This post is also available in Greek
When I took the decision to move here I was very excited. I was looking at a new life unfolding in front of me, far away from Greece’s paranoia and uncertainty. I was also lucky to have on my back a lot of years of working experience and the idea that I spoke English perfectly and of course the conviction that I am Greek and I will succeed!
Amsterdam is like Thessaloniki
I was told and I believed it. That was my first mistake and the beginning of many more to follow.
There is infinite work for you, (infinite?!?)
I was told and I believed it since in Greece I never had trouble getting a job, big deal!
The minute I stepped foot on Dutch ground I thought I had it all under control. Then I walked and walked some more through Amsterdam’s airport and managed to get to my luggage sweaty and realising that I was not prepared for that. Up until that moment I did not know what cold, walking, discrimination, hardship, isolation, loneliness and immigrant really meant.
From the first morning that I woke up in a 2 by 5 room that some friends arranged for me, I realised that things will not be easy. One of the tips that I got from friends that managed to stay successfully in Europe was to stay in the beginning with friends so that I could learn and adjust easier to everyday life. I followed that tip faithfully and I am grateful that for 2 months they gave me their time, their space and their patience. Thats how long it took for my boyfriend to find a job. Thats how long it took to understand the Dutch bureaucracy. Going back and forth to the city hall, the tax office, the realtors, the interviews, the immigration service (?!?!), the banks and finally, some more interviews!
Now that I’ve done it once and I know what it’s like I have an understanding and believe that the procedure in order to stay or live here goes as follows:
You come to this country and find temporary housing. Take my advice and try not to come and stay alone in the beginning. Find a friends house to live or rent a room with people that are like you and never ever start isolating yourself. Right afterwards start looking for a job that comes with a contract. The contract will make finding a house or room quite easier. As soon as you sort that out as well you can go and finally register at the city hall and get your renown BSN.
Afterwards again, you make an appointment at the bank you feel like opening an account. From that account, you will be able to pay your rent, you insurance but also you will be able to receive your paycheck.
After you have dealt with your health insurance grab a pen and paper and start writing down your income and your expenses before you make another move. Ending up homeless and broke in the Netherlands is quite easy, so get organized from the get go.
But allas, that was the ideal scenario for a relocation! I wish anyone who would come here to have the luxury to follow this procedures. You see, there are many jobs out there without contracts, houses and rooms too and they also don’t even allow registration sometimes in order to get your BSN. But until you manage to get up on both feet, don’t despair.
If you belong to this category, arm yourself with patience for starters and go to your city’s tax office (belastingdienst) to get SOFI number. You can get one by registering with your Greek address, it is valid for 4 months (it can be extended though) and later on you can update it into a BSN. All you need to worry about mainly, is finding someone who speaks Dutch to set your appointment with the Tax office.
After that move you can continue looking for a job with a contract that will put you in the system and then continue with the rest.
These are the basic hurdles you have to overcome till you figure out how things work and until the cloud of too much information but also bad information that is in your head clears up.
Keep in mind from the beginning that the prices for a room in the big cities starts from 350 and they can easily go over 600. Finding a room or a house can be a big and challenging adventure that takes time, luck and a lot of digging, especially near at the bigger cities. Without a job contract things get even harder. And the Dutch might be animal lovers but they are only when they have something to gain. So if you were thinking about getting your pet with you, think twice.
In order to rent a house or a room you will most likely have to give a money up front as a deposit, so make sure when you get here to have at least the first 3 months covered because finding a job can be quite difficult for people that DON’T speak Dutch.
A simple health insurance starts from 80 euros and you will have to pay for it every month. If you find a job that doesn’t pay well, you will be able to get some of that money back later on because the Dutch government does help on that department a bit.
Don’t delay getting an insurance because it is required to have one since the day you register. Not only in order to not get fined by also because health services are not free in the Netherlands and if something happens to you, you might end up paying it dearly. A simple example is being run over by a biker and hurting him. Legally he can demand from you that you pay his recovery and also the days that he missed work. In such a case the amount can be quite big and without any kind of insurance it’s almost certain that it will be impossible to pay.
Transportation is also costly in the case that you are not living in an area that you can move around only by bike. Before you rent a house or a room check the transportation around the neighbourhood, the time required to get to your most usual destinations and the amount of money required for it. There are many jobs that pay for your transportation but also as many that don’t.
As far as food goes, the prices of supermarket products but also public markets, have a great difference (downwards) compared with Greece. But, if you want to eat out at a decent restaurant you will probably go over 25 euros per person unless you go for the less expensive options like doner or shoarma that costs from 3 - 5 euros and is a tasty, quick and affordable solution, available almost everywhere!
As soon as you arrive, get a card for your phone with a Dutch number and an OV Chipkaart for transportation. You can also buy a phone number from some voip service like skype and talk freely or with a very low cost with Greek land lines.
Setup a strong and honest CV along with a clever cover letter and pass it around everywhere. Make sure your English is correct and that it is written in the first person and represents you and your abilities in the best manner. Before you send it away though, get some feedback from friends that live here already. They might have an opinion or two about it being ok for the Netherlands or not.
If you get called for a job interview don’t dress up like a teenager, show character and that you really want the job. In order for them to hire you, you have to show that you are here to stay.
If you truly decided to leave the sun, the sea, your friends and your family in order to relocate here, remember to get warm clothes, a lot of love and all the patience you can, because you are going to need it all. The beginning is hard for anyone and you might feel isolation, loneliness and the hardships of immigration. The Netherlands is a country that will accept you as long as you can prove that you can carry your weight.
If you want to learn more about housing check these posts:
Housing in Amsterdam, Lol! Still looking for a house
If you are interested to see for whom the Netherlands has work check these posts:
Who can find a job in the Netherlands Getting a job, for starters!
If you want to see the process of getting into the system than check out this post: I am Greek and I just landed in the Netherlands. Now what?
If you are a student than go directly to the website and facebook group of the Hellenic Students Society of Netherlands. I am Greek and I just landed in the Netherlands. Now what?
The photos were taken from my good friend & photo-ninja Thrasos Panou.
Born in Volos in 1980. As a kid was filled many concerns about life. Sports lover, naturalist and big fan of travelling. He has majored in multimedia development and the past few years he's grown passionate for photography and photo editing. His purpose is to offer the world the best images one can shoot and edit. Believes that everybody has an artist inside. It only takes for one to believe in himself. You can find about more at Thrasos website: Thrasivoulos Panou Photography