Wednesday, 4 November 2009

interview | before & after meme for expats

Following in the footstep of A Touch Of Dutch and Clogs And Tulips and maybe more, here comes mine.

  • Before you knew you'd be coming to the Netherlands, for whatever reason you originally came to the Netherlands, truthfully how much did you know about the country?
    I have moved here twice: once in 1999 and the other one in 2005. Before I moved here the very 1st time, I knew a bit about it because I had already visited Amsterdam as a tourist.

  • Did you learn about the Netherlands in school when you were growing up?
    Not that I can remember. There is no specific reason to learn about the Netherlands apart on a geographic and political perspective.  In the French educational system, when learning about the European Community back then (now the EU) we know about the Netherlands the same way we learn about other European not in depth but more on a general scale.

  • Do you have family who is Dutch or Dutch heritage?

  • Were you aware the language the Dutch spoke was Dutch and not German or any other language?
    Of course!

  • Had you ever lived outside of your home country for longer than one month prior to living in the Netherlands?
    Yep, I’ve been away from my native Guadeloupe for the past 17 years and have lived in other countries before landing in the Netherlands.

  • Had you learned to speak any other language than your own, even if only partially so, before coming to the Netherlands?
    I learned English, Spanish and German (French being my mother tongue). English + a 2nd language are compulsary to learn in Secondary School and High School, and I also specialized in literature and languages back then so I took a 3rd one...then I chose languages again when studying at university in London. Nowadays, I’m still learning Dutch, for it’s a continuous process (by listening to the news on the radio/TV and also reading the daily newspapers) and I really enjoy it!

  • When you learned you'd be coming to the Netherlands, did you feel it was important to learn Dutch?
    I believe it’s always best to learn the native language of the country one lives in, whether you live in Russia, Syria or Japan, the least thing to do is to learn the basic of the respective language; whether or not you develop it....that’s another story.  And may I say that contrary to what I hear from many expats, English is not spoken everywhere here in NL.   I hear this mainly from people living in the big cities like Amsterdam or Den Haag, which are cosmopolitan cities...but in the real Dutch world it is different. When dealing with bits and bobs on a daily basis in my region, I know so from experience (gemeenteraad, ziekenhuis, apotheek etc) knowing some Dutch is much appreciated.

  • Did anyone prepare you with information of any type before you came to live in the Netherlands, did you attempt to find information on your own, or did you come to the Netherlands without preparing?
    When I move/travel to a foreign country whether it is long term or just for a few days, one of the exciting factor about it is to find out about the place beforehand. Hence what I always did in my life so far: I gathered info. and prepared myself, then landed here the 1st time with an open mind and the 2nd time it was a piece of cake because for 3 years I travelled back and forth regularly between London and Amsterdam.

  • How did your friends and family react when they learned you'd be moving to the Netherlands?
    My parents are used to me living abroad so I don’t think it was a big deal to them, since I have been away for so many years. As for my friends:  I tend to make friends where ever I live and most friends I have are scattered around in different countries so then would not make much difference to the ones that were already living in another place than I was, but for the ones I left in London, for instance, they said they would come and visit.

  • What did you think would be your biggest challenge living in a foreign country? Or did you feel you would face any big challenges?
    Becoming fluent in the local language.


  • Upon arriving, can you remember the overall impression you had in the first 48 hours?
    I was very excited and pleased with my move, as I was settling in Utrecht and everything was happening fast and smoothly after only packing and leaving London in only a week the new beginning looked promising :)

