So….I’ve only just arrived in the Netherlands. But I am not new to moving. This is my sixth country in the past 23 years as a supporting spouse. My husband works in Breda, but we chose to live in Rotterdam so that I would have more career opportunities and a shot at a social life.

It’s not easy moving from place to place, but it is certainly interesting. It keeps me on my toes and constantly learning. Living in the land of tulips, windmills and cheese is appealing on so many levels. I’d like to inspire others as they make the move to the Netherlands with some top tips that have worked for me.

Step outside your comfort zone when you move to the Netherlands

Step outside your comfort zone

You may feel like you’ve already done that just by moving to a new country. It can be a bit uncomfortable to not know how things work. My first foray into an Albert Heijn, for example, I was surprised to learn my credit cards (my US and Swiss bank Visas) did not work at self-checkout.

I was daunted by approaching a cashier and not speaking Dutch. I needed my groceries, however, so I decided to ask why the Dutch were using cards at self checkout and I could not. The cashier explained that other clients were using Maestro debit cards, connected with a Dutch bank account. After some research, I learned that credit cards are not widely used here. And many people do not even use cash, instead paying by phone with apps such as Ideal, Twinkie and Apple Pay. Hmm, good to know. 

Get the right tech apps when you move to the Netherlands

While my American brain thinks credit cards are the norm, I need to adjust to the way money is in the Netherlands. Once you get the hang of how the apps work, it frees you up to streamline any number of transactions and plans.

Just recently I paid for my mani/pedi using iDeal on Treatwell and takeout on Deliveroo. I was also able to cancel a doctor appointment in the DigiD system. And it’s a lifesaver to avoid parking tickets by having Parkmobile (unfortunately not in English) on my phone. I’m becoming a tech whiz when previously, I considered myself technologically challenged.

attend events and join networking groups when you move to a new place! It's a great way to get to know your new city and meet people like yourself

Be culturally curious when you move to the Netherlands

I highly recommend learning some important cultural information about your new home. One great way to do this is to sign up for a walking tour as soon as you move to the Netherlands. In my experience, the guides are motivated and informative, offering cultural tid-bits and insight into the way things are done.

Another way to learn about the cultural ins and outs is to join a networking group. I signed up with IWNG because the philosophy appealed to me. I needed to push myself to get out and meet like-minded women, because I no longer have the safety net of meeting other parents at my kids’ school. This entrepreneurial and supportive attitude is just right for me as an empty nester.

There are many groups out there to get you going, offering activities that engage you in your new city. InterNations is also a reputable choice. Let those who’ve been here a while offer their wisdom. You might just meet your new BFF or next partner for creative collaboration.

riding a bike is an essential part to thinking like a local in the Netherlands

Think like a local

I feel that this might be easier in this most recent move to the Netherlands. Is it because the Dutch are friendly and open, albeit direct and straightforward?

To get a better handle on the way the Dutch think, this article on BBC Travel sums it up nicely. I find it refreshing because time is saved when people just get to the point. Knowing where you stand, especially in a new country, is a good thing.

Also let’s get back on that bicycle, why don’t we? This is a surefire way to fit in once you move to the Netherlands. If you haven’t brought your own, consider BimBimBikes, which is a platform for bike rentals all over the world, but based in Rotterdam. For a quick bike ride in the city, download the Donkey Republic app on your phone. Added benefits are multiple city bike sharing options and longer term memberships.

Biking is an integral component to Dutch life and an intimate way to get to know the city. After having been off the seat for a while, am I afraid of all the cars, pedestrians and trams? Yes a bit, but I have confidence that I will figure it out. Plus I am sure if I do something wrong, someone will let me know.

Ready to Move to the Netherlands?

Even though I haven’t been here for very long, I can tell I’m going to enjoy it. The people are friendly, the bike culture makes getting anywhere in the larger cities a breeze and there are many opportunities to connect with other adventurous internationals like yourself. If you choose to learn a little Dutch, it will also help you feel more integrated.

Veel succes en tot ziens! And if you want to learn more about other expat experiences, come to an IWNG meetup!

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Abbie Pumarejo

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