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


Sign a pink hat love letter to the Netherlands if you live here!

Sign a pink hat love letter to the Netherlands if you live here!

They marched in the Women’s March on January 21, 2017 against hate and for inclusion. Now Carrie Ballard and Hugo Skoppek are spearheading an open letter to the Netherlands. Dear the Netherlands, We are all people who live in the Netherlands. We are normal people; your neighbours. Some of us are foreigners, and some of us are Dutch. We all care about the Netherlands. The United States woke up to the election of Donald J. Trump only a few weeks ago. Many people were shocked. His campaign appealed to Americans who have been left behind by the modern economy, feel cheated out of their right to a good future, the white middle class whose views were not understood or addressed, and who feel they are looked down on by a supposed élite. Are they racist? No, but they witness minorities getting ahead of them and when the people are of a different color or religion it is easy to direct anger and fear at them. A better future? The supporters of the current US president thought that voting anti-status quo and exclusion (the 'Muslim ban') would make the future better for them. In reality they are getting laws that they did not vote for that is shifting the character of the country. We ask the people of the Netherlands to do better than the USA did in the election this year. In the Netherlands, there are peaceful demonstrations of thousands of ordinary people, many women and children, against Trump and against hate here in the Netherlands. People of goodwill want change too, but not at the expense of going backward in social progress and having more and more stress and division in the society. Fear and prejudice will do nothing but harm to all of us. We believe the Netherlands can find other, better solutions to the differences between those who live here and those who are coming, solutions in line with Dutch values of openness and respect, of fairness, of doe normaal and respectful behavior. Acceptance We can live together if we accept some things about each other. Dutch culture has norms and values, like all cultures. If we live here, we must respect them in our daily behavior. And for The Other? Can we benefit from the things other cultures can contribute? Culture, work, food, music, learning, piety? We want to reach out to each other. We want to make peace with The Other and within our own thoughts. We would like to join together to do our part to keep the Netherlands, our home, a country of inclusion, solidarity, values, fairness for all people of goodwill. Please join us. It may be that we like somebody who is bad for us or that we hate somebody who is good for us, but let us not forget to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us focus on the things that make the Dutch so proud to be Dutch and foreigners so admiring about this country. Say 'No' to hate and division, and 'Yes' to democracy that works well, a clean and safe environment, a fair economy, respect for citizens, and a good future for our children. Thank you. Carrie Ballard is an American writer who lives in The Hague. Hugo Skoppek is a German national and sustainability expert. To sign the letter, which will be sent to Dutch newspapers, email lovelettertoNL@gmail.com   More >


Election interview: The Netherlands was always this safe, prosperous bubble

Election interview: The Netherlands was always this safe, prosperous bubble

Former British parliamentary researcher Ben Coates says the recent economic upheaval has created an opportunity for politicians such as Geert Wilders to exploit the uncertainties surrounding globalisation and portray it as a threat. By Gordon Darroch It was a happy accident that first brought Ben Coates to the Netherlands. Stranded at Schiphol airport one day, he called up a Dutch girl he'd met on his travels and went round for dinner. By the end of that year he'd turned his back on his career as a parliamentary researcher in London and moved in with his new partner in Rotterdam. Now married, living in the harbour city and describing himself as a 'recovering Tory', Coates has been keeping a keen eye on this year's election even from his temporary base 7,000 miles away in Nairobi. Coates took an autodidactic approach to the concept of inburgering: he wrote a book, entitled Why The Dutch Are Different, that got under the skin of the Dutch psyche and unpicked the standard caricature of sophisticated, free-thinking liberals gliding over canal bridges on their bicycles. Political culture At the heart of it is the question of why the Netherlands is so alien to most British people despite being one of the UK's nearest neighbours. It's a similar story in Dutch politics, says Coates, where the multi-party system and the history of coalition governments has produced a very different political culture. 'In the UK politics is a bloodsport,' he says. 'It's one party trying to hammer the hell out of the other and see who survives to cross the line. In the Netherlands it's much more collegial and respectful. People debate ideas quite carefully and then put aside their differences to form a coalition. Geert Wilders has upended that a little bit, but I still think that compared to when I worked in politics in London it's much more civil and gentle.' Coates also thinks the Dutch system has allowed the Netherlands to avoid the dramatic upheavals that countries like the UK experience when they change government. 'You don't get a Dutch Margaret Thatcher who comes along and shake things up, because they're always constrained by their coalition partners,' he says. 'That's maybe very good in lots of ways and very stable and moderate, but it also creates space for people to come with really crazy radical ideas. In a system where politics is fairly boring a lot of the time, it means that someone like Pim Fortuyn can make a big impact by doing things that in another country wouldn't be considered so bold or daring.' Wilders That brings us neatly to the man who, so far, has set the tone for the election coverage both at home and abroad. Coates argues that Geert Wilders's impact comes from his ability to blend right-wing, populist nationalism with the values that make the Dutch distinct. 'He's quite careful to frame his arguments in a way that appeals to people in the Dutch context. For example he says Islamic immigration is a problem because it oppresses women's rights and affects the ability of people to dance at Gay Pride. I don't think that's an argument you would see Donald Trump or Nigel Farage making.' The proportional representation system has also helped Wilders find a niche in the Dutch political landscape, Coates says. 'It makes it possible for someone like Wilders to win a seat in parliament and stay there without having a significant base of support in one place. He doesn't have to have a constituency.' Changing society But more significant than the system is the sense that the Netherlands is changing, and at a faster pace than Dutch voters are used to. 'One of the reasons I wrote my book is that I had the feeling that the Netherlands has reached a turning point in its history,' says Coates. 'For quite a long time, it was like an island from the rest of history. You had coal miners rioting in the UK and terrorists in Germany, but the Netherlands was always this safe, prosperous little bubble, and I think in the last 10 years that's changed a lot. Suddenly it's entered this more bumpy period where the economy's been on a downturn and the political system's in upheaval and populists are on the rise.' That change, says Coates, has created an opportunity for politicians such as Wilders to exploit the uncertainties surrounding globalisation and portray it as a threat. 'A lot of it is about fear and about scaremongering, and not so much talking about the reality of what's happening now but the fear of what will happen in the future. 'If you look at Rotterdam, for example, where I live, it's probably thrived more than anywhere else on globalisation and international trade. Yet I have all these friends who work in the harbour as crane drivers and so on, and they're the ones who really support Wilders, even when it's their jobs that will be lost. 'They see automation coming and crane drivers being replaced by robots and automated trucks, and Shanghai taking over as the biggest port in the world. When people are economically stressed and nervous about their future you can play on those fears.' Decline of the left The rise of populist parties has gone hand in hand with the decline of the traditional left. A sizeable chunk of Wilders's support comes from communities which the Labour party (PvdA) held in a stranglehold on for two generations, but have now crossed over to either the PVV, the Socialists (SP) or, in the case of older voters, 50Plus. Coates sees this as a reflection of a pan-European trend. 'The centre-left is not having a great time in many countries – look at the French Socialists or the UK Labour Party. The SDP in Germany seem to be rallying slightly, but across Europe the left isn't doing so well. It looks like they'll do badly in this election, and then the question is whether they can quickly bounce out of that and find a dynamic new leader who can rejuvenate the party, or whether they're going to retreat to the base and get a Jeremy Corbyn who makes a bad situation worse.' A big part of the problem, says Coates, is that the established parties have become detached from their voters. 'There's a persistent problem in many countries where politics has become increasingly professionalised,' he says. 'A majority of professional politicians are young, white, mostly men, but also women, from fairly good backgrounds who studied at good universities, who work as an adviser or researcher in parliament, like I did, and then become a member of parliament themselves and end up running the country. That has its benefits, but I can understand why if you're a crane driver in Rotterdam you feel that's something utterly alien to your experience. 'You see that playing out very obviously in the US. Hillary Clinton is a very impressive lady, but if you're an out-of-work steel worker in Pittsburgh you won't think that a millionaire former senator and former First Lady who's been a professional politician for 35 years is very appealing. I think a big part of the challenge is to find leaders in the major parties who can present their arguments in a way that appeals to people who are turned off by mainstream professionalised politics.' Reconnect Coates is not optimistic about the Dutch system's ability to produce the type of politician who can reconnect with an indifferent electorate. 'I find Ahmed Aboutaleb quite impressive,' he says. 'Whether a Muslim, Moroccan-born politician can combat Wilders is something you could write a whole thesis about, but in principal that's the type of person you need. Someone from a slightly unorthodox background who can make the argument, based on personal experience, that isolationism isn't good or immigration isn't bad, and articulate it in a way that appeals to people who don't automatically agree with them.' While the system is almost certain to deny Wilders a shot at power, Coates says at some point the mainstream parties will have to address the reasons for his appeal. 'I think Wilders will make a pretty strong showing, roughly in line with what the polls show at the moment [note: this interview was conducted in mid-February, when the PVV was projected to win around 30 seats] or maybe slightly less,' he says. 'But then I think we'll have a Le Pen-type situation where the other parties form a coalition in a way that makes it impossible for him to get into power. That just feeds into his argument that he's someone who millions of people support but who is consistently ignored by the political elite and shut out of government, so I don't know how sustainable it is to keep on ignoring this populism and dismissing it as racism or xenophobia.' Ben Coates writes about politics and more on his blog. You can also follow him on Twitter.  More >


