I never imagined I would make a transition from Berlin—where I have lived the last six years of my bittersweet adulthood—to starting a new life in Eindhoven, in my late 20s. This essentially meant my adulthood taking on a new meaning, thanks to my new-found status as a married woman; being in the unenviable position of being “between jobs”; and starting my life from scratch, in general.
In Berlin, life was meant to be spent outside–every waking or inebriate moment of it; no matter how cold the attitude of the people or how much the thermometer dipped! It also meant coming to terms with the fact that: 1. Coffee didn’t taste the way it did at home (South-Indian filter coffee is to live for); 2. Veganism isn’t just about spending an exorbitant sum of money on foods with colorful labels, and most importantly; 3. Embracing the people, the language, the culture, and the way of life in the new place.
Speaking of embracing life as an expat, I have been in the Netherlands both as a tourist and, now, a resident. Often rated as one of the happiest countries, I quickly realized that there’s more to the country than what readily meets a tourist’s eye. And I have come to discern the difference between the two rather quickly. As warm and friendly as the place and people here tend to be, I have come to realize that knowing Dutch (even if the Dutch insist on speaking English) could impact life and relationships here profoundly. Especially, if one’s to call it home here. Calling a new place home as an expat means being emotionally resilient. It means having the spirit to start anew, and embarking on an adventure every day.
We humans tend to make a home out of the place we happen to inhabit, and attach a sense of belonging to it. In the endless search for home as an expat, Eindhoven was a serendipitous surprise. It was entirely easy to develop this sentiment towards Eindhoven. Every time I travel out of Eindhoven, I achingly long for that delightfully welcoming cup of cappuccino at my favorite deli in the Centrum, or for a blissful bite of Tompouce at Café B. I fondly reminisce about the days spent at Boek van Pierre, shopping for the next alluring read; the endlessly long board game nights with friends on weekends; and the spontaneous bike trips to neighboring towns. Maybe it is the fact that despite being a city, it has the casual, friendly air of a small town that has attracted one too many expats– even though it speaks a different language than mine, one where the residents insist on biking even in weathers that are only meant to be savored indoors with a searing hot cup of mocha, and despite the fact that it is drained of people by 7pm on weekdays.
For all that I have to come to learn and experience as an expat here, I will forever carry Eindhoven: it’s beautiful parks, the lovely acquaintances I’ve made here, the innumerable bites of Tompouce, the enticing GLOW nights, and everything good it has had to offer me, indelibly in my heart. For that’s what it means to call a place home away from home. As the prolific author and travel writer, Pico Iyer puts it, “home lies in the things you carry with you everywhere and not the ones that tie you down.”
I’m Vaish, and I’m a biologist. I like to write about people, places and cafes that serve some of the best coffee in town (I do not judge people who drink tea). I fancy listening to Iron and Wine on commutes, spending hours in perfumeries, painfully obsessing over symmetries and catching all the trailers in the cinema. If you need recommendations for the best horror flicks or require company to do coffee-tasting on a lazy Saturday afternoon, I’m your guy!
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