“You are obligated to appear",” began the letter from Gemeente Maastricht. My Dutch friends raised an eyebrow, asking what I’d done. Only inquire about entering the local Inburgering program: the provincial course in Dutch language and culture.
After four years in the Netherlands, this is arguably a late development. But with the opportunity for permanent residency on offer this fall, it’s time to get the conversational Dutch up to my reading level (I think I’ve got the cultural bit under control).
So I cycled through the rain to my appointment with the local office at Werkplein, taking a seat among the mingling hopefuls filling the hall at Trefpunt Blauw. My name was called, off to the offices where my passport, residency card, driver’s license, work status, and (inevitably) health insurance card were checked and copied. Then down to business: scheduling a language test, probably in a couple of weeks, followed by the course.
They drilled into the job a bit, reminding me that if I lost my job, I would have to do volunteer work so that I came into contact with Dutch speakers. Since a) I work for myself, and b) I talk to myself, I think it’s unlikely (although neatly circular).
Hopefully it will be flexible to my schedule and located in Maastricht, not Heerlen. They reminded me that the course would need to be successfully completed within 18 months, and stressed that I was expected to do my best.
This last point seemed to be key: “Doing your best” was repeated several times, sometimes punctuated by “Finishing what you start”.
<sigh> If only they knew: those are my driving traits these days.
I promised, we signed a small contract, shook hands, and wished each other well. Probably 15 minutes all told; not too challenging as a first step.