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



Video: Amsterdam’s Light Festival in time lapse

Video: Amsterdam’s Light Festival in time lapse

Amsterdam's canals and city centre squares are once again full of light sculptures and installations for the annual Light Festival. 'Light festivals are flourishing, not just in Amsterdam, but everywhere around the world,' a festival spokesman told the Telegraph. 'They add more meaning to the public area, demonstrate culture and the beauty of simplicity and they bring people together.' The art, which can be viewed either from the water or a special walk, is on show until January 18.   More >


10 ways to celebrate New Year in the Netherlands

10 ways to celebrate New Year in the Netherlands

New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands is celebrated in a most untypically over-the-top  way. Here are 10 things you must do to fit right in, according to website Netherlands by Numbers. 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. 3. Watch whichever comedian is giving this year’s televised Oudejaarsconference – a long and winding monologue wrapping up the year. 4. Buy an oudejaarslot – a lottery ticket – in the hope of winning €30 million. 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 Brabant or a Drenthe village 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. 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 >


How to make sure you keep that New Year get fit resolution

How to make sure you keep that New Year get fit resolution

We all start the year off with New Year resolutions and getting fit and taking up exercise is always somewhere near the top of the list. That might be easier said than done… Determination is key, but so is having a friendly, expert club to put you through your paces. At the Westvliet, fitness & racket club in The Hague we are ready and waiting to help you achieve your fitness goals. And why not bring the family along too? Exercising together as a family is a great way to start the New Year. So bring the kids, enjoy some sports, spend quality time together and enjoy a freshly-prepared meal in our restaurant afterwards – what better way to make sure those New Year resolutions don’t crumble in the first week. Come and meet us at our open day on January 18. Expats Many expats and international workers have already found their way to Westvliet, where the staff are happy to advise you in English as well as Dutch. They appreciate our warm, family atmosphere, which makes all the difference when it comes to feeling at home. We’re easy to get to as well, and offer ample, easy parking as well as good public transport links. Children are central to our way of thinking. We organise many activities to keep the kids busy while parents are working up a sweat on the tennis court. We also run sports camps during the school holidays. Racquet sports Westvliet was established in 1978 as a place for racket sports and we still offer the very best facilities: three large tennis halls and eight courts in total. We have nine squash courts and also offer racquetball and badminton. We run regular tennis competitions during the season and players of all ages can have lessons at the Jan de Rook tennis school. The squash players have weekly ‘club’ evenings on Thursdays from 20.30 to closing time. People from all over the region can walk in and join in a game with our host Philippe or other squash players. Beginners, intermediate and advanced players are all welcome. The atmosphere is informal and you will soon feel at ease amongst the friendly squash players. There are ladder competitions and tournaments with other clubs in the region. Fitness If you are more interested in general fitness, our well-equipped fitness hall is kitted out with Techno Gym apparatus and the ultra-modern Milon Strength-Endurance Circuit. This is a guaranteed way to lose weight and get fit in a safe way – a full training takes only 35 minutes. Make the most of our New Year offer for a free two-week trial period. At Westvliet physiotherapists (BBB) are on the premises who can help you with a training schedule after an injury as part of the therapy. We also have personal trainers on hand who can design a challenging workout for you. If you like to exercise as part of a group, Westvliet offers some 30 class sessions/workouts a week. The classes vary from yoga or tai chi to spinning, grit, body pump Xcó and much more… all you need for a sound body and mind and to work up a sweat. Give us a ring on 070-3864440 and we will gladly make an appointment for your first visit. No strings attached – we want you to see for yourself what all the buzz is about. Only then will you decide if you and your family would like to become members. We also have special corporate deals. If you are interested in getting your colleagues or employees healthy and fit please send an email to fred@westvliet.nl  More >


