Expat Voices: Dhemie Haryanto on living in the Netherlands
When Indonesian Dhemie Haryanto moved to the Netherlands he found it boring compared to his homeland, but, with the advantages of Dutch life and new colleagues and friends, things are looking up.
City of residence: The Hague
Date of birth: 31 December 1979
Civil status: Single
Occupation: Assistant Manager Accounts Receivable at Samsung ELS in Delft
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: Initial reason was for my (ex) partner of Dutch nationality, then decided to stay for good.
Lived in the Netherlands for four and a half years.
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
Having lived all my life in Indonesia, I thought that the Netherlands was extremely clean and well organised, but boring. Now that I have been living here for more than four years, I still think that way. However, the Netherlands has become less boring as I now have some really nice friends and colleagues. They can show me some interesting places or things to do. Most of these things can’t be found in the best tourist guides.
What do you think of the food?
Sorry to say, but Dutch food is for me is a bit simple and tasteless. A friend of mine once said that if you slice a piece of meat, add some salt and pepper and grill it for a minute you get Dutch food …However, I love the wide variety of Dutch ‘toetjes’ (desserts).
What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
I really miss the big shopping malls, the kind of malls that you usually see in big cities in Asia with marble floors, beautiful lighting, and one-stop shopping. However, during the sale season, the Dutch shopping experience is so much better than in Asia.
What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
One of the reasons that I moved to the Netherlands was because I wanted to feel safe and to have more certainty for my future. The Netherlands can provide me with these things. I don’t have to worry when walking back home at night and retirement schemes, health insurance and housing are affordable.
I also appreciate how people react when you are trying to speak Dutch to them – even when you are making mistakes, they will not make fun of you. One day I was in an electronics store to buy a wireless shaver. I told one of the staff what I wanted in Dutch. He smiled, didn’t say anything and showed me exactly what I wanted, while my Dutch friend stood there laughing without telling me why. Later my friend told me that I just asked the guy: Do you have a shaver without moustache? In Dutch, wire is “snoer” which sounds similar to “snor” (moustache).
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
Having to make an appointment for everything and the long the waiting times is frustrating for me. My first experience was with an internet provider. They scheduled someone to install my internet connection within three weeks of my call. The time range was between 8:00 and 13:00. The technician came at 12.30.
Also paying extra costs (around 0.10 eurocents per minute) when you are calling the customer service and I had to wait “een ogenblik geduld” which literally means wait for a blink of an eye, which ends up being more than 20 minutes.
What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
The houses and the streets look the same. This confuses me and I get lost easily. Luckily I have a GPS navigation system installed on my mobile and this has helped me a lot.
What do I miss the most is the friendliness of people. In my country, people smile at each other all the time even to foreigners. They always look happy even if they are not. This is what I don’t see here.
How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
The Netherlands offers a better quality of life than my country. People are treated the same. The laws are clear and as long as you follow the rules exactly, you will get what you want.
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
The weather. I never know what the weather will be likes. And during winter, I feel like I am in a giant freezer.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Be mentally prepared. The weather is depressing, especially for those who are used to having plenty of sunlight every day. When you get winter depression, treat yourself with 15 minutes of a tanning session. .. I have found this helpful anyway.
Learning the language is the best way to survive. Not only because it will be easier to find a job, but Dutch people will appreciate you more if you can (try) to speak Dutch with them. When they reply in English, insist they speak Dutch. When you start dreaming in Dutch, it means that you have mastered the language...
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