We’re official residents of The Netherlands – the 3-week emigration update

And we’re official! We went to the municipality last week for our “check-in” appointment – to register and to get our BSN numbers (kind of like a social security/ID number). We had made our original appointment for a day after we arrived, but were kindly asked to come back after two weeks of self-isolation. Strictly speaking, we weren’t ever asked or told to self isolate, but they only wanted to help us after two weeks.

We had all our documents ready and certified, so our process was smooth. Aside from Googling what is needed (like unabridged birth certificates, and apostille documents), the immigration lawyers were helpful in making sure we had absolutely everything (as I’ve mentioned before, going through a lawyer is not a must at all, but it helped us and gave us peace of mind).

We were helped efficiently and kindly, and after about an hour and 15 minutes, we were on our merry way, ready to celebrate our official status over fries and more of those heavenly Van Wonderen stroopwafels

Certified and happy… leaving the Amsterdam gemeente (municipality) office

Once we had our ID numbers, we were able to open bank accounts and set up medical aid. With my EU passport, I was able to set up a bank account with Bunq, who call themselves “bank of the free”. They’re basically an online bank, and allow non Dutch citizens to open accounts. We have used this while we’ve been here, but also opened accounts with ABN Amro. Banks here generally need you to physically go into a branch to open an account, but we discovered that ABN Amro lets you open an account online, so we opted for that bank.

Two days later, we got our first letter from the bank, followed by another letter for the next three days, each containing an important step for setup. For example, the first letter contained a little machine to generate a passcode for online banking once I got the card on day four. On the second day, I think I got the account number, on day three the card PIN, and on day four, the actual card. While setting up, I got confused about things and my card got blocked. A quick phonecall on a Saturday afternoon to the bank, and all was sorted. When I called the bank, there was an operator option in English, and the chap helping me spoke perfect English. Shew.

It seems that there aren’t a lot of banking “tiers” – it feels like a flat structure, without things like different coloured cards, rewards, Slow Lounges etc. My banking fees are 1.50 euros a month. My medical aid is 140 euros a month. Medical aid is compulsory for everyone living here, and kids are free if their parents are on. As EU citizens, the kids and I were able to get onto a medical aid, but my non-EU citizen husband Andrew has to wait for his ID card before he can get onto medical aid, so for now he’ll stay on his SA one.

How did we choose a medical aid? A friend of a doctor of ours in SA is a specialist in The Hague, and he recommended around three medical aids. We picked one, did some research, and it sounded good. We’ll wait a few more days until we get “approved”, and onto the books, so to speak. Our plan includes physio and orthodontics (I’m not saying the kids’ teeth are bad… just saying we have a plan in case they need it).

We also signed up to insurance for our things – it’s costing 20 euros a month for what seems like quite a comprehensive offering.

Two things that blew my mind last week

  1. Andrew, also known as my husband, downloaded an app for the postal service. He got a letter (in the post, of course) with a PIN code to activate the app. He now gets push notifications every time a letter is its way to us – they even send him a pic of what’s coming. So if a bank letter is coming later that day, he’ll know about it. It’s a nice-to-have, and quite fun to know what’s coming.
  2. Four days after we registered at the gemeente, we got a welcome letter of sorts from the health department, requesting that we send our kids’ vaccination documents just to see that they’re up to date. I think vaccinations are free, and according to the letter, 95% of NL parents vaccinate their kids which is why there are basically no illnesses that the vaccines cover (how’s that for a positive nudge towards vaccination). If you’re wondering, yes, we brought the vaccination cards with us, and yes, the kids are up to date.

The little inconvenience that I wasn’t expecting…

After months of no swimming lessons because of Covid, I was excited for Rebecca to dive back in, so to speak, especially after she had come so close to learning how to swim unaided before lockdown. I emailed a few nearby swimming schools to book some lessons. Alas… there’s like a one-year waiting list. So we’ll have to wait a bit longer.

