In the second episode of ‘It Works on My Machine’ we are joined by our colleagues Julia, Vamsi, Feyza, Kerem, and Umut to discuss why they decided to move to the Netherlands to work at spriteCloud.
In this second part of the episode, we will explore our colleague’s experiences with getting a social security number (BSN), setting up bank accounts, finding homes to rent and buy, the 30% tax ruling, and other tips for newcomers to the Netherlands.
To give a more complete picture of moving to the Netherlands, we asked our guests (some who’ve only recently arrived and some who’ve been here for years) about their experiences with these topics. Find any useful links we mentioned in the podcast, below in the show notes.
BSN and Banking
- An explanation of the (BSN) Citizen Service Number from the Dutch government website.
- Tips and information on opening a bank account in the Netherlands.
- As mentioned, the banks ING and ABN AMRO but offer English language support for customers.
- Pararius – https://pararius.com/english
- Funda Rental – https://funda.nl/huur/
- Funda buy a house – https://funda.nl/koop/
- IWoon – https://wooninfo.nl/english/
- Tips for avoiding housing scams
- Reclaiming unjust agency fees
- Data on rising house prices from IamExpat
- Data on overbidding on houses in the Netherlands (article in Dutch)
- Data on the housing marketing from the Central Statistics Office (CBS)
30% tax ruling
- Iamsterdam has a great explanation of all the conditions and benefits of the 30% ruling
- Independer is a website for comparing health insurance prices, as well as other things like energy providers (site in Dutch)
- Wise has a good guide to healthcare in the Netherlands
- Research on health outcomes in NL, 2nd in high income nations
- Legal requirement for health insurance/ grace period
- Crime statistics of the Netherlands
- Information on partner leave and extended partner leave
Travis: In the second part of our episode on “moving to the Netherlands for work,” we chat with our guests about the less glamorous side of making the move to the Netherlands, dealing with the administrative part of the move. While dealing with admin is hardly anyone’s favorite aspect of life, it is a necessary one when establishing yourself in a new country.
Join us as we talk with Umut, Feyza, Kerem, Julia, and Vamsi about their experiences in dealing with immigration admin, searching for housing, benefiting from the 30% tax ruling, finding a healthcare provider, and some tips for newcomers moving to the Netherlands.
I’m your host, Travis, and I’ll be joined by cohost, Marion. As we talked to spriteCloud staff members about their experiences of moving to the Netherlands for work.
We hope you enjoy.
Umut: In Netherlands, for instance, in order to open a bank account, you need to have a BSN number. So. you need to be registered, to the town hall of city you’re living in. And, getting a BSN number could take, two or maybe three weeks, and, well, finding the house also takes a long time.
And once you have the BSN number, you want to make a bank account appointment, To open a bank account, and that appointment actually takes two to three weeks to get.
And, it’s. funny because without a bank account, you can’t have internet and working internet and a phone number. then to get a phone number, you need a bank account. And that this whole process could take two months, maybe more for some people who can’t decide where they want to live. And, we were really lucky because of, we got early appointments and somehow managed to get everything up and running, within a few weeks. But I can see that, that could be an issue for, some of the people who decide to move.
Travis: What Umut is referring to here is the BSN, which is basically a social security number in the Netherlands.
It is required for setting up any sort of bank accounts, phone subscriptions. Or any sort of a service really. But fortunately, my cohost Marion has a good tip for this.
Marion: I found that if she needed a Dutch phone number, because you’re, for example, not coming from a European country, getting a prepaid one and then moving your subscription once you have a BSN, works.
Umut: And there are online banks that allow you to, open a bank account and give you a BSN within, I don’t know, two weeks or something like that. And by the way, if you have your BSN and you’re looking for a more traditional option in English. ING and ABN AMRO are your best options.
The online banking is actually a little advanced and that’s nice. There’s this app like Bunk and Revolut, that actually allow you to do all that. But the thing is, phone companies like KPN and T-Mobile, don’t accept those banks. So you can’t receive an internet connection using an online bank. It has to be ING or ABN or somewhere along come some company like that, and you have to have a physical card. to be able to subscribe to some internet services.
