replied to the thread The 'Dark Side' to Integration
on the Netherlands forum:
Full disclosure first: I am Dutch, I live in the Netherlands. So I am not an expat.
I am married to an American. She has been living here for well over a year now, and she enjoys living here. By and large. Apparently, it is difficult for her to discuss with me why integrating here is so problematic for her. She accuses me of being too cavalier about the whole thing, and that I'm being too defensive when she feels otherized by the Dutch. I'll qualify that word below.
Apparently, I'm entirely stuck in my opinion that it is quite easy to get settled, and find your footing, in the Netherlands. Yes, people will look at you when they hear an accent. Yes, people will ask you where you're from a thousand times and volunteer their experiences with your country, and not always in a subtle manner. Yes, people will strike up a conversation, simply based on you not being from here (including the inescapable "And when will you go back?" question). I've read The Undutchables, I get all of that.
To me, as a Dutchman, that is mostly innocent, welcoming, understandably annoying, but not in any way vicious or otherist. Therefore, I cannot seem to address this issue without getting into a very mutually defensive fencing match with my wife. But I need to get this right.
According to my wife, there is a much darker, much more insidious nature to the otherism in the Netherlands. No matter how well-known your culture is (and, let's face it, Americans are considered well-known), no matter how well you learn and/or speak the language (my wife hasn't done that yet), no matter how social or sociable you are (we both are not, really), there is a perceptible, not always hidden, undertone of otherism in Dutch society that is disconcerting, offputting, disheartening.
It is my wife's contention that, no matter how well you integrate and adapt in the Netherlands, you will always be other, you will always be an outsider, always non-Dutch. People don't see you as a person, but as (in this case) an American person living here, and any conversation will immediately focus on that aspect. And it has a discriminating effect. It sets you apart, and not in an extraordinary way, but in an extraneous way, so to speak.
I'd love to know more about this, but my wife keeps telling me that I get defensive and apologetic, that I downplay anything negative she brings to the table. And I probably do all of that, because I come from a background of 'If it ain't Dutch, it ain't much, and the Olympics aren't helping'.
But I need to understand this, or it will break us.
So, please tell me, and don't hold back. What is the dark side of life in the Netherlands as an expat? What is negative, insidious, disheartening about trying to fit in here? Is it really impossible to just be accepted into Dutch society, or even to just be considered 'Dutch enough not to be noticed for your otherness'? Or is an expat in the Netherlands always just that? An expat, an extra, an extraneous?
Help me understand. Thank you.
P.S. have a look at http://letterfromthenetherlands.blogspot.nl/2011/05/expat-unfriendly-netherlands.html -- does that ring a bell?
replied on April 15, 2014 with:
here get her a paint box and some paints and a sketch book...you too...paint! your in Holland...beautiful Holland my god thats what I would b doing go to scenic dutch places get some folding chairs a cooler a pic nic basket paint the windmills its called PLEIN AIR painting...even if you dont know a thing about painting get a book or video how to or just throw it all in the car and do what children do-just start from scratch learn by doing it wont be perfect but very enjoyable use all mediums but water colour is best for learning go to an artist store google it have fun
replied on April 15, 2014 with:
Hi- maybe just agree with her a little...try to just make her happy in different ways now be creative start with a language center...I believe there is now been a tv channel for expats have her watch that get her involved even private people (I am one also) need to connect some how you hhave such a beautiful country...show her....
I would greatly appreciate your help. I'm in a process to work in Rotterdam and if all goes well, I'm moving along with my two sons.
I have been researching various sites but have no idea of distance from the center of Rotterdam, the nearest and best to live with kids and obviously well-priced places. Could you please, send me some tips? Thanks in advance,
Don't forget to StreetView the hell out of these areas. Every inch is on Google Maps.
Kralingen: students, bars, green, quite cramped and old housing, but 'gezellig'
Nesselande, brand new, lots of couples and young families, not really close to the city center, quite boring
Blijdorp, a bit of a grey area (in terms of age), nice streets, though mostly a bit narrow, and not a very energetic part of the city
Hillegersberg, pricey, green, a mixture of old and new money, not exactly affordable, except for the areas just outside Hillegersberg-proper (Kleiwegkwartier, 110 Morgen).
replied to the thread Cost of living
on the Netherlands forum:
Dose anyone have an estimation of cost of living for a family 2&4 years old in Amstelveen? Thanks
replied on April 10, 2014 with:
Energy € 150,--
Internet € 40,--
Insurance € 180,-- (health, car and house)
replied to the thread Don't know how to reach my goal
on the Netherlands forum:
I'm writing because I am a bit discouraged and distraught. One of my only long term goals is to move to the Netherlands, preferably Amsterdam. I am a 27 year old Russian girl with only a US passport. I speak a few languages and have a bachelors degree. My profession is graphic design and I know that it's hard even for the Dutch to get jobs in this field so I have no real useful skills. I have no EU connections so I have no one to sponsor me. I read that with 5,000$ you can start a business and get residency this way. But short of getting a Dutch bf or going back to school, I'm just discouraged. I fell in love with the city and I'm a big bicycle advocate here in my city, riding my Dutch bikes everywhere with the Amsterdam flag trying my hand at urbanism and planning. My heart ultimately is back in Amsterdam. As well-travelled and multilingual as I am, I'm not kidding myself either that moving there won't be very difficult and im not afraid of assimilation troubles. I don't really fit in here either! My family immigrated here from Russia so it's not foreign to me. I don't speak Dutch beyond a few words but I know it won't be a problem for me once I'm immersed to just absorb it. I just need some help because I'm lost. If one has a goal, it's foolish to not try to work towards that goal but I am just going in circles. I really don't want to go back to school because I don't have the money for that. I would be open to maybe urban planning but I don't know what the demand is for that there.
Any help or advice would be welcome. Thank you for your time.
replied most recently with:
I have been away now from Holland since 2009-I miss it something awful thats 4 years
and I cry everyday ...when you find a way let me know-my sponsor stopped sponsoring me and again-he was my BF...when we first were there his family didnt like us when we left most had changed their minds and didn't want us to go...but didnt say anything...your still young look for a nanny or livin babysitter job...take classes through the Gemente its called enburguring
I still hang onto my folder...but we were in Den Haag...don't bother with the American embassy they will not help ...i'm too old now for working there and yes if you can barrow between $5-10,000 and have a US passport you can stay...I try to help people here but no one ever! Says thank you or continues a conversation so,good luck to you.
Hi - are you renting or did you buy in Amstelveen? Can you advise realistically what it will cost for a 4 bed apartment in a nice area of Amstelveen? We currently live in a very affordable part of the UK with a detached 4 bed (I suspect we would get maybe 1000 euros if we rented it out.
Can you tell me the things you really like about Amstelveen and on the other hand the not so good or struggles you have found please?
A reader replied recently with:
I also had a very negative experience with A1 executive estate in Amsterdam. They were misleading and out right lied. The Amsterdam housing market is very difficult, but if you can, steer clear of this makelaar.
Please help - besides schooling was there other reasons you came back to the UK? We are looking to relocate to Holland but the schooling situation worries me - even the fee paying international schools don't get that good a press from some.
Are you kids still at the British school - has it improved at all? Looking at relocating to Amstelveen but nervous about the schooling. I have 2 girls both of whom are in the mid-higher ability in their years at primary. Concerned that with a large proportion of students having Enlish as their second language - is their the possibility of my own kids not being challenged enough?