October 24, 2006

Inburgeringscursus, or 'In Lebanon, we drive with our arm on the door'

Inburgering; It’s the Dutch buzz word of the moment. Assimilation. These days, it’s all about ‘assimilation’ in the migrant policy of Holland. It seems we experience some difficulties with Arabs that fail to ‘adapt’ themselves to the Western society. We have a great many Arabs that are not assimilated, or ‘ingeburgerd’, as we say in Holland.
Mostly it is because of a lack of understanding. The older generation of Arabs, that arrived in the 60’s, never got the chance to fully master the Dutch language, and as a result were always living on the outskirts of society. This wasn’t much of a problem for the Dutch as there weren’t that many Arabs to start with, and the ones that were there minded their own business.
The Dutch, very conveniently, never did try very much to help them assimilate, sort of hoping that eventually they would go away, or at the very least would not speak up.

Well, obviously they didn’t. They stayed and they got children. Some of them have become Dutcher than Dutch. Others haven’t. They demand that society accept them as they are. Well, you don’t know the Dutch if you think that is going down very well. I know that we Dutch have the reputation of being the most tolerant nation in the world, but I can tell you that it is our general lack of interest in other peoples affairs that is often mistaken for tolerance.

Anyway, we are now having ‘inburgerings cursussen’; assimilation courses for new immigrants. To make sure that they understand that in Holland we do things differently than in the Arab world. We, as Dutch, make relentless fun of other people's religion, or actually we make fun of just about anyhting. 'Afzeiken' we call that in Dutch (pissing off, would be the direct translation). In my family we are quite good at it. And we believe that when living in Holland, you should be a good sport about it.
I had some lessons in assimilation as well, when, on my first interview with Hezbollah, somewhere in 1990, I drove into Dayiha on my Honda cross motor; 150 cc. That did not go down very well with the then press officer, I guy who I only got to know as a certain 'Mr. Mahmoud', if I remember well. Now if I had been a boy, that might have passed. But I wasn't. He was quite nice about it, offered me a green veil as I walked into the office (they do not do that anymore; they have, in turn, adapted to the Western press since then), but he did mention to me that 'when in Rome,' etc etc,' so could I please come in a car next time?
I did.
The government in Holland is having actual debates on these assimilation courses. I am not quite sure what they teach, but all this (yes, all this) came to mind when I drove through Beirut this morning.
The weather was wonderful, so I had my car window rolled down, and my arm resting on the door. “Look Mom, just like you,” I heard my daughter pipe in the back. I looked in the mirror, and indeed, she had her arm resting on the door, just like me.

And it dawned on me that when it comes to driving, I have assimilated wonderfully well to Lebanese society. I even drive with one arm; the other one hangs out of the window. And now my daughter is learning as well.
So if they ever start an Assimilation Course' for foreigners, they should not forget that 'in Lebanon, we drive with our arm resting on the door.'


Maryam in Marrakesh said...

I loved your post! We need assimilation in Morocco...Come swing by my blog, if you have a chance.

Veeshir said...

I've been to Holland a few times and I love the Dutch, I always say they are aggressively tolerant.
That's why I was very surprised about what I read about in Holland about problems with Muslims.

My opinion, as an American, is that Dutch Muslims who think that "tolerant"="weak" are going to have a surprise coming.

Marijke said...

One more thing about our "inburgerings cursus": my 22-year old very Dutch son, who went to live in Holland this summer after living his life here in Beirut, has to do this course! And he even knows the "Wilhelmus" by heart, something his mum cannot say!

Anonymous said...

Nee, dat meen je niet! Wil ik wel eens weten wat ie moest leren op die cursus, ben zeer benieuwd.

marijke said...

Ze leren daar nederlandse taal, terwijl mijn zoon een brief schrijft met mischien 3 of 4 taalfouten, ik wil dat de gemiddelde leerling in nederlands wel eens zien doen. Zijn mede-leerlingen zijn: "ikke nie wete"-niveau. Maar hij leert ook welke instantie welke zaken op hoort te lossen, onze bekende burocratie dus. Het "paarse krokodil" syndroom.

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