Interview with Me

This interview was conducted by a group of international students regarding migrant workers in The Netherlands and their integration. What a word integration is. Anybody has a clear idea of what exactly it is? Because I don’t. So when they asked me about it, I tried my best to define and describe it by my own accord. You can also find details about my struggle and efforts to integrate or at least to be accepted. It is not a smooth journey. Perhaps, on others life it is a contrasting difference, but this is my story. I hide nothing from it except the name and place of work.

Q:

Basically, what we aim to do is capture an insight into your experience of being here – what do you feel, what experiences have you been through in terms of your job, you integration, and stuff like that, just to give us an idea, because we’ve not done that, so we’re trying to learn from you how this whole thing works. First of all, we would like to know how long you’re been here in The Netherlands?

A:

I’ve been here since August 2010 and I started working in January 2011 in ***. The office is in Amsterdam-West by the airport about half hour drive from here. It’s been two-and-a-half years. It’s a very professional job and I was surprised that I get it.

Q:

How did you get the job?

A:

I applied online.

Q:

You applied when you were in The Netherlands?

A:

Yeah. My husband is already here since 2007; he studied Computer Science here. He finished in 2009 and then he started working. He invited me over and I had t9o quit my job in Indonesia in July. And so I come here, I didn’t have any job, I want to work. At first, it’s a bit hard, because at the beginning I find out that you had to have a BSN, your tax number. I found out that if you don’t have that you cannot work even to do a janitorial work or washing dishes, you cannot do that. I was so disappointed. And then after my BSN came out in September, I started crazily looking for work, and one of them was with ***, who accepted me in October was the interview, and in November I was accepted and started in January.

Q:

Interesting. So, on that basis, you came in without employment, and your husband was already here. So, did you come via your husband?

A:

Yes.

Q:

In that case, what kind of Visa procedures did you go through?

A:

His resident status right now is knowledge worker, it’s what usually expert gets, and also what a Doctorate student gets. With that status they can invite a spouse, whether it’s a husband or a wife, and then their spouse can come and find a job, which allows me to find a job.

Q:

So, you motivations for coming here were, first and foremost, to do with your husband, or to get a job?

A:

I don’t think about getting a job or anything like that, because people I know, they don’t work after they come here, or if they have their husband somewhere; maybe the US or other European countries. I was quite surprised when they called me for an interview, and then they called me again to say that I am successful and I am like, oh, that’s nice, that is new for me

Q:

What helped you get that job, was it your educational background?

A:

I think it’s mostly because of my experience. In Indonesia, I have 3 years, 3 plus years in data analysis. It’s in one of the most famous automotive companies – mostly Japanese, like they manufactured Toyota, Isuzu, things like that. I worked in the CRM, in data. And *** needed somebody who already was familiar with that. So they trialled me for a year, and they say you’re good, and so now I’m actually permanent.

Q:

So you met your husband back in Indonesia?

A:

Yeah, we met in College back in 2003. I didn’t know that we would come here, when he said he was going to take a Master’s in The Netherlands. I was like, ok, he will come back. And then he found a job, and now, I have to come here. So I had to quit my job and become a full-time housewife. I was thinking about what to cook, what to clean, I’m like, how do I do that.

Q:

Interesting. So you started changing your occupational aspirations?

A:

Yeah. I started to get lazy at work. People higher at work started to say that I know you’re lazy because you think you will follow your husband, but you still don’t know when, so you still have to work hard. And then, suddenly, he said come here. So I’m like, ok, bye.

Q:

So what is your educational background? Is it a Master, Bachelor?

A:

I have a Bachelor in Computer Science. I think what helped me find a job here was my experience of 3 years.

Q:

And you happy working at ***?

A:

Happy, happy, not much. But it’s not about the company; it’s mostly about the integration, because working in another country, another culture, is not like a long holiday, absolutely not. You have so many things to take into consideration: if you just spend a month here, or a few weeks then you will think, oh, this is a nice country, nice people, but when you live with them day-to-day, things can switch a bit, literally.

