“What accent do you have? You're not from around here.”  Even in a country that values social equality, there are historically rank differences between urban citizens from the large cities and the administrative centres on one hand, and residents from remote rural areas on the other hand.  In the 80s of the last century, candidates from rural areas (speaking with a distinct accent) were not accepted for trainee positions at a large bank. 

Sitting around a round table in a school hall in Amsterdam, a couple of global citizens discuss how to deal with even bigger differences, like religion and race.  Two white Dutch nationals (one of them, Guus, has three passports), two Kurdic women and Yezeed who came as a refugee from Sudan in 2001, talk about the edge people experience when they meet neighbors who speak another language or practice a different faith. Yezeed is social worker and he supports refugees in getting started with housing and all other practical things after they receive an asylum status. Like no one else he is aware of the feelings of discomfort and shyness when people of different backgrounds meet.  

“Dare to be curious!”, Yezeed says. He is asking one of the Kurdic women how many languages she speaks, after giving her a compliment about her Dutch fluency. What a great way to break the ice, by expressing appreciation. 

"What do we have in common? We are all humans! Let's look at our similarities, and let's respect our differences", Ghalia from Kurdistan says. With this mindset Ghalia, who is christian, helped a Syrian muslim refugee family to settle in the Netherlands. 

“We can cross the threshold when we open up to one another. Let's learn from one another".  With this conclusion, the plan emerges to organise movie nights regularly in a community centre, complemented by a shared meal and dialogue, covering different countries, "so that we can get to know each other's culture and background." Guus agreed to contact the right people to make the plan work.

Ghalia from Syria closes the conversation with an invitation to celebrate Kurdic New Year on March 21st, at the start of Spring: "Join us and find out how we celebrate New Year with a fire ceremony." 

Thank you to SALT facilitator iSiZ for organising this World Cafe evening in Amsterdam-Zeeburgereiland. iSiZ, you know how to build trust among people and you create a warm welcome for everyone.

Thank you to SALT facilitator Yazeed Said for co-hosting the dialogue. Your deep understanding and respectful stance allow us all to engage with sensitive topics.

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