How to feel at home in the Netherlands

‘Hang In There’ is a weekly series hosted by our Marketing & Communication intern: Hang Vu. After 2 years of studying in the Netherlands, Hang wants to share her most honest experiences with other internationals who are also living in the Netherlands generally and in Eindhoven specifically.

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Studying abroad means you will be far from home for at least 3 or 4 years for your Bachelor. It is even longer if you continue studying for a Master’s, Ph.D., or find a job right after graduating. Although nowadays, technology allows us to see our beloved ones easily via video calls, I believe that every aboard student feels homesick at least one time during their study. Especially, with the outbreak of the Covid-19, traveling back home might be quite difficult.

Personally, it has been two years since I last saw my family in Vietnam. So, in the thirteenth episode of HIT, I will provide some tips that I have used over the past two years to have myself feeling at home in the Netherlands. Hopefully, it could help you in a way or another if you cannot go back to your family during this holiday season.

#1 Cooking

Do not underestimate the power of cooking. How many times do you feel extremely happy when you spot your favorite dish from home in a supermarket? However, in some cases, prepped dishes might be too expensive, or the flavor is far different from what you are used to having back home.

In Vietnamese, we have an idiom: "Tự túc là hạnh phúc", which means doing it yourself is happiness. And I think this sentence also applies to abroad students. Some of you might wonder: “I could not find the exact ingredients and spices in Dutch supermarkets like Jumbo or Albert Heijn, then how am I supposed to make the dish myself?”. Glad that you ask. In an international-friendly country like the Netherlands, there are a lot of chains of supermarkets, having a focus on exotic food. Based on my knowledge, here are some of them:

   •  Amazing Oriental: This is one of the biggest Asian chains store supermarkets in the Netherlands and my food paradise in Eindhoven! At the Amazing Oriental, products are assorted into different categories based on countries of origin, such as Korea, Japan, China, and Indonesia. No section for Vietnamese products, unfortunately. But I could still find many exported Vietnamese spices and dry ingredients here to make my dishes taste 95% like my mom cooks them.
    •  Zapolski: A supermarket chain that has 4 stores in Eindhoven, Tilburg, Helmond, and Oss for the Polish and Polish-food lovers in the Noord-Brabant province. Their stores have central locations, so super easy to reach and get what you need!
    •  Lidl: We all know that Lidl is a low-price German supermarket chain. However, some people might not know that throughout the year, Lidl has several cultural weeks, where you could find raw ingredients from European to American and Asian countries.

#2 Hanging out in a restaurant

Of course, on busy days, going out to a restaurant could save a lot of cooking time and help you to feel less lonely. I always have a special feeling when I can order and talk to people here in my mother tongue, especially to staff in restaurants. Since the number of Vietnamese people in the Netherlands is not that much, having a conversation with them could make my day.

If you are looking for a Vietnamese restaurant to have a try, these names are on my approved list:

    •  Het Vogelnestje (‘t Vogelnestje): This is a lowkey Vietnamese restaurant, located in the crowded Markt street of Helmond. They do not have a website or any proper promotion on social media, but the authentic taste has seduced diners from coming here over and over. This restaurant is also a small ‘Toko’ (an Indonesian term for ‘Asian shop’ in the Netherlands), where you could get Asian ingredients for a home-cooked day.
    •  Mama Hong: Wandering around the center of Rotterdam, I am pretty sure that you might encounter one of Mama Hong’s food trucks. And the Vietnamese ‘Banh mi’ is definitely a must-try here!

#3 Join community groups

As I mentioned above, being around the Vietnamese community in the Netherlands is my useful therapy to overcome homesickness. That is why I was a part of the Vietnamese Students Association in the Netherlands (VSNL) for two years in a row. Not only did VSNL help me improve my soft skills, but the association also brought Vietnamese people living in the Netherlands closer together.

VSNL event in Amsterdam
‘Taste in Tết’ - an event organized by VSNL during the Lunar New Year celebration in 2020. Picture retrieved from Facebook page of VSNL.

Before the outbreak of the Covid-19, we organized many interesting programs, including the Lunar New Year celebration called ‘Taste in Tết 2020’. If you love discovering more about Vietnamese culture, I recommend following VSNL for their updates!


written by Hang

As a travel freak who moved from Hanoi to Eindhoven, I love spending my day discovering new angles of this city and learning about the country from the locals. Hopefully, my articles would help you step-by-step entering the world of Dutch culture and make your every day in the Netherlands ‘a great stay’!