Longer articles about living in the Netherlands, Dutch society, culture and travel plus third party content from our partners


From Gouda by candlelight to a Christmas Carol – a round-up of holiday family fun

From Gouda by candlelight to a Christmas Carol – a round-up of holiday family fun

The school holidays are finally coming up! Esther O'Toole has a run down of special Christmas events and activities, for young and old, up and down the country, traditional and alternative; starting on December 15. Countrywide: winter circuses A trip to the circus is a popular Dutch tradition at Christmas. You will find Christmas Circuses all over: Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Haarlem, Nijmegen, Sittard…Eindhoven's will be in the Park Theater and offers lots of extra activities for kids throughout the building, so you can really make a day of it. Website Amsterdam: Kerstspel, Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ There are more than 10 special events going on at the Muziekgebouw this holiday season. Including a new tradition of their own making - Kerstspel. A modern Christmas concert to inspire your littlens as they watch performers as young as 4 years old perform alongside the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra. Website Amsterdam: The Christmas Show, Ziggo Dome It wouldn't be the season of 'goodwill to all men' if there wasn't a performance inspired by A Christmas Carol going on somewhere. If you're looking for a new take on an old tale then you can head to the Ziggo Dome on December 23 and 24 for the annual song and dance extravaganza, which this year is based on the Dickens classic and features lot of Dutch celebrities. Website More on celebrating the holiday season in Amsterdam Arnhem: Open Air museum It may be chilly, but there is still plenty of wintertime fun to be had outside. At the open air museum in Arnhem there will be skating, sledging and you can bake your own bread over an open fire. If the weather gets really inclement you can always retreat to the 'play shed' for shed-loads of good old-fashioned family games. Website Gouda: Candle Night Gouda may be best known for its cheese but their annual Kaarsjesavond (Candle Night) deserves to be well known too. This year on December 15th all electric lights will be turned off, and the festivities around the town Christmas tree (music & singing, food and theatre) will all take place by candlelight. Website Maastricht: Magical Maastricht, Het Vrijhof There are Christmas markets all around the country but Maastricht's has been completely revamped for 2017 to be bigger and better than ever. Their covered ice rink even has disco skating! Website Maastricht: The Christmas Elf Mystery (4-10), departs from Minister Goeman Borgesius Plantsoen Here's one for those bilingual families. The Christmas Elf Mystery is an underground treasure hunt in the tunnels under the city! Help Father Christmas find the key to the sleigh that his trickster elf has hidden. December 23 at 16:00, 17:00 and 18:00. Don't forget your torch! Website Nijmegen: Festival of Light Explore the Christmas story at the Museum Park Orientalis, dress up as a shepherd, take a donkey for a walk and listen to storytellers while stuffing yourself with oliebollen. Different activities are going on throughout the park, both indoors and out. From December 16. Website Oud Kampen: Open air theatre festival A cheap and cheerful day out can be had on December 17 and 18, as the streets of Oud Kampen fill up with theatre activities for young and old. Entry is just €2 per person, a bargain! From 16.00 hours. Website Rotterdam: Pillow Party, Ahoy If the teens are getting stir crazy and are glued to their tablets, why not take them down to the Ahoy and reintroduce them to the charitable spirit of Christmas while letting them go nuts at Rotterdam's annual Pillow Party? Proceeds from the giant pillow fight go to help Dutch children living in poverty celebrate their birthdays. December 15, from 20.30, pillows provided! Website More on celebrating Christmas in Rotterdam The Hague: Winter Wondertales (5+), Paradise Theatre Alongside their own production of the Charles Dickens story, performed by Ashley Ramsden, English Language theatre company STET has a new show to warm little hearts this year. Storyteller Caja will take you all on a magical journey with her repertoire of original short stories. December 16 and 17. Website The Hague: New Year's Dive - Scheveningen beach The crazy antics of a few swimmers has grown into a real tradition of taking a 'penguin dive' on New Year's Day. There are now 60 locations around the country where you can join in but the original Scheveningen dip is still the biggest, with an expected 10,000 people taking the plunge at noon on January 1 2018. Website The Hague: The Pier If you'd rather enjoy the New Year's dive at a warm and comfortable distance, then you can stay on the pier! Sup on something tasty from the artisanal food trucks, hit the shops or take a turn on the ferris wheel or the zip wire! Website More on celebrating the holiday season in The Hague Utrecht: My First Festival, Tivoli Vredenburg There's an eclectic musical offering to be found at this festival for kids, and parents. From pop to Prokofiev there´s something to delight everyone with performances and workshops throughout the day. December 29, family tickets available. Website  More >


The Dutch love their cats – and here’s the proof

The Dutch love their cats – and here’s the proof

They peer down at you from the windows of canal houses and slink past your legs while you’re hanging out in cafes. Indeed, cats definitely seem to be everywhere in the Netherlands. According to one estimate, there’s over 2.8 million of them currently living in the country. Brandon Hartley has nine key facts about Dutch cats Cats in the Kunsthal You can sink your claws into an exposition devoted entirely to cats at Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum, until January 14, 2018. ‘Cat Love: Nine Lives in the Arts’ takes a look at how felines have been depicted in art from the mid-19th century to modern times. Along with paintings by Henriëtte Ronner-Knip and Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen and work by contemporary artists including David Shrigley and Wallasse Ting, the show includes tributes to international ‘cat sensations’ like Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub. There’s also an interactive exhibit that allows visitors to experience what it’s like to be a feline in the Netherlands. What does that entail exactly? You can learn more here. Other museum mousers There seems to be a museum for just about everything in Amsterdam and that includes cats. Located on the ground floor of a canal house along the Herengracht, Het Kattenkabinet features feline-related works by artists including Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Picasso. It was founded by curator Bob Meijer in 1990 partially as a tribute to his dearly departed cat John Pierpont Morgan. But that’s not the only place where you’ll encounter cats in Amsterdam museums. Cornelis van Haarlem's The Fall of Man, at the Rijksmuseum, includes a curious depiction of a small monkey hugging a grey cat. The meaning behind this unusual pairing in the 1592 masterpiece could be a reference to an old folk expression, or a parable that’s been lost to the ages. Cats can also be found in plenty of other paintings throughout the museum and, according to its website, they can be interpreted as metaphors for everything from lust and greed to strength and speed. But aren’t cats supposed to be afraid of water? De Poezenboot has been an Amsterdam landmark since the late 1960s. This sanctuary for abandoned and stray cats is located on a houseboat along the Singel. It was founded by Henriette van Weelde, who discovered a family of felines living under a tree near her floating home on the Herengracht in 1966. She adopted them and they were soon joined by additional strays. As more and more cats were drawn to her house, Van Weelde eventually transferred them to an old sailing barge that was retrofitted to be more cat-friendly. Since then, De Poezenboot has moved into a different houseboat and it’s helped rescue countless cats-in-need. You can learn more about the non-profit organisation by clicking here. The dangers of canals While the cats that live on De Poezenboot peacefully reside on the waters of one of Amsterdam’s most picturesque canals, other felines around the country aren’t so fortunate. Tragically, cats drowning in canals is a fairly common occurrence. This is why organisations including Leiden’s Kat uit de Gracht project have sought to develop unique ways to rescue felines that have run afoul of the nation’s waterways. Dine with felines Cat cafes continue to be something of a phenomenon in Asia, where cat-less residents living in tiny apartments in cities like Tokyo don’t have enough space to accommodate a furry friend. So instead they get their ‘feline fix’ while sipping a coffee or enjoying a slice of cake in a restaurant with half a dozen (or more) of them running around. While it’s easy to encounter a ‘cafe cat’ in any number of eateries, especially in Amsterdam, the Netherlands does have at least two that are fully devoted to them. At the time of writing, Pebbles Kitty Cat Cafe in Rotterdam had eight cats on staff, each one adopted from a local shelter. There’s also Kopjes in Amsterdam, which has seven. Much like similar businesses overseas, both cafes have an entrance fee and a list of rules that their clientele are expected to follow in order to help keep their furry employees happy and healthy. The most famous cat in the Netherlands? In Dutch, a ‘kater’ is a term for a hangover as well as a male cat. It’s also the nickname of a beloved cartoon character from the long-running comic strip series Jan, Jans en de Kinderen that’s probably the most famous cat to ever come out of the Netherlands. The Rode Kater’s real name is Edgar Allen Poes and he belongs to the Tromp family. Unlike his fellow cats, Edgar is a pacifist that refuses to hunt mice. He is also a bit of a philosopher and offers the reader his opinions on various real-world events and topics. Edgar was inspired by Kobus, a real cat that once belonged to the strip’s creator, Jan Kruis, who died earlier this year. He is now drawn and written by other artists. Over the years, the still popular strip has been translated into multiple languages and has spawned animated films, songs, comic spin-offs, tons of merchandise, an anti-smoking campaign, and even a stage musical. Other famous Dutch cats Real cats in the Netherlands have also gained substantial levels of notoriety. Buurtpoes Bledder, a tomcat that belonged to a student house in central Leiden, became a regional celebrity after he started hanging around nearby businesses and cafes. A clerk at a record shop decided to create a Facebook account to track his whereabouts that inevitably resulted in his own Wikipedia page as well. After Bledder was killed by a motorist in 2013, his death was reported in media outlets including the Leidsch Dagblad and the national television network SBS 6. Tram-Poes, another sadly deceased feline, became a celebrity in his own right while he spent a decade frequenting a tram stop near his home in Rotterdam. Anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, notoriously shy of appearing on Dutch tv chat shows, was happy to appear on one this year to talk about his two cats who have their own Twitter account and 9,000 followers. The felines of Rock ‘n’ Roll The Cats was the name of a popular Dutch rock band that was founded in Volendam back in 1964. They’re perhaps best known for their hit single ‘One Way Wind’ that became a top 10 hit in countries all across Europe and beyond in the early ‘70s. The band called it quits in 1979 but reformed briefly in the mid ‘00s to record a single for a greatest hits album and be inducted into the chivalric Order of Orange-Nassau. Good mews There’s plenty of places in the Netherlands where you can buy cat toys but one shop in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district is completely focused on felines and their human companions. At Cats & Things, shoppers, both furry and less so, can find tons of supplies for cats in addition to feline-related home accessories. They also host training and educational seminars. Interested in signing up? You can keep track of the store’s schedule via its ‘MIEUWSmail’ newsletter.  More >


Supplementary health insurance: what is it and do you need it?

Supplementary health insurance: what is it and do you need it?

