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Inburgering : Intro

It is difficult word ! What does Inburgering means and how does it help me? Looking forward for the answers?

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Dutch government promotes the civic integration for the people who wants to live for a longer duration or permanently within Netherlands.You must learn the dutch language and take up the Inburgering level A2 exams, if you want to apply for Permanent Residency or a Dutch nationality. If you pass this exam, then you are officially integrated.

Why is civic integration required?
You must be able to :
1. Find a work for yourself
2. know how to make a hospital appointment (Dutch Healthcare system)
3. know what type of schools are in Netherlands (Dutch Education)
For all these, the basic dutch is required to communicate with each other.

Mandatory Integration
If the integration is mandatory for you, DUO(Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs/Ministry of education, culture and Science) will send a letter to you telling the date on which you have to start the integration. From this date, you have 3 years to integrate.

Voluntary Integration
However you can also integrate on voluntary basis which means you yourself want to integrate. One reason to do this is the Permanent Residency or Dutch Citizenship.

How to learn?
You can learn for the exam all by yourself or you can also do a course at a school. DUO does not have the text books to refer or provide. However DUO only provides the practice exams. Read the content of the exam here.

Breastfeeding Tips

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Breastfeeding or nursing is the process of feeding breast milk to her infant. For some breastfeeding is really easy while for others it is quite difficult and does not work well. From the moment your baby is born, there are a number of things you can do to improve your chances for breastfeeding success. Every mother can use a tip every now and then.

  1. Breastfeeding is an exercise, practice it.
    Breastfeeding is natural of course but it is actually an exercise which you and baby both need to practice and master. No pressure, take your time. Take all the help you can get from others so that you can focus on being with the baby most of the time and feeding your baby. The time with your baby is the only task for you.
  2. Posture of Breastfeeding : Know the good postures.

It is important to understand the positions of feeding. You never know which one suits you or your baby. Do your homework or research and read about the different feeding positions.

3. A good feeding cushion
It is optional to have a feeding cushion but to your comfort, it is quite helpful so that you can sit comfortably in the right position.

4. Feeding in public. Just do it.
Do not be afraid of feeding your baby in the public. It is kind of uncomfortable first but soon you will get used to it. If you are too shy or baby gets distracted in the public, cover with a hydrophilic cloth or any other cloth.

5. Do not look at the clock too much.
Kraamzorg suggest to feed the baby every 3 hours but baby gets hungry faster and most of the time already giving clues when sleeping. Feed them on demand is also a good method to follow or feed them when you think they are hungry.

Do you run into problems while practicing the breastfeeding. There can be different problems which can be faced during the breastfeeding exercise. These can be :

  1. Baby is not latching properly?
    Do not give up easily. It is a hard job which requires a lot of hard work. If the baby is not latching, what can you do? Of course there is a lot to do and check.
    – You can check the baby with your pediatrician on the lip or tongue ties. Take advice from pediatrician.
    – Check if baby is opening a big mouth for taking in the nipple, if not, try to use nipple shields. Medela nipple shields is one of the brand you can try on.
    Skin to Skin is important for building the bond. Get naked with the baby and give your baby a warm feeling that helps to start breastfeeding.

2. You are not producing enough milk?
Many moms worry a lot as they have a poor milk supply. Once your breast milk has come in, your breasts start to make milk through a process of ‘supply and demand’. Each time milk is removed, either by your baby feeding or by expressing, your breasts make more. Giving bottles or formula milk to the baby leads to low supply of breastmilk. In such cases follow :
Skin-to-skin contact with your baby before and during feeds stimulate the hormone oxytocin, which gets your milk flowing. Do it regularly.
Relaxation technique. It is important that you remain relaxed in such situation. Feel stressful and nervous leads to let down on the flow of the breastmilk. Listen to your favorite calming music.
Try SNS Method. Supplement nursing system helps baby to feed the formula milk or extra milk while feeding at breast. This helps in encouraging the breastfeeding.
Express milk using pumping. The more you pump and extract the milk, the better will be the supply. Remember supply and demand method.

3. Still having issues?
Call a lactation consultant. Ask your kraamzorg to help you in being in contact with the certified lactation expert. They usually come to your home. Some of the LC fees can be reimbursed from the health provider however for some, you have to pay by yourself. Check this in advance.
Follow breastfeeding forums. La Leche League is one of the popular forum on facebook or you can call them free of cost on their website or chat with them.
Take up online breastfeeding courses. Midwives usually arranges the breastfeeding courses. You can ask for a course from them during your pregnancy journey to be well prepared for the breastfeeding. or ask the lactation expert for online courses list.
Follow Youtube videos. Follow the videos and practice a lot together with your baby.

Last but not the least: involve your partner in everything. From preparing a glass of water and eating something while you feed, to handle the baby or keep out of the door of visit. In short, surround yourself with people who have faith in you and your breasts. Because if you are relaxed and well cared for, you have the peace to do that miracle work.

Buying a Kitchen for your new home?

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“My dream kitchen suits the style of my home, and also my own personal tastes as well.”

Choosing a kitchen – be it second hand or the new one and building it from scratch as per your dream is an enormous task. You will definitely love the entire the entire process of choosing all the details for your dream kitchen but when it finally comes to the expenses, it is out of your budget.