Travis: Considering the importance of a burgers service nummer or a BSN in setting up your life in the Netherlands, it can be a headache waiting for this to get processed. So, just like dealing with most bureaucracy, patience is very much needed.
And speaking of patience and frustrations, finding an apartment to buy or rent in the Netherlands can be quite difficult. So, we’ll discuss that next.
The Netherlands is great for a lot of things, but when it comes to finding affordable housing, it lacks lots in that area. Julia. You’ve been here the longest and you’ve lived in quite a few different cities in Netherlands. Could you tell us a little bit about your experience and your journey in finding housing in the Netherlands?
Julia It is a very, indeed, difficult topic for all newcomers, especially now that the prices are skyrocketing. We arrived in 2008 and it was also one of the peak periods where the prices were quite high. We first rented an apartment in the center of Rotterdam for about 900 euros and it was a studio, 32 square meters.
Julia: So it was quite an expensive one. So later we moved to, a nicer apartment. It was renovated. We just got really lucky. It was empty, so we had to furnish it ourselves. but the price was really cool. It was 450 euros per month.
Marion: Wow. Was that also in Rotterdam?
Julia: It was in Rotterdam, but the price came with its perks.
It was in the south of Rotterdam, which was considered, five years before we moved to that area, as a very dangerous neighborhood, but we looked at it around and it looked okay. So, we decided to take a chance. And by the time we were moving out in 2014, it was already attracting more, people with more income. So, the, the whole area became nicer and nicer and there were more shops opening, there were more, renovations done around the place. So, it was really nice. So, we really got lucky, in that sense.
Marion: When you moved to the Netherlands, Vamsi, you moved in with your cousin. But how was it to find an apartment after that?
Vamsi: I think that’s the hard part, and everyone knows it, like finding an apartment in Netherlands is really, even if it is renting, it’s really difficult. You have difficulty to get one of the nice apartments. Because some are under agencies, they will have many conditions on top of it, and like the price can be really high if you want to stay in prime locations.
Where did you end up finding an apartment in which city are you living right now?
Vamsi: Den Haag, I am living in Den Haag, because that’s the only option I found after applying for every apartment, I couldn’t get anywhere near Amsterdam. Like I tried many cities, then I got it here only. So that’s why I had to choose Den Haag. It’s like choosing an option because you didn’t get any other option.
Marion: Wow, that sounds like you’re really went to, a really big challenge to find a place. Do you like it and Den Haag?
Vamsi: I’m quite enjoying it. Yeah, you might not see that kind of a thing like in Amsterdam, but it’s okay. As a couple of living in De Haag, in terms of living it’s okay, maybe you might miss something when you compare to living in Amsterdam, but then you have the beach. So sometimes you can just go outside into the beach.
Marion: Yeah, that is very nice that you’re close to Scheveningen. Do you remember a little bit what the apartment prices were in Den Haag versus Amsterdam?
Vamsi: Yeah. I do remember. In, let’s say in Amstelveen or Uithoorn or Amsterdam, it will be at least maybe 1500, 1600. It can be even maybe 1600 or 1700. If it is unfurnished, then it will be something between 13 to 14. But again, it depends if you are living in the center of Amsterdam or you are outside of Amsterdam, that would be the price range I would say.
Marion: Feyza and Umut, you also live in the Hague. Did you look for an apartment in another city before you moved there? Or was it always clear the Hague was to city you wanted to move to?
Feyza: No, we actually, try to find a flat in Amsterdam because that spriteCloud is located in Amsterdam, but, as you know, finding a house is a really challenging if, especially if, you try to rent as an expat.
Umut: Feyza actually did, check all the cities in Netherlands, probably. She checked the prices, the environment, and, we did make, quite a bit of applications in various cities, but the challenge we faced mostly was the house owners request previous payment slips. And they don’t want you to be on a probation period for instance. And, because we didn’t work in Netherlands prior to our arrival, we didn’t have payslips from the Netherlands. And that was one of the greatest challenges, finding a house owner that would trust us.
