Sunday 22 May 2022

Amsterdam dumps the ‘A’ word

Amsterdam city council is to stop using the words ‘allochtoon’ and ‘autochtoon’ to differentiate between locals and immigrants, the Telegraaf reports on Wednesday.

The idea originated from Labour party councillors but has now been given the support of the city’s executive board.

Labour says the use of the word allochtoon – primarily used to describe people with a non-western background – is divisive and strengthens a feeling of ‘them and us’.

‘We are all Amsterdammers, and from now on we will talk about Moroccan Amsterdammers or Turkish Amsterdammers,’ a spokesman for city executive Andrée van Es told RTL news.

RTL says a ‘foreign Amsterdammer’ will be defined as someone who was born abroad, or whose parents were born abroad.


According to the Van Dale dictionary, allochtoon means migrant, foreigner or alien. The third generation of Turkish and Moroccan immigrants are still known as allochtoon despite being born and brought up in Holland.

Politicians in the Netherlands have wrestled with the word for years, and there have been previous attempts to have it banned from official documentation.

In May last year, the cabinet’s advisory group on social development RMO said the government should stop categorising the population of the Netherlands according to ethnicity and parental birthplaces.

Concepts such as niet-westerse allochtoon (literally non-western non-native) should be scrapped. Instead local councils should only record the birthplace of the person concerned, rather than that of their parents, the RMO said.

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