To all the newbies in Groningen, a big welcome! I hope you are enjoying the introduction week so far, have already met amazing people and will have a memorable experience in Groningen. To make your lives a bit easier, here is a starterpack, a list of do’s and dont’s, must haves, best saves and much more to make this transition period smooth and to give you an inside into the practical lifestyle of the dutch and tips and tricks on how to go by your day without any worries.
Priorities first, before making any other decisions, you need a full stomach. When you are hungry you can get impulsive, so lets first satisfy your cravings.
The main supermarket chains here are the blue Albert Heijn and the yellow JUMBO. They both offer great deals and have weekly discounts. Albert Heijn offers a bonus card with which you get discounts and lower prices. The bonus card is free so make sure to get one and always keep it with you. JUMBO tends to be a bit cheaper than Albert Heijn in some ways, however if you watch out on price-value ratio, you should be fine either way. Both places accept ONLY Dutch bank cards so make sure to have cash on hand in case you have not opened a bank account just yet. There is also a few orange COOP shops or if you really want to make sure you stick to your budget and don’t like spending a lot on food, Lidl and Aldi are German brothers which will have your back. Every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, there is a food market on Vismarkt where you can get the fresh bread and pastries (5 donuts for 1€!!!), fruits and veggies of all kinds, meat and fish, nuts and cheese, Italian legit goodies as well as freshly made stroopwaffels(the smell gets me every time, I cannot resist). Shopping for food is one of my favourite activities and if you find the right deals, so will be yours. OH, also don’t forget to be environmentally friendly by bringing your own shopping bag instead of buying plastic ones!
P.S. If you feel lazy to cook, have a few friends coming over or lack some ingredients to put together a meal, sites you can order from are Fooddrop, Thuisbezorgd and Uber Eats.
Okay so you got your food, but you don’t have a pan, plate and cutlery? Not to worry, Hema, Xenos, Blokker, TK Maxx and Action are the places to be. Hema is a department store which offers anything from kitchen and bathroom stuff, bedding and duvets to stationary and even food. It is affordable yet good quality. Xenos is a great shop for kitchen gadgets and room décor. Blokker sells vacuums, scales, mini ovens and other electronics as well as kitchen and bathroom supplies and tools. Action is not as popular as the others, yet has great cheap buys. Most of the shops offer discount cards, which will make your shopping even better. TK Maxx is a life saver for last minute presents. You can also visit Media Markt for any kind of devices you might need. Ikea as students #1 choice has very simple and affordable sets for pretty much everything as well as Swedish meatballs and cinnamon rolls (not sponsored, but open for business).
Not to lie, Ikea is probably one of the best options. It is modern, high-quality and you will find everything you are looking for there. I mean, who doesn’t want a room in a sleek Scandinavian style?! Jysk is another option, focusing more on furniture then other things and is slightly cheaper with some items. If you are in Groningen for only half a year, or would like to save up on buying a wardrobe or a desk, make sure to check and keep an eye on Marketplace on Facebook as well as other Groningen *For Sale* groups where students sell their furniture in good condition for low prices. Groningen periodically organizes flea markets where you might find interesting old-school, retro and antique items as well as second-hand clothes!
If you are In need for drugstore makeup, a new shampoo, plasters or a detergent, Kruidvat and Etos are the best shops for that. They are both dutch stores and, yes, you guessed it, offer discount cards. Kruidvat is cheaper overall, Etos has really good quality skincare (face masks are the BEST, trust me on this one) and other body products which can be found even for a euro! Whichever one you choose, you won’t make a mistake and will for sure find what you need. HEMA also has a skincare and body range which is worth trying!
Bikes, bikes and more bikes! Whether you are a professional cyclist or barely pedal, you will NEED a bike in Groningen. It is a priority for reaching further destinations, when rushing to a class, going on a night out. Don’t make a mistake I did and get a shitty bike thinking you won’t really use it. The bike should be in a fairly good condition, easy to bike and fast. (otherwise, you will hate biking and your life which is not the dutch spirit we are going for here). The best option for renting a bike is Swapfiets – blue wheel bikes you probably already saw all over the city. They are only 12€ per month, are fast, comfortable and new, and come with two locks which are an essential to have. The company offers free repairs of lights, flat tires and any other minor inconveniences. If you would like to buy and have your own, of course second hand(or well by now probably 8th hand) bike, ALWAYS get it from an authorized store and make sure the price is suitable for what you’re getting. On the other hand, the city has buses which are well-connected with different parts and cost around 2.50 a ticket (only paid with PIN). I strongly recommend you getting an OV Chipcard(personalized – ordered through a website or a general one bought in any bigger supermarket) with which you will be able to travel with trains as well and use it in order cities in the Netherlands. The ride with it is much cheaper but don’t forget to check IN and OUT of the bus/train when using it! Useful apps which would help you with lines and stops are 9292 and NSNL.
P.S. Albert Heijn and Kruidvat as well as these websites usually offer great train ticket deals -> vakantieveilingen.nl; spoordeelwinkel.nl and nsnl.nl
Apart from the boring adult stuff like insurance, municipality registration and bank accounts (which you most likely got all the information on from your universities), there are fun things in groningen which you should definitely sign up for and become a part of. Sports wise there is ACLO – the biggest sports center in Groningen with a 60€ annual membership for over 90 different sports. Gyms like Train More and Basic Fit, dance centers like TUDC and Groningen Dance Center and Kardigne – a sport center which is further away from the city, but where you can try rock-climbing or ice-skating.
Culture centers like USVA, student choirs and orchestras or language centers in your universities are a great way to boost your CV whilst trying out a new hobby, learning a language or spending your free time enjoying an activity you are already good at and would like to improve.
Last but not least, join student associations, many of which you had a chance to explore during introduction day and ESN week. The variety is endless and no matter if you are a social butterfly or shy and insecure, there is a group of students which will for sure suit your personality and interests. Whether it is your own study association, a debating club, a charity association like UNICEF or Red Cross or an activity organization like ESN, the doors are open and there is always room for new students!
Hopefully this post is helpful and filled with useful information you might need and didn’t know when coming here. You can always turn to ESN if you need any help during your stay! Make sure to check out our other blog posts to find out more about the dutch culture itself, where to eat, go on a night out and stay up to date with events and new blog posts coming your way!
– Written by Elena – PR Committee