Interview with Abdelrahman

In my goal to support expats, I  interview them regularly.  Perhaps you relate to the story, or you may find interesting advise.

Arriving in a new country is such a change, and  how to feel ‘’at Home’’ can be a challenge

I’m happy to introduce you to Abdelrahman, coming from Egypt to the Netherlands. Why did he leave his native country?

Just sit down,  relax and enjoy  🙂 


 Abdelrahman : From Egypt (cairo)to The Netherlands…

‘’I am almost 32 years old, married to Aya and a 1.5 years old daughter . We are living in Den Haag, which is an international city, just like Amsterdam. I am working as a petrophysicist (petroleum engineer) evaluating the hydrocarbon potential in the subsurface.

Was this your first move abroad?                                 Abdelrahman: ‘’ We moved in March 2014 and this opportunity came by a job transfer within my company. It is my very first move abroad, which makes things more challenging as it is fully new experience.

Deciding it is one thing, but then what steps did you take before moving

 Abdelrahman: ‘’ Nothing special really! we had 6 months prior moving preparing ourselves for such step. We had to go through loads of documents, certifications and hundreds of signatures. We did not really think what we might face, or whether it is bad or good.

How did you prepare your family?    

Abdelrahman: ‘’ We wanted to move anyway, so as a family we were happy.  And as we had NO  preparation beforehand. This was ONE BIG challenge for us that we had no idea about,  it is like jumping in the sea with no life jacket and we do not really know how to swim.

What was your first impression of  The Netherlands?

Abdelrahman: ‘The infrastructure amazed me first: streets, traffic lights system, etc…  Almost everything is different. Egypt is so crowded, we only have big buildings where the majority of people live in separate apartments mainly. You wouldn’t see those nice homes with lovely gardens at all.  Weather is completely different too. Hot summers and very cold winters with humidity and much less rain.

What was your first impression of  The Dutch people?

Abdelrahman: ‘Generally speaking, they are friendly, especially towards kids. They also seem less stressed, well organized, and nearly all speak English. But they love meetings and love lots of discussions, which I found at certain circumstances just waste of time.        One funny thing; they DO Stick to rules and laws even during leisure! For e.g. in a tennis game, after each odd score you ‘should’ change the court sides, but one time I suggested to simply not change sides, because indoor courts  make absolutely no difference, but my opponent said loudly “ NOOOO”: “the rule is to change sides…and we will do so!”

Did you integrate and adjust smoothly?

Abdelrahman: ‘’I had a SHOCK. The first month went ok, as we found a house, finalised the paperwork and town hall visits. After 1.5 months,  it reality hit, and seriously hit hard

Language barrier is a fact, as people around you feel insecure dealing with you as a newcomer, others thought I was here to replace them, plus of course those thinking ‘’ who is he on Earth to be here?? ‘’.

What was the next step for me? a hard question I had to ask myself for long time, should I use the harsh way, or I have manage it softly?                                                          After a while I decided to use a bit of combination of both. I tried to find and make friends in the company, but that took 9-10 months. It was hard, and needed much patience. To make my life better a bit,  I started building few good relationships through tennis with people who have no technical or professional competition with me.  My wife meanwhile was taking care of our baby all the time, she had a hard time just like me. We discovered after a while that we must hold on together to steer our ship, that is the only way to survive.

What were your biggest CHALLENGES?

Abdelrahman: ‘’ #1BIGGEST challenge is the cultural shock. I wanted to be accepted and have credit for my work. Then I discovered that people are afraid to discuss things with me as I am brand new in here. I had to use a bit of anger-management to control my reactions and had to pick only the serious fights.

#2 Challengemy passport!!! It was very hard as a non-EU member to get a job in here. For someone who seeks a job, it’s almost impossible to find a job in Europe.

#3  Challenge No support from someone like you, Rachel, to speak to as I was a first time as an Expat. The shock would have been of less effect if there is someone tells you what to do and advice you with any kind of possible difficulties one might face. This would actually reduce the time and effort spent to control the ship.

What is your #1  ONE TIP for other expats?

Abdelrahman:’’TOP Tip # 1: LANGUAGE helps a LOT, to get around and to integrate in the culture.

Tip #2: Remember: people are the same everywhere. We all eat, drink, go to church or mosques. We are human beings. Coming from Middle-East, we tend to think that those from the West are ‘’better’’ than us (education, system, culture….). Some people underestimate their capabilities and think that others are certainly better. But this is not the case at all. We are the same persons who were born in different places. We only face different situations and as anyone goes further in this life, he gets more experience. The harsher the life you have, the thicker the skin you get, the smarter you become, whoever you are, wherever you come from.

One advice that helped me a lot, from my previous manager: ’’keep believing in yourself, even with all the challenges and difficulties you have,  just keep going and always remember if you are experiencing the first year as an expat: let the first year pass!’’

Thank you very much for your beautiful story! 🙂

Do you feel ambitious and want to get more out of life before you grow old? Are you ready to expand your experiences ABROAD, but don’t know how? Let me help you plan and prepare to make your change REAL. 

 As an expat since 14 years, I have lived in many countries and learned 6 languages. I had to overcome challenges and found my way each time again….new job, new home, new people, new language…..

My first move was the hardest decision, but I have never had any regrets. And now I can grow old and say ‘’I have done it’’. You can too!

Contact me for a free 20 min session to discuss your personal action plan.

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