Packing for studying abroad: do's and don'ts

#tips One of the last important steps that you need to do before your departure is packing. But what is worth bringing, and what's not?

Hang In There is a weekly series hosted by our Marketing & Communication intern: Hang Vu. After 2 years of studying in the Netherlands, Hang loves to share her experiences with other internationals who are planning to live in the Netherlands!

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When I started packing for my journey to the Netherlands, my wish was to stuff the whole world in my suitcase. I was scared that if I missed something, I would not find it on the other side of the globe. It did not take me too long to realize that it is good to be well-prepared. However, it is even more important to know what's really essential and what's not. Let’s go through my do's and don'ts list that I wish I had known before packing for abroad.

Do: Have a bank card

Let’s be practical: money is the most important thing, no matter where you go. But card or cash, which one do the Dutch prefer?

My answer is definitely a bank card. You should have cash upon your arrival but should not bring too much with you. In the Netherlands, nearly everything has an application, and there are a lot of self-checkouts along the way, so no appropriate card will be quite annoying for you in the first place.

If you are an international from outside the European Union - like me - and living in the Netherlands for more than six months, I highly recommend opening a Dutch bank account for your daily expenses. Of course, a VISA Debit card or Debit Mastercard is accepted in big stores and supermarkets (except restaurants and Albert Heijn, which was a shock to me). But, in most cases, a Dutch card helps you have a carefree day about paying for your stuff. It is also convenient to travel with a Dutch debit card within the Eurozone since you only pay little to no transaction fee. And last but not least, when you hang out in a group, splitting bills (or I should say, going Dutch) via Tikkie or a payment request is quite common. Tikkie only accepts Dutch bank accounts, so having a bank account here will make your life much easier.

Students often have a bank account in ING, ABN AMRO, or Rabobank, because it is free of charge for them. Therefore, you could consider these three companies when registering for an account.

Do: Bring your local ingredients and spices

During your first week, you might not be so familiar with stores and supermarkets in the Netherlands. If you have a special diet or want to surprise your international friends with some specialties representing your country, go ahead and bring some of your favorites!

Do: Bring chargers and adapters

In the Netherlands and Europe in general, appliances are 230-volt, 50Hz, with power plugs and sockets, are type C and F. Therefore, I highly recommend having a travel adapter in your hand to make sure your mobile phone and laptop could run smoothly.

Dutch socket
Believe me, you do not want to run around the city on your first day just because your devices are out of battery, and you cannot do anything with them.

Don’t: Bring too much convenience food

One of the top things that I regret bringing here is instant food. If someone had opened my suitcase in 2019, they might have thought that I was moving to a jungle, or that it was the end of the world. Even if you are a big fan of instant noodles, you have no need to worry about that. Dutch and Asian supermarkets have almost everything - I found the exact same type of my favorite Vietnamese instant noodles here. You might bring 2-3 packages in case of emergency, but it should not be more than that.

Don’t: Bring too many clothes

Clothes are essential, but you should not pack every single item in your wardrobe in a suitcase. The price might vary a bit in each country, but sometimes, it is better to buy clothes there, so you can wear them accordingly. I still remember that I brought tons of winter clothes from Vietnam to the Netherlands. In the end, I could only wear half of them, because the other half was not warm enough.

Therefore, if I had a time machine, I would go back in 2019 and say to myself: “less is more” and “quality over quantity”. Always have a good pair of sneakers with you and remember, a super warm and waterproof jacket is more useful than 3-4 layers of stylish bomber jackets!


written by Hang

As a travel freak who moved from Hanoi to Eindhoven, I love spending my day discovering new angles of this city and learning about the country from the locals. Hopefully, my articles would help you step-by-step entering the world of Dutch culture and make your every day in the Netherlands ‘a great stay’!