Are you ready to explore new surroundings again? Spring is on its way, and a great way to get out and see the Netherlands in the springtime is on a bike (fiets in Dutch). With at least 32,000 km of cycle lanes and 3,300 km of long-distance bike routes (signposted as "LF-Routes", or Langeafstand Fietsroutes), there are endless possibilities to explore the country. You don't need to have a fancy road bike, but you also don't want to ride a great distance if your bike isn't in good condition so it's a good idea to have your bike serviced regularly to keep it working in tip-top shape. If you are very new to the Netherlands, and perhaps to cycling, you might want to start by exploring your immediate surroundings. You could begin by venturing out to a park that you aren't familiar with yet. Or you can just go in a direction that's opposite to your usual travel and see what you can find. If you are looking to take on a big challenge in 2021, there is even a route of almost 1,400 km around the Netherlands. If you complete the route (proven with photographs at specific locations), you’ll even make it to the Nederland Fietsland website's Hall of Fame.
Those looking for shorter routes (that's a relative term!) have plenty to choose from. Given our adopted home's flat landscape, there is little excuse not to hop on your bike and go for a ride. Even cycling to or from the different AWCA areas of Amsterdam, Haarlem and Het Gooi will give you plenty to see. From Amsterdam, you can find an excellent route for biking, no matter what direction you go in. To the northeast, Waterland offers some beautiful scenery to cycle through. Holysloot, which is technically part of Amsterdam-Noord, is a 45-minute bike ride if you start at the ferry behind Amsterdam’s Central station. The fishing village of Marken, also in Waterland, was once an island but has been a peninsula since 1957, when it was connected to the mainland; you can cycle through the equally picturesque village of Durgerdam on the way there. To the east you’ll see Muiden with its iconic castle, and the fortress city of Naarden is just a bit further east. Haarlem is a little over an hour to the west of Amsterdam; once you're there, the beaches of Bloemendaal and Zandvoort are easily accessible. One of the most well-known routes to the south for Amsterdam road cyclists is the Rondehoep, which starts in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. The bike ride from Amsterdam to Ouderkerk is a good one on its own and, once restaurants and cafés reopen, it’s a lovely destination for lunch. If you want to head further south, you can ride through Abcoude toward Utrecht or a national park like the Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park (website only in Dutch). If you don’t want to cycle the entire distance to a national park, try the Hoge Veluwe National Park, which has free bikes for people to use while visiting. Even though this park has 1,800 free bikes available at its entrances, that Dutch saying "OP = OP" (when they're gone, they're gone) certainly applies here. You are also welcome to bring your own bikes to use on the 40 km of bike lanes in the park; this is a great idea if you have children, because the park has limited sizes of kids' bikes. And speaking of park-like areas, Keukenhof is also a great place to rent bikes and cycle around the flower fields.
For every cycling route, you’ll find there are almost as many route finders and cycling apps. If you want to use your phone to guide you, make sure you have something to mount it onto your bike, or you could be fined €95 for cycling while holding your phone in your hand. Fietsknoop.nl has an app in English to help you find your way, as does Efita. Natuurmonumenten has cycling routes around their listed sites of important landscapes and areas of cultural heritage. Although Statsbosbeheer (The Dutch National Forest Service) primarily provides walking routes through their 273,000 hectares of protected nature, they also have some cycling routes on their website (you will have to check the box for Fietsen to filter for cycling routes). Holland Cycling Routes offers ideas for day trips or longer trips, and Holland-Cycling.com has guided cycle tours as well. If you have a paid subscription to the cycling/running/walking tracking app Strava, you can search for routes that others have made or you can create your own.
Is there somewhere you'd like to cycle, but it's too far away to get there and back in a day? There are options! You can take your bike on the train during off-peak hours with a special bike ticket (available to purchase online or in the NS app); you should also register your bike on the train in advance to make sure there is space. You can find the details here. Perhaps you'd like to take a few days for your trip? Vrienden op de Fiets is a guesthouse network for cyclists and hikers around the Netherlands. Once you've registered, you can stay at others' homes for a small fee. Want to make more of a vacation out of your cycling? Holland.com has some suggestions and links to various companies. Dutch Biketours offer self-guided cycling tours, including hotel accommodations and luggage transfers; all you have to do is the cycling. Boat Bike Tours offers cruises with cycling days in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe.
Do you have favorite places to cycle that you'd like to share? In the American Women's Club members-only Facebook group, you can join the lively conversation! Not yet a member? We'd love to have you!
New Year, New You?
Walking — it’s something almost everyone can do, and there are usually few costs associated with this activity. It is something you can do with or without purpose. You can walk somewhere or you can simply meander aimlessly without a destination in mind. You can do it for exercise or for pleasure (this is sometimes one and the same). Unlike some sports, little special equipment is needed to walk in the Netherlands. Since the country is mostly flat, you can get away with walking in a good pair of trainers but if you walk regularly, it’s a good idea to invest in some proper walking shoes. You certainly don’t need any technical gear, since you'll come across few hills, let alone face a mountain in the Netherlands. Walking is also one of those activities that hasn’t been hampered by coronavirus regulations, so it could be a great way to begin an exercise plan if that’s on your list of New Year’s resolutions. You can go out on your own or adapt the number of people in your group to comply with the rules.
The Dutch love to walk, and if you search for wandelroutes (walking routes), you will get numerous pages of results and other search suggestions. There is even a Royal Walkers Union of the Netherlands (Koninklijke Wandelbond Nederland) and they offer suggestions for walking routes on wandel.nl. They also have links to non-KWBN affiliated websites that offer free walking routes, including NS wandelroutes (usually from one train station to another but sometimes in a loop), Staatsbosbeheer routes and Natuurmonumenten routes. There are hundreds of walking trails to choose from on these three websites alone. AllTrails also has thousands of routes and, after signing up for a free account, you can search by location. You can use the app to guide you in real time, but to download routes for offline use, you’ll need to upgrade to a Pro account first. If exploring cities is more your thing, GPSmycity.com has many options and, closer to home, Amsterdam Experiences offers free weekly walks when you sign up for their newsletter.
I’ve created a Google map with some suggested walking areas I’ve read about in other Facebook groups or on blogs (via newsletters from outdoor goods companies such as Bever in the Netherlands or A.S.Adventure in Belgium). Most of the linked walks are to Dutch websites, but Google Translate can help if you need it. This map currently only has places to walk in the Netherlands and is by no means extensive but there are also loads of options in nearby Belgium (just a few are listed here) as well as Germany, for when traveling becomes a possibility again. If you are looking for something longer, the Gelukkigerwijspad (Happy Wise Way) is a modern pilgrimage of 125km around the province of Utrecht. It is divided up into six walks and has public transport suggestions to make day trips a possibility as well.
