International: Amsterdam Views

Amsterdam is not only the capital city of the Dutch, it is also a multicultural mix of foreign students, expats and other people from abroad. In this column, our international editors share their perspective with us. Today: Shambhavi Chouhan from New Delhi, India.

It has now been a little over a month since I moved to Amsterdam from India. I never could have anticipated how exhilarating this move would be — especially emotionally. Being the daughter of a naval officer, my childhood nostalgia is tinted with growing up in sunny coastal cities of India. Every other year we would routinely strip down our home — and I grew up in 14 different houses — and then move to a new city without any lingering sense of attachment.

Each stranger lowered my anxiety by their sunny smile and sympathetic small talk.

I strongly believed that my accustomed lifestyle of change would help me smoothen over my European transition. However, I failed to weigh in the factors that were the defining elements of my country which formed my perceptions. I therefore never thought about, how much I would miss the sun burning my back, the chaotic beauty of India or the simple comfort of talking in my native language.

fullsizeoutput_8I arrived in Amsterdam on a late August night and was immediately hit by the cold and unfamiliarity. A sense of isolation crept on as I dragged over a hundred kilos of clothes, spices and even more spices, to my deserted apartment without any familiar face or sight.

The days sped by as I observed an exponential growth in my independence as I cooked and built my furniture from the IKEA manuals. I enjoyed the last few days of “summer” — fifteen degree is like the Indian winter — with my roommate as we spent lazy afternoons in the Van Gogh museum or Flevo Park. I was struck by the Dutch charm, culture and the sheer beauty of Amsterdam. As I embarked on my solitary journey of transitioning my apartment into home while dragging furniture from across the city, what always captivated my interest was the Dutch friendliness. Each stranger lowered my anxiety by their sunny smile and sympathetic small talk. I began to cherish the experiences that gravitated me towards the present moment.

I felt almost crippled due to extreme bouts of homesickness and cultural isolation.

img_0324I had never attended an international or private school in India and was immediately challenged by an education gap in my secondary schooling as university began. Moreover, I met intriguing and motivated individuals from across the world who have forced me to push my carefully drawn self-limits. There were days where I felt almost crippled due to extreme bouts of homesickness and cultural isolation. Amsterdam has never failed to comfort me during those times. The simplicity of riding a bike to a pub late night, exploring the over spilling cafes near Centraal or enjoying a bottle of wine next to a canal just mesmerized me.

Sure, I still miss the sun and the vibrant shades of India but a sense of belonging sweeps over me every time I return to my messy apartment which now blares with Dutch rap music. Home has been transformed into this beautiful city which never fails to welcome another.

Shambhavi Chouhan

Shambhavi Chouhan (1997) is our international editor from New Delhi, India. She is deeply passionate about human rights and dreams of working with the United Nations one day, in the hope of delivering solutions to world conflicts. She currently studies Law at the Amsterdam University College and greatly enjoys writing as well as debating at Model UN Conferences. She has previously been published in news dailies and blogs in India as well regarding matters of contemporary youth issues. Amsterdam holds her in awe and the longing for a broader perspective on culture drew her there from the land of sun and spices. She can be very vocal about the significance of studying law and the brilliance of Haruki Murakami (her favourite writer) more often than not.

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