Becoming citizens for the first time

Met plezier gelezen? Doneer via Blendle!

As a Syrian refugee in the Netherlands, I had to experience the unexperienced. The journey from a dictatorship to a democracy grants me the chance to taste the flavour of citizenship. Something refugees like me probably had never experienced in their lives before. However, by becoming a citizen, you get rights, and with rights come of course responsibilities.

Besides developing my biking skills on a rainy day, wearing a poncho, and avoiding the cranky bikers in Amsterdam, I believe that becoming an Amsterdammer also means experiencing a variety of things that Dutch society and this city are rich in. Things that Dutch citizens might take for granted, but many refuges experience for the first time.

Like any place privileged with the blessings of democracy and human respect, as a ‘refugee’ in the Netherlands (or any democracy) you experience the unexperienced. For example, it is for the very first time in my life that I receive letters from the municipality that address me personally and by name! And I have a contact person at the municipality with whom I am on a regular contact. And guess what else… Yup, I have also started nagging about its bureaucracy like everyone else here! Back in the days, I was not aware of what a municipality in my country could do other than follow-up with hapless sanitation workers – some of whom were actually secret agents – or to send some grumpy lads wearing black leather jackets (backed by strutting police officers) to demolish a tiny lodging over a rooftop that was illegally built.