LearnDutchOnline Blog - Integrating in the Netherlands - LearnDutchOnline.nl

The Truth about Integration within Dutch society (Column by one of our Instructors)

You probably know the Amsterdam Shallow Man and his incredible, honest content on the (white) Dutch and Dutch society as a whole. If you don’t, follow him here. It will help you understand Dutch society and people way better.

If you are an expat, chances are you have dealt with numerous of Dutch companies and institutions (‘the gemeente’) already. Where we, the Dutch, see absolutely no problems when ordering food, doing the groceries or even going to the barber shop, you might have found the need to share complete pages full of complaints and tips for Bol.com, the Albert Heijn or even NOS – our public news channel.

And the funny thing is – complaining is a very, very Dutch thing to do. Of course, it’s even better if your compaints have a solid base in reality and are aimed at improvement. The other funny thing is, as you can see if you follow the Amsterdam Shallow Man, that alot of your complaints are in fact true.

The problem is us; we do not like to admit our weaknesses, which is a weakness in itself, of course. We know there’s something wrong with the way alot of us still deal with minorities, Zwarte Piet, expats, refugees and women – but we don’t want to hear it, especially not from the ones who we are trying so hard to keep in place. There is indeed alot of institutionalized racism in Holland, caused by centuries of colonialism and slavery. You are here, mostly because we need you; just like with the slaves, contract workers, Moroccans and Turks (who are still being discriminated against even though they are as Dutch as they come), we just want you to do the work you came to do, for us, in silence, and then leave – so we can be the ones showing off your work.

As the Netherlands has always done, mostly. And it’s a bad, bad part of our culture, obviously, which will not change until the full spectrum of our history is exposed, acknowledged and repaired for.

But all the rotten parts of our culture aside, if you want to integrate fast you have to understand us, and the above. Talk, ask questions, be polite, and certainly do not make the mistake to be racist in any sense yourself.

And really do this. Don’t just lock yourself up in your own little community, even though it seems we want you to do that. We are working on it. The Netherlands, and all of us Dutch, the brown, black, yellow and white, all of us are in the middle of a long over due transition. A transition to a better, more inclusive, version or ourself.

So, if you want to reap the most benefits of your time here, make sure you’re part of this transition, too. Learn Dutch, Conversate with your Dutch friends, neighbours, whomever. Be genuinely interested and learn from eachother. Attend Dutch events, parties, watch Dutch news and follow Dutch actualities.

And know that this beautiful little country has a very rich and dark history, which some of us don’t even know (or want to know), and that you are very welcome, as in one way or another we have always needed eachother – and we, the Dutch could have never done it without you.

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By Ihsaan Sheikmoesti, main instructor & creator at LearnDutchOnline.nl

Ihsaan studied psychology, law and Dutch language and culture at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. He is a born and raised Dutch open-minded muslim dude with Surinamese roots, which means he has white, yellow and brown blood. He loves writing, learning, sports and teaching.

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