices and on average, the other supermarkets fall between these two extremes. Please note that these rankings are approximations only. You will be likely to discover that many products are sold at the same prices in all supermarkets, whereas some products of similar quality may be sold at markedly different prices.
Shopping for clothing & home wares
In general, shops in the Netherlands are open from 09:00 to 18:00 on weekdays and from 09:00 to 17:00 on Saturdays. Almost all shops are closed on Monday mornings and increasingly, shops are opening on Sunday afternoons from 12:00 to 17:00, which is known as ‘koopzondag’ (Buying Sunday). Most shops display their opening times near their entrances. In several (larger) locations, many shops stay open until 21:00 on one day per week. This varies from location to location, but typically, this will be on a Thursday or a Friday evening. Until recently, it was normal for shops to remain closed on public holidays, but currently, more and more shops are also opening on public holidays.
In most locations in the Netherlands, an open-air market will be held once per week and sometimes more frequently. Shopping for your groceries at such a market may save you quite a lot of money, although you will always need to keep an eye on the quality of the products. Larger open-air markets also sell clothing, cosmetics, fabrics and other items. Again, you may find some excellent bargains, but the quality may vary.
General shopping tips
- Bargaining is not customary in the Netherlands. With very few exceptions, you will be expected to pay the marked price.
- Always be sure to take a shopping bag with you, as even in supermarkets, you will be expected to pack your own groceries and bags are not usually provided free of charge.
- The Dutch do not tend to queue, as you will no doubt notice and you will need to learn the art of gently but firmly getting into, for example, buses and trains. You will also need to learn the art of attracting service in shops. Unless a shop has a queuing system whereby the customers draw numbered tickets, you will be expected to know who was waiting before you, which takes practice (and patience). If a fellow customer glares angrily at you, it will probably be because you unwittingly spoke up before it was your turn to be served. On the other hand, he/she may be bluffing, so do not hesitate to glare back if you are sure that you were next in line.
Restaurants & cafés
The cities of Eindhoven, Tilburg and Venlo all have large numbers of restaurants and cafés. You should not find it difficult to find a restaurant or café where you can eat a tasty and satisfying meal at a reasonable price. Many restaurants also offer a wide range of international dishes.
Takeaway restaurants and cafés offer food at relatively low prices and there are many to choose from in all Dutch cities.
These cities host many cafés where you can enjoy genuine student culture. Students also have their favourite bars, pubs, restaurants and other meeting places. Generally, the Dutch higher education community seeks to be a part of society, rather than isolating itself.
In some cafés, for around 7 – 15 Euros, you can also eat a nice meal.
Recreation & culture
Catching a movie, enjoying the nightlife, pop concerts, visiting museums and/or going to the theatre – each of these cities offer plenty of options. If you visit a museum, or go to a show or the cinema, you may also receive a discount by showing your Student Pass.
The International Students Team can provide you with a city guide regarding your new living and studying environment.
Everyone in the Netherlands must have insurance cover for medical expenses. The type of health insurance that you will need will depend on your personal situation.
For further information regarding medical insurance cover, please click here.
In the Netherlands, the ‘huisarts’ (doctor, general practitioner, GP) provides full medical assistance in accordance with the standards designated for the practice of medicine by medical professionals in the Netherlands. We strongly recommend that you register yourself with a GP in your area as soon as possible after your arrival in the Netherlands.
The most practical thing to do is to register with a GP who operates a practice as close to your home address as possible. If you need to visit your GP, you will usually need to make an appointment in advance.
In each city, you will find at least one ‘ziekenhuis’ (hospital). The Accident & Emergency Department is called the ‘Eerste Hulp Bij Ongelukken’, or ‘EHBO’ in Dutch and the telephone number for all emergency services in Holland is 112. For hospital admission for non-emergency treatment, you will need to keep your insurance company informed and check your policy for your level of cover. Your insurer will require a referral letter from your GP. If you need to see a specialist at the hospital, you will need to make the appointment yourself.
If you need to see a ‘tandarts’ (dentist), you will need to make an appointment by telephone, by calling between the hours of 09:00 and 10:00. Remember to check your insurance cover, as free dental services are not available in the Netherlands.
Medicines prescribed by a GP can be collected from an ‘apotheek’ (pharmacy, chemist). Generally, pharmacies are open on weekdays from 08:30 to 17:30. Outside these hours, you can call an emergency number, but only in urgent cases. Most pharmacies are closed during weekends.