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The Hague, not as commonly thought, the capital of The Netherlands it is however where all the business of running the world happens. The Royal Family lives here, all the Embassies are here along with the UN, EuroPol and War Crimes Tribunal. If you need British Consular services you will have to travel to Amsterdam - the Capital of The Netherlands, go anyway it's a blast on Friday and Saturday night.
Dutch (unsurprisingly) but the majority of people in The Netherlands speak good English. In fact, getting anyone to speak to you in Dutch can be difficult.
The main high street banks are ABN AMRO, Rabobank, and ING, although there are some UK banks with a branch in The Hague or Amsterdam. ABN Amro will open a local internet bank account in English.
To open an account you go to the most convenient branch with your passport and your SoFi number, make an appointment to see the appropriate official. Account opening is all quite simple and usually conducted by an English speaking member of bank staff. One thing to remember is that to set up any transactions on your account you must go to the branch where your account is held. Banking hours are approximately Monday to Friday 0900 to 1630. There is generally a small annual charge made for Autoteller cards but they can be used throughout Europe.
When you have your Dutch bank account you will be issued with slips similar to Giro payment forms used to transfer funds from your account to others. When bills are due (water,electricity, etc) the company will send you one of these which you fill out and send to your bank. Cheques are little used.
On arrival most contractors stay in B&Bs until longer term accommodation can be organised (if desired). If going back to the UK every weekend many just stay in the B&B for the duration. For The Hague there are a number in Scheveningen. This is great for winter but they can become full in the summer. Scheveningen is a sort of Dutch Brighton. It is said that if you can pronounce Scheveningen correctly you're 90% of the way to speaking Dutch.
For longer term renting an apartment is another option. There are a large variety of fully furnished apartments available to rent in the Hague. Unlike most countries fully furnished generally means just that - crockery, cutlery, bedding, TV & video, radio/tape/CD player included. In some instances the rent includes gas, electricity and water although not always. Some buildings have communal heating which can be a blessing or a curse - often too hot or too cold. Apartments are often "handed on" when contractors move on. This is by far the cheapest way of obtaining an apartment as only the deposit and one month's rent will be required. Using estate agents can be very expensive as they charge a management fee up front equivalent to 4 to 6 weeks rent. This charge is non-refundable and in addition to the deposit and the month's rent in advance. For this they are supposed to look after any repairs required. Our experience is that they are reluctant to do anything once they have your money. In addition Dutch estate agents work only Monday to Friday from about 0930 to around 1800. However, they will drive you about to view apartments, and, as the person showing you around is salaried, they can be very forthcoming with information. A final word about The Hague - as with all large cities there are good and bad parts so look around the area (particularly at night) before signing anything. Also be careful of saying anything which may imply agreement to rent - verbal contracts are binding.
At time of writing (Sept 07) a 2 bedroom furnished apartment in a nice area of The Hague or Scheveningen costs between Eu1000 and Eu1500 dependant on the level of luxury you require, apartments with parking are slightly more.
If there is not a company doctor and you need non-emergency medical attention look in the phone book.
For emergency attention, the A&E works well, although they will want proof of address, for the bill.
Dentists are plentiful but many have full patient lists - see the phone book. All dentists have a government price list and so cost about the same. Our experience is that dentists are of variable quality. When you find one you like stick with them.
Eyesight checks are free in the Netherlands. Prices of glasses and contact lenses are comparable to those in the UK. For an eyesight check simply walk into an optician and make an appointment.
Fast food outlets and restaurants are plentiful and you can spend as little or as much as you like. Anything from chips from a stall to candle-lit haute cuisine.
Brun cafes and English and Irish bars are plentiful. Try O'Caseys at Noordeinde 140 a very well recommended Irish pub with some of the best "pub-grub" in the Netherlands, also see our links page for their website.
The price of a pint is comparable to that in SE England.
There are a number of supermarkets. The only Brit staples we couldn't find easily were back bacon and decent tea bags.
In addition to the supermarkets the Hague enjoys a plethora of small shops - fishmongers, bakers, cheese shops, greengrocers and so forth.
Most shops are shut in The Hague on Sundays, except for the town centre where the larger stores are now open from noon.
The Hague has a very good and reasonably priced transport system. Buses and trams are plentiful. The system involves buying a strippencart allowing a number of journeys – the number of strips used on a journey is 1 plus the number of zones you cross, if in doubt the driver will explain, You can change trams/ busses on the same ticket. Taxis recently got cheaper due to the introcuction of Tuk-Tuks for short in-city trips.
Another option is to buy a bicycle. Cycling is generally very safe in The Hague but buy a decent lock if you have a good bike.
Anything and everything!
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