What You Need to Know About Diversity Before Moving to the Netherlands

If you’re embarking on the journey of becoming a Dutchie yourself, one of your first steps might be passing the “Basic Civic Integration Examination Abroad” 

It’s definitely a mouthful, but in practice this means that you have to go to your home country’s Dutch embassy or consulate and go through three exams: speaking (spreekvaardigheid), reading (leesvaardigheid), and knowledge of Dutch society (Kennis van de Nederlandse Samenleving).

The last module is there to ensure you have at least the basic idea about what kind of a society you’re planning to move to. You’ll most likely have at least some sort of a culture shock once you arrive here, but if you’re originally from a particularly conservative country – then there are some questions you’ll have to pay special attention to. 

If you’ve downloaded the resources from the official website, you know that there’s a total of 100 possible questions in the mix. Here’s a list of a few that are there to prepare you for for the diversity that awaits:

Is there a separation of church and government in the Netherlands? – yes, it’s a secular country which means it’s not governed by a religious law.

Is discrimination allowed in the Netherlands? – the correct answer here is no, even though in practice it might not be as clean-cut as it seems (see the source below)

Do women in the Netherlands have more, or the same level of rights as men? – the answer is same, men and women have equal rights. While this definition of just two genders might be outdated in a way, this question should indicate that there’s general equality among genders and they’re not treated differently in front of the law.

Can women in the Netherlands choose who they marry? – yes, they can! I’m sure some people on the volatile dating scene are half-jokingly saying “I’d rather go for an arranged marriage at this point”, but it’s an open market out there. You can marry whoever you want, even if they’re the same sex as you. Though, for Dutch couples, opening a shared bank account is often a bigger commitment than officially tying the knot!

Does the Netherlands have one religion, or are there many religions? – whatever religion you are, I bet you can easily find your church in the Netherlands! Anecdotally, in the first neighborhood I lived in, there were six different churches within a radius of a kilometer! The main national TV channels air church services and religious music programmes on the mornings during the weekend, and there is a number of shows exploring religion and spirituality. With this being such a big topic, I was surprised to see that 55% of Dutch people say they don’t belong to any religion.

Is homosexuality allowed or forbidden in the Netherlands? – the correct answer is that it’s allowed. The Netherlands was one of the first countries to legalise same-sex marriage. Albeit from 2016, the chart below places the Netherlands to the top of the list of countries by attitude towards homosexuality, right after Iceland.

Is it allowed to hit women in the Netherlands? – you’ve got the drift by now. If you were expecting to be able to beat your wife once you move to the Netherlands, you’d better think twice. Still, around 8% of Dutch people fall victim to domestic violence, and it’s twice as likely a woman will be affected than a man.

Does everyone in the Netherlands have the same religion? – we’ve already elaborated on this one, but I guess the person who put together the questionnaire reaaaallllly wanted to make sure you understand there’s more than one religion in the Netherlands.

These might be completely normal things in your culture as well, and perhaps you won’t even think twice about these before you give the correct answer. If not, this is a good moment to consider whether your beliefs and expectations align with the reality of living in this type of a society. 

After all, it’s quite possible there will be a same-sex couple among your neighbors. You will see LGBTQ flags in many places (including schools). You’ll meet people of many religions, and probably walk past lots of different churches on your daily commute. 

If that sounds like a wonderful idea to you – we’re looking forward to getting together for a borrel once you arrive!

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