Members of the international community answer 10 key questions about their lives in the Netherlands


My Dutch husband told me: ‘I married an American, please stay American!’

My Dutch husband told me: ‘I married an American, please stay American!’

Georgia Regnault-Smith came to the Netherlands for a year in 1965, met her husband in Amsterdam and ended up staying. She settled in The Hague, became a relocation consultant and has been active in the American Women's Club of The Hague and the Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas (FAWCO) for 40 years. Her work with both organisations was recognised when she was recently made a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was working for a student travel agency, NBBS, in New York. I'd finished college and couldn't get a job in my field of mathematics, but I wanted to live in NYC, so I thought I'd try this for a year. Back in those days the agency was purely for students. They ran tours of Europe for American college girls – Volkswagen bus trips with a Dutch student driver. It was as close to backpacking as we had then. Part of the NYC job was that you got a free passage to Europe, by boat. I spent 10 days getting here! I met some marvellous people during that time; I still call them my 'Dutch family'. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc – and why? At the beginning I was more of an adventurer, coming over here on my own. Then I turned into a lovepat when I met a Dutch man. I was about to leave for America again when I met him. He was set on emigrating to the US but he never did. The US Government considered him Indonesian because he was born in the Dutch East Indies, even though it was to Dutch parents. There was no immigration quota for Indonesians then so I would have had to petition for him to enter. With the Vietnam War going on I was worried they would draft him – they were drafting green card holders too – so we didn't do it in the end. How long do you plan to stay and why? My husband and I did plan on returning to the US but once you have three children you don't move so easily. We thought perhaps when we retired, but we didn't in the end. Our two sons now live in the US, but luckily our daughter lives here. I'll definitely stay here now, the healthcare is so much better and I don't want to take Holland away from my kids who do live in the US. Holland is definitely home to me. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch but I learnt slowly. I never took lessons, so I just learnt by listening. I only read when I have to, official things. I don't really write it. My husband never tried to make me Dutch, that was important. Dutch families' expectations can be quite overpowering, at least in the 60s, but he always said: 'I married an American, please stay American!’ He was an Americophile before he met me, so no one was surprised when we married. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Witlof! In all its forms: cold as a salad, or with ham and cheese. It ́s rarely eaten in the States, but one can get it sometimes in big American supermarkets, where it's called Belgian Endive. I still cook very American, except for Dutch stew and the occasional stamppot. How Dutch have you become and why? I would not dream of welcoming someone into my home, or to a business meeting even, and not offer them a drink. Everything here starts with a cup of coffee. So no, I don't think I am very Dutch. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? The king – I'm a big royalty watcher. I find that in the US our President has to be that figurehead as well as the political leader – he has to kiss the babies as well as doing everything else. I think it's best to split the roles because, well you see it in the US Election this year: everyone is so interested in the personality of the person that you spend all the time talking about them personally instead of the issues. Ten years ago I would have said Princess Beatrix; it would be really nice to meet the figurehead of the country. Johan Cruyff – I was a fan of his from the very first moment I came to Holland. I've been a big Ajax fan since then. I lived with the parents of a friend from NYC when I first came here and her father had a box at the Olympic Stadium, so he used to invite me to Ajax games. I like all sports, but Cruyff had these funny sayings and philosophies, and I appreciate those. Like: elk nadeel heeft z'n voordeel – every disadvantage has its advantage. Professor Bas Bloem, the director of ParC (The Parkinson's Centre) at the Radboud university in Nijmegen and set up the Parkinson Net, which is a network of caregivers such as physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, who have been specifically trained to help people with Parkinson's and related conditions. When we discovered almost four years ago that my husband had something akin to Parkinson's this network was a godsend for us. Apparently Dr. Bloem has since helped set this up in California as well. He is one of the top neurologists in the country and he's spread that knowledge worldwide now. I think he's also just a very nice guy, according to people who have studied with him and the video's I have seen of his lectures. What's your top tourist tip? The tulip fields in spring. I have about five paintings of tulips in my house; they're really my favourite flower. Every spring it still surprises me, they're so beautiful. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands I think that I have to go back 50 years, but to some extent it is still true today. I felt it has a big storybook feeling about it: the landscape, the windmills, the little villages. When I was in elementary school I built a Dutch village with my teacher, so I guess I was destined to come here. It ́s all a bit like Madurodam. It's all still there, very picturesque despite all the industrial success of the country, with big brands like Albert Heijn, Shell, Philips to name just a few. The Dutch are quite modest about that success to a certain extent. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd take a walk in the Clingendael Park, which has traditional woods, a 100-year old Japanese garden and a formal Dutch garden. Lots of different things in one place. Or I'd take a walk in the dunes. From my apartment I look out onto the dunes, they stretch out for 3km before you reach the beach at Scheveningen. I love being near water. Where I grew up I saw water every day, it's important that I don't live inland. And a lake doesn't do it for me – I want to see the sea!   More >


‘My life here is totally agenda-based. If it’s not in the diary it doesn’t happen’

‘My life here is totally agenda-based. If it’s not in the diary it doesn’t happen’

Nitesh Saini first came to the Netherlands from India on business nine years ago. He works as a senior ICT manager in Amstelveen and in his spare time supports clazzez.com, a community-based website where talented individuals can showcase their skills in their local city or neighbourhood. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My previous employer wanted to open up business with a leading Dutch bank and I was asked to travel to the Netherlands for the company. In the few months it took to conclude the deal my family came to visit a couple of times. We found the Netherlands a great place to consider living with our beautiful daughter for the next phase in our lives. We moved lock, stock and barrel in 2007. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc – and why? I don’t think these categories should define anyone. Having travelled to and lived in many countries, I strongly feel part of a global community that is not bound by any borders. Perhaps this reflects how I think of myself more as a global citizen. As Kofi Annan put it: ‘to be a global citizen, begin with your own community’, which for me means that everyone should work to make a positive difference in their own way. How long do you plan to stay and why? This is a tricky question. We originally planned for one to two years, which became five and is now touching 10. For my daughter the Netherlands is home. Although our families are in India, my wife and I have found great like-minded friends and developed a large multicultural social network. So for now, we don’t see ourselves leaving for a few years. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I cleared A2, so that’s the level of Dutch I know! However, since most of our friends are expats from various countries and I work with a very international mix of colleagues, English remains our primary language of conversation. My wife and daughter are fluent Dutch speakers, though. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Patat, kipsate and oliebollen. Kipsate may not be Dutch, but this is where I discovered it and its just perfect. For me, patat is an any-time meal: with a few toppings, you can be done for the day. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet and why? I would like to meet Anne Frank to appreciate her incredible story that has touched millions of lives throughout the world, even though I realise now she is not Dutch. Then Neelie Kroes for her inspirational support of the technology scene in the Netherlands. Finally, the founders behind Adyen so that I could ask how they set up an international payment platform for businesses, and then understand their journey to the Unicorn Club. So impressive. How Dutch have you become and why? My Dutch neighbour and I have our offices near each other. She often encouraged me to bike to work yet I couldn’t resist getting into my car every morning. So when it was time to sell our second car, I decided not to buy a new car and started biking to work! I hope I can sustain this. Also, life is totally agenda-based now. If it’s not in the calendar, it doesn’t happen. We celebrate Dutch holidays, the key ones being King’s Day and Sinterklaas. We love the spirit of Sinterklaas and look forward to the celebrations, especially the pepernoten. What's your top tourist tip? Don’t trust the weather forecast. Rent a bike and just go! Every corner of the country is connected with a bike path. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Not using a credit card is perfectly normal. No matter how old one is, hagelslag is still the favourite breakfast food. The cure for everything is a paracetamol. The Dutch openly disagree with one other until they reach a point everyone agrees with (no matter how long this takes) and only then do they start work. The results thereafter are of high quality, which is visible all around us. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’ll probably take another Amsterdam canal tour with my wife. It makes you feel so touristy that leaving the Netherlands may not hurt so much. Later, one final run in the Amsterdamse Bos, a visit to the goat park (or a farm) with my daughter and a first visit to some remaining museums. Find out more about Clazzez at https://www.clazzez.com or subscribe to the blog at https://blog.clazzez.com  More >


‘I think any city built on water has something magical about it’

‘I think any city built on water has something magical about it’

Satarupa Bose Roy, 37, is from India and has lived in the Netherlands for around 10 years. She is the founder of Indyana, a magazine for Indian nationals in the Netherlands, can't ride a bike and would like to meet Ruud Gullit because her grandad is his biggest fan. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I accompanied my husband who had come over as a knowledge migrant. He is an IT consultant. He came over from Calcutta and I joined him about 6 months later. We were first based in Utrecht and then Eindhoven, and now we're in Almere. It's been a bit of a journey for us in the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I would consider myself first as an Indian, and then perhaps an international, but I don't really consider myself an expat.  Since I set up my 'expat' magazine I feel I have come much closer to Dutch society. I do call myself an international. I feel very fluent in the ways of the world having lived and studied in the UK too. How long do you plan to stay? This is always the trickiest part, actually! I've always felt this strong force that drives me back to my roots. But, I find it very peaceful here, especially when it comes to thinking about my kid's future. We have strong family ties back home and I know it's all ticking along there at the same time as my life moves forward here. We do have responsibilities back home, ageing parents (I'm an only child) and there is always the undeniably strong pull of our roots. I always thought I would go back, perhaps when my daughter starts university. I´ll definitely stay here a few years longer but perhaps then I'll shift again, closer to where I feel I belong. That said, I do not feel in transit in the Netherlands.  My daughter was born here and she is really leaving her footprints here already; she speaks Dutch, has Dutch friends. So, the real answer is - I really don't know at the moment, I will have to see what my destiny turns out to be. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch but with a foreign accent, and I'm definitely not fluent. I still think in my mother tongue (Bengali), translate it into English and then into Dutch in my head, and then speak. That´s an elaborate process, and makes me a bit slow. I remember when I went to the UK to study I had a strong Indian accent and so I probably speak Dutch with an Indian-British accent. I picked up the language from the supermarket, the bus drivers, my friends at the gym, roadside joggers, and then I went to a language institute to get diplomas and make the bond stronger. What's your favourite Dutch food ? I like kibbeling! I first had it at one of the beaches Holland is famous for, I forget which one.  It so reminded my of the street food in India. It was from a fish vendor's cart. I remember it was in the summer-time, and the sun was shining bright on my face, and there was a salty breeze in my hair.  I sat on the sand with a paper plate on my lap, with this greasy, oily, salty, hot kibbeling; it felt great. It´s also a good contrast with the normal ideas about Dutch food. How Dutch have you become and why? I wish I had become more Dutch. But, I don't go for a jog in the rain, I cannot drink milk and then orange juice at lunch, and I can't ride a bike. What I do now however, is speak my mind unabashed, so perhaps that makes me more Dutch. I speak loud and clear and choose words that are more direct. Wherever you go people will tell you they're very 'in your face'; they´re proud of their directness. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to mee? Mata Hari: You may be shocked by that answer, but I really was intrigued to read about her.  Europe's queen of unbridled eroticism! An exotic dancer, a courtesan, liar, deceiver, harlot, she was a true femme fatale. I wish I could meet her, interview her and write her biography. There must have been so many masked realities under the guise of that mysterious, seductive dancer; behind her performances, both onstage and off. Anne Frank: As a child I remember reading Anne Frank as part of our English literature syllabus, it was the first European diary I had read. My copy probably came from my grandfather´s collection. The first thing I did in Amsterdam was to visit the museum dedicated to her. I would have loved to have met her in person. Ruud Gullit: I really remember watching him in the world cups, as a teenager. I just loved his pace and passion for the game. He was my grandfather's favourite football player. I´d like to tell him that in some remote corner of the world, miles away across the ocean, he had a fan who thought he was the best football player the world had ever witnessed. What's your top tourist tip? Walk by the canals; explore the bridges built on them, and the narrow alleys. I think as a whole the Netherlands is a really picturesque country. Walk around for any length of time and you will find beauty in abundance. The old city centre in Utrecht is lovely but I've always loved walking by the canals in Amsterdam the most. I think any city built on water has something magical about it. I've been to Venice too, but I think Amsterdam has something really amazing and special about it. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands How the entire country follows the clock! They are very time efficient here. When I say that, I mean, like at the train station - you´re a minute late and the train doors will be closing! It´s so punctual! I really feel that the entire transport system is so efficient. I follow Indian stretchable time. If I go to a Dutch meeting I really have to try and be on time. Sometimes I feel it can have negative connotations too, as it has a mechanised quality about it, but it is astonishing. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go for a drive over the Afsluitdijk, preferably at sunset. I have always felt a strange one-ness with nature whenever I have visited it. I´d love to bid my final adieu to the country from there! The new issue of Indyana Magazine has just been published.  More >


‘I’ve lived all over the world and home is where the heart is’

‘I’ve lived all over the world and home is where the heart is’

