Yes, Amsterdam is amazing. Yes, we really live like this all the time.
Things to know if you are thinking of moving…
First up. Can you move here? Do you need a visa?
You can skip this step if you are an EU National. It’s not possible to live/work permanently in the Netherlands without a valid visa if you are a non-EU national. You have to figure out a valid visa relevant to your stay before your move here. It’s a lot more complicated but not impossible and I didn’t mention the B word but yeah that sucks. More information at the official website (In English).
Next up is accommodation. You need somewhere to stay!
Yeah for some people this is more complicated than the actual visa step. Renting is one of the top news topics it seems every month. Especially during student season when you will be competing with the influx of international students. The first thing to note is nothing is too far away so don’t think you need to live in the canal ring of Amsterdam to enjoy living here.
I recommend a makelaar (real estate agent) and we have used Yael for both rental and buying and recommend her without hesitation. It will make your move much easier and is worth every cent.
Check out Funda or Pararius for an idea of prices and availability. Keep a note of the things you like and share with your makelaar so they have an idea of what you want.
Note to our American friends yes apartments are small. No you aren’t misreading the prices.
BSN – Social security number
There is a weird catch-22 that you need a BSN to get a bank account and you can’t be paid without a bank account but you can’t get a job without a BSN. You need to register for a BSN and also register with the local authority (Gemeente). All of which is easy (so long as you aren’t in peak student season). One thing to note is you need your birth certificate and it needs to be apostilled.
More details at the official Amsterdam site (a simple google search for other cities have the same information).
ABN Amro allow you open an account without a BSN at their expat centre in Leidseplein. Make an appointment, bring your important details such as your passport and BSN (Citizen Service Number) given by your Gemeente and they will do it all for you. Other popular “high street” banks in the Netherlands include ING and Rabobank.
If you travel often or you just prefer to use online more then you can choose one of the newer online banks like Revolut, bunq or N26.
This is controversial. It’s essentially a tax break for foreigners. Naturally some locals hate it.
Anyway if you qualify you should apply for it. More information on the official government website.
Everybody who lives in the Netherlands by law needs to have minimum basic healthcare insurance (around €130 a month). This must be taken out within 4 months of registering (if non-EU) and within 1 year but importantly either way once you have a job, you must pay straight away). There is a price comparison at independer.nl but ultimately they are all very similar. Read more at https://www.independer.nl/zorgverzekering/info/health-insurance/system/basic-health-insurance
Register with a GP (Huisarts)
On the subject of health you also should register with a GP before you need one. Also with a pharmacy.
The pharmacy part is kind of weird and if you are looking for something specific like PrEP then you should shop around. Some are much more expensive than others. You can always get a prescription for a different pharmacy though if you ask. Anyway just know you can shop around.
The GP part is easier and to do this you should go to the reception desk of your local practice and take your ID, health insurance details and BSN number with you. Here you will be assigned a doctor. If you have specific needs then I’d say ask in one of the many expat groups on facebook or similar.
Get a bike or rent a bike. Either way it makes whichever city you’ve moved to much smaller. Rent one with none of the maintenance hassle from swapfiets.
It rains. A lot. Don’t move at the start of winter if you can help it or you may need counselling.
https://www.buienradar.nl/ – check if it’s about to pour down before you hop on your bike.
Shopping (online and offline)
Okay so the Dutch like to keep it Dutch even if it’s not as good as something not Dutch.
So Amazon never really made it here but there is an equivalent – bol.com
Also online just like offline we like a discount (korting) so checkout https://nl.pepper.com/
Supermarkets offer prices that you might not pay at the till unless you have a loyalty card. So sign up for them all. Albert Heijn and Jumbo are probably the largest supermarkets but for more organic fare then there is also EkoPlaza and Marqt.
Note: Less so in the last couple of years but as a lot of the stores are franchises some stores don’t accept credit cards or international cards but they will have an ATM to take out cash.
Amsterdam Expat guide – https://www.iamsterdam.com/en/live-work-study/in-amsterdam
Amsterdam neighbourhoods – https://www.iamsterdam.com/en/explore/neighbourhoods
I Am Expat (some useful articles with lots of affiliate links) – https://www.iamexpat.nl