December 2022: 9 things expats in the Netherlands need to know
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! With just a few weeks left until we all wave goodbye to 2022 and welcome in a brand new year, here are nine things expats living and working in the Netherlands need to know about this December.
1. Deadline for changing health insurers fast approaching
Now that all the Dutch health insurance companies have announced their premiums for 2023, you have one month left to decide whether you’re going to stick with your current plan, switch to a new one, or change insurers altogether. You have some time, but not too long: the deadline is December 31, 2022.
2. Another 190 euros in compensation for high energy bills
The autumn might have started off beautifully sunny and mild, but the weather has certainly made a change and winter is coming (more on that later, though). If you’re worried about how you’ll make ends meet this month, between all the holiday costs on top of the rising cost of living, then you’ll likely be happy to hear that you’ll be getting another 190 euros' worth of compensation to make up for the high cost of energy.
Like last month, you won’t need to do anything in order to receive this discount - most energy suppliers will automatically provide you with it on your monthly bill, while others will transfer the money directly to your bank account.
3. Dutch banks raising their interest rates from December 1
Another little bit of good news: after years of banks offering interest rates of 0 percent, the major Dutch banks have confirmed that customers will see the interest rates on their savings accounts rise from December 1, 2022. Want to know more? Check out our guide, or visit your bank’s website.
4. NS to officially switch to 2023 timetable
While Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) has been gradually cutting services as it made the switch over to its new timetable for next year, the rail company’s 2023 timetable only officially comes into effect on December 11. Of course, a lot of the changes have already been made - for details on what you can expect and how it might affect your travel plans, be sure to check the NS website or app.
5. The Netherlands waves goodbye to autumn and welcomes winter
Yes, December is the month in which winter officially arrives (although you’d be forgiven for thinking it had already started, considering the Netherlands has had its first snow of the season). There’s still some time for you to soak up the final weeks of autumn, before the 2022 winter season officially begins on December 21, 2022.
6. Sinterklaas to visit well-behaved children on pakjesavond
Before Christmas, there is another extremely important Dutch celebration: Sinterklaas. On the evening of December 5, good old Sinterklaas will hop on his white horse and, in the company of his helpers the Pieten, will deliver sacks of gifts and goodies to children across the Netherlands, before getting back on his steamboat and returning to his home in sunny Spain.
7. Schools in the Netherlands break for the Christmas holidays
Just in case you missed it, the Christmas holidays are nearly here. On top of all the gift-giving and decorating that this season brings, it also means that schools in the Netherlands will break up for the winter holidays. While schools will still be open on December 5 for Sinterklaas, they do close for two weeks over Christmas and New Year. This year, regardless of which region you live in, the holidays start on Friday, December 23, and kids return to classes on January 9.
8. Finally, some public holidays for workers!
Yes, it’s been a long wait, but people with jobs in the Netherlands can finally look forward to enjoying a couple of public holidays this December. As mentioned, Sinterklaas sadly won’t offer you a free day, but Monday, December 26 (Tweede Kerstdag, or Boxing Day) will.
The bad news is that December 25 (Christmas Day) and January 1 (New Year’s Day) both fall on a Sunday this year, and the Netherlands does not implement a system where you get back holidays that fall over weekends. This means that neither December 27 nor January 2 will be public holidays, and so you'll likely be expected to work if you don’t book the time off with your employer.
9. From Geminids to Ursids: Meteor showers a-plenty in December
Last but not least, December 2022 will offer not one but two meteor showers, with the Geminds peaking on December 14 - potentially offering up to 120 meteors an hour! - and the Ursids peaking on December 22 and 23. How festive!
Have a holly jolly Christmas!
Of course, December is a time when family and friends get together to share gifts, food, and laughs. If you want to make sure you're feeling properly festive ahead of the holidays, why not check out one of the many Christmas markets or ice rinks across the Netherlands.
This time of year can be joyous and full of love, but it is also a difficult and stressful time for many across the country and around the world. Take the chance to share a chat with a neighbour or donate to your local food bank, and if you're struggling with the festive season blues know that you're not alone and can reach out for help and support.