/ / / 18: Life As A Bangladeshi in the Netherlands

18: Life As A Bangladeshi in the Netherlands

Podcast guest Neela shares about the transition from Bangladesh to the Netherlands, adjusting to the culture shock of life in Europe, and how being brave can lead to wonderful new opportunities.

a picture of Neela posing in a white dress with a windmill in the background.

When moving to a foreign country, dealing with culture shock and overwhelm is always a challenge. Moving from a small country in South Asia to Europe was definitely challenging for guest Neela. However, she shares how she has come to enjoy life in her new country and the opportunities it affords here.

What is life in Bangladesh like?

Bangladesh is a small country in South Asia with a dense population. The people in Bangladesh are very cultural and colorful. The primary language is Bengali and the food is very similar to Indian cuisine. 

The family unit is very important, so multi-generational households of up to 10 people are very common. Usually, after someone graduates from high school or turns 18 to 20, they don’t move out.

Then once an individual has a partner and children, they continue living there as  a large family unit. Before moving to the Netherlands, Neela lived with her husband’s family. 

Has it been difficult to adjust to the Netherlands?

Neela misses the support system of having her parents and her in-laws nearby and able to help out. Neela moved to the Netherlands when her daughter was 6 months old, and while still in Bangladesh, everyone in the family helped take care of her. Now that they live in the Netherlands, Neela has learned how to be more independent. It’s a nice but difficult change.

What is similar to life in Bangladesh? What reminds you of home?

To her surprise, Neela has felt very welcome in the Netherlands and she feels that, after two years, she knows the country. Just like in Bangladesh, she is comfortable asking for help from anyone because the people are so friendly. 

What is different between the Netherlands and Bangladesh?

Obviously, the language is very different. Neela suggests at least knowing some basics of the language either before you move somewhere or starting as soon as you get to the new country. Having that basic understanding will help you connect with and make friends.

Bangladesh is a third-world country, and as such, it can be dangerous for a woman to walk or travel alone. But in the Netherlands, Neela can be more independent and safe, especially now that she is learning how to ride a bike.

Dutch people go to sleep at an earlier time than Bangladeshi people do. Neela is used to staying up to midnight partying with her family, and in the Netherlands, most people are going to bed around 10 pm. 

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What have you loved most about living in the Netherlands?

Neela loves the freedom and independence so that she can go outside and do things whenever she wants, regardless if it’s late at night. The education system in Europe, and especially in the Netherlands, is excellent so Neela is excited for her daughter to attend school there.

In Bangladesh, since there are so many people living in the country, there is a clear difference between social classes. Not everyone can afford to send their children to school when they are 4 or 5. But in the Netherlands, there isn’t that disparity and education is affordable.

What do people need to know before traveling or moving to the Netherlands?

If you need help, be brave to ask for help and people will gladly assist and guide you. 

For people looking to move to the Netherlands, it is better to have a place to live before you arrive. That may not always be feasible, but if possible, it is helpful to have a place you can move into immediately after arriving.

Homes are much smaller in the Netherlands than in Bangladesh, so be aware that the “normal” features of homes might be different than what you’re used to. Also, the Dutch staircases can be very frightening, especially with a toddler, but you get used to them. 

How has living abroad benefitted you and your family?

The education system has already been a great benefit. And the help from the government is very nice and their work with public facilities is wonderful. The Dutch government also provides a monthly stipend to help families support their children. The freshness of and easy access to the beautiful, green nature is also a great aspect of life in the Netherlands. 

Neela has also learned that the Netherlands is one of the most baby-friendly countries. Due to the walks, public transportation, and parks, Neela’s daughter gets to use her stroller more than she ever did in Bangladesh. 

Thank you for joining me on this journey! Happy exploring!

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About Neela

Neela is from Bangladesh and has lived in Rotterdam for almost 2 years. She completed her Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Engineering right before she moved. Now she is a proud mommy of a toddler where each day passes by running around. Life in a different country with a baby was hard at first. Now she is actively seeking jobs but this pandemic has slowed down everything.

Here is the link to a blog post where you can get an overview of Neela’s moving phase. https://www.iwng.nl/bangladeshi-living-in-the-netherlands/

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