(Dutch) interview immigrants


The Drawings

1)    Oonagh – “Strangely enough, I never used to eat baked beans. I grew up hating tomato beans, never really getting why it was such a popular part of the English breakfast. But then suddenly, as soon as I moved here, I found baked beans in a shop and completely craved it. It was so weird! Now it has become my ultimate comfort food, and it definitely reminds me of England.” The knickers are from Marks and Spencer, and Oonagh says she will never buy underwear anywhere else. “I really don’t know why that is. It’s just the way it is. The knickers have to be M&S”.

2)    Ineke – “To me, home has a lot to do with the people that fill the space. Dinners and get togethers are really important, which is why I drew a table full of people sitting around it. The dog is wherever we are.” Ineke also points out that gardening and art are important when it comes to her living space.

3)    Katie- For Katie, food has always been a big interest and she loves arranging cooking sessions and dinners. “I have space enough for 6 people in this apartment, and I often invite people over. I love the social part of cooking.”

4)    Gokay- Gokay’s drawing is a representation of his ideal home for the future. “It’s somewhere by the sea, maybe in Brasil. A really sustainable house that has space for visitors in the garden so that we can all barbeque. I’d like to have a lot of nice electronics, play good music loud and just have a good time.” He explains.

5)    Erin- “I’m not really sure what this big circle represents, but it was the first thing that came to mind when you asked me to draw ‘home’. The hearts are maybe a bit cliché, but I like to think that I am in love with Amsterdam, which is where I feel at home.” Erin first only drew stick people with no clothing, but then decided to add skirts to some of them to “emphasize that I like hanging with both girls and boys alike”.

6)    Luca – “This is a shelf I made that I have in my room in Milan.”

7)    Shang – “I am drawing my house in Michigan. I love the fact that it’s situated on a big lake so that we can do water sports and go out with the kayaks.” She is also focusing on friends and family that are surrounding her and her home, which usually happened every Sunday. “We call it Sunday Funday, and I really miss it. It’s the best feeling, with everyone being active and always a BBQ after and perhaps some chilling in the hammock.”

8)    Michael – “ I tried drawing the Golden Gate Bridge. And the state of California. It’s very geographical because for me, home is wherever I am and my work, but the geographical factors define where I am from.”


Interview Heide 18 May 2012

Germany, Hamburg

For her home doesn’t relate to the house, city or country she grew up in. A lot of things added to the feeling of home. “I think it has something to do with something that makes you feel good, that is precious to you. It is important for me that’s it’s a place where you can think and be inspired, where you come to new thoughts. And for me that’s not the house I grew up.”
But home does have something to do with her ant’s house, a place at the border of the forest surrounded by a lot of green. It’s now a big house, it was expended 8 times. Her grand parents lived there with her ant. This place gives a lot of freedom, there is a vegetable garden, you can find a place to reed a book somewhere in the garden or to hang up the laundry, there is a lot of space.

“That freedom is something I didn’t know in Hamburg. We lived in a row house, much more narrow and close to other people.” Her ant’s house was always their holiday house.

She showed us a picture of her favorite place in Hamburg: it’s a cafe in front of the beach, you see the big container ships passing by. It’s a bit isolated and you can have very nice food for 5euro. She goes there often with her mom. “So food is very important, you can sit there for hours, looking at the ships.”

“I’ve now been living longer in the Netherlands than in Hamburg”. She lived in Hamburg for 20 years and than moved to Muchen to study. After 3 years she went to Delft where she lived for a long time. She’s living in Amsterdam now for 15 years of which 7 years in this house.

“I realize I’m someone who likes traveling, moving, since I’m very young. I travelled to England on my own when I was 13. I’m a bit restless”. She says that looking for a place where she wants to live the rest of her life and grow old is not something she would do. She’s not even sure she wants to stay in this house, even though she really likes to place. But maybe in 10 years she would like to move back to the city.

“Home is also the feeling of being welcome in a country or a place”. Heide says she still doesn’t have the feeling to be  welcome in the Netherlands. She has the feeling that German people in general are still not welcome in the Netherlands. It’s less than years ago but that feeling is still there. She don’t agree with the image of Holland being an open and welcoming country.

She stayed in the Netherlands because it’s a very inspiring country for architecture. But when you feel you’re not welcome somewhere, you don’t let yourself go, you keep a kind of distance. “A feeling like that has influence on the places I choose to go to feel good. It’s often isolated places, in nature”.
She shows us a picture of her with her husband and his daughter in the kitchen. “I really like to cook, the kitchen is a place where you are together with other people, where you try out things. It’s an informal atmosphere.” She says they cook everyday, and if they have visitors they use to cook a nice elaborate diner. Food was always important at her ant’s place. She is now 90 and still cooks for her selfs every day.