It is very important to understand different aspects of kitchen while choosing the details. Here are some great tips from us which you can utilize while deciding your dream kitchen.

  1. Measure your kitchen space
    It is very important that you know all the dimensions of your kitchen. Measure and make a floor plan of the kitchen. Double check the measurements with your advisor too. Also make sure that once you finalize the kitchen or agreed to purchase, a professional will visit your home to take the final measurements of the space before placing the order.
    Tip : Do not sign any offer unless the final measurements are done by the professional. Once you sign any papers, you are obliged to take up the kitchen you signed even if it fits or not.
  2. Do your research
    Visit a lot of showrooms to have a look at the kitchens. Think about cabinet styles, appliances, countertops, colors, overall style such as Island or U-Shape or T-shape or L-shapes kitchen. Cabinet doors with handles or without handles. Drawers or normal cabinets etc.
    Tip 1 : Drawers are convenient but very expensive. So choose wisely. Maximum expenses are related to the drawers.
    Tip 2 : Choosing 3 or 4 appliances from same company will add a huge discount on the offer. Appliances include Gas stove or induction stove, Microwave, oven or combi Oven, Refrigerator, Coffee maker, Dishwasher, Chimney outside or inside gas stove, wine fridge etc.
  3. Choose a kitchen supplier
    This is a most difficult task of choosing a right supplier. On what basis should you make this decision? Here are some points :
    – Check the quality of the kitchen with the supplier. Some have low quality cabinets supported with plastic hinges while others have the cabinets supported with steel hinges.
    – Support/Guarantee for the kitchen : find out for how many years the supplier is providing the guarantee for the kitchen.
    – Handling of complaints : How is the supplier handling the complaints once the kitchen is installed. Is it a slow support system or fast enough to understand and fix the things.
    – Review : Do not forget to have a look at the reviews of the kitchen suppliers. Ask your friends as well as on social media for the reviews of the certain suppliers.
    Tip : Some of the suppliers which comes in quick budget but with low quality kitchens are superkeukens, keukensale, keuken kampioen, keuken concurrent etc. Here you get good kitchens which fits into your budget but you also need to adjust with the quality. Also the support on the complaints is not too good. So choose wisely.
  4. Bargain on the offer
    Yes, do not think twice on the bargaining. A very important aspect before signing the contract is the bargaining on top of the offer. All kitchen suppliers in Netherlands does accept the bargain on the offer. You can go from 20% until 40% bargain on the offer. All depends upon your negotiation skills. There is a huge margin in the kitchen offers.
  5. Read the offer thrice before signing
    Do not sign any offer with the supplier unless you are sure of it. Always go through the offer again and again together with the supplier and read through the minor details of what you have chosen. Often the suppliers forget to add what yu have asked for or try to add more or different colors of minor detailing. Therefore do not be afraid of going through the offer as many times as you want.

New job in the Netherlands

So, you have a new job offer in the Netherlands – Congratulations! As an expat, grabbing a new job offer is always exciting. At the same time, there are many things to look out for especially if you have more than one offer (Amazing!!! 👏👏👏) in your hand! You need to compare them to make a decision for yourself.

Minimum salary requirement for your Visa: Many of us expats are here in the Netherlands on a specific type of residence permit (visa) – this usually means there is a minimum salary requirement. You may check the salary requirements for different types of visas at the IND website. Always check this before accepting an offer. There may be other conditions to satisfy based on the type of visa you are on – be sure to check these out also on the IND website. An example is that if you are on a Highly skilled migrant visa, your prospective employer should be a recognized sponsor by the IND.

Permanent contract or temporary contract or freelancer: If you do not have a choice, there is not much to decide. However, if you do have a choice, think about this one.

  • Permanent contract (onbepaalde tijd contract or vast contract): This is a contract with no defined end date – meaning, until you or your employer decide to end it. But there are several rules that apply before your employer can fire you. So, this is a relatively secure option. You are usually paid a fixed salary in these types of contracts.
  • Temporary contract (tijdelijk contract): This is a contract with a defined end date – usually for 6 months/1 year/2 years and if they still want to continue with you, they may offer you a permanent contract. You are usually paid a fixed salary in these types of contracts. There is another variant – the type where you are offered a permanent contract with a company (like a consultancy) but they place you at a client location for short term projects. When the project ends, your employer will search for another client location. In this case also, you are usually paid a fixed salary.
  • Freelancer (zelfstandig zonder personeel or ZZP): This is the type where you work for yourself. Just like a temporary contract, you will work at client locations for defined short period of time. You usually agree on an hourly wage – this means that you get most of what you are being billed for.
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Do you want a secure feeling about your new job? Then go for a permanent contract. Do you want to earn good money? Then go for a freelance position. Now, you may ask when there are these 2 options, why would you go for a temporary contract – this is because most employers don’t offer you a permanent contract at the beginning. They simply offer you a temporary contract for 6 months/1 year/2 years and if they still want to continue with you, they may offer you a permanent contract. There are of-course other hybrid models (midlance) which offer you best of both worlds!

30% ruling: If you are one of those lucky ones who (still) have the 30% ruling, make sure your prospective employer takes over this responsibility and passes on the benefit to you. This is usually a straightforward process – just contact your prospective employer and they should do it for you.

