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.

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! 😊

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

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.
Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels.com
  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!

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

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 😊

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
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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
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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
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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. 

Steps involved in buying a home in the Netherlands

Hey “An almost proud owner of a home” 😊. Good to see you here! This blog is to explain the steps involved in buying an existing property in the Netherlands. If you are still thinking if you should buy a property or not, do check out my other blog which explains why you should buy with a mathematical example.

So, here we go:

  1. Deciding on the type of property: Do you want an apartment or a house away from the city center or a house in a historical city center? Are you someone who loves gardening? Then maybe you want a house with a garden. Are you someone who loves the waterside? Then, maybe you are looking for canal house. Different people have different wishes – when I say different, I also mean wife and husband 😊. Decide together on what exactly are your wishes. Believe me, this takes more time than you can imagine, so start early!!!! I suggest start looking for properties in your area even if you have no intention to buy that house. This will give you an idea on the different types of properties available and will also give you a clarity on what you don’t want (let’s be honest, when you visit a house, you will mostly spot things which you don’t like – that’s just how our mind works).
  1. Deciding on a neighborhood (buurt): Deciding a city/town where you want to live is one thing. Then you also need to decide on a neighborhood you would like to live. Do you want to live in lively neighborhood bustling with shops/cafes or would you rather live in a quiet neighborhood near a park/lake? Do you perhaps want to live in an area where there is a (international) school? Or something close to public transport? This website shows the liveability of your area. Many cities/towns also have their own websites. Just Google for your city name+ buurtmonitor for information about your city.
  1. Determine your budget: You would most likely need a loan to purchase a house (unless of course you are super rich). So, how much can you borrow from a mortgage lender? This depends mainly on your income and a few other factors. You can make a free first appointment with most mortgage lenders and they will give you an estimate of how much you can borrow. But this can take a lot of time if you have to visit 2 or more mortgage lenders and it will also be difficult to compare them. This is where a Mortgage advisor (hypotheek adviseur) plays a role. The Mortgage advisor can give you quotations from multiple mortgage lenders and also compares them for you. A mortgage (hypotheek) is formally arranged after you have signed the preliminary purchase agreement. However, it is important to make sure you have already investigated your mortgage options and budget.
  1. Looking for a property: You can start looking for a property yourself by using websites like funda, pararius etc. or you can engage a real estate agent (makelaar). Now, you might have a question as to why you should engage a makelaar when you could do it yourself for free? There are some advantages of engaging a makelaar for a fee (there is no such thing as a free lunch 😊):
    • they have early or sometimes even exclusive access to houses which are going on sale.
    • they know the local market and help with negotiation and or the bidding process.

Makelaars have different payment models. Some of them charge a variable fee (% of the house value), some of them charge based on the number of properties you visit before you make a decision and some of them charge you a fixed fee. Do explore your options and agree with them on a payment model before engaging them.

  1. Zero-down on a property: This is of course the most important step. You find a property which you like. Now, what are the things to keep in mind?
    • How do you know if the seller is quoting a fair price for the house? For a small fee, you can get the recent property sale prices per address from kadaster. This gives you an idea about how the asking price of the house compares to recent sales in the neighborhood.
    • Check if the property has ground lease rent or leasehold (erfpacht): In cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht, it is common to find houses with a leasehold – meaning, you don’t own the land on which the house is built, instead you pay a lease amount (erfpachtcanon) to the owner of the land. There can be municipal leasehold or private leasehold. If the property you are interested in is a leasehold property, the seller must inform you about this.
    • Structural survey: You would want to know what the state of the property is before you buy it. Not all faults might be visible to the naked eye. This is where a Structural or Technical survey can help. An independent surveyor can do an assessment of the property and provide you with a detailed report and an estimate of how much repair costs might be (if any).
  1. Bidding and making an offer: It is time to negotiate or bid and make an offer. In some cases, you might be able to negotiate on the asking price. In an ideal word, you wouldn’t want to pay more than the asking price. But with the current demand-supply situation in the Netherlands, there are often multiple prospective buyers for any property. This simply means the highest bidder will be chosen by the seller. Your makelaar can help you decide what is the right amount to bid. When placing a bid, keep in mind that the mortgage lender will give you a loan only for a certain amount. This amount depends on the taxatierapport (explained later).
  1. Sign the purchase agreement: Yay!!! Your bid has been accepted. Finally, things are starting to fall in place 😊 The seller’s makelaar usually prepares the preliminary purchase agreement (koopovereenkomst). It is called preliminary because this is not the formal handover of the property to you (this happens later through a Notary). Make sure the following are covered before you sign it:
    • financing clause: simply means that if you cannot get your mortgage approved, you can withdraw without any penalty
    • structural survey clause: if you are not happy with the Structural survey results, you can withdraw without any penalty
    • The date of transfer of ownership: this is the actual date of the formal handover at the Notary (just can’t wait for this date……😊). Make sure you have enough time between now and the date of transfer of ownership so that you can approach a mortgage lender and arrange your funds.

