By: The Gateway Team On: April 30, 2018 In: Business, Corporate Governance Comments: 0

Living and working in the Netherlands

Culture and quality living combined make the Netherlands an attractive place for expats, who are an intrinsic part of the country’s knowledge-based economy. The Dutch people are generally receptive, curious, cultured, and friendly. English is widely spoken – a survey by Education First ranked the Netherlands as third in the world for English proficiency as a second language – but this can be a drawback for those learning Dutch. With many international companies headquartered in the Netherlands, there are plenty of employment opportunities.


Mandatory public Dutch health insurance

Public health insurance in the Netherlands is divided into two forms:

  • The Healthcare Act legally requires all residents in the Netherlands – including contractors – to take out a basic Dutch public health insurance even if you already have health cover in your home country. The Dutch health insurance coverage is decided upon by the government each year and covers most healthcare services from GPs and hospitals. Health insurance companies have to offer the same basic policy to everyone and must accept all applicants regardless of age or state of health. You will typically be required to pay a contribution (an excess fee or deduction) towards your medical bills each year of at least EUR 385 (2017).
  • The second scheme, under the Long-term Care Act which replaced the AWBZ in 2015, covers long-term nursing and care treatment, such as dementia and other severe mental, physical and sensory impairments. The government assesses your situation to determine what care is needed. It is automatically provided and funded by deductions from your salary, although those 18 years and older must provide their own monetary contribution, which is calculated depending on your income, financial capital and living situation.

How to apply for Dutch health insurance

You have four months to take out health insurance in the Netherlands after arriving. If you fail to do so, you could face a fine and be billed retrospectively for the time you were uninsured.

When you register with a health insurance company, you will be asked to provide your Citizen Service Number. This may be issued to you by your employer or by application from the municipal authority where you live or from the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration. You’ll also need to provide proof of residence in the Netherlands, as well as an ID document such as your passport and, if you’re an employee, a letter from your employer confirming your employment.

Insurance policies are valid from the time you pay your very first premium. The most common method of registering is to either contact the health insurance company online or by phone. The cost of your Dutch public health insurance depends on many factors, but general packages start around EUR 100. Low-income earners may be eligible to apply for healthcare benefit for support with the payments.

How to choose a Dutch health insurance company

You are free to select a basic Dutch insurance company of your choice, although it can be difficult to choose between different insurers as many of their sites are in Dutch, which, even with online translators, can be tricky to read, although you may find some Dutch health insurance companies that provide information in English.

You can start by looking at comparison sites, in order to find an insurance company best suited to you and your family, taking into consideration price, what is covered, and how much is the excess payment (the amount you co-pay for certain treatments).

Bear in mind that some employers also offer corporate health insurance schemes for employees, which may be cheaper than taking out a policy individually.

It is possible to purchase additional coverage from a different insurer than your basic insurer. Although this might complicate processing your bills, it can sometimes lower overall costs or allow you to purchase additional health insurance coverage tailored to foreigners in the Netherlands.

How to use your Dutch health insurance

Whenever you seek medical treatment or purchase prescriptions, you must present your ID and Dutch health insurance card (issued by your health insurer). Whether you pay upfront for treatments and claim back from the insurer or the insurer pays the health provider directly depends on your policy; check the fine print of your policy.

You must also pay the state-set excess amount (or deductible) towards your healthcare costs each year, which is revised yearly by the government. For 2017, the amount was set at EUR 385 but a number of political parties are campaigning to significantly decrease or abolish the ‘own risk’ provision altogether.

At the end of each year the government announces next year’s basic insurance premiums and you have the right to change health insurance company once a year, provided you inform them of your intention to cancel prior to 1 January.

What to look for in a Dutch insurance policy

  • How much is the premium?
  • How does the policy work? There are three types: a policy in kind, where the health insurer has contracts with specific health providers and pays the bills for any treatment directly to them; a restitution policy, where you choose your health provider, pay for treatment upfront and get a refund from the insurance company afterwards; and a combination policy where part of the bill is paid by the insurer and part by you.
  • What is the excess (the part of the cost that you have to pay yourself)? The mandatory excess for every is EUR 385 in 2017; prices are reviewed annually. Increasing your excess payment (e.g. up to EUR 885) can be a way to lower your monthly payments.
  • Do you have the option to take out supplementary insurance for any care or treatment that’s not included in the standard package?
  • Some health insurance providers offer additional benefits free of charge, such as dental accident insurance. It is in these ‘extras’ that insurers compete with their basic Dutch insurance package.