8% holiday allowance included or separate? The 8% holiday allowance (vakantiegeld) is mandatory for every employee in the Netherlands – so the question really is not IF you will get it but HOW is it mentioned in your salary package. Employer X may mention your monthly salary as 3000 Euros and holiday allowance is paid above that and Employer Y may mention your monthly salary as 3200 Euros including the holiday allowance. Assuming all other factors are the same, which one would you choose? This is like asking which one is greater – 90 min or 1.5 hours? 😉 Just check the details before making a decision.

Number of holidays: The standard formula for the number of holidays is 4 times the number of weekly working hours. So, if you work for 40 hours/week, you should get 160 hours (20 days) of holidays for the year. This is the minimum required by law. However, many employers offer more than this minimum. Compare them and make a decision. Employers also differ in the number of holidays you can carry forward to the next year. Some employers allow you to carry forward and some employers allow you to sell only a maximum number of holidays and there may be a minimum number of holidays you need to take in a year – else, they will lapse. Compare all these factors also before making a decision.

Pension: Every employee will accumulate mandatory state pension (Algemene Ouderdomswet or AOW). In addition to this, many employers offer a pension scheme of their own. Pension schemes can vary a lot between different employers and some employers may not offer it at all.

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Number of hours per week: This is quite straightforward but worth mentioning here. In the Netherlands, there is a lot of flexibility with respect to this– you usually can decide for yourself how many hours you want to work. Your benefits (like salary, number of holidays etc) depend on this.

Probation period: Most employers have a probation period (Proeftijd). This can range from 1 month to 2 months. During this period, the employer may decide to dismiss you without notice.

Notice period: The minimum notice period for you as an employee is one month. However, some employers may mention a longer period. Always check and compare this with other employers if you have multiple offers in hand.

Transport allowance: Unlike the holiday allowance – it is not mandatory for employers to provide travel allowance (reisaftrek) but most employers do. So, check if this is included in your contract. If you are not provided the travel allowance, you can declare your travel costs as deductible items during your annual income tax filing. Read more about this on the belastingdienst website.

Non-compete clause: This one is tricky and is really about what happens when you decide to leave this new employer. I know it sounds silly that I am already talking about what happens when this new job ends, but it an important aspect to consider before making a decision. Many employers have these clauses mentioned in their contracts. These clauses may prevent you from working for a competitor in future. If you are in a position to negotiate, try and get this clause removed!

CAO: Collective labor agreement (collectieve arbeidsovereenkomst or CAO) is an agreement for large groups of people and are generic in nature. They have the general employment conditions not specific to you. These are generally more favorable than individual contracts. Many large employers in the Netherlands have CAOs. The contents of the CAOs can differ a lot. Choosing an employer with a CAO can be more beneficial than choosing an employer without a CAO.

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Probably, there are more things to consider but I tried to cover the most important ones relevant for expats. Irrespective of which you choose, good luck with your new job! 😊

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Day-trip to the Charming Village of Schoorl, the Netherlands

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. The Covid havoc seemed to have ruined most of our lives, but as the vaccinations started to roll out, we can be hopeful to get some air to invigorate ourselves. Holding oneself behind the doors due to Covid restrictions in the Netherlands not only testifies endurance but indeed develops an obvious coveted desire to plan a perfect day trip. Once the lockdown is lifted, slowly and steadily we could try to fight the boredom by wandering through the unexplored suburbs of the Netherlands. Few months back, one of my friends suggested a beautiful village named Schoorl, the Netherlands. And we turned the wheels to the countryside in the Dutch province of North Holland- known as “Schorel” ages ago, now named Schoorl. 

Copyright by kanika Gupta

We reserved a sunny day of winters to trail chiefly through the sand dunes and embrace the turbulence on the beach. One day trip worked really well for us as we left around 9:30 and reached at 10: 20 (59 km far from our place, Amstelveen). And I would recommend it as a wonderful destination to plan a perfect day tour to get going in summers again. Before I begin my travel anywhere across the globe, I never miss carrying my face-mask, hand sanitiser and of course the snacks. Well, a long drive is in itself a boon to people working from home. For me, just the soulful music coupled with a comfort drive alongside the couple of friends add zest to the mood. Let’s find out everything we spotted enroute Schoorl, known for many enthralling campsites.

Klimduin

After parking, we marched straight away towards the Skatepark Burgemeester Haspelslaan. The great sand dune surely demanded quite a pack of energy to climb over to continue a short hiking segment. Seemed like real fun for kids who carry toy buckets and shovels to build mini structures by putting all the damp sand particles together. Crossing through the woods, we respited for a while on arrival to the partly frozen lake in the Schoorlse Duinen. 

The vicinity was picturesque and worth recording pictures. After a great forest walk, we decided to stuff our tiny tummies with the pre-cooked lunch (eating and cooking being one of the peculiar traits of all Indians). Do not forget to take the backpack of picnic sheets, snacks and water bottles. 

Following the same track forward for a few more minutes, we ended at a huge public parking near the beach. Well, boys took another reverse path to bring back the cars to beach parking. Local tourists bring their horses and mountain bikes for enjoying an enthralling ride by the sides of the north sea views. 