Rhode Island native Scott Mongeau works in Amsterdam as a data scientist. His path to the Netherlands began on the other side of the world in the mid 1990s. He currently lives in Leiden with his wife and dog. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Through my wife. I met her while I was studying in Melbourne, Australia. That was in 1995. We were living in a house for international students and things progressed. We had to decide what to do to avoid visa problems because we couldn’t spend more than three months in each other’s country. We were young and crazy so we said, ‘Let’s get married! If it doesn’t work out that’ll be OK.’ But it did work out and we’ve been married now for almost 20 years. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I suppose I started out as a lovepat but later converted to an international as a result of our relationship. We ended up getting citizenship in each other’s countries so she has US citizenship and I have Dutch citizenship. We’re both internationals now. We got married in Austin, Texas in 1996 and we moved to Amsterdam In 1998. How long do you plan to stay? I get asked that question a lot by well-meaning Dutch people. ‘Where are you from and when will you be leaving?’ It’s like they assume that I couldn’t possibly be happy here and will want to move back home at some point. I think a lot of Dutch people have a close connection to their home town. For me, I’ve lived all over the world and home is where the heart is, so to speak. Right now, we don’t have any plans to leave. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes. I started learning by buying beers for people at the original Cafe Gollem in Amsterdam. It was the only way I could get people to speak to me in Dutch. I eventually got some basic conversational skills going and started doing my shopping and errands in Dutch. I remember feeling very embarrassed that I couldn’t speak the local language. I felt like I was being impolite but, as I got older, I figured out that not too many people care, especially in Amsterdam since a lot of them speak English. I also worked in a Dutch office for two years and completed an intensive course at the famous nuns' school in Vught. What’s your favourite Dutch food? Definitely the cheeses and the Indonesian food. Well, it’s sort of a Dutch interpretation of Indonesian food but it’s quite good. Many times I’m a bit disappointed by the price versus quality of what you find in restaurants in the Randstad, especially compared to places in Italy or Spain. How Dutch have you become? Pretty damn Dutch, do you have a problem with that? [laughs] More and more, when I go back to the United States or other countries I find myself practically having a little Dutch person on my shoulder critiquing everything. Saying how things could be better organised or how to improve stuff that isn’t working well. When we go on vacation I’ll often hear tourists from the Netherlands complaining among themselves in Dutch about dirty subway stations or if something is late. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Paul Verhoeven, the Dutch director who did Robocop and Basic Instinct but a number of good Dutch films too, like The Fourth Man and Black Book. Even though he’s Dutch, he’s made some of the most American films of all time. [laughs] He seems like a deep thinker who has been able to direct some really entertaining movies. Jan Steen, the painter who lived and worked in Leiden. He did these crazy pictures of family scenes where everything has gone awry. The father is drunk on the floor and his children are stealing his money while a dog is ripping apart cushions. There’s even a Dutch expression, huishouden van Jan Steen, which describes a home that has gone out of control. He also did portraits of hard drinkers and local characters around Leiden. He ran a pub too and probably would be fun to have a beer with. The last one would be a toss up. I like the director Alex van Warmerdam, who did The Northerners. He does really fantastical, surrealist films. Most Dutch people are very sensible and I’d want to ask him why he’s so different, weird and creative. I don’t see that too often in Holland. There’s also the historian Johan Huizinga who wrote about medievalism. Living here, I’m often struck by the echoes of medieval life and how patterns of daily existence go back to those times. He was a brilliant guy. What’s your top tourist tip? I’d recommend that people get off the tourist track and go to a brewery in Bodegraven. It’s called the Brouwerij de Molen and it’s won many international awards. They have an annual beer festival and a restaurant. It’s an adventure to get there. You’ll meet some very interesting people while enjoying some very tasty local beer and food. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. After people pass away, there is a tradition still observed by many where the body of the loved one is hosted at the family's home for several days until it’s time to say the final goodbye and to conduct the burial. It’s a very different take on death than you’ll see in America, where it’s to be avoided and not spoken of. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Amsterdam has changed quite a bit over the past 20 years since we lived there. It’s become very touristy but I still have a soft spot in my heart for the city and its beer cafes. I’d probably go back to my old haunts like In De Wildeman, hang out, and have some beer and cheese.  More >


‘In the 80s I was embarrassed to be American, so I worked hard to become Dutch’

‘In the 80s I was embarrassed to be American, so I worked hard to become Dutch’

Joanne Schweitzer has lived in the Netherlands since 1986 and learned a lot of her Dutch while working in a lingerie shop. The 51-year-old former Oregonian is now a passenger assistant at Schiphol airport and would love to have met the early Dutch settlers in Manhattan. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met a Dutchman who was studying photography at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon, way back in 1982. By January of 1986 we’d moved over here. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I’ve never really felt like an expat. A lovepat? Eh, I don’t know. This is the first time I’ve heard that term. Although I did originally come over here for love, I guess I eventually became an expat. Now I feel more of an international though. How long do you plan to stay? Well, I have two children, Emma who is 20 and Peter who is 22. He has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. It would be really difficult for me to go back to America with him right now. I need to take care of him and make sure he’s OK. Here in the Netherlands there’s very generous financial help. From what I’ve heard about America, there’s not nearly as much support. I’ve been over here for more than 30 years now so I think I’ll be over here for a while. Never say never though! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Ja! When I first came over, I was still of student age. The first job I got was working as a dishwasher in Stadskasteel Oudaen in Utrecht. I figured I could wash dishes and learn Dutch from my coworkers. Unfortunately, the kitchen was downstairs and the dishes came down a dumbwaiter, so I never really got to speak to anyone. I took classes for a few years but I probably learned the most when I got a job working at Hunkemöller, a lingerie store, in Nieuwegein. I had to measure old ladies for bras and panties and that’s how I picked up a lot of Dutch. Sitting at Dutch birthday parties and trying to figure out what the hell they were talking about definitely helped too! What’s your favourite Dutch food? I like andijviestamppot. You mash up the potatoes and toss in milk and butter with some salt. Then you throw in some raw endive. The Dutch like to add pieces of fried bacon but I became a vegetarian about three years ago. So instead I make some vegetarian gravy and get a vegetarian sausage. It’s hearty stuff. How Dutch have you become? When I got here in the 1980s, it was around the time of the Challenger space shuttle disaster and Reagan was president. I was kind of embarrassed to let people know I was an American, to tell you the truth. I wanted to blend in so I worked really hard to become more and more Dutch. Because I’ve lived here most of my life I think… [her son Peter speaks up in the background and says, ‘you’re more Dutch!’] Am I? Oh God! Peter says I’m more Dutch. I don’t really want to be but maybe I am. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I’d love to meet the early Dutch settlers that settled Manhattan. The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto is my all time-favourite book. It tells their tale from the Dutch perspective, whereas a lot of world history is told from the English perspective. They were sort of the Dutch ‘Founding Fathers’ of America. While there were certainly more than three of them, I’d pick Cornelius Jacobsen May, Peter Stuyvesant and Peter Minuit. What’s your top tourist tip? Definitely the Rijksmuseum. The Dutch masters were amazing. They didn’t have photography back then and they had to paint everything. What they decided was important to paint and why is fascinating. That large hall with Rembrandt’s The Night Watch is just so impressive. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. Before I came to the Netherlands, I underestimated how crowded it is here. There were something like 15.5 million people when I moved here and now it’s 17 million. You really have to defend your personal space. For example, at Albert Heijn, while you’re waiting in line, people stand really close to you. You often find yourself fighting for your spot too. At a bakery, people will jump right in front of you. Politeness isn’t what it is back in America. If people see an opportunity to cut in front of you, they’ll do it. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would walk along the Oudegracht in Utrecht and go up the Dom. I’d also try to get to Amsterdam and walk along the canals up there and take a boat ride. If it was April, I might try to get to the tulip fields and maybe see a windmill. Something like that.  More >


‘Dutch parenting suits me much better than the neurotic expectations back home’

‘Dutch parenting suits me much better than the neurotic expectations back home’

Originally from Edinburgh, printmaker and writer Catriona Black has been living in Santpoort-Noord for five years and says her children are now more Dutch than Scottish. She hates labels, but recent events in politics have inspired her to call herself an immigrant. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband landed a job at the University of Amsterdam teaching neurophilosophy. I was seriously unhappy about leaving Scotland, because everything I have ever been passionate about was Scottish, yet there was one exception: Rembrandt. My curiosity about the painter’s home country meant that I said yes. To my surprise, I’ve loved it here from the moment we arrived! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? Ha! Lovepat? Never heard that one! Is it a nicer way of saying ‘trailing spouse’, which I hate with a passion? All these terms are so loaded. I think it’s easy to categorise other people and labelling yourself doesn’t come so readily. Since the Brexit vote I’ve made a point of calling myself an immigrant. I get so angry when people make an artificial distinction between white westerners (so-called expats) and those they want to keep out. They use ‘immigrant’ as a dirty word and I want to show solidarity. I have even bought a t-shirt with ‘immigrant’ emblazoned on it! How long do you plan to stay and why? We’re really settled here. The children are more Dutch than Scottish. My daughter speaks English at home but it’s totally peppered with Dutch words. Every year I have asked the kids if they feel more Dutch or Scottish. My son has been the slowest to switch, but having now spent more than half of his life here, the balance has finally tipped in favour of Dutchness. We’ve all established really fulfilling lives here, but on the other hand I do miss Scotland terribly. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I did a few terms of evening classes when I first arrived and I’m now taking private lessons to get me ready for my NT2II exams, which are the ones you sit if you want to work professionally or study in higher education. For me, the best way to learn has been looking after my children’s friends – there’s no switching to English and you don’t feel self-conscious. So I’m very good at talking about biscuits, juice and sore knees, and issuing stern commands with total authority. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I like all the variations on stamppot because being half-Irish, I’m a fan of anything mashed up with potatoes. Unfortunately my husband is not so keen, otherwise I’d happily live off the stuff. How Dutch have you become and why? I immediately embraced the relaxed Dutch parenting style as something that suits me much better than the somewhat neurotic expectations back home. I can take a step back and let the children make their own social lives without running things for them. I can let them play on the street and roam around as I did in my own childhood. I think that would have been frowned on where I lived in Edinburgh. I have always been a keen cyclist and bought myself a bakfiets within weeks of our arrival. I still rave about my fancy “new” wheels every chance I get. Other Dutch influences have yet to rub off on me. I am in awe of Dutch women who are amazingly fit, in control and together about everything! I aspire to that, but I am too fond of cake, wine and chaos to make it work. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet and why? I think I’d like to get Rembrandt and his lovers, Geertje Dircx and Hendrickje Stoffels, in a room together - explosive though that would be! He and Hendrickje seem to have plotted to get Geertje committed to a workhouse to get her out of the way, as she was very publicly claiming that Rembrandt had broken a promise to marry her. I’d love to get to the bottom of that whole sorry affair, and to do it in Dutch, face to face with the man himself! What's your top tourist tip? Six whole hours in the Rijksmuseum and if there’s any time left, a wander through the Rembrandthuis, with fuel stops for pancakes, ice cream and coffee. What is life for if not art and sugar? Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Some people really do wear wooden clogs. I once saw a big burly man in IJmuiden wearing bright yellow ones in the supermarket. You know those fancy decorated ones? There’s a bearded man at our allotment who wears a pair while he’s busy with his DIY! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Get together with all my friends for drinks round the fire at my allotment. Dutch allotments are amazing, and that is my happy place. I would really miss the wonderful friends I’ve made here and am certainly not planning my exit any time soon. For more about Catriona Black visit her art website or blog. Photograph of Catriona by Rudi Wells  More >


‘I speak Dutch with a foreign accent and English with a Dutch accent’

‘I speak Dutch with a foreign accent and English with a Dutch accent’

Cycling fanatic Bob Powers (70) arrived in Breda in 1972. He was only supposed to be visiting a friend but, apart from numerous international cycling tours, he's been based there pretty much ever since. A cartoonist, illustrator, writer and translator, he recently retired as the oldest cycle courier in the Benelux – unofficially at least. How did you end up in The Netherlands? Like most things I do – by chance! I'd finished teacher training college in England but realised I didn't fancy teaching after all, so I joined an American friend in the south of France for the grape harvest in 1972. After a few weeks hitchhiking around Spain and France I met up with him again, but this time in Breda, where he had a girlfriend. I'd started drawing cartoons and the people who lived with them in their house asked if I could do some designs for a ceramics factory where they worked. One thing led to another, a few weeks led to a few months, and I just never left Breda. After a few years some friends and I decided we fancied becoming cycle couriers, and that really took over. I had regular clients like the local council and some law firms, and it's only recently that I have retired. I was, or so I'm told, the oldest courier in the whole of the Lowlands. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I've never really thought about it to be honest. I guess… international European? I've rarely used the word expat as it conjures up – perhaps a little unfairly – the wrong images for me: groups of foreigners clinging together, retaining all their home habits and customs while resisting the culture of the country they are living in. However, I do occasionally use the word to show some affinity with my many young friends from central Asia who are trying to find their feet while studying and/or working in Europe. I got to know a lot of students in Kyrgyzstan on cycling holidays there and I began writing a regular column for them in English. A lot of them focus on my experiences as an Englishman living in The Netherlands, and last year a collection of them was published as a book, Letters to Kyrgyzstan. How long do you plan to stay? I have no plans to leave. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I speak Dutch pretty much fluently, although my grammar is not always quite as it should be. I never took any lessons, I just picked it up as I went along – which perhaps explains the grammar! It was very gradual, and there was a long period where I was speaking Dutch, and the Dutch people were replying in English, and I found that amusing. It's funny, an English friend and I were in a bar once, and suddenly we realised that we'd been automatically speaking Dutch to each other. English just felt strange. What's your favourite Dutch food? That's a difficult question to answer. I think I would have to say boerenkool stamppot. How Dutch have you become? I have not become Dutch at all – I think – but I have just about lost all of my 'Britishness'. What that makes me I'm really not sure at all. I speak Dutch with a foreign accent. When speaking English I now have a slight Dutch accent. My Dutch friends still joke about me being English. My English friends think of me as a foreigner. I like the directness of the Dutch when it isn't an excuse for rudeness. I find England scruffy and untidy but The Netherlands over-regulated. I once heard an American speaking on the radio who had lived more than half her life in England, and she was asked a similar question. So my answer is largely based on her reply, which sums up how I feel. I haven't become Dutch, but I am no longer English… Which three Dutch people, dead or alive, would you most like to meet? The first two are easy: M.C.Escher, a graphic artist (1898-1972) who was famed for his realistic, detailed prints that conjured up optical illusions and special effects. Second, Mata Hari (real name Margaretha Geertruida Zelle), the archetypal image of the seductive female spy, who was executed by a French firing squad in 1917. Third? A beautiful girl I saw on the train a couple of months ago! What's your top tourist trip? Zuid-Limburg (south Limburg) – but not at the weekend or on bank holidays. Tell us something surprising you've found out about The Netherlands I am not so easily surprised, though maybe after my first few weeks here I was surprised to discover that Dutch people were not actually arguing all of the time, but that it is just their normal way of speaking. If you had just 24 hours left in The Netherlands, what would you do? Pack. Bob's columns can be read at on his blog and you can order his book by emailing bpillustrations@hotmail.com  More >


