Living in Netherlands the land of canals, tulips and coffee shops: is it possible without speaking Dutch?. In this article, we’ll tell you about the experience of a Chilean girl living in the country of the mills.
Why living in the Netherlands?
- Basic information: My name is Lorena and I am 36 years old.
- Where are you from and what’s your occupation? I am from Chile and I’m a social worker. By the way, in the Netherlands I have not practiced my profession so I had to reinvent myself doing jobs that I had never done before, like Spanish tutor at a university, housekeeping and shop assistant.
- How long have you been living there? Why did you move? I have been here for three and a half years. I moved because here is one of the best universities in Europe, so we came with a student visa. My husband obtained a scholarship from the Chilean government to study abroad, specifically in the medical area, where this university has prestige in research.
What are the procedures to be able to live and work in the Netherlands?
As I mentioned before, we have a student visa that also allows us to work, we have residence permits for the duration of our studies (ID), as in we’re registered as citizens so we’re enabled to have social benefits, health and welfare. As a family we decided to extend the process and stay for a longer time, so we had to request an extension of residence (approximately 250 euros each) proving that we had a stable job (contract) with an income that would allow us to stay in the country.
How does rent work in the Netherlands?
The truth is that in the Netherlands everything works very well in terms of procedures, we also have the support of the Expat Maastricht office, who advised us during the entire process.
Renting an apartment in the city where we live is not easy, being a University City, but we have been lucky to find an apartment where we have been staying, until now, for three years (we have a contract that is renewed annually).
In order to work, it is essential to have a residence permit (ID).
Living and working in the Netherlands without knowing the language
How was your adaptation to the language? Did you have a good knowledge of Dutch before living in the country? Is English enough at the beginning or is it better to arrive with a good level of Dutch?
It wasn’t necessary for us to know or study Dutch. We already knew that, being a multicultural country, most people speak English or make an effort to understand you. My work has always been in English. My husband’s PhD studies are in English so he doesn’t need Dutch either. On the other hand, it has been necessary for our son, since the school is in Dutch: he has received support from teachers and a speech therapist to manage pronunciation, obtaining favorable results.
What are Dutch people like?
What cultural differences have caught your attention in this country compared to yours?; Could you share an anecdote with us?
I am always struck by the level of trust in people in this country, which in my country is completely different. When I talk about trust, I mean:
- In the open air markets you can choose what you want and then pay for it (literally nobody watches you!).
- You can travel by train and they rarely monitor whether you have a ticket or not (the penalty fees for not having a ticket are very high).
- They work with agenda or appointments planned long in advance, they do not improvise.
- Time is sacredand it is something very important for them. Being late can be a big mistake hehehe, in some cases it is better not showing up than being late! hehehe
¿How is it working in the Netherlands?
As I mentioned earlier, here people are really trusted, for example, if you don’t show up at work because you are sick, no one asks you for any type of medical receipt, they trust that it is true and that’s it.
A notable difference is that here I can earn the same or more than what I earned in Chile exercising my profession and even working fewer hours.
Another thing that seems curious to me is that the wages in the Netherlands vary according to age. For example, at 18 years old the minimum per hour is € 4.85 while for those who are over 21 yearsold it is 9.70€. For more info, go HERE.
Where to look for job and to rent a flat in the Netherlands?
Obviously it’s always better to have a job before emigrating to another country, but if you want to embark on an adventure and you have some savings, you can start looking for a job using:
- Additional staff required signs still work. You can take your CV to the shops in your area.
- You can also look into agencies or look online. I recommend this agency, ASA Talent.
- Where to look to rent a flat in the Netherlands? I recommend “Woonpunt”. On this website you can find social rental housing, “free rental” and others, in Maastricht, Heerlen, Heuvelland and Sittard-Geleen.
How is it living in the Netherlands?
You can have a good quality of life here. Unlike other European countries, it is possible to apply to obtain benefits assigned by the government, such as a health and housing insurance subsidy (as I did).
Along with high salaries, rent, food and transportation are also high. However, taxes are proportional to the salary you receive and therefore the government can cover health, housing and education expenses of the disadvantaged.
Would you recommend living in the Netherlands?
- Would you recommend this destination to live? I would recommend it a thousand times! It was very easy for me to adapt to this country despite the cultural differences. However, it depends on the adaptation capacity that each person has, there are many people who tend to leave due to their low tolerance of the weather, but I consider that it is something minimal that you have to endure in order to receive all the benefits coming from an experience like this.
- Do you plan to live in the Netherlands for a long period?: Yes: although, at first, this was meant to be our last year, we decided to stay and extend the visa for our son’s education and the quality of life we have, in addition to pursuing personal and professionals goals here.
- And for anyone who would like to move to the Netherlands, what are your advice? Be patient with the weather (especially winds and cold) and learn to travel by bicycle, as it is the main way to move in the country.
- Finally, could you tell us about the next projects and destinations you have? At the moment it’s time to take care of ourselves, be safe and avoid traveling (which we love). We had to suspend scheduled flights (because of the pandemic) to Rome, Lisbon and Dublin (to visit my sister) and our trip to see our families in Chile.
In short, leaving your comfort zone is not easy, but living in another country is a unique and transformative experience, something that everyone should try.
Interview realized in November 2020 with @chileaninholland
For more experiences like this you can read «Travel to South Africa».