An Englishman in Den Haag

March 29, 2018
  In 2006, my work brought my family and me to The Netherlands for 3 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