“I came to Amsterdam in 2005 to be with my Dutch girlfriend. I had met her in Tanzania where she had worked for two years. When she returned to Amsterdam in 2004 I went to visit her for a month. It was my first time outside of Africa. I had read the Lonely Planet guide and my picture of Amsterdam had already been formed: beautiful architecture with scenic canals. It was still strange to realise that the Wallen and the coffee shops actually existed. Something like that would be strictly illegal in Tanzania.
My first and biggest challenge upon coming here was finding work. I was amazed when I found out that people were also paid when they didn’t work. They still do. I was a certified car mechanic and had worked in my brother’s company. I had to start from scratch here, as my certification wasn’t valid. I went daily to an assimilation course and learned the language. My free time was spent doing jobs for the postal service or cleaning. Eventually I did a course in electronics and found a job. I still work for the same employer.
The assimilation class introduced me to the ‘formal’ Netherlands. In reality, things are quite different. In Tanzania our rules and regulations come from when the English were in charge. A boss is a boss and is always right. I was shocked when, during my training, one of the students started arguing with the teacher. In Tanzania it’s ‘keep your mouth shut and don’t react’.
When I was little my parents would give me a quick slap. Communication between parent and child was also very different. A child can ask anything of their parents here. In Tanzania the parent decides when it’s time to talk about certain subjects.
I’m still surprised when it comes to birthdays and parties. The first time I went with my girlfriend everyone was saying, “Oh, what a gorgeous dress!” Or they’d give another sort of compliment. I asked my girlfriend, “Is this a joke? Why does everyone feel the need to compliment each other?” I didn’t think that dress was at all pretty. So that Amsterdammer honesty is something I appreciate.
A party means drinking and dancing. Here, people drink and chat, and chat, and chat. They talk too much. We talk a lot less about out private lives and more about politics. Here people ask things like, “What have you been up to? Have you got a new pair of trousers? Where did you buy that? How much did that blouse cost? Gorgeous weather, isn’t it? Have you taken advantage of the sun?” Why do people need to know all these things about me? I prefer to say, “Come on, let’s dance!”
28 people in Amsterdam have the Tanzanian nationality