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


10 Great Things To Do In February

10 Great Things To Do In February

From the latest film from the Coen brothers and a major celebration of Karel Appel to all the latest designs and gadgets for your home, here's our pick of the best things to do in February. Celebrate a modern master Karel Appel (1921-2006) is perhaps the most renowned Dutch artist of the latter half of the twentieth century and this major retrospective marks the tenth anniversary of his death. The 67 paintings, 12 sculptures and more than 60 drawings in the exhibition demonstrate that Appel was more than just a member of the Cobra movement. The show also revisits his early interest in Outsider Art, his wide-ranging stylistic experiments, and his highly individual – sometimes almost abstract – interpretation of traditional genres like the nude, the portrait and the urban or rural landscape. The exhibition is part of a wider international reappraisal of Karel Appel’s work during this anniversary year which also includes exhibitions in Paris, London and Washington. Gemeentemuseum, The Hague until May 16. www.gemeentemuseum.nl Improve your home and garden The Huishoudbeurs is the Dutch version of the Ideal Home Exhibition in London. Here you will find everything you could possibly want to improve your home and garden. There are the latest designs and gadgets for every space, from the kitchen to the bathroom and the basement to the attic, including how to make an outdoor room of your garden. In addition, there are tips on fashion and beauty and ideas on how to fill your free time. RAI, Amsterdam, February 20 to 28. www.huishoudbeurs.nl Go mad in Oeteldonk Carnival, the feast that preceeds the famine that is the fast at Lent, is a big deal in the south of the Netherlands where processions and street parties are the order of the day, towns are given special carnival names - Oeteldonk is Den Bosch - and ridiculous costumes are the order of the day. Check out our feature on February 1 for ten things you need to know about carnival. The northern provinces of the country have for years been immune to the charms of carnival but this year the usual half-hearted attempt to enthuse the northerners is given a boost by a number of Brabanders who live in Amsterdam. The capital now has its own carnival name, Gròòtgragtegat. All that's now missing are the processions. Nationwide but mainly in the south, February 7 to 9. Welcome the latest Coen brothers film Yes, that is George Clooney, once again forgetting any thoughts of dignity to appear in a film by the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan. Hail, Caesar! is the Coens' latest offering and it will open the 66th Berlin International Film Festival on February 11. The film follows one day in the life of a studio fixer (Josh Brolin), who is presented with a host of problems to fix, including the kidnap of one of the studio's stars (Clooney). Also in the cast of this tale set in the Golden Age of Hollywood are Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Channing Tatum. Cinemas nationwide, February 18 onwards. Cheer on top tennis players Top international players compete in the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament. Among those already scheduled to play are Roger Federer, Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev, and Dutch players Robin Haase and Thiemo de Bakker. The tournament also offers special entertainment on Ladies' Day, Kids' Day and Family Day. Ahoy, Rotterdam, February 8 to 14. www.abnamrowtt.nl Listen to gorgeous music The Netherlands Bach Society performs several versions of the Sabat Mater, the hymn to Mary, mother of Jesus, including that by Domenico Scarlatti for ten voices and the famous Miserere by Allegri. The conductor is Jos van Veldhoven. Concertzaal, Tilburg, February 18; Nieuwe Kerk, The Hague, February 19; Grote Kerk, Naarden, February 21 (matinee). www.bachvereniging.nl Treat yourself to an eclair A stroll along the IJ passage at Amsterdam Centraal Station reveals that eclairs are not necessarily just choux pastry filled with cream and topped off with chocolate. The eclairs at the recently opened Le Clair come in tastes ranging from the sweet - such as mango and passion fruit and salted caramel and coffee - to the savoury - including smoked salmon and hot dog. Le Clair, Amsterdam CS, IJ passage Enjoy ultra modern dance Modern dance company Conny Janssen Danst performs two works in one programme. The first is I'm Here (2005) in which ten urban characters are in search of love, warmth and recognition. The photographs and film images which create the background are by Carel van Hees. The second piece is Álbum Familiar (2001), with three women and four men meeting at a portrait gallery. It is danced to new music performed live by Beppe Costa. Posthuistheater, Heerenveen, February 3; De Flint, Amersfoort, February 5; Chassé Theater, Breda, February 13; Schouwburg, Leiden, February 17; Stadsschouwburg, Groningen, February 18; Schouwburg, Amstelveen, February 19; Schouwburg, Rotterdam, February 26 and 27. www.connyjanssendanst.nl Watch Sherlock take on Hamlet Another chance to see Benedict Cumberbatch - BBC tv's Sherlock Holmes - take on the title role in Shakespeare's great tragedy. It was directed by Lyndsey Turner (Posh, Chimerica) for a 12-week run at the Barbican in London last October and streamed into cinemas around the world. This monumental production was the fastest-selling show in London theatre history and gained fine reviews for Cumberbatch's swaggering yet touching performance. Pathé Tuschinski cinema, Amsterdam, February 23. www.pathe.nl Hear how wars could be avoided Joris Voorhoeve, professor of International Organisations at Leiden University and lecturer in Peace, Justice and Security at the Hague University of Applied Sciences, begins a series of lectures in February in which he searches for the best possible answers and practical policies which should help to avoid war or end ongoing wars to prevent further bloodshed. Voorhoeve was Dutch defence minister during the Srebrenica affair of 1995. Lecture titles include: Recent Wars, Civil Wars and Peace Operations (February 25); The Various Causes of Armed Conflicts; their Victims and Damage (March 10); The Possibilities to Intervene and the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (March 24); The Foreseeable Conflict Trends in the 21st Century (April 7); and Building Structures for Peaceful Settlement of Conflicts (April 21).  Maastricht University, Student Services Centre. www.sg.unimaas.nl  More >


Dutch start-up develops secure instant messaging for doctors

Dutch start-up develops secure instant messaging for doctors

A Dutch tech start-up is looking to hit it big with a doctors-only communications app which, it says, combines the benefits of Linkedin and Whatsapp in one secure instant messaging tool. MDLinking.com aims to connect millions of healthcare professionals worldwide so they can share information in a private and secure environment, without worrying whether it is being viewed by others or even used for commercial purposes. The idea for a secure communication platform for doctors came from Dutch vascular surgeon Hans Flu, who realised that existing tools had too many constraints and major security issues. Privacy ‘Doctors should be able to use communication platforms such as LinkedIn or Whatsapp in their professional lives, but unfortunately that is not really the case,’ says Flu. ‘These communication tools are not developed for doctors and as such do not offer the specific features that doctors need. The second problem is privacy. Existing communication tools are not secure with regards to patient privacy.’ According to recent research involving over 2,000 doctors and 4,000 nurses in London, almost all doctors and around half of nurses found their smartphone to be ‘very useful’ or ‘useful’ in helping them to perform their clinical duties. In practice, 90% of doctors and 67% of nurses who owned medical apps were using these as part of their clinical practice, the report in the British Medical Journal said. 'These results provide strong evidence that healthcare organisations need to develop policies to support the safe and secure use of digital technologies in the workplace and that strategies are needed to secure further innovations in digital health,' the researchers from Imperial College London concluded. Mission Flu has since quit the medical profession to focus purely on his idea. ‘I have made it my mission to connect healthcare professionals across the planet,’ he says. ‘Doctors learn from doctors. That is how it works. Our tool allows healthcare professionals who have never met to connect and share their knowledge in a totally secure environment.’ At the end of last year it emerged that a number of medical websites in the Netherlands, including some run by some hospitals and doctors, were passing on information about visitors’ online behaviour to commercial companies. 'This scandal shows the importance of privacy issues in healthcare information,’ says Flu. ‘Hospitals, medical societies and doctors should never get mixed up with deals which could compromise patient details for profit. The main goal should be providing evidence-based quality of care, and not damaging the confidence of the patients in the healthcare system.’ The MDLinking app is free for all healthcare professionals to use. The company itself, which is independent and has no exclusive ties to the pharmaceuticals or medical technology industries, is self sufficient for the time being and is looking at possible future revenue models, including paid-for special features, as well as recruitment and publishing. At the same time, the company has already won initial backing from several wealthy private individuals in the Netherlands and abroad. ‘Having been involved in the early days of Booking.com was fantastic, but being involved in the early days of MDLinking.com is much more rewarding,’ says Alec Behrens, one of the co-founders of Booking.com which grew from a tiny Dutch start-up to a global company valued at $60 billion. ‘I have no doubt that MDLinking will save thousands of lives.’ Challenges Flu has put together an advisory board made up of over 100 doctors across the globe and together they developed the concept. The beta version of MDLinking was rolled out last year and healthcare professionals from across Europe, Asia, Africa and the US have already starting using the tool in a test environment. ‘I think there is a great future for a platform like MDLinking,’ says professor Nageshwar Reddy from the Asian Institute of Gastroenterology in Hyderabad, India, who has supported the project from the beginning. Meanwhile, the Amsterdam-based team is continuing to invest time, money and energy in developing the technology and expanding the e-learning library. 'We know we are on the right track, but at the same time we realise we still have a long way to go,' says Flu. ‘Doctors all over the world know they need to connect and share their knowledge. And they need to do it in a secure environment. That is exactly what we are providing them with.'  More >


Taking the integration test: how do you deal with a noisy party next door?

Taking the integration test: how do you deal with a noisy party next door?

