Some Trends in Recent Emigration from the Netherlands
The Dutch interest in emigration has shown a marked increase in the last ten years. “Ik Vertrek” is a popular Dutch reality show which follows current emigrants through their migration experience. This show examines the intentions and aspirations of their fellow citizens; it follows them through their adventures and misfortunes, shows them assimilating into their new habitat, and then displays the final outcome of their decision to emigrate.
The show opens on the eve of the emigration; it is a familiar scenario. The emigrants explain why they want to leave the Netherlands and which goals they want to realize in their new country. We see their goodbyes to their colleagues and family and the actual start of their migration. We next observe them arriving in their new environment. Most of the emigrants aspire to establish a tourism-related business: a campground, a hotel, or a bed-and-breakfast. They have sold their home, and now it is necessary to reinvest all of that capital in their new business. In many cases they have to renovate old buildings before they can actually welcome their first guests and start earning money. They suffer many hardships during the first year in their new home, some of which may not have occurred if they had been more thoroughly prepared for their migration. Most emigrants say that they don’t regret their decision to move, btit some of them are obliged to return to the Netherlands because of financial or personal setbacks.
“Ik Vertrek” is an expression of a remarkable trend in Dutch migration figures. Between 2003 and 2007, for the first time since the 1950s, the Netherlands had a rise in emigration. Although most of these emigrants are former immigrants to the Netherlands who return to their country of origin, there are also a substantial number of native citizens who are leaving. According to recent research, the new emigrants have very different motives from those who left the country to emigrate to Canada and Australia in the 1950s. Whereas the traditional emigrants were in search of a better life for themselves and their children, the modern emigrant is predominantly dissatisfied with contemporary society. In “Ik Vertrek,” characters complain about overpopulation, criminality, restrictive regulations, and the bad behavior of the Dutch. People who leave the country are in search of the good life, tranquillity, space, nature, and friendly people. Earning more money is not important; one-third of the emigrants expect that their income will decrease. Qyality of life is in most cases more important than level of income.
Recent Dutch emigrants mainly go to other European countries (69 percent between 1999 and 2006). For many of them, emigration means moving to a place only ten to twenty kilometers outside the Dutch borders, to Belgium or Germany. In most cases they continue their social life and even their jobs in the Netherlands and don’t see themselves as emigrants. About 31 percent decide to move to other European countries, whereas only 15 percent emigrate overseas, to the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. France and Spain are very popular.
Mari Smits, ‘”Ik vertrek”: Some Trends in Recent Emigration from the Netherlands’ in: J.E. Nyenhuis, S.M. Sinke and R.P. Swierenga (ed.), Across Borders. Dutch Migration to North America and Australia (Holland, Michigan: Van Raalte Press, 2010), pp. 245-251.