‘I used to call myself an expat but am now more an immigrant’

JodiJodi van Keeken-Hamilton came to the Netherlands for love 15 years ago at the age of 51. She recommends a spring visit to the Hortus Bulborum in Limmen, and is annoyed by the lack of facilities for the deaf in the Netherlands.

How did you end up in the Netherlands?
I am one of those women who met their Dutchie online, way back in 1999. We did not meet in person until eight months later. I decided to move to be with him, since I was no longer working, my son was married and basically it was time for ME.

How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc?
I used to call myself an expat/lovepat but now I guess I am more of an immigrant.

How long do you plan to stay?
Another couple of years. My Dutch husband is planning early retirement and I am planning to apply for my Dutch citizenship after being here for 15 years. We then aim to go to America, and try to spend some time with my two grandchildren.

Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn?
I do not speak a word of Dutch because I am deaf and I am unable to hear how words are put together. So I figured I’d better not try to butcher the language. When I arrived, I was pushed from pillar to post and no one wanted to teach me Dutch one-on-one.The council played hide and seek with my husband for about six months.  The deaf services coordinator in Amsterdam said there was no help for me because I was not from a third world country and nor was I a Dutch citizen. They told me to come back when I had a Dutch passport.

What’s your favourite Dutch food?
I do like stroopwafels but as far as food goes, maybe fries? Actually, to be honest, I have no favourites at all.

What do you miss about back home?
My family and the accessibility for a deaf person.

How Dutch have you become?
I do not think I have become Dutch at all. I came over when I was 51 so I was pretty set in my ways.

What’s your top tourist tip?
If you are deaf, go for the visual things that do not require audio description. Visit the zoos, they are pretty cool. In the spring, go to the Hortus Bulborum in Limmen. It is a small but lovely historical bulb garden. Call ahead and you get a real nice person who speaks English during the tour.

Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands.
How small it is, and how wet.

If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do?
People watch and have lunch somewhere close to the water – preferably on the beach at Bakkum.

Jodi van Keeken-Hamilton used to be a counsellor for the deaf and their families and taught sign language and deaf studies.