Two Indians in Europe for the very first time

Each time you travel to a country, many things surprise/shock you. Culture and tradition, architecture, food habits, civic responsibilities, the standard of lifestyle, talkable topics, degree of privacy- Each thing differs from nation to nation. So when we travelled from Aisa to Europe for the first time, the experiences were vastly different.

How do I travel to Europe for the first time?

Europe is a continent of 44 countries. So experience in each European country varies a lot with few similarities. In fact, countries like Turkey are partly Asian and Europe as well. So this post won’t guide you to travel to all 44 countries. But we tell you the stories of our First Time in the continent of Europe where we travelled to Greece, Holland and Belgium.

Indian traveller wearing over sized yellow colour dutch clogs for the first time in Europe at Zaanse Schans

I had worn a variety of footwear. But keeping my foot in a wooden Dutch Clog was a brand new experience – Well this was not my size.

Most of these things may be common, silly or “So what” too many of you. But, trust me,– it is a drastic transition for us. Using a different power socket to drive in the right lane, I am taking you through the journey of two Indians travelling in Europe for the very first time.

Bread is a daily staple and not for the sickly only

Bread slice with chicken fillet on top with cherries resembles face of Donald duck

Ashrith’s breakfast looked like Donald Duck at Firostefani

The variety of Indian food is something I am super proud of. Dosas to Parathas, Idlis to Momo – we have plenty of varieties. The three meals a day are three different dishes usually. The common bread is Chapathis, Rotis and Naan. As India is getting globalised every day, Starbucks and Dunkin appear everywhere in our cities. So we know what Crossaints are.

In India, in many places, we consider the regular bread loaf is often meant for sick people who can’t eat regular food because the bread is bland. But the freshness and taste of bread like tiger bread, Kaiser rolls and croissants we bought from Albert Heijn itself was tastier than what we ever had in India. So the cafe’s and bakery’s bread with cheese tasted beyond what we thought bread taste would be. That notion of bread meant for the sick only vanished after the tasty bread of Amsterdam and Santorini.

Encountering the sex toy shop for the first time

There are not many sex toy shops in India. Whenever we need something, most of us place an order online. So going to a sex toy shop in Amsterdam and the shopkeeper explaining the use of certain toys was definitely the “newest” thing.

Cycles parked and People waiting at Red light district of Amsterdam in front of a building that says "Sex Palace"

Does Amsterdam have sex shops?

Yes! A lot of them are in the Red Light District. The Sex toy shops in Amsterdam are worth visiting – Whether you need something or not, you should know about the sensual world.

After strolling in the Red Light District, we both stood in front of a sex toy shop while our buddy Keerthi was convincing us to get inside!

Honestly, We felt too odd as soon as we entered. We were hesitant and worried that someone would judge us. The shop worker came and asked if we were looking for something in particular. You should have seen our facial expression –” Oh my god. Would you please not talk to us? We are already embarrassed enough to be inside. Don’t explain anything here. “We didn’t say this, but that’s what was our body language. 

Sex Shop Experience: Here’s What It’s Really Like

Slowly, curiosity replaced embarrassment when we started seeing more things. Finally, we called the shopkeeper and asked him to explain when we didn’t know some crazy-looking things. He was super sophisticated, dressed neatly in a black Polo T-shirt and jeans like professionals (They are professionals). It is fascinating how they use refined language to explain these naughty-hotty toys!

Is It Embarrassing to Buy Sex Toys in a Sex Shop?

Now, we are neither judgemental nor over-conscious to enter a sex toy shop. You always need to break the ice and come out of your shell. When I think of how we behaved in the first few minutes there, I feel silly! 

How am I supposed to walk around with my wiped, not washed butt? 

Indian traveller standing next to a gian immitation statue of Mannekin pis with a disgusted face at Brussels

I neither liked the “Manneken Pis” statue nor wiping my butts with toilet paper – This imitation version of Mannekin pis is more impressive than the real one.

This is a cause of concern for all Indians – How do Indian wipe their bum?

We use jet sprays or small mugs with water to wash off the dirty butt after pooping. Using tissue paper to wipe and no water to rinse off is really disgusting for us. Every time I wipe, I used to be uncomfortable – “Am I stinking of poop? Have I wiped it enough? I want to rinse off my butt ASAP”. Trust me; this struggle is real!

