Life in Holland

Living in Holland

You will feel welcome as soon as you arrive in Holland thanks to its open-minded culture and large number or international students. Holland has a rich history and culture, with pretty canals, 14th century buildings, and famous museums. Some of the world's greatest artists are from Holland, including Rembrandt and Van Gogh.

Easy and safe to get around, Holland offers exciting travel opportunities. Paris and Berlin are a three-hour train journey or a one-hour flight from Amsterdam, and your visa allows you to travel freely throughout Europe.

Visas and permits

Most students who live outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland need a visa to study in Holland. Your chosen university will start the application process for you when you enrol on a programme with the International Study Centre. 

Anyone planning to stay in Holland for more than three months needs to have a residence permit. You can collect your residence permit card at an IND (Immigration and Naturalisation service) office shortly after you arrive in Holland. Your card will be valid for your International Foundation Year and the full duration of your degree programme.

To enter Holland, you need an MVV sticker in your passport. You need to collect your MVV from an Embassy within three months of your application being approved. Your MVV it is valid for three months only. 

Find out more about the visas and permits process when you confirm your place at the Holland International Study Centre.  

Culture and customs

Windmills, tulips and clogs

People often associate Holland with windmills, tulips (flowers) and clogs (wooden shoes). Windmills are no longer used to grind grain but more than 100,000 have been preserved for visitors. Colourful tulips are grown in huge numbers near Amsterdam between April and May. And while few people still wear clogs, you can buy them as souvenirs in many shops.


The Dutch tend to be very direct (outspoken). Being direct is not considered rude but is a sign of honesty and trust. Most people have a laidback attitude and are not easily offended.


The Dutch are known for their liberal, open-minded attitude. This means that they are tolerant of different behaviours, proud of equal rights, and are accepting of new cultures and ideas. 

King's Day

King's Day (it was Queen's Day until 2014) is celebrated every year on 27 April, the current King's birthday. You can expect street parties, live music and everyone dressed in orange. In Amsterdam the Dutch monarch's birthday calls for a huge carnival with boat parties along the canal. It's a public holiday in Holland. Read iAmsterdam's 10 fun facts about Kings' Day.


Holland has a low crime rate and is one of the safest countries in Europe. As an international student, you are subject to the same laws and protection as local citizens. If you break the law, you will face legal consequences. If you are a victim of crime, you should report the crime to the police.

In an emergency, telephone 112. You can also telephone 112 to report a crime, traffic accident, or fire. 

Excellent healthcare

Holland’s healthcare system is widely regarded as one of the best in the world. Across the country, doctors’ surgeries and hospitals have high standards and excellent facilities. Most doctors speak and understand English.

  • Pharmacies - called 'apotheken' - are widely available and stock both prescription and non-prescription medications.
  • Dentists - called 'tandarts' - are not usually covered by basic insurance policies but may be available at an extra cost.

All international students are required to take out medical and travel insurance. Find out more about Student Insurance.

Travel and transport

It's easy to travel around Holland – and the rest of Europe – thanks to fast rail and bus networks. The Dutch rail network is one of the busiest in the world, with trains running between all major cities. There are direct intercity trains, local trains and high-speed trains. Many cities also have a metro systems and trams, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam. You'll also find trams in The Hague and Utrecht. 

A contactless smart card system called OV-Chipkaart is used to pay for the metro, buses, trams and trains in Holland. Find out more

Amsterdam Airport Schipol is the fourth busiest airport in Europe and provides international flights around the world. 

Weather and climate

A mixture of sunny, cloudy and rainy weather. Average temperatures are around 3°C-16°C.

Cold, sometimes with fog, frost or snow. Average temperatures are around 2°C-6°C, but can often fall below 0°C.

With bright, clear days, early spring tends to be the driest time of year. Average temperatures are around 10°C-17°C.

Warm and sunny, although cloudy and rainy weather can appear without warning. Average temperatures of around 17-20°C.

Dutch culture

Students cycling in the streets of Groningen

Cycling, Directness, Open-minded, windmills

Traditional food

Bitterballen - Dutch meatballs

Stroopwafels - Caramel waffle

Broodjes - Bread rolls

Krokets - Deep fried meat snack

Useful links

NS rail service - Train travel around Holland. - Contactless smart card system for public transport in Holland. - European railway tickets. and - European coach companies.

Education system

Students during a class at Holland International Study Centre

The education system in Holland is interactive, student-focused and based around teamwork.


Currency: Euro (€)

Debit and credit cards: Used throughout Holland but not as widely as in some countries so it's a good idea to carry cash with you. 

Leopoldo from Venezuela

Leopoldo from Venezuela studies at the Holland International Study Centre

I really like the diversity that you can find here in the Netherlands. You can find people from everywhere in the world here and they’re all open to talk, have a conversation and meet you for who you are.


Leopoldo from Venezuela studying International Foundation Year - Science and Engineering