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Living in Groningen/NL

On this page you will find information on the following topics:


The International Welcome Center North (IWCN) is a one-stop shop for international people living in, and companies located in, Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe.

They offer services in three areas:  government formalities (residence permits and municipal registration); information (practical information and referrals to reliable service providers); and social activities (a chance to start building a social and/or business network during activities and events).

Also information about housing in the Northern Netherlands can be found on their website: from finding a property, to what to expect from houses in the North, to moving, and to setting up your new home.

Health insurance

Every person who lives or works in the Netherlands is legally obliged to take out standard health insurance to cover the cost of, for example, consulting a general practitioner, hospital treatment and prescription medication. You may also opt to take out additional insurance to cover costs not included in the standard package.

Zorgwijzer is a comparison tool to find an affordable Dutch health insurance.

Dutch Culture

As in every country, there are certain sets of traditional or common behaviors that are considered the norm in the Netherlands, or at least not abnormal. It’s a good idea to become acquainted with these customs, so that it becomes easier to feel at home in the Netherlands. The most important customs are explained on the website of International Welcome Center North (IWCN).

It is also practical or even sometimes required to take Dutch courses. The UG provides these at the University of Groningen Language Centre.

In Dutch culture, having a good (mental) health is considered a great good. Balans is the preventive healthcare programme at the University of Groningen. It is intended for all staff members and offers incentives for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Sports & hobbies

The ACLO is the overarching student sports organization of the University of Groningen and the Hanze university of applied sciences. The SPR is the sports association of the University of Groningen and Hanze University Groningen for staff and retirees. As a PhD student you can either join the ACLO or the SPR  depending on your contract with the University. If you are unsure about your contract your graduate school or the front desk of the Sports Center can inform you accordingly.

Cultureel studentencentrum Usva offers courses in acting, improvisation, dance, writing, illustrations, composition, music lessons and much more.


The OV-chipkaart is the payment method for public transport in the Netherlands. If you carry an OV-chipkaart with you, you no longer need to think about strip tickets or metro tickets. You load credit onto the card in euros or add a travel product, such as a single journey, a monthly pass for commuting or a season ticket.

Having children

You are entitled to pregnancy leave starting six weeks before the day after the expected date of childbirth. This date must be confirmed in a written statement by a physician or midwife. The pregnancy leave must begin no later than four weeks before the day after the expected date of childbirth.

Maternity leave begins on the day of childbirth and is ten continuous weeks. If the pregnancy leave was shorter than six weeks, the number of days not taken may be added to the maternity leave. If the employee was not able to work before the pregnancy leave due to illness, then the pregnancy leave begins six weeks before the expected date of childbirth, and the period of illness is counted as pregnancy leave.

When bringing family members it is advisable to spend some time preparing their stay in the Netherlands in order to avoid delays. You need to take into account that issues such as visa requirements, insurance, finding work and schools need to be taken care of for each family member.

Biking and swimming lessons

Cycling is a common mode of transport in the Netherlands, with 36% of Dutch people listing the bicycle as their most frequent way of getting around on a typical day, as opposed to the car (45%) and public transport (11%). Cycling has a modal share of 27% of all trips (urban and rural) nationwide. Groningen is called "The World's Cycling City", and has even higher percentages of using the bike as main mode of transport. To get around safely in the city, it is important to take biking lessons.

Swimming lessons in the Netherlands used to be provided by the municipalities during school hours. Since a couple of years, the municipality of Groningen does not provide these lessons anymore, but children (and adults) are still expacted to obtain a national swimming diploma to teach water safety with the goal of instilling confidence and allowing participation in recreational swimming and water sports. Sport050 provides these lessons for the city of Groningen.

Last modified:14 June 2023 1.34 p.m.