There are also organized wandelevenementen (walking events) throughout the year, however most events this year have been postponed, canceled or modified because of the coronavirus. You can find a coronavirus-adjusted agenda on the de Wandeldate website. There are several local events, one of which is the Dam tot Dam wandeltocht (Dam to Dam walking tour). This is a walk of 20-40 km from Amsterdam to Zaandam, depending on the route you choose, and it is usually held on the third Saturday in September. In 2020, it was called the Dam tot Dam Wandeltocht Thuiseditie (home edition) and the organizers created an app where you could record your walk and still receive a medal for participating. Other events that are easily accessible for AWCA members are the Amsterdam City Walk in October, the Urban Walk in Haarlem in November, and the 30 van Zandvoort in March. Many of these walks raise money for goede doelen (charities), although it is through optional donations when registering for the event rather than reaching a fundraising minimum to participate. Most organized events have different distance options. Some are as short as 5 km but some can be more than 40 km.
Some events take place over multiple days. And some events fill up quickly once the registration opens, although this is more common for running events than walking events. The most well-known of these events is the Nijmegen Vierdaagse which takes place over four days. This started as a military event with a few civilian participants and is now a mostly civilian event with some military personnel taking part. You can choose to walk 30, 40 or 50 km per day for four days. It even has a training program for first-timers (Via Vierdaagse, organized by the KWBN), which guarantees you entry into the Vierdaagse. An offshoot of the Vierdaagse is the Avondvierdaagse. These local walks are often organized by schools and take place over four evenings. The distances are usually 5, 10 or 15 km per evening. You can read one mother’s funny account of the Avondvierdaagse here.
Are you interested in walking? AWCA has a well-established group in Haarlem that walks every Friday. You can check the calendar for more information about the group. There are other enthusiastic walkers, some with dogs, who are always up for a walk around a park. If you’d like to organize a walking group, you can reach out in our private Facebook group. In Amsterdam, there's a WhatsApp group chat ready to welcome new walkers; again, just ask in the Facebook group. You can also arrange a walking activity for club members (coronavirus regulations permitting) here. If you have any suggestions to add to the map, please let me know by email: email@example.com.
December is an excellent month to talk about healthcare and health insurance in the Netherlands, since it’s the month when you are free to change insurance providers or make changes to your existing policy. If you wish, you can cancel your current policy by December 31, 2020, and you have until January 31, 2021, to pick a new health insurance policy, which will be effective retroactively to January 1, 2021. Dutch law requires all residents to have health insurance, and lots of information already exists on the subject. This video is a great place to start if you need help understanding Dutch health insurance basics. XPAT.NL also has a series of articles on healthcare in the Netherlands, from finding and going to the huisarts (family doctor or GP) to visiting a specialist to what to do if you have other medical issues.
All basic health insurance policies (basisverzekering) are more or less the same, the terms being set by the government. Costs vary between insurance companies, but each insurer must charge individuals the same premium. Although insurance companies are obliged to accept any applicant for basic coverage, they do not have to accept your application for supplementary insurance coverage (aanvullende verzekering). Where the insurers really differentiate themselves (in terms of coverage and extra cost) is therefore in the supplemental coverage they offer. Supplemental care includes physiotherapist or chiropractic visits, dental coverage or medical coverage abroad, among others. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture and homeopathy are also covered, although you need to find a licensed provider affiliated with an approved umbrella organization.
You can have different coverage levels for each paying adult in a household, either by the same insurance company or with other providers. The basisverzekering is free for children under 18 (including dental coverage), and children are also included free of charge on the most comprehensive parental aanvullende verzekering policies. For example, we knew our son would need braces, so we added dental coverage to my husband’s policy. My son’s braces were then covered up to a certain amount, which varies by insurer. Timing is also an issue, as sometimes you need to have the coverage for at least one year before you are allowed to submit a claim under it.
It’s a good idea, however, to check the math and see if adding coverage is really worth it. For example, unless you have a complicated eye prescription, it may not make sense to add €5 per month (or more) to your insurance rate for a payout of €200 for new glasses once every three years.
The Consumentenbond (Consumers Association) reports that healthcare costs will increase an average of about €59 annually in 2021. There are several websites to use to compare the costs of health insurance policies. Zorgwijzer has a comparison tool in English and also guides you through the available choices. Independer lets you compare health and other types of insurance on their website (in Dutch). Zorgkiezer compares not only health insurance but also hospitals, GPs, physiotherapists and dentists as well (in Dutch).
Your personal contribution to the cost of your Dutch health insurance consists of the eigen risico (literally, own risk; otherwise known as your deductible or excess) and your eigen bijdrage (copayment or personal contribution). The eigen risico is fixed each year by the government when it presents its annual budget on Prinsjesdag (held on the third Tuesday in September each year) and is the same for all insurers. This amount was €385 per adult for 2020 and will remain the same for 2021. Care falling under eigen risico includes medicines, ambulance transport, emergency help, and hospital admission but does not include visits to your family doctor or the huisartsenpost at the hospital (pre-approved urgent care), midwife or obstetrician services, care for children under 18 years, and possibly other medical services. You’ll find a good explanation of eigen risico here. To keep the cost of your policy down, you can increase the amount for eigen risico. Your insurer may also give you a discount if you pay annually instead of monthly.
In general, you have three years to claim healthcare costs, although insurers can set different time limits. It’s always a good idea to submit claims before the end of the calendar year, to be on the safe side.
Illnesses don’t always happen at the most convenient times of day, especially where kids are involved. For after-hours care needs between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. or anytime on weekends/holidays, you should call the huisartsenpost (after-hours general practice center) for help (contact info is here for Amsterdam, Haarlem and Het Gooi). You are advised to contact your huisarts or the huisartsenpost first, even if you think you need to go to the hospital. When possible, you need to provide your insurance policy number, BSN number, name of your huisarts and a medications list when calling the huisartsenpost. For life-threatening emergencies, call 112 for assistance or an ambulance.
Suppose you want to share your medical information between the GP, pharmacy and any specialists you may see. In that case, you can give permission to the Landelijk Schakelpunt (National Exchange Point) to facilitate this. Without permission, each new specialist you see will need to request your records before they can treat you.
The GGD (Geneeskundige en Gezondheidsdienst or Public Health Service), which has regional branches, is responsible for public health. They carry out well-baby check-ups for newborns up to age four, including scheduling vaccinations. They do childhood developmental checks at age five and ten. If you need travel vaccinations, you can arrange them at your local GGD for a fee. They are currently also providing coronavirus testing for people with symptoms and will likely play a role if and when there is a large-scale coronavirus vaccine program.
There are differences between Dutch and American healthcare, which may take some getting used to. You need to register with a huisarts (preferably in your neighborhood) who serves as your first point of contact when you need care. The huisarts will write referrals if you need to see a specialist. Referrals are not required to see physiotherapists or midwives – you can contact those professionals directly. If you have several health issues or concerns, you can and should book a longer appointment with your huisarts. Walk-in appointments (during a GP’s spreekuur, or consulting hour, which may actually be only a half hour) are generally no longer than 10 minutes and are for one issue only. If you are pregnant, you won’t visit your huisarts for regular checks, but you will see a midwife instead. Internations has a good summary of pregnancy and childbirth in the Netherlands. Amsterdam Mamas has a series of articles on pregnancy, childbirth and the unusual concept of the kraamverzorgster (maternity assistant) as well. Each baby born in the Netherlands receives a certain number of days of in-home maternity care (kraamzorg), which provides postnatal care to a new mother and her baby in the eight to 10 days immediately after birth.
