The Hell of ’63

Have you heard of the Elfstedentocht? Literally translating to the Eleven Cities Marathon, this is a 200km ice-scating race held in the northern province of Friesland. This marathon is the biggest natural ice-scating tour in the world and it tours through eleven historical cities.

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The thing is, it is only held when the natural ice along the entire course is at least 15 centimeters thick. When the ice is thick enough, the tour is announced and then it begins within 48 hours. Every year, the Dutch hope with all of their hearts that the race will be able to go ahead. History has shown that the Elfstedentocht was somtimes held on consecutive years, but then at other times, there can be gaps of 20 or more years where the event could not be held. We are currently in one of those gaps, with this year marking 20 years since the last race (in 1997). It was a great event and a spectacle that attracted an estimated two million people to the province of Friesland and approximately 2,000 reporters from all over the world.

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The year of 1963 was a significant one. The Elfstedentocht of 1963 became known as “The hell of ’63” when only 69 of the 10,000 participants were able to finish the race! This was due to the extremely low temperatures that year, with the average temperature hovering around -18 °C, and there was also a very harsh easterly wind. Conditions were so horrendous that year, that the 1963 winner, Reinier Paping, became a national hero, and that year’s tour itself became legendary.

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So legendary in fact, that the Dutch have made a movie about it. ‘De Hel van ’63’ is a fantastic movie. It gave me a real insight into the Elfstedentocht, what is involved in completing this race, the determination required, rules to abide by, and the pure Dutch pride felt by all those who take part in the race. Even if you think your Dutch is not up to it, please give it a go and watch this movie. You will enjoy it more than you expect!

Kristen

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To be, or not to be (Dutch)?

To become a Dutch citizen or not?  That is the question.

To apply for a Dutch passport via Naturalisation (the legal act or process by which a non-citizen in a country may acquire citizenship or nationality of that country), you must meet at least the following two main requirements*:

  1. Be living in the Netherlands for five years (three years if married to a Dutch citizen)
  2. Show that you can read, write, speak and understand the Dutch language. One method of proving this is by passing the inburgeringsexamen (civil integration exams).
*There are additional requirements you must meet in order to become a Dutch citizen, which you can read here.
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Due to the fact that;

  1. I have now been living in the Netherlands for almost six years.
  2. I have been married to and living together with a Dutch citizen for ten years.
  3. I have passed the inburgeringsexamen.

..it means that I have actually been eligible to apply for a Dutch passport for over two years now. I was aware of this; however, due to the cost of applying for a Dutch passport via naturalisatie (almost one thousand euros!), I have been putting it off.

Now that my five year temporary residence permit is due for renewal this year, I am re-evaluating my options.  After speaking with the IND, they have confirmed that I have two options…

  • Apply for an onbepaalde visum to become a permanent resident for a fee of 250 euros (and 51 euros every five years thereafter to continue to renew).
  • Apply for a Dutch passport via the gemeente (with the IND making the final decision). The fee for this application is now 855 euros and I would be required to attend a naturalisatieceremonie (naturalization/citizenship ceremony). ADDED NOTE: This whole process can take up to twelve months, so check when your visa expires!

Either option allows me to remain in the Netherlands. As far as I can tell, the only main differences between the two (apart from the significant difference in cost), is that with a Dutch passport I could vote (meh) and work for the police force (not happening). If I had been living in the Netherlands for fifteen years or more continuously, the fee for citizenship would have been significant less. Like 800 euros less.

In any case, the sense of comfort and relief that would come with having an EU passport is priceless and I am the only member of our family who does not hold a Dutch passport. As a non-EU citizen, it would be wonderful to be in a position where I can hold an EU passport in one hand and my Australia passport in the other.

For many, to become a Dutch citizen, it also means that they must be prepared to renounce their nationality. Thankfully, as an Australian married to a Dutch man, if I were to apply for Dutch citizenship, I would not be required to sacrifice my original nationality, as unfortunately many others must. To me, that would be an impossible choice, so I’m relieved that I am in a situation where I no not have to make it. I am proud to be Australian and would never want to give this up. At the same time, I really like the idea of being part of a citizenship ceremony here in the Netherlands. I think it would be a very proud moment.

So…to be a Dutch citizen, or a Dutch resident??  Decisions, decisions…

I will let you know once I decide. What did you decide on if you were faced with this decision?

Kristen

Update as of June 2017

Hi all, just wanted to give you an update on this. In January this year, I decided to go ahead and apply for my dutch citizenship via naturalisatie and reluctantly paid the huge fee. My five year residency visa is due to expire this July and I was informed upon application at the gemeente that it may take the IND 6-9 to look into my application and respond! Then if approval is given, it still takes time to apply for the actual passport. I have travel plans in July and do not feel comfortable leaving NL without a valid visa to get back in and well, I would like to continue working (!!)

I waited until May and called the IND in the slim chance that perhaps they got around to looking at it earlier (silly me). Much to my disappointment, they hadn’t even opened my file yet and they also informed me that it would more likely take 9-12 months! This now meant that I would need to bite the bullet and apply for an extension of my residency permit in addition to my citizenship. Even though the IND suggested I wait until June and check in on the once status again, I immediately applied for the visa extension in May anyway just to be sure; I was another 250 euros out of pocket. Then, get this, I received a letter in the mail to say thank you for your application to extend your visa, we will get back to you in August or September with our decision.

So after all my doubled up application efforts and paying 1200 euros in fees, I still have a problem. Apparently, due to Brexit, there is a longer than usual waiting time at the Dutch immigration department. Anyway, after a million phone calls, they have agreed to add a sticker to my passport this month which shows that my visa application is ‘in process’ and I am hoping that will be sufficient at Schipol airport. 

 

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Remembrance Tattoos

During my most recent trip back to Australia, my sisters, mum and myself wanted to do something really special together to remember and honour our youngest sister/daughter that we lost to meningococcal meningitis in the year 2000.

The four of us agreed that we would like to get a small remembrance tattoo. We had been talking about it for several months and in the end, we all agreed upon the following design…

15492440_10155569302997542_577546107262250199_nFour swallows to represent four sisters/daughters. The fourth little ‘bird’ is not fully there but will always be with us in spirit. The swallow represents love, care, loyalty and affection towards family and friends.

As far as location goes, we wanted the tattoo to be somewhere where we could always look at it, so we chose the wrist.

So on December 20th 2016, on what would have been Caylee’s 31st birthday, we did it!! For mum, even though it was her first ever tattoo, she jumped right in and offered to go first without hesitation.

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The tattoo artist did such a fabulous job, keeping the birds as small as possible without loosing any of the detail. We love our little birds!

Although I live on the other side of the world to my mum and two sisters, this tattoo makes me feel constantly connected to them; as though they are always with me and that we are always thinking of each other.

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Tattoos are not for everyone and it is so important to think carefully about what you put on your body before you do it. They are permanent after all. Tattoos can however, be a great way of preserving memories, expressing yourself and remembering those you love. Do you have a remembrance tattoo? Perhaps a tattoo to honour someone or somthing? If so, I’d love to hear what you chose and why.

Kristen