Trip to Netherlands – Some Interesting Observations

DSC_0750Recently, I had a chance to spend a few days in the Netherlands. It was my first ever visit to any European country. So here are some interesting observations:
  1. Everybody knows English: What I have heard from my friends about European countries is that people do not speak English (or they don’t want to). However, in Netherlands, it was different. I think I can’t recall any person who could not speak English. I had no problem in communicating with the people on the street, asking for directions, or sharing a comment. However, the sign boards usually do not have English.
  2. Orange is yellow: On breakfast table, I found a jug of juice. The liquid was of yellow color, so I assumed it to be mango juice. However, it turned out to be orange juice. Mango was not found anywhere. It seems the Netherlands needs to import mangoes from Pakistan. Mango exporters! Did you hear me?
  3. It is the winds: The sunlight is quite unbearable, but the cold winds keep blowing all the time, and keep everything cold. If you sit in behind a glass wall (so that sunlight can reach you but you are safe from wind), you would not be able to bear the heat. I did this experiment in a building in Amsterdam.
  4. Water .. it seems nobody drinks water in Netherlands. Here in Pakistan, water is a taken-for-granted thing. Hotels/guest houses would most probably provide free (or at least one bottle/day) water to its guests even without asking for it. We can’t even think of having no water on dining table at lunch/dinner. But there in the Netherlands, you need to ask for it. May be, it is because Pakistan is a hot country, and Netherlands is a very cold place. Still you need to drink water. I shared my observation with my hosts at ICDI, and they agreed that their water in-take is usually low. It was interesting to note that the next day at least one of the employees at ICDI was keeping a jug of water on her desk.
  5. Very Few Pakistani Immigrants: There are very few Pakistani immigrants, and they are scattered. So you don’t find a mini Pakistan anywhere in the Netherlands. My Pakistani host in Amsterdam thought that it was consciously designed policy of their government to keep immigrants scattered, so that they mingle with the local people rather than create their own exclusive communities (it was just his opinion, he had no solid information about such policy). However, Pakistanis have created their own exclusive communities in other European countries including England. My host told me an interesting anecdote: ‘Once I visited England, and saw that the locality had exclusively Pakistani people. I asked my host if there were any English people living in that particular locality; my host replied in Punjab that there were no “foreigners” in that locality’.
  6. Pakistani Philanthropists: Many Pakistanis living abroad want to contribute to the betterment of the society back home, but have been facing problems. It is especially the case with Pakistanis who want to contribute to worldly betterment as opposed to religious charity. Those who want to do religious charity have plenty of opportunities as they can support religious schools (madrassah) or mosques of their own sect. But those who want to contribute to education, health, disability etc. are thoroughly constrained. Pakistanis in the Netherlands particularly asked me to develop some reliable system for them. I told them I am already working on an online platform to connect needy people in Pakistan with philanthropists around the world.

6 thoughts on “Trip to Netherlands – Some Interesting Observations

  1. Sir mangoes r available in netherland jab inka season ata hai u will find them in pak india stores .. Europe mein english ka issue french logo hi hai and i think they can speak english but dont want to communicate in lango other than french


  2. Well written.
    However, any blog on Netherlands without any description about Dutch bikes culture is cruel and heartless. 🙂
    You went in the flowers season and haven’t talked about them. In flowers, the Dutch take international pride.
    Similarly, they love windmills, cheese, and potatoes.
    Nevertheless, it is a great country to spend a few years if you can bear rains and cold.


    • Thanks for your interest and comments.

      I did not want to talk about bicycles, canals and flowers, as everybody talks about those things when discussing Netherlands. I wanted to bring up a few other things.


  3. Hi Safeer, always interesting to read reflections on one’s country by someone from the “outside”. Let me reflect a bit on your reflections:
    -English. I am not sure who told you this, but by now most Europeans, especially in the Northern parts, and especially the younger people, can and are happy to speak English with foreigners. Of course amongst them selves the local language is still the language of choice. That signs are in Dutch and not English makes sense, as English is not an official language in NL.
    -Mango’s can be found in any supermarket in NL and they are eaten by many, Dutch and non-Dutch. That your orange juice looked yellow has more to do with the quality of orange juice being served in most hotels and other places. But fresh orange juice can be found everywhere too, it may look more orange. In Holland, the country where orange is the national colour, orange is defintely orange, not yellow!
    -You were lucky with the sunshine. Usually in NL there is little sun, much rain and indeed much wind. Sitting behind a glass is about the any way to get warm…
    -Dutch people have an ambivalent relation with water. We are used to fighting it, it is more of an enemy than a friend. Because there is aplenty of it, and you can safely drink it from the tap, may be the reason that you dont find many bottles or jugs on tables. Also: we just prefer beer and milk…
    -There are indeed not many Pakistani immigrants in NL. That is probably the main reason why there are no neighbourhoods with large populations, like in England. There is no policy in NL of scattering immigrants through the country. Some of the more populous minorities are living mostly together in neighbourhoods in the bigger cities.

    Hope that sheds some more light on your observations. And I hope you had a nice, fruitful time in our little country. We were happy to welcome you!



    • Thanks Mathijs,

      Your response gives some perspective to my observations. My stay was short, and my interaction was limited with people, hence my observations are not definitive (I am not sure if this word conveys what I mean, but I could not think of a better word).

      Anyhow, this visit has created some appetite for more, and I am thinking of visiting again on my own so that I don’t have any official work on my hands.

      Note: your comment was posted, but it needed my approval before it would appear here. I moderate the comments, and do not allow spam or comments with abusive language.


      • We have an appetite for more too, and hope to visit your beautiful country someday soon. I am sure there will be water on the table!




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