When and why did you move to Australia?
We travelled around Australia in 2004, and had this really strong feeling of coming home, feeling at home. It is hard to describe. In Australia people work hard, but it also has a culture of leisure and it is less stressed compared to the Netherlands. Ten years later, in 2014, we finally made the move to migrate to Melbourne.
We knew no one when we arrived, my partner was pregnant with our first child and we were unemployed. We had enough savings to hang in there for a few months. I must have sent over one hundred job applications, including the ones I sent when we were still living in the Netherlands. In the end I found a job as an accountant in taxation. My background is tax consultant but was not recognised in Melbourne. I think the two tax systems are very similar, but employers don’t think so.
We will be moving to Curacao, partly because my skills aren’t recognised here. I received an employment offer in Curacao that I couldn’t refuse, so who am I so refuse that? We don’t see it as leaving Australia per se, we like to see it as moving to a new place.
What does Dutch identity and culture mean to you?
In the beginning, we weren’t really looking for other Dutch people. I visited the Dutch Chamber of Commerce a few times, but that was pure business orientated.
It is ok to be Dutch. If you tell someone you’re Dutch, often they respond by telling you they have Dutch heritage too. Everyone is from somewhere; it is a very young immigration country, much more than the Netherlands. I think it is amazing that you don’t have to be ashamed for your cultural background.
We raise our son bilingual, which would not have been an option in the 60s. The attitude towards non-British culture has changed within one generation.
Can you tell us a bit about the Zing! choir?
I cannot remember exactly when I joined Zing!, but it was before it was established. My partner came across it on Facebook and stimulated me to go. She doesn’t sing. I never sang at a choir before, I have played guitar for a long time. Performances are completely new to me.
I have gotten to know many new people and made friends through Zing!. we meet with them outside Zing too, celebrate Christmas together. We also share experiences. Some have lived in Melbourne for a long time and advise us on housing, living in the suburbs (or not), schools for the children or travel tips. Even though some migrated in the 60s, the migration experiences are quite similar.
Choir members have very different backgrounds. one member migrated to Melbourne in the 50s from The Hague and I lived there for a while too, so we share experiences. In the Netherlands my network was quite diverse too, so that is not something typical for migrant.
The differences can make it challenging too, haha! It is important to be flexible and not too fixate on your own needs or desires. If everyone has specific needs and expresses these, we will never agree on what kind of songs to sing or what performances look like. Age, migration history and political orientation are all different. I don’t think there are people who don’t fit.
With Zing! we really present a stereotypical image of ‘Dutchness’. That is fine, it is hard to go beyond cultural stereotypes. For example, in the Netherlands I have never been to a Tulip festival, whereas in the five years I have lived in Melbourne I visited twice with Zing!. Most of the people in our audiences are Dutch or have Dutch heritage.