Health insurance in the Netherlands: all you need to know

Health insurance in the Netherlands: all you need to know

Everyone living in the Netherlands must have health insurance, whether the Dutch public health insurance or private health insurance. Most expats living in the Netherlands long term will be eligible to apply for the Dutch public health insurance but if you’re not, or you want to take out extra cover, then you’ll have to take out private health insurance. Public health insurance in the Netherlands is divided into two forms: The basic insurance package known as Zvw (Zorgverzekeringswet) covers most healthcare from GPs and hospitals, and is mandatory for all Dutch residents, including long-term expats, even if you already have health cover in your home country. Insurance companies have to offer the same basic policy to everyone regardless of age or state of health. The second scheme, AWBZ (Algemene Wet Bijzondere Ziektekosten), covers long-term nursing and care treatment and is automatically provided and funded by deductions from your salary. Who must apply EU/EEA and Swiss citizens and their families living for more than a year in the Netherlands need to take out the Dutch public health insurance; retirees may be covered by health care cover from their home country. European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) holders can use the card for healthcare in the Netherlands for up to a year but may have to pay up front and claim the money back later. Non-EU citizens staying for longer than three months will need a residence permit, after which they are required to take out the Dutch public insurance. Some people may need to take out private insurance, depending on personal circumstances or illnesses. Students under 30 who are studying but not working (even part-time) or in a paid internship, have to take out private insurance unless covered by insurance back in their home country. Over 30s who are employed or staying for more than one year have to take out the Dutch healthcare insurance. Children under 18 are covered for free under their parents' health care insurance. For more information about eligibility, what care and treatments are covered, how the insurance is funded, the excess and help with costs, see this comprehensive guide to the Dutch healthcare system Private health insurance in the Netherlands If you are not covered by the Dutch public health insurance or you want to take out cover for extra treatments (for example, physiotherapy or extensive dental treatments), then you’ll have to take out a private health insurance policy. Private policies can also offer access to private facilities so you can get treatment sooner than through the state system. Unlike the basic insurance policy, insurance companies are not obliged to accept you for private insurance, and your age and health condition can have an impact. How to choose a Dutch insurance provider You are free to select a basic insurance provider of your choice although it can be difficult to choose between different insurers as many of their sites are in Dutch, which, even with online translators, can be tricky to read through. You can start by looking at comparison sites (for example, www.independer.nl or www.kiesbeter.nl) in order to find one best suited to you and your family, taking into consideration price, what is covered, and how much is the excess payment (the amount you co-pay for certain treatments). Bear in mind that some employers also offer corporate health insurance for employees, which may be cheaper than taking out a policy individually. What to look for in a basic policy: How much is the premium? How does the policy work? There are three types: a policy in kind, where the health insurer has contracts with specific health providers and pays the bills for any treatment directly to them; a restitution policy, where you choose your health provider, pay for treatment upfront and get a refund from the insurance company afterwards; and a combination policy where part of the bill is paid by the insurer and part by you. What is the excess (the part of the cost that you have to pay yourself)? This could be nothing or as much as EUR 500. Do you have the option to take out supplementary insurance for any care or treatment that’s not included in the standard package? It is possible to purchase additional coverage (aanvullende packet) from a different insurer than your basic insurer. This may complicate processing your bills, but it can sometimes lower your overall costs, or allow you to purchase additional coverage tailored for the needs of international persons residing in the Netherlands. You can change your policy every year before 1 January, so it’s worth checking to make sure the insurance policy you’ve got still meets your needs. What to look for in a private insurance policy: Look carefully at individual packages to find the one that provides the best cover for you and/or your family’s personal circumstances. Do you have any pre-existing conditions? Do you have children? Do you plan to travel abroad regularly and need coverage for any medical emergencies? What are the premiums and excess? How to apply for Dutch health insurance You have four months to take out insurance after arriving in the Netherlands. If you fail to do so, you could face a fine, and be billed retrospectively for the time you were uninsured. When you register with a health insurer, you will be asked to provide your Citizen Service Number (burgerservicenummer or BSN). This may be issued to you by your employer or by application from the municipal authority where you live or from the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst). You’ll also need to provide proof of residence in the country, as well as an ID document such as your passport and a letter from your employer confirming your employment. The most common method of registering is to either contact the insurer online or by phone. Insurance policies are valid from the time you pay your very first premium. How to use your Dutch health insurance Whenever you seek medical treatment or purchase prescriptions, you must present your ID and health insurance chip card (issued by your insurer). Whether you pay upfront for treatments and claim back from the insurer or the insurer pays the health provider directly depends on your policy (see above). At the end of each year the government announces next year's basic insurance premiums and you have the right to change insurer once a year, provided you inform them of your intention to cancel prior to 1 January. Expatica / Bupa International Bupa International offers a variety of health insurance packages to expats around the globe.    More >


