Expat Voices: Jehanzeb Khan on living in the Netherlands

Expat Voices: Jehanzeb Khan on living in the Netherlands

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An initial first 'good impression' quickly sours as Pakistani expat Jehanzeb Khan finds himself in a "paper land" with a growing intolerance and racism.

Name: Jehanzeb Khan
Nationality: Pakistan
City of residence: Zaanstad
Date of birth: 15 February 1961
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Administration
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: There is a proverb in my language:  “when a jackal wants to die, he goes into a village”. Being a journalist in the past, a very big problem was created by my profession with the government, and I left my country and came here.
Lived in the Netherlands for:  almost 11 years, seven of which were wasted in fighting with the legal system over here.


What was your first impression of the Netherlands?

When I came to the Netherlands, I had a very good impression of the country and the people. The people were very friendly; wherever, I went, I was helped and was welcomed. The government policies were humane and fair. The legal system was impartial and economic situation was satisfactory. I was living a modest life and 40 Dutch gulden were enough for my groceries etc. for a week. For a middle class person, it was an ideal situation.  

What do you think of the food?

Being an Asian, the non-spicy Dutch food was a bit hard to swallow in the beginning, but with the passage of time, I got used to it and it is okay now.

What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?

I have been in the business for a few years and due to heavy taxes on the seller, shopping in Netherlands is not a good idea. The majority of the shops are selling low grade items at higher prices. For example, I bought Nike joggers at  EUR 125, while the same joggers are available in Pakistan for EUR 2.  Mind you, both are Chinese made. The same goes for clothing, telephones, cosmetics, watches, computers, and other household items which a common man can afford. There is no price control, so one has to search from shop to shop for good bargains. Lies, advertisements and marketing fabricate reality, and facts, in the market.

What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?

When I came first, there were a lot of things for appreciation. But with the passage of time, and the changing political situation, they are fading away now.

What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?

The most frustrating thing in the Netherlands is that they never give you a better opportunity to grow. They will always find an excuse to keep you on the side. From language to integration, job opportunity, schooling, family reunification, housing etc, they always find an excuse to keep you away. That is the reason that highly qualified people are leaving this country day by day. People are becoming partial. Educational institutions, which should be the ground for creating a better society, become racist spring boards.  

Jehanzeb Khan


What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?

One of the biggest puzzles is why people have become so radical in such a short time? Why people are voting for  politicians who are playing with their sentiments and not solving their problems?  Why people are not understanding that supporting political slogans and a racist agenda, which tear apart countries are not resulting in a happy end. Why people are not considering the ground realities when voting.  

How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?

I have traveled to quite a few countries. Honestly, the quality of life for common people in those countries is much better than the quality of life in the Netherlands. There are better opportunities available in those countries. Life is normal and relaxed. There is less bureaucracy and state interference in people’s life. This is a “paper land”.

If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?

Well, If I would ever be given the chance to change Netherlands, the first thing I'd do would be to remove the terms immigrants and non-immigrants. Anybody who has a Dutch nationality is Dutch, the same as in USA, Australia, and Canada. So the people would be proud of their country and everybody concentrate and work hard to make it a better country as it was. A free country for everybody.  

What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Go back as soon as possible, before it is too late.


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14 Comments To This Article

  • Usman posted:

    on 23rd September 2015, 15:52:33 - Reply

    I have been planning to live in Netherlands as my wife is a pure Native Dutch. I am a person who is looking forward to live in a free society where equality in every aspect exist in a society. A place where rule of law exist and impartial behavior of society helps people live a better life. I believe that my contribution is as important as i am expecting from people. But after reading mixed views i am pretty confused what to expect from Netherlands. My honest views about my Wife who is a dutch person is highly positive. what i have observed after been in a relationship of 6 years with her i can honestly say that Dutch are extremely pure people with a nice heart. They are racist but only in making opinions unlikely their actions tend to participate in a more positive way. But i know that world is not finished on my wife and everybody is not same. i am still unable to understand about this immigrant/non immigrant debate. As a person having a qualification of M.phill in Social sciences makes no sense to me why people restrict others on the basis of race, nation and cast. if they born in a place doesn't mean they have a blank authority to restrict anyone on the basis of their presumptions regarding race and religion. That's the fact that immigrants have played a very important role in flourishing countries like USA, CANADA, AUS. They are hard worker and they are also giving noble services everywhere. what they expect is to be treated with same respect and impartiality. It would be a discrimination if the same crime if being done by a non immigrant and an immigrant. They should be taken as a criminal regardless of race, religion etc. That is the only way to keep nations alive and prosperous in my opinion and if Dutch people restrict others on the basis of race and religion then it would not strop the issue but will make a terrible history like in the past centuries of black/white difference resulted only destruction.

