Moving to Rotterdam

Moving to another country for study, work or an exchange is always an exciting adventure. And yet, many of the things we take for granted at home can become stressful or worrying - we need to be well-prepared before the move.

Whether you're used to moving abroad or it’s your first time, there will always be challenges and it’s impossible to know everything about countries you’ve never before been visited. Do you need health insurance ? Each little piece of information could be proved useful and save you hours of waiting in lines, searching on the internet, enduring administration procedures and, perhaps most crucially, will save you money. In order to help you apprehend this step, we prepared an extensive arrival checklist for your move to the Netherlands.

The team at HousingAnywhere understands this all too well, as we ourselves come from different parts of the world and have unique international experience.

To save you all the pain and frustration you might experience when adapting to a new environment, we've formed a wealth of practical information for newcomers moving to Rotterdam. Check out how to find affordable accommodation in Rotterdam, how to quickly find your way around using the public transport system, how to adapt to city’s lifestyle as well as day-to-day tips, tricks and more. Use it, share it, help others, and settle into your hassle-free Rotterdam life!

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About Rotterdam

With a population of around 620,000, Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands, after the capital Amsterdam. Compared to Amsterdam, which is known for its more ‘typical Dutch’ scenery, Rotterdam characterizes itself as a modern city with unique architecture resulting from the devastating city bombings of the 1940s. Beyond that, Rotterdam is steeped in culture, boasts an immense port and the Nieuwe Maas river separates the city into northern and southern sections. You’ll find the Rotterdam city centre in the North.

Dutch Language

In the Netherlands, the official spoken language is Dutch. However, Dutch people have a great grasp of English and are usually more than happy to use their second language. This is great for practical tasks like opening a new bank account, but not so good when trying to learn Dutch! Much like the French, some locals don’t appreciate the effort that internationals make to learn and practice their language; they just switch to English.

Saying that, Rotterdam is becoming more international and it’s pretty common to hear English on the streets. In fact, you can hear over 20 different languages if you listen closely enough!


The Dutch seasons can be unpredictable, but the weather in Rotterdam tends to follow a pattern: it rains, it shines...sometimes it provides four seasons in one day. Most of the time however, it’s just grey.

In the winter temperature ranges from -5oC to 12oC, right through to mid-March. Make sure you have some thick sweaters and a decent pair of boots with you. Spring is just as variable, and sometimes Easter is even colder than Christmas! Prepare for cold, rain and wind, with rare flourishes of sun.

Towards the end of April you can start taking your beers outside, Cautiously at first, then with more confidence as summer rolls in at the end of May. Places like ‘Oude Haven’ are great for a little beer on a sunny terrace. We’ve dedicated a whole section to help you find things to see or do around Rotterdam.

Believe it or not, we do get an actual summer, even here in Rotterdam! You can see anywhere from 18oC to over 25oC, so it can get pretty toasty on a nice day. On a good year this kind of weather will hang around until September, before the wet, cold months descent on the city once again.

Public Holidays

The Netherlands has a bunch of notable public holidays, and you won’t find many shops open during them.

  • New Year's Day, January 1st

Just like the rest of the world, most people will be tired or hungover following the events of New Year's Eve. January 1st in Rotterdam is generally a "recovery and clean up" day, and everything pretty much shuts down for 24 hours.

  • Easter

Over Easter, most people reunite with their families. You should try and spend some time with a Dutch family over the holiday and enjoy a traditional meal: a huge grill is installed on the table and everyone just grills their own meat. It’s a great way to prepare before diving into your eggs the next morning!

  • Kingsday, April 27th

The best Dutch holiday of the year! During Kingsday everyone dresses in orange and parties on the street; in Amsterdam, small boats are rented for a ride along the canals. In addition to partying with wild abandon, second-hand and craft markets spring up from nowhere, with people selling toys, antiques, books and virtually everything else.

  • Sinterklaas (Sint Niklas), December 5th

This is actually the Dutch Christmas/Santa Claus. On the 5th of December, kids all over the Netherlands celebrate Sinterklaas. He is a bishop who comes to the Netherlands every year from mid-November until the 6th of December, giving treats and presents to Dutch kids. This may sound weird, but it's actually the same as Santa Claus - the main difference is that Sinterklaas comes from Spain rather than the North Pole!

Adults and students mostly celebrate Sinterklaas by playing games or doing a ‘secret friend’ game where they have to buy someone a small present, write a poem and/or craft something unique. Most importantly of all, don’t forget to eat lots of pepernoten during Sinterklaas - they aren’t sold anywhere for the other 11 months of the year!

  • Christmas, December 25-26th

Good news for everyone who loves Christmas - you get two of them! In the Netherlands, both the 25th and the 26th are national holidays. I don’t really know why, but sometimes it’s best not to ask questions… ;) Over Christmas, Dutch families gather to give presents to each other and enjoy a nice dinner in the evening. What’s served really depends on the family, but meats like ostrich, deer and steaks are usually popular.

List of Dutch National Public Holidays in 2017/18

10 Fun Facts About Rotterdam

Did you know that….?

  • There are 18 million bikes in the Netherlands and only 17 million people - that means that we are outnumbered by bikes!

  • The port in Rotterdam is the second-largest in the world, and the bigger than any other in Europe.

  • People sometimes refer to Rotterdam as The Dutch Manhattan.

  • Prior to the second world war, the White House that’s by the cubic houses was the tallest building in Europe.

  • Rotterdam was the first city in the Netherlands to have a metro system.

  • The people from Rotterdam like to give nicknames to its buildings. That’s why the Erasmus Bridge is called ‘the Swan’s Neck’, the shopping area is ‘the Buying Gutter’ and a new building called the Rotterdam has been christened ‘the Building Gutter’. If you ask the locals why all these weird names exist, no one really seems to know for sure.

  • The White House in the Old Harbour, the City Hall and Laurens Church are the only buildings in the city centre to have survived the 1940s bombings.

  • The Laurens Church is also the oldest building still standing in Rotterdam; its heritage goes back to the Middle Ages.

  • The Euromast is the highest tower that’s open to the public in the Netherlands.

  • The ‘Coolsingel’, the big street in the middle of the city centre, used to be a canal. It was drained slowly between 1905 and 1915

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