dat kan niet, yet again

I come from a country where businesses want you to give them money. In many cases, the purpose of a business is to get money from people.

A different philosophy is used in the Netherlands. The purpose of businesses here is solely to employ people, and those people are employed to say “that is not possible” (dat kan niet).

An example, common exchange:

Darryn: “hello business, I would like to give you money for your goods and/or services”
Dutch business: “that is not possible”

I am charged $5 by my Australian bank every time I use an ATM here. So I want to get a Dutch bank account.

The first step is to get a social security number. That took a month, 7 phone calls and 2 visits to the tax office. On my last, and successful, visit, I was told nine times that giving me a number was not possible. One of the reasons, told to me while holding my passport on the work permit page, was that I did not have a work permit. Having a work permit is not considered proof that you have a work permit. Luckily I had the letter from the government that said “you have a work permit, the official permit is in your passport”. So I got the sofinummer.

Two weeks ago I tried to get a bank account. I had ID, I had my sofinummer, I had every document I could think of. Dat kan niet. To open a bank account, I need a contract that lists my current address. They suggested I bring in my mobile phone contract. I pointed out that you can’t get a mobile phone contract without a bank account number. I asked what I could do. She just looked at me. The conversation was over.

So I sent in an expired cashback coupon to the mobile phone company in the hope that they would send me back a letter with my address printed on it. Last week the letter came, just as I has hoped. As a bonus, they gave me the cashback as well.

Today I went in to the bank, armed with my passport, my driver’s licence, my international driver’s licence, my official sofinummer certificate, all documentation relating to my visa, the mobile phone letter, and all of my other documents. I even brought a few hundred euros cash in case they needed a large deposit to open an account.

Dat kan niet.

It is not possible to open a bank account in the Netherlands without an employment contract with a Dutch company, and proof of income. I explained that I was doing work on the internet, which has no borders and am not employed by an official Dutch company. I explained that I had money which I wanted to give to the bank. I was told that I should have made an appointment, and when I get a job I can come in to make an appointment to apply for a bank account.

It will not surprise you to learn that you cannot get paid in the Netherlands without a Dutch bank account, they only do direct deposit into Dutch accounts. One of the required fields on an employment contract is bank account number.

I feel like a latter-day Yossarian.

Exception: None of the foreign companies I have dealt with here suffer from this. I have had business with both Sony and Sunglass Hut and both have given fantastic service, politely replacing broken goods that I did not even buy in the country, with no questions asked. The employees that I dealt with were Dutch.


  1. I often wonder if I am treated this way because I am a foreigner. I have seen a lot of overt racism whilst here, but because the racists seem to assume that I share their beliefs I thought that they included me in the ‘good races’ group.

    When a Dutch person is rude to me (i.e. every day) I tell myself that it is a language problem, the niceties were lost in translation. And in most cases that is probably true. But I have had people tell me outright lies, and not attempt to hide that they are lying, as an excuse to not serve me.

    Don’t get me wrong, most of the Dutch people I have interacted with socially have been nice, friendly people. It is just the few bad apples that spoil things.

  2. Hello Darrynn,

    I happened to come across your site since I was googling my name because of an old website feature that needed to be gone, and it was.

    However i did see my name on your site because I happen to have the same name as a KPN person that wasn’t too friendly to you I’m affraid.

    I checked several articles on your site and came across one on opening bank accounts

    I myself work for an Irish company in Amsterdam, but I am Dutch. My Irish colleagues have had trouble with opening bank accounts as well but ABN Amro on Dam square proofed to be helpful. You do need a copy of your work contract (whether your employer is Dutch or otherwise) Sofi number and passport and any form that mentions your current residence.

    I’m not sure whether you’ve succeeded already in opening a bank account but this may help.

    Hopefully you don’t think all Dutch services and people that go by the name of BG are unwilling to give any kind of support. Although I do agree with you that the monopolists like UPC, KPN and plenty of providers are a right pain in the A.

    Best of Luck


  3. Sigh, Darryn. This rivals my own experience with Air Canada and sounds almost on a par with the french government processes and procedures. Bad times buddy.

    I have a joke for you that will hopefully ease some of your pain. No props required, but you do need someone who is au fait with US Stars etc, I hate to be sexist, but Person 2 usually works better if they’re a chick.

    Person 1: Oh my god, did you see the latest footage of that blonde actress who got stabbed to death?

    Person 2: No – who was it?

    Person 1: Reece someone… uah…

    Person 2: Witherspoon!! I can’t believe it!!

    Person 1: No, with a knife.

  4. aaaah those 3 words make every non-Dutch person in the country want to scream and pull their hair out. Don’t worry.. you’re not alone 🙂

  5. Is this a new law, or does it depend on the bank?

    I opened a postbank account once, when I had no work or income of any kind. A procedure that took maybe half an hour and cost about 50 gulden.

    I tried opening an account with different bank recently, and the procedure was just as you describe it.

  6. The Belgians are just as bad. “Dat kan niet” is just a lazy phrase to make you go away. It’s nothing about racism; they’ll throw that phrase out to their own people.
    If you get “Dat kan niet”, throw out “Dat kan wel”. It’s a very immature thing that 5 year old kids scream in the playground at each other. “DAT KAN NIET!” “DAT KAN WEL!” “NIETES!” “WELLES!”…

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