Perets Nimpoza (1959) was born in Burundi. He studied at the University of Bujumbura and has a degree in History. He moved to the Netherlands in 2000 and took a bachelor’s degree in teaching French at the Hogeschool Rotterdam.
Perets taught French and history in Burundi. In Holland, he taught French at a secondary school. Currently he has temporary administrative and translation jobs.
Perets lives in Utrecht with his Burundian wife and five children. He is an attentive observer of Dutch society, which keeps surprising him.
When I first came to Holland, I was very happy to be safe. At the time, the war was still going on in Burundi and I was used to being scared. At last I could relax. How wonderful it was to live in a country like the Netherlands with its freedom, food and no fear.
So I was very surprised that a lot of people here seemed to be unhappy. I saw a lot of tormented faces. They could afford food and a car, and even save some money for their future. But they weren’t smiling. If you listened to some of them talking, they were complaining about their life. It seemed as if people were waiting for a big event to make them happy – winning the lottery, buying a big house, getting children, and so forth. Even people who were eating seemed unhappy.
In Burundi people look happy when they eat. There are many people who eat only one or two times a day, not because they don’t want to eat more often, but because they don’t have enough food. They have difficulty in getting their daily needs of life, and don’t possess nice houses, cars or money. But you do see a lot of smiling faces – especially when they eat. If they manage to find something to eat for themselves and their families, they are very happy. Even when they don’t know if they will enough to eat tomorrow.
One of the reasons for this is that all kinds of food tastes extra delicious if you are hungry. Another reason is they are more hedonistic. People in Africa know how to appreciate the small things in life, which is of course easier when you have little. If you’re poor, a small thing can bring happiness. A little bit of food can bring you joy. When you’re rich, life is harder. You have to exercise and meditate to feel less depressed. Or perhaps you can just give away some of your riches to make other people happy.