First day of school photos!

Monday M began her last year of primary school – Groep 8 which is essential grade 6 in the US. And Tuesday, S started what they call Middelbare school which is grade 7 in the US. But here it’s one school for the next 6 years. Technically he is supposed to be in grade 8, but we kept him back a year when we first came from Ireland to The Netherlands. This was to give him more time to learn the Dutch language as the level of middelbare school you attend is largely based on school exams and the fact the groep at the primary school was full – and this combination worked out perfectly! Thinking about it, he was kept back two times. When we left the UK, he had to repeat first class in Ireland, as they start earlier in the UK so his British peers are two years ahead of him in school already.

Anyway, this is a big year for both of them. They’ll both grow tremendously this year intellectually, independently and physically. My seatbelt is buckled as the “pre & puberty years” have arrived :). This post won’t be super long but will add a few things to always remember as you both enter these important and confusing years.

It is OKAY to be Different!

You don’t have to be the same as everyone else in order to be important.  It’s okay to be different. In fact, it is good to be different.  Stand up for what you believe, even if at times you have to stand alone.  Don’t give into the pressure to do things that you are not okay with. So if M wants to have some purple in her hair – go for it. If S wants to wear his DRI t-shirt some days, that is fine. But the grandpa sneakers, I still need to think about 🙂

Friends Come & Go – That is Normal!


People change.  I promise you will find lasting friendships in the most unexpected ways and with the most unexpected people. Your best friends from primary school may be there in your life forever or they may not. You will find your crew. Be yourself! Your true friends will like YOU for who YOU are. You will be more confident when you are living an authentic life rather than if you are trying to change to impress people who will not matter in the long run.

Good Grades are Important but Not Everything

Never base your worth on your grades.  Good grades don’t make someone a better person, bad grades don’t make them a bad person.  But you must ALWAYS try your best and work hard! Never quit!

Always Feel Free To Talk to Us

Me and Papa might be the last people you want to talk to when you are going through difficult things at school, but we are ALWAYS here for you. And if you don’t want to talk to us, please talk to a family member that you trust.  We will always have your back. And yes, this includes talking to us about girls or sex or random things.  I know you might not want to but you are both entering some of the most confusing years of your life. Even though it’s hard to believe, we have been there before.

Seems like it was only yesterday, back in 2012, when S was starting his first day of Reception in the UK complete with his tiny flat book bag, school uniform and cool sunglasses.

And a year later Maebh started Nursery School – which she LOVED!

Seeing Abraham or Sarah! A fun Dutch Tradition When You Turn 50!

In the Netherlands turning 50 is considered an extremely special occasion and one that’s typically marked with the installation of a large life-size doll (of an elderly man or woman) in your front garden for the day (or a few hours), often with a corresponding sign that reads “Abraham 50 jaar” (Abraham 50 years old) or “Sarah 50 jaar” (Sarah 50 years old). It is a tradition that honours a person gaining wisdom through experience.

How timely this post is – our Queen, “Koningin Máxima” becomes 50 tomorrow!

Of course with COVID, parties are not able to happen but doesn’t stop this fantastic tradition. Your house, office or even both will be decorated by your friends and family with posters, banners, balloons and, mannequins and as mentioned above, a life-sized doll of YOU. I absolutely love it and while I’m not looking forward to becoming 50 (a few short years) my kids are both well-aware that I EXPECT a Sarah outside 🙂

Depending on what the person looks like or interests are, there are various companies here which you can hire the inflatables.

Here is photo of my neighbour’s Sarah. As she has red hair, it’s very appropriate.

And on Friday, this was put up for my other neighbour – he’s bald so also fitting!


The phrase “Abraham gezien hebben” is actually rather appropriate, as it’s based on a passage in the Bible, John 8: 56-58. In this particular passage, Jesus is engaged in discussion with the Jews, who ask him: “You are not yet fifty but you have seen Abraham?” Jesus replies “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am”. The Jews are clearly surprised at this answer, because Abraham had in fact died before Jesus was born. Back in those days, it was very rare for people to turn 50, therefore, it was a very special occasion! People would look up to you and you would be seen as wise. As Sarah was Abraham’s wife, hence that is used for females turning 50. It is also common to bake a cake, bread or cookies in the shape of a male or female figure.


You can also carry on the tradition for each decade of a person’s life after 50, although these are not as nearly as popular is Abraham and Sarah. Also sometimes when couples are married for 50 years, they also get a big overly decorated house too!

