Life completely changes once you move away from where you grew up or have lived for a long time. One has to rethink, learn, and rediscover everything almost all over again. From job hunting to entering a new house, to food choices, lifestyle, financial management, and even social circles.
While some people are excited about these changes, others may be a bit hesitant. I can testify that I miss India, my home country, a lot. At the same time, I am thrilled to be living in Europe. So far, I have adjusted well. I took my time to slowly discover everything that I like, everything that I don’t like, and everything that I can adjust to while living here.
For the love of Food
If you are a foodie, like me, who probably can’t live without the crunch of a samosa, the mithaas of soft glistening gulab-jamun covered in chaashni, the spicy chhola-bhatura, and your masala chai. You will probably find yourself looking for places where you can buy all the ingredients to prepare your favorite food from back home as soon as you land. Or, if you are not fond of cooking, maybe you’d look for places that can at least serve traditional Indian food.
The Netherlands, for example, is full of ex-pats from around the world, and is said to have the second-largest Indian diaspora in mainland Europe, succeeded only by Germany. If you would have moved here around 10 years ago, you would have found that finding an Indian grocery store in your neighborhood was probably not as easy as it is today. Now, however, you can find spices and ingredients in most European cities.
Indian ingredients and spices are pricey in Europe
Remember that all of your favorite foods from back home are imported items here in Europe. Thus, Indian stores are usually more expensive than the common supermarkets because they offer many exclusive items only used by Indians. I personally find myself spending up to €100 a month on imported ingredients and spices from India (sometimes even more).
Pro tip: For bachelors or for those who prefer to have ready-packaged frozen Indian food, Haldirams offers a great range of frozen food items, all of which can easily be found in these Indian stores
Here’s where you can find Indian ingredients for fair prices
I feel that it’s important to say that the cheapest price you’ll pay for spices and ingredients in Europe is still probably way more pricey than what you would pay for the same ingredients back home.
Still, there are some places in which you can find what you need to fry or bake that perfect samosa (almost like the one your mom used to cook for you when you were just a kid). One option is the previously mentioned Indian stores.
Another option is to simply go into your neighborhood supermarket and see if they offer any Indian food items. You’d be surprised at what you can find. For example, there are many Indian food items and ingredients that you can find in your usual Dutch Supermarkets such as frozen roti/paratha, curd (buy the Turkish Yogurt, tastes the same as the Indian one), Coriander leaves, Buckwheat flour, pulses, spices (in small bottles), etc.
If you manage to find these in local supermarkets, make a memory note for yourself as they would probably be cheaper to buy than at the Indian store.
Pro tip: Always compare prices between local and Indian stores when buying things that you would regularly use. You could save a lot of money by being careful about it.
Also, look if you have stores like Lidl and Dirk around your house. These are much cheaper than a Coop store or an Albert Heijn.
You can always eat out
If you are one of those people who enjoy eating out a lot (at least in pre-covid times), then you sure do have many options all around Europe, and especially in Amsterdam, Netherlands. A quick Google or TripAdvisor search of top restaurants in your city, and you will find a range of options to choose from, for both Indian and other choices of cuisines.
If you love South Indian food, you have to try Saravanaa Bhavan in Amsterdam. The ambiance is not super fancy but the food is delightful, and I personally love their Masala Chai and Filter Coffee.
There is just one thing that I personally don’t appreciate about the Indian cuisine served here: the chicken varieties. While the chicken served in India is usually soft like butter or paneer, there’s something about the preparation process here that makes the chicken very chewy and rubbery, at least in the restaurants I’ve been to. But, you should give it a try. Perhaps you’ll find the perfect chicken dish – and if you do, please share!
Soon enough you’ll find yourself settled into your new life. You’ll always have a strong connection to your community and your friends from back home. When it comes to dietary choices, remember to let your tummy adjust to the ins and outs of the wonderfully different local cuisine, you might find that you like it better than you think.