There are a few rookie mistakes that everyone makes when moving to a new city. We’ve been in your shoes as a new student and we’ve made these mistakes, so that you don’t have to. Read on to find the seven deadly sins of moving to Maastricht!
1. Thou shalt not forget to check health insurance requirements
Moving to a new place can cause many worries and insecurities. Your health and possible costs arising from sickness should be the last of your concerns. Therefore, it is important to check if your current health insurance covers you and your (possible) expenses in the Netherlands.
In certain cases, there is also a legal obligation to get Dutch health insurance. As a general rule, if you’re coming to the Netherlands solely for study purposes and you’re from an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, then that’s not the case. The Netherlands has a number of health insurance treaties with a number of countries, including all EU countries and Switzerland. If you’re from one of these countries, your insurance company will provide you with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or an international declaration form. You must bring this with you to the Netherlands as you’ll need it when you go see a doctor.
Planning to get a job in the Netherlands? Then you will be obliged to take out Dutch health insurance. Check out our dedicated page to read how to apply!
2. Thou shalt not put off registering with the municipality
The Maastricht municipality (in Dutch: gemeente) requires that newcomers in the city register their name and address within five days of their arrival. This is only necessary if you are intending to stay in Maastricht for more than four months. Students at UM and Zuyd can register online here. The municipality will then set up an in-person appointment, where they will ask you to submit certain documents. Check any translation / legalisation requirements for these documents before you get to Maastricht!
Registering means that your information is stored in the Personal Records Database (in Dutch: Basisregistratie Personen, or BRP), which contains the personal data of people who live in the Netherlands (residents) – this is important because the government will use this centralised database to see if you have to pay taxes, or if you are eligible for subsidies, for example. You can find more information about the BRP, your privacy and your rights here.
Once you register, the municipality will send you a letter containing your citizen service number (in Dutch: burgerservicenummer, or BSN). This is a unique personal number allocated to everyone registered in the BRP. You can use your BSN for any government service in the Netherlands, from getting insurance, to applying for subsidies, and many more. This is super convenient, as it means you don’t have to provide your data to each different government organisation, as they can find it using your BSN.
Make sure you write your BSN down somewhere handy!
3. Thou shalt not waste time walking – get a bike!
While having a bike is not absolutely essential, we highly recommend you get one. Not only is it the fastest, easiest and cheapest mode of transport, but it is a gateway to seeing more of Maastricht and its surroundings.
It can be a little daunting for those who have little to no knowledge of bikes or cycling in general, but getting a (second-hand) bike is surprisingly easy and straightforward, and need not cost you a fortune! There is a huge second-hand market for bikes, so you’re bound to find something that suits your needs. Shops like Courtens and StudentBikeMaastricht are good places to start looking. Facebook is yet another option, where bike-selling pages abound. Just make sure you don’t buy a stolen bike! This is illegal and could end up on your personal record, even if you weren’t aware that the bike was stolen. You can check whether this is the case by inputting the bike’s registration number into this database to check if it has been reported as stolen.
What should you look for in a bike? Here is a list of basic features your bike should have:
- Your bike should have working lights and reflectors, both for the front and back – without these, you risk getting a fine.
- Before buying, you should always check that the brakes are in good working order, for obvious reasons!
- It is a legal requirement for your bike to have a working bell.
- Gears are definitely not a must but some people do opt for them (although Maastricht and the Netherlands in general are so flat that you will be just fine without them).
4. Thou shalt not miss out on exploring the city
It happens to everyone. You are full of excitement and expectation at the idea of moving to Maastricht; you look forward to walking around, to exploring and becoming familiar with your new home. BUT, when you get here, you put off visiting Fort Sint Pieter and Maastricht’s famous caves. You’ll have time for that later, you tell yourself. You’re so busy making new friends and studying, that you never make time to walk around the impressive trenches in Hogefrontenpark, or to explore the incredible nature around the city. You don’t step into a single museum or art exhibition, and you don’t dare venture beyond your neighbourhood or your faculty area.
Well, we’re not having it. Maastricht might seem small, but it’s full of hidden gems and well-kept secrets – or at least it was, until we created a dedicated map listing all the places worth visiting. These are student recommendations of the best of everything, from restaurants and cafes, to vintage shops and bouldering gyms.
Or maybe you’re more of an outdoorsy type? Perhaps in the mood for a nice run? Or a rigorous hike? Read this blog to get started with exploring the nature around the city.
5. Thou shalt not throw your trash in the residual bin bags – learn how to properly dispose of your waste!
Chances are, you (like me) are a guest in this country. The least we can do, in that case, is take care of it. The Netherlands’ waste disposal system is incredible. It can seem complicated at first, separating your trash, figuring out what goes where, but what might feel like an effort in the beginning can quickly become second nature – all it takes is learning the basics – and that’s what we’re here for! mymaastricht.nl has done its damnednest to break down the waste disposal system for every confused person out there, which you most probably are. A good starting place is our dedicated section for recycling and trash disposal. Another essential source of information is the Milieu App, which was developed by the Maastricht Gemeente (municipality) to help people with recycling.
Still, it might take a while for you to get fully settled in and be able to worry about things like recycling – understandable! In the meantime, you should know that non-recyclable trash needs to be disposed of in special residual waste bags. These can be bought at the service counters in the big supermarkets. But beware! The municipality goes through these bags to check that everything in there is residual (i.e. non-recyclable), as opposed to recyclable, waste – they have been known to track down people who use the residual bags improperly and fine them!
6. Thou shalt not let student life get in the way of your health – register with a GP!
It is a well-known fact that starting university can often positively correlate with a deterioration in healthy habits. It’s normal, and, some would say, even part of the experience. Still, especially in a time of pandemic, it’s always important to be familiar with the basics of the healthcare system in the place you live in, and in the Netherlands, no person is more important when it comes to healthcare than your GP (in Dutch: huisart). Your huisart is the gateway to the Dutch healthcare system, and 99% of the time, you will have to go through them, for whatever treatment you might need.
We recommend that you find a GP office (in Dutch: huisartsenpraktijk) close to where you live, and register with them as soon as possible. You don’t have to worry about your GP’s qualifications, as all local doctors have the same standardised approved education, and most huisarts will speak English (although make sure of this when you call to set up your first appointment). You can find all the GPs in the city on our map.
If you are in an emergency situation, there are a few options, depending on how grave situation is. In life-threatening circumstances, you should call the emergency number 112. If you happen to experience acute, distressing symptoms or severe pains outside of your GP’s office hours, you can call the GP out-of-hours service (in Dutch: huisartsenpost) – but only when you absolutely cannot wait until your GP’s office opens again. The huisartsenpost number is 043 387 77 77.
7. Thou shalt not deal with the Dutch government via letters – get a DigiD!
Your DigiD is your digital identification in the Netherlands. It allows you to identify yourself when making arrangements online, for example with the government, educational institutes and healthcare institutions. You can use it for things like doing your taxes, applying for government benefits, and checking your health insurance.
While getting a DigiD is not a legal requirement, nor is it absolutely essential to life in the Netherlands, it will make dealing with the government so much easier and straightforward that we very highly recommend you apply for one. It works by linking your BSN to a username and password that you will be able to use to access most Dutch government websites. The application process is simple, free and can be done fully online, and the DigiD itself is a secure way of storing your information. You can find a step-by-step guide to help with your application here.