Expat Guide: 9 steps to help you settle in the Netherlands

Just moved to the Netherlands and feeling a bit lost? Or are you only weeks away from your move? Don’t worry! Follow this guide to get you on the right track to living your best life as an expat in the Netherlands.

1. Plan your logistics

Find a reliable international moving company. Check online or ask people for reviews.

How do you find the right company? Request a quote from multiple companies.

But you should always search and do your own due diligence as your needs will be unique. Make sure you ask each company:

  • Do they charge a fixed price or hourly rate? With a fixed (all-in) price, the risk of a wrong estimate is for the removal company. With a quote based on actual costs, you will pay any additional costs.
  • Do they offer a home visit? Request one, as this will reduce the chance of an incorrect estimate. This also gives you a chance to get a more accurate price and get a closer review of the company and the condition of their equipment.
  • How long will the shipment take? International shipments can take up to three months. Factor this into your entire plan and schedule, so you have what you absolutely need when you first arrive and are able to wait for the rest of your household goods.

When I moved to Thailand, we had relatively little shipping and we gave a lot of things to friends. We didn’t want to spend too much money on shipping. I thought we could easily purchase everything new. That was a big mistake. It was expensive, and I lost things I didn’t realize were so important – like my beautiful pans in the Netherlands! The pans we had purchased (to save money) in Thailand just weren’t the same quality. My advice: Make sure you ship everything. It is a big expense up front but it will save you time, money, and stress down the road.

2. Make your new house your home

You have just moved to Holland. You don’t know anyone. The first thing you need to do is to make your new house nice and feel a bit like home.

If you have a furnished house the house will quickly feel like home if you decorate it with your own things. So start unboxing as soon as possible. Make sure all your clothes and your children’s toys have a place. Buy some plants and or flowers and it will already feel like home. And hang some of your own pictures on the walls. Put some of your own pillows on the couch or buy new ones. Go to the Hema or Kwantum of Leen Bakker. These stores are fairly inexpensive and have nice products for this.

3. Start to explore the neighborhood

Where are playgrounds for your children? Where is the closest supermarket?

You will find a playground on almost every street corner. You will find many different supermarkets. Try a new one (briefly) each day to see which one suits you and your family best.

Pay a short visit to your neighbors and introduce yourself. They will greatly appreciate it. Take them a small gift (some chocolates, or homemade cookies) and you will never have any issues with them 🙂

4. Figure out public transportation

If you are moving to a big city, figure out how public transportation works. It will save you a lot of money on taxi fares (which are very expensive and Uber is not in every city yet). When you feel comfortable, buy a second-hand bike. Cycling is the best way to move around in the Netherlands. You can buy these in second-hand bike shops or online on sites like Marktplaats.

5. Be touristy

Okay, this sounds a bit ridiculous – you live here now, so you’re not a tourist! But the best thing to do to get to know the Netherlands and understand the Dutch a bit is to be a tourist.

Look online for things to do in the Netherlands and start exploring your new country. From museums and historic sites to shopping, dining, and activities – touring in your city and its surroundings will introduce you to all the fun your new country has to offer. Start with Trip Advisor.

6. Learn basic Dutch

You are moving to a country with a language you are unfamiliar with. It will be a lot easier if you know the basics. Get comfortable with simple niceties like “hello” and “thank you,” as well as terms that will help you navigate around in the beginning. Almost everyone in the Netherlands speaks English but it will be very much appreciated if people see that you are doing your best to settle in. For some basic Dutch phrases, check out this YouTube video.

7. Start making new friends

You might feel lonely for a while as you don’t know many people. It can take a long time before you make new friends. It will be a lot easier when you have children and they start having play dates. You can easily find an expat group in your city – check Facebook for these groups or become a member of a sports club that appeals to your interest.

Don’t forget to stay in touch with your old friends. Your old friends and family are the ones most likely to be there when you need them the most.

8. Be realistic

Be realistic about your life in a new country and expect the unexpected. You may experience emotional ups and downs, from loving your new environment and enjoying everything new, to feeling homesick and frustration with some aspects of your new life.

Be realistic and accept that it takes time to integrate. You can’t do more than your very best. Make sure you keep in touch with your old friends to catch up. That will give you a lot of positive energy and will help you feel less lonely

9. Me time

Finished all the steps above. Well done! Now what?

Your partner is working. Your children are enjoying their new school. And what about you? What will you do with your “free” time? How do you see your future here in the Netherlands? Do you have a dream? A lot is possible in the Netherlands. You can pick up a great hobby. You can look for a job. Maybe you want to start your own business.

Do you need help to define the right path for you? Or do you want to know what your options are to find the right balance in your new life? Don’t hesitate to contact me. I will work with you and help you to figure out what you need to live a very happy life.

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