One thing will strike most of Amsterdam’s visitors, especially binational couples: The multicultural metropolitan Amsterdam where complexion, heritage, or origin, never plays an important visible role. In Amsterdam, a visitor can smoke the Egyptian water pipe, eat Turkish bread, taste a Javanese-Surinamese roti or buy African yams and Adire fabrics from Nigeria oft-times from a normal supermarket.
Amsterdam’s largest non-Dutch groups are a consequence of The Netherlands’ trading and exploration history: Javanese and Moluccans from Indonesia (formerly the colony of the Dutch East Indies); the Afro-Surinamese, the Indian Hindustani-Surinamese and the Muslim Javanese Surinamese from Suriname (formerly Dutch Guyana in South America); and Antilleans and Arubans from the Caribbean, have been immigrating to The Netherlands for decades. Amsterdam’s Chinatown resulted from The Netherlands’ maritime past. Amsterdam’s Jewish community reflects the city’s centuries-old tolerance and the outcome of World War II. From Turkey and Morocco, recent groups came to The Netherlands to fill a shortage in the labour market in the early sixties. Recently, Sub-Saharan Africans have arrived as refugees, reflecting Amsterdam’s and The Netherland’s general tolerance and understanding. Unfailingly, a tourist to Amsterdam, will experience a high level of tolerance and easy way of life in the country attested by the friendly smiles all over the place. Here everyone seems to have won a lottery and to be in a good mood. Irrespective of these immigrant communities origin, they have helped Amsterdam come out in cosmopolitan vibrancy and flair unlike any other city in The Netherlands. The communities, each with their peculiar and diverse cultural groups, shops, cafes, bars, markets and festivals, help shape and project a unique international image for Holland.
One of the city’s attraction is the city water boats conveying tourists everywhere via the city’s famous canals. On the water banks, one could see the numerous Boat Houses finely decorated, kept and inhabited by people who voluntarily live here or were forced to live in them through lack of accommodation in this city where land almost equates a scarce commodity. Here in the city is also the legendary Grasshopper where Rockers could obtain their stuff (weeds) without fear of being harassed. We have also had the opportunity to witness the famous Kwakoe Festival:
A Six Summer-Weekends event in Bijlmerpark South East of Amsterdam (Saturday-Sunday, 10 am – 8 pm). The festival culminates in 20 days of pure dancing, eating and other cultural activities. The Bijlmer is suburb part of Amsterdam where many families from Africa, Suriname (former Dutch colony) and the Dutch Antilles live. In the different stands, one could read names of organizations behind the performances of these groups.
Many groups came (African countries) for instance, Nigeria, especially from different parts of Igboland. One unique stand here is the Biafra Stand where the Biafra Sun (flag)and different ex-country emblems were displayed. Not to be overseen was the unparalleled impression left on each visitor at this stand by a very tall man who dressed in an elegant local Igbo national wear and danced joyously to the Rhythms of Osadebe tunes.
In this suburb, we saw the other Holland. People who live in respective quarters have little or no contact to other cultures. Each group here engages itself in ethnic cultures, and the many Africans we met do not speak Dutch, the fact that they have lived in The Netherlands for more than 10 years notwithstanding. One of the characteristics of globalisation is the rapid increase in international migration. Most Western countries have consequently, tried to restrict the migratory flows from peripheral economic areas. A new category of migrants has thus been created: the illegal aliens. First, more than half of the aliens had come from countries which have (had) no direct economic or political ties with The Netherlands. The globalisation of production and politics appears to be accompanied by the globalisation of consumption patterns and information which generates migratory flows.
As a result, the second problem in Amsterdam is that of illegal aliens. Most immigrants of the new generation do not have legal status and thus live in subsistence amidst plenty. A third of the illegal aliens do not hold jobs or do not work for their living. The Dutch case generates a type of illegal alien scene which one finds all over Europe today: The undocumented unemployed. There is the existence of Socially polarised lower-class immigrants in the Amsterdam region. In most places where we went, we didn´t see a different picture.
The houses were these immigrants live (mostly Africans) are old, very close-cluster of high-rise buildings with 10 floors on each block. The facilities are poor and unkempt, security low and the crime rate is very high on each corner in this area: One is welcomed with a reasonable number of vigilance video-cameras. Writing on the same issue Hans van Amersfoort and Cees Cortie in New Community Vol. 22 No. 4: 671-687, © Journals Oxford Ltd believes that “Concerning employment, it is found that the Mediterranean groups, who generally do not display high educational qualifications, are disproportionately affected by unemployment or poor employment prospects.
The Surinamese, who on the whole are characterised by higher educational achievements, have fared better but their situation still compares unfavourably with that of the Dutch. A sizeable entry onto the labour market of young Dutch has enabled employers to demand higher qualifications and language skills even for low skilled jobs. The traditionally healthy Dutch welfare state has to some considerable extent mitigated the adverse effects of de-industrialisation, and this is particularly concerning housing market, where large sectors of the housing stock are under municipal control rent regulations.
Although there is evidence of spatial discrimination within the housing market, the public transport system and the relatively small distances involved make it unlikely to explain the lower employment prospects of immigrant communities. In conclusion, it is suggested that an enhanced focus on education may provide the best means of improving the prospects of The Netherlands’ immigrant groups.”
Fatahu from Ghana while summarizing his experience said “the transcultural experience in Amsterdam is worth emulating… the government is taking corrective measures to streamline the Housing Policies in the areas mentioned. Further, most foreigners in The Netherlands feel at home because of the absence of overt discrimination based on complexion or origin. You are just Dutch whether you are black, yellow or white and accepted with or without the National Language.”