International news is paramount to share stories of individuals, communities and societies and bridge these by learning about each other. Red Pers is therefore excited to welcome you to our International Wednesdays, giving you one article every week in English to offer an insight from an international perspective on the global world we live in.
Our world is becoming more globalised and so is our news coverage. But while our news covers the big stories, the inauguration of Trump or the annexation of Crimea by Russia, we forget about what is happening in the background and alongside.
When I moved to Russia, I was surprised by everything: from the supermarkets to the people to the politics. I was surprised that people studied (although in fancier outfits than the students at the library here); invited you to an outdoor walking concert with a stage at each major bridge in St. Petersburg; wrote articles about sexist comments made by professors at the university; stayed out until 5 AM dancing to Russian tekno in a club with a basketball court in the smoking area or by enthusiastically asking whether I could also read runer, the ancient written language of the Vikings, while sharing a coupe on a train from Yekaterinburg to Kazan. I was surprised that they were so like us and so much more diverse than I ever imagined the Russian population to be.
Stories of everyday Russian life and non-Putin related content rarely reaches the front page. It made me wonder how much I subconsciously had constructed a world around the news that I am exposed to and how much I probably do not know. It made me realise just how powerful stories are in informing, inspiring, and educating – about things that concern our own daily sphere of affairs, but also beyond at a local, national, regional, and international level.
Everyone has an individual responsibility to seek a greater understanding of stories.
The big stories are important, but so are those that we do not hear, that are in the background or a working alongside the main act. That is why I think everyone has an individual responsibility to seek a greater understanding of stories and that is where the beauty, magnitude and importance of news lies. By re-introducing Red Pers International, we hope that we can provide you with the place to look further every Wednesday.
Behind something as simple as buying socks in Russia lies a story: the local H&M and Zara prices for socks have skyrocketed following the economic sanctions towards Russia by the West. The small issue of buying socks suddenly had an international dimension. This is not only the case in Russia, but the Netherlands too. There is more to the cheaper bus tickets, the removal of quinoa at your local supermarket, and the increasing number of Somalian-Dutch citizens than first meet they eye. These too have a wider, global dimension.
Sometimes it does not feel like that though. Sometimes it feels like the Netherlands is very Dutch. But the Dutch population is also becoming more international. There are people from 176 different countries living in Amsterdam. The Netherlands in total has a number closer to a million, around 900,500 people at the start of 2017 and this number is consistently rising. Dutch universities are also attracting more international students to the land of cycling. Over the past 10 years, the number of foreign students in the Netherlands has doubled, a report by the international education group Nuffic reports. As a result, everyday interactions in the Netherlands also carry an international dimension nowadays. The people you meet at the Albert Heijn, at the library, at work, at the park are all connected to outside the Netherlands somehow.
As a resident of such an international world, I want to read about developments going on in other places that will affect my daily sphere. The war in Syria, the impacts of Hurricane Irma, coltan mining in DR Kongo or robot-technology innovation in South Korea. These events may first and foremost alter the place in which they take place, but also change how the world operates irrespective of geographical proximity.
What is going on in the rest of the world will also affect Amsterdam and Netherlands at large, enhancing the need for international stories in the Netherlands and abroad to build a bridge to a global world. So, although the country may be flat, the news landscape should not be. Red Pers International is looking forward to connecting you with the rest of the world.
Petra Karlsen Stangvik from Norway, the new managing editor of Red Pers International, welcomes you to International Wednesdays.