How to Be Smart with Healthcare and Housing in the Netherlands
New to the Netherlands? Well, welcome aboard. Read up to find out some additional tips on how to better settle down in the Netherlands, and particularly in Apeldoorn. These are useful tips based on my own experiences and that of my friends.
Are you thinking of moving out of the accommodation provided by Wittenborg? If you are, my advice is, start searching early. It’s not easy to rent a room or a flat at low price. Even if there is, it might be a little bit far from Wittenborg campuses, so you might have to take a bus or train – which, by the way, can add to your transportation costs. Frankly speaking, transportation cost is quite high in the Netherlands and students don’t even get discounted fares. So, choose wisely the area of your new accommodation.
If you’ve already got your own rental flat, congratulations. But do you know that you can get rental allowance from the tax department? Yes, that’s right, you can get your money back. The Dutch government helps starters, students and people with low income with a monthly rent allowance. Not many people know that international students can apply for rent allowance. I didn’t know either, until I read about it somewhere in the internet and I called the department to inquire more about it. The Dutch tax authorities website published a list of conditions that one must comply with before being granted the rent allowance.
Firstly, it has to be a self-sufficient home with bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, which means student houses like FSG do not count. Other conditions are that you must be 18 years old or older, you’re renting it independently (not through the university) with a legally-signed contract, the address is registered at the municipality, you have a valid Dutch residence permit and your rent, income and capital do not exceed certain limits. How much can you get? It really depends on the rent, your income (if you have one) and your savings, so it’s really a case-by-case basis. Visit the website or talk to somebody from the department. Do be forewarned though that if your financial situation or the amount of rent changes, you have to inform the department immediately or you can be fined - and trust me, the fine can really be hefty.
Are you looking for jobs to supplement your income? Well, to be honest, it is not that easy to get a job here in Apeldoorn unless you can speak fluent Dutch. However, if you have already found a job, take note that you have to stop your AON student insurance and get a new insurance called the Dutch basic healthcare Insurance (basisverzekering). It doesn’t matter how much you earn, whether you work part-time or if it’s only an internship. You have to get a new insurance, or you will be fined. I have a friend who was fined more than 400 Euros for failure to take up the new insurance.
Getting a new insurance is a bit tricky and expensive (more than €100 per month), so spend some time to read up on the procedures, types of insurance and also to choose the best service provider that can cater to your health needs but doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket.
A Little Help with Healthcare
However, the good news is that you can also apply for healthcare allowance (zorgtoeslag) from the tax department. Yes, you’ve read it correctly - another allowance by the generous Dutch government, in addition to the rental allowance. And yes, international students can apply too. After you’ve signed up with the new insurance provider, inform the university to stop your AON insurance (and get back refund for the unpaid months) and then apply for healthcare allowance through the tax website. Do apply early because they take about 5 - 10 weeks to process and approve your application. But all the trouble will definitely be worth it as, depending on your monthly income, you can get back more than half of your monthly insurance premium.
Look after your Health
Food is another important topic for international students. If you are living on a budget, home-cooking is always cheaper and cleaner than buying outside, ready-made food. Avoid snacking too much (I know it’s difficult to avoid the myriad of cheap snacks in the stores) or you’ll run the risk of putting on weight within a few months. Furthermore, it’s a health-risk because prepared or processed foods are laden with preservatives and chemicals. Choose fruit and vegetables over chips, chocolates, sweet jams or donuts. Yoghurt, honey and milk are healthy and nutritious too.
On an end note, always, always take care of your health. Drink lots of water, despite the cold weather, and keep warm always. Falling sick is not an option and doctor’s fees are expensive. So, do take care of yourself because you need to stay healthy to study and do well.
by Hanna Abdelwahab
© Wittenborg University Press
Living in the Netherlands