Dutch doctors do not provide antibiotics nearly as frequently as American doctors do. It is part of their strategy to reduce antibiotic resistance. They prescribe them when necessary, but in many cases Dutch doctors prefer to let the body try and heal itself first. When it comes to women’s health, exams like pap smears are generally done once every five years from age 30 and mammograms every two years after age 50. If you wish to have an exam more frequently, you will have to pay for it unless you have a medical indication to the contrary. For an independent mammogram, you can visit the Breast Care Center. Your huisarts can do a pap smear for you on request, or you can make an appointment at an independent clinic like the Women’s Healthcare Center in Amsterdam.
When it comes to your body, you are your own best advocate. Sometimes you will have to be persistent to get the treatment you might need. If you have chronic or complicated health needs, get a copy of your US medical records before you move, if possible. Having evidence that your concerns are real is especially useful and your Dutch doctors will have a more complete picture of your health history. Being clear about your expectations and being able to thoughtfully present reasons why you’d like specific tests will likely create a more harmonious and productive relationship with your huisarts. If you are unhappy with your huisarts, you have the right to find a new one.
Moving is not easy on anyone — adults or kids. John is a 14-year-old boy who recently moved from the US to the Netherlands. According to his parents, he is moody and angry, and he is having a hard time making friends and engaging in schoolwork at his new school. His parents are not sure if he is depressed or just being a teenager.
Research shows that young people who have moved house may experience unresolved grief from the loss of their home, school and friends, and this may manifest itself as denial, anger, depression, withdrawal or rebellion. Like John, kids who have recently moved may exhibit difficulties with their identity formation because previously stable factors at home and school are missing during an important time in their life.
Parents and caregivers have an essential role in supporting kids during a move. They can help children and teens create a sense of identity, belonging and rootedness. The following are some strategies to help improve self-confidence and minimize cultural homelessness:
Realize that every child is unique when it comes to change
One of my kids had a much harder time with a recent move than the other. He missed his friends, his old school and his routine, and he grieved this loss. Know your child and take time to explore how they may be addressing change. Remember that moving during the teen years is significantly harder because this is a formative period. Having said that, many young people are extremely resilient and handle change well.
Create belonging in the local community
Kids that feel connected to the local community will feel more self-confident. Ensure yours have a good understanding of the culture by encouraging them to be involved with community service, be part of a local sports team, or engage in other activities. For my son, who was struggling with our recent move, activities like walking the neighbor’s dog every day, joining a local soccer club, and speaking with his grandparents regularly were very helpful. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and support, whether it is from a family member, counselor, coach or teacher.
Use social communities to build language
Multilingualism can be hard to maintain, especially if there are more than two or three languages at play. As Mariam Ottimofiore, who is the author of This Messy Mobile Life and who has lived in nine countries with her husband and two children, suggests, “Get support from others to encourage using the local language, to make it fun and exciting for kids. Think about joining clubs or camps where the additional language will be used or enrolling in a study-abroad experience for immersion. At the same time, realize that it is OK if your child is unable to maintain all the languages they have been exposed to. You and your teen will need to prioritize which languages are important and how to continue learning them.
For some kids, having connections with their old community and friends is a meaningful way to handle loss. As we have learned from Covid-19, using virtual tools such as Skype or Zoom are good ways for kids to stay in touch with family or community far away.
Demonstrate healthy ways to grieve, and get help if needed
Encourage healthy ways to address loss, such as journaling, connecting via a phone or video call, exercising, meditating, and listening to music (even crying can be cathartic). If needed, look for a counselor or mentor to help your teen identify and deal with loss directly.
Be aware that adults can struggle, too
Adults who have moved may not have a clear sense of identity in their new location or may struggle to belong, which can add to their child’s or teen's challenges. On the other hand, cross-cultural adults may also impart skills and values honed from their own experiences. As an adult expatriate, I realized that each time I moved, it took me two to three years to settle into my new environment. I now know that finding a community and creating a sense of identity and belonging have been crucial to my happiness and sense of well-being in each country that we have lived in. Having friends who have gone through similar experiences, visiting online forums, and being involved with cross-cultural organizations such as Families in Global Transition (FIGT) have also helped me immensely. Being aware of these issues may be important for families as they navigate change and uncertainty — both now and in the future.
Dr. Anisha Abraham is a pediatrician and a teen health expert who is on the faculty of the University of Amsterdam and Georgetown University Hospital. Anisha works with cross-cultural teens on issues such as stress, substance use, body image, and self-esteem. This piece was adapted from her recently released book, Raising Global Teens. For more information or to order the book, see dranishaabraham.com.
Have any questions or comments, or want to share more ideas? In the American Women’s Club member-only Facebook group, you can join the lively conversation! Not yet a member? We’d love to have you!
For a tiny country, there is surprisingly no shortage of things to do in the Netherlands. From cinemas to live theaters and concerts to comedy, there are plenty of entertainment options in Amsterdam and beyond. American Women’s Club of Amsterdam members have access to a full calendar of great in-person and virtual events. But beyond the club, how do you find out what’s going on? We aim to provide you links to find out what’s happening, plus a bit of Dutch vocabulary to help you when Google Translate isn’t available or doesn’t work well.
For a general overview of what's happening in Amsterdam, go to www.iamsterdam.com. You can search for upcoming art, music and theater events up to one month in advance. For Haarlem, check the www.visithaarlem.com page (although not everything is in English; you can search for upcoming events by date) or the Haarlem Guide. The events overview for ‘t Gooi can be seen (with some translation) on their Dutch website: Select Uitagenda (events agenda) and, in the filter area, choose between ‘vandaag, morgen, dit weekend, kies datum’ (today, tomorrow, this weekend, choose date) to see what’s happening when. You can also filter on Regio (region). Google Translate works well with this website, so it’s worth checking out, especially if you live outside of ‘t Gooi and want to explore a little. For our Utrecht members, we have some AWCA member-recommended, evergreen ideas for Utrecht on our very own travel blog.
Most cinemas show a mixture of films in Dutch and English. The listings below are for independent theaters in Amsterdam that show arthouse films in the original language with English subtitles. Most of these cinemas are part of the Cineville group where you can use a monthly unlimited pass for €17.50 (up to age 29) or €21 (age 30+) per month.
Cinema Amstelveen, De Filmhallen, De Uitkijk, FC Hyena, The Movies, Studio/K may also show English language films but do not have special information about them in English. They are listed in the normal agenda online and in the film description it should say [Gesproken] Taal: Engels ([Spoken] Language: English) or will list where the film was produced. Verenigd Koninkrijk and Verenigde Staten are the United Kingdom and the United States, respectively.
