On watching 'racy' films

20th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

Expatica's editor hopes to deepen his understanding of the Netherlands with the film made for the new Dutch integration exam. Read how he has got on so far in the Editor's Diary.


I was hoping to spend a few educational - perhaps even stimulating - hours last weekend with a copy of the lesson material for the new integration course overseas. I have been in the Netherlands since 1998 but I know I don't know half of what I should about the country.

I was particularly keen to check out what the foreign media has described as the 'racy' film accompanying the material.

After watching it, all I can say is that the foreign media doesn't get out much. A few breasts on the beach, two guys kissing and a hairy rock fan wearing skimpy underwear are not my idea of 'racy', particularly when the said items appear only fleetingly in a 90-minute drab fest that reminded me of East German propaganda movie from the 1970s.

The major difference between the two is the Communists were proud of their Halfling of a country whereas the bureaucracy of Immigration and Integration Service (IND) has used the integration video to spread the message the Netherlands is a small, cold, wet and unfriendly country.

I am fan of realism and telling it like it is, but I was stunned by this film. It sketches a totally one-sided caricature of the Netherlands and the central message is, "Don't come - run for your life".

The film does concede some immigrants can make it here. A voice asks repeatedly: "Are you up to it?" It seemed to me the makers of the film assume most people taking the test are not.

Why? Because the people obliged to take this test are generally from developing, non-western countries whose background, educational level and culture may be very different from my moderately wealthy western upbringing.

The Netherlands is very open about its desire to cut the number of 'import brides' from Morocco and Turkey. The integration exam is the latest tool being used by the IND to reduce the numbers.

Far from being 'racy', the breasts and gay kissing in the film are a direct in-your-face challenge to Muslims and peoples from other conservative backgrounds: accept it or stay away.

Ironically, the breasts and gay kissing will miss their target audience. The IND's shock tactic was neutralised by the existence of strict bans in Muslim countries on films featuring nudity or homosexuality. As a result candidates in these countries will have the Soviet-style bleakness, but no breasts and no kissing.

It is rather amusing the IND thinks this openness is so normal (and essential) it forgot one can be jailed or worse in other countries for even possessing such images. Yet, it is a silly side issue.

I want to know whether the lesson material as a whole is a useful integration tool. I have decided to study for the test and do a mock exam.

I am slightly apprehensive. As an EU citizen I don't have to take the test. But if I could fail – what would that say about the last seven years I have lived here?

Given that the video starts with a woman explaining how cold the country was when she arrived here without a coat, this exam isn’t going to be a beach party. I will let you know how I get on.

Cormac Mac Ruairi

[Copyright Expatica 2006]

Subject: Life in the Netherlands

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