Bina Champaneria, UK
Born in Kenya, but raised in the UK, Bina Champaneria moved to Breda for work, and enjoys the pace of life – and Sinterklaas!
Breda is… a wonderful place, there is something for everybody. Great shops, restaurants, entertainment and all easy to get to. Breda feels safe and friendly. Great architecture intermingled with trees, parks and canals. Breda is home, it is where I feel I belong, where I always look forward to come back to and where I want to stay.
What was the most difficult part about moving to the Netherlands?
Not understanding the different regulations and procedures
What is your best piece of advice for other expats who have just recently moved here?
Learn Dutch as it will help to integrate and you will feel more part of the community.
Do you belong to other clubs and/or organizations?
Yes, to Internations
Do you consider yourself integrated?
Until I learn the language, especially learn to speak Dutch I will not feel fully integrated. Without knowing how to converse in Dutch I feel that I cannot truly “be myself”. I cannot say what I would normally say to people I meet, also, joining a club or activity is not easily possible without the ability to communicate in Dutch. I feel like I am missing out and that people are not seeing the “real me”. It also means that I cannot really learn about the people I meet either, which is such a shame.
What is the best advice that someone gave to you about living here?
Don’t compare it to where you came from. Accept that there are cultural and lifestyle differences and be prepared to be pleasantly surprised. Use the trains, they are great.
Did you experience culture shock?
Not in a bad sense, I felt that in Breda, there is more of a “family” focus. A lot of people say hello when you pass them on the street. The youth seem well-mannered and the town feels safe to walk around at night time.
Do you speak any Dutch?
A little, I understand more than I can speak
Do you ride a bike?
Yes but mainly on dry and warmer days, otherwise I use my car.
What do you miss most from home?
Family is an obvious first answer, I also miss the supermarkets and the enormous choice available. Having said that, I have got used to the smaller supermarkets here and the lack of certain products. It is still possible to be creative make good food. It’s probably better not having access to too many ready-meals anyway. I miss Nandos though, a chain of restaurants serving Portuguese piri-piri dishes. I also do miss the traditional “fish & chips” and I guess the alternative is kibbling here. I think most people from the UK would say that they miss good Indian curries and there seems to be a lack of Indian restaurants here.
What do you like the most about the Dutch culture?
They take time out to relax with the family and friends and can have a good time just being in the park (perhaps because they don’t have the 24 hour shopping and big retail parks culture?)
How did you celebrate Queen’s Day?
At a friend’s house with a BBQ
What is your favorite Dutch tradition?
I quite like the celebration in December of Sinterklaas as its more about the children. In the UK for instance, Christmas seems so commercial now where the emphasis is on buying presents for everybody and eating tons of food. This usually makes it a stressful time instead of a relaxing one to spend with the family. I do like the fact that Christmas is not so commercial here.
How do you spend your summer?
This year I will be completing my thesis but in the past we have gone away on holiday or spent a bit of time back visiting family in the UK. I hope to explore more of the Netherlands in the future though.
If you had to leave the Netherlands tomorrow, what would you miss most?
The pace of life - more calmer, the cycle lanes, the outdoor café culture, my friends and colleagues – sorry too many to choose from!
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