How to deal with dutch bureaucracy.
Potverdorie. So, you’ve arrived in the Netherlands, all wide-eyed and optimistic. But instead of nibbling (or scoffing) stroopwafels and flitting around quaint little markets on your bike, you’re busy: occupied with endless form-filling, stadswinkel-visiting and, gemeente-googling. You see, setting yourself up in Netherlands is red tape hell. But fear not. Here is my quick guide (with accompanying acrid commentary).
Setting up in the Netherlands is a full-time job.
Bureaucracy and the Netherlands
The Netherlands is arguably the most bureaucratic country in the world. The World Bank ranks it 28th in world in terms of ease of starting a business. Red tape literally did originate in the Netherlands. In the 16th century historical records were bound with a red ribbon or tape. And that tape was manufactured in Dutch city of ‘s Hertogenbosch. Let’s take a closer look at that specific Dutch brand of red tape.
The Stadswinkel: A Different Kind of Shop
Acquired an abode? Great. Now to the stadswinkel to register yourself and your address. Ah, stadswinkel. That delightful misnomer! While it literally translates as a city shop, the only thing for sale here is high blood pressure and tension headaches. A stern employee will eyeball you unsettlingly and then give you an appointment. For in a few weeks time. Yes, weeks. Till then, you have to sit it out. Everything hinges on this registration. If you don’t register with the gemeente (local council), you can’t open a bank account. If you can’t open a bank account you can’t get a job (or health insurance). If you can’t get a job…well you get the idea.
What. The. F…Frikadel. Why so complicated?
Banking on Trouble
Finally registered with the local council? Excellent! Now, the bank account. Well, maybe. When I tried to open an account, I was told needed a certain document (Inlichting uit de basisregistratie personen to be exact) from the council. Not being fluent in Dutch “officialese” I understood that this letter to be coming by mail. So I waited. And waited. In great frustration, I went to the stadswinkel to ask when this document would be arriving. “Oh, that? I can print it off for you right now.” I was told a matter of factly. And you are only telling me this now? I grumbled silently. Anyhoo, it was then back to the bank – where I was told I could have an appointment. Next week. Of course the Dutch don’t do walk ins!
Banks to check out:
• ABN AMRO
• ING Bank
• SNS Bank
Health Insurance: The (Almost) Final Frontier
As soon as you have a bank account, you can arrange health insurance. There are so many policies available – do I want cover for physiotherapy? The dentist? Acupuncture and homeopathy? Mercifully, you don’t need to go anywhere for this as it can be done online and by mail. But do get insurance as soon as possible – excessive contact with Dutch red tape may cause health problems (like extreme irritability and chronic cynicism).
Need help with finding health insurance? Have a look at Independer.nl
Dutch red tape may leave you feeling under the weather
Once you have a completed all these tasks, you can look into finding work. But that is a story for another day. But anyway, here’s my advice to you: Recruit the help of locals when trying to set up in the Netherlands. And have lots of patience. And my advice to Netherlands? Please, cut the red tape! But, I can just hear the response now: “Mevrouw, if you want to make a complaint please fill in this form…” Potverdorie.