A recipe for integration

Eve is a single mom who came to the Netherlands to study, to work and to build a better future for herself and her daughter. She did not waste any time, and within two years she managed to learn Dutch well enough to find a good job. 


A lot of people feel comfortable here communicating in English, but I had never used English at work or in everyday life, so I decided to learn Dutch. Besides, when you speak the same language as the rest of the society, you understand people better, and they understand you better. The Dutch are grateful to you for your effort to learn their language. They are so happy to hear your first Dutch words!

My success in leaning Dutch depends to a great extent on my motivation. At all the courses I attended, I was the best student. A lot of students were good because they were young, and at young age it is easier to memorize new information. But nobody was working as hard as I was. The work you invest is 80% of your success in learning the language.

I advise everybody to start working. I have a couple of friends who are married to Dutch guys, so they don’t have to work. They are desperately trying to find some purpose in their lives. They don’t work because they set their expectations too high: ‘Why should I do a low-payed job? I don’t need money that desperately’. They keep learning Dutch and are trying to reach the perfect level or they do Dutch education hoping that it would help them to find a good job. But a good job is difficult to find. You have to start working. I did a cleaning job for several months. No shame in that. This was a chance to communicate to people, to understand that you are not alone, that there are worse situations than yours. Therefore, my personal recipe for integration is: work, work and work again.

As a nation, the Dutch are more positive, while the Russians are more sarcastic and negative. In the beginning of my work, I felt like Dr. Evil who was always thinking of possible negative consequences. I don’t foresee a fabulous result that we might achieve if everything goes fine, I always foresee the possibility of a failure if this colleague won’t show up, or that colleague won’t manage to do what was planned, etc. I am making an effort not to voice these concerns, because I’ve already received several comments about my ‘negative thinking’. And I see it as a key difference in mindset between the Dutch and the Russians. I am always ready for something bad to happen. I always see the risks, even when they are unlikely. The Dutch, on the contrary, see the positive side of the situation.

When I raise my concerns, my goal is not to criticize. My goal is to attract attention to risk factors. The Dutch prefer not to think about these possible risks. I don’t know which way is better, but I am trying to change, deliberately, so that I don’t stick out too much. You are going to deal with the negative consequences anyway. The question is: Are you going to deal with them when they happen, or do you prepare for them in advance?

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