  • 60th Birthday – “Isaac” or “Elisabeth” birthday
  • 70th Birthday – “Jacob” or “Anna or Lea” birthday
  • 80th Birthday – “Joseph” or “Deborah” birthday
  • 90th Birthday – “Anthony” or “Ruth” birthday
  • 100th Birthday – “Methuselah” or “Judith” birthday

What do you think of this tradition? Would you love it or hate it if you had a big doll outside your home? I know some cultures wouldn’t like this but I LOVE it. I often stop and take a photo of the houses I see decorated. The one above is around the corner from my house – so brilliant stopped my bike just to take the photo and congratulate the person decorating outside. You must always congratulate! 🙂

Happy 11th Birthday My Girl!

My Dear Maebh,

Like I always say at the start of every birthday “it’s so hard to believe that x number of years ago I held you in my arms for the first time and looked deeply into your big, beautiful eyes.”  Well, this year it’s #11 baby!   You have officially become a “tween” on this birthday, in between childhood & teenage years.  Not a day goes by that I don’t look into those same huge eyes with a love that has only grown since the day I first saw you.  “My girl” as I said at Mass General Hospital when they handed me to you.  Totally in shock as I was CONVINCED you were a boy!   

What does  “TWEEN” actually mean for you? In these ways you struggling in between as a “TWEEN”

In between women and girl clothes.

Still finding your style – and looking forward to fitting my clothes – especially all my SHOES!

In between kids meals & adult entrees.

In between cuddling stuffed animals and texting on your phone.

Liking a boy one day & not the next.

Wanted to stay up late but exhausted!

Some days you are struggling in between, I see the changes. I see how your little face still lights up and I see the way you feel when I don’t understand you or when you are annoyed with me. I was once here too my girl… a tween wondering why don’t they get me. In fact, today at 46 I sometimes think the same thing – why don’t they get me! 🙂

I’m not going to write a huge letter this year highlighting what is going on in your/our lives.   You can also read last year’s letter here. There has been, no doubt, challenges but what also has been is GROWTH.  You have developed more this year and will continue to grow.  Both physically my little peanut but emotionally, intellectually and socially!   Continue taking those “small steps” is all I ask that you take and you’ll see how far you can overcome any obstacles blocking your way. 

There is not a day that goes my which we do not have music & dancing, laughter & creativity in our home. And you know why?  It’s because YOU are so creative and warm that you bring that out in all of us.  Whether you are teaching me a new Tik Tok dance or making a fidget toy in your room and proudly showing us, your creative brain is always buzzing. Look at these plain white garden shoes you decorated on a whim! I’d never think to add little daisies to them – but that is your creativeness. I know you’ll never lose that sparkle and shine! 

I’ve not often said this to you because we have not yet really hit the “puber” hole which we are about to dive into together [along with your 13 year old brother – help me 🙂 ] but know that I’m your mother first and your friend second. My job is to guide you through the tough waters ahead, keep you safe and help you grow into the woman you’re destined to become. My decisions won’t always be popular with you, I’m sure you’re realising that by now when I say no to some things.  But, no matter what, I love you unconditionally and nothing, absolutely nothing, will ever change that my girl.

With Covid still keeping kids birthday parties from happening, I know as an 11 year old you are disappointed in the fact that now two years in a row you have missed out on a party. You were, however, able to celebrate nicely surrounded by family and loved ones and that is what matters most. A decorated house, a Christoffel tart, presents and well-wishes from so many near & abroad – and a new Oodle – you were one happy girl this birthday.

We are all so proud of the person you are Maebh! Continue to be yourself – don’t conform stay true to you. One way is we’re putting in that pink or purple hair dye this weekend because that is what you want, not mama 🙂

Love Mom! xxx

Happy 13th Birthday My Boy! I love you to The Moon & Back!

My Dearest Soren!

First off, I won’t write an essay as I’ll tell you a lot of this to your face, but I’ll write something here, so you can look back in the future like you do at my “old lady Facebook posts” which I love to show you – like your first day of preschool back in Boston or your first goal in soccer or your first missing tooth.