What to look for in a private insurance policy

Look carefully at individual packages to find the one that provides the best cover for you and/or your family’s personal circumstances.

  • Do you have any pre-existing conditions?
  • Do you have children?
  • Do you plan to travel abroad regularly and need coverage for any medical emergencies?
  • What are the premiums and excess

Get Right in There!

  1. Learn enough language so you don’t sound – and feel – like a babbling toddler

Or you can aim for fluency. Although, if it was your New Year’s resolution last year, too, it’s probably time to stick notes of those pesky irregular verbs and tricky vocabulary around the house. Before long you’ll be onto your third language, when you can call yourself a ‘polyglot’.

  1. Use the language you’ve already learned (the dreaded ‘p’ word)

If you’ve been told learning a language isn’t hard, the hard truth is they might be right – even if your tongue protests at foreign guttural sounds. Practicing is hard, though, and many people confuse the two. Small children learn easier, for example, because they don’t fear playing with their new language skills.

Sure, you might say ‘chás problem’ (cheese problem) instead of ‘cheis problem’ (no problem) for the first six months but it’s a pretty comic way to break the ice – and it beats sitting clammed up, too shy to join a conversation for hours.

Besides, many foreigners have butchered the language before you – the locals are used to it.

  1. Make at least three new local friends

Or at least one really good friend who invites you home for dinner. Local food at its best! Plus, it’s refreshing to escape the expat bubble, once in a while.

  1. Try that weird dish you refused to try

You’ve seen the five-year-old gobble it down, so it deserves a try. The true way to a local’s heart is through their specialty dishes, no matter how bizarre to your taste buds.

Yes – this New Year’s resolution probably involves offal, raw meat, blood or UFOs (unidentifiable fried objects), all the kinds of things Europeans are experts at turning into tasty local cuisine. Being Europe, you’ll then have to follow this with trying all the regional differences of the same dish.

  1. Visit that major landmark you keep putting off

Don’t be that expat who lives in Paris and hasn’t been to the Eiffel Tower.

‘You live there and can visit any time’ is an unreliable mantra. Remember that friend who had to relocate suddenly? They regret not seeing it, too.

  1. Cook a dinner of local dishes for your (foreign) parents-in-law

It’s surprisingly easy to whip up an impressive spread when you have all the local ingredients on hand, unlike trying to replicate certain dishes from home in a foreign land.

  1. Revel in a little cultural indulgence of your own

Everyone needs to be spoilt with a goodie package from home, once in a while.

  1. Be a ‘country ambassador’

Being abroad generally means missing your favourite traditions but it doesn’t mean you can’t share these with new friends. Although small European kitchens mean your Christmas dinner abroad might be chicken or goose at best, local friends always get a kick out of eating foreign dishes they’ve always heard about.

  1. Get your local driver’s licence

Who really drives on the ‘wrong’ side of the road? Being a dexterous driver is a skill to be proud of, even if it’s only at the office party – and legally necessary once you’re an official resident abroad. Some expats can only exchange their driver’s license if they take a driving test in their host country, however, so this New Year’s resolution might easily double as a New Year’s resolution of learning patience.

  1. See a local festival (no matter the crowds)

There’s no better time to experience local culture than during the burst of a colourful festival – and experience first-hand the local quirks and crushing crowds on tiny European streets. You could be hit by pig’s bladder at a Belgian carnival, throw tomatoes at a Spanish festival, eat a kilo of white asparagus in Germany, go ‘orange crazy’ in the Netherlands, join the top French festival of Bastille Day, or watch the ‘cows come home’ in Switzerland’s spring festivals.

  1. How many countries to visit this year?

As an expat, it’s generally not a matter of ‘if’ you will travel, but rather how many trips you can you fit in this year. Don’t forget to add in those weekend getaways on your top list of places you’ve been meaning to visit around your host country.

  1. Visit your home country more often

It’s easy to keep in contact with those mobile friends and family who can easily visit – although becoming a ‘guest home’ for everyone has its quirks – but it takes some effort to keep in touch with the rest back home.

You won’t need convincing to achieve this goal, although your bank budget might.

  1. At the same time, make visits home less hectic

When you’re juggling three visits a day from friends and extended family, going home starts to feel like a seemingly huge effort. Renting a holiday home so people can visit you in one place, instead of you travelling to 20 places, means you can also find ways to have a real holiday, too.

