This was not the first time. I had lived for 2 years in Denmark as an expat about 5 years before my second relocation adventure. As a Turkish Expat in The Netherlands, I was ready to embrace living with less population, less traffic jams and more opportunity for cycling.

A Turkish Expat in The Netherlands

So, I came to work for an English-speaking company, to a country where English is perfectly available to handle many of my needs.  I guess you can already imagine my motivation to get my head around the culture in The Netherlands. Even though it was a smooth landing, still the level of being distant to real Dutch life created some frustration. Only after marrying my Dutch husband and giving birth in a local hospital, I had a chance to integrate quickly into the Dutch culture.

This made me think about how time saving and important it can be to understand the local life. My suggestion is, above everything, to learn the language asap, if possible before moving to The Netherlands. This way you start with some realistic awareness of what waits for you. If you are just going to stay for a very short period, that is a different challenge.

Is it a social country?

As I lived in Denmark before, my expectations of The Netherlands was that the social support and benefits would be similar. In general, there are some differences in The Netherlands compared to Scandinavian social system; however, compared to my home country, there is much better support for the citizens and residents. The level of support can change for everyone depending on your unique position, so please refer to the guidance provided by the Dutch government before you arrive.

Shopping for Fresh Flowers - Turkish Expat in The Netherlands
Shopping for Fresh Flowers

Top 3 Things I Wish I knew or was aware of …

1. How to find good bargains

There are many ways to save money while shopping in the Netherlands. . Deals and sales announced with headings as: Aanbiedingen/Gratis/Korting/Op is Op via folders or online sites. You can find good deals if you follow these keywords and be proactive. 

Another economical help for your moving in process would be the second-hand shops called ‘kringloopwinkel,’ which are available in almost every district. The Netherlands is known to be very successful with the second-hand and vintage shopping concept.

2. What forms of payment are accepted

Another simple yet important piece of information to know is that shopping at the supermarket might become a challenge if you come from a credit card savvy culture. I still remember my inability to complete my first supermarket shopping activity on my first day in The Netherlands. Once I was done with shopping, I learnt from the cashier that you need a valid Maestro/debit card or cash. Otherwise, credit cards are not accepted in most of the local supermarket chains.

This may sound ok and simple, but the obstacles can go beyond that! What I learnt was that also the supermarkets don’t accept cash notes if it is more than 100 Euros. And, there is literally no place to exchange your cash notes for smaller amounts. You need to come up with more creative ways like withdrawing money with your credit card. However, that is also not possible with every ATM. Please be aware of these limitations if you want to do some simple but necessary shopping on your first day.

3. Where to connect with other expats

While having this busy work life, I was not aware of the various networking groups and Facebook groups that are available for me to ask questions and find solutions about how to land smoothly in The Netherlands. These groups look forward to supporting you with living and working in The Netherlands. 

If you are an expat, an entrepreneur, a mother, or just following your partner to The Netherlands, you can find a group and get in touch with even before moving to The Netherlands. One of these groups I found was International Women’s Networking Group (IWNG) Rotterdam. If you would like to find out about how other international women are coping with life in The Netherlands, check the articles posted on the IWNG website.

Ready to Move to the Netherlands?

This was my short list of advice as a Turkish expat in The Netherlands who recently became a local. I am still learning daily about this culture, country and its people. This is a process and every day you progress as you add some effort to it.

For some additional fun guidance to learn about the Dutch culture and living in The Netherlands, I suggest to watch Jovie’s Home and to read Undutchables.

Trust yourself and know that having the courage to relocate to a new country  means that you are halfway through to your successful landing. Research and being prepared for this process are the key to the other half of your success. Good luck.

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Yildiz Middel

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