Sunday, December 13, 2009

Arwa Lokhandwala in the Hot Seat - Interview with an Expat

Arwa Lokhandwala is an Indian expat living in the Netherlands. She is an active blogger, writer and Twitterer and tells here about her year to date in the Netherlands.

How long have you been living in the Netherlands?
Its been exactly one year on 10th Dec, 2009 since I set foot in Netherlands. And I can't bring myself to believe that, time really does fly.

What brought you initially to the Netherlands?
My husband got a job with a company in the Netherlands and so we relocated here one year ago from India.

What is your profession?
I studied Electronics Engineering and was working as an IT professional in a global firm back in India. But having moved to Netherlands, due to the recession I have not been successful in getting a job in the IT field.

This has given me the time and the motivation to pursue the first love of my life – writing. So here I am working as a freelance writer, blogger ( ) and communication specialist. I write on various topics ranging from Expats, Home Improvement, Interior Decoration, Online Writing, to Article Writing etc.

I am also interested in social media and am looking out for ways to leverage the enormous potential of social media.

What is the main difference between your country of origin and the Netherlands?
There are a lot of differences with respect to the culture, the way of life etc. But the most glaring difference of course is the language. This becomes all the more evident with all the official documentation after moving here as it is all in Dutch. Nevertheless, almost everybody here can speak English as well and therefore in supermarkets etc it's not a problem.

I am learning Dutch now and am enjoying the lessons. And since the Dutch speak very good English, they do not give me much opportunity to practice my broken Dutch a lot :-)

What was the most surprising adjustment you needed to make when moving to the Netherlands?
I was very surprised to learn about the appointment system here. It came as a shock to me that you have to make an appointment even with your neighbor to catch up for coffee and a nice chat.

The Dutch keep small personal diaries with them, noting down appointments and meeting times for almost everyone. So, now I know that it is required for everyone right from a cycle mechanic to the doctor.

What would you miss most about the Netherlands if you were to leave tomorrow?
Oh, I would surely miss a lot of things – lovely things that now symbolise the Netherlands to me, including but not limited to the friendly people, tulips, windmills, canals, the markets, muffins, hagelslag, cheese, blue berries, the public transport, the great health care system, the cleanliness and the traditions like Sinterklaas, koninginnedag, etc.

As an expat, I have come to know a new way of life, a new culture and new people. So, I would miss all the lovely memories and moments.

What do you like least about the Netherlands?
When we came here in December last year, the weather was really cold and windy; and the days were short. It does not help one bit that it is raining almost every day here. Having come from a tropical country like India, wearing thick jackets and carrying an umbrella in the purse always is quite tedious.

What is your favourite Dutch word?
The first word that caught my attention after coming here was “gezellig”. I like the way it is pronounced and what the word stands for. Its a unique word and I use it very often.

How would you describe the Dutch people?
I have found the Dutch people very helpful and friendly. They are eager to help you out with everything - the formulieren, at the supermarkets and in the trams.

They are very health conscious, biking their way to the office. They also come across as coffee loving, straightforward, punctual and patient. I appreciate the fact that they can wait for hours in long queues almost unruffled.

Do you have any blogs or websites that you find enjoyable about the Netherlands for people living here?

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