How to stay in budget as an international student in The Netherlands

Being notorious for being one of the most expensive countries to live in Europe, trying to make ends meet in The Netherland can be challenging for students, especially those coming from a non-EU country. Therefore, this blog gives some helping hand for you to make your student life in The Netherlands as most enjoyable as possible without financial burdens.

1.”Aanbiedingen”, “Kortings”, “Gratis”

I bet these words sound appealing to me as much as they are to the Dutch people (aanbiedingen = deals, kortings = discount, gratis = free). Pay an eye to these words whenever you go shopping can save you a fair amount of money. As a student myself, I rely on when supermarkets offer good deals on food or household appliances. This way, sometimes, I can buy the same item but with halved price and have a bit of savings for later.

2. Know where to do your shopping

Traditional markets (Vismarkt as it is often called in Dutch) is a great alternative to supermarkets when you buy grocery as food, fruits, and vegetable in Vismarkt can be much cheaper. Besides, freshly-made seafood can also be purchased at a discount if you are a student. Or at the end of the day, some farmers decide to make a final sale to their product, which sounds great right? Besides, if you decide to buy something new, I highly recommend try looking in such stores as SoLow, Action or Flying tiger, Primark, etc. At these stores, you can find items at incredibly cheap price or you may pay even much less than other more expensive stores. Sounds attractive enough? Or when you want to buy some cheap interior decorations, consider having a look on Marktplaats. This trading platform also have offers at amazing prices. And most importantly, the payment is often secured and trusted by many generations of Dutchies.

Vismarkt in Groningen – Netherlands where you can find affordable grocery

3. Healthy home-cooking

Another tip to save your pennies is to have home-made meals more often. Why paying for a plate of salad that may cost 3 times higher in restaurant and cafe? Instead, you can absolutely create your own dish using some more “affordable” ingredients that can be bought in any supermarkets/ markets, of course even better with “kortings” or “aanbiedingen“. Furthermore, making meals yourself can help you to control the amount of fat, sugar and thus lead a healthier lifestyle.

4. Buy what only matters!

I’m sure I am not the only one who may stuff my room with unnecessary things. So the tip is is to buy what you only need. Do not even think about things that you “may” use in the future because that things may end up not being used. Only purchase essentials that you frequently are in need of (e.g. toothpaste, shampoo, etc). Trust me, buying things just because they are cute or “I may need this” might end up a waste of money.

5. Keep an eye on special websites for students in Netherlands

Websites such as UNiDAYS or Studentenkorting offer discounts from different famous brands. So all you need to do is just BE a student and enjoy the DEALS available.

6. Apply for benefits and allowances (only if you are eligible)

One of things that I really appreciate when living in The Netherlands as an international student is that sometimes, I receive financial support from the Dutch government, which makes my life here way easier. There are a few benefits/ allowances that you can apply for such as huurtoeslag (housing allowance), healthcare benefits, etc. All you need to do is to check whether you are eligible for the “toeslagen” (benefits) on the tax and customs administration official website Belastingdiesnt

Hope the mentioned tips can help you make the most of your journey as an international student in The Netherlands!

Feel free to share more in the comments!

Weird things about living in The Netherlands that shock me as an international student

Dreamy as it may seem as a destination for international students, the Dutch culture still shocks me with some of its (bizzare) facts. These below things may not be everywhere in this land of tulips but at least what I have experienced for the past years.

1.No hot water in the winter!

If you are like me and come from tropical kind of weather, you might also be taken aback by how people in The Netherlands bear with the cold water no matter what. This doesn’t mean hot water is not a thing here, it just surprises me to have to use cold water in public places. At least at my university, cold tap water is consumed regardless of how low the outside temperature can be. So instead of complaining, all I can do is live with cold water while shaking my body and having my teeth clashing against each other while washing my hands after using the toilet

2. Thinking about going to a coffee shop in Netherlands? Think twice!

Why? Because coffee shops in The Netherlands are not what you might think it is. In The Netherlands, coffee shops are where the sale of cannabis for personal consumption takes place. So don’t be surprised if your Dutch friends give you a weird look if you ask them out to a coffee shop. Instead, the word “cafe” is normally used when you mean a place where you can get your comfort cup of coffee. So, be careful when inviting or being invited to a coffee shop.

Bikes everywhere in The Netherlands, even during Covid time!

3. Shops closed at 6pm? Yes, it is true!

Since I come originally from Viet Nam where most of the entertainment activities occur in the evening, moving to Europe where most cafes and shops close at around 6pm-8pm hits me really hard. However, in The Netherlands, Thursday is also often known as “Shopping Day” when shops and stores opening time can be slightly extended till 8pm or 9pm. So bear this in mind if you want to plan something fun with your buddies.

4. Privacy is highly valued!

Unlike Viet Nam where people are more used to the “togetherness” way of living, the Dutchies tend to respect each other’s privacy. They do not like to be looked at in an over-friendly way or if you see their windows are closed with curtains, do not try to look inside even when you are just addicted to the cat lying lazily by the window. I did this once and the owners shut the curtain right in front of my eyes, which did scare me a bit. But yeah, be careful when you want to do something that might violate people’s privacy. However, do not hesitate t say “Hi/ Hoi” to a random person on the street who might also greet you back with a warm smile.

5. Separate lane for bikers

The Netherlands is globally renowned for having a massive number of bikes. It has even been said that there are more bikes than the total population in The Netherlands. Therefore, if you come to The Netherlands, you will see that infrastructure here has been made to accommodate this healthy habit of the citizens and tourists. Bikers can and are required to ride on the lanes that are outstandingly painted in red, which makes it safer and less competitive to other kinds of vehicles for bikers.

6. Want to meet up with your Dutch friends? Maybe next month (or even next year) :D

What also shocked me when I first relocated to The Netherlands from Viet Nam is that it is quite hard to set up a meeting since my Dutch friends is always functioning based on their (usually tight) agendas. When I was in Viet Nam, it is just fine to make an appointment with my friends days or even hours before the desired meeting time. However, in NL, you may need to wait until next week or even next month(s) to be able to have a slot in your Dutch friend’s busy schedule. Uncomfortable as it may be sometimes, this habit of stick-to-your-agenda of the Dutch shows that they are quite organized and disciplined, doesn’t it?

Is there anything about The Netherlands that you may want to share? Feel free to let me know!

Dutch winter food that you should never miss

Are you ready to conquer winter depression? Don’t worry, food can fix everything!

1. Stamppot

For me, Stamppot is the Dutch national food as every single Dutch friend of mine has this “ritual” dish every now and then. Stamppot is seen as the comfort food of the Netherlands. It is simply mashed potato mixed with your favorite type of vegetable (kale, broccoli, carrot, etc.), topped with smoky sausage (vegan sausage of course if you’re a non-meat eater). You can also add a finishing touch by topping the dish with some ketchup, or any kind of sauce you like. For me, this dish is healthy as it is rich in fiber and starch. One plus point is that is it also easy and time-consuming to make.

2. Pea soup (Erwtensoep)

Who doesn’t like a hot bowl of soup on a winter day? I had my very first try of pea soup at the canteen of my university. A basic pea soup meal composes of peas, pork (can be replaced with tofu for vegetarians/ vegans), some kinds of winter vegetable like onions, carrots, leek, potato, celery, etc. Although the smell of pork meat does not seem to be attractive to me, I personally like the texture of this soup. It is thick, sometimes to the point that you will think it is more like a stew than a soup. However, due to this thick consistency of the soup, it is served as a main meal, not starter, and can help to fill your stomach long enough until your next meal.

3. Oliebollen

Personally, this is a CAN’T-DO-WITHOUT winter snacks. It is symbolic snack for not only winter but also Christmas occasions for me. This simple flour-made “balls” taste a bit like donuts to me, and yes some people even call it the Dutch donuts. However, the way how it has been revolutionized with raisins, and chocolate brings it to another level. At first I did not like it because it is too oily and boring to me (I called it the greasier version of donut :D. However, as years go by, I find Oliebollen fun snacks to have after class or when hanging out with friends, especially a cold winter afternoon. It is not also affordable, especially if you buy on New Year’s Eve, you may get good deals of 20 Oliebollen for shocking 10euro!!!


4. Chocomelk

Big fan of chocolate cannot miss the chance of having a cup of hot Chocomelk (the famous Dutch brand). Chocomelk can often be found in menu of restaurants and many terras in The Netherlands. A cup of hot Chocomelk topped with whipped cream (slagroom) will be a taste of heaven. If you want to be a little bit “sassy”, then a little addition of Beiley is also a good choice.


