Hello new fellow! Welcome to Leiden University! Arriving in a new city (and maybe even country) can be stressful and you will have a lot of things to do before and after you arrive. This section is here to help you and give you the information you need to have a great start to your PhD in the Netherlands!
Useful sites for information about life in the Netherlands:
- The Beginner’s Guide to Dutch Academia by The Young Academy
Leiden University has a Service Centre for International Staff, which supports international PhDs and other international staff members for their administrative and practical questions in the Netherlands. They are here to answer any question you have and they will be happy to help you.
Opening times: Monday – Friday from 08.30 – 12.30
Phone: +31 (0) 71 527 7300
2311 EZ Leiden
Housing through Leiden University
Leiden University offers housing facilities especially for international PhD’s and other visiting academic staff. The rent varies between €500,00 and €1100,00. However, there are only so much accommodation available. As the university cannot offer accommodation to all that apply, there is a waiting list for properties. If you are interested in university managed accommodation, you need to apply for the waiting list as soon as possible. The sooner you apply the more chance you have of being granted accommodation.
Housing outside the university system
Renting an apartment in the Netherlands and in Leiden specifically is not cheap and due to the high demand it might take a while to find something. A lot of housing involves a shared kitchen and/or shared bathroom. This kind of accommodation can be found between €400 to €600/month. Independent accommodations are, obviously, in general more expensive (€500-€900).
Real estate agencies:
In addition to the housing websites and rental agencies above, several Facebook groups have also been created to help people to find a place to live:
- Rooms/Housing & Furniture Leiden University
- Leiden Housing
- Leiden Student Housing
- Student Housing Leiden
- Find houses for rent in Leiden
Register at the City Hall (BSN number)
Not long after your arrival, you will have to register with the Leiden Municipality (Gemeente Leiden) at the City Hall of Leiden. Depending on how long you plan to stay in the Netherlands, you will either register in the Non-residents Records (RNI) (if you’re staying for less than 4 months) or make a declaration of first registration (if you’re staying for more than 4 months).
At the end of this procedure, you will receive your BSN number. You need a BSN to work or study in the Netherlands. You will need your BSN to register for health insurance, open a bank account and… well, most things. If you later update your address at the City Hall, your address will automatically change in their administration within few working days.
For current address and opening times, please see their website.
Banking & Finances
Although it may be possible to get your salary paid into a foreign bank account, most
companies (e.g. housing, mobile phone, etc.) will prefer to use a Dutch bank account. It is very
easy to open an account in one of the biggest bank companies in the Netherlands:
- ABN AMRO
- SNS Bank
- ASN Bank
Surprisingly, Visa and MasterCard credit cards are not accepted in most shops in the
Netherlands (even in supermarkets). Dutch residents usually have a debit card like
MaestroCard, use iDEAL for online transactions and send each other Tikkies.
In the Netherlands, it is required to take out basic health insurance with a health insurance company. Leiden University has negotiated a preferential contract price with Zorg en Zekerheid for
its staff members. If you are part of the LUMC, you can get preferential prices with UMC.
All health insurance policies run for 12 months, following the calendar year. When you register for health insurance, you will be charged from the date you registered in the Netherlands – so don’t delay! You need to have registered with a health insurance company within 4 months of arriving in the Netherlands. It is useful when choosing a health insurance company to think about your requirements for the coming year. You can only switch providers/policies in December, so choose wisely.
In addition to basic health insurance, you can also take out supplementary health insurance (aanvullende verzekering) to cover things not included in the basic health insurance, such as dental, physiotherapy, glasses, etc.
The 30% Ruling
The taxes you have to pay to the Dutch government are directly taken from your salary. When you move to the Netherlands from abroad, you are eligible for the 30% ruling. The 30% ruling means that 30% of your salary won’t be taxed. This is very financially favorable as it allows you to pay less taxes for your five first years in the Netherlands, but note that it means that if you need an unemployment help (if you stay in the Netherlands after you PhD), you will also get lower monthly benefits.
In addition, another advantage of the 30% ruling is that you can exchange your driver’s license to a Dutch one, even if your country does not normally have an agreement with the Netherlands.
SCIS, the Service Centre for International Staff, will help you apply for the 30% ruling.
If you never worked before in the Netherlands, you will have to fill a quite a complicated form in Dutch after your first year. Your HR department, financial adviser or a Dutch colleague can help you to fill it out.
The tax return form is due before the 1st of May every year. After the first year, unless you get invited by a letter, you can fill in your taxes online.
If you started working anytime later in the year (not January), you will most probably get
some money back for your first year.
Taxes from the city (e.g. water treatment, garbage, etc.) have to be paid once a year. You will receive a letter at your place of residence.
DigiD (short for Digital Identification) is online identification tool that allows you to access many online services and government websites in the Netherlands (e.g. health insurance, taxes, etc.). It consists of an ID and a password, linked to your BSN number. You can request a DigiD on the DigiD website through few easy steps, unfortunately in Dutch. However, there is an English guide available on their website.
In addition to your personal interest in getting a Dutch phone number, many companies – especially banks – will likely ask for one. It is very easy to get a prepaid card without any contract. For people moving from other European Union countries, you can use the number from your home country without any additional charges.
Sport and activities
University Sports Center
As a PhD, you will work a lot – so it is important to balance it out with other activities for your physical and mental wellbeing. At the Leiden University Sports Center, you can practice all kinds of sports – and as PhD, you are eligible for their student rate. In addition to sport, it also offers art and leisure courses. As an employee of Leiden University, you can off-set the yearly membership cost through the Individual Choices Model.
The Bibliotheek plus Centrum (BplusC) is the local library in Leiden. It is a great place to go if you are after non-academic fiction or non-fiction books. Although most book are in Dutch, they do have quite a wide English selection.
In addition to books, BplusC also offer a range of art and cultural courses. Although the courses are officially in Dutch, you will find that most instructors are willing to accommodate English participants.