Duration of hike- 70 min

Distance- 3.8 Km

Level- Easy

Schoorlse Duinen
Schoorlse Duinen
Copyright by Kanika

Strand Camperduin

Copyright by Kanika

I would call it a hidden gem since this beach is not much commercialised and kept as natural as possible. The eternal landscape cuddling the curling waves of the beach, leaving behind the clear foam at your footsteps is worth enchanting. Believe me or not, I felt like having wind beneath my wings the moment I reached Strand Camperduin. 

Sunset was still a couple of hours away, so we kept hanging around. As the daylight started fading, we had a beautiful glimpse of the nightfall. The glazing golden colors shining through the beach water was spectacular. On our way, number of restaurants and cafes were opened for take away( as per the guidelines for Covid-19). There are much more activities offered around the village, but due to certain constraints, we could not avail a few of them, nevertheless it ended to be a perfect day trip. 

Copyright by Kanika

Whenever you wish to escape the crowd, plan your itinerary to Schoorl for sure. No ways that you regret it. Summers and autumn is the best time to explore this majestic village. I wish everyone a very happy and a healthy year ahead. Hope we all get the chance to enjoy summers 2021!

Note: If going by a car, set the navigation address at Heereweg 62, Schoorl. 

End year tips

What a year it has been! I think this year will be remembered as the year of Corona for a long time. We are all ready to bid good-bye to 2020, but I am here to remind you of few things to be taken care of before you close-off the year in style (at home unfortunately!!)

  1. Health Insurance: This is the only time of the year when you can switch your health insurance for the following calendar year. Check out this blog explaining how you can choose one!
  1. Tax deductions: If you are one of those rich people 😊 (earn more than 68,507 Euros per year) and you have tax deductible items like mortgage interest deduction, donations etc., this is for you. On such items, the tax deduction is lower in 2021 than in 2020. Meaning, you will get back less from the belastingdienst (Dutch tax authorities). What can you do about this? Bring your payments forward into this year rather than in 2021. Example: If you want to make a donation, make it now rather than in January and you will get a better benefit. Read more about this on the belastingdienst website.
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  1. Buying your first house: We talked about the rich people, now let’s talk about young people (younger than 35 years in 2021). If you are planning to buy your first home and satisfy a few conditions, you don’t have to pay the Overdrachtsbelasting (Transfer tax). Read about it here. What can you do about this? Wait till 2021 to do your official paperwork.
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  1. Saving on wealth tax: In the Netherlands, the assets you have as of 1st January is used to calculate the wealth tax for that year. Every year, the belastingdienst sets a tax-free limit. Assets (capital) below this limit are exempt from the wealth tax. What can you do about this? You could reduce your assets and in turn the wealth tax on them by making smart choices now in December:
    • Paying your bills and taxes: This is quite simple. Pay all your pending bills, taxes, that speeding ticket you got when you were zipping around Amsterdam etc. These are payments which you cannot avoid, so pay them now and reduce your capital rather than wait till January.
    • Extra payments to your house: After all your bills, you still have money left above the tax-free limit. If you have a mortgage on your house, consider making extra payments to the bank. Most banks accept extra payments up to 10% of the mortgage value without a penalty. This has an added benefit that your monthly payments to the bank will come down. Check with your bank on the possibilities.
  1. Take your vacation days: The way this year has been, we could not travel much, and we could take those vacation days. Most employers have policies that say a certain number of your vacation days will expire if not taken. Check your company policies and take those vacation days before they lapse.
  1. 30% ruling: For many of us impacted by the abrupt ending of the 30% ruling, this December may be the last month when this still applies. What can you do about this? Enjoy the feeling while you can and maybe set aside some money until you get used to the new normal. I know this is not really a tip, but I had to include this!

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Health Insurance

Dutch healthcare system

Dutch people are generally healthy, but you still need a healthcare system 😉.

The Dutch healthcare system is supposed to be top ranked in Europe. Basic Health Insurance is mandatory if you are living or working in the Netherlands. This covers your basic needs like doctor visits and hospital visits. This could be different from the way things work in your home country.

Registering with a General Practitioner

If you are new to the Netherlands or recently moved to a new home, this is one of the first tasks you need to do – register with a General Practitioner (huisarts) in your area of residence. You can search this website for huisarts in your area. In the Netherlands, a huisarts is your first point of contact for any health issues. If you have to reach out to a specialist, your huisarts can refer you to one of them. So, do not forget to do this very important step!

Health Insurance

Basic Health Insurance (Basisverzekering) is mandatory if you are living or working in the Netherlands. Children up to 18 years are covered under the parents policy. Health insurers are obliged to accept everyone irrespective of their age, pre-existing health conditions, gender etc. The Basic health insurance covers your everyday needs like huisarts visits, hospital stay, medicines etc. If you are healthy and do not expect to go to the doctor very often, then this is sufficient.

However, everything is not covered. This is where supplementary insurance (aanvullende zorgverzekering) comes into play. Examples are dental care for adults, physiotherapy etc. Insurers are not obliged to accept everyone; they can charge you extra based on your age or your pre-existing health condition.

