Belonging | at a train station



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

One can often find Illfet Subasi (26) at central station in Rotterdam. As a journalist, she always commutes to her work by train, but that’s not the only reason she is often at the station. “Everything begins and ends here,” she says.

“My cousin got married in the bar ‘Engels’, just around the corner,” she says while standing at the square right in front of the station. “And my father, brother and sister in law live in that neighbourhood over there,” she continues, pointing in a different direction.

People make their way around her - all in a rush to catch their trains. It’s a sunny, late summer afternoon and Iffet’s headscarf gently dances in the warm wind. She then takes her headscarf in her left hand and starts playing with it just as girls play with their hair. “I love the hustle and bustle here,” she says, glancing around. “The people around me tend to calm me down,” she continues with a smile.

Happy memories make me feel at home here.

“There are so many places in close proximity of this station where I’ve collected nice memories,” she says. “They sell, for example, the best curried chicken sandwiches just a bit further down the street. And I conduct all my interviews on a street that’s only a few blocks away. In the building over there, the Manhattan hotel, I once went to a press conference of Zülfü Livaneli, an influential Turkish writer I admire. That was very special. Besides, this station is the place where I always meet my friends. I think that all these happy memories make me feel at home here.”

Feeling at home is a moment

“Turkish-Dutch people are often asked ‘Where do you feel at home most, in The Netherlands or in Turkey?’ One’s home is often related to a country, but one can feel at home in multiple countries. Feeling at home is a moment to me. When I get off the train at the station after a day of work I always get this nice feeling, like ‘finally, I’m home’.”

“Besides,” Iffet continues, “choosing between Turkey and the Netherlands is like choosing between your mom and your dad. It’s impossible. Being both Turkish and Dutch is not the same as being only Dutch or only Turkish. By combining aspects of both cultures we have created our own culture.”

“Ever since the station was reconstructed, the station has an actual living room - did you know that? In this living room you have - just like at home - wifi, couches and nice decorations; this creates a really cosy ambience. You can take a seat there without having to order something at the bar. This one time I forgot my key and my mom told me ‘Why don’t you wait in the living room?’ It really feels like one.”


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.