It is our privilege to launch, with this issue, our annual list of the 50 most dynamic international residents of The Netherlands. It has been an awe-inspiring task to review CVs submitted by our contributors and make a selection, and we may have overlooked important candidates or made misjudgements. Please inform us where you disagree with our choices, and make suggestions for improving this process in the future. We are by no means perfect. But it has been a wondrous experience sifting through the life stories of hundreds of impressive people to make our choice. We want to thank the international community here for that experience.
Of course we could have expected it. People who leave where they were born and expect to make a viable life amongst strangers are already marked by a particular optimism and determination. They aren’t ordinary dross. But the range of experiences we encountered in putting together this list is particularly extensive. From Farah Karimi, with her background as a freedom fighter in Iran to French high-tech whizz, Eric Meurice, who boosts the profits of chip-maker ASML, we’ve found ourselves in a world of bounteous achievement.
The individuals you will read about in our list add pep and sparkle to life in The Netherlands. They are like a form of yeast that helps the whole society to rise: a Japanese architect, with his particular aesthetic, an Indian fashion magnate, a Chinese economist, a US publisher… These individuals keep Holland in the mainstream of modern business and culture.
One thing we found remarkable in our researches was the explosive growth of international entrepreneurs in The Netherlands. According to the Monitor of Female and Ethnic Entrepreneurship, which was launched last year, the number of ‘non-western’ entrepreneurs
in The Netherlands grew by over 50% in the first 7 years of this century, to reach 61,000. Amongst people of Turkish origin alone, the number of entrepreneurs hit nearly 17,000 in 2008, according to the latest issue of National Geographic magazine. Celal Oruç’s story, which we have chosen to publish, may be illustrative. His company, Ortel Mobile, took only five years to become one of the top five in Holland.
Something is happening under the surface of our society. New forms of business are bubbling, fizzing, seething, sparked by new cultural DNA entering and seeking space in these lowlands. Aysel Erbudak, born in Turkey, has challenged traditional notions related to healthcare by taking over Slotervart Hospital in Amsterdam as a private enterprise and improving its functioning. ‘Growing up in two worlds is an enrichment,’ she told National Geographic.
This is what our internationals offer this society, the opportunity to live in various worlds simultaneously. We hope their stories will inspire and entertain you and that we’ll hear from you, our international readers, as well. We are also interested in knowing your stories.