  1. Call your mother more

If there was a goal that deserved a permanent place on the New Year’s resolution list, it would be keeping in better touch with family and friends back home. Technology today means no one must miss out on grabbing a quick family recipe or frantically finding out how to cope with your toddler swallowing a coin.

  1. Step away from the phone, tablet and TV

While keeping in touch with home is important, being present and active in your new environment is the only way you’ll settle in.

  1. Memorise multiple time zones

No one likes a call at 3am in the morning, not even your mother. This could also be the year you write a stern letter to your bank or telephone company back home – their 4am marketing calls aren’t much fun, thanks.

  1. Join a club or create your own

The only way to meet new people is find new people to meet! Knitting, cooking, running, salsa, blogging, or language exchange – it’s hard not to find something you like for your New Year’s resolution ideas.

  1. Stop comparing

Life abroad is not necessarily better or worse, just different. There are so many small little differences to discover – and even adopt as your own – but it’s hard to cherish these through a cloud of complaints. You might have to bag your own groceries or sun-dry your laundry, but even the worst experience can be turned into a riveting story when you go home.

And no matter how many times you mentally convert and compare prices to back home, they’re still going to cost the same when you buy them in your new country. New country, new you.

  1. Discover the secret to packing the perfect travel suitcase

Rolled or folded? Casual or dressy? Warm or cool clothes? No matter how much you prepare, there’s always half a suitcase of clothes that you couldn’t fit in or didn’t wear, although you have already mastered how to fit a week’s baggage into a carry on.

  1. Go easy on yourself

You’ve already made the colossal move abroad, but it doesn’t end there – often the realities of expat life are far less glamourous then people back home imagine. There’s language and local culture to learn, immigration battles, overcoming small expat fears, and trying to fit in. Don’t be too hard on yourself – or your host country – if you have a bad day. It gets easier every day, and a little less overwhelming.


Adjusting to all the ‘newness’ abroad can leave any expat feeling overwhelmed.

Being an expat can be an overwhelming experience. Nearly everything about your daily life changes. This starts with the big things like language and housing and goes all the way down to having to find a different brand of butter. The expat move usually means that most of your stuff is not coming with you and you will have to build up a new circle of friends. Dealing with all this newness stripped of your normal armor can leave an expat feeling somewhat overwhelmed. This is one of the first challenges to overcome, and from experience, here are some ideas on how to jump this hurdle. Once you do, expat life will start to look pretty grand.

Find a sanctuary

Especially for introverts, it is important to have a place where you feel comfortable and don’t have to think too much and can just be quiet. This sanctuary will be a port in the storm in dealing with all the newness. This may be a hurdle in itself. How, when everything is new and different, do you find a place that is comfortable?

Look for something like what you had at home if possible. My first few weeks abroad, I spent a lot of time in a few specific cafes.

Having a place to let your mind relax is important. When things get overwhelming go and be in the ‘happy place’.

Get enough sleep

Really, the brain takes a lot of energy to run. It is also processing a ton more stuff than it is used to. You need to give it enough down time to do that processing. Part of this can be achieved in your ‘sanctuary’ but the other part is getting enough rest. Sometimes this is not easy given the differences in bedding (yup even beds can be different, everything is different), but being rested means you have the energy to deal with things easier. There will be things like work schedules and evenings out with new friends that you can’t avoid but be aware to not overdo it.


Do something you enjoy

Pick a hobby, either something you used to do at home or something new. This gives you something to concentrate on, instead of freaking out about all the other changes. By giving the mind something specific to work on – as well as giving yourself some kind of routine – it seems able to deal with the chaos better.


Avoid isolation: Seek out people to spend time around

One of the problems with being an expat, especially a new one, is the feeling of isolation. When friends are far away, it is easier to get overwhelmed. They used to provide an outlet for all these frustrations, and without them you have to deal with everything yourself. This is true even if you become an expat with your family. Yes, they are there to provide support, but are also dealing with the expat move at the same time.

Joining a club is one way of meeting people. Having contacts that are already in the local community gives you a chance to hang out with people that already know what is going on. Combine it with a hobby, and you can do two steps at once. This step is not necessarily about making deep friendships, although that is great – it is about having human contact.

Definitely don’t shy away from other expats. Yes local contacts are great, but other expats will understand what you are going through. You already have something in common as well. They a sanctuary from being overwhelmed by 24/7 European, and many may become your best friends.