The expert’s guide to having a baby in the Netherlands

The expert’s guide to having a baby in the Netherlands

If you're having a baby in the Netherlands, here's a guide to Dutch prenatal care, delivery, aftercare, and paternity leave in the Netherlands. When it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, the Dutch philosophy is that it should be a natural process and not a medical condition. Therefore, the general attitude within the Netherlands is that the expert guidance should come from a midwife rather than a doctor or a gynaecologist, both of which play only a small role in the pregnancy. A midwife is chosen by the parent or parents. The majority of births take place in a hospital, but there are specialist birthing houses (kraamzorghote) available in some towns or cities as well as outpatient clinics (poliklinisch). In the Netherlands, there are also an above average number of home births with around one in three babies born at home. This is dramatically different to the UK where just two per cent of births are at home and just one per cent in neighbouring Belgium, or the United States. And excellent 30-page booklet on birth in the Netherlands has been produced by ACCESS, who offer prenatal courses in English, and contains everything you need to know about the childbirth process. Prenatal care in the Netherlands The first decision you have to make, once the pregnancy is confirmed, is to decide the type of birth you prefer – in a hospital, clinic, birthing house or home birth. You will then need to choose a midwife to assist in the birthing process. Your doctor will be able to offer advice, or alternatively take a look at the list of midwives in your area listed by The Royal Dutch Organization of Miderlink (KNOV – Koninklijke Nederlandse Organisatie van Verloskundigen). The first appointment with your midwife will be at the 12-week stage of pregnancy, although you may be asked to visit before then. It is at this point that an initial test will take place and you will be given a booklet to chart the pregnancy process at various stages. This booklet is very important when it comes to home births with all information used by midwives at the delivery. You will have a test every four weeks throughout the early months of the pregnancy before becoming a weekly appointment during the latter stages. All midwives will use the Verloskundige Indicatie Lijst (VIL) to monitor potential diseases. Delivery and the birth If you have chosen to give birth in a hospital, the midwife you have selected will meet you in the maternity ward. For the one-third of mothers in the Netherlands who have opted for a home birth, the midwife will arrive to assist in the birth once alerted to an impending birth. A nurse or helper will also attend around an hour or so before the arrival of the baby. Mother and baby will tend to spend less than 24 hours in hospital following the birth and can be allowed to leave as soon as four hours after delivery if there are no complications. After the birth, a 'green book' (Het Groeiboek) is given to parents of each newborn baby. The book is used to document growth, vaccinations and other health related details of formative years. Aftercare in the Netherlands Following the birth of a baby, parents are entitled to up to seven days of aftercare with a maternity assistant (kraamverzorgster). These provide a wide range of services in your home including helping with the infant, domestic chores and providing general help with other children in the household. This is unique to the Netherlands and the kraamverzorgster will spend up to eight hours a day with you. The majority of the cost of such a service, if not the entire cost, will be covered by your health insurance policy. In home birth situations, the kraamverzorgster will be at the birth to provide assistance to the midwife. The midwife will also pay visits to the mother for the first week after the birth. All babies in the Netherlands receive vitamin K following the birth and are also vaccinated within their first eight days of life. More information on vaccinations can be found at www.rivm.nl. The registration of a baby must be made within 72 hours of the birth and must be made in the town of birth, which may not necessarily be the place you live. Once registered at the town hall (gemeentehuis), a birth certificate will be presented to the parents who must provide passports, birth certificates and residency papers of their own. For expats, the child must be registered with the Dutch authorities before any application for an international birth certificate is made with your embassy or consulate. Once the child is registered, you will be given a form to claim child benefits (kinderbijslag). Forms will be sent to you, but more information can be found in the brochure on child benefits at www.svb.nl/Images/9160EZ_0910.pdf. The approximate child allowance payment for those aged between 0–5 is around 200 Euros every three months, rising for those at school age between 6 –11. Dutch maternity and paternity leave For women in full-time employment, maternity leave totals 16 weeks and must begin between four to six weeks before the due date. A further 10 or 12 weeks is then allowed after the birth, taking the full period to 16 weeks. You must inform your employer at least three weeks before beginning maternity leave and apply for maternity benefits at least two weeks before leaving. Fathers are entitled to relatively little paternity leave, just two days. Nurseries and crèches Nurseries (Peuterspeelzaal) in the Netherlands tend to be connected to primary schools and offer an early schooling for children between the age of two-and-a-half and four. Many are Dutch-speaking only, but there are English language nurseries and playgroups available as well. Useful links ACCESS: www.access-nl.org The Royal Dutch Organization of Miderlink (KNOV – Koninklijke Nederlandse Organisatie van Verloskundigen): www.knov.nl Kraamzorg: www.kraamzorg.nl Dutch Association of Breastfeeding Experts: www.nvlborstvoeding.nl Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs: www.minbuza.nl Bupa Global offers a variety of health insurance packages to expats in more than 190 countries around the world.      More >


