When and why did you move to Australia?
My partner and I visited Australia for the first time in 2004. We travelled around for a few months, we 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 didn’t have a job. We did save up enough money so we didn’t have to work 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 accountant in taxation. My background is tax consultant, but was not recognised in Melbourne. I think the two countries are very similar, but employers don’t think so.
Early 2020 we will move to Curacao, partly because my skills aren’t recognised here. I have received an employment offer in Curacao that I couldn’t refuse. We don’t see it as leaving Australia per se because we feel we weren’t successful, 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. We performed at the chamer once with Zing!.
It is ok to be Dutch. If you tell someone you’re Dutch, often they respond by telling you thyehave 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 ethno-cultural background. We raise our children bilingual, that was socially unaccepted in the 60s. The attitude towards non-British culture 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 70s 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 fixated 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 by definition don’t fit.
I think with Zing! we really present a stereotypical image of what Dutchness is. 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.