Belonging | a place to stay

 

AWE
PHOTO SERIES

By Joost Gijzel (pictures) and Anoek Hofkens (text)

Patty Golsteijn (31) moved from Echt, a small village in the Dutch province Limburg, to New York by way of Eindhoven, Dordrecht and Rotterdam. Only to discover that she feels most at home in Rotterdam. “There was always a reason to move away: to study, for love or business. But there is no reason to leave Rotterdam. I live here because I really want to.”

“Look, another giant passes by.” Patty points at a ship sailing past her living room. Her place is situated on the fourth floor of an apartment block on the shore of the river Nieuwe Maas. Through her window she sees ships sailing by all day. “This is a really big one,” she says enthusiastically while she opens the doors to her balcony. She steps outside and leans over the railing. Her red-dyed hair blows across her face and back. “I really enjoy this,” she says without taking her eyes off the ship. “All this activity will never bore me.”

 
You can’t feel at home if you still long for somewhere else.
 

“In New York it became very clear to me. I craved going out for coffee spontaneously with friends and being close to my family, but also cheese,” she laughs guiltily. “Not presented to you all fancy on a platter like Americans do. No, just a slice or a cube that you pop into your mouth straight away.  You can’t feel at home if you still long for somewhere else. I know that now.”

“During a surprise visit to friends and family in The Netherlands I felt like I loved the Netherlands for the first time. On the train from Schiphol [Amsterdam Airport] to Rotterdam I looked across the fields and I was happy. I had always looked down on this country, but now I suddenly felt proud. It is so fucking beautiful here. This is my country, I realized in that moment. Here I am no outsider. I’m allowed to be here,” Patty says with shining eyes.

 
 
The ships of Rotterdam represent the simple way of life in the Netherlands
 
 

“We live such fucking good lives here,” she continues. “Dutch people work hard, but we also know how to enjoy ourselves. The ships of Rotterdam to me represent the pleasant and uncomplicated life in the Netherlands. Every time I see them, I feel proud again. When I decided to return to the Netherlands for good I knew I would live in Rotterdam.”

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By photographing and interviewing different kinds of people who feel at home in the Netherlands, photographer Joost Gijzel and journalist Anoek Hofkens show how diverse the Dutch society is. The question 'Where does someone belong?' is difficult to answer. It’s not necessarily the place where someone was born or where someone is meant to be. Where you belong is the place you long for at times when you’re not there.