Get your head around the key issues for Australians in the Netherlands.
There are many reasons Australians in The Netherlands enjoy their time their. The Netherlands is one of the major destinations for Australians living abroad. With its huge financial industry and prime position on the European stage, it’s no wonder that it attracts talent from around the world. Speculation is that Amsterdam could be one of the major beneficiaries of the UK’s exit from the European Union as well, with many financial institutions moving their European base across the pond.
Australians in the Netherlands are likely to adjust quickly to the Dutch way of life, which shares many ideals and cultural traits with Australia, and has one of the highest levels of English language proficiency outside the old English colonies. At the same time, it offers just the right amount of European culture and history to keep Australians in the Netherlands exploring for a lifetime. In fact the Dutch were the first Europeans to set foot on Australian soil (more than 100 years before James Cook) and so there are a number of Australian links to explore as well, whether it be details of the Dutch landing in Australia in the 1600’s at the Rijksemuseum in Amsterdam, or visiting the replica of the infamous Batavia sailing ship in Lelystad that was shipwrecked off the coast of Western Australia.
Below, find a quick review of the most important facts that Australians in the Netherlands will want to know when they arrive.
The Basics at a Glance:
- Currency: The Euro (€), which is used by most members of the European Union (check OFX for the latest exchange rates).
- The population: 16,924,632.
- Main languages: The official languages are Dutch, English, Frisian and Papiamento. While Dutch is the first language for the majority of the population, English is widely spoken and is taught in schools. Frisian and Papiamento are regional languages spoken by minority groups. French and German are also prominently spoken and some public services are available in these commonly used languages.
- Weather: As with other countries in north-western Europe, Amsterdam has a temperate climate which can vary between warm and sunny to very cold and windy, with. A geographically small country, there is little regional difference in climate. The flat landscape is prone to windy weather and even gales, particularly in the winter season and coastal areas. Summers are generally cool and dry, while winter temperatures can drop below freezing. Average temperatures vary from 17°C-20°C in the summer and 2°C-6°C in the winter.
- Time zone: UTC/GMT+02:00 (summer) +01:00 (winter).
- Emergency number: 112 is used for all emergency situations. Calls can be answered in German and English, as well as Dutch.
- Electricity: 220-240 Volt / 50Mhz, the same as other European Union countries. Plug shapes are available in the European Union’s type C “Europlug,” the type E and type F “Schuko” varieties. Australians (who use the type I plug shape) will need to purchase an adaptor for their electronics.
- Religions: Christianity is the traditional religion, but the Dutch population is increasingly non-religious.
As member states of the European Union (EU) The Netherlands is subject to EU visa rules, rather than purely national laws. Since 1995, Netherlands has been a signatory to the Schengen treaty, which allows free travel between member states. A total of 26 countries have signed up to the Schengen area so far, so if you get a visa to reside in the Netherlands, you will also be able to enjoy unlimited travel to a large range of other European countries.
Australians are able to enter Netherlands and all Schengen states for up to 90 days without a pre-approved visa, both for tourist and business purposes.
If planning to stay for longer, you will need to apply for a work visa, which can be done once you have already entered the country without a visa. You will need to provide a copy of your employment contract.
For more information, check the Shengen visa website.
The Netherlands also has a long-term visa (MVV) and a range of residence permits for employees or other work types (self-employed, research work, study and so on). Applications will be decided by the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) so check their website as well.
Money and Banking
The Aussie Dollar is worth around 0.66 Euros (although rates vary, so check OFX closer to your departure date). The Euro is used by the 17 member states of the Eurozone, so you will be able to use your Dutch earnings across the continent without the need to think about exchange rates.
The Euro comes in both coins and banknotes, and you should aware that many local businesses refuse to take large notes, such as €100, so it’s always handy to carry change in your wallet.
Although in theory you should be able to withdraw cash from ATMs (geldautomaat) from your Australian bank account, we have experienced a number of problems paying for things like train tickets using our Australian cards, so you should endeavour to obtain a local bank card as soon as possible. Most ATM’s offer English language options so you should be fine even before you set up a Dutch bank account. A range of debit and credit cards are accepted, too, especially the large multinationals like Visa.
- ABN-AMRO (nationalized)
- ING Bank (you may be familiar with their branches in Australia for long-term savings)
- SNS Bank (nationalized)
Most banks will offer their services in English if you need it. ABN-AMRO offers a specific package for expats (as well as an english language online banking site and english language versions of their banking terms and conditions).
To open a Dutch bank account you will need your BSN number (a social services number you get by registering with your local municipality), residency permit number, ID (eg. passport) and proof of address.
Getting a House
The rental market is competitive in this densely populated country, especially in urban areas. Rental properties and prices are subject to government rules. Rents are assessed and controlled for low-value property and there can be restrictions on who is allowed to live in some areas, with priority given to people with ties to the local area.
While low earners may be able to get a rent-controlled house, anything even slightly above the threshold are skyrocketing, making it difficult for average earners to find an affordable place. Capital city Amsterdam is the worst offender, with its large demand for housing.
Families often live row or “terrace” houses, with two or three stories. Indeed, such houses are famous around the world for their distinctive height and narrow width, sandwiched together in a row. Limited space is resulting in further development of apartment buildings and high-rises to accommodate the large population.
Expats can avoid sticky regulations ad legal issues by hiring an estate agent, but this will typically incur a fee equivalent to one month’s rent. Funda.nl is a popular website to find properties for rent and for sale, and a good place for researching where you may want to live.
Australians in the Netherlands can take advantage of the double taxation agreement between the two countries which will prevent expats being taxed twice on their income. The double taxation agreement sets out the rules to determine whether you are an Australian resident for tax purposes or a dutch resident for tax purposes, as well as defining the taxing rights over various sources of income you may have (eg. rental income, dividends, and salary).
