In touch with the Dutch – Interview
How do internationals manage finding their way, tackle challenges and create their life in a new hometown? The first in this series of interviews is with Graziella and Sylvain, who recently moved to Amsterdam with their two kids.
Hello there! What can you tell us about yourself?
Graziella: My name is Graziella and my husband’s name is Sylvain. We are a family with a son of eleven and a daughter of eight years old.
Where do you come from?
Graziella: We come from Nantes, in France.
Since when are you in the Netherlands?
Graziella: We live in The Netherlands since July 2020, so six months now.
For what reason did you move to The Netherlands?
Graziella: Sylvain and I both wanted an experience abroad for the children, and I was given an opportunity with my job to move to Amsterdam.
Sylvain: I worked for thirteen years in the same job in France and was ready for a change.
Learning Dutch the Flowently way
What languages do you speak?
We speak French of course, English, Spanish and now some Dutch as well.
When did you start learning Dutch?
We started learning Dutch with Flowently tutor Nathalie almost six months ago, having live language sessions on a weekly basis. Our children are having sessions at our home, once a week with the same tutor.
What was the reason that you are learning Dutch?
We both feel it is very important to learn the language, to be able to feel integrated into the society, so we can communicate in everyday life with the locals and our colleagues. The Dutch language forms a big part of the culture in The Netherlands, even in Amsterdam where everyone speaks English.
What helps you best to study and what is the most effective way to learn Dutch?
Graziella: Learning in real life situations with our tutor is definitely the most effective way to learn how to get around. When we were having the Dutch sessions in a café, it was so nice to study there and learn how to order our own drinks on the spot. The session in the street market was also great. We first prepared the market session in the café, learning all the vocabulary and grammar around groceries and shopping. We checked our shopping list with our tutor and off we went. We got all our groceries talking in Dutch to the market vendors, who were very kind and helpful. And of course, at home we prepared a typical Dutch dish for diner, boerenkool met worst (mashed potatoes, cale, and smoked sausage).
Sylvain: Having conversations is a pretty good exercise. Besides, writing a small text or dialogue helps to formulate correctly, it allows you to use grammar the correct way. I like learning through song, as my children do. The kids love learning Dutch by songs, they seem to learn the language easily. They sang Christmas Songs in Dutch for the family and it made them feel so proud.
What, according to your experience, helps you to feel at home in The Netherlands?
Graziella: Buying a house was the first and most important step to make us feel at home. What also helps is that the kids can practice their sports. They kept the same activities; our son plays football and our daughter loves ice skating. Definitely a very important aspect is cooking, we love to cook the same dishes as in France, this tradition makes us feel home as well. And of course, one of the essentials, we bought bikes for the whole family. You cannot live in The Netherlands without having a bike!
Dutch culture shock
How about your culture shock?
Sylvain: In France at my job we used to have elaborate lunch breaks with all the colleagues together, for at least one hour, up to two hours. The first day at my new job here, at lunchtime, I see my colleague taking out a sandwich from his lunchbox, eating it in front of his laptop, not taking more than fifteen minutes to finish his lunch. This took me really some time to get used to!
A colleague asked me if I would like a cup of coffee, so I stood up to join her. She was surprised, because it was her intention to bring me a cup of coffee, so I’d drink it alone in front of my laptop. In France this doesn’t exist. Any invitation related to drinking or eating is always a social happening. I noticed the Dutch like sharing on the job, there often is a message in the WhatsApp group, ‘there are pepernoten next to the coffee machine’ or other delicacies people bring to share. So why not share lunch too?
Graziella: What really surprised me, was to see mothers by bike, with two children. One in the front, and one on the back, packed with groceries or schoolbags as well, all on one bike!
What are the benefits of the Flowently live language sessions?
It helps us to communicate with our colleagues, with the neighbors, people in the street and at the supermarket. Most people are happy when we try to speak to them in Dutch. So, it definitely helps for better communication. At the moment, because of the lockdown, the tutor comes to our home or we can have online sessions.
Any tips for Flowently?
Graziella: It would be practical to have my tutor selected in my account, instead of having to write her name every time. Other than that, no tips.
What is your favorite Dutch word or saying?
Graziella:’ Alstublieft’. It is so different from other languages.
Sylvain: My favorite word is ‘geweldig’, meaning ‘great’. It is such a nice, positive word I hear my colleagues use many times.
What is your favorite spot in town?
Rokin and Damsquare, it is close to the center and great for shopping.
Any advice for the Dutch?
Take more time and attention for lunch?
Hi Graziella and Sylvain, thanks a lot for sharing your experience and tips. Perhaps with time, the Dutch will discover that lunch can be more than a ‘broodje kaas’ (cheese sandwich) behind your laptop.
@ Graziella, FYI, there is a REBOOK-button that you can use to book sessions with the same tutor, no need to fill in all details each time. Go to ‘My appointments, previous appointments, select, rebook and fill in the new date.
And, of course, thank you Nathalie for helping this family getting around in Dutch.