Planning for a stress-free move to the Netherlands

The prospect of moving abroad and starting a new life in the Netherlands should be an exciting one. But for many, this excitement is tempered by feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. There may be a million questions flying through your head: Are we making the right decision? _ What if the children don’t enjoy school? What if we get homesick? Will we survive the Dutch winters? Or, worst of all, “I don’t know how to cycle.”

We spoke to Elizette Nel, of Expat Relocation & Immigration Services , to discuss the emotional ups and downs of relocating to a new country. As an educational psychologist and expat herself Elizette has a thorough understanding of both the practical and emotional strains that moving abroad can take – particularly for those with children. 

In this blog post we cover Elizette’s five areas to consider to manage stress when moving abroad. 

 

1) Clarify your expectations

There are a multitude of reasons for moving to the Netherlands, as Elizette explains: “It could be a decision based on career, such as a new job or a promotion. Perhaps you want better opportunities for your children. Some people do it for love while others are looking to leave behind environments affected by violence and crime.

With all these different motivations, Elizette firmly believes that one should be honest with yourself and clarify your reason or reasons for taking such a bold step. When things become difficult, it is important to hold on to your personal motivations to carry you through. Also think about your expectations of the move. Are they realistic, or one-sided? Always try to find a balance between the positives and the negatives. 

You further need to clarify how long are you expecting to stay. Are you seeing the Netherlands as a permanent home? Or just for a couple of years? Some people want to sell everything and make a clean start, while others want to know that they can always go back if things don’t work out and this actually helps them to take risks and adapt. 

“Every move is different, and every person’s motivations are different. You can never compare your move or decisions to anyone else’s. You need to choose what’s right for you, and other people can never criticize the decisions you make. That’s why asking yourself these personal questions about your motivations and expectations is such an important  first step in your relocation journey.

 

2) Practical planning

There are numerous practical elements to moving abroad – and this can be quite intimidating. “Some people like lists, and others want to just go with the flow. But in a situation like this, a complex situation, it’s important that you spend time sitting down and deciding what needs to be done, and when.”

“There’s a real satisfaction from having a list of worries, and ticking them off. It helps to give you a sense of control during what can be a very scary and uncertain process.”

As Elizette points out, there are many elements you can take control of. Contacting the relocation company, speaking to the school, planning your furniture, etc. Elizette believes that it’s important to give yourself as much time as possible to prepare. But there is also one area that is commonly overlooked. 

“The process of saying goodbye is often forgotten. You need to find closure with a chapter of your life. It’s important you spend time arranging events or calls with your friends and family. Furthermore, if you have children, you need to give them this same privilege. Give them the option of a party with their friends, or something more 1:1 – give them control in how they say goodbye.”

 

3) Moving with children

“Children in these situations can have a challenging time. They often lack control and transparency. But children, no matter what age, can detect stress and it can have a profound impact. Perhaps they see people crying, or items being packed. What’s more, children have the capacity to imagine a much worse outcome then is reality.”

Elizette believes that parents must consider how and when they are going to tell their children. “I think it’s unfair to ask children to keep a secret such as this from friends and family – this can create a tremendous pressure on them. They, like all of us, have a need to discuss the situation with others and start coming to terms with change. So try to tell them at a time when you have also informed those around you.”

Just like the task list mentioned above, similar approaches can be given to help children feel more in control of their future. “For smaller children, who often don’t have a very good concept of time, having a calendar that they can tick off is an excellent way to give them a better understanding of the approaching move.”

“For others, it could be setting dates to sort out their bedroom, involving them with packing and giving them the ability to choose  their favorite items they want to bring. It could also involve giving them ownership of decisions such as: who can have the toys and books I cannot take with? 

For older children, they can be more closely involved in logistics. “Involve them in the research for what school they will be going to, and how the Dutch school system differs from the one they are currently following.”

“Ultimately, it’s about finding a balance. Don’t pretend that it’s going to be a walk in the park, but give them things to look forward to – whether it’s cycling to school, not wearing school uniform, learning a new language or seeing snow for the first time. ”

 

4) Find the right home

When searching for a home Elizette says the most important thing to consider is your family’s lifestyle. “Do you enjoy walks in the park? Or going to the beach? These are all factors that need to be considered. While some people love the vibe and liveliness of the  city, others need more freedom and large spaces.”

“Commuting is also an important element to consider. If you’re moving from London, then the prospect of a two hour commute seems fairly normal. But in the Netherlands, there is no need for this.. You’ve got the opportunity to reduce your commute drastically, and less time commuting means more time for things that add value to your life. 

Elizette acknowledges that finding a property while still overseas is extremely difficult, but definitely not impossible.  If you decided to rent first  working with a rental broker means you can secure a property, in an area you desire, before you arrive. Not being under pressure to look for a house while settling into a new job and finding your feet in a new country is priceless. For those looking to buy it’s best to be there in-person. 

“One final warning, regarding temporary accommodation. Most local town halls don’t allow you to register using a temporary  address. As such you won’t be able to obtain a BSN number, bank account or many other elements that you would ideally have as soon as possible.” 

 

5) Don’t be afraid to ask for help

“Relocating to a new country is a huge task, but the good news is that there’s lots of support available for those who are happy to ask for it. Social media forums like Facebook can be very supportive and informative. And people are generally very generous with their advice and offers for help. Often, friendships are forged even before you arrive in the Netherlands.

However, Elizette does have a word of caution: “Each person’s situation is different, and the advice is often based on people’s own experiences. Be sure to apply a critical eye on their advice and only use what is valid to you. ”

“Some people feel in control if they can manage their relocation themselves, but they need advice or support with a few specific tasks. Others want someone to take the pressure and stress out of their hands and manage the relocation on their behalf. Services such as Expat Relocation & Immigration Services can offer valuable assistance and support. . I can step in, provide support, and help you stay on track. In my view, if you’re going to work with a relocation consultant, it’s important that they not only offer practical support, but also understand your emotional needs and offer just the right mix of information, support, reassurance and assistance. 

 

Expat Relocations is a member of our Expat Orientated Organization certification, meaning that they have proved themselves as a business capable and ready to assist expats and their needs.