“ You are going to live in a country where everything is legal! ” That is what my friends excitedly screamed when they heard I was going to live in the Netherlands. All the colorful stories about Amsterdam are very popular among Bangladeshi youngsters. It is on top of their list of must visit cities. Little did I know that I will be living in the Netherlands right after having a baby. 

Windmills and nature are part of living in the Netherlands.
Windmills at Kinderdijk

Leaving my home, family, friends and literally everything I own that too with a six months old baby was extremely daunting and challenging. It has been almost a year and a half that I am living in the Netherlands and I am absolutely loving it. People are very friendly and welcoming here, I found them very calm and relaxed.

From a mother’s perspective, the Netherlands is definitely one of the most liveable countries with babies. There are so many activities and things to do with children. Even the tiny restaurant by the roadside will have a baby-chair to seat with your little human.

The best part for me living in the Netherlands is I have not felt like an outsider here. Netherlands has a touch of rural life and the hustle bustle of city life is less profound here. On the contrary, as much as I enjoy my stay here, there are definitely some things that I wish I knew before arriving here.

Language

About 90 percent of people in the Netherlands speak English. However in order to live in a country, knowing their language is a huge advantage. I wish I started learning Dutch language before arriving here. It would have been easy for me to make local friends or to meet new people around.

My now two year old daughter is going to learn Dutch at pre-school. So I guess speaking Dutch has become mandatory for me. Looking through a translator while talking to my own daughter is not a very good idea.

Cycling

There are more bikes in the Netherlands than the actual population. Bicycles are the most popular and the most frequent mode of transportation here. Even a two year old knows to ride a bike, which they call ‘loopfiets’ in Dutch. Being a woman from a third world developing country, riding a bike was never a safe option for transportation. Hence I never had the chance or showed interest to learn to ride one. 

Now when I see everyone around enjoying cycling, my regret takes its peak. Especially during the summer when people strolls around the city on their bikes. I have an urge to learn cycling before summer so that I can take my daughter out on a ride.

the Netherlands is a great place to raise children. Just remember that they may learn more Dutch than you!
Already showing interest in bike.

Motherhood

This was the most difficult task I wish I knew about earlier. Back at home I was surrounded by my family who were the constant support and I never had to deal with anything alone. In Bangladesh, families live jointly so you always live in your mother’s womb no matter how old you are. 

After coming here with a baby, I didn’t know what to do, all alone just me and my husband, it felt like drowning in a deep sea. We had to figure out every single detail of parenthood by ourselves, we still are doing that. From what diaper to buy to which baby-store to go, this learning process is still in motion. I miss out on so many things while dealing with motherhood alone, like all these events that I wanted to go but could not show up due to something that came up last minute.

Being Bangladeshi living in the Netherlands has challenges, but I'm happy to be here!

Home faraway

Getting used to the different culture and people here is not much of an issue as I always found the Dutch people to be very kind and warm. Most days I find someone holding the tram door till I settle inside with my baby in stroller. When it comes to food, their immense love for sandwiches astonishes me. Their liberal attitude towards life gives me peace. The land of tulip has definitely taken a piece of my heart. Hope it gets as close as possible to the home that I have left, in order to live a finer life. 

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Neela Mahrufa
neela.mahrufa@gmail.com

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