Cost of living in Groningen
October 19, 2012 12:52 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine in Asia is wondering about becoming an exchange student at the University of Groningen, Netherlands. She is wondering whether the cost of living as estimated by the University folks is correct. One link here. More specific questions below the fold.

- Does that list seem in the right ballpark?
- if she cooks for herself and doesn't eat out, is the cost of food still about 200 Euro per day?
- Do students HAVE to pay for a bicycle, the administration costs for housing (I guess not if she finds her own place to stay, but would that be cost effective?) and the 300 Euro for the ACLO sports center (I can't imagine so)?
posted by Omnomnom to Education (12 answers total)
...200 Euro PER MONTH, please excuse me.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:53 PM on October 19, 2012

That actually sounds like a low estimate. And consider that the 75 Euro spending money (that's like a movie, two student bar drinks, and a pair of socks a month) would be incurred after the initial expenses of buying climate-appropriate clothes and shoes, bedding, towels, small electronics (think hair dryer) that work with local voltage, cell phone service and all the other things one needs when relocating to a new place, even for a short time. The alternative of a bicycle would be a train and/or bus pass, would be my guess, and those aren't exactly cheap either.

Chances are that if she lives in the student dormitories, she will have minimal access to cooking equipment and appliances (maybe a microwave and a refrigerator), so don't count on being able to prepare all her meals. Also, there are many, many organized events for exchange students, and most involve meeting at a pub or restaurant where she'd have to buy her own drinks and meal.

FYI, when I studied in Stockholm, the only non-EU foreign students (EU citizens qualify for scholarships and what not) were from extremely wealthy South Asian or Arab families (as in, had lived with servants and maids their entire lives).
posted by halogen at 1:06 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Asia and Europe have interchangeable electrical product use. I believe only the USA uses 110V.

I have been living in Wageningen since mid Sept, an even smaller university village in rural Holland. It is possible to manage on around 20e a day, being frugal. This doesn't include eating out and drinks or rent but I find them cheaper than in the Nordic countries where I was previously. Other students will know how to manage. There are student cards that offer significant discounts for trains and buses as well as cafeteria and coffee etc within campus.
posted by infini at 1:17 PM on October 19, 2012

The bicycle is a must, I don't know about the other costs. My project budget had a line item for a used bicycle for me, approx 50e. I see a lot of Asian students on campus.
posted by infini at 1:20 PM on October 19, 2012

(halogen: You are in the Netherlands, yes?)
posted by Omnomnom at 1:22 PM on October 19, 2012

I'll add that I'm paying 500e for a room with shared bath, a common living area and kitchen facilities and they do the laundry. Utilities are included but I find this cost high comparatively, given its a village. Holland is the most densely populated country in EU and yes, housing is a challenge as the Uni says.
posted by infini at 1:32 PM on October 19, 2012

Asia and Europe have interchangeable electrical product use. I believe only the USA uses 110V.

Japan uses 100 V and Taiwan 110 V. They also don't use the same plugs -- both use North American-style 2-prong plugs (and occasionally the 3-prong polarized one, although it is rare in Taiwan).
posted by andrewesque at 1:59 PM on October 19, 2012

Omnomnom, no, I'm just answering based on my experience as a foreign student, albeit in a different country, Sweden, and my trips to the Netherlands. I have close friends studying in Dutch universities, but they are EU citizens and qualify for extra funds and both of their families can be considered very wealthy.
posted by halogen at 2:00 PM on October 19, 2012

Halogen, I don't live in the Netherlands or speak any Dutch but it didn't take me long to discover that the Pathé cinema in Groningen charges €8.50 for a full price ticket to an evening showing, or €6.50 reduced. The Drie Gezusters bar, which is not a student bar but was recommended on a site I turned up with a Google search for 'Groningen University student bar' by a Portuguese student who'd recently done an Erasmus exchange, charges €2.60 for a small (25cl) or €4.80 for a large (50cl) glass of Heineken, or somewhat more for nicer beers. So let's say €11.10 for two beers and a film, a modest night out: that leaves nearly €63 for the pair of socks. I know you were exaggerating for effect--but do you see what I'm getting at?

As for the other 'set-up' costs you mention, Omnomnom's friend should find out from a reliable source what they cost, or which of those things might actually be covered in the rent. The university housing office might be a good source of information; so might one of the international students' associations linked from this page.