Get away

Sometimes it is worth just getting away from it all for a bit. Take a Saturday or the whole weekend and just get out of town. Go explore somewhere nearby. You don’t have to go very far, just enough to feel like a traveler on vacation instead of an overwhelmed expat. Being able to do trips like this is one of the benefits of living abroad – take advantage of it.

Build normality

All of these tips are about slowly building a sense of normalcy in your head again. Giving yourself enough space and rest to deal with things is the first step. After that, getting involved builds a bubble of ‘okay-ness’ around you. You expand this bubble until most of what you do on a daily basis is okay. This doesn’t mean it is not foreign or not chaotic, just that it is okay. From okay, things will not overwhelm you as much.

Last word: patience

Becoming an expat can be a great experience. But I doesn’t feel okay overnight. Patience is one of the greatest virtues for expats to learn. You will be fine, but it will take time.


Migrating to the Netherlands

Immigration updates 2017

  • The requirements to work as self-employed in the Netherlands can be rigorous if you are a foreign national. To avoid deterring new businesses, the Dutch government introduced the ‘Start-up Visa’, effective as of January 2015, that allows new businesses a preparatory year to prepare the requirements for qualifying for the Dutch self-employment permit.
  • Further changes were made to the Start-up Visa in 2016, when the Dutch authorities recognised that after the preliminary start-up year many enterprises were still not able to pass the rigorous scrutiny of the standard self-employed application. As of January 2016, start-ups may introduce a favourable recommendation from their business facilitator that will replace the points-based system.
  • The prices for self-employment permits were increased in January 2017 (see below).

Conditions for self-employed Dutch residence permit

If you’re coming to work as a self-employed person or to set up your own business in the Netherlands, there are certain conditions that must be met to receive approval for your Dutch permit, most notably proving that your business activities serve an essential Dutch interest using a point-based system.

If you are applying for a residence permit to work for your own company, your business will be assessed by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), a division of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, which awards points in three different areas: your personal experience, your business plan and how the business will benefit the Dutch economy.

The points-based review is rigorous; a well-prepared business plan with robust financial projections is a must and your application package should be very carefully put together. You must score at least 90 out of 300 points, of which you must score at least 30 points in each category. Only in very limited cases will an exceptional score in one category compensate for a unsatisfactory score in another category.

You must also prove sufficient and long-term means of support, for at least 12 months from the start of the procedure.


To be deemed as self-employed when acting as director or a major shareholder of a company, you must additionally prove you have at least 25 percent interest in the company, be liable for risks and be able to influence the level of your income. If this is not the case, your relationship with the company would be considered as an ’employee’ and you would be required to obtain a work permit for employees.


If you are applying to work as a freelancer, you must additionally prove that you have work assignments in the Netherlands at the time that you apply.

Healthcare practitioners

If you intend to provide healthcare services, you are subject to regulation by the Individual Healthcare Professions Act (BIG) and you must be included in the BIG register. Upon admission you are able to use your professional title in the Netherlands.


Opening a Bank Account in the Netherlands

Get your finances sorted out early and you’ll feel as though a huge weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Daily life in a new country is so much more manageable once you have a bank card in your pocket! Fortunately, setting up a bank account in the Netherlands is straightforward, so you should be good to go in no time.

There is no shortage of options when it comes to selecting a bank in the Netherlands. The four largest and most common are ABN AMRO, ING, Rabobank and SNS Bank. Do some research online, and then head to a branch when you’re ready to open your account.

What Documents Do I Need?

Sadly, you’ll always need to deal with a lot of paperwork to start your new life! To open a new account, either in person or online, you will need:

– Proof of identity: A passport or national identity card are best, as drivers’ licenses are not always accepted.
– Proof of address: For example, a rental contract, mortgage document or recent utility bill with your name and address.
– Your citizen service number (BSN): This is the number that is given to you when you register with the municipality you live in.

Depending on what type of account you are opening, you may need additional documentation. For example, you may also need to provide proof of income in the form of an employment contract, pay slips or similar.

Specific requirements will vary from bank to bank, so it pays to do your research to find out which documents the bank you are interested in will need. As this is not readily available online in English for most banks, your best bet is to call customer service in advance of visiting a branch so that you can come prepared. This will speed up the process and make setting up your account as easy as it can be.

Saving and Spending

It is standard to have a current count for your day-to-day transactions, a savings account and a credit card. You will have to pay monthly fees, which vary depending on your chosen accounts.

When you set your new bank account up, you will receive your debit card and PIN in separate letters in the post. You have to activate the card before you can use it.

