Photo: Kinkerstraat Amsterdam, Image Source: Elena
The Netherlands is the great, amazingly permissive country of tulips bikes and windmills. That is, if you can afford to live here. Nevertheless, the expensiveness that one experiences as a tourist can be easily avoided. Living in this colorful country is surprisingly affordable. There is a possibility to avoid most of the unnecessary spending with only a little bit of planning and clever thinking. After all, Dutch people appreciate innovative ideas and usefulness.
The most problematic thing in The Netherlands, especially Amsterdam, is to find a place to stay. There are numerous real estate sites that require money just to sign in, not to mention renting a room. Time frame for searching a place to stay is around one month. Even more during the busy months of September when every student and expat is starting their new life. The biggest problem is the usual requirement to give a couple of rents in advance plus deposit, and without prior savings it is quite difficult to produce that amount of money just from one salary. The rent for a room in a shared apartment goes from 450 euros to an unfathomably 1000 or more of the same currency.
Price is not the only hurdle on the way of finding the perfect accommodation. Scammers are somewhat of an 'every expats welcoming committee to Amsterdam'. There is a requirement to experience all the weirdness of the ladies: “just about to leave their apartment to go to Africa to participate in Doctors without Borders program." Which means there is no possibility to look at the room before paying the first rent plus deposit online in order to get THE KEY. However, given the fact that Amsterdam was built on tree logs, square meter of living space is understandably pricey.
Students have much easier ways of finding a room if they apply for the accommodation through the University. Unfortunately everyone who is not that privileged will have the path filled with obstacles and ordeals that prove they are worthy of living in the Netherlands. The most successful way to tackle the fight for home away from home is to become a member of various groups on Facebook. In order to trace them key words such as: room, studio, rent, find, Amsterdam, Utrecht and similar should help. In any case there is no need to lose faith in people. Most of the newcomers stay with various friends for the first few weeks, which calls for a big party everyday.
Starting with accommodation fees; one requires to verify the possibility to get social benefits from the Dutch social state. For example, persons living in a studio who do not earn more than a specific amount of money per year can receive up to 300 euros per month in housing benefits. The site to check this out is called ‘Belastingdienst’ and the only problem is that most of the site Dutch, but with a little help from Google translate there is no language left untranslated.
Photo: Buiten Westen Amsterdam 2013, Image Source: yourlittleblackbook.me
Eating and drinking out is the expensive fun that every tourist gets to experience in The Netherlands, but being a local means your budget can relax. The rule is that expensive housing makes every service provided inside someone else’s space is also a bit pricey. To eat and drink in a nice restaurant/ brewery near the water costs a minimum of 20 euros. However, food in the restaurants is mainly fast-food, nibbles and snacks so, there should be no problem to eat a nice meal accompanying a beer for an affordable price.
After a fun meal and a few beers, dancing is in order. It costs approximately 10 euros to enter clubs on an average night out and up to 30 euros to see concerts or other special events. Dutchers are big in organizing festivals during the day when the weather is nice. Don’t be surprised to pay 12 euros for the entrance to a festival of food or beverages without receiving any samples or special entertainment. You will have to pay for every article offered there individually, but nice time in the sun surrounded with attractive people is guaranteed.
There is also a strong possibility that a lot of different events are sold out. People in the Netherlands love organized events and concerts very much. But, there is no need to panic. Searching “tickets for such and such event” in the internet browser can make the magic happen. There are a lot of trading sites offering tickets for sold-out events from users who changed their minds, or just wanted to earn that extra 10 euros. There are officially organized ones like “ticketSwap” but also plain and simple possibilities like facebook pages of an event. Spoiler alert: “ticketSwap” has the price limit setup that makes sure seller is not making too much money of the ticket.
As well as drinking in a bar, every other form of service provided in a closed space is a bit on the expensive side. Getting a hair-cut & dye costs around 100 Euros. I’m referring to women’s haircuts to be exact. Solution to this is the ‘Do it yourself” method. There is always a possibility to buy products in specialized hairdresser stores, turn on you tube tutorials and let the games begin. Organized makeover parties are never a dull idea.
Photo: JUMBO supermarket, Image Source: retaildesignblog.net
Food and Supermarkets
We are starting to approach surprisingly affordable part of living in The Netherlands. Supermarkets in this foody country are quite affordable. Fruit and vegetables are amazing, especially the ones originating from Holland. Dutch people put a lot of pride in their food and growing their own plants. Historically, every couple of households were given a commune land from the municipality to cultivate their own food. Concretely, a kilo of bananas is around 1 euro or even less. The most expensive is understandably his majesty, the cheese, but you can treat yourself with an “Old Amsterdam” once in a while.
Store-wise the fanciest supermarket is “Albert Heijn”. That is somewhat of an institution in The Netherlands. Depression is easily killed with just entering one of the blue stores and imagining what all those tall handsome people are preparing for dinner.. “Jumbo” is the affordable Albert Heijn. There are already made meals and salads as well as everything else in those chains. However, “Jumbo”-s are usually located outside of the city center so it is necessary to plan your grocery shopping in advance. “Vomar” and “Dirk” are the more affordable stores depending on the needed items. Par example, you can combine toiletries from “Dirk” and dairy products from “Vomar”. “Lidl” has by far the best fruit and vegetables in my opinion and the other items are in the “Vomar/Dirk” price range. And to finish off this segment with some friendly advice: there are a lot of affordable carbs in Holland. Make sure to buy a bike as soon as possible in order to save money on transport and never think about dieting again.
It is a vastly known truth that Dutch people order a lot of items online. They get deliveries of shoes, clothes, furniture and even vehicles to their front doors. Abundance of online memes, blogs and articles describe angry Dutchers complaining about the delivery services in The Netherlands. With that being said, great thing is that delivery in Holland is not necessarily more expensive. Sometimes buying sneakers in a store can be more costly than ordering them online. Solution: Try on the desired items in the store and sky is the limit. Google, search, compare, examine and order. Check the transportation fees diligently and enjoy the beauty of getting items of your desire brought to your front door. Try to fit in, there is a reason behind every seemingly strange habit of the local bike riders. They're are tall, pretty and blond but also clever.
That's all folks, but to set the record straight, main reason for the somewhat higher prices in The Netherlands is that Dutch people simply make more money. Standard is higher but the living quality is also better. You get your money’s worth, and there is a possibility to find a job in The Netherlands even if you do not speak the language, and when you earn as much as Dutch people, living here is actually quite affordable. In the meantime buy that inexpensive bottle of wine, sit on the bench in one of the various parks and enjoy the music playing from random peoples speakers (which were probably bought online).