Here’s something really interesting – swimming is a serious business, and it’s compulsory for kids to learn because there’s so much water around and they need to certified. Here’s some info from Expats in Holland:

The A-certificate exam requires the child to swim 50 metres using a combination of breaststroke and backstroke, and to swim 3 meters underwater to pass through a large ‘escape’ hole in a canvas panel. The distance increases to 75 meters and 6 meters under water in the B-certificate exam. The C-diploma exam requires 100 meters of surface swimming in swimsuit and clothing with additional obstacles, the forward roll, and finally 9 meters underwater.

Children who have not earned at least an A diploma are required to wear inflatable armbands in all public swimming pools until they have earned their swimming certificate. Most schools and children’s sports clubs in the Netherlands will not let children take part in water activities until they have achieved the A, B and C diplomas

What else we did last week:

  • Cycled to two stations – Rebecca is now on the back of Andrew’s bike, and they’re going well
  • A boat ride through the canals
  • Went to the Nemo science museum, only to learn that we needed to make a booking beforehand as numbers are limited because of Covid. The kids were a little disappointed, but we quickly recalibrated, and explored the centre
  • Got our museum cards, which allows us “free” access to hundreds of museums in the Netherlands for the year. It cost around 65 euros per adult, and 35 euros for Max. Kids under five are free at museums, so we didn’t need a card for Rebecca. Kids under five are also free on all transport, which is a big win.
  • I got store cards to start earning points and earning rewards – woohoo!
  • Went to Vondelpark, the city’s biggest park, for a picnic. It’s a gorgeous green space, and what one lacks in big homes and gardens in the city, one makes up for in the outdoors. It’s like the outdoors belong to everyone, and so many are out and about, whether having picnics, or chilling by the canals.

To do this week

  • Start my new job!!!! (I’ll write more about this in another post)
  • Register with a huisarts (GP). This will be the person who refers us to specialists since we can’t go directly to them. GPs here have a reputation for being very conservative with prescribing meds, and the “joke” is that you’ll usually get the equivalent of Panado and be told to go home. There are lots of conversations and opinions around this on the Facebook groups. I got a great recommendation from Sherianne from Home.Made, so I’ll register there this week.
  • Sign up for life insurance



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  • Moira

    15 September 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Thank you, this is very helpful! We'll be emigrating to Haarlem from Joburg next month. I would be keen to hear about what medical aid […] Read MoreThank you, this is very helpful! We'll be emigrating to Haarlem from Joburg next month. I would be keen to hear about what medical aid you chose. Thanks for sharing your process! Read Less

  • Andrew Perkin

    8 August 2020 at 12:39 pm

    I also opened Bunq and ABN-AMRO accounts. The Bunq Travel account is supposed to be free, but after one month, I can't use my card […] Read MoreI also opened Bunq and ABN-AMRO accounts. The Bunq Travel account is supposed to be free, but after one month, I can't use my card anymore, and I can't transfer cash to my ABNA account. My account will only be unfrozen if I upgrade to Premium at €8/mo - ludicrous, considering ABNA is €1.55/mo. So just keep an eye on that... was very embarrassing at the supermarkt. Read Less

    • Tanya
      to Andrew Perkin

      8 August 2020 at 6:22 pm

      Oh yes - I know their rates are quite high. I'll probably close Bunq once I'm fully onboarded with ABN

  • Denise Kemp

    3 August 2020 at 3:00 pm

    So interesting hearing about every day things that you need to do. And how they are done. You are getting so much done […] Read MoreSo interesting hearing about every day things that you need to do. And how they are done. You are getting so much done in such a short space of time Read Less

  • sdiedericks

    3 August 2020 at 7:55 am

    Congrats on the BSN & bank process. Love the fact that they still use the mail to send out you "bank activation" in 3/4 […] Read MoreCongrats on the BSN & bank process. Love the fact that they still use the mail to send out you "bank activation" in 3/4 steps over 3/4 days. Same as 1997 in the UK - a little dated, but clearly speaks of other systems (post etc) that work well. Have a great week at the new job! :) Read Less

    • Tanya
      to sdiedericks

      3 August 2020 at 11:56 am

      Thanks so much! It's so awesome :) Have a good week too :)

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