First published in AMS business magazine. Author: Lauren Comiteau
Although the Chedayath family moved to the Netherlands nine years ago for father Jayadev Sukumaran’s job as head of the IT department for Cognizant Technology Solutions Europe, the decision to stay was a family affair. ‘I thought we’d only be here for two years, but the children and my wife loved the place,’ he says. ‘There are a lot of people’s interests at stake!’
Coming from Kerala in southern India, one of the few matriarchies in the world, perhaps it’s no surprise the women won out. But it’s Amsterdam’s attitudes towards women that also swayed the family. ‘I have two daughters and it is very safe for women and girls here,’ says Jayadev. ‘The gender equality is fantastic.’
For the family, ‘Hoofddorp is the perfect place,’ says Jayadev. ‘We have everything we need, although it only takes 20 minutes to get to Amsterdam’s centre.’ That makes for an easy train commute not only for Jayadev, but for daughters Trisha and Anika, who attend the Amsterdam International Community School (AICS) in Amsterdam Zuid. ‘I like the people in Hoofddorp, and many of my school friends live here,’ says Trisha.
The fast commute means Jayadev and Sreeja get to spend more time with their children, which Jayadev says refl ects the work-life balance the Dutch have perfected. ‘It’s not the same in India, where it’s a crime if you go home at 6 pm,’ he says. ‘People here work 9 to 5, and then they don’t bother about the offi ce.’
Sreeja, who travels around the Amsterdam Area for her work, also appreciates Hoofddorp’s accessibility. Her background in education and training on the Abacus, an Asian mathematical device, allowed her to ‘see the gap’ in education here. She started her own company, Guruscool (guruscool.com), to help teach primary-school students mathematics. ‘The Chamber of Commerce was very supportive,’ says Sreeja. ‘It took me one day to open my company!’
The entrepreneur now has three staff members supporting her. ‘I feel very nice,’ she says of life in the Netherlands. ‘I’m giving something to them from my country and they give me a home.’ A fair deal indeed.
The best things about living in Hoofddorp
Nature: The family’s favourite place may be ‘The Mall!’ but they also love the outdoors, spending time in the Amsterdam Area’s many forests, including the Amsterdamse Bos and nearby Haarlemmermeerse Bos.
Culture: Although the family often heads to Amsterdam’s museums, their current favourite is the local Museum De Cruquius, which recounts the history of the Victorian pumping station that reclaimed the Haalemmermeer. Don’t forget to visit the tearoom.
Housing: The family lived in Amsterdam Zuid and Amstelveen before buying their own home in Hoofddorp two years ago, attracted by low interest rates and a ‘great house’ overlooking a canal.
Education: The family appreciates the less stressful learning environment in the Netherlands. ‘India is more competitive. Here they’re encouraged to think outside of the box’. Many international schools in the Amsterdam Area, like AICS, are state-subsidised.
Mobility: Hoofddorp is a three-minute train ride from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, making Jayadev’s work travel hasslefree. ‘My colleagues are still waiting for a taxi and I’m already home,’ he says.
Sports: Sreeja loves to walk in nature while the girls enjoy swimming and chess. They also play badminton with their father at one of Hoofddorp’s several clubs.
Work: Knowledge workers like Jayadev are still entitled to the 30% ruling, wherein those who meet certain criteria are entitled to a tax advantage. Amsterdam is home to 462 international ICT companies.