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.