Amber (43) has only just started taking swimming lessons: ‘I want to be able to swim with my children’

Amber Badam (43) is from India, but has lived in the Netherlands for fifteen years. He never learned to swim in his home country, but here too he never got around to it. Until he went on holiday in Croatia with his family last year and he did not dare to swim with his children. He then decided to take swimming lessons in Ir. Ottenbad in Eindhoven, just like more and more adults do. The waiting list in Eindhoven has now increased to a year, while there are 26 lessons for adults every week in the two municipal swimming pools.

Amber explains how things work in India: “Friends have taught me a little bit of the basics of swimming. There was no technique behind it.” According to him, most people in India learn it that way.

Fifteen years ago, Amber came to the Netherlands to work here. He speaks the language and his children were born here. They got their swimming diplomas. “Last year we were in Croatia. My children and my friends swam in the sea. I was too scared. I didn’t dare swim in open water.” Because he still wanted to be able to participate with his family, he thought it was time to take lessons too.

For the past nine months he has been swimming with other adults in the Ir. Ottenbad in Eindhoven. “I’m not ashamed of it,” he says. The culture is different. The Netherlands is a water country. Everyone takes swimming lessons here and everyone can swim.”

The beginners’ pool normally contains four-year-old children. Amber also started here. “There are people my age in class. They are all foreign people who are eager to learn. That really motivates me.”

“It’s part of your upbringing here.”

Just like Amber, many adults in Eindhoven want to take swimming lessons. “It is extreme in Eindhoven,” says coordinator Marc Schalks of the Ottenbad. “Most of the time they really can’t swim. They are often also afraid. Then it takes a little longer.”

Eighty percent of adults come from abroad. The majority are expats. The children of these expats first take swimming lessons. “That’s why the parents want it too. They want to be able to recreate with their children.”

In cities such as Breda, Den Bosch and Tilburg there are only a few lessons for adults every week. In Eindhoven, the municipality provides 26 lessons for almost 400 adults. The actual number is even higher because there are also swimming clubs that offer lessons for adults in Eindhoven.

Schalks mainly sees people from India who come to take lessons. This did not happen in India itself. “More swimming lessons are offered here and they are affordable. This is part of your upbringing.”

“For many people it is a step to enter here.”

They have fifteen adults in a lesson. It takes them one and a half to two years to obtain diploma A, just like children. “If you are older and have anxiety, it may take longer. Then you’ll be busy for about three years. I have quite a few of those. You need a lot of patience.”

“I taught an Irish man. He was terribly scared. He took lessons here for five years. When he got over his fear of water, he wept for joy.”

With diploma swimming they always make something special out of it. “We invite family members to watch. We conclude with coffee and cake. We’ll make it a party. I am proud of what they have achieved. For many people it is a step to enter a group of strangers in a swimming trunks or bathing suit.”

Amber is happy with the lessons he has had so far. He sees his self-confidence growing. “When I go on holiday again, I can go into the water with the whole family without any worries.”

Amber did not dare to swim in the sea.
Amber did not dare to swim in the sea.

The ir. Ottenbad in Eindhoven (photo: Rogier van Son).
The ir. Ottenbad in Eindhoven (photo: Rogier van Son).