The following article originally appeared on February 24, 2005 at this now rotted link . I have archived the text of the article because I originally linked to it from my post It`s the demographics, stupid:


Yesterday I discussed the deep surprise I generate when Americans learn about my European background and my support for US foreign policy as well as a number of other things that are not necessarily equated with mainstream Euro-thinking. Surprise turns to deep confusion when people figure out that you have actually abandoned that well-funded first world paradise for an uncertain future in North America. Almost everyday I have to deal with bewildered Americans and Canadians in whose mind Europe, and especially Holland, is the place to live. That by the way is an assumption built largely on unsubstantiated perceptions of tolerance, history, culture and the “more play than work” ethic that has somehow shaped the North American view of my home country.

Yesterday Asparagirl (or Brooke) took on this issue by crunching some Dutch emigration statistics and noted a worrying trend of fleeing Dutchmen. Of course, the Fortuyn and Van Gogh murders have given some momentum to this phenomenon both of which came on top of issues like increased crime, an overburdened healthcare system, overpopulation, soaring property prices and last by not least a huge unassimilated Muslim population that had started to make its mark on day to day life.

None of these issues prompted my departure from the lowlands so I am hardly representative of the new Dutch exodus, but when I had to make the call after my stint in Hong Kong in 1999 to return to Europe or roll the dice and embark on a new adventure the choice wasn’t that difficult. That raises the question of who is actually emigrating and my sense is that as opposed to the first waves of mass emigration in the 20th century when often desperate people sought a better life in the new world, these days a far more educated and wealthier group is packing up its bags. Education and some money in the bank allows for a soft landing abroad, no one is fleeing poverty these days and a new adventure has to be reasonably comfortable since that’s what you’re used to. Dutch society may well have started to experience the beginnings of a brain drain, with educated risk takers on the move and safe-players that stay. One great example of the latter is the question I often got when I decided not to return home: “well, what about your pension?”

Where do these driven Dutch end up? Apparently Australia is the preferred option but the decision is often a function of the ease of immigration. So even though the US may feature high on the list it’s not that easy to get into these days, whereas a country like New Zealand will roll out the red carpet for anyone who is keen to move there (as a back-up I still have an easily awarded NZ visa in my passport). In between are Canada and Australia and apparently Argentina is becoming an attractive option for the real risk takers.

Expect more on this trend and as Brooke notes, other European countries may start to experience the same dynamic in short order.