New Rijksmuseum exhibition focuses on Dutch relationship with South Africa

The Netherlands’ 'disturbing and striking' colonial history in South Africa is the centre of an new exhibition covering 400 years of the Dutch South African relationship at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Julia Corbett has been finding out more. 'The arrival of the Dutch changed South Africa once and for all,' says Martine Gosselink, head of the Rijksmuseum's history department and the exhibition's producer. 'The population’s composition and the introduction of slavery by the VOC (the Dutch East India Company) result from the ties with our country. But this also applies to the language, Afrikaans, the legal system, the protestant church, the introduction of Islam, the typical façades and the Dutch names on the map.' The exhibition Good hope. South Africa and the Netherlands from 1600 focuses on images and artefacts linked to the fraught history between the Netherlands and South Africa throughout their 400 years relationship. The items on display include documentation of the first exchanges between Cape of Good Hope residents and Dutch settlers up to the anti-apartheid protests of the 1980s and beyond. Museum visitors travel through the centuries in 10 exhibition rooms, with portraits, paintings, scripts, clothes and household items showcasing the influence the Dutch had on everyday South African life. Interactive The exhibition includes an interactive archive of the work of Dutch soldier and iconic 18th century explorer Robert Jacob Gordon, who traced the landscape and native animals of South Africa in the 1700s. Curator Duncan Bull, who has worked at the Rijksmuseum for over 15 years and grew up Cape Town said: 'It is very exciting now to know people will be able to go online and see his drawings from hundreds of years ago. 'He gave us so much information, he took two weather reports every day for 20 years. He was also a geologist and his work is so accurate. He was absolutely dedicated and really represented the extraordinary curiosity during the 18th century.' It was a difficult task to illustrate an aspect of the Dutch colonial history described by Dutch writer Adrian van Dis as 'both painful and striking, but more especially disturbing and recognisable'. The increasing complexity of the Dutch and South African relationship becomes clearer as the exhibition looks into both the Boer War in the early 20th century and the introduction of segregation through apartheid. A room depicting the signs used during the unjust and violent apartheid system presented the 'daily humiliation of an openly racist society' and acknowledges the difficult job the museum had in showing and representing the stories of different members of the segregated society. South African Johan de Villiers has been living in the Netherlands for nine years and is one of a group of people providing visitors a personal insight into the country’s history through guided tours. 'These really strike me because these were images I saw growing up,' says De Villiers in a room of posters and photographs of Nelson Mandela used during the protests to end apartheid. 'I was born in 1960... I grew up seeing many of these displayed images in my life, despite them being banned in South Africa under apartheid.' The segregation of a complete society is exhibited in sculptures, photos and posters as well as the fierce anti-apartheid campaigns in the Netherlands carried out by groups such as RaRa who became household names with the Netherlands during the latter half of the 20th century. 'The relationship with South Africa also changed the Netherlands,' says Martine Gosselink 'The Boer Wars around 1900, countless 'Transvaal districts' in Dutch cities and the violent anti-apartheid struggle of the 1980s symbolise a continuously tempestuous relationship. This exhibition gives an impression of the culture and the influence shared between the two countries.'  More >


Election interview: There are no ‘A’ and ‘B’ classes of Dutch people

Election interview: There are no ‘A’ and ‘B’ classes of Dutch people

You can travel a long way in Europe before you find a politician who is upbeat about the future of the European Union at the moment. But not all is doom and gloom, as D66 MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma tells Gordon Darroch. Eurosceptics have been buoyed by both the Brexit vote in the UK and the election of Donald Trump, who has predicted that other member states will follow Britain out of the EU. The day after Trump took office, far-right leaders across the continent, including Geert Wilders, held a 'counter-summit' in which they called for European nations to adopt Trump's protectionist 'America First' stance and close their borders to migrants. Yet Sjoerd Sjoerdsma is far from solemn about the EU's prospects. The foreign affairs spokesman for the centrist-liberal D66 party believes the need for co-operation between European nations has become even more urgent in the age of Trump. 'The Americans have always been an important ally and that's not going to change any time soon,' he says. 'But I think that as president, Trump is sadly pursuing a course that goes against the interests and values of the Netherlands and the European Union. 'That means the EU needs to be able to manage its own affairs. We need to have a European defence structure rather than rely on American security. We can't wait for the Americans to do something about the climate, we need to do it ourselves. I think Trump is a great opportunity for the European Union to put itself forward as a world leader, and we just need to get on with it.' Nationalist parties Next month's Dutch election will be seen as the first test of whether nationalist parties in Europe will benefit from the Trump effect and the fall-out from Brexit. As the party of progressive pan-Europeanism, D66's performance will be seen as an indicator of voters' confidence in the EU. 'It is a tipping point in the history of the EU,' says Sjoerdsma. 'On the one hand there are lots of countries in Europe, such as Germany, but also here in the Netherlands, where nationalist parties with anti-Islamic agendas are on the rise. 'These are forces that would happily break up the European Union, incidentally with the support of [Vladimir] Putin, certainly in the case of the [French] Front National. So we're facing huge challenges, both on our external borders and within. It's also a chance for the EU to show that we are equal to the challenges we face in areas like security and trade. If we do that we will emerge from this crisis stronger.' But the 35-year-old former diplomat does not restrict his criticism to the extreme right, arguing that the moderate right has made a bogeyman of Brussels. 'Of course the European Union needs to become far more democratic and we need to stop all the nonsense like the merry-go-round between Brussels and Strasbourg,' he says. 'But there are Dutch politicians, particularly in the VVD camp, who have always behaved as if everything good comes from The Hague and everything bad comes from Brussels. If you keep on telling people that the EU is no good and makes strange decisions, it shouldn't surprise you when support for the European Union crumbles.' Turkey deal A case in point, says Sjoerdsma, is the deal that the EU agreed with Turkey last summer, during the Dutch presidency, to accommodate refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean. It included a string of sweeteners for the Turkish government, such as a promise of accelerated entry to the EU and visa-free travel in Europe for Turkish citizens. A few months later Recep Tayyin Erdogan's government instigated a clear-out of the judiciary, the armed forces and the teaching profession in revenge for the failed coup in July, stepped up its intimidation of the domestic media and has mooted reintroducing capital punishment. Sjoerdsma says the deal should have come with much stricter conditions attached, otherwise 'you create the impression that you're prepared to bargain with your values for the sake of short-term self-interest, and the risk with that is that there are numerous other countries that are prepared to drive the EU apart if they see us being soft on our own interests and our own values.' Brexit A similar approach should be taken in the upcoming Brexit negotiations, Sjoerdsma says. Brexit poses a dilemma for countries such as the Netherlands, which has strong historical and trade ties with its neighbour across the North Sea. D66's election manifesto calls for the uncertainty over Britain's relationship with the EU to be resolved as soon as possible, not least for the thousands of Dutch citizens living in the UK who fear losing their jobs and their right to remain in their adopted homeland. But, cautions Sjoerdsma: 'We don't want the UK to gain unfair influence or advantages relative to its contribution to the EU. The European Union isn't a self-service canteen where you can pick and choose from the freedoms without taking the responsibilities that come with them.' Sjoerdsma also says the EU should try to accommodate Scotland and Northern Ireland, which voted against Brexit, if they decide they would rather stay in Europe than the UK. 'It's their own decision and we shouldn't meddle, but at the same time it's very important that their inhabitants aren't punished for a decision that others have taken for them. Scotland voted with a large majority for Remain, so if there comes a time when they say, “we think the European Union is so important that we want to reject Brexit and avoid the consequences,” the European Union shouldn't dismiss that out of hand.' Nexit As for whether the Netherlands could be the next country to quit the European Union, Sjoerdsma is adamant. 'D66 will never, ever accept a Nexit or a referendum on Nexit. As for parties that say “less EU”, I agree with them on all the senseless interfering, but those parties – and this goes for the CDA, the VVD and the PvdA – should be honest and admit that they have all voted in parliament to transfer huge powers to the EU on questions such as asylum, because they all know that we have to deal with things like accommodating refugees together. We can't do it by ourselves. We saw that last year.' In the opinion polls, D66 has hovered around the 10% to 11% mark for around the last year, which would give it around 15 seats in Parliament. The party, led by Alexander Pechtold, has been one of the most forthright critics of Geert Wilders's anti-immigration PVV and, like most of its peers, has ruled out going into coalition with Wilders. That would seem to leave Rutte as the only realistic contender to be prime minister, but Sjoerdsma denies that this gives the current incumbent too much power. 'It's the exact opposite. The VVD has put D66 in a powerful position, because Rutte has stated so explicitly that he won't govern with the PVV. That means he can only govern with us. He can't avoid it.' D66's stance on Europe is mirrored by an internationalist approach to domestic affairs. The party advocates more English-language teaching at secondary school and university level to attract international students and high-skilled workers, and would invest heavily in education and innovation. Dual nationality 'Our wealth comes not from mineral resources or selling products, but first and foremost from our expertise and the fact that we can attract lots of people to come here because they know they can earn money from their expertise,' says Sjoerdsma. He says the current government's restrictions on naturalisation, such as extending the qualifying period for foreign residents to obtain a Dutch passport, have had a 'deterrent effect'. D66, along with Labour, want to reform the law on nationality to permit dual passports. This would also benefit Dutch nationals living and working in other countries, some of whom have been unpleasantly surprised to find they have 'lost' their Dutch nationality by taking citizenship in their host nation. The debate at home on immigration has created a warped impression of nationality, says Sjoerdsma: 'Dutch people of foreign origin increasingly feel less at home and less attached to the Netherlands, and that's because of the political debate which is dominated by right-wing parties such as the PVV and the VVD, who presume that anybody with dual nationality is suspicious. 'I think that's ridiculous. There are no 'A' and 'B' classes of Dutch people. We want to make it easy for Dutch people living abroad to take on another nationality and people living here in the Netherlands who have another passport to hold onto it. That's not strange, it's enriching.' Sjoerdsma is equally bullish about the prospect of a Wilders victory in the election. 'I don't believe it will happen,' he says, even though the anti-immigration PVV has been leading opinion polls for over a year. Support for Wilders Sjoerdsma points out that Wilders's support has tended to fall away during recent election campaigns. Two years ago D66 edged out the PVV in the race to run The Hague's municipal council, on a night when the party also eclipsed Labour in its historic stronghold of Amsterdam. 'D66 became the largest party with a campaign based on tolerance in the international city of peace and justice,' he says. 'I'm convinced that if politicians show that we can tackle the issues and we're there for people whose voices have not been heard for a long time, the Netherlands can return to the leading position it used to have as an international bridge builder. 'In the past we were pioneers in the battle against the sea and we did it again with gay rights: we were the first country where same-sex couples could marry. We can reclaim our leading position in all kinds of fields. Look at Ben Feringa, the Nobel prize winner. Who says the Netherlands can't be a forerunner in driving back cancer from being a deadly disease to a chronic disease? Who says we can't be in the front row when it comes to startups or internet innovation? I have a lot of confidence in that.' Sjoerdsma believes the Dutch elections will show that Europe has withstood the shockwaves of Trump and Brexit: 'I'm conviced that we can turn the tide here in the Netherlands, that we won't wake up on the morning of March 16 with a hangover, as many Americans did after Trump and many British people did after Brexit, and that the morning of March 16 can be a bright new dawn.' DutchNews.nl asked several political parties for a pre-election interview. D66 was the only party to respond positively.  More >