‘How Dutch am I? You’ll never get me to love camping’

‘How Dutch am I? You’ll never get me to love camping’

British national Kerrie Finch, 46, has lived in the Netherlands for 16 years. She might be partial to herring but she's not into Dutch stereotypes and would never, ever call herself an expat. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came for a three-month freelance contract in August 2000 to work with a PR company. I stayed in that role for one year, then one thing led to another, which led to another. I love travelling and do a lot for business – I’ve been in the US, France, Croatia, Latvia, the UK and Sweden already this year, with trips to Russia, Singapore and Italy in the pipeline – but Amsterdam is home. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? European first, British second, international third, expat never. How long do you plan to stay and why? Nothing is forever, but I’ve already been living in Amsterdam for 16 years and counting, so I won’t be moving on any time soon, I’m kind of settled! I run a reputation management company called FinchFactor, so that keeps me rooted in Amsterdam. We opened the office in 2009 and also have an office in London, with a newly opened LA office since 1 September. My dream would be to have homes in all three places. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch but I’m not fluent. I learned by attending a lot of different classes over the years. At FinchFactor we’re 12 people strong in our Amsterdam office, across seven nationalities, so business language is English. We also work internationally, with clients based in Stockholm, LA, Dubai, Singapore, New York, and London, amongst other places. That also keeps business language to English. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I’m a big fan of herring with pickles and onion. Bread optional. I live in de Pijp near the Albert Cuypmarkt and I like visiting the herring stall on the market. How Dutch have you become? Are we talking cultural stereotypes? I don’t wear clogs, or live in a windmill, or sell tulip bulbs, or make cheese. I don’t eat hagelslag for breakfast, or drink milk with lunch, or eat stamppot every night for dinner. But then I don’t know anyone who does. I ride a bike, I’m proud of the city I live in, and I’m a pretty direct speaker. I have Dutch friends and watch Dutch TV and celebrate if the Netherlands wins gold at the Olympics. But you’ll never get me to love camping. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Neelie Kroes – an inspiring woman who has worked hard to further entrepreneurship and start-up culture within the Netherlands. There need to be more role-models like her; I’d like to discuss how to make this happen. Anton Corbijn – incredible photographer who has shot some of the most fascinating people in the world. Despite being a bit photo-phobic, I’d like him to take my portrait. Hieronymus Bosch – Wouldn’t it be incredible to hear about the inspiration for his paintings, and to know who he modeled his most evil demons on? What's your top tourist tip? Get in a boat and view the city from the canals. Any city built on water is special and Amsterdam is no exception. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands It’s not as 'tolerant' a country as the Dutch like to think it is. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d like the bell ringers at Westerkerk to take special requests, so I can hear some old classics from my office window. The medley would have to include Frank Sinatra, Talking Heads, David Bowie and Beyonce. That would make my day. Kerrie Finch is the founder of reputation management company FinchFactor. You can follow her on twitter via @kerriefinch and @finchfactor  More >


‘Amsterdam in the 80s had a gritty, open texture and a kindly tolerance’

‘Amsterdam in the 80s had a gritty, open texture and a kindly tolerance’

Julia Barnes, 59, is a musician (viola) and composer based in Zaandam. An American by birth, she's lived in the Netherlands for 35 years and remembers the man who used to rollerblade around Amsterdam wearing just a thong. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came here from London to take lessons from a particular viola teacher. As a student I thought I would be in Amsterdam for one year. I had no idea about the local artistic scene and I found it to be diverse, wacky and wonderful. I met a man, now my ex-husband, and had two daughters. Today I am a performing musician, a teacher and a composer of new crossover projects mixing art, literature and music. I spent the last year and a few months composing nine song settings based on James Joyce’s Pomes Penyeach and putting them together with Dutch translations of the poems into a performance that tells the story of the poet’s journey from Dublin to Trieste to Zurich. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc ? I see myself as an immigrant after so many years, having lived and worked here for most of my adult life. I remain a Michigan native at heart, but a Dutch European as well. How long do you plan to stay? I don’t intend to leave the Netherlands. My daughters are both living in other countries now. One is studying abroad, the other is working with refugees in Athens. They are both Amsterdammers first and foremost, like New Yorkers are always New Yorkers. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak, read and write in Dutch daily. I learned by imitating people at the market and by listening to reminiscences told by my ‘Dutch mother’, my landlady, when I first lived here. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I suppose it would be stamppot, which reminds me of comfort food when I was a child, mashed or twice-baked potatoes with cheese. How Dutch have you become? I think having 30 years of my past here has created a Dutch layer in me full of memories of life in the 80’s in Amsterdam: flats without central heating, the strange and colourful figures who used to people Amsterdam then (remember the fellow who used to rollerblade through the city dressed in nothing but a thong?). Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I would like to meet Truze Lodder, the former director of the Nederlandse Opera, as I admire what she accomplished there. Second would be Marianne Thieme from the political Partij voor de Dieren; I admire her standpoints, she looks at things from a different perspective. The third place I’d reserve for the many artists I haven’t yet met, not necessarily well-known, but who make crazy and beautiful things. What's your top tourist tip? Westerpark. For the design, the planting, the restored and refitted buildings, and good cafes. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands It’s very provincial AND very international, full of out-of-the-box thinking and creativity AND prosaic predictability. When I came to Amsterdam I was amazed by the gritty, open texture of it. There was a kindly tolerance in those days. I came from the very conservative Midwest and here was a 'let it be' attitude. There was enormous room for imperfection. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd cycle or walk through all the places in Amsterdam where I lived. The Pijp before it was hip, the Vondelpark, Flevopark with its great trees to learn climbing, the linden trees opposite the Concertgebouw where I had my first date with my ex. I would revisit my past all over the city. By the Light of his Heart will be performed at Fluxus in Zaandam on October 2. For more information go to Juliaviola.com or facettenvandekunst.nl  More >


‘My first apartment had the toilet in the kitchen!’

‘My first apartment had the toilet in the kitchen!’

Professional field hockey player Justin Reid-Ross moved to Amsterdam in 2010. The 29-year-old South African, who played for his country at the 2012 Summer Olympics, can certainly tackle a big burger and score a decent G&T. He also has a passion for Chocomel. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was playing club hockey in Australia when I came in contact with the coach of a Dutch club called Pinoké, based in Amsterdam. I’d always wanted to play hockey here, as it is widely considered the best club competition in the world. When the offer came in to move to Amsterdam I jumped at the opportunity. After four years at Pinoké, I moved to Amsterdam hockey club (AH&BC). At that point, my wife Ash had also moved over and found a job so we decided to stay. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? A few years ago I would have considered myself an international. I was traveling a lot for hockey and always ended up back in South Africa. Now, Amsterdam is home so I probably fall into the expat category with the possibility of going full Dutch some time in the future. How long do you plan to stay and why? My wife and I are very settled in Amsterdam and have no intention of returning to SA any time soon, so at this stage we are here indefinitely. We love the lifestyle and easy access to the rest of Europe. We’d like to take advantage of that as long as we possibly can. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I do. The first few years were difficult, especially because Amsterdam is such an international city. I never took formal lessons, but when I changed hockey teams in 2014, I moved to a club where I was one of only two non-Dutch speakers. I decided to throw myself into it and only speak Dutch with my teammates and coaching staff. That was the turning point and I am now fairly confident in Dutch. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? There isn’t much that can beat an ice cold Chocomel! I've always loved chocolate milk but Chocomel is just on another level of deliciousness. I have a serious soft spot for it. I also love some bitterballen now and then. How Dutch have you become and why? Pretty-damned Dutch. I often find myself shouting ‘Halloooooo!’ at tourists on bicycles or pedestrians who have wandered into the bike path. I often have to remind myself that this was me just a few years ago. I also find myself constantly searching for any sliver of sunlight I can find, and taking full advantage of it. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? This is a tough one. I guess, as a sportsman, my first choice would be Johan Cruyff. I was fortunate enough to meet him very briefly last year and I would love to have had the chance to pick his brain for a while. Second would be Jan van Riebeeck, the man who colonised Cape Town. I think his story would be amazing. Finally, I would enjoy a chat with Dutch hockey legend Teun de Nooijer. I was fortunate enough to play against him a few times before he retired, but I never really had the chance to interact with him much. He was a hero of mine growing up, so that would be a great moment for me. What’s your top tourist tip? Take a food tour of Amsterdam. Since I arrived in 2010, the entire culinary landscape has changed. Brunch spots in Amsterdam are great and new restaurants open weekly. Amsterdam is rapidly becoming a foodies’ hotspot. Just on one street near where I live, there are great spots like Fier, Rotisserie, Van ‘t Spit, Radijs, Pesca and Hendrix. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Summers can be surprisingly hot! There are days that I honestly think I am back in South Africa, but to be honest those days are few and far between. When I first arrived, I was always surprised that when the sun came out, there is almost nowhere to move in the city. Everyone heads outside, clamouring for any sunlight they can find. I also found the extreme lack of space in Amsterdam quite intimidating. My first apartment had the toilet in the kitchen! That took a while to get used to. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Assuming it was a nice summer’s day and being a proud Amsterdammer, I'd spend the entire 24 hours in the city. I would wake up early and go for a run. I'd stop at White Label Coffee for a flat white and then head home to pick up my wife, Ash and our French bulldog pup Harvey and head to G’s Brunch Boat, for an awesome brunch and Bloody Marys while cruising the canals. After that, we’d head towards the Amsterdamse Bos for a walk with our dog and a quiet afternoon reading and lying in the sun. From there, head back towards the city and stop in at Rotisserie for the best burger in town and a great G&T. In an ideal world, we would end the evening off watching a great band playing at Melkweg or Paradiso.   More >


‘I draw the line at sitting in the circle at my own birthday party’

‘I draw the line at sitting in the circle at my own birthday party’

Photographer Vinita Salomé was born in Japan to Indian parents and has lived in the Netherlands for 16 years. She lives in Gouda with her husband and nine-year-old son, would like to meet the members of rock bank BLØF and says she has lost the nuances associated with Asian cultures. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met my Dutch husband at a friend’s wedding in Bombay. He was a friend of the groom. I fell in love and moved to the Netherlands where we ‘settled down’ in Gouda. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc ? I’d say I am an international or a world citizen. I speak five languages, enjoy travelling, and hosting family and friends at my home in the Netherlands. Compared to other Dutch cities, Gouda has less expat traffic and, by necessity, the expats who live here tend to be well integrated. I am a member of the group Living with a Dutchie, which started locally and now has 120 members coming from many nationalities. How long do you plan to stay and why? I lived in Japan for 17 years, where I was born, then India for 13 years and have now lived the Netherlands for 16 years. The travel bug has started to bite and it feels like time to move, although we won’t make any concrete plans until we can get our adventure mojo on. I don’t think I’d move back to either India or Japan but moving on is enticing. I like being open to new opportunities. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I do speak Dutch. When I arrived in the Netherlands, integration courses were free and obligatory, so I went back to school full time for a year and later went on to study an advanced language course in Utrecht. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I would say cheese, although I can only eat a small amount of some hard cheeses due to being lactose intolerant. Stroopwafels are high on my list and also a specialty of Gouda! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet and why? BLØF- the Dutch rock band that I like to listen to. Leo Vroman – the Dutch poet who left Gouda because of the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis, moved to America but retained strong links with his hometown,Gouda. MC Escher- I think his self-portraits are simply magnificent and I would have liked to observe him working on these portraits. How Dutch have you become? Going back to India for my annual family visit, I realize that I’ve lost the nuances and social protocols that are so prevalent in Asian cultures. I am not direct enough for the Dutch, yet far too direct for the Asians. Using an agenda has become important in my life – but I draw the line at sitting in the circle at my own birthday party. What's your top tourist tip? Having worked on two books about Gouda, my tip would be to come here. It is a great place to spend a day. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands Social engagements are planned months in advance! What happens when you don’t feel up to it on the day itself? The Dutch are such pragmatic people! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Although I am a night person, I would get up early to take a meditative walk in a calm and beautiful Gouda city centre. Later I would have lunch with friends in the square overlooking the medieval city hall, before going to Amsterdam to wander its cosmopolitan streets, have a couple of drinks on a canal and dance away the night in a drum and bass club. The best of both worlds! Vinita Salomé is co-author of two books about Gouda, The Bees Tour with Vinita and A Sample of Gouda.  More >