In the final part of his series on the formal Dutch integration process, Brandon Hartley visits an examination centre and looks at suggestions from people who have gone through the process on how it could be improved. Part 3: The Future Some who have gone through the inburgering process have welcomed the opportunity to become better acquainted with the Netherlands and to learn its language in a formal setting. For others, it has been an overpriced, ineffective and even humiliating experience. But whatever happens, the process is unlikely to be phased out or substantially reformed in the near future. The arrival of thousands of immigrants from Syria and Iraq has again focused attention on how the Netherlands absorbs its new arrivals. Meanwhile, xenophobic groups across Europe are ramping up efforts to ‘strike back’ with demonstrations. Here in the Netherlands, the government has been struggling to come up with solutions, while Geert Wilders, the controversial leader of the PVV who’s currently awaiting trial on charges of hate speech, continues to rise in popularity. Norms and values No Dutch party queries the need for integration courses and compulsory language lessons. Indeed, the government is pressing ahead with its plans to ask all new arrivals to sign a 'participation declaration', pledging to uphold Dutch norms and values and participate fully in society. ‘The Dutch government and parliament are already discovering that the sky is not the limit in how they can treat non-EU citizen immigrants,’ said Jeremy Bierbach, a lawyer currently working on a court case involving two long-time residents who are refusing to take the integration exam. ‘They are increasingly limited by EU law. In EU law, one of the core principles is called "proportionality". Integration requirements are perfectly OK to achieve certain goals, but they can't go beyond what is absolutely necessary.’ Given recent additions, like the ‘Orientation on the Dutch Labour Market’ section, there’s also the question of what could possibly be added to the already overstuffed exam programme. ‘[The programme] is already pretty damn strict, so I think it's about reached its limit,’ Bierbach said. ‘Besides, it's already clear that by making people answer multiple choice questions about what the proper way to behave is in certain social situations, you're not actually changing their mentality. You're just forcing them to learn to regurgitate what the authors of the test want to hear.’ Taking the test So what about the test itself? It’s a few days before Christmas and there are many unhappy faces inside the inburgering test centre in Rijswijk. A stern-faced clerk quickly rattles off a series of rules to a perplexed test-taker. He’s extraordinarily reluctant to repeat them or slow down. Meanwhile, a computerised coffee machine in the adjacent waiting room conveniently offers instructions in both English and Dutch. A cheerful Christmas tree in the corner can’t brighten the spirits of those waiting to take the ‘Knowledge of Dutch Society’ portion of the exam. Some test-takers are nervously tapping their feet or going over their notes one last time. A middle-aged man stares into space while listening to Dutch lessons on an mp3 player and quietly repeats various phrases under his breath. A jittery young man who has come to take the test with his girlfriend looks like he’s about to vomit. A moderator eventually ushers the test-takers into an examination room lined with kiosks, each one with a pair of headphones and a computer. Mirrored spheres posted on walls around the room obscure security cameras pointed in various directions. After signing a form and showing their identification, each test-taker is led to a kiosk. The computer screens feature a peculiar photo of four people sitting in front of a tulip field. Each one of them has their back turned. Quick fire questions After the moderator goes over the rules, the test begins. The test-takers are given 45 minutes to answer 42 questions. Before each section, they must watch a 30-60 second video scenario followed by further audio instructions. The automated test then quickly 'speaks' each question and all three potential answers. After watching the video and hearing the instructions, test-takers only have a few seconds to click on an answer. If they miss a detail and try to go back, the test’s  interface will start playing multiple bits of audio at once. There are some who can’t keep up with the frantic and unforgiving pace. Then there’s the questions themselves, many of which are entirely subjective and have multiple answers all of which are arguably correct. Party In one scenario, a garbage man gets a mysterious headache during his work day. The test asks if he should go to an emergency room, his doctor or make do with some paracetamol instead. In another, a frustrated apartment dweller frets over how she should deal with a loud party next door. The potential answers: ‘call the police’, ‘ask when the party will be over’ or ‘tell the neighbours to turn their music down’. The test also still contains the oft-discussed ‘what do you do if you see two men kissing?’ question. The potential answers for this one: ‘call the police’, ‘ignore them’ or ‘tell them to go home’. Almost all of the videos feature Middle Eastern or African actors. It’s hard to leave the examination room without feeling like the ‘Knowledge of Dutch Society’ portion of inburgeren is primarily geared towards these particular subsets of the Netherlands’ immigrant population. 'The exams are so racist - I was truly shocked,' says American national Anne.  'Every person who does something crazy is a non-white person with a non-Dutch name - Mohammed beating his son, Abdhi getting very angry at the doctor (to the point of yelling), Aarifah not taking her medication, or, worst of all, a non-white Muslim-looking man saying the Holocaust wasn’t really that terrible. 'Every person who needs to be taught a lesson or have something “explained” to them was a non-white person. Every person in a position of power (like the boss or the doctor) was white.' Moving forward So how can the integration programme be made more relevant to more of the immigrants who are required to go through it? ‘I don’t know what the answer is. Perhaps split it off into two separate groups somehow?' says American national Pamela, who passed the test in 2014 and is now a Dutch citizen. 'Perhaps everyone has to take an entrance exam to gauge how much they know of the language and culture, with additional points if they have a job already. Or let people that actually have jobs and meaningfully contribute to society have a pass until they no longer have a job contract or apply for welfare benefits (bijstand). 'And, of course, if they want to keep the current system, they need to make it more human. Instead of "rules are rules’’ on not being able to pass the speaking test via the computer, give people a reasonably priced option to have a human evaluator. The "one size fits all" approach pisses people off and makes them hate the process.’ People who claim welfare benefits must now learn Dutch, if they don't already speak it, to a reasonable level. Optional ‘First of all, the exams need to not be overly difficult and only cover the Dutch language,' says Philip, who has lived in the Netherlands for 25 years and refuses to take the test.  'In most cases they should be optional but, for example, could be mandatory for naturalisation, some university programmes and some forms of employment. 'The costs for exams, classes and study materials need to be significantly reduced or offered for free. People learning Dutch often have very different backgrounds, ranging from not being able to read or write in any language to being university educated. Classes need to be made available that are suitable for the people taking them. 'Learning Dutch needs to be thought of as a lifelong learning process for most people, and integrated into an entire programme of lifelong learning and community development that includes Dutch people too.’ Worthwhile ‘I strongly believe that inburgering is a worthwhile programme,' says Rita, who moved to the Netherlands from Jamaica in 2013. 'I don't think it is too much to ask that immigrants learn the language and about the culture of their new country. I would not change a thing about it as I consider the requirement quite fair. Learning the language and as much as possible about the culture is the best way to be able to get along in any country. I think it is also only polite.’ Cultural focus ‘I think it should be completely overhauled,' says Roger, who passed the test in 2013.  'If you want to live here in Holland, the language plays a big part, but are you going to learn the language in a once or twice a week class for six months or a year? 'I don’t think you’re going to learn Dutch in a couple of hours a week in a class. I work and was working full-time back then and you’re expected to do a lot of homework. That’s fair enough but your job is going to come first. 'I would overhaul the programme in terms of what living here means, still with a strong emphasis on language lessons, but with the expectation that people aren’t going to learn a language in a short period of time. I would focus more on the cultural part.’ Relevancy ‘I think it's a good idea which is executed terribly poorly,' says lawyer Jeremy Bierbach 'In particular, expats, by which people generally seem to mean English-speaking migrants from rich countries, could do with more integration in Dutch society for their own happiness. 'Yes, you can live here for 20 years speaking only English, but then your interaction with Dutch people becomes limited to just superficial transactions. I think it would be nice if the government funded a form of education that inspired people to really learn Dutch rather than just go through the motions.’ The names of the foreign nationals in this article have been changed. If you have been through the integration process, we would welcome your comments. Read the previous entries in this series here: Part 1: How to be a good citizen Part 2: Going Dutch  More >


How to feel at home in The Hague: the city hall fair is back

How to feel at home in The Hague: the city hall fair is back

Ten years ago, Englishman Billy Allwood launched the first edition of the Feel at Home in The Hague fair – an event where the city’s businesses and expat organisations could profile themselves to the international community. Now, after a break of nearly two years, the fair is back home in the huge glass atrium of The Hague’s city hall. ‘Even in the internet age, there is still a need for the international community to physically meet and connect,’ says Allwood. ‘The fair is the place where the city’s international community shares knowledge and the secrets behind making the most of their time here, whether it be a few months or many years.’ Petroleum Wives An outsider would probably be amazed to discover just how many clubs and societies the international community operates - from the St Andrews Society to volunteer organisation Access and the grandly named Petroleum Wives Club. In total, 60 sports, social and community groups will have a presence at this year's fair, which takes place on Sunday 31 January. They will be joined by small businesses and expat service providers - taking the total number of exhibitors to 140. New this year is the Innovation Quarter with ideas and inspiration for young entrepreneurs. There is also a seminar programme providing useful information about living and working in the Netherlands, including presentations on buying a house. Sumo wrestling Outside city hall there will be activities organised by the Uithof, including a snow park, trampolines, a bungee run and sumo wrestling. Centre stage will be a fun five-a-side human table football tournament in which companies are invited to enter teams. ‘A lot has changed since the first fair way back in 2006,’ says Allwood. ‘Social media was in its infancy and most sports, social and community groups had no internet access.’ ‘In those days, people were just happy to come and gather information and go home with a stack of leaflets. Today, the fair is more about having a fun day out, and celebrating why we feel so at home in The Hague.’ Entry to the event is free if you pre-register and you can sign up for tickets online.  More >


