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Find a piece of home wherever you are


Photo: VSNL - Vietnamese Student Association in The Netherlands

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.


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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

Photo: VSNL - Vietnamese Student Association in The Netherlands

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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.


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Photo: VSNL - Vietnamese Student Association in The Netherlands

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.”


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