This small, low-lying country in the northwest of Europe is bordered by Germany, Belgium, and the North Sea. With a total area of 42,437 square kilometres, the Netherlands is comprised mostly of coastal lowland and reclaimed land, with some hills in the southeast. Much of the land is below sea level and is traversed by rivers and canals. The capital is Amsterdam, but the government sits in The Hague (Den Haag).
The climate is temperate marine with cool, humid summers and mild, windy winters.
The Dutch are a culturally liberal and tolerant people. Throughout history, Holland has produced many world-renowned artists and architects. In the Dutch Golden Age (roughly 17th century), Dutch trade, art, and science were among the most acclaimed in the world. The Dutch are known for their professionalism, no-nonsense attitude, perfectionism, and the way they separate their business and private lives. They are modern and progressive yet preserve their standards and values. They love the arts and cultural activities. Traditional cuisine in Holland is simple and straightforward.
The Netherlands was a founding member of the European Union (EU), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The modern Dutch economy is noted for being open, generally prosperous, heavily dependent upon foreign trade, an important European transportation hub, and having a highly mechanised agricultural industry. The port of Rotterdam is the largest and most modern port in the world.
The Netherlands generally has stable industrial relations, moderate unemployment and inflation, and a sizeable current account surplus. The currency is the Euro.
While the cost of living in the Netherlands is among the lowest in Europe, actual living costs depend on lifestyle and on the city/town of residence. As in most countries, the big cities are more expensive than rural areas. The average total cost of living per month is estimated to be in the range of €750–€1,000, including accommodation €280–€600, food €240, books/stationery €70 and other €270. Bicycles are an extremely popular and cheap form of transport in the Netherlands. Students may be able to obtain discounts on some purchases if they have an international student card.
Costs will also vary according to the type of accommodation, transport, and each student’s financial situation. Types of accommodation available include on-campus; staying with a family or renting/sharing a flat. Higher education tuition fees range from €6,500–€32,000 per year for non-EU international students depending on the course and level of study.
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is responsible for education. The Dutch primary and secondary compulsory education system combines a centralised education policy with decentralised administration and management of schools by the municipal authorities and school boards. For post-compulsory vocational education, there are no intermediate levels of management between government and adult/vocational education institutions. Institutions for higher professional education and the universities are fully autonomous.
Though it is a non-English-speaking country, the Netherlands nevertheless offers most of its higher education programmes and courses in English, with an emphasis on an international outlook. Dutch higher education institutions are known for being very high quality and for their student-centred approach.
Prospective international students should always check with the Netherlands embassy or consulate in their own country to ensure they have the most up-to-date information on visa/permit requirements and conditions. As issuing of visa applications can take three to six months, students must ensure they allow sufficient time for processing prior to their proposed date of commencement.
To enter the Netherlands for study purposes, most nationals except those from the EEA and several other specified countries, require a visa. There are different application procedures depending on nationality and length of stay. Students staying longer than three months may need to apply for a provisional residence permit. Students under the age of 18 will need parental/guardian permission. All international students must either produce evidence of multinational health coverage or take out health insurance while studying in the Netherlands. Cost of health insurance is €40–55 per month.
Regarding work in Holland, the Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education notes the following:
“If you’re a foreign student (non–EU/EEA/Swiss) and you have a valid residence permit with the aim to study, you can work alongside your studies (either full-time seasonal work in June, July and August, or part-time work of no more than ten hours a week). In this case your Dutch employer does need a work permit for you, but this is an easy process as the employer doesn’t need to show that there are Dutch or EU nationals capable of doing the job. As an EU/EEA/Swiss student you are free to work as many hours as you like alongside your studies. Your employer doesn’t need to have a work permit for you.”