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Expect The Unexpected
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This post belongs to categories: Dutch culture & Expat life in the Netherlands

Expect the unexpected


The 16th of June 2017 was an important date for me, not just because I had a plane to catch to Amsterdam from Kuala Lumpur, but it is also the date when I moved to the Netherlands for good.

Unfriendly country?

Collage of photosI had mixed expectations before I moved here. I still remember, Forbes Magazine used to rate the Netherlands among the ‘most unfriendly’ countries in the world. I guess, that could be the reason why my visa application process took “forever” to be approved. For this reason, I expected to be treated differently when I arrived in Den Haag. I was wrong.

Instead, I met a lot of interesting, kind-hearted and friendly people around here. One thing that I noticed about Dutch people, although they all speak English doesn’t mean they always want to. Just something to keep in mind or else you might just think that some of them are terribly rude.

The weather

My second expectation concerned the weather. Coming from a tropical country, we don’t experience spring, summer, fall or winter. However, we do have haze season, flood season, dengue fever season and even ‘durian’ season. I think I love winter about as much as Dutch people hate it. At one point, I even thought I would experience snow during winter time in Den Haag, until my partner told me that it was not going to happen – sigh. If you wish to experience thick snow where you can build your own snowman just like in the Disney’s Frozen movie, then you might need to find yourself a Russian partner instead.

Everybody knows that marijuana is legalised in the Netherlands. Back home, I would be imprisoned for selling, buying or even smoking it. I expected to see weed smokers at every corner of the city as well as the countryside. Funnily enough, it can actually be very difficult to find shops that sell marijuana. You cannot buy it everywhere, as you may think. So, don’t expect to come across weed smokers everywhere in the streets.

What about the food?

Collage of photos number 2I love food. I believe that every country has their own delicious cuisine that they are proud of. For instance, if you go to my country Malaysia, you must try our popular ‘Nasi Lemak’ which is fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and a pandan leaf serves with squid sambal, together with delicious slow cooked beef rendang on the side. I expected the same of Dutch cuisine. So, when I asked my partner to take me somewhere (like a restaurant) where I could try Dutch cuisine, he drove me to Scheveningen instead.

I remember we walked along the harbour and stopped at one of the small stalls nearby. That was the first time I tried haring – lekker!

Back in Malaysia, most travel agencies promote the Netherlands by displaying pictures of people on bikes in the middle of tulip fields and windmills in the background. They all look happy and gezellig. Forget about it. Cycling here can be absolute chaos, especially in the cities. There are people on bikes everywhere, and a lot of them. They expect you to get out of their way. Therefore, it can be quite dangerous if you are not paying attention while crossing the street. My recommendation for the newcomers, get yourself a bike for your own good.

Apart from cycling, I also heard that public transportation in the Netherlands is one of the best in the world – good service, punctual, comfortable and safe. I totally agree. Whenever I feel too lazy to bike, I just take either the tram or the bus because I know I can rely on it. If you plan to live here longer and travel like a Dutch person, then you must get your own personal OV chipkaart. It is literally the second important card to have after your betaalkaart.

Although the reality is different from what I expected, it is also better than I expected. Things turn out best for those who make the best out of the way things turn out. Doei!

Ahmad Hafiz Rozian, 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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