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A guide to living in the Netherlands for Erasmus students

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University comes with many exciting opportunities, one notable example being the Erasmus programme.

The Erasmus programme is the perfect chance for students across Europe to get a change of scenery for one or two semesters and study in a different country in the EU – whilst still receiving the usual funding from their home countries.

Now, if you’re a student in Britain who wants a break from trekking up hills and sitting in traffic jams, then you could always study in the Netherlands for a few months as part of your degree (provided your university offers this, of course).

If this sounds like a good idea, then you should read this guide to get you to grips with a few of the little differences that the Dutch have to the British:

Liability Insurance

Before we move onto the more interesting factors of moving to the Netherlands, it is important to get the paperwork out of the way first.

Now, if you’re tight-fisted and irresponsible with your belongings, then liability insurance is just something your parents have to protect their high definition television and expensive set of ornaments.

But in the Netherlands, this is compulsory by law.

Called an AVP policy (AVP being the acronym of a really long set of words which translate to Liability Insurance for Individuals), you will likely be asked to provide a copy of this for your landlord or estate agent before they let you move into a property.

In some cases, your estate agent or landlord may not be able to translate this for you - when questioning one estate agent on this, they explained it as the “insurance that you must have if you don’t want to pay 6,000 Euros to call the fire brigade out” – so make sure you question it.

You can get this through an insurance company, such as AON, or one of the local banks, and you’re looking at paying around 80 Euros for five months.

Register as a citizen

If you’re going to be living in the Netherlands for longer than four months, then you will need to register with the Municipal Personal Records Database.

You are expected to register within the first five days of your arrival (although plenty of international students take a lot longer than that without any hassle). To do this, you must download a BRP registration form (you can find this on a local authority’s website or your university’s), fill it out, book an appointment online and then take it to the city hall along with your passport and a proof of stay document (i.e. an accommodation contract).

Once you have completed all this, you will be sent a BSN number in the post. Once the BSN number has arrived (this can take around two weeks) you are officially a Dutch citizen and you can open a student bank account and sign up for a Dutch phone contract.

Cycling

Now, onto something more fun.

With a reputation for being such a flat country, it is no surprise that cycling is the most popular mode of transport. Getting a bicycle will not only be useful, but part of the cultural experience.

Don't forget where you parked your bicycle

To get a cheap bike from a shop, you’re looking at paying around 100 – 150 Euros, but there are plenty of pages on social media where you can buy bikes from local people who are selling.

Make sure you don’t buy a ludicrously cheap bike from somebody in the street, otherwise you will risk a confrontation with a disgruntled bicycle owner or a criminal prosecution. If somebody offers you a bicycle for 10 Euros on a night out, chances are it has been stolen.

If you don’t want to buy a bicycle because you’re hard-up, live close to everything or just don’t see the point in owning one for four or five months, then it’s ok - you won’t be shunned and outcasted as a non-cyclist.

Bins

A peculiar one on this guide, but important to know if you suddenly find your flat filling up with bin bags.

To dispose of rubbish in the Netherlands, you should be issued with a keycard from your landlord, estate agent or housemates. If not, get onto one of the three aforementioned people about this.

To operate the bin, you must press your finger against a small metal cylinder disk which will activate a sensor pad which you should then press your keycard against to unlock the bin. Place the rubbish in the container, shut the door and your waste will be sent down an underground chute.

Bins of the future

Reusable waste should not be placed in these chutes and should be organised into different containers to be recycled.

Drugs

This probably comes as no surprise to you to read that it is legal to buy and smoke cannabis in the Netherlands. However, it must be stressed that it is only legal to do so in a designated ‘coffee shop’ or ‘happy café’ that is licensed to sell the product.

A popular attraction for tourists

It is also, through a hole in the Dutch legal system, permissible to consume ‘truffles’, which is a psychedelic drug similar to magic mushrooms. If you feel the urge to take this drug then make sure you know the right dosage and don’t feel pressured into taking too much, as it can result in a particularly frightening experience.

All other drugs that are illegal in the UK are also illegal in the Netherlands. However, if you do come across hard drugs in the Netherlands and wish to take them, then it is advised to have them tested at one of the government funded test centres. This is a valid way to find out whether the drugs you purchased are what the dealer told you they were. But don’t worry, you will get them back.

Language

If you try to remember back to when you learnt Dutch at school, you will probably remember you never learnt Dutch and learnt German or French instead.

But don’t fret, because pretty much everybody in the Netherlands speaks English. All you have to do is pull a confused expression and they know they have to speak in English to you.

Some of the Dutch are so polite that they will actually apologise to you for not speaking in English.

But, if you don’t want to be that person who everybody has to translate for at parties, then it is advised to pick up a basic grasp of the language.

Here are some common phrases:

Dank u – Thank you (informal)

Bedankt – Thank you (formal)

Dank je wel – Thank you very much

Alsjeblieft – Please/ you’re welcome

Lekker – Nice/tasty

Doei/tot ziens – Goodbye

Spreek jij Engels? – Do you speak English? (Although you probably won’t need this)

Proost – Cheers

Feestje – Party!

 

An Erasmus exchange can be stressful in the beginning and require a lot of organisation. There have even been incidents where students have had to return home because of an error in the exchange process.

But once you have settled in, you can revel in your new surroundings, making new friends and useful connections whilst bringing home an experience that will prepare you for the future.

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