Supplementary health insurance policies have been in the news a lot this month, with the central Dutch bank suggesting they could disappear in the future. So what's all the fuss about? Here's a handy guide to what supplementary health insurance policies cover, how they work and whether or not you need one in 2018. What should you look out for when assessing supplementary health policies? Cover The basic health insurance (basisverzekering) is the compulsory part of Dutch health insurance. It covers essential medical healthcare, such as visits to your GP, hospital treatments, emergency medical care and (some) medication. There may be treatment you might want but that is not covered by the basic health policy. Here is a list: Physiotherapy (for non-chronic conditions) Dental care (above 18 years of age) Alternative medicine Orthodontics for children and adults Glasses (or lenses) Podotherapy This is where a supplemental insurance comes in. These optional (private) packages are offered by various insurance providers to meet your additional health needs and lifestyle. Conditions When comparing these ‘extra’ insurance policies, you should study the policy terms and conditions carefully. This is because insurance policies may vary significantly in terms of: Cover: there are huge differences in the maximum amount of money you can reclaim for some treatment or medical aids Acceptance: unlike the basic insurance policy, supplemental insurances are privatised, meaning insurance companies don’t have to you accept you. That means you may  have to fill in a form about your medical history and current status before they agree to take you. Waiting-time: some insurance companies incorporate a waiting time for some coverage. This means you have will have to wait six months or a year before you get your costs reinbursed, while in the meantime, you do have to pay the monthly premium. ZorgWijzer.nl offers an English comparison tool which easily shows you what cover and which conditions apply per policy. Children On the upside, children under the age of 18 are insured for free through their parents, so they too are usually covered for exactly the same treatments as their parents. Remember this when choosing a supplemental insurance, especially if you feel it would benefit your children. Cost difference The cost difference for supplemental insurances is huge, depending on the chosen cover and insurance company. So, whether or not a supplemental insurance is worthwhile mainly depends on how often you will use it. Try to calculate if the premium you pay to the insurer is less than the total amount you can claim back for treatment. Changes Bear in mind that if you already have supplemental insurance, the cover may very well change next year. So, it is definitely worthwhile checking whether your current health policy still fits your needs and is not too pricey. Comparing the different insurance policies and companies (in Dutch: zorgverzekeringen vergelijken), and perhaps switching your insurer, is a good way to make sure you aren’t paying too much. According to recent research by the Dutch consumers union, changing policies could save you up to €100 a year.  More >


Books, clocks and tulips: we’ve got some great gifts to give away

Books, clocks and tulips: we’ve got some great gifts to give away

December is a time of giving and that's just what we are doing this month at DutchNews.nl. We've got some great gifts to give away to several lucky readers. NLXL by Karel Tomei The Netherlands might like to consider itself a small country - a kleine kikkerlandje, as the Dutch are so fond of saying - but this is one mighty big book. Karel Tomei's NLXL weighs in at a whopping 3.5 kilos but is such a joy to look at that you will forget the weight on your knees. The book draws on the tradition of birds eye view paintings in which the world is captured from the skies: the intricate patterns of reclaimed land crisscrossed by ditches, the contrast between bulb fields and a golf course, great swathes of sand with a city in the distance, a drone's view of a busy cafe terrace, the intricate carvings on the roof of a cathedral. But it's the landscape that really rules NLXL - the Netherlands might be oh so very flat, but it still has amazing variation in its countryside - from the seaside dunes to the southern heaths, from the the seals sunning themselves on a sandbank to intricate cityscapes. NLXL will make a stunning, if heavy, present for anyone who loves the Netherlands in all its variations. You can buy NLXL at all good bookshops and online from Xpat Media but we've got one copy to give away. To win, send your best photograph (one photo only) of the Netherlands to info@dutchnews.nl and we'll enter you in our prize draw. Put NLXL in the subject line of the email. You know you are Dutch when.... by Colleen Geske Find out how Dutch you really are with the latest book from the popular Stuff Dutch People Like stable. Do you think bicycle helmets are ridiculous, would you like Germans to stop digging holes on Dutch beaches and do you like chocolate sprinkles for breakfast even though you are an adult? Chances are, you really are Dutch. After a searingly funny look at Dutch culture, unraveling the mysteries of the language, praising Dutch motherhood and tickling your tastebuds with Dutch cooking, Colleen Geske turns her attention the key traits that separate Nederlanders from the rest of the herd. Lavishly illustrated and compact in size, You Know You're Dutch When... is the perfect book to add to the collection of easy reading in that small room downstairs. You know, the one with the birthday calendar on the back of the door and the tiny sink with cold water. You can buy You Know You Are Dutch When.. online or from all good bookstores, but we've got five copies to give away. Tell us what Dutch quirk makes you laugh by emailing info@dutchnews.nl and we'll enter you in our prize draw. Put 'You know you are Dutch when' in the subject line of your email. Vicky Hampton's Working Lunch We are so happy that Vicky Hampton, our favourite Amsterdam foodie, has been branching out into other cities - her rundown of a weekend's eating in Rotterdam is enough to make us all head for the port city asap. Vicky is no food snob and assessments of what and where she is eating are both down to earth and honest. We've said it before... she's never let the DutchNews.nl crew down. Vicky has taken that same approach to lunch - cheap and cheerful lunch recipes for those who are sick of cheese sandwiches or can't stand another wilted salad at the staff canteen. Soups and smoothies, delicious toasted sandwiches - surely every Dutch company office has a toastie maker - and a great selection of simple salads. If your staff kitchen has a kettle and enough space to fit a chopping board, this is the book for you. You can buy Vicky Hampton's Working Lunch via the website bookshop or from online bookstores but we've got one copy to give away. Tell us about your favourite office lunch  by emailing info@dutchnews.nl and we'll enter you in our prize draw. Put 'Working Lunch' in the subject line of your email. A bamboo wall clock by Stuff Dutch People Like If you don't manage to win won of these wonderful books, don't despair - maybe the best is yet to come. Who needs the ubiquitous Dutch agenda when you've got one of these bamboo wall clocks instead. Featuring canal houses, bridges, bikes tulips and windmills, we've got three to give away, courtesy of the team at Stuff Dutch People Like. Send an email to info@dutchnews.nl with 'Clock' in the email subject line and we'll enter you in our prize draw. Tulips from Amsterdam Our consolation prize - We've got five packs of assorted tulip bulbs to give away at random. Whether in a garden or a window box, plant now for a riotous display of colour in the spring. Terms and conditions Closing date, Friday December 8, 17.00 Prizes can sent to Dutch addresses only. DutchNews.nl may publish your photos and anecdotes on the DutchNews.nl website and social media platforms. Please submit one photo only. Please include your email address, name and postal address on your entry email.   More >


Cats, kings and the American dream: 12 great things to do in December

Cats, kings and the American dream: 12 great things to do in December

Not everything on the calendar for December is about Sinterklaas and Santa Claus but inevitably lots of events at this time of year are Christmas-themed.  We've got top notch theatre, ice sculptures, cat karaoke and the American dream in our latest listing. Savour some savoir-faire If you haven't bought a single present yet and are not short of a euro or two why not visit the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam for inspiration. Meesterlijk is a three day extravaganza of 'style, specialisms and savoir-faire'. This is an event all about designer goods and handcrafted stuff. It's also a 'recyclable total concept' which we think might be a good thing. December 1,2,3. Website Slide on the ice Scheveningen is not only the scene of the traditonal new year's plunge (see further down) it also has another icy surprise in store: the Ice EXPO, featuring a multitude of ice sculptures inspired by Scheveningen's glorious past as a watering hole for the Den Haag posh and the not so posh. Next door is a 30 metre long ice slide. Until January 21. Website Feel the Hidden Force - surtitled in English In recent years Toneelgroep Amsterdam has staged three novels by Dutch novelist Louis Couperus. The Hidden Force is the last in a trilogy and Ivo van Hove directs the steamy story of an unfaithful wife and mysterious goings-on in the Dutch East Indies. From December 9 to December 22. The performance will be surtitled on Thursdays. Website ..and have a Shakespearean cocktail -also surtitled in English It's three plays by Shakespeare for the price of one courtesy of Toneelgroep Amsterdam, once again directed by Ivo van Hove. Kings of War combines Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III into a single play about leadership then and now.  From December 15 to 22. Surtitled on Thursday 21. For info and tickets go to the Stadsschouwburg website. Christmas markets and concerts If your tree is still short a bauble or two or if you are in the mood for a heartening glass of glühwein to get you through the Christmas cheer there are a number of Christmas markets that will have plenty of both on offer. For dates and places, go to this website. Christmas concerts will be on pretty much throughout the month in draughty churches throughout the land, so bring a hipflask to ward off the cold. You can find your concert and tickets here. See how the aristocrats celebrated Christmas More seasonal jollity but of a more 'Little Match Girl' kind at Slot Zuylen near Utrecht where commoners are invited to gape at how the other half celebrated Christmas in times gone by. There's a tour of the castle and hot chocolate at the end. December 28, 29 and 30. For info and tickets go to the website See the light The Festival of Light is working its magic on the old centre of Amsterdam for another edition, with luminous artworks specially made for each location by 35 artists from all over the world including Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Either walk the route or book a boat trip. Website Caterwaul with the cats For people who have seen all 348 trillion Youtube cat videos but still can't get enough there is the exhibition Cat love, nine lives in the arts. Apart from depictions of dignified cats, ordinary cats and mad cats from the mid-19th century on, 'visitors can participate in a crash course in ‘doing nothing’ and make their voices heard during meow karaoke'. Yes, really. On until January 14 in the Kunsthal Rotterdam. Website Follow the American dream The Drents Museum and the Kunsthalle Emden in Germany are presenting Europe's biggest exhibition so far of American Realism from 1945 to the present. Works by Edward Hopper, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close and many more shed a light on American art and culture. The American Dream is on until May 27. Website Beat the Christmas bloat The best way to overcome the excesses of the Christmas festivities is to force the family to take a bracing walk along the beach. Pop into the Beelden aan Zee museum in Scheveningen to take in a few non-challenging Picassos while you're at it: it's open on December 26. There's a workshop for children in case you need to nurse your headache in peace. Website Find the Fireworks There are fireworks galore of course on New Year's Eve. Amsterdam's Scheepvaart Museum at the Oosterdok forms the backdrop for the countdown in Amsterdam while in The Hague the action is at the Hofvijver. Rotterdam sees in the New Year with a spectacular fireworks show at the Erasmusbrug. Take the plunge It's not strictly a December thing but it's near enough and you may need the time to mentally prepare: January 1 is when quite a lot of people line up on the beach at Scheveningen to take part in the traditional New Year's Day plunge into a very cold North Sea. You actually have to pay €3 for the privilege of freezing to death (although you get a not very useful woolly hat from the sponsor). You must register on the spot from 10.30am. 10,000 people is the maximum number of divers. Website To be forewarned is to have a ticket The early bird gets the worm so if you're a fan of comedian and Comedy Central presenter Trevor Noah make sure you get your ticket for a one-off performance on May 20 at Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. Website  More >


