Embarking on a new journey as an expat
Amidst the dark clouds, I felt myself taking turns full of new aspirations, hopes and dreams. I could feel a ray of hope seeing the silver lining behind each of these clouds. A new sensation was emerging within my heart as if I was setting off for a new journey.
Was it going to be my final destination? Several questions were running in my mind. Very natural to someone like me- almost ten years and I have been moving and hopping countries hoping that we would settle down somewhere but no it was not that easy.
My husband is an IT professional roaming across the globe and I by choice decided to go where he goes. I was reminded of my past stay in UK and USA where I was taking a stroll in the park and a passerby asked me for how long have I been in US. A bit unsure, I looked around and said, “oh not so long I’m new here, I am an expat”. On another instance, I went to a school to get my son registered, the Director of the school asked me for how long are you going to have your child here? Like always unassertively I said, “I’m sorry can’t say, we are expats can’t really guess the length of our stay”. We are more so on wheels as mostly expats from IT background are assumed to be moving from one country to another; though not always.
In this mind frame I was all set, planning my future chores, still flying like a free bird and was trying to analyze how far had I flown with my wings and suddenly I heard a voice. “We kindly request you to fasten your seatbelts” I opened my eyes, almost there, close to the Schipol Airport, ready to land at our new destination, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.The wheels of the plane touched down and the feeling of exhilaration started vanishing to a moment of panic.
I was finally out of my hibernation mode and activity was all around me. We got in a taxi with my family driving us to the hotel. The driver made a casual talk and asked us our names, and the moment later he said, “Oh, so you are expats. I drive down people like you every day back and forth. Amsterdam is the hub for expat community. Have a nice stay” and there he went. Now I knew how to introduce myself the next time- “I AM EXPAT”, that is basically people here are used to hearing. The whole experience in a new country can be daunting and overwhelming and there it started as a real emotional roller coaster!
It was our third day in Amsterdam and it happened to be a long weekend coming up with some celebrations and a couple of holidays together when stores would stay closed. We did not know this and with two little kids 3 and 5 years old then, I was quite unsure about the tap water for my children so was using mineral water initially. Milk and water were almost finishing up, so I decided to visit the store nearby to do all my regular shopping.
I went into the store and bought 4 bottles of mineral water, 4 boxes of milk and some vegetables as it was very cold and I preferred to shop in bulk , with kids at home. I could see all things in Dutch but was trying to figure out. I heard someone say, we are closing down. I knew I had to hurry up. Seeing the picture of cow on the milk can and water on the bottle, I bought the stuff. I was the last customer before the store closed. I was very happy that I bought the necessary stuff.
When I reached home, my kids wanted milk. I opened the can and served hot chocolate milk to the kids. EEEks…milk spilt all over, my son couldn’t bear the taste. It was Karne Milk!! (Salted yogurt milk) in which I had put chocolate powder. My kid started to wail…To comfort him I opened the water, my son quickly grabbed the bottle and the moment he tasted it. EEeeks…water splashed all over, It was bruisend water (soda water).
First time in life I regretted coming to a non-English country. Though people speak a lot of English but I just didn’t ask at the store. I assumed that a photo of a cow on a milk box would mean milk and photo of water on a bottled water would mean plain water. The possibility of other variants just did not come to my mind probably because of the time pressure.
This ended up as irritatingly hilarious moment for us when I tried the milk and water myself and realized why my 3-year-old son reacted like this in both situations. I just baked some veggies for dinner and used the regular tap water, which anyways is safe here in the Netherlands but we, as foreigners are extra cautious initially. Well now, I am very sure that tap water is potable here, since we pay a lot of water tax.
The next morning when I woke up to bring fresh milk and water a passerby informed me that the stores will remain closed for the next two days due to some celebrations.I ran up the apartment, woke my husband and rushed him to the airport as there we could get such items on any day. No doubt at atrocious prices.
Next time if you are caught in such a situation, do not shy asking about the products else you might end up buying something you have no idea about. So watch out. Also keep yourself aware of the holidays especially around Easter when the stores are closed on consecutive days. Make sure to stock up some stuff.