5 tips for a smooth move to the Netherlands

Getting ready to start packing to move to the Netherlands? 

Preparing to move is stressful even when you’re just going to another part of the city, let alone when we’re talking about a whole new country. 

In an effort to help, we’re sharing some general recommendations, as well as things we learned from personal experience. In this post, we won’t focus on the paperwork you need for your visa or residency permit – we have that covered in other posts already. Instead, we’ll focus on the practicalities – what should you make sure to have in your suitcase, and what’s just dead weight.

Define the scope of your relocation

If it were possible, most of us would probably just choose teleporting our entire home to the Netherlands. The whole home and everything in it!

But since that’s not an option (at least not yet), the first thing you need to decide is how much stuff you want to take with you. If you want to take your furniture and other bigger items, you normally have two options, depending on how far you’re moving:

  • getting an international shipping or moving company (if you’re on the same continent) 
  • getting a shipping container service (in case you’re moving from overseas)

Depending on how much stuff you have, and how far you need to move them, these services can be quite expensive. Most moving companies that do road transport charge by kilometer. 

Some expats decide to send some of their smaller items (like clothes) via post. One thing to keep in mind with this is that, if the package is coming from outside of the EU, you’ll need to pay VAT and import taxes on it. VAT is always 21% of the package value, the import tax depends on what you’re shipping and how much of it, and you’ll also need to pay postage fees at the country of origin, so those are all costs to take into account. 

If you choose to travel lighter, you’ll be limited to your suitcases and whatever you can bring with you on a plane, or in your car if that’s how you’ll be arriving. 

When we were moving, we chose the first option and came with a total of 2 carry-on and 2 checked-in bags for the two of us. We paid for a “business class” upgrade with the airline, because the price wasn’t that much higher than a regular card, and it gave us the option to not have to think about the weight of our suitcases. So if this is an option for you, I’d definitely recommend it, as it takes away some of the stress. 

Start on time

Don’t leave all of these decisions for the very last minute! 

Ideally, start thinking ahead about 3-4 months before the intended move. If you’re planning to ship a lot of furniture or other items, then it might be good to start a bit earlier as you’ll probably need to review offers from different shipping companies and find the best one for your specific needs. 

If you leave everything for the last month, it will cause not just unnecessary stress, but also higher costs – as you might need to pay a premium for last-minute services, or you just won’t have as much of an opportunity to shop around for the optimal solutions. 

Think about the logistics

If you took the previous tip to heart and you thought about packing and preparations on time, then you also have the space to check important boxes in the logistics department.

For example, if you’re coming by plane, and you have 15 suitcases for yourself and your family – how are you going to get from the airport to your new home? If you’re moving into an unfurnished home, what are the main items you’ll need to make sure you have in order to be able to function for the first few days? Can you order those online ahead of time and have them waiting for you when you arrive? (the answer is probably yes!)

If you’re moving with your pet, you won’t just need to sort out their paperwork, but you also need an aircraft-approved carrier they can travel in. 

Follow the customs guidelines

Don’t forget there are always some items you can’t bring with you, or you need to declare them to customs agents!

For example, you need to declare if you have more than 10.000 euros of cash on you. 

You also cannot have any protected or endangered animal and plant species, as well as any item(s) made from them. Examples include crocodile leather shoes or jewellery made of ivory.

If you have specific medication that’s prescription-only, make sure you have the prescription with you!

Cigarettes, tobacco products and alcohol have a separate set of rules. These depend on whether you’re coming from an EU or a non-EU country. You can see more about those limits here.

And if you have an overlay in a totally different country – make sure you’re aware of their customs laws as well!

Embrace the emotional side of things

Putting your whole life into a suitcase or the back of a van is never easy! Even when you know exactly why you’re doing it, and you’re sure this is the best possible decision for you. 

As an expat myself, one thing I did not regret making the space for in my suitcase were all the emotional little trinkets that have literally zero purpose but to remind me of people who love me, or amazing moments in my life. These made the strange new space feel more like it’s mine and made the adjustment period easier. 

So if you’re choosing between bringing extra pairs of socks and undies, or your fluffy unicorn blanket that always makes you feel warm and happy (yes, that is a dilemma I faced the evening before our flight to Amsterdam), then choose for the thing you won’t easily be able to get at a Dutch store. 

And if you’re moving with a partner – make sure you’re looking after each other and your relationship throughout this challenging process.

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