Expat Voices: Anya Sokha on life in the Netherlands
Russian expat Anya finds Amsterdam a “culinary hotspot” but was “amazed” to see Dutch classmates eating in lectures. And don’t let Dutch directness dampen your spirits, she urges: “they mean well.”
Name: Anya Sokha
City of residence: Amsterdam
Date of birth: July 1984
Civil status: Single
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: Studies (MA in English Linguistics)
Lived in the Netherlands for: 1 year
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
Bicycles galore! Be it rain, wind or snow, Dutch people cycle no matter what.
What do you think of the food?
If you are into mashed potatoes, kale, carrots, onions, you name it, Dutch cuisine will certainly appeal to you. Spicy food aficionados, have no worries though: for one, there is always hot sauce; and secondly, international cuisines – Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, Turkish, and Moroccan – are represented aplenty in the Netherlands, restaurant-wise as well as on the shelves of the local supermarkets. Amsterdam is a culinary hotspot, of course.
Cheese! © Anya Sokha
What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
Apart from mega malls, there are lots of charming shops and boutiques with their own ambiance and character, which makes the whole process of shopping much more exciting and memorable. As for food-shopping, while Amsterdam is not Paris, the city nevertheless is home for a number of French bakeries whose breads and pastry taste, well, like Paris – that is, "magnifique" (or as the Dutch would say “lekker”). Oh, and those cheese shops, and farmers' markets, and organic food stores! Mmmhhh.
What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
Dutch people definitely understand that there is time for work, and time for rest. In this country, people (mostly) do not work themselves to exhaustion, anxiety and stress, so to speak.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
Although Dutch people are friendly and helpful as much as they can be, generally it is somewhat difficult to make friends with them (luckily, there are always exceptions). It may be the foreigner (that would be you) factor, or rainy weather, but I am not entirely sure what’s really accountable for that.
What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I was amazed to see my Dutch class mates – I am a student – eat during lectures/seminars. What’s more, teachers do not seem to mind. Where I come from (Russia), this is unimaginable.
A word of precaution: local dog owners are rarely enthused to clean after their pets when out for a walk, so watch your way. Always.
How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
Water (hot and cold) is always running; power failures are almost unknown; the air is fresh; the average salaries (and prices too) are higher.
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
The first thing that comes to mind is ridiculously confusing bureaucracy.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Dutch people are rather direct in everyday interaction. For example, if on a particular day you don’t look your best (God forbid) and still don’t know about it (unlikely), they’ll definitely keep you posted. But don’t let this dampen your spirits; after all, they mean well.
Would you like to add anything?
I have learnt through my own experience that what’s easy/good for the Dutch may not necessarily be of good service to a newcomer. That is, if you can’t, say, cycle, talk on the mobile, hold an umbrella (it’s rainy here), and eat a sandwich all at a time, don’t do that just because the Dutch do. The same goes for crossing the roads on red: be patient -- wait for green. Lastly, being a foreigner does not mean that this country cannot be your home, if only temporarily.
Bicycles © Anya Sokha
Joining Expat Voices
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