As well as using cash, you can make purchases by swiping a debit card or inserting a chip card and entering a four-digit PIN. Your card may also be set up for contactless payment, which means you can make purchases of up to €25 without entering your PIN.

Your card will allow international transactions. Withdrawing Euros is generally free, but you will likely be charged for foreign currency transactions. If you are traveling outside of Europe, be sure to notify your bank so that your card is not blocked.

Using your bank’s ATMs is free. If you use a different bank’s ATM, you will be charged a small fee.

Bills are generally paid by direct debit or online bank transfer. This often happens using accept giro, where you pay online using a special reference number.


Climate and Weather

With cool summers and moderate winters, the Netherlands is said to have a temperate maritime climate, which is influenced by both the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. A temperate climate is one that offers distinct summer and winter seasons, and that’s certainly true of the Netherlands. The influence of the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean ensures that the winters aren’t usually too cold, whilst the summers aren’t typically too hot. It also means that there is always plenty of moisture in the air – which means plenty of showers.

Located between the area of high-pressure air masses centered on the Azores and the low-pressure region centered on Iceland, the Netherlands is an area of collision between warm and polar air masses – as a result, the weather is somewhat unsettled. Due to the small, flat dimensions of the country, however, the climate is mostly uniform across the country, although there is a slightly greater continentality in the inland areas, compared to the coastal areas which tend to be windier.

As a general rule, Dutch summers are warm with periods of changeable weather, whilst the winter months are relatively cold with occasional snow. Throughout the seasons, the country is often overcast, and you can expect to see clouds in the sky every day. In fact, on an average day, three-fifths of the sky is covered in cloud. Thick fog is also rather common in the winter, and on average frost occurs 60 days each year. Thanks to this abundance of cloud cover, the average number of hours of sunshine in the Netherlands is relatively low, with May and June being the sunniest months.

Due to the country’s location, it often witnesses strong winds, gales, and uncomfortable weather caused by strong Atlantic low-pressure systems, particularly in the autumn and winter months. Easterly winds can also bring continental weather, making the country warm in the summer but cold and clear in the winter with often sub-zero temperatures. As the Netherlands is relatively small, there isn’t generally much variation in the climate from region to region. The Dutch weather is notoriously unpredictable – in the summer, one month could be hot and sunny, only for the next to be cool and rainy. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the usually cheerful Dutch population are known for their tendency to complain about the weather. This unpredictability is caused by the country’s seaside location, its lack of mountains, and the fact that it is often on the border between hot and cold weather. Any depressions that blow in from the sea are not stopped by mountain ranges – quite simply because there aren’t any.

Although the country’s unpredictable weather can often make it feel like it rains all the time, it doesn’t! In terms of rainfall, it is typically fairly stable throughout the year, with a dryer period between April and September. The average annual rainfall is 76.5cm, which is relatively high in comparison to other countries. In fact, the country only enjoys around 25 dry days each year. The average rainfall is highest in the autumn and the summer, particularly in August, whilst the lowest rainfall is usually recorded in the spring. On average, March is the driest month of the year.

The possibility of extreme weather is extremely rare in the Netherlands. However, due to its flat landscape and low-lying position (‘Netherlands’ means ‘low lying country’), sea storms and floods are common. Although at one-time severe storms and floods would claim the lives of many – the floods in 1287, 1421, and 1953 were particularly bad – today there are measures in place to protect the land and its inhabitants from flooding, including an impressive system of dykes and numerous pumping stations positioned around the country.

Driving in the Netherlands

Holland is a relatively safe country to drive in, with a reported average rate of just 3 fatalities due to traffic accidents each day, lower than many other European countries. There is good road access into the country from Belgium and Germany and an excellent road network connecting all parts of the country. The main routes are signposted with green ‘E’ symbols on international highways, ‘A’ symbols on national highways and ‘N’ symbols on other main roads. The Netherlands follows the standardised system of road signs in Europe. Blue road signs usually indicate that something is allowed, while red circles show that something is forbidden. However, for example, a circular blue sign which has an arrow on it that points right indicates that the driver MUST go in this direction. Red triangles are used to notify of particular road conditions, but if they’re upside down, then they indicate you have to give right of way. Yellow or orange diamond signs indicate that you have priority right of way. “Sharks teeth” symbols indicate that you have to give priority to vehicles on the road you are entering.

Driving is on the right in the Netherlands, and traffic coming from the right generally has priority, unless otherwise indicated by the road signs. Vehicles already on a roundabout always have right of way over vehicles that want to enter the roundabout, unless stated otherwise. When making a turn, motor vehicle drivers must give priority to cyclists and pedestrians travelling in the same direction on the same road as the motorist, and drivers must also give right of way to pedestrians on zebra crossings. Where trams are in operation, these have priority over other road users.

Speed limits are 120 km/h (75mph) on major highways, 80 km/h (50mph) on most main roads outside towns, and 50 km/h (31mph) in built up areas, unless otherwise indicated. The limits are strictly enforced, and speeds are monitored by automatic police monitoring systems in many areas. There is a blood alcohol limit of 0.05 (a third lower than the UK at 0.08!), with the drink drive laws strictly enforced using random breathalyser tests and highway checkpoints. It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving unless it is with the use of a hands-free set.

Seat belts must be used by the driver and all passengers, and car seats or booster seats must be used for all children between the age of 3 and 12, unless they exceed 1.35 metres in height. Children under the age of 12 are not allowed to sit in the front seat if the car has an airbag, and or sit on an adult’s lap in the front seat. Children’s car seats must meet the current EU safety standards and be the correct size for the weight of the child. Carrier seats should be used for babies, but not in the front seat of the car if an airbag is fitted and not disarmed.

There are clearly-marked emergency telephones located at regular intervals along the main highways, which are connected directly to the emergency and assistance services for use if you have an accident or breakdown. Most Dutch drivers belong to the Dutch Touring Club (ANWB), which provides 24-hour breakdown assistance and a range of other benefits to members. These include free transport, reimbursement for the cost of overnight accommodation if necessary in the event of a breakdown, or a replacement car service.

If you have a road accident, you must complete and sign a statement on an insurance form, a blank copy of which should be kept with you at all times when driving, and the police should be notified of any form of personal injury or damage to property incurred. It is against the law to leave the scene of an accident without completing the insurance statement or notifying the policy of any damage or injury. The toll-free emergency number is 112.

Traffic congestion is common in most built-up areas and on main inter-connecting routes. Parking is very limited in the main cities, especially Amsterdam, and there are policies to deter motorists from bringing their cars in, such as park-and-ride schemes. The parking regulations and charges vary between different cities and towns, but parking is generally expensive in Holland. Automatic ticket dispensers are widely used in car-parks and for roadside parking, and these usually accept either coins or the chipknip card. The ticket should be displayed on the car dashboard for inspection. In some areas, parking is restricted to residents holding permits. If you live in one of these areas you can apply for a permit from the municipal offices or local parking authority. The parking regulations are strictly enforced, with steep fines payable by those who break them; illegally parked cars are sometimes wheel-clamped or towed away.

Driving Licenses

In general, any person who is resident in the Netherlands for at least 185 days in a year is required to have a Dutch drivers license in order to drive a motor vehicle there. However, some foreign-issued licenses can be used to drive in the Netherlands for a specified period of time or can be exchanged for a Dutch license with no need to take a Dutch driving test. Foreign nationals who benefit from the 30% tax ruling in the Netherlands, are also eligible to exchange their own foreign-issued license for a Dutch license, regardless of where their own license was issued. In other cases it is necessary to take a Dutch driving test in order to obtain a license to drive in the Netherlands, although an accelerated version of this is available for people who already hold a foreign driving license. International licenses cannot be exchanged for Dutch licenses. You must be 18 years of age or over to drive in the Netherlands.

Anyone who holds a valid Dutch residence permit and has a license issued in any of the countries specified on the Government’s driving license website (http://www.rijbewijs.nl/nl/english.asp), including most EU/EEA countries, can exchange their own license for a Dutch license without taking a test. Additionally, certain categories of driving licenses issued in a number of other countries specified on the driving license website, including various Asian countries such as Japan and Singapore, can be exchanged for the corresponding category of license in the Netherlands.

The procedure for exchanging a valid foreign-issued license, which must have been issued when the license holder had residence status in the issuing country, is to complete a confirmation of identity form (uittreksel bevolkingsregister), a health declaration form (eigen verklaring) and an exchange application form, all of which are available from the municipal offices. These should then be submitted to the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driver Testing (CBR). If the initial application is approved, the CBR will issue a “certificate of fitness” which should be submitted to the municipal office along with the foreign-issued license, two passport photos, the exchange form and any other relevant documentation such as evidence of eligibility for the 30% tax ruling. Some foreign-issued licenses and other documents may need to be translated by an approved translator. An applicant is not allowed to drive in the Netherlands until their Dutch license is issued, a process which normally takes at least five days.