Omnomnom: because UK universities have recently introduced £9,000/year tuition fees (c.$14,500), many Dutch universities are recruiting very actively among British students. This is relevant to your friend for two reasons. First, it is in their interest to provide reliable information about actual living costs (which would be the case anyway): if a university systematically underestimates living costs word will get round very quickly. Second, there's probably quite a bit of information out there aimed at British students that your friend may find useful. Here, for example, or in a form that's a bit more self-consciously studenty here. Stuff that's aimed at Erasmus students (EU exchange programme) also gives helpful information about cost of living: this forum, for example, where someone was advertising a decent-sized room to let in a shared house at €374/month with bills and internet included (and a well-equipped kitchen, apparently). You'll also find people recommending saving money by shopping at one of the big discount supermarkets like Aldi, which I'm sure could keep food costs down.

So on the whole I'd say that yes, that list probably looks in the right ballpark: more conservative (that is, estimating somewhat higher costs) than the one on, incidentally. Oh, and yes, the bike is essential: that's all your local travel costs covered. Here's the route from the station to the university by bike: zoom out from there and you'll see how well-provided the city is with bike routes. (Also, if you set it to 'terrain', you don't hit a contour line till you're some way beyond the German border, as far as I can make out.)
posted by lapsangsouchong at 3:46 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I lived in Groningen for 4 years, leaving last November. I was not a student but I lived by myself. My opinion:

- Quick summary: yes, for a student lifestyle, that's about the right ballpark.

- A bike is not absolutely essential - I did without - but the city is maybe 5 miles across, and everyone will assume she has a bicycle. *Everyone* cycles in Groningen. The city is very well set up for cycling, and yes, it's flat as a pancake. She definitely shouldn't get an expensive bike though - it'll only get stolen. The alternative to cycling would be walking or taking the bus; trains are for travelling to other towns and villages, and she'd be living in Groningen itself if she's studying at RUG. She might get free or very cheap public transport as a student, but it's been a few years since I knew any students to ask, and that perk may be nationality-dependent.

- €75 a month on fun is optimistic, I think, but maybe if she's the frugal kind... I would recommend de Pintelier (a Belgian bar with excellent beer) over de Drie Gezusters (notable mostly for being huge and labyrinthine), for what it's worth!

- Dutch people are really sporty; if she's not, I don't see why she would have to pay to join a sports club.

- €200 is closer to what I spent on food in a fortnight than in a month; even a half-loaf of bread costs more than a euro. But I wasn't trying to live all that frugally; €200 a month definitely doesn't sound impossible for someone on a budget. She'll want to shop mostly in Aldi, or at least in Jumbo or on the market (Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays), instead of in Albert Heijn.

- My privately-rented one-bedroom apartment cost me a shade over €900 a month, but it was both large and overpriced. However, I'd be surprised if renting privately was a saving over renting through the university, even with an admin cost.

- Health insurance is a legal obligation, and the price quoted looks about right. Incidentally, the deal is that you are obliged to be insured, and they are then obliged to cover you for any condition, pre-existing or not.

- Dutch language courses at RUG are expensive for non-students like me but subsidised for students; I'd expect her to be paying something in the middle of the quoted range per course.

- Books are expensive. English-language books (textbooks and otherwise) are available in the local bookshops, but it's likely cheaper to order from or Still, €300 a semester sounds plausible.

Please feel free to MeMail if she has any specific questions about Groningen that I might be able to help with!
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:54 PM on October 19, 2012

She doesn't HAVE to pay for a bicycle, but not having a bicycle in The Netherlands is like not having a car in Los Angeles. If she arrives at the beginning of the term she might want to wait a month before she buys a used bike. We arrived here in Amsterdam at the beginning of September and all the bike shops said that supplies were low and prices high because of the demand from newly arriving UVA students. Walking around this week I see many more bikes priced around €120 or lower. Earlier nothing really under €160.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:37 AM on October 20, 2012

I was just living in Nijmegen, another University town in the Netherlands, for most of a year.

You can find shared accommodation (room in a flat with other students) I think would be €300 €400 a month. but living alone would be much more. €800+

A Bicycle can be bought second hand for €50 -€100 and will save you money in the long run as the buses and public transport in the Netherlands is quite expensive relatively. And its so safe to cycle around. Cycle lanes are everywhere and the that.

Food / groceries in the Netherlands are relatively expensive for Europe. I knew a few people who would drive 20kms to Germany to do their grocery shopping each week. but you can probably get by on €50 a week. but that would be pretty tight. We were a couple and spending more than that I think.

The Cinema is not too expensive. (Compared to the UK) but drinks at pubs / bars are a bit expensive. maybe €5 a beer. Anything with Services are quite expensive relatively. like eating out / hair cuts / etc.
posted by mary8nne at 4:55 AM on October 20, 2012

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