The start of our new life!
Our journey started at Cape Town International after going to bed late packing, getting up early to catch our flight and saying goodbye to family and loved ones with, of course, plenty of tears and a million “last hugs”. After a 9-hour flight to Dubai, we were already very tired but decided to stay awake for the 7-hour overlay, paranoid to fall asleep and miss our flight to Amsterdam. Luckily, we were not alone as we met a very nice guy who was on his way to France for modelling. With our newfound friend, we had some drinks and food at the airport. After he left the last 3 hours were intense staying awake and grabbing coffee after coffee, thinking we would sleep through the entire 6-hour flight to Amsterdam, which we did not manage to do anyway!
FINALLY, we arrive in The Netherlands at Schiphol airport and our new life is about to start. After making it through the passport check counters, we met up with our awesome driver, Peter. The 2-hour drive down to Valkenburg felt like a breeze with Peter entertaining us all the way and sharing some useful information about many of the areas on the way and life in general in The Netherlands.
HOME SWEET HOME
From the second we drove into Limburg and especially Valkenburg we knew we made a great choice. Beautiful countryside like we are used to in Stellenbosch, minus the mountains of course! There are however some hills in this area. Now it was time to set up the bed and the essentials and after being awake for almost 40 hours straight, we finally got some good sleep.
Everything else could wait on Sunday morning, it was time to explore Valkenburg. The town takes your breath away with all its beautiful restaurant districts, small little bridges over the Geul River, historic buildings and the castle ruins among other things. All the shops are within 5 mins walking distance and so is the train station. I’ve also done my fair share of statiegeld bottle returns (though I think I do it more because it is fun to put the bottles in the machine than for the money!)
At first, we had no idea how the public transport works, but once we asked and figured out how to catch a train or a bus it was super easy and convenient, especially when using the NS app to plan your route. We also picked up our bikes at Swapfiets in Maastricht and it proved to be a bigger adjustment than we thought to ride an omafiets! I also managed to pick one of the only towns in the Netherlands with a hill on my route to work (Emmaberg)! Let’s just say the basic omafiets was not made for a hill and I quickly swapped it out for a bike with gears and more suited for a hill! I also did not realize that in some places the bike lane goes off to the other side (two-way cycling lane) and was shouted at by a motorist for not driving in the cycling lane, but after that, I quickly learned where all the cycling lanes are and how things work around here! :D Lastly, coming from South Africa where almost no one stops at a pedestrian crossing I still distrustfully come to almost a full stop at each crossing just to find a motorist stopping and looking at me very confused.
EINDHOVEN & MAASTRICHT
We have also taken the train to Eindhoven which is very beautiful with a cathedral that was so massive it blew me away. Maastricht has plenty of nice shops and a couple of nice Irish restaurants/pubs with other South Africans to watch the rugby and Formula 1 with. We also visited the Museum of Illusions which was very interesting.
SORTING OUT THE ADMIN:
Week 1 naturally was full of getting stuff done and I must say that everything was sorted out super quickly. Within a week I had internet, cell contracts, our bank accounts, our BSN numbers and even Albert Heijn and Blokker loyalty cards! The community also sent a “Buurtkadoos” which is full of vouchers with discounts at local businesses.
SAFETY & CLEANLINESS:
At 9:30 in the evening, I can still cycle to work and back safely. My girlfriend can take a train on her own to Maastricht and back alone and feel safe. When I send my family videos of where we go, they can’t stop mentioning how clean the streets are here. All things that we were not used to in South Africa.
So far, we love the Netherlands and of course, we still have a lot to explore and a lot more admin and household stuff to sort out, but so far it has been a fantastic experience and IR Olav has made the journey a breeze with all the help from immigration to Dutch lessons and everything in between. We can’t wait to see what else the Netherlands and Europe have to offer and my childhood dream of becoming a European citizen draws ever closer. We also can’t wait for the other South Africans working for KEMBIT to be here so we can all share in the fun and joy!
When coming here, give yourself a week off just to settle in and get things organized.
You can use the Revolut app and add it to your Google Wallet and tap with your phone until you get a Dutch bank account.
Unlike Revolut, BUNQ gives you an NL IBAN number which you can use to sign up for services like Ziggo internet that requires an NL IBAN NUMBER (You can then change this later to your Dutch banking details).
ABN AMRO is an expat-friendly bank, and you can open an account without a BSN number (you can’t use it until you upload your proof of registration at the gemeente) and you can then change your BSN number once you receive it easily in the ABN app.
Tap in before taking a train/bus and tap out again where you get off.
Self-checkout is easier than you think and don’t freak out if someone comes over to check on you from time to time: It’s just protocol.