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“I have found everyone here is very well disciplined and punctual, and I was not used to it”

I am Shanta. I was born in Derai in Sunamganj district Bangladesh. Since November 2017 I have been living in Almere. My neighborhood is called Almere Waterwijk. This is my story:

I am the 4th of my five siblings. At this moment, My father worked in education as a headteacher at a primary school and my mother as a housekeeper. I completed a Bachelor's degree in Political Studies in Bangladesh. After graduating, I worked as an assistant teacher in a primary school in my village. 

I got married in July 2017. One of the memorable parts of my life is, my husband secured a job in the Netherlands just before our wedding day. My husband always acknowledges me as his lucky charm. In the very same year in the month of October, I landed in the Netherlands with my husband. Initially, we lived in Haarlem for a month, then we moved to Almere. 

As I came in winter, I was amazed to see snow for the first time in my life. I still remember that day, I spent the whole day playing with snow. I roamed around my neighborhood and enjoyed nature colored with a mesmerizing white wrapper. During a video call with my nephew, he requested to send some snow to him in Bangladesh. 

Since the usual weather in my country is swelteringly warm, here I like both the summer and winter. I enjoy watching snowfall with a cup of tea with some music. However, according to my experience, adjusting to this weather is a big challenge for the newcomers, especially in winter.

I was also impressed to know all of the trains in the Netherlands are powered by green energy.  

Initially, I felt very lonely as I was missing my family very much and my husband spent a good amount of his time at work. I spent a lot of timekeeping in touch with family and friends in Bangladesh via social media. Yet I still miss my family. Not knowing the Dutch language was another factor in struggling with loneliness. It had confined me to talk, know and make friends here. I strongly felt it is imperative to know the language of this land to know the culture, society, and tradition in an effective way.

I have found everyone here is very well disciplined and punctual, but I was not used to it. Fortunately, after 1 year I had an opportunity to work in Amsterdam in the same office with my husband for a year. It helped me to develop my interpersonal skills and to become familiar with the Dutch work environment. 
In 2020, I had an accident and my lower backbone was broken. It changed the goal of my life. After a bit of healing, I was starting to learn the Dutch language. I realized that I have to learn Dutch for my work and career. It was not easy to learn a new language. In school, I met many people who were also trying to learn it. Fortunately, I have passed the ‘inburgering’ exam this year.

I realize that I should have joined in Dutch language class earlier. I suppose everyone should start learning the Dutch language as soon as possible after coming here. It helps to become familiar with this culture.

When I visit my country I see many differences between my country and the Netherlands. Here women can dress up as they like and the environment is very secure and friendly for the women. Especially because of the freedom of women, I don't even think about going back to my country.

I am always respectful and curious about new cultures. I am interested in learning all the positive things of a new culture while respecting my own culture. I have excellent neighbors who are very friendly and helpful. So far I feel happy living here.

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Photos, Interview and Text: Lyla Carrillo Quan - van der Kaaden
Text Revision: Babette Rondón
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