No more Hema and Shema: Gender-neutral marketing hits the Netherlands

No more Hema and Shema: Gender-neutral marketing hits the Netherlands

This is your last weekend to pack in the pre-Sinterklaas shopping. So will it be pink for the girls and blue for the boys? Gender-neutral marketing has finally arrived in the Netherlands but, as Deborah Nicholls-Lee reports, not everyone is happy. In June 2015, following a particularly depressing visit to toy store Bart Smit - whose signage suggested that my five-year-old daughter had no business looking at toys that had to do with engineering, natural history or science – I poked my head above the Twitter parapet and tweeted my frustration. The backlash was unanticipated: I was a drama queen; a ghastly feminist; I was lying. I concluded that the Netherlands was simply not ready to engage in this particular conversation and left it well alone. Nevertheless, I was bemused. Toys R Us in Sweden went gender-neutral in 2013 and Australia launched the No Gender December campaign in 2014, urging people to ‘Buy gifts not stereotypes’. The UK-based campaign Let Toys Be Toys reported a 70% reduction in gendered signage between 2012 and 2016 in British toy stores. And just a few weeks after my lonely cry of a tweet, US stores Target and Walmart removed gendered labelling on toys - period. This was the Netherlands, the first country to recognise gay marriage, why was it still so gender binary? Change upsets tradition For Rosemarie Buikema, head of Gender Studies at the University of Utrecht, it has to do with the reassurance that familiar categories bring and a desire to protect the status quo. ‘If there is a minority which wants to claim their identity or inclusion in terms of equal rights, that’s fine, as long as this doesn’t mean that existing ways of sharing the public space are structurally affected.’ Removing the girl/boy divide is problematic, she says, because it questions a lot of other possible identity markers which have come to be associated with an idea of what western civilisation and tradition means, which many fear they will lose. This may explain why so many people on social media who voice their annoyance with the #genderneutraal campaigns also have #Nederland in their posts or conflate the debate with the Zwarte Piet controversy. What’s different? 2017 has seen the belated arrival of gender-neutral marketing in the Netherlands and it has engendered much discussion. The most widely-publicised challenge to gender-specific marketing has come from the Hema, which announced in September the launch of a gender-neutral range of clothing for children. Toy shops have also made changes. The signage in Intertoys, for example, now helps shoppers find products according to category rather than gender, and their 2017 catalogue indicates a gradual move away from gender stereotypes. They have even braved a discussion on the colour pink on their website. In June, Dutch-British consumer goods company Unilever announced that they were joining the Unstereotype Alliance, partnering with other industry leaders, ‘to tackle the widespread prevalence of stereotypes that are often perpetuated through advertising’. Why this change? These changes are partly the result of socio-political change, says Rosemarie Buikema. She argues that ‘attempts to think, talk and visualise in a more inclusive way are felt to be more urgent in the light of an increasing tendency of populism and conservatism.’ Certainly the debate does appear to run along political lines. For the PVV’s Martin Bosma, gender-neutral marketing is a terrible idea. Speaking to PowNed TV, he expressed his regret that something so quintessentially Dutch as the Hema had become ‘a sort of cosmopolitan, GroenLinks, D66 nightmare’. But it’s not just about liberal ideology, it’s also about money. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal in October, Keith Weed, Unilever’s chief marketing officer, said: ‘This isn’t just a moral issue, it’s an economic issue.’ Rethinking the way gender was used in marketing was increasing sales. Campaigns like the ‘Is it OK for guys..?’, for the deodorant Axe, allowed for a broader consideration of what it means to be a man and generated even better results. ‘The more progressive ads were [25%] more effective,’ he said. Parents are divided Josan Jongbloed, mother of three daughters and founder of GoodGirlsCompany.nl, a lifestyle blog for parents of daughters, resents the interference that gender-neutral marketing implies, seeing it as opportunistic and unnecessary. Writing on her blog, she describes gender-neutral clothing as ‘politically-correct hyprocrisy’ and ‘an easy way to score points.’ ‘As a Millenial Mom,’ she says, ‘I am perfectly capable of choosing for myself where I buy my children’s clothes.’ Reclaiming space for boys to be boys, the Sire campaign asked parents ‘Are You Giving Your Boys Enough Chance to Be Boys?’. The campaign implied that the way parents are being asked to raise boys is more neutering than neutral. Other parents, however, are relieved that non-gender-specific marketing has finally arrived. ‘Tough luck for the ‘women belong in the kitchen and boys don’t cry’ believers,’ says Sanne Botterweg from Amsterdam, an urban developer and mother of two. She was already doing some of her toys and clothes shopping in the boys’ isle. ‘My girls do not play with dolls and pink is not their favourite colour.’ For her, gender-neutral shopping is ‘long overdue’. ‘I believe that boys and girls should be able to find their own likes and dislikes,’ she says. And some parents, like mother and grandmother Leah Bakker, a customer experience specialist from Groningen, are still trying to find their way. ‘Hema wants me to raise my son gender-neutral, Sire says my boy should be a boy. Now I’m confused,’ she complained in a recent tweet. Gender preconceptions still prevail Whatever your views on the latest marketing trend, shopping by gender is far from dead, particularly where kids are concerned. A search for Lego on the Blokker website, for example, finds that - while 106 sets are fine for all children - 249 are deemed suitable for boys, but only 54 for girls. One of my local independent toy stores in Amsterdam lists ‘jokes and fun’ and ‘discovery and construction’ under the boys’ categories and replaces these with ‘dolls’ and ‘kitchens and accessories’ for the girls. But humans are hard to categorise, and labelling according to gender can be misleading. A friend asked me just last week, for example, if my daughters’ beloved train set belonged to my husband. Gender is not always the best predictor of personality and taste, and recent marketing approaches are beginning to acknowledge this. As patronising as some of these gender-neutral campaigns may feel, they’ve got the Netherlands thinking about the preconceptions we have about each other. And that is probably a good thing - for all consumers. Feel free to comment on this issue in the comments section below. Comments which break our guidelines will be removed.  More >


DutchNews podcast – The Random Descriptions of Boners Edition – Week 47

DutchNews podcast – The Random Descriptions of Boners Edition – Week 47

We look back on a week of thwarted protests as MPs fail to talk out a bill to scrap a tax break for homeowners and the A7 motorway is gridlocked by the Zwarte Piet debate. Amsterdam emerges as the first big winner in the Great Brexit Clearance Sale (and immediately frets about the effect on house prices), the Yugoslavia tribunal in The Hague delivers its verdict on the Butcher of Bosnia and a Dutch men's sports team shocks Europe by winning a match. In our discussion we ask which Dutch books you can safely buy your relatives for Christmas. Top story Filibuster attempt fails to scupper bill to abolish homeowners' tax break News Amsterdam to be new home of European Medicines Agency after Brexit Zwarte Piet supporters block motorway to stop protesters heading for Sinterklaas parade The Hague tribunal finds Ratko Mladic guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity Breda and Almere named best city centres in Netherlands (NOS, Dutch) Sport Feyenoord's dismal campaign puts Dutch Champions League seeding in jeopardy Curling team qualifies for World Cup (NOS, Dutch) Discussion: book recommendations Gordon's recommendation: The Longest Night by Otto de Kat. Alternatively, The Darkroom of Damocles by W.F. Hermans Paul's recommendation: The Assault by Harry Mulisch Molly didn't recommend anything, so here's a link to The Evenings by Gerard Reve, which was described by Tim Parks in The Guardian as 'not only a masterpiece but a cornerstone manqué of modern European literature'.   More >


How to buy a house in Amsterdam and Amstelveen – ask the experts in person

How to buy a house in Amsterdam and Amstelveen – ask the experts in person

The housing market in and around Amsterdam and Amstelveen can be pretty complex but more and more international workers see owning their own home as the best answer to ever rising rents. So if you've decided to take the plunge, how to buy a house? Buying your own home in a foreign country might seem daunting, but it is perfectly possible – as long as you get proper advice. Currently in Amsterdam and Amstelveen, properties are selling quickly and prices have risen to record levels over the past year. Nevertheless, there are still great buys around and a tuned-in estate agent will help you make the most of your money. There are plenty of legal ins and outs to deal with as well, so you will need to get good legal advice from a specialist notary too. On Sunday, December 3, a special event is being held at the Vondel church close to the park to help expats find their way around the housing maze. ‘The event will guide you through the entire home buying process, including the roles played by the real estate agent, the mortgage advisor and the notary,’ says organiser Monique Burgemeester. ‘You can find out about getting a mortgage in the Netherlands, get interior designer advice from a pro or even talk to a builder about renovations.’ Shortages ‘It's hard to buy a house in Amsterdam because there is so little owner-occupied property,’ says real estate agency Barry Burgemeester. ‘Just 30% of the city’s total property stock is privately owned. So finding and buying that house can be quite a challenge. That’s why it’s good to talk to someone who really understands the market.’ Of course, before you really get stuck into house hunting you need to find out how much you can borrow. ‘If you find a nice place it is crucial that you can act quickly and know your financial limits,’ says Henk Janssen of Expat Mortgages. ‘You need to know exactly what you can afford, so that you can make a bid and start negotiating. But you also need to know about the risks associated with a mortgage. We work with most banks and insurance companies so should be able to outline all the options open to you.’ Family law Once you’ve found your ideal home and secured a mortgage, it’s time to think about the paperwork. And that is where the notary – a type of lawyer who deals with housing contracts, wills and other family law issues – comes in. ‘All the official ‘moves’ for buying a home take place in the presence of a notary,’ says Dirk Kasper, of Kasper Notariaat, which specialises in helping internationals deal with the legal side of home ownerships. He too will be on hand to answer questions at the Amsterdam meeting. And if your dream home needs some renovations, Gisela Bakker of building company Bakker Bouw can guide you through the process. 'Getting the right permits can be complicated, but we can take care of that for you,' she says. 'It is our job to find out rules and regulations, before we start. 'Big renovation projects can take up a lot of time and research, and often requires a lot of patience, but the end result will be more than worth it.' In short, there is a lot to think about. If you’d like to find out more, or get answers to some of your questions, sign up for Sunday’s session and talk to the experts face to face. And if you’ve got the kids in tow, there will be a free nanny service to keep them entertained as well.  More >


