I started this blog nearly 4 years ago to document the move I was making to the Netherlands. Over that time, I’ve talked about learning the language, about integrating into a culture that is similar, but so different to my own. I’ve talked about having twins, and about my life here as an immigrant.
I really haven’t covered (at least lately) the whole process of “Inburgering”, or, as it’s known colloquially amongst some expats “Inbuggering” (you now see where the title of my blog comes from!)
What is Inburgering? Why do we have to do it?
Inburgering is simply this – an integration course into Dutch society. It covers an elementary level of Dutch language ( it’s really so you can get around, interact with people, answer simple questions and pretty much survive here) as well as an understanding of Dutch culture and society. It’s also a requirement for a lot of people who wish to stay in the Netherlands who are not a part of the EU/EER. Due to the ever changing status of the laws, I can’t say whether you will, or will not ever need to sit an Inburgeringscursus. That’s what the Gemeente of the city you live in will decide for you, after a lengthy interview both there and at the immigration department. If you’re like me, and considered to come from a ‘civilised’ country, you’ll probably just have a recommendation to sit a Dutch course and go for the exams within 3 and a half years of registering. An excellent article on inburgering can be found here. (Yes, I’m co-author, we all know I like to blow my own horn. The other author is a wonderful lady from one of the best Dutch schools in Almere – Margreet Kwakernaak of Suitcase Talen)
I started my courses in February of 2013. I went to an amazing school in Amsterdam (only because my local school was booked out sadly) where I studied my backside off, met some incredible friends, and passed the first part of the course with flying colours. It wasn’t until I started the B1-B2 course that things went downhill. Well, not exactly downhill. Around the same time I fell pregnant with the girls and due to the horrible pregnancy and all the complications before an after birth that studying Dutch fell by the wayside. However, the end of my 3 and a half years was looming, so sitting the exams suddenly became a priority.
October 15th saw me take the trip to Zwolle and sit all 5 exams in one day. After all, who doesn’t like a bit of self abuse and sitting in exam rooms for around 6 hours of your day? It also saw me racing off on the same day my poor dad arrived from Australia – so luckily Marius had the day off work to pick him up with the girls.
I’ll be completely honest here. The exams are not hard. I was dead scared about the speaking part – because I’d heard some horror stories, and the whole ‘knowledge of Dutch society’ one was a complete unknown. I went in joking that there were only 3 possible answers – ‘doe normaal’ (carry on as if nothing is happening), ‘send a card’, or ‘shake your head and tut loudly’. (Turns out there are more ;). ) However, all went reasonably well and sure enough, the results came in – I passed everything.
So, where does this leave my blog? I’m going nowhere. Whilst I’ve fulfilled the whole integration thing, I’m still very much learning about my life here. The intent of the blog was to talk about my life here, and I figure that there’s more than one way to ‘inbugger’ an Aussie here. So I’ll keep writing, and talking, and maybe one day I may shut up.
Tips for those doing the inburgeringsexamen? Concentrate – if you’ve lived here for any period of time – you know this stuff inside out. Don’t be fancy with your answers. Just keep it simple. And trust your instinct on answers. Go for the practise tests online and keep at it. And find a good Dutch course!
(And why so late announcing it? Well it comes down to actually having the time to go into Amsterdam and pick up the damned certificate!)