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Stroopwafels, a favorite Dutch food. Photo: Iamsterdam

Dutch and Flemish remain attached to their roots

Dutch and Flemish nationals who emigrate to other countries keep their Dutch roots: they continue to speak their native language and celebrate traditional festivals such as Sinterklaas, Zwarte Piet and Kings Day.

Published: November 19, 2019, 9:09 am

    According to research by language agency Taalunie and the Meertens Institute, Dutch people stick to their own language and culture. This is evident from the very first worldwide inventory of the preservation or loss of the Dutch language, culture and identity. The finding is striking because earlier research had shown that Dutch and Flemish people who had left for Canada or Australia in the last century often gave up their language quite soon in order to integrate.

    Of the almost 7 000 Dutch-speaking emigres who took part in the research project, 97 percent spoke Dutch weekly and 85 percent saw the language as a key part of their identity.

    Emigrants still prefer to read Dutch books, read news in Dutch on a daily basis, and Dutch-language television and films online.

    An estimated one million Dutch nationals live abroad and the people in the survey lived in 130 different countries. More than half lived in Australia, the US and France and half were members of a Dutch or Flemish group in the country they lived in. The stroopwafel was the most often mentioned Dutch food liked by emigrees, They hanker after it or buy it in their new country. The caramel biscuit is followed by two other favorites only found at home: drop and hagelslag.

    Their eating habits – such as gingerbread, liquorice, croquettes, stew, Waterzooi and Indonesian Nasi Goreng and other cultural traditions – are maintained through Dutch-language schools or Dutch and Flemish associations in their place of residence, they say.

    Dutch immigrants maintain ties with their home country thanks to various communication tools in Dutch, such as social media and Skype, online newspapers, digital television and Dutch-language education. They say, they would like more advice about how they can continue to teach their children Dutch.

    According to the researchers, a digital or physical information center providing information on the Dutch language, culture and education can strengthen and perpetuate the involvement of emigrated Dutch people and Flemish with their country of birth.

    It complements the research into the State of Dutch, which focuses on the choice of language in the Netherlands and Flanders and which, also commissioned by the Taalunie, was carried out in 2017 by the Meertens Institute and the University of Ghent.

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