Expat Voices: Irena Ajdinović on living in the Netherlands
Serbian researcher Irena Ajdinović appreciates being given "space for little eccentricities" but finds the Dutch culture of complaining "ultimately embarrassing".
Name: Irena Ajdinovic
City of residence: Amsterdam
Date of birth: 22 April 1976
Civil status: Engaged
Occupation: PhD researcher
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: PhD and relationship
Lived in the Netherlands for: 10 months
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
I was quite impressed with the fact that the historic buildings are not only well preserved, but also lived in and incorporated into a modern lifestyle.
What do you think of the food?
I’m not much of a food fetishist. I guess I appreciate the wide range of possibilities for a quick dinner more than anything.
What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
It’s hard to miss (or avoid) the shopping street in any city in the country. However, when I'm on a shopping spree, I go to Haarlem: Amsterdam is almost always too crowded.
What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
Stimulating academic environment. There is a lot of support for scientific research. I also like the individualist approach to life – it is liberating in the sense that it allows you space for little eccentricities.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
The culture of complaining: when things are not working the way they should, you are expected to complain in order to set them straight, and for as long as it takes. The dramatic lengths these complaint processes can take I find ultimately embarrassing, while many indulge in practicing their assertiveness.
What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I miss my family and friends but that has nothing to do with the Netherlands as such. I don’t feel puzzled by anything.
How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
If the quality of life pertains only to material security, the contrast between Belgrade and Amsterdam is becoming less and less prominent over the last couple of years. Otherwise, you have the same chance to enjoy your life in the Balkans or the Netherlands, depending on where your priorities lie.
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
Nothing: it’s primarily up to the Dutch to do that.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Enjoy simple things. That is something this country is made for. Discover Dutch hedonism.
Photos © I. Ajdinovic
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