People holding licenses which cannot be exchanged for a Dutch license are required to take a driving test at the CBR. An accelerated test is available for Category B (passenger car) license holders which takes into account their previous driving experience, but if this is failed the person will subsequently be required to take a regular Dutch driving test, consisting of a theory and a practical examination. The holders of other categories of driving licenses are also required to take a full Dutch driving test in order to obtain a Dutch license. It may also be necessary for driving test applicants to obtain a “certificate of fitness” in order to obtain a Dutch license.

Car Ownership

If you are going to be living in the Netherlands and wish to drive there, you may want to consider whether to take your own car with you or buy a new car in the Netherlands. Your decision is likely to depend on the length of time you plan to live in the Netherlands.

The list prices of cars in the Netherlands are relatively low compared with other European countries, but the taxes imposed on new cars are extremely high at up to 45% of the list price and are not refundable if you move within the EU. It might save you money to buy a new car in the Netherlands while you are still living in another country, so that you can benefit from the lower list price but will not have to pay the taxes. Cars can also be purchased in the Netherlands for duty-free export outside the EU within 30 days, although import duties may be payable in the destination country. New cars which are exported to another EU country are generally liable for VAT in the country of destination, although the VAT paid at the time of purchase in the Netherlands may be partly refunded.

Alternatively, if you are moving to the Netherlands from a non-EU country and wish to bring your own car with you, the vehicle may be exempt from customs duty if you have lived outside the EU for at least the preceding twelve months and have personally owned the vehicle for a minimum of six months. If you bring the car to Holland under these conditions, it cannot be sold within twelve months, otherwise the tax and possibly an additional fine will become payable. This will also apply if the car is stolen or is badly damaged and sold as scrap.



It is illegal to drive without insurance – you can call any number of insurance companies who will insure you immediately until the forms and paperwork are organized. W.A. (Third Party Only) is the minimum legal requirement.


Freedom of religion and religious beliefs in Holland

Freedom of religion and religious beliefs is a fundamental right in Holland. This means that people are free to worship as they choose, either individually or in groups, provided they remain within the boundaries imposed by the law and respect others (for example with regard to noise levels, health hazards and disturbances of the peace). In Holland, church and state are separate. The government does not interfere in the internal affairs of organizations that profess religious or philosophical beliefs, and the latter do not interfere with matters of state. There are approximately 300 mosques and prayer centers in Holland (175 Turkish, 100 Moroccan and 20 Surinamese). Islamic burial grounds have also been established in many places

The Colonial period was one of the most culturally robust for the Dutch, both at home and abroad. The Dutch created a culture that was commercially and artistically successful, celebrated hard work and allowed for religious tolerance. The work ethic, beliefs and history of the predominant Protestant faith, Calvinism, supported this Golden Age of the Netherlands.

Historically the Netherlands is characterized by multitude of religions. Since the mid of the middle ages, the Netherlands was a predominantly Christian country until late into the 20th century. Although religious diversity remains to the present day, there is a major decline of religious adherence. Travelled to the Netherlands to learn about their admirable way of dealing with religion in a secular society.

Though the Dutch are famous for allowing euthanasia, gay marriage and soft-drug use, it is ironically their tolerance that may have laid the foundation for current ethnic tensions. Holland has gone a long way to make its multi-faith society work by keeping religion in the public square. The Dutch government, not afraid to charge head-on at sensitive religion-related issues, recently decided to try to integrate Muslims into mainstream society by requiring all immigrant Muslim imams to learn the Dutch language. In a nation of 16 million, one million residents are Muslim. Cultural relativism has reigned so long that there has been little, if any, push to integrate immigrants from Morocco and Turkey into Dutch society.

The Dutch quite simply had to be able to associate with different cultures, sail the seas, learn other languages and accept differences – hence the tolerant attitude. That attitude is still visible today. Moreover, being small and internationally-orientated, the Dutch quite simply had to be able to associate with different cultures, sail the seas, learn other languages and accept differences. Hence the tolerant attitude. Dutch youngsters have their first sexual experience relatively late. And more importantly, the number of abortions and unwanted pregnancies among teenagers is the lowest in the world.


