by Hasret Ercisli
Whether you are deciding to live in a country, or deciding to study there, you will always encounter uncertainties. Although nowadays you can find a huge amount of information on the internet right at your fingertips (including from this article), there really is no better way to learn the tricks of living or studying in a foreign country than going there and experiencing it for yourself.
If you’re planning on going to the Netherlands for a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, there are some smart choices and ways to help you manage everything else outside of the classroom. You can also check the many news sources and expat information sites that have additional information to help make your time there less stressful.
1. Put food shopping in your agenda
In the Netherlands, grocery stores and supermarkets are open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm; however, because of how irregular their opening schedules are, and how frequently there are holidays in the Netherlands, it is always better to check their weekly schedule, and to then plan accordingly.
- Some supermarkets are open on Sundays, but not all of them - and it changes every couple of weeks! To avoid standing in front of the doors of a closed grocery store on a rainy Sunday, make sure to check their schedules from their websites.
- If you’re used to more of a regular schedule and reliability with grocery stores in your home country, you will want to get used to this new system: it can make a big difference with how you plan your time and shopping, so that you don’t run out of food.
2. Learn to handle the messy trash pick-up systemWhile in most countries, the trash pick-up is a topic as ordinary and mundane as watching ink dry, here in the Netherlands, you should definitely take the trash system seriously. Although the frequency depends on the region you live in, you should put your trash outside three times a month.
- The trash system generally uses of three different categories; ordinary kitchen trash, garden trash, and used paper. For each category, there is a designated date that you can put that specific kind of trash in front of your house.
- You can always ask your neighbors for help. Otherwise, you will deal with a garbage-load of annoyances and smells.
3. Make smart choices when you’re buying (and riding) a bicycle
After you arrive, the first thing you’re likely to get your hands on is a new bicycle. Seeing everyone zoom past you safely on the crowded bike paths makes every newcomer eager to spring for a bike right away. However, purchasing a new bicycle is something you want to take a lot of time to consider patiently.
- Not only do you have to think about the height of the seat, the lights, the locks, and the bells; you have to be aware of how the breaks work, how well it rides, and how fast you can go. Definitely take your sweet new bicycle for test runs. If the shopkeeper doesn’t let you test a bicycle, go to a different bicycle store.
- In addition, to prevent bicycle theft, get your hands on a nice, heavy-duty lock before buying the bicycle itself.
- With all of the used bicycles that are available in the Netherlands, everyone thinks you should just get the cheapest bicycle that you can find. But, this attitude is wrong. If you don’t invest in a quality bicycle, you will end up spending more on repairs than you did for the bicycle itself. Make it a smart investment.
4. Join the 21st century of internet social groupsIt costs everyone a lot of time and money to settle down in another country. However, to help you manage some of those extra costs, you can lean on the help of city-oriented email groups.
- With these groups, you can get updates about items, accommodations, deals, and offers that are hitting the internet, allowing you to get access to great low-cost options, without having to search and shop for them.
- Receiving them in your email saves you the convenience of ever having to leave your home, and there is a large community of people who are eager to buy and sell items to fellow foreigners. (Hint: these groups also exist on Facebook).
5. Don’t worry about learning Dutch so fast. Get used to English.When you decide to go to a new country, learning the country's language is one of the first things you’re likely to think about. However, in the case of the Netherlands, you may only improve upon your English skills.
- As a student, you are more likely to be surrounded by others who speak English well, and will probably be attending lecture classes in English. This is the language you will be practicing the most, and the one you are most likely to enhance.
- Furthermore, practically everyone in the Netherlands is an English pro, and you will have no issues getting around if you’re speaking English to everyone.
6. Get used to constantly changing weather
Although the weather is characterized as rainy, it is more accurate to say that you experience four seasons in day. Always be prepared for the rain, snow, and hail; and if you see sun, enjoy it before it disappears.
- There are mobile apps that allow Netherlands residents to prepare for and anticipate the rain. Because it's such a big part of daily part, every person in the Netherlands knows to expect frequent, sudden changes in weather.
- As annoying as the weather is, most people in the Netherlands learn not to complain about it. If you do, you're likely to be confronted with a common Dutch retort: 'Wat dan nog? Je bent toch niet van suiker!', meaning 'So what? You're not made of sugar!'.