“Home there is also having a long nice breakfast together, still in pajamas and bathrobe. Sitting there for hours and enjoying the food and the company”.

She told us about the tradition of the christmas tree at her ant’s house. They use to cut a tree the day before christmas. Creativity is also an important aspect of the home feeling. Her ant used to be a tailor.
She says that what’s important for her home felling is not the place, but the moments in that place in relation to her mother and her ant. She doesn’t have a good relation with her brothers, that’s why they’re not part of the home story.
Home is also building on something. It’s not that something has to be finished, but that it inspires you to do something with it.

“I realize that home is not something fixed for me, but something that’s moving and temporary”. (texel, their boat…)

She tells about their little beach house in Texel, it’s 2 by 2m. It’s very cosy comfortable, in nature and you have to improvise.
A part of home is inspiration. She is an architect and always looks at facades and what they do with each other, how they interact or contrast with each other. She likes when places and landscapes grow together without being all pre-thought and designed.
What she misses from Hamburg is the harbor in the city and the activity on the water that it brings.
They married 2 years ago. It was a very comic situation, because of the bad weather everything they planned went wrong. But they improvised with the whole group and had a lot of fun. “That you can improvise with so many people and still have so much fun is really unconditional.”  Being yourself and feeling welcome with the people who surround you is feeling home.
Being outside in nature is very important and she would’t want to miss it any more.
She says she feels more integrated in Holland because of her work, but more in Germany because she has closer friends there. The transition of going from Germany to Holland or the opposite is always painful. She has important things in Germany and in the Netherlands. “The real feeling of being home somewhere is lost, it’s always double.”
She says it’s probably less and less that people really feel they belong to a house where tay want to grow up, have children and grow old. People and students are moving more and more.

Interview Erin, 25 May 2012

E.T. : Erin Tasmania

She was born in Tasmania and lived there for two years. She grew up in a tiny town in the outback. It is very isolated there because you can drive for hours without passing anyone. It has 25.000 inhabitants and mostly between 20 and 30 because it is a mine town. It is located in the middle between the east and south of Australia. Still the coast is 3 days driving. She was 22 when she moved out of the town, Mounthiser (?).
She came to Holland because her work visa in London expired. She didn’t want to go back to Australia and she had a working friend who lives in The Hague. She stayed there for a while to get everything arranged with her passport. She hated the Hague because it was really boring there.
When she is telling about Australia she is not really missing it, she could never lived there in the outback. When she was young she new that she doesn’t want to live in Australia. There where no cafes and it is very hot there (over 40 degrees). ‘’I wouldn’t call Australia as my home, it is where I grew up but it is not my home’’. She doesn’t feel really attached to that place as her home, but the people make a place special. She’s got one sister in Santiago, her other sister lives in Vancouver and her brother lives now in Australia again but he also lived everywhere around the world. She said ‘’Because I feel such a strong connection with them we are able to be apart’’. Especially now there is Skype is makes it much more easier. Christmas five years ago the whole family was together, so that was very special.
Erin came to Holland in 1995, but from 2005 till 2010 she went back to Melbourne to her parents. The relationship she had back in 2005 ended so that’s why she went back to Australia and got away from the place where it all happened. But then after five years she really misses Amsterdam a lot and didn’t like living in Australia. Amsterdam really feels at home for here. ”Home is certainly a feeling, definitely the people, and familiarity makes a place a home.
She’s just in love with Amsterdam. Because her parents don’t live anymore in the same place where she grew up she doesn’t really feel any attachments to the place. She has no memories where they live now.
When we talked about home she also mention that is was physical. ‘’There is something with physicality: it is the buildings, the weather, I love the quality of the light here in Amsterdam and that I’m able to walk in my bare skin outside.’’ She only lived in temporary housing, like anti-kraak, for the last two years. She doesn’t have an actual apartment that is a physical home for her. She thinks she has a very romantic idea about Amsterdam but she liked it that way.
She also has a lot of foreigners as friends. She speaks Dutch now for some years. Women are treated like equals here in Holland and because she studied feminism this is really something close to her heart. She sees Holland as the most liberal, tolerant country in the world. But she said that she has to make a difference between Holland and Amsterdam. She didn’t see much from the country so she doesn’t know about the rest of the country.
She had this feeling of freedom that Amsterdam has also in London, she lived there for three years and it was really hart breaking to leave the city. It also takes three years to feel somewhere more at home, as in Amsterdam and in London, the first year she hated it because everything is so weird and new for you. Going to supermarkets and choose your new favorite toothpaste from the 100 you can choose from.
When she was going back to Melbourne people think she was their forever because of her accent but inside she feels like she really doesn’t belong there. It was all new for her. You have these expectations when you are going back home, in another country it doesn’t mind if you’re different because you’re from abroad.
She didn’t went to her town in more than 20 years so she would like to go back there and see if is the same. She explained her nostalgic feeling about the classical image of red dust from Australia. She doesn’t regret the time in Amsterdam, but she wouldn’t be living so long in Melbourne.
She likes being an outsider and feel differently. ‘’I like being a foreigner, it makes me feel special’’. Amsterdam is such a small town, and there are a lot people, that have such different backgrounds and interesting stories.
She liked the fact that she learned this country with her boyfriend who was also a foreigner.
Weather is very important for her because the heat in Australia is really not doable. She was thinking that maybe she is more attractive to the European lifestyle and weather because she has Irish great grandparents.  We asked her is she noticed simmularities on how she experience a new place. For her was London easy to get integrated because of the same language. Her experience of living in London for three years help a lot because, just like in London, she felt really miserable the first year in Amsterdam. So she gives herself enough time to get used to Amsterdam. She tinks it was difficult to now knowing the good places in the city. Locals just want these little secrets that not for tourists. When know those secret places, you’re in!

