‘I feel most Dutch when I check the special offers in the supermarket’

mai hammad photo

Jordanian national Mai Hammad, 37, was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, raised in Jordan and met her Dutch husband in Malta. She loves poffertjes, would like to meet queen Máxima and even eats her chips with mayo.

How did you end up in the Netherlands?
My husband is Dutch, although he lived outside the Netherlands from the age of six. We met when we were both living in Malta. After getting married in Jordan, we were seeking somewhere more suitable to live to start a family. I suggested the Netherlands and as he didn’t mind. We started looking for work opportunities. He found work here first!

How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc?
I’m a mix. I hang out with the expat community and find I have a lot in common – so I’m a bit of an expat. At the same time I did move here with my husband who is Dutch (although we could have ended up anywhere), so maybe I’m a bit of a lovepat. I’m also an international because my concept of home becomes more distorted every day. I was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, raised in Jordan, worked in Malta, and now live in the Netherlands. In addition to all that, I’m also an immigrant because I want to belong to this country.

How long do you plan to stay and why?
We plan to make the Netherlands our home base, but we’ll probably move in a year or two.

Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn?
I do speak Dutch. When I was still in Malta I listened to Dutch lessons and read some Dutch language books. After moving to the Netherlands I took a few lessons. Later I improved my Dutch by speaking to daycare workers, colleagues, neighbours, people in shops, and by listening to the radio.

What’s your favourite Dutch food and why?
Poffertjes! They are heavenly, light, small and delicious.

Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet and why?
I would like to meet queen Máxima because I am told that I sound like her when I speak Dutch; chef Jonnie Boer because he cooks amazing food; and Monique Smit because my kids listen to her CD in the car all the time.

How Dutch have you become?
I think I´m becoming more Dutch than my husband. Every year I put the flag out on King’s Day. I go around the neighbourhood with my kid for Sint Martin and I get excited about seeing Sinterklaas! I feel most Dutch when I check the special offers in the supermarket (I never did that before); when I eat my chips with mayo; when I say ‘gefeliciteerd’ to people on their birthday in English; and when I use ‘gezellig’ because there is no other word I can think of that makes sense.

What’s your top tourist tip?
Don’t focus only on museums and monuments. Go to the parks and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands.
The Dutch like to drink milk at lunch, and it´s impossible to order a pizza before 4pm.

If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do?
I would go to Giethoorn. I’ve wanted to go there since I got here, and as yet haven’t had the chance to go.

Mai Hammad lives in Velserbroek near Haarlem and is a customer marketing manager at SC Johnson.