Before moving abroad whether, for a short-term exchange program or a complete bachelor’s program, students often take the following things into consideration;
- Safety of the country they are moving to
- Housing possibilities
- Racism and discrimination
For those considering moving to the Netherlands, the first two points are answered relatively easily. The Netherlands is one of the safest countries in Europe. The housing market for students is tough but it should not be a deterrent when thinking about moving to the Netherlands. However, Racism and discrimination that is harder to define for international students. In my personal opinion the tolerance level in a country is one of the most important things to consider when moving there. And in the Netherlands where the most reported incidents of racism or discrimination being discrimination based on origin, skin color or ethnicity it is not looking like the Netherlands is a very welcoming country to foreigners.
See according to the ministry of internal affairs in the Netherlands the number of reported incidents on discrimination or racism to the police in the Netherlands has been declining over the years. On the other hand, the Amsterdamse discriminatie meldpunt reports a 25% increase in reports regarding discrimination based on origin, skin color or ethnicity. The numbers are thus a little unreliable because while the number of reported incidents is declining it could just be that fewer people are reporting their experiences to officials. A survey by Kennisplatform Integratie & Samenleving (KIS) states just that, 94% of immigrants aged 16 to 20 don’t see the point in reporting incidents of discrimination as reporting these incidents does nothing to stop the discrimination or racism anyway.
Back in March of 2018, Megan Embry wrote an article for the ukrant.nl in which she makes the point of how sometimes the “Dutch directness” can come across as hurtful and discriminatory to some. It’s easy to understand that being called out for something that you personally do not see as wrong is jarring and uncomfortable but the reactions to Megan article basically say, “you don’t have to put yourself through it, find another country to study at which is more sensitive” I believe that such a reaction is like saying if you don’t like it leave, and that’s only reinforcing the intolerant image of the Dutch.
Another reaction you often hear when the Dutch directness is criticized “it is because they are speaking English, that is not their native language and that is making the Dutch appear blunter than they actually mean to be.” So to this, I say NO that is a lame excuse. For many international students, English is not their native language either and yet they still manage to be polite and respectful to others. So, speaking in a foreign language clearly does not make someone rude by default.
Intentions matter, yes, the Dutch can be offensive but, in my experience, often if you say that you feel offended, they will apologize and further explain what they meant and never intended to hurt your feelings. It is important for you to speak up for yourself, one cannot know that you feel offended unless you say so. If you were to ask me are the Dutch racist? No, I do not think they are. At least not intentionally.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views of Phryme Magazine.