Zeeland land of migration

Zeeland has traditionally always been a province of migration. For centuries people have arrived and left the area. Trading companies created many opportunities to settle in far away places for those who wanted to leave, while others preferred to settle in Zeeland instead.

Language, customs and traditions were mutually introduced and assimilated as part of the culture of Zeeland or as part of a ‘foreign’ culture. However, complete integration, the so-called melting pot effect did not, and still does not, always take place. Immigrants and emigrants are proud of their own cultures and are eager to preserve,  cherish and express parts of it.

Real Globetrotters

You may perhaps have some family members who have left Zeeland, since people from Zeeland are known to be real globetrotters. This explains why you might encounter the Zeeuws-Flemish dialect in the Brazilian jungle, or how you might discover a town with the name ‘Zeeland’ in North-America. Did you know that the Parbo-beer from Suriname was originally invented by two brothers from Zeeland? And you might even find out that you’re related to the African president Frederik Willem de Kerk.

Renowned ships

Until the second half of the twentieth century, there were two prominent ways of undertaking large journeys. Either by land, on foot or by other means of transportation, or you could travel across the sea with a ship. Renowned ships which traveled to the Dutch-Indies were: Slamat, Sibajak, Indrapoera, Baloeran, Dempo and Willem Ruys. These ships were all build at shipyard “De Schelde” in Vlissingen. Out of of all the passenger ships ever built in the Netherlands, the Willem Ruys was the most luxurious. Some special features of this luxurious vessel were its escalators and automatic doors. It could hold 840 passengers in three different classes. Moreover, these classes were kept rigidly separated from each other. The Willem Ruys sailed along its service line to Indonesia until 1958.

The Holland America Line

A direct connection for steam powered ships between Rotterdam and New York was established from 1872 onwards. This process  started with the founding of the “Nederlandsch-Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij” (NASM) which would later become the Holland America line (HAL). Around 1880, most people from Zeeland traveled with a ship owned by the Holland America Line from Zeeland to America. However, people from Zeeuws-Vlaanderen tended to leave from Antwerp and took the Red Star Line, which sailed to New York between 1872 and 1934,  instead.

The American passenger ship  ‘Finland’ owned by the Red Star Line, stranded on an enbankment near Nieuwesluis on its way from Antwerp to New York.