“My parent, three brothers and I fled the war and genocide in Rwanda in 1994. When war began, I was six years old. Of course, during that time I had seen what war was. I saw soldiers on the streets and watched tanks pass by, but I had nothing to compare this life to. Only once I had arrived in the Netherlands did it sink in. “Oh, that’s why there was shooting”. And, “that’s why uncle used to visit a lot and then stopped coming”. I only realised then what had really happened.
What first struck me about Amsterdam were the tall buildings. They were the tallest I had ever seen. And we were given lots of things, like coats and warm clothes. Second hand, but I didn’t know that then. As a young boy I was very impressed that we had received so much. Our first address was in Amsterdam and we never left. I’m very happy to be living here. Just the fact that so many different cultures live together in one city is enough of a reason. You can’t tell whether someone is Dutch or not by simply looking at their face. They could be from Bosnia. I feel like an Amsterdammer or Hollander, especially when I’m not here. Then I realise how much I love Amsterdam and how much I miss it.
I’ve just got back from Rwanda where I had nine months of work experience. I noticed that I was constantly comparing things at first. That people in Amsterdam are always on time. That in an Amsterdam shop or restaurant the personnel greet you with a smile and ask if they can help you. In Rwanda you can sit at the table for a long time before a waiter comes to take your order. And when they do come, it’s not always with a smile.
But after a time I began to get used to the relaxed way of life in Rwanda, and when back in the Netherlands I had to adjust to Dutch tempo once more. I hadn’t expected to experience this. I also find it strange that I like standing out with my dark skin in the Netherlands, but don’t like looking like just another Rwandan in Rwanda.”
34 people in Amsterdam have the Rwandan nationality.