Other movie theaters outside of Amsterdam with some films in English include:
Pathé theaters show the latest Hollywood films. Pathé has theaters all over the Netherlands, including Amsterdam, Haarlem and Utrecht. The majority of films are in their original language, English. Children's films are often shown in Dutch and in English. Children’s films that are dubbed in Dutch will be listed with NL or Nederlandse versie (Dutch version) after the title. For films from the US, they will be in English if Originele versie (original version) is listed. The Pathé agenda is available in English.
*Note: When you look at the Dutch agenda for many of the venues listed below, you may see Verplaatst or Afgelast for some performances due to Covid-19 regulations. That means those performances have been moved or canceled.
To keep informed about upcoming concerts and theater performances, it’s a good idea to sign up for newsletters from the venues listed below. Ticketmaster.nl will also notify you when upcoming event tickets are going on sale if you register for their newsletter. Most larger venues sell their event tickets through Ticketmaster.
Eventim is another big-name ticket distributor for theater, musical, and concert tickets and even sports (horse riding, ice skating) and family events. Most theater performances will be in Dutch, but sometimes there are English subtitles, and occasionally they are with an English-speaking cast. Some performances are at the Amsterdam RAI. Cats played in the RAI Theater in 2019 and some form of Holidays on Ice is an annual event at the RAI, so there is a large variety of events available. Other theaters include the Stadsschouwburg Haarlem (English website), the Beatrix Theater in Utrecht, and Spant! in Bussum.
Patronaat has live concerts and club nights on the weekends.
Lichtfabriek sometimes has dance events.
Cafe de Kaars is a bar/restaurant with live music on Saturday evenings.
De Vorstin has two halls for concerts.
Tivoli Vredenburg has several concert halls. The website has limited information in English and the agenda is in Dutch only.
Speeldoos Baarn has live theater performances ranging from musicals and concerts, dance and opera to cabaret and comedy. The Peking Tuin in Baarn also has an open air theater that is used for outdoor movie screenings and live music (all currently canceled due to coronavirus). The Beatrix Theater in Utrecht shows musicals, concerts and other stage performances. At the Stadsschouwburg Utrecht (City Municipal theater), you can search for performances that are labeled “language no problem.” English Theater Utrecht offers amateur theater productions in English. STET is one English-language theater company in The Hague, and another is the Anglo-American Theatre Group. Stadsschouwburg & Philharmonie Haarlem has “language no problem” performances of music, dance and theater. Spant! in Bussum (agenda only in Dutch) presents a variety of performances in its large and small theaters.
You can find a list of Amsterdam bars and clubs here (this also includes The Hague, Rotterdam and other larger cities) and here. The Haarlem Guide has a list of different types of bars (beer bars, regular bars, music bars) and nightlife.
For comedy, there are some well-known venues in Amsterdam, such as Boom Chicago, as well as Toomler and other clubs. LiveComedy.nl promotes international comedy performances at venues all around the Netherlands. You can also find nationwide comedy events listed on Ticketmaster.
Museumkaart: Valid for one year, the The Netherlands Museum Pass (museumkaart in Dutch) gives you entry to over 400 Dutch museums. It can be purchased online (only in Dutch) or you can purchase one in many museums. You can also find information about current exhibitions and activities in museums around the country on the museum pass website. See the Haarlem Guide for a list of museums, historical monuments and statues around Haarlem.
This is a long but not exhaustive list of entertainment options around the Netherlands. If you have any suggestions to add, please let us know!
Looking for more? Members of the American Women’s Club of Amsterdam have access to a wealth of additional information, including web resources and a members-only Facebook group with a long archive to search and plenty of willing help.
For more information about the American Women’s Club of Amsterdam, check out our website or drop us a note. We are an active, diverse club that welcomes new members with open arms, whether you’ve been in the Netherlands for 20 minutes or 20 years.
It’s easy to get around the Netherlands, which is great because there is lots to see and do. Residents and visitors alike enjoy an extensive bike lane network, public transportation is reliable, and the roads and highways are generally in great condition. But to be properly prepared before you leave your new home, one of the first things you need to know if you are walking, cycling or taking public transportation is how to check the weather. Weather websites and apps like Buienradar, Weerplaza and Buienalarm can help you decide whether you need that rain jacket / umbrella, which brings us to owning appropriate clothing. Rainproof jackets and pants are a must, especially if you plan on cycling. Gore-tex clothing (and possibly shoes) are worth the investment before arriving in the Netherlands, since you will be using them quite a lot. Inexpensive rain pants and jackets are available at HEMA and at other stores all over the country.
You would think that this one would be obvious, but there are actually a few things you need to know for safe walking in the Netherlands. When walking, make sure to do it on a sidewalk and not in a bike lane. Bike lanes generally separated from sidewalks, although they may also be elevated like sidewalks. Bike lanes are often paved in red or laid with red tiles. Sidewalks are closer to buildings, and bike lanes are closer to the road (sometimes between buildings and parking spaces, sometimes directly on the street). If you are walking in a bike lane, you can be sure someone will ring their bell and yell at you to get out of the way. Now that you know the how, here’s the why: A pair of comfortable walking shoes and a map are a great way to explore a new city. If you feel like taking a train somewhere and then walking or exploring, NS (Dutch Railways) has walking routes from station to station. There are maps for each route, but the website and detailed directions are in Dutch only.
When looking around the city streets, it’s clear that bikes are a popular transportation method in the Netherlands. In 2016, there were about four times as many bikes as cars in Amsterdam. Although it may sometimes seem that there are no biking rules, since cyclists have been known to run red lights and make other unwise moves, there are safety rules for cyclists. When cycling, be sure to use hand signals so everyone (car drivers, other cyclists and pedestrians) knows your directional intentions. You can be fined for several things while cycling, including holding and using your mobile phone. If you need to use the map on your phone, invest in a phone holder for your bike frame to be safe and save yourself a €95 fine!
Bikes do get stolen frequently, so it is important to have a good lock (or two). It’s best to have a bike that doesn’t look too nice so as not to attract the attention of thieves. There are plenty of places to buy secondhand bikes, including many local bike shops. There are many Facebook groups dedicated to selling bikes and you can also find them on Marktplaats (a Dutch cross between Craigslist and eBay) as well. New bikes often seem expensive compared to US prices, but they actually hold their value and you can easily sell a bike if you move again. BikeFair is a website dedicated to selling used bikes that are verified as non-stolen. And have you noticed a lot of bikes with blue front tires? Those are from Swapfiets, where you pay a monthly fee for a bike of your choice (there are three models to choose from in the Netherlands). If your bike breaks down or is stolen, they will replace it. Sometimes bikes aren’t stolen but instead have been removed by city workers. In Amsterdam, improperly parked bicycles can be impounded. If that happens, you will have to go to the Bicycle Depot (fietsdepot) to collect it after paying a fee. The address and more info can be found here.