Types of Basisverzekering

  • Naturapolis: This is the type where the insurer concludes a contract with most healthcare providers. However, the insurer may not conclude a contract with ALL healthcare providers. This is where insurers differ in terms of what they offer. If you visit a healthcare provider who is not contracted, you may have to pay part of the costs yourself.
  • Restitutiepolis: You have the freedom to choose any healthcare provider of your liking and you will get fully reimbursed for your costs by the insurer. The premiums for these policies are more expensive than the Naturapolis (extra freedom of choice you see…..)
  • Combinatiepolis: This is a combination policy which claims to combine the benefits of the Naturapolis and the Restitutiepolis. But in my experience, I have not seen this truly happen because what the insurers can offer in this can vary widely. Most insurers have those annoying star marks* on these policies with respect to reimbursement for non-contracted healthcare providers. Do compare every detail before you decide to choose one. This is also usually more expensive than the Naturapolis.
  • Budgetpolis: Just like airlines, health insurers also provide a budget alternative. This is the low-cost no-frills variant of the Naturapolis. You have a limited choice of healthcare providers and just like the Naturapolis, you may have to pay part of the costs yourself if you visit a non-contracted healthcare provider.

*conditions which are hard to find, read and understand (unike this one 😊)

Costs

You pay a premium (premie) for your insurance. This is usually monthly. If you choose to pay annually, many insurers offer a discount (upto 2%).

Own risk (eigen risico) is the deductible for your insurance. This is the healthcare cost you must pay yourself. The insurer pays for the costs only after this. For the Basic insurance, the government decides the amount every year. For 2021, it is 385 Euro. Here is an opportunity for another discount 😊 -> if you feel healthy and don’t expect to incur a lot of healthcare expenses, you can opt for a Voluntary deductible (vrijwillig eigen risico). This will increase your deductible by a certain amount and in return you get a discount on your premium.

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How to choose an insurance?

Firstly, think about what health related expenses you anticipate? You cannot obviously expect emergencies to happen, but you may have ‘known expenses’ – think of these. An example is a dental treatment which has been long pending – you may need aanvullende zorgverzekering for this.

Do you want complete freedom of choice with respect to healthcare providers and don’t mind a higher premium? Then go for a Restitutiepolis.

Would you rather pay a lower premium? Then think about a hospital/clinic/any other healthcare provider you are likely to visit. This is most likely in your neighborhood. Then choose a Naturapolis. Check the insurers website to see if they have a contract with this health care provider.

Ask yourself this – “Do you expect to have very less healthcare expenses?”. If the answer is yes, you should probably go for a Budgetpolis because these are the cheapest and you don’t mind their limited choice of healthcare providers. You may also opt for a vrijwillig eigen risico which will give you a discount on your premium.

You can compare different insurances on websites like independer and consumentenbond.

When can you switch?

You choose your health insurance for an entire calendar year. Every year between mid-November to end of December, all insurers make their premiums known for the following calendar year. This is the time for you to switch if you wish to.

Here’s wishing you a healthy life and hope you will never need to use your insurance 😊

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Free learning resources for Dutch

You might say there is no such thing as a free lunch, but I say there are several free ways to learn Dutch for purpose of inburgering exams. Few of them are described here.

  • Duolingo: This is a great resource for absolute beginners. There is a web version and an app for Android/IOS. Duolingo doesn’t teach you in a traditional way – meaning, you don’t start with alphabet and the sounds, but with short sentences. Even if you do not know the alphabet yet, this is still a nice way to begin. Setup a daily goal and spend 10 to 15 min every day.
  • Your local library: In many cities across the Netherlands, your local library may have some classes usually organized by volunteers to encourage expats to start learning. This is also a great way to meet new people. Just walk-in to your library and ask them.
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  • Check with your gemeente (town hall): Usually local town/city administrations have some budget to arrange classes through language institutes in your area. Just call your gemeente and find out if there are any classes and the process to enroll for them. These classes are usually arranged through good institutes, so the quality will be good – that also means there may be a waiting list before you are accepted.
  • Bart de Pau YouTube videos: Bart de Pau is a popular Dutch tutor. You can find his YouTube channel here. A special mention for his alphabet and pronunciation videos – I love them.
  • Dutch Newspapers: Now, this way might not seem interesting but let’s try and make it a bit more fun – start with just reading the advertisements and nothing else. If not anything, you atleast get to know if there is a sale going on somewhere in your neighborhood 😊. If you are an absolute beginner, this might not be the best way. But after a few weeks of Duolingo and Bart de Pau videos, you should be able to understand a few words here and there. The vocabulary used in newspapers is usually repetitive – meaning, if you start reading regularly enough, you will pick up many words automatically. There are free newspapers at train stations. You may also read news on Dutch websites if you promise not to use the ‘translate’ feature of Google Chrome 😊
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  • News on NPO: The “NOS Journaal” news on NPO is supposed to be the best Dutch spoken. There are usually free of local dialects, use simple words for easy understanding, have a clear pronunciation. This is a great way to pick up your listening skills. Even if you don’t understand everything that is being spoken, just listening to it continuously helps you register the sounds of the language (like a child imitating an adult even when the child does not understand what it means). Imitation is one of the best forms to learn a language. A tip: If you watch the news broadcast of the previous day in the NPO app on your smart device, you have an option to turn on subtitles (in Dutch, but still……). Then you can relate the pronunciation of the word to the spelling of the word.
  • Books: There are several books like ‘Kijk op Nederland’, ‘Welkom in Nederland’, ‘Nederlands in gang’ for preparation of Writing and KNM exams. If you have a membership at your local library, you should be able to borrow them for free!
  • Letters you receive at home: From the day you arrived in the Netherlands, you would have received letters in Dutch related to everything. In the beginning, you would obviously translate every single word. But slowly, you will start picking up words (one of the first words I learnt was ‘betalen’ = “to pay” because almost every other letter asked me to pay something 😊). Try and figure out the meaning of the sentence using this word and from the context – this will help you learn new words faster!

