Dual nationality: Dutch and Chinese

Dual nationality: Dutch and Chinese

17th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

One century ago, the first large group of Chinese immigrants arrived in the Netherlands. They were brought in as cheap labour to break a strike by Rotterdam's dock workers.

When work tailed off, the Chinese workers were dumped in the Katendrecht area of Rotterdam's port district. That's how David Zee's grandfather and many others came to the Netherlands.

Katendrecht is dull these days compared to what it was like 50 years ago, when David Zee played on its streets as a little boy. Back then it was home to over 1,000 Chinese and there was plenty going on. There were Chinese restaurants, a mahjong parlour, a Chinese club and, of course, his parents' Chinese shop. "I grew up in an entirely Chinese environment. I even played hide and seek in Chinese," he recalls.

The only full-blooded Chinese member of his family is his grandfather, who set sail from the port of Ningbo at a very tender age. "He was already in Europe at the start of the 20th century, but I don't know exactly where."

What he does know for sure is that his grandfather met a Dutch woman in around 1924 and that they had children together. At first they were not allowed to marry, as interracial marriage between Dutch and Chinese was against the law.

Eventually the marriage was permitted, but only on condition that David's grandmother relinquished her Dutch nationality. "The same thing happened when my father married my mother. It's strange to think that I was born a citizen of China. I still have dual nationality to this day."

Nothing now remains of the Chinese district in Katendrecht. But from Wednesday, the Open Air Museum in Arnhem will highlight the history of this first large group of migrants to settle permanently in the Netherlands.

Sigrid Deters
Radio Netherlands

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