When and why did you move to Australia?
I moved to Melbourne five years ago to live with my new partner. He is Dutch too and moved here fifteen years ago. I found out I was pregnant with my first child just before moving here. It was a huge surprise, luckily my partner already had a big network with young families who really included me and advised me on all things pregnant.
Having children helped in the settlement process, but can be lonely at times too. I am a music teacher by profession and used to teach at schools and in private settings back in the Netherlands. Finding paid work was a challenge, I began my own business and do a lot of volunteering, on top of being the primary carer of our two daughters. My Dutch teaching certificates are not valid here, but I did teach private piano lessons for a bit. We are thinking of moving back to the Netherlands mid-2020.
What does Dutch identity and culture mean to you?
We are a very Dutch household. We celebrate Sinterklaas, we have Dutch board games, speak Dutch and I decorate the windows in typical Dutch ways. I always bring Dutch tea from home too. My partner says I am still comparing ‘everything’ to the Netherlands.
The Dutch community is very strong in Melbourne. There are playgroups, reading groups, Dutch TV and radio and the Tasman organises all kinds of events. There is a difference between older generation and our generation. For us, it is relatively easy to go back. One elderly couple once told me they simply didn’t have the money to go back. Elderly migrants value their own traditions better too, our generation isn’t really interested in klompendans and other older traditions. In our generation it is stimulated to practice Dutch culture and there are more expats and temporary migrants, that makes it hard to make strong and lasting friendships.
Pictures: Carens decorated windows, clocks with three time zones, and framed picture with take away coffee cup saying ‘Melbourne I love you”.
Can you tell us a bit about Zing!?
As a music teacher, I was always busy with singing and music. In the evenings and weekends I sang in choirs myself and used to work as conductor. Having all these skills was very helpful in finding choirs in Melbourne and settling in. I got to know a lot of people through this and sometimes choir members would say during practise “I will stand next to you, because you know how to do it”. Being a migrant and having to adjust to a completely new environment, it is nice to have these skills acknowledged.
I started with the women’s only choir Decibels in Sint Kilda. Most choirs have waiting lists, do auditions or only do classical music, I am more interested in pop music. Decibels is a great and very diverse group, we all share the love for singing. We have people from France, Spain, Colombia and Germany.
This is one of the few places I feel the same as in the Netherlands.
I conducted a few performances with Decibels and one with Zing! I started another Dutch choir 0031 with members from this area. Zing! practices in the CBD and we are based in the Bay Side. We meet every two weeks and have a great time! We sing and I guide the group with some technical instructions and we have a glass of wine.
We do everything in Dutch, whereas Zing! is mostly English speaking, and only the songs are in Dutch. With Zing! they really dive deep into the culture, the meaning of songs, and they place the songs in the context of history, time and place.
0031 is about Dutch culture too but in a slightly different way. I wanted to create the kind of choir I led in the Netherlands, we focus on modern pop music, instead of covering a broad range from lullabies to songs from 1500. What makes our group Dutch is that we all just are and be Dutch and enjoy singing Claudia de Breij, de Munnik and Anita Meijer.
My favourite song to sing with my choirs is Mag ik dan bij jou by Claudia de Breij