Integrating Into Dutch Life: Finding A Home.

Views from the Dom Toren, Utrecht.

Views from the Dom Toren, Utrecht.

When a person chooses to make the life-altering decision to move to a different country, perhaps one of the first things they will search for is a new home. When immigrating to Holland however and trying to find a home, unless you have the detective skill level of Sherlock Holmes or the Dutch fluency of King Willem himself, such a task can prove quite difficult for the average immigrant. While finding a home in The Netherlands may seem like a daunting task, I have compiled a short list to help you not only to find a home, but also to find one which is authentically Dutch and will make you feel like a real Dutchman.

DO: Pretend to be Dutch

DO NOT: Admit you are a foreigner

The Dutch for the most part are an extremely welcoming and friendly country… however, trying to get an invite for a hospiteeravond when you are not Dutch is like participating in a real life version of the Hunger Games. In this version of the games, the ruthless killers from the movie are replaced by the equally ruthless Sannes and Daans of the real Dutch world who are skilled and clinical in their search for the kamers across the country. My advice is to find a willing Dutch man or woman who will help you construct a standard Dutch email outlining your name, age, cleanliness, affinity for drinking tea (if you’re Irish like me) and “series te kijken”. You must then proceed to copy and paste this email into every available kamer within your budget and area until you receive a reply. The following is a REAL LIFE STATISTIC regarding reactions to kamers that I did not just make up…

80% – do not respond

15% – respond to say that you don’t meet their ridiculous house requirements and that you are not invited to their fantastic, amazing hospiteeravond that will be the best avond that has ever occurred in the whole WERELD since time in memorial.

5% – will reply and say that you have cordially been invited to a hospiteeravond… with all Dutch speaking nationals… sh*t.

Amsterdam

DO: Mentally, physically and linguistically prepare for your hospiteeravond

DO NOT: Back out at the last minute and fail to show up

Congratulations, you have succeeded in receiving an invite to a hospiteeravond! Now the real training must begin and should you fail to reach the mark of expectation you should probably not even bother to show up because the Sannes and Daans have already won. Secret sources have confirmed that Dutch children have been undergoing a rigorous training schedule since birth to ensure that they will beat every non-Dutch international at hospiteeravonds across the country for generations to come. The following is the mental, physical and linguistic factors which must be included in your training while you prepare for your hospiteeravond:

  1. Practice drinking a whole pot of groene thee as quickly as possible
  2. Be able to go for a run without getting winded after 500 meters
  3. Laugh and make small talk about series such as Onderweg naar morgen en GTST
  4. Be able to pronounce Scheveningen and Koninginnedag flawlessly

In order to fit flawlessly into the Dutch conversation you must know some simple phrases and habits of Dutch speakers. Please see below for common words and phrases which you can randomly say at perhaps any moment of any conversation:

  • Upon entering: “Hoi! Ik ben Shauna!”
  • To express positivity: “Wat leuk!” or “Lekker!”
  • To react to something which you believe is negative: “Nee” or “Jammer”
  • To answer a question with yes: “Ja…”
  • To answer a question with no: “Ja… nee”
  • For all other eventualities just smile and nod and laugh.

 Amsterdam

DO: Accept the most authentically Dutch house

DO NOT: Settle on any old room

So you’ve made it through your hospiteeravond and wat leuk (see what I did there?) you have been offered a room. Before accepting your room you must first compare it to a simple checklist so that future visitors will notice how authentically Dutch your house is and so that you will complete your second stage of integration into Dutch life. If your new home has 75%+ of the following checklist then you are free to accept your new room with open arms.

  1. A ridiculously narrow and steep staircase that you most certainly will break you neck on when you miss a step after one too many biertjes.
  2. A front room with a wide, clean window with beautiful curtains which are never closed to showcase your beautiful interior but an interior which no one from the outside should ever look into despite the curtains always being open…
  3. A kitchen with a marvelous ovenmagnetron; a machine from some futuristic land that contains an oven, microwave and grill all in one.
  4. A toilet with barely enough room to get into. Your knees should touch the door when it closes.

You have successfully made it through stage 2 of initiation. With your brand new kamer you are now a little bit more Dutch than you were when you arrived. But stay tuned however as your integration is not yet complete and you must now venture to your next stage… the supermarket.

