Life in the Netherlands | A Student Perspective

Life in the Netherlands | A Student Perspective

article by Ling Nguyen
3-rd year Creative Business student

Hello again everyone, I am back with another blog for prospective students to get a peek of what life is like in The Netherlands. This time, I would like to share with you things I wish I knew before moving here. Additionally, I have some tips for you to save or earn money as an international.


The weather

This is such a simple thing but if you live in The Netherlands you would know this is the most used ‘small talk’ topic. The weather here is truly something else: It is complicated and unpredictable, you can literally experience all types of weather in one day. The Dutch wind can blow your soul away and a ray of sunshine is as precious as gold. Although it is not as much of an important factor while studying abroad, I do have to say I got to appreciate the sun more.

Linh on a bridge

The Dutchies

Before coming here, I was told that Dutch people are quite cold and straightforward. I was a bit nervous since this is a completely new culture for me and I would be totally alone here. However, after living here for more than two years, I actually find Dutch people really open-minded, easy-going and easy to befriend. In my opinion, they are professional but not cold, they are straightforward but it’s better than talking behind your back, right?

One last thing is that almost everyone speaks English here so not knowing Dutch is definitely not an obstacle.

Housing situation

The housing market in The Netherlands and in Utrecht specifically is a hustle. Searching for a place to call home is not as easy as it seems as Utrecht is a city packed with students and there are limited housing options. You will need on average of 1-3 months to find a place to move in.

There are many places where you can search for rooms/ studios (through friends, SSH, Facebook groups, Kamernet, etc). You will have to write a short description about yourself to the house’s current tenants and if you’re lucky, you will be invited to a house viewing with a few other people. It will feel similar to a competition, as you will have to impress other housemates and make yourself stand out from the crowd. If the house members find you are a perfect fit for the house, the room is yours! If not, you will have to keep looking. On this blog you can actually find a lot of information regarding housing. Search it in the “practical matters” topic.

However, first-year students: don’t stress out too much! Our school has a partnership with SSH through which they provide a certain amount of rooms. These rooms are usually reserved for first-year international students. So if you have decided to go to HU, hurry up and send an email to the International Office asking for a room from SSH!

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Your bike

As you may already know, biking is the most popular means of transportation in The Netherlands. Biking has never been easier as all the roads in The Netherlands are designed for bikers. You can easily purchase a bike on Facebook marketplace or Markplaats for a cheap price. However, you will not want to buy a cheap lock! Your bike could get stolen easily. I have a friend who had 2 bikes stolen in 1 WEEK. I also have seen around the city bikes that had their wheels stolen. So you might want to spend your money on a really good lock or you might as well consider buying two locks!

One more thing is Dutch people are keeping the DYI culture alive. When my bike broke down for the first time, I asked my friends for recommendations where should I get it fixed. None of my friends really knew the answer as they always fix their own tire at home! One of them ended up fixing my tire by herself. So if you are planning to use your bike in NL, it would be an amazing extra skill that you could learn before arriving in the country. YouTube and Google are definitely your best friend in this matter.

  1. Save money

Delete the “It’s only 5 euro” mindset​: I used to have this mindset and it has cost me a great deal of money because surprise-surprise, it does add up! I am someone who loves ice cream passionately. Usually, a gelato ice cream would cost 2-3 euros and Ben&Jerry would cost 6euro. The price did not seem too high to me, but after 2 months of living in The Netherlands, I ended up spending almost 200 euros on ice cream!

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Buy your own food & cook your own food​: Everyone knows this is the best way to save money. There are many cheap supermarkets in NL that you can do your grocery shopping at and most importantly is to prepare your own food. Haha, it sounds so lame to put this here since I believe everyone knows this. However, coming from Vietnam which has an “eating out culture” thanks to its cheap street food, I didn’t have the habit of eating at home. It was a huge adjustment for me to bring my own food to school.

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“Do you need it or do you just want it?”: ​I used to be such a spontaneous shopper. But then I learned to have more control over myself. One of my big shifts in shopping habits was to stop buying clothes impulsively. In the world of fast fashion, styles change every month. I used to be super easily influenced by trending items and if I liked something I was just going to get it. But now, if I like something, I give myself 1-2 weeks to see if I still like it later on and then finally get it.

  1. Earn money

Earn your scholarships:​ For internationals like me, most universities offer some types of scholarships. It is usually not a lot but it’s a start to help you financially. You need to plan this ahead before applying for uni: You need to prepare a decent high school study profile, efficient IELTS levels, referrals to your personal skills and past experience.

Get a part-time job: ​Obviously, this is the most common way to get some extra cash.

Most of my friends at uni have a part-time job: either it is something more related to your study (which I highly recommend because I think this is the best way to train yourself for your future job) or something more practical (being a cook, waiter/waitress, cleaning, driving etc.). No matter what is the job, you will always get something out of it (it’s not just about the money, but also about the lessons). I’m now working as a waitress, I love my coworkers and I learned that working in service is most certainly not a walk in the park.

Work for the school:​This is something I really enjoy doing. HU offers short-term and long-term jobs in which students can work side-by-side with the teachers and the school. This really gives you a strong connection with the school and a better understanding and empathy for the teachers.

*It is also really nice to be able to enjoy life, remember you can only be a student once, go out sometimes, have fun with friends, buy yourself something nice! You have worked hard enough for it!


In conclusion​, life in The Netherlands is full of surprises and the culture is worth exploring.

I hope you are all going to have an amazing and fun experience while staying in The Netherlands!

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