“I was seventeen when I arrived in Amsterdam on 16 November 1991 together with my brothers and sisters. We had escaped from Somalia. Personally, I think that was the Netherland’s coldest November ever. Nothing but rain and hail; I really hated it at the time.
But when I finally came to live in Amsterdam in 2001, it was love at second sight. I had lived in Tilburg. Tilburg and Amsterdam, figuratively speaking, are a million miles away from each other. Amsterdam is an anonymous city. You notice the colour of my skin much more quickly in Tilburg. Tilburg is like a village. I think Amsterdam is the best city ever, and my favourite area there is Zuidoost where I live and feel most at home. The more anonymous a place is the better. With my dark skin I disappear into the crowds of the Zuidoost district.
I come from Somalia. I have experienced war and all the atrocities that come with them. I raise my five children in both Dutch and Somali. They are ‘hartstikke’ Dutch. You wouldn’t be able to tell them apart from the locals, except that they don’t eat pork. But at the same time they are very aware of their Somalian roots. They know that their parents left Somalia as refugees and arrived in Holland where they were welcomed. What can Amsterdammers learn from me? Be grateful for what you have, however small, and be satisfied. What I have learned from them? Judge people by their strengths and not their weaknesses. When I had only just arrived in Amsterdam, I went to an employment agency to find work to support me through my studies. They asked me what kind of work I did. ‘Unskilled labour”, I answered. They looked at my CV and said, “What do you mean? You can do more than that. You’re not unskilled, you’ve had a good education”. I thought this woman’s word were too good to be true, she must be joking. However, the next day she called me and offered me a challenging position at a nursing college. Her faith in me gave me a shock. I really admire this Dutch attitude.”
122 people in Amsterdam have the Somali nationality