With Valentine’s Day approaching, here’s some tips for amorous Amsterdam

With Valentine’s Day approaching, here’s some tips for amorous Amsterdam

When Amsterdam’s canal bridges light up at night and the frost sparkles on the branches of the trees, it’s like a film set for lovers. Valentine’s Day, on the 14 February, is the perfect excuse to explore all things romantic in the city. Deborah Nicholls-Lee has 14 ideas to get you started. Dinner with a view Hop on the ferry at Central Station and take a trip across the IJ to the imposing A’DAM Tower. Ride the elevator to the revolving Moon restaurant on the 19th floor and enjoy fine dining and panoramic views while Amsterdam rotates around you. For old-fashioned elegance and candle-lit dining Belhamel in the Jordaan is hard to beat. Its art nouveau furnishings add a soupçon of Parisian romance while the splendid double canal view showcases the very best of Amsterdam. View the city from the water on a luxury canal cruise. Jewel Cruises’ attractive antique river boat is more intimate than the long tour boats and there’s no tannoyed commentary to disturb your à la carte meal. If the expansive views of the IJ at Restaurant Stork don’t elicit romance, then make sure you sample the aphrodisiac oysters on the menu of this shellfish specialist. Side by side The 1920s interior of the tiny Uitkijk cinema , with its table lamps and plush red seats, creates a cosy and romantic environment for watching a film. If you want to cuddle up at the back of the cinema, the love seats at the art deco Tuschinski cinema are perfect. Your ticket includes table service and a choice of snacks and drinks. Hand in Hand The Jaap Eden ice rink is open until March 26 so there’s still time to take your lover by the hand and glide across the ice like you’re in the movies. Afterwards, you can enjoy a hot drink or a meal at Café Jaap. For dancing à deux, head over to the Kompaszaal on the KNSM island for one of their Salsa, Tango or Swing nights. If you’re feeling really romantic, you can even get married there as it’s an official trouwlocatie. Drinks Let the conversation and fine wine flow by booking High Wine at the Dylan Hotel. This tasting of four wines, paired with beautifully-presented canapés, makes for a special evening. For cocktails in chic surroundings, sneak off to Door 74, an exclusive speak-easy behind a hidden entrance. Access is by same-day telephone reservation only. Music, the food of love The Concertgebouw is holding a special concert on February 14 entitled Valentine Classics at the Movies. This eclectic programme of hum-along classics from Bernstein, Gershwin, Tchaikovsky and others is sure to warm the heart. The North Sea Jazz Club at the Westergasfabriek is celebrating Valentine’s Day with a three-course dinner accompanied by sultry jazz from singer Sazz Leonore. And relax… At the chic Zuiver spa in Amsterdam-Zuid, the second person comes free in a special offer running until February 26. Swim, sauna, and relax in the whirlpools or get steamy in the hamman. At the Wellness Garden, the Fashion Hotel’s fitness and health club, you can book treatments  and massages that can be enjoyed in pairs. Follow up with a stroll round the Rembrandtpark and then dinner on the Amstelveenseweg.  More >


Future leaders look no further: Nyenrode launches business admin BSc

Future leaders look no further: Nyenrode launches business admin BSc

If you think of Dutch universities, you probably think of massive campuses, packed lecture theatres and the endless debates about the use of English. But not all the country's educational establishments are like this. University colleges are on the up and now Nyenrode Business Universiteit has launched a new bachelor's degree in business administration. There can be few places more inspirational to study in the Netherlands than the Nyenrode campus, set in the grounds of a 17th century castle just a few minutes drive from Utrecht. And Nyenrode's focused programmes, small classes and truly international approach has proved a hit since the university was launched in 1946. For after focusing on top-rated master's degrees in a wide range of business-related subjects, Nyenrode has now launched its first bachelor's degree course - a three year programme dedicated to developing the best in business administration skills. The course started in August with 32 students from all over the world. It is a testing programme which seeks to develop a number of important skills in students - from conceptual and analytical thinking to problem-solving and research and writing skills. Bonding ‘Since the moment I arrived at Nyenrode, I have been living life in the fast lane,' says student Lucas van Beek. 'The introduction period was tough, but to feel the bonding between the new students is something special. Traditionally, the intensive campus life and active student association at Nyenrode have always played an important role, says programme director Mark Slaman. Being a campus, Nyenrode soon becomes home and sport has a prominent place in the new programme too. 'It enables students to improve their discipline, resilience, sportsmanship and perseverance. This will help us to develop individuals who are just and have strong character,' Slaman says. International But key to Nyenrode's success - and the university is highly rated in numerous international rankings - it its truly global focus. 'Given the very international nature of business today, it is vital for the cross-cultural component to form an explicit part of the new BSc programme as well,' Slaman says.  'This why we take our search for students abroad and inspire them to choose Nyenrode.' The selection process for the course is in itself unusual, given that Nyenrode alumni have a role in deciding who should be admitted. After all, says Slaman, 'who better to assess if someone is Nyenrode material or not, than our alumni'. Gayle van Beeten, who now lives in Vilnius, Lithuania, says she did not hesitate when asked to help select students. 'The Dutch ambassador in Vilnius kindly let us use their formal meeting room,' she says. 'I think Igor, the potential student, had one of the poshest locations for a Nyenrode interview yet.' 'I thought it was really great to meet potential new Nyenrode talent. After all we are ambassadors for Nyenrode all around the world. We can make potential students enthusiastic, and give them some useful tips from our own experience along the way.’ Challenges The challenges of today’s business world call for a new type of leaders with the vision and the courage to play a leading role in shaping tomorrow’s business world. Nyenrode, says Slaman, prepares students for this reality by combining academic theory with practical relevance and personal development. 'But they will also learn a lot from each other and especially from the students who share insights about their cross-cultural background.' If you'd like to find out more about Nyenrode's BSc in Business Administration, why not visit the campus and see for yourself on one of the upcoming open days.  More >


Photographer Ed van der Elsken celebrated in Amsterdam

Photographer Ed van der Elsken celebrated in Amsterdam

Dutch photographer and film-maker Ed van der Elsken (1925-1990) is perhaps most famous for his images of Amsterdam dating from the end of World War II to the 1970s. Julia Corbett has been checking out a major exhibition of his work at the Stedelijk Museum which opens on Saturday. Ed van der Elsken was, says curator Hripsimé Visser a 'real Amsterdammer'. And capturing the best of Van der Elskens’ work in both film and photography, the Stedelijk Museum’s newest exhibition Camera in Love showcases the iconic Dutch artist through the decades. Visitors will be able to experience an extensive body of work which led van der Elsken to be remembered as one of the 20th century’s most important Dutch photographers. He first came to prominence with Love on the Left Bank, a photo novel produced in 1956 when he lived in Paris. Stories Van der Elsken travelled extensively and went on to produce over 20 photography books and dozens of films during his life. 'He was one of the most iconic photographers, not only because of his ability to capture moments but to tell stories that are really surprising and intense,' says Stedelijk museum director Beatrix Ruf. From 1950s jazz shows to village life in rural Africa, visitors can follow Van der Elsken's career in photos from the 1950s through to 1990 when he died at the age of 65. The exhibition reveals some insights into the photographer’s world by presenting original notes, sketches and dummies he used while working on specific projects. Private sketches and story boards show the meticulous planning that went into capturing the images of wayward youths and striking young women that made him famous. Several rooms are dedicated to his travel photography and collections from Africa, America and Japan celebrate his talent in film making as well as photography. Despite first exhibiting his work in 1966, this is the first time the Stedelijk museum will show his work on this scale in 25 years. City life Footage and notes are shown within several intimate rooms dedicated to the workmanship behind his art, offering a glimpse into the process he went through in creating his photography. Inspired by the Van der Elsken’s fascination with young people and the way in which they lived their lives, the exhibition then opens onto four large rooms where with both black and white portraits and the impulsive and organic street shots are on display The exhibition runs until May 21 and will then move to Paris and Madrid. The Eye film theatre is showcasing some of his films to accompany the exhibition over five evenings. In particular, Welkom in het leven, lieve kleine (Welcome to Life, Little One) about the birth of his second child, is a crazy, candid portrait of the life of a young bohemian family in Amsterdam in 1964.   More >


Blog watching: Amsterdamian – six years of living in Amsterdam (and counting)

Blog watching: Amsterdamian – six years of living in Amsterdam (and counting)

