Rain management

With the Netherlands being a very rainy country, you will automatically have the title of ‘Rain Project Manager’ bestowed upon you when settling in this land. Rain boots and rain gear should be on top of your shopping list when relocating here. Furthermore, always carry a role of bin liner and a pair of small scissors. This way you can always create your own emergency raincape by simply cutting a big hole for your head, and two smaller holes for your arms, in a bin liner. Freezer bags and some ribbon make perfect emergency rain shoe covers should you have forgotten to pack yours. Always carry a dark-coloured cotton or bamboo towel in each bag you use regularly as you will need it to dry yourself, your bag and your shoes when arriving at your destination. The Dutch rain is so intense that it can literally destroy your phone or make the glue of some shoes brands come loose. Rain management preparation is therefore essential. Save your pretty and expensive shoes for indoor use and purchase a stirdy pair to wear outdoors. You will find travel bags for your tidy shoes in the travel items section of department stores or sew your own. A waterproof bag and coat will make your life easier but be aware that even the best quality coat can take two-three days to fully dry once it gets soaked in the Dutch rain. For this reason, an extra, spacious laundry rack to dry your soaked items is also a recommended item for your home or appartment. You will also find extra-large, extra-absorbant doormats (called ‘droogloopmat’) at some garden centres and homegoods stores. Whether your home is big or small, allocating a bit of space to create a ‘rain corner’ where you can place your rain boots and  soaked stuff when arriving home, will keep your home dry and tidy and spare your floors, especially if they are wooden or laminate floors.

Also, do not wait for the rain to stop to go to a certain shop, the cinema or to have coffee with a friend, as you will be waiting the rest of your life. In The Netherlands, the rain is your ever-present companion. On the bright side, this means you will regularly get to spot some gorgeous rainbows and you will get to enjoy an abundance of rain water to flush your toilet or wash your car or bike.

When it comes to umbrellas, some years ago, The Delft University of Technology designed a special ‘storm umbrella’, able to withstand the strong Dutch wind. With regular umbrellas being destroyed by the Dutch wind within minutes, a storm umbrella is a great investment if you would like to arrive at work with hair, makeup and clothes intact. You will find them at more upmarket department stores and bag stores or online. These days, the ‘storm umbrella’ is available in a wide range of colours.

Discounts and perks

When settling in the Netherlands, you will find there are many discounts and perks to be enjoyed via supermarkets, stores, airlines and other brands. Most supermarket have a discount scheme of their own in the format of a customer card, app or another savings scheme. At some stores you can save up points towards a free takeaway coffee, a free product or a discount. Dutch newspapers and magazines also offer discounted deals for their subscribers, ranging from a discount on books, household items or theatre tickets to special travel deals. Some apps offer you a free drink when you first start using the app and there are also cashback schemes to be enjoyed when it comes to supermarket items or home appliances. Some brands and stores offer special discount codes via their e-mail newsletter. Though most discount schemes are connected to a certain brand or store, the Dutch Airmiles scheme, for example, is joined by a wide range of brands and you can save up Airmiles points at many different places. Some stores and schemes offer you the possibility to donate your points to well-known charities.

Birthday blessings

With birthdays being held in high regard in the Netherlands, many stores and brands want to highlight your special day by offering you discounts, free products or even free coffees, teas and cake. The HEMA department store, for example, invites you to collect a free tompouce on your birthday, whereas the La Place restaurants also happily serve you a free piece of cake on your birthday. Some city malls invite you to collect a birthday surprise on your festive day. There are in fact so many special birthday offers at Dutch stores that you may find you need more than one day to enjoy them all but bear in mind that most offers are only valid on your actual birthday.

Customer service

Depending on your country of origin, you may find that customer service in the Netherlands is organised in a somewhat different way compared to what you are used to. A few department stores have a dedicated, separate customer service desk, as do most supermarkets, but at a lot of other stores you will have to wait in line at a regular til. Regular staff members are not authorised to deal with refunds and complaints and you should not be surprised if you are being asked to wait until a store manager arrives to help you. In some cases, if the manager is not present or not available at that moment, you will be asked to come back to the store on another day or your details will be taken and you will receive a phone call or e-mail the following day or week. Be aware that customer service can be a lengthy process in The Netherlands, whether at a store or online. Most Dutch companies use a chatbot operated customers service online and having to wait for 30-40 minutes to speak to an actual customer service agent is common however your patience will be rewarded.

