Five Good Reasons To Leave Holland Between 1600 And Today

The Netherlands are famous for their wealth both in the past and today. The Dutch are known as a healthy, tolerant people that have created a country where you are free to speak your mind, where welfare takes cares of everybody and where living standards are high even for the less fortunate. Then why have so many Dutch left and still leave this apparent wonderland?

1. Business Opportunities
In 1602 the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie better known as VOC or Dutch East India Company was founded. It facilitated big expeditions to the East that returned to Holland with great riches. Every man brave enough to make the trip could share in this wealth, so many set sail to foreign destinations like South Africa and Indonesia.

Less known is that in 1621 the West–Indische Compagnie was founded, better known as WIC or Dutch West India Company. It had a more military character and intended to conquer pieces of the Americas to weaken Spain with which Holland was at war at the time. The WIC claimed New Amsterdam, now better known as New York. In spite of its military goals, the WIC attracted merchants too albeit of a more dubious type than those sailing for the VOC. They specialized mostly in the highly profitable trade of gold and slaves. They settled in New Amsterdam and later Surinam.

2. Poverty And Famine
When Napoleon left the Netherlands in 1814, the country plunged into a deep economic crisis. The French had depleted the Dutch economic reserves and although the new king, Willem I, took many measures to improve the economic situation it took several decades for them to take effect. The war in the 1830s with Belgium brought the country again to the verge of bankruptcy. To make the misery complete several crop failures followed in the mid 1840s causing people to literally die of hunger. These decades of misery were of course a good reason for people to emigrate and many took off especially to the United States.

3. Faith
The Netherlands had been mainly protestant ever since the idea was introduced in the 16th century. The Dutch had always seen faith as a private matter in which the government should not interfere. So when Willem I officially imposed new regulations on the Dutch Reformed Church he made a vital mistake. Many church members were deeply offended by this government interference with church affairs. They were also unhappy with the more liberal interpretation of the bible that was adopted over time. The conflict resulted in the Afscheiding van 1834 (separation of 1834) at which several congregations from the Northern and Eastern Netherlands separated themselves from the official Dutch Reformed Church.

The government demanded that the separated congregations would officially ask permission to found a new church. The separatists refused as they saw themselves as the true official church instead of a new one. As a result their church was proclaimed illegal by the government and members were actively frustrated in publicly practicing their faith. It was prohibited for these churches to give services and those preachers that still did were imprisoned.

Therefore some groups decided to build a new home in the free United States. Famous are the preachers Albertus van Raalte and Hendrik Peter Scholte that led their entire congregations to the new world founding the towns of Holland (Michigan) and Pella (Iowa). Between 1845 and 1860 people with similar ideas from the provinces of Gelderland, Overijssel and Zeeland also emigrated to Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, New York, and Washington.

4. World War II
In 1940 the German army invaded the Netherlands and occupied it for five long years. From 1942 the Nazis started persecuting Jewish people in the Netherlands as well. Because the Dutch had a very good administrative system and because many chose to look the other way, the Nazis were able to send over a 100,000 Dutch Jews off to concentration camps. An astonishingly high number for such a small country.

Around a 1000 Jewish people managed to emigrate in 1940 and 1941 through neutral Portugal and Spain. Openly emigrating became impossible after 1942, but with the help of the Dutch resistance and caring citizens that put their own lives and that of their families at risk some managed to escape to the United States through Britain. Most Jewish people and others that tried to escape from the Nazis weren't able to leave the country, however. They were hidden by resistance workers. Already in 1943 around 25,000 people were literally hiding from the Nazis in barns, attics and especially built secret rooms.

After the war ended in 1945 the Netherlands faced a deep economic crisis. This lead to massive emigration in the 1950s. People fled from the scarcity, the bad memories, and the fear for a third World War to far and for them exotic countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and South Africa.

5. Space And Taxes
Nowadays many Dutch leave the country in search for the one thing they do not have: space. They live in one of the most densely populated areas of the world: 398 people per km2 (1035/mi2). Countries like Australia, Canada and the States with an average population density of less than 32 people per km2 (83/mi2) are understandably true wonderlands of space for a Dutchman.

But it is not only physical space the Dutch seek. They also seek space for personal development, liberation from the culturally imposed egalitarianism of Dutch society. You are not supposed to be better, smarter, or richer than anybody else and you should certainly not show these things off. Many young Dutch find this aspect of Dutch culture asphyxiating and seek out a better place to express themselves.

A more prosaic reason for emigration today is escaping high taxes. The Dutch welfare state comes at a high cost. The Dutch pay 35% up to 52% of taxes, most of it for welfare they will probably never use themselves. Many young and often highly educated Dutch choose to take on a little risk in a less pampering environment in order to keep more of what they have earned with hard work.