Dana Marin is from Romania and has been writing about her life here since she arrived in the Netherlands. In this entry from her Amsterdamian blog, Dana writes about six years of living in the Dutch capital. It’s been six years since I left my home country, Romania, on a very early and foggy morning, with a big suitcase and a small cat, and a crazy heart mixed with joy, hope, and worry. It was a December day that happened to be my official moving day to the Netherlands, although my significant other had moved here a few months before and I had visited him a few times during that period, and all the papers I needed for my stay had been issued in November. Travelling with a cat was a stressful business but worrying about the cat, however, proved to be a welcome distraction from all the other thoughts I had in mind: leaving behind a quarter of my life, my family and friends, the start of a good career, a country whose language I knew and loved. All this to move to an almost unknown country, where I knew only one person (a very important one, nonetheless), where I didn’t speak the language and I needed a residence permit. Unknown The unknown was full of promise, as new beginnings usually are, with so many possibilities to be explored and possible futures at hand. One of my biggest wishes was to live a more bohemian life, and by that I meant not work like crazy, doing overtime every day of the week. Instead, I would dream and live more and find a job which I liked and that would made me happy. My first months in Amsterdam were very positive ones. I didn’t have a job and suddenly I woke up to a lot of free time. I was happily exploring the city, even if it was during the cold months, taking pictures, enjoying its beauty. No concrete plans I didn’t know, back then, how long I would stay. I had no concrete plans, I was going to let life do its thing. And here I am, six years later, in the same country, the same city. How did things turn out? Well, a lot changed in these years. My life changed, I changed, probably much more than I would have if I’d stayed in Romania. People often say to me, 'If you’ve stayed here for six years, you must like it!'. It’s not that simple. Or maybe it is. I’m still in love with Amsterdam, even if there have been moments of doubt in these years. I guess it’s like any relationship, you can’t be happy all the time. I would like to say I feel at home now in Amsterdam, and that would be very true.  But — and there is a but — life as an expat does something weird to you. It makes you feel at home in all the places you’ve lived, but at the same time feel like you no longer belong anywhere. After six years, I am still a stranger in this country, but I’ve become a stranger in my home country as well. It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time, to have more than one ‘home’. I feel blessed to have friends in two parts of the world — not too far from each other but so different in so many ways — , to have my favourite foods in both countries, my favourite places and words. No regrets I feel cursed in the moments when I feel alienated, or when I can’t be next to my family and friends for the most important moments of their lives. But I guess these are things that give my life more meaning, makes it more interesting, and that’s why I don’t regret the path I’ve chosen. A boring life is what scares me the most. Some days I feel so connected to this city that I think I must have lived here in a previous life, reclaiming land from the sea or wearing clogs. On other days I just wish I was back where I’m not asked how long I’ve been living there and how do I like it. A land where I dream, think and speak in the same language and I understand every word of it, where the smells are so familiar that can take me back to my early childhood. I had to adapt to this country. To learn its customs, songs, smells – and the process was a fun one! I still can’t understand or relate to some cultural aspects under any circumstances, but that’s the case in my home country as well. For some people it’s hard to find a culturally perfect match, I guess, and that’s OK. I feel the need to also point out that Amsterdam is quite different from the rest of the country, and I don’t know if I would’ve had the same pleasant experience if I had lived somewhere outside this very international and expat oriented Amsterdam! Winter I had to learn to deal with the very capricious weather, two seasons in one day, the less warm summers and the winters. Oh, the winters! They should give a mandatory course to all the people moving to the Netherlands: How to survive the Dutch winter. Taking vitamin D supplements was never something I had to think about before moving here. How to deal with the grey, dark winter days is a thing I’ve learned the hard way. The Dutch winters may not be very cold, but they can be very mean. I’ve also learned here how to fully enjoy each moment of sun like there is no tomorrow. When it’s sunny, you drop everything and enjoy the sun. That is a must. I’ve struggled with homesickness and I still do, some days. This will probably never stop. But if I moved back to Romania tomorrow, I’ll be homesick for the Netherlands. I have learnt to accept it and live with it. Luckily I’m not very far, the plane ride is about three hours and there is Skype to the rescue, and cheap European mobile fares. I’ve met so many great people here, I think this is what I cherish the most. All the new friends, all the great moments we’ve had and still have together. I’ve rediscovered myself, I allowed myself to be more creative. You could say that I didn’t need to move countries for that, but maybe I did. Maybe this was the right place for me to be inspired, to grow in the direction I did. The symbol of Amsterdam, the one that sticks in my mind from my first visit here, is still the same: a woman and her daughter on their way back from kindergarten, jumping and singing together on a path made of bouncy, wooden planks that covered work done being on the road. They looked so happy and relaxed, and I said to myself that that’s how I want to live my life. And that is what I’m trying to do. DutchNews.nl carries a curated collection of blogs about all things Dutch. Once a month, we feature an entry from one of our favourite bloggers. Read the full version of this entry and more from Dana Marin on Amsterdamian.com.  More >


Catch top Dutch acting talent in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives

Catch top Dutch acting talent in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives

Leading Dutch theatre group Toneelgroep Amsterdam is gathering up rave reviews in the English-speaking world of acting. 'I may not speak a word of Dutch but I know great acting when I see it,' wrote theatre critic Charles McNulty in the LA Times after catching one of Toneelgroep Amsterdam's performances during a foreign tour. 'But the overall scope of this wonderful project was impressive because of the acting quality of Toneelgroep Amsterdam. It made you want to go straight on to Amsterdam and catch the rest of their repertoire,' wrote The Independent. Now, non-Dutch speakers can enjoy the company's performances in Amsterdam, because the company provides surtitles in English at its Thursday performances. 'We want to welcome everybody who loves theatre, even if they don't understand Dutch,' the company says. The largest theatre group in the Netherlands is currently performing Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives at the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam, staring some of the Netherlands' foremost acting talents, including Halina Reijn and Ramsey Nasr. Rave reviews The performance, directed by Australian Simon Stone, is a not to be missed show and won rave reviews from the critics when it was introduced at the Holland Festival last year. Stone's adaptation of the script was approved by Woody Allen himself. 'Fabulous theatre about the vulnerability of love and the pain of getting older,' wrote Trouw, which gave the show five stars. 'It is delightful to watch such strong actors display their comic talents,' wrote the NRC in its four star review. 'It is delicious to recognise your own midlife crisis in someone else's marital problems and to laugh heartily at them,' the Telegraaf said in another four star piece. Amsterdam salon Members of the Amsterdam Salon are invited to see this hilarious and moving performance, followed by a backstage tour and drinks with the actors. Buy your tickets here. The Amsterdam Salon seeks to involve internationals with Amsterdam culture. It works together with the best cultural institutions in the Amsterdam region to organize special events for the international community. Date: Thursday 2 February 2017 Time: 19:30 - 23:30 Location: Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam. Drinks & snacks: 22:30 - 23:30 at the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam. Tickets: €35 - tickets also include drinks and snacks. Buy your tickets here.   More >


100 Years of De Stijl: Mondriaan to Dutch Design

100 Years of De Stijl: Mondriaan to Dutch Design

In 2017, the Netherlands is celebrating the De Stijl, the pared-down artistic movement based around straight lines and primary colours. De Stijl artists turned their hands to painting and sculpture, architecture, industrial design, typography and even to literature and music. By Deborah Nicholls-Lee In a tree-lined residential street in the outskirts of Utrecht, a row of ordinary terraced houses is abruptly interrupted by an architectural anomaly. The Rietveld Schröder House, with its bold rectangular planes of black, white and primary colours, is a striking monument to the utopian Dutch movement De Stijl, founded by Piet Mondriaan and Theo van Doesburg in 1917. It is one of a collection of sites, exhibitions and events which make up a nationwide celebration of the genre’s centenary: 100 Years of De Stijl – Mondrian to Dutch Design. What is De Stijl? Also known as neoplasticism, the proponents of the De Stijl movement - mainly artists and architects - advocated pure abstraction by reducing their work to vertical and horizontal lines, using only black, white and primary colours. De Stijl is visible in a range of media, including product design, fine art and architecture. It lasted around 14 years and affirmed the Netherlands’ important place in European modernism. Museums are taking part in the centenary celebrations throughout the Netherlands, from Leeuwarden to Bergeijk, home to Gerrit Rietveld's De Ploeg fabric and carpet factory. Utrecht (the birthplace of Rietveld, Bart van der Leck and Van Doesburg,) and Amersfoort (the birthplace of Mondriaan) are the main centres of activity and have a separate website devoted to them. Here is a round-up of some of the highlights across the country. Amersfoort, March 7  –  December 31, 2017 Reopening in March, the renovated Mondriaanhuis offers a curated journey through Mondrian’s life, influences, and best-loved works. For the full Mondrian experience, sign up for In the Footsteps of Mondrian, an all-day walking tour of Amersfoort, comprising a visit to the museum, a two-course lunch, an optional boat tour (from April), and even a slice of Mondriaan cake. Amsterdam, to May 21, 2017 Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum is devoting six galleries to an exhibition on De Stijl and its relationship with other important works in the museum.  The exhibition includes compositions by Mondriaan and Van Doesburg, and a rare example of an authentic Rietveld interior. There is a family trail with a bilingual workbook for children. Drachten, January 29 2017 –  January 14 2018 Museum D8888 is curating a series of four exhibitions on different aspects of De Stijl including its typography, expressionism, and constructivism. Once you’ve visited the museum, take a short stroll to the Torenstraat and visit the recently-renovated Van Doesburg-Rinsema House whose architecture and interior define the period. (Interior opens June 1 2017). The Hague,  to December 2017 The Gemeente Museum, home to the largest Mondriaan collection in the world, is hosting a year-long exhibition on Mondriaan, as well as a series of special exhibitions. They kick off on February 11 with a pictorial history of the relationship between Mondriaan and Bart van der Leck. Helmond, March 21 2017 - September 3 2017 The Museum Helmond’s  exhibition Working for a Better World, focuses on De Stijl as an art form for the working people during the hardship of the inter-war period. It features works by Alma, Van der Leck, Loeber, Van Hell and others. Leiden, to October 31 Leiden is the birthplace of Van Doesburg’s magazine De Stijl, which launched the movement, and is organising a huge range of activities to mark the centenary. Festivities begin with music from the period performed by violinist Maria Milstein in a three-day concert from January 27-29 at the Leidse Schouwburg Stadtsgehoorzaal.   Utrecht, March 4 2017 – June 11 2017 The Centraal Museum  houses the largest Rietveld collection in the world, including his iconic Red Blue Chair and Zig Zag Chair. Rietveld’s Masterpiece; Long Live De Stijl showcases several early Rietveld pieces alongside works by fellow De Stijl luminaries Van der Leck, van Doesburg and van Leusden. For a more energetic De Stijl experience, jump on your bike and join a group tour discovering Rietveld’s architectural jewels hidden throughout the city. De Stijl in Utrecht: Rietveld’s Architecture is led by VVV city guides and includes, among other famous De Stijl landmarks, the celebrated Rietveld Schröderhuis,  a listed UNESCO heritage site. Wintersdijk, to December 31, 2017 The Villa Mondriaan, Mondrian’s childhood home, houses a permanent collection of early Mondriaan and a history of his family life in Wintersdijk. On March 3, the Figuration in Style exhibition opens, focusing on the Hungarian painter Vilmos Huszár, who emigrated to the Netherlands in his youth and became a key player in the De Stijl movement. More information about Mondrian to Dutch Design can be found on the special website.  More >