It is hard to believe at times that you are now 13 – a real teenager. It seems like yesterday, you were this tiny baby boy everyone was so excited to meet.  Wait, it’s hard to believe you were in my belly and your father was ordering a frigging “Pupu Platter” while I was in labor for two days. Oh wait, I’ve got another story – got ahead, roll those beautiful green eyes, I know I’ve told you this many times but when you are a dad one day you’ll appreciate it. When you were crowning and the Dr. came in the room and asked me if I wanted to feel your head and I replied (very seriously “don’t I have to wash my hands first?”  To think that wasn’t even CORONA time. 

Fast forward many years and here we are about to embark on your THIRTEENTH birthday! While I wish you nothing but an awesome birthday for you and an awesome year, too, I know this year continues to be a hard one for us all. We live in the time of a looonnnggggng lockdown here in the Netherlands, no fun birthday parties like last year’s Karting party, no Oeteldonk carnival, no special events, the country is full of unrest due to “some people” who have made bade decisions to cause havoc. Your Oma Cora just passed last week which was sad for all of us. Over the years, you were tasked with a lot – having to grow up in many countries, changing schools despite not wanting to yet again, starting over with new friends, learning a new language, new houses and new people. I also realize this means you’ve had people you care about enter and exit your life – some at your choice and some not. You’ve had to leave sports teams you really loved, One day, you’ll look back at these experiences and know that you’ll make it through this and like all the other challenges you’ve overcome – stronger. My boy, over the last thirteen years, you have experienced far more than any child your age should have experienced, and yet in the words of someone far wiser than I.  On far too many occasions you dried MY tears, snuggled up beside ME, held MY hand and gave ME the strength that I was lacking. Even now, you still do and I am grateful for that! Right now at 13 we look eye to eye – I know this is the year which you’ll over take there, so now I’ll look up to you both literally and physically.

You’re not perfect, you and I both know that, and there are times when you drive me crazy, and I know vice versa!  🙂 When you fight with your sister, or when I see the state of your homework minutes before it’s due or when you refuse to back down in an argument or insist you know best, but I would NOT change it for the WORLD.

Academically you are doing well despite this independent home schooling in DUTCH (as mum doesn’t speak Dutch)  yet you still have no idea just how clever you are or how far you can go in this life if you apply yourself correctly. I cannot wait to see what the future brings you as you embark in middelbare school. I challenge you to Surround Yourself by People who Make You Better – Seek friends and acquaintances who are as smart or smarter than you and kinder than you, wiser than you, stronger than you. You will learn from them and you will rise to their level, if you are not already there. Don’t get dragged down! I tell you this a lot and I’ll tell you this again – don’t pretend to have confidence and look cool, and then sit at home alone wishing you were so confident. Be strong, put yourself out there – make friends and be a great friend.

Again, I won’t make this a novel, though I could, I talk enough to you daily – probably so much you keep those wireless headphones in to tune me out 🙂 I type that jokingly but I know partly true – I’m always here for you to talk – just say the word and I’m all ears. But I’m also going to keep asking, about your day, life, friends, school, troubles or worries just in the event you want to talk – mom is all ears!!

PS Notice I didn’t mention or tease you about girls 🙂 I’m trying!

Love your biggest fan,

Your Mom!

Book Review: “Guy Stuff the Body Book for Boys”

Over the past couple days, I binge listened on the Libby App to an entire audio book – Decoding Boys.   Written by Dr. Cara Natterson, a board-certified pediatrician and the NY Times bestselling author of American Girl’s Care & Keeping Of™ series for girls. I first came across her when I was searching about puberty and what to do for my son.  It was in her Ted talk and all her books, the one thing she keeps reiterating is that the world talks to girls about puberty and that as parents we need to keep talking to our boys!   Because they shut down and get quiet and retreat does not mean they don’t need us to talk to them!

So as a mom of a soon-to-be 13 year old, whom I think has begun puberty, I needed all the facts and NOW! I don’t ever recall having conversations with adults about body changes, periods, etc. and when I asked couple friends, they too had very limited talks (some not at all) – so I figured, I’d get out in front of it now. Also being that we live in the Netherlands and Europe for the past 9+ years, they see/hear and are given information a lot differently than they would had they been growing up in Boston.