How to get on as a woman in tech? Trust in your individuality

How to get on as a woman in tech? Trust in your individuality

Earlier this month, over 1,000 women (and a few men) piled into the RAI exhibition centre in Amsterdam to take part in the specialist European Women In Tech conference. Esther O'Toole was among the delegates. It was just last week that ING economists forecast the Dutch technology sector will need to recruit a massive120,000 workers over the next 12 years if it is to maintain current growth trends. Between 20% and 25% of companies in the sector say staff shortages are now becoming a problem - a statistic making it even more crucial that ambitious women wake up to the opportunities that the technology sector presents. In Europe as a whole, around a third of science, technology, engineering and maths university graduates are female, although in the Netherlands the figure is nearer 25%.   Nevertheless, the number of women holding high level jobs in the technology world remains noticeably low. Interest The two-day European Women in Tech conference is a young event - this is just the second year it has been hosted in Amsterdam - but it was again completely sold out. Big brand exhibitors were there wooing potential programmers and managers: from Google giving CV clinics, to Unity demoing virtual reality. ‘When I started I was the only woman on the tech team,’ Lisanne Brons, technical advisor data & AI at Microsoft, told DutchNews.nl. ‘My career success improved when I stopped comparing myself to others. I accepted that I didn't have to blend in.’  Brons studied AI and computer science at Utrecht University and says the variety of ideas her specialism covers as being one of the most attractive things about it. Now with Microsoft for six years, Brons works on ways AI can be used to improve daily life. Her favourite examples of the moment being the Microsoft’s Seeing AI app, which describes to the visually impaired what is in front of them; and an AI model being used in the staff canteen to monitor demand at meal times and so reduce food waste. ‘If you’re looking to get into the industry, don't think it's all just about coding and programming,' she says. 'They are just a small percentage of all jobs in tech. If you’re already in it, it sounds easy, be yourself.’  Indeed, many delegates emphasised the wide range of opportunities that the tech world encompasses.  Don't be put off if you’re not a programmer, was a key message. ‘I didn't expect to be working in technology,' Yoni Linden, a data science consultant at Capgemini in Utrecht said. 'I wanted to work with people, do something creative and not be behind a desk all day. I hadn't realised, tech is people work.’ Linden is now helping companies navigate some of the ethical issues tech is creating that society has not had to face before - situations such as the 'personalisation-privacy paradox'. ‘We slowly get used to sharing more and more, and I wonder where it stops,' she said in her keynote on day two of the conference. 'If you look at Facebook for instance, you wouldn’t have imagined 10 years ago that you would share all this stuff, often with people you don’t even know, but now it’s normal. And, I think that will continue [...] Consumers are fast to decide based on benefits only and don't realise they're paying with their data.’ Imposter syndrome Coach Jess Ratcliffe was one of the many workshop leaders, helping participants work out what they want early on in their careers, and find ways to overcome the cultural issues that still hold women back in the workplace. 'I'd say imposter syndrome is one of the biggest obstacles for many women,' she told her audience. 'We have a bigger tendency to attribute our success to outside factors, luck, circumstance,' she said. 'I try to prompt people to start testing their assumptions; a user-testing approach, but then applied to our goals and ambitions.’ For more information on this year's speakers or 2018 early bird tickets check out the website.  More >


A Thanksgiving story: How the Netherlands played a part in the American holiday

A Thanksgiving story: How the Netherlands played a part in the American holiday

Before they set sail for the New World and inspired the holiday of Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims spent several years in Leiden. Brandon Hartley takes a look at a fascinating but often overlooked chapter in the histories of both the Netherlands and the United States and traces the footsteps of these pioneering Americans.    Anyone who spent time in a stateside grammar school is no doubt familiar with the simplified history of Thanksgiving; of the brave Pilgrims that sailed on a ship called the Mayflower to what is now the state of Massachusetts and participated in a feast after being aided by a friendly Native American tribe. But what they may not know is that, long before the Pilgrims hightailed it to the New World, they made a detour to Leiden - one that lasted over a decade. Trouble in England Like many holidays, Thanksgiving is the accumulation of various traditions and historical events that have had their rough-edges and complexities erased in order to make them more wholesome (and marketable). Contrary to popular belief, those who would go on to be dubbed the American Pilgrims weren’t that uptight, especially by the standards of 16th century England. They were hardly religious fanatics and they even smoke and drank on occasion. However, their belief system placed them in the crosshairs of the Church of England. During that period, English followers that didn’t toe the line of the state church were persecuted. This forced the Pilgrims, who were primarily known as the Scrooby Congregation in those days, to keep a low profile. Practising their religious beliefs in public could come with dire consequences. English law deemed it illegal to attend services at an ‘unofficial’ church. Doing so could result in a fine of a shilling for every Sunday and Holy Day, which definitely added up over time. Even worse, if you were caught leading one of these services, it could result in stiffer penalties that included imprisonment or even execution. Beginning in late 1607, one by one, members of the fledgling congregation decided to move to what was then known as the Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden (AKA the Dutch Republic). The comparatively tolerant nation would allow them to practice their religious beliefs in peace. There was just one problem: many of them weren’t quite prepared to deal with the Dutch. Going Dutch After a few difficult years in Amsterdam, 100 members who would later be dubbed the American Pilgrims asked the city of Leiden if they could resettle within its gates. At the time, Leiden was an industrial centre with successful textile, brewing, and other industry which was a good fit for a group of outsiders who barely spoke Dutch. These trades didn’t require sophisticated skills or an expansive knowledge of the local tongue. Many of members of the ‘Leiden Congregation’ did pretty well in the city.  Led by pastor John Robinson and an entrepreneur named William Brewster, they managed to increase their congregation to roughly 300 followers. Brewster eventually took a job teaching English at Leiden University and started a publishing company along with a colleague named Thomas Brewer. Together, they printed religious books that were exported to England. Later, Robinson enrolled at the university to pursue a doctorate in 1615. By many accounts, being a doctoral student in those days came with some fantastic benefits. In addition to not having to participate in night watches along the city walls of Leiden or help maintain them (a mandate for many adult males living in the city), Robinson was allowed to purchase wine and beer tax free. Nor did he have to house Dutch troops in his home, which was also a law as the Eighty Years’ War with Spain continued to drag on. Robinson instead spent his time studying when he wasn’t participating in religious debates. But other Pilgrims weren’t so fortunate. To help them while they struggled to adapt to Dutch culture, Robinson and three others invested in property near the city’s Pieterskerk and paid for the construction of 21 houses so they’d at least have a roofs over their heads. This area became known as the Engelse Poort (English Gate). Losing their religion While the Pilgrims no doubt appreciated the country’s tolerance and their new neighbours’ willingness to let them worship however they wanted, many of them came from rural backgrounds and had received little, if any, education. This made finding work difficult and improving their Dutch skills all but impossible. There was also the local culture, which the group largely considered far too liberal and immoral for their tastes. Around 1617, the cracks really started to show. Hard manual labour had caused many of the Pilgrims to suffer ailments that made working long hours a nightmare. Others had blown through their savings or simply became homesick, opting to return to England rather than stick it out in Leiden. Harsh working conditions and the Dutch’s libertine ways made trying to recruit new members from their native land difficult, to say the least. But perhaps the most troubling aspect for them was what was happening to their children: they were growing up Dutch! For many Pilgrim parents, it was terrifying to watch their offspring ignore their religious teachings, lose their English skills, and gradually adopt the ways of the culture surrounding them. As these kids came of age, several of them decided to leave the congregation to search for employment and other opportunities elsewhere. As Bradford put it, they were being ‘drawn away by evil examples into extravagance and dangerous courses’. Time to go? Fearing that their congregation would completely fall apart for these reasons and the lingering impact of the ongoing Eighty Years’ War, the Pilgrim leaders decided to go looking for a place their followers wouldn’t be persecuted or tempted by what they considered sinful vices. After mulling over various options that included setting sail for northeastern South America, the Pilgrims made plans to move to what would become New England. But further complicating matters was Brewster’s stubborn insistence on meddling with  political affairs back home in England. After he used his printing press to churn out a series of political pamphlets that he sent to Scotland to badmouth the monarchy, King James himself ordered his arrest. Brewster was forced to go into hiding to avoid agents sent to Leiden by the English ambassador. While they never managed to apprehend him, they did seize his printing press and arrest Brewer, who was later sentenced to 14 years in prison. Brewster later managed to make it onto the Mayflower before it set sail for the Plymouth Colony in September of 1620. But not all of the Pilgrims went on the voyage. Those chosen to leave were primarily the youngest and strongest among them. The rest of the congregation was expected to join them on a future trek after their new home was successfully established. Only a few dozen Pilgrims joined the initial crossing. The remainder of the ship’s passengers were made up of experienced sailors and various ‘hired hands’ from England that were eager to seek better lives in the New World. New World Robinson opted to stay in Leiden to lead those who remained while, Brewster, despite his questionable behaviour, was chosen to help lead the expedition to the New World. Robinson did what he could to keep the congregation together but the economic and cultural influences around them took their toll, especially as many members joined the colony overseas as planned. Robinson became ill and incapable of making the journey across the Atlantic. Following his death in 1625, many of those who were still living in Leiden set sail for the Plymouth Colony. Some of those who remained joined the Dutch Reformed Church. Others even opted to convert their last names to Dutch. For example, ‘Coit’ became ‘Koet’ and ‘McRae’ became ‘Makreel’. Within a few decades, the declining congregation in Leiden had faded away but those who moved to North America left an indelible mark on the New World. In addition to establishing a successful colony, several of their ancestors went on to become US presidents. Franklin D. Roosevelt, both George and G.W. Bush, and Barack Obama all had relatives who were Pilgrims. Leiden’s connection to Thanksgiving How much the Pilgrims’ time in Leiden contributed to Thanksgiving is open to debate. According to one theory, it may have been at least partially inspired by Drie Oktober. It’s the name for an annual festival that commemorates a crucial Dutch victory over Spain that took place in Leiden in October of 1574. The Pilgrims would have no doubt witnessed, or even participated in Drie Oktober during their years in the city. Back then, it would have involved feasts, military exercises, and plenty of other festivities that would have dragged on for days. There’s a good chance the Pilgrims had Drie Oktober on their minds when it came time to celebrate after one of their first harvests in the New World. However, other traditions and factors could have contributed to the celebration. Letting one’s hair down following harvests was a European tradition that dated back centuries. Historians also point to a passage in the Biblical book of Deuteronomy that outlines how to properly celebrate a harvest. One of the traditions? Asking strangers and neighbours to join the festivities, which is one of the reasons why they probably extended the invite to the Native Americans. Nowadays Despite the Pilgrims’ years in Leiden largely being treated like an historical footnote at best, the city itself hardly shies away from it. Visitors to the Pieterskerk, the final resting place of Robinson and several other Pilgrims, will find a large marker outside that  honours the Mayflower expedition. Those eager to learn more can also visit the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum. Located in a 14th century house, it contains furniture and artifacts that date back to the Pilgrims’ years in the Netherlands. Tours are held every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, excluding holidays. Its director, Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs, is also the author of the extensive Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners: Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation. Needless to say, it contains far more information than could be squeezed into this article and you can purchase a copy by clicking here. The Pilgrims didn’t have their own church while they lived in Leiden so they often used preexisting ones for days of worship, weddings, funerals, and other events. The Vrouwenkerk was one of them and it catered to the Pilgrims and other religious refugees from England. Service The church was gradually demolished in the 19th century and converted into a school (that itself was cleared away in 1979). Visitors can now view restored portions of the church and a plaque that lists members that later moved to the New World. It’s located along the Vrouwenkerkhof near the Museum Boerhaave Every November on Thanksgiving morning, the Pieterskerk hosts an annual ecumenical service. You can learn more about the event here. If that wasn’t enough, the Pieterskerk is also home to a new Pilgrim-themed escape room. Reservations for the 60-minute Mayflower Escape Room, which is offered in both English and Dutch, can be booked here.  More >


