Laten we gaan!

Malina Tran
Going Dutch
Published in
3 min readAug 26, 2021


Hoi allemaal, mijn naam is Malina en ik woon nu in Amsterdam.

After a day, or several days, of feeling a bit listless, I’ve decided that my Big Goal is to integrate into Dutch society. And one of the key ways of doing so is through language.

Yes, English is quite prevalent here (it was one of the reasons we decided to relocate here). And yes, there are expats who manage to never learn a lick of Dutch despite living here for over a decade. But truth be told, I don’t want to be that person. If that works for them, super! But I want to be able to dig deeper and have an authentic appreciation for the culture, history, and people whose country I am living in. I want to delve into meanings of words that may get lost or diluted in translation—or simply be untranslatable. I want to live more attuned to the world around me.

There is a palpable difference to me when I am chatting online with a Dutch person, for instance, and I speak to them in English versus Dutch (with the help of Google Translate). In English, it’s pretty surface-level and merely transactional. With Dutch, I get people’s backstories: they’re turning 50 and will be hosting feestjes with their friends throughout the year, they’re getting bitterballen with their daughters, their health has suffered since Covid hence why they need an e-bike, etc. I get real-life, unfiltered, raw (and sometimes unsolicited) stories. And I believe these types of relationships are the crux of community-building.

On a more practical level, we also love living here. If we decide that we want to become permanent residents (or citizens 😳) and eventually settle down here, language skills is a huge part of that. Word on the street is that in order to become permanent residents, we’ll need to pass the inburgering exams being able to speak at a B1 level (currently, it’s A2). So that’s good enough motivation for me.

In this process, I will have to overcome certain limitations:

  • Immersive environment: Not being in a daily space that helps me be exposed to Dutch (e.g. office or school setting)
  • Social circle: Not having access to a ton of Dutch friends. I can count this number on three fingers. Having a Dutch partner and in-laws seem super helpful, but this is definitely not in the realm of possibility for me.
  • Track record: Not having successfully learned a language after my early elementary school years (two years of French and four years of Spanish in middle school through college have not been the most successful). I was even enrolled in Mandarin school on Saturdays through elementary school and I would have to say that my Chinese is nonexistent. My family is multilingual and my therapist once joked that my brain decided to shut down and do “English only”.

But, here are my intrinsic advantages:

  • I’m someone who thrives on learning. And I love to learn how to learn. Having goals and making progress toward them excite me! Besides being fairly bookish and academically successful in my early years, I appreciate learning for learning’s sake. As an adult, I knew that switching to a career in tech was ultimately something I’d want to do because it is a fast-moving, changing industry with an infinite amount to learn.
  • I throw myself into the deep end. Literally. I did not know how to swim most of my life and then upon booking a family trip to Florida, I taught myself to swim in a month. I went from never being in a pool to doing front crawls. I would watch YouTube videos during lunch and go to the pool everyday, even if it was to get used to the water (I distinctly remember floating in the water after happy hour one day because I was keen on being in the water but I was too tipsy to swim). I do this with other things (e.g. InDesign, photography, lettering, driving, programming).

With the reasons above—coupled with ample time to dedicate myself to this and being a highly motivated person—I think I have a fair shot at learning Dutch. (I know, tooting my horn, much? 😏) Also, I love me a good challenge and all of the ups and downs that come with the territory.

So, this is me, my why, and my why the eff not…. let’s go!