Things to do in the Netherlands with the kids this Christmas

Things to do in the Netherlands with the kids this Christmas

The weather outside may be frightful but, if you’re keen to escape the cabin fever of festivities and take the kids out to run off some energy then Esther O’Toole has ideas for you. She’s dug though Holland’s best seasonal activities for families to dig up some unusual and inspiring places to go this year. Amsterdam: Concertgebouw – sing along , Christmas concert and more December 20 sees the National Youth Choir arrive at the Concertgebouw for a special sing along performance Middle in de Winternacht. Starting at 13.30 ages 6+ can come to watch and, if you have Dutch speakers in the household, sing along. There are further shows later in the day. On Christmas Eve there is a free concert for all nationalities in the magnificent 19thC hall of the Concertgebouw; a festive selection suited for all ages. As it’s the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the other days round Christmas are not just Christmas classics but a great selection of classical greats including Beethoven and Mahler. Prices start at €20 and on Boxing Day there is a recital by renowned pianist Regina Albrink. For all prices and times visit the website. Amsterdam: The Eye film museum – Tutu, Magic Lantern show and workshop Just after New Year the Eye Film museum is hosting a Magic Lantern workshop for children ages 5-12 and it’s open to native and non-native speakers alike. It’s a great location with a fantastic café - complete with amphitheatre! Participants can make their own shadow puppets, learn about the origins of cinema and, with a combiticket, stay on for a fantastic Magic Lantern show Tutu. Places are limited so get in there quick. January 2,3. €8.50 for the workshop or €15 for the combi. Find out more via the website Utrecht: Cascade Circus – Equilibrium Cascade is the annual circus spectacle from Utrecht’s Stadschouwberg. This is the 23rd edition of this highly successful circus event and this year it’s based around the theme of Equilibrium – balance; well that’s one thing circus performers are particularly skilled in! The wondrous contortions and stunts of the artists are accompanied by music, mime and poetry from all corners of the world promising an impressive and poetic night. December 21 to 24 Utrecht: Skating and Christmas delights at the Transport Museum If you want to feel like you’ve walked into a Christmas movie perhaps the best place to be is the Utrecht’s Transport Museum (SpoorMuseum). There is ice skating between the locomotives, Christmas trees and fairy lights. Plus, there's a traditional carousel, a full programme of bands and street theatre; helping to keep everyone busy from the littlest to the biggest. Skates are free to hire and discounted ticket prices are available on their website. December 24 to January 4 The Hague: King Winter Festival The best of Old and New collide in The Hague’s King Winter Festival. It has lots of traditional fare and activities – Santa’s house is open daily for little visitors and the beer festival events keep their parents happy. There is skating and firework shows as well, weather permitting. Lots of great family shows are on in the theatres such as Billy Elliot the Musical (AFAS Circus Theater) and a new take on Peter Pan from Rabarbar Theater (5+). However, there are also more innovative events such as on the Spui plein where, from December 20, you can take part in and marvel at the Bright Nights 3D Video Mapping event. Haarlem: Serious Request; Glass House and Creative Confetti Club If you listen to Radio 3fm then you’ll already know of their annual charity fundraiser for the Dutch Red Cross. If you don’t then in brief: each year 3 DJs spend a week sleeping and playing music in a glass house on one of the main squares of a different Dutch town. With nothing to eat but vegetable smoothies they trying to raise as much money as possible for charity. This year it is Haarlem’s turn. You can visit the house and make a donation to get a track of your choice played and watch guest singers and bands play live in the house. For the smallest who aren’t able to spend too long outside soaking up the social atmosphere you can take them into the warm and welcoming Creative Confetti Club. During the second half of Serious Request week they are organising kids’ activities such as face painting, dressing up, arts & crafts, music & dancing and it’s complete with readily available festive snacks. Teach the tinies about the real meaning of the holidays and have fun to boot. December 20-24 Zwolle: Ice Sculpture Festival You no longer have to head to Lapland or Northern China for an ice sculpting festival, there’s one in Zwolle! And it’s a biggie. Every year by the station in Zwolle you can see 250,000 kilos of ice turned into the ultimate form of ephemeral art; this year’s theme is World in Motion. Last year the event enjoyed 145,000 visitors. Wander round and wonder and, when you and the wee ones get chilly, head to the Event Plaza for bouncy castles, carousel and Lego games. To January 25 Eindhoven: Fine Feast Days Festival Yep, there’s the ubiquitous Christmas market, skating and shopping in central Eindhoven this year but there’s more. Curling, sledging, stars and kids dancing on ice, a talent show and, wait for it, a Santa run! For more on the events happening throughout the festival – that’s just a selection – check the website for a full schedule. To January 4 Valkenburg: Underground Christmas Market At this time of year Valkenburg’s famous caves are turned into a Winter Wonderland - without the wind. A massive underground Christmas Market is waiting to be discovered for non-claustrophobics everywhere. With hundreds of stalls it promises a popular and magical take on the traditional. If you want to shop for curiosities and sip mulled wine without your fingers freezing off this could be the way to go. To December 23 Esther O’Toole is a freelance writer and founder of www.quint-creative.com  More >


Christmas gifts with a touch of Dutchness

Christmas gifts with a touch of Dutchness

Gift-giving is becoming much more common at Christmas than it used to be. Here is the DutchNews.nl list of perfect presents with a touch of Dutchness for that last minute shopping list. Kids stuff Museum shop gifts have never been better. Forget the reproduction silver dishes and the wheelie suitcases featuring the Girl with the Pearl Earring. Start them off with Dutch art at a young age: Vermeer's Melkmeisje from Playmobile €4.95       Learn to read the Dutch way. Essential reading for all would-be Dutch kids - Jip and Janneke in English. Bought from local bookshop ABC for €19.95 Hema also has a wide collection of Jip and Janneke themed goodies.     For the little dreamer: we love the duvet covers from Snurk (snore)… for horizontal living. There are ballerinas, astronauts and all sorts of fantasies but our favourite is Bob the Beagle. €59.95       Bike stuff: How could we recommend gifts from the Netherlands without mentioning bikes. These are our favourite bike accessories. A plastic bike saddle cover keeps the rain off and your seat dry. Everyone should have one. From €11.75 A stand-up bike pump is a whole lot easier than the traditional hand-held pump attached to most bikes. Available at every bike shop. Bit awkward for packing mind you. Keep the police at bay. Portable bike lamps from Hema, your local bike shop or the dispensing machine in the bike park. They cost just a couple of euros but save €25 a time in fines – perfect for the teenagers in your life.   Designer stuff If you are feeling flush, anything by Hella Jongerius. We particularly like the animal bowls - no not for feeding your dog.       For the lady in your life. Check out the gorgeous gloves from Hester van Eeghen. We want them in every colour.         Not perhaps the most beautiful object but a perfect example of pragmatic Dutch design… sturdy, weather-proof and folds up small – the storm umbrella.     Household stuff   The Dutch love their potted plants, and here is a way to show them off with a difference. From Droog Design             No more excuses for forgetting to send a card and failing to take a cake to work. You cannot get more Dutch than a birthday calendar – preferably hanging on the back of the downstairs loo door. Buy a classic version from Verjaardagscalender for €15.95 or have your own made with AH or Albelli.nl’s photo service.           And finally, everyone’s favourite Dutch biscuit, combined with a pretty box – and cheap at the price. Albert Heijn stroopwaffels €3.95 in a souvenir tin.      More >


