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Cecilia
“Chile”

I was born in 1970 in Llay Llay, Valparaíso region, a small town in Chile. I graduated as a secretary by profession.
 
I came to the Netherlands in December 2006. I came to live directly in Almere Haven. At the beginning everything seemed wonderful to me because everything here is very tidy and clean. I was very surprised that the houses had no bars for security and that there were no wires on the street light poles. 
 
It was also surprising that the days were so short and the cold so intense. 
After passing the charm of seeing everything beautiful, came a few years of much loneliness. The hardest part was the language and relating to people.  I remember that I spent the time connected to Skype talking to my friends and family in Chile. It was difficult to meet people here. My ex-husband's friends were few and although they were very kind and did everything to make me feel good, the language was a huge impediment. 
 
Dutch people are very loving and tolerant, but the social circles here are small. To learn the language you have to work hard and with discipline; something that is not easy for us. After three years of living here I started to study the language. It was a very hard period but I met many people who were in the same situation as me. I studied a lot to pass the exams. I managed to get a passport and Dutch nationality.
 
It was several years before I went back to Chile to visit. When I did I could see even more the big difference between my country and Holland. I managed to learn and integrate into the Netherlands.  I started working in cleaning/health and have achieved stability in all aspects. 
 
Making friends with people from your own country or continent helps a lot, because it is very difficult to express feelings in a language that is not yours, and to such different people. Social networks help a lot and I recommend not to give up. It can be very hard but then you can achieve a lot. There is always the opportunity to help others who are coming to this country.
 
When I came to Chile on vacation I felt strange. It was very difficult to feel at home again, I don't feel at home here but I don't feel at home either there.
 
The need to overcome challenges is in you. Here in Holland everything is a challenge like making yourself understood and not repeating a question. However here there is always the opportunity to help and to contribute with your experience.  If I had to choose to go back to the Netherlands, I would. It is wonderful to get to know other cultures and share with so many people from other places. 
 
I don't go back to my country because my youngest daughter came here since she was 9 years old and now she is starting her own family. I just wish she would never get used to living so independently from her family. May she be a little more like Chileans where friends never have to make an appointment to visit her. I hope she never becomes as structured in her daily life as people here are. Structure is fine for me in Dutch families, but we don't need it to be so strict. Being flexible and spontaneous is part of our identity; an Identity that makes us different from this culture. That identity of mine I would never want to lose.
 

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Authors

Photos, Interview and Text: Lyla Carrillo Quan - van der Kaaden
Text Revision: Babette Rondón
Fotostudio website: www.101studio.nl