Personal security is a significant concern in today’s world, although ironically many surveys indicate that we are living in a safer world now than at any other time. Rather it is the nature of current security challenges that make them unique and require us to adopt new ways of dealing with them. Today, security challenges run the gamut from indiscriminate terrorist threats and bombings to robberies, abductions and other crimes against the individual.


Preparing for various contingencies often helps to ensure that they do not reach crisis proportions and even if they do, we are better able to deal with them. Start your preparation before leaving home by making sure that relevant people know how to contact you and you know how to contact them during emergencies. Secondly, make duplicate copies of important documents such as passports, important certificates (birth, marriage, etc.), bank account details, insurance documents, asset records and so on. Finally, ensure that your spouse, dependant or legal representative has access to all important information should the need arise.


Travel Safety

Read travel advisories and stay abreast of the news pertaining to your destination country. Before migrating conduct a thorough safety and security analysis of your destination country. This analysis should include information about the local crime rate, the effectiveness of law and order, and the general political and economic stability of the nation. Sometimes there are certain parts of a country that are considered high risk while the rest of the country is relatively safe.

Before you travel, ensure that your luggage, including hand luggage, meets current security requirements. Most airlines have very strict policies and are unwilling to compromise. There are new rules regarding carrying liquids in hand luggage and many airlines inspect or prohibit liquids and gels altogether. Check with your carrier for specific baggage requirements.

While travelling be cautious discussing the specifics of your itinerary when you might be overheard. Be wary of divulging personal information to strangers, even if they appear friendly. Always be alert to your environment and be suspicious of unattended packages in your vicinity. When on board an aircraft, know the exit routes and pass on that knowledge to any children travelling with you.

When you arrive at your destination, do not let jet lag, stress and culture shock affect your ability to stay alert and watchful. Many unsuspecting travellers are duped or exploited at this stage. Have someone you trust meet you and escort you to your place of stay if possible.

Look around you before getting in and out of a car, taxi or bus. Just the fact that you appear alert is a deterrent in itself to would-be thieves and carjackers as their main element of attack is surprise. Lock car doors while travelling in an unknown environment and stay in populated areas, on busy streets and well-lit roads whenever possible. Make sure someone knows where you are if you are about to drive into a new or isolated area.

Home Safety

Although it might sound excessive, a little reconnaissance conducted at and near your main living area will alert you to potential dangers and help you deal with a crisis should one arise. This advice applies whether you are living in a hotel, apartment building, condominium, house, or any other dwelling.

Become familiar with your surroundings. Talking to your neighbours, local shopkeepers, postman (mailman), concierge, landlord etc. is an effective way of getting to know about potential dangers. Make sure people know you (and like you!) but keep a fairly low profile outside your comfort zone. Avoid exaggerated displays of wealth or of security (e.g. personal bodyguards unless mandated by severe security threats). Discretion and caution are probably your most important tools. Try to blend in and stay relatively inconspicuous. Domestic help is considered in some expat circles to be a potential risk; always ensure that personnel working for you are legally allowed to do so and keep photographs/ID information about them on file.

It is imperative to familiarize yourself with emergency phone numbers, such as those for police, ambulance, fire service etc. If you still retain citizenship rights to your country of origin then keep a note of the phone number and address of the nearest consulate and embassy (note: make sure you understand exactly what the role of consular staff is – there are many things they can help with but there are also many situations they do not cover). Write down all the important numbers and put the list up somewhere where other family members can see it.


Child Safety

Explain to children the importance of being wary of strangers and how to keep themselves safe. Children should be taught never to divulge that they are alone at home, even to someone on the phone. Make sure your children understand that they must never go anywhere with a stranger, must report any improper advances made towards them, and must keep parents abreast of their destination, routes and times. Make sure that children know their new address, home phone number (or other number to phone in an emergency) and in case of language differences, make sure that they know key phrases, such as how to ask for help.


The security situation in some countries may be so serious that the use of some form of protection is worth considering. This may include anything from self-defence classes, mace sprays or other security systems to firearms or round the clock security personnel. It is essential to take advice from a trustworthy, credible source when considering appropriate protection and to be aware of the legal situation surrounding such measures.

Emergency Planning

Armed with all of the above information, draw up plans on what to do in emergency situations. When discussing your plan avoid alarming family members, especially if there are young children involved, but ensure that everyone understands what they should do if the need arises to put the plan into action. Update and revise the plan at regular intervals.

 If you are thinking of moving to the Netherlands to work please get in touch to discuss your options. Call us on +44 1584 70 50 60 or email [email protected].