Our ‘Navigate the Netherlands’ story:


From Islamabad, Pakistan to Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Picture of Hayat children from Pakistan for Halloween

Picture credits: Nooria Hayat


New2nl wants to connect with our readers. We want to know where they live, what they do, what their family looks like, and most of all, what brings them to the Netherlands. The best way to do this? Ask our dear clients directly!

In these ‘My Navigate the Netherlands story’ series, we’ll interview one family three times during their process of moving to the Netherlands: just before they move, after their first few weeks in the Netherlands, and six months after their arrival in the country.

This is part two about the Hayat family’s move to the Netherlands. In case you have missed part 1, in which this Pakistani family explained why they were moving to the Netherlands, and how they prepared, you can read it here.

This story demonstrates that a positive attitude, curiosity, and friendliness can help accelerate the integration process. In their first couple of weeks in Amsterdam, this Pakistani family has already discovered some interesting parts of the city, found some new friends to celebrate Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice) and Halloween with, and they were asked to be interviewed for a podcast with the Amsterdam Mamas on ‘Moving Internationally with Kids: What to Expect and How to Help Them‘.

Trick or Treat??

How would you describe your first weeks in the Netherlands?

Our first few weeks were pretty interesting. We actually moved in two parts. We came here for a week to get a feel for the city and find a house. Luckily, we found one within a week. Then I (Nooria) and the kids went back to our home in Pakistan while Mutahhir stayed in Amsterdam. During this time, both of used all our free time to decide on furniture, and buying things we needed for the new house.
The kids found the first few weeks confusing because they kept thinking they were tourists and would return home soon. It was after school started that it dawned on them that this house and the city is their new home for now.
Because we moved in the summer, Amsterdam was showing us it’s most beautiful side. Sunny afternoons, clear skies, green grass and the ever present majestic architecture. Needless to say, the first few weeks were great and we merrily went along exploring the city and our newly found neighbourhood while still finding things to make the house look more homey, getting the kids ready for school and finding more about ways to get settled in faster.


What were your first thoughts when you landed at Schiphol Airport?

When we arrived at Schipol for the intention of moving here, it marked the end of a long road from finding out that we’re moving to passing through border control. It also marked the start of this new chapter in our lives where we’d be living in a completely new city, country, even continent.
Being honest, it was a bit of an emotional experience for both Mutahhir and I. It helped that Mutahhir had very nice helpful colleagues, that we had a place to call home here, and knowing we had found a great school for the kids. Even so, we knew that it would be a good few months before we would be settled and comfortable. We were a little anxious about how the kids would settle in too.
A wide range of emotions, thoughts and feelings passed through us from the time our plane touched down to the time we arrived to our new house. One that we would learn to love and call home soon.

What are your first impressions of your new house, neighbourhood, and neighbors?

When we were looking at houses, this one just jumped out and said ‘live here!’ to us. It was outside the city centre, had big open spaces nearby, a supermarket and a tram station within a minute’s walk. It was perfect for us.
Our neighbours have different ethnicities and come from different parts of the world. One thing in common though is that they’re all very cordial people.
Picture of Nooria Hayat from Pakistan in Amsterdam

Picture credits: Mutahhir Hayat

Picture of Mutahhir Hayat from Pakistan in Amsterdam

Picture credits: Nooria Hayat

 What do you think are the biggest differences with your home country?

Although it’s still technically Autumn here, the biggest difference we feel is the cold rainy weather we’re having now. We’re used to much warmer weather and even though it gets this cold sometimes, it lasts no longer than a couple of weeks, and we call it winter.


What was the first Dutch word you said in public? To whom? And how did they react?

As with most people, I think the phrase we try to use is ‘Goedemorgen’. The first time I said so, the person smiled and replied ‘Goedemorgen’ as well. However, I could feel that they were being kind and that I had pronounced it wrong somehow. I’m not proud to say that I may not have improved much in this regard :).


How were your first days at school and at work?

The first few days at school went pretty smooth. In all honesty I was prepared for the worst things to happen but things went really smooth with the children. We are really happy with our choice of school and I feel the school knows how to deal with children from different backgrounds well.
For work, Mutahhir had been working with the same team remotely for more than a year, so he was sitting amongst people that he already knew well. Biking needed getting used to and biking on the right side of the road kept tripping him up.


What did you bring with you from your home country?

We brought some furniture, children’s books, some cultural decoration items for the house, and clothes. We also brought spices, some cooking utensils and other things we thought we might not be able to find here. Turns out, there are a lot of Indian and Pakistani shops around Amsterdam and you can find pretty much anything you’d want to.

What do you miss most from home?

Foremost, our family. Since we haven’t bought a car yet, I think that’s a close second 🙂

What do you wish you had known before moving to the Netherlands?

We did lots of research into Netherlands before we were moving, and having visited it a few times before, we had a fair idea of what to expect. What we wish we’d known before we moved here was how little sunlight you can expect in the winters. It is something you definitely have to get used to after coming from a relatively sunny country like Pakistan. I’m not sure it would be something that would change my mind about moving to Netherlands, but definitely something that would be important to consider.

With this experience so far, do you have any other tips for international families who are preparing their move to the Netherlands?

Ok, so one of the most important things to have is a friend who knows Dutch :). Hopefully you have some nice colleagues who can help you out with the mail you get, understanding an unexpected bill from the Gemeente, and so on. There’s going to be a lot of Dutch in your mailbox.

Another thing which is useful to know when you’re moving here is ‘what are the first steps I need to take after landing’.
Here are the first few steps I found to be useful:

– Go to the Expat Center or Gemeente, and get a temporary residence and BSN
– Go to the bank and open a bank account with that BSN
– Get a bike, and go on funda.nl
– Find a place you’d like to rent
– Make sure the contract is good (here’s where your friend who can read Dutch will come in handy too)
– Find out which health insurance you’re going to get, and apply for it (takes a bit longer than you’d expect)
– Register for utilities (electricity, water, etc.); choose a company that you like
– Get an appointment with your gemeente, and go back to gemeente for a permanent residence
– Get your company to apply for your 30% ruling (if applicable)
– Get your driver’s license exchanged for a Dutch one

This is of course an non-exhaustive list, but I feel the above are the important things you need to stay on top of.

– Nooria


Are you curious to find out how this beautiful family is getting on in the Netherlands? We’ll be back shortly with Part 3, after they will have settled a little more.

Would you like to connect with Nooria and Mutahhir Hayat? You may send a message to annebet@new2nl.com and we’ll make sure to pass it on.

Have you also worked with New2nl and would you like to be featured in the next ‘Navigate the Netherlands’ story? Please answer the above questions and send them together with some high-res pictures of your family and some favorite places of yours in your home country to annebet@new2nl.com.

Other stories in this series:

The Hayat family from Pakistan – part 1 & 3

The Schavemaker family from South Africa – part 2

The Davidson family from the USA – part 1 & 2