July 5 2006
-Where were you born?
In Hilversum, the Netherlands
-Are you living alone or with your family?
With my family
-In which country and city are you living now?
In Bangladesh, Dhaka
-How long have you been living in Bangladesh?
Two years. Before that, I lived in Uzbekistan (four years) and Saudi Arabia (three years).
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in another country?
17 years ago I became serious about it, but I have always wanted to travel and see the world since I was small.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
No, we found a job first and moved afterwards.
-How do you make your living in Bangladesh? Do you have any type of income generated?
My husband and I work (in banking and development).
-Do you speak -Do you speak Bengali and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
I do not speak the local language. I would love to learn it, but since my husband and I both have full-time jobs as well as four children -- the time is insufficient. When we lived in Uzbekistan, I did speak fluent Russian. I think, if an expat can free up some time, it makes life a lot easier and more fun if you speak the language.
I also think it is important to respect the local customs, but not always necessary to follow them yourself. Some I do follow, for instance I would never walk outside in shorts or a sleeveless shirt. Sometimes I look at the person who is with me before doing something, like for instance when I have to decide if I will shake someone's hand or not (which is not a custom for women). And other customs I ignore (even though I respect the fact that others observe them) like getting up at the time of first prayer in the morning. Also, I drink alcohol and eat pork, which normally is not done here. But I would not do it in front of someone who is not allowed to consume those things himself.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
I don't miss home often as I am a real traveler. We don't have a house in the Netherlands, so "home" is basically where we live. Also, with email, Skype, chatting, weblogs and the Internet, I sometimes have more contact with family and friends, than when I am in the Netherlands.
For recreation, I like swimming, playing tennis, writing, traveling in and around the country, and taking pictures.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
I’d like to go on a year-long travel expedition (without any specific destination). Work abroad in other countries. Write a book.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
We rented a house. It is extremely expensive, but housing for expats is scarce -- especially a house (as there are six of us and our dog). It is about four times as expensive as in Europe.
-What is the cost of living in Bangladesh?
The cost of living in general is low, for daily goods like vegetables, fruit and meat, and labor. You can hire a nanny, a cook, a driver and a guard for almost nothing, even if you pay them a "decent" salary.
Other things may be very expensive though, like cheese, cars, electrical equipment, and housing. The most expensive things are the international schools, and when you have four children, that will cost you almost your whole salary. But of course, that problem depends on your family size and the support your employers might offer in this regard. What makes life even more expensive, is that you go "home" or "out of the country" regularly, and airplane tickets and housing abroad cost an arm and a leg.
-What do you think about the people in Bangladesh?
I don't think it is up to me to think something about the local population. I am not expecting them to think anything about Dutch in general, either. In every country and each population, you find things you like and things you like less. That goes for Dutch as well as Bengali, or any other population.
In general, though, the population is eager to learn. It is amazing sometimes, that people only earn $50 per month, but if they believe in their work, they will perform it with great enthusiasm. Especially in rural areas, people are very active. In the cities, life can be very hard as many people come to the city to find a job, but there are not many jobs available, so many people are jobless and without enough income and even food. Unfortunately, everybody wrestles with corruption, which can be found in all layers of society. It is very difficult to stay away from it, since many others are involved, and salaries are extremely low.
We have local friends and colleagues as well as expats. As a foreigner, you cannot be invisible in the street. People are very curious and stare at you, which can be very disconcerting. There are many beggars, because the country is very poor, which is difficult. But in private and work environment, you are treated like any other human being.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Bangladesh?
Positive: Life is colorful, you are never bored. The people are beautiful (especially the women in colorful sarees). Flowers and fruits can be found everywhere. The weather is often nice. You learn something everyday.
Negative: The poverty, which you cannot solve. The noise level, which is extremely high because Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world, and people are used to screaming to make themselves heard.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Bangladesh?
Be open-minded. If you are really attached to some food or things, be sure to take enough with you. Take your earplugs.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs?