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An Expat’s Guide to the Netherlands
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This post belongs to category: Expat life in the Netherlands

An expat’s guide to the Netherlands


Two photosMoving abroad is one of the most challenging experiences that you could ever face. I knew well in advance that I was moving to the Netherlands, and I rehearsed (logistically and psychologically) more than an orchestra director would to prepare for a premiere at the Musikverein concert hall in Vienna. But the moment that my flight landed at Schiphol, bump!, I realised how different the reality was from my expectations. I’m not only talking about the Dutch language, and this is by no means me complaining about the Netherlands, it is just that when you arrive here, your life restarts from zero.

First days

Naturally, no one is waiting for you at arrivals, but no one is waiting for you anywhere else either! You are the umpteenth expat to arrive, to be re-educated for Dutch society, and for the first few days you won’t even have time to wonder ‘what’s this red lane?’ before a cyclist crashes into you while ringing his bike bell like he believes he is an ambulance.

You will be fully dedicated to finding accommodation while continuing to fight with the Dutch language: you will see hundreds of rental agency websites which rely heavily on Google translate. Here, you will finally learn the most important Dutch word for an expat: makelaar. The makelaar will (maybe) help you to search for accommodation and after some months (yes, months!) you will finally find an apartment and you’ll be an expert of real estate language, with exotic words like fully furnished (i.e. there is at least a chair), and cosy (i.e. you are lucky that there is a tiled floor).

The Adjustment Phase

BikesFood will be the runner-up of your problems for some time. You will keep searching for products as if you were still at home. Then, one day you will find that brand of coffee or soft drink from your country, which maybe you never even drank before, but now you will promptly buy and go home celebrating like your favourite sporting team won the championship.

In the meantime, you’ll start to learn what the main brands are in the supermarket here and to recognise some typical products in the nearby shops.



You will buy a bike that will be a little bit tall for your height, but you will soon manage to manoeuvre it. You’ll find out that bike lanes are like highways: they can be jammed during peak hours but they can take you everywhere in the Netherlands. But no matter how long you live here, when retrieving your bike from parking, you will still wonder ‘where did I park?’.

The adaption phase

Time passes and you will find out that what you experienced is well known in Sociology, it’s Culture Shock. Finally, you are in your adaption phase, and you’ve probably found that nice café close to the channel where you can enjoy your Sunday pannekoeken.

On weekends, the weather will always be an uncertainty. The sun is shining and the plan is to go explore the tulip fields, but a storm comes all of a sudden. Now you’ll be better prepared. Get a weather app on your phone and protective waterproof clothing. You’ll end your weekend arriving home a little bit damp, but still chuckling when you think about all those tourists you saw with their umbrellas inverted by the wind.

You will learn to keep an eye on seagulls, to protect your herring sandwich, and you will find out what the Amsterdam zone for tourists is (to be highly avoided). And finally, one day, the most incredible thing will happen: you will spend some time in the Netherlands where you now call home, and you will decide to enrol in a Dutch language school, like Kickstart School, as I did…

Elena Cumpana, Student, woman, but first of all traveller…

 What our students say about us

  • My experience with Kickstart has been highly beneficial in both developing language skills and improving my knowledge of the Dutch culture. Josien's support is always spot on and very intuitive in relation to personal circumstances. She spends a lot more than the official time allocated to really get to know her clients and her approach is customised accordingly. She was recommended to me by other Shell colleagues who expressed the same sentiment and I was fortunate enough to benefit from this during the time I spent with her.

    Vennasa van de Ven, Migration Manager working at Shell

  • Entering the Kickstart school premises alone gives you a push of energy and the commitment this will help to create is hardly unmatched in any other language school. The methodology and the approach used in the lessons also helps smoothly unlock the secrets of everyday Dutch. Kickstart School has helped me get in touch with the 'undutchable' culture of the Netherlands and its people. The individual language training I could experience at Kickstart School has been one of the best educational experiences I could have in Europe.

    Alessandro d’Addario, European Law Enforcement 

  • I really enjoyed my English lessons with the Kickstart School. The teacher was professional and really knew the subject. The way they teach is also great! The classes are presented in a clear and professional manner and the online exercises completed at home are very helpful. The teacher always provided useful feedback. It's a great experience to join a Kickstart course with such a friendly atmosphere of students and teachers.

    Beatriz Pedroche, Spain 

  • Kickstart has been the ideal place for me to learn. The teachers are very helpful and friendly and have always gone the "extra mile" to help me learn in a positive way. Their teaching is practical with elements that can immediately be applied to everyday living situations. Included in the lessons are cultural aspects of living in the Netherlands that make learning Dutch dynamic and fun; you learn the language and about the place and the people! The teachers took an active interest in my progress and provided valuable customized sessions that maintained my strengths and developed my weaknesses; all in a patient, fun and friendly style.

    Graeme Ting, dentist from New Zealand 

  • My first contact with Kickstart School was after 1 month of living in The Netherlands, when I started to study Dutch. At the time I didn’t have any knowledge of the language, but with their courses organized by levels I developed important language skills and learned about the Dutch culture. They all do a great job at Kickstart because their motto it’s not just a motto – they are really pleased to teach you. You learn a language in a friendly atmosphere, make new friends from all over the world, and all in a cosy building right in the heart of The Hague.

    Anca Boros, mathematics and physics teacher from Romania

  • During my time with Kickstart I have learned a lot and gained confidence. I was always challenged by the interesting assignments, but never too much. I have really enjoyed the classes!

    Sabine de Bruijn, Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

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