Q:

So you think that you’ve become integrated into the workplace? You feel like you belong in the workplace? Or do you feel different?

A:

I still feel like I’m trying to integrate. So far my status is not integrated, I’m in the middle. After 2 and a half years, I’m still in the middle.

Q1:

What do you mean by integrated? When you say that you’re in the middle, what do you mean by that?

Q2:

Do you feel accepted as an employee, do you feel different, because of your ethnic background, or anything like that?

A:

Sometimes they think that they have accepted people, but you feel different…

Q:

Shall we resume. Ok. So, you didn’t really have any visa problems, and you came over here because your husband was here. So, because he was already here there’s no problems?

A:

No problems, only the wait.

Q:

The bureaucracy?

A:

Yeah, the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy here is really, really, a long wait. It’s like so long to wait for a visa, for allowance, stuff like that.

Q:

So, have you had difficulty integrating into the workplace?

A:

They actually help me a lot. The office gives me language lessons, so I can at least understand what they’re talking about, but still I’m not confident. Maybe it’s my confidence levels, but I don’t think I’m integrating that well, yeah, that’s the problem.

Q:

Why do you not feel integrated?

A:

I’m not sure if it’s a problem with my confidence, or, because, sometimes when I’m in the workplace, my colleagues speak in Dutch, they talk really fast and use the jargon and phrases like local jokes. And I’m like what is it? and they’re like, you keep interrupting. I have a teacher in the Dutch class, and she says don’t worry if they comment on that, don’t be sad. And I’m like, ok. And so I started to ask like that, and then new one comes along, your colleague and it starts again with him. And they say, oh, you’re funny when you say water, water, it’s water. I replied ‘but this how you say it here, it’s wAter’ and he would say ‘No, you say it funny’. I’m like, ‘ok’, and then another colleague, a new one’s coming, and I’m thinking, ‘not again’. So, that’s actually my problem with integration, it’s language. And it’s like my confidence, if they do that to me. I was just, ‘wow, I knew my (dutch) language is so bad, but… I will use English from now on’.

Q:

Can I follow up on that. So, integration means what for you?

A:

Integration means that I don’t feel heavy anymore when I have lunch with them, or just a causal talk like this. With some, it’s ok, especially with the ones I’ve already known for years, but with the new ones, that’s a bit err, sometimes, people here are so to the point, even when they’re young to the older ones, when they say that’s not right, they will say ‘you don’t say it right… what do you mean? I don’t understand’, and that happened in the front of everybody. I don’t want that comment every time I say something in Dutch.

Q:

So when you said you feel not heavy, and that you want to have casual things, that means integration for you, is language only one of the factors which leave the heaviness, or are there any other factors?

A:

No, actually, integration is not just about language, I know. It’s also about how you appreciate and how you follow people in their local lives. But language is the biggest barrier. Because when you do what they’re doing, you go to their supermarkets, you pay their taxes, eventually you will have to talk.

Q:

On that basis, you feel like you have security in your employment, you feel settled?

A:

Yeah, well, that’s the thing. People who already know, are really patient with me, because they know, they’re correcting me instead of making fun of me, and that’s actually helping me in the workplace. Bu then, if I talk to the whole group, like in a team meeting, and then there’s a new person who doesn’t know me, and they would think, ‘aw, English speaker or foreigner’. So, yeah, sometimes, when there’s a new person, I’ll introduce myself in English so that they know that I’m not speaking Dutch, but then gradually I will try to have a conversation, or small responses (in dutch) and stuff like that.

Q:

So you don’t feel like your employment is at risk because of your non-Dutchness?

