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An Expatriate's Primer On Living In The Netherlands

The Netherlands is a fascinating country, combining celebrated pastoral wonders (tulips, cheese, windmills, and more) with thriving international businesses and international organizations into one of Europe's smaller countries. If you got a job like this from Quanta you're considering the Netherlands as your expatriate stomping grounds, the following tips are probably going to come in handy.

Housing

Finding a home in the Netherlands is a bit of a "good news, bad news" situation. First, the good news: The Netherlands has no restrictions on foreigners owning property. If you find the perfect home, you won't be stopped from buying it due to red tape. The bad news is that housing in the Netherlands (whether you buy or rent) is notably expensive, particularly in the highly-sought-after area of central Amsterdam. If you do decide to buy, remember that you'll be responsible for paying property tax, known as Onroerendazaakbelasting. In order to minimize the hassle involved in finding housing, enlisting the services of a local real estate agent is strongly recommended.

You should also strongly consider economizing by living in smaller cities or less-central suburbs. As an example, a 1,500€ rental budget will get you only a furnished single-bedroom apartment if you insist on living in the center of Amsterdam. The same money, spent in the city's slightly more distant Nieuw-West district, will secure you a three-bedroom double. Make sure you conduct some comparisons before making a housing commitment! While securing good accommodations at a reasonable price may seem like a daunting task, it's far from impossible.

Health Care

Living in the Netherlands obliges you to take on responsibility for your own healthcare by purchasing insurance from a private insurer. Dutch law sets out certain minimum standards that your coverage must include, such as general practitioner care, hospitalization, and medication. Fortunately, the total cost of healthcare in the Netherlands is subsidized so that personal premiums are kept fairly affordable for all adults. The amount you can expect to pay will vary slightly based on the details of your coverage and your provider, but annual premiums around 1,200€ are typical for most expatriates. Note that insurers in the Netherlands cannot alter your healthcare costs based on your age, gender, or current level of health.

Another significant portion of your healthcare expenses will depend on your job in the Netherlands. Half of your expenses are covered by employer reimbursements, but you retain the tax liability for the reimbursed sum. You can extend your insurance coverage on your own initiative to cover extra care. Dental care, for instance, is often omitted from standard care packages. Here too your costs will vary based on your insurer.

Note that health care for children (anyone younger than 18) is provided by the national system without imposing any additional costs on their families.

Public Transit

The Netherlands has a fairly extensive railway network to take care of long-distance travel, supplemented in some areas by bus service. Urban travel is handled primarily by trams, buses, and, in some areas, metros and ferries. There is a broad range of different payment options. One-hour tickets for single journeys in Amsterdam cost 2.80€, but season tickets for frequent travelers offer significant discounts.

The Netherlands also has a convenient universal transit payment system in the form of the OV-chipkaart. This is essentially a reloadable debit card that can be used to pay for public transportation of every sort, up to and including trains. Note that you need to have the card activated and then keep it charged with funds. The cards can also be loaded with discount options, including the season tickets mentioned above.

We would also be remiss if we discussed transportation in the Netherlands without mentioning bicycles. These are extremely common from one end of the country to the other, and virtually all of the local infrastructure is organized to make travel via bicycle practical and speedy. The Hague, for example, has designated bike lanes on every major street, making a journey all the way across the city possible in well under an hour. Give strong consideration to getting a bike of your own when you're living in the Netherlands.

Driving In The Netherlands

The Netherlands is a fairly relaxed and stress-free place to drive, but if you intend to own and operate a car in the Netherlands you need to be prepared to meet several supplementary costs. When you first register a car in the Netherlands - by purchasing a new vehicle or importing one you already own - there is a one-time private vehicle tax (BPM) that you must pay. All operational cars have an ongoing motor vehicle tax (MB) which must be paid on a quarterly basis. These taxes vary according to the environmental impact of your car, so it's worth considering eco-friendliness when you're buying a vehicle for use in the Netherlands.

Anyone living and driving in the Netherlands is also obliged to carry Dutch car insurance. Cars must receive regular inspections, known as the Algemene Periodieke Keuring, or APK. The frequency of inspection will depend on the age of your car. Finally, you also need to keep in mind that the Netherlands boasts some of Europe's highest fuel prices. Unleaded gasoline currently costs roughly 1.77€ per liter. Diesel fuel is cheaper, but not by much; current average prices are around 1.48€ per liter.

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