Puberty doesn’t have to be scary. so I bought her book “Guy Stuff the Body Book for Boys– to help guide him (AND ME) through this awkward rite of passage. When I saw she wrote a boy edition, I thought I’d buy it asap. The paperback book is nicely illustrated and divided into 7 chapters:

Chapter 1 – BODY BASICS
This is a general overview – how important it is for you develop healthy habits now which will set you up for healthy habits in your life!  It stresses the importance of asking questions and talking to various trusted adults in your life not a computer. Breaks down basic facts about boys’ bodies and explains the common changes of puberty – you will: grow taller, sprout hair, sweat more, develop muscles, see changes in skin and hair texture, get a deeper voice, see changes to private parts, and experience new emotions. 

Chapter 2 – HEADS UP
Literally covers everything boys need to know to care for their head & neck.  Including hair care, eyes, oral hygiene (like braces), skin care – acne and importance of using sunscreen.

Chapter 3 – REACH
How to care for arms & chest – hands, nails, how to wash and use deodorant, underarm hair that develops.  Managing Stink – controlling body oder, and possible temporary breast enlargement.

Chapter 4 – BELLY ZONE
All about the abdomen – the fact that bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Shares detailed info on healthy hydration, food, nutrition, and essential vitamins and minerals. Especially the importance of drinking water and other drinks – both positive & negative and a lot about pee – how to use urine color as an indicator. 

Chapter 5 – BIG CHANGES
Starts out that some changes are clear and some are super private.  Talk about hormones start to circulate in the body and that causes – changes in pubic area and even talks about circumcised penises, different types of underwear – pros & cons.  Erections and nocturnal omission – a wet dream. It even covers shaving – changes in voice and mood.

Chapter 6 – GET GOING
Talks about legs and height.  Growth spurts, pains and importance of exercise and enough sleep, bed-wetting & rest.  Foot care – like athletes foot, blisters and foot odor.  Sports safety and the importance of physical activity.

Chapter – 7th YOUR INNER YOU
This section delves into new feelings and emotions boys may be experiencing during puberty, including topics on peer pressure and bullying, plus letting guys know that it’s not only okay, but healthy, to express their emotions – not bottling up feelings.   

So in may ways the book is very inclusive. The illustrations show a good representation of difference races. Talks well about different rates of development.  Body sizes, explains that all people have hormones – and reviews testosterone and a bit of others. But… it does leave out some things which are essential and need to be discussed in the future. Perhaps because it was written by an American doctor it takes a more medical fact-based approach, but it doesn’t cover gender identity of sexual orientation, masturbation and does not explanation reproduction, consent, pornography, sexual desires – the emotional and/or physical attraction you’ll have with another person. As said above, it does talk about an errection and nocturnal omission – the wet dream, however!

Overall I do think it’s a good first book for boys to get to know about the body and emotional changes – perfect for the younger age range (10-13). I think it’s a good book to have in his room where he can refer back to what is happening to him.  When my 10 year old daughter saw it, she asked if she could also read it. I’ll certainly allow it but want to her also be informed, so I’ll look at getting her the Care & Keeping Of™ series or a different type book which overs things relating to her.

Some takeaways I took from Decoding Boys and Dr. Natterson’s TedX talk include: ask them questions but let them talk.  A tip she gave was don’t make eye contact (makes them more comfortable and be sure no screens are in their hands – they will be 100% distracted!  A little prodding, they’ll open.  In fact, I think my first “talk” went quite well… he was very curious.  I know this is not going to be the norm – but I know I should NOT GO AWAY!   I’ll give him privacy, knock before entering (have to work at that one).  I understand he’ll be moody and needs his own space, lots of food and we all need patience!   

Do you have any books (or sites) which you recommend for helping guide boys (and me) through puberty?

Update: I was taking with a Dutch friend here about getting a book for my 11 year old daughter and she recommended to me Het Puberbook – written by Sanderijn Van de Doef. I’ve attached a few photos for you see – how it is VERY detailed and also very factual. It touches on a lot of the things the above book doesn’t. One catch, it is only in Dutch, so wouldn’t work well for those who cannot read it.

Inburgeringexamen – My Experiences & Tips On Passing The Dutch Integration Exams! “Ik Ben Klaaaar… But Am I “Ingeburgerd”?

My heading is a bit of a joke – Ik Ben Klaar! Back story was that a younger woman (I’d say early 20’s) in my first course would irritate the sh!te out of me and the person who sat next to me. Mainly because she had a workbook which was already filled in (clearly by someone else). When the instructor assigned us quiet work, she’d slam her pencil down and scream aloud – “Ik Ben Klaar“! Then when it was time practice time, she couldn’t speak Dutch and would contribute NOTHING! Then would be absent for a few days and then re-appear and begin shouting “Ik Ben Klaar” again – gosh we hated when she’d be assigned to our group. Anyway, wish her all the best … I really do!