Going Dutch: The past, present and future of inburgeren, part 2

Going Dutch: The past, present and future of inburgeren, part 2

The second in Brandon Hartley's three-part series on inburgering deals with the experiences of several people who have recently gone through the process and finds out that formal integration courses are not compulsory at all. Part 2: The Present Philip has a predicament. He and his wife Beverly are both from America and they’re currently facing the possibility of being fined if they don’t take the inburgering exams even though they’ve been living in Amsterdam since 1990. Philip received his first letter from the city in 2011 and he was shocked. A letter for his wife arrived shortly thereafter. Their situation isn’t unusual and others like them have also been contacted. Following an outcry fueled by a 2010 article in the Parool newspaper about how several high-profile residents were facing the exams, Amsterdam officials vowed to turn their attention to ‘new arrivals’ instead of long-timers. But Philip and Beverly’s problem suggests otherwise. After paying a €100 fee and then being threatened with a second €200 fine if he didn’t comply, Philip finally opted to challenge the requirement in July 2015. ‘The [council's] response was very politely written,’ Philip said. ‘It basically said they have followed the procedures they are required to by law and they don't know about anything else in my letter. I still had to pay the fine.’ It’s now 2016. Both Philip and Beverly have no plans to go through inburgering, despite the possibility of additional financial penalties.  ‘After living here for 25 years I've become used to these sorts of things, which come and go,’ Philip said. ‘I think it's more their problem than mine, makes the government look dumb and weak and will just go away eventually. I am certainly considering possibilities for a court challenge, but mostly I plan to ignore it.’ Legal challenges The courts are already involved. Last spring the European Court of Justice looked at two cases, brought by an American and a New Zealand national, who asked for an exemption on the grounds they have long-term residency permits. ‘Through having that status, which was granted on the basis of EU law, they came under the protection of EU law and its provisions about how long-term resident non-EU citizens have to be treated,’ their lawyer Jeremy Bierbach said. ‘This is why the Court of Justice of the European Union had something to say about it.’ In a ruling delivered last June, the court opted not to create the exemption but ordered Dutch officials to reconsider the costs of fines for long-term resident permit holders who neglect to take the exam. At the time of this writing, this has yet to happen. Confusion Who exactly is required to go through inburgering, as well as standards for exemptions and how they’re evaluated, remains a tangled web of confusion and misinformation. Roughly speaking, anyone planning to move to the Netherlands for a long period of time, unless they are from Europe or Turkey, have to get some sort of certificate. However, what they have to do and where they have to take the tests varies greatly. Periodic updates to the exam’s requirements has only further muddied the waters. Among the latest changes is the addition of an entirely new version of the test for immigrants from certain countries called the Basic Civic Integration Examination that must be completed prior to their arrival in the Netherlands. Knowledge of society Meanwhile, as of January 1 2015, more traditional recent transplants who opt for the Dutch as a Second Language state exam must also pass the highly controversial ‘Knowledge of Dutch Society’ section and a new sixth section. Dubbed ‘Orientation on the Dutch Labour Market’, it requires test takers to complete a series of assignments and mail them to moderators at Duo, the government agency that oversees the programme. According to the official government website for inburgering, if the moderators determine that these assignments have been ‘done properly’, they’ll be invited for a 40-minute ‘conversation’ at a test centre. If everything goes well during this chat, test takers will have successfully completed this portion of the process. American Ivy League school graduate Anne told DutchNews.nl: 'This required me to fill out job applications at Albert Heijn and Hema (to prove I know how to fill out an application), even though the work I do is at a highly-skilled level.' Formal classes Currently, over 100 educational centres in the Netherlands offer preparatory classes for inburgering. Since January 2013, the government has stopped paying for the courses and offered loans to potential students instead. Making matters worse, many people automatically assume that they *must* take the classes. ‘The legal requirement is simply to take and pass the centrally administered exam. How you prepare for it is up to you,’ Bierbach said. ‘People think they have to take the specific courses that are offered to them and then they start taking these horribly condescending classes. As one client of mine put it: "if you're a woman, they assume you'll be at home making babies; if you're a man, they assume you'll get a job as a cleaner".’ Depending on an individual’s language skills and educational background, preparing for the exams by taking classes can take anywhere from a few months to three or more years. The costs of tuition can range anywhere from €300 to upwards of €5,000 (while taking all six current portions of the exam runs to an additional €350). 'Since January 2013, new arrivals are responsible for their own integration,' says social affairs ministry spokesman Ivar Noordenbos. 'So they pay for their own course.' The website Blik op Werk, a quality control label for companies geared towards helping people find work, has a list of integration schools, including a break-down of courses suitable for people with higher levels of education, Noordenbos points out. Quality Nevertheless, the quality of these classes has been called into question by many of those who have taken them. Rita, who moved to the Netherlands from Jamaica in 2013, began preparing for the exams shortly after her arrival. She signed up for a 10-month course  in Utrecht. ‘In my group of about 15 students there were people who have been living here for years as well as newcomers, such as I,’ she said. ‘Every student was at a different level, with varying levels of competency.’ After passing all but the listening test, Rita decided not to continue. ‘I was not very impressed with the coordination and management, so I prepared at home with my husband's help,’ she said. ‘In June of 2015, I again sat for the listening test and passed.’ Relationships Roger, an American who lives in Weesp, signed up for a course to prepare for the exams in 2011. ‘I’ve lived here for a while and I’m married to a Dutch woman. I feel quite assimilated into the culture,’ Roger said. ‘The holidays, the way of life, all that good stuff. The course was really geared towards people from northern Africa. It was very focused on male and female relationships, stuff like "the man does not rule the household" for example.’ Despite being frustrated with the course’s emphasis on educating its students on cultural differences instead of devoting more attention to language and grammar lessons, Roger managed to get through each portion of the exam in 2013. Looking back, Rita stated that her experience with the exams wasn’t so bad. ‘I strongly believe that inburgering is a worthwhile programme,’ she said. ‘I don't think it is too much to ask that immigrants learn the language and about the culture of their new country.’ Roger’s opinion isn’t so sunny. ‘When I took the exams themselves I had three questions about light bulbs. Another question was "Hey, you’re a woman and you want to get a job. Your husband doesn’t want you to. What do you do?’’' he said. ‘Nothing on culture, nothing on Dutch holidays, nothing on food, nothing on the way of life of the average Dutch person... In my opinion, [it was] a total waste of time.’ Please note: The names of all interviewees have been changed Part 3 will include a visit a test centre and reveal what it’s like to take the exam. It will also look at the future of inburgering and what might be done to improve various aspects of the programme. Publication date: January 22.   More >


Housing corporation Rochdale boosts flat sharing by friends

Housing corporation Rochdale boosts flat sharing by friends

Think you can’t afford to share a place with friends in Amsterdam and its surrounding towns? Think again. Housing corporation Rochdale has set up a system to help youngsters rent a place without needing huge deposits and massive salaries. It has never been harder to find a roof over your head in and around Amsterdam, particularly if you are new to the country and not exactly earning a huge salary. That is why housing corporation Rochdale has worked out a way to enable a group of friends to share a property with a proper contract and without being ripped off. The Friends contract works like this. You get together with your mates – the contract can be signed by up to three people – and get in touch with Rochdale by email. Explain what you are looking for and Rochdale’s experts will do the rest. Be aware, the properties are unfurnished without kitchen equipment. What do you need? A European passport or a residency permit, a job and a guarantor - your parents if they live in the Netherlands. If you don’t have a guarantor, you will need to come up with a deposit of three months' rent. There is no age limit and the combined salaries of your group have to add up to three times the rent of the property – this means we know you can afford the rent. Most of our Friends properties cost around €1,000 a month so even if you are all earning the minimum wage, you’ll be eligible. You do, of course, also need a healthy dose of realism. You won’t end up paying €300 for a fancy pad in the city centre. But you could end up sharing a house with garden in the Tuinsteden outside the ring road or a large modern flat with open views over the countryside in Noord. And don’t forget the commuter towns of Zaandam and Purmerend, with great public transport links to the city centre (just 15 minutes by train). The houses here are also bigger and cheaper so you get more home for your money. How long will it take? It really depends on how picky you are and how long you are prepared to wait. Not every house is suitable to be shared. We won’t, for example, put a group of 20-somethings in a complex where almost everyone else is over the age of 60. But if you have a look at Rooftrack and look for the Rochdale homes, you get an idea of the kind of properties we have. Why are we doing this? Because Rochdale is a social housing provider and we are charged with helping those on low incomes find somewhere decent and affordable to live. That means everyone in Amsterdam, whether a city born native or a new arrival. We recognise that if you are young and new to the city, there is no way you will qualify for social housing. So our Friends contract allows you to share a more expensive vrijsector home and split the rent between you. This means, say, a €1,000 a month apartment with three bedrooms will cost you €330 a month each plus bills. ‘Our job as a housing corporation is to help all Amsterdammers find somewhere to live, and that includes new arrivals and young people,’ says Rochdale director Hester van Buren. ‘The Friends contract is all about making this possible.’ If you think renting a Friends home via Rochdale sounds like the thing for you, you can either fill in the website form (in English) or email info@rochdale.nl.  More >


How to be a good citizen: the past, present and future of ‘inburgeren’

How to be a good citizen: the past, present and future of ‘inburgeren’

