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It’s been a bit over a year now since I moved to Australia. Roughly 399 years after another Dutchman, Willem Janszoon, the first European to visit Australia. In honour of this 400 year anniversary, Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende is visiting Australia this week. He wrote an article about the Dutch and the Ozzies which was published in the Australian yesterday.

Obviously it is not hard for a Dutchman to feel at home here. He claims that despite the differences, The Netherlands and Australia are well matched:

Our societies share the same values: freedom, democracy, tolerance, respect for human rights and solidarity with those in difficulties.

We both have diverse populations

Contrary to what many people think, The Netherlands, like Australia, has always been an important destination for immigrants. (I don’t why he says that that is contrary to what people think. To my knowledge, the Netherlands was long known as being an immigrant country; maybe this became less so through the policies of his own cabinet, Ed)

Our countries are at similar levels of development.

And, most importantly, we have similar mentalities: enterprising, creative, upfront, unconventional and egalitarian.

The Dutch too are familiar with the tall poppy syndrome. Fortunately, neither the Dutch nor the Australians let it stand in the way of their approach to science, business, art and design.

The Dutch and Australians also share a strong focus on Asia. Afghanistan and Indonesia are two countries where Australia and The Netherlands are prominently active.

(And of course, we are both led by a politically conservative/economically liberal government, Ed)

It’s a good thing that there are a lot of differences as well.

The PM visited the Formula 1 races in Melbourne this weekend. Today he met Australian PM John Howard and visted the Australian National University. Tomorrow he might join us in Sydney for an early celebration of the Dutch Queensday. The annual excuse to eat bitter balls and raw herring and drink Heineken.

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