  • Tell me about your bicycle, if you have one. Is it borrowed/rented or do you own it? And how often do you use it weekly? Have you ever had your bike stolen? Feel free to mention and elaborate about anything special concerning experiences you have/had with your bicycle.     I own 2 bicycles (bought 4 years ago) stored in the garden shed and at the moment they’re hardly ever used compared to 3 years ago. I try to use one a bit more often during summer.  But since I live practically in the center of town I usually walk there and when I need to travel longer distance I take my car.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
  • Name three of your favorite things about the Dutch culture which first come to mind:
    1. To be offered a nice cup of (proper) coffee in many public places I go to (whether it is to have my car for APK or buying tiles for my kitchen). 2. Caring for wildlife and domestic animals. 3. Joggers greet each other while running but also in other open space areas or in my neighbourhood, strangers do say “morgen” , not only the elderly (like people greet each other saying “bonjour or bonsoir” back home).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

  • Of the things you never knew before coming here, what have you learned about the Netherlands?
    What I've learned, let’s see:  community spirit, kids seem to have a lot of freedom (it’s a bit of a 'kingdom land' for them), it's pack with all sorts of traditions (and kitsch stuff) : putting balloons outside the house when a baby is born,  hanging out the flag for Queen's Day and also when passing an exam you hang your bag on the flag, letting everyone know you turn 50 by hanging a big plastic 50 type of balloon in your front porch and so on and so forth.

  • Culture shock.  Does this ring a bell?                                                 No culture shock as such, for I’m used to the northern European lifestyle but having said that I sometimes long for Carrefour hyper/supermarkets and French-type of food;. the eating habit here, such as cold lunch or a limited choice in supermarkets, can be a bit of a put-off but like anywhere else there is always a way around (thanks God for delis and Turkish grocery stores and a good selection of restaurants).                                                                                                                          
  • How far have you come with learning Dutch?
    I  can manage a basic conversation (on a good day) but can read better than I can speak.  I did a test via a school a few weeks ago and they have confirmed my level based on the European standard as B2.                

  • What was/is your overall impression of the inburgering [integration] program?
    I don’t know much about this programme but from what I understand it's a type of course to allow non-EU citizens to integrate in the Dutch culture  (which includes the language) and lifestyle. Although as a French citizen I am not required to do this, and as a linguist, I have already followed 3 different Dutch classes in the past few years and may follow an advanced one in the near future.

  • Has your view on politics or world issues changed from how you previously viewed things before living in the Netherlands?
    Nope, I’m still as cynical as before :)

  • Coffeeshops and smartshops. What is your opinion? Have you ever visited a coffeeshop or smartshop? You don't need to go too far in detail, if you feel it's too revealing on your own blog.  I’ve visited my local coffee shop but not to hang out! I haven't visited any smartshops.  I was not aware of the latter one until I read the definition on A Touch Of Dutch blog.                                                                                                                                 
  • Since living here, have you learned anything new about yourself? Or perhaps have you learned anything else new? A new hobby or a new way of life?     Yeah, I am now becoming a blogger, hahah!! But mostly I found new hobbies such as photography, walking/hiking, sailing,  birdwatching...basically being more active outdoors, since the Dutch are always active no matter what the weather conditions are.


A Touch of Dutch said...

I've learned so much about you via this & not only appreciate you taking the time to fill it in, but also I agree highly with you on your answer to the importance of learning Dutch while living here. Living elsewhere anywhere in the world, to learn the language of the natives, I feel, is really an important on so many levels. I experience it almost daily where I find myself needing to understand and speak some Dutch.

Thanks again for doing this & have a great week!

A g g i e Lap said...

Graag gedaan! It was very interesting to do actually!! :)

Anonymous said...

Loved reading your answers! I agree with a lot of what you said. No idea you were such a linguist! Je parle un petit peu de fraincais maar it heb het helemaal vergeten nu dat ik bezig met Nederlands leren ben!

A g g i e Lap said...

Merci, Tiffany! But even if you forgot your French it's good that you're busy most importantly with Dutch, which sounds quite good actually.

Aledys Ver said...

It's been very interesting to read your answers, Aggie! Some of them made me smile - you probably know which! heeeeheeee heee :o)

Orangesplaash said...

This is awesome, great insights on you as a person!!

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