I came to Netherlands towards the end of 2009. Since then, I have seen the Indian crowd only expand…exponentially would not be a wrong term to use! Primarily I see people coming for work, graduation studies, post-graduation Masters, Research (PhD) and tourism…especially parents. BTW I’m here for work.
Giving some tips to a colleague new to Netherlands gave me a thought to blog it.
Before travel – Preparation and luggage:
- Primary language here is Dutch. But most people in Netherlands are able to speak English.
- If you are browsing to find information and everything is in English charaters but strange words, it is probably because it is Dutch language. Download Google Chorme. It will ask you if you want to translate Dutch to (decent enough) English. City center is called ‘Centrum’
- Most of Netherlands is safe and crime rate is very low. However petty theft and house robbery does occur. So don’t carry too much jewelry 🙂
- Mid Oct thru early March is cold. Outside temperature will likely be in and around 0 degree centigrade. If you want to know how it feels, just keep your hands inside a fridge freezer for 1 minute! Carry a good woolen gloves, woolen cap that covers even your ears, a good winter jacket and thermal wear. For April thru September, it is better to carry a good warm jacket anyway. It could be very warm or chilly at random. Google “weather in <<your city>>” to know the current weather conditions. The forecast is fairly accurate for upto a week ahead….only that I think it rains less than what they forecast.
- Unless it is arranged for you, carry enough ready to eat food for at least 1 day. Not only that you will likely be tired and hungry, depending on the day/time you land, no shops might be open!
- Unlike India, 95% of the shops (excluding restaurants) close by 6:00PM. On Sunday, except Centrum almost all shops will be closed. Even the few restaurants that open will close early. (One exception is Albert Heijn grocery store. They are open till 10:00PM Mon-Sat and also few hours on Sunday in most cities. Go to their website to find a store near your destination and open timings).
- If you want to cook yourself, carry your pressure cooker (carry spare gasket and safety valve), mixer (mixers here do not scale up to Indian needs of grinding). You may want to carry home made ‘saaru’ and ‘sambar’ powder. However MTR is available in Indian shops here.
- The electric plug point shape is different from India. Carry a couple of European pin to Indian pin converters. It should cost within Rs100/- in India while it could cost upto €10 euros to buy it here.
- Voltage/frequency is 220V/50Hz. So your mixer, laptop will work here…you only need the European pin to Indian pin converter.
- Mobile is GSM based. So if your mobile is a standard brand (Nokia, Samsung etc) GSM phone, it will work here.
- Your Whatsapp number will continue to work from here. Even if you change to Netherlands SIM, you have the option to continue your India Whatsapp number. This might be handy especially when you are coming for short-term.
- Carry needed medication. You will not get medicines unless you have a prescription from a Dutch doctor. Only exception is Paracetemol and other petty medicines. So carry needed medication sufficient for at least 2 months.
- If you wear spectacles, carry a spare. It will be expensive here and takes them 2 weeks to deliver.
- Most likely your visa will be “Knowledge Work Permit” (also called highly skilled migrant or Kennismigrant) or ICT (Intra company transfer). If so, your spouse (dependent) can also work any job.
- Carry your original driving licence . There is no need for IDP since Indian licence is in English. You are allowed to drive with India license for 6 months after your arrival.
- If you have a small child, carry the vaccination and growth report/summary till date. While this is not mandatory, it will be handy in determining the remaining vaccinations for your child.
- If you have a child and need English medium school, you need to find an ‘International school’ first and based on that decide your housing. Contact the school immediately (even before coming to Netherlands) to get advice on vacancy.
- Check your office dress code. Suit might be preferred/needed.
- A good fit formal pants could be difficult to find here since shops do not adjust the length.
- Due to weather conditions, clothes do not dry in the Sun. You need to wash and dry in a washing machine once in 3 to 7 days. So I suggest you carry extra sets of clothes.
- For the India to Netherlands flight journey, ideally you will need very little money – to cover for any food/shopping need during your stopover. But carry at least €200 to €300 more just in case something goes wrong midway forcing longer stopover (snow, fog, Iceland volcano, strike etc). It is best to carry in Euro, US Dollar or Pounds. BEWARE……INDIAN RUPEES MAY NOT BE ACCEPTED OUTSIDE INDIA even in currency exchange centers.
- Most airlines allow 1 check-in baggage of 23 Kgs. A few allow 30 Kgs (Etihad, Emirates etc).
- If you are migrating for employment, you are likely to be eligible for 30% ruling. This means first 30% of your gross is tax free. This is a significant financial advantage. Ask your employer for it. For more details click here.
- Open a NRE bank account when you are in India. Opening after coming here, is a long and painful process. Also get the internet banking userid/password so that you can make all transactions via NEFT on the internet and hassle free.
- Consider giving “Power of Attorney” to someone close to you. Understand the risks before you do it.
- Join the relevant facebook groups….do not hesitate to ask your question.
