Challenges of Expats – Interview of the months July- August

In my goal to support expats, I present you this month’s new interview. Let me introduce you to Indira, in short ‘’Ira’’. Her original name comes from an original background, which is half Russian, half Indian.

Being an Expat, is it easy or challenging? Did she live in Russia, or in India? Why did she leave her country?

She moved permanently in 2014, and provides us a fresh view on the Netherlands.

Ira reveals how she adjusted and integrates into Holland.

 Just sit down, relax and enjoy  🙂

Interview with Ira

From Nasik (India) …. through Kolkata, to Dubai, to London, to The Netherlands…


Who is Ira?

Ira: ‘’My official name is Indira, Ira (in Sanskrit meaning ‘’silt’’ /earth, in Russia peace) my pet name is a name in both cultures; hence it is used more often by friends and family.

I am a designer, academic and curator.

My mother is Russian and my father Indian. I was born in Russia almost 42 years ago, and at 5 years old, we moved to (Kolkata) India.

When did you move to The Netherlands?

Ira: ‘’In July 2014 I finally received my residence visa and moved to Hoofddorp where my husband was residing. Prior to that I needed to travel back to India every 3 months for 1,5 years.’’

You worked in other countries besides India?

Ira: ‘In India I worked as a Product design manager (furniture and lighting), but the glass ceiling didn’t allow me to grow.

At my fathers suggestion, I applied for an assistant professors position in Dubai and moved in 2004. I took a sabbatical for a year in case I wouldn’t like it, but stayed 7 years!!!

My interest has always been Museums. This is a consistent interest of mine. I put all my savings into a second masters in London, called ‘’ curating contemporary design’’ with the Design museum in London. So I moved there in 2011 with a British temporary visa.’’

Why the choice of  The Netherlands?

Ira: ’LOVE!!!! I met my husband in London after dating online.’’

Tell us about your transition to The Netherlands: easy or hard?

Ira: ‘’Oh dear….first there’s the so called ‘’Inburgering course’’, for which I needed to learn the language. This was hard while NOT being in the Netherlands, because the online language package provided by the Dutch government was not user friendly and to try to learn the pronunciations with just an audio was not easy.

There is an IND website that provides all the information you need for residency in the Netherlands.

My Advise: call the embassy yourself and TALK to them and ask ALL your questions before getting confused on the IND website!!!

Also, ask your Dutch embassy in your country for all the help: which documents to fill, what documents you need, where to go, how, who to contact and where to go in the Netherlands etc….

Here in the NL, I encountered some bureaucracy. For e.g. I needed a letter from the ‘’inburgering’’ to tell if I’m a mandatory or non-mandatory candidate. I need that letter to get accepted in the NOVA/ROC Dutch course. But it took too long to get that letter and I couldn’t enrol. If I do it privately, it would cost me 3x as much. Finally, I found out that in the Amsterdam university (UVA) you can enrol without the letter…’’

What is your work area?

Ira: ‘’Well, I still don’t work but would love to work as curator in a museum. I also teach in areas of design. So I am looking for a job, and meanwhile I ‘d like to get accepted for a PhD in design curating. I explore universities to decide and to apply! PhD in Netherlands pay you a salary which is great.

To get a job and not knowing the language, it‘s just so hard and I tried for a full year. So, I feel that year was unproductive. So, my next step is to apply for a PhD.

Tell us more about your PhD research.

Ira:’’ I really wish to research how people get comfortable in the space they are living and how does it reflect their culture, OR how does this changes after living in the same country for longer. I am still looking for people that would allow me to take some pictures of their living room. I seek many different cultures, to compare the differences with local people. This can be anonymous and will be used in my research and in photo essays that are exposed in galleries. ‘’ First exhibition is at Demeerse, Hoofddorp till the 7th August 2015.

What was your first impression of  this COUNTRY?

Ira: ‘’I LOVE the country! Beautiful! I love the architecture because it amazes me how there are so many similar houses, but still each of them is unique.

I love Dutch graphic design. I can just walk and watch and admire. Oh, and I love tulips! So, I landed well!’’

Did you adjust smoothly with the Dutchies?

Ira: ‘’I find them reserved. They take time to interact with someone they don’t know. It takes time to getting to know you or to even make effort to make a conversation. It will take 4-5 meetings before they make an effort to ask questions about you. Before that, I remain a stranger to them.

The Dutch seem to me to be very self-sufficient and give the impression that they don’t need help from others.

Also, they stick to their opinion, so why change it? I have to admit I like this mindset and freedom of opinion. It is very different than my culture, but here, I feel free to have my own opinion. And I can be open about many things (eg. Religion) and nobody will ask much or bother about it.

What was your biggest Challenge moving to the Netherlands?

Ira: ‘’ The #1 BIGGEST challenge was to learn the language! Even if I speak many languages, this was hard for me as I explained here above in the Transition part. #2 Challenge is getting into my PhD. It takes a lot of effort and work to write a proposal and then hope to be accepted. However I think it’s not easy for anyone, regardless of the country.

#3 Challenge is the fact moving becomes more difficult once you are older. It may sound funny, but I find it more difficult moving to a new country at 40 than ever before. It seems to become harder to be so flexible, to learn the language, to adapt, to learn the culture…and especially adjusting to a very new place.

But I’m not complaining….and luckily don’t feel OLD J

Please tell us your Number ONE TIP when coming to The Netherlands

Ira:’’TOP tip 1: language!!!! Without that you will not get ’’inburgered’’. Finding a job is less likely, and you will not get to know locals.

Learning the language is needed to integrate, even if I have struggled with it.

Thank you very much!




8 replies
  1. Saskia Brandt Corstius
    Saskia Brandt Corstius says:

    Inspiring interview Rachel and Ira. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Good luck finding a PhD position Ira!

  2. ashwini
    ashwini says:

    Dear Ira , it is great to read about you and your life. i always admire your creativity and the vision to look out the different things.Keep it up.I am proud of you.

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