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Word of the day: debat (debate)

The word DEBAT (debate) is a ‘het-woord’ and was imported from French into the Dutch and English languages in the Middle Ages. The French word ‘débat’ was derived from the verb ‘battre’ which means ‘to hit’. So a DEBAT or a ‘debate’ is a battle of words. The Dutch also use the lovely word ‘woordenstrijd’. There will be many ‘debatten’ on television in the next few weeks. The local elections are very important, not only for the future of the various cities and their citizens, but also because they give an indication which direction national politics is heading.


Deputy mayor and alderman (of education) Ingrid van Engelshoven is also party leader for the municipal elections for D66. She is an experienced debater. Sunday 23 February at the debate organised by the central library in cooperation with Direct Dutch she argued how important it is for international Hagenaars to vote.

In an interview with Algemeen Dagblad the alderman said: ‘If Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party becomes the largest party in The Hague, not only will we lose our reputation as International city of Peace and Justice, but we will also lose thousands of jobs and millions of income. Foreign companies and international organisations will think twice before they will settle in a city that is controlled by an anti-Muslim party’. See also our recent Quote of the Week.

In her speech at the library Van Engelshoven mentioned several other good arguments why expats should vote. And also why it helps to learn Dutch.

Here are some excerpts from her speech.

Ingrid van Engelshoven: ‘For the city council it is crucial to know what expats think. Voting means you have to think about “in what kind of city do I want to live?” “In what city do I want my children to live in?” Many people think that the results won’t be determined by one single vote. That is true, but if all people follow this line of reasoning, and don’t vote, just a minority of the population determines the city’s future. That is not democracy. Besides you, there are more than 42.000 internationals and expats who are eligible to vote. That’s about ten seats! If you all form a party, you would be the largest party in the city council! 

The Hague is an international city and we welcome international organizations and businesses. Every expat is one extra job. International organizations created more than 18.000 jobs in 2010. International organizations also created another 17.500 jobs with third parties. This month a new research will be presented and we expect an increase since 2010. We have also more than 100 embassies and consulates, 160 international organizations and 316 international businesses. The international businesses are responsible for about 49.000 jobs. 

Who can give better advise than those of you who work at Dutch and international organizations and businesses, spend time in international networks and make use of the international services of the city? And it doesn’t matter if you are here for three or four years, or ten years. According to research of the International Community Platform, the average time of an international in The Hague is 10+ years. Maybe they change jobs in the meantime, but the total average length is 10+ years. 

All these organizations and businesses create a large international community. There are many international networks; women’s networks, business networks, both formal and informal, some have been here for decades, others for a few years. As deputy mayor of this city I support this, but I would also like to see that you merge with the Dutch people and it’s culture.

One important step is learning the language. Yes, we try to give as much information in English as possible, because we are an international city. But the best way to assimilate to a new culture, is to learn the language. Being able to speak with Dutch people, read the newspapers or watch Dutch television. It broadens your horizon. And if the Dutch don’t speak Dutch to you, you can show them your button ‘Spreek Nederlands! Met mij!”’

photo: Arthur van Dijk, Studio A (thanks)