‘As much as I complain about Amsterdam, it is the best city I have lived in’

‘As much as I complain about Amsterdam, it is the best city I have lived in’

By day Nick Nugent is an account manager for ACD/Labs and by night he chairs the British Society of Amsterdam and hunts for decent curry. Nick has been in the Netherlands for 8.5 years and says he would never have had friends from so many different countries if he had stayed in Britain. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I have worked for a couple of Dutch companies, first Unilever and then Philips, which actually brought me here. By the time I was offered a job over here the part of Philips I was in had been sold to a UK based company but the headquarters was in Almelo. I spent the first 18 months of my life in the Netherlands in Almelo and eventually moved to Enschede. Almelo is a great place if you have kids but I was single at the time. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc ? I guess I am somewhere between an expat and international. I have been flying all over the world for my last job and have been to 44 countries. I am trying to stay one country ahead of my age, but as you can see, I am struggling at the moment. I have done business in the Middle East, CIS and Africa which can be real frontier stuff at times. In my current role I am more focused on Benelux so I spend a lot of time here now. How long do you plan to stay? My time enjoying the 30% ruling is close to an end. However I have bought an apartment which needs extensive renovation and I have a Dutch girlfriend. As much as I complain about all the bad things about Amsterdam - the terrible service and often bad food in restaurants, too many tourists and the prices for professional services - I still think it is the best city I have lived in. Unless I get an outstanding job offer or the circumstances around the EU referendum make it impossible to stay, I will most likely never leave. Do you speak Dutch? To my shame my Dutch is terrible. However heavy pressure is now being exerted by my girlfriend who has a new nephew and I am told I must be able to speak it soon. I have tried various different lessons which all seem to use a brute force approach to the language which just does not work well with me. Last year my girlfriend’s friends also bought me Dutch lessons, but the guy who was supposed to give them was less than enthusiastic about replying to my emails, so I never took them in the end. I much preferred the DJ lessons which my Amsterdam crowd bought for me! What's your favourite Dutch food? I lived in the east of the country for a while and celebrated carnival with Dutch friends on a couple of occasions. Their carnival breakfast was home made erwten (pea) soup. This I still like very much and I think the Dutch do a very good soup indeed. Various friends have cooked decent stamppots for me now and again. I used to think the Dutch treat food like fuel and it does not really matter how it tastes as long as there is a lot of it and it doesn’t cost very much. But this is changing and you can see that many restaurants in Amsterdam do not survive long if they are not delivering on quality. I reckon I have now been to around 30 of the 40 or so Indian restaurants in Amsterdam. There are only a handful I would recommend. As curry is a great British tradition, I have now started a curry club which meets once per month to go to one of the handful of good restaurants. We've expanded to Thai and Indonesian to give us more choice. Which three Dutch people would you like to meet? I think it would have been really interesting to go out and have a beer with Freddie Heineken. By all accounts he was a genius at marketing, a formidable character and quite the raconteur. Being a trained in chemistry and spending the majority of my working life selling equipment which is partly based on some of his theories, Peter Debye would be another interesting person to have a discussion with. And since he has just taken over the managerial role at football club I support, then I would like to discuss with Ronald Koeman what he has in store for us Evertonians this year! How Dutch have you become and why? Not very, I think. That being said, I was always a very direct person in the UK and I have no problem with saying I dislike something or don’t agree. So I guess in that sense I fit in nicely here. I do hate the obsession with special deals and cheapness. I prefer to look at whether you are getting good quality at the right price. I think I will remain very British. What's your top tourist tip Find a local who knows. If I see struggling tourists on the street I will often ask if they need help with directions. Recently I was in a bar watching football and met two young guys from Manchester. I thought the conversation was going to be all about where are the best bars  and the like but these guys wanted more culture and the best off the beaten track places to go. I duly obliged and for good measure I sent them my list of 43 tried and tested restaurants which never disappoint. If you are using well known review sites, especially for restaurants, look for the reviews from the locals not the tourists. Tourists in general are hoping to have a good time and have more time to waste in general. Their reviews are often short and gushing praise for the venue and food. If you can find a review by a local then in general they will only review what they think is very good or very bad and have probably been there more than once and so there is more quality control on those. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands This one I was told by a taxi driver so I am not entirely sure how true it is, but it's a great story. This taxi driver claimed that the place where Schiphol is now used to be an unprotected port area. The reason Schiphol is so called is because whenever there were storms a lot of boats would be sunk in this 'harbour'. The name literally translated means Schip – Ship Hell – hol. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? One of the things which makes this place for me is the great friends I have from all over the world. I think within my group of friends I probably have 10-15 nationalities which I think would be unheard of back in the UK. So if you could imagine an day where you have breakfast at your favourite place (Greenwoods) with close friends, head to the Butcher for lunch for a decent burger and finally end up at Dragon I, the best Asian fusion restaurant in Amsterdam. Probably there would be one maybe two roof top bars in there like Canvas or Skylounge, finally ending the night at Karaoke to deafen all my friends!  More >


‘On my first day at work I told my colleagues not to speak English to me’

‘On my first day at work I told my colleagues not to speak English to me’

New Zealander Jason Bruygoms has been living in the Netherlands for over 10 years, and is a leading light in Dutch rugby league. He learned Dutch by banning his colleagues from talking English to him, is a vanillevla addict and relishes Rotterdam's melting point society. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My father is actually Dutch and when I was 27 a workmate of mine back in New Zealand told me I was eligible for a Dutch passport but had to apply before I turned 28. So I applied and a couple months before my 28th birthday a Dutch passport arrived for me. At the time I didn't have any children so took this as a sort of sign to fulfill my dream of travelling and checking out my father's homeland. That was over 10 years ago now. Before I traveled though I checked out the national rugby league situation and I actually ended up playing for the Dutch national squad for a bit. Then I started to help develop rugby league in the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? To be perfectly honest I am a Kiwi through and through and always will be. I guess it is that connection we have with our homeland, tangata whenua. But here in the Netherlands I now have a beautiful daughter with an awesome Dutch lady whom I am actually going to marry in a couple of months. So I now have my own strong family roots here in the Netherlands as well. I guess the term lovepat would be suitable. How long do you plan to stay? The original plan was a maximum of two years.....I guess plans change but if I can find a job back in New Zealand that can support me and my family then I would go back to New Zealand in a heartbeat. But I have now started a rugby league club called the Rotterdam Pitbulls RLFC, which I am really enjoying. This season we became the Dutch champions and did not lose a game. I would like to stick around for a bit to see how far we can go with the club and the sport. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I speak Dutch but writing I still find very difficult. I am self taught. The first few years here I was living in a house full of expats so I didn't learn much as I didn't need to. When I started the job I am still doing now about six years ago I made a decision to tell the other workers on my first day that they were not to speak English to me. Full submersion basically and that is when I really picked it up fast. Plus reading the Dutch subtitles when watching television and reading Dutch newspapers helped a lot. What’s your favourite Dutch food? That would have to be roti. It might be Surinamese but I love it, and my girlfriend makes a mean one. Second on my list would be vanillevla. I got addicted to that stuff when I first arrived here and I'd drink a litre a day. How Dutch have you become? I might be half Dutch by birth but I don't think I'm very Dutch at all. My identity as a Kiwi is very important to me and makes me who I am. I do think that when I eventually move back to New Zealand that it will take some time to adjust to the laid back lifestyle there again. It is something I really miss. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Vincent van Gogh - I am a bit of an artist and he was awesome plus a bit of a crazy mofo so I think it would be cool to meet him. I guess my opa (grandfather) as I was too young to remember him when he was alive and I never really got a chance to see him anyway because I was living on the other side of the world. And the 3rd one.....Maybe Abel Tasman.....just so I could laugh at him because he got his ass kicked by the Maoris when he first tried sending his men to the shores of New Zealand. What’s your top tourist tip? Don't just visit Amsterdam. Amsterdam is great but there is so much more to the Netherlands. It's the same as going to New Zealand and only visiting Auckland. Explore and you will find little gems all over the country Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands I guess it's the melting pot of cultures here. I was expecting it to be a very European white culture but that is not the case, especially Rotterdam where I live. There are so many different cultures, races, creeds, colours and religions which I really like. As an immigrant myself, its nice to be surrounded by other immigrants too. It makes the Netherlands a very diverse country. And it is the way things should be, side by side no matter where you come from, embracing and sharing each others differences and cultures. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would throw a big party and invite all the people that have been a part of my life for the past 10 years here. You can find out more about the Rotterdam Pitbulls via their Facebook page.  More >


‘Don’t just stick to expat groups if you really want to enjoy living in Holland’

‘Don’t just stick to expat groups if you really want to enjoy living in Holland’

Haseeba Saban, 45, is a British national who lives in Rotterdam and works as a freelance marketing consultant. Her children are at Dutch schools, she would have liked to have discussed intolerance with Anne Frank and recommends everyone buys a museum card. How did you end up in the Netherlands? After returning to the UK from a 2-year work jolly in Dubai in 2010, we were hit by the recession and found that there were not many employment opportunities in the UK. My husband found a job in Amsterdam and we made a decision to move the entire family over over after three months of him being away. The boys found it hard to just see their dad on weekends so they were eager to move, even though we told them that they would have to attend local Dutch schools. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? I am a globetrotter or if you would like a lovepat as such. I have lived and worked on three continents and have loved every minute of it. I love people and learning about new cultures and history. I also love traveling and exploring. How long do you plan to stay? After six years, this is a permanent move. The kids have integrated well into Dutch life. My eldest (18) is studying application development at a Dutch college and my youngest son (14) will soon start his third year of high school. They are fully bilingual and speak Dutch way better than I do. We also own our home, have two beautiful cats and feel quite settled here. Although, I can’t say what the future holds and whether or not I will get itchy feet once the boys are older, my husband and I may move to a warmer country. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I understand Dutch and have some basic conversational skills. I do plan to improve it soon with a proper language course. At most of the international companies I have worked for in Holland the main language was English, and all my Dutch work colleagues spoke English so it was never an issue not knowing Dutch at an advanced level. What's your favorite Dutch food and why? The Dutch love their fries and I have learnt to love them too with mayo and ketchup - a combination of sauces I had never tried prior to moving to Holland. I also like the yummy oliebollen especially during the autumn and winter. It’s a perfect pick me up in the cold weather. How Dutch have you become? Apart from cycling, I am still very much me and won’t say I have become very Dutch. The Dutch do find me too generous though, lol. I don’t do one cookie per person. In my home you can eat as much as you wish and I always cook enough so that anyone visiting around dinner time is always welcome to join in and eat with us. There is always more than enough to go around. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet ? I would love to meet Anne Frank. I'm curious about how she coped with intolerance. It may well help us today as we still face a huge level of intolerance in our society. Then there is queen Maxima – I'd just like to meet her in person. I admire her and she too is a lovepat. And then there is Neelie Kroes, a dynamic woman who is focused on driving start-up culture for the Netherlands. I love her tenacity and energy for a 75-year-old. What's your top tourist tip? I love all things Amsterdam. I can’t get enough of the canals and cute little shops. Learn about the local culture and mingle/socialise. It helps to network during the early days. Don’t just stick to expat groups if you really want to enjoy living in Holland. The locals love telling you about cool places to visit and things to do. Get a museum card annual subscription, it’s really fab and great for learning more about the country’s history and art. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands There’s the saying, ‘Let’s go Dutch’ when paying a bill. Until I lived here I had not realised how true it rings, right down to every last cent. I am so used to splitting a bill evenly whether or not I have had the least or most to eat but not the Dutch. They will only pay their share. They are very direct and not excessive. Good traits I may add too. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would definitely visit the islands. I have just not had the time to do that and would so love to, as I have heard so many great things and also seen such beautiful pictures.  More >


‘It’s important to know what people are saying, it makes life richer’

‘It’s important to know what people are saying, it makes life richer’

