West Bites East
Change is inevitable. It is a bare truth that holds its ground since the beginning of the Universe. It’s been now almost a year since I started working here in Netherlands. Being an Indian, I never felt that sense of distinction working within a Dutch Culture. By far this journey is going exceptional accompanied with nice colleagues by my side & indeed worth mentioning the work-culture. But every expat is not blessed with the same experience especially when it is created by ignorance & influenced by pessimism. Very recently a new colleague of mine has joined the Netherlands office. The specific thing which I want to mention about this person is that he belongs to my home Country – India and is in his mid-forties. He was working for another company back in India in a top notch position. He got this offer to work for my organization through an external agency which provided him all the necessary legal paper works & arrangements to be able to shift his base to Netherlands & start his new role here. Being a family man he wanted to shift with his family i.e. wife & a school going son. But due to the Visa processing delays he had to come here first and had to wait for his family to arrive within a period of few months.
Now, the story actually picks up from here. We are a small group of Indians working in Netherlands office. We all were a little bit enthusiastic about this new person as a new addition to our group. It’s been only a few days or 3rd day to be precise, since this new colleague of mine (whom I am going to refer as R.G from now on) started his typical attitude of complaining. His nagging behavior especially with little/small things got the attention of everyone in our group. From the very first day he made negative remarks about the weather & food. At first, we took it lightly as it happens to be a very usual behavior for new expats. R.G being a total vegetarian could have really felt the difficulty to search food & due to which everybody sincerely sympathized with him. But as days passed by, this attitude of him took its toll & started getting on everybody’s nerves. Everyone suggested him to cook food at home specially Rice & Lentils which he could easily purchase from Indian stores, as most of us are used to get our lunch from home itself. We Indians are not much habituated to have Bread & Cheese in our daily routine unlike the local Dutch people. The opposite also holds true & vice-versa. Since he was having Bread, Butter & Cheese for last couple of weeks, he got frustrated & continued complaining about the same non-stop. As R.G was totally new to this western environment, he had his bundle of inquisitiveness about the place, culture & code of conducts. We all tried to help him out by whatever knowledge we could provide to help him adjust accordingly, as soon as possible. But his unwillingness to accept & complaining attitude was making him more miserable in his own ways.
After few more days, we all could understand his root problem which led to such a mess. Before joining here in Netherlands, R.G was enjoying heavenly amenities in his previous role in India. Being the head of the department he was accompanied with a full time driver & was heading a considerable number of people under him. Anybody could easily make out that he was living his life king size with full of attitude, authority & gravity. Even at home, his small family of three was equipped with three house-hold help full time. He hardly had to really think & worry about his home & family responsibilities. With all these conveniences by his side, his decision to move out here without having a slightest idea of the work-culture of Netherlands is a big disaster. At least for the person like him who didn’t have to care about routine logistics, chores & day to day activities by his own for last so many years, this was a clear conclusion derived out of haste & ignorance. And now complaining about the lifestyle & the system wouldn’t do anymore good to him.
Besides exercising these luxurious facilities, one should also learn to adjust their nature & behavior according to the culture & environment. People should understand & try to accommodate the good things about it instead of nagging about the negatives. They should not forget that they left their own country for their own benefit & should learn to respect the culture & ethics of others especially when you are earning your own Bread & Butter from that land. One must keep in mind that no country is perfect & every culture has its own Pros & cons but one should be gracious enough to appreciate the positives & ignore the negatives. Being a true Indian myself, I could easily say that even my country –India is not perfect. Apparently it has more imperfections than perfections. But still I adore my Homeland like anything. I appreciate & love its perfections more than its imperfections.
The same set of rules applies here in Netherlands also. One needs to know the rules of the game to play it safely. Dutch people are very straight forward but that doesn’t mean necessarily impolite. People from other culture often consider it rude & that definitely is not correct. Dutch will let you know their thoughts courteously but in a straight way. They hardly use any kind of articulation in there speech or conversation. They only speak their mind & nothing else. Even I was taken aback when I faced the same but that’s how they are. Being a colleague we advised him about the Dutch culture & practices, so that he prepares himself accordingly. But instead of taking a note of it, he felt intrigued. This attitude of him clearly depicted his inflated ego over his rational sensibility which subsequently is making him adamant. He deliberately avoided molding his lifestyle in a much better way. Back in India, He might be the one with the control & charge over other people lives but that’s not definitely the case here which resulted in frustration & Irritation. He is now more responsible for his own deeds and had to be more down to earth in order to survive this cultural change unlike his previous Job in India.
But what irritates me more is his unwillingness to accept. He still brags about his previous lifestyle at home & work and is still struggling to accept this sudden major change which he himself is responsible for. He had to understand that people are very much independent here unlike in India, where one easily used to get a help or specialist for each available service at almost no cost. You do get paid services here but at very high cost. Thus, people here prefer to do their household work themselves, and thus are almost perfect and self-reliable in everything.
He may be very good in his work & his past career record says it all. But being successful in your professional life only is not enough. One thing which I really appreciate & learned here is that Dutch people keep their professional & personal life at par with each other. People here do value their family & personal life, very much contradicting a very usual notion in southern Asia that the western culture doesn’t believes in Family values. People here devote more time with their family as compared to any southern Asian culture. Even I used to think the same at one of time until I personally felt the authenticity of this fact. I very well understand the economic statistics behind the scene back in my country for the same & I realized that the situation is more like a burden than a choice. People are really struggling in that cut-throat competition to keep up their pace in ever changing dynamics of the India. But the scenario out here in Netherlands is completely different. After spending almost half of the lifetime in India its gets really challenging & difficult to get accustomed with a totally new environment but the point is not only the adjustment but also the openness & willingness of mind to embrace the change.
I hope R.G will eventually get past his tantrums very soon. I know it will take him some time to adjust and really get used to it. & he would learn to accept this new change more open-heartedly. The sooner he realizes this fact, the better he would be able to lead his life hassle-free. But till then the journey doesn’t seem so smooth for him & would certainly keep him up on his toes. Nevertheless, I believe that it would a great lesson learned for him in the meanwhile which he will definitely cherish for many more years to come.