Oriëntatie op de Nederlandse Arbeidsmarkt (ONA) exam.

Dear Shallow man, I am a fan of your work. You have helped many people understand Dutch society hence assimilate into this peaceful country with no problem with race relations. None at all.

I have a request. I am an allochtoon (foreigner) who needs to be oriented into the Dutch labour market before I can be allowed to live with my husband in the Netherlands. This is through what is called the Oriëntatie op de Nederlandse Arbeidsmarkt (ONA) exam. The exam is mandatory for black and brown persons because being pleasure seekers; we do not understand the concept of “humanity must work to live”. Thus replicating Rudyard Kipling’s “white man’s burden”, it is the burden of the Netherlands to inculcate European ethics of work to black and brown allochtonen. (The exam is mandatory for people from a lot of non-EU countries not only black or predominantly brown ones).


Having a job in the Netherlands is not enough to pass the exam

Already having a job which should signal assimilation into the labour market; does not disqualify one from this need to be oriented. Now, I am on course for finishing my PhD in a leading university here in the Netherlands. When the ONA exam asked me how I can contribute to the Dutch economy, I proudly declared that after my PhD, I could maybe become a lecturer or work in a research institute. The Oriëntatie op de Nederlandse Arbeidsmarkt (ONA) exam furiously rejected these answers, and it was decided that I had failed to orient myself to the Dutch labour market. Of course, I was initially puzzled by this. Until I talked to a few friends who revealed that I had punched way above my weight. The careers I had suggested meant that I would be giving something tangible to the Dutch, which is impossible because Nederlanders have and know everything. Allochtonen are allowed here only because they can help in “work that supports real work”; like cleaning.

Indian Female Doctor ONA exam Netherlands

Yes, I’ve passed the ONA exam by successfully applying for a job as an office cleaner!

I have now been asked to change my thinking and orient myself with work that FITS me. Because I contributed to my situation by coming here, I must live by the rules of the Dutch. Now I know that even with a PhD, experience and several published articles, it’s sacrilegious to even think that I can work in a research institute. I have set aside my feelings of being commodified, and the racist nature of this ONA because that is not what it is, I am the one who chooses to feel that way.

Shallowman, help me inburgeren better. What work fits Zwarte allochtonen vrouwen?

The Shallow Man’s response

Dear reader, thanks for your message. Obviously, I can feel your frustration with the process. However, I’m duty bound to correct you on a couple of points.

  1. There’s no racism or discrimination in the Netherlands at all. Discrimination is something that happens over the border in Germany, in Brexit Britain or across the ocean in the USA. Please don’t project foreign racism on Dutch society. Remember that racism takes two people. One person to carry out the discrimination and the other to get offended. Stop being so sensitive. Ik ben moe van klagen over discriminatie!  (I’m tired of all the complaints about discrimination). The Keukenhof is about to open and there’ll be lots of pretty flowers, focus on that. Don’t let little things like alleged or actual discrimination get you down.
  2. The ONA exam is there to make sure that foreigners know their place, so rot op met je PhD. What good will that do you when your stacking shelves at the Deen or asking “heeft u een bonuskaart?” at the Albert Heijn? In the words of Uriah Heep’s mother in David Copperfield, “stay humble Uriah, stay humble”.

So what if you already have a job?

The ONA exam ignores the fact that you and other foreigners might already be working in the Netherlands and have successful careers. Apparently, they have such a low opinion of the access to the Dutch labour market for foreigners, that they believe any foreigner losing a job will immediately end up driving a tram, stacking shelves or joining lots of other Dutch ethnic minorities at 6 am in office buildings to clean them.

Therefore they insist that regardless of your profession that you need to know how to apply for jobs that fit your perceived social status as a newly unemployed foreigner.  But, as I said, that has nothing to do with discrimination at all. Neeeeee!

So when retaking the exam, make sure that you tell them that even though you currently work at a Dutch educational institution that your dream was always to move to the Netherlands and to work at a grocery store.  The thought of screaming “WIE IS ER AAN DE BEURT?” and watching Dutch people argue as they shamelessly jump the queue would be far more rewarding than your current job. You’ll then easily pass the exam. If you’re not familiar with Dutch cuisine and the huge array of ingredients used, then this handy starter pack that I’ve posted below will help.

No supermarket shelf stackers were hurt during the writing of this post.