Ron van Dartel, Ambassador of The Netherlands to Russia

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Interview by John Harrison

How many Dutch people are there in Moscow?

Over the years, Moscow has continued to be an interesting place for Dutch citizens, notably businessmen. Of course numbers keep changing due to short stay visits of students and tourists from the Netherlands. Overall, I would say more than two hundred Dutch citizens consider Moscow their home base.

What are the community of expats from the Netherlands engaged in?

Most of Dutch expats in Russia are here for business reasons. Some of them arrived back in the nineties. People with an entrepreneurial spirit, looking for opportunities in the then new and unknown Russian market. They have settled in Russia and are currently running their own businesses, from consultants and business to business service providers, to traders and a couple of farmers. This is the core of the Dutch expat community. And there is a larger group of Dutch business people and their families that have been expatriated to Russia on a temporary basis and who are employed by Dutch or multinational companies with establishments in Russia. Most Dutch expats work and live in the vicinity of Moscow and St Petersburg, but they can also be found throughout the country in places like Krasnodar, Belgorod, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk and last but not least Sakhalin where employees of a joint venture of Royal Dutch Shell and Gazprom have created an active Dutch community.

What do you personally think of Moscow and Muscovites?

I arrived as Ambassador to Russia almost two years ago, and one thing I immediately noticed is the hospitality of Russians. Whenever you are invited to someone’s home, or to a reception, Russians will make sure there is a broad variety of food and drinks on the table.

I was also impressed by the strong family ties, the high level of literacy and the huge interest for culture in Russia. We can enjoy in Moscow – and Russia as a whole – an impressive amount of museums. The Tretyakov Gallery and the Pushkin museum are amongst my favourite museums in Moscow. And not to forget the variety of parks in Moscow, with so many visitors and different activities during the weekend.

The bilateral Netherlands-Russia year ‘NLRF 2013’ witnessed a broad range of cultural exchange, including a high number of Dutch expositions in Moscow. Many Dutch museum directors visited Moscow, and were impressed by the professionalism of Russian curators.

Moscow is a dynamic city, which continuously amazes its inhabitants and visitors. So far all of my guests have been keen on visiting the Bolshoi and Red Square. And they are always impressed by the design of the city’s metro system.

Last but not least, I am fond of the diversity of restaurants in Moscow. The presence of Russian, European, Latin American and Asian cuisine – to name but a few – reflects the diversity of regions and cultures represented in Moscow. Without a doubt, the Russian capital is a city with global allure.