11 things you need to know about Christmas in the Netherlands

11 things you need to know about Christmas in the Netherlands

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


Festive food? Restaurants open in Amsterdam for Christmas 2014

Festive food? Restaurants open in Amsterdam for Christmas 2014

Looking for a restaurant in Amsterdam that is open on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (Tweede Kerstdag to some of you!)? DutchNews.nl's favourite food blogger Amsterdam Foodie - aka Vicky Hampton - has some suggestions.     This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are a few of the swankier places I’ve heard are open via various newsletters and press releases I receive. And it’s Christmas – so you want to go swanky, right? Incidentally, I’ve not actually been to all these places – so I’m not recommending them (I’m not even reviewing them), I’m just telling you they’re open for business… Floor17 I’ve not eaten at Floor17 (although I know a man who has: check out Dutchified’s video) but I have had cocktails at Floor17’s bar. And one thing’s for certain: whatever you think of the food, the view (from 17 storeys high) is amazing. This year, chef Richard Matulessy has put together a 7-course Christmas menu for your delectation. Cost: €90 Reserve: http://floor17.nl/restaurant-floor17/kerst/ Conservatorium Hotel I once had cocktails at the Conservatorium Hotel when I was reviewing it for the World’s Best Bars. The experience nearly bankrupted me (I didn’t get paid expenses), but if you’re feeling flush then chef Schilo van Coevorden has dreamt up a couple of Christmas options. Take your pick from Asian-inspired Taiko (think lobster sashimi and soy-glazed partridge) or keep it more traditional with pumpkin soup and beef wellington from the Conservatorium Brasserie Cost: €79 Reserve: http://www.conservatoriumhotel.com/nl/its-that-time-of-the-year Bluespoon Last year, I had a very nice dinner at Bluespoon, which is good news because the Andaz Hotel’s restaurant is serving up family-style Christmas brunches and dinners on December 24, 25 and 26. Cost: €62 Reserve: http://hyatt.com/corporate/restaurants/Bluespoon/en/Home/HolidaySeason/Christmas.html Jaspers French meets modern Dutch at this popular high-end kitchen and dining room in de Pijp. Chef Jasper is serving a 6-course Christmas menu, including scallops, duck-liver pate and pork belly, while sommelier Tim can recommend a wine pairing to match. Cost: €68 Reserve: http://www.restaurantjaspers.nl/contact/ Carter Bar & Kitchen I’ve had literally no experience of Carter whatsoever, but Iens tells me they’re serving classic Christmas dishes with a modern twist: ravioli with smoked mozzarella, venison with sprouts, mackerel, oysters and chocolate desserts. At €42.50 per person, it’s the cheapest of the bunch, too. Cost: €42.50 Reserve: http://barcarter.nl/ De Palmboom Beef, pumpkin soup and mackerel tartar are all on the menu on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at De Palmboom. The Boxing Day menu takes a similar format but courses are different (they still look seasonal and fairly meaty, however). I’ve never eaten at De Palmboom, but its central location looks handy for visitors to Amsterdam. Cost: €49.50 Reserve: http://www.restaurantdepalmboom.nl/en/reserveren Envy I’ve only eaten at Envy once and I was none too impressed with the diet-sized portions and sullen service, so I never went back. But that was a long time ago and they’re still going strong, so maybe they’ve improved. On Christmas Day and Boxing Day, they’re serving a five-course dinner, and on Boxing Day only (Dec 26th) they’re serving lunch too. Cost: €59.50 Reserve: http://www.envy.nl/nl/reserveren Julius Bar & Grill The grill specialists are serving a three-, four- or five-course menu, including jumbo prawns from their Big Green Egg BBQ (naturally) and roasted rib eye. You’ve got to hope the service will be quicker than when I ate at Julius, however, or you’ll be there until New Year’s… Cost: €35 – €49.40 Reserve: http://juliusbargrill.nl/nl/reserveren Mazzo Mazzo is keeping it Italian with a Christmas menu featuring antipasti to start and Panforte with Vin Santo sabayon for dessert (the main in the middle looks more traditional). On Boxing Day, they’re also serving an antipasti-led brunch, so it’ll be Buon Natale all round. I’ve eaten at Mazzo and it wasn’t a great experience (are you starting to see a theme in my opinion of these IQ Creative restaurants?) but it seems to be popular so what do I know? Cost: €45 – €52.50 (dinner); €22.50 (brunch) Reserve: http://www.mazzoamsterdam.nl/nl/reserveren This feature was first published on the Amsterdam Foodie blog. The cookbook, Vicky Hampton's Working Lunch, makes a great Christmas gift as well.   More >