And, we felt a little insecure about renting a place too, because we weren’t too familiar with the market. We didn’t know what an optimal price for a certain apartment was. And, we really had to take that leap of faith, but it turned out to be okay. We’re currently living in a very central place in the Hague.
Marion: You do hear that quite often that the Hague is a good alternative for people who are looking for a flat. And that it is easier and cheaper to find something there compared to Amsterdam.
Travis: Outside of that fact. It’s also just a really nice city. There are quite a few European organizations like the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Courts. And because of that makes it actually a very international city, even though it is smaller than Amsterdam or Rotterdam.
Marion: And you have very nice access to the beach, quickly.
Umut: We had, haven’t had the chance to visit yet, actually.
Feyza: It’s a shame.
Travis: Kerem, you’re the only one of our guests who lives in Amsterdam. And you had to find the place for you and your family. Can you tell us about that apartment hunt?
Kerem: We have found our rented house prior to our landing here, thanks to my colleague, again. We have arranged all the viewings from Turkey and he visited the apartments that we arranged. And I think, yeah, this was the second house We have come agreement with the landlord and it was all done.
Even before coming here, every, everything was signed, the money was sent to the landlord. We just got the house from the real estate agent on the same day we arrived here.
Marion: If I can just add something here as a warning to listeners, there are many scams and Amsterdam, so you really want to be have someone who see the place because there are many cases of people who wire money never see that money back, because it was just a scam.
Travis: You should also be able to register at that address. So, if that’s not possible, it’s definitely a red flag. Uh, we’ll add a link with tips on how to avoid any housing scams in our show notes for anyone who wants to learn more about that.
So your friend, that you mentioned that helped you, did he work with the real estate agent or did he know someone who may be owned the place?
Kerem: Actually, we have found the place, the apartment on Pararius. We have, as I said, we have arranged everything there. The only thing we’ve done is sending him a message or telling him that at that time you will be there to see the house for us, the apartment. That was all it, the rest we arranged online.
Travis: That’s great to hear that you had some luck with that in my experience, as a renter, typically working through an organization or some sort of website like that, I’ve always found that the prices for rental were very expensive.
I’ve always been lucky to know people who are either looking for roommates or people that own the building. And we’re looking for some sort of low maintenance renter or someone they felt they could trust. And I have heard from a lot of people that going through organizations, they add extra costs, and they make outrageous conditions.
Such as needing to earn a ridiculous amount of money per month to qualify for renting the apartment. Some of these costs are actually unjustified and illegal.
If you want to learn more about your rights as a tenant and you need support on renting related questions, you can contact the association called !WOON. It’s free of charge and they also have information regarding the procedures to reclaim unjustly charged agency fees. We’ll link to the websites in the show notes for anyone interested.
Travis: We talked about some of the difficulties of looking for a place to rent, but what about buying property in the Netherlands?
Julia bought a house a few years ago, and I recently purchased one myself. Kerem, you’re currently going through that process yourself. Maybe you can share your experiences of looking for a house in the Dutch market and tell us what made you make the decision to buy a house in the Netherlands.
Kerem: Definitely the mortgage rates, mortgage interest rates. It’s less than, almost less than the rent you’re paying. So, if you are eligible to do that, eligible to get this mortgage, everybody’s suggesting to buy a house, it’s like an investment in your life.
Marion: How are you finding that process of actually finding a home that you would like to make an offer on?
Kerem: So the starting point is always Funda for us, at least for our family. And we are looking for the houses or the apartments that fits our expectations in terms of the floor area, count of bedrooms, et cetera, et cetera. There are many specifications that we look for in the house. The ones we like, and we send the request for everything.
