How to understand and integrate into Dutch society during a global pandemic

How to understand and integrate into Dutch society during a global pandemic

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Whether you’re an individual moving to Holland, or an employer relocating an employee to the Netherlands, Overseasy is there to make the transition as seamless as possible.

What’s harder than moving to a new country? Moving to a new country during a global pandemic! And yet, according to Statistics Netherlands (CBS), an estimated 63.000 people did exactly that; navigating cancelled flights, COVID-19 tests, and quarantining to move to the Netherlands.

Etoro was one of those people, moving to Amsterdam from the United States in August, she described her experience as challenging: “Picking up my permit, setting up my home, and buying groceries were difficult when I had to quarantine on arrival.” This was in addition to finding a job and overcoming the infamous Dutch bureaucracy and language.

Any expat would agree that adjusting to Dutch culture pre-COVID is no picnic in the Vondelpark. Throw a lockdown into the mix and you can forget a trip to the bike shop. Here are some of our top tips to make the transition easier:

Develop your Dutch knowledge

Don’t be afraid to do some research pre-arrival. Read up or binge-watch documentaries on Dutch society. There are a number of fantastic books and YouTube videos made by expats in the Netherlands, sharing their own Dutch cultural experience.

And while you’re at it, start learning Dutch! You may have heard already, the Dutch language can be as difficult as cycling in a snowstorm, so download a language app and practice some of the basics. Preparation is not only useful to gain some initial understanding but it can replace some of your pre-travel worries with excitement.

Be proactive

You’ve spent your afternoon watching YouTube and can now pronounce “Scheveningen”, great! This next tip is especially important right now. Government regulations are changing all the time, stay updated by checking the Dutch government’s website to make sure you have every piece of paper you might need at the border.

What do you do if you’re a non-European expat and your permit has not arrived by the deadline stated by the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND)?

Simple. Call the government number. The Dutch government is not always efficient, especially during a global pandemic. Don’t waste time and be proactive! Call them at 9:00 in the morning, when the line has just opened to ensure you don’t have to wait that long.

Enjoy your new city

You may not be able to take a tour of the Netherlands right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore your city. Your new apartment may become a bit boring after experiencing weeks of the coronavirus lockdown, so get outside and enjoy your surroundings (COVID-proof, of course). Take pictures and share them on social media with friends and family. Or order some of the famous fried Dutch cuisine to go!

Build a strong social circle

Pre-COVID, we could go to a bar or café and make friends with the nearest person. Or for the less extraverted, coffee breaks and after-work drinks became the daily social. These were opportunities to meet new people who might divulge why Dutchies eat chocolate sprinkles for breakfast.

Without offices, clubs, or classes, making friends in a global pandemic is hard. Try to embrace any social opportunities available, whether it’s calling friends from home or going for a socially distanced walk with your new neighbour.

This pandemic has highlighted the importance of having a strong social circle, especially for expats trying to find their feet… or clogs. Luckily, COVID-19 hasn’t stopped expats from socialising. There are a number of online book clubs and socials available, you just have to dig through Facebook groups to find them.

Overseasy’s First Month Experience programme offers cohort-based guidance and expertise every step of the way, helping you build a community and integrate into Dutch culture. Contact Overseasy or check out their services to find out more.

Elizabeth  Patterson


Elizabeth Patterson

Elizabeth is an intern for Overseasy. When she is not updating the company’s social media or writing blog posts you can find her in one of Leiden’s many libraries trying...

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