- If you are bringing expensive items like gold, laptop, mobile etc make sure it is unpacked and looks like it is for personal use. Else you could be stopped by customs at the airport and asked to pay 21% VAT and also may be a fine.
- Upon landing in Netherlands, you can buy pre-paid SIM card at the airport. There are many options. It costs usually cost €5 to €15 to buy the SIM often with some currency already loaded. Compare and then buy. Check Lebara, AH mobile, KPN, Vodafone etc. Lyca is quite popular as well but people often complain that it doesn’t work when you travel to Germany, Swiss, France etc.
- If you are landing in Schipol airport, the train station is within the airport. Make sure your destination train station has a lift/escalator from the platform to the transit point. Else you will have to carry your luggage up/down the stairs. Normally taxis/city-bus are available outside the train stations.
- If train is not an option for you, ‘airport shuttle’ is the next cheapest followed by taxi. Take official taxi only (and not someone who is trying to sell you a taxi inside the airport) to avoid paying much more than official rates.Note: Car seat for kids is not mandatory for airport shuttle and taxis.
- Grocery stores: Albert Heijn (also Lidel, C1000, Jumbo). You will get tons of varieties. Some items specific to Indian taste are:
- Butter – ‘Roombotter – Ongezouten’,
- Milk – melk
- Curds – ‘Bio Garde, STAND Naturel’ (ask for yogurt section),
- buttermilk – ‘Karnemelk’,
- If you are really out of stuff late at night, you can go to ‘Night Shop’ or ‘Albert Heign to go’ shop that are open till late in the night. However you will get only limited stuff and is not a substitute for your grocery shopping. Also, these shops are more expensive than regular grocery shops. Night Shop will be open till about 1.00AM.
- Clothes store: ‘C&A’, Hema, PRIMARK – cheap and good. Often there will be discount ‘Sale’. So buy only what you need and wait for the Sale weeks for the rest.
- Miscellaneous store: Action, Kruidvat, Zeeman. You will get stationery, mug, bucket, DVDs, batteries, shopping cart, rice cooker etc etc etc.
- Footware store: van Haren is cheap and good….again keep ‘Sale’ weeks in mind.
- Indian store: Most cities have Indian stores where you get almost all of your day to day needs as if in India. You will get ready to eat, Maggi, soan pappdi, grated coconut…everything! If you have a stove and a microwave in your accommodation, life is easy here!
- Indian store: Other than Indian stores, Chinese, Turkish and international stores also store Indian food items (like dals, ready chapatti, pudina, palak etc)
- Electronics store: media markt, BCC .…look for Sale. Also check the price in mediamarkt.nl. Products are often much cheaper there. You can even order it to the nearest store at no additional shipping cost and pick it up from there a day or 2 later.
- Petty Medicines: Etos
- Medical store: any ‘Apotheek’, but unless it is over the counter medicine, you will need prescription from a Dutch doctor.
- Post office: Generally a separate counter in ‘Bruna’ book store.
- If you did not buy a mobile SIM card at the airport, you can buy it at the train station information/currency exchange desk. Some phone shops in the Centrum will also sell.
- A shopping cart will cost you €15/-. But worth the buy since it will last for years and will relieve you the pain of carrying stuff in hand. With a shopping cart, you fill it with your grocery and drag it on its wheels to your home.
- To travel by train, it is good to know the basic ticketing system. Go to http://www.ns.nl for timetable, ticket price. Click English if you prefer information in English. Trains have a confusing variety of discounts, ticketing modes and eligibility criteria for these. If you are confused, go to the ticket counter at the station and ask them what is best for your situation. However you will pay 50cents extra per ticket if you buy tickets at the counter instead of the vending machine.
- For door-to-door travel planning using public transport, go to http://www.9292.nl/. For English, click the UK flag. If you provide your home address and your destination address, it will tell you the options you have for travel.
- You can use ‘Smartvoip’ to call India and other countries from your laptop. Google Smartvoip.
- Once you get your insurance letter from your insurance company, you can register yourself with a Doctor. The healthcare system is different and important to know. Read my other post for details.
- ABN-AMRO bank has English online banking. Most others have only Dutch. While it is not mandatory, you may still be asked for BSN to open the account. How to apply for a BSN and the time it takes is explained here.
- Other than health insurance, it is strongly advised to take 2 more types of insurance. Personal Insurance- in case you/family damage someone else’s property by mistake. Theft Insurance – to cover your house hold items in case of theft. ABN-AMRO also offers both and cost very nominal amount.
- Ebay of Holland: – http://www.marktplaats.nl/ ; http://www.tweakers.net
- Buy a cycle. New one will be very expensive. You should easily be able to find a good used (second hand) cycle. Do not buy from unknown people who look like thugs and are ready to sell at very cheap price. Most likely these are stolen cycles and police might question you. Look for something within known circles. There are second hand shops but cost much more than private owners.
- If your spouse is not working, he/she can apply for tax return in the local tax office. After first 6 months of living in Holland, non-working spouse will get a monthly tax return of aprox €80/month.