Erasmus scientist plays crucial role in genetics breakthrough

Erasmus scientist plays crucial role in genetics breakthrough

A major development in the world of genetics has boosted hopes of better treatment for hereditary illnesses. By Moira Holden Researchers from a Dutch university have discovered vital components of genes which could lead to significant progress in the fight to eradicate genetic conditions. Scientists have attempted to crack these codes for the past 170 years, but now the breakthrough has been achieved. Tobias Knoch, head of biophysical genomics at Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, led the study into the structure of genomes, alongside German counterpart Malte Wachsmuth, from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg. The 20-year-long research has now yielded results which fill in the missing parts of the genetic jigsaw. Advances ‘This is a big step forward,’ says Knoch. ‘With our discovery we can now decode every level on which genetic information is stored, and, if differences occur, to see what this might mean in the possibility of it leading to a disease. We can now finally understand the organisation and function of genomes much more completely in healthy organisms and how genetic diseases develop.’ The study into the organisation of genes in 3D space developed new biomechanical methods and microscopes, but also set up a world-wide computing grid to meet the demands of the research. Genome Knoch’s work helped to pin down the missing three blocks out of the eight levels in the eukaryotic genome – scientists had previously revealed five of these eight levels in detail, but the most important three central blocks in the genetic architecture had remained elusive. The new study discovered the role of the chromatin quasi-fibre which folds into small loops to form stable rosettes – this plays a crucial role in genome maintenance and control. ‘Now that we have all structural levels, we can understand genome function completely which was impossible before,’ said Knoch. ‘In principle, we have described the structure of what many people consider to be the missing link in genome research.’ What is a genome? It’s a collection of genes which acts as instructions of the big human machine where all of the information for the building and working of the machine is stored. Knoch compares knowledge of the structure of the genome to the workings of a collection of books with chapters, paragraphs, sentences, words and letters. ‘You would be able to read letters and words, but you are not able to read sentences and paragraphs and would only know that there were different chapters,’ he says. Diseases The discovery of the working of the three missing parts now heralds an opportunity to further the medical advance into hereditary conditions. ‘This is not only a very important first step towards final structural genome sequencing, but also for disease diagnostics, treatment, and especially for all genome engineering efforts currently discussed publicly,’ said Knoch. A genetic disease is any disease caused by an abnormality of a person’s genome in one or more parts genetic make-up. Some genetic conditions are inherited from parents, but other genetic diseases are the result of spontaneous changes and can happen randomly or can be caused by environmental factors. Most genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anaemia and Huntington’s disease are caused by a single faulty gene. But multifactorial inheritance conditions, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, diabetes, cancer and obesity, are caused by a combination of environmental factors in multiple genes. Future Possible treatment for genetic conditions is now a step nearer. The new coding levels mean medical professionals can start looking at all levels to find out where the origin of a disease lies and if treatment can be given. Prader-Willi syndrome is one disease which could benefit. Babies with the condition have weak muscle tone, feeding difficulties, poor growth and development, and as they grow they tend to over-eat and can have learning disabilities. Knoch says: ‘Where Prader-Willi is concerned, we have patients where the mutation is on the DNA level, and other patients where the error is on the second level while the first DNA level is okay. We also have cases where we do not know where the error is. Now we can look at the other levels where we might find the missing cause.’ Britain recently passed a law to allow ‘three-parent IVF’ to stop mitochondrial diseases – serious genetic diseases - being passed on to babies. The DNA would come from three people in a pro-nuclear transfer, with the healthy mitochondria from the donor’s egg added to the embryo while the unhealthy mitochondria from the female parent would be removed. But the process has raised concerns about ethics. ‘The room for agricultural breeding and manipulation might be quite big and has huge opportunities, but currently, as in cases of three-parent babies we should be very careful and be prepared for the fact that the risk might be bigger than we think,’ warns Knoch. ‘We just have described all levels where genetic information is stored and now first have to understand how the system entirely works. It is very likely one solves one issue and right away creates the next, and perhaps even bigger, problem.’  More >


Welcoming internationals to The Hague – 10 years of FAHITH

Welcoming internationals to The Hague – 10 years of FAHITH

The Hague is the place to be during the first weekend of February, as the 10th edition of the Feel at Home in The Hague fair takes place - with the best ever line-up of cultural, culinary and community offerings. On Sunday 5 February 2017, The Feel at Home in The Hague Fair will be celebrating its 10th edition.  The fair will be officially opened by the Mayor of The Hague, Jozias van Aartsen, who will address a special welcome to the international community which plays an important role in the animation and identity of the region. More than 4,000 visitors attended the event in the Hague City Hall in 2016 and appreciated the unique ambiance created by the combination of 150 diverse exhibitors with a dynamic programme of activities and entertainment, workshops and seminars.   A meeting point for the whole community  No other expat event in the Netherlands engenders quite the same sense of community as the Hague Feel at Home Fair, where nearly a half of the stands are local sports and social clubs or volunteer organisations. These groups exhibit free of charge and relish the opportunity to network, advertise their activities and recruit new members. And it is free to visit too. Showcase for small businesses  Alongside these community groups are dozens of small business stands, many of them run by internationals who themselves moved to The Netherlands as an expat, but have since made The Hague their home. These multicultural entrepreneurs have a special insight into the products and services that internationals abroad are looking for (and perhaps missing from home). They take great pleasure in organising activities, tastings and performances which help them to connect with fellow internationals.  An engaging seminar programme The fair offers a diverse seminar programme, designed to answer real questions posed through our visitor survey. This year, education will be the central theme, with speakers from a range of local and international schools and universities, covering educational choices from pre-school to further education, adult and vocational training. Visitors will have the chance to question a specially selected panel of education experts and also to meet them informally in our Education Zone.   There will also be a complementary series of talks and workshops on all aspects of life in The Netherlands, from buying a house to learning about Dutch culture. Entertainment and food  The day is made richer through a lively entertainment programme provided by our international schools, amateur clubs and local professional cultural organisations. This year, with its special focus on culture, the fair has four different performance spaces – The Podium, Central Park, School Plein and STET’s Children’s Theatre.  Visitors and standholders will be entertained throughout the day by a wide variety of music, theatre and dance. The icing on the cake is an International Food Court representing culinary traditions from across our community. The combination of these elements  gives the Feel at Home in The Hague Fair a unique flavour, which explains why the event plays such a special role as a meeting point for the entire international community.  Not just for newcomers  As you might expect, around a fifth of our visitors last year were newcomers to The Netherlands, but perhaps more surprisingly, over a third had lived here more than 10 years! What these two groups had in common was a desire to learn more about things to do and events and activities happening in their region.    This year The Feel at Home Fair will be at the heart of an exciting offering of cultural events and performances, chosen specifically to Welcome Internationals to the Hague. These special events will take place in the 36 hours surrounding the fair showcase the great variety of entertainment the Hague has to offer to all sections of our diverse community.  STET The English Theatre will be presenting Jack and The Beanstalk in the Koninklijke Schouwburg on 3rd and 4th February and will perform a special free puppet show for children at the Fair on Sunday 5th .  It is the middle weekend of The Cadance Modern Dance Festival and the Fair will feature performances and workshops by Korzo. On Saturday night The Hague Philharmonic will stage a special contemporary performance called Beats and Beethoven in the Paard, The Hague's hip concert venue. They will also perform at the Fair.  On Sunday afternoon, visitors can attend a enchanting concert by the Koninglijke Concertorium in the beautiful Nieuwe Kerk, opposite City Hall. Furthermore, The Feel at Home in The Hague Fair will be taking its own entertainment programme out into the city, with music, dance and theatre performances from our school communities and amateur artists being repeated in De Bijenkorf department store, just metres away on The Hague’s main shopping street. Register for free tickets  Entrance for visitors is free if you register in advance on our website: www.feelathomeinthehague.com  You can also keep up to date with developments on the Fair on our Facebook page  Mark your calendar now: 5th February 2017: come meet with friends and share the pleasure of the great city of The Hague.   More >


