Life in the Dutch Landscape

LutkermeerLarge expanding green farms, flatly stretching as far as the eye can see, only to be interrupted by a windmill, a cow or a free standing farmhouse. Lutkermeer is an area that resembles the landscapes for which the Netherlands is famous. Simultaneously, Lutkermeer is a small municipal region bordering on one of Amsterdam’s most multicultural regions. For my postgraduate research project I went to speak with the inhabitants of Lutkermeer last summer, in order to see if they suffered from the fear of multiculturalism as populist Dutch politicians were describing they were. Although multiculturalism caused some concern, a much larger problem for the inhabitants of Lutkermeer was the redevelopment which is changing their beloved typical Dutch landscape. Here are the stories the inhabitants told me:

A retired woman – still living on the street along which her father and grandfather had once owned many farms – explained: “I have always enjoyed living here, because I was born here”.

“My grandfather bought that piece of land when it was still submerged under water. He endeavoured to make it dry so that the land could become land again. But well, nobody knows that anymore. Or, everyone knows it, but has forgotten it. The new villagers here definitely do not know anything about it.”

The inhabitants of Lutkermeer described all the new roads, the new buildings and how they used to know everyone who lived in the neighbourhood. “Yes you knew them, every house, every inhabitant, and well, I think we don’t even know 10% of the people now, because we had a lot of import”. This import did not only consist of Polish immigrants and Muslims, but also Amsterdammers, or city-folk. The older inhabitants of Lutkermeer often spoke about their historical understanding of their local area and of the ignorance of the newcomers with regard to this history. Yvonne explained: “Everything that people had before in this area has been taken away from them – land, animals, homes – because the city wants to give all of this to foreigners and business people”.

Traveling through the Dutch country side, my view through the train window.

Pieter had lived his whole life in Lutkermeer and was very troubled by the new urbanization, which in his eyes was replacing the true agricultural community that he remembered from his youth, with so-called gardening-allotments:

“We got a whole load of people, foreign people, and they all wanted an old fashioned garden, but we used to already have that. This place used to be full of gardeners, but they’re all gone, there were farmers here, but they have all left. The municipality got rid of them and now we need so called allotments and have to learn to eat vegetables again.”

The largest problem at the centre of the new projects which Pieter voiced, was that the municipality is trying to recreate a landscape which it had previously actively removed.

“Yes, the projects were already there, but they took them away, and now they think that people should come watch cows again. There were a lot of cows here, but they removed them and now they want to bring them back for a new project.”

Kees also explained how his neighbours were not able to get planning permission to build a stable for their horses, while a newcomer on the other side of the road received permission to build stables for a neglected horses’ foundation. “It is all contradictory and redundant, because we do not have any neglected horses here. The municipality and foundation have gone and searched the country for neglected horses to put them together and start a foundation”. In addition, Pieter told how the municipality is now funding a farm down the road where people who are on an excursion of the area can come see how barley is cultivated.

“In a way I don’t think that’s too bad, but now they have called what they produce so called ‘old fashioned vegetables’. But you cannot buy anything old fashioned there. They all tell nice stories, but if you live here then it is not a nice story, then it’s a mess.”

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