- If you have child(ren) you can apply for child benefit with SVB. You will get about € 150 per quarter if you have 1 child and more if you have more. Google SVB for more info.
- If you have a small child, you will need a stroller (buggy). They are available in different sizes. Big and bulky ones look very fancy and attractive to buy. But buy a small handy stroller. Primary reason is, if you are new to Europe, you will probably travel by public transport or to other Euorpean countries. Bulky ones are really a nuisance to carry around and handle in transport vehicles and in sightseeing areas. They are very heavy as well.
- If both you and your spouse are working and you need a day care for your child, you can get partial day-care fee refund from the government. Depending on the city you live in, it may be easy to extremely difficult to get a day care for your child. Try nearby smaller cities if getting it in your city is difficult.
- In spite of the luxuries, you will need friends….especially for a housewife/kids. The best way to make friends is to invite someone who you meet with similar situation as you to your home formally for tea/dinner (and not just “come home sometime”…this will never work). Don’t wait for the other party to initiate. Also, long timers in NL would already have their circle. So best bet is to make your own group of recently arrived.
- There are quite a few Indians associations that conduct functions on account of Diwali, Ugadi etc. Google and facebook should help you to find one:
- You are allowed to drive in Netherlands with a foreign license for first 6 months after your arrival.
- If your 30% ruling is approved, you can exchange your Indian license for a Dutch license paying a nominal fee at your local town hall (for a fee of about €50). Spouse of a 30% ruling holder is also eligible for this exchange. For further details on DL: http://www.expatica.com/nl/leisure/travel_tourism/how-to-get-a-dutch-drivers-licence-1672.html. You can collect your Indian license back from VFS India center about 6 months after the exchange.
- Spouse of a Knowledge Work Permit holder is not eligible for 30% ruling if he/she gets a job after coming to Netherlands as a dependent. However many have received the 30% ruling if they got employed within 3 months of coming to Netherlands.
- Changing jobs:
- If you are on Knowledge Work Permit, it is allowed to change your employer.
- If you are on ICT visa it is possible to change the employer if the new employer is authorized to process KWP visa. Google for details.
- You could get calls like “We are calling from IND. Your visa is illegal…your records are illegal. You urgently need to transfer money to correct it” etc. These are fake calls. If anyone calls you, ask them to talk in Dutch, or you say you will call back to IND to check the validity of the call. They will hang up and stop bothering you.
- Ryanair is a good low cost airline for travel within Europe if planned at least 4 weeks in advance. Use the ‘Skyscanner’ mobile app to plan your vacation. It lists in the order of ticket cost to all destinations from a given source for a given period.
- If you have any grievances when living in The Netherlands (example: landlord issues, dispute with a business etc), you can approach the Indian Embassy for help. They are often very eager to help out.
- Probably you are already looking forward to plan your next trip….click here for a list of places to visit in Netherlands and Europe.
- Popular cinema complex is Pathe: http://www.pathe.nl
- Internet speed is generally very high. Videos from youtube etc will just stream uninterrupted. So you can watch your favourite serials and cricket on your computer itself
- If you are missing your favorite serials, you are likely to find it here: www.desitvforum.net
- If you are missing live cricket, google for ‘cricket streaming live’. You will get multiple websites that show live telecast most often for free.
- For HD quality movies, try www.einthusan.com or www.youbolly.com
- Try http://www.newtvworld.com/
India-Live-Tv-Channels/ watch-etv-Kannada-live-streamin g.html
- Try http://freeasia.tv/
- For news about Netherlands in English: http://www.dutchnews.nl/
- If you have a lot of junk to throw away:
- for daily rubbish, you can collect them in a black dustbin bag (buy in grocery store) and keep them on the footpath weekly on a designated day for your area.
- for clothes there is a separate dustbin. You can find these near some schools and daycares
- to throw plastic waste and bottles, dustbins will be near shopping centers
- for batteries disposal, you can check for a waste bin in your office or go to electric shops like media markt for example.
- for anything and everything, go to Millieustraat. It is the city waste collection center. Some cities charge you a nominal fee and some do not.
- To meet like minded groups/people: http://www.meetup.com/find/
- To learn Dutch on your own:
- If you are a vegetarian, you will most likely develop Vitamin D deficiency because of limited exposure to sunlight especially in the winter months. Consume Vitamin D supplement tablets. This is available without prescription at any medical store.
- This point is a little too far away for most, but you must know if you are working in NL. For every year of working in NL, you are eligible for 2% of AOW value as monthly pension after you reach retirement age (about 66). The AOW value is determined by SVB every year depending on inflation etc. In 2013, its value is about €725.00. So before leaving NL for good, call SVB and ask for a statement. Then call them when you are 66 to arrange for the pension!! 🙂
- Over and above the previous point, your employer might subscribe to additional pension scheme. When leaving NL, you can either get this transferred to a similar policy in India or just leave it as is and check back with them when you are 66 years old!
Disclaimer: This is my best effort and personal opinion only. No responsibility will be taken for any inaccuracy.