Expat Voices: Nandini Bedi on living in the Netherlands
Indian expat Nandini would like to see a little disorder in the Dutch way of life, and wants to know why it should be so hard to form friendships with Muslims here.
Name: Nandini Bedi
Nationality: Dutch, of Indian origin
City of residence: Amsterdam
Date of birth: 24-05-1962
Civil status: Married with 7-year-old twin boys
Occupation: Documentary maker and writer
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: Partner
Lived in the Netherlands for: eight years
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
That people are very self-sufficient. That asking for the way rather than looking it up on a map is not how its usually done. That the Dutch know all about cheese, and when they have eaten it, they then work very, very hard.
What do you think of the food?
I love food; stamppot and zuurkool and every type of kool included. I love potatoes too so that helps!
What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
I shop in Amsterdam and here I get coriander and curry leaves and drumsticks and fresh green chillies and coconuts. I also get a pickle from the Moroccan grocer that tastes like my grandmother in India made it. I get to shop whenever I want in an open air market. In general, I can’t and won’t complain about shopping in Amsterdam.
What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
My bicycle. And that public transport is there and it works and one can depend on it. I feel it’s a safe place and I have never felt discriminated against. I like the fact that my taxes work for other people’s benefit when it’s necessary and that their tax money helps me when it’s necessary. Money seems to go around here.
I find most people accept me for what I am. They are not very curious but that’s okay. Acceptability is good enough to start with. I think its great that gay people can marry, have children and choose to live family lives like I can.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
The wet and cold in winter. The length of the winters. The pollen in spring. And the too short summers (not counting the last one). The obsession with order; after India, it’s a bit of a shock to the system and can be quite boring. That I have to think always as an individual with well formed ideas and opinions. That it’s a sin to let others do that for you.
What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
My agenda and how to keep it and keep to it, and how to know if I will want to meet someone two weeks from today puzzles me. The need for so much planning. I wonder how one is supposed to remain a flexible, spontaneous human being. I miss being able to lose structure, forgetting about time and letting things happen.
How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
Compared to an Indian city, Amsterdam is very good when it comes to cleanliness, air, traffic, the manageability of almost everything. I also find it a stunning, beautiful city.
When it comes to social support structures and spontaneous wheels deals of all sorts that make life both exciting and of high quality, I would choose India any day.
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
The weather of course. And the hard, hard working person I am supposed to be here. I would add some disorder to my wish list.
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Learn the language. And speak it even if you are not quite up to the standard that you think you should be.
And always have enough clothes on you or with you--and include some rain gear. To be happy in the Netherlands is not to be wet and/or cold.
Would you like to add anything that we haven’t addressed in the questionnaire?
I’d like to add that although I have friends form different backgrounds in the Netherlands, I don’t have any of Turkish or Moroccan descent, and that I find it a pity. It’s something I am not comfortable with. After eight years and with two children born here, I begin to feel like I have a stake in this place.
What’s worse, I can’t seem to figure out why. In India some of my closest friends were of Islamic backgrounds. And here, the divide seems to be so real and difficult to bridge. I feel responsible for this.
Photos © Nandini Bedi
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