Do you want to expand your horizons and move to the Netherlands?

Diana, a 24 year old German expatriate, took the opportunity to move to the land of windmills… in the middle of the Covid pandemic! She tells us about her experience of moving to the Netherlands…

As a child, I always dreamed of leaving the banks of the Rhine to go globetrotting the world. But I never thought I would stop in the Netherlands and so close to home! Yet, I’ve been living in this beautiful country for two years now and I have no regrets about my new Dutch life.

Why the Netherlands? Two years ago, I finished my law degree at the University of Rotterdam as an Erasmus exchange student. It only took me a few days to fall in love with this country. To be honest, it wasn’t the tulips, the bicycles or even the delicious stroopwafels that attracted me the most, but the uncanny Dutch sense of tolerance, cosmopolitanism and spirit of freedom really grabbed my heart… Once my end-of-study internship in The Hague was over, I decided that this was the place I wanted to spend the next few years…

Moving from Germany to the Netherlands in the middle of a pandemic… or not!

Moving to the Netherlands was probably the best decision I ever made in my life, but it goes without saying that I didn’t choose the best timing. At the end of July 2020, I was packing my bags while the whole world was shaken by the Covid-19 pandemic and locked down by social distancing measures. Moving out on my own wasn’t easy. And the restrictions on contact and travel made it worse. Nonetheless, I was able to take a minimum amount of belongings with me and simply gave up on asking my friends for help.

Pandemic or not, it is best to use a moving company, especially if you have a lot of stuff and you want to save yourself the unnecessary stress. There are moving companies in Germany and elsewhere that specialise in international relocation; they can even take care of packing your belongings and unpacking them on arrival. You can easily find the best solution that fits your profile and expectations!

Advance planning is the key to any successful move abroad. Especially if you have a family and a whole house to move! You can find lots of great checklists for international moves online.

Since I moved in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis, I often checked the German Foreign Office website to find out about the evolution of the health situation in the Netherlands and how it would affect my move.

The formalities

As an EU citizen, I didn’t need to apply for a visa to move to the Netherlands; I just needed my German passport. However, I registered at the town hall of my place of residence in order to receive my personal Burgerservicenummer (BSN), a number that is necessary to open a bank account in the Netherlands (I chose ABN Amro bank by the way!). Since I had the plan to live in the Netherlands for several years, I also started the process of obtaining a permit for long-term residence. Some of my non-EU friends had to apply for a long-stay permit (MVV). You can find more information about living and working in the Netherlands here!

Looking for a job and accommodation

Looking for a job was a big challenge for me, especially because I started the process in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. For almost four months I sent out application after application and I was turned down a lot. As in Germany and everywhere else, a good network can go a long way, and through my Erasmus contacts I was able to find a paid internship in a human rights NGO in The Hague. This allows me, for the time being, to put my knowledge into practice, develop my skills and build my network in a stimulating working environment.

For accommodation, I strongly recommend looking as early as possible, especially if you are coming with your family and are not looking for a flat share. The tension on the Dutch housing market is far from being a myth, trust me! After a long search on Funda and Pararius, I was lucky enough to find a small flat through a fellow German who was returning home.

What are the advantages of living in the Netherlands?

  •  A multicultural experience: you’ll get to know a thriving expatriate community with people from all over the world
  • The working conditions are excellent and the Dutch value a good work/life balance
  • The healthcare system is very efficient (it is one of the best healthcare systems in Europe!)
  • The Netherlands offers great travel opportunities: not only does the country have a well-developed rail network that allows you to explore the beautiful countryside (Utrecht is a must!), but it is also a great base for visiting the rest of Europe!

Some differences between the Netherlands and Germany

In the Netherlands, the hierarchy at work is more horizontal than in Germany; employees’ ideas deserve to be listened to as much as those of their superiors

  • The Netherlands is truly a progressive country in particular on social and lifestyle issues (much more than in Germany, which is I think a bit too rigid!)
  • Dutch homes have huge windows without curtains. This absence of curtains is a local custom that is a bit surprising for a German woman. Some say it’s because of the Calvinist tradition that honest people have absolutely nothing to hide. So looking through your neighbours’ windows is not indiscreet after all!
  • I used to enjoy cycling every day in Germany, but in the Netherlands this hobby has become a way of life! Like most Dutch people, I’ll never part with my bike, even if it’s raining, windy or snowing! And I even went for the famous Dutch “grandma’s” bike (yes, yes!)

Conclusion: come and join me in the Netherlands to start your new life. It’s full of surprises!

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