Then, there are several websites specifically aimed at practice for the inburgering exams. I have listed few of them here:

Official practice exams from DUO:

For all exams:

For KNM/KNS:

For Reading:

For Speaking:

For Writing:

Happy learning! Hope you find them useful!

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Preparing for a baby birth : What should you put into the hospital bag?

Whether you are planning to give birth at home or at the hospital, it is always good to be prepared with the hospital bag well in advance. Wherever you give birth, keep in mind you may have to go to the hospital. It is important to have necessary items in the bag for yourself, your baby and your partner. There is always a question, what should we pack for the hospital and that leads to the last minute confusions. Do not worry, we have made a handy checklist for you. The list will give you a good idea of what to bring to the hospital.

When do you start packing the bag?

The labor can start anytime after 37th week of pregnancy. So our advice is to start packing around 34th week so that the bag is ready with essential items before the labor starts. With this you have enough time that you do not forget those cute little clothes you bought for the baby.
No stress of rushing to find all the things together and forgetting half of the things will not happen. Preparing early gives you a peace of mind and let you focus on what is important : bringing your baby into this new world.

Finally Checklist

You probably have a lot on your mind right now on what to pack and what not. Here is our handy checklist with all the tips that will help you to pack better.

Documents

The most important to pack are the documents. Do not forget them at the last moment.

  • Hospital Card : Patient id card for hospital (If you going to this hospital for the first time, you will need to be in line to get the hospital card or you can do it in advance by visiting the hospital)
  • ID card (can be your resident permit or Dutch driving license or a passport)
  • Health Insurance Card
  • Birth plan (not necessary, only if you have one)

During the delivery

  • A comfortable long gown/night gown or Tshirt (upto the length of knee)
  • A bottle of water
  • distraction for you (a magazine, books, songs on smartphones whatever interests you)
  • an elastic band to tie your hair
  • Something to eat or drink

After the Delivery (for yourself)

  • Toiletries
  • Underwear and a bra (some people prefer a nursing bra, some do not prefer to wear a bra right away, its upto you)
  • Bath slippers and a bathrobe or a bath towel
  • Clean clothes or another pair of night gown (whatever you feel is comfortable)
  • A phone and Charger or a Camera (you can click the photos during and after delivery)
  • Coins for getting the wheelchair
  • plastic bag for your dirty clothes
  • Nipple shield if the baby is not latching properly for breastfeed
  • Food and drink
  • Warm socks or a shawl (only if you feel very cold)

After the Delivery (for the baby)

  • 2 pair of romper (very important to take it to hospital) – Size 50/56
  • 2 pair of full body suit for the baby is a quick choice instead of a separate top and bottom – Size 50/56
  • socks and hat – Size 50/56
  • A blanket to keep the baby warm
  • A baby car seat so you can take your baby home safely

For Partner

  • Toiletries
  • Loose or comfortable clothing
  • Towel or wash clothes
  • Book or laptop or tablet or smartphone to keep you busy
  • Snacks and drinks

What will you already get at the hospital ?

There are few essential items which are already there at the hospital. You do not have to keep them in the bag at all. These includes :

  • Diapers and wipes. Also available in delivery room as well as your room
  • Warm bottles to keep the baby warm in the baby bed
  • Bandages for yourself etc.
  • Hospital grade pump if needed
  • Formula milk if needed

Pregnancy is a wonderful time. Despite the many to-do’s and don’ts, you should enjoy it and not let yourself be stressed. With a good organization you can perform all important tasks and you have enough time to look forward to the arrival of your child. Good luck !

Tips for inburgering exams

With the news making rounds that the difficulty level of the inburgering exams may be increased from A2 to B1 in 2021, almost everyone is scrambling to complete the exams as soon as possible. And rightly so! If you can do something in A2 level, why would you want to wait till it gets to B1 level?

