I’m not a tourist (anymore) and it starts from “hoe gaat heet met jou?”

Living in a new country, for good, gives me a different perspective about the country itself.

When I lived here, as a student, I felt like a long-term tourist. That means I enjoy my life here like a holiday. I can escape from my routine life in my homeland and have a temporary life in here. It was a wonderful escape and I decided to apply for another scholarship to study here and I managed to get here again.

When I was in my homeland, I can really miss this country sometime. I think it’s not only me who can feel really longing to be back here after studying here. I have friends who also really want to be back here… I think this country put a spell on its new people who stay in for a while. There’s a magic so called “feel homey”.. at least for me.

Who can predict that 6 years after I studied in Den Haag, I’m back to this country again… with my family.

Some old relatives say “the circle is back again” because my grandparents and my parents  used to lived here for years, many many years ago, mainly for studying.

So since 5 months ago, I’m here !!…not as a student but as an official immigrant in the Netherlands.

Do I feel different than before ?

Yes for sure. I’m not a long-term tourist anymore. I’m an immigrant.

As a person who has staying permit card and identity number from the government, I have to integrate. First step is noticing the habit…. and it’s quite intriguing since some of the habits I even didn’t notice back then…. and the first thing I notice is from the greetings ! Surprise surprise !

When I was a student, I was busy studying (oh yeah!) and holiday’ing and meeting up with other students. I have no idea that “hoe gaat het met jouw” (how are you?) is such a serious-warm question… I thought it’s just being polite what-so-ever like a question that you even don’t remember asking that question.

Yes, when people ask “hoe gaat het met jou?” it means they want to know sincerely “how are you?”. So you can really say from “great, good, not-bad, not-good…”  or just put a straight face “hhmm yeah.. so-so” and the conversation will begin.

At first, I always (always!) say “good” then there will be a 3 second pause and I ask back and they reply in many difference answers and I start asking “how”, “why”, “when”… etc.  Now I get it ! The 3 second pause happens because people are waiting for my story. This is a serious-friendship question ! From then on I always try to be honest and sincere and learn to share more about my days, my weeks…

Following “hoe gaat het met jouw”… there is also question like “hoe was jouw weekend?”, “hoe was jouw vakantie?”. At first moment, I felt like… “hah, why my husband always told all the days we’ve been through like… Friday we did this…Saturday we did this, Sunday we went here…” and also the other way around people will answer the same way.

I’m not used to share so many stories of my weekend or holiday so easily… at least in my own culture. I’m afraid people will get bored with my story or some people can think like “why you want to know about my life heh”.

I’ve learnt… in here questions are made with sincere and made to be answered and there will be listening-talking in mutual respect. Nice heh. I have to learn more in this habit.

But those questions only pop-up between friends. In here friends have different meaning than what I know in my homeland. A friend is someone you trust, you know for quite some times.

In my homeland I can call someone a friend even I meet her just 1 hour in a workshop… I can say she’s my friend even I just know her from my friends and we just meet during dinner in the night before. It’s just easy making a new friendship.. or at least call someone a friend.. I can call her the day after and invite her to my dinner with my another friends…. so people can have hundreds friend..

It’s not too easy making a new friendship in here…

A very nice warm conversation for 15 minutes is not enough for exchanging a phone number or at least guarantee that she can be my friend. The process takes longer than that.

Stressing ? A little bit…. but once we have a friendship with someone.. we can proudly said “she is my friend” without any doubt.

Even from the greetings, we already know what kind of answer I have to reply and to whom I can ask “hoe gaat het met jouw”.. certainly not to a person I meet for the second time in my son music cursus and only have 5 minutes conversation in our previous meeting.

So, I’m not a tourist anymore…

I can not just look at this country as a country that I have my holiday.

I have to be able to say “hoe gaat het met jou” and willing to listen carefully (in dutch off course!) and being able to reply openly…

I have to accept that is not easy making new friendship… and thank God I have some good friends here… 🙂 whom lives close to our house ! Yeay !!

I’m not a tourist anymore so I have to stop feeling like a tourist. I have to start doing the Dutch Cursus because I have to take the state exam-NT2-2 (the most difficult one…yeah!!) so then I can prove that I use my Dutch properly.. well actually so then I can extend my staying permit.

Therefore I have to find a really good daycare for Daniel because the cursus takes 2 days/ week @3 hours.  That’s not easy.. all a good daycare already fully booked this year.. (some parents already do registration even when the baby is still in the tummy)

I’m not a tourist anymore so I have to start using my dutch more often…although I will make many mistakes. sighhh… I have to be brave. I have to be brave. Usually I start conversation in dutch then I feel dizzy and start asking ” engels spreken?” and he/she replies “yes” then.. we speak in english. Not good..not good. Be brave using your dutch, Sekar.

I’m an immigrant in a lovely country where I used to feel homey…and now become my home…my new homeland.

I’m living in Holland. I will grow old here… Cheers ! Xx.

Best Regards from Zwolle,

Sekar Steenwelle-Nareswari


10 thoughts on “I’m not a tourist (anymore) and it starts from “hoe gaat heet met jou?”

  1. Mirjam Steenwelle says:

    Hoi Sekar,

    Ik schrijf expres in het Nederlands….;-)
    Wat leuk om zo jouw gedachten en gevoelens te lezen! En wat knap om ze zo in je blog te zetten! Ik ben er zeker van dat het je allemaal gaat lukken! En jammer dat ik niet in de buurt van Zwolle woon, anders had ik zeker wel op Daniel willen passen, haha. Heel veel succes en….ik volg je! 😉


    • Sekar Nareswari says:

      Dag Mirjam,
      Wat leuk dat je mijn blog gelezen !
      Ja jammer dat je in de burt wonen…
      But I hope someday we can meet up !! 🙂
      Fijne dag in deze gloomy mandaag… Veel success…
      Warm groetjes van The Steenwelle in Zwolle. 😉


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