Working part-time as a non EU student: A personal story

Student ambassador Chloe has been working part time to finance her studies in The Hague. It has not all been easy, so she shares her experiences in this blog. Disclaimer: Some of the parts in this blog post is from her own experience. Please do not generalize with the whole situation of this matter in Holland.

Posted by Phuong Minh Nguyen (Chloe) - student ambassador - The Hague University of Applied Sciences at Jan 02, 2019 11:46 AM

I am currently in my last year of my bachelor degree in Holland. Having been here for nearly four years, I have worked in three different restaurants as a part-timer. Each of these restaurants brought me a quite different experience and lessons to learn. Before sharing my story, I would like to inform you some of the information you need to know before starting a part-time job in the Netherlands if you are a non EU citizen:

  • In big cities, Dutch is not required. Many companies still employ you if you speak only English. However, try to learn some basic Dutch phrases, it will be helpful for you. I also work for 3 different restaurants by speaking English only.
  • Only agree to work if you have a valid working permit registered by the employer. When you apply to work part-time at a company/restaurant, it is obligatory for non EU students/citizens to have a work permit. Therefore, you have to ask them if they will apply a working permit for you or not. If they apply a working permit for you then you will have to give them your ID card, bank account, BSN number and proof of enrollment of your university. A working permit for students has a duration for one year, starting in September. Therefore, the company has to reapply for a working permit for you if you continue to work there beyond September of each year.
  • The minimum wage is 5 euros/hour. However, according to the Dutch law, certain ages have different certain amount of wage per hour. The older you are the higher your wage will be.
  • According to the Dutch law, students are allowed to work 10 hours/week during school months, and 40 hours/week in the summer.
  • All the companies/restaurants have to sign a contract with the employees.

My first experiences as a part timer:

My first ever part time job in Holland was to work as waitress in a high-end restaurant. All staffs have to wear a uniform: a white shirt and a full black trousers and shoes. Before working there, staffs are fully trained. They officially trained me in the restaurant for 2 days but they still paid me a decent wage for those 2 days. Also, English was mainly used in the restaurant. Everything in this restaurant has to be clean, neat and quick, yet perfect. As you can tell, this restaurant runs professionally. Therefore, they applied for the work permit for me very quickly. They paid me even more than the wage amount which it is required by the Dutch law. Everything seems like an ideal place for me because I have very good salary and good bosses and colleagues. Until I realized that I could not do this anymore because the work load was too heavy for me. Besides, most of the time I had to carry quite heavy stuff (as according to my strength) and I had quite long working hours. Most of the time my shift ended at 11pm, but if there were still customers who stayed longer then I would have to stay until they leave. Also, that restaurant was far from my house, so I had to wait for a chef or my boss to drive me home. When I got home, it was so late and I was too tired so I often ended up going to sleep with my makeup on and even sometimes with my uniform on. Then the next morning I had to get up early to go to school and to have classes throughout the day. I felt like I had a burn out every week. After 4 months working there, I decided to quit my job.

First lesson learned: You should choose a part-time job that is suitable for you physically and it should be balance with your study and your time. Your study is your priority at this time.

My second part time job:

My second part-time job began not too long after I quit the first one. This time I worked as a waitress for a Vietnamese restaurant. Therefore, I spoke English with the customers and Vietnamese with my colleagues. This restaurant told me that I had to have 3 trial working days to see if I was competent enough and they said they would not pay me for those 3 days. They only covered the transportation cost. That was fine by me, a little surprising but I still agreed. Since the restaurant is small and there were not many customers so the work load was much lighter. However, the wage I received was only 5 euros/hour - the minimum wage. They said that if I improved my competency they would raise my wage. Months went by and even though most of the time I was the only waitress, my wage was still the same. But more than just a waitress, I also had to do other work that was completely not related to my position, such as: wash all the dishes, clean the floor and all the furniture, etc. Furthermore, when I complained that my wage was too low for my age (I was 21 years old at that time, according to the Dutch law my wage should be around 7 euros/hour), all I received was an answer: "We do not make much profit now, if we pay you higher, we will not be able to cover all the expenses". So I did not complain anymore and just kept doing my best for the job.

Unfortunately, regarding the legal aspect, they did not register a working permit for me. They did ask me for some of my legal documents such as my ID card and BSN number. However, they said they did not need my bank account because they would pay me in cash. When I finally directly asked them about the working contract and the working permit after 1 month of work since they tried to avoid talking about this topic with me every time, they said that it was only 4 months left till September so I just kept working until September illegally like this and then they would apply for me. Due to the fact that it would cost them money if they apply it for me. After hearing that and knowing many bad experiences from my friends who did not receive a working permit from the employer, I decided to quit. I knew that I needed to be secure with legal working permit and I did not want to take any risks. 

Second lesson learned: Even if you need money to cover living expense, do not take risk of working without a working permit. You should directly discuss and ask your employer/manager about working permit and working contract. Also, you need to search for information about the law of the minimum wage for different ages.

In the end:

After sending my CV and going to many restaurants and cafes to ask for a part-time job, I finally got accepted to a take away restaurant near my house. Working here feels like a perfect place for me: a legal contract and working permit were provided very quickly after I started to work. I make decent working hours with decent wage which is in accordance to my age. My employers explain everything to me clearly, directly and comprehensively. Regarding languages, I also only use English here to communicate with people, but I do try to learn some more Dutch phrases so I can connect with the customers better. Moreover, my colleagues are also young people from different countries so the working environment is much more open and relaxed. Now, I am happy and satisfied with my part-time job here.

I wish you can also will find a part-time job that is suitable for you and give you a good time here without worrying too much of the legal and financial matter.

Posted by Phuong Minh Nguyen (Chloe) - student ambassador - The Hague University of Applied Sciences at Jan 02, 2019 11:46 AM