Amsterdam: a city that is as much loved as it is despised. During the 17th century Amsterdam was one of the most significant cities in the world; it was the hub of trade, science, art and even military successes. Not because it was the strongest city, but because it was smarter than others. In the 21st century, some people resent Amsterdam for still thinking of itself as a leading city, while in their eyes, Amsterdam is nothing but faded glory and the memories of better times. And the people who inhabit Amsterdam? Oh boy – they are arrogant, proud, complacent and not at all interested in anything that happens outside of their sacred city walls. They hide their foreign immigrants in far-off districts outside the highway ring. Above all, they are loathed by many because they allegedly look down on people that come from the ‘province’. While many Dutch people hang on to the highly valued right of freedom of expression, I do think that these expressions can be formed too quickly when someone does not have the complete picture of a situation, one of which this is a schoolbook example – I think.
One thing people seem to forget here, is that the Amsterdam population is actually almost entirely made up of people who come from the ‘province’ or countryside. Amsterdam was big in the 17th century because of the immigrants that came and took all their knowledge and experience with them. Almost all Amsterdammers have their roots in one of the smaller cities or the innumerable small towns, and a reasonable number are from outside of the Netherlands. Even when people have traded their hometowns for the capital, which, I must stress, is not unusual in any part of the world, they haven’t forgotten where they came from and certainly do not look down on it. From experience, one of the first questions you are asked when meeting a new person in Amsterdam is where you really come from. A question asked out of genuine interest.
Admittedly, the ideal image of Amsterdam as a mingled and mixed multicultural city is as of yet unquestionably not realised – but segregation is hardly something in the hands of the common people. They cannot be held accountable because they don’t have the power to decide where people are going to live. Besides that, it works the other way around as well: if I was forced to move to a new country and city because I was not safe in my own country anymore for whatever reason, I’d prefer to live with people who have the same culture and have the same mother tongue as I do. The blame, if there is any, is not on either of these groups, but they could indeed both try harder to meet somewhere in the middle.
Lastly, the verdict of the Amsterdam people being too proud and conceited is in my belief nothing but mere prejudgments. And any opinion based on the Ajax hooligans cannot and should not be taken seriously by anyone – football fans are never a good representation of anything or anyone whatsoever. I would like to invite anyone who still isn’t convinced to come and drink a beer with us, come and breathe the history, visit the museums and monuments, enjoy one of the festivals, parties or concerts, walk along the canals at night and discover Amsterdam’s beauty. Take it all in and then decide for yourself whether your opinion about Amsterdam was right, or whether it could be slightly adjusted.