Meet Aarti Dhole. Aarti has been working at Rapid Circle for five years and currently serves as an Account Manager at Shell. However, about a year ago, Aarti decided to step completely out of her comfort zone. From never having traveled outside India to making the decision to move to a completely different country. Today, you’ll learn all about Aarti’s journey from India to the Netherlands. Ready to discover more about her adventure?
Let’s go back to the beginning. Can you tell me about your career background?
“I actually have a non-technical background. I studied environmental engineering, which is more related to civil engineering and mechanical engineering, and then I switched to sales, design, marketing, photography, and finance. Working in the financial world gave me a broader insight into the business side of things, and that sparked my interest a lot. It was something I could see myself developing in over time. However, my journey to IT didn’t necessarily start there. During all this, I started my own business in agriculture. I rented a farm to grow and sell organic food that was completely free from chemicals and pesticides. Eventually, I had to stop it, but shortly after, I started another business. I had a fashion truck, which is a concept that sells clothing on wheels. The truck would drive through specific areas of Pune, where I used to live. We had all kinds of clothing for women, and the idea was that women wouldn’t feel obligated to travel to distant locations. Instead, we came to them.”
That sounds very different from IT. How did you eventually get into the IT sector?
“Well, the fashion truck actually started after I joined Rapid Circle India in 2018. This was something I did while working at Rapid Circle. As I mentioned, I was into photography. During that time, I had also done graphic design. And after my agriculture startup, I was looking for a more stable job, something that could provide me with a monthly income. So, what I did was, I Googled IT companies within a two-kilometer radius of my house. And this is not a joke, it’s how I looked for a job.
Because I was so tired of commuting for my work every day, I wanted to feel like I didn’t have to travel too far to get work done. Rapid Circle happened to be one of the companies I applied to. Suyog and Avani said, ‘A graphic designer is not what we’re currently looking for, but we can use your skills somewhere else. Join the team, let’s see what happens.’ So, I started making basic invoices, and over time, my knowledge of IT grew. And now, five years later, I’m one of the account managers for Shell.”
And then you decided to move from India to the Netherlands. What prompted you to make this move?
“I’m married to Ankit, who also works at Rapid Circle. He was planning to move to the Netherlands because of a project that was ongoing. It made more sense to have someone closer to the client location, and he was already determined in his choice. On the other hand, I felt that Pune was great and didn’t want to leave. I grew up there as a child, and I had never moved more than four kilometers away from my parents’ house. So, even when I was living with my husband in Pune, I moved just four kilometers away from my parents. So, you can imagine that this was a huge step for me. I loved the comfort zone, the area, and the people I knew. I had such a comfortable and well-coordinated life that I didn’t want to change anything about it. Eventually, Suyog gave me a push and made me realize that by moving to the Netherlands, I would meet colleagues, new people, and stakeholders, and it would be a great opportunity for me to grow in my career. I ultimately decided to move, but comfort is definitely something I left behind.”
Have you ever been to the Netherlands before moving here?
“No, I had never been outside the Indian subcontinent at all. This was also my first time traveling. I did feel that I wasn’t emotionally attached to India and my belongings anymore because I had mentally prepared myself. However, when I arrived here and saw how many things I had to adapt to, the feeling started to build up. My first reaction was, ‘Why is it so cold?’ And then I began to understand why people in the Netherlands appreciate spring and summer so much. This year, I can say that I appreciate every ray of sunlight that comes through my window. Any form of warmth is wonderful. Yet, I already feel comfortable now. It took a while to make this place feel like home, but it eventually does. Some time ago, for example, I was listening to a video about farmers in the Netherlands, and suddenly someone mentioned the word ‘Netherlands,’ and it felt like I identified myself with that word. As if I identified myself with ‘Netherlands’ rather than ‘India.’ A year ago, I didn’t have that feeling, so it was quite special to experience.”
What are some things you’ve done to make your house feel like home?
“A few things. I love plants, especially indoor plants. I enjoy taking care of them, and it was also one of my biggest hobbies in India. In India, I had so many plants that there was no space to walk through my apartment. So, when I came here, I started buying plants little by little. And finally, I feel like I have enough plants to start with. They struggled during the winter, but I’m still trying to acclimate them to the weather.
