Immigrating to Amsterdam from South Africa: part 1

We’re 12 days away PG from immigrating to Amsterdam, which makes me a non-expert on immigration. All I can claim is having some experience on the process and planning, which I’ll be sharing, as a lot of people have been asking questions (this is not a line, honest – I’ve gotten lots of questions on all my social platforms).

I plan to blog more about the process and settling in, so if there’s anything you want to know now or down the line, then ask away. I am, after all, a great non-expert.

These are some of the most common questions I’ve been asked:

Why did you choose Amsterdam?

We chose Amsterdam because it’s a beautiful city, very safe, and we liked the idea of being in Europe. Toronto was on the cards too, but we liked the idea of being more central in the world, and easier to get to (my son can hopefully see his dad more frequently this way).

My kids and I have EU passports, so this also bypassed a lot of admin in getting in,because with EU citizenship, we can go anywhere in Europe, and don’t need to go through the whole points/application/getting in process we’d need to do in the
likes of Australia and New Zealand.

Amsterdam was always our first choice for all these reasons, and we like the culture and how everything seems to work well. It’s the kind of place where you get fined if you litter (I think it’s around 70 Euros in Amsterdam).

The medical care and education are said to be excellent. Everyone has warned me though that apparently they don’t sell good stuff like Corenza C, Sinutab and Myprodol.

The Netherlands is the best English-speaking, non English-speaking country.

Aren’t you worried about the cold?

But with layers, we’ll be fine, and overseas, the central heating is so good, I feel warmer there indoors during winter than here. We won’t need heaters, electric blankets or hot water bottles to keep us warm.

I’m more worried for the darkness – the sun rises later in the day, and sets earlier, and I find the gloominess a bit anxiety-inducing.

Where will your kids go to school?

They’ll go to a school 200m from our apartment. It’s not an international school, so their classes will be in Dutch. We visited the school in January, and it seems fantastic.

Good to know: Education is free. And if you’re registered and living in NL, you can get a child grant. It’s around 220 Euros per child per quarter, and more if they are older.

What was your immigration decision-making process like? Did it take you a long time?

To be honest, I didn’t know it was an option as my son’s dad lives in SA, and they’re very close. Last year, my ex husband and I were chatting, and we discussed that maybe it would be a good idea for our son to live somewhere else, just for a different kind of life.

My husband and I chatted about it, let it rest for a few months, and then last year, together decided to go to Amsterdam. It wasn’t a long or difficult decision at all – my husband had long wanted to try something new, and we felt it would be best for our family.

How long did it take to sell your house?

Around four months, and no, we didn’t get a good price. It’s a buyer’s market, but like with so much, we cut our losses.

What are you going to do there?

I’ll carry on writing and editing, and my husband will carry on with his job too, as a contractor. Lockdown showed us and our teams that remote working can work.

Good to know: If you find a skilled job in the Netherlands before you go, you pay less 30% tax for the first five years you’re there. You and your spouse also don’t need to redo your drivers’ licences.

Are you taking your furniture?

No – we sold or gave away all our furniture and will buy everything new there. It made no sense to stay in an apartment for three to four months waiting for our container to arrive with our furniture. Rather, we sent a container with household items, some small appliances like our coffee machine, kitchenware, clothes,
and two bags full of my toiletries and cosmetics.

Where will you be living?

In Buitenveldert, a suburb in Amsterdam. We will be in a rental apartment for at least a year, and would likely look at buying something after this. We could have rented a house or a much bigger apartment further out the city for the same price, but we wanted to be close to the kids’ school, and be central.

For now, we think apartment living will suit us – less admin, and no upkeep of things. Space will be an issue, but we are ready and willing to live more minimally for now.

And finally, not an answer to a question, but an observation/experience: the cost of emigration is not just about the flights, as I so naively thought.

Our costs have been fairly high, and of course not everyone needs to go this route – it’s something we chose to do. These costs exclude the processes, furniture and stuff when we arrive – I’ll cover that in another post.

Our stuff going to be shipped
  • Large shipping cube with Seven Seas: Around R35 000
  • Boxes, plastic, bubble wrap: Around R2500
  • Immigration lawyer: Too obscene to mention here (Note: we chose to go this route just so that everything was above board, and that we had all the correct information, and not someone’s advice on Facebook. They have been excellent at giving guidance, and will arrange our necessary admin appointments when we arrive)
  • Apartment rental: Two months’ upfront payment, plus another month’s deposit, paid in Euros
  • Makelaar/agent fees: Equivalent to one month of rent (Note: we used an agent to find a place for us, as we wanted something to arrive to, and didn’t want to start the search process from scratch, and be “desperate” to find something while there. A lot of people recommended this route too so that they could manage the admin, and check that everything was above board with the lease agreement etc
  • Airbnb after moving out our house: With lockdown, we couldn’t choose what date to fly exactly owing to limited repatriation flights, so we have had to stay in an Airbnb. Those with family nearby could probably move in with them, to avoid the need to pay to stay elsewhere.
  • Airbnb in Amsterdam for a few days when we arrive: We don’t want to sleep on the floor in our apartment when we arrive, so will stay in an Airbnb while we get our place furnished. We will likely shop before we leave, so that the bulk of our furniture and homeware arrives just as we do.

We chose to rent an unfurnished apartment because we felt that finding a place with furniture we liked would be harder than just finding an apartment we liked. We preferred the idea of buying
furniture once’ish off, rather than pay extra for rent.

I should note too that these one-way repatriation flights were pricey, but it is what it is, and we want to get there and settle in good time before school starts in the middle of August.

Vaarwel (farewell) for now!

Next post: Emigrating during coronavirus

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    • Tanya
      to Andrew Perkin

      27 July 2020 at 9:46 am

      What is the P+R? What am I missing? I need to learn the lingo :)

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    Thanks, Tanya - I'm enjoying your blog. I will be enjoying the reading while I have lunch over the next few days :)

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