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Crossing Borders ‘Expat Stories from the Netherlands’ ft Mourad Kourta

September 13th, 2023

Get ready to dive into the fascinating world of expat life in the Netherlands. In our blog series "Crossing Borders," we're sharing short personal tales straight from the hearts of those who've embarked on this incredible journey. From cultural quirks to conquerable challenges, delightful discoveries to career twists – it's all here.

In this edition of ‘Crossing Borders', we would like to share the story of Mourad Kourta and his family, who have recently relocated from Aberdeen, Scotland to the city of The Hague in the Netherlands.

Could you please share some words about who you are and what enthused you to move to our country?

My name is Mourad Kourta. I am an Algerian citizen working for an oilfield service company. I was transferred to The Netherlands by my company for business needs and personal considerations. I arrived in The Hague from Aberdeen (Scotland, UK) on the 11th of August with my family: my wife, my three daughters (15, 11 and 5 years respectively) and my son (3 years).

The day I was offered the new opportunity to move to The Netherlands, I was so pleased and happy as I already had an idea in the past about The Netherlands and the Dutch. I had a very good friend and colleagues and I was willing to have an adventure in this charming country.

What were your first thoughts when you touched down in the land of tulips and windmills? Any amusing culture shock moments?

Before even arriving in the Netherlands, our opinion and excitement towards the country was already held on a high standard and needless to say, our expectations were more than exceeded. To start us off, the weather was absolutely marvellous, with the perfect mix of sunshine and wind, a phenomenon you would call rather rare in Scotland. Our second significant observation was regarding the city's dynamic atmosphere. Every alley we stepped into seemed to hold a piece of its own distinctive culture and walking through the different streets felt like discovering a whole new town each time.

We see our transfer as a big move between two contrasting environments:

  • From the “Highlands” of Scotland to the “Lowlands” of the Netherlands.
  • From the cloudy, rainy, cold shores of the northern North Sea to the warm, sunny shores of the Southern North Sea.
  • The quiet, almost silent, small city of Aberdeen to the crowded, noisy and bigger city of The Hague.

On the first day in the city, we had a certain shock related to the change in the level of activity between our old place and our new adopting city. I’ve been saying: *how can I escape this tram?* How will I avoid this bike coming straight to me? In fact, it was just a worry that disappeared during the day. We’ve already adapted ourselves to the new lifestyle. We didn’t feel any cultural shock. The country was as we expected, if not above our expectations in terms of tolerance and inclusion.

We've heard about Dutch cycling culture. Did you embrace it right away, or did you have a "wobbly" start?

Upon our arrival, we soon discovered that bikes were literally the most popular means of transport, if not the only. This was really surprising and impressive to my family as they had no previous idea of the huge role cycling plays among the Dutch society. Unfortunately, we were not used to use bikes in the past and we haven't started cycling yet, although we will engage with this routine as soon as possible, and just hope things will quickly take a turn for the better, pun intended! We had some concerns about bike riding safety but we quickly saw that it’s the best place to ride bikes.

Tell us about a funny 'slip of the tongue’ you had while trying to navigate the Dutch language or customs.

The Dutch language is truly fascinating and we are all very excited to get to learn it. However, we have encountered quite a few difficulties with the language, more specifically with the pronunciation.

We knew about the particular pronunciation of the “g” in Dutch and some difficult words but in the other hand, we saw that there are a lot of words similar to English. Some are also close to French. It was easy to stick to some words such us “goedemorgen”, “tot ziens”, “dank u wel”... However, it appears that the way words are written and pronounce may be quite different. Even now, stating our own neighbourhood's name “Scheveningen” takes as many tries as we can get! We still struggle to pronounce it properly! :)