Moving to The Netherlands With a Family
Known for its tolerant society and high standard of living, the Netherlands is a great place to move. It has also ranked first among wealthy nations for raising the happiest children.
But if you’re planning on moving here, there are certain things to be aware of before you make the trip. Especially if you have a family in tow. For a smooth relocation from abroad, here are some handy tips for moving to the Netherlands with your family.
Moving with a family, you need to be able to hit the ground running. You will need a solid base from which to build bridges, and access essential services, in your new home. Locking yourself into a long-term rental, or buying a house – which you may not get to view in person – has risks, though.
Finding short-stay accommodation might be a better option. A nice temporary home provides a reliable and well-organized first landing. With that assured, everything else can follow and you’ll have ample time to select where you’d like to live long-term without the time pressure. Finding a permanent house to live in takes time as there are several factors to evaluate… especially when you have kids!
Tip: There is a lot of demand for short-stay housing – so research short-stay housing providers well in advance. ServicedApartments.nl and Corporate Housing Factory, for example, offer a home environment that is also perfect for work-from-home. With fully-furnished kitchens and separate bedrooms, weekly cleaning services, and more, families can enjoy a quick move, time, and space to adjust. They have excellent reviews, great customer service, and are well versed in the world of expats and internationals.
Depending on where you arrive from, you will need different things to settle here. Citizens from EU or Schengen Zone countries, for example, will not need a visa or work permit. But, most adults from outside that area will need to apply for one. For more information, we have a handy article on the topic.
You will also need to register for a citizen service number, known as a BSN. Everyone registered with a municipal authority (a Gemeente) receives a unique personal number. This is essential for accessing public services in the Netherlands. Without it, you will not be able to enroll in health insurance, a bank account, or school. Furthermore, it is important to bring the birth certificates of all your children who will be staying with you and any vaccination documents. The IND has made a handy tool on their website which guides you through getting everything in order for your child’s residence permit (under 18).
Tip: there is high demand for appointments to get a BSN. Especially in big cities like Amsterdam. It may be quicker to first register as a short-stay resident, which you can do at other municipalities. This will give you four months to get things finalized through your local Gemeente. For more information, see our article on getting a BSN. Please be advised, that for most short-stay hotels and apartments, this will not be possible seeing as they are not considered permanent addresses. Here is a list of short-stay apartments for which you will be able to register an address.
Internationals relocating to the Netherlands with a family usually already have employment. Many expats move to take up a dream role, or a multinational employer has offered up a promotion overseas. But in some cases, you might be moving while still on the hunt for a job.
As with any search for employment, start with the basics. Online job listings will give a broad overview of specialisms and industries. Job boards like Indeed are ideal starting points due to the sheer volume of jobs offered. Municipal websites such as Iamsterdam also feature rudimentary job listings sections.
Tip: Oftentimes when moving with your family, you or your partner may be forced to quit your job back home. However, this does not need to be the case as the accompanying spouse (the one leaving their job behind) can continue to work for the former employer via a payroll company whilst living in The Netherlands. The payroll company can facilitate all the work permits, visas, and other related documentation needed to work legally in The Netherlands for your employer back home. This is often a saving grace for families both personally as well as professionally and can help make the move smoother.
You can never tell when a loved one (especially a young one) is going to bump or bruise themselves. So, one of the most important things to secure for any family is healthcare. In this case, you need to consider two things.
First, taking out Dutch health insurance is a legal requirement. Even if you have policies in another country. New arrivals have a window of three months to do this themselves. But with a family to take care of, you’ll want to take care of this as quickly as possible. You’ll then want to weigh up your proximity to care. Research the closest emergency hospitals, and which local doctors are best rated (or ask other expats!).
Kids in The Netherlands are well taken care of. Their health insurance is usually covered by the insurance plan of one of their parents. Dental care is almost entirely free until 18 years of age.
Tip: Enrolling with a general practitioner and dentist is important, but can sometimes be a difficult process in the bigger cities. In larger cities, many practitioners will already be full – so registering may take a few calls to dead ends. Have patience, and don’t settle for less. If the practitioner you end up with does not deliver the service you need. In this regard, we also have a guide for dealing with Dutch doctors, which you may want to check out.
Choosing the right school can give children the best start in a new home. Public schools are government-funded. All children, including expats, can attend them free of charge. Some of them offer programs to teach non-Dutch-speaking students the language and culture. But this is not universal.
Due to this, children coming to the Netherlands sometimes study at international schools. With children from around the world attending, they are unique, diverse learning environments. Across the country are several schools, each with its own reputation and approaches. So, you’re going to have to do your reading. For more details on these schools, see our article on the matter.