Planning something here in the Netherlands is so strict. Everybody definitely, is working with their calendars, with reservations. You can’t do anything spontaneous here, so you should be well prepared for that. And you can’t find a good spot that works well. So you should fit to them. That’s a little bit challenging for them, because we are working For instance, today we have another viewing. I’ll go there at three, thanks to our company that they are allowing us. They are flexible for us to do that. By the way, haven’t yet offered anything to any house.
We haven’t found anything valuable to do that. But yeah, once you see the house, it depends on the seller. It might be a bidding or they might be flexible. So, it all depends on the situation of the seller.
Travis: Perhaps it’d be helpful if I share my experience. My girlfriend and I bought a house in late 2018, just on the border of Amsterdam. And actually, only about a hundred meters from Amsterdam itself. The housing market in the Netherlands is suffering from supply shortage and specifically on affordable housing.
So basically. Uh, every year we’ve seen house prices increase more. In 2021, the house prices in the Amsterdam region were about 16% higher than the year before. The Dutch bank ABN AMRO has projected that house prices will rise by 12.5% in 2022. And rise a further 5% in 2023.
So having lived here for quite a long time and my girlfriend being Dutch, we were aware of the situation with house prices. We knew that prices were going up, but mortgage rates were going down. So lending was encouraged. Actually, I think our mortgage rate is like 2.9%, which is pretty nice.
Basically what we did was we first looked around, went to some viewings just to get an idea for the process and kind of what to look for. And we try not to rush it too much. And then we started seriously looking for places and making bids. Bidding for housing in the Netherlands is a bit crazy at the moment. I think I remember seeing.
Recently that 80% of Dutch houses are overbid on the asking price. And, on average, I think it’s about 10% over the asking price as well.
The typical process of buying a house is to first get in touch with a mortgage advisor. They will meet with you; help you understand kind of what different kinds of mortgages are available to you. They are there to help you do the paperwork when requesting a mortgage. And most importantly, they’re there to help you understand how much you can lend.
Once, you know how much you can lend, then you can start actively looking. So, you can go to various real estate websites, start viewing these houses or apartments, and actually start understanding how much you could overbid if you need to.
Once we knew how much we were capable of lending. We looked on Funda, which is a great website, which aggregates all the real estate listings in the Netherlands. We would start looking on there at areas we think would be nice to live, get an idea for what’s available. And build basically a short list of buildings or houses that we thought were interesting. And we share them with each other, agree okay let’s go check out this place, this place, this place and then you would via Funda, you would actually get in touch with the real estate agent to plan a viewing.
The Amsterdam region is a very attractive place to live. And because of that, the housing market is very competitive. It was not unusual for, um, a viewing to have 20 or more couples around the same time, viewing the place. Which made it difficult because if you wanted to go check out, what a bedroom looked like. You’d be there with four or five other people.
Given the competitiveness of the housing markets. I would suggest not looking only in the bigger cities and to broaden your search to the outlying areas. These outlying areas typically have less expensive housing and offer more room.
Julia. I know that you and your husband also have purchased a house. Maybe you can share your experiences in that.
Julia: When we started, looking for our own place, we decided to move somewhere between Rotterdam, as my husband was working in Rotterdam and I was working in Hillegom, which we thought that I would take on for years because I really liked the job in Hillegom. So we decided to move somewhere in the middle and it was Leiden. We started hunting houses, around Leiden, and didn’t really hunt that much. And 2014 was one of the periods where the prices went a little bit down. And when we were, we found the only house that we thought, okay, this one looks like livable in.
We brought our bidding on it and we were actually bidding down on the asking price and it was accepted. So, we were again really lucky. And now we own a house in the outskirts of Leiden. So, our journey in terms of house hunting was really a lot of luck. And, I cannot say that much about other people because the housing market in the Netherlands is really difficult.
Travis: Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. While the housing market in the Netherlands can be challenging. The Dutch government incentivizes knowledge migrants by offering them what is called the 30% tax ruling. So basically, what that means is that instead of paying the roughly 37- 49% tax that a normal local would pay. You will pay only 30% tax for several years.
Needless to say, that is quite a boost in your earnings. I understand Julia, that you’ve been here for quite a while. Did you and your husband get the 30% ruling in the past?
