Centre stage to: Cultural Ambassador Mogos
‘Because of the small Samen Hier groups, newcomers can make their voices heard more easily’
The cultural and social differences between the Netherlands and the countries of origin of newcomers are usually big. However, new acquaintances, friends, and colleagues can help refugees find their way in a new neighborhood or at their new job. Unfortunately, many newcomers find difficulty in building a new social network in the Netherlands. A reason for Mogos to join Samen Hier as a Cultural Ambassador. “The small scale nature and informality of Samen Hier allow newcomers to make their voices heard more easily.”
Finding one’s place in a new country goes fastest with the help from friends or acquaintances. Social networks give newcomers the chance to get to know the language, the culture, and the Dutch system. But since newcomers often do not yet manage the Dutch language very well, it is hard for them to build a network of friends and acquaintances.
Cultural Ambassador Mogos also found it challenging to find his place in the Netherlands. Mogos is a data-analyst, 36 years old, and father of four. He lives in The Hague and is originally from Eritrea. He came to the Netherlands in 2012 to study a master’s in International Development Studies in Wageningen. After finishing his studies, he applied for asylum in the Netherlands.
Mogos highlights that many Eritrean newcomers are not familiar with the social manners and cultural habits in the Netherlands. ‘’Because of that, many Eritreans stay silent, while in the Netherlands it is important to make yourself heard. Eritreans do not like to talk about themselves. Dutch people give great importance to achievements and presenting yourself in a good way, but that is usually difficult for newcomers.’’ The individualised Dutch society is also greatly different to the Eritrean culture. ‘‘In Eritrea there is a close-knit community life. In the Netherlands you do everything on your own. That was completely new to me.’’
In the Samen Hier programme, citizens take the lead in the reception and welcoming of refugees in the Netherlands. Samen Hier helps newcomers with a refugee background find a place in society and make them feel at home in a new city more easily, by connecting them to a small group of friends, family members, or colleagues. These social contacts help to understand and overcome cultural and social differences. This is how during his studies, when he had lots of contact with Dutch fellow students, Mogos started to believe he could attribute something to Dutch society. ‘’I made contact with classmates and started conversations and discussions. Because of these social contacts, I started to recognise my talents and learned to rely on myself.’’
Learning the Dutch language is also something that accelerates when you can practise it with the people around you. ‘’The quickest way to learn to speak the Dutch language is to practise and make a lot of mistakes. But many newcomers are afraid to make mistakes.’’ Mogos emphasises that having a trusted social network helps with this. ‘’I agreed with the people around me that whenever I make a mistake, they always correct me. It is important to make clear agreements about this.’’
A little push forward
Mogos emphasises that Samen Hier is of great value for the integration and personal development of newcomers: ‘’It is important that the Samen Hier groups help and give the newcomers a little push to take more initiative, practise the language, and learn about the Dutch culture. The small scale nature and informality of the Samen Hier groups allow newcomers to make their voices heard more easily.’’