Kenyan national Elizabeth Njeru, 39, came to Amsterdam in 2000 for love and now runs her own catering company. She is surprised by how willing successful people are in the Netherlands to help others, thoroughly enjoyed her Dutch lessons and is on a mission to make Kenyan food a household name. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Actually, I met a Dutch guy at the Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya. He was an exchange student, that’s how he came to be there. I had two Dutch girlfriends who were friends with him. We were hanging out a lot. Then he went back for the Christmas holidays and I missed him like crazy. I suddenly realised dammit, I’m in love! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I think of myself as a global citizen, I see myself as just Elizabeth. I believe I can live anywhere in the world as long as it’s peaceful and I can develop myself. How long do you plan to stay and why? Let’s put it this way, I am not planning on leaving, yet! The Netherlands has become my home. If I go to Kenya or where ever I want to be there for a maximum of four weeks, then I go crazy, missing my bike and whatnot. I just want to come home to Amsterdam. I’ve travelled a lot but I just love this place. I just feel in my place here. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Well, I arrived on the 4th August 2000 and on the 7th I was in class in Utrecht, at the James Boswell Institute - they are damn good! The teachers are super motivated, develop their own teaching materials and make it loads of fun. We laughed a lot. For me it’s really important to know what people are saying, it makes life so much richer. What's your favourite Dutch food? Stroopwafels! They’re the only thing I take to family and friends when I go to visit abroad. I make sure my visitors take a few packets with them when they leave. How Dutch have you become? What is Dutch? What is African? I have sometimes been accused by my fellow Africans of being too Dutch! And I’ve been told by some Dutch friends that I’m more Dutch than them. I think that when you learn about a culture as an adult you practise even the small rules. Like those I picked up at James Boswell… like, always take something when you visit people, a bottle of wine or flowers. And keep right, even when walking on the pavement! Oh, and you can’t visit someone spontaneously – especially at dinner time! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Actually it is difficult to choose only three Dutch people I’d like to meet. This country is bursting at the seams with inspiring and interesting people. I have met a lot here in Amsterdam at all kinds of places such as Pakhuis de Zwijger, the Impact Hub and Kitchen Republic, not to mention in every day life. What really touches me is the readiness of successful people in Holland to help other entrepreneurs – with ideas, knowledge and networks. The mayor of Amsterdam would be one for sure. I would speak with him about my ideas on how Amsterdam can really benefit from the abundant African talent that is present. It’s a shame that so much of it goes to waste. I want to help develop more talent-based entrepreneurship among African migrants, help bring more high quality African products to the mainstream market. When Africans come here they’re often highly skilled and well educated, and they try to find a job. But they don’t have the right networks, don’t understand the infrastructure, the language is a problem and they don’t have the right access to financial resources; so sooner or later they find themselves in a precarious financial situation. If we could support and develop more talent-based enterprise it would allow Africans to make a good living and it would be an enrichment for the Dutch community. You just need to do it the right way. I would also love to meet Olcy Gulsen – because she is a very successful young business woman and not born in Holland. I have seen her on television and I’m very inspired by her energy and drive. Very inspiring lady. A real go-getter! Elianne Fresen – the owner of Peperwortel Traiteur and Catering in Amsterdam - is yet another entrepreneur who, in my opinion, has done an amazing job. And then there is Sacha Roozemond of Sterren van Hemel Catering as well. Okay, I now have more than three and I’ve just decided that I am going to meet all these people within this year. I am sure I will get an appointment.. Everything is possible in Amsterdam. What's your top tourist tip? One place that I take everybody who comes to visit from abroad is the Restaurant Moeders, at Rozengracht 251. We always have the Hollandse rijsttafel. You get a variety, it’s shared dining and it tastes great. It’s a special experience because you don’t find Dutch cuisine easily elsewhere. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The longer I have lived here the more I have come to understand that Holland, at first sight quite a tiny country compared to many others around the world, is actually a giant in terms of achievements. In terms of business and agriculture for instance. Did you know that Holland is actually the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world? Just crazy! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd go count the grazing rabbits early in the morning in the Amstel Park, which is my favourite in Amsterdam. Then I'd ride my bike along the Amstel river ending up at the canals, then go appreciate the beauty of Amsterdam one more time on top of the Amsterdam Tower. I'd finish off the day with a call to my family thanking them for their love, and a nice dinner with my closest friends. After all that, and if there still was time, I'd then go to bed with some chocolate and some D'asti moscato, and watch a romantic comedy on Netflix as I awaited the inevitable. Elizabeth Njeru is the owner of catering company Mama Kenia. Very Lekker.  More >


‘Amsterdam’s character is being whittled away by council policies’

‘Amsterdam’s character is being whittled away by council policies’

Federico Lafaire, a master's student in philosophy and self described ‘bookmonger,’ first moved to the Netherlands in 2007. He can often be found working behind the counter at The Book Exchange, a second-hand English bookshop in central Amsterdam. How did you end up in the Netherlands? The University of Amsterdam. I had to figure out something to do so I said, ‘hey, I’ll go study philosophy.’ That was in 2007. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I was born in Mexico. If that means I’m from there originally or not, I don’t know. I often get asked that at the store. I also spent 10 years in California. As I’ve learned during my studies, even the simple questions can be tough. I’d be reluctant to call myself an expat because it’s a word that’s so loaded. If I was a Nigerian guy, I wouldn’t be an expat, I’d be considered an immigrant. I’ve never really felt at home anywhere in particular, as far as nationality goes. I don’t classify myself too easily. How long do you plan to stay? I think Amsterdam has a good balance, for the time being. It’s not too big that you get a sense of anonymity that you would have in a jungle like Mexico City or Los Angeles, but it’s not so small that it’s provincial. It also has a lot of character, but that’s being whittled down by the marketing strategies drawn up by the city council. The story behind this whole ‘I amsterdam’ thing is fascinating and, if that keeps on progressing, I’d be loathe to say that I’ll still be here in 10 years. Aside from that, I feel remarkably and surprisingly at home in this city. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch. I can’t write it very well. It’s got to be a labour of love if I’m going to write a letter in good, proper Dutch. I learned most of my Dutch through a programme from the University of Amsterdam’s language centre. If you’ve got a friendship circle that’s willing to speak Dutch that’s helpful. Without that, you’re always going to keep struggling or at least I would continue struggling. What’s your favourite Dutch food? Madre mia, that’s a tough one, especially since I don’t eat cheese anymore. I like Dutch bread, in different stages of fermentation. How broad are we talking here? I like the sweet and sour drinks at Wynand Fockink, the distillery near the Dam. Either that or frietjes. It’s a close call between the two. How Dutch have you become? I still don’t have a diary since I don’t like to write things down, but I do use Google Calendar to send email reminders to myself. I hate planning things ahead of time like the Dutch are said to but it’s creeping in there. It’s got its foot in the door. When I’m cycling, I can be, to put it diplomatically, somewhat assertive with my fellow cyclists. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Like if I was going to meet them for brunch? I wouldn’t mind meeting Baruch Spinoza but I’d probably fall behind in that conversation. I’d love to go watch a film with him and see what he thinks. Obviously, the man would be freaking out though. I’d love to talk with (prime minister) Mark Rutte and see how much of a true believer he is. I’d also, why not, speak with (painter) Piet Mondriaan. What’s your top tourist tip? Ask yourself why you’re a ‘tourist’ and not a ‘traveller'. No, I’d sugarcoat it a bit but, along those lines, I’d tell them to have the courage to get lost. I was talking with a friend recently about why people still travel, especially when you can get yourself some nice brandy, go on Google Maps and ‘street view’ your way through a city to see what you already, more or less, had in mind. One thing I love to do when I’m travelling is, after I arrive at the bus station, the train depot or the airport, is just follow some people and see where that goes. I don’t wind up in a crocodile-infested pit, typically. More than anything, people should try to make their travelling their own experience instead of just going to Madame Tussauds, at least here in Amsterdam. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. I did not know there was an electrified fence in the first World War that separated the Netherlands from Belgium. For starters, I didn’t even know they had the infrastructure to build an electrified fence in those times. I knew they had electric lighting but to separate two countries like that? It’s one of those weird factoids, as they call them. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I guess I’d at least try to find my passport. I would say ciao to the people I know. I’d say goodbye to the city in my own way but my main priority would be to close things off here. Maybe I’m taking the question too seriously. Philosophy doesn’t prepare you for one like this. Maybe I’d go to Middelburg. If I had to consider the Netherlands as an ‘experience,’ I’d go ‘experience’ Middelburg. I’ve never ‘experienced’ Middelburg, nor has it ‘experienced’ me.  More >


‘Kapsalon is by far the best post exam food on the planet’

‘Kapsalon is by far the best post exam food on the planet’

German national Florian Volz is a 22-year-old International Studies student at Leiden University's campus in The Hague. He would like to meet DJ Martin Garrix, has an eye for a bargain night out and has become so keen on cycling, he plans to bike from The Hague to Greece this summer to make a documentary about refugees. How did you end up in the Netherlands? The Dutch university system caught my attention when I was still at school. At the time, Leiden was (and still is, I believe) ranked more highly than all the universities back home. In addition, Germans pay the same tuition fees as Dutch students, so the high quality education that I receive here comes at a very good price! Besides, I am a world traveller at heart. I would not have been able to study for three years in Germany as my travel bug is just too strong. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? I'm not an expat or an immigrant because German and Dutch culture is quite close and I do not plan on staying here forever. I'm just an international student. How long do you plan to stay? I need exactly one more year to finish my Bachelor's degree. After that I plan on taking another gap year and then I might come back for a Master’s. I would really like to live in another Dutch city to experience if Dutch accents are really as different as many of my Dutch friends say. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Sadly, I do not. I was planning on learning it when I moved here just by talking to people. However, my course is completely in English and many of my fellow students have an international background as well So my vocabulary only extends as far as ‘Pinnen, ja graag’ and ‘Bonnetje alstublieft’. What's your favourite Dutch food? Kapsalon all the way. [French fries covered with doner kebab or shwarma meat and melted cheese, then topped with some lettuce and tomato: ed] It is by far the best post-exam food on this planet. And its name means ‘hairdresser’. You can’t get better than that. How Dutch have you become? If I think about it, not at all really. As I live in an international bubble, I rather grew more as a traveller than a local. Nevertheless, I have come to love biking everywhere I go and this is one habit that I’ll definitely keep up. This summer, a friend and I will actually cycle over 2,500 km from The Hague to Lesvos in Greece as part of our project Refugee Roads to film a documentary about the Balkan route. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Martin Garrix is younger than me and is already one of the top five DJs in the world. His music is brilliant so I would just like to hang out with him for a day to see what life on tour is like. It is also my dream to experience a festival such as Tomorrowland from the DJ’s perspective. Martin, if you happen to read this, will you take me in 2017? I'd like to interview prime minister Mark Rutte about the Dutch approach to the refugee crisis for our documentary. Since the Netherlands currently holds the EU presidency, I would also like to ask him how the EU plans to deal with the crisis of political will and the rise of right-wing populism throughout the member states. Pieter de la Court's book ‘Interest van Holland’ was published in 1662 and had a profound impact on the liberalisation of the Dutch economy. I would like to talk to him about whether his ideas on the republican state are still applicable in our world today. What's your top tourist tip? The Penthouse bar here in The Hague is a must-see. For just €6 you get to take a glass elevator up to the highest restaurant in the Netherlands. Once at the top you can enjoy the view of the whole city while drinking their yummy cranberry juice - one drink is included in the entry fee. Especially recommended at night. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Dutch people are stereotyped as being strict, punctual, ambitious and hard-working. This only applies for 364 days a year. I have experienced King's Day twice now and I can say that no other nation is able to celebrate its national pride quite like the Netherlands can - all over the country in just one day. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Load my roommates Cornelius, Michel and Lukas into a car and do a road trip across the country with them. I really would like to compare if kapsalon in Groningen, Maastricht and Amersfoort are as good as they are here. Florian Volz and fellow student Timo Schmidt are spending the summer cycling the Balkan route taken by thousands of refugees with the aim of producing a documentary. Follow their progress via the Refugee Roads website.  More >


‘As soon as I arrived in the Netherlands I needed to go to the Van Gogh museum’

‘As soon as I arrived in the Netherlands I needed to go to the Van Gogh museum’

Denisse Gaudin (46) is a marketing specialist who came to the Netherlands 18 years ago. In those years she has developed a taste for raw herring, and has learned to savour every ray of sun she can. She now lives near Delft in the small town of Den Hoorn where she and her family are ‘the only foreigners on the street.’ How did you end up in the Netherlands? Well, I met my husband in Brazil, and when he wanted to do a Phd. Delft was an option. I thought I might enjoy it here, so I said ‘let’s go.’ I really like it here, and feel really integrated, so we stayed for quite some time. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I’m international, definitely. I was born in Chile, grew up in Brazil, married a Frenchman and now I’m here in the Netherlands. Although, I must say, I still feel Latina. I’m short, and culturally I think I’m relaxed, open and smile easily. Although Dutch people are not closed, I feel more informal than them. How long do you plan to stay? No idea! When we came here, we thought it was just for three years. But we’ve lived here for 18 years now and have two children. From time to time, there’s the question of whether my husband might have to go abroad but we enjoy it here. To be honest, both of us love to travel, and we miss the sun. We might retire to a sunny place but we have no plans. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I am fluent in Dutch. In the beginning I went everywhere with a pocket dictionary, and I asked everybody to speak Dutch with me, even if I couldn’t understand. At shops I’d ask the clerks how to pronounce things, and I’d say ‘please, no English.’ I got my NT2 Dutch exam in 2002, and between working with Dutch colleagues and my children going to a Dutch school, it got easier. What's your favourite Dutch food? I love a lot of food and don’t have one real favourite, but I’d choose Nieuwe Haring. I love raw fish! However, I think sate sauce is more special. I always take it to family and friends abroad, and they love it. It’s not typically Dutch though, it’s Indonesian. How Dutch have you become? I like living here, and I have started to plan things in advance, which is very Dutch. Not only activities, but also my free time. Now I also dare to say what I think, which for Latin Americans is a no-go. I also enjoy every ray of sun. As soon as the sun is out, I’m outside. This is for me typically Dutch. But at home, I’m the only one who prefers to use my car instead of my bike. Shame on me! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Vincent van Gogh, because I was always fascinated by the emotions he captured in his paintings. As soon as I arrived in the Netherlands I needed to go to the Van Gogh museum. Every time I have visitors we go to the museum, and I really get emotional there. I don’t think I’d like to talk to him. I’d just like to watch him paint. Second, would be the writer Heleen van Royen. She’s around my age, and I enjoy reading her columns. I like how she talks openly about her life and she’s not afraid to be herself. She’s quite controversial but I like how she speaks her mind freely. The third one is not a person, but a band. Within Temptation are a Dutch band who live around Amersfoort. I’m a huge fan and go as often as I can to their concerts. I’d like to talk to them about their music and their influences, and just have a good time. What's your top tourist tip? I love Delft! I’d say walk along the canals in Delft, enjoy the small white bridges, and taste Nieuwe Haring at the market. If you come to the Netherlands, this is something you need to do. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The open windows everywhere really surprised me. You can see inside everyone’s house and admire it without any shame. Also, in the big cities people put mirrors on the upper floors of the houses, so people inside can watch people passing by outside. It’s a little voyeuristic, and made me a little uncomfortable in the beginning, but now I’m used to it. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would ride my bike to the polder, among the grazing cows. I’d rent a kayak for an hour, then go back to the centre of Delft and walk along the canals. I’d finish the day drinking at a bar with friends, and I’d say ‘thank you, and see you some day, somewhere.’  More >


