Find a piece of home wherever you are
When I first moved here 15 years ago, it was very different. We always felt invisible, you know, like a stranger to the Dutch community. I didn’t speak any Dutch and needed to learn it from scratch in order to start school and to settle here.
I was older than everyone in my class by many years, and yet starting from ground one like all of them. It was really difficult but I know this is where I want to be for the rest of my life and also for my children. So I never let the problems get to me. I knew I would do everything possible to be successful here.
The Vietnamese community here helped me a lot, starting from small things like being a friend, organizing some gatherings, providing Vietnamese food for us students every national holiday so we felt a little bit less homesick. And then bigger things come along like advice on where to find a house, which schools are good for our kids, laws, and taxes, etc., as we all grew to be more stable and life gets easier and better.
Now, when it’s my turn to give back, I always try to help all the Vietnamese students coming here. I give them a job at my business, give them advice on cultural antiques, explain to them about how the Dutch systems work. And of course, if my wife cooks something nice I invite them over for lunch. That’s the Vietnamese way
Today, I feel like the Netherlands is much more open to newcomers and to people from all over the world, and local communities also grow stronger. If I can give one piece of advice to those who are new to the Netherlands, it would be to get in touch with your national community abroad - they have a wealth of experience, a shelter for moments when you feel vulnerable in the new land, and a gateway to home.
I feel like I finally understand what it is like to be “Dutch” after all these years. I always tell the new students coming here that ‘to completely understand and to integrate into a new culture takes effort, but it’s not impossible. It will take some time, of course. But the journey of integrating and have a feeling belonging is what matters - it teaches you a lot of lessons about not only the Dutch culture, but also your own through the similarities and contrasts. From these things, you learn to embrace both - your roots and where you are now.”