Humans of Rotterdam - Sophielize
Nestled on the banks of the Maas River, Holland’s 2nd biggest city has been busy making a name for itself. Now a thriving hub for expats and locals alike, Rotterdam is a jewel in the Dutch crown. I spoke to Sophielize - a born and bred Rotterdammer, to hear first-hand about what makes Rotterdam… Rotterdam.
So, let’s jump right in…
What is your first memory of Rotterdam?
“First memory? Um, well it isn’t my first memory but I remember when I first drove on the highway from The Hague to Rotterdam. There’s a part of the highway where the road is really high, and you have a great view of the city from there. Every time I see it, I’m reminded of how beautiful the city really is. It always makes me feel very proud of my city.”
What would you say is your favourite area of Rotterdam?
“We have so many different areas of Rotterdam, every area [has it’s] own good and bad stuff.
Different areas have different purposes – I grew up in the north of Rotterdam so that’s very familiar to me and it is the only place I’ve ever lived, actually. I’ve never come out of the north. My grandparents lived in the north, my parents still do…
Rotterdam was always quite a poor city – with a lot of working people so we have a few areas that really represent that. On the other hand, Hilsberg and Kralingen are both the expensive ‘rich people’ areas – and those have very nice, old houses that [weren’t] destroyed in the war. Overschie, that’s also an area I like a lot – because of the old and tiny houses, walking through there you feel like you’re in a theme park, almost.
… And we have the Witte de With straat, I like that a lot too – We have the Wereld Witte de With, it’s like a festival, but I think they stopped it 2 years ago, it was really nice, I loved it. They would close down the whole Witte De With, and put up stands with music, food and it was sort of like a street festival for a couple of days. So, I guess I’ve always been drawn to Witte de With…”
Let’s say someone comes to Rotterdam for the first time, and tells you they only have 1 hour here – where do you take them to show them the real Rotterdam?
“1 Hour? So short – Normally you’ll take someone to the Euromast and go to the Watertaxi – and go to the SS Rotterdam, or to the Hotel New York.
For me, probably the Saturday market – I think that’s a good place. You can see all the different cultures of Rotterdam –  all kinds of people, and they all go together shopping, bargaining and going for their weekly groceries.
You can see the old Dutch market [vendors] shouting “cheap fish” – and then you have a lot of Turkish stands, with fruits, vegetables or herbs.
I think the market has a nice combination of people – It has been there forever – every Tuesday and Saturday.”
Is Rotterdam changing?
“Yes – It is changing quite a lot… and for the [better] of course. You’ve probably noticed the amount of people – tourists – and also the focus on tourists.
They have tried to improve certain areas of Rotterdam, to make them better but that also makes it more expensive – you see that a lot in western countries, I think.
They’ve also been implementing a plan to make the city centre look better – which is really interesting to see. They’ve been busy making the sidewalks bigger and trying to get the cars out of the city centre – focusing more on pedestrians.
I think, if you’d have asked people 10 years ago what Rotterdam would look like today they probably wouldn’t have told you that it would be so expensive.”
What are your hopes for Rotterdam in the future?
To find a balance
It [wouldn’t be] Rotterdam anymore if we lost our working class mentality – I think that’s what makes Rotterdam people very kind as well. I actually think we came in 4th worldwide, in a study on which cities are the most kind and welcoming – by Travel Bird, maybe – I’m not sure. I think Rotterdam people are very open-minded and willing to help other people.
On the future - “To keep on growing – that’s good. But not lose our identity.”
Rotterdam is a place where people come to be free, take risks, and be a part of something bigger than themselves. The city feels like a family home, a place where no matter your background, or your reasons for being here – you’re welcomed, and part of the Rotterdam story.
Conor Prince - English teacher @Una Paloma Blanca Language School