‘I love the Amsterdam lifestyle. You can’t beat Amsterdam on a sunny day’

‘I love the Amsterdam lifestyle. You can’t beat Amsterdam on a sunny day’

Jessica Lipowski, 28, is an American writer who fell in love with Europe as a child and came to Amsterdam straight after college. Although after five years she considers herself an Amsterdammer, she still gets thrown sometimes by the Dutch ‘three kisses’ greeting. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Thanks to my parents, travel has always been a huge part of my life. When I was 12 years old I travelled to England for the first time and I remember telling my mom ‘I’m going to move here’. Every other European country I visited over the years, I repeated the same thing. She told me ‘if you want it, make it happen’, and that’s what I did. A few months after finishing university I applied for jobs in Amsterdam and London, and after I met my Dutch boyfriend a few months later, the decision was easy. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? Most of the time I use the term expat. But I’m half German, half Polish, 100% American, and living in the Netherlands, so I also really like the term ‘global citizen’. I feel like I’m a citizen of the world. How long do you plan to stay? I have no immediate plans to leave the Netherlands, and I’m really happy where I am right now. I just published my first book and want to see that through, and I really enjoy the Amsterdam lifestyle. You can’t beat Amsterdam on a sunny day. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do! I’ve been taking Dutch lessons since March 2011. I have one-on-one lessons over Skype with a Dutch woman living in Mexico. We have a great connection and she’s helped me pass the state exams. I can definitely hold conversations, but I wouldn’t consider myself fluent. What's your favourite Dutch food? I’m going to have to go with the Stroopwafel, it’s dessert heaven. If you can’t get the fresh ones, the next best thing is to warm up a packet one and make it extra gooey. How Dutch have you become? I’m somewhere in the middle. I love scheduling appointments in advance and biking everywhere. In my humble opinion, I feel like I blend right in with the other Amsterdammers speeding around the city. On the other hand, I definitely don’t eat as much bread as the Dutch, and sometimes I go in for the hug instead of shaking hands or the three kisses. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I’d definitely love to meet Anne Frank, even though she’s technically German. I read her diary as a young girl and visited the house a couple of times and still can’t comprehend what she went through. Then I’d like to meet the Amsterdam food critic, Johannes van Dam. I thought about contacting him to write the foreword for my book, but unfortunately he passed away before I could ask. I’d love to share a meal with him and get a glimpse inside his reviewing process. For number three, I would love to have been on the voyage with Abel Tasman, when he discovered Tasmania. To be there when they arrived and to see that pristine nature would be amazing. I’d like to add a bonus. Snollebollekes has so much energy and sings crazy carnival songs. I’d like to meet him and see what he’s like in a normal conversation. What's your top tourist tip? I’d go to the Doubletree hotel by central station for the best view of Amsterdam. The 11th floor sky lounge is great for a coffee or beer and watching the sun set. I’d say bring good walking shoes too, as walking is still one of the best ways to explore Amsterdam. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I’ve recently learned that after the Scandinavians, the Dutch are the world’s biggest coffee drinkers. They drink no less than 140 litres of coffee a year on average. That’s 3.2 cups of coffee per person per day! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d head out on a boat and sail through the canals of Amsterdam. I love seeing the city from the water. I’d definitely pack a picnic and a bottle of white wine, stop somewhere for bitterballen, and just enjoy the sights. Jessica's first book, Flavors of Life, is a collection of biographies about 62 people from around the world who all own restaurants in Amsterdam and has just been published. Find out more via her website.  More >


‘At certain moments in the year you realise you’re totally not Dutch and never will be’

‘At certain moments in the year you realise you’re totally not Dutch and never will be’

Mike Russell (52) has lived in the Netherlands for 28 years, and manages an apartment rentals company. He feels at home here, but still doesn’t feel entirely Dutch. However, in true Dutch style, he gave this interview while riding his bike through the centre of Amsterdam to work. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I finished my Phd in computer science in Wales, then I registered with an agency in London and said ‘get me a job anywhere but the UK’. They came up with all kinds of options, and I started work as an Apple Mackintosh developer here in 1988. Years later, I had a consultancy company which I sold because I wanted to do something that I had no background, skills or qualifications in. I knew some people in real estate, had a chat with them and though it sounded interesting. So I started that in Amsterdam in 2002. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I guess I started as a classic expat, and over the years I have become pretty established here. My family, kids and business are here. How long do you plan to stay and why? Well I have no plans to leave, let’s put it that way. I’ve always felt a little like this is temporary and that was realistic for the first year or two. Then five years fly by, then ten. I think I’m in the position that a lot of expats are in, where they always think it’s temporary but they end up staying here for a big chunk of their lives. I’ve lived here now longer than I was ever in the UK. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch. I took lessons for a number of years. After a couple of years of not going for it, because this was supposed to be temporary, I went for it. My lucky break came when I started working somewhere with a colleague who was probably the only person in the Netherlands who didn’t speak any English at all. So that pushed me along a bit. What's your favourite Dutch food? Tapas. It’s not Dutch but it’s the best food I could find here. I’ll eat bitterballen with the best of them, but they’re not the national dish or anything How Dutch have you become? Well, speaking the language is part of the way, but at certain moments in the year you realise you’re totally not Dutch and never will be. For example, I don’t know any of the birthday songs, and at the Sint Maarten festival in the Jordaan all the parents of the kids are singing along. They look at me like I’m a grumpy parent but I don’t actually know any of the words. I have become quite direct in expressing my opinion without beating around the bush. It’s quite refreshing to be able to do that, but when I return to the UK I do come across as a bit brusque sometimes. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? Hans Brinker, the boy who stuck his finger in the dyke in the late 1800s. It was really cold that night and he could have walked away but didn’t. A pretty cool dude... okay, yes I know he is a fictional character. Desiderius Erasmus, who was a pretty brainy guy. An interesting philosopher and theologian. And the guy who invented cheese…yeah that guy, whoever he was! What's your top tourist tip? Look at a guidebook of Amsterdam, look at all the places mentioned there, and then decide not to visit any of them! In any city when you move off the main thoroughfares you discover something not evident in the guidebooks. The Netherlands has a lot to offer if you ignore the Keukenhof, the red light district, the parliament building at The Hague, etc. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I’m surprised sometimes by how people here keep a very accurate running calculation in their heads at bars and restaurants. When the bill comes people make a very quick calculation what their contribution should be, stick the money on the table, and run! The concept of splitting the table evenly doesn’t really exist here. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d probably do something I haven’t done yet. I’d visit one of the islands, Vlieland or Schiermonnikoog. I’ve been to Texel and it’s very nice, but I feel like I should make a bigger effort to visit the others. Mike Russell is managing director of Principle Vastgoed, a rental services agency  More >


‘The biking infrastructure on a warm, sunny, blue-sky day is still magic’

‘The biking infrastructure on a warm, sunny, blue-sky day is still magic’

Andrew Moskos (47) came to Amsterdam on a whim 23 years ago to bring English-language comedy to the city. His club, Boom Chicago, is now an institution on the Dutch comedy scene. Although comedy is his business, Andrew is deadly serious about quality strawberries and Dutch tram design. How did you end up in the Netherlands? After university, my best friend and I were tourists in Amsterdam and we fell in love with the city and wanted to move here. We thought there was a gap in the market for this sort of comedy, so we wrote to the city and said ‘here’s our idea, what do you think?’ They wrote back and said ‘your idea will not work, you won’t get any subsidy, think twice about it.’ We took that fax, framed it, and decided to come anyway. I’m happy we didn’t take their advice. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’d say expat. I have no problem with the term ‘tourist’ mind you. It has a bad name, but when you go to another city and you don’t live there, you’re a tourist. People say they’re ‘international’ or whatever like it’s somewhat better than a tourist. What’s wrong with being a tourist? How long do you plan to stay and why? Here for the long haul! I’m married, have two kids, and Boom Chicago is going great. I can make a living doing the creative job I want, so I’m never leaving. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch. When I realised I wanted to stay here I wanted to go to see theatre shows myself, read the paper and have Dutch friends. So I learned through a combination of lessons, reading the newspaper, and the desire to just do it. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Lambadas – the Dutch hothouse strawberries. You can get them about three months out of the year and they’re fantastic. They’re super expensive but they’re like candy. Soft and flavourful, unlike the hard American strawberries. I’d rather spend €50 on strawberries than gasoline, so I chose strawberries over a car here. How Dutch have you become and why? Pretty Dutch – I like a slow meal and I can sit on a terrace in any weather. I don’t like the Dutch birthday circle – that’s a bit silly – and I don’t like drop, so unfortunately I’m not that Dutch yet. I refuse to take an inburgeringscursus, as we pay so much tax here, I speak Dutch, and we hire people. I don’t see my friends enough as it is, so I’m not going to waste my time with an inburgeringscursus. I’m sorry, arrest me! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? I don’t know the names of these people, but there’s two people I’d be excited to meet and one guy who needs to be scolded. The bad guy is the person who made the decision to buy those Combino trams and put a conductor in the back of them. The fact that everybody has to filter past that spot, and it’s about 40cm wide, is just bad design. Rotterdam did it right, no conductor booth and a conductor walking around the tram. They’ve got the best trams and the best conductor system. I want to meet the guy who designed the new Amsterdam street lamps. They’ve got a fluorescent ring in them, they’re very old but very modern and they light the area wonderfully. The last good guy is the guy who invented the new traffic plan in front of central station. They’re taking the cars away so you can go all the way from central station to Dam square without crossing a street, and that is such an imaginative, innovative idea. What's your top tourist tip? The grachtenhuis (canal house museum) has a nice history of the canals. You’re in and out in about 30 minutes, it’s high tech, and done in different languages. It’s in an old canal house, and this was the centre of the financial world back in the golden era. The bankers that loaned America money back in the 1700s lived in a house like this, so it’s full of history. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Amsterdam and the Netherlands is pinball country! If you go to England nobody plays pinball any more, but there’s still a lot of places in Amsterdam where you can play good pinball machines. For 800,000 people, there’s a high ratio of pinball machines to people here. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d just go biking on a warm day. Because we’re in a country where the weather is not our strongest suit, everybody changes their plans when it turns nice out. The biking infrastructure of Holland on a warm, sunny, blue-sky day is still magic. Boom Chicago's new show, Angry White Men - Trump up the Volume - premiers in Amsterdam this week.  More >


‘Dutch nature is so planned out but bike parking is totally random’

‘Dutch nature is so planned out but bike parking is totally random’

Romanian national Irina Damascan, 26, came to the Netherlands two years ago, failed to get the job she was after and decided to stay anyway. She's now co-founder of a company trying to revolutionise the Dutch relationship with their bikes, is planning to take a second master's degree in architecture and will never forget how her boss reacted when she was late for work. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came two years ago for an internship in the PR department at [architects bureau] OMA in Rotterdam. I was giving up running a PR agency for architects and designers in Romania for an internship position but in the end, after four interviews, I was rejected. I felt miserable, but stayed anyway and learned to deal with rejections as an expat and ended up getting a lot of personal growth from the experience. I then came to Amsterdam and did a mentorship at THNK, the creative leadership school, that changed my life and my view on Dutch society. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I am a blender! I blend in when tourists ask me directions and I reply exactly like a Dutch person would. But in my heart I am still Romanian and try not to forget where I came from, although the Dutch way of doing things is pretty contagious. How long do you plan to stay and why? I never make such plans. I enjoy my life here very much and since I’ve started a business here with the Dutch at the centre I'm not planning on going anywhere soon. Moreover, I plan doing a second master's degree in architecture here. I think a Dutch education will bring me a lot of new insights on how to better integrate, in addition to the implicit added value of having another degree from a top university. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Not as well as I would want to. I learned most of my Dutch by listening to the radio (100%NL) and by reading official websites for the tax office and chamber of commerce. I also try to read the mail I get on my own and pick up words from random conversations. What’s your favourite Dutch food and why? I love a Bossche Bol because the first time I ate one I was in the city of Den Bosch with my Dutch boyfriend and the rainy day became a bit brighter with the soft inside covered in chocolate. It’s a simple yet effective dessert and I feel that it describes the Dutch perfectly. How Dutch have you become and why? I am more on time than I used to be because the Dutch hate it when you’re late. I had to learn that the hard way when my boss sent me home one morning when I showed up 15 minutes late. I spent the whole day in a café close to the office crying and working hard to prove I was still worthy of the job. Then I started loving this way of handling things. I respect people who are able to do that and keep their word. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I've already met two of them and I am going for the third soon! I wanted to meet Rem Koolhaas and I met him in Venice at the Biennale. I hope to get to talk more to him one day as he is an inspiration to me. Second is his right hand, Reinier de Graaf who runs the AMO research department and twin sister of OMA. He is still on my 'to meet list' and third is [architect] Ben van Berkel who I met at THNK as he is part of the advisory board there. The choice of three architects might be a bit one-sided but they are truly inspirational for my profession. What’s your top tourist tip? Don’t follow the map! Get lost in the city and enjoy! Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. All nature is planned out! I miss the raw nature back home. Yet, the way bike parking is planned is still so random. I guess things can't be changed so easily. But my team and I are about to do that with our smart bike parking system! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would be as much of a tourist as one can be. The ability to open your eyes to new things and see things in new perspectives is something you lose if you are focused on your job and getting from A to B. I would definitely still spend my time in the way most Dutch do, out in the sun on terraces, but I would just walk around and enjoy the architecture and the canals. Irina Damascan is co-founder and CMO at Linked&Locked which is developing a smart network of bicycle locks.      More >