The controversial integration exam has filled the hearts of many immigrants with dread since it came into effect in 2007. With its changing requirements, strange exemptions and even stranger test questions, even government officials across the Netherlands have a hard time keeping track of its various components. In this three part series, Brandon Hartley takes a look at the history of inburgering, shares the experiences of several immigrants who have grappled with the exam’s requirements and presents their suggestions for revising the programme to improve the process for exam takers and administrators alike. Part 1: The Past On the evening of the May 6 2002, Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn stepped out of a radio station in Hilversum after completing an interview and was shot dead by activist Volkert van der Graaf. The murder sent shockwaves across the entire country. Fortuyn, who was in the middle of an election campaign, had earned a controversial reputation for his outspoken views, especially on the topic of Islam. Two years later, Dutch filmmaker and popular television personality Theo van Gogh was stabbed to death by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim while cycling to his office in Amsterdam. The ripple effects of these murders is hard to completely calculate but the wave of xenophobia they ignited among certain segments of the electorate propelled populist sentiment. There was a lot of soul-searching about the way some immigrant groups kept to themselves, about Islam, and, most of all, about upholding Dutch values and society. Immigration minister Rita Verdonk was quick to capitalise on the mood and brought in a new integration exam for immigrants. Inburgeren was born. Problems From the beginning of 2007, most immigrants to the Netherlands had to take tests that covered understanding, reading and speaking Dutch abilities as well as a fourth very controversial component intended to judge whether or not they knew enough about Dutch culture and customs. Dubbed kennis Nederlandse samenleving (knowledge of Dutch society), the course and subsequent exam received a significant amount of criticism. Native Dutch people flunked the test on national television. Others questioned its relevance. One of the most often cited questions that was subjected to scrutiny was ‘what do you do with fat after making French fries?’ Few were able to correctly identify what the exam writers thought was the correct answer. Instead of containing conventional questions about the Dutch monarchy or the Netherlands’ system of government, this portion of the exam contained strange questions regarding everything from housing rights for single mothers to ‘what to do if you see two men kissing?’ Within a few years, many began calling for inburgeren to be overhauled or done away with entirely, especially since it was far more complex and demanding than similar integration exams in other European countries. The requirements were also considered confusing. It was difficult to keep track of exactly which immigrants needed to take the test and which didn’t. Exemptions were made for EU residents, the spouses of Dutch natives, Turks and people who came to the Netherlands on highly skilled migrants schemes, among others. Short-sighted Local politicians and government workers, tasked with enforcing the exams and organising preparatory classes for immigrants in their municipalities, became increasingly vocal with their objections. In an opinion piece written for NRC in October of 2008, former Utrecht alderman Cees van Eijk outlined a list of grievances against the exams that included their short-sighted requirements and inability to properly test everyone from illiterate immigrants to highly-educated expats. The peculiar double standard about who needed to take the exams only further contributed to frustrations among bureaucrats and immigrants alike across the country. In the years that followed, the national government pulled funding for preparatory classes, placing a further financial burden on those required to take the exam. Today, immigrants can borrow the money to pay for the courses and tests. It is considered to be the responsibility of a good immigrant to integrate off their own bat. And Rita Verdonk, the politician primarily responsible for creating inburgeren? She retired from politics in 2011. One American’s experience Pamela, whose name has been changed, moved to the Netherlands from America to be with her Dutch boyfriend in 2005. Her experiences with inburgering offer a good look into the state of the exams during this period. In early 2007, after moving to Almere, she was contacted by the council and told to come to city hall to discuss going through the new programme. ‘I got a letter, while on a three week holiday, saying that if I didn’t show up for an inburgering intake, I’d have to pay a very large penalty,’ she said. ‘The appointment was the day I got back to my house. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy.’ At this meeting, Pamela was told she would have to take classes several times a week at a location an hour away from her workplace. She was on a one-year contract with her employer and working full time. ‘The lady helping me informed me that my boss couldn’t stop me since it was a legal obligation,’ Pamela recalled. ’I informed her that if I did this, my employer was guaranteed not to extend my contract and it was NOT worth it.’ Failure Concentrated on her career, Pamela managed to put off studying for the exams for several years until one day she was sent a letter demanding she come to the council to discuss her failure to inburger. ‘My husband called them to tell them I was in the US on business,’ she says. ’Their exact words were "she works?" This is actually the reaction I got from everyone in the process.’ Pamela finally got through the exam in early 2014 and later became a Dutch citizen. In addition to the time and effort it took to prepare for and go through inburgering, Pamela says that the entire process, including textbooks, classes, test fees and other expenses, wound up costing her around €8,000. ‘I think the final slap in the face was my Dutch naturalisation,’ she said ‘Not only was the booklet about the ceremony in English, Turkish and Arabic (thus proving that inburgering isn’t about actually having to learn Dutch), but the "gift" Almere gave me was an international cook book.’ Part two in this series will take a look at the present state of the exam and feature additional stories from three other immigrants. It is scheduled to appear on DutchNews on January 15. Part three will follow on January 22. If you would like to share your own experiences of the integration course, please use the comment section below, or email editor@dutchnews.nl  More >


How to be well insured in the Netherlands: in English

How to be well insured in the Netherlands: in English

New arrivals to the Netherlands are often surprised by the number of different insurance policies people have. But for the Dutch, having proper insurance for all eventualities is the sensible thing to do. Why the Dutch find insurance essential Being insured in the Netherlands is seen as common sense. We want to be well insured against a wide variety of situations. Suppose a faulty washing machine floods our apartment (or that of our downstairs neighbours). What if we accidently spill coffee over a tablet, either our own or somebody else’s? What if our child scratches the neighbours’ car? Maybe our home gets burgled or we hit someone with our car or bicycle. The Dutch know accidents do happen and we want to avoid unpleasant surprises. Our advice to new arrivals is: 'Do it like the Dutch'. Then you can rest easy, because we are one of the best insured nations in the world. Eight types of insurance in the Netherlands The average Dutch person has eight different insurance policies. That sounds a lot, but insurance is relatively cheap in the Netherlands and is compulsory in some instances. For example, everybody must have health insurance. And homeowners must have buildings insurance and car owners need car insurance. In addition, liability insurance and home contents insurance are considered essential and are not expensive. Good liability insurance, for example, costs only a few euros a month. And full home contents insurance is around €10 a month. Peace of mind 'We are very well insured and that gives us peace of mind,' say Dutch couple Karin and Michel de Vries. 'Our boys are always playing football and have been known to break someone’s window. Fortunately, we have good liability insurance. And of course we also have home contents insurance. If there’s a burglary, fire, storm or water damage, for example, then we’re covered. Our car is only a year old and so is insured all-risk. So whatever damage may be done, we won’t have any hassle.' 'Every summer we take the kids to France for three weeks and in the winter we go skiing in Austria. Our multi-trip travel insurance is ideal for this and it also covers our weekends away. Oh yes, we also have legal expenses insurance in case we get into a dispute with our employers or neighbours, and naturally we also have health insurance, but everyone must have that.' Indication of the costs for this family of four                                                              Monthly premium (€) Home contents insurance                              15.00 Legal expenses insurance                              17.50 Liability insurance                                             5.00 Multi-trip travel insurance                                15.00 All-risk car insurance                                       65.00 Total                                                           €117.50* * excl. mandatory health insurance So for a small sum you can insure yourself against what are sometimes sky-high costs. What insurance do you need? Take a look at abnamro.nl/well-insured, where you can also easily take out policies yourself. We hope you have an enjoyable and untroubled time in the Netherlands. And if you have any questions, our experts will gladly give you tailor-made advice, based on your personal situation. In English, of course. More information? Please visit abnamro.nl/well-insured to find out how to be well insured in the Netherlands. Or call 0900 – 8170 (you pay your usual call charges set by your telephone provider) or +31 10 – 241 1723 from outside the Netherlands. // // //   More >


Locating your bike, feeding the cat: Dutch start-up boosts the Internet of Things

Locating your bike, feeding the cat: Dutch start-up boosts the Internet of Things