You will need to pay 10% of the agreed price to the seller’s notary when you sign the purchase agreement. This serves as a deposit. You can get a bank guarantee (waarborgsom) for this if you cannot arrange the funds yourself.

From this point on, the timer has started (tick, tick, tick………).

  1. Valuation report (taxatierapport): This is an appraisal of the property done by an independent valuer (taxateur). You will need this report to approach a mortgage lender for a loan. In 2020, the mortgage lender can offer you a maximum mortgage of 100% of the value on this taxatierapport (not on the asking price or your bid price). The validation institute  NWWI must have validated the report.
  1. Preparing your mortgage application: Reach out to your mortgage advisor/mortgage lender for a loan with all the required documentation (includes your income details, taxatierapport etc). You will be informed of the outcome (hopefully approval 😊) in a few weeks. You can avail tax deductions on the interest paid (hypotheekrenteaftrek). During your mortgage application process, your lender will inform you about the mandatory insurances you need to take.
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  1. At the notary (notaris): The big day has arrived! This is the day you are formally going to be the owner of the property. The makelaar and the mortgage advisor usually accompany you (so you have some men behind you 😉). If you don’t speak/understand Dutch, you will also need a translator. Arrange for a translator prior to your appointment with the notary. In my case, I felt like I had an army behind me 😊 (makelaar, mortgage advisor, translator, my wife and myself). Fun fact: Usually notary deals in the Netherlands happen either on the 1st or the 15th of a month. So, these 2 days are extremely busy for makelaars and translators. What exactly happens at the notary:
    • First, you and the seller sign the Deed of Transfer (Leveringsakte) and the seller hands-over the keys to you (Photo moment 😊). This deed explains about transfer of ownership, the agreed purchase price and other details.
    • Then you sign the Mortgage Deed (Hypotheekakte). This deed explains the agreement between you and the mortgage lender, the amount of loan given to you etc.
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  1. In your home: Welcome home 😊. By far, the most exciting step!!! You have made it this far by going through a hell lot of paperwork (mostly in Dutch)! Don’t forget to pop a champagne and celebrate!
  1. Arranging your utilities: You have to arrange providers for your utilities like electricity, gas, water. You might want to check out this blog about how to choose a Utilities provider.

Costs involved (buyer’s costs usually amount to around 6% of the purchase price) and can include:

  • Transfer tax (Overdrachtsbelasting): This is the transfer tax that you as a buyer pay when you purchase an existing property (bestaande woning). Current situation is that you pay 2% of the purchase price. Starting 2021, this will be zero for first-time buyers under the age of 35. You can read all about it here (in Dutch)
  • The costs of your makelaar (if applicable) [around 1.5% of the purchase price]
  • The fee of your Mortgage advisor [around 3000 Euro to 4000 Euro]
  • (or)
  • The Mortgage processing fee of the lender (if applicable) [around 1000 Euro to 1500 Euro].
  • Notary costs [around 1000 Euro to 2000 Euro]
  • Valuation (Taxatierapport) costs [around 300 Euro to 800 Euro]
  • The bank guarantee costs (if applicable) [around 1% of the guarantee amount]
  • The costs of a structural survey (Bouwkundige Keuring) (if applicable) [around 300 Euro to 800 Euro]
  • Translator fee (if applicable) [around 200 Euro]
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Some of these costs (Notary cost, Valuation cost, Mortgage advisor cost) are tax deductible. So, all is not over….you get back something too!

