If you are new to Holland and don’t speak Dutch, online shopping can be a challenging experience. Only a small percent of Dutch retailers have web shops with an English-language option. In contrast, the vast majority of businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors do offer an English version of their website.
What’s the best way to shop online in Holland when you don’t understand Dutch?
Expats coming to the Netherlands from outside the European Union (such as the United States, Canada and Australia) should be aware of the trade agreement which exists within the EU, which is the free flow of goods. In short, it allows a consumer located in one EU country to make a purchase from a retailer located in another EU country with no import fees or duties charged on the order.
What does it mean for you?
You can shop online from any store located in the EU (which delivers to the Netherlands). This makes it far easier to find an English-language web shop which offers the product you are looking for. The buying process will be smoother and less stressful when transacting in your own language. In addition, it may end up that you find the product at a lower cost than is available from a Dutch web shop.
And because the Netherlands is centrally located between three of the EU’s biggest countries, Britain, Germany and France, any difference in shipping cost is likely to be negligible.
These are just some retailers located in other EU countries which have English-language websites and offer delivery to the Netherlands…
Additional English-language options for online shopping in Holland…
There are a number of well-known American retailers who offer international shipping and delivery to the Netherlands. But in this case, there are additional costs to be considered.
The ‘import duty’ can be rather complicated to figure out since it is not a fixed percent but varies by product category. One item in your order may fall into a 10% duty rate while another may have a 25%. The good news is that shipments incoming to the Netherlands from outside the EU which have a declared value less than €150 are excluded from import duties.
Also, if the merchandise value IS over €150, but the duty amount would be less than €10, NO duty will be charged (an example would be if an item cost €250 and the import duty which applied to that merchandise category was 1%, which equals €2.50, NO import duty would be charged).
In addition, most major American retailers that offer international shipping have partnered with an organization called Border-Free. They are experts in product duty rates for every country in the world and the ones which actually handle to checkout process for the retailer. At that time, the relevant Dutch duty rate is added as well as the appropriate sales tax (BTW = 6% or 21%). Because those charges are paid in advance, once the order reaches the Netherlands, it is delivered to you with no additional C.O.D charges to be paid.
Here are non-EU retailers which accept international orders and deliver to the Netherlands:
|bh COSMETICS||BLOOMINGDALES||BLUEFLY||FRAGRANCE NET||HENRI BENDEL|
|JAMES PERSE||MACYS||NATURALIZER||PERFUME.com||SAKS FIFTH AVENUE|
|SAKS OFF 5TH||SEARS||WALMART|
Advice when buying from a non-EU retailer…
Shipping cost should be a key consideration when buying from an overseas company. Obviously the further away the country is, the higher the shipping cost will be and air freight will always be more expensive than sea transport.
Size, shape and weight of a product should be considered as each will impact the shipping cost.
VAT sales tax (BTW in the Netherlands), is charged at the same rate as it would be if the item was purchased from a retailer in Holland. 21% is the standard rate for the vast majority of products, 6% applies to select categories such as health-related products and books.
HOWEVER…the total amount of sales tax paid on the order will be higher than it would be if purchased from a retailer within the EU. The reason has to do with how the sames tax is assessed on incoming shipments from outside the EU. Sales tax is applied to the total amount of the invoice, which includes not just the cost of the product, but also the shipping and insurance cost.
Think of it this way, when you buy a product from overseas in the 21% VAT class, you will end up paying and additional $0.21 for every $1 of shipping cost. For this reason, it can be extremely advantageous to make a purchase at a time when the retailer is running a ‘free shipping’ promotion.
When are import duty and sales tax paid?
If you buy from a retailer outside the EU which does not partner with Border Free (i.e. the import duty and sales tax are added at checkout), then you will need to pay these when the courier comes to deliver the package. This amount usually needs to be paid in cash and the courier will not give you the shipment until they have been paid the C.O.D. amount due.
Buying from an American retailer which does not offer international shipping…
The majority of American retailers do not take foreign orders that require international shipping. However most will accept an order being placed from abroad that is to be shipped to a destination with the United States. This led to the creation of a new type of service, an intermediary player between the retailer in the U.S. and a shopper located in another country.
One example of this service is that offered by MyUS.com, a Sarasota, Florida-based firm. It basically operates as a B-to-C freight forwarder, operating warehouses made up of hundreds of spaces each with its own officially-registered street address. When you subscribe to their service, you receive your own street address (not a PO Box, which retailers won’t ship too).
With your new US mailing address as the destination for your order, you can purchase from many American retailers that do not themselves offer international shipping. The store processes the online order as it would any other domestic shipment. MyUS.com receives the order at the unique street address you have been assigned within their warehouse and they either forward it on to you (including the necessary international paperwork for export) or they can hold the items in the shipment if you have other orders coming in which you would like them consolidated with to lower your shipping cost.
Be aware there are certain types of goods which MyUS would not be able to forward either because it is illegal to export it from the U.S. or it is illegal for the product to be imported to the Netherlands. MyUS have personnel knowledgeable in export/import matters and will advise accordingly.
This type of intermediary shipping service can be extremely beneficial to international consumers as well as American expats living here in the Netherlands. Two major retailers that partner with MyUS are Kohl’s and Best Buy.
Buying from a Dutch language web shop
And last but not least, you can always try making a purchase from a Dutch-language website in the Netherlands. When doing so, you may find helpful this list of common Dutch shopping terms with English translations.