The Netherlands is very much a paperwork country and this also applies to customer service. Though under Dutch law you are entitled to return an item to a store even without a receipt, most stores will not help you unless you can show a receipt or at least a bank statement listing the transaction concerned. If your complaint concerns a food item, always keep the package and take photos of the production codes printed on the package as the customer service department will be asking for this.

Always keep all of your receipts so you always have them at hand when you unexpectedly need to take an item back to a store. This way you won’t have to turn your wheelie bin upside down in the garden on another rainy Dutch day in order to trace a certain receipt.

When ordering a specific item online, you may want to print the order confirmation in order to avoid having to search your inbox years down the line when an issue arrives, especially if your e-mail address is connected to a specific internet provider.

When contacting a store or brand online, you will in most cases receive a refund sent to your bank account, a gift voucher, a replacement item or compensation in another way.

Reviews and expert assistance

No matter how frustrated you may get or how long it may take, always stay calm, patient and kind and you will more often than not eventually receive a solution. Never post an angry review online in the heat of the moment before your case has been finalized by the brand, company or store, as this will not help. Most Dutch stores and companies have dedicated staff who continually monitor review websites and it will not be appreciated when you post an angry review before the store, hotel, brand or company has had a chance to resolve your issue or complaint.

Be aware that a lot of Dutch stores and brands operate a pricey 0900 number to contact them by phone. These 0900 numbers are being connected to call centres abroad and are often excluded from Dutch phone plans so this is something you may want to take into account when signing for a phone subscription with a Dutch telecom company. If you are surprised by a sudden high phone bill for no apparent reason, it could be due to you having dialed a 0900 number. In order to avoid high phone costs, dial the no that is listed for calling from abroad, as this number most often also works for calling from within the Netherlands.

When booking a holiday or outing via a Dutch company, and you find that something is not in order upon arrival, you must lodge your complaint right there & then in order to have a legal right to be entitled for a refund. Take photos on site and save all related proof and correspondence. Do not wait until you arrive home to address the matter.

In the event you really get stuck, there are a few Dutch TV-shows that help consumers when all else fails and another option could be joining the Dutch Consumers Association (Consumentenbond). Most law firms with lawyers specialized in consumer law are often also happy to answer some simple questions by e-mail without charging you.

Opening hours

Traditionally, most public places will be opened between 9am-5pm though some hospitals, dentist and other medical practices also offer evening timeslots. In cities, supermarkets are usually opened until 9pm or 10pm whereas in smaller towns and villages they may close earlier and may also be closed on Sundays. A lot of specialist stores, independent shops and family-run businesses are closed on Mondays but stores belonging to chains and department stores will be opened on Mondays. Pharmacies, GP practices and dental surgeries often open at 8am. Also take into account that some stores and places will close early on May 4th (WW II Commemoration), December 5th (St. Nicholas), Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and some stores may be closed or have adjusted opening hours on public holidays. Though the customer service for insurance companies and some other brands will be opened over the weekend, be aware that these calls are being answered by external call centres working on behalf of multiple brands, and they may ask you to call again on Monday for more complicated matters.

(Medical) insurance

With medical insurance being mandatory by law, Dutch citizens are at the same time responsible for arranging their medical insurance on their own, taking it out at a commercial insurance company. You can only do so once a year in December/January (Unless you are eligible for one for the exception categories, such as when you return to the Netherlands after living abroad, at another time during the year). The Dutch medical insurance system is extensive and consists of multiple tiers. Comparing all the different options can be a very time consuming process. Make sure to allocate time in the busy festive month of December for ‘project medical insurance’ and if possible, start contacting insurance companies in October of  November if you have specific questions, as customer service waiting times at insurance companies will be lenghty during the month of December. Do not be surprised if your colleagues, friends or neighbours have no time to stop by for bubbles & canapes on New Year’s eve as they need to arrange their medical insurance before January 1st.

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