I can still remember back to my first days here in the Netherlands – I was one of “those Americans” who didn’t think they had to “inburger”.  Married to a Dutchman, living together for so many years (even inside the EU, I thought I was in the clear until a few weeks after our arrival – a letter came – staying I was, in fact, inburgeringsplichtig!    Wait what?  Me?! I mean, I did agree to start learning Dutch but I now have to take actual exams within a period of 3 years and pass them to be allowed to stay.  I was truthfully a bit scared at this… could I do it?!

What if you don’t pass my exams in the time frame?

Well, if you don’t you can receive a substantial fine ((boete) €1,250 and then given two more years to pass. But really after being through it, I really think you need a very valid excuse to not pass! You have THREE years and it’s a level A2 as of now. Well if you are completely illiterate and have never learned to read or write – than I do think that would be the only real issue. But you can first take a literacy course and then go on to learn Dutch, etc. I met a woman who went this route and she was given a LOT of extra time.

You keep hearing American’s are exempt – Is it true?

Turns out American’s are only exempt from taking the “basisexamen inburgering buitenland” – which is an exam that some people (depending on which country you come from) have to take BEFORE arriving in the Netherlands. This exam is mandatory for non-EU/EEA nationals from countries who require an authorization for temporary stay (MVV); nationals from an EU/EEA country, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland, United States of America, and Vatican City are exempt.

That is the ONLY thing we are exempt from.  Well – actually unless, of course, you are not here on an EU/EEA family visa and are here on DAFT or a Highly Skilled Migrant visa (aka 30% ruling) than you also don’t have to take the exams. But but you don’t have the same rights and permanent visa that we have.  If you end up coming on one of those visas and changing, then you will, in fact, have to take the exams too.., so fair warning don’t wait – start learning Dutch.

Essentially the civic exam “diploma” is needed for some nationals to have the right to live and work in the Netherlands, to obtain a permanent residence permit and to apply for a Dutch passport. You may need to renounce your current citizenship when you apply for your Dutch citizenship. Again – exceptions and exemptions to that too.

How long – THREE years to pass all required inburgeringsexamen!

Once you become inburgeringsplichtig in the Netherlands, you have three years to pass all the exams.  “Inburgering” is simply this – integration into Dutch society.  It covers an elementary level of Dutch language (it’s really so you can get around, interact with people, answer simple questions and pretty much survive here), as well as, an understanding of Dutch culture and society.  It’s also a requirement for a lot of people who wish to stay in the Netherlands who are not a part of the EEA/EU.  Due to the ever changing status of the laws, I can’t say whether you will, or will not ever need to sit an Inburgeringscursus.  If you’re like me, and considered to come from a ‘civilised’ country, you’ll probably just have a recommendation to take a couple Dutch courses and take the exams within 3 years of registering with the IND.

What level of Dutch is required?

As it stands today, end of Dec 2020, to pass the tests your Dutch should be at a high A2 level.  Well actually you only have to get a 60% to pass so you could do it with a lower level but if you are like me and you want to have a good score you need a bit more knowledge.  And I say bit loosely – you DO NOT NEED too be fluent in Nederlands to pass.  If you’re starting from scratch I would advise taking an elementary Dutch course.  You need to understand the gajillion rules (so much I still don’t understand and mix up especially when speaking) …. Things like sentence structure, irregular verbs, word order, etc will make your head spin unless you consistently use it.   

When should I take the exams? 

As I said above and often talked about in the new news – it is worth noting that the Dutch government is planning to raise the level of the inburgering exams to level B1. They have been saying this for a while, so I don’t know when it will take effect. I DO, however, really understand why. A2 level is really low to truly function in society.  However, if you have been living in the Netherlands between 2013 – up to July 2021 you do stay in the A2-level inburgering category.  Click here on this link from DUO with a bit more information.   This information changes and there is even talk that even if you passed your A2 level exams, you must be at a B1 level to receive Naturalization!  But just today, December 4, 2020 – I read they are not going to B1 – YET!

Let’s talk about the actual exams.