Enter a toilet, grab some tissue paper from the holder, come out, check if no other ladies are watching you in the restroom, wet the tissue with a handwash tap water – take it inside! So that I could at least wipe with my wet tissue. I used to feel better doing this than just wiping it with a dry tissue.

How do you clean your butt with tissue paper?

I used to finish all the daily rituals in the morning before leaving my room so that I didn’t have to do the ritual of soaking the tissue in water in public toilets. But, especially in Fira and Brussels, where I ate lots of cheese and chocolates, I struggled in public restrooms.
So wiping with tissue – NO NO. Rinsing it with water – HEAVEN YEAH.!

Why is using a washroom outside your room/house so expensive?

Indian couple travellers hugging each other at Brugges walkway filled with beautiful renaissance buildings on either side

Hugging and consoling each other at Bruges for spending 200 INR on using toilets

Why do you pay for toilets in the Netherlands and Belgium?

In the Netherlands and Belgium, there are only a few public toilets. You pay 50 cents at a restaurant or a grocery store to use their restroom. If you are buying something from them, then you can use the toilet for free. 50 cents is around 40INR. In India, we pay 5 to 10 INR to use public washrooms.

I had a bad urinary infection while in Bruges and spent around 200INR solely on toilets in 3 hours! So peeing in the Netherlands and Belgium can get expensive for mid-range travellers like us.

How to bathe without a bucket and mug?

You always see a bucket and a mug in every Indian bathroom. That is how we bathe – Turn on the tap, collect water in the bucket- use the mug to pour water on your body mug after a mug. Though hand showers exist in Indian bathrooms, it is rare. We use showers only on the days when we take hair wash along with body wash. All the BnBs in Greece had only a shower with no buckets! Trust me; it irritates an Indian a lot not to have a bucket and mug.

Civic responsibilities and keeping their cities clean

Giethoorn village with canal and traditional dutch house with sloped roof on either side

Most Beautiful Villages in the Netherlands?

Even the most touristy spots in Amsterdam and Brussels were super clean and trash free. The public parks in Amstelveen were so neat and welcoming that you need not drive hours together to find a picnic spot

Why are Dutch people so clean?

Dutches sit with beer cans, coffee cups and some eatables over lovely conversations among their family/friends. But when they leave the place, they make sure that the spot is free of their used items. This isn’t the case in all countries.

Isn’t it common sense to be aware of the cleanliness irrespective of the place – Private or Public? Isn’t public places maintained with taxpayers’ money? Then why do we waste our hard-earned money if we can’t keep a dam park clean as Dutches and Belgians do! Not so-clean nations can give hundreds of reasons like poverty, population density, and recovery from colonisation. But cleanliness isn’t a PhD topic to be taught. It is basic human commonsense – We have a lot to learn from the Dutches and Belgians.

How on earth is it possible to drive 200km in less than two hours??

Straight asphalt road in the countryside of the Netherlands with green on one side and small houses on the other side

We had heard it all – Freeways in the USA, Germany’s Autobahn, Road trips between Paris -Barcelona and so on. Most Indians who drive on this road say, The roads were so good that we felt like keep on driving”. No matter how many stories you have heard, you feel it when you hit these central European roads. There are no potholes. ( at least it wasn’t there in the tourist places where we travelled). Neither cows crossing the highways like in India nor camels like in Wadi Rum -Jordan. There were no Donkey-pull carts like in Egypt either. Just straight roads with agricultural farms on either side.

How long does it take to drive around the Netherlands?

It took us less than two hours to get to Brussels outskirt, 200km from Amsterdam. 200km in less than 2hr is possible in my country only at a few places like the Yamuna express highway and not in the interior parts of my country.

But most cities and towns in Netherlands and Belgium are connected with such good roads that day trips are super easy. We drove from AmsterdamBrusselsBrugesAmsterdam (that is around 550km). Isn’t it fascinating how good roads encourage travellers! Imagine India with such good roads making travel easier and more fun.

Where are the people? Are these countryside houses abandoned and haunted?