Personally, I felt a sense of accomplishment after I bought my home. It is a long process to buy a home but well worth investing your time and effort! Good luck!

The explanation mentioned here is purely from my own experience. It is not to be taken as professional advice.

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

Why should you consider buying a home in the Netherlands

You’ve been living in the Netherlands for a few years now and you have started to think long term. How about buying a property in the Netherlands? It sounds simple, but it is not an easy decision to make! But it can be beneficial to you. Let me explain how.

Renting vs buying: For most of us expats, in the beginning renting is an obvious choice. But a question you need to ask yourself is: How long do you intend to stay in the Netherlands? If the answer is anything more than 3 years, then you should consider buying instead of renting. Let’s take a layman’s example: For an 70 m2 apartment outside the city center (centrum), you typically pay a rent between 1000 Euros to 1500 Euros per month (sorry, need to exclude you Amsterdam as you are too expensive for this example) depending on the city you live in. Best case scenario, 1000 Euros per month, that is a whopping 36,000 Euros for 3 years – this is money you are throwing-away – you will never get this money back. On the other hand, if you buy the same apartment worth about 350,000 Euros (again, you won’t get it for this price in Amsterdam, but in a smaller city perhaps), you would pay a monthly amount to the bank (via a mortgage). And guess what, the monthly amount will look very similar to your monthly rent and in many cases, even cheaper than your monthly rent. There are different types of mortgages available, but in most cases, your monthly amount will have a principal component and an interest component. The interest component is the throw-away part but the principal component is actually your investment. You will get this back in the form of your house in a few years. While you are still paying the 36,000 Euros out of your pocket in a period of 3 years, only the interest component of this is throw-away and the rest is yours. Oh, another thing – the interest is tax deductible, so you get back some money from the belastingdienst (Dutch tax authority). Yippie! 😊

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Now, let’s say you want to move out of the Netherlands (why-o-why do you want to do that!!! but anyways…..) after 3 years of buying your house. Don’t worry, you have options – you can either rent it out (if you have an outstanding mortgage, you need permission from your bank) or sell it. If the housing market has crashed and your apartment is worth only 330,000 Euros now (worst case scenario) and you still have an outstanding mortgage of 314,000 Euros (350,000 minus 36,000) with the bank. When you sell the apartment, the bank takes the outstanding balance (314,000 Euros) and gives you the rest 16,000 Euros (330,000 minus 314,000). So, you would have paid a net amount of 20,000 Euros over a period of 3 years (36,000 minus 16,000). Despite the market crash, this is still better than the 36,000 Euros you would have thrown-away in case of renting! I have not elaborated on other scenarios like renting it out and I don’t have to show you the numbers if the house prices have appreciated – it will only be more beneficial to you!

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Phew!!! We did some number crunching, but in the end, even a market crash did not impact you so badly… so that’s a relief indeed. I am not a finance guy, so the example taken here is a simple one with a worst-case scenario. If you look at the actual mortgage formulae, the calculations are more complex, but the idea is the same! I have excluded Amsterdam for this example, but the calculations will look similar even for Amsterdam (just append an extra zero to every number you see here 😉)

If you have read the article till here, I am convinced that you are convinced to buy instead of rent 😊

If you need more reasons to buy, here are a couple:

  1. All-time low interest rates – the mortgage interest rates are going down and down and down and doooooown. They are in search of that zero, I guess!
  2. If you are turning 35 in 2021 or later, this is for you 😊. Overdrachtsbelasting is the transfer tax that you as a buyer pay when you purchase an existing property (bestaande woning). Current situation is that you pay 2% of the purchase price. Starting 2021, this will be zero for first-time buyers under the age of 35. The Dutch government wants to encourage young first-time buyers. This can be a substantial saving. You can read all about it here (in Dutch). Overdrachtsbelasting is not applicable if you buy a newly built property (nieuwbouw)

Check out my next blog on the steps to buy an existing property.

The examples and explanation mentioned here are purely from my own experience. The examples are not to be taken as professional advice.