5. Apple pie (appeltaart)

Simple but flavorful, this national Dutch dessert will blow your mind. The perfect combination of the sourness of apple and the temptation from cinnamon can bring you the coziest winter vibe. Have no oven? Don’t worry, cheap servings of apple pie from Albert Heijn at an unquestionably reasonable price can still make you feel over the moon.

6 easy ways to make the best of autumn as an international student in The Netherlands

Busy as you might be, remember that life is so much more than just studying!

The academic year has started means that students’ life can be occupied by so many deadlines which can drain you at some points. Don’t worry, you can always find ways to have a school-life balance!

Take a short walk whenever possible

It may sound simple, but trust me, Dutch nature won’t disappoint you. There’s a close scientific link between strolling for a walk and health benefits. Too good to be true? Well, taking a short walk has been shown to ease nervousness and boost relaxation. What’s more? Strolling away from your study can also help to improve creativity. So get stuck? Just spend some time away from your laptop and step out for some freshness.

Treat yourself to good food!

Personally, this works for me every single time. Do you agree that maintaining a healthy (and tasty) diet is a fancy solution to a happy life? For me, whenever I feel stressed, or depressed, I always rely on delicious dishes to revive my energy. You can choose to either order food online or eat out in restaurants with your buddies. I know it can be costly to eat out sometimes, but trust me, you’re worth it. If life is not about food, what else? Or if you are like me and love to cook, then spending time exploring new recipes can also help. I love the feeling of spending hours in the kitchen cooking my favorite dishes, and feel even better knowing that cooking at home can save me lots of money too.

Keep a positive attitude and have something to look forward to!

I know that life sometimes can be hard on you, but keep in mind that the hardships are just temporary and they exist to help you stronger. Enjoy the process of your journey and believe that the obstacles will just train you to be wiser. I tend not to focus too much on the negativities that the bulky workload can cause, instead, I make plans for the winter break which is something that I can look forward to. Searching for where to go, what to do, and where to stay or how to make the winter vacation as much fun as possible is just a much more relaxing and exciting process than reading 40-page articles for my study.

Groningen city in autumn

Do some shopping! But do not exceed your budget (as a student)!

The feeling that you can investigate in yourself and make yourself look nicer or embrace your styles and charactersitics through what you wear is one of the best feelings. And especially, in the autumn there are many good deals from fashion chains, which makes shopping a good “excuse” to spend money. Furthermore, from October onwards, Christmas decorations will have been displayed in quite a number of stores. Need a change for your mood? Then I bet cute and cozy Christmas ornaments or candles can also bring you warmth. However, as a student, you may not want to surpass your monthly limit! So make a good budget plan so that life will be easier.

Have a short vacation (if possible)

Taking a day or two from home sounds like a good idea too! You can choose to explore the autumn nature in The Netherlands (trust me the Dutch nature in autumn won’t disappoint you!). Or a day back to childhood to some theme parks in The Netherlands sounds fun too? List of where to go can be infinite so don’t worry if you cannot decide yet! Take your time, sit back and relax, feel free to take my recommendations on such places as Efteling, Wildlands Adventure Zoo, Moco museum or simply taking a walk in De Hoge Veluwe which is the biggest national park in The Netherlands (and many more)!

treat-yourself-good-sips-of tea-or-coffee
Treat yourself to good food and drinks

It is totally fine to be lazy!

Don’t feel like doing any of the above-mentioned activities? It is totally fine if you decide to spend a day in your own room. Reading your favorite book(s), Netflix and chill, cooking, cleaning and re-organizing your room can still be a source of happiness. Or strolling around and having a sip of hot chocolate in your favorite cafe while looking out the streets that are full of autumn leaves can be so tranquil too.

Overall, my tip is to do whatever makes you comfortable and happy. Each of us will have different ways to spend our time and whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it!

4 Reasons why Groningen is the best student city in The Netherlands

Do you ever wonder what makes Groningen a true student city?

Vibrant city of students … and more

As the name suggests, Groningen impresses me with lots of young folks like me. There’s a high chance that you bump into a student while hovering on the streets of Groningen because more than a quarter of the city’s population is students. What makes it even more perfect is the city itself embraces both the young vibe of a dynamic student city and the old vibe of charming old blocks and buildings. Furthermore, the city of Groningen is becoming more sustainable, not only in terms of its nature which is becoming greener but also study environment for students. Since 2021, smoking ban has become effective in all universities in Groningen. Shops and stores are joining hands too by using more sustainable materials such as paper containers and avoid using plastic cutlery.

