Expat Voices: Ritesh Gupta on living in the Netherlands
Indian expat Ritesh finds the "beauty of Holland" is in the people: Dutch bluntness "is something good!"
Name: Ritesh K. Gupta
City of residence: Rotterdam
Date of birth: 4 December 1981
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Consultant & Candidate Exec. MBA, RSM, Erasmus University
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: Expatriation from India
Lived in the Netherlands for: 3 years
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
My first impression of the Netherlands was: cold, windy, straight, outspoken people, milk, cheese and plenty of water. But my first impressions of the public healthcare system, public transport and its central location within the European continent were really good.
What do you think of the food?
If someone would ask me what is Dutch food, I would say bread, cheese and milk. And delicacies like stamppot, ertwen (pea) soup, oliebollen have always delighted me. Coming from India, where food plays an important role in society, there is nothing called Dutch food. However when we look around here, there are plenty of resturants serving cuisines from all over the world.
What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
For me, shopping is a great fun and stress reliever; I am a shopping freak. I won’t say that Netherlands is a shopper’s paradise, but it does offer some big stores like the Bijenkorf, Ikea, Woonmalls etc. to fulfill any needs from practical purpose to fancies. There are plenty of small to big shops selling everything you might need. And one great thing is that almost every city has central area with almost all famous chain stores, for example, H&M, Zara, C&A, Bijenkorf, Media Markt, Ikea, Gamma to name a few.
What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
Well, there are quite a lot of things to be appreciated in the Netherlands. I would first of all like to compliment the no-nonsense attitude of Dutch people: they are very down to earth and simple people, which is their biggest strength and makes them what they are. They believe in themselves and have a very tough, basic and structured approach to life.
I also appreciate the fact that I have all sorts of freedom and quite some privileges from the Dutch government coming here as an expatriate – which is telling of the acceptance and openness of Dutch people towards other cultures.
I am also amazed at how good Dutch people are at speaking English. In spite of it being a Dutch-speaking country, almost everyone speaks English and this makes life so much easier.
What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
It is quite difficult to get frustrated here, especially for me (as I like experiencing and understanding other cultures), but sometime the dark, slow and depressing weather makes me crazy – mainly on the occassions when I would like to go outside but cannot due to the weather.
What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
Nothing puzzles me as such. Sometimes I do wonder what the reason is for people being so blunt or in your face; this is what everyone says and I think it is something good.
I would also like to explore why people don't like talking to strangers or unfamiliar faces in bars or trains or public places; what is the reason for them to be confined within themselves or their close ones? I do miss the warm culture and food from India and, above all, I miss my friends a lot.
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 not lived anywhere else than the Netherlands for such a long time, though I have travelled to quite some countries and lived in pockets, or traveled for business or tourism. I would give the Netherlands nine out of 10: there is always room for improvement.
The standard of living for me comes from how comfortable, safe, enjoying, fulfilling the life is, and in spite of being a small country, the Netherlands can fulfill all these requirements; from a good healthcare system to state policies, law and order, environment, public transport, sanitation, utilities and entertainment, everything is here.. The Netherlands should be ranked on a par with the best countries in the world to live in, especially if you are married or have a family.
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
Do I need to say it? Of course, The Weather and The Food: it’s that simple. Speaking honestly, I would not like to change anything. I think the beauty of Holland is in what they are and how they are, and as an expatriate or tourist or foreigner, we should always respect and value the culture we live in. Traffic is something that, if possible, I would like to see reduced.
Fishing in the North Sea
What advice would you give to a newcomer?
I would advise anyone coming to the Netherlands to come here with no worries in mind, come with an open attitude, ready to accept and appreciate the culture and enjoy the gateway to Europe. I would also like to advise them to learn at least basic Dutch: it helps them to make connections and relationships with people a bit more easily, as Dutch people very much appreciate if they see foreigners trying to speak their language, as even they know that it is one of the toughest language to learn and speak in the world.
Once arrived, explore the country as well: there are plenty of great places to visit and enjoy, van noord tot zuid, en oost tot west.
All photos © Ritesh Gupta
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