  • Rajesh posted:

    on 4th April 2015, 10:41:56 - Reply

    I agree with jehanzeb to a large extent. I came to this country as a child due to my father's work..considering he worked with Dutch people in India. I speak fluent Dutch, was planted in a predominantly white, protest Christian Dutch village, had bible lessons every Friday and enjoyed my further education at some of the best universities in Netherlands as well as USA. However, after I graduated, I struggled to find a job and even though I have been working for the last 20 years, it has been a constant struggle to move ahead. I find the Dutch to be extremely jealous, very petty minded and unfortunatelly now also increasingly xenophobic. The PVV advocates freedom of speech but it is freedom of hate speech. Yes, European culture is very different from American but then again, a difference in culture and language can also pose as a benefit to society. The Dutch only stress the negative and like to create a divide rather than unite...it is called "apartheid", something they practiced in South Africa and which exists until this day. Ofcourse the world changed for Muslims after 9/11 and now with the ISIS threat, the world is more polarized than ever. But as a born Hindu, raised Christian with a good education, skills but being a person of color, I can truly say that the Dutch are racist and not at all a fair people. Sorry...Dutch posters on this forum.
  • Nandini Bedi posted:

    on 7th June 2011, 15:28:38 - Reply

    Hello all, I'm a 'non Western immigrant' with a Dutch partner. We have children. He, like Canucky woman's partner is also worried, concerned and sometimes upset with present trends in Holland. I have a very clear idea that while much negative energy is 'in the air', the people of Holland have hardly ever asked me 'where I come from' despite the fact that I look and sometimes dress very differently. I think I am welcome to figure out 'where I want to go'. Its true I live in Amsterdam and that may have something to do with it. I agree that no place is perfect because every place is made of people and we are imperfect. I assure you that multiculturalism is not dead no matter what Angela Merkel claims. We, the imperfect people of Holland keep it alive.We, the imperfect people of Holland will keep tolerance alive. We, the imperfect people of Holland will keep our imperfect land as a place we call home, where we, the imperfect people of Holland will live and learn from each other. [Edited by moderator] Proust to us! Nandini Bedi
  • Newcomer posted:

    on 20th February 2011, 13:50:29 - Reply

    You complain about Netherlands. But can you tell me which countries are better than the Netherlands as far as immigration goes? You complain about the change over the last 7 years you are here, the political situation. Why are the people getting more racist? Is it because of politicians are are politicians simply pickiing up vibes which have always been present. Do people change so strongly in their deeper values over 11 years? If they do, then why? There must be other reasons than only politicians like Wilders/ the political situation at the moment. Are the people in Holland getting frustrated about the immigration situation? I see the same in Germany. What means immigration? If I want to emmigrate how much of my own culture do I have to lose? [Edited by moderator] You do have a social system here. Do you have the same social system in Pakistan? The immigration system here, which enables things like free Dutch courses, comes out of the high tax in this country. I have the same discussion about costs of living in Germany with Germans.
  • DiMaria posted:

    on 17th February 2011, 19:19:57 - Reply

    It's always the same story, in the NL, France and other European countries. People from outside Europe complaining about the land that is hosting them, and -in many cases- feeding them and helping them to develop. They complain, but they do not leave... Why is the NL one of the countries with higher number of expats? Come guys and girls, give me a break! Nobody is obliging you to stay here!
  • Fifi Gerald Haroon posted:

    on 17th February 2011, 15:01:48 - Reply

    OK, heres my two euro cents to this thread and I will go on tangents in my rant. Being a Pakistani myself, living in Holland for the last 11 years, heres my take on this whole thing, and yes, wally van der is one of my dear dear friends in spite of his instinctive opinionated repertoire. I find it most charming. Respect!. Firstly, more power to Mr Khan for having sent in this expat questionnaire and voicing his opinions. I can imagine being in the frustrated state he finds himself, venting on here might lead to a bit of reprieve. To each their own. Now seriously, Mr Khan, you lost me when you equated price controls to being able to buy 2 euro Nikes. Firstly, [edited] imitation chinese knockoffs do not a price control a make. this comparison just did it for me in taking all that was said in said article and taking it with a kilo of iodized Bijenkorf salt. What we have in this country and continent is only a free market and that only helps consumers with choice and variety. When I came to this country, I was a pretty young thing right off the boat and living in the candy store. People were nothing but nice, there was ample opportunity and you was treated with the same level respect as your gentile mild manner persona offered in turn. Ofcourse every tart not maketh a lady. I have grown in my capacity as a respectable contributor to society and the Dutch society in turn has always welcomed me in and allowed me to coexist in serene harmony. 11 years down the line, all that has changed in my opinion is that im a hardened old diva with a house on the canals, who just wont put out after five drinks. Through the years, I cannot remember a single instance where I could lay claim to being singled out as an outsider. I can only pretend to have been slighted for the color of my skin for dinner party tricks but its all fun n games. This society has provided me with every opportunity to grow and prosper as be my drive and passion, sadly Id be lucky If Id lay claim to some.. but thats another seminar. As for the standard of living, I have traveled around and I find it so much more accessible and organized with the Dutch. You just cannot shriek blue murder when the law isn’t on your best side. It’s a system, fair and square. All I know is when you are an immigrant in somebody elses backyard, you need to follow the norms and rules. For the ones amongst ourselves who have trouble with petrol prices, there are websites detailing every tank station and the price is only after all set in giant big foot lettering once you drive up. You hit the lever and the numbers start twirling in your face. I digress. [Edited by moderator]
  • Canucky Woman posted:

    on 17th February 2011, 12:01:53 - Reply

    Meneer vd Wal, [edited by moderator] the author has been here long enough to see the country he once loved change. It's not that he could never adjust -- he did -- only to see so much that he admired disappear during the last decade. And so did my Dutch husband, so the problem is not that he's an immigrant and should leave, but that the Netherlands has a problem it didn't have before. [Edited]
  • Digger posted:

    on 16th February 2011, 22:35:02 - Reply

    How true Jehanzeb, no price control in Holland. Petrol prices seem to vary by 10 cents a liter from station to station, and you often can't tell what price you will be paying until you pull the trigger on the pump and it's too late. Civilized countries have price controls, consumer watchdogs, that sort of thing. It's a very controlled society in a lot of ways, except for a few important areas such as hygiene in food shops, smoking in bars and cafes, the basics that the civilized countries got handled decades ago! [Edited by moderator]
  • jan van der wal posted:

    on 16th February 2011, 21:55:04 - Reply

    Thanks for your support Ms/Mr (??)DiMaria. I think, however, that Mr Fibonacci didn't say my opinions were racist, but the fact that I quoted the - indeed not so very nice - slogan of "Paki Go Home" - hardly ever heard in The Netherlands, but many times more in the UK - but this was merely to make my point, as I'm sure Mr Fibonacci knew himself full well. [Edited by moderator]. To put the word "Paki" in perspective, this is perceived as a terrible offensive word - and more so by the politically correct than by the Pakistanis themselves (who use the term as liberally as perhaps your average BNP supporter) and it's basically just short for an otherwise rather lengthy word. I don't get too excited when someone refers to me as dutchie, cloggie, cheesehead, gringo, paleface or what have you.... [edited]
  • DiMaria posted:

    on 16th February 2011, 21:28:14 - Reply

    I fully agree with Jan, and I am not Dutch or European but Argentinian. I have made all my efforts to adapt, and I am grateful for the welcome I have had in Europe. I find upsetting that people can quote Mr Wal as racist for what he is expressing. If a society decides that it cannot accept all the non Western immigramts from the world, is it deemed to be racist? Ah, and to the writer of the article, he found the social system very good when he arrived (as all non Western inmigratns do, of course), but then complains about the heavy taxes he had to pay when he decided to become an entrepreneur (run a shop). Of course man...
  • fibonacci08 posted:

    on 16th February 2011, 19:25:53 - Reply

    [Edited by moderator] I also disagree with the opinion in the article that the quality of life in the netherlands is much better elsewhere if we define quality of life as material resources (salary, housing, welfare support for example). I think the standard of living is pretty high in the Netherlands. However, if the writer meant a more subjective definition of "quality of life" then I could see how he might not rate it so highly. Just as one example, as an immigrant, you can't help but take notice of the recent political changes here and the anti-immigrant policies being discussed. As a native Brit, I see the English Defence League or British National Party as being the same in terms of policies as the PVV but these parties are not voting on the mainstream national political decisions because their views are considered extremist, racist and held by a minority of voters. I find it quite shocking that a political party here can make a policy against specific groups of immigrants and not others. HOwever, democracy is such that a signifnicant number of voting Dutch people disagree with my view and so the PVV has influence in the national policies. With respect to the posted points about culture, then culture is not a fixed state. Of course Europeans can take pride in their cultures and traditions and enjoy them but as Europeans, we have to accept that cultures will change if non-Europeans are invited/allowed to come and live in Europe - why does this have to be a negative change?! Surely there should be cultural respect on both sides and an acceptance that you don't have to agree with all the values of the new culture you're experiencing. I like this Expat Voice interview for being a refreshing change from all the 'I like apple pie and start learning Dutch' opinions that many people express (and just to add, I also like appeltaart and try to speak Dutch at times). I don't necessarily agree with all the writer expresses but I think he makes some valid points and gives me something to think about in my chosen life as an expat here in the Netherlands.
  • jan vd wal posted:

    on 16th February 2011, 18:17:49 - Reply

    I would like to add that comparing the immigrant situation in Canada, the US and Australia on the one hand, and that in Europe on the other, is rather irrelevant and beside the point. The three former countries owe their existence to immigration; regrettably, the indigenous populations, if not completely annihilated, had to pay a dear price for this, but let’s leave that discussion for another occasion. European countries and peoples have cultures, traditions and values rooted in history that go back a millennium. Dutch, English, French, even German people have every right to be proud of their ethnic origins and in that sense make a distinction between “us” and “them”. God knows Pathans and Punjabis are only too proud of their respective ethnicities! European peoples also have every right to expect newcomers to respect this cultural heritage. And they should, if they wish that their progenity in these lands will one day be considered to be as closely connected with the Dutch soil as the people whose ancestors have built this land, its society and economy over the past 2000 years. This is the case today with the descendants of the Portuguese Jews, French Huguenots and the Dutch East Indies. But it takes effort – not in the least on the immigrant’s part.
  • Khalid Ahmed Chaudry posted:

    on 16th February 2011, 14:00:27 - Reply

    Jehanzeb Khan on living in the Netherlands

    I appriciate Mr.Jehanzeb Khan's interview, very well said,brother! I had to laugh on when he answered on the question "reason for moving to Netherlands", his answer was “when a jackal wants to die, he goes into a village" (jab Geedar ki moott aati hay tto wo Gaoon ka Rukh Karta hay, translation in to Urdu).

    I love to 2nd his views,complaints,protest,findings,experiences and at the end when he says "We want our Netherland and our decent,peace loving Dutch society back". And I would add "it's our duty to fights against all sorts of populism and redicalization of our society", we will not let those win, who are trying to ignore the article 1 of our constituiton!!
  • richard posted:

    on 16th February 2011, 13:42:33 - Reply

    Sad to read this but Mr. Khan is focusing on what I would consider one of the biggest problems in Europe today, namely, the reflex to focus on ethnic and religious origins. why do people believe it is important to think that way? [Edited by moderator] it means that someone is not investing the effort to look at someone as an individual but instead as a member of a group only. that can sometimes be like classifying human beings like ants. it's unfortunate. Mr. Khan may agree that the dominant question in Australia, Canada and USA, which he mentioned, are "where are you going?" instead of "where are you from?" The former deals with individual choices, skills and motivation; the latter with factors we cannot control.