Nieuws - 17 maart 2011

Rotterdammers are open for other cultures

Joris Tielens

Those who listen often to Wilders may find this difficult to believe: people born and bred in Rotterdam want to get in touch with newcomers and are also willing to adapt to other cultures.

This is apparent from a study conducted by Wageningen UR Science Shop. Communication scientists interviewed new and 'old' native Rotterdammers in relation to the project 'Welcome in Rotterdam'. This project arranges for old and new inhabitants to meet up and see the city together. The aim is to cultivate mutual understanding and trust. The study has shown that the project - albeit modest - has resulted in more social cohesion. 
'The local Rotterdamers who were interviewed seem to want to get in touch with people from other cultures a lot', says Prof. NoĆ«lle Aarts. 'And they are open for integration on both sides. They feel that newcomers shouldn't be the only ones who have to adapt. The Rotterdammers feel that a Dutch identity does not exist, are curious about others and like to make newcomers feel at home.' 
The meetings between cultures do not necessarily have to result in deep friendships. Even the 'light contacts' - the term given by the researchers to the meetings arranged in the project - are good enough for bringing about more empathy and understanding. Aarts: 'Changes take place through language, via conversations. People you meet on the street and those you speak to acquire a face and that, fortunately, has just as much influence on one's world view as the messages from Geert Wilders.'

Local politicians in Rotterdam participated in a debate on Wednesday 16 March based on the report of the study. The debate was organized by the Science Shop.