Interview with Tsarina about her book in the newspaper PZC
Natalia came from Russia to Vlissingen and wrote a book about it: ‘Learn Dutch, as soon as possible!’ | Zeeland news
Her book is called ’32 brilliant ways to survive and thrive in a new country’. Learn the Dutch language, is Natalia’s first advice. But also: get to know the Netherlands.
The result is a useful (for newcomers), but also amusing and at times hilarious (for Dutch people) book. Some observations will raise eyebrows. The Dutch man, writes Natalia, for example, is tall, blond and blue-eyed. The woman wears little or no make-up, pulls something out of the closet in the morning without much fuss and doesn’t care about being overweight. She would rather be valued for who she is, as a person, than specifically as a woman.
High-calorie snacks such as apple pie, stroopwafels, bitterballen, fries with mayonnaise, fried fish with sauces, poffertjes with whipped cream and croquettes are highly regarded. How is it possible that the Dutch are so fit and attractive? This is of course due to the bicycle, in all shapes and sizes and even with ‘small baskets’ on it to transport children and dogs. ‘Not dangerous at all’, Natalia writes reassuringly. Moreover, the country is as flat as a pancake. Her advice: get on your bike!
Her sketch of Dutch society is often confrontational and touching, sometimes just a bit wrong. The average shoe size of Dutch women is 42 (!), Natalia notes. All women give birth at home and don’t be surprised if you are helped by an employee with Down syndrome. Because in the Netherlands everyone gets a chance.
Do not expect that you can just invade a Dutchman. The Dutch are careful with their time. And on yours. Everything is planned in advance, from business appointments to household chores and catching up. Typically Dutch: the toilet as a reminder. After all, it is not only the birthday calendar that hangs here, there is often also a bulletin board with memos or the family’s activity calendar.
You’re together for fun, not to fill your stomach, right?
Tsarina Natalia, writer and translator
Tsarina Natalia, who comes from Saint Petersburg, wrote a book about twenty years of integration in the Netherlands: 'First learn the language and the culture!
Those birthdays are also very special. Unlike in Russia – and many other countries – it is not customary for visitors to take off their shoes at the front door. So don’t be surprised that there are no slippers ready. The guests sit in a circle, as if a therapeutic session is in progress. Don’t forget to congratulate everyone else present in addition to the birthday person (it’s not entirely clear why, but that’s how it goes). The guest is welcomed with coffee and cake (Natalia: ‘Start with dessert, brilliant!’) The cake is cut into slices, one for each guest. So do not take an extra point and do not expect any further bowls with meat, salad and other food. Are the Dutch then inhospitable? “No, but you’re together for fun, not to fill your stomach, right?” Which by the way does not mean that you can spontaneously burst into song or start dancing. They sing when the cake is presented and only then. Not exaggerate.
No deep conversations, please
As for the conversation, don’t have an in-depth conversation. The weather, public transport, books or football are safe topics to talk about. At the same time, the Dutch are (sometimes painfully) honest and give their unvarnished opinion, ask unashamed questions and insist on an answer if you try to avoid it. But hey: actually they are quite funny and entertaining in their own way.
Natalia lives in Vlissingen, where she runs a translation agency and teaches language. Interviews with her language students, who shared their experiences as a newcomer, formed the basis for the book. First the language and the culture, then the job, is her starting point. She herself learned Dutch in four months, according to a system she developed herself. She speaks six languages and teaches in Dutch, Spanish, English and Russian.
Who should you talk to in Dutch if everyone starts in English right away?
Her book, written in simple English to reach as many newcomers as possible, is a crash course in Dutch culture annex self-help book for orphaned newcomers. The first chapter focuses on the problems that every newcomer faces. The food is strange, the people act strange, the Dutch is incomprehensible. It seems an impossible task to learn the language. Moreover, no one else speaks it outside the Netherlands. Do you have to start? And how? Who do you talk to in Dutch if everyone starts in English right away? Natalia has one answer to all these objections: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. In other words: go ahead with the goat! Don’t worry about your accent, the Netherlands is a multicultural country. After all, almost a quarter of the inhabitants come from other countries.
Don’t come to the Netherlands for the money
In addition to tips for learning the language quickly, the book also includes information about the housing market and rents, food, the labor market, relationships and dating sites, transport and medical care, taxes, salaries. Do not come to the Netherlands to get rich, Natalia writes. Yes, the people here are happy, but it’s not primarily because of the salaries. The Netherlands is safe, not corrupt, people are free to say what they want and believe. Working people give almost half of their salary to the government so that people who do not have a job can receive benefits to live on. As far as Natalia is concerned, the Netherlands stands up to the comparison with her native Russia with flying colours: less hierarchical, less bureaucratic too. And despite our strange traditions – like those round, fat, deep-fried balls with powdered sugar that the Dutch eat at New Year’s Eve – the Netherlands has become her second homeland.
’32 brilliant ways to survive and thrive in a new country. A new language is a new life’, by Tsarina Natalia, 334 pages for 34.75 euros. For sale at Amazon or at tsarina.info.