The Inburgering exam consists of several parts: Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, Knowledge of Dutch Society (KNM), Orientation to the Dutch Labour Market (ONA) for those who came to the Netherlands after 1 January 2013 and Participatieverklaring for those who came to the Netherlands after October 2017.

I wrote out the order which I personally took my tests.  Note: You don’t have to take them in any particular order, and yes, you can take them all on the same day.  Some take this approach, but I wouldn’t do that. Some procrastinate and have no choice but to cram them all in at the end, others, cannot take time off work and find one day suits them best. For me, spreading them out worked best. 

This is essentially knowledge of the Netherlands – including history, some laws, job hunting, buying houses, famous landmarks, politics, Dutch education system, geography and social behaviour of the Dutch.  All multiple choice. I am certain that one I got wrong was relating to social welfare and education streams depending on which middelbare school level attended – I now know all the ways thanks to my oldest going off to middelbare school in September.   

Listening exam – basic reading comprehension.   You read a paragraph, answer questions . Again – multiple choice. 

Listening exam – a bit like the reading comprehension – only listening.   You watch a scenario – normally two people talking and you answer questions.   Again – multiple choice. 

To do the speaking test, you have to respond to short videos using a few sentences of spoken Dutch for each video. Like the practice exams, after the recorded speaking part you then watch videos and you pick the answer based on the question asked. Look at the practice exams online – they follow the same format. You are in a shared room with other candidates. You wear a headset with a microphone which is hooked up to a PC. Your spoken Dutch response is recorded and played back later for assessment.  This was all okay but I found it REALLY distracting when the worker is walking around and stood behind me a lot – talk about embarrassing!  TIP: Answer in SHORT complete sentences.  Don’t babble on as you’ll have greater chances of mistakes.

Written exam – you are given a booklet and a pen with four different exercises which tests your writing skills.  It is important to re-read the question twice to be sure that you write about everything that is asked; do not miss any point asked of you or you lose points.

In addition to the tests mentioned above, you will also have to create a “portfolio” as evidence of your orientation on the Dutch job market. Once you have completed this task, you send your portfolio in online.   Once it has been approved, you then have to come and speak about your portfolio. One or two examiners will ask you questions about your portfolio, mainly to test whether your answers are authentic. All this of course in Dutch. This takes around 35-40 minutes and this was the most nerve wracking to me. Unless you take a specific course (€€€€€) on this topic, you have to have an end interview to review your portfolio.

If you have a permanent paid job contract (which you work so many hours in the past 6 months  you can apply for exemption). I don’t currently have a paid job so I had to do this.  Also they have recently added some additional reasons for exemptions as they have a real backlog in this test for interviewers so maybe you can be exempt from this process. Truthfully I put this one off to the end as I thought it was the hardest and most difficult but when you actually set your mind to it and look what needs to be done, it’s not that difficult – especially if like me you are legitimately looking for a job.   You have to show that you know the Dutch labor market, can make a CV, cover letter, know how to search for jobs, and have a plan.

Same with all the tests, when you arrive at your test center, you check in and you must leave all things in your locker.  Jacket, watch, telephone, etc. You are not allowed to bring anything into the room with you except your ID.  NOTHING! In past exams, they walked around the room with a special hand-held device to test if someone had any electronic recording equipment taped to them. Apparently there was a big scandal some years back.

When you register at the local Gemeente, you are supposed to immediately get a letter that says you have to learn what is important in the Netherlands and are invited to a two-day workshop. After a 2-day, 3-hour workshop, you have to sign the declaration. This piece of paper is called the participation statement. By doing so, you state that you will actively participate in Dutch society and that you respect what is important here in the Netherlands. 

  • Everybody in the Netherlands is equal.
  • Everybody may choose their own partner.
  • Everybody may choose their own religion.
  • Everybody is allowed to go to school.
  • Everybody can say what they think. But it is not allowed to discriminate against somebody else.
  • We take care of ourselves. But we also take care of each other. The government helps when needed.

My class was very interesting to say the least – we had a mix of different cultures and religions and values so at times conversations became intense.    Largely aimed at Middle Eastern societies as the workshops emphasized the difference between Dutch and Muslim beliefs/practices. For example, here in the Netherlands, parents cannot force you at 16 year old to get married; it is acceptable to wear a bikini on the beach; you don’t have to wear a headscarf (many continue to do so – some don’t); kissing in public is normal; Dutch society accepts same-sex relationships, and so forth.

Results – How & when do you know if you passed?