What’s On: Rotterdam’s film festival welcomes you to Planet IFFR

What’s On: Rotterdam’s film festival welcomes you to Planet IFFR

The annual Rotterdam film festival has been regaling cinephiles with films from all over the world since 1972. It’ll be back in action this winter with another treasure trove of cinematic wonders. Brandon Hartley takes a look at the fest along with some of this year’s highlights. Whether you enjoy Oscar contenders, bizarre comedies from Japan or innovative short films, there’s something for every taste at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Now in its 46th edition, the festival is a bit different than its contemporaries and it remains one of the most ambitious galas of its kind in the world. While IFFR offers dozens of traditional film screenings for the public, it also features showcases for experimental movies and events for filmmakers that encourage them to chat with attendees rather than get blinded by flashbulbs while they stroll down a red carpet. There’s certainly less of the glitz and glamour that can be found at Cannes. IFFR is more about celebrating as many diverse films as possible instead of helping starlets earn themselves a spot in a People Magazine photo spread. The campaign for this year’s fest is ‘Welcome to Planet IFFR,’ which represents both its international focus and its efforts to remain accessible to cinema lovers from all walks of life. Planet IFFR ‘Everyone is welcome at Planet IFFR: from festival visitors to filmmakers, from day trippers and casual passers-by to film fanatics,’ says festival director Bero Beyer. ‘Everyone is free to roam the planet, wherever they please. Discover the caves, climb the peaks and dare peer down to the deep valley floors. And who knows, maybe new areas may be opened up in the years ahead, which at present are still completely unknown.’ The organisers have made strides in recent years to expand IFFR’s borders beyond the event itself. It now hosts a monthly film night at Rotterdam’s KINO theatre. The fest is also involved in efforts like the Propellor Film Tech Hub, a collaboration to develop new ways to produce and distribute movies in a world where seemingly more and more people would rather stay home than go to a movie theatre. ‘The industry needs a whole new dynamic, but for this to happen you need to get some initial movement,’ Beyer says. While theatre operators in other parts of the world might be fretting, the number of cinema visits in the Netherlands actually rose in 2016. However, only one in eight people who went to the movies last year saw a Dutch film. Should local filmmakers and film fest organisers start worrying, especially as they face increasing amounts of competition from services like Netflix? IFFR already has a few tricks up its sleeve. ‘We have our own video-on-demand service where IFFR films are available for rent or selling,’ IFFR spokesperson Cathelijne Beijn told DutchNews.nl. ‘Also we show series during our festival (episodes or even whole seasons).’ Despite these looming challenges, the fest continues to draw huge crowds and large numbers of films and filmmakers as well. ‘In 2016, the festival attracted 305,000 visitors and screened 477 films,’ Beijn said. ‘It also welcomed 299 directors and 1,914 film professionals from more than 50 countries.’ 2017 highlights The programme of events and screenings at the annual festival can be downright overwhelming, leaving many attendees with the feeling that they’ve caught IFFR’s omnipresent tiger mascot by the tail. Here’s just a few of this year’s highlights: Lemon This comedy-drama from the United States will serve as the opening night film on 25 January. It follows the trials and tribulations of a 40-something geek played by comedian Brett Gelman. The film, which also stars Arrested Development vets Judy Greer and Michael Cera, will have its official premiere a few days prior at the Sundance Film Festival. IFFR Live The third edition of this live ‘cinema experience’ will take place between 27 and 29 January. The events in Rotterdam will help premiere six new European films while they show in other cinemas as far away as Tel Aviv and Singapore, thus creating a series of the largest simultaneous film festival screenings anywhere on the planet. Afterwards, the audiences can participate in virtual Q&A sessions via social media with the filmmakers. Big Screen Competition Eight films will compete for this year’s VPRO Big Screen Award at the fest. They include Pop Aye, a film from Singapore about a disillusioned architect who goes on a trek through Thailand with an elephant and Marjorie Prime, an American science fiction film starring Jon Hamm, Geena Davis and Tim Robbins. Black Rebels Programme This slate of films will take a look at issues that impact black communities around the world. The programme will include movies being screened for the first time in the Netherlands as well as classic dramas, shorts, documentaries, experimental films and even science fiction releases. ‘In addition, there is a masterclass with Moonlight director Barry Jenkins,’ Beijn points out. ‘As well as various Q&As with directors and a vibrant talk show that will both focus on the cultural divide, as well as the extensive influence of black culture on the arts.’ Two From Jim Jarmusch Director Jim Jarmusch played a big part in the evolution of independent cinema in the United States back in the 1980s with films like Stranger Than Paradise. His two most recent releases will screen at IFFR this year. Paterson stars Adam Driver as a bus driver navigating everyday life in New Jersey. Gimme Danger, Jarmusch’s documentary about the seminal punk band The Stooges, will also appear. The 2017 IFFR runs from 25 January - 5 February. The festival’s programme and ticket information can be found on its website.   More >


Seven things you need to know about skating in the Netherlands

Seven things you need to know about skating in the Netherlands

A keen skater back home? Do not think the fact you can do a triple lutz or a double toe loop will be appreciated. The Dutch have been forced onto skates almost as soon as they can walk and they are into distance and speed, not kunstschaatsen. 1. Will it freeze? As soon as it starts to get cold - like now - the Netherlands is overtaken by ice fever. It starts with the television weather forecasters, but after a few days everyone is at it. How much did the ice grow last night ? Will it snow and spoil everything? After a few days of this, the question on everyone’s lip is ‘Will there be an Elfstedentocht (the 200 km 11 city ice marathon)?’. We've not gotten quite that far this year because everyone knows the thaw is about to set in. 2. Technique Without natural ice, skaters have to make do with artificial outdoor tracks which are usually open from October to mid-March and get very busy on sunny days. Rent skates and take lessons if you want to show off a perfect pootje over – the long low cross-over glide which distance skaters use to effortlessly take corners. Staggering around the ice clutching your mates or, even worse, a chair is strictly for the under fives. Schoonrijden, a slow-glide form of outdoor skating, sometimes in national costume, has been included on the Dutch national heritage list. 3. The first marathon on natural ice When the temperature drops, speculation starts about the prospect of the first marathon on natural ice. The Netherlands has some 200 ice clubs who go all out to create outdoor ice rinks - by spraying a concrete track with water - when a spell of frost is predicted. The competition to stage the first marathon -  some 125 circles of the track - is usually a race between the ice clubs in Noordlaren (Groningen),  Veenoord (Drenthe) and Haaksbergen (Overijssel). This year (2017) the honours went to Noordlaren. You can find out which natural ice rinks are open here. 4. It giet oan An essential Friesan phrase to show you are in the know about skating. It giet oan - literally 'it's on' - is the triumphant way of announcing that an Elfstedentocht will take place. However, seeing as that last happened 20 years ago, it now tends to be used whenever the ice is thick enough for some sort of race. 5. The lure of skating outdoors If you are in the Netherlands during a cold snap and the canals and lakes outside the city are frozen over, you are a lucky person indeed. There is nothing like gliding over smooth natural ice – skating over frozen canals and rivers, passing islands and through reed beds. The Dutch skating union keeps a careful watch on when and where it is safe to skate outdoors. You will need to bring your own skates – and make sure they have been sharpened to cope with all the hobbles and bobbles in the ice. You will, of course, blunt them when you scramble over bits (it's called klunen) where the ice is too awful or a bridge. Popular skating centres will have formal routes ranging usually from 10 km to 40 km which you can follow. 40km is a long way when a bone-chilling northeasterly wind is blowing. 6. Koek en zopie Koek (biscuits) and zopie (something to drink) are an essential part of outside skating. Today zopie is usually hot chocolate or pea soup but the word is thought to come from zuipie, or tipple, and used to refer to a generous slug of jenever, or Dutch gin. Necessary after spending a few hours in that northeasterly wind. 7. Yippee, extra holidays If someone is ijsvrij – literally ice free – it does not mean they have been defrosted, but that they have been given an extra day’s holiday to enjoy some skating. Traditionally school children and workers would be given a day off if the roads were too dangerous because of snow and ice or it was too cold to work. But since the end of the last century, some companies have been giving staff time off for skating as a gesture of generosity. Well, it is either that or have nobody turn up anyway.  More >


