Always an expat, never a local: an international’s attempt to integrate into Dutch life

Shaakira, a South-African residing in Amsterdam, shares why she’s nonetheless ready to really feel like a Dutch native.


Many, many moons in the past, when social interplay was nonetheless allowed, I used to like going to Meetup. Meetup, the app, is a extremely nice solution to be a part of completely different curiosity teams with the intention of fostering friendships, rising abilities and furthering pursuits.

At one of the best of instances, I’m a complete extrovert and love making new buddies. My important Meetup curiosity teams have been expat-orientated, and I might attend numerous evenings to have a drink and meet new folks.

I recall assembly somebody as soon as, and as we made our manner by means of the small-talk guidelines (the place are you from? What do you do? Blah blah), the favorite: “How lengthy have you ever been right here” got here up.

“Virtually a 12 months” I replied. “And also you?”

“Over two years now,” replied my new acquaintance, Alex from the US.

“Woah. You’re principally a neighborhood!” I joked.

Properly, the joke is on me, as a result of I’ve lived within the Netherlands for practically three years now … and I actually don’t really feel like a neighborhood. Listed here are a couple of of the explanation why:

I’m a perpetual scholar of the language

I’m a language lover and have been an ardent scholar of the Dutch language. Or no less than…I used to be? Sooner or later, I fell off the horse. In fact, I’ve tried to get again on the paard, but in addition the opposite day I ordered my espresso in Dutch they usually replied to me in English so like…? Qu’est que le level?

I’m nonetheless attempting however admittedly I misplaced some motivation when attempting to know previous tense vs. current good tense (amongst different mind-boggling guidelines), so for now I’m proud of my charming mixture of English and Dutch when going about this land.

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I’m nonetheless studying the delicacies

There’s extra to the Netherlands than simply cheese and milk…and bread, okay? It doesn’t cease at stroopwafels, kaassouffle’s (or is it kaassoufflen?) and bitterballen both. There are such a lot of different native meals like zuikerbrood, eierkoeken and mustard soup that I’m nonetheless attempting to get my tastebuds acquainted with.

Yesterday was my first time heard the time period “Lekkerbek” which it appears is principally some type of fish dish. Very like the curfew, my record of meals to strive simply retains getting prolonged.

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I ought to actually study the nationwide anthem

Is there any higher sense of nationwide pleasure than singing the nationwide anthem along with your fellow countrymen?! I don’t know the anthem (but) and I’m not Dutch both (but) so I’ll need to hold you posted on this.

I ought to actually have extra native buddies

… or ought to I? It’s no secret that the Dutch, while beautiful folks normally, are reluctant to open their closely-knit pal teams from pre-school, main college, highschool and so on., for simply any previous expat.

While I’ve made Dutch buddies, I wouldn’t think about myself a part of a 100% Dutch pal group. I befriend plenty of expats — we make spontaneous plans for coffees, walks and two-people dinners (corona-compliant, after all) — however while my door is at all times open to new buddies, the Dutch appear to stay considerably reluctant to enter.

I ought to actually know the native…issues

The issues… the issues! You realize the issues. Like these little cultural nuances that actually simply include residing within the nation for lengthy sufficient. Earlier than corona, this was once issues like “when to present three cheek kisses?,” and “what cake do I convey on my birthday?”.

READ MORE | 9 issues nobody tells you about residing within the Netherlands for the primary time

Presently, that is wanting extra like figuring out precisely when there will probably be one other press convention, what kind of climate I can anticipate this time of 12 months (or does it simply change yearly?), when does the tax 12 months begin/finish, and precisely when the solar will seem after which disappear.


So I’m not a neighborhood. I’m not! Almost three years later and I nonetheless type of love being an expat. I like the variations (and the similarities) between my very own nationality and people I get to take pleasure in right here within the Netherlands.

Do you’re feeling like a neighborhood within the Netherlands? Inform us why, or why not, within the feedback beneath!

Function Picture: Sandro Gonzalez/Pexels

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