Six classic Dutch winter warmers – all involving mashed potatoes and bacon

Six classic Dutch winter warmers – all involving mashed potatoes and bacon

Now winter has muscled in, it is time to eat real Dutch comfort food - and that means lots of mashed potato with either a bacon chop, a sausage or a meat ball. Robin Pascoe recommends six classic stamppot recipes. Despite all my years of living in the Netherlands, there is one classic Dutch dish that I still cannot bring myself to eat - the dreaded spinazie a la creme. Deep-frozen spinach with some sort of cream added in, served with fish fingers and mashed potato was, at one time, a Dutch tea time staple - and may still be if the television ads are anything to go by. The same goes for the ubiquitous ovenschotel (oven dish involving mince and/or pasta), and chicken with apple sauce. There are, however, some classic Dutch winter warmers, all based around the humble potato which have a lot to recommend them. And a generous amount of fried bacon bits (spekjes) are essential in every one. Hutspot Absolutely the best among the Dutch mashed meals, hutspot is probably related to the late Middle English hotchpotch - a mutton stew with vegetables - which has now come to mean a confused mixture of unrelated items. Chop up equal quantities of potato, carrot and white onion and boil over a low heat for about 20 minutes. Drain the liquid and mash with a big dollop of butter and splash of milk. Add lots of fried bacon bits and serve with braised beef or a smoked bacon chop. Delicious. Stampot rauwe andijvie I always find this the most complicated stamppot to get the quantities right but it is worth the effort and extremely good for consuming large amounts of green leafy veg at one sitting. For four people you need about one kilo of potatoes and one very large curly endive. Wash and slice up the endive into thin strips. Boil the potatoes in a large pot. When done, drain and put the potatoes back in the pan, mashing in the endive in several batches with butter, salt, pepper and a splash of milk, allowing it to steam cook. Add in lots of fried bacon bits and serve with classic meatballs in a thin gravy Boerenkool The rebirth of curly kale as a super food has helped put boerenkool met worst firmly back in the top of the Dutch culinary tree. You are, as a fully integrated foreigner in the Netherlands, supposed to love it. Put 1.5 kilos of potatoes, peeled and chopped in a large pot with 600 grammes of washed and finely chopped curly kale (buy it ready-prepared, as all good Dutch cooks do). Boil together for around 20 minutes, drain and mash with a good dollop of butter and 100 ml of milk. Add salt, pepper and lots of fried bacon bits. Eat with classic Dutch sausage and mustard Zuurkool Boil around a kilo of peeled potatoes in a large pot for 15 minutes. Add around 500 grammes of drained zuurkool (sauerkraut) and cook for a further five minutes. Drain and mash together with salt, pepper, butter and a splash of milk. Add fried bacon bits. Serve with a classic Dutch smoked sausage and plenty of mustard. Some people add apple as well as zuurkool to the mash. It is also extremely good with bacon chops. Stamppot met spruitjes Stamppot with sprouts is yet another variation on the theme. Again, you need twice as much potato as sprouts. Boil the potatoes for 10 minutes then add the sprouts. Cook till done, then remove some of the sprouts. Mash the rest with butter, milk and bacon bits. Add the rest of the whole sprouts and serve with a bacon chop or a meat ball. Hete bliksem Hete bliksem literally translates as hot lightning, but is also slang, I am told, for a wanton woman. This stamppot is made in the classic stamppot manner, cooking equal quantities of potato and apple - half sweet apples and half sour. Mash well, adding butter and bacon bits and serve with bloedworst - blood sausage. The Dutch are very inventive with their stamppots and add all sort of different ingredients, including curry flavourings, other vegetables, sweet potatoes, goat's cheese, pineapple and even fish. Albert Heijn's recipe website has 410 variations, if you are feeling like further experimentation. More food favourites: 10 classic Dutch recipes  More >


Dutch health insurance in 2018: what you need to know now

Dutch health insurance in 2018: what you need to know now

All the Dutch health insurance companies have now published their premiums for 2018. So now is your chance to change your health plan or shop around for a more suitable or better deal. Here's some key things to think about. Like everyone who lives in the Netherlands, you have between now and January 1 to decide whether or not to switch to a new Dutch health insurance company. So what should you be taking into account? Health insurance premiums Firstly, there is the question of price. Some health insurers have put up their rates by a few euros a month, while a few have even made cuts. The average rise is around €2 a month, well below the €6.50 a month the government had been expecting. Nevertheless, the difference in premiums between the cheapest and most expensive policies is huge, despite the cover being exactly the same! In addition, as time goes on, the chances are that you have top up policies which exceed your budget or cover things you don’t need anymore as well. So having a look at your health insurance policy and changing your insurer may cut your insurance bill by a tidy sum of money. What changes in 2018? So what changes has the government - which decides what should be included in the basic health insurance policy - introduced this year? The new coalition government has decided that the deductible excess (eigen risico) will remain €385 next year and up to 2021. The basic health insurance package has also been expanded slightly and now includes: New medication for treating hepatitis C, breast cancer and obstipation 12 physiotherapy treatments for patients with arthritis of the knee In addition, the healthcare allowance (zorgtoeslag) for people with low incomes will probably increase slightly to compensate for the higher insurance premiums. How to choose an insurer? Selecting an insurance provider (in Dutch: zorgverzekering vergelijken) can be difficult, as a lot of information on the insurer’s website is presented in Dutch and there are so many policies to choose from. ZorgWijzer.nl is the first insurance broker that offers a fully functioning English comparison tool, allowing you to find the most suitable and affordable health plan for yourself and your family. Don’t forget to check it out. If you do decide to change insurance company, make sure you do it before January 1. Your new insurer will automatically cancel your old policy, so that is one other thing you won't have to take care of. By the way, if you have recently moved to the Netherlands, you will need to take out Dutch health insurance as well. By law need to do this within four months of your arrival, or your residence permit kicking in.  More >


To buy or not to buy? Is buying a home in the Netherlands worth the risk?

To buy or not to buy? Is buying a home in the Netherlands worth the risk?

Does it sometimes seem as if all your mates are jumping on the bandwagon and buying a home and you are still stuck in your rented flat with the creaky floors? Sometimes buying a home makes more sense, but not always. Here are a few key things to think about. The housing market, particularly in the big Dutch cities, is rarely out of the news at the moment - soaring prices, lack of choice, changes to the mortgage rules - you might consider yourself lucky in your rental flat, dodgy plumbing and all. After all, the greatest advantages of renting a home are flexibility and the lack of risk. You can come and go whenever you want, you’re not responsible for major maintenance, and you don’t have to worry about what would happen if the value of your property goes down. Of course, this comes with a price – literally. Renting in the Netherlands is not cheap and depending on where you are, you could be worse off financially in a rental property. A three-room flat in Amsterdam’s Buitenveldert district will cost you around €1,900 a month in rent, but if you bought the same property, it could be as much as €700 a month cheaper – and that is taking all the bills into account as well. Check out more comparisons here. Above all, the rent you pay helps your landlord beef up his investments and does nothing to help you build up a nest egg. Cost-effective So why buy? Well, today’s market is attractive for buyers because mortgage rates are relatively low so you can get a lot of house for your money. Buying also means you can try to find the perfect property. Buying offers you more choices and the opportunity to renovate your home exactly as you like it. Of course, becoming a home owner is not risk-free. The greatest risk a home-buyer faces is ending up in negative equity - or under water, as they say in Dutch. In the Netherlands, you’ll be liable for repaying the mortgage no matter what happens to your property value. Of course, the risk of having a residual debt is quite low. Within five years of owning your home, you would already have paid off approximately 10% of the loan. So if the house price were to drop by 10%, you wouldn’t have any residual debt. Buyers also run the risk of buying a house with hidden defects. However, there are laws in the Netherlands to protect buyers from purchasing a property that has a lot of problems. For example, sellers are required to notify you of any known defects such as leaking roofs, rotten floors or noisy neighbours. If the sellers don’t do this, they can be held responsible. You could go as far as dissolving the purchase agreement even after you bought and moved into the property. So what is so great about renting? You can move at any time The landlord is responsible for maintenance and insurance You don’t have to worry about losing money if house prices fall You have a high level of rent protection You don’t have to pay property tax (OZB) On the other hand Rental prices are high Your rent will increase every year There is limited choice You won’t build equity with your monthly payments, and you won’t make money if property values rise Your opportunities for renovation will be limited or non-existent When you move, you may have to return the property to its original state And the benefits of buying? Your mortgage and other housing costs are often less expensive than renting Mortgage interest is tax deductible You build equity by making monthly payments, and the property will become yours once your mortgage is repaid. You can profit from rising house prices You can renovate the property however you want And what could go wrong? Your monthly payments might go up at the end of each fixed interest rate period You will be responsible for all repairs and maintenance You may lose equity if property values decline You have to pay property tax (OZB) and other communal taxes You need homeowner’s insurance In the end it all boils down to what you are comfortable with. Buying can be interesting if you plan a longer stay, say more than three to five years. Time is your friend when it comes to buying a home. For more on the pros and cons of buying a home, check out MortgageMonster.nl where you can also calculate your maximum mortgage.  More >