Rental housing update: some agencies do have a heart

Rental housing update: some agencies do have a heart

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that there has been quite a lot going on in the Dutch rental market in recent months. The commotion surrounding agency fees and who should pay who and for what has generated a lot of discussion in the media, among housing agencies, and at a local and national government level. For those involved in renting a property, listing a property or providing services, it has also been a period of uncertainty. Perfect Housing has been a part of the housing market for over a decade, listing an extensive portfolio in the Netherlands enabling any corporate clients to find a home. Responding to changes in the market, Perfect Housing has now spun of its Home Search services into West Housing Services which provides portfolio independent solutions for anyone needing a home. Choice 'Perfect Housing will remain the number one listing website for housing in the Netherlands. We are still working just as hard, but now have more time to focus specifically on being able to showcase the best properties in the country, all of which are visible on our website,' says Perfect Housing managing partner Mike Russell. 'Perfect Housing works with over 50 partner agencies that provide tailored home search services: West Housing is one of these partners. Working together, but yet completely separate, we are able to provide the perfect package - if that is what the client wants. It is 100% optional whether the client wishes to receive assistance during the home search, or do independent viewings. Perfect Housing is simply here to show you the best possible apartments available.' With all the changing laws and policies, Perfect Housing has done its best to remain on top of things whilst adapting to the changes in the rental market and meeting the client’s wishes. Community 'Yet with all the restructuring and reorganisation going on, we haven’t forgotten about the fact that it is almost Christmas,' the company says. 'We work with clients from all over the world, and we have decided that in the spirit of Christmas, we want to give something back.' You might think this is just a cynical ploy to get more clients, but Perfect Housing is committed to its community. So the company is donating a share of its profit per successful Home Search done by West Housing to a small charity which is close to their hearts. All of the donations go to the Namasté Foundation in Nepal. The foundation works very hard to help children in Nepal develop an independent future through education. For every successful Home Search in December, the company will make a donation to provide housing and education for one Nepali child for two months. The children will get everything they need to go to school; all the equipment, a scholarship to pay for their tuition fees and housing. For any further questions regarding the changes in the rental market, or if you’re simply looking for a home, feel free to give us a call or visit the Perfect Housing website.  More >


Brabant: A province in the south that offers plenty of surprises

Brabant: A province in the south that offers plenty of surprises

Commonly referred to as Brabant, the province of Noord-Brabant attracts expatriates working in the high-tech industry and boasts a healthy economy. It might not be the obvious place for a day out, but Olivia van den Broek-Neri has plenty of suggestions. Also known as Den Bosch, ‘s-Hertogenbosch is the capital of Brabant and has retained the medieval character that continues to charm visitors. Begin your visit with a boat trip along the Binnendieze and discover the history of the former hunting grounds for Duke Hendrik the First, which received its city rights in 1185. Continue on by visiting Sint-Janskathedraal (St. John's Cathedral), whose tower reaches 73 metres high. Next, visit the Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre, which honours its most famous resident. 2016 will mark 500 years since the fifteenth century painter’s death, and will be celebrated with a year of festivities. End your visit with a stop at Banketbakkerij Jan de Groot for a bosschebol, a pastry with chocolate and whipped cream that attracts a flock of enthusiasts. Smart and Creative in Eindhoven Each year, thousands of international students converge upon Eindhoven to study at Eindhoven's University of Technology and the Design Academy Eindhoven. This mixture of technology and design provides Brabant’s largest city with a young and international flavour that exudes creativity, especially during the autumn months. Begin your day in Eindhoven at the Van Abbemuseum. The only museum in the country that focuses solely on modern and contemporary art from the 20th and 21st centuries, the Van Abbemuseum boasts the largest El Lissitzky collection outside Russia, plus masterpieces by Picasso, Chagall, Beuys, Dumas, Appel and Daniëls. End your visit in the Karel 1 Café where you can have a drink and a meal while enjoying a view of the Dommel River.  Van Gogh's roots in Brabant Although Amsterdam has the Van Gogh Museum, people who want to see what made the great artist who he is must visit Brabant! It is where he was born and was inspired to become the artist he is known as today; where he received his first serious drawing lessons, and where he painted his first masterpiece, The Potato Eaters. The Van Gogh Brabant organisation is proud of its connection with the world-famous artist, and continues to educate the public about him and to inspire the next generation of artists. It offers many opportunities to explore Van Gogh country, including bike and walking tours. The Van Gogh locations are spread over the province and allow for a nice way to get to know the province. A Day out for thrill seekers and nature enthusiasts Brabant is home to Efteling, the largest and most popular amusement park in the country. Efteling resort is comprised of the theme park, the four-star Efteling Hotel, an 18-hole golf course, the Efteling Theatre, and Efteling Bosrijk, a holiday park with bungalows. See wildlife up close at Safari Park Beekse Bergen, the largest wildlife zoo in the Benelux. Go on an African safari and meet the African Big Five without leaving the country! Choose from a bus safari, boat safari or a car safari. The daring can even go on a walking safari. Brabant also has its own desert! Nicknamed the Brabant Sahara and located in the Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park, the 30-square kilometres of shifting sands is home to a variety of plants and animals. Go mountain biking, enjoy a picnic or go on a hike. Dogs are also welcome to explore. Olivia van den Broek-Neri is originally from California and has lived in Eindhoven for seven years. She is currently project coordinator for communication & events at Holland Expat Center South.This article appeared first in ACCESS Magazine.    More >