The public transportation network in the Netherlands is good and generally reliable. There are trams, buses, ferries, metros and trains to get you where you need to go. GVB runs the trams and metros in Amsterdam. Connexxion operates most buses in Noord-Holland (especially between Amsterdam and the surrounding areas of Aalsmeer, Amstelveen, Schiphol, and Haarlem and between Amsterdam and ‘t Gooi). The NS runs most trains in the Netherlands, although there are local train companies in some parts of the country.
Except for children under the age of four (who travel free), a valid ticket or electronic fare is always required to use public transportation. You can purchase single-use tickets, but it is easier and cheaper to travel with a public transport chip card (OV-chipkaart) if you are staying longer than a few days. There are two kinds of cards. Personal cards have your photo on them and can be linked to your bank account for automatically topping up your card balance. Anonymous cards must be manually loaded with a prepaid amount (so you will have to check the balance before you use the card). They are good to have on hand for visitors or if you use public transportation very infrequently. Age-related discounts, student discounts, service subscriptions or season tickets are only available with a personal public transport chip card, not anonymous ones. See which kind of card you need.
When using all forms of public transportation, you will need to check in and out with your public transport chip card or ticket. On trams and buses, swipe your card in front of the card reader when entering and exiting. To ride metros and trains, you need to swipe your card on the reader to pass through the gates (poortjes) to enter and exit the platforms (most, but not all stations have gates). To use your public transport chip card for train travel, you must have a €20 minimum balance for an anonymous card and a €10 minimum balance for a personal card. A personal card is more useful in this case because it is linked to your bank account and can top up automatically if your balance is low. You can read on the OV-chipkaart website how to set up automatic top-ups on your personal card.
If you have a personal public transport chip card, you can purchase seasonal or subscription tickets (an abonnement) if you are a frequent user. Kids between the ages of 4 and 11 can travel for free on trains with someone aged 12 or over if they have a subscription called Kids Vrij. If you take GVB trams, buses or metros in Amsterdam to go to work or school, see the GVB's web page about subscriptions. If you take NS trains to work or school, read here about flexible season tickets or here for traditional season tickets, including those along a fixed route (not available as part of a flexible season ticket). Up to four people can travel together by train at a 40% discount during off-peak times if only one of you has a subscription. For more information on how to get this combined travel discount (samenreiskorting), read here. If you want to take your dog or your bike (during off-peak times only, except during July and August) on a train with you, you will also need to purchase specific tickets.
For traveling outside of Amsterdam, there are several websites or their corresponding apps that may come in handy, such as 9292 (door-to-door information about transportation throughout the entire country), NS Reisplanner (the official app for Dutch Railways), and the official Schiphol Airport app. Google Maps also provides public transportation directions between destinations, where available.
People do also drive cars in the Netherlands, but with trams, buses, cyclists and pedestrians to consider, it can be a daunting prospect. There are lots of options for getting cars — leasing, buying, renting and even car sharing. You can also import your car when you move but, according to one AWCA member, it may not be worth the time, cost and hassle. If you do want to bring your car with you, read Angloinfo.com’s article on how to register a vehicle in the Netherlands. Once you yourself have registered in the Netherlands, you are able to drive on your American (or other foreign) driving license for only a limited amount of time. If you have a license issued in another EU/EFTA country (and a few other countries), or have the 30% tax ruling, you may exchange your foreign license for a Dutch one within 185 days of registration. You can do this at your local municipality (gemeente) office. Read which documents are required to exchange your license. If you do not meet the conditions for exchanging your license, you must take the Dutch theory exam and pass the practical driving test. Information can be found on the CBR website (in Dutch) on how to go about getting your Dutch license. Even if you don’t need to take the driving test, it’s a good idea to review the rules of the Dutch road to familiarize yourself with the differences — and potentially prevent an accident due to confusion about right of way! There are several online websites in English to learn the driving theory, including Theorie Examen (much of the content is free and in English). If you have a car, you will also need to check with your local municipality to see whether a parking permit is necessary. You will definitely need one in Amsterdam, and you can find information online regarding permits and waiting list times.
If you are moving to the Netherlands and are not sure you will need a car, there are other options besides renting, leasing and buying. Car-sharing companies can provide an easy and hassle-free option if you think you may only need a car occasionally. Share Now (formerly car2go, only in Amsterdam), Connectcar (in Amsterdam and Haarlem, among other cities), Greenwheels (available in 100 cities around the Netherlands), and Sixt Share (a new option, and available in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Den Haag) are just a few. SnappCar is also a car-sharing service, but car owners rent out their private vehicles to other individuals. If you do want to buy a car, you can read Driving a Car in the Netherlands from XPAT.NL and Expatica’s article on Buying a Car in the Netherlands to find out what you need to get started.
No matter how you choose to travel in the Netherlands, all of these options put together will enable you to get out and about and explore your new home country in no time at all!
When you first arrive, you may want to send postcards of your adventures to friends and family back home. But how do you do this? PostNL is the main company that takes care of the mail in the Netherlands. Sandd is another mail delivery company, so you may have different deliveries of mail at different times, depending on who brings it and how frequently they operate. There are no longer any stand-alone post offices, since all have been transferred to postal counters/desks inside various shops, such as grocery stores and office supply shops. You can use the PostNL location finder (in Dutch) to find the closest post office counter to buy stamps, send a package or even transfer your car title after selling your car (yes, this is done at the post office!). Stamps can also be purchased at the customer service counters of Albert Heijn and Jumbo. PostNL also offers the ability to purchase postage stamp codes online, which replace normal stamps. You need to know how much your letter weighs to purchase the correct postage (yet another reason to buy a digital cooking scale), and you receive a nine symbol code made up of letters and numbers, which you write on your letter in place of a normal stamp. You can find the rates for letters and packages here.
PostNL delivers packages, but so do DHL and DPD (among others). If you’ve ordered something online, you will usually receive a tracking number so you can check the expected delivery day and time. If PostNL is doing the delivery, you can (also) find this info in the PostNL app. That doesn’t mean, however, that the delivery will always arrive during the stated window of time. As a result, you can expect your packages to be left with neighbors and vice versa. If you are often at home during working hours and your neighbors do a lot of online shopping, you may find that you are becoming a substitute for the local post office branch! If you miss a delivery, you should receive a slip that tells you either when delivery will next be attempted or where you can find your package (with a neighbor or at your nearest pick-up point). Some delivery companies are better about this than others. It is also not unheard of to receive an email informing you that the company was unable to deliver your package, even though you waited at home all day to receive it. You will then need to pick it up, usually at the nearest pick-up point. You can often choose to have a package delivered at a pick-up point instead of your home to ensure you don’t miss the delivery. Be aware that packages must be collected within a limited period of time. Often you only have seven days to collect a package before it is returned to the sender.