New film brings Van Gogh’s brush strokes to life with vivid animation

New film brings Van Gogh’s brush strokes to life with vivid animation

Vincent van Gogh’s fluid brush strokes already seem to move across the canvas but now a film has brought them to life, animating physical paintings to tell the Dutch artist’s story, writes Senay Boztas. Loving Vincent is the title of the first fully-painted feature film, currently in cinemas, and a making-of exhibition at Het Noordbrabants Museum in ’s-Hertogenbosch until January 28 2018. Both the film and exhibition were beset with challenges, from erasing a Greek fly that got stuck in the paint of one of 65,000 stills to persuading museums this artistic project fits their space, co-directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman told DutchNews.nl. Wind back almost a decade and Kobiela, a passionate painter and Van Gogh fan with an idea for a seven-minute painted film animation, had taken a job at Welchman’s company, BreakThru films in London. Love and marriage ‘She had money from the Polish Film Institute, came to work for my company, we fell in love and got married…and we went back to Vincent deciding to do a feature film,’ explains Welchman. ‘I went to an exhibition in 2010 at the Royal Academy on his letters and queued for three-and-a-half hours to get in. That’s when I started to get an understanding of the power of Van Gogh.’ The film tells the fictional story of Armand Roulin, a postman’s son who sat for Van Gogh, trying to fathom the truth of the painter’s last days before he killed himself in July 1890. In some ways, the figure of Roulin represents Welchman – complete with his Vincent-ish beard – a sceptic, who is eventually won over to unqualified admiration of Van Gogh the painter. Swirly paintings At first, Welchman only had a vague notion of the Dutch artist. ‘You know he’s famous for swirly paintings and cut off his ear but you don’t really grasp how passionate people are about him,’ he says. ‘They treat him like a rock star, like Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain. ‘People identify with his struggle – his tragic early death, struggle with mental illness and finding love. His paintings and letters are so powerful because he had this immense frustration that he couldn’t communicate in the flesh.’ Vincent van Gogh, born in 1853 in the Brabantse village of Zundert, became an artist at the age of 27 and moved to France. But after a series of psychotic attacks, including the famous incident where he cut off an ear and presented it to a prostitute, he eventually killed himself. He left more than 850 paintings, almost 1,300 works on paper, and an extensive set of letters. These were the basis for what one critic has called a ‘near-lunatic labour of love’, the animated film using 377 paintings based wholly or partly on 125 Van Gogh works, animated by literally moving paint around and taking photographs. Challenges There were technical challenges for an animator, says Welchman, not least Van Gogh’s strange perspective and the fact that some of his figures are more expressionistic than anatomically correct. ‘Sometimes when people move through an environment, you can’t stick to his 2D perspective, because people think it’s wrong,’ he explains. ‘In the Night Café we managed to keep the strange perspective, but at other times like Wheatfield with Crows, we had to slightly modify it. ‘Sometimes his characters don’t have skeletons. Whereas, in animation, once you move people, they have to look like they are real people moving otherwise people will just go: it’s wrong. The boatman on the banks of the river Oise [was one example].' The $5.5mln film project combined colour images based on the artist’s paintings with black-and-white ones telling his story as described by other people. The screenplay was first shot with actors and then the stills were over-painted by hand, a painstaking process taking six years. Clove oil Kobiela says another challenge was to keep the oil paint wet enough to move – and after testing 30 paint retarders, they settled on the clove oil that Van Gogh himself had used. ‘One painting [in the Van Gogh Museum collection] is still kind of dripping slowly – one of the peasants from the Dutch period,’ she added. ‘Another big challenge was the shade of blue Vincent used on The Starry Night, which was just impossible – what was the pigment? ‘And in [our studio in] Greece when it was very hot, the paint was very thick and there was a fly that got stuck in one of the paintings. I think someone really wanted to get rid of it in post-production. We made so many mistakes but there were so many revelations.’ Unique project Geertje Jacobs, head of collections, exhibitions and education at Het Noordbrabants Museum says that the exhibition of the film’s story was so ‘unique and special’ they had to house it – even though museums normally programme years in advance. ‘You really feel what a unique project it is and that it really was all painted with a huge amount of passion and willpower,’ she says. ‘Van Gogh was born in Brabant and we feel we have a duty to give room to his story in our museum. This has an unbelievable eye for detail – not just looking at how he painted, and making his paintings bloom, but also with a lot of respect for the historical facts.’ The film, she says, is the artistic project more than the ‘independent objects’ of the paintings themselves – although they could be labelled a kind of 21st century ‘after Van Gogh’ school of painting. Details ‘I’ve seen the film a number of times,’ she adds. ‘The first time for the story, and the second and third time really watching the details. There are some paintings that you recognise immediately, but also very small details like a glass and bottle on a table in Café Terrace at Night from a still life Van Gogh made. I think it’s really worth seeing the exhibition, especially if you have seen the film.’ Van Gogh was, in a way, says Welchman, almost an early selfie-maker: his art was an expression of himself where he even imbued his shoes with meaning. 'He was radical, strong and individualist, striking out in his own style but although he wanted to be in a group of painters, he was in a group of one, really,' he adds. With their hand-crafted film – just as anachronistic in this age of computer-generated images – they have achieved the same. Van Gogh signed letters to his art dealer brother Theo ‘your loving Vincent’, and thanks to the film and exhibition, more Dutch audiences will undoubtedly soon be ‘Loving Vincent’ more too.   More >


Death and the Dutch – Amsterdam has a museum devoted to funerals

Death and the Dutch – Amsterdam has a museum devoted to funerals

With Halloween in full swing, it’s that time of year when people focus on the morbid. But, reports Deborah Nicholls-Lee, even a museum devoted to death can be a cheery affair. ‘We are very happy people here,’ says Guus Sluiter, director of Tot Zover (So Far!), the Netherlands’ only funeral museum, although he has just warned me that we may need to continue the interview elsewhere as our room is often used by the cemetery to plan ceremonies with the bereaved. I struggle to reconcile the two: the graveyard view behind us, and the cheerful director and his staff. It’s not a museum most would visit to lift their mood, but there is something unexpectedly soothing about it, like the catharsis you experience after attending a funeral. ‘We read a lot in the guest book that people are a bit surprised that it was not as sombre or dark as they thought it would be,’ he explains. ‘In our marketing, we always try to emphasise that we are not a dull or depressing museum.’ Sluiter acknowledges, however, the challenge of presenting such a topic positively: ‘The subject is of course not easy for everyone; it can be very sad, so we want the tone of voice to be light and open and a bit arty.’ Curious artefacts Tot Zover, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in December, has always stood out from the crowd, says its director. ‘There are many museums which have exhibitions related to death or mourning because many artists have death as a subject … but it is uncommon to have a [whole] museum devoted to it.’ The museum contains many fascinating curios, such as commemorative artworks created with human hair, diamonds forged from cremation ashes, and a paper urn fashioned from the correspondence of the deceased. Particular attention is paid to funeral rituals and how these vary from culture to culture. The museum believes that the way this closing ceremony is conducted can reveal a lot about us as humans. For an insight into Dutch funeral culture, an unusually pragmatic approach to mortality can been seen in several of the artefacts on display. The 1940s stamp book, where people would save up for their own funerals, for example, is a precursor to the life insurance policies which are used widely today in the Netherlands. The meticulously planned 1999 funeral, which terminally ill 29-year-old Merijn Luchtmeijer’s organised for himself, is both a mark of his coming to terms with the brevity of his life and a growing trend here for personalising the final journey. A New Direction This small museum’s unusual focus has always piqued people’s curiosity, but its new direction is expected to be even more interesting. ‘Initially, we were collecting and presenting all kinds of objects related to funerals,’ says Sluiter, ‘and now we want to help people reflect on death and everything that has to do with the subject.’ The museum collaborates with students, artists and theatres and organises conferences, embracing the intellectual life around its fascinating theme. ‘We work on deeper levels. We want to raise questions more than give answers. We want people to think about things.’ Taboo subject Part of Tot Zover’s refreshing approach is its refusal to shy away from difficult topics. ‘Sometimes we address very unhappy subjects like suicide and prevention,’ says Sluiter, ‘but we do not avoid it. We work with the artists. We always look at the right way to approach it, generally through art or photography, but we do not avoid it and we can be quite activist.’ The museum is keen to expand its role in helping others discuss death, particularly schools, fielding questions from students. ‘Children like to talk about death; they find it very interesting, but their parents don’t and also the teachers don’t,’ says Sluiter. A new educational package Dood Gewoon in de Klas, (Dead Normal in the Class) is launching in November http://www.doodgewoonindeklas.nl/   to support these difficult conversations. Thanks to additional funding awarded in September, the child-friendly Kleine Hein, a cartoonised mini grim reaper, will soon be a central feature of the museum’s marketing. This new strategy, along with the current museum trail suitable for 8-12 year olds, is a reminder that death is a subject for everyone. Lonely funerals The museum’s latest exhibition Hier Besta Ik (I Exist Here) focuses on the extraordinary way the Netherlands honours those who have no-one to attend their funeral. Amsterdam conducts around 15 eenzame uitvaarten (lonely funerals) per year. All are attended by a team of undertakers who provide a dignified farewell for the deceased, complete with flowers and a specially-commissioned eulogy penned by one of the country’s top poets. ‘Sometimes you can trace people, but nobody wants to come,’ explains Sluiter. ‘Sometimes you have people you don’t know the identity of. Sometimes people are from other countries, but in most cases they are isolated for many reasons.’ The exhibition includes photographs of a lonely funeral, a display featuring 12 poets and their poems (in Dutch) written for the deceased, and a more conceptual gallery exploring the theme of loneliness. Appreciate ife For Sluiver, death is something necessary and positive: ‘You don’t want to die, but if you didn’t die then your life would be very complicated – and your head would probably explode from all the experiences that you see and hear for hundreds of years. I don’t think humans could cope.’ It follows that talking about death need not bring sadness, but can also enrich your life and help you appreciate it more. ‘The fact that you are aware that you will die intensifies your life,’ says Sluiter. ‘It is good to think about death and perhaps also funerals, to realise that you will die … That’s not always a bad thing.’ Arriving at the museum, a hearse crunching slowly along the gravel to my left, visitors carrying flowers to a grave in the distance, and a crematorium up ahead, I felt mournful, my head full of past narratives. Leaving the museum, I feel stronger. ‘[It’s] a very positive place,’ insists Sluiter, ‘because we help people think of the deeper values in life and I think that’s a positive thing.’ Museum Tot Zover http://www.totzover.nl/english/ is located in the De Nieuwe Ooster cemetery in Amsterdam Oost. Hier Besta ik runs until the February11,  2018. Tot Zover is marking Museum Night on November 4 with poetry recitals from some of the poets featured in the exhibition and a night-tour of the cemetery. Further reading: 10 things about death in the Netherlands  More >


