28 January, 2013

I'm a Dutch Australian!

Late last year at the Expatica I Am Not a Tourist fair, I had the good fortune of meeting the lovely Renee Veldman-Tentori who is a multi-talented social media expert and who runs the wonderful community Dutch Australian.

Renee has a similar (if you use your wild imagination) story to my own.  She met her husband when he was a backpacker in Australia (as did I), she connected with him in the UK (as did I) and moved to the Netherlands to be with him (as did I!).  That's where the parallel lives end, however.  Renee has two gorgeous daughters, is a dual Dutch/Australian citizen (something I never seem to get round to organising...) and moved back to Australia for several years before returning to South Holland early in 2012.

Why am I telling you all about Renee?  Well, I have been spending quite a bit of time hanging out on the Dutch Australian Facebook page, which is an excellent resource for anybody with Dutch and Australian connections (as well as a lively place to just hang out).  Plus, Renee recently featured me on her wonderful Dutch Australian site, which you can read all about here:

Image from Dutch Australian
Right now Renee is in the middle of what is probably the single most irritating factor about being an Australian living in the Netherlands: getting her driver's license.  Like me, Renee has a perfectly good Australian driver's license sitting in her purse, but after living in NL for six months, she is no longer allowed to drive using it so has to exchange it for a Dutch license.  That's where the problem starts.  An Australian license is not recognised as one of the chosen few that may be exchanged.  Instead she has to go through the painful and expensive process of "learning to drive" before sitting exams at €250 a pop.

Wish her luck and join me at Dutch Australian, you'll love it.

24 January, 2013

Circle Party Survivor!

Look what arrived in the post yesterday!

I ordered the shirt from Stu of Invading Holland who is just starting out selling this, and other hilarious t-shirts.

When I first saw that he had designed these shirts I just about fell over myself trying to order.  I couldn't fire off an email fast enough.

Want your own Expat in Holland uniform?  Here's how you can get one:

Go to: http://www.invadingholland.com/invading-holland-t-shirts/
Choose which shirt you want and your size, then send your order to shop@invadingholland.com.  If you want to buy one for all your friends, you'll get a discount for more than three and five shirts.

Stay tuned, Stu has a webshop coming soon!

Will you buy one?  Go on, you know you want to!

15 January, 2013

Inburgering - Big Fat Changes

I’m going back to my roots today at Adventures in Integration.  I’m going to talk about Inburgering, something that I haven’t spent much time thinking about in quite a long time.

You may have heard the rumours flying around about the changes to the Inburgering policy and exams and as I originally started this blog to share my experiences about Inburgering I thought I should do some research and pass on what information I could find and how it will affect you as an immigrant potentially having to take the exams in the coming few years.

The changes are big.  Really big.  They are the biggest changes since the big shake up of 2007.  Some are good, some; not so much.

Let’s start with the big changes, the exams.  The good news is that portions of the old exams are being phased out and replaced by a new centralised system.  This means that the Dreaded Portfolio no longer needs to be an option and neither do the assessments.  It will still be possible to follow this path up until 01 January 2015 if you would prefer, or if you have already begun to assemble your portfolio, for instance.

The Centrale Examen have been altered somewhat.  Instead of the old KNS, TGN and EPE exams, there will now be five portions to the exams.  They are:

  1. Knowledge of Dutch Society - presumably remaining much the same as the old KNS exam
  2. Fluency - From what I can understand, this is the old TGN exam dressed up with a fancy new name as it will still be conducted over the telephone.
  3. Reading - much the same as the old EPE, without the audio/video accompaniment.
  4. Listening - sames as reading, but having to listen instead of reading or watching a video.
  5. Writing - you will be expected to answer questions and complete tasks in written form.  The questions will be electronic, i.e. submitted via the computer, so no need to worry about your doctor’s handwriting...

As I mentioned above, you can choose either the old version of the exams (KNS, TGN and EPE coupled with either the portfolio or assessments), or the new version (KNS, Fluency, Reading, Listening and Writing with no practical component) right up until January 2015.  So you will have plenty of time, depending on how long you have left on your contract with the Gemeente to decide which is the best fit for you.

Another big change, which really affects those of you who have been living here for a long time and can speak Dutch is that the KVT (exemption exam) has been completely removed from the system and is no longer an option.  Instead, you are able to apply for an exemption if you can satisfy the Gemeente that you are sufficiently integrated.  I’m not exactly certain how this will work in practice, but in theory if you have completed a course in the Netherlands (in Dutch), or taken a language course in the past, you may be able to apply for exemption.  However, it appears that this is purely at your Gemeente’s discretion and I would love to be able to get my hands on their criteria to find out if it is a standardised system nationwide or if you will be at the mercy of your contact.  But, I won’t speculate further on that...

Further to the changes to the exams themselves, are the changes to what you pay.  If you were lucky enough to be living in one of the few remaining cities in the Netherlands who was paying residents to integrate up until the end of 2012 and you managed to get a slice of the action, way to go!  For the rest you, you’re on your own.  You will have to pay the cost of the exams (and any course you choose to take) yourself.  It will still be possible to apply for a loan from DUO and you begin to pay the loan back (plus the current rate of interest which is right now set at 0.6%) six months after you successfully pass your exams.  The loan must be fully repayed within three and a half years years of passing the exams and it’s possible to borrow up to €5000, which can be used for either Inburgering or Staatsexamen.  

Now, how much does it all cost?  The cost of the exams is all broken down on the DUO site, but I’ll give you a quick overview here.

The old exams:
  • Practical exam (portfolio or assessments) - €110
  • Central Exams - €140 (KNS - €40, EPE - €40 and TGN - €60)
Total cost (if passing on the first attempt): €240

The new exams:
  • Knowledge of Dutch Society (KNS) - €40
  • Fluency (TGN) - €60
  • Listening - €50
  • Reading - €50
  • Writing - €50
Total cost (if passing on the first attempt): €250

So, taking the old option will save you a grand total of €10.  But that’s without the cost of any course you might take, which can cost anywhere around €600 for three months.  So, taking my own experience as an example, I took eight month to complete my course and exams (so presumably would have had to pay for nine months).  I would be up for €1800 plus €240 for the exams.  Ouch.  If that’s not an incentive to pull your finger out and pass the exams quicksmart then I don’t know what is!

So those are the changes in a nutshell.  The biggest disappointment for me is the doing away with the exemption test, but who knows.  The new exemption application process may be more efficient and cost effective in the long run.

I do love that the portfolio is being phased out though.  This really was one of the most tedious parts of the entire process.  Seriously, “Ik pin geld bij de bank,” is truly ridiculous.  So, there’s at least one positive.

My biggest recommendation in all of this is:  Skip inburgering altogether and go straight for Staatsexamen.  At least then you will be in good stead to move on and study at either a vocational or university level here if you want.  Inburgering gives you none of that preparation.

Over to you now.  How is this going to affect you?  Are glad to have taken the exemption test, or disappointed to have missed out?  Do you like the fact that you will now have some options as to which type of exams you take?

What we are talking about

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