Once you’ve scratched the surface of what tourists see in the Netherlands – tulips (if it’s the season!), windmills, bikes, cheese etc. – and decide to live and work in this country, there are a few things you should know.
- Emergency Number for Fire, Police, Ambulance: 112
- Sirens: every 1rst Monday of the month at 12:00hrs you’ll hear sirens (for 1 minute 26 seconds) This is only a test drive and you don’t need to worry. – But if you hear sirens on any other day, the site of the Government of the Netherlands gives you all necessary information about how you can prepare for emergencies in the Netherlands. On the site, you can download a PDF with handy information in English on what to do in various kinds of emergencies.
- Learning Dutch
Learning the local language is certainly one of the main things you want to do when you decide to live in the Netherlands. The fact that many locals talk English makes it easier to settle in, but having at least a basic knowledge of the local language is extremely helpful for internationals living in the Netherlands – like everywhere else in the world!
Language schools, adult education centres, in-business training programmes and personal tutors offer all sorts of classes, organised according to skill level and corresponding with CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) levels.
- Healthcare: When you register at the Gemeente you are automatically in the Dutch Healthcare System and receive the call for the regular checkups, vaccinations etc. for your children.The Consultatieburo will take care of children 0-4 years; for children > 4 years: General Practitioner and Centrum Jeugd en Gezin
- Emergency number: SMASH 070 346 96 69; Every weekday: 17.00 – 08.00; Weekend: Friday afternoon 17.00 – Monday morning 08.00; Festive days: From 17.00 the day before until 08.00 the day after.
If you want to know for example what kind of vaccinations your children need to have in the Netherlands, you can find informations on this site of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.
- Travelling in the Netherlands
Travelling by train, tram or bus is very common and easy in the Netherlands. You can buy an OVI-Chipkaart at every main station.
It is always advisable to be informed about the traffic rules in the country you live in. On the site of the Dutch government you’ll find a great pdf file (long but very useful!) about the road traffic signs and regulations in the Netherlands. If you plan to stay longer, you’d probably want to sign up with the Royal Dutch Touring Club, the ANWB (Algemene Nederlandsche Wielrijders-Bond).
Direction indicators are used rather randomly. Sometimes they’re not used at all, at other times they’re only switched on for a very short time and/or when already halfway through changing lanes.
Traffic rules state that vehicles have to drive in the right-most available lane. Staying in the left lane unneccesarily may lead to a fine. It may also result in tailgating and/or overtaking on the right-hand side. (wikipedia)
In contrast to other European countries, flashing the headlamps is giving priority in traffic.
If you want to park your car, you’ll probably find zones where you need the parking dial. They are indicated by blue paint on the road. You’ll need to set the dial (you can purchase it at gas stations, Hema, Blokker etc.) for the arrival time (to the nearest half hour). In many places this would be valid for two hours – but please read the signs carefully, there are some areas for short parking, i.e. only 30 minutes! If you don’t have the parking dial clearly visible inside your car on the windshield, you risk a fine.
In other places you’ll need to pay for parking with PIN or credit card. In many places you can already pay for your parking using an app on your smartphone.
Almost everyone cycles in the Netherlands and there are some important rules about cycling. These are only some basic rules:
One thing you always need to bear in mind is that you’ll share the fietspad (cycle path) with brommers (mopeds)! Cycle on the right side of the cycle path to make them pass you!
Generally speaking, it is not allowed to cycle on sidewalks or pedestrian-only areas, but if your child is not confident enough (yet), you can let them cycle on the sidewalks at a very slow pace (but you need to stay close to them).
- Use hand signals to make a left or right turn.
- It is allowed to ride alonside another bicyclist, but with three people in a row is not allowed
- Tunnels: only if clearly signed cycle path!
- Bicycle lights are mandatory white/yellow in front, red in the rear.
- Helmets are not compulsory (some say that you recognize expats by wearing helmets while cycling)