An article by ACCESS-Netherlands
At ACCESS we have admired the efforts of Dutch authorities for rolling out an ‘orange carpet’ to do what they can to provide new internationals a warm welcome in the Netherlands. Providing services – such as those required by immigration or municipal authorities; sharing information about services – such as housing, healthcare or education; working with us – of course – to answer the questions which arise, as one is relocating.
The truth of the matter is though that whereas the first three months can be overwhelming – and difficult to manage – it is the period after that which can also take a toll on people. Adjusting to another life, in an unfamiliar environment can be a long period of never-ending questions. Living in a new country, discovering a new culture, understanding the new ‘sub-text’ one is living in, can, and is, paralysing sometimes. And all this for one-self. Imagine when there are partners/spouses and or children involved. They too will have endless questions.
Knowing what is in season for instance – where to find certain products, finding the right translation and ensuring it is what one is expecting, can damage anyone’s self-confidence in the kitchen. Understanding what local families, people do for birthdays – especially in a country where the birthday celebrant is the one to takes the initiative, can be confusing for parents who will giggle, or cry, through the process. Knowing where and how, to make new friends so that your circle of life is not only the office, or school – is a challenge which most recently has been made even more difficult to manoeuvre, due to the covid period. And the list goes on.
From experience, we at ACCESS, a community of internationals who have arrived and made the Netherlands home, have come to the conclusion that a good relocation takes at least 12 months. Until it is the second first day at school; the second Sinterklaas; the second spring when you notice ‘new’ cheeses at the market, or grocery store (cheeses from fresh spring grass fed cows) that you start to feel like you have fewer questions. That you find yourself in a position to answer other new arrivals questions, that you realise ‘oh, this is my new home’ – and can honestly say you have relocated.
We encourage new arrivals to be kind to them selves, give themselves time to manage the questions, and find out where to go if they have one. We know it can be taxing – but finding answers can also provide a tremendous boost to anyone’s spirit, and sense of adventure.
ACCESS is a local not-for-profit organisation created by ‘expats’ for expats/internationals in 1985. Since then it has provided an on-call counselling network – for referrals to counsellors - as well as a helpdesk (by phone and email) for all, and any, of the questions people have when they arrive here, or are planning a move. Our website also has over 300 FAQs with answers. Furthermore, we provide courses in childbirth preparation; first aid and have a list of trainers offering services relevant to internationals living, starting their careers in, the Netherlands.