An international Mayor
I very much agree with the idea to get in touch with the Dutch
Mr. Jan Hoekema, Mayor of Wassenaar, the town known for its international image, sits in his spacious office of Townhall de Paauw. The white landmark building, highly visible for the many motorists passing daily on the A44, used to be the summerhome of Prince Frederik and his family in the 19th century. This was long before the property was acquired by the Municipality of Wassenaar in 1925 to use it as its townhall. Today it is the hands-on and energetic Jan Hoekema, who oversees this small, but cosmopolitan town. I ask him what his vision is for Wassenaar and the international community in particular? How can he bring them in touch with the Dutch?
“First of all, I very much agree with the idea to get in touch with the Dutch and Wassenaar is ideally suited to facilitate that process. Twenty to twentyfive percent of our residents in Wassenaar are non-Dutch, which translates into approximately fivethousand people. We have a lot to offer them: our very green surroundings, as well as proximity to the big cities Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and even Brussels. We have our famous estates, the dunes, the beach. Moreover we have a lot of culture, such as the International Chamber Music Festival, open-air performances of the English Theatre and a new museum, which is being built here by Joop van Caldenborg, former CEO of Caldic. Furthermore, we are proud to have Royalty here in Wassenaar and we have thirtyfive Ambassadors who reside here, not to mention the new US Embassy that will move here within the next two years. In addition we offer many sports, such as hockey, tennis and what have you.
Many Dutch and non-Dutch children are members of these sports clubs. For instance the son of the Ambassador of Iran likes to play soccer. Then there is quite some horse riding in
Wassenaar. I know of several Ambassadors, who ride horses. There are also many joggers, including Ambassadors. I regularly see the Ambassador of Indonesia jogging.
On a different note, in these modern times of sustainability, it is also worth mentioning that we have several sustainability initiatives, such as the monthly organic market on the first Saturday of April through October and we have many charging stations for electric cars. Furthermore, I would like to mention the high level and the number of healthcare facilities that we offer and which are of prime importance to many people. Equally important is the fact that many of these healthcare services are provided in English. Last but not least I would like to underline our excellent education. We have the ASH (American School of The Hague) with twelvehundred students and hundred different nationalities and also the Indonesian School, as well as the British School in Voorschoten, which is close by. Of course there are excellent Dutch schools as well, such as the Rijnlands Lyceum and the
Adelbert College. Sometimes however expats send their children to a Dutch school. What better way is there to get in touch with the Dutch?” according to Mayor Hoekema.
The conversation shifts to the immensely popular yearly outing with the Ambassadors and their families, which has not been initiated by Mayor Hoekema, but has been reinstated by him in 2008, after it was discontinued many years ago. This year the Mayor took the group of Ambassadors on a bicycle tour, but he strives to do something different every year and it is very much appreciated. “It is fun for them and it is fun for us, as we get to know each other a bit better,” the Mayor adds. In addition to the yearly outing, which always takes place in September, Mayor Hoekema also organizes a yearly High Tea in March for the Ambassadors, who live in Wassenaar and the US Ambassador, as the US Embassy will move to Wassenaar within the next two years. At this High Tea the Mayor and his guests discuss issues of current interest. “We discuss practical issues such as green maintenance, traffic issues, local and national elections. Anything can be discussed and we keep it all in a very discrete, safe environment, so people can speak their minds freely.” The annual Ambassadors outing and the High Tea are not the only diplomatic events, in which the Mayor plays a key role. Initiated this year by Mrs. Shida Bliek, newly arrived Ambassadors, who have presented their credentials to His Majesty the King, are welcomed at the Diplomat Club Wassenaar at the Castle de Wittenburg and presented with a Certificate by Mayor Hoekema.
I am very happy about the welcoming ceremony. It was warm and welcoming and it was highly appreciated. In the end, Ambassadors are also people, and people like to connect
The Mayor concludes by sharing his views on the newly opened Diplomat Club Wassenaar. “I am very happy about the initiative of the welcoming ceremony by Mrs. Shida Bliek. It was a warm and welcoming ceremony and it was highly appreciated. In the end, Ambassadors are also people, and people like to connect. In the setting of this club it is easy to connect and to get to know each other better, beyond the short conversations, which usually take place at receptions. I think the Ambassadors really liked it.”
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