Driving lessons for Expats and Internationals19 July 2022
Knowledge workers from non-EU countries and their accompanying family members can exchange their driving licence for a Dutch one without having to test their driving skills. The Netherlands is very flexible in this respect. A regulation that was implemented back in the 1990s contributed to making the Netherlands more attractive to international talent.
We spoke to Monique Haine and Marco Huiskens of Driving School Maastricht. They specialise in driving lessons for international students, knowledge workers and their families. Naturally, they have a professional interest in providing driving lessons for Expats, but they also point out that there are crucial points of traffic safety that need to be addressed.
Several driving schools offer driving lessons for Expats, but Driving School Maastricht is an expert in this field. They have a website in English, their instructors give practical lessons in English, they provide live online theory lessons (again, entirely in English) and work with a specialised driving manual that goes beyond the average theory book.
‘This manual explains how we drive in the Netherlands. The manual is not a compulsory part of the obligatory training and even then you don't have to know it from front to back. In practice, we see that people from different cultures approach their driving lessons differently and we are pleased to be able to provide the unique learning elements necessary to complement the different learning styles. The manual provides that extra information that some candidates want, and they can take it home and do further study themselves. All the instructors have one of our manuals in the car.’
‘The driving school has been giving theory lessons in English for some time. This takes place on fixed days in the week – live online lessons – so with opportunities for questions. Those lessons are going well and provide a greater chance to pass the theory exam.’
Nowadays, Driving School Maastricht gives the same lessons in a slightly more concise form to internationals who already have a driving licence, such as knowledge workers and their partners. These are people who do not have to take a theory exam, but still find that they want to understand the finer points of driving in the Netherlands. With this live online course, they are introduced to the most important traffic rules in the Netherlands in 2 sessions of an hour and a half each.
‘With many internationals, practical lessons are as necessary as theory lessons,' Monique says. ‘This is not about customer acquisition, but about traffic safety. In the Netherlands, you learn the road rules from childhood by riding your bicycle in traffic. There’s even a cycling exam that children can take in primary school! There are people from outside the Netherlands who have had their driving licences for years, but have little practical experience because, for example, they come from a bustling city where almost everywhere can be reached by public transport. Then suddenly they have to drive to a business meeting in Eindhoven, without experience or knowledge of the Dutch traffic rules. That could result in some dangerous situations and we feel that employers should also be aware of what is being asked of their employees.’
‘There was one situation where a driver stopped in the middle of an intersection because they didn't know what to do. Or people driving against the traffic at a roundabout because they had been previously misinformed as to how they work. These are not 18-year-olds who have just learned to drive. These are adults who were issued a Dutch driving licence because they were allowed to exchange it. New arrivals should be allowed to drive on their own, however we hope that they are wise enough not to just jump behind the wheel but first become familiar with the road rules and maybe take a few lessons. It’s important for the whole family, for example when taking their children to school or to the shops by car. Most internationals contact us of their own accord. Sometimes it is the employer who sends them or asks for information on their behalf.’
When I ask if there is anything typical about Dutch traffic that many internationals don’t get right, I have one overwhelming answer: roundabouts. In Maastricht there are a lot of roundabouts that even our closest neighbours in Belgium have a different approach to.
Driving School Maastricht gives driving lessons in the region of Maastricht, Sittard and Heerlen. More information can be found on their website.