When you move to the Netherlands, you'll inevitably want to take care of the practical things first. Finding housing, arranging health insurance, and settling into your new surroundings can take some time. But what about the first few weeks, or months, after you have started to settle in? Perhaps you may want to meet other people in your area so that you can get to know the other internationals and learn about their own experiences. Maybe you feel like you would like to connect with the local Dutch people, and discover more about Dutch language and culture. However, it can be a little difficult at first to know where to begin, and how to go about it.
Meeting Other Internationals
Internationals are usually more than happy to welcome newcomers to the Netherlands, and they have a wealth of advice and insight to offer you for your own journey. You can meet other internationals via Facebook groups (the Leiden region has several Facebook groups dedicated to internationals!), various social media platforms, and through friends of friends. You can also meet them at international-friendly events, like Leiden International Centre's monthly Meet&Mingles, which give you the chance to meet others in the local region in a casual and welcoming environment. You can check out when our next Meet&Mingles are on our Events page. Discover more social groups on our International Social Groups and Networks page!
Another great way to meet internationals includes taking classes, ranging from language courses to artistic classes (such as photography or painting). These are great ways to meet others who may share the same interests as you, and can provide you with the chance to work together on projects. Whatever your interest, there is bound to be a class for it! Or you may find hobby groups on different social media platforms that can introduce you to others who can help you discover, or improve upon, your desired skill.
Explore the different skills and hobby classes you can take in the Leiden region on our Hobbies and Activities page!
Meeting Dutch People
Although all of the above ways can introduce you to internationals in the Leiden region - and they may very well introduce you to a few Dutch people as well - meeting Dutch people can, perhaps surprisingly, be somewhat harder. It may seem unexpected at first, because if you live in the Netherlands you are surrounded by Dutch people, but many locals have their own social groups that they have maintained since childhood. It can be quite difficult to break into these groups as an international, but it's not impossible.
One of the best ways to meet Dutch people is to join a sports association. Popular sports in the Netherlands include football (soccer), rugby, rowing, and volleyball, although of course there are many others. Unlike some skills classes, sports associations and clubs often don't require a high level of Dutch to join, as it is mostly about knowing how to play the sport itself. Even if you don't know the sport very well, or speak any Dutch, people are usually more than happy to show you the ropes. It can be a brilliant way to not only stay fit, but also to learn more about Dutch culture and language. Moreover, most sports assocations and clubs organise other events and activities in addition to playing the sport itself. Whether this means a borrel on Friday evenings (a borrel is a popular Dutch tradition of having drinks and snacks with friends, family, and/or colleagues), taking a weekend trip to another city, or having a games and movie night together, there are a wide range of opportunities to get to know your newfound teammates.
You can take a look at the international friendly sports associations in Leiden on our Sports page!
Another way to meet others is to learn Dutch - useful for both your social and practical life here in the Netherlands! You can also find yourself a language buddy (taalmaatje in Dutch). Your language buddy is someone who is fluent in Dutch, and can help you learn the language whilst taking a walk through the city, meeting for a coffee, or going to an art museum (depending upon what activity you both feel like).
You can find a language buddy through organisations like Buzz, or through social media platforms and language exchange websites. Organisations like the Dutch Language Café offer immersive Dutch language learning experiences, which can give you the chance to learn with other non-native speakers, as well as to interact with native speakers of the language. Our Dutch Language page provides an overview of different ways to learn the Dutch language.
Attending Local Events
Lastly, integrating into Dutch culture is not just meeting others and getting to know your local environment (although those are certainly very important parts of it). Taking part in different cultural and national events throughout the year can give you insight into Dutch traditions and celebrations, all of which provide you with the chance to both meet new people and to learn more about your new home. Whether this means watching Sinterklaas arrive in your local municipality in November each year, or celebrating King's Day in April and Leiden's Ontzet in October, there are many events and opportunities throughout the calendar year ready for you to discover!