From Sinterklaas in Dokkum to documentary film: 12 great things in November

From Sinterklaas in Dokkum to documentary film: 12 great things in November

From the arrival of Sinterklaas in Friesland to a look at Van Gogh's Paris, there are lots of great things to do in the Netherlands in November, as Hanneke Sanou has been finding out. Pay a visit to the palace There is just time to check out this year's crop of promising young artists who have won the annual Koninklijke prijs voor vrije schilderkunst at the Palace on Dam square in Amsterdam. Until November 5. Website Catch a con at the Scheepvaartmuseum The Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam presents Gamechangers, a selection of 25 maritime inventions inspired by the life on the ocean waves, including Cornelis Drebbel's first submarine from 1620. The museum is promising to reveal a world of 'visionary pioneers, humanitarians and dangerous conmen'. Until July 1 2018. Website See Red with Rothko The Orange Tea Theatre's forthcoming production is John Logan's Tony Award-winning 'Red'. A portrait of the artist Mark Rothko emerges as he spars with his young assistant Ken. November 10-12 and 17-19. For venues and tickets go to the website. Travel to Paris with Van Gogh Ah, Paris..city of romance and impoverished artists and yet another place where Van Gogh didn't sell a single painting. Hundreds of Dutch artists flocked to the city between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 20th to learn from their French counterparts. The Van Gogh Museum highlights Jongkind, Van Gogh, Van Dongen and Mondriaan and such lesser known artists as Gerard van Spaendonck and Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer. The Dutch in Paris,1789 - 1914 is on until January 7. Website Meet Margaretha Zelle The Fries Museum is honouring a famous Frisian who was much-maligned and celebrated at the same time. One wonders if, during her time in Paris, Mata Hari ever bumped into a one of the Dutch artists featured in the Van Gogh. But then Mata Hari preferred men in uniform, as she herself wrote in one of her remaining letters which, along with other bits and pieces from het turbulent life are on show in Mata Hari, the myth and the maiden until April 2. Website Get engaged in Scheveningen Curaçaoan sculptor and performance artist Tirzo Martha is one of those artists who does not shy away from creating work with a clear social message. Apart from showing a number of works made especially for the museum Beelden aan Zee, Martha will engage students and locals in creating a work called Een Monument voor Samen (A Monument to Community). From November 3. Website Wait until dirty ditty o'clock According to the Museum Speelklok in Utrecht the 18th century rich folk got their kicks from dirty ditties played by their clocks. Some songs were about courting or drunken revels but others featured sex and pubic hair. Go and have a furtive listen to  Shady Songs on Majestic Musical Clocks until April 8. Website  Ditch the Dutch! It went strangely under-reported at the time on Dutch shores and the Dutch are still largely unaware of the fact that in 1795 the British fleet captured nine VOC ships auguring in the collapse of the world's first multinational. It's all a matter of perspective, the Maritiem Museum Rotterdam explains in How we ditched the Dutch. Until June 3 Website Fork out for fashion Dutch fashion designer  Mart Visser is celebrating 25 years in the business and 50 collections by opening a temporary museum - and a concept store so bring your purse - which achieves 'the ultimate synergy between his three disciplines: Haute Couture, prêt-à-porter and Artwork'. Beyond Context is on until November 19. Website Catch up with the masters The Hermitage in Amsterdam had a good rummage around the collection of its big brother in St Petersburg and emerged with a splendid collection of Dutch paintings, among which works by Frans Hals, Gerard Dou and Rembrandt. Dutch Masters from the Hermitage: Treasures of the Tsars’ is on until May 27. Website Watch hundreds of documentaries The International Documentary Festival Amsterdam kicks off on November 15 with a line up of documentaries and feature films from all over the world. The full programme will be published on November 2. Sing a song for Saint Nicholas By far the most important event this month is the arrival of Sinterklaas in Dokkum. For those who can't be there in person, the event will be show live on television. November 18 from 12.00. Website You can comment on this story on our Facebook page.  More >


Live near the beach: here are three unique opportunities in The Hague

Live near the beach: here are three unique opportunities in The Hague

Living in The Hague means living in the only large Dutch city by the sea. It takes just 15 minutes on the tram from the city centre to breathe in the fresh seaside air or a quick post work swim. With 10 kilometres of sandy beach nearby it is no wonder The Hague is such a popular place to live. Tempted? Here are three unique property developments currently being realised by leading national developer and builder, VORM, in various parts of the city. De Stadhouders De Stadhouders complex is named after several important city leaders from the 17th century. The project is being constructed on the border of the popular Statenkwartier and Duinoord city districts, which is one of the most sought-after living and working locations in The Hague. This new residential complex consist of three buildings, one for each of the stadhouders. The inner courtyard will be transformed into a green and car-free city square. Apartments in the tallest of the three buildings, Frederik Hendrik, are currently up for sale, while the other two buildings will be developed over the next year. In total, 260 new homes are planned in this development, all combining the luxury of a hotel with the relaxation of your own space. The apartments, available in a  a range of sizes, are characterised by spacious living areas and beautiful panoramic views of the city and the beach. All feature a Bulthaup kitchen, two bathrooms and have their own parking and storage facilities. Find out more Berlagehuis The beautiful and listed Berlagehuis in the heart of The Hague is in the process of being completely transformed into a residential accommodation. As a national heritage site, the building benefits from a stunning entrance hall, beautiful communal areas and high ceilings with interesting architectural details. The 57 stunning new homes will preserve the exceptional qualities of the building. Every home will be unique and will be available as town houses, apartments and penthouses. Parking is available on the site. There is even an opportunity for new homeowners to purchase a separate studio or atelier in the building, perfect for people who want to pursue a creative lifestyle or who want to have extra storage space or lay down an extensive wine cellar! Of course, the location of the Berlagehuis in the heart of the city is perfect, as it is close to all amenities. Access to public transport is good and motorway connections are within easy reach. Find out more. Binck Plaats Binck Plaats (Binck Place) is part of a larger development project in the Binckhorst, situated on Voorburg side of the city. The site, which was previously home to a large industrial warehouse complex, is to be transformed into 46 spacious family homes. The homes vary in living space at between around 164 m2 and 186 m2 across three or four levels. The homes lend themselves to a number of uses, with the ground floor providing ideal work/living spaces, and first floors being offered in a range of depths. Upper floors can be used for bedrooms or bathrooms, and properties benefit from gardens up to 15 metres deep. A garage is included in the development and homes offer views of the neighbouring waterways and open green spaces. Building is due to start in the middle of 2018 and properties will be ready to move into towards the end of 2019. Discover more. VORM, the homemakers VORM is a national developer and builder. We concentrate on locations where people love to live, both inside and outside of our towns and cities. Lively neighbourhoods, beautiful streets, and beloved architecture all play a role in projects that give people a real feeling of 'coming home'. With a focus on sustainable and responsible projects, as well as the possibility of arranging finance and insurance, VORM can help you make your dream of a new home into a reality. If you would like to find out more about one of these unique developments in The Hague, click on the links to register your interest and we will keep you informed on the homes under construction and about open days. Interested? You can visit VORM at their stand at the Woonbeurs The Hague on October 28. Here you will find all their projects and can ask any questions you might have. You can comment on this article on our Facebook page.  More >


Should international parents consider a Dutch education for their children?

Should international parents consider a Dutch education for their children?

