Netherlands: Shopping in Little Turkey

The Nicis Institute for Urban Research suggests in a study titled "Economic opportunities of ethnic diversity" that the major cities should transform the immigrant neighborhoods into "Little Turkey" with large shopping streets and many cultural manifestations, similar to the American Little Italy or Chinatown.

According to Nicis, putting together foreign populations is good for their economic development. And neighborhoods such as Little Turkey or Little Morocco could be an attraction for internal and external tourism.

Nicis manager Wim Hafkamp thinks that there are already two neighborhoods in Amsterdam, the Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht, which could be considered for this approach, and he advises to give those neighborhoods their own 'face'.

He says that immigrant entrepreneurs in such strongholds are encouraged to undertake enterprises, since they're assured of customers, and that leads to a snow ball effect.

Social and city geographer Gideon Bolt of Utrecht University thinks the ideas are "refreshing and feasible"

However, shop owners in Rotterdam-Noord don't agree and say that they don't get customers this way.

Saïd Benseddik, owner or Moroccan restaurant Jasmin, points to an empty shop down the road. He says his neighbor tried it with typical Moroccan products, but it didn't work. The customers are already acquainted with the products and can get those things if they go to Morocco.

The old shopping street has a Moroccan fountain, inlaid with mosaics. The winding street is dominated by Moroccan and Turkish shops. The phone shops disappeared, but there are still Turkish and Moroccan vegetable shops, barbers, travel agencies, music and furniture stores.

Akif Oguz of Derya furnishings says that he prefers an ethnic Dutch flower shop than more immigrant shops. With more of the same you don't earn money, or attract people from outside.

Ahmed Harika, head of the Noord neighborhood, hears the same from immigrant entrepreneurs. Their shops don't attract enough customers and they prefer to see more ethnic Dutch shops. Shop owners think that immigrants don't have enough buying power and will have no returns.

Harika thinks that entrepreneurs should be a reflection of the neighborhood, and that good entrepreneurship has nothing to do with origin. He says he isn't aware of a Dutch city where a concept such as Chinatown has been successful. They want a mixed neighborhood. They do want to enlarge, but in another way. He says that if it's up to him he won't have any more vegetable stores, barbers or kebab shops, since there are enough of those.

Many shop keepers are perplexed when talk starts of immigrant entrepreneurship. They prefer simply being entrepreneurs. Turkish and Moroccan shop owners don't think they'll attract tourists by being 'ethnic'.

Little Istanbul or Marrakesh sounds nice, says visitors at Akendiz Video and Music, but what happens if there's a flood of discrimination in Rotterdam?

Sources: AD 1, 2 (Dutch)

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