The Surinamese people are considered one of the most integrated ethnic minorities in the Netherlands. Although there are several links between these two countries, the cultures differ. A former colony of the Netherlands, how do both cultures relate and associate with each other in the city? I spoke with Miss Margery Bron about her experiences in Amsterdam and with Dutch people.
Margery is an accounting and marketing assistant. She lives in Amsterdam since age eight (8). She and her younger brother came to the country with their mother during the 1980’s. They settled near Muidepoort station in Amsterdam with their Surinamese stepfather. They came, as many others, during the mass migration of Suriname nationals between 1975-1980, after the country’s independence from the Netherlands. She grew up and went to school in Amsterdam Oost. Although the area was primarily a Dutch community at the time, she also remembers having friends from Morocco and Turkey. The different cultures around her were no issue: “… I was in a school with children from different backgrounds but coming from Suriname – a country where people from many different cultures and nationalities live together and accept each other – I quickly got used to different people”.
What is there to love about Amsterdam and the Dutch? “I think Amsterdam is very open-minded about the people who come to live here and we all try to live together in harmony. That is great. I cannot think of any other city in the Netherlands I would want to live in”. “I like to see Dutch people in a party; whether outside or inside no matter the type of music, they dance their asses off! I don’t know if its lack of shame, but they seem free and I enjoy seeing this behaviour”.
How about the personality of the Dutch people? Any dislike? She laughs “ OK, let’s spice it up a bit”. “Many see the women and Dutch people as very liberal, and if you look in the dating scene you see that a lot; men waiting and women approaching them. At the end of the day, I am from south-America and I like a guy who likes a woman and is clear about that”. “Although their appearance is masculine and I find them attractive I personally feel that their conduct is the opposite. I prefer if they take charge at the beginning”.
Have there been any bad or upsetting experiences? “In college when I decided to study and do internships in the corporate world I realized that, although the Dutch world seems very tolerant, when it comes to this level of corporate life you feel the difference. It is made clear that you are from another country”. “People tend to set the differences on the table, and I think “yeah I know I am black, have voluminous hair and large earrings and I guess you needed to point that to me one more time”. This is strange for me, but maybe this labeling is not strictly of the Dutch but of corporate people worldwide”.
For her and many others, Dutch tolerance is not perfect. A report made by Humanity in Action, in 2011, studies statements such as the following: “despite the ability of Surinamese and their communities to integrate into and succeed in Dutch society, they are unable to overcome basic perceptions of them based on their skin colour”. The country and city are not immune to the race issue. The situation exists also in other countries. Many see it as a consequence of rapid globalization with societies, which many times, can be unprepared to accept new and different cultures.
For Margery, and most of us, however, Amsterdam remains in general a liberal society. She embraces her Surinamese culture, enjoying their traditions, diverse cuisine and love of nature. All of this while loving Amsterdam and its people mixture, making the city her beloved home.
Yahaira L. Reyes