Furthermore, there are a few colleagues from India who have also decided to move to the Netherlands and now live very close, about 20 to 25 minutes away. We have all become friends and see each other almost every week. And it’s certainly not that they are the only ones we want to meet up with, but we have grown so close to each other that we really want to see each other. It’s nice to have that friendship with them because it keeps us somewhat connected to India as well. Additionally, I have also started attempts to learn the Dutch language. It’s very challenging, but it’s part of the process.”
How was the transition from Indian to Dutch culture?
“People always say that the Dutch are very direct. Personally, I really like the directness because in India, I found it difficult to have conversations with people who are more accommodating. Here, I feel like conversations flow more naturally because I am also a more direct person. I like that you know exactly what is being said and that things are not hidden behind certain contexts that you must figure out. It’s just easier.
Another thing that I really liked after coming here was transportation. The infrastructure is amazing. I really love the trains, trams, and having so many options. The convenience is very nice. I live slightly outside the Amsterdam city center, and yet it feels like I live in a Dutch village. The city center can be quite chaotic. And don’t get me wrong, I’m used to chaos from India, but I just prefer the quieter areas.”
I’ve really learned to give myself some breathing space and take it easy in between. Sometimes, it’s okay not to finish everything in one day.Aarti Dhole, Account Manager at Rapid Circle
What do you miss most about India?
“The food. That’s a no-brainer. And it’s not just about the food itself, but more about how accessible it was. For example, you could get things like ‘batata vada’ just outside your apartment at midnight. It’s fried potato with filling. It was also very cheap, about 20 cents. We didn’t realize how cheap our food was until we came here. And the kind of vegetables we had, the options for things we could cook, were much more than here. So, here we feel limited in those options. However, we are now exploring different cuisines, such as Italian, Spanish, or others. That’s something we didn’t do in India.”
And the taste of the food? That was probably very different too?
“Yes, in India, we are used to spices. A lot of spices. After coming here, it was difficult to eat food without spices. So, we started putting spices on everything, but it just wasn’t the same. So, we decided to adapt to the food here because it would be much easier. Eventually, we started to enjoy the authentic taste of food. For example, I really enjoy spinach because it tastes great without adding too many spices. I also enjoy fruits. The strawberries are very sweet, and occasionally, I enjoy avocados and kiwis. Recently, we even went to an Indian restaurant and got Indian food that was too spicy for us. And then we started to realize that this was becoming serious, and we needed to get our spice balance back. We’re getting too Dutch.”
What has been the most memorable experience you’ve had in the Netherlands so far?
“There are quite a few. One of them was driving in the Netherlands. When I started driving here, it was a struggle because everything is on the other side of the road. It’s really in the little things, but you start picking them up. Later on, I really started enjoying those rides. Our company weekend in Belgium was also a beautiful memory. Firstly, because it was the first time I drove outside the Netherlands in a hilly area. And secondly because meeting colleagues and the weekend itself was a lot of fun. Additionally, I have always enjoyed the nature here. It’s very easy to go to places like the beach. In India, I didn’t really get the chance to drive either, so those are all good memories.”
How do you deal with homesickness?
“To be honest, it was quite cloudy in January, and that was one of the times I felt like going back to India. It was my first cloudy winter here in the Netherlands, so it was very tough. At first, I didn’t believe in the winter blues because it was just about clouds in my head. In India, we have three months of cloudy weather, but this is next level. I’ve never experienced anything like it. But, as I said, the Netherlands is really starting to feel like home. When you associate yourself with it as home, there is less homesickness. Of course, I still miss my parents a lot. I miss my family, and I miss their support, but we keep talking and staying in touch. Even that becomes less difficult over time.”
What was your biggest fear before moving to the Netherlands? Did it match the reality when you arrived here?
“In India, we used to work almost 12 hours a day. I worked with crazy schedules and couldn’t really make time at home. I didn’t spend time on cooking, cleaning, or other things. So, back in India, we had a cleaner to clean the house and a cook to prepare food. I was dreading it because I thought I might have to do everything alone in the Netherlands. When I came here, I realized that I might have been overthinking it. I started setting more priorities. It was hard to change the mindset I had in India, and sometimes, it still is. If there’s still work pending after six o’clock, I sometimes still have the urge to finish it. But I’m starting to get used to it because it’s also about adapting to the lifestyle here. If I don’t close my laptop, I won’t have food for today. Now, I also have a lot freer time on the weekends that I can spend just enjoying life. Recently, I even started picking up small habits like reading books. I’ve really learned to give myself some breathing space and take it easy in between. Sometimes, it’s okay not to finish everything in one day.”