At the end of last year, Dutch start-up The Things Network raised €295,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to launch an open, free and decentralised internet of things network. Esther O'Toole finds out more. Imagine a house in which the plants alert you when they need watering or your cat is automatically fed. Then take it wider, across your neighbourhood and your city. The Internet of Things is a network of physical objects, or things, which have been equipped with software, sensors and network connectivity. This enables them to collect and exchange data and improve the way they work, bringing greater efficiency and economic benefits. Philips The idea behind the Internet of Things (IoT) first came about in the 1990s when the board of Dutch electronics giant Philips, together with American innovators, coined the term ‘Ambient Intelligence’. Ambient Intelligence refers to electronic environments equipped with devices that are sensitive to the presence of people, can sense change and relay information to a base -  independent of human control. The theory went that the instruments themselves, working in chorus, would support a more convenient, efficient, life-enhancing world for humans; and become reality between 2010 and 2020. Last year Wieke Giezeman, a serial start-up entrepreneur, launched The Things Network. The aim: to set up an IoT communication network throughout Amsterdam. He laid out his plans for citywide coverage, set up by and for users, with LoRa Wan (Long Wave Radio) gateway boxes which the company would produce themselves at low cost. Much to his astonishment it was fully crowdfunded and operational within six weeks. ‘We did it because we can. We believe in an open and free internet,’ Giezeman said. ‘The hardware is cheap enough. With this anyone can set themselves up. You don’t even need coding skills.’ Vision of the Future LoRa Wan is the same kind of tech that telecoms giants such as KPN and Vodafone are hoping to exploit in order to profit from the need for a reliable IoT network. 'If we leave this task up to big telcos, a subscription model will be enforced and we will exclude 99% of the cool use cases,' says Giezeman. 'Instead, let's make it a publicly owned and free network so businesses and use cases will flourish on top of it.' ‘In future everything will be connected. A lot of data will be collected to make our lives better. It will allow service providers, of all sorts, to make their services cheaper and better for us, the consumers.’ Since the launch the idea has rapidly gone global. Over 20 cities (from Rotterdam, Eindhoven and Almere to Sao Paulo and Montevideo) are now taking part, 2,000 people are actively seeking to help, and 200 are specifically looking to set up their own local network. In November, The Things Network launched a second Kickstarter campaign to try and support global roll out.The main aim is to have a network in every major city by the end of 2016. From then on it will need to grow via local communities. They succeeded in raising €295,000, more  than €100,000 over their target. So, how does it work? IoT devices don’t need the constant internet access of your laptop. However, they do need consistent coverage, to be reliable in varied environments, safe from hacking and have long battery life in order to transfer data as and when they need to. ‘LoRa Wan has a range of up to 10 kilometres, low bandwidth and the battery use is very low. This is perfect for machine-to-machine communication,’ Giezeman explains. By producing their own hardware, he and his team have worked hard to make options for different budgets: starting with The Things Gateway, a €200 version, with a range of five kilometres, allowing citizen users to contribute to the network from their own home. Users have been quick to start using the network, designing tools that can link to it. As an Amsterdam-born idea it’s not surprising that these uses include intelligent sensors that alert you if your boat begins to take on rain water past a safe level for staying afloat. Or a device that locates your bike among the hoards of others parked outside the city's main railway station. Practical uses The city's port authority and successful sharing startup Peerby have also joined the enthusiastic user crowd. Outside cities, IoT trackers are already being used to monitor rhinos in the wild. In the home, uses could include remote thermostat, cctv or baby monitor control. Some of these are essentially familiar and perhaps don’t seem like such a breakthrough change from apps. However, Giezeman and IoT innovators like him are anticipating the next stage of development being where the IoT will really take flight. ‘When I talk to people outside tech, in operations for instance, within ten minutes almost everyone can think of new uses. You just need to think of how far digital tech has come in the last thirty years and try and project forward.’  More >



Meet leading Dutch authors at a special literary event

Meet leading Dutch authors at a special literary event

Bookworms who want to find out more about Dutch literature should not miss a get together with several leading local writers at the American Book Center on January 9, writes Ana McGinley. Esther Gerritsen and Renate Dorrestein are among the best-selling authors who will be reading at the special event to celebrate the first birthday of publishing house World Editions, which focuses on bringing Dutch and other literature to a wider audience. After all, if your ability to read Dutch books in the local language seems to support the notion that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks or taal, translations are the obvious choice.  But not every Dutch book worthy of a wider audience gets picked up. It's a problem that Eric Visser, who founded the successful De Geus publishing house in 1983, is only too well aware of. Only 4% of the books published in Britain and the US, he points out, are translated from other languages. So why are so few Dutch books translated into English? The usual practice for an English-language publishing house is to acquire a foreign language book, commission the translation, and promote the translated book as per an English-language book. The first hurdle for a Dutch author wanting to publish outside the Netherlands is having a publisher read their work. As Visser explains: 'Most foreign publishers can’t read Dutch.'  Hence most non-English books are disregarded without even having their covers opened. Visser launched World Editions, an independent publishing house with the mission to bring international literature to a global reading audience, a year ago this month. To date, the company has published 21 titles from six languages and more are on their way. Awards This February the company will publish translations of Jaap Robben’s debut bestseller 'You Have to Me to Love (Dutch title: Birk) which was also awarded the Dutch Bookseller’s Award in 2014, and the highly anticipated translations of The Qur’an and The Messenger by the Persian-Dutch writer and columnist, Kader Abdolah. To date, the most successful books from World Editions have been A Summer with Kim Novak by Swedish crime author Håkan Nesser, and the Dutch bestseller Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp. As an internationally orientated country, the Netherlands builds bridges between cultures, says Visser.  'Dutch writers write about the world. They travel a lot and write from an international perspective mixed with some aspects of our own Dutch and Flemish history, our colonial past and the two world wars.' Register for the event  More >


How to celebrate New Year in the Netherlands

How to celebrate New Year in the Netherlands

New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands is celebrated in a most untypical over-the-top way. Here's an update of the Netherlands by Numbers's classic list of 10 things you must do to fit right in. 1. Buy fireworks – lots of them and enormous ones – if you have not smuggled them in from Belgium or Eastern Europe months ago. You can only buy fireworks on December 29, 30 and 31 - and for some reason, garages seem to be popular licenced stockists. Start setting off your fireworks well before 6pm on December 31, which is when you are officially allowed to do so. Frighten dogs. 2. Listen to the final fifty or so entries in Radio 2’s Top2000 which, for some bizarre reason, is listened to by millions of people every year and won every year (almost) by Queen’s Bohemiam Rhapsody. This year, the compilers have already said it won't be. The big money is on Imagine - in the wake of Paris. 3. Watch whichever comedian is giving this year’s televised Oudejaarsconference – a long and winding monologue wrapping up the year. 4. Buy a New Year lottery ticket – in the hope of winning millions of euros. You and 17 million other people. 5. Eat oliebollen and appelflappen – deep-fried dough balls covered in icing sugar and deep-fried apple dough balls. Forget the diet until January 2. 6. Set fire to a car or two – but only if you live in a village in Brabant or Drenthe where it is tradition, of course. 7. Other rural traditions include massive bonfires made up of Christmas trees and carbidschieten (or death by milk churn) which involves mixing carbide and water in a milk churn and blasting off the lid. 8. Throw a few fireworks at the police and emergency service workers if you are in a car fire, Christmas tree fire or carbide zone. Become one of the 1,000 or so people who get arrested during the New Year celebrations every year. Or one of the hundreds who end up in hospital accident and emergency departments with firework burns. 9. Have a New Year’s Day swim in the sea – along with tens of thousands of others attempting to shake off their hangover. 10. Wear an orange hat advertising smoked sausage company Unox while having your swim. Beware: if you are a pretty girl in a bikini you may end up the Telegraaf newspaper’s new favourite front page pin-up. This article appeared earlier on website Netherlands by Numbers   More >


Eight things about Avercamp’s winter wonderland

Eight things about Avercamp’s winter wonderland

Now that winter is drawing in, here's a look at one of the typical and incredibly detailed wintry landscapes by Hendrick Avercamp. Visit the Rijksmuseum website if you want a closer look at what the people in this painting are up to. Who was Hendrick Avercamp? Hendrick Avercamp (Amsterdam 1585 – Kampen 1634) was one of the Netherland’s most prolific winter landscape painters. Winter landscape with skaters, painted around 1608, is a typical Avercamp with lots going on. Avercamp was a deaf mute but that doesn’t seem to have stood in his way. His mother encouraged his artistic abilities and he trained as a landscape painter in Amsterdam. Is this real? The chilly tableau depicted here is not an artist’s fiction: Europe experienced a little ice age between 1450 and 1850 and the final quarter of the 16th century proved particularly cold. Avercamp loved to go ice skating with his parents and no doubt that is when he witnessed many of the small incidents he later painted. Perspectives Avercamp did not paint in the open air. He very wisely preferred to work in front of a nice fire from sketches he’d made from memory. Often he would combine different scenes. This is said to account for the different perspectives apparent in the painting: the house in the middle and the trees in the foreground are at eye level but the brewery is seen from above. Ice fun and games Then as now frozen lakes and rivers signal the beginning of ijspret, or fun and games on the ice. The ice is a great leveller, not only because people tend to fall flat on their face – as illustrated in the centre of the painting - but because this was the sort of fun everybody could enjoy. That’s as far as it went, however: look at the beggar being studiously ignored by the group of richly attired burghers just underneath the hapless skater. Beer Not everybody could afford to loiter on the ice: some of them had jobs to do. There’s the brewery on the left where someone is hauling up water through a hole in the ice to make beer. From the sign we can infer it’s probably called De Halve Maan, or the Crescent Moon. There was a brewery called Die Maene in Bruges in the 17th century and Dutch winter landscape painters were heavily influenced by their Flemish counterparts. Other people going about their business are the eel catcher with his hook - also handy for fishing out those who fall through the ice - and the reed cutter, both in the right-hand corner of the painting. Ice hockey? Left of centre some gentlemen are engaged in a 17th century variety of ice hockey known as ‘kolf’ while old and young are skating or sledging. The tie-on skates people are wearing don’t differ greatly in design from those the Dutch wore not too long ago. Boy meets girl It seems as if the general jollity of larking about on the ice also allowed for a bit of hanky panky. On the right a beau is getting fresh with his fair companion and what on earth is going on in that hayloft on the left? Avercamp also paints people relieving themselves, including someone sticking out what must be a very cold bare bottom. He’s in that upturned old boat on the left. Signature The graffiti on the door to the left, a manikin and a boat, mirrors the artist’s signature to the right, on a shed. It’s as if an urchin drew a picture of the painter and had just time to write Haenricus Av before being chased off. Previous paintings in this series Girl with a pearl earring The Goldfinch The feast of St Nicholas  More >


