Our ‘Navigate the Netherlands’ story:


From Cape Town, South Africa to Delft Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Schiphol airport arrivals

Picture credits: Schiphol.nl


New2nl wants to connect with our readers. We want to know where they live, what they do, what their family looks like, and most of all, what brings them to the Netherlands. The best way to do this? Ask our dear clients directly!

In these ‘My Navigate the Netherlands story’ series, we’ll interview one family three times during their process of moving to the Netherlands: just before they move, after their first few weeks in the Netherlands, and six months after their arrival in the country.

This is part two about the Schavemaker family’s move to the Netherlands. In case you have missed part 1, in which this South African family explained why they were moving to the Netherlands, and how they prepared, you can read it here.

Many Dutch people think that all English-speaking foreigners living in the Netherlands are expats who came here for a highly paid job. They expect that their companies have already arranged everything for them before their arrival, including visas, a big modern house, an international school, and all other luxury things they ‘need’.
That this isn’t always the case, as this story by Jan Schavemaker, who came to the Netherlands to get things ready for his wife and daughter to follow him later, goes to show. We thoroughly admire his determination, courage and honesty in sharing his experiences with us.


How would you describe your first weeks in the Netherlands?

To be honest, I found it very intimidating, stressful, and a little scary. I almost gave up a few times. We tried to plan everything in advance, but in general I was very unprepared. I came with nothing to start a new life.

Our initial plan was that I would stay in Delft first. I would look for a house and a job there, and once I was settled, my wife and daughter would follow me. I thought that I had come with enough money for 3 months, but it actually lasted less than 2, because the Netherlands is very expensive.

Delft is very nice place, but there are mostly young people there, so I hardly met anyone my age. I find the Dutch extremely helpful, though: always willing to assist. Now, 4 months later, I am employed with a contract, I have a place to stay, and things are very good.

What were your first thoughts when you landed at Schiphol Airport?

I entered on my Dutch passport, so I did not engage with a human. Everything was automated, even at the passport check: I put my passport on a scanner and entered the country. But Schiphol is definitely a first-class airport, with very friendly staff. Dubai, where I had a layover, was a less pleasant experience. I felt much more welcome at Schiphol.

What are your first impressions of your new house?

Small, hahahaha. In South Africa we have huge properties.

What do you think are the biggest differences with your home country?

The biggest difference is the freedom of movement you have here. The streets are safe – well much safer than in South Africa. Also employers have a very different attitude when employing new staff. The Dutch are very logical people, and they spot talent very quickly. Hard work is always rewarded. It was a big culture shock, and as I knew no one, I had to figure it all out by myself. Public transport is extremely efficient: it is nearly always on time, and if it is late or cancelled, an alternative is always available.

What was the first Dutch word you said in public? To whom? And how did they react?

My first Dutch was ‘Goedemorgen‘ to a lady at the NS counter, and she immediately spoke back in English. She realized from my accent that I was not Dutch.

How were your first days at work?

It took a while to find a job. Finally I ended up in Amsterdam instead of Delft. It is in a different industry than I was initially looking for, but I like my job.

What did you bring with you from your home country?

Two suitcases of clothes, a computer and a cellphone

What do you miss most from home?

My family. If they were here, I would honestly not miss anything. I genuinely feel I belong here, and I will struggle to leave the Netherlands!

Tania and Jan Schavemaker from South-AfricaAnja Schavemaker from South-Africa

What do you wish you had known before moving to the Netherlands?

The rules about “inschrijven” (registration at the municipality). This is the number one priority when you arrive in the Netherlands. Most companies will do this for you if you are offered a job here. If you come unemployed, as I did, this is the very first thing you must do. It must be done within 5 days of arriving. You cannot get registered if you do not have a rental contract from the owner of the property. Even if a person is subletting with the owner’s permission this is not good enough to register.

With this experience so far, do you have any other tips for international families who are preparing their move to the Netherlands?

If at all possible, go to the area where you intend to stay and spend a few days or weeks there before moving. I discovered that mobile internet is massively expensive, so get a place with internet.

When moving here, your priorities for the first week are:


1: Inschrijven (registration at the Municipality)

2: Opening a bank account

3: Registering for DigiD (Account with which you can access your personal page on many government websites, like the tax office)

4: Getting an OV chipcard (card for all public transport in the Netherlands. You are not obliged to have one, but transport is much cheaper this way). I would be lost without mine

So, I can be of great help to anyone that comes here, like me, without a confirmed job. There are literally 1000s of jobs available to unqualified people. The salaries are low, but even at minimum wage one can have a very good life in the Netherlands.

I hope this helps. I love this country.



Are you curious to find out how this beautiful family is getting on in the Netherlands? We’ll be back shortly with Part 3, once the whole family is united again.

Would you like to connect with Tania and Jan Schavemaker? You may send a message to annebet@new2nl.com and we’ll make sure to pass it on.

Have you also worked with New2nl and would you like to be featured in the next ‘Navigate the Netherlands’ story? Please answer the above questions and send them together with some high-res pictures of your family and some favorite places of yours in your home country to annebet@new2nl.com.


Other stories in this series:

The Schavemaker family from South Africa – part 1

The Hayat family from Pakistan