So, here I am to give you some tips for the Writing and Speaking inburgering exams in A2 level

Writing (Schrijven):

  • Writing exam is on paper unlike other exams (on the computer). If you are like me and think you don’t have a great handwriting, do your practice on paper rather than on the computer.
  • During your preparation, time yourself – this will help you get used to the time pressure in the exam.
  • What do they evaluate in your answers? This is called the assessment model (Beoordelingsmodel). Adequacy is the most important thing they evaluate in the exam. You can see the full assessment model in the duo website. If adequacy is not good, other things don’t matter at all (doesn’t matter if you write grammatically correct sentences that do not answer the question):
    • Write atleast 3 sentences for each exercise (opdracht), but keep it precise (not more/not less)
    • Write about everything that is asked; do not miss any point asked in the opdracht
  • During the exam, usually there is one question where you need to fill-in a form. Many people consider this the easiest because you just need to fill-in your personal details (you do remember your name, phone number, email address 😊 don’t you?). As this exam is on paper, you have your entire question paper with you – you can start in any order. Start your exam with this question because it is a great confidence booster!
  • Write short sentences as much as possible.
  • Use more of Hoofdzin (Independent sentence) and less bijzin (sentence which is dependent on the hoofdzin) as much as possible. This will avoid mistakes related to word order.
  • Usage of conjunctions (voegwoorden) gives you extra points. Use conjunctions like (en, of, want, maar, dus) rather than conjunctions like (omdat, als etc). You use the first set of conjunctions between two hoofdzins and you use the second set of conjunctions between a hoofdzin and a bijzin (This is more difficult and a possibility for mistakes related to word order).
  • Check Articles (de/het) of all words. Tip: In Dutch, majority of the words are ‘de’ words. So, when in doubt, simply use ‘de’ and the probability that it is correct is higher 😊. ‘Diminutief’ is a noun ending with -je, -tje, -mpje, -pje, -etje. These are always ‘het’ words.
  • If they mention the number of sentences in the opdracht – try and stick to it.
  • Use appropriate beginnings/endings. (Greetings – Beste, Hallo etc) and (Salutations – Met vriendelijke groet, Groetjes etc)
  • When asked, do not miss even dates and signatures – you might be wondering how this is important in a language exam, but it is about adequacy.
  • In forms to fill-in, pay attention to: [Voornaam (First Name)] (vs) [Voorletters (Initials)]. This is an easy mistake to avoid!
  • In forms to fill-in, strike through the wrong one and circle the correct one: [M (Man)] (vs) [V (Vrouw)]
  • Check eenvoud (singular)/meervoud (plural) of all words that you write. This is a common mistake that we tend to make when learning!
  • Check Tenses (present/past) of all words.
  • Write with enough space between words/lines so that there is space to make corrections if required. Again, this is useful for people like me who write something promptly and get fresh ideas later 😊 – then it is hard to fit them in if there is no space. Remember, you cannot erase (you should write with a pen and not a pencil).

Speaking (Spreken):

Before you start your exam; don’t worry!
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com
  • The assessment model (Beoordelingsmodel) for speaking is also in the above-mentioned duo website. Again, Adequacy is the most important thing they evaluate in the exam:
    • Keep it precise (not more/not less) but answer accurately; make sure it is an answer to the question and not something random
    • Speak about everything that is asked; don’t miss any point from the question
  • Try and keep the Dutch pronunciation of words which are common in English as well (Ex: goed vs good; water vs water etc)
  • Avoid repetition/stammering/re-forming the sentences; re-record if time permits
  • Try and avoid long pauses between words; re-record if time permits
  • Do not worry about an accent – it is acceptable to have a foreign accent
  • Other tips (related to grammar) mentioned for Writing are also applicable for Speaking.
After you finish your exam and following the tips 😊
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Here are some common topics to prepare:

During your preparation, think of the below topics and come up with example (simple) answers. If you get a similar question in the exam, you shouldn’t be searching for ideas at that time. This will help you for both Writing and Speaking exams:

  • About your favorite restaurant
  • About your favorite dish/fruit/vegetable
  • What did you do in the weekend?
  • About your favorite city
  • About your last vacation
  • About the weather
  • About your favorite activity to stay healthy
  • About your house/job/family/city/country
  • About your hobby
  • Introduce yourself
  • Describe your problem to the doctor
  • Describe the route to your house

Good luck with your exams!

I learnt most of these tips during my preparation and some of them from my experience of the exams. Hope you find them useful!

Leave a comment if you have a question. Hit the Like button if you liked the article!

How to Schedule a First Dental Visit in the Netherlands?

Well said: ‘Life is short. Smile when you still have teeth’. And, if you don’t have them, do not worry! The dentist can rebuild your smile and confidence back again. So, now you can say, though life is short, yet we can make it happier, healthier and grand.

Your mouth reflects your awareness about healthy eating and cleaning habits. Remember my friends that you are working everyday hard to eat deliciously good food and relish every bit of your meals. And all this is made possible by your teeth and supporting structures of the oral cavity. Is it not your duty to provide a simple careful concern to keep them bacteria free? Save your pennies by consulting a dentist at an early stage when prevention could be possible or else you may end up draining your pockets paying for expensive dental treatments later. So, call your dentist and arrange your first dental visit before it hurts too much.