The Eternal Intern, or why it is so hard to find a paid job

The Eternal Intern, or why it is so hard to find a paid job

So you've got your degree, and you are ready to take that first or second step on your career ladder - but all the jobs you find that meet your profile are only open to an intern. Esther O’Toole takes a look at the minefield surrounding today’s internships.   ‘Is it just me, or is anyone else sick to death of seeing seven out of ten job ads asking for interns? […],' wrote Leigh Cann, designer and curator at AfricanArtbeat.com, on LinkedIn recently. Cann was drawing particular attention to the seemingly widespread use of internships to fulfill what used to be freelance or full-time paid positions for juniors. 'Interns get paid either nothing or very little,' she wrote. 'They are doing multiple internships, landing up in an endless cycle of no pay, desperate to get that much-needed experience.'   It did strike a chord. Searching for freelance work online of late you might come to expect at least a third of postings to be for internships. Though the case of the ‘eternal intern’ is well known in the US and Britain, here in sensible old Holland there must be rules for internship practices to stop young, talented workers being exploited. Right? Yes, of course there are. Students Technically, Dutch law requires that interns be either an EU citizen or enrolled in a higher education course. For those coming to study from further afield, there are specifics on visa requirements and they will have to stop after their course of study is finished. Though there is no law to require businesses to pay interns anything there is, in general, a stipend of between €200 and €300 on offer. However, when companies have a list of desirables as long as your arm, require a full-time commitment for at least six months and give very little information about what you get at the end of the term it begs the question - are these rules working? A stipend of €250 for a 36-hour working week in one of the major cities can’t possibly allow for independent living and smacks of inequity. How do you know as a newcomer that your internship will really help enhance the chances of building the kind of career you’re after? Unemployment The Dutch social affairs and employment ministry says it is working to get to grips with the question of internships. ‘There are initiatives in place now; getting a better grip on youth unemployment, improving the transition from education to work and LeerWerkLoketten,’ spokeswoman Hayat Eltalhaui told DutchNews.nl. The LeerWerkLoketten (Learning & Work Bureaus) aim to provide easily accessible advice about rights, obligations and the transition from education to work for both (young) workers and companies alike. However, while there are no plans to introduce a minimum stipend for interns, measures are in place to punish companies which break the rules. ‘Fines have increased and in the case of repeated infringements work can be halted,’ Eltalhaui says. Benefits Start-ups in particular rely on an ever-expanding pool of 'interns' to tide them through the first months and years - without them the company would be financially unviable. A property firm in Amsterdam is currently advertising for an administrative intern to basically run the office, do the books and manage the company's social media strategy. The pay? 'To be discussed' says the advert. Responsible employers make sure they meet the government guidelines. It is not unusual for larger corporations to offer around €500 a month stipend, travel costs or access to a whole range of normal employee benefits. This in conjunction with a clear development trajectory that should lead to real employment prospects at the end of the term, either with that company or elsewhere. However, these are competitive and are in no way the norm. Robbert Coenmans, the current chairman of the FNV Jong – the FNV trade union’s youth division – remains sceptical. ‘We do see this as a growing issue. A considerable [youth] group has lowered their standards, mainly because of the high rate of youth unemployment,' he says.  'Perhaps four years ago an (unpaid) internship after finishing an education would not be a viable option for most people. Now it is. This seems to be a growing trend born out of desperation ... which is handy [for employers] if you want to cut your costs.’ In addition, he says, a complaint to employment ministry inspectors or to the union 'would cut their chance of actually being hired, so no one complains'. Cost-cutting The picture remains unclear. Are companies working towards developing the next generation of employees or simply cost-cutting? The Waldorf Astoria hotel in Amsterdam, for example, is currently looking for a housekeeping intern who will be 'responsible for cleaning guest rooms, replenishing amenities and supervising room attendants to deliver an excellent guest experience while monitoring housekeeping standards and assisting the head housekeeper.' While a way into one of the world's most high profile hotel chains is a great opportunity, how can you be sure any internship will be beneficial enough to be worth the low pay for doing a full-time job? Emke Daniels, HR expert and one of the founders of HR Community, works a lot with young starters and sees them wrestling with this problem regularly. ‘Employers are looking for people with experience, but are not prepared to invest in building that experience. Or if they are, it’s a very low investment. But there is also good news on this front - such as our work with the starters scholarship scheme (Startersbuurs) These [scholarships] stimulate employers to give young people a chance by providing a financial contribution to their pay. The construction is not an internship but a real work experience.’ Permanent job For many interns the ‘real work experience’, one that couldn’t be gained in one single paying position, was always top of their list when it came to the pros of interning. Bart Sturm, who interned with his current employer before being offered a permanent position, says the company was extremely flexible. 'I could help and get experience with many different activities. This is harder as an employee, and it’s impossible in many organisations, but Peerby was happy to let me get involved in any area I could. I still reap the rewards of having worked on several parts of the business,’ he says. With the economy picking up one must hope that employers will be increasingly keen to hang on to good workers and be prepared to pay for them too. More starters’ schemes are surely to be encouraged. If you’re embarking on an internship advance with caution. Search well and use the services available. Research your potential employer properly, particularly if they are a start-up. Be sure you’re clear about the terms of the internship and the benefits it will bring. For everyone concerned. For more information on internships in the Netherlands and your rights check out these sites for interns and student placements: http://www.studyinholland.nl/ https://www.lerenenwerken.nl/leerwerkloketten http://www.fnvjong.nl/ http://www.hrtalent.nl/hrtrainee http://www.startersbeurs.nu Esther O’Toole is a freelance writer and creative development director at Quint Creative. www.quint-creative.com  More >


Giants of the Ice Age – in Amsterdam

Giants of the Ice Age – in Amsterdam

As the cold weather sets in, an outing that fits perfectly with this festive period is taking the kids to visit the relatives at Amsterdam EXPO. That is, their long distant relatives - the Neanderthals - who, research suggests, make up a tiny part of most of us. The new EXPO show, Giants of the Age Ice, brings you face to face with the massive giant mammoth and the deadly saber-toothed cat as well as exploring what life was like for Neanderthals 30,000 years ago. Research now suggests most humans today have a genetic pool comprised of 1-4% Neanderthal genes. It appears that as modern humans or Homo sapiens moved from Asia into Europe (30,000 years ago), the Neanderthal population living in this region was dying out. Some members of both species became sufficiently acquainted to mix the gene pools before the Neanderthals became an extinct species, leaving their genetic legacy to live on. Not quite the movie… Probably of more interest to the younger members of the family will be the skeletons, fossils and replicas of the animals from the period. Giants of the Ice Age refers to larger than life familiar-looking mammals like the woolly mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, saber-tooth cats and cave bears that feature in this travelling exhibition. They are not the cute, cartoon characters or soft fluffy toys that some children who have seen the Ice Age series of animated films may have been led to believe. Star of the Show Found in Siberia in 2012, a woolly mammoth skeleton estimated to be between 30,000 and 50,000 years old, has been reassembled from 215 bones (85% original skeleton) and is undoubtedly the star of the exhibition. This mammoth skeleton, with its long tusks intact, stands proudly at three meters tall. Two preserved mammoth babies – Lyuba and Dima – respectively 37,000 and 35,000 years old, are presented in glass cabinets, maintaining the same position they have held since their premature deaths and burial in muddy bog holes. Another room contains life size replicas of two adults and one baby woolly mammoth adding further confirmation of the massive size and importance of this species. Supporting Actors During this period rhinoceroses covered in fur also roamed the planet, very different from the leathery skin of their African counterparts, indicating that adaption was essential in surviving their environment. These woolly rhinoceroses were herbivores with two horns, the front horn thought to work as a snow shovel to help the animal get to the plants below. Saber-toothed cats were similar in size to the maneless cave lions present during this Ice Age. The saber-tooth cat sported a long pair of incisors thought to measure 28 cms in length. These teeth may have looked frightening, but acted more of a hindrance to the animal when catching their prey and were probably utilised only to deliver a well-aimed blow to the carotid artery or windpipe. Other highlights The exhibition also includes photographs, sculptures and images of prehistoric art dating back 35,000 to 40,000 years. Although the art does not give any indication about the landscape, it does document the presence of animals including wild horses and bison, which can be used by researchers to learn more about the environment during this period. The exhibition is a wonderful experience that is sure to stimulate interest in this prehistoric time. As a complement to this show, a visit to Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, home to a complete gallery dedicated to the Netherlands in the Ice Age, is a must. This gallery contains numerous fossils found locally indicating that at one time mammoths may have made the crossing from Rotterdam to London keeping their enormous feet totally dry. Just imagine. Giants of the Ice Age runs until March 1, 2015. This exhibition is a collaboration between the Neanderthal Museum (Germany), MAMUZ (Austria), Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Jesolo (Italy) and the host venue. http://www.amsterdamexpo.nl Ana McGinley  More >


Starting out as a start-up: creative hubs for entrepreneurs

Starting out as a start-up: creative hubs for entrepreneurs

If you are just setting up in business or have plans to take a leap towards entrepreneurship, the Netherlands has a great range of meeting places, networking and training schemes that you can dig into. Esther O'Toole has a few suggestions of where to look for the freshest inspiration.   Some 800,000 people in the Netherlands are now considered to be self-employed, or a ZZP'er. Amsterdam is busy repositioning itself away from tourist den of iniquity to creative international player, a policy which has helped produce a wave of new entrepreneurs and provoked an explosion of new resources, hotbeds (‘broedplaatsen’), development schemes and networks to encourage them. So where is it worth setting up shop? Pakhuis de Zwijger Established in 2006 Pakhuis de Zwijger exists to inspire and bring together people of all walks of life interested in creativity and innovation. It aims to provide a level playing field for networking and every month there is a range of speakers, networking nights, courses and even a pub quiz to serve as a less formal meeting ground. With approximately forty different events a month there is plenty to get involved in. Its