Festive family fun: things to do in the Christmas holidays

Festive family fun: things to do in the Christmas holidays

The school winter holidays are starting and with them a fantastic array of festive fun kicks off up and down the country. Esther O’Toole looks at some of this year’s highlights. Ice Sculpture Festival – Zwolle The world’s best ice sculptors, representing 16 countries, are descending on Zwolle and 500,000 kilos of ice and snow to build a magical playground for visitors. Enjoy the towering masterpieces and light show before retiring to the café for hot chocolate, apple pie and live music. website World’s Biggest Swan Lake – RAI, Amsterdam Tchaikovsky's most famous ballet comes to Amsterdam this year, with a flock of not 16 but 48 dancers in the corps. This enormous production from renowned British director Derek Deane and the National Ballet of Shanghai played to great acclaim earlier in the year before starting out on tour. A guaranteed spectacular! Tickets start at €39. website Mini & Maxi – Rotterdam Something to entertain the littlest to the biggest: Mini & Maxi are a prize winning Dutch clowning duo who combine music, acrobatics and mime in a unique interactive variety show. They’re legends in the Netherlands and are well known for training many of today’s best Dutch variety talents. For the first time in ten years they are going back on tour themselves and the press are unanimous in saying they’ve still got it! Well, worth a look. December 25 - 27, then on tour, website Open Air Street-Theatre Festival – Oud Kampen If you’re looking for something unusual for this time of year, you could head to Oud Kampen for the annual open air theatre festival, Kerst in Oud Kampen. The beautiful old city centre is decorated to perfection and small events enliven the atmosphere from street artists, music, dance, and acrobatics to a traditional funfair. You can even cram in a little last minute Christmas shopping. Events are free and take place between 4pm – 9pm. December 19 and 20, website A Celtic Christmas Concert – Muiderslot, Muiden Something a little different? Magic comes to the Castle at Muiden on the 23rd of December where musical trio Merain will be performing a special programme of traditional Christmas pieces from the British Isles. Settle in at the Knight’s Hall and let the candlelight, bodhrán, celtic harp and song whisk you away to Arthurian Christmasses of olde. Refreshments available in the Taverne. December 23, website Tomte 4+ - Hasselt, Maastricht, Alkmaar, Tilburg, Leeuwarden, Amsterdam & Tiel An unusual musical theatre event from Utrecht’s Het Filial theatre makers and musicians from Insomnia, Tomte sees live music and puppetry teamed up with digital projection. Taking the audience on a wintery walk through a fantastical land the show is inspired by Tomte Tummetot from legendary Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren (best known for Pippi Longstocking). The production aims to provide an engaging and exciting introduction to modern classical music and innovative theatre practice. Additional performances at other locations throughout January, see full agenda for details. website Charles Dickens Festival – Deventer Is there anything as synonymous with Christmas as Scrooge? In Deventer they don’t think so. In the weekend before Christmas a large part of the town is magically transformed into a Dickensian winter wonderland, full of little ragged orphans, top hatted carol singers and famous characters from Dickens’ best loved books. Lots of lovely Victorian things to see, do and eat! December 19 and 20, website Christmas Circuses Christmas circuses are a particular tradition in the Netherlands. If you’re after one that effortlessly combines the best of tradition and the most exciting new ideas, then head to Carre in Amsterdam. This year's 100 performers include the world’s fastest juggler, Korean acrobats and a flying trapeze. If you’re at the other end of the country and don’t want to travel, then you can try one of the other seasonal circuses in Utrecht, Rotterdam (at the Ahoy) and Maastricht. Enschede is also hosting an international circus festival. Amsterdam Utrecht  Rotterdam  Maastricht Enschede Christmas Gala – Arnhem & Apeldoorn The innovative company Introdans this year brings you four shows in one at its annual Christmas Gala. International, diverse and stirring this company is building a strong international reputation for working with both up and coming as well as master choreographers. Pieces this year include the moving and melancholy Kleine Requiem to the music of Góreki and Swingle Sisters from Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman, who is known for his wonderful way of bringing humour to dance. December 26-29, website Tango Train – Amsterdam If you’d like to do some fancy footwork yourself then have a look at Tango Train. After a great launch last year, Tango Train is once again organising Milonga (Argentinian Tango) events at locations throughout Amsterdam in the last week of the year. Dance, take a workshop or see a tango themed movie or exhibition. There are options for young and old, novice and advanced, and at various times of day. Food options also available, check with the specific location. December 25 - January 3, website For more Christmas shows, check out our What's On section.  More >


WOZ, KK, VVE – the language of buying a house in the Netherlands

Mortgage interest rates are at a record low in the Netherlands so it could be the perfect time to buy a home of your own. Here’s a list of 10 key terms which every prospective home owner should understand before they start hunting for their dream dwelling. 1 KK The letters KK in housing adverts stand for kosten koper. This means that all the costs involved in buying a house – of transferring ownership in the land registry, of the drawing up of the contract by a notary and the 2% property transfer tax – are to be paid by the buyer. This adds around 6% to the price of a house, some of which is tax deductible. 2 Overdrachtsbelasting Overdrachtsbelasting or property transfer tax, amounts to 2% of the price of your new home. The cost is included in the KK. 3 Notaris The notaris – notary – is a lawyer specialised in family and private law, who draws up the preliminary sales contract for the property and the mortgage deeds (as well as wills, prenuptial agreements and that sort of thing). The notary’s bill for a property of around €250,000 will be around €1,000. 4 WOZ Every year thousands of home owners submit a formal protest about the official valuation of their property under the Wet Waardering Onroerende Zaken (property valuation law).The WOZ is used to calculate how much local property tax (OZB) has to be paid and is based on the highest price someone would be prepared to offer for the property. 5 Eigenwoningforfait The eigenwoningforfait is an extra tax on home owners and is based on the property’s official local authority valuation (WOZ). In 2015, home owners paid 0.75% of the WOZ value of their homes in extra tax, as long as the property was under €1.050.000. For properties worth over a million, it gets a bit more complicated. The tax was introduced years ago as an income equaliser because home owners were considered to be better off than tenants who pay rent. The actual effect of the eigenwoningforfait is to all but wipe out any benefits from the Netherlands' very generous mortgage tax relief system. 6 NHG The Nationale Hypotheekgarantie or national mortgage guarantee was introduced in 1995 to encourage home ownership and currently covers premises valued up to €245.000. The guarantee means that if people default on a NHG mortgage, a special home ownership fund (WEW) will pay off the debt. Almost 50% of homes bought under the guarantee limit are financed by NHG. The NHG limit will be cut to €225,000 in July 2016. 7 NVM The Nederlandse Vereniging van Makelaars is the biggest Dutch estate agents' association, claiming over 4,000 affiliated brokers. It operates the Funda.nl property search website and provides endless statistics on the state of the property market. Members of the NVM have to have proper qualifications. Every year it throws out members who refused to take compulsory refresher training courses. 8 Verkoopmakelaar and aankoopmakelaar The verkoopmakelaar is the real estate agent representing the people selling the property who will do his or her best to maximise the price. The aankoopmakelaar is the one acting on the buyer’s behalf. Before you start, you need to make an agreement with your estate agent about what they will do for you and how much it will cost. The fee is known as the ‘courtage’. 9 Erfpacht or eigen grond. If you see eigen grond in the advert for your dream home, it means you will actually own the land the property is built on. If not, you will be liable for erfpacht, or ground rent, which you will pay to the owner of the land. In many cases this will be the local council, but it could also be a private person or company. Erfpacht, particularly when a private landowner is involved, can be a complicating factor in getting a mortgage. 10 VVE If you buy a property in an apartment block, under Dutch law you will have to become a member of the VVE or Vereniging van Eigenaren. The VVE (owners’ association) ensures the property is well maintained and insured and deals with communal expenses. You have to pay a monthly fee to the VVE – usually around €50-€100, so make sure your estate agent checks out the organisation’s finances before hand. If the VVE has no cash reserves but the property is in dire need of maintenance, you could find yourself with a hefty additional bill. For more on buying a house in the Netherlands, in a language you can understand, contact Expat Mortgages.  More >


Ko’nki-klapy: Dutch words which have been adopted abroad

Ko’nki-klapy: Dutch words which have been adopted abroad

No fewer than 17,560 Dutch words have been incorporated into 138 languages around the globe, according to researchers at the Meertens Institute. The report is the result of an eight-year research project. Russian, for example, has lots of Dutch nautical words, while Japanese goes for scientific terms. Trade and immigration played their part, and so does the Netherlands' colonial past: Indonesian is replete with Dutch words. Here’s one word for every letter in the alphabet. Advokaat(je), the eggy alcoholic calorie bomb beloved of aunties at parties is advocaat in English and adwokat in Polish. Beteuterd means something like crestfallen. Both the Danes and the Norwegians liked it and turned it into betuttet which sounds even more crestfallen than the original. Catechisatie, or religious education. According to the Meertens Institute the Dutch and Flemish weren’t as fervent in their attempts to convert the inhabitants of their colonies to Christianity as the Spanish and the Portuguese but they gave it a good shot. The local languages in Suriname, the Dutch Antilles and Indonesia all have the word, along with a number of other religious terms. In Indonesian it became Katégisasi. The word bijbel, or bible, also made its way into Senegalese (bayibala-ya); the Dutch printed a bible in this language in 1740. Doezelen, or being half awake, became the charming dusi mendusi in Indonesian. Edammer, as the whole world knows, is a Dutch cheese. Among many other variants, it is évtam in Greek, Eidamsky syr in Czech, jubnat Idam in Arabic and in Denmark ejdammerost has also come to mean a round head. Fluks, a sadly underused word meaning 'quickly', made it to Norway unaltered while the Swedes turned it into the catchy hux flux. In Portuguese Creole it became flenx. Gesnap, a Flemish word for idle talk was picked up by Spanish soldiers during the Eighty Years’ war (1568 – 1648) and became gaznápiro meaning silly goose. Handelaar (trader), a Dutch word par excellence, became handelar in Indonesian and handler in American English (as in panhandler). Inpolderen, an eminently exportable Dutch practice meaning to create land from the sea or a lake, became impadurinä in Rumanian. Ja goed means affirmative, ok. In Indonesia this became yahut and took on the additional meaning of fantastic. Klapschaats, a recent Dutch innovation to make speed skates even speedier, has been widely adopted and is klapskate in English, pattino clap in Italian and ko’nki-klapy in Russian. Larie, or nonsense, became the much more interesting larifari in German. French dialect dropped an e but added meaning: lari is noisy revelry and confusion. Mekkie is one of fifty surviving Dutch words introduced to the Indian Munsee-Delaware language, spoken in the North American Delaware region in the 17th century (where it is still spoken today by some older people). Onamatopoeiacally, the Dutch settlers called a sheep a mek or mekkie and that is how it survived in Munsee-Delaware. Netjes, a much used word meaning orderly, became néces in Indonesian where it gained the much jollier meaning of 'dolled up' as in ready for a night on the town. Ontbijtkoek, the sticky ginger cake, unsurprisingly some may say, didn’t do very well language-wise. The Indonesians presumably encountered it during colonial times and it lives on in their language as umbaykuk. Pannenkoek, or pancake, did much better and there are variations of the word in many languages. It is the only Dutch word to appear in the Western-Abnaki language spoken (by a very few) in Canada. It also still survives in other Indian languages as the still very pancakey pan’kuk. Q words, which the Dutch adopted from other languages, were all taken over by the Indonesian languages. Questionair became kwéstionér, for example. Rollator, a walking aid for the elderly developed in the Netherlands, has made the transition to English, French and German without a hitch, except, one imagines, for changes in stress. Schorriemorrie is a derogatory term meaning a 'bunch of ne’er do wells'. In Russian dialect it lives on as surimúry but there it means affairs of the heart and secret arrangements. Trambel, or the bell on a tram became trémbél in Petjoh, a creole language spoken in Indonesia. It means a woman who talks incessantly! Uilenspiegel is a hero of Flemish folklore and lives on in French as espiègle which denotes harmless fun. Vlaams, meaning from Flanders, became Flämsch in German where it took on the meaning of gruff and coarse. In Rumanian it became felendreş, meaning fine cloth which the weavers of Flanders were famous for. Winst means advantage or profit and in Norwegian the meaning of vinst is just that. But it’s an interesting process that turns the word – in Indonesian (Bahasa Prokem) – into wins meaning ‘an attractive teenage girl who consorts with older men for money’, as the Meertens Institute puts it. X see Q Y see Q and X Zopie is an old word meaning alcoholic drink. The Dutch still use it in Koek en Zopie, or the food and drink served when the Netherlands puts its skates on. It also figures in Warau, a language spoken by the Indians of the Orinoco Delta and formerly spoken in Gyuana and Suriname. According to the Meertens Institute zoopje was used by the Dutch to oil the trading wheels.  More >


10 Dutch songs everyone should be able to sing along to

10 Dutch songs everyone should be able to sing along to

Blood, sweat and tears, 15 million people, flowery curtains and nights like you only see in films... the Dutch have a huge catalogue of singalong songs. Here's a selection of classics to help you breeze through your inburgeringsexam and earn the awed respect of your Dutch friends. 1 Lang zal ze leven No birthday party is complete without this song and it is one that you must try to master, especially if you have children. It’s very simple. Lang zal ze leven, lang zal ze leven Lang zal ze leven in de gloria, in de gloria, in de gloria Hieperdepiep hoera! (x3) (Translation, Long may he/she live, in glory) That’s it! Tiresome additions such as Zij leve hoog/Honderd jaren leven are not compulsory and can be ignored. 2 Wilhelmus This is the Dutch national anthem and if you are going to sing along, do what the national football team and everybody else does and only sing the first two lines: Wilhelmus van Nassaue Ben ik van Duitsen bloed Mumble, mumble, la la la etc. Duitsen meant Dutch, not German, in the 16th and 17th century in case you’re wondering. 3 Bloed, zweet en tranen One of the last songs (2002) recorded by the late, great André Hazes. It is also one of his best. Like most of his songs it has the odd grammatical wobble but who cares. Here’s the chorus. Lighters at the ready! Met bloed zweet en tranen Zei ik rot hier nu maar op Met bloed zweet en tranen Zei ik vrienden dag vrienden De koek is op. (With blood, sweat and tears, I said sod off out of here. With blood, sweat and tears, I said well friends, it’s goodbye friends, there’s no more pickings left for you). 4 Dinge-dong The list wouldn’t be complete without a Eurovision song and this one actually won for the Netherlands in 1975... in English. But the band, Teach In, also recorded it in Dutch. Here’s a snippet featuring long-term memory loss and daft dinge-dongs and bim-bam-boms. Is ‘t lang geleden? Is ‘t lang geleden? Dat mijn hart je riep met z’n ding-dinge-dong? Is ‘t lang geleden? Is ‘t lang geleden? In de zomer zon ging het bim-bam-bom The lyrics are no better in Dutch than they were in English: Is it long ago? Is it long ago? That my heart called you with its dinge-dinge-dong. Is it long ago? Is it long ago? In the summer sun it went bim-bam-bom. 5 Bloemetjesgordijn More daftness, of the Carnaval kind. Every year a carnavalskraker hits the charts. This one is a classic from 1972. Weet je wat ik wel zou willen zijn? Een bloemetjesgordijn, een bloemetjesgordijn. Van het plafond tot op het raamkozijn: Een bloemetjesgordijn, een bloemetjesgordijn En alle dagen hangen lekker in het zonnelicht Met bloemen op m'n hele lijf en ook op m'n gezicht. (Do you know what I would like to be? A flowery curtain, a flowery curtain. From the ceiling to the window sill. A flowery curtain, a flowery curtain. Hanging in the sunshine all day long. With flowers all over my body and my face.) What can we say? 6 Zing, vecht, huil, bid, lach, werk en bewonder Sing, fight, cry, pray, laugh, work and admire. This a good one for practising your verbs. The song, from 1971, is sung by Ramses Shaffy who had many wonderful hits in Dutch. The refrain is the title so all you have to do is get the verbs in the right order and you’re away. 7 Het is een nacht The chorus of this one is usually sung completely by the audience, giving singer Guus Meeuwis a well-deserved break. It was his first single and became a big hit in 1995 (and drove lots of people crazy). Here’s the chorus so you can join in: Het is een nacht Die je normaal alleen in films ziet Het is een nacht die wordt bezongen in het mooiste lied Het is een nacht waarvan ik dacht dat ik hem nooit beleven zou Maar vannacht beleef ik hem met jou (oh) Translation: It’s a night you only see in films. A night that people sing about. It’s a night I didn’t think I’d ever have. But tonight it’s you and me (oh). Note that films in the third line is pronounced fillems. 8 Een muis in een molen in oud Amsterdam Chances are you know this one in English. This is the original version sung by entertainer Rudi Carrell in 1965. Ik zag een muis. Waar? Daar op de trap. Waar op de trap? Nou daar! Een kleine muis op klompjes Nee, ‘t is geen grap, ‘t ging van klipklappiedieklap op de trap Oh ja. 9 15 miljoen mensen A song originally made to persuade all those wonderfully anarchic Dutch people to use the Postbank (which has since merged with ING bank), it became so popular it went to number 1 in 1996. There are, of course, now nearly 17 million people in the Netherlands, but the sentiment (and it is full of sentiment) holds true. Note: the new ING adverts have dropped the anarchy and replaced it with full-blooded orange nationalism. 15 miljoen mensen Op dat hele kleine stukje aarde Die schrijf je niet de wetten voor Die laat je in hun waarde 15 miljoen mensen Op een hele kleine stukje aarde Die moeten niet 't keurslijf in Die laat je in hun waarde So arms in the air and start singing: 15 million people, on a tiny patch of land. You don’t tell them what to do. You respect them for what they are. 15 million people, on a tiny patch of land. You don’t try to put them in a straitjacket. You respect them for what they are. 10 Aan de Amsterdamse grachten This 1949 declaration of love to the murky but undoubtedly very beautiful canals of Amsterdam sung by comedian Wim Zonneveld is another Dutch favourite, and singing it while standing on a bridge (in the capital of course, not just any old bridge) will gain you the admiration of many. Aan de Amsterdamse Grachten heb ik heel m'n hart voor altijd verpand Amsterdam vult mijn gedachten als de mooiste stad in ons land Al die Amsterdamse mensen al die lichtjes 's avonds laat op 't plein niemand kan zich beter wensen dan een Amsterdammer te zijn To the canals of Amsterdam I have pledged my heart forever Amsterdam fills my thoughts As the most beautiful city in our country All those Amsterdam people All those lights late at night on the square No one could wish for more Than to be an Amsterdammer  More >


Dutch healthcare: is it worth switching to a new health insurer?

Dutch healthcare: is it worth switching to a new health insurer?

