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.
'The local Rotterdamers who were interviewed seem to want to get in touch with people from other cultures a lot', says Prof. Noëlle 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.