Netherlands: When tourists and students become a problem

As of: November 19, 2023 4:14 p.m

The Netherlands and especially Amsterdam are very popular internationally – among tourists but also among students. The country would like to get rid of certain groups of tourists. But not everyone likes to see students from all over the world.

Amsterdam is a place of “overtourism”. And with all due respect to Van Gogh: This is mainly due to the red light district. Young people giggle their way through the narrow streets, men look interestedly into the windows behind which half-naked women stand. You get sex from them in exchange for money. In probably no other city in the world is prostitution so openly displayed in the shop window.

But that should be over. The mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, wants to drive sex tourists out of her beautiful city center. Instead, an erotic center is to be built on the outskirts of the city. But the women didn’t want to go there, says Gione Bobeldijh, from the neighborhood meeting “We live here”:

The problem is that most women don’t want to leave here; here they are involved with the shops, the other prostitutes and the residents.”

And that made them feel safer than in an erotic center on the outskirts of the city. But Bobeldijh also admits that it’s no longer possible to walk in the area on weekends because of the people. The British in particular are often not gentlemen at all: loud, stoned, and you don’t really want to know the rest. In any case, the signs “No peeing in public” seem to be of much help.

Anyone who urinates in public has to pay a fine of 100 euros. But that doesn’t really have a deterrent effect.

Politician calls for more lectures in Dutch

But it’s not just the sex that attracts people from all over the world to the Netherlands, it’s also the studies. Studying in Maastricht or Groningen somehow seems to be more fun than in Stuttgart or Dortmund.

Zissa has been studying in Amsterdam since September. The reason? “One thing is the proximity to Germany, you’re abroad, but not that far away,” she says. “The other thing is the good infrastructure, nice buildings, enough teachers and you can study in English.” It is unique how many bachelor’s programs there are in English in the Netherlands.

But that is exactly the problem for Peter Omtzigt from the Nieuw Social Contract party. He calls for more lectures in Dutch. “If you want to study here, you have to learn the language,” he said on television. Peter Malcontent, who teaches international history at the University of Utrecht – in English, of course – also sees the problem: “We are discussing this because, according to the law, students have a right to receive Dutch lessons – in Dutch.” This is not always the case in practice.

Housing shortage drives students to Amersfoort

An even bigger problem is the housing shortage. Dutch people can no longer find accommodation in their own city because foreign students are snatching it up. You have to pay between 800 and 1,200 euros for a room.

Zissa now has her fourth accommodation in three months, some rooms are only rented out for a few days when someone goes on holiday. And many expressly no longer rent to foreign students.

Idyllic, but not so popular with students: Amersfoort in the north of the Netherlands.

Amersfoort in the middle of the country, on the other hand, specifically offers rooms for students. Well, the city isn’t as exciting as Amsterdam, but London urban researchers have just voted Amersfoort the most livable city in Europe. You can only call deservedly when you are visiting. Beautiful houses, dreamy canals, relaxed cyclists. You won’t find dirt, stress or traffic jams here. The number of residents has doubled in recent years. Many people from abroad have moved to Amersfoort.

While the Dutch election campaign was primarily about limiting immigration, integration seems to be successful in Amersfoort. In “Hair Studio No. 1” the owner from Iraq and the Dutchman Thomas drink tea together. Tatjana, who has just come from Ukraine, is sitting with them: “For me, Holland is the best country,” she says.

Sabrina Fritz, ARD Brussels, currently Amsterdam, tagesschau, November 17, 2023 4:54 p.m

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