Sanjay Chandak

Expat Voices: Sanjay Chandak on living in the Netherlands

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Indian expat Sanjay appreciates the Dutch way of planning "cheerful" weekends but wishes his homeland festival Diwali was among the celebrations here.

Name: Sanjay Chandak
Nationality: Indian
City of residence: Amsterdam
Date of birth: 8 October 1978
Civil status: Married
Occupation: Software engineer at ING
Reason for moving to the Netherlands: Work
Lived in the Netherlands for: two years

What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
Everywhere bikes, bikes and bikes. Dutch people are very fond of the bicycle and it's amazing to see the excellent uses of bakfietsen by parents in the city for their day-to-day activities to keep the environment pollution free.

I also like the public transport, which is really well organised and connects every area of the city and other cities in the country.

What do you think of the food?
Hmm…Dutch food is not spicy…so cooking yourself is the best idea if you are fond of spicy food. Well, my family and I like to eat vegetarian food and I didn’t find it any problem to get veggie food--although there are fewer options--and the taste of ‘falafel’ is flavoursome, which is easily available in every street in the city!

Also there are many Indian restaurants in Amsterdam, and I never have difficulty going out for dinner and making a selection of restaurants as there are many options!

What do you think of the shopping in the Netherlands?
Easy; everything is available, though you need to make some effort to find the right places.  Every week I go with my two-year-old daughter and wife on a shopping trip, and we are regular visitors of shops such as V&D, C&A and HEMA.

Sanjay's daughter Nysa
Sanjay's daughter Nysa

For groceries there are many options but I selected Albert Heijn as I feel the quality is good and you can get most of what you need in one go.

What do you appreciate about living in the Netherlands?
It’s good to see people keeping themselves busy whether through sports, music (going out to bands or shows) or other activities. And Dutch people plan every weekend wisely to do something cheerful.

What do you find most frustrating about living in the Netherlands?
When I need to translate my important letters with my colleagues or to get help from neighbours to understand if my translation is correct (or if it’s wise to give a reply in Dutch rather than English should you want a faster reply or to make sure your letter is treated with priority). Another frustration is when someone calls and doesn’t speak English; then you will be handicapped a bit as to what to say in reply.

There aren’t other things which frustrate me more as I like the city, people and my work.

Birds at Rotterdam Zoo
Birds at Rotterdam Zoo

What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
Driving on the right! As I used to drive on the left in the UK and India, this was my first experience of driving on the right. For the first few weeks it was cumbersome but after getting a few driving lessons I felt comfortable enough to drive.

How does the quality of life in the Netherlands compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
After working and spending two years in London, I would say life is quite comfortable here. Things are systematic and people follow the rules and law which is appreciated.

As Indians we have lots of cultural activities and festivals throughout the year and I miss celebrating our main festival Diwali (Festival of Lights) here!

If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
First thing’s first: stop people who use the clean green grass as a toilet place for their dogs. There should be a separate place in every area instead of covering everywhere with dog poo. My two-year-old daughter always wants to play on grass in sunny weather but, near our house, we always encounter wafts of dog poo aroma.

Secondly, if you are from an English-speaking country the first year will be bit frustrating for you, as most of the communication from the government or private offices will be in Dutch. I believe the immigration department (IND) should send letters to applicants in the English language as mostly they deal with foreigners who do not know Dutch; there is really a bit of a struggle with the language initially.

What advice would you give to a newcomer?
Dutch people are very straightforward but they are not very sociable with foreigners. However, as time goes by and you become well acquainted, then they will be very helpful and friendly. It’s not good to judge people at first instance as there are cultural differences between Dutch people and expats so it always takes some time to integrate with people. Now I have a few good Dutch friends here!

Would you like to add anything that we haven’t addressed in the questionnaire?
Dutch people are relaxed and good planners; no matter what or how urgent it is. They prepare their long vacation on time.

Sanjay's family and friends at Rotterdam Zoo
Family and friends at Rotterdam Zoo


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3 Comments To This Article

  • Ritika posted:

    on 22nd September 2009, 12:24:52 - Reply

    Hi Sanjay,
    Great article!
    I've been living here all my life and I agree with most of what you have to say.
    I just wanted to inform you that we are organizing a Diwali Mela on the 10th of October in AMstelven Centrum (stadshart).
    It woud be great if you can spread the word to your friends..If you give me ur email address I can email you the poster and flyer!
  • Sanjay posted:

    on 4th September 2009, 21:25:20 - Reply

    Thanks Jagannath for your views.
  • Jagannath posted:

    on 2nd September 2009, 12:23:02 - Reply

    Hey, Nice article with pleasing contents. Its very true that expats need to have a positive outlook on the dutch. Initially one may find it difficult to intergrate with them but when you start building up a good social circle quickly with the dutch, believe me - you will turn dutch very soon. Its a great breed of humans to live with or be a part of..