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 September 01, 2014 with:
Interesting post, been in NL no for around 9 months, and it's not the first time I have heard expats complain about this. Have to say I have never had this experience, most people are quite friendly with me and my wife, and dutch people at work really try to integrate me into conversations. We often go out with some dutch friends as well. And our dutch is no where near fluent. That said, we are South African (afrikaans to be precise).
Unfortunately your wife is right! Im an expat (non-american) here and been living in NL for about 3 years now. Just like what your wife said, i do feel this 'other' treatment once in a while (although i speak reasonable dutch-not perfect!). Of course theyare nice to me but what they do, will just about it, they will just be nice! They wont consider/put you in their circle of friends.
My husband friend who has an american girlfriend once told us, the dutch people are nice and friendly but they will not embrace you. Another friend of mine, been living here for about 10 years and speak good dutch. She still feels the same, the dutch will always have this 'wall' for the expats.
I think what will make a different is in which part of NL you live. If you live in Amsterdam, you dont really have a problem. You can always make friends with other expats. But if you live in a small town, you need more effort and patience to adjust it. It is more challenges in a small town because some dutch people will go on talking in dutch although they know one of the listeners dont speak dutch. This happens to my friend (a canadian). Actually surprisingly even some dutch people (my brother in law and his wife-both dutch) dont feel fit with people from other province of NL. They both have lived in Maastricht for 8 years with good job but in the end decided to move back to Leiden because of the people there. So can you imagine if even dutch people can feel like that, how about the expats who dont speak dutch ?
Personally I think you as her husband hold an important role to make her feel more comfortable living in NL. At least thats what I feel. I dont have many friends and my husband (a dutch) also not really a sociable person. But we both are so match, and he is the only reason I live here. The key is being understandble to each other and maybe in time when your wife feels down, you should be more understandable to her :)
I wish you both good luck and just think like this: if you both think you can not stand to live without each other, im very sure you both can get through this problem!
This is totally true.
When you move out of the Economic/Political powerzone, (Amsterdam / Gooi Area) you will find many poor uneducated people with small-town values. I would compare Maastricht with the South in the United States. Close to Maastricht, there are gigantic trailer parks, and the people have traditionally been very poor. The are involved with Drugs trafficking, and they speak better German than Dutch.
I would not bother making friends with the idiots living in Maastricht. Why would you?
Flatshare with people hardly ever there.
(1 BR; + shared LR, kitchen and bathroom).
Friendly Dutch house for rent with four sleepingplaces, internet, two free bicycles and two gardens. The house is E 900 per month.
Excellent article full of useful info.. Thanks!
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?
Typically dutch house in De Zaan, closeby Amsterdam and Amstelveen for rent E 900 per month
replied to the thread where to live in amstelveen?
on the Netherlands forum:
Hallo, we are about to move to Amsterdam. As the school is in the south of Amstelveen, we consider moving somewhere in Amstelveen. Has anybody experiences where there is a good place to live in Amstelveen e.g. considering that is close to the airport. Thanks in advance.
replied most recently with:
Beloveds, my house is for rent for four months at least, but for 1 person ongoing;
it is in a typically dutch village close to Amstelveen and Amsterdam in De Zaan:
8 minutes biking and then on the train and metro. It is available for 1 year for three people: E 900 plus gaz and electra for the whole house with 360 m2 garden and internet, etc. plus two bikes
Amstelveen is not a bad place to live. My family used to live there and we had a good time.
Amstelveen is so close to Amsterdam that you'll be able to get in the city-center within 20 minutes.
Blog Random Walks in the Low Countries
posted on the Netherlands Network
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,
I would avoid living near Rotterdam completely. The people are very rude there and don't speak proper Dutch. My mom used to work in Rotterdam and had a horrible experience.
Don't forget to StreetView the hell out of these areas. Every inch is on Google Maps.