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

Is It Safe To Visit A Dentist During The Corona Pandemic?

Unlike Dutch nationals, expats might not visit oral health practices too often for routine dental care as the treatment costs sound sky high, unless insured. However, if someone suffers an intense pain in tooth or gums, then you are not left with a choice but to consult a dentist. And now with the Corona virus into the bargain, everyone across the globe is so skeptical about visiting general/dental care centers. During the time when the active Corona cases are increasing daily in the Netherlands, staying cautious is the safety mantra. Well, considering the fact that dentist needs to work in an intimate contact with the patient and in an aerosol generating environment which could be a possible threat, it’s quite obvious to enter a state of dilemma of whether to visit the dentist or not. Not to worry friends, if it’s urgent don’t hesitate to run to the nearest dental practice. I have seen Dutch natives and many expats from everywhere across the world actively making their appointments for simple dental procedures like scaling and polishing(mondhygiene) and a routine check- up(controle) or follow- ups. Though it may seem strange to us but we need to get over the fear of nosocomial infections. All we need to do is follow the Corona Guidelines sincerely anywhere we go. In fact, I would say that it is more safe in a dental atmosphere than in a grocery shop or supermarkets. Have you heard of any Corona case transmission through a dental practice? I guess, no. Isn’t it commendable that despite a close contact work and a high- risk category, dental staff makes sure that the highest level of disinfection protocols are being followed at every cost. As the health safety is of utmost importance, the Dutch Dental Associations(ANT, KNMT) have come up already with strict guidelines to make sure that the preventive measures against corona are effectively put into action to keep up the good standards of hygiene for both the clients and employees. So you need not to be anxious while going out for a dental treatment, it is completely safe. Find out how safe is it to visit a dentist during the Corona pandemic.

Corona safety measures taken in a dental practice

  • A general telephonic enquiry about the Corona/flu symptoms and travel history is made thoroughly by the dental staff before scheduling any appointment.
Man in White Crew Neck T-shirt Holding Stay At Home Sign
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  • Patients are requested to arrive 5 minutes before the appointment. If they arrive too early and no seat is available, they need to wait outside/car.
  • Use of special door posters with corona measures for better understanding and awareness are pasted.
Door posters with the Corona Measures (with English translation)
  • Waiting rooms are arranged such that 1.5m distance is maintained between the patients if more than one arrives at the same time. A demarcation line is drawn to ensure safe distance during conversation between a dentist and patient.
  • Patients are advised to come alone as much as possible
  • Everyone entering the practice (oral care professionals, patients or others) need to wash their hands with soap and water or disinfectant(hand alcohol) and are not allowed to touch unnecessarily mobile phones, door handles or any stuff around. .
  • Hand shakes are avoided.
  • 1% hydrogen peroxide is used to rinse the patient’s mouth for 1minute prior to any aerosols treatment procedure to decrease the bacterial pressure. Rubber dam use is mandatory.
  • Every dental equipment or materials used are disinfected with 80% alcohol or sterilized using an autoclave after each use. Disposable cleaning stuff is brought in use as much as possible.
  • Dental staff use hand gloves, nose and mouth mask, water proof face shields for protection.
  • Door handles, card transaction machine, wash basins, chairs and tables are cleaned from time to time daily.

What if you are infected with the Coronavirus but need urgent dental care?

If you are corona positive and suffer toothache or any severe dental related problem that needs urgent care, you can receive a referral from the dentist to visit the CAM (Corona Centre for Acute Dental Care). Also dentists might not accept clients over the age of 65 to maintain safety as they are a risk category. A special department for that is established in the hospital, if elderly are in need for dental treatment.

The cross-infection protocols in the Netherlands are always amongst the most strict in Europe.

Public Transport in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is a compact country – which means you can reach any corner of the country within a few hours. Coming from a vast country myself, I know how useful it can be to be able to reach anywhere within a few hours! What better way to explore this beautiful country than using public transport? This post is to explain about how Public transport works in the Netherlands. First things first – if you are in a new Dutch city and you are looking to get back home, all you need is a smartphone because there is free WiFi in almost all train and bus stations (and in most trains and buses as well – that’s a bonus).

Types of public transport available

Like many other European countries, there are several modes of public transport available in the Netherlands – Train for long distance travel, Bus, Metro, Tram and sometimes Ferry for short intra-city travel. So, you might be wondering how long is “Long” in the Netherlands?? One of the longest train rides in the Netherlands is from the student city of Groningen to the harbor town of Vlissingen which takes about 5 hours.

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How does public transport work?

The Dutch public transport system is integrated and well connected. You can easily switch between different modes of transport to reach your end destination. Unless you are making a one-off journey (believe me, you wouldn’t want to stop with just one journey in this beautiful country 😊), it is highly recommended to get an ov-chipkaart for public transport travel. This is a smart card which can be used across all types of public transport. With this, you don’t have to worry about buying individual tickets anymore. I started using this smart card from the very first day I arrived in the Netherlands but did not realize what ‘ov’ stands for until recently. It simply means openbaar vervoer (Public transport in Dutch). Quite obvious if you understand a bit of Dutch 😊

There are 2 types of ov-chipkaarts available – personalized and anonymous. If you like to admire yourself every time you use public transport, then personalized is the one for you because it has your photo on it! Jokes aside, there are other advantages of going for a personalized ov-chipkaart because you can get it blocked if you happen to lose it. Both of them cost 7.5 Euro. You need to top it up with a minimum amount before you can travel. You can register your card on ov-chipkaart website here to track your travel, check your balance etc. The minimum amount you need to have on your card differs per type of public transport – for train without any subscription, you will need 20 Euro, for most other public transport, you will need 4 Euro. The actual fare depends on how far you travel.

If you must buy an individual ticket, you can buy these in train, metro stations and bus/tram tickets directly on the bus/tram with the driver/conductor. Some companies accept cash, but some of them don’t. Always make sure you have a Dutch debit card for easy purchases. Individual tickets are generally more expensive than using the ov-chipkaart.

How to travel from A to B?

Your ultimate travel planner in the Netherlands is 9292. You can also download this app on your iOS, Android. This is integrated with all the public transport types/companies in the Netherlands and it shows you the best possible routes to reach your destination.

There are several public transport companies operating in different regions of the Netherlands, but if you use this app, you don’t have to worry about which company operates in your region. Simply key-in the details and off you go!

NS season tickets for regular travel

NS (Nederlandse spoorwegen) is the national train company. If you travel by train regularly (for example to work), you can opt for a NS season ticket (abonnement) depending on your route and distance of travel. There are several season tickets available and they are described in the NS website.

Kortingen

What is a Korting (en)? It means discount in Dutch. It is one of the first Dutch words I learnt (for obvious reasons 😉). If you are travelling together with another person who has a valid NS season ticket, you can get a 40% korting on your travel during non-peak hours (daluren). Again, the NS website explains which season ticket has this feature. This is called the joint journey discount (samenreiskorting). You can apply for this at a NS kiosk in any train station. This short video explains how to do it.

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Other ways to get cheap tickets

If you do not have a season ticket, for one-off long-distance travels there several other ways to find cheap NS day tickets (dagkaart). You can find these deals here. Popular supermarkets/departmental stores like Albert Heijn, Kruidvat, Hema often have these deals. NS also has deals sometimes during the year. Keep checking these links often as most deals are for a limited time only.

Another great way to travel for cheap during non-peak hours is the NS group tickets. You need a group of 4 or more people to avail this discount. If you are travelling with less than 4 people, here is a tip for you: there are several Facebook groups (search for NS group tickets) just to find a travel companion. Simply join a group, find your companion in the same route, and make a new friend 😊

Ov-fiets

After finding your way through all the Kortingen and other cheap tickets, you buy a ticket and finally arrive at your destination train station. For the last leg of your journey, to make your travel a little exciting why not bike to your end destination? Ov-fiets is the rental bike offered by NS. The ov-fiets is available for rent in almost all train stations across the Netherlands. You need to add a season ticket to your personalized ov-chipkaart to be able to use this.

If you would rather use your own bike, it is of course possible to carry it in the train for an extra fee.

Leave a comment if you have a question or would like anything else to be added.

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