Julia Oh, yes, we did. It was a happy time. and at the time we arrived, we were eligible for 10 years of the 30% ruling. So we luckily enough, used all those 10 years.
Marion: Was that, something that, was determinant in your decision to move to the Netherlands?
Julia: It was one of the things that, somehow was a pleasant surprise upon arrival. I don’t know how did that happen, but, after that, when we were, deciding and whether we stay or not since, by the time we were getting our permanent resident ship card, we decided, yes, it’s it does benefit.
And we’d rather stay here for the duration of their ruling period. And then we just stayed. Yeah, it was a really nice addition to, to the family finances.
Travis: Yeah, I can imagine that instead of paying roughly 50% of your salary only paying 30% can make it very attractive to, not only come to Netherlands for work, but also to stay here.
Julia: Yeah, for sure. But now the terms have been changed to five years and the entrance level is being raised a lot since that time we arrived. So it is really difficult now to actually get into ruling.
Travis: Thanks Julia, for sharing your experiences about having the 30% ruling for some time. Now let’s talk to Kerem, who is now actually in the process of getting the 30% ruling. Maybe you could tell us about, whether you have to do it yourself or maybe, If the company does it for you.
Kerem: It’s, I think, half-half, so there’s a consultancy company, which helps with all the immigration process and the 30% ruling, helping us with that. So you’re uploading the document, the required documents, to the system for the system of your consultancy company. And then they are taking, they are taking the rest, that’s it.
But, I will suggest everyone to chase it. Always, if you don’t get a response back because then all your submissions might be lost in translation, maybe, so always chase them. I was a little bit hesitated to do that, not to disturb anyone, but it’s not the case here. I believe nobody gets disturbed by getting emails, as long as you don’t spam them daily.
Travis: Yeah, that’s a good tip. Considering how much you would be saving in tax money. By doing this, it’s definitely in your best interest to make sure that it goes smoothly. And that happens in a fairly timely manner. So indeed, don’t be very spammy, but you can help push the process through, by being active in the process.
Kerem: Yeah, it’s helping.
Travis: So far in this episode, we’ve discussed the administrative side of moving to the Netherlands, such as getting a BSN number.
We’ve discussed looking for an apartment to rent, looking for an apartment or house to buy. And we’ve also discussed that 30% ruling. So now we’re also going to talk about healthcare.
In the Netherlands, it is required by laws that anyone living or working here must have health insurance. Depending on what country you come from originally, you might find that health insurance here is maybe either more expensive or less expensive. For example, our colleagues that come from Eastern European countries, where healthcare is typically socialized. Healthcare here is a bit different and more expensive than in their home country.
Travis: Kerem, as someone new to this country and having likely just gone through the process of finding the healthcare provider. Maybe I can ask you this question.
If you look in comparison to other countries that you’ve lived or work, what are your thoughts on the cost of Dutch healthcare?
Kerem: So, first of all, you have to do your insurance on your own here in the Netherlands. If your company doesn’t provide it.
When we went for the registration to the general practitioner, they were really kind, the secretary or nurse. looking at every stuff around the general practitioner area. And also, the doctor was very kind. He asks everything about us. He proposed us to measure our heart rate or other stuff et ectera, et ectera. I think many people say that or when you research on the internet it’s very hard to get an appointment from the specialist.
Marion: So how it works is that you have to go to your GP to get referral so that you can be sent to the specialist.
Kerem: I think it’s really, really, reasonable or how to say it’s it saves a lot from the government’s pocket and it’s very comfortable for the residents as well. I think your neighborhood doctor is the best doctor, as long as you don’t have anything serious.
Travis: One of the things I’ve noticed about the discussion around healthcare is that there’s a lot of different opinions around what is good healthcare and what’s not. Especially with spriteCloud staff come from different countries in different cultures and have different experiences.