Presentation Forum 31-5-2012

Interview Katie May 25th

Ineke, May 30th

Oonagh May 30th

Oonagh moved across the pond to live in Amsterdam when she got a job offer that she couldn’t resist. “I was born and raised in Newcastle, went to study in Glasgow and later spent 7 years in London with my husband”, she says. When she was first headhunted, she thought it would only be living in the Netherlands for a short period. “I told my husband (we had just gotten married at the time) that there was an exciting job opportunity for me in Amsterdam and I proposed that we should try it for about 18 months to two years. That was eleven years ago.”


“It is quite unusual, because it is often the woman who will follow their spouses abroad, but in our case the roles were the opposite. He quit his job to follow me here. But it only took him 6 months to find a new job so that was a great relieve.”

Oonagh explains that the impact 9/11 had on Europe made her leave the job she had come for after only 18 months, which made her and her husband consider whether or not to stay in Amsterdam. Several of her clients had expressed that they would still want to work with her if she left, which gave her the possibility to become an independent worker in the Netherlands. “I didn’t really know what it meant, but I was ready for the challenge, so I worked for myself for another three years.” After that, Oonagh spent a year working for another consultant company before setting up her current business with a Dutch friend. “She is basically responsible for me being able to talk Dutch. It felt like a big deal, it really opened up my life. I felt less like an expat, and more like I was accepted in a group that was… Well, not just expats. It was definitely a defining moment in terms of integration since I knew that now I wasn’t going to move back anytime soon.”


Oonagh explains that in terms of feeling integrated, she is experiencing contradicting moments of feeling more and less integrated at the same time. “I was invited to a funeral recently, and I suddenly caught myself thinking; what will it be like? How is a funeral like here? Will I have to sing hymns? Is it religious or not? That moment made me feel integrated because I had been invited by a Dutch friend to attend to her mother’s funeral, but it also made me aware that there are certain cultural and traditional customs that I don’t know.”


She also says that she feels silly when she looks back at some of the things she used to complain about when she first arrived in Holland. For instance how direct the Dutch are. “You can always get something good from what you initially see as a bad habit. Like being direct and straightforward. Everything is much more efficient when you learn to be a bit direct. I definitely learn from it. It might sound daft, but I think I’m a better person living in the Netherlands than I was in England.” She elaborates by saying that London is a lot about chasing status, which is something she has grown apart from. “Sometimes I feel like such a stranger there. I can’t identify with this constant competition of being better than the next. London can make me feel poor, which is just ridiculous.”


The shallow things she used to whinge about are completely irrelevant now. “I don’t need to have everything from all over the world 24/7. It’s actually a sad thing that everything is so accessible these days, we should be better at dealing with what we have around us.”


Three years ago Oonagh bought her first house, in Amsterdam. “It was a major moment. A little later than the average Englishman perhaps, but buying my own house really made me feel grown up. And it was something that happened in the Netherlands, and I’ve never done it in my own country, which makes this place even more like home. The grown up version of myself is here.”


When talking about the issues of tolerance and integration, Oonagh also says that “the line between tolerance and integration is a very complicated one. To tolerate something is to say ‘I accept it, but I might not like it’, but to be integrated is to be welcomed in. I think people get these meanings too tangled up while they are actually quite different.”


“I only go home for the people there, not for the places. I feel more and more foreign whenever I go back to the places I’ve been living. But I’ve realised that I’ve taken on to my mother’s interior style. She keeps giving me carpets that I put around the house, maybe under a glass table, just like she would have done. I don’t know if that’s home or just parental influence, but it is definitely an echo of where I come from.”


Luca – Food from Home