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An Englishman in Den Haag
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This post belongs to category: Expat life in the Netherlands

An Englishman in Den Haag


In 2006, my work brought my family and me to The Netherlands for 3 months….now nearly 12 years later, we’re still here…and still love it. So much so that I’m now considering taking the integration exam and Dutch nationality.

First encounters

Child wearing huge Dutch clogsI vividly remember the week we moved into our new home because it was also my daughter’s 2nd birthday. Temperatures reached 35 degrees so in between unpacking boxes we relaxed at the beach cafes, watching beautiful sun sets. Surely it’s not going to be this hot all the time? Football fever gripped the city as the World Cup was on. Flags of different nations flew in windows in our street amongst the Dutch “Oranje”.

Initially we treated every weekend here as our last, packed up the car, and set off to explore our new country. Hiring a boat to explore beautiful Giethoorn, staying on a farm in Beemster, and spotting deer whilst cycling in the De Hoge Veluwe park. Our Dutch neighbours joked that we’d probably seen more of The Netherlands than they had!

We moved from London, where I had spent 3 exhausting hours per day commuting. Now I cycle to work in 10 minutes, which is an absolute delight.


Moving to work in an international environment has also broadened my horizons. I’ve found it extremely rewarding, challenging and interesting.

Adapting to the Dutch way of life

We feel very at home in The Netherlands, having adopted a more Dutch attitude to our work life balance, our quality of life has improved massively. We have found it to be a fantastically friendly, international, safe and clean city to bring up a family in. There are numerous international schools to choose from, the medical facilities are great, and the public transport is very efficient.

My daughter has been through Dutch nursery, the British Junior School, and now she’s at the ISH, where she’s been most happy. I know I’m privileged to have been able to watch my daughter grow up, in a safe and comfortable environment, where she can explore her true potential. For her it’s normal to have classmates from all over the world, which I think has been a real education in itself. She has far more independence here than she would in London, being able to cycle to meet friends in town or at the beach. In essence she’s had a real childhood here. She hasn’t been under any pressure to grow up too fast, which is a problem I sometimes see with my friend’s children in London.

Getting involved in the community

Group photo of hockey young female playersOur neighbours are all Dutch and have made us feel very welcome. We’ve had the privilege of regularly being invited to dinner, to birthdays, and even 2 funerals.

Each year we help organise our street’s “Buitenspeeldag”. Our road is cleared of cars for the children to play games, and everyone brings food and drink for a “gezellig” evening to get to know new neighbours and to catch up with old friends.


The field hockey season dominates our weekends from September to June. My daughter plays for HDS, a local Dutch club in Ockenburgh. I play in their social mixed “Trim” teams, which is great fun. I also coach an U14s team at HDS, with 16 girls from the International School of The Hague (ISH). They are from 9 different countries, including 4 Dutch girls. We finished 3rd in our indoor competition, and are currently 2nd in the outdoor league. HDS has made us “buitenlanders” feel very welcome, and we have now expanded to include U16s and U18s international teams.

For us, one of the hardest parts of living in The Netherlands is missing our friends and family back home. However we can fly back in 1 hour, or drive back in 4, so they’re really just around the corner. They regularly visit, and we take great pride in showing them around The Netherlands.
Any regrets? Yes, one. I wish my Dutch was better, but I’m trying to correct that. Ok the weather isn’t great, but it’s pretty similar to the UK, it just arrives here 1 hour later! And sometimes my British sensitivities are surprised by the directness of the Dutch, but in my view, that’s a very small price to pay.

Howard Pugh, Kickstart Student

 What our students say about us

  • My experience with Kickstart has been highly beneficial in both developing language skills and improving my knowledge of the Dutch culture. Josien's support is always spot on and very intuitive in relation to personal circumstances. She spends a lot more than the official time allocated to really get to know her clients and her approach is customised accordingly. She was recommended to me by other Shell colleagues who expressed the same sentiment and I was fortunate enough to benefit from this during the time I spent with her.

    Vennasa van de Ven, Migration Manager working at Shell

  • Entering the Kickstart school premises alone gives you a push of energy and the commitment this will help to create is hardly unmatched in any other language school. The methodology and the approach used in the lessons also helps smoothly unlock the secrets of everyday Dutch. Kickstart School has helped me get in touch with the 'undutchable' culture of the Netherlands and its people. The individual language training I could experience at Kickstart School has been one of the best educational experiences I could have in Europe.

    Alessandro d’Addario, European Law Enforcement 

  • I really enjoyed my English lessons with the Kickstart School. The teacher was professional and really knew the subject. The way they teach is also great! The classes are presented in a clear and professional manner and the online exercises completed at home are very helpful. The teacher always provided useful feedback. It's a great experience to join a Kickstart course with such a friendly atmosphere of students and teachers.

    Beatriz Pedroche, Spain 

  • Kickstart has been the ideal place for me to learn. The teachers are very helpful and friendly and have always gone the "extra mile" to help me learn in a positive way. Their teaching is practical with elements that can immediately be applied to everyday living situations. Included in the lessons are cultural aspects of living in the Netherlands that make learning Dutch dynamic and fun; you learn the language and about the place and the people! The teachers took an active interest in my progress and provided valuable customized sessions that maintained my strengths and developed my weaknesses; all in a patient, fun and friendly style.

    Graeme Ting, dentist from New Zealand 

  • My first contact with Kickstart School was after 1 month of living in The Netherlands, when I started to study Dutch. At the time I didn’t have any knowledge of the language, but with their courses organized by levels I developed important language skills and learned about the Dutch culture. They all do a great job at Kickstart because their motto it’s not just a motto – they are really pleased to teach you. You learn a language in a friendly atmosphere, make new friends from all over the world, and all in a cosy building right in the heart of The Hague.

    Anca Boros, mathematics and physics teacher from Romania

  • During my time with Kickstart I have learned a lot and gained confidence. I was always challenged by the interesting assignments, but never too much. I have really enjoyed the classes!

    Sabine de Bruijn, Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

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