Typically you know your results in a few weeks for the computer-based exams. You can log into the website and check if you passed, but you’ll always get a letter in the mail with the grade (cijfer). The ones where a human must correct – Speaking & Writing can take up to 8 weeks. (And now with Corona up to 12-15 weeks). Again, you only need a 60% score to pass the exams. You can keep retaking the exams, if you don’t pass, BUT you need to keep paying. I paid a total of € 290 for the tests.

Actually I joked that now that I passed my exams, I need to actually learn real Dutch now.  Which while I’m joking, my intent is there… Not sure what my exact plan is yet, but improving my Dutch and most importantly my speaking is essential.

How do you get your diploma?

Outside of the current “corona time” you would have had to pick it up. But now, once you are finished with the exams, it is automatic. So you don’t have to do anything special to receive your diploma, it will just be sent via registered post and arrive at your house. It is supposed to requires a signature, but I found mine in my mailbox without a signature. Don’t care – just happy I have it in my hand.

Costs & Preparing for the exams.

In the past, the courses for Inburgering were subsidized by the city councils but now you are on your own. Costs are really all over the place. To give you an idea, my first course was €1,300 for 8 weeks (9 hours a week)! DUO offers loans for select schools – but that I was not interested in doing. Truthfully in this day and age of the internet, you can do a lot (if not the entire exam preparation) self-study, if you wish. I think if you know zero Dutch, it’s best to start first with a beginners course (A0-A1) to get the fundamentals down. Check with your local library for free classes and Spreektaal groeps normally it’s for people with A2 or above but that is the level you should be at for the exams so it’s yet another place for “oefenen” practice! Then read, listen to podcasts and use the internet for additional resources if you don’t / can’t take a class.

There are also plenty of resources available on the internet which will help you to prepare and determine if your level is high enough to pass the tests. Just go to Google and see what suits you. The most important place is the OFFICIAL site = The practice tests here look EXACTLY as the format of the real exams so that is a huge help.  Of course, the questions differ – but it gives you the score at the end.  Very helpful in preparation. If you pass these exams consistently, then you’ll do okay with the actual exams.

I think Ad Appel is the second-best place to go for help.  They are a language school in Aerdenhout with an online based classes. But they also have so much valuable FREE information on the internet including Facebook groups and loads of Youtube videos!

Curious how YOU would do on these tests? 

Click here and you’ll see all the practice exams on the official site.   They take about 20-40 minutes each and you don’t need a login try them. I’d love to hear how you did if you tried one. HINT: Listening is the easiest!

My Top Three Tips!

Write & Speak in SHORT sentences.
Don’t Wait – take the tests now before the level goes up!
Practice, Practice, Practice on and speaking as much Dutch as you can.

Final thoughts.

Just because you pass your “Inburgering Exam” doesn’t mean you are Inburgered or does it? 🙂 There is a funny blogger – AmsterdamShallowMan which I highly recommend posts some funny things. Here is a post about 10 Ways To Fit Into Dutch Society.

For example – as I don’t own a car, I use my bike. So I take my PMD bags to the dump – yes it looks funny but I’m not the only one who arrives with yellow bags hanging on their handle bars. I try to shove them in my saddle bags as I have issues using my hands to signal 🙂 That big blue thing is toilet paper shoved under the seat as the bags were full with my shopping.

Keep in mind – this is all based on my personal experience. In the end I am glad to have it done over with. My level of Dutch is somewhere between A2-B1 based on the tests I’ve taken. But speaking continues to struggle because I just don’t do it often!! The benefit of the Inburgering is that you know more about Dutch society – so it is all about Integration – hence the name of the exam itself. But the Staatsexamen NT2 is a better choice for those who purely want the language without the fuss of integration! I guess it all depends on your budget, time and visa requirements.

I personally think the Dutch government should invest a bit more in immigrants and offer them packages or a ways to incentivise them to learn the language at a higher level. You are basically left on your own to sink or swim. I do know that they do offer some support for people who never had the opportunity to learn to read and write even in their language, or for people who do not know the Roman alphabet. While I’m sure it’s not perfect, but I think Germany does something great by subsidizing the courses – everyone pays less than €2. per session. So much more affordable than the courses offered here – which can cost several thousand.

What do you think? Did you try the exams above? How did you do? Have you also passed (or in the process) of doing your Inburgering exams here in the Netherlands?