The six-week window for changing health insurers is now open. The average rise in premiums for a full year is around €50 but the difference between the most expensive and the cheapest health insurance policies is more than €300. So is it worthwhile checking your current policy? Health insurance companies have all now revealed their new policies and premiums for 2016. In September, the government said it expected the cost of a basic health insurance package to increase by more than €7 a month. Yet, according to research by ZorgWijzer.nl and the national health authority, the actual increase is closer to €4. That might not seem a lot when you consider the hassle of changing, but you could save hundreds of euros by making a switch. You can check whether your current policy offers best value for money and still suits your needs using the English comparison tool developed by ZorgWijzer.nl. In the Netherlands, people are free to choose the health insurance policy that best suits them, although the government is still in charge of determining basic standards. Each year around one million people take advantage of the change-over window in November and December and move to a new insurer. Changes to health insurance in 2016 A number of things will change regarding the basic health insurance policy in 2016. For starters, the yearly statutory excess (own-risk payment) will increase from €375 to €385. In addition, some treatment by specialist sports injury doctors will be included in the basic health package and parents will no longer have to contribute towards hearing aids for their children. Other changes involve slightly higher patient contributions for hair prostheses, orthopedic shoes, medical transportation and maternity care. Besides the basic health insurance, consumers may choose one or more supplementary packages. These cover expenses that are not included in the basic healthcare package, such as dental care, physiotherapy and alternative therapies. Premiums vary significantly, depending on the chosen cover, and it is crucial to make sure you really know what you are getting for your money. Finding a suitable health insurance policy can be a time-consuming process. ZorgWijzer.nl offers several guides and a useful English tool to help you find a suitable and affordable health insurance policy for 2016.  More >


Ten things you need to know to celebrate Sinterklaas

Ten things you need to know to celebrate Sinterklaas

On December 5, the shops will shut early and some 60% of Dutch households will settle down to celebrate Sinterklaas. Here's a list of all you need to know to get it right. 1 Who is Sinterklaas? The man in the mitre is impersonating Saint Nicholas, a 4th century bishop who lived in Myra, in what is now Turkey. From the 11th century onwards, news of his miracles spread around Western Europe and he became the patron saint of practically every section of society, including children. This goes back to the saint’s facility in piecing back together three young people chopped up by an innkeeper and put in a vat of brine. The story of how Saint Nicholas comes at night to deliver presents is based on his generosity to three prostitutes who were tossed sacks of gold for a dowry through the window under cover of night. Of course he immediately became patron saint of prostitutes too. 2 When did the Dutch start celebrating? The feast of St Nicholas has been celebrated for at least 700 years in the Netherlands and, as a Catholic celebration, went underground when it was banned during the Reformation. Many of today's traditions - such as Zwarte Piet and the steam boat, came from a book written by teacher Jan Schenkman in 1850 and the real commercialisation of Sinterklaas began in the 1930s. Up until the 1940s, children would find a present in their shoe on December 6, which is officially St Nicholas' saints day in the Catholic church calendar. However, the partying has gradually shifted to the night before, or December 5, which is also known as pakjesavond or parcels evening. 3 The arrival of Sinterklaas The Meertens Institute says the first intocht van Sinterklaas, or the arrival of Sinterklaas, took place in Zwolle in 1873 when ‘a couple of well-to do farmers had a local prankster dress up as Sinterklaas distributing sweets to poor children'. Since 1952 the arrival of Sinterklaas has been a televised event which sees the Sint and his Zwarte Pieten land in style from their steam boat from Spain (although Sinterklaas has been known to arrive by train, plane and even a hot air balloon). A different place to set foot on dry land is judiciously chosen every year. Sinterklaas always arrives on a Saturday at least three weeks before December 5 so you have lots of time to spend money on presents. 4 Drawing lots Once Sinterklaas is actually in the country, the fun can begin. Sinterklaasavond, the night of December 5th, is usually celebrated with family and/or friends. Lots bearing the names of the participants are drawn some time beforehand and – another very Dutch tradition – an agreement is made about how much will be spent on the presents. According to a recent consumer poll the Dutch spend between €10 and €50 euros on a present while expenses for the whole evening don’t exceed an average of €100. 5 Shoes In the days leading up to the 5th of December, children put their shoes in front of the fire (or the radiator) in the hope that Sinterklaas will fill it with a small present or a chocolate goody. Some children think they can get around the Sint by leaving a carrot for the bishop's horse, accompanied by a wish list. In the olden days a disobedient child would find a potato in his/her shoe but these days this is deemed too traumatic. 6 Songs Sinterklaasliedjes, or Sinterklaas songs, are sung when the children put their shoe in front of the fireplace and at the beginning of the 5th of December festivities. Most of the songs date from the 19th and early 20th century and, like the character of Zwarte Piet, some have been adapted to the changing times: in the traditional welcoming song ‘Sinterklaasje, kom maar binnen met je knecht’ (Sinterklaas please come in with your servant) the word ‘servant’ has been replaced by ‘Piet’. Here are some examples of popular Sinterklaas songs recorded in the late 1960s. 7 The visit At some point, every Dutch child comes face-to-face with Sinterklaas, whether it be at school or their hockey club or even a home visit. Yes, there are lots of specialist agencies around who will supply you with a Sint and Piet, or even a video message from the great man. Sinterklaas carries with him ‘het grote boek’: a big book with the name of every man, woman and child in it which tells him if they are deserving of a present or not. If Sint visits your home, he will read out all about you from the book (slipped to him in advance by mum or dad) and hand over your gifts. Sinterklaas used to be much more moralistic than he is now, and stories of him threatening to put naughty children in a sack and take them to Spain are very much grandparents' era. 8 Poems Sinterklaas is a feast primarily for children but make no mistake: it’s also an annual grudge fest for grown-ups. People all over the Netherlands are rolling up their sleeves and licking their pencils to have a go at their siblings and friends via another great Sinterklaas tradition: the poem. The poem, which should rhyme and is read out loud by the recipient, is often used as way to score points and take public revenge on your fellow party-goers. As a parent, it is a great way to remind your offspring of the importance of cleaning their teeth or being nice to their siblings. However, be aware that you may get a poem pointing out that your Dutch accent is crap or you drink too much. 9 Surprises Another Sinterklaas tradition is the so-called surprise - or extremely elaborately wrapped up and disguised present. This will plunge households into a frenzy of creativity and closed doors. Some people become extremely competitive and will go to tiresome lengths: for instance by putting your car keys in a block of ice which then has to be defrosted using a hairdryer after which a clue to the present has to be looked for in the car. Others, particularly small boys, like to bury their gift in as much gunk as possible. But most people make nice surprises, such as a cardboard computer for a gamer (but not, alas, with a computer inside, see number 4). 10 Food Food is an important part of Sinterklaas and the giving of speculaas (spiced biscuits, often in the form of the saint) dates back centuries. The sale of Sinterklaas goodies seems to start earlier every year, and if you have not got your chocolate letters in yet, you will find you are left with a choice of S or P (for Sint and Piet). Pepernoten (mini ginger biscuits), taai taai (chewy aniseed biscuits) and schuimpjes, comprised of sugar and artificial colourings, will keep children jittery for weeks. Together, pepernoten and schuimpjes form ‘strooigoed’ or stuff that is thrown into the room by Sint or Piet (usually by an invisible hand belonging to an obliging neighbour), a tradition that again harks back to the saint throwing his money at prostitutes (in his capacity as patron saint of course). The tipple for a Sinterklaas feast is bisschopswijn, or mulled wine. Bonus point:  Sinterklaas versus Christmas Although there’s a shift towards present-giving at Christmas, some 60% of Dutch households still celebrate Sinterklaas, especially ones with small children. International families may well end up celebrating both, urged on by children who are quick to see the advantages of getting two lots of presents within the space of one month.  More >


The story of Dutch spy Mata Hari becomes a ballet

The story of Dutch spy Mata Hari becomes a ballet

She has been the subject of countless books, stage productions and films, but now the life of the Dutch spy and dancer Mata Hari is to be told in the most appropriate way of all – as a ballet. The Dutch National Ballet is producing a large-scale ballet about her, with choreography by artistic director Ted Brandsen, a libretto by Janine Brogt and music by Tarik O’Regan, one of today’s leading British composers. Mata Hari was born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle to a well-to-do Frisian family in 1876. Following an unhappy marriage, she went to seek adventure in Paris where, as the exotic and mysterious Mata Hari, she became one of the most famous dancers of her day. She travelled throughout Europe and had highly-placed lovers everywhere, which made her an ideal spy during World War I. Indeed, she was suspected of being a double agent. She was arrested by the French in February 1917, tried as a spy for the Germans, and executed by firing squad that October at the age of 41. An eyewitness account by British reporter Henry Wales says she was not bound and refused a blindfold. After the volley of shots rang out, Wales reported, she slowly fell to her knees, her head up and gazing directly at those who had taken her life. She then fell backwards with her legs doubled up beneath her. According to Wales, an officer walked up to her body, pulled out his revolver and shot her in the head to make sure she was dead. Metamorphoses Ted Brandsen says he wants to focus mainly on Mata Hari’s ability to keep reinventing herself. ‘She underwent many metamorphoses, like a Lady Gaga or Madonna of a hundred years ago,’ he says. ‘I am also moved by her survival instinct and her will to make something of her life no matter what.’ For Janine Brogt, Mata Hari was larger than life. ‘Everything she did was theatrical and of an intensified reality, ‘she says. ‘She was as changeable as the weather and had dozens of different faces.’ Inspiration Over the decades, the Dutch spy has been an endless source of inspiration for the arts. Films, of course, with actresses ranging from Greta Garbo, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Marlene Dietrich to Jeanne Moreau and Sylvia Kristel playing her. But also stage versions, a television series and a Broadway musical in the 1960s. She has also been immortalised by painters such as Isaac Israels (1916) and John Singer Sargent (1906). Earlier this year it was announced that Broadway choreographer and director Jeff Calhoun has joined forces with a team of musical talent to take on Mata Hari’s story in a new original musical which will have its world premiere in Korea. The National Ballet production has its world premiere in Amsterdam on February 6 2016 with further performances until February 26.  More >