Although I have no idea what kind of  people visit this website and read our articles, and therefore do not know who I am reaching while writing this article, I have something to say that comes straight from my heart. This website is a part of  “The Platform for Integration’‘, intended for new residents of Heemstede. And of course, there are a bunch of newcomers in Heemstede, from various corners of the world. I am using the “world” on purpose, because I want to address more people, than just some Amsterdammers who move from their city to the beautiful Heemstede.

Platform for integration, integration means that one becomes a part of the society, but that has to come from both sides. We often say that “the other should integrate more”. But we forget that the other person, who moves to our country, should also be given the chance to do so. In terms of contributing to better integration of newcomers, our part as Dutch / residents of Heemstede, is essential in our municipality.

I was confronted with this again recently. I happened to be present at a meeting of “a neighbor” and a newcomer. The neighbour came by to say thanks for something tasty she had received from the newcomer. She was asked, If she could come in for a moment by the new Heemsteder “Of course”, she replied. When that Dutch neighbor and I were having a conversation about her new neighbours, she told me that people in the neighborhood thought that the new neighbours did not want to connect with others, since their curtains were always shut. I explained it had to do with their culture and religion. The neighbor reacted surprised, relieved, and happy. “Ooohhh, that was the reason. So I could have just rang their bell?” She was completely amazed when the new neighbours turned out to be very welcoming and they could also communicate very wel in Dutchl.

A message to everyone: Get in touch with newcomers (immigrants/refugees). Just start by saying hello and having a chat. And if there is something that “bothers” you, talk about it. Don’t “lecture” others, but just explain if there is any cultural clash or difference. It is possible that the other person doesn’t even know that he / she is doing something “wrong”, that might bother you. Remember that with regard to the initiative to contact, it can more easily come from you, as a Dutch person. It really doesn’t have to be a weekly coffee invitation right away, but just show some interest in the other person who is trying to find his or her way in our country.  I frequently get asked the following questions by the new residents : “How can I talk to Dutch people? With whom? Where? When?” .Every conversation, no matter how small, helps the other one step further. For real! And, believe me, usually people speak better Dutch than you assume. But people are often afraid to make mistakes. “Help them” sounds so dramatic, but let’s call it “pay a part” in their integration