Tip: The Dutch education system is likely different from the one you’re leaving behind. As such, it pays to do your homework! In the last year of primary school, children decide a secondary education to pursue. If you have children of that age, research the options, and ask them which sounds best. ‘VMBO’ is a four-year vocational education – preparing them for work. ‘HAVO’ is a general secondary education, lasting five years. And VWO is preparatory for university, lasting six years.
Moving anywhere is one of the most stressful, time-consuming activities there is. Especially when it comes to shifting the clutter built up by years of family life. In this case, contacting a moving company may be your best option! Get a quote first to be sure of the best deal. Price-comparison sites such as HollandMovers.nl can help you in your search. To help make the process as simple as possible, we’ve even listed the best expat moving firms on this very site.
With a moving company on your side, you can also focus your time on shifting some of your most precious cargo. A new home wouldn’t be complete without your four-legged friends, after all. To make the trip as easy on them as possible, see our 13 tips on moving a pet to the Netherlands!
Something to keep in mind is the relocation budget offered by your future employer. These, in 2022, range between 2.000 and 15.000 euros. If you are moving with a family (and a lot of your stuff), make sure to at least try to negotiate a reasonable budget into your employment contract.
Tip: Before transporting your pet to the Netherlands, you need to take care of some admin. To enter the country, it needs a microchip, vaccinations, and a pet passport. As well as sex, age, breed, color, and name of the owner, this includes a rabies certificate and microchip number. Assembling all that takes a fair amount of time (and money) – so do not leave it until the last minute!
The Netherlands has developed excellent public transport. Wherever you need to go, you can get there in good time by train, bus, tram or ferry. As with the London Oyster card, the Netherlands has a single card for all these: the OV-chipkaart. You will want to sign up for one upon arrival for easy transport around town. They also open up several useful travel discounts. But you might not find that ideal for the school run. Although, supervised children age 4-11 can ride for free with their very own OV-chipkaart!
Many Dutch residents use a bakfiets for such an occasion. A kind of cargo bike, it has a bucket-like seat in the front that can carry several passengers. They are available from most bicycle dealerships. You will often see dutch parents biking with a “basket of children” almost effortlessly! You might want to think about transporting your car or buying one here. Try to avoid brand new cars as they have prohibitively higher taxes on them (BPM).
Tip: You’ll want to read up on local motoring laws if you plan on driving here. Driving licenses from the EU/EFTA, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, or Iceland are valid. They apply to Dutch roads until their expiry date – before which you should apply for a Dutch replacement. If you got yours outside that zone, though, your license is only valid on Dutch roads for six months. This period is very strict. If you fail to apply for a Dutch driving license during that time, you will need to pass a Dutch driving exam to get one. Highly skilled migrants and members of the military/NATO can always exchange their driver’s license for a Dutch one.
Once the dust settles from the move, your family will likely want to explore its new home country, and all it has to offer. As well as a huge number of playgrounds and parks across each city, there are plenty of family amusements. Famous theme parks include Efteling (the Dutch equal of Disneyland). Zoos and safari parks such as Beekse Bergen abound. And there are even enough alpaca farms to warrant a top-five list!
If you want to socialize, there are plenty of opportunities to do so. The Netherlands hosts a thriving expat-friendly theatre scene, for example. Meanwhile, initiatives such as FC Urban make it easy to make friends through sport.
Tip: As mentioned, many aspects of life become so much easier when you learn the language. Socializing beyond the international community is no exception. Dutch speakers are often happy to accommodate them. But in large groups, the conversation can tend to drift back to Dutch. This can leave you feeling side-lined. In this case, our next talking point is very important…
The Dutch are world-renowned for their command of English. They are the best non-native speakers in the world. But even so, it is still important to learn Dutch when integrating into society. From tackling official documents to finding a job, a basic level of Dutch makes a big difference. This goes double for your children, who will be looking to make new friends after the move.
It might make life a little easier by starting to learn Dutch before you even move – even if it is only via Duolingo. But upon arrival, you can broaden those efforts. There are many options for learning Dutch at all ages. These include municipal schemes, private classes, and of course, speaking to Dutch people! A fun family activity is to follow the Jeugd Journaal. It’s essentially the news written in simpler Dutch for the “jeugd” (youth). You’ll be shocked at how fast your youngsters can pick up a new language; they may actually be your best teacher!
Tip: To ease your Dutch learning and make it fun, consider hiring a private tutor for you and your kids at home. You can make a play date activity out of it by including other international families. Split the cost of the tutor…the Dutch way!
No matter what happens, you’ll never be able to plan all the mishaps and challenges you will face when moving as a family. There’s also just too much information to cover in one article; that’s why it’s important to get the help you need from a full-service short-stay housing provider like the folks at Corporate Housing Factory!