Interview with an expat


Where do you come from and where do you live in the Netherlands?
I’m from Nepal, and I’ve lived in Leiden, Oegstgeest and Rotterdam so far. Every place I’ve lived in has had its own flavour, but I quite enjoy Rotterdam. I live in the north of Rotterdam, so I’m not right in the middle of the chaos of a metropolitan city, but it’s only a 15-minute bus ride to get to it, so I find it the perfect happy medium.

What’s your job/business?
I work for a fintech company named Adyen as a screening operations analyst.

What was your first time in the Netherlands?
I came here in 2019 for uni, and fell in love with the place. So my first time ended up being the last.

What is the nicest thing about the Netherlands?
The nicest thing about the Netherlands is that no one cares what you are doing with your life. Where I come from, everyone from the neighbours to your milkman has an opinion on your life, so it’s nice to get away from the ‘what will people say’ mentality.

What’s the worst thing about the Netherlands?
Sorry for being cliche, but the weather. I cannot stand it. In Nepal we have beautiful winters, where the mornings and evenings are foggy but the afternoon is warm and sunny, and you can go up to your terrace and lie in the sun or eat oranges while getting that vitamin D. The first thing my GP told me in our appointment was to get vitamin D pills because I will need them. They were quite right.

Do you have Dutch friends?
I do indeed. Most of them are my boyfriend’s high school friends, but that’s what happens when you have only been in the country for half a year before a pandemic hits. They are all super wonderful and welcoming, which has made the pandemic easier too.

What do you like about Dutch people? What don’t you like?
I love that with a Dutch person, what you see is what you get. There is no sugarcoating, no beating around the bush. You say what you mean and you mean what you say. I’m a very straight-forward person myself, which has gotten me in a lot of trouble back home because people don’t know how to react, and here I just feel at home. No one will take offence, I can say what I mean.
I hate the phrase ‘doe normaal’ with all my heart. I strive to do anything but normaal. I am very alternative in my lifestyle and my choices. I can’t ‘doe normaal’. More to the point, I don’t want to. I feel like Dutch people use this phrase to keep people in check, like ‘hey, you’re being weird, act normal’. But I’ve always been weird and proud of it, so it just doesn’t make sense to me.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in your city?
I absolutely adore Takumi Ramen in Markthal. It sells the best ramen, and makes me feel like I’m home. They sell these gyozas with mala sauce, which is a wonderful chili sauce. If they bottled and sold it, I would have a shelf dedicated to it in my house.

Where do you prefer to relax in your city?
Since I moved here during the pandemic, I mostly just chill in my house. But I absolutely love parks and the park culture of the Netherlands. If the weather were better, I’d chill at parks more often. I love Kralingse Bos. My partner took me there for the first time and it has my heart.

What’s your favourite Dutch store?
Action!!! When I walked into an Action for the first time, it was like I was back in Thailand in a Daiso store. Daiso is one of those stores in Thailand where you walk in, and you find you need so many things in your life that you didn’t know existed 10 minutes earlier. I feel the same way about Action. Action is love.

What do you like to do on the weekends?
I usually save weekends for date days/nights. Sometimes me and my boyfriend will make big breakfasts, like eggs benedict, or a full English breakfast. Sometimes we will just drive around the city and appreciate it from afar (something we started doing in the pandemic to go out safely). Sometimes we will just stay in, get some good food delivered and watch the thousands of shows we are watching together. It’s a time for relaxation and recuperation.

Who is your favourite Dutch person?
My favorite Dutch person is Nikkie de Jager. In my gap year after high school, I got really into makeup, and watched Nikkie Tutorials every week (along with KathleenLights). When she came out as trans, it gave me life. When I saw her at Eurovision, I was so proud. It’s always so heartwarming to see someone from your community doing so well in life, because you know that so many people have sacrificed for us to get here, and the fact that we are now thriving is something very tangible.

What would you recommend a visitor to do and see in your city in the Netherlands?
If you come to Rotterdam, get yourself to Markthal and enjoy the smorgasbord of delicious cuisines. The Nederlands Fotomuseum really gives you an idea of how Rotterdam became the city it is now. I would take a water taxi if possible, and do a tour of Rotterdam that way. After all, it is a port city. Similarly, Hoek van Holland is beautiful, depending on the time of year you go.

What is your favourite Dutch food? And what Dutch food do you dislike?
I love snack bars, and I can eat a dozen Mexicanos if I need to. Mexicanos are everything! I cannot wrap my head around haringen. That’s maybe the one thing I would never try. I’m not a seafood person in general, so that’s too far for me (emphasis on for me).

Do you celebrate Dutch holidays? What is your favourite?
I’m quite excited to see a proper Koningsdag, hopefully this year. As a veteran (lol) Leiden resident, I HAVE to shout Leids Ontzet. It makes me happy. I’ve had a lot of fun on the days surrounding 3 October, and no matter where in the country I am, I’ll probably keep going back to Leiden for it.

Where do you like to go out?
My only going out happened in Leiden, which is really a student city, so I don’t know much. I always loved going to De Kroeg for beers, and the international students’ night (every Wednesday) at Einstein’s was always a bop. But if you want to dance, NEXT is where it’s at.

What famous Dutch place should you really go and see?
I have a whole list of places I personally want to go and have not been able to. Anne Frank’s House, Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Keukenhof, etc. One place that maybe people don’t know much about is Moses Bridge.

Best-kept secret in your city?
If you take bus 40 from Rotterdam Centraal to Delft Centraal, you will go through the cutest Dutch village/forest hybrid. It’s not a long stretch by any means, but it’s very pretty. I would like to bike through that route this summer to fully enjoy it.

Looking back, what do you wish you knew before you moved to the Netherlands?
How windy this place is. The wind is serious. My first day in the Netherlands, I was in Noordwijk. I have never seen metal poles sway that hard before. The Netherlands would not be this cold if it weren’t this windy, and I was not prepared for this at all.


What are 1-2 things you recommend to new expats here in the Netherlands?
Get yourself a proper jacket. It matters a whole lot more than you think it will.
Learn bike etiquette as quickly as possible, and chain your bike for the gods. It will go missing.

Written by Marla Thomson