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Arwa Lokhandwala, Rotterdam

My name is Arwa Lokhandwala and I am an Indian expat living in The Netherlands with my husband.

We relocated to The Netherlands from India because of my husband’s work. It has been a little more than a year now. The initial paperwork was mostly hassle free but took some time. We arrived in Rotterdam in Dec, 2008 which is one of the coldest months of the year so the weather tested us too. The language and the culture in The Netherlands is entirely different from that of ours. But it also presented a great opportunity to learn about different things.Can you tell us something about your property?

We liked the idea of renting an apartment rather than buying. Once that was decided, we contacted a couple of Makelaars (Dutch for “estate agents”) for the property and after seeing a number of flats, zeroed in on one of them. Finding a property in the beginning takes time and effort since you have to be very careful regarding the area, rent etc. It always helps to check things out with different Makelaars before finalising the deal. The rental contract should be translated into English (or the language that you understand) and only after reading all the fine prints should you sign it.

Are you employed or self-employed? What challenges did you face in either finding employment or running your own business?

I am a professional writer working for a US company. Apart from that, I love to blog about my expat experiences and cross cultural dilemmas on my expat blog Orangesplaash (www.orangesplaash.blogspot.com). Besides that, I am an avid reader, love to travel and cook. The scenic beauty of the Netherlands has awakened the photographer in me and so these days I enjoy time behind the lenses too.

Initially, I faced a lot of problems in finding work. This was mainly due to two reasons – the language constraints (one has to achieve a certain level of Dutch fluency) and secondly due to the global recession last year which resulted in many companies going for a hiring freeze. But if you persist long enough, things fall into place sooner or later.

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What is your relationship like with the locals?

I have found the Dutch really helpful and willing to listen. Since most of them can speak good English, the language is not a barrier in day to day activities but it’s always good to learn the language for better integration into the Dutch society. I am learning a lot about the Dutch culture through them.

What do you like about life where you are?

There is so much to learn and experience. Getting soaked into the expat life has its own charms. Getting the chance to know a new country, a new way of life, a new culture and new connections – all these are the high points of being an expat. The Netherlands is almost a benchmark in certain aspects like the excellent healthcare system, the ubiquitous public transport and the standard of living.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

Moving away from family and friends is tough in the beginning. You tend to miss them almost everyday.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Come with an open mind, without any prejudices. Explore, make friends, learn the culture and the language. Be positive and enjoy every moment of the expatriate life!!

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