What to do first in Groningen as a newbie
You’ve made it! Welcome to Groningen: the capital of the North, and an incredible place to work, study and enjoy. As always when setting yourself up in a new home, there are certain ‘must do’ items, to make sure that you’ve got access to everything you’ll need whilst living in the Netherlands.
1: Sort out your official matters
Everyone that will live in the Netherlands for longer than 4 months needs to sign up at the municipality (Gemeente). Once you’re signed into the municipal register (BRP), you’ll get a magic BSN number. The BSN number is your citizen’s number, and you’ll need it to get a Dutch mobile number, open a bank account, or indeed work. Luckily, the Gemeente Groningen has put its BSN information in English!
If you have a non-EU nationality, it is almost certain that you have already been in contact with the Dutch IND (Immigration Service) regarding your residence permit. If you have given your biometrics in the Dutch embassy in the country you last lived in, you’ll be able to pick up your permit card at a special student day. If not, get in touch with the IND (and your University) to make sure that they have the biometric information they need, so that they can make your card!
2: Open a bank account
Your BSN number will likely arrive in the mail, and you can take this letter to a bank to open an account, as well as your passport, and proof of address (for example your housing contract).
There are several large national high street banks in the Netherlands, and their services don’t differ too much: all offer banking, savings accounts, insurance; and other financial products. ING is a popular choice for its easy-to-use app, ABN AMRO also has information available in English (and is easily found on the Grote Markt), and the RaboBank is generally thought to be very customer friendly. There’s also the online-based bank Bunq, the ecological bank Triodos, and several others besides.
Remember that in the Netherlands most shops only take Maestro cards! You may have to be cash-based for a week or two whilst waiting for your new Dutch bank card.
3: Request a DigiD
Lots of government services in the Netherlands are online, and you’ll need a DigiD to access them. It’s a fairly simple progress, all done via the DigiD website. The IWCN has a useful guide to getting a DigiD (with translations), and for security you will receive a confirmation code to activate your DigiD through the mail.
You’ll also need a DigiD to login to the Dutch CoronaCheck app, which is how you can prove your vaccination/test status.
4: Buy a bike
Groningen is truly a cycling dream-land; but Groningen’s bike sellers are a little less honest than you might expect! Our top tip would be to buy from a reputable bike shop: prices tend to be cheaper outside of the city centre. Beware random passers-by offering you a cheap bike- they are probably stolen and might be confiscated by the police.
If you’re a little worried about cycling in a city where so many people hop on their bike each day, check out City Central’s FietsFriend workshops, where an experienced stadjer will take you through all you need to know!
5: Sign up with a GP/family doctor
In the Netherlands, unless you have a serious medical problem (112 is the emergency number) then most medical treatment requires a referral from your GP, or family doctor. The website Independer allows you to check which surgeries are close to where you live, and you can then register as a patient online, by phone, or e-mail (check the surgery website, as some are more technologically advanced than others).
If you have an EU nationality, then you may use your EHIC card. If not, you’ll need Health Insurance from a private insurer. The most popular one for International Non-EU students is AON, but others are available!
6: Explore the city!
Get out and enjoy Groningen! The pubs have no closing time, there’s plenty of clubs across the city, and there are organisations like City Central, Here & Now, the IWCN; and much more to help you get to grips with your new home! Make sure to check out The Northern Times for news about the North in English, as well as features, what’s on, and reviews.