So, for example, you have the, in UK, you have the national health service, the NHS, which is subsidized by the government. It’s free and apparently, it’s pretty good quality, but the downside is that there’s typically long wait times for things. Um, on the other hand, I come from America where healthcare is known for being quite expensive. And because of that,
A lot of people with lower incomes can’t afford appropriate healthcare. You have people going bankrupt because of medical bills. Or even worse. you have people dying from basically treatable diseases because they just simply don’t have the money.
Fortunately, because Dutch people love a good deal, there are a lot of websites that compare different healthcare providers out there. So, we’ll also be sure to add that link to the show notes for anyone interested.
Kerem: What I meant with all of my sentences was that actually, the Netherlands seems to find the balance and again, when you look at the research or the statistics was, I think in top five in health care.
Travis: While there’s always going to be the debate around which country has the best healthcare system. I would think Dutch is pretty high quality and actually. Marion found some research that said in 2021, the Netherlands was ranked second among high income countries. So, we’ll actually include the information in the show notes so that people can read more about healthcare in the Netherlands.
Marion: I want to add something about the requirement to be insured in the Netherlands. You do have a four month grace periods to arrange insurance. But if you’re still not insured after that grace periods, you will get fined. And you will also have to retroactively pay. For those ones where you weren’t insured. So, it doesn’t really make sense to push that back.
Travis: Okay, thanks for the tip, Marion. I think in general, when it comes to your health, you should do as much as possible to not leave it up to fate.
Dutch healthcare is reasonably affordable and covers quite a lot, but you can always add more to your coverage, like a corrective lens or even more to dentistry. We’ve discussed the wellbeing from the health standpoint, but let’s talk about it from a safety standpoint.
Objectively the Netherlands is a very safe country. Most crime that happens is typically in the form of pickpockets or maybe home break-ins, where people rob your home. But there’s very little violent crime. Safety is very different, depending on the frame of reference that you have. So, for example, my co-host Marion, her family comes from Brazil where safety there is a very different qualification than it would be considered here.
And for myself coming from Texas, where there are more guns than people, I definitely feel that I’m a lot more safe in this country.
So I’d like to ask our guests about their experiences around safety and crime and how safe they feel in this country.
Julia: Yeah, I think it’s very safe and let’s say, in Kiev, I would not dare to go alone in the middle of the night from the center of the city to my living area. While here, I don’t have that fear, at all. I know that something can happen because it’s life, it’s just can happen.
But, that area that I was talking about in the south of Rotterdam, they were talking about people constantly wearing knives so they can protect, er, protect whatever the intentions are. But again, I have not seen anything like that in those years that we’ve been living there. And I really like this feeling that you just feel safe.
Travis: Thanks for sharing your experiences, Julia. I’m glad to hear that as a woman, you feel safe walking around the streets in the Netherlands at night. I think that is a very good sign of the perceived feeling of secureness and safety that most people can feel in the Netherlands. So we’ve covered quite a lot of the administrative and maybe the less interesting things about moving to the Netherlands. Maybe to round up this episode, we can have our guests talk about some tips they have for anyone who is recently moved to the Netherlands or considering a move.
Vamsi: Yeah. I want to start with searching for the right apartment, even before you come. I think that would be the first option this part is a bit difficult, I see, for the expats at least.
Kerem: Yeah, I think don’t rely on, companies or your human resources a lot through the, your immigration or another process. You are, the first one who is driving all those processes. Always chase it. That might be one suggestion from my side and do a lot of research, speak to
Travis: Thanks for the tips, Vamsi and Kerem.
I’d also like to thank our other guests, Julia, Feyza, and Umut. Thank you for sharing your experiences about the administrative side of your move to the Netherlands. And I’d also like to thank our cohost Marion.
In the next part of our episode on moving to the Netherlands for work, we’ll talk about culture and what life is like in the Netherlands on a daily basis. We’ll cover things like public transportation, cycling, the weather, cuisine, meeting people and making friends, and the process of gaining Dutch citizenship.
It’s going to be an interesting one, so be sure to follow “It Works on My Machine,” wherever you get your podcasts from.
Until next time, take care.