 

 

Integrating Into Dutch Life – The Train Station

 

Train - SCLEARY

Every author who writes about Holland talks about the same themes and usually begins by stating that Holland is the land of clogs, tulips, cheese, bicycles, marijuana or something along those lines. However, it was only after hours of pulling my hair out that I realized that all of these writer’s had forgotten one crucial thing in their articles: to discuss what an immigrant really needs to know once they arrive in The Netherlands. When I say what they really need to know, I’m talking about how to integrate as seamlessly as possible into life in the lowlands. While everyone knows the boring facts about obtaining your BSN or finding the best mobile data package, I have compiled a list of the dos and don’ts to living in Holland, to ensure that your fellow Dutch inhabitants will not be able to tell that you have just stepped off the plane at Schiphol. The most obvious place to start on our journey to successful integration begins in the first place you find yourself in after the airport: The Train Station.

The train stations in Holland are incredibly scary and if, like me, you come from a country where you miss the train, think “f*ck it” and go to the nearest pub for a pint until the next one comes along, then being in a train station in Holland will probably send you into a stress-induced coma. The station is a hotpot of lost tourists, time-conscious, working commuters and beautiful blonde-haired creatures, gracefully Olympic sprinting through the station and down the escalator to catch their departing train with a minute to spare. Then… there’s me, one foot below the rest of the Dutch population, squinting at the departure screen, furiously scrolling to find when the next train departs to Amsterdam Centraal, while also weighing up the potential success rate of me obtaining a koekje from the Albert Heijn before catching my train. However, after several episodes in various train stations across the country, I have finally cracked the code of how to blend into the crowd in the train station and have compiled a simple list of dos and don’ts to ensure that you too can fit into this mystifying maze of excellent time-keeping.

 Jacob at Rotterdam

DO: Purchase an OV Chipkaart.

DON’T: Buy paper tickets.

Having an OV Chipkaart is the equivalent of having a backstage pass to the Oscars if you’re a tourist. No longer must you face the embarrassment of carrying around a paper ticket for every journey you embark upon; NOW you hold the holiest of all grails, that shiny plastic card encased in another plastic holder of varying colours and shades. For just €7.50, you too can be the owner of such a magical card and can strut into the station, nonchalantly avoiding the pay machines and arrogantly swiping your card at the check-in point without even stopping in your stride (that is until you realise that you have no credit on your card and have to return red-faced to put €20 on your Chipkaart.) If used correctly, this card will ensure that Dutch people will have a very hard time identifying you as a tourist and if you can manage to find yourself a Dutch friend (with a special discount card that you mere mortals wouldn’t even understand), it will allow you take advantage of a 40% discount on every journey. Kerchang.

DO: Attempt to board the train as soon as possible.

DON’T: Allow on-board passengers room to disembark.

No matter what country you come from, the majority of individuals are brought up to obey certain public transport etiquettes such as letting an old person have your seat or thanking the bus driver on your way off the bus. One such etiquette for those waiting to board any form of public transport, is to allow room for those disembarking the vehicle to safely exit so as to avoid any injuries or potential stampedes. Such an etiquette is not the case in Holland and should you stand back to allow your fellow commuters to disembark, you have failed at your attempt at Dutch integration and must return to your home, pack your bags and head for the airport.  No, this rule is one that is not and probably will never will be practised in Holland and should  you wish to remain living in The Netherlands you must follow these crucial steps to blend in while boarding a train:

  1. Wrap your belongings as tightly to you as you see the train approaching in the distance.
  2. Slowing begin taking steps closer to the edge of the platform, linking up with fellow passengers on your left and right to create an impenetrable, compact herd.
  3. As soon as the train stops, rush with your herd towards the opening door.
  4. Those in the middle may find themselves obliged to create a small pathway to allow those on the train to get through the masses to the platform, however, should you find yourselves on the side of the herd, feel free to continue to push your way towards the door.
  5. If you feel that your herd is failing you and not making progress, you can always jump ship to the next entrance and push from the rear.
  6. Board the train and elbow your way to the nearest free seat in second class.

JacobatUC

DO: Stare at your fellow passengers

DON’T : Mind your own business.

Success! You’ve boarded the train and you have now taken your seat along with your fellow peasantry in second class. Now, to complete the initiation process, you must focus all of your intentions on your fellow passengers. Dutch people on trains have an incredibly annoying habit of staring at anyone who opens a bag of crisps, answers their phone or sneezes and coughs too loudly. To become one of them, you too must stare at these culprits, boring your disapproving, inquisitive eyes into their soul until they are shamed into a cone of silence for their entire journey. Should you find yourself as the culprit, well, I usually just stare back and wink until they look away.

And there you have it! You’ve done it. You have passed as a Dutchy in the train station and stage one of your integration process is complete. Stay tuned however as your journey has only just begun and you have long way to go before you can official declare yourself a Dutch national.