...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Not only in the Philippines

It's no secret that I don't like Holland. My heart already sank on Day 1 there, when I saw the building where I was to stay for three months as an exchange student. Like the rest of Utrecht, it smelled like piss, there was graffiti everywhere (including the corridors and laundry room), and you were never really sure if the people around you were sober or wasted. The authorities apparently aren't sure of the latter either: some groceries have the most ridiculous security checks that could rival an airport's, and CCTV cameras and police huts were literally at every corner.

The corridor leading to my first student room. This should really be a scratch n' sniff picture for the full experience (and believe me, we didn't take pictures of the worst areas of that building). I only spent 5 days in that place.

I changed to better housing within Utrecht as soon as I could, but my general impression of Holland as a whole remains: that it was unsafe (and this is coming from someone who grew up in Manila, "one of the dangerous cities in the world"!), dreary (in the city centers as well as the enormous tenement-housing ghettos), and that the people were boorish, sour and unfriendly. Of course, I couldn't help but compare these to my study experiences in Sweden then. We students were talking a lot about how the Sweden experience had spoiled us. Linköping, sleepy town that it is, seemed like heaven. In short, Holland really wasn't a place to like.

Well, well, and guess what...

Apparently, even the Dutch themselves don't like it in Holland either. In yesterday's paper, they reported that as as much as 38% of the Dutchmen were seriously considering moving out of their home country. The figures increased from that of two years ago, when only 26% wanted to move out. The reasons primarily given? Crowdedness, and intolerance and racism among fellow Dutchmen. Told you so.

The papers interviewed Dutchmen in the yearly "Emigratiebeurs" or Emigration Expo in Utrecht, Holland – yep, the same place where I lived as a student. As many as 15,000 (that's fifteen thousand!) ready-to-scoot Dutchmen appeared at the Expo, collecting Live-in-so-and-so brochures from countries ranging from New Zealand, Spain, Canada and Sweden. Sweden, they say, was a real favorite among the Dutch, who saw it as "a pure opposite to Holland. [The Dutch] want to replace aggressiveness, traffic queues, congestion and a bad environment with human warmth, serenity, beautiful surroundings and real winters". Yup, what did I say about Linköping...

Some Expo-goers even came well-prepared with their bank statements, to show the Expo organizers. Some will sell everything (including large houses out of which they will make good profit) just to get a chance live elsewhere... And these were highly-educated westerners, "with good communication skills and business acumen".

This would have been really strange if I didn't come from a country where (in a 2002 survey) one in 5 wanted to live abroad and where 8 million of the population – including university-educated folk and upper middle-class professionals – are living and working in other countries. Most of them have good language skills as well, and perhaps even some knowledge of business. Mass-emigration isn't an only-Filipino phenomenon after all. What's different is that most Filipinos are forced by their circumstances to work abroad to support their families, and even middle class emigrants may have their own reasons to seek "greener pastures" and a more stable political- and economic situation. Of course, there could be other reasons too, like love, career, or education. The 38% (about 6 million) of Holland's population must have thought of a variety of reasons aside from congestion and racism to scoot Holland as well. However, I don't really blame them if they just want to get out of that place.


Anonymous Lara said...

thanks for the heads-up. we will try to avoid the netherlands then. btw, i have just found your blog through multiply and i'm loving it already. i moved here in August i fjol. we're up north in Ljusdal, in the gävleborg area.

3:13 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Welcome to the blog, Lara! As you can see, I try to make all my entries somewhat Sweden related but mostly I end up writing about food. Hahaha. :-)

How are you liking Sweden?

8:10 PM

Anonymous lara said...

oh it's beautiful here! even when a lot of people complain about the winter. :-)

ljusdal is a small town so it can be dull at times. but we make do.

altogether...it feels like home already.

what are you studying?

1:25 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Yeah I think it's beautiful too with nature, the white winters and the exotic landscapes.

I'm studying MA Health and Society (Hälsa och Samhälle) but my background is in philosophy and bioethics. I'm also living with my boyfriend Marcus, who I met at the bioethics program.

I'm trying to read bits of your blog each time (in between my breaks heheh). I think it's interesting how you get to "know" people from their blogs.

I also recommend Babycakes (Ria's blog and Sleepless in Stockholm (Christianne's blog). They are Filipinos living in Umeå and Stockholm, respectively. :-)

2:30 PM

Anonymous lara said...

i have already checked out babycakes blog. i love her fluency in svenska! ill try sleepless then. take care!

5:42 PM

Blogger aka Cheryl said...

kelan ka nag-holland? before you started this blog, no?

1:21 AM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Yeah, before this blog. Too bad, because there were so many strange things to write about there. Haha!

9:33 AM

Blogger aka Cheryl said...

hahahaha. edi create backstories!

the way you wrote this post, holland sounded so... weird and ghetto-like! hahaha

7:30 PM


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