As the year draws to a close, the City of Amsterdam is apparently obliged to send every immigrant (including yours truly) a letter that says we have to integrate, get to know Dutch society and learn the language. According to an Amsterdam politician friend of mine, the city has to crank out all these letters soon or risk a fine. Basically, they are in a rush to apply a law that was passed in 2007. Better later than never.
Oh but no. First, of all, I already went through this properly about eight years back when I lived in Nijmegen. Oddly enough, I wasn’t obliged or allowed to take Dutch lessons back then because I was here on a temporary resident’s permit. I managed to stay and then the courses were no longer available to me
anymore; it was up to me. I learnt Dutch the hard way: at parties and by reading. And now I’m finally learning to write it properly because it’s about time I did. Second, as a Canadian, I am exempt of language lessons as are about 20 other nationalities according to Dutch immigration law. Funny how nobody working with immigrants seems to know that.
Third, Dutch lessons? Help with getting a job? Hello? I’ve been here for almost 10 years and have been running my own business for about eight! The young woman on the phone was very nice and suggested I send her a copy of my diploma just to make sure. I asked her if she could read Latin. Why, she asked. My Canadian university diploma is in Latin and I can barely make it out myself. I told her I wasn’t sending anything to anyone and wasn’t going to take time off work for an “intake meeting” when I could be working. After all, there’s a crisis on and all.
I have this nagging feeling that this won’t just go away. By the way, Amsterdam has waiting lists of three months or so for Dutch lessons as well. It’s a disaster and everybody knows it.
The woman went on to point out three times that many people who have been living here for years don’t speak the language. But I do, so why are you on about this? It has nothing to do with me.
I have to renew my resident’s permit soon or apply for the Dutch nationality. Which is it going to be?
UPDATE Yes, I speak Dutch as a near near native speaker (not a typo) and I do so 95% of my day except with business partners and when I stub my toe on something.
MORE UPDATE Integration test angers old immigrants mentions me as well.