“I came to Amsterdam by pure coincidence. I was travelling, and thought it was nice here, and so I stayed. I am married to a Dutch woman called Akke. We met in a café. I was having a bad day at work and went for a drink afterwards. I went into the bar and there she way. She looked at me, and kept on looking, and we started talking. She asked me where I was from and I told her I was from Tunisia. “I’m going there on holiday in two weeks”, she said. I gave her some presents to bring to my family, and she stayed with them for three days.
A lot of people told Akke, “Watch out, he’s an Arab, a Muslim.” One day I said to her, as a joke, “Perhaps we should get married? She said, “No”. I asked her again later. We married on a Monday in the Haarlemmerstraat. We have a son, who’s now twenty called Marwen. He’s our only child. Having children in Amsterdam is expensive. I’m from a different culture, where you are more used to caring for other people’s children. When you work, your sister or a neighbour looks after your children. There’s no-one to do that here, except the crèche which is expensive and most of them have long waiting lists. This discourages you from having more children.
I have adapted to the Netherlands. I go back to Tunisia once a year, but after being in Amsterdam for thirty years I have to get used to my home country every time I return there. Even in Tunisia, I feel like an outsider. Once I retire I’d like to return there to live; a few months in Holland and a few in Tunisia. I can relax more in Tunisia, and enjoy myself more. Enjoy being outdoors and in the sun. My favourite place in Amsterdam is the forest. It’s just a small clump of trees in a large city, but it gives me a sense of freedom. In the Amsterdam Forest I’m happy, and can be myself.”
134 people in Amsterdam have the Tunisian nationality