On a separate note, I just wanted to say that with all my complaining about Dutch grammar and Dutch language being difficult to learn, I realised a few days ago that English pronunciation is even more complicated. The two vowels "ie" together in Dutch are pronounced only one way (right?), but in English, you have "pie", "thief", "pier", "drier", "friend" and probably a few more I can't think of right now. I definitely don't envy people learning English as adults.
Anyway, here's the story of why I've been unhappy the past week.
The Dutch Embassy in KL: FAIL. And I found out yesterday... the Dutch Embassy in Singapore: ALSO FAIL.
I have been making effort towards getting an MVV, which is a temporary residence permit for The Netherlands. Among the things I have to do are to sit for an exam called the inburgering exam, which is to make sure your knowledge of Dutch society and the language are sufficient to live there.
There are lots of information available online and there are official books to buy to practise. But sometimes you just want to ask someone directly about things you're unsure of. Here is my experience with the KL Dutch Embassy.
I would like to ask if, in the inburgering exam, there are one or two nazeggen sections? When I took the sample test from the Naar Nederlands package, there was only one, but I am currently doing some sample practise tests with my teacher, and there are two sections to repeat sentences. It has me a little confused.
Another thing, is there a waiting list to do the exam and do I have to make my appointment to sit for the exam early, or can I just call a week ahead and arrange a time to go to the embassy?
We do not know because we do not take the exams. You will be using the head phones and will directly dealing the exam dept. so I really do not know wheather it has 1 part or 2 parts
Can you believe the way she replied me? I was surprised and annoyed with this reply. How can they not be able to answer my questions "because we do not take the exams"? If they don't know it, why not FIND OUT? What are they here to do, if not to help Dutch citizens and Malaysian citizens? This was my first experience of their laziness. Secondly, they did not answer my question about making an appointment to do the exam. Such a short email and she can miss out this question? It just doesn't make a good impression on me, that this person is not observant and not careful in her dealings with the public they serve.
So I asked again...
How about making the appointment to take the exam? Is there a waiting list, or can I just call up a few days in advance to make the appointment?
After stewing about their incompetence and laziness to find an answer to my question about the structure of the exam, I let them know I wasn't happy with their "We do not know so don't ask us" answer.
Could you please find out if the Nazeggen section has one or two parts? There is no one else I can ask the answer about the Dutch exam as you are the Dutch Embassy. If you can't tell me how the exam goes, how else can I find out? It's really important for me to know and be prepared as this exam, I believe, costs 350 euros and I'm taking it quite seriously.
On Thursday itself, Schrobbenmaster had already called up the ministry in NL to scold them for this. And on Thursday, they told him that there was no problem with the connection. Then on Friday, he called to scold them again. They then told him there was a problem with the exam centre's connection with the KL office and that the IT department would be at work on it immediately.
I couldn't leave it in their already-proven-to-be-incapable hands, so I sent an email to Singapore:
I'm a Malaysian citizen who has made an appointment with the embassy in Kuala Lumpur to take the inburgering exam, but they have postponed my exam TWICE now with the reason of technical difficulties, and it's very upsetting for me.
I was advised by a friend who took the exam last year and faced the same problem. She ended up doing the exam in the Dutch Embassy in Singapore. I was wondering if you could make this allowance for me, as I would rather not wait for Monday to find out that my exam has been postponed yet again.
The reason they give is that there is a technical problem with the exam centre in The Netherlands. If you don't have this problem and everything is working properly, I would like to make an appointment with you in Singapore to take the exam. Your quick response would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Jun-Yi
Then we gave the KL office the weekend and a Monday to sort it out.
On Monday I called the embassy again and she tells me the same thing, that she's still waiting and still not receiving any updates.
On Tuesday (yesterday), I received a reply from Singapore:
Dear Ms Lee,
You need to come in contact with the Dutch Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to make the necessary transfer to this Embassy if you wish to sit for your civic integration exam here.
Please note that our next available dates for the said exam will be from 20 January 2010.
For collection of the approved MVV, one needs to collect at the same Embassy where one had sat for the mentioned exam.
What the hell! 20th January 2010? That is just over 6 weeks from the date I'm supposed to have taken the exam! Will they compensate me for this 6 weeks when my application could be halfway through it's processing? Hell, no!
I forwarded this mail to Schrobbenmaster, who called up the Ministry again and spoke to the head in charge.
And paraphrasing Schrobbenmaster, her reply was:
You don't have to rearrange with KL to do it in Singapore, it's bullshit that the next exam date is 20th January as it's mandatory to have the exam done within 7 days, and you don't NEED to collect the MVV at Singapore, as they should send it over by post and arrange all the formalities.
She was apparently very upset with the behaviour of these two embassies we had asked help from. And she was taking steps to get a solution for us asap, opening an emergency file and setting two people on the case. Which is what has to be done to get these two embassies to buck up and stop passing the responsibility onto each other, as if they can't communicate with each other, and making the public they serve do everything for them.
Additionally, doing the exam in Singapore would have cost us more time and money. Not to mention, my Dutch skills are slowly deteriorating as it has now been a week since I had my last Dutch class. We are expecting to receive some sort of reimbursement or compensation if I have to take my exam somewhere else besides KL. It's their incapability and incompetence that's causing all this trouble and, potentially and probably, a difference in my results in the exam.
It will be 7 days since my appointment to take the exam tomorrow, and we'll see what happens by then. After tomorrow, I feel that we are perfectly within reason to really put pressure on them and, in a manner of speaking, step up the aggression.
Will keep everyone updated.