‘In the Netherlands time is absolute – 3pm really does mean 3pm’

‘In the Netherlands time is absolute – 3pm really does mean 3pm’

Originally from Calcutta in India, Shazia Khan, 32, lives in Eindhoven with her husband and two children. Shazia runs her own fashion business, has learned to tone down the chili in her cooking and says her son is her Dutch teacher because he points out her mistakes. How did you end up in the Netherlands? We left India, and after living in Turkey for a year, my husband was offered a position at Delft University of Technology. We moved to Delft and two years later, when he changed jobs, we moved to Eindhoven. I've now been in the Netherlands for eight years. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? I see myself as an international because I have a strong interest in learning about other cultures, especially the culture of the country where I am living. How long do you plan to stay? I think that we will be staying in the Netherlands for a long time. My kids go to local schools and are growing up as Dutch (although they speak Hindi at home), so turning back seems very difficult. Setting up my own business has also helped to make me feel integrated into the local community. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Initially I encountered problems due to language, especially when dealing with the tax office, which would have been complicated even without the language barrier, but it is much better now. I speak Dutch with my neighbours, Dutch customers and the other parents at school. At the moment I am preparing for my final inburgering exam. Actually to be honest, my son has become my Dutch teacher as he quickly pinpoints my mistakes, so that I am learning every day. What's your favourite Dutch food? I have a sweet tooth so it would have to be those deep fried New Year dough balls oliebollen, which are similar to an Indian dessert that I like. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet? I would like to talk to Anne Frank about how she managed to maintain her positive outlook in spite of living in such a difficult situation. I would also like to meet Gerard Philips because he opened opportunities for social entrepreneurs in the Noord-Brabant region. Princess Beatrix is also someone I think would be interesting to meet because she is often described as having a very strong personality. How Dutch have you become? I guess I have become half Dutch. I ride a bike and make my own version of stamppot. I have learned to leave out the chili when cooking for Dutch friends, especially after my experiment with reducing a five-chili recipe to only one chili was still too spicy for them. From starting my own fashion business I understand what Dutch women like to wear, and have even made one customer very happy by turning a beautiful sari into a gown that she could wear easily in the Netherlands. What's your top tourist tip? The Keukenhof – I love the space and the tulips! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. In the Netherlands the concept of time is ‘absolute’, so when you have an appointment for 15.00 hours it really means 15.00 hours. In India it is a bit more ‘semi-absolute’. Arriving half an hour late for an appointment is totally acceptable, especially using traffic as the cause of the delay. I was also surprised by how limited social contacts are in the Netherlands. This is different in India, where social contacts don’t require making an appointment. There friends and family often visit, saying 'I was just passing by your neighbourhood so I thought I would drop by for a few minutes'. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I hope that it does not happen but if it did, I would like to spend the time cycling along the streets of Delft. Delft is my landing city, the place where I lived for two years and where my eldest son was born. Shazia Khan runs her own business selling traditional and Indo-western clothes, jewellery and leather accessories all over the country.   More >


‘The Dutch have a much calmer mentality when it comes to working’

‘The Dutch have a much calmer mentality when it comes to working’

Adonis Stoantzikis, 32, is a Greek artist and writer who has been living in the Netherlands since 2013. Now based in Amsterdam, Adonis enjoys the Dutch pace of life to the fullest, would like to have met Johnny Jordaan and has started eating sandwiches for lunch. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I initially came here to study in Groningen, but continued with the residency in Amsterdam. I wanted a university where they spoke English, so it was a choice of between here and England. The Netherlands was an easy winner. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? An international, because of the international student community in university and my collaboration with locals afterwards. I don’t think there are any Greeks in my environment here. How long do you plan to stay and why? It depends. Because of what I do I can’t be located in one place for too long. I have to move on and travel a lot. It’s important for art to be a nomad. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I only understand the basics. In the supermarket I know the beef from the chicken, just everyday stuff. Because it’s a very open society and an international environment it doesn’t seem obligatory to speak the language. I think it’s a lot to do with the arts too. Most people I know in the arts are internationals. What's your favourite Dutch food? Ribs! The way they prepare them and marinade them here is really nice. How Dutch have you become? I think it gets you after a while. In Greece everything is much more stressful, and the Dutch have a much calmer mentality when it comes to working. If that’s something that characterises the Dutch, then I became a lot like this during my time here. I started eating a lot of sandwiches for lunch too, so there’s that! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Of course Folkert de Jong, a Dutch artist. I love his playfulness and large-scale sculptures and installations. He’s very dynamic, and his work really shakes you. The second is the singer Johnny Jordaan. I was living on his street in Amsterdam, where his statue is now. I saw the statue every day, was curious, and discovered his music. The third one would be Spinoza, the philosopher. I’m familiar with his work and I’d like to meet him for a conversation. He was stabbed for being a heretic once, and kept wearing the coat with the hole in it afterwards. What's your top tourist tip? There’s lots of great art here, but tourists shouldn’t restrict themselves to Amsterdam. There’s so many young artists spread around the Netherlands, every city has something worth discovering, and contact with the art world is always nice for tourists. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The rhythm of everyday living. Compared to other countries I’ve lived in, everything is less stressful and there’s less pressure. I expected Amsterdam to be like any other European city, all running and stress, but actually you don’t feel like you’re in a big city here. That was a nice surprise. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would ride on my bike from coffeeshop to coffeeshop, seeing all the sights on the way. I’d probably fall asleep after ten hours, miss my flight, and wake up with another 24 hours to spend here! Adonis Stoantzikis is a resident at Gallerie Bart in Amsterdam city centre.  More >


‘Amsterdam is so beautiful: rich and poor lived within metres of each other’

‘Amsterdam is so beautiful: rich and poor lived within metres of each other’

Mike Manicardi, 63, manages Mike’s Badhuis Theatre in Amsterdam’s district of Oost. He arrived in the Netherlands in 1978, has five children here, and remembers how different it was to be a new arrival in those days. 'Expat is very modern Europe,' he says. 'I'm a first generation migrant.' How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was on tour with a theatre company and in that period Holland was the most exciting country in the world, culturally, to work in as a young theatre artist. Back then, the Dutch imported their artists. They picked up people from all over the world. We had different tours, and after one of the last tours, in 1978, I decided to work permanently in Amsterdam. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’m not really happy with these kinds of categories. But my father was Italian and my mother was Irish and as children we constantly travelled in Europe. I studied in England, but we always thought of ourselves as Europeans. The idea of ‘expat’ is very modern Europe. When I came here first we were just foreigners. How long do you plan to stay and why? I have been living in Amsterdam since 1978 and I have five children who were all born in Amsterdam. I see Amsterdam as my permanent home. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes. I learned Dutch on the street. In those days, being an expat was totally different. When you needed a stamp from the Foreign Police the line would stretch down the street from the office. Sometimes they’d take your passport away and tell you to f*** off. The next day you’d have to do the whole thing again. But we loved being outsiders. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Erwtensoep: that thick pea soup served with brown bread. How Dutch have you become and why? I see myself as a first generation migrant. My father was the same. My children laugh at their father’s Anglicisms. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? First of all, I’d say Johan Cruijff, for the entertainment. Then Gerrit van der Veen, for his idealism. Van der Veen was an artist, a poet, an educationalist, and a member of the Dutch resistance in World War 2. When he realised the Germans had all the information about Amsterdam’s Jews, he went out and blew up the building where the records were kept. They all got killed, but it was a tremendously brave attempt. Thirdly, Mathilde Wibaut is not so well known, but she was the wife of Dutch socialist Floor Wibaut, and I admire her intellectual brilliance and social values. She would organise food, events and free education for impoverished kids in Amsterdam, just a hundred metres away from the theatre here. I reckon they’ll make a film about her sometime soon. What's your top tourist tip? Visit the Dutch islands, made famous in the wonderful novel by Erskine Childers, The Riddle of the Sands. The island of Texel is a completely different world, out in the sea. They produce their own milk, cheese, bread and a lovely strong beer. It’s very healthy out there. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The proximity of rich and poor in Amsterdam in the small streets. I lived for 20 years in the heart of the Jordaan in an old broken-down hiding place of Gerrit van der Veen in World War 2. Amsterdam is so intricate and beautiful in that rich and poor lived within metres of each other. That is quite unique. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go to the island of Texel and drink one of their wonderful beers with my children. Mike is busy putting the finishing touches to a production of Irish playwright Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, marking the centenary of Ireland’s 1916 uprising which takes place later this month. The Shadow of a Gunman will follow in June.   More >


‘The Dutch know how to deep-fry properly’

‘The Dutch know how to deep-fry properly’

Cypriot Alexia Solomou is an associate legal officer at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. She has been in the Netherlands for nearly 18 months, is still working on her cycling skills and would love to have met Anne Frank. How did you end up in the Netherlands? In 2010 I was at Columbia University in New York and I got a fellowship with the president of the International Court of Justice which ended in June 2011. I then went off on my travels and when I was working at Cambridge University, I applied for an actual job here, which I was lucky enough to get. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? A globetrotter because I love moving around. How long do you plan to stay and why? Two years, and possibly another two, because that is how long my contract is at the International Court of Justice. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak an intermediate level of Dutch. I have a private tutor. I'm a bit of a language buff actually. When I lived here the first time I felt uncomfortable because I did not speak the language, so this time around I started learning straight away. Dutch is my fifth language... once you have learned a few, you get the hang of picking up new ones. What's your favourite Dutch food? Warm stroopwafels from a street vendor in the city centre of The Hague because they do good to the soul. How Dutch have you become? I have taken up all the good Dutch habits: I have become well-organised and efficient. I have even planted some tulip bulbs - they've all come up and are really beautiful. I am still working on my cycling skills though. I'd cycled before I came here but never in the rain or the snow. Now I can do both, although I had a horrible fall the first time I cycled in the snow and did not realise my brakes had frozen up. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I would have liked to meet Hugo Grotius because he is one of the founding fathers of public international law. I would also like to meet Tobias Asser, the initiator of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, and a member of the Dutch delegation at The Hague Peace Conferences. And I would love to have had a chat with Anne Frank to discuss her home confinement during the World War II. Her diary is one of my favourite books. I'd really like to find out the truth about her relationship with Peter. What’s your top tourist tip? Eat anything that is deep-fried: kibeling, bitterballen, French fries, kroketten. The Dutch know how to deep-fry properly. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. I am always amazed with what Dutch people can carry on their bicycles, from umbrellas and briefcases to surf-boards and drying racks; in addition to their children, cats and dogs. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would visit my favourite museums in the Netherlands once more: the Mauritshuis in The Hague, the Speelklok in Utrecht, and the Van Gogh in Amsterdam. I would then have a coffee at Hometown and then dinner at Mochi (both in The Hague).  More >


‘At home we talk that horrible Dutch and English hybrid’

‘At home we talk that horrible Dutch and English hybrid’

Tracy Metz, 61, is a journalist and author who has lived in the Netherlands for over 36 years and has just been awarded the prestigious Grote Maaskantprijs 2016 for her work on architecture and landscape. She is currently director of the John Adams Institute, lectures on water management all over the world and describes herself as a gelukszoeker. How did you end up in the Netherlands? After college in the US I headed to Europe and planned to spend time in Spain and France. The cheapest ticket I could get was to Amsterdam so I ended up working there for a time to earn some money and then going off travelling again. I had a fluid relationship with the city until 1980 when I decided I'd like to settle here. I'd been teaching English to adults and had met the editor of the Parool newspaper. He introduced me to journalism and gave me a six-month internship. I knew immediately that being a journalist was what I wanted to do. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I'm a gelukszoeker - an adventurer, a seeker of good fortune. It has become such a politically laden term used by the right to dismiss asylum seekers so I'd like to reclaim it. Everyone is a gelukszoeker, looking for the society they can blossom in. I found it here. How long do you plan to stay? I'll probably be here the rest of my life. I'm assuming I will. My work, my friends, my house, my husband are all here. When I was a Harvard fellow in 2006/07 and spent a year in the States I realised how long I had been away. I felt like an outsider. And coming back here was like coming home. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I learned it by speaking and reading children's books, novels, newspapers and asking millions of questions. And insisting people spoke Dutch to me. The way people switch to English is an obstacle to many expats - and it is convenient sometimes as well. But you have to insist. At home we talk that horrible Dutch and English hybrid. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Draadjesvlees (very slow cooked beef) is delicious if well done. My husband does all the cooking and if you ask me for my favourite meal, how about some Texels lamb with roast potatoes in goose fat and lots of veggies. All Dutch grown of course. How Dutch have you become and why? I guess I have become quite Dutch. I know how things work and how people think. I was born in another country and that will always colour my perspective but the Dutch rituals are all par for the course for me now. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? The architect Hendrik Berlage is a very august figure in the world of art and architecture. He was the embodiment of the transition from the Dutch romantic style to modern times. Willem Drees (Labour party politician and prime minister) came up with the notion of social security - that Dutch feeling of being all in it together and responsible for each other. He laid out the Dutch system of solidarity, so that everyone could have a basic level of financial security. Cornelis Lely was a master of water issues and extremely influential. Lely designed the Afsluitdijk between Noord-Holland and Friesland. Actually, it's a dam not a dyke. What's your top tourist tip? The Ceuvel. It's a disused shipyard in Amsterdam Noord where all sorts of things are  happening. They've taken old houseboats and beached them and turned them into work spaces, they've built raised walkways, the cafe has been constructed out of discarded stuff. It shows great initiative, is a really exciting place and it is within cycling distance of the centre. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. What surprises and disappoints me now is when I look at the polls and see how popular Geert Wilders is. It is such a contradiction. The Netherlands is the country of tolerance and acceptance of others but the meaner side of human nature is getting a grip. It is really sad. The people are withdrawing into their shell and that makes me wonder how real that tolerance actually was. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I don't like to think about that happening. Tracy Metz is director of the John Adams Institute and initiated and hosts the monthly talk show Stadsleven at the Balie in Amsterdam. She is currently leading the HEYU! Urbans talk show series with leading urban thinkers.   More >


