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An Expat Talks about Living in Rotterdam, Netherlands

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


How long have you lived there?

Rotterdam 1 year, Netherlands 3

What activities, clubs and organizations would you recommend to newcomers to help them meet others?

Definitely take a Dutch class. Although most Dutch people speak English, a Dutch class is a good way to get to know the culture. Being able to read about upcoming concerts, movies, and cultural events makes you feel more at home. Dutch people are really impressed, and friendly, if you try even a few Dutch words. And finally, a Dutch class is a key way to meet other foreigners in your same situation--new, without friends and family, perhaps a bit nervous.

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In terms of religious, racial, economic and cultural diversity, are the people of this city or town diverse? Are they accepting of differences? Describe.

The Dutch are famous for their tolerance, but in my experience, they are less tolerant than they would like to admit. Rotterdam is a big city with many foreigners (although perhaps fewer than Amsterdam) and also has a large Muslim community and a large Black community. I have heard many racist "jokes" that have disappointed me. Like many large cities, there are pockets of neighborhoods with a majority of one race. The Dutch are tolerant in public, but less so in private.

What are the main industries in this city? What types of career opportunities commonly exist? How do most people find new jobs?

Rotterdam is more of a working class city than Amsterdam. The difference between the cities are very much like Glasgow and Edinburgh, for anyone familiar with Scotland. Rotterdam has one of the largest harbours in the world and therefore has much shipping-related business. Unilever is also located in Rotterdam.

In general, what are peoples' priorities in this city? For example, do lives revolve around work, family, socializing, sports, etc.?

In my experience, work is very important, but (unlike in the U.S.) personal life is also important. Most people have a good balance and there is an understanding at work if you have a personal problem that requires attention--such as a sick partner. At the same time, lunch breaks are short and people are expected to be efficient with their time.

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If a friend of yours was thinking of moving to this city or town from far away, what other advice would you give them.

It's a great city, but it takes time to get used to. Amsterdam is the older, more beautiful city whereas Rotterdam is rather spread out and ugly. Quick and cheap reconstruction after WWII has left a random assortment of architectural experiments. But the city has a lot of great restaurants and cultural events such as hip museums on the Witte de Whitstraat (Foto Instituut very nice) and the International Film Festival in late January.

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Comments about this Report

Oct 12, 2011 01:44

Great comments, but by far, Rotterdam is more ethnically diverse than Amsterdam (35-40% ethnically non-Dutch). There are various migrant community social clubs from all parts of the world, religious as well as non-religious. The only down-side to the non-religious ones is that most require a membership fee, which sortof gives the impression of a "pay-to-play" mentality. Sad, but difficult to do without. Through most official channels you won't easily find the free clubs of people who just want to hang out, and find some recognition and acceptance. I find that it's so important to hook up with people in similar situations, and then branch out from there. Biggest plus to Rotterdam: great parks and festivals!

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