Unrecognizable crop dentist in latex gloves examining teeth of patient in clinic
Source: pexels.com

Try to  control the number of harmful microbes in your mouth by brushing twice a day, flossing or using interdental brushes. Because increased oral bacterial load might push microbes to your digestive or respiratory tract if not taken an active care of. Also let me tell you that your baby’s milk teeth are as important as the permanent ones. It’s a misnomer that they will fall out soon so need not to be worry about. If milk teeth are ignored then how can you expect the permanent teeth to be perfect? They will either pop out of place or may have malformed enamel( white or brown spots on successor teeth). Be a proactive parent, don’t be among ones who bring their kid when they notice an oral swelling or pus discharge.

toddler boy in highchair
Source: unsplash.com

If you experience sleepless night due to agonizing toothache in the Netherlands, try to reach out to the registered dentists (called ‘tandart/ tandartsen’ in Dutch) as soon as possible. Dutch dentists(KNMT affiliated) are experts not only in sense of work expertise, but also in delivering an atmosphere of ease and comfort in communication and understanding their patient’s health. Moreover, standard dental hygiene and sterilization protocols are adopted strictly in every practice for your safety. Find out how to schedule a first dental visit.

woman in black tank top holding white textile
Source: unsplash.com

First time visit to Dentist?

You can look for the dentist that is accessible from your home or work and book an appointment on call or online by sharing a few details for registration like name, date of birth, address and BSN number(citizen service number). Tandarts.nl allows you to find the best dentist based on your search requirements by distance, specializations or review ratings of patients. Searching for a dentist by zip code also makes it easy to access a nearby practice. For the first appointment, a dental practice books you as an ‘intake’ during which they examine your mouth and make digital diagnostic x- rays/ pictures( bite wings). Then, discuss the necessary treatments and their cost with their patients.

woman holding medical tool on person's mouth
Source: unsplash.com

What do you need to carry while going to a dentist?

Carry your insurance card and a valid identity proof (just in case if asked for) when walking to the practice for the first time. On arrival, you are requested to fill a consent form and medical history. And now during Covid-19, dental staff asks you to wear a mouth/nose mask and lets you rinse your mouth with 1% Hydrogen peroxide for 1 minute. Find out how safe is it to visit a dentist during the pandemic. Usually the practices forward you the invoice letter by post within 2 weeks and you get definite period of time to make necessary payments.

  • Dental Insurance

A compulsory basic health insurance(basisverzekering) does not cover a few treatments and dental costs so you can choose optional supplemental insurance plans(aanvullende verzekering) as per your requirements. The dental insurance packages usually cover 100% reimbursement of your dental costs up to 250 euros yearly for consultations(controle), fillings, Extraction of teeth( extractie), Anesthetics(Anesthetica), dental surgeries(tandheelkundige ingrepen), pictures and cleanings(Mondhygeine) and 75% for other dental treatment. The good news is for children under 18 years whose general dental treatment costs are covered under Dutch basic health insurance and there is no deductible(www.zorgwijzer.nl). The allowances for children and young adults below 18 years of age include:

  • Gum treatments(tandvlees behandeling)
  • Fillings or restorations( Vullingen)
  • Treatment of jaw disorders(Behandeling van kaakaandoeningen) except implants( implantaten)
  • Surgical dental treatment(chirurgische tandheelkundige behandeling)
  • Removable prosthetic device
  • Root canal treatment(wortelkanaalbehandeling)
  • Occasional consultations(consultaties)

However orthodontics, crowns and bridges, implants, partial dentures and external bleaching for children are not covered by the basic insurance. Most expats opt international health insurance companies like Allianz Care and Cigna Global that provide dental coverage as well. Orthodontic treatment (teeth alignment using braces or aligners) lasts for 2-3 years and may cost upto 2k-3k euros, so it’s advisable to take additional insurance to claim reimbursement.Out of almost 60 insurance companies, Achmea is one of the most distinguished market leader with around 5 million insurance parties. It is an umbrella organization with many insurance companies like Zilveren Kruis(mostly chosen by expats).

Cost of dental treatments

Although the dental clinics in The Netherlands are privatized, the prices of dental services are regulated by government or Dutch Health Authority (NZa/De Nederlandse Zorgautoriteit) , so you cannot expect any negotiation, as the cost of each procedure is pre-defined and reasonably fixed( though sound justifiably too overpriced for expats). For comparing the rates you can visit dental rates 2020. The plan for costs of dental services changes once yearly as of 2020 came into effect on 1st January and will expire on 1st January 2021.

List of emergency dental clinics in the Netherlands

red and white massage chair
Source: unsplash.com

Not all dental clinics provide 24/7 services but few of them enlisted here provide round’ O clock treatment hours.

  • Lassus Tandartsen in 3 locations in Amsterdam is an expat oriented practice.
  • Opening hours- 7 days a week with special evening hours( including public holidays). 
  • Dental365 in Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam. Tandartsen Post 010 in in Erasmus MC (managed by the chain of Dental365 network) delivers first aid( Immediate relief for toothache) in Rotterdam.
  • Mondzorg Poli in Amsterdam and Utrecht. 
  • In Nijmegen, Villa Westhof Dental Surgery 
  • At the OLVG Hospital, Tandarts Spoed Praktijk is collaboration of dental team, pharmacy, general practitioners, emergency services, and dental surgeons. 
  • The International Health Centre of The Hague offers emergency services during weekends and holidays but treatment is requested to be paid in cash; a premium on the regular dental rates applies. 
  • If you are not satisfied with any of the dental services or you develop a sense of doubt on treatment, budget, bill or the dentist, you can simply send your query to TIP( Dental information point) or even file a complaint if needed. Questions about the reimbursement can only be enquired from your health insurers.