Ruwan

Sri Lanka

This is
Ruwan Aluvihare (1956)

Country of Origin
Sri Lanka

In the Netherlands since
1981

Professsion
Landscape architect

First impression
He went to England to study. When he had to tranfer at Central Station he thought: what a beautiful city, I'm going to do my internship here.

Still would like to
See that a bridge will be build to Noord

“I studied landscape architecture in England and to Amsterdam on a city trip. I walked out of Centraal Station and thought, “Wow. I’d love to do an internship here”.


Amsterdam in the eighties was open-minded and free, the community seemed happy and relaxed. England was quite racist during this time. This has now become the complete opposite; not in public, but Geert Wilders’ debates are causing all foreigners to feel uncomfortable, especially if you are coloured. You can feel the threat of this change in the air, and life has become much uglier in Amsterdam. Wilders is given a lot of attention, but at a shallow level. He has been dealt with with very little criticism by the media. There is no sense of indignation to his words, as there has been with Le Pen in France or Haider in Austria. A Wilders coalition? How could that be? In my opinion, Rutte has become the enemy; he was prepared to negotiate with this man.


In 1980 I did my internship with the Amsterdam City Council. I would be here for six months, and my first impression of the city remained with me until the very last day.


This was partly thanks to my moonlighting as a cat-sitter. It was discovered that I was a cat lover, and everyone planned their holidays to coincide with my stay so that I could care for their cats. Thanks to this, I was able to stay in some fantastic houses for my six months in Amsterdam. I love animals, but more of a bird man than a cat lover. My reputation as cat-lover started when a partly feral cat at Public Works started to jump into my lap. People came to the conclusion I had a connection with cats.

Sri Lankans are an extremely hospitable people. They greet everyone, and have no qualms inviting strangers home for food and a bed. Amsterdam was the same in the eighties. If you smiled at someone, you got a smile back. Amsterdam is full of strangers, and because of this is great. I married a Frisian. We have different views concerning the upbringing of our now adult children. We would argue about how broad-minded they should be. The Netherlands are much more flexible when it comes to how one thinks.

I have learned to be assertive here. This isn’t the norm in Sri Lanka. You laugh at everything and nothing’s a problem. In business, this isn’t a positive trait. By becoming more assertive I have moved forward; being assertive with a smile is now a strong point of mine.”

161 people in Amsterdam have the Sri Lankan nationality

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