With international schools in short supply and long waiting lists becoming the norm, more expatriate parents are considering a Dutch education for their children. Deborah Nicholls-Lee examines its pros and cons. ‘Within both of the kids’ classes, we’ve got Mexican families, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Canadian, - we have a really big mix there,’ says British expatriate Claire Mingay, who has lived in Amsterdam for 12 years. But the multi-cultural school that her children attend is not international: it is a Dutch primary school full of expatriates who, like her and her British husband Mark, have made the decision to enroll their children in the Dutch system. ‘We feel we have the best of both worlds in a Dutch school in the city centre, where there’s a large number of international families,’ she says. ‘We have the international context, the teachers are happy to speak to us in English and understand that we don’t speak good Dutch, and that’s made it quite comfortable for us to be in a Dutch system.’ She admits, though, that the transition would be harder outside the Randstad, where schools are less accustomed to foreigners. Competition for places It’s a step that more parents are having to consider, faced with a dearth of international places. A record number of foreign companies relocating to the Netherlands in recent years has rocketed the demand for international schooling. There are currently 47% more children in international education than five years ago, but large cities like Amsterdam are still unable to meet the needs of their new arrivals, despite a rapid expansion programme. Annebet van Mameren, founder of New2nl, whose relocation services specialise in helping families find schools for their children, describes the current situation as ‘very serious’. ‘The problem a lot of people are facing at this moment when they are looking for an international school is that the international schools are all full. And then they have to look for an alternative, which is often a Dutch school or they move outside [the city].’ Mismatch She recognises the mismatch between the needs of industry and the requirements of the foreign workers: ‘On the one hand, the government tries to attract companies from abroad, especially from Brexit – so companies from the UK - but then there’s no school for the children and also housing is very difficult.’ This problem is compounded by cuts to companies’ relocation packages. ‘In the past, there were more expats who came here with an allowance for the international schooling of their children, but it’s not really the case anymore – only for very senior managers,’ she says. For most, the annual school fees, which range from €14,000 to €20,000 - and are often topped by huge enrollment charges - are prohibitive. Though some schools are partially subsidised by the Dutch government and can charge far less, these are largely over-subscribed. The popular AICS school in Amsterdam, for example, currently has a waiting list of 2-4 years, says Annebet, and is struggling to keep up with demand. ‘They started last year with a satellite school, but that’s already full as well. They will move to a new building. That’s planned for 2020, so that doesn’t help much at this moment.’ An opportunity to integrate Research by the International Community Advisory Panel earlier this year shows that only around a quarter of expatriate families get help in paying for an international school place and half of families place their children in the Dutch system. In addition, some 70% of parents are happy or very happy, with the quality of their children's education. For some international parents, the Dutch system, as well as being more affordable, has helped their children adapt to life in the Netherlands. Leila Gray, who is British and married to a German, describes choosing a Dutch school for their two young children as a ‘no-brainer’. ‘We wanted our kids to go to a local Dutch school because it was important for us that they learn Dutch and become integrated. Everyone told us schools here were good, and paying for an international school on the other side of town was just not an option for us.’ ‘I'm constantly amazed at the quality and diversity of state schools here,’ she continues. ‘I discovered Montessori schools here … and was very excited when I found out they were state-run.’ A new language But what about learning the language? ‘We didn’t get any special help,’ says Leila. ‘My son went to kindergarten here so he had already learned Dutch. My daughter is four and she’s just started after a year in Berlin. When I asked the school about any extra help she could get language-wise, they told me I shouldn’t worry and she’d just pick it up. And that’s exactly what she’s doing. I know it’s not for everyone, but I love the pragmatic and relaxed attitude here.’ For children six or older, however, language help is provided. ‘The Dutch immersion classes are usually very good,’ says Annebet. ‘They have small classes, specialised teachers [with] a lot of knowledge and understanding of teaching Dutch as a second language. Every child gets a personal programme which matches their level and their progress.’ Immersion for primary school children is usually for less than a year, allowing them to stay with their peer group, but at high school, explains Annebet, it takes longer and can lead to a child falling behind. Immersion class ‘They first have to go to a Dutch immersion class for one or sometimes two years and then, depending on their level, … they may go to a high school but it’s often a year lower than their age.’ An international education, she says, can make it easier for older children to slot back into the system in their home country should the family move back. For French national Claire Coleman, this was a crucial factor in choosing an international school for her nine-year-old son and his five-year-old sister, although she is still uncertain of her decision. ‘We are still not sure if we will stay, but if we do, we are torn between moving them to the Dutch system to integrate better into Dutch life and it being too late for our eldest to catch up.’ Though she did not enjoy being on the waiting list and the ‘many stressful phone calls’ with the school to see if there was a place yet, she has been impressed with the international education her children have received. She describes the international diploma system and its ethos as ‘absolutely fantastic’. ‘Learning is fun and really develops confidence through presentation skills,’ she says. ‘Classes are small, so the teachers have the time and energy to help each child individually thrive.’ The long cycle-ride to school is ‘a good workout’, she jokes, but less handy when it comes to making play-dates. Adaptable Across town, Claire Mingay, whose young children were born here, is happy with her decision. She recommends that parents throw themselves into the Dutch experience, ‘scary as it may seem’. ‘Your kids will be fine; your kids will adapt; your kids will soak things up like a sponge and won’t look back,’ she says. But she draws the line at hagelslag in the lunchbox. ‘That,’ she says, ‘I will not budge on.’ If you would like to comment on this article, please go to our Facebook page  More >


Get to grips with living in the Netherlands at the IamExpat Fair in The Hague

Get to grips with living in the Netherlands at the IamExpat Fair in The Hague

Need help with finding the perfect place to live, a good place to work out or even mates to hang around with? You'll find all the answers at the second edition of the IamExpat Fair in The Hague, which takes place on Saturday November 4, 2017, at the Grote Kerk in the city centre. The IamExpat Fair was set up support internationals in the Netherlands and connect them with local businesses and service providers and the organisers are delighted to be back in The Hague for a second edition. 'The IamExpat Fair is designed for both new arrivals and established expats who want to discover something new or find answers to questions that have been bugging them for some time!,' says co-organiser Nikos Nakos. 'For example, finding time to make an appointment with a mortgage or financial advisor, can seem daunting, but here we've got them all under one roof,' says his colleague Panos Sarlanis. Indeed, the event is a great opportunity to find everything you need in one location, on one day. From companies and services in the areas of career, housing, education and expat services, to family, health and leisure - the IamExpat Fair has it covered! 'There’s something for everyone: from finding a job, house or childcare for your kids, to choosing a legal advisor, accountant or MBA and so much more,' says the third member of the team, Charalampos Sergios. Free workshops and presentations will also be running throughout the day. Visitors to the IamExpat Fair in The Hague can: - Get assistance with finding rental properties or understanding Dutch mortgages - Learn about advancing your career through professional development - Attend workshops about living and working in the Netherlands - Benefit from many special offers - Find local health and lifestyle organisations - Connect with like-minded locals and expats from around the world Book your free ticket now! The IamExpat Fair - The Hague, 2017 Date: Saturday, November 4, 2017 Time: 10am to 5pm Location: Grote Kerk, The Hague   More >


Multilingual recruitment comes of age: from CVs by post to video presentations

Multilingual recruitment comes of age: from CVs by post to video presentations

Twenty years ago Maureen Adam launched her own recruitment company from her home in Edam. Since then the company has blossomed, but the recruitment industry has changed enormously as well, as Robin Pascoe found out. ‘I came to Holland in 1991 and I really struggled to find a job. The Netherlands was in the middle of a recession and it was at a time when you went to an agency and there were notices on the door stating “if you can’t speak Dutch, don’t come in”,’ says Maureen Adam, sitting on a bench in the sun in Westerpark, close to the company’s Amsterdam offices. ‘Then I found a job working in customer services and everyone working there was an international. So I thought “hang on a minute, there is work for people who don’t speak Dutch”.’ It was not, however, until a few months and another job later, that Maureen decided to take the plunge. Adams Multilingual Recruitment was born. “I’d worked in recruitment in London and Hong Kong and I thought the level of service here was not what it could be,’ she says. ‘I never planned to set up my own business, but it was born out of frustration.' 10 vacancies Starting from home in Edam, with a much-wanted baby at the same time, Maureen struck gold with her first call. ‘I rang Sykes, a call centre operator and they asked me to come for a meeting that afternoon. They also had 10 vacancies for me to fill.’ That was the start. Twenty years on, Maureen says she was really lucky with the timing. The Netherlands was becoming more internationally-orientated and the hunt for multilingual workers was heating up. The likes of Intel and Cisco were among her early clients, won not by networking but by getting on the phone and selling both herself and the fact that she could provide them with people. In those pre-internet days, tracking down potential candidates was a lot more challenging. The volunteer organisation Access was one source of recruits, as were adverts in the Telegraaf newspaper. Word of mouth also proved to be important and candidates would recommend Adams to their friends and colleagues. ‘I received CV’s in the post, which is hard to imagine today,’ she laughs. “And the phone rang non-stop.’ Expansion In 1998, Maureen moved with a part-time worker to a basement office on the Keizersgracht, followed soon afterwards, by a shift to a bigger office in the south of the city. ‘In those days many companies did not have recruitment departments, emails were not the norm and we sent CV’s via fax. We were in constant contact with department heads, either in person or on the telephone,’ she says. ‘These days things move so much faster. When a client gives us a vacancy, they want to see CV’s quickly, preferably the same day. We have to manage expectations as we live in a world in which everything is expected to happen immediately.’ Although methods of finding candidates have changed, the real leap forward is being made in terms of technology, says Maureen. ‘Nowadays we all have a database, we have a website and easy access to candidates on LinkedIn and job boards, but the forward-thinking recruitment agencies are buying software systems using artificial intelligence to screen candidates at the application stage. Interview The role of the recruitment agency, says Maureen, will not be so much about providing CV’s but a highly personal level of service and a quality selection of candidates. We still interview all our candidates to ensure that the profiles of the candidates we send are a match for the role. ‘We have a lot of loyal clients and repeat business and we understand what our clients are looking for,’ she says. ‘It is important that our consultants can tell their clients “this person does not look perfect on paper but we know they will fit your company”.’ The perfect CV ‘Research has shown that recruiters read a CV for an average of 6 seconds, so it is essential that a CV is easy to read and to the point. Recruiters want to know what a candidate’s added value was for their company, not just a list of tasks. A more recent trend is video presentations – difficult to present to a client but we get some amazing applications. ‘These applications get attention of course, although we’ll probably ask them to send a normal CV,’ she laughs. Candidates often send a link to their LinkedIn profile instead of a CV. LinkedIn, she says, is all about personal branding: ‘Candidates need to sell or brand themselves. They need to stand out in the crowd.' Maureen says that making sure the candidate is happy has always been a key part of the process but one of the main changes in the field of recruitment is matching the demands of the candidates with those of the clients. ‘Nowadays, candidates are not afraid to say what they want… when I was young I was just happy to have a job. They are looking for more freedom in the way they work, room for growth, training and a sense of purpose in their work.' Secondary benefits Companies, on the other hand, can attract the best staff even if they don’t offer the highest salary, by offering excellent secondary benefits and a great working atmosphere. ‘Regular social events, a nice canteen, like-minded colleagues, more responsibility and a challenging role… these are all very important,’ she says. Whilst there is a definite move towards more flexibility in the Netherlands, this is not always out of choice. Many companies are reluctant to give indefinite contracts even though this is important to many millennials. 'People still want security and not to worry each time their contract is up for renewal,' she states. The future To celebrate Adams Multilingual Recruitment’s 20th anniversary, Maureen and her team have organised a half day conference on November 2: The Future of the Recruitment. ‘It is our way of giving back to our clients,’ says Maureen. ‘They are part of the key to our success.’ The speakers include trend watcher Richard van Hooijdonk who will talk about the impact of technology in our lives and business while Gen Z expert Thimon de Jong and teenager Lecyca Curiel will give an insight into the next generation of employees. Former BBC HR Director Lucy Adams, will be talking about HR practices in a disruptive world and Lindsay Britton, the social media specialist at Adams will be sharing tips on the use of the new social media channels to reach candidates. Asked what has been the most important thing over the past 20 years, Maureen is silenced for a moment. ‘For me personally, the essence of being a recruiter is the client contact and successfully finding someone a job,’ she says, eventually. ‘That remains a tremendous kick. But a real joy is to see how our staff have developed and how they’ve made friends… we’re like a family really.’  More >