The Netherlands requires you to pay income tax, and as with many nations in western Europe, the rates are comparatively high. People under retirement age (65) can expect to pay according to the amount of money they earn:
- 37% on the first 19.645 Euros
- 42% on the next 13.718 Euros (from 19.646 up to 33.363 Euros)
- 42% on the next 22.628 Euros (from 33.364 up to 55.991 Euros)
- 52% from 55.992 Euros and higher
At the lower end of the income scale there are various rebates that reduce the effective rate of tax. If you work for a company, they will automatically remove the tax from your wage packet, so make sure to clarify your pre- and post-tax salary. Self-employed people will have to figure out their tax and pay it via an annual tax return.
Taxes on savings and investments applies at the rate of 30% irrespective of your “salary” income, and is generally determined based on deeming a fixed 4%pa rate of return on the value of your investments and savings.
In certain situations you may be eligible for the 30% rule. The 30% rule (also known as the 30% reimbursement rule) is a tax advantage for highly skilled migrants that move to the Netherlands for a specific employment role. When the necessary conditions are met, the employer can offer a tax free allowance to the employee equivalent to 30% of the gross salary. If you are eligible it is the employers discretion whether to pass on the benefit of the 30% rule to the employee or keep the benefit themselves. If you are being recruited or transferred from abroad, you should inquire with your employer about your eligibility and who will realise the benefit of the 30% rule.
There are also other benefits to the 30% rule (if you are eligible) including not needing to pay tax in The Netherlands on your savings and investments, and being able to swap your Australian drivers licence for a dutch drivers licence without needing to sit any driving tests in the Netherlands.
The tax rules are always changing, so check with the Dutch Tax Authorities (Belastingdienst) for the latest information.
Schooling in the Netherlands is high-quality and you can expect your children to receive a good education. English is taught as a second-language and you can choose to send your children to a local school. Australians in the Netherlands can choose to send their children to a local school that has an english language stream where all lessons are taught in English, however you will need to pay substantially higher tuition fees for this programme than if you had sent your children to the dutch stream of the school.
Thanks to the multi-lingual nature of the country, and the significant expat population, there are a range of international school options aswell. International schools are located around the country. The American School and the British School of the Hague are considered some of the better schools but the school fees are extremely high.
Dates for school holidays and terms can vary according to the region of the country in which you’re living.
The school holidays for 2017 are according to the following calendar:
› Spring break 2016 (voorjaarsvakantie, carnavalsvakantie or krokusvakantie)
– North: February 27 – March 6, 2016
– Central: February 20 – February 28, 2016
– South: February 20 – February 28, 2016
› May vacation 2016 (meivakantie)
– North: April 30 – May 8, 2016
– Central: April 30 – May 8, 2016
– South: April 30 – May 8, 2016
› Summer vacation 2016 (zomervakantie)
– North: July 16 – August 28, 2016
– Central: July 9 – August 21, 2016
– South: July 23 – September 4, 2016
› Autumn vacation 2016 (herfstvakantie)
– North: October 15 – October 23, 2016
– Central: October 15 – October 23, 2016
– South: October 22 – October 30, 2016
› Christmas vacation 2016 – 2017 (kerstvakantie)
– North: December 24, 2016 – January 8, 2017
– Central: December 24, 2016 – January 8, 2017
– South: December 24, 2016 – January 8, 2017
Dutch healthcare is some of the best in the world, and most doctors speak English, making things easy for expats. The Netherlands is rated as the best healthcare provider in the European Union, spending 11.9 percent of its GDP on health, the second highest spender worldwide.
Everyone over the age of 18 is required to take out basic health insurance (Zvw), but locals are subsidized for long-term healthcare by the government. If you have a health precondition, you’ll have no problem getting insurance because everyone over the age of 18 is entitles to coverage, regardless of health condition or age.
The two basic kinds of insurance available are:
- Zorgverzekeringswet (Zvw) covers basic medical care.
- Algemene Wet Bijzondere Ziektekosten (AWBZ) covers long-term healthcare.
Australia holds a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the Netherlands, giving you access to certain healthcare for up to 12 months. In order to use this, you’ll need a certificate which can be obtained either before you leave Australia. For more information on available treatment, see the Australian Department of Human Services website.
There are a few peculiarities Australians in the Netherlands will need to get used to when it comes to the Dutch healthcare system.
- GP’s are not in the habit of prescribing antibiotics for less than serious infections. A common joke in the expat community is that the dutch GP’s seem to use panadol as their solution for most ailments.
- And women are generally sent home with their new born babies within 4 or 6 hours after giving birth. They are then provided with a nurse who stays with them at their house during the day for the first ten days after giving birth.
Day to Day Life For Australians in the Netherlands
Public transport is the best way to get around the country, so become familiar with your local routes and schedules. Bicycles are also one of the most popular modes of transportation particularly around the village or “gementee” that you live. Interestingly, Amsterdam is home to more bikes than people!
The Netherlands are famous for their liberal and lassaiz-faire attitude to life. Most people are open and informal, but ostentatious behavior is frowned upon. Religious life in particular is considered to be personal and not something to be displayed openly or proselytized. Individuality is valued and everyone is viewed to be equal.
Recreational drug use and Amsterdam’s red light district are perhaps the most well-known tourist attractions in the country, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that this isn’t a family friendly country. The real attraction for many Australians in the Netherlands is the historical and cultural heritage that Holland boasts. Explore the countryside and explore the many languages and cultural groups that Holland offers.
Sources : Cigna Global
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