IN A HAZE OF FICTION
Come in, let me tell you a story . . .
Just add culture
by Y.L. Reyes on July 27th, 2014

Amsterdam… a melting pot of cultures and characters; ours is home to many different nationalities and ethnic groups; just like a poster child for openness and independent thinking.
In this city as in many others nowadays, many different groups exist; but there is a difference in Amsterdam which makes it cut away from the norm and be unique. this is, I believe, a fantastic mix. In cities like London or New York the norm becomes its polarity among the population; in this cities ethnic, religious and other types of groups keep to themselves, possibly mixing within similar circles[1]. In Amsterdam a culture of successful integration combined with respect for other cultures occurs faster and with more success. Neigbourhoods like Zeedijk or De Bijlmeer, where the population – due to different factors like low incoming houses and the location of the area – seen once as homes for one particular ethnic group quickly became colorful and mixed areas. Amsterdam in reality is the home of many nationalities and cultures: from artists to students and from Indians to Porto Ricans and everything in between, these types of suburbs represent integration in Amsterdam[2]. This blend is not only found in the burrows but also in its people. A group of friends in the city will contain different nationalities, religions and even political affiliation and yet be friends, enjoy each other’s company and often create happy families. It is the Amsterdam way.

Of course, Amsterdam is not an Utopia[3]. Characters such as Geert Wilders and Mohammed B., can be found, even in a fully integrated society. However, when compared, the country can be proud of its continuous efforts to tolerate[4] and embrace other cultures without loosing its own. Outside and inside the country the Dutch integration process is a topic for discussion. In general most Dutch people see the relative success of the “inburgering"[5] policies as part of their inherent tolerance towards other cultures. They see themselves – perhaps in comparison to other North European countries – as more welcoming to other nationalities. Electing the appropriate government to develop and execute rules and regulations to receive, with readiness, other nationals into their territory.
 
Now who are these “foreigners”? What attracts them to the Netherlands and to the city of Amsterdam? I.e. My story: I have been in the country for 11 years. After finishing my bachelor degree in Law, in the Dominican Republic, I came to Groningen in 2001 to study a Masters in International Law and Human Rights. I confess that, before 1999, I did not know much about the Netherlands.  With the exception of Tulips, Cheese and Erasmus of Rotterdam, this country was of little interests to me. Why the Netherlands then? Love plainly and simple; as many others, before I met a Dutch guy while studying in Santo Domingo and within two years I was in the Netherlands for good. The relationship was, unfortunately, not a success; and in April 2006, I moved to Amsterdam, stood in front of a bus stop and said to myself: “I’m home”.
 
I love this city and everything about it. One can find entertainment, culture and much more, all within a bike ride!. I have made many close friends, and the challenges have allowed me much personal growth learning to appreciate where I am. And wWhat about others? Is this the way nationals of other countries see Amsterdam? Do they feel accepted and welcomed? What is the opinion of those arriving every year looking to have a better life?
 
In this segment, we will discuss a different group from a developing country every month. Bringing their story; what brought them to Amsterdam? What are the challenges they face and are what are their likes and/or dislike about Amsterdam. What is their “Amsterdam Experience”? We will explain what characteristics are inherent of each group; their values and beliefs, with opinions and verifiable facts about how they integrate whilst trying to maintain their own traditions and ideals.
 
This is a brand new section in AmsterDO, to show the many cultures within the expat life in Amsterdam and make your experience in the city even more beautiful.

We hope you enjoy the ride!.
                                                                                                Yahaira L. Reyes
                                                                                                           
Published in Amsterdo.com on October 2012. 
http://issuu.com/amsterdo/docs/amsterdo_october2012_nomap/7
                                                                                                           
Article notes: 
[1]http://ayjw.org/articles.php?id=805911/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_City_ethnic_enclaves
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bijlmer#Bijlmermeer_in_trouble / http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeedijk
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopia
[4] Tolerance is the preferred word in the Netherlands; personally I preferred the word “Acceptance” meaning you not only allow other cultures to be around you but you enjoy the diversity and experiences they bring.
[5] Literally translated as: “familiarization” (http://www.proz.com/kudoz/english_to_dutch/human_resources/831338-familiarisation.html); this is known in the Netherlands as the process to allow all immigrants to integrate to the Dutch society. http://www.internationalalmere.com/2012/01/25/689/


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