Nine Dutch national parks and one nature reserve

Nine Dutch national parks and one nature reserve

The Wadden Sea has just been voted the best nature reserve in the Netherlands. Yes, the country is small and one of the most densely populated places on earth, but it's got plenty of natural attractions. Here are some of the best places to get away from it all – just ignore the odd Highland cow or military training exercise. 1. Schiermonnikoog The island of Schiermonnikoog (‘Schier’ is Middle Dutch for ‘grey’ and refers to the colour of the habit of the Cistercian monks who cultivated the island in the 15th century, while ‘eye’ is another word for ‘island’)) is one of the six Dutch Wadden Islands and packs a lot of landscapes  – beach, dunes, woods, salt marsh, tidal flats  – into its 5,400 hectares. Only the locals are allowed cars on the island, so either rent a bike or walk, or take the bus from the ferry. Schiermonnikoog is home to over 300 kinds of bird, hundreds of different plant species, including nine types of orchid, and has a permanent population of 942 which quadruples in the summer months. The place to stay on the island is the Van der Werff hotel: faded grandeur but with log fires in winter and you might spot the odd royal or celeb. Be aware that ferries tend to get cancelled in high winds during the winter months because of the risk of getting stuck on the mud flats. 2. Hoge Veluwe The beauty of some of the Dutch national parks is that they offer something for everyone. Take the Hoge Veluwe national park in the province of Gelderland. It’s a haven for nature lovers but also caters for those on whom the excitement of the call of the rare lesser spotted whatsit is lost. The park’s 5,400 hectares also house the Kröller-Müller museum, named after the wealthy couple who originally came up with the idea of combining culture and nature in their grounds. The crisis of the Twenties put the whole project in doubt, but in 1935 a solution presented itself: the grounds were turned into a foundation and – thanks to a loan from the state – became a National Park. This means you have to pay to get in, although the the park’s 1,700 white bikes, or 50 white sledges when it snows, are free to use. The museum and its sculpture garden are a delight and so is the Jachthuis Sint Hubertus, the hunting lodge whose architect Hendrik Berlage became so exasperated at the Kröller-Müllers’ frequent interference with his design that he left in a huff. 3. Oosterschelde The Oosterschelde national park in the province of Zeeland measures 37,000 hectares, making the largest in the country. The Netherlands being the Netherlands (i.e. small and practical), nature and trade live side by side. The Oosterschelde sea arm is an important shipping route, with some 45,000 ships carrying cargoes, most of which are potentially disastrous for the thousands of birds which come to roost on its tidal flats. The Zeeland mussel farms produce lovely fat – but non-fattening – mussels when there is an ‘r’ in the month, which must be paired with equally fat and calorific Belgian frites. The Oosterschelde storm surge barrier was the last part of the Delta project to be finished and one of the most fascinating attractions of the park is the museum dedicated to the 1953 flood which prompted this ambitious undertaking. The Watersnoodmuseum in Ouwekerk is housed in four concrete Phoenix caissons, the type used to close the breached dikes. It has a wealth of photo and film material which show the devastating impact of the spring tide as it engulfed people, animals and farms on that catastrophic night of February 1. 4. The Texel Dunes Texel is known as Europe’s last battlefield. In February 1945 the Germans stationed 800 Georgian prisoners of war on the island who had agreed to fight for the Nazis rather than starve to death in the PoW camp. On April 6 they rebelled and killed 400 Germans before being outnumbered after weeks of fighting. 117 Texelaars were killed. The surviving Georgian soldiers were sent back to the Soviet Union. Far from being rehabilitated, they most likely ended up in prison. The graves of the fallen can be seen at the Georgian cemetery Loladze, named after Shalva Loladze, the leader of the Georgian battalion. 5. De Zoom-Kalmhoutse Heide The  Zoom-Kalmhoutse Heide straddles the border between the Netherlands and Flanders. Its website is positively lyrical, almost certainly due to the input of the more poetic Belgians: ‘When the weather turns dry and sunny the ripe pine cones explode and release their winged seeds. The black woodpecker’s ‘krukrukru’ echoes through the glades and the mating call of the buzzards reverberates among the trees. The woodlark marks his territory with his sweet-sounding ‘lululu’’… The park, now some 6,000 hectares in size, was divided in 1843 when the Netherlands and Belgium became separate countries. All its landscapes – bogs, heath, pinewoods – are man-made. The woods, mostly on the Dutch side, were planted in the 19th century to provide fuel for factories and supports for mineshafts. The border also runs through the grounds of the Ravenhof-Moretusbos estate. Castle Ravenhof, a baroque pile built in 1710, is in Belgium while its extensive park and woods are on the Dutch side. 6. Oostvaardersplassen Nature reserve Oostvaardersplassen in the province of Flevoland became the focus of a public discussion a few years ago when a wild boar was spotted hanging around. It was shot forthwith by the park authorities on the grounds that it wasn’t supposed to be there. The good news is that the park has become a breeding ground for sea eagles. Ospreys have also been spotted. Horses are allowed to shape the marshy landscape. They are left to ‘live naturally’ which means they are not fed in times of food shortages, another controversial aspect which highlights the challenges of wildlife management in the Netherlands. 7. Lauwersmeer National Park Lauwersmeer in the province of Groningen (6,000 hectares) is another result of the Dutch keeping a wary eye on the sea. In 1969, a dam was built separating the then Lauwers sea from the Wadden sea in order to reduce the threat of flooding. The local fishermen were less than pleased to have to swap Zoutkamp harbour for Lauwersoog and reportedly flew the flags at half-mast when queen Juliana came to inspect the new dam. The Lauwersmeer, now a freshwater lake, and the surrounding area became one of Western Europe’s most important bird sanctuaries. Recently the park has had some success encouraging sea eagles to nest there. The peace and tranquillity is broken every so often by military exercises in neighbouring Marnewaard. The park has a number of landscapes each with its own particular flora. One of the best parts is Miss Ali’s patch, a piece of land named after a biologist who researched the plants in the area. In May and June the southern marsh orchids abound there and if you’re lucky you may spot the rare musk orchid. 8. De Grote Peel National Park De Grote Peel, on the border of Brabant and Limburg, is one of the few national parks that has no main roads, pylons or other structures to spoil the view. The park is a continuous stretch of raised bogs, a type of landscape of which just 4,000 hectares remain. The bogs used to take up 300,000 hectares and the resulting peat was used for fuel for centuries. In the 19th century peat began to be used on an industrial scale and by the 1930s reserves were all but depleted. Peat cutting was a seasonal job and winter was a time of hardship for the workers. The endless boggy landscape gave rise to many stories. Will- o’-the-wisps (perhaps burning swamp gas), said to be the souls of dead children, would lure the unwary traveller into a labyrinth of paths to a certain death and it was said a Roman soldier drowned in the bog, his only legacy the gold and silver helmet found many centuries later by a peat cutter. It is thought the helmet was probably a 4th century votive offering. 9. Zuid-Kennermerduinen The national park Zuid-Kennemerduinen in the province of Noord-Holland is just a hop and a skip away from Amsterdam and busy city folk  find their way there to cycle, walk or swim their stress away. Its 3,800 hectares is made up mostly of dunes and beach. Dutch people will remember being blackmailed by their parents into a ‘nice walk’ on a Sunday with the promise of a glass of lemonade at the Parnassia restaurant, which now goes by the trendier moniker of PaZ (Parnassia aan Zee, in case you thought it might have moved to the Hoge Veluwe, see above). The Kennemerduinen were once the playground of rich traders whose grand houses are now part of the park. The grounds of the Duin and Kruidberg estate, for example, have been left to nature, with highland cattle to keep things in check while bats have taken over the ice house. The Beeckestein estate, on the other hand, preserves its fine formal gardens. 10. Washington Slagbaai The Washington Slagbaai national park will take slightly longer to get to for most residents of the Netherlands. The Caribbean island of Bonaire, along with St Eustatius and Saba, used to make up the Dutch Antilles, but became special municipalities within the kingdom in 2010. The islands are now known as the Caribbean Netherlands. The islands all have national parks but this one, established in 1969, is the oldest. The land was left to the government by the head of the powerful Herrera family who, afraid his heirs might sell it to developers, stipulated it should remain undeveloped so that locals could enjoy it. The park’s diverse landscapes include sand dunes, a beach, mangroves, saliñas and dry forest. Wind and a proliferation of semi-wild goats are threatening some of the island’s native plant species. Bonaire is home to another pesky phenomenon, at least to some of the islanders: an increasing number of wealthy BN’ers (Dutch celebrities).   More >


Seven Dutch ways to bring in the New Year

Seven Dutch ways to bring in the New Year

Out with the old and in with the new: Brandon Harley has some typically Dutch suggestions to celebrate the New Year Protect your fingers and letting others set off the fireworks Where can you watch fireworks on New Year's Eve? Well, there’s a good chance that one of your neighbours will spend a month’s salary on plenty of them so all you need to do is look out a window around midnight (or, in many areas, immediately after sunset, local regulations and nervous pets be damned). But there are plenty of professional displays that ring in the new year as well. Thousands of people line up along the Nieuwe Maas every year to watch the Erasmusbrug in Rotterdam burst into a cacophony of vibrant colours and lights displays. A bit wilder is the annual display orchestrated by Amsterdam businessman and rare book collector Joost Ritman on the bridge at the junction of the Bloemgracht and Prinsengracht. His display has become a beloved tradition in the city and you can read more about it here. The city’s main fireworks display, meanwhile, will take place at the Oosterdok near the Scheepvaartmuseum. But if you’ll be in The Hague, the banks of the Hofvijver will serve as an alternative party central with live DJs and a firework display at midnight. Dance until dawn Just about every club, pub, tavern, lounge, watering hole, brown bar and speakeasy in the country will be doing *something* for NYE. A quick head’s up though: many of them will close for private parties or will be filled to capacity long before it’s time for everyone to forgot the lyrics and mumble along to ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ Here’s Iamsterdam’s round up of many of the ones in the nation's capital. It features everything from an epic dance event at the Heineken Music Hall to a Great Gatsby-themed party at the KHL Koffiehuis. Attend a bonfire and blow up a milk churn Giant bonfires are an annual tradition on New Year's Eve all over Europe and the Netherlands is no exception. Just be prepared to duck. Many of these gatherings include setting Christmas trees ablaze and/or carbidschieten. This latter tradition involves tossing a bunch of carbide into an old-fashioned milk churn with water and waiting for the lid to blast off the top, creating an impressive fireball in the process. The largest bonfires can be found on the shores of Scheveningen and Duindorp. Every year the locals in these coastal communities construct wooden towers and set them on fire at midnight. Scheveningen’s blaze was so epic in 2015/2016 that it set a Guinness World Record. Here’s the rundown on their plans for this year but their neighbours to south in Duindorp may outdo them this time around. You can learn more about the ongoing rivalry by clicking here. Stay inside and stuff yourself full of oliebollen If you’d rather not celebrate the holidays with thousands of pyromaniacs determined to replicate the soundtrack of a World War 2 blitzkrieg, staying inside is always an option. That doesn’t mean that you can’t still celebrate with another cherished Dutch traditional: oliebollen (and even tastier variants like appelflappen). Stands that make and sell these delightful little balls of fried wonderfulness typically begin popping up on street corners around the country as early as mid-October. However, they receive a good chunk of their business on New Year's Eve. The lines in front of them can stretch for dozens of yards on December 31 so it’s best to go early and reheat them as midnight approaches (or make your own at home if freshness is a priority). Dutch news outlet AD conducts a contest every year to determine the best oliebollen stand in the country. They likely won’t reveal this year’s winner until the last few days of the month but Meesterbakker Voskamp in Spijkenisse nabbed the honour for 2015. Watch the Oudejaarsconference If you can understand Dutch, this televised tradition will return once more. It typically stars a comedian who pontificates and pops out punchlines about various events that took place over the course of the prior year. This year's edition will feature a female celebrity for the first time ever. DJ, singer and comedian extraordinaire Claudia de Breij will offer her thoughts on 2016 during a telecast performance at Rotterdam’s Oude Luxor Theatre beginning at 22:00 on NPO 1. Listen to NPO’s Top 2,000 countdown A bus began making the rounds in late November to collect votes for this annual countdown of the top 2,000 songs of all time (as determined by whoever was willing to stand in the cold and cast their vote on an iPad but people could also offer their opinions online). It’s considered a big deal and roughly half the country tunes in for at least some portion of the broadcast, which begins at 9am on Christmas Day on Radio 2 and continues through midnight on NYE. A long-running joke is that Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ always snags the # 1 slot but the Eagles ‘Hotel California’ nabbed it in 2014 and John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ won last year Throw yourself into the sea Do you enjoy exceptionally cold water? Do you like jumping into it alongside thousands of people who are fighting wicked hangovers? Then smoked sausage kingpin Unox’s biggest annual New Year's Day Swim might be right up your alley. Head to Scheveningen, plop an orange stocking cap on your noggin (free with every paid admission along with a souvenir pennant and a bowl of ‘special edition’ soup) and get ready to plunge into the North Sea. Or just pose for a quick selfie near the waterline and call it good. The Scheveningen event often sells out though. If you’d like to take a dip in quieter waters, check out the overview of dozens of other New Year’s dives located at beaches and lakes around the country.  More >