Additional information that will make your daily (postal) life in the Netherlands easier:
(post)zegel: (postage) stamp
brief / brieven: letter / letters
kaart: card or postcard
volg je pakket: track your package
postcode zoeken: search for postal code
adres zoeken: search for address
iets versturen: send something
PostNL-punt: PostNL pick-up point / counter
ontvanger: recipient / addressee
frankeer (frankeren): (to) pay postage
voornaam: first name
tussenvoegsel: insertion (van, van der, etc.) or surname prefix
bedrijfsnaam: company name
straatnaam: street name
huisnummer en toev.(toevoeging): house number and addition (A, HS = huis, etc.)
postbus: post office box or P.O. Box
antwoordnummer: freepost number (free to send to these addresses)
woonplaats: city or town
postcode: postal code
First name, prefix (van, van der, etc.), surname
Street name, house or building number / PO Box for a business (sometimes)
Postal code, city/town
1234 AA Amsterdam
You will inevitably have to take care of some official administration at the gemeente during your time in the Netherlands. You have to register (inschrijven) within five days of arriving in the Netherlands if you plan to stay for more than four months. Similarly, you will have to deregister (uitschrijven) before you permanently leave the country. If eligible, you have six months to exchange your driving license (rijbewijs) for a Dutch one. Read this article to see if you qualify; if not, you will have to take the theory and practical driving exams to get a Dutch license. If you have a car, you will often need a parking permit (parkeervergunning) depending on where you live. To find parking information for your specific area, check your local gemeente website. This is usually town + .nl (amsterdam.nl, haarlem.nl, etc.), and if not, you should be redirected to your gemeente when you try it.
The IND (Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst or Immigration and Naturalisation Service) is the department that handles immigration, i.e., work and/or residence permits. If you stay long enough and decide you want to make the Netherlands your permanent home, they also handle permanent residency and citizenship applications. You usually need to have documents like birth and marriage certificates legalized with an apostille for work and residence permits. It is best to arrange apostilles before you arrive in the Netherlands since it has to be done by the authority which issued the document. You can find contact information for each US Secretary of State here, but it is often the Department of Public Health which actually issues the apostilled document.
It is critical to know that all Dutch-issued identification belongs to the government (residence permits, driving licenses, passports, etc.). If yours is lost or stolen, you will need to file a police report before applying for a new one. You will be asked to turn in your old ID when getting a new one. Also good to know is that everyone over the age of 14 must carry ID at all times. For non-EU citizens, this can be a passport, Dutch residence permit, or, in some cases, a driving license.
One agency that might slip under the radar is the SVB (Sociale Verzekeringsbank or Social Insurance Agency). Most people working in the Netherlands have social insurance contributions taken out of their salaries (see svb.nl for exemptions). Since the Netherlands has a social insurance treaty with the US, most Americans working in the Netherlands are entitled to receive quarterly child benefit payments (kinderbijslag) for their children up to age 18. The SVB should automatically contact parents of children born in the Netherlands within a few weeks following the registration of the child's birth at the gemeente. If your child was born elsewhere, you can also apply for child benefit.
The banking system here is very different from that in the US — for starters, checks don’t exist here. Many stores no longer accept cash (contant), only debit cards (pay by pin). It’s common here to pay for purchases via bank transfer (overmaken), so there is no need to be suspicious if someone asks for your bank account details. Once your bank account is set up, you can use your bank’s app to manage most payments and transfers, but some payments or amounts may need to be done online by logging in to your bank’s website. Direct debit (incasso or machtiging) is a very common way to pay utility bills or other monthly or recurring payments. You may also receive requests to pay bills or invoices by bank transfer. You can also easily pay friends back for things (such as a movie ticket, splitting a lunch bill, etc.) the same way, using your bank’s app. When people owe you money, you can use Tikkie, an app that helps you request payment from someone. Anyone with a Dutch bank account can use Tikkie, and some banks also have their own in-app methods of requesting payment from someone (such as ING’s betaalverzoek). When shopping online on Dutch websites, you’ll find that iDEAL is a common payment method for transferring money directly from your bank account to a merchant. Once you are used to the system, you will wonder why something similar is not used in the US.
Before you get your local bank account set up, it’s good to know where you (and future visitors) can use your U.S. bank cards. Dutch debit cards (PIN cards) work on the Maestro network. You can find ATM locations here where you can use a US bank card on Mastercard, Maestro or Cirrus networks. To use a US bank card from the Visa or Plus network, look here. You can use cards on the Plus network at ABN AMRO and Royal Bank of Scotland ATMs. You can use cards on the Cirrus network at ABN AMRO, ING and Rabobank. If you need to transfer money to or from a US bank, Transferwise is good for large sums. PayPal can also be used to transfer smaller sums for a small fee.
Credit cards are less common here and do not work in all stores (especially grocery stores). They are more likely to be accepted in restaurants or at hotels. Usually used for larger purchases or on international websites, credit cards issued by Dutch banks are paid off monthly like charge cards, unlike true American credit cards where you can just pay a minimum monthly amount. To be able to repay over time with interest, you have to specifically request this credit feature, called Gespreid Betalen Faciliteit in Dutch. ICS is a major issuer of Visa and Mastercard cards, and American Express (AMEX) is also available in the Netherlands. AMEX has various cards for KLM Flying Blue members which help you accrue KLM miles. To read more about obtaining a credit card in the Netherlands, click here.
In the Netherlands, you have a choice of providers for most utilities. Easy Nuts (nut = utility) is a free service for expats to help them select trusted utility providers; they also provide flexible contracts. You can compare prices from energy companies, mobile telephone providers, TV and internet providers, and insurance companies. Partner Pete is another free service to help you set up utilities. They specialize in helping expats arrange mobile phone contracts as well as internet and energy connections in their new homes.
There are several choices among energy (gas and electricity) providers. Each one has different rates, energy sources, etc. Gaslicht.com lets you compare your options and helps you sign up for the best option for you (it’s free). You can switch every year (or when your contract is up for renewal) to get a better rate, and Gaslicht can help you do that (and send you reminder emails). Typically, you pay the same amount each month, based on estimated usage, and at the end of 12 months you will either owe the energy company a bit more or they will give you a refund. You only pay for what you use.
Prijsvergelijken.nl (prijs = price, vergelijken = to compare) is just one of many websites that you can use to compare rates on phone, internet and TV services, and insurances, but it’s only in Dutch. Ziggo is the largest cable provider; they also can provide internet. T-Mobile provides home internet, and will discount your rate if you also purchase cell phone service from them. KPN is another popular TV, telephone and internet provider.
Waternet is the only home water provider in Amsterdam. Depending on your individual setup, it may be a flat monthly rate based on apartment/home size and number of occupants or a variable bill each month based on a smart meter.
In addition to the cost of water itself, Waternet will also send a tax bill to everyone registered in the municipal register (bevolkingsregister). This bill includes a wastewater purification tax (zuiveringsheffing) and a maintenance fee for maintaining the sewers and monitoring the dikes and other components of the Dutch water level (watersysteemheffing). Municipality tax (gemeentebelasting) also contributes to the cost of this.
To register with Waternet, contact them on telephone number 0900 93 94 (local rate). Make sure you note the water meter reading when moving into a new home and also when moving out. It is also possible to give Waternet the meter reading online. For problems with the sewers, call 0900 93 94 (local rate).
Outside of Amsterdam, glass fiber internet is fairly widely available from a number of providers. It’s really fast!
Vitens provides drinking water in the provinces of Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Utrecht and Overijssel, as well as in some municipalities in Drenthe and Noord-Holland.
Each gemeente has its own procedures for waste collection and recycling. To find a local afvalbrengstation (garbage dump) and to see what you are permitted to throw away or recycle there, search on your local gemeente website. What can be recycled is similar around the country, although some gemeenten collect recycling on a regular basis rather than having underground collection containers. This excellent article from xpat.nl provides a thorough overview of all things recyclable.
Amsterdam replaced regular weekly garbage pick-ups with underground containers in many areas. There are recycling containers for glass (glas), paper/cardboard (papier/karton), plastic and textile (textiel) all over the city and some areas also have containers for leftover garbage (rest or restafval). The theory behind the underground containers is that birds and other animals won't be able to pick open garbage bags (which results in garbage strewn across the streets). Depending on the population density of your neighborhood, the containers may fill up quickly. You should then find the next closest container and deposit your garbage or recycling there. However, sometimes people leave trash next to the container, which is forbidden. Workers from the gemeente will go through improperly disposed of waste, and if they find out who it belongs to, there is a minimum fine of €95 for the offender.
For a complete overview of garbage sorting and bulky waste collection, please see the relevant links for your neighborhood: Centrum, Nieuw-West, West, or Zuid. For other areas, please visit the Gemeente Amsterdam webpage about household waste.
If a container is full or broken or there is another sort of incident to report (bicycle wrecks, loose pavement tiles, noise from bars/restaurants or people on the street, broken traffic lights, lampposts and clocks), you can use this online form (in Dutch) or call 14 020.
Amstelveen has a mix of underground containers and waste collection. You will find information (in Dutch) about waste and recycling, including a calendar and information about waste collection frequency. Haarlem has different rules and procedures for dealing with garbage, which you can read about here (in Dutch). 'T Gooi also has its own rules about waste (in Dutch). If you live in a different gemeente, search for the name of your town and afval to find out more about how to get rid of trash and recycle in your area.
One person's trash is another person’s treasure! If you have items in good, clean, usable condition that you no longer want, there are several ways to get rid of them. Clothing, pairs of shoes, accessories (caps, hats and handbags) and household textiles are just a few of the things which can be donated in closed plastic bags in Sympany containers around the country (they are often above ground and green, but not always). You can read this for a complete list of what’s accepted in the containers (in Dutch). Damaged clothing may also be donated. These items get recycled rather than reused. Packmee is another way to get rid of unwanted textiles. You box up your unwanted items, print out a free shipping label, take your package to the nearest DHL counter and off it goes. Packmee only accepts items that can be reused. The few things on their exclusion list are work clothes, foam blankets, chair covers, ski boots and dirty, damaged or torn clothing. If you wouldn’t use it or wear it, please don’t donate it! Rataplan is a kringloopwinkel (thrift shop) that accepts clothing, toys, furniture, appliances and more and can even pick up your items (by appointment only, so plan in advance). Of course, you can always offer your giveaways for free (gratis) on Facebook Marketplace and also on Marktplaats (a Dutch eBay/Craigslist hybrid).
With all the chaos that can come with moving, you may be looking for a familiar house of worship to put routine and comfort back into your life. The Netherlands isn’t a particularly religious country, but you can find services in English in many cities. Iamsterdam has a list of religious services in Amsterdam, including Christian churches and synagogues. For a thorough list of Christian church services across the Netherlands, including locations in Haarlem, Hilversum and Utrecht, read here and here; you can find a list of synagogues here. (Note: The accuracy of these websites is not guaranteed, so please check links to individual houses of worship first.) If you are looking for foods certified as Kosher, read here for brands available at supermarkets nationally. To find information on other religions, you can search these maps for a mosque (moskee) or look for Buddhism (Boeddhisme) or Hinduism (Hindoeïsme).
It’s not easy to arrive in a new country and figure out how to arrange everything right away. You are overwhelmed by newness — a new city, a new language, a new home, probably a new job (for at least one family member) and, if you have children, new schools. If you are lucky, you may have a relocation company helping you to settle in. If not, we will provide you with some information here to help you get your new life organized.
Before we start on the nitty gritty, here is a random fact you need to know right away: The Netherlands has a public warning system that is tested at noon on the first of Monday of each month, except on religious or national holidays, including Remembrance Day (May 4).
For basics on day-to-day living in the Netherlands, in English, IamExpat and I amsterdam both do a fantastic job of providing information. I amsterdam has a lot of helpful information on settling in and life in Amsterdam. For official things like registering with the gemeente (municipality) when you move here or getting a BSN number (burgerservicenummer, which is like a Social Security number) or a DigiD (digital identification used to access government websites), the two websites cover these topics and more. It's worth exploring both websites to see who you need to contact for what and what you need to do if you are moving here without any relocation help.
For dealing with Dutch resources, Google Translate is handy online and has a useful app. You can type in words, scan them with your phone’s camera, or even use the microphone for a verbal translation. If you install Google Chrome on your computer or phone, it can translate entire websites for you.
There are a few things worth pointing out, however.
This article was originally written in 2018 by past president Rhonda Jimenez and was focused on Amsterdam shopping. It has been updated for 2020 by Marcie Asplin.
*Most of the stores mentioned have branches across the Netherlands and you can order articles from several of the others. For shopping tips beyond Amsterdam, please watch for a more extensive article which includes information for Haarlem, Utrecht and ‘t Gooi.
So, you’ve just arrived in Amsterdam and you have no idea where to shop for what you need. If only there was a Target! Here are some basics to help you survive without that Target or Walmart down the road, and a few go-to’s and tips to help you find what you need — fast.
Groceries: You have probably already found Albert Heijn (AH), but did you know that they deliver? It’s so much easier than balancing your bike with a full load of groceries and then carrying it up two flights of stairs. Other grocery stores are Jumbo, Aldi and Lidl. For organic groceries, try Marqt (similar to Whole Foods, although not everything is organic but rather local, ethically-sourced or sustainable) or Ekoplaza. TIP: Many items you can’t find are usually shelved in strange locations and or have unique packaging. American peanut butter can sometimes be found in the wereldkeuken (world cuisine) aisle with Indonesian foods, not with the Dutch nut butters. Sweetened condensed milk is in the Asian food section. Evaporated milk is called koffiemelk and is found near the coffee, as is sugar (rather than the baking aisle). Bleach is called bleek (or dikbleek) and looks like toilet cleaner. Ask for help if you need it. You will slowly find everything you need.
American Stuff: If you still can’t find what you need in the grocery chains, try Tjin’s Toko in De Pijp or Eichholtz on Leidsestraat. Both international stores charge a big premium but offer things like canned pumpkin puree, Betty Crocker cake mixes and frostings, Pop Tarts, Lucky Charms, and many other American treasures. Newer to the expat food store scene are Kelly’s Expat Shopping (also with locations in The Hague and Wassenaar) and The Junior’s, both located on Ferdinand Bolstraat in De Pijp. Make a trip to one; it’s worthwhile! There are also small international grocery stores called tokos dotted around the city. They are great for pan-Asian ingredients and may also have some American ingredients (looking at you, Arm & Hammer baking soda). If your local searches don’t unearth what you are looking for, you can try ordering online from My American Market.
Health and Beauty: Etos, Kruidvat and Da (drugstore is drogisterij in Dutch) are like CVS or Walgreens, except you can’t get prescriptions filled. TIP: Solid deodorants are hard to find, hydrogen peroxide (waterstofperoxide) is only sold in tiny bottles and Visine isn’t sold here, so if you use any of these regularly, you should probably stock up in the US before arriving or pick them up on a trip home. To fill prescriptions, you need to go to an apotheek (pharmacy), which you can usually spot by the neon green cross hanging outside. You will also need to register at a pharmacy so your doctor can (digitally) send your prescriptions there to be filled. You can’t just have a prescription filled at a pharmacy that happens to be closest to your location at that particular time. Holland & Barrett is classified as a drogisterij but focuses on vitamins and natural soaps/shampoos, and it has an extensive range of teas and alternative (baking) ingredients (including superfoods, vegan and gluten-free items). If you’re looking for a store like Sephora, Douglas and ICI Paris XL sell higher-end makeup, beauty supplies and perfumes/colognes.
Home goods: Blokker has most items that you would find in a Target: supplies for cleaning, kitchen and bathroom items, small appliances (personal care and household), and some home decor. HEMA also has home and office items as well as food and clothing basics. Action, Wibra and Zeeman are similar to Kmart, selling inexpensive clothing and some home/kitchen goods. Big Bazar is like the Dollar Store, as is Xenos, which also has a Pier1 feel to it.
Appliances: MediaMarkt, BCC and Expert sell all things electronic — from irons to video games to TVs and refrigerators — much like Best Buy back home. They have physical stores in many locations. Coolblue (which also has 10 stores across the Netherlands), bol.com and Amazon.de are good online sources for electric appliances as well. Recently, Amazon.nl came online but their offering is still limited in comparison to Amazon.de.
DIY stores / Garden centers: Praxis, Gamma and Karwei are the Home Depot equivalents; most sell garden supplies, and larger ones will have plants and flowers, too. You can search for a bouwmarkt + (the name of your city) to find the DIY store closest to you. There are also places to rent tools and equipment for building projects; Boels and Bo-Rent are two of them. There are also large garden centers around the country if you are really into plants and gardening. Search for tuincentrum + (city) for the garden center nearest you. Intratuin has several locations in Noord Holland and Tuincentrum Osdorp is one of the larger garden centers near Amsterdam. DIY stores and garden centers also sell holiday decorations as well as live and fake trees if you celebrate Christmas.
Fashion: The trendy Nine Streets and busy Kalverstraat are always fun shopping destinations. But when it’s wet or cold, try the Stadshart mall in Amstelveen. There is a large De Bijenkorf department store in the mall. Closer to Amsterdam you’ll find the Gelderlandplein shopping center in Buitenveldert. They have free underground parking for the first 1.5 hours.
Furniture: Ikea is a mainstay, but stop by Loods 5 and the outlet behind it — together, they take up a full block — for a huge selection of furniture. There is also a woonmall (home furnishings mall) called Villa ArenA located near the Amsterdam ArenA — you’ll experience long waits, but also good quality custom furniture. In the Bovenkerk area of Amstelveen, there are several furniture stores to be found, including De Troubadour, Leen Baker, Kwantum, and more. Online, try Woonexpress and Wehkamp.
Outlet Shopping: Not an outlet per se, but the T.K. Maxx discount store has arrived in the Netherlands. There are a few locations, including Osdorpplein in Amsterdam. There is also a huge outlet mall about 1.5 hours away in Lelystad, called Batavia Stad. The outlets will remind you of home, with many of the same outlets you know and love — from Nike to Michael Kors. There are other similar outlet malls in Roermond and Roosendaal, as well as Maasmechelen Village in Belgium.
School Supplies: HEMA and Gebroeders Winter have stores all over the Netherlands. Big stores like Office Depot do exist (OfficeCentre is one) but you need to have your own business to become a customer.
Sporting Goods: If you’ve got kids, or are a sporty person yourself, chances are you’ll need sporting goods of some kind. You can find shoes, clothing and equipment for various sports at places like Decathlon, Intersport, Sport2000 and Bristol. Hockey District in Amsterdam and Special Sports in Amstelveen specialize in field hockey equipment and also carry clothing for some clubs. Voetbalshop.nl is a great place to find football basics online, and your (child’s) club may get their uniforms from there as well. If you are a runner, Runnersworld has stores in Amstelveen, Bussum and Utrecht (among others), and Run2day has stores in Amsterdam, Haarlem, Hilversum and Utrecht. Bever, with stores across the Netherlands, is the place to look for your hiking and camping needs. You can also shop for those things online at Trekkinn or A.S. Adventure.
Second-hand Shopping: If reducing, reusing and recycling is more your style, there are lots of places to find second-hand goods. A thrift store is a kringloopwinkel in Dutch. A second-hand (children’s) clothing store is a tweedehands (kinder)kledingwinkel, some of which are consignment shops. There is a list of stores in central Amsterdam and, to find a second-hand store near you, check Alle Kringloopwinkels. There are also consignment shops in Amsterdam Zuid that offer designer clothing, like Mooi and Freddy’s. For children’s clothes and toys, you can try Lino & Moos, JunJun and Kids & Queens (which also has some women’s clothes). Boomerang in Amstelveen has clothing and accessories at one location, and another location a few blocks away sells furniture and home goods. Rataplan is a large thrift shop which has household goods, appliances, clothing and furniture. They have three locations around Amsterdam. If you are moving and have things to donate, they will come and pick it up by appointment (there is often a wait for pick-ups, so book your appointment in advance!). Online, Marktplaats is a cross between Craigslist and eBay; you can find almost anything you need or want there (also from businesses)! While plenty of items are offered by genuine, individual sellers, there are also some dishonest people selling items there, so it is better to (agree to) buy something you can collect in person so you can check that it’s legitimate (certainly for big-ticket items like secondhand phones). There is also Facebook marketplace, where you can set your location and then search based on a certain distance to find items you want in your area.
Good luck on your next shopping adventure: you will survive! Remember, look carefully — and you can probably find it!
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