Recently, 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:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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.