Traditional dutch house with sloped roof and exposed brick wall

On our way to Giethoorn from Amsterdam, we crossed many small towns and villages. There were big farmhouses at the end of the field where cows grazed, and horses ran. But no sign of human presence at all! Being a die-hard fan of the series “the walking dead” and hailing from a country with the second-highest population in the world, it felt as if it was a “Post Zombie Apocalypse” situation there! What does a typical Dutch house look like?

Traditional dutch house at Zaanse schans

Typical Dutch countryside houses with tall wooden roofs and dormer windows are charming. While most western travellers find it common, we both found them “Haunted.” The highest horror movies we have watched are from Hollywood. The series Walking dead and most Ed & Lauren Warren-based movies are about a Zombie/spirit in a house that got a pitched/gabled roof with a big garden and picket fence all around! We had an impression of how a “Haunted” house, was solely derived from watching English horror movies. The countryside houses in the Dutch countryside are way different from what we see in India. So we needed at least a continuous 45 minutes while driving on the road not to think of those charming houses as “Haunted when we were on a road trip for the first time in Europe.”

Silent traffic Jam: Nobody honks, no changing lanes, no driving on cycle lanes, and Nobody is in a rush, but all are on time.

Amsterdam city traffic with narrow and tall boroque buildings on either side

The Dutches are famous for their time sense. Though we both are particular and always on time, a thing that shocked us was almost “Noiseless” traffic! The Amsterdam Dam square and the road near EU buildings in Brussels are crowded with vehicles. Everyone is waiting to catch a parking spot. All want to cross these roads ASAP.

Strangely, nobody honks in Brussels and Amsterdam.

Though all want to be punctual, nobody fights over a parking spot. How can they wait so patiently?? Pausing at a red light to the dot, following the lanes on the highway perfectly, not driving on cycle lanes – Oh my god, we have a lot to learn from Dutches. The Cycle lanes are purely meant for cycles. There are not many motorbikes. Still, whenever the motorbikes are stuck in traffic, they don’t invade cycle lanes. Zebra Crossing is strictly followed by pedestrians crossing the roads. So on our first time in Europe trip, we realized that it isn’t too awful to be stuck in a traffic jam when nobody honks.

The trust level among Dutches

Boats anchored to the side walk at Giethoorn

At Giethoorn, when our buddy Keerthi rented a self-driven boat, the owner just said, “take it” without taking advance payment from him. Keerthi knew the owner somewhat since it was Keerthi’s nth time in Giethroorn. After an hour or so, we parked the boat back, and the owner was nowhere found! We waited until the owner came 15 minutes later! We paid him the rent and went ahead to the cafe.

We all used Keerthi’s travel card when we boarded the Amsterdam tram to swipe for the tickets. It was okay if we had not swiped because nobody could check if we all had paid for our rides. Every time passengers got in; they swiped the card! At times, there may be checking for tickets, sometimes not. Still, all (or most) buy tickets, honestly!

Are Dutch people too direct?

After living in Amsterdam for 8 years in Amsterdam, Keerthi says Dutches are brutally honest with their words too. If you look messy, they don’t butter their words to ask you why you are messy. Instead,” You look untidy. Is your health okay?’ The stranger may smile at a tourist like you; they will help you when you are lost to an extent. But it is super rare that you will be called over for lunch/dinner just after an hour of knowing. They are private, brutally honest and can say “No” without hesitation if they want to. 

Practically working Garbage Chutes and waste segregation.

Amsteleven eighbourhood in Amsterdam with garbage chutes for waste disposal

Our buddy Keerthi’s apartment (where we stayed for four days) in Amstelveen had garbage chutes for waste disposal. He had a key card that allowed him to open the dump bins. Most apartments in Amsterdam got similar chutes for waste disposal.

How do you dispose of garbage in Amsterdam?

There were four separate bins. Each one is for Non-recyclable-hazardous house residuals, organic materials, paper/cardboard and the last for plastic.

Each bin got a pipe running underground separately to the collection point. If you don’t segregate the waste – you are the reason for garbage blockage in the Chutes! This kind of human error does happen, but not too often. So if everyone in the world segregates waste like this, mother nature will be happier than before and may let us live in her womb, “the Earth”, for longer.

How was your experience in a country totally different from your own nation? Let us know in the comment section below.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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