this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
Who does not remember this great speech by Martin Luther King? It changed the world and people became more aware of “the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination”. I wonder, however, how much we all really have learned from these wise words.
More than 50 years later Martin Luther King’s message is as necessary now as it was then…the only difference is that we now talking about segregation and discrimination on a global level and not just between white and black people.
We live in a society where we, as the nation the Netherlands, need to become once more as welcoming as we used to be to people from far away countries. History tells us that the Dutch were once a friendly nation and “Religious, cultural, and ethnic diversity are considered the essence of Dutch culture”. After all…there was a reason why John Lennon chose to have his Bed-In for peace in Amsterdam, didn’t he?
Unfortunately things have changed over the past decades. To such a level that expats now often describe life in Holland as “Hard to make friends, difficult to learn the local language, fit into the local culture and integrate into the local community.”
And I personally was shocked by the Survey carried out for the HSBC Bank. According to the results of this survey (based on 2013 results) the Netherlands are placed on the 18th place, behind places such as Russia and Qatar. But that’s just an overall mark. If you look a little closer at the results you’ll find that the Netherlands rank on a 37th place (the very bottom!) when it comes down to social life, on a 36th place for feeling welcome at work and at a 35th place for making local friends.
The consequence of these figures is clear. According to Jack Steijn, director of ORAM, the Amsterdam Region Business Association, in an interview with Radio Netherlands Worldwide: “We found that lots of them already leave within a year, or two years, and of course we tried to find out why they were leaving. And one of the most important answers is that it’s quite difficult to integrate socially into Amsterdam society.”
With currently more than 1,800 international organizations in Amsterdam and an economy that increasingly so needs international knowledge migrants, we need to become more aware of how we can make expats happier.
As Jack Steijn states in his interview: “Until now, things were happening quite automatically, people came to Amsterdam anyway, and we now find out that it is important for our regional economy to have internationals coming to Amsterdam, working in Amsterdam… so we have to do something to attract those people, and keep them here indeed.”
These facts and figures make that support for expats has become a political issue and is priority for, for example, political parties such as the PvdA and D66. Dennis Boutkan (PvdA) stated that it would be beneficial for expats to learn the Dutch language, albeit not necessary, and that Amsterdam grants 5.000 free places for expats who want to learn Dutch.
And D66 launched their political program in English especially for the expat community in Wassenaar because they want “to include the expat community in local policy making; any measures relating to traffic management, safety & security, education, shopping etc. affect them as much as anyone else”.
Now I share my dream with you…I have a dream that one day all people, Dutch or not, will be able to happily live their life in the Netherlands. They will fulfil their potential and thrive in our nation…I have a dream…
Now I am curious and I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do the survey results confirm your experience? What, in your opinion, needs to be done to make your life as an expat easier? And by whom? Would your decision to leave or stay be dependent on these social issues? Or are there more and different issues that will influence your decision? And what is YOUR dream?
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