‘Dutch hospitality? It doesn’t apply to the housing market’
OPINION - Philosophy student Sami Dogan was oblivious of discrimination against international students on the housing market – until he started looking for a room. ‘The exclusion of international students is a widely spread and commonly accepted practice.’
Imagine wanting to study in a faraway country; you don’t speak the language and are unfamiliar with the customs. But that should not be a problem. After all, almost all locals speak English and pride themselves on their great tolerance. You enthusiastically start scanning the Facebook ads – only to be seriously disappointed. Most adverts read: ‘NO INTERNATIONALS’. Not exactly the warm welcome you were hoping for. As you may have guessed, I am talking about the Netherlands.
My ongoing search for new accommodation in Nijmegen has revealed that the exclusion of international students from student houses is a widely spread and commonly accepted practice. My first response was one of bewilderment, as the Dutch pride themselves on being tolerant. In addition, Radboud University has a reputation of being progressive. But in practice, things are very different – at least when it comes to foreign students.
‘Every student has the ability to welcome newcomers’
Statistics on the well-being of international students are poignant. ISO research shows that more than one-third of them struggle finding a place to live in the Netherlands. The same survey reveals that 75% of the respondents would like to have more contact with their Dutch peers. In general, Dutch students have an excellent command of English – some even study an entire programme in the language. It is therefore not likely that Dutch students cannot communicate with their international peers. They simply don’t.
Sharing a house would be a great first step towards a solution. It would make students from abroad a less easy prey for greedy landlords trying to bait internationals for their overpriced rooms. The foreign students would pick up aspects of the Dutch language and culture from their housemates. But as dealing with foreign cultures can be very instructive for everyone, this exchange would also benefit the local students.
I firmly believe that the university has a responsibility to encourage this contact, for example by making it easier for foreign students to learn Dutch. At the same time, every student has the ability to welcome newcomers. Don’t reject foreigners because of their origins. As you see, they are already struggling. Please lend them a hand and extend that famous Dutch hospitality.
Philosophy student Sami Dogan previously studied in Berlin.