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032. Herring and flowers: typically Turkish

What I like most about my travels and work abroad is that appearances, perceptions and reality are different from what one expects; they change the more when one travels and opens up. The best herring in the Netherland is sold by a Turkish/Dutch company, the Turkish tulip is considered to be Dutch, and Dutch plants are successfully sold in Turkey, in spite of high import tariffs. Wesley Sneijder being Dutch, playing for a Turkish club, scoring the equalizer against Turkey last Saturday and still very popular in Turkey. World turned upside down? No, this is the real world, one we should embrace warmly.

Some know that tulips were originally cultivated in the Ottoman Empire to please the Sultans. Fewer know that originally they come from Central Asia. Whatever happened, we the Dutch made this beautiful flower a symbol of our country and made some serious money during this process.The mayor of Istanbul however decided to take back the tulips from the Dutch. Since 2005, a yearly festival celebrates the Turkish origin of the tulips. Millions of tulips now color Istanbul ; I love it. And the Netherlands? We liked the idea and decided to ‘borrow’ the tulips one more time from the Turks. This year, the first edition of Amsterdam Tulip Festival will take place.Probably we need to accept the fact that the tulip is now a little bit of both of us.

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Last week I visited the company ‘Life and Garden Istanbul’. The owner, also with strong Turkish roots, is a living example of the love for flowers and plants that Turkey and the Netherlands share. With his company he provides top quality and -in spite of high tariff barriers- his prices are still below the average in Turkey. I wish him success!

Herring is another topic where Turkish Dutch perceptions, expectations and reality can surprise. Every year in May, the herring fishing season starts. A Dutch newspaper (‘Algemeen Dagblad’ – AD) selects the best herring seller each year. For the last three years, the Turkish origin brothers Abdullah and Umut Tagi won this National Herring test. Their company is called Atlantic and is (of course) located in Scheveningen. For a long time, the Turkish-Dutch brothers were not fully accepted by their colleagues in the herring business. ‘We were always known as ‘the Turks’ but I think, winning the most important prize there is means we have definitely made it,’ Umut Tagi told the AD. Rightfully they now broadly receive respect for their excellent work and herring, also from this consulate as they are one of our highly appreciated sponsors of the annual King’s Day!

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