Make the most of the Dutch countryside – a few winter walks

Make the most of the Dutch countryside – a few winter walks

The Dutch are keen on walking and the countryside is riddled with signposted walks to encourage you to get out and about. Here's a few suggestions to help you walk off the effect of all that festive food. De Rijp - 7 to 22 km The pretty village of De Rijp in Noord Holland is famous as a place to go boating, but it also offers several walks past tiny villages and, outside the breeding season, across fields into the big wide open. Pick up a map at the VVV in the heart of the village. De Rijp has plenty of choice for lunch at the end or start of your walk. Website Zwanenwater - 4.5 km In Noord-Holland province close to the Callantsoog seaside village, Zwanenwater is a small nature reserve. The walk takes you through birch woods and over dunes around the edge of the lake, with a stop-off at a bird hide. In the spring, the grass is full of purple orchids. Website De Zilk - 9.4 km There are lots of signposted walks in the dunes west of Amsterdam but this is our favourite. It's not as busy as the others but that may be due to the lack of a cafe. The walk (follow the blue route) takes you through woods, past the gliding club and across high dunes with great views (a perfect spot for a picnic). Excellent for spotting deer. Website Oostvaardersplassen - 1-7 km This nature reserve on the 'new' province of Flevoland is the home of a pair of breeding sea eagles - so if its bird life you are after, this is the place to be. You'll also spot deer and wild ponies. Website Lage Vuursche - 2-4 km There are lots of walks to suit all tastes through the heaths and woodlands near Hilversum that make up Lage Vuursche. Set your route planner for Drakenstein where most of them start. Dogs welcome on many walks. Website Round Marken - 6 km Marken was once an island but is now connected to the mainland by a road over a dyke. Park as soon as you cross the water and hit the dyke path heading east. You'll pass typical houses with great wooden constructions in the water which keep the ice at bay during big freezes and a light house with an inviting little beach in summer. Lots of bird life for bird watchers. The route conveniently hits the village itself about 3/4 round, so its a good point to stop of for a break. Best avoided in strong winds. Website St Pietersberg, Maastricht - 10 km If you visit the marl mines on the outskirts of Maastricht, build in time to take in a walk across the Netherlands' highest hills. The 10 km (red) route takes in spectacular views over the quarry, winds through woods and past old mine entrances, and dips into Belgium. It ends with a bit of a boring walk back to Maastricht up the river. Website Oisterwijk - 9.4 km This is a charming walk through woods and past little lakes left by peat extraction between Den Bosch and Tilburg. Pick up the route (follow the blue arrows) at the Oisterwijkse Bossen en Vennen nature centre. The cafe is a good option for lunch but can be somewhat overwhelmingly full of children if you are after a quieter time. There is another stop off cafe around half way. Website Oppad, near Hilversum - 9.3 km The Oppad is an old path followed for hundreds of years by churchgoers across the fields and past the peat workings between Kortenhoef and ‘s-Graveland. Pick up the path next to the church and you will find yourself striding out into the fields. Just keep going in a straight line. Rich in wildlife, you might even be lucky enough to spot a kingfisher. Website Lange Afstands Wandelpaden (100 km +) If you are very keen walkers, the Netherlands also has its share of long-distance footpaths or LAWs. Like the grand randonnee in France, they use red and white stripes on signs to indicate which way to go so you may well come across them while out on the shorter strolls listed above. The Netherlands has 35 LAWS, which have to be over 100 km to qualify. Website  More >


Last-minute tips for comparing your health insurance

You've just a few days left to decide whether or not to change health insurance provider or policy next year. It can be tough to find the time to organize your health insurance for 2017, especially during the busy holiday season. Yet, it is very important to check whether your current policy still suits your needs and provides value for money before the end of the year. Switching to another health insurance provider may easily save up you to €300. The following checklist provides some final tips for changing your health plan: Use a comparison website You can easily compare health insurance plans (in Dutch: zorgverzekeringen vergelijken) using a comparison website. These sites give you an overview of the cheapest and most suitable insurance plans that are tailored to your health needs. ZorgWijzer.nl is one of the few sites that offers this service in English. Prevent redundant health cover Most Dutch citizens are over-insured, meaning they have bought an expensive supplementary insurance plan which they barely or never use. Hence, it is wise to check whether you actually use the coverages that are included in your supplemental insurance plan. This includes: Dental care Alternative medicine Physiotherapy for non-chronic diseases The real question you have to ask yourself is whether it is more profitable to buy supplementaryl insurance or pay for extra health care yourself. Raise your excess for a premium discount The compulsory excess for the Dutch health insurance is €385 in 2017. Raising this excess to a maximum of €885 will give a you discount on your premium that goes up to over €20 per month, depending on the insurance company. Raising the excess may be interesting for people who: Don’t expect to make a lot of healthcare costs (and thus pay no or little compulsory excess) Have a buffer that allows them to pay a large medical bill when necessary. Check ZorgWijzer.nl to see how much you can save by raising your mandatory excess. Don’t wait too long! You have until December 31 to change to a cheaper (or better) health insurance for next year. When you change before the first of January your old policy will be automatically cancelled by the new insurance provider. If you are thinking about switching your health insurance, you may want to check ZorgWijzer.nl. When you switch, your new cover and policy conditions take effect starting on the first of January 2017.  More >


How to celebrate Christmas in the Netherlands

Like most other places where they celebrate Christmas, the Netherlands does tend to grind to a halt until the New Year. But what else should you be aware of about the festive season in the Low Countries? Here's the traditional DutchNews.nl list of 10 key things you need to know about Christmas in the Netherlands. Christmas trees Tradition has it that Christmas trees don't make an appearance in the Netherlands until after Sinterklaas, so as soon as the Sint has left, the tree sellers move in. The Dutch love their trees - in fact they love Christmas decorations in general. The top floor of the Bijenkorf department stores are always worth checking out for the latest in tree fashions, with matching ribbons, table placements and mood candles. Christmas lights Christmas lights in the Netherlands tend to be in terribly good taste - lots of illuminated canal bridges and trees in gardens - but if you want tacky Santas, you can find them if you know where to look. Den Ilp, a little village north of Amsterdam, is famous for its over-the-top displays. Kerstpakket One of the joys of being employed by a Dutch company is the annual kerstpakket (Christmas hamper) distributed to staff in the days before the Christmas festivities. Around four million people will get one this year, most of them worth around €40 - companies have to be careful otherwise you'll end up paying tax on your hamper. Kerstpakketten used to be notorious for their tins of chicken ragout. Luckily, themes such as tea-tasting are on the increase, as are gift vouchers. Nachtmis The only time lots of people go to church. The midnight mass is usually a jolly affair of Christmas carols and lots of twinkling lights in a heated church (if you’re lucky) followed by a Christmas breakfast with lots of kerststol. The Stadsschouwburg theatre in Amsterdam has an alternative for people who want the experience without the religion. No presents It used to be that the Dutch did not do presents at Christmas - which can be very embarrassing when you present your in-laws with a beautifully packed gift from under the tree. Nowadays, the great god of commercialisation is doing his best to make sure Christmas presents are catching on. If in doubt, ask. That good old Dutch bluntness has its advantages. Kerstman The Dutch name for Father Christmas or Santa Claus. Definitely still a very poor relative to Sinterklaas and not really welcome. Food The Dutch don’t have a particular Christmas staple. The main meal can be anything from venison to mussels or rabbit stew but rollade - rolled up pork with herbs - is also very popular. The only real designated Christmas foods are kerstkransjes, the little biscuits tied to Christmas trees with ribbons, and kerststol, a delicious current bread with a little island of ground almond paste in the middle of each slice - unless you get the end bit. Television It’s traditionally crap. There’s no other way of putting it. Boring Christmas circus shows and boring films you've seen 100 times before. However, the advent of all those alternative streaming services means everyone can sit around in a stupor watching whatever they like. The King's Christmas message King Willem-Alexander's address to the nation, recorded weeks before. Tweede Kerstdag Second Christmas day is the day you get to eat the meal all over again with your other family - if you have a partner that is. Christmas tree bonfires Otherwise known as vandalism. Most people hold on to their trees until most of the needles have worked their way into the carpet, pets and the grooves of the laminate flooring. When the trees are thoroughly dried out they are put outside (leaving what is left of the needles neatly spread on the stairs of your building) where they make excellent fuel for Christmas tree bonfires. In Amsterdam Noord they make a particularly spectacular one.  More >


Water from heaven celebrated with Amsterdam beer launch

Water from heaven celebrated with Amsterdam beer launch

It rains a lot in the Netherlands, as anyone living here cannot have failed to notice. So why not do something useful with it? Molly Quell looks at a new beer brewed using rainwater. A flood in Copenhagen in 2011 resulted in much damage to the city. But it also began the development of Amsterdam’s first beer made from rainwater. The widespread water problems in the Danish capital set off alarm bells among Amsterdam officials. The city's waterboard Waternet came up with an initiative - named Rainproof - to focus on boosting the city's capacity to absorb the surplus water, while putting the rain to good use . The success of one such project was celebrated last week at the Volkshotel in the Weesperzijde neighbourhood of Amsterdam where a crowd gathered to toast a new beer. The beer, called Code Blond as a nod to the Dutch weather service’s weather warnings, was the brainchild of Joris Hoebe, who owns the creative agency Spektor. Hoebe also serves as a coach at Amsterdam's hbo college which is where he met Pavel van Deutekom, a project manager at the college's start-up incubator MediaLAB. Home brew Hoebe had been given home-brewing kit by his mother the previous Christmas and had been dabbling in beer brewing. He realised the process used a lot of water and approached Van Deutekom with the idea to make the process more sustainable using rainwater. 'He [Hoebe] asked me if we could try to make beer with rainwater so I said sure,' says Pavel. He rigged up a system to collect 40 litres and they were off. Ultimately, it was brewed at De Prael. The Amsterdam-based brewery specifically hires people with physical and mental disabilities. When brewer Thomas Gesink was approached by the Hemelswater group, he was keen on the idea. 'We see the issue with rainwater as a social issue as well, so it fit into our mission statement,' Gesink says. Acidity The first batch of rainwater was collected from the Volkshotel in Amsterdam, where the launch event took place. The beer itself is the same recipe as De Prael’s Bitterblond, but uses the collected rainwater rather than tap water. The taste is similar but softer, Gesink says: 'We were concerned about the acid level, but ultimately, it was only slightly higher than the water we were using.' The rainwater is run through a special filtration system, also developed by the group, to ensure it is safe for drinking. The initially batch of the beer was 1,000 litres but it proved to be so popular, the brewery has continued to make it and it’s now available at a number of cafes in the city as well as in bottles. De Prael is looking to expand its brewery by opening a section location which Gesink wants to have operate completely with rainwater. And another MediaLAB project has found a different alcoholic use. They’ve created a bottled gin and tonic made with gin distilled from rainwater. Heaven’s water indeed.  More >