Immigrants doomed to failure? Not us, say the yeppies

Immigrants doomed to failure? Not us, say the yeppies

13th June 2010, Comments 6 comments

Young and successful ethnic professionals in the Netherlands should play a more prominent role in Dutch society to disprove theories that they’re doomed to fail. This is one of the messages in a new book written about ‘Yeppies’ – Young Ethnic Professionals.

“Dutch universities are full of young Dutch immigrants, but nobody seems to realise that”, says its author, Arjan Erkel.

Erkel – best known in the Netherlands as a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) employee who was taken hostage for months while working in Dagestan a few years ago – interviewed thirty Dutch immigrants who all have several things in common. They are between 25 and 40, have a successful career, are ambitious and feel it’s time Dutch society changed its perception of immigrants.

“That perception is not in line with how society is developing”, he told Radio Netherlands Worldwide. “There are tens of thousands of young immigrants in Dutch universities and we see more and more immigrants in key business positions. So they’re more ambitious than some of us may think”.

Erkel coined the ‘yeppie’ label for his book Generatie YEP (Generation YEP). “Yes, it’s hip, but it’s more than just a label,” he smiles. “Just as ‘yuppie’ in the 1980s was a label for a large group in society which made it easy to identify them, so is this.”

“Show who you are”
But even though these ‘yeppies’ may be very successful, we don’t get to see much of them in the Dutch media. The only well-known yeppie in the book is former deputy minister Nebahat Albayrak, while the others are rarely seen on TV or in newspapers. They could do a better job at ‘marketing’ themselves, says Erkel. “Show others who you are and what you’ve achieved. Tell them that you’ve outgrown those clichés about immigrants, that’s my message. Be a role model for others”.

YEP Photo

Another interesting aspect of the yeppie generation, according to Erkel, is that they don’t have a conflict of loyalty – a yeppie feels s/he’s as much Dutch as Moroccan, Surinam or Chinese. “This is what I call psychological integration,” Erkel says. “They've made a clear choice for the Netherlands. They won’t let go of their own identity, because they don’t want to lose that. But foremost, they feel Dutch. They feel that their future lies here in the Netherlands. This is a new development; until a few years ago, immigrants used to say that they would eventually go back to their country of origin.”

High level
One of the yeppies portrayed in “Generatie YEP” is Souad el Hamdaoui (31) (pictured above), who can rightfully claim to be in a top job – she’s the director of the Euromast, one of Rotterdam’s main tourist attractions and one of the port city's tallest buildings. The romantic version of her career lets us believe that she worked her way up from being an employee in the Euromast restaurant to become the boss, but in reality, she joined the company with a healthy dose of ambition and business knowledge.

“It’s a bit sad that in 2010 it’s still important to label us, even though it’s a positive label this time,” she says. “I live in Rotterdam, which is a multicultural city where many foreigners have simply become part of this society. We should take that for granted. I was born and bred in a small village in the east of the Netherlands, but to the outside world, I’ll always be an immigrant.”

“I’m afraid we will have to make more of an effort to highlight the positive side of immigration,” she continues. “What you see in the papers is very often the negative, while most of us are simply doing well. Perhaps it’s my personal responsibility to contribute to that positive image.”

Photo YEP

With one week to go before the Dutch general election, it’s clearly no coincidence that 'Generatie YEP' is seeing the light of day now. “Immigration is one of the hot topics during the election campaign,” says Erkel. “First, you have Geert Wilders who is downright negative about immigrants, while on the other hand there’s [Labour candidate] Job Cohen who may be patting the immigrants’ backs a bit too much. We simply present the reality and we’re not afraid to say that many immigrants are just doing fine in today’s society.”

Johan van Slooten
Radio Netherlands


6 Comments To This Article

  • Ifti posted:

    on 2nd October 2010, 16:44:16 - Reply

    A report by the Institute for Community Cohesion found that native parents were deserting some schools after finding their children out numbered by pupils from ethnic minorities. Schools in parts of England are becoming increasingly segregated. The study focused on 13 local authorities. Many of the schools and colleges are segregated and this was generally worsening over recent years. This is RACISM because British society is the home of institutional racism. The native Brits do not want to mix with Muslims. They move from that area where number of Muslim families are on the increase. My statement regarding Muslim schools where there is no place for non-Muslim child or a teacher is based on educational process and not on racism. Muslim children need Muslim teachers during their developmental periods. For higher studies and reserech, Muslim teacher is not a priority.

    Muslim parents must have a choice whether to send their children to state funded Muslim school or to a state school. For the time being they do not have a choice because only less than 5% of Muslim children are in Muslim schools. Each and every Muslim school has a long waiting list. There are only 11 state funded Muslim school while 155 Muslim schools charge fees.

    Compulsory state education has promised to promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental, physical and academic development of a child in preparation for adult life - has failed far too many children, particularly national minorities and especially Muslim children. Now the time has come that parents and community should take over the running of their local schools The Local Authority's role should be confined to simply ensuring schools operate within the prevailing legislative framework (admissions criteria, Special Educational Needs, Community Cohesion, Financial Audit, etc). Parents can perform a better job than the Local Authority because parents have a genuine vested interest – namely the best educational outcome for their children. The Local Authority simply cannot be trusted.

    There is no end to Forced marriages and honour killings as long as Bilingual Muslim girls keep on attending state schools with notoriously monolingual non-Muslim teachers. Muslim schools are attractive to Muslim parents because they have better discipline and teaching Islamic values. Bilingual Muslim teachers are role models who understand the needs and demands of their children.

    No body has the right to tell a woman how to dress, or worse, how to undress? Let her wear what she likes, especially if it's part of her religion. I see the banning of headscarves or niqabs as an attack on both religious freedom and on the rights of women
  • Iordana posted:

    on 2nd October 2010, 04:42:45 - Reply

    To Iftikar Ahmed,

    People are aware and fighting against the Islamization of Europe lately. Who can blame them? They want to mentain their culture in which they are comfortable. Diversity means just that, doesn't it?
    Being known that in islamic or muslim majority countries the non-muslims suffer under direct persecution from official laws - nevermind the general population - why would..... "The British society
    and Establishment must learn to respect and accommodate others"....?
    What muslims do when they feel they can is not so hidden anymore. The word of "mouth" is pretty fast these days....
    Yet, it's refreshing to see people modernizing. Maybe we learned that progress means modern times not dead eras.
  • Iftikhar Ahmad posted:

    on 4th September 2010, 16:43:20 - Reply


    The article applies to all wesern countries, including Nederland.

    God has created diverse human beings to live in this tiny global villageas
    of one family. Creation by its very nature is deverse with different
    species, different communities, different cultures and languages. These
    differences represent the beauty and wonder but diversity is sometimes not
    fully appreciated, resulting in all sorts of clashes. The British society
    and Establishment must learn to respect and accommodate others, as if in a family. The second generation of Muslim migrants is facing a huge challenge because they did not think even for a second before that someone would say, 'You are not welcome.'"

    If you are worrying that people are different, believe different things, want different things you may be seduced to think that you could create world peace by making them all the same. Trying to do this usually leads to war, as history shows abundantly. There will be more peace and happiness if we allow each other to figure out for ourselves what we should do.

    If there are parents and teachers, and children, who want faith schools, let them have them. Parents try to send their kids to faith schools because in general they get better results than normal comprehensives. State schools too, they may well teach various types of faith in those schools but all are to teach that Christianity is the right choice, the constant faith based holidays (easter, xmas plus others) from a very early age till the time one has to leave, they are bombarded with Christianity.Mr Dawkins must not forget that although faith schools attract state funding those who attend the schools have parents who pay their taxes. whether they went to a non faith school or not, the goverment would have to supply enough schools to fit them all in.

  • ryan posted:

    on 3rd September 2010, 16:19:03 - Reply


    Without foreign workers, British economy will bleed to death. British society must be greatful to the foreign workers who kept them alive.

    isnt this article about the Netherlands?

  • iftikhar posted:

    on 17th June 2010, 18:05:00 - Reply

    Migration is good for economy and business. Migrants pay more taxes than they use in public services. They are just economic slaves of the British society.They have never been treated as human beings. They have been victim of racism, discrimination,bullying,physical and verbal abuse. Unskilled migrants are not welcomed because they are not economically beneficial for Britain.

    Without foreign workers, British economy will bleed to death. British society must be greatful to the foreign workers who kept them alive.

    Now migrant communities need doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers with their cultural backgrounds and who can speak their languages. They are in a better position to serve and satisfy their needs and demands.

    Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or ateacher in a Muslim school.

    There are hundreds of state and church schools where Muslim children are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools.
    Iftikhar Ahmad
  • NiaTrue posted:

    on 16th June 2010, 16:27:37 - Reply

    It is also the responsibility of the media, the Dutch media in particular, to accurately illustrate the lives and social contributions of non-white and non-native Dutch people instead of showing only negative images of them.