likes, loves and lusts

"going dutch" not so easy anymore

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So the Netherlands recently swore in a brand new parliament made up of a coalition of smaller parties. Interestingly, these parties are a lot of the "fringe" parties we tend to see in our own elections - Christian democratic parties and very conservative nationalist parties. And now they hold the power.

What this has led to is a sharp change in what people up until now have perceived as Dutch tolerance. Language tests for potential immigrants, banning the burqa and closing off the famous "coffee shops" to foreign tourists. The Netherlands seems to be following in France's footsteps (who have already banned the  burqa) in trying to reclaim their culture and heritage.

On our trip to Amsterdam we certainly didn't feel like we were in a Dutch city. The famous red light district seems to be mostly east European run, the bars are full of British louts on bachelor parties, and there are only foreigners on the streets. To be expected in any major European city for sure, but we've not felt it quite to that extent, except maybe in Barcelona - another one of Europe's playgrounds.

I have to admit I agree with the language policy for immigrants - I don't see why a country should accept you if you make no effort to fit in. I've never understood how you get to benefit from a country's health, education and welfare systems without making any attempt of your own to fit in to that culture. You chose to immigrate there, you chose that country, you need to make the effort.

Refugees are of course a different subject, and one I think Europe is really struggling with. If you didn't choose to live in France - you're fleeing for your life - I can understand how having your traditional garb banned is a problem for you. And maybe moving again to another country isn't that easy an option. But for the most part (ie: the rest of the immigrants in the world, us notorious saffas included), I think you need to fit in with your chosen country's laws and standards. I would never, for example, move to Iraq where I know I couldn't live with their culture's views on women. It's a choice.

It's a difficult argument, and one everyone has an opinion on. In the case of the Netherlands, I think they run the risk of pushing their new conservatism too far, purely because of the scary right wing mouthpiece they have in government pushing for the changes (who is already in court facing five charges of inciting hatred against Muslims - charming). But stories like this Time one still piss me off. Shame, she has to learn the language so that she isn't sent back to live in dangerous Pakistan where she fears for her life. But what, she's made NO attempt to learn it in the 16 years she's already been living there? Shame.

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