MeL wanted to find out more about non-English speaking womenâs groups, and the first organisation to meet was the Dutch Womenâs Association, now called De Tulpen (The Tulips). We met Mariette Stijnen in the de Nachtwacht cafe at Patriashy Prudi. On the wall is a reproduction of Rembrandtâs The Night Watch.
How did you come to be working with De Tulpen?
âI came here in January with my children to join my husband who was already here. I have been an expat for 12 years. When I arrived, somebody asked me: âwill you be joining De Tulpen?â I didnât know what she was talking about, so I found out what the Tulips are all about and went to one of their coffee mornings here. I met several Dutch ladies and I thought the group was nice, but it was only coffee mornings they did, and I thought that was a bit boring. Then the lady who was organising the group announced she was leaving, and the group started looking for another organiser. By that time I already had some friends in Moscow, and they said that this is maybe something that would suit you. I thought that maybe I might be able to spice things up a bit.â
What sort of things are you doing now with De Tulpen?
âWe started organising a whole variety of different events, and not just during the day for people who donât work. Our membership has grown from 42 to 65 members now. We are linked with the Dutch Club, but basically we do our own thingâ
âThe Main goal of the Tulips is to provide a social platform for the Dutch speaking ladies in Moscow, do things of interest together and have fun! When you are abroad, oneâs own culture becomes so much more important. Things like mussle-eating, for example, which is very popular back home at this time of the year. More people have started to come; we just had a meeting when 18 women came, and some of them work. A lot of Flemish people asked if they can join us, which is nice. Some Russian ladies who are married to Dutch speakers also join us now. Next month we are going to have an Arts meeting, as some women are making jewellery, also a walk around Serebryany Bor because one of the members lives there. Members themselves are suggesting ideas, so every month we have something different coming up.â
âA lot of Dutch people live out near the schools, in Rosinka for example. Meeting up there is not always the best idea because people who live in other parts of Moscow canât get there very easily. But I live in downtown Moscow, and I have created my own network here, and I find this very useful. Now when we organise something for De Tulpen, it is usually held in the city.â
What is the most difficult thing for people just arriving from The Netherlands?
âThere are problems with finding education for children, but there is a Dutch school which operates on an after-school basis, offering classes in Dutch at ISM and AAS. The Dutch school has now I think 56 children, and it is growing.They follow an official programme approved by the Dutch government and have a minimum amount of contact hours, so sometimes the children attend classes on Saturdays as well.â
How do you advertise?
âWe do have links on the embassy site, on the Dutch Club. So if any new arrivals want to find out about us, they can. If anybody wants to connect with us, please find us on the DutchCub web site and write to me. If people want to go and visit museums, they can do that one their own. But if they want to speak their mother tongue with other people here in Moscow, then here we are.â