What does it mean to become a Dutchie? Does it count if someone eats a lot of stroopwafels, snacks on soused haring (pickled, raw herring) and loves digging into a hearty stamppot? How about getting your first fiets and knowing enough dutch to order an appeltaart met slagroom in a cafe?
Wishful thinking, of course!
Being a Sri Lankan with a Dutch partner and a Flemish pet rabbit; there are many lovely things to experience here. But as a requirement of my residency, I am obligated to officially integrate into Dutch society. What this entails is, having to jump through flaming hoops, scamper through lava fields and provide a sacrificial plant... Haha just kidding!
Here's your chance to find out what it takes to become a Dutchie, as I start documenting my journey, I hope it’ll help you prepare and know what to expect with each task and requirement. Read through the many experiences I’ll be going through along the way, not forgetting any funny anecdotes from the workshops or dutch lessons that I’ll have to do.
It’s important to note that depending on your nationality, there are two stages to Inburgering, each requiring its own set of exams. The first stage has to be completed in your home country in order to get your MVV to come into The Netherlands. However, having completed that step last year, this article will focus on where I’m currently at, the 2nd stage, Inburgeringsdiploma.
The first step of the Inburgeringsdiploma consists of the Participatieverklaring, which is essentially a Participation of Declaration that has to be signed at your gemeente, combined with a workshop. Living in Amersfoort, Integratiewerk conducted this workshop on behalf of the gemeente. Word of advice: Take those initial letters and invitations seriously, as there’s often very strict deadlines attached with each task.
Having an A0-A1 level of Dutch literacy, I was certainly surprised and underprepared for what came my way that day. To put things plainly, the entire workshop was conducted in Dutch. I was seated in a classroom with about 10 other students hailing from different nationalities undergoing the same integration. It was truly a beautiful slice of how multi-cultured the Netherlands was.
One of our first tasks was to introduce ourselves and state what we love and don’t like about the Netherlands. Naturally, I panicked and was in complete awe with how fluent everyone else was. Certainly put things into perspective that I should probably start learning and practicing dutch with my partner a little more seriously. When it was my turn, I fumbled through an interesting cocktail of dutch and english and stated how gezellig the people were and how the Old Koppelpoort in Amersfoort was so mooi.
After this, we were given an introduction on the history of Amersfoort and the origins of the old walls that surrounded her center. I also partially understood that it’s in the shape of an egg? (lol, I could be mistaken, but I’m 80% certain).
We were then taken through a presentation of Dutch standards and core values that one has to abide if they want to integrate. Introductory topics on how The Netherlands is a democracy and what that constitutes of, the country’s importance on social rights, and how you are provided assistance by the government if you can’t make ends meet.
Other topics that were discussed were about Dutch society, and instilling the importance of paying taxes. The topic of freedom was discussed in great detail especially, the freedom to choose your faith, the freedom to be entitled to your own opinion (as long as you abide by the law and don’t deliberately offend or incite hatred), the freedom to choose your own lifestyle (be it clothing choices, work, etc) and lastly, the freedom to choose your sexual preferences and genders (which did cause quite a discussion in the classroom).
Once the heavy conversation was done, we were given an activity to select the values that were personal to us, such as family, being respected, the right to privacy, etc. With these values, we created a train that connected all our values together to represent the Netherlands. It was quite moving, actually. (The beauty of the moment, not the values-train).
Lastly, we were taken through troublesome situations that we may encounter in our life here, and were given help tips on how to deal with it and who to contact, should the need arise. Some examples for reference, are encounters with a nasty neighbour who won’t stop playing loud music at 2 AM, domestic violence, minimum wages not being met, psychological and other medical help. It was informative, to say the least.
And to the grand finale, we were given certificates with our names printed on them, and was advised to read everything it entails which states that we abide and accept Dutch values. And that’s part 1 of my Integration, done and dusted!
What’s on the next leg of my Grand Dutch Tour? Well, here’s the tough part. It’s the exams! (long sigh). I’ll have to take up the following exams (listed below) on an A2 level. For my luck, it was meant to change to B1, but that step has been delayed.(Yay, me!) So, I’ve set a personal goal that I’ll finish my exams next year in 2022.
Here the exam list:
- Orientation on the Dutch Labour Market (ONA)
- Knowledge of Dutch Society
In hindsight, I was raised as a third culture kid in a progressive family, it seemed like some of the information wasn’t necessary as it seemed like standard societal values, but then I realised that not everyone is raised to reflect the same. So, I believe it’s a great step for The Netherlands to ensure that everyone undergoes the same steps to integrate together, no matter how you were raised, or where you come from. Inclusivity, FTW. Love it!
Until we meet again!