“My first impression of Amsterdam was, “So busy!”. I arrived at Centraal Station by train from Schiphol and saw people traveling by bicycle and tram. Even compared with London, where I had lived for two years, it was bustling, let alone Swaziland. It was a bit overwhelming. But what I immediately noticed was that the people were pleasant to each other and helpful, even on the street. I felt welcome.
After five years in Amsterdam I still feel welcome. It’s great that complete strangers will offer you a helping hand. A few months ago I injured myself playing squash. I was practicing against the wall and was alone. I tried to get on my bike, but as my wrist was broken it wasn’t so easy. Someone noticed I was in pain and offered to take me to hospital in the car. These sorts of gestures, I think, are particular to Amsterdam. It is a mentality I recognise from Swaziland.
My parents weren’t too happy when I told them I would be moving to Amsterdam. Just like so many others, they associated Amsterdam with drugs. But they have visited here and just like me, fell in love with the city. Even better: they’re a little bit jealous of my living here.
For someone from Swaziland it isn’t so simple to move to Europe. When people leave the country, it’s mostly to move to South Africa. My father is English and wanted me to study in the UK. He came to Swaziland for love. He was on his way to Australia and had a stopover in Zimbabwe, and decided to stay in Africa. When in Swaziland he met my mother. They are still married - just the two of them. This in a country where polygamy is legal. The present king of Swaziland has about fifteen wives, and even my grandfather had three wives. I’m single myself, and polygamy is also not the done thing in this day and age. Which is right, I think. Swaziland has the highest population of AIDS victims in the world, and multiple partners means the chance of passing on the disease is very high. In my family, and among my friends, there have been AIDS related deaths. This is something I worry about.”
3 people in Amsterdam have the Swazi nationality.