A:

Well, it’s a bit, probably I think, maybe in the future, but right now it’s not, because I think that in the future it will be harder for me to move forward in the careers, especially if I go to see clients. Some clients are way up North, or in the South, and they expect no foreigners. They (client) expect me to come and speak Dutch, and so it’s a bit hard because there’s business Dutch and then there’s casual Dutch. So it’s going to be a problem in the future, I know, I worry about it too, because I spoke to my Manager, and he said ‘you have to try to speak more even though it’s wrong’, and I responded ‘sometimes I cannot do wrong because people will laugh at me’. He say, ‘if you keep speaking like that, it’s going to be a problem in your future, because right now the (for my current) level is not important but it could become harder for me to do my job’. It’s going to be a problem I think.

Q:

So, what kind of work do you do? How many hours do you work?

A:

I work 32 hours, 4 days a week, and sometimes I travel to clients, but mostly they are big clients where they have international environment. But I never go far away to a paper factory, or something like that, because they will expect Dutch or Dutch speaking people.

Q:

So, compared to your life back in Indonesia would you say that you have a better quality of life?

A:

If you compare to Indonesia to Europe, that’s going to be a shock. But I compare it to the price of life: how much you spend for your groceries, I send my daughter to the day care, and the how much for her insurance, my insurance, my husband’s insurance, this is actually more affordable than where I come from, because where I come from, we are salaried, and when you go to the supermarket, all of your money’s gone in like half of the month, but here you have more and save.

Q:

What about skills, networks here? Yes is good in my office, I have a network for Expats, and for non-local ones, for diversity.

Q:

Do you enjoy living here; do you enjoy the quality of living here, the environment within which you live? Do you feel more comfortable?

A:

Yes is more comfortable here, where I come from is so hectic even when I come home last year,  I come home every year, then I can see the differences every time I come home is getting more and more, why do I love my city so much, I want to come back, but it’s hard.

Q:

Can you give an example?

A:

Well, the most know is the traffic jam, in Jakarta is traffic jam on Friday until 11 or 12 at night, and here there is no traffic jam, well in the morning and in the afternoon, but not until 12 and  you can reach everywhere with your bike or the bus, and they’re always on time-ish. In Jakarta, when I come home I feel so stressful, but I want to come back, but is so stressful, but I want to come back. And the salary, but I want to come back, my mom is there.

Q:

So, do you stay in touch with your family?

A:

Yes, we stay in touch, we are skyping with them, so yes. That’s what makes me harder to make decisions, to stay here or come back, because each time is, my family is there, they can help me with my children, but when I come back, it’s like is oh, god.

Q:

What about your skills compared with Jakarta?

A:

Here is more, they actually care more about education like your training and stuff, your development, and if you don’t follow training for a few months they call and ask, you don’t have any interesting there? Really? And then I’m ok, I will follow.

Q:

In that kind of context, would you say that the values are different?

A:

I think that they value peoples work, and the results of their work which is different to Indonesia, I don’t know what happens there, it looks like if you work hard, is not enough, but here if you work hard, it’s going to get you somewhere, not all the way up, because you still have to make some connections and networks and stuff, but you will get somewhere.

Q:

So what are the different values that you see in the society?

A:

Probably the most thing is about the family, the quality of family time here is much more better, because in Jakarta people just work, work, work, until late, so they have little hours spending with their children, but here you can even have parental-leave, that is very helpful, after you are pregnant, you can have parental-leave, you can get up to 50% of your work hours until your child is 8, and that is really helpful. They value family really high. They value the parents and also the children, they have to be prioritized, so it’s good.

Q:

So, would you say that you’ve had to adapt to new values?

Q:

No, actually, it’s a nice value, I like it. It’s a different value, but it’s a benefit for me, when I found out I said, oh that’s nice, and I was thinking about the time I had to spend with my child, but after I do it for year I see the difference, I see the actual meaning of that, you can have more, a relationship, a connection with your child, it’s actually a good practice here. In other countries you’re pregnant and you give birth, they’ll give you like one year of maternity-leave but then they won’t give you parental-leave, you can have special leave for like the first day at school, christening, but here they give (the leave) to you until your child  is 8 years old. And if you have a second child, then it’s until the second child is 8.

Q:

Do you get paid for that?

A:

No, they cannot pay you, but they can’t dismiss you because you only work 50% in a week, you cannot be dismissed on that ground and you can have your career. They cannot use it as a reason to not let you move forward, or have a promotion, or something like that. It’s a good thing, a good factor.

Q:

So, would you say that you have more economic rights then?

A:

Economically you will get less salary, but you will get time with children, and you can still go forward in your career, it’s a good thing. But in Indonesia it’s not like that, they say you better quit. So actually, it’s quite surprising for me, and I’m quite surprised that not many people want to have children here, even they have that kind of scheme.

Q:

What do you find different between both societies?

A:

There’s so many differences, the punctuality is killing me here. Because if they say 9 it’s 9, 5 minutes before 9 you have to be there. Indonesian people, if they say 9 it’s 11, or even the next day. When I come here, I will call you, I don’t what to tell. Once there is a non-dutch colleague who came in 30 minutes late and  they (dutch colleague) said to me ‘I don’t like this’, and after the meeting the manager call and said ‘don’t be late again, and don’t show up if you are late’

Q:

Did you find it difficult in the beginning?

A:

I found it difficult until today, they wanted to have a meeting in the morning,  sometimes it’s a mandatory one, and it’s Eindhoven, so I have to go there at 6.

Q:

Do you think that you have adapted to punctuality?

A:

Yeah, I think so. But if they’re Indonesian, then I’m like it’s ok, I wouldn’t wake up early to go there.

Q:

Why do you think you have to adapt to punctuality?

A:

Because otherwise you will make a bad impression, and I think it’s important to remember that, they will say it’s a joke. It’s their values, which they value very highly, you can’t just take it for granted, the whole country is like that.

Q:

What kind of role would you say that language has played in that assimilation?

A:

In the work place language is helpful to have, in the casual situation it’s also helpful because it would help you for networking, that is what language is for, and also for the survival  skills, of course,  to buy something, to get help, language is the most important.

Q:

In different contexts you use it differently?

A:

Yeah, if I call to my insurance, or my doctor, I use Dutch they understand and more tolerant (about my dutch), at work people is more young and varied, and I have some people who laugh at me, but in the general society they don’t laugh at me.

Q:

Ok, but how many languages do you speak?

A:

Indonesian, English, Dutch, (I also learned Korean and French during school/college)

Q:

And so when you’re with different people you speak differently?

A:

If I have to communicate with Dutch people, then that’s when I use it, but with other people I would speak in English.

Q:

Why did you decide to learn Dutch?

A:

Actually in my office every foreigner they have 20 hours for Dutch lessons as an introduction, and I’m good at it, my teacher said, so I got more and more (hours) and I also took the test NT2.

Q:

Did you start the lessons when you started working, or before that?

A:

I start during work.

Q:

How did you learn it?

A:

I followed dutch course given by my office and I talk to my doctor in Dutch, and also if I want to ask questions of people on tax, and sometimes also with my neighbours.

Q:

Would you say that learning the language helps you to integrate? And what is integration for you?

A:

It’s about the feeling that you belong to some place, I think that’s what integration is all about, that you can live in some place, that is integration. The language has helped me because you will communicate better, because I see that locals here really appreciate if you speak the language, even if you don’t pronounce it well, they are really happy that I’m not using English, because some of them are also like me, they are not confident their English. So I speak in broken Dutch instead of good English.

Q:

Do you feel more accepted because you speak the language?

A:

That’s the first thing for acceptance, but it depends on the other people and not just me.

Q:

Would you say that Dutch society is quite accepting of difference?

A:

Yeah, they’re open, but they are not actually that open, I don’t know how to explain, they are open to everything, foreigners, they speak English, they are open minded, people have gay rights here, but there is something about them, they’re like, it’s ok but they’re not going to follow through with it. At the office for instance, you cannot just ask ‘are you gay?’ You can ask ‘do you have a girlfriend or do you have a boyfriend’, but you can’t ask that (gay), it’s a little bit weird, bit really you cannot ask that! But also they have double standard for themselves, because some people when they know there is a foreigner (in the room), then they won’t speak to them at the office. They are actually quite tough on that.

