September 12, 2008

Are you integrated yet?

The hardest aspect of being a migrant is to become even more of a local than the natives are, without losing your cool about the lousy and petty things about your new society you've chosen to live in.
In some countries you can do "citizenship courses" that will teach you how to deal with local affairs and situations which may seem very alien to you but are apparently dead normal for your fellow citizens. On the other hand, my experience has also been that many locals hate a lot of aspects of their society but are at a loss over what to do about them, and are secretly pleased foreigners criticise and point out the obvious stupid things or dumb way of doing things, but hopefully without causing too much offence. My particular gripe with New Zealand is the local obsession with open doors and windows and consequently, damp and draughty homes. Double glazing, central heating and warm cozy homes are apparently un-Kiwi and only foreign poofs complain about that.
It's in my nature to be integrated well (I'm pretty much a Waiheke Islander now, considering the amount of moaning and whinging I do alongside my fellow islanders) and to make a point of striving to do so, and when I was living in Britain, I remember being immensely proud of being considered by foreign tourists as one of the locals.
The subject of integration into a new society came up on the Belgian news today when a new handbook for foreigners was launched to help them learn how things are done and life is lived in Flanders. Of course, the first thing you need to do is learn the Flemish language before you can do the online test. But I was curious whether, after 20 years of absence from the country, I would be able to answer those questions correctly. I only answered 6 out of 10 questions correctly, I guess I would have to do the course before ever returning!
We discussed a similar course and test in the Netherlands two years ago.

No comments: