The expat series: from South Africa to Veghel

This week I feature Rukeyah Adams, who has had an exciting expat life before moving to the Netherlands,

Here she talks about settling in to her town of Veghel, and what a typical day involves.

PS: If you would like to be featured in the expat series? If so, please email me, and tell me a bit about yourself.

How old are you, what do you do, and where do you live?
I’m 40 and live in Veghel. I’m a stay-at-home mom.

When did you emigrate?
I left South Africa in 2011. I lived in three other countries before moving to the Netherlands in 2018 as my husband moved for work. I am here with my husband and our two daughters.

Where did you live before the Netherlands?
When I left SA, I moved to Copenhagen, Denmark. Thereafter I moved to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. We then moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. We moved to the Netherlands in 2018 and settled in the Hague. Four months ago we moved to Veghel in the Noord Brabant region.

Why did you choose The Netherlands?
I loved living in Denmark, and knew that I wanted to return to Europe. When a work opportunity arose for my husband in NL, I was quite happy to make the move.

Tell us a bit about Veghel
Veghel is a small town with only 36 000 inhabitants. It is home to a number of large companies – Mars chocolates, Friesland Campina, Jumbo headquarters, to name a few. It is our first time living in a small town, and we are still getting used to the slow pace and the neighbours stopping you for a chat whenever they spot you.

What was the most challenging part of your relocation?
Of all the counties I’ve moved to, the Netherlands has been the quickest and easiest to adjust to. Now, that might just be because I have done it so many times, but finding a home, finding a school, and extra curriculars for my girls were really easy and very quick.

Within two months of our move we were well settled and had an established routine in place. I think the challenging part was before the actual move, getting all the documentation in order. We had to get appointments in SA and then there were waiting times etc.

What have been your most useful resources here?
Facebook groups – South Africans in the Netherlands, Dutch Education Group, in the Hague there was a group called uktuktuk070 which always had all the up to date events and activities for kids happening in the city.
For the latest Dutch news in English – and

Aside from people, what do you miss most about South Africa?
The food! Aaah I miss the food. I make most SA dishes at home, but there are some things that you just cannot replicate – a gatsby, a toasted masala steak sandwich. I make koeksisters and still have them every Sunday morning like we do back home. My hubby makes biltong regularly. But there’s just still nothing like having it in South Africa.

What has been the most difficult thing to adjust to?
I didn’t feel it as much when we lived in the Hague, but now that we are living in Veghel I really wish I was better at Dutch. It hurts my soul to not be able to chime in and get immersed in a conversation. I have met a lot of people, and for the most part I can have a conversation when its one on one.

When it’s a group though… I think they probably just think I must be really quiet. When really, I’m trying so hard to find the words to be part of the conversation!

What do you love most about the Netherlands?
I love the safety. I love the simple life – everyone rides their bikes; children attend schools close to home. I love the simplicity of it all.

What is the one thing you wish someone would have told you before you emigrated?
That the longing for home, whether that may be for family, friends, food, whatever it may be, it will always be there. Yes, with time, it will get better. You will find substitutes in your new surroundings; you’ll make friends who will become like family and it will get better.  But it will never completely go away. It is a constant, which you’ll have to learn to live with. This is the reality and it is to be expected.

What are your new favourite foods?

I looooooove poffertjes (small, round, and puffy Dutch pancakes) and the Fentimans Rose lemonade.
My neighbours have promised to invite me for stamppot (mash pot).  told we have to wait for a really, really cold day. Let’s see it might become one of my favourites.

How would you describe your bike-riding skills?
Oh my gosh. I am so envious when I see how people (and kids!) whizz by on their bikes. I have a bakfiets for school drop offs and pickups. But eish, I swear I walk quicker. I dream of whizzing by envious onlookers on a two wheeler one day.

What do you love doing on weekends?
On weekends we try to visit a town we haven’t been to before. We always plan beforehand – somewhere fun to visit for the girls and somewhere good to eat. If we didn’t plan, we usually end up having a braai at home or sticking to the places we know.

Do you speak Dutch?
I can speak to get by yes, but I’m nowhere near having proper full on conversations. I understand everything that’s said to me, but responding is a whole different story. My pronunciation is absolutely pathetic. I struggle with it so much. While my Afrikaans has been a huge blessing when it comes to understanding of Dutch, it is most certainly a hindrance when it comes to correct pronunciation.

Describe the Dutch in five words…
Proud, self-sufficient, family-orientated, sarcastic, gezellig!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to come and live in the Netherlands?
If you have made the decision to move to the Netherlands, my advice would be to start preparing as if you already have a job offer. Get all your documentation in order for yourself and your family. This way, when a job offer materialises, you’ll be ready to make the move quicker, and your family will be able to make the move the same time as you.

If you have children, get to know the school system and what would suit your family. Do not come with the mindset that you are leaving South Africa to have a better life in NL. You are going to have a different life in NL. Nowhere is perfect – whether it’s better or not will depend on what you make of it.

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