Q:

So you feel accepted, but not fully accepted?

A:

That’s why I don’t feel fully accepted be because I feel defeated if they laugh at me, and then they also sometimes at lunch at the table, some people, not just one, actually don’t talk to me when they are sitting next to me, they don’t start a conversation in English or in Dutch, maybe because they don’t know how to speak to me. That’s the problem with a lot of expats. So they are an open but not that open, if you go to individual they are not.

Q:

Do you think that you could do anything that would make you be more accepted?

A:

I have this problem and I already consulted it with the coach, I have a job coach in the office, he say the only way you can handle it is from yourself, so ‘I’ have to be the one who talks to the guy or the woman that never speaks to me and I will have to say hi to her or him, whether it’s in English or Dutch, and I have to ask how is your weekend? Where did you go on your weekend? It’s a bit hard, I can feel it they don’t want to talk to me, and I have to start the conversation, where did you go on your weekend. Too fake. But to people who want to talk to me or appear so, I would definitely ask.

Q:

Would you say that there is a social hierarchy?

A:

I don’t think is hierarchy, they are not fully accepting as individuals, even the whole country is seen internationally as an open minded, but individual they are very reserved, they are very like ‘I don’t want to talk to you’. I don’t know, maybe this is in my mind. But that’s what they suggest me, to start the conversation, so it means that they will not start it until I start it. That’s why I don’t feel integrated, because most of the time, the effort comes from myself

Q:

So you feel that you are integrating but not integrated?

A:

I’m not sure, I need to open their minds to see what is in their mind. So sometimes I say ok, I can follow the conversation, sometimes I also join in, if there is a person who come in and laugh at me, I think ‘ok I don’t like this’, so that’s a negative point for my integration. And there is also this kind of person who doesn’t want to start the conversation with me and suddenly they join in, in the group, that’s also not good for me.

Q:

Would you say that you feel excluded?

A:

Not completely, only some.

Q:

So, You’re integrating, you’re adapting, but it’s on different levels?

A:

Yes, now I find myself thinking I’m not going to try hard anymore, I’m just going to do it in my speed, I can’t be fake, I don’t want to know where you were in your weekend, I don’t care about you, so I’m going to do it in my speed, in my office most of the people is really nice, and they are actually very friendly, and they are talking to me, and then when this person comes I don’t care, they don’t care, but it’s not a good thing I know.

Q:

Do you encourage other immigrants to learn the language?

A:

I will, I would say to people that you have to learn the language, because otherwise your niceness will be useless because they won’t appreciate that until you speak in their language.

Q:

Is language the most prominent?

A:

For me it is.

Q:

So, you’re economically integrated, would you say?

A:

I have a job, I take to my daughter to the day care, I speak to the teacher, I just do what normally parents do, I talk to my neighbors, I also do what neighbors do with their next door.

Q:

Would you see yourself staying here permanently?

A:

That’s the point sometimes, here is good but of course I can integrate better in my country than here. I have to find myself here, that’s actually what I have to do, every time I come to a party or to a client, I start to think where do I fit in? How do I do that (fit in)? It’s a challenge every time

Q:

Would you see that your Indonesian identity is crashing with your Dutch identity?

A:

Yes I think so. I am Indonesian, I will never be Dutch, I can’t change that. I don’t know about my daughter maybe she would grow up like a Dutch person, but for me I’m not going to try to be Dutch because I’m not from here.

Q:

Is there anything that you would like to add?

A:

I don’t think integration problem is a specific thing for an Indonesian in the Netherlands. I think it happens to everybody who came from outside this country and have to doesn’t speak their language, it’s the same. I think we have the same struggle, but the only difference here is that we have an Indonesian community which helps to build strengths and motivations, you can talk to your friends, and they would say, you can do this, you can do that, don’t think too much. So, actually it’s a good support group for Indonesians here but the struggle is the same.

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