Life is not all about study!

You agree with me? Well if you need to throw a party or just wanna chill after a busy week, Groningen has a lot to offer. Home to the “Drie gezusters” – renowned for being the biggest pub in Europe makes you feel excited enough? Drie gezusters is located in the heart of Grotemarkt in the city center makes spending the night at the pubs a dream come true.

Drie Gezusters – the biggest pub in Europe

Stay in budget in one of the CHEAPEST cities in The Netherlands

NL in general is notorious for being one of the most expensive countries in Europe in terms of education, especially if you’re a non-EU student (sadly!). However, what if you still want to come to NL for your study? Well, then put Groningen on your list right away! Living in Groningen is so much more affordable compared to cities like Amsterdam, Utrecht, etc. With a budget of only 500, you can already find a shelter for yourself, and from 700  – 1000 euros, you may be able to find a studio that is fully furnished. What’s more? renting a spot from student housing agencies (Lefier, SSH, etc.) is also a good way to spend your uni life, with rooms ranging from 350-ish, sounds good right? Well but if you’re a future student in other bigger cities like Rotterdam, Amsterdam, etc., then finding somewhere affordable can probably give you headaches.

Rich in hidden gems

Kardinge - Groningen

Kardinge – Groningen

The Netherlands is not all about Amsterdam. Take the 2-hour NS train and here you are, in the most beautiful and magical city to the North of The Netherlands. Be ready to be amazed by Groningen attractions. On winter days, take some walks down the streets, across the A-Brug, you’ll find a bundle of cozy little stores and cafes that make you want to pay a visit. Or spend your summer days in some greener parts of Groningen. For example, when the summer officially comes, Stadpark and Nooderplantsoen will be active with festivals or people having picnics with happy music. Or make your nature escapes by bus/ bikes and you’ll find yourself in the beautiful Kardinge or lovely old villages nearby. Are you ready to have the best of your life in this lovely town? Come and find out more!!

The ultimate guide to travel around The Netherlands for international students

Why knowing efficient ways to travel around NL matters? Not only you as a student can better schedule your future plans but it can also be beneficial to your budget.


Regardless of the rain, hail, wind, etc., the Dutch like to bike around! Personally, it feels like a sin not to own a bicycle in The Netherlands.

What impresses me about the Netherlands is that it is not only famous for having more bicycles than the total population but also for the infrastructures that make riding more effortless than ever. In The Netherlands, you can always find priority routes for cyclists which are painted in red. This makes it safer for you as a cyclist as you do not have to compete with other kinds of vehicles.

Owning a bicycle as a student in NL is not that difficult, so is losing one :D. Normally, students would go for second-hand bikes being sold on Facebook Marketplace or from someone they know. I bought one Gezellig brand fiets (“fiets” means bicycles in Dutch) at only 60euro and was over satisfied with it!

Travelling on a bike can be a form of happiness!

Public transportation

However, bikes are not always ideal for long commutes. Then buses and trains are perfect alternatives. Traveling in NL can be as easy as pie because it is a small country. For example, it takes just a little more than 4 hours by train from Groningen to Maastricht which is near the border between NL and Belgium. Besides, train and bus stops are within short distances, which compensates for the absence of trams or metros in some smaller cities.

I would highly recommend having an OV-chipkaart (Openbar Vervoorer (OV) = public transportation). With this powerful small card, you can hop on and off any kind of public transport available: from buses, trains, to trams or metros, etc. With an OV card, you, as an international student can subscribe to travel products sold by different Dutch travel providers. I preferably go for the 31euro subscription (*prices can be different depending on when you buy it) provided by NS which allows me to travel unlimitedly at the weekends by trains. With this subscription, I can FREELY visit any city in The Netherlands at the weekend. How cool is that?

What I find interesting about traveling by trains in NL is that you can bring your bike or pets on the trains, of course with just a little extra paid in advance. That basically means you can just travel everywhere, whether by train or bicycles. Wat gezellig!!!

Of course, there are also other cool travel products by NS (the Dutch train provider) that you can choose based on your personal needs. Having one of those travel products is an economical and flexible way to travel.

What is your favorite way to travel around The Netherlands? Do you recommend any better way(s) to travel economically? Let me know in the comment below!

How to deal with scam-free housing in The Netherlands for international students

Finding a roof over your head is among the pre-departure essentials for any international student, especially when most universities in The Netherlands do not offer dormitories. Trust me, finding a stay here as an international (or not) can be even harder than becoming a Harvard student.

First thing is to know reliable housing sources. There are of course plenty of trust-worthy housing websites in NL that you can reach out:


SSH is commonly recommended by your desired university when it comes to student housing. One thing to remember is to register for a room as soon as possible, starting from the very first moment that vacancies are opened. One big plus is that having an SSH account is totally FREE, as long as you have an acceptance letter from your institution. However, one thing you might need to consider is that SSH normally offers stays for only first year Bachelor’s or Master’s students, which means after one year, you need to move out and find a new stay.


Kamernet is also a good name when looking for housing in The Netherlands. With a Kamernet premium account, you can search, filter, respond to rooms and arrange viewings with the landlords in any city in Netherlands, unlimitedly.

Housing anywhere

With this website, you can find stay in more than 300 cities in Europe, whether it comes to rooms, apartments or short-stays. You can filter your preferences using the website’s filtering options ranging from sizes, type of room, distance from city center, and even the possibility to register with the city municipalities.

Grote markt – Groningen

Still no luck with housing websites? Then hopefully you can still look for something from groups on other platforms (e.g. Facebook, Whatsapp, etc.) However, be mindful of some below life-lessons gained from our fellow students in The Netherlands:

NEVER PAY until you (or your friends) see the room with your own eyes

There are of course lots of scams, and many first-time students fall for this. One useful tip is to rent a room from someone you know well enough. In case you cannot view the room in person, make sure that you can video call the landlord or whoever owns the room, even when they promise to send you pictures and videos. Or it is better to have someone you trust to view the room for you.

There are actually some keywords to spot SCAMMERS, things like ‘the owner is currently abroad‘, or “I am away for holiday“, “I’ll send the keys once the contract is signed“, or “NO physical viewing possible at the moment”. Those are 100% SCAMS!!!

Still in doubt? Google the image

If the room looks too good to be true: shiny floors, classy furniture, neat and tidy kitchen, etc. everything is low-priced, be CAREFUL!!. You can avoid such potential scams by Googling the images first. If you see the room images elsewhere on a website, then highly likely that the person steal the images and try to scam innocent newbies.

Never trust new Facebook account with silly avatar/ unreal names

If you see a Facebook account with a very ridiculous name, or a newly created account. Based on my experience, these types of accounts are MAJORLY scammers. So have a good eye on whom you will pay your money to!

Hope my tips will give you a helpful hand on being scam-free when finding your shelter!

Are you a happy international student in The Netherlands?

So what do I do living in this land of bicycles?

“Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving”

How it started

The Netherlands has never been my dream destination for education, Europe was still a completely new land to me as where an international student would stream to. But in the end, I found myself land in this country where I would love to call my second home.

I reluctantly packed my luggage and stepped on the one-way flight to Amsterdam in the midst of the Corona pandemic. My decision to still go knowing that the come-back day was still an open question gave me mixed feelings. I was worried, sad and frustrated, thinking about having no acquaintances in The Netherlands, my stay had not been set yet, the virus was still present taking away thousands of lives per day. Honestly, I did not know what to expect except for the fact that I came here for a better education and (hopefully) living environment. Apart from those motivations, I was completely lost. But still I decided not to return my tickets and be here.

Riding a bicycle on a winter day in Groningen

Being a happy international student

Now that I am writing these lines, I am being wrapped up in warm blanket, in my recently renovated room while the wind is blowing hard outside. All in all, my life has been getting better each day, or at least I believe so although I must admit that it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The struggles behind are still there, raw and real, always! But I believe they all help to build the person I am today, much stronger and always love more to receive more!

It cannot take just seconds to paint the whole picture about my life here in The Netherlands, obviously. Therefore, my next blogs will be more detailed about life experiences in The Netherlands as an international student. How staying, studying and traveling are like, and everything else that life has to deal with.

Particularly, I will dive into my life experiences in Groningen – the biggest city to the north of The Netherlands. I bet you have never heard of it, but trust me, Netherlands is not just about Amsterdam. You may be amazed at how magnetic this student-friendly city of Groningen can be. All I could give is that this is now my tweede huis (second home) , and will always be.

So I really appreciate your patience until these last lines of my very first blog about The Netherlands!

Stay tuned for my next blogs! And hope to see ya soon in Groningen – The Netherlands!