Bags packed, passport at the ready, and final fair well hugs with my cat Inky. It was time to set off from England on a new adventure. The Netherlands lay ahead in anticipation, an endlessly flat country, populated by bikes and windmills. In my ignorance I had no idea a country so close by to my own, with people who spoke English as their second language, could have such a drastically different culture. A culture “shock” did not do it justice, at the time it felt more like an earthquake at magnitude 9.0. Arriving at the station in my new hometown of Leiden, I was welcomed by a speeding bike almost crashing into me. With a resounding ring of the cyclist’s bell, I was quick to learn that here, bikes are king.
An optimistic me.
Once arriving at my new home, a picturesque canal home apartment, it was time to forage for food. Wide eyed, and rather hungry me was not prepared for the headache inducing experience that would follow. Upon arriving at the local Albert Heijn supermarket and packing the conveyer belt with all the necessities (plus a freshly baked Saucijzenbroodjes) I was bluntly told by the tallest, blondest woman I had ever seen in my life: ‘geen Mastercard, geen Visa hier, alleen Mastero en V Pay.’ Firstly, What? I can’t speak Dutch. Secondly, what is Mastero and V Pay? After leaving all my groceries and my precious Saucijzenbroodjes, I went in search of an ATM and googled what on earth is Mastero and V Pay?
According to the great and wise Wikipedia the V Pay system competes with Maestro card. Unlike Maestro, V Pay cards are only accepted in countries, and by merchants that use the system, e.g. my local Albert Heijn. This is all done to prevent debt from credit cards, a forbidden term amongst money savvy Dutchies. What Wikipedia didn’t tell me was how mind numbingly complicated it was to set up a bank account. With my passport and proof of address, I thought it’d be a simple and easy process. What I didn’t expect was for a banker to ask for my housing contract, proof of registration, and a BSN. Here we go again with the unfamiliar terms. Thank god for the internet! A BSN is a Citizen Service Number which registers you in the national database, allowing the government to keep track of population numbers and prevent fraud. Thankfully, this was done automatically after registering my arrival at the city hall (which is also mandatory). Nonetheless, it represented another alien concept that I wish I had known and prepared for before coming to the Netherlands. What I would have given for a company like Overseasy to help me navigate the maze that is Dutch bureaucracy. Anything to make the rather stressful, exciting, and exhausting process easier! The bike ridden road to Dutch living never ran smooth, but it sure be smoother with a team of experts behind your back.
This blog was written by Overseasy Intern Lizzy Patterson