‘Forget Amsterdam and come straight to The Hague’

‘Forget Amsterdam and come straight to The Hague’

Born in the former Yugoslavia but travelling on a British passport, Azra Secerbegovic came to the Netherlands eight years ago. A big fan of living in The Hague, Azra has adopted the Dutch way of being on time for appointments and has no hesitation about chatting with the former queen. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was working for an Israeli company based in Rotterdam, then started working for a Dutch company here. I did sales and marketing for natural products and organic food. I decided I wanted to make a career switch, but I wanted to stay in the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I would say I’m a really international person. I was born in former Yugoslavia, and have lived in the UK, Israel and now in the Netherlands. I call myself a citizen of the world, and really feel comfortable surrounded by other people like that. How long do you plan to stay and why? I really enjoy living and working in The Hague and have no plans to leave. In The Hague you have the feeling of the big city but you’re actually really close to nature, and that’s how I spend my free time. For me this is home. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes I do speak it and I like to. Speaking Dutch helps me to understand the place I live in. I learn something new here every day! What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Erwtensoep! I love it. I love most soups but this pea soup is my favourite. I also like the Dutch appelgebak. How Dutch have you become and why? I've lived in so many different countries and always try to accept the culture of the country I’m in. I’m doing the same here but what exactly should I do to become Dutch? One thing I’ve definitely picked up though is being on time for appointments. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? Well I’ve already met the former queen Beatrix by chance. I was in an antique shop talking to my friend and she walked in looking for a mirror. My friend’s shop didn’t have one so I suggested somewhere else. My friend looked shocked but to me it was so normal, there was no pomp about her at all. It would be nice to meet the current queen Máxima, because she’s also an international person and I like what she’s doing for female immigrants in the Netherlands. I would like to meet Geert Wilders too, just to have a face to face chat and find out what he’s really like. What's your top tourist tip? Lots of people think Amsterdam equals the Netherlands, but that’s completely not true. I would say: forget Amsterdam and come straight to The Hague! You will be amazed. The Dutch Dance Theatre is amazing, and so is the nature here and the sea. There’s lots of events happening here and lots to see. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I didn’t know that the Dutch were so family-orientated. I think it’s really great that family is so important to them. I thought they were much more disconnected from each other before I came here. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d take a visit to the Mauritshuis museum to see Vermeer’s work, then I’d go to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. It’s a lovely little Dutch village and there’s some great restaurants there. I’d also go to Giethoorn – the Venice of the north. You can rent a little boat, get a drink, and on a nice day it’s fabulous. Then I’d get myself down to Schiphol and off I’d go! Azra owns lifestyle concept store ASPA in The Hague, which provides hair and beauty treatments as well as nutrition advice, pilates and yoga classes.  More >


‘What is being Dutch?  Maastrichtenaars are very different to Groningers’

‘What is being Dutch? Maastrichtenaars are very different to Groningers’

John Flood, 43, is Irish and has been a lecturer in English literature at Groningen University for six years. He is surprised by the way the government thinks it worth trying to ban the burqa in the middle of a financial crisis and would like to meet stadhouder Willem III, to find out the truth about those rumours. How did you end up in the Netherlands? A job came up at the English department of the University of Groningen and when I emailed someone I knew who had worked there I got the longest reply she’d ever sent me. She was so positive that I sent in an application even though I hadn’t really been thinking of moving to the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? ‘International’ since this is the third country I’ve lived in and my working environment is a very international one. I do remind people that I am an immigrant when questions of immigration are discussed. How long do you plan to stay and why? Indefinitely. I have a permanent job here that I enjoy. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? No, I don’t. In fact I have read passages of Dutch aloud at a student comedy event as the Dutch students find it hilarious. I work in an English bubble since, as you’d expect in a university English department, our students are wholly taught and assessed in English. We also have many non-Dutch students who we don’t want to be excluded, so even small talk in the class breaks is in English. I advise students to dump their current boyfriends and girlfriends and date a native English speaker. None of this excuses my own lack of Dutch though. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Snert, the thick pea soup. It’s a dinner in itself and is great on winter days. How Dutch have you become and why? I don’t think I’ve become very Dutch. Of course I now automatically buy Dutch food and live on a Dutch timetable (early – for me – dinners at 6pm, holidays for King’s Day, Pentecost, etc.) but that’s fairly superficial. When I lived in England (where I did speak the language fluently and where I could vote in national elections), I didn’t become English, so I don’t think that it’s unusual that I don’t feel Dutch. In any event, I’m not sure what ‘Dutch’ is. If you visit the south of the country, the people and area around Maastricht seem very different from the people and province of Groningen (where some people still speak Groningens). I am a little nervous about saying that some things are Dutch or Irish or American. National stereotypes can be good for jokes, but otherwise they can easily become lazy ways of thinking that exclude the people who don’t fit into them or that fail to do justice to the diversity of those living in a country. In the Netherlands, as in many places, the fragmentation of the monolithic idea of ‘the Dutch’ is as much generational as anything else. I wouldn’t like to say that older Dutch people got to define what it is to be Dutch and younger ones are becoming less Dutch, or that the real Dutch people are the younger generation who are relegating their grandparents’ generation to obsolescence. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? William III (1650-1782), prince of Orange; Stadholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht and Gelderland; and King of England, Ireland and Scotland. Having been invited to England by powers that were worried about the Catholicism of King James II, William assumed the English throne alongside his wife, James II’s daughter, Mary. Part of James’s strategy to recover his throne lay in holding Ireland but in 1690 William defeated him at the Battle of the Boyne and James fled. This battle had an afterlife that made William the most famous Dutch person to intervene in Irish history. It metamorphosed into a mythical event that for many Irish people came to symbolise the relationship between Britain and Ireland. To this day, Protestant marches in celebration of the victory are held in Northern Ireland, often to the accompaniment of fighting with Catholic protesters or the security forces. In the midst of all this, William himself was simplified. A personally tolerant man, he became associated by Protestants and Catholics alike with religious bigotry. The reason that I’d like to meet William is that it has been suggested recently that he was partially funded by the pope (who, like William, was worried about the expanding power of France) and that he was gay. The truth of either or both of these would put an end to a great deal of silly but dangerous nonsense in Irish politics as marches in Northern Ireland led by the papal nuncio and a number of drag queens (orange is the new pink) would hardly excite as much violence. Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516). I’m reading a book about him at the moment before I go to the big exhibition in Den Bosch. I’ve seen his paintings in various galleries in Europe and had formed an image of him as a maverick outsider with an eccentric imagination. Now I learn that he was a stolid figure of civic life who stayed in his home town where he was a member of a religious guild. Where the startling imagery in his paintings comes from can only be guessed at and I would love to meet him to encounter the mind that produced such lurid visions. Christophe Plantin (c.1520-1589). There may be some objections to this choice as Plantin was French and he settled in Antwerp which is no longer part of the Netherlands. Still, it was his Antwerp printing shop that made Plantin famous and Plantin contributed to the city’s fame. There he founded the Plantin-Moretus dynasty whose printing shop, a UNESCO heritage site, can still be visited. These are all famous historical figures, but I’m lucky since in my job I get to meet Dutch people of all ages. Many colleagues across the various faculties are working on fascinating research and meeting them is as good as hours of TV documentaries. It’s also common for Dutch people to have had interesting experiences of or family stories about the Second World War and their perspectives on Europe are very different from those in Ireland or the UK. What's your top tourist tip? The Shakespeare Theatre Diever. It’s extraordinary that in Diever, a small town in Drente, there’s an amateur outdoor theatre that has been acting Shakespeare annually for the last seventy years. The plays are translated into Dutch and every year they have about 20,000 people attending their run of performances. Perversely, they did A Midsummer Night’s Dream in January at midnight one year and we sat surrounded by snow and layers of blankets. It was wonderful! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The political system is very different from the ones I am used to. Ireland is a Republic and although a lot of respect and influence attaches to various old or influential families, the head of state is elected. A constitutional monarchy is, of course, a familiar system to Irish people because of all the news coverage of the Queen of England. That the Netherlands manages to have a monarch without all the attendant tabloid journalism was a bit of a surprise. The Dutch law that surprised me the most was the one targeting the burka and the niqab. I first heard about it in a week in which, by coincidence, I was talking to my students about sumptuary laws (laws regulating clothes) in Elizabethan England. They considered that legislating to control people’s clothing was an amusing phenomenon from 400 years ago and were as surprised as I had been to learn that the Netherlands was debating introducing such laws. I remain astonished that in the middle of a financial crisis the parliament was worried about the hundreds (not thousands) of women who cover their faces in some way. In a society of high heels, Barbie doll models and the social pressures to wear fashionable and expensive clothes (all features that derive much of their power from Euro-American influences that are ‘foreign’ insofar as they are not natively Dutch), it seems odd to me to focus on such a minority of women rather than on the anorexia, bulimia and misery of people who populate doctors’ and psychiatrists’ waiting rooms and miserable beds in hospital wards. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d go and be a tourist in one of the many places I’ve yet to visit. When you live somewhere you take it for granted and often put off investigating somewhere that you’d certainly have gone if you were merely passing through. I’ve been to the Rijksmuseum when I came to the Netherlands before I moved here, but now that I live here I haven’t yet seen the new refit.  More >


‘I’ve become an impatient cyclist; I think I rule the road on my bike’

‘I’ve become an impatient cyclist; I think I rule the road on my bike’

Dan Fennessy (36) is the founder and CEO of Party With A Local, an app that helps travelers connect with locals and discover fun things to do that aren’t in the guidebooks. Since he’s been here, Dan has become a father, an impatient cyclist and a krentenbol aficionado. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I did a round the world trip back in 2006. Right at the end of that trip I was backpacking in Central America and I met a Dutch girl there. We spent some time together and then went home. I didn’t think anything was going to come of it, but we stayed in touch and decided we wanted to be together. I was ready to do something a bit different, so I decided to move over here. I've been here eight years now. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I’ve actually never heard of a ‘lovepat’ before! In some ways I don’t really like the term ‘expat,’ as it implies you’re excluded from the local community. Sometimes the expat community tends to stick together and keep to themselves. I prefer the term ‘international local.’ I feel like an expat who has integrated into Dutch society. Especially from my work with Party With A Local, I feel like an Amsterdam local now. How long do you plan to stay and why? I would say probably not forever, but I have no immediate plans to leave. If there’s opportunities to take the startup somewhere else, potentially the US, that could happen. Plus I wouldn’t mind living somewhere with warmer weather! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yeah, I can speak it but I rarely do. I did a few intensive courses when I first arrived and passed my inburgering exams. I guess having a Dutch girlfriend and friends helps. I can listen to it, read and write it, but when people hear me speak it they tend to switch to English. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Krentenbol. It’s just like a little scone with raisins and sultanas in it. It’s quite simple but it’s a nice little snack in between snacks. How Dutch have you become and why? I’m a little bit more direct than I used to be, which I think is a good thing. That comes from being around the blunt Dutch mentality for so long. I’m an impatient cyclist now too, I think I rule the road on my bike. I have a son now here as well, which makes me even more integrated but I still never refer to myself as Dutch. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? The explorer Abel Tasman, who discovered Tasmania and New Zealand. I’d like to ask him why him and the Dutch were there but decided not to colonise Australia. Another one, who’s still alive, is Johnny De Mol, the TV personality. I don’t really like Dutch TV in general but he’s an interesting character who goes to interesting places. I’d think he’d be fun to go out and have a drink with. Thirdly I’d pick a sportsperson, maybe Johan Cruyff. I’d like to talk to someone who’s succeeded at that level. What's your top tourist tip? After telling people to download our app and party with locals here, the next day I’d recommend freshening up with a bike ride across to the north and up to Broek in Waterland. You pass a farm on the way that sells fresh milk from a milk tap, and you ride through farms and green fields. It’s amazing how quickly you get out of the city and into fields and villages. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands I knew that Dutch people were tall, but not this tall. I’m about average height in Australia, but here I’m shorter than the average girl. Trying to see live music here is often pretty difficult. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d go for a boat ride with a bunch of friends, drinks and food. If it was a warm day maybe we’d do some swimming in the IJ. Then I’d go to a little café near where I live and eat there on the terrace. That would be perfect.  More >