30 minutes with the British Ambassador
Every day is a busy day when your focus is on strengthening further the healthy bilateral relationship between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands but Mr. Paul Arkwright, the British Ambassador in The Hague, managed to find some time for an exclusive interview.
The Netherlands is "an easy place to live in" according to Mr. Arkwright, who represents British citizens in the Netherlands. He has a crucial job of reporting and helping British companies, stimulating trade promotion and investment as well as a political role explaining to the Dutch what is happening in the UK, and explaining to London the sometimes confusing world of Dutch politics.
Approximately 70.000 British - a number that he does not see changing any time soon regardless of the economic turmoil and rise in education fees - reside in the Netherlands, with more than half of them in the four largest Dutch cities; Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.
"Most British people are perfectly able to look after themselves and don't need a lot of assistance," states Mr. Arkwright, who believes that internationalisation is minimising differences between nationalities. "However if they do need assistance then we have an excellent consular service which will do everything they can to help."
"Differences are not huge. People tend to say that the Dutch are very direct, which they are... They are good company and I enjoy debating and arguing with them at times. They are easy to develop professional relationships with and very accessible. Not to say that Brits are the opposite but we are perhaps a more reserved nation."
Apart from the fact that "there is a lot of bureaucracy here and differences in the health and insurance system," there are "many similarities with the United Kingdom: the climate, a well-working transport system, and many people can speak English which all contributes to making life easy for families. Brits prefer countries where English is spoken… Broadly speaking it is easy for the British to adjust."
"Part of the benefit of the EU is the free movement of labour" and thus, the majority of British move to the Netherlands to work for Dutch / international companies or legal institutions (such as Europol, EUROJUST or OPCW), while "families feel welcome here" mainly due to numerous English-speaking schools.
Building and maintaining "bilateral relations between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands" has a cultural aspect too. "This is an example of how we do things in Britain," asserted Mr. Arkwright when he presented Frankenstein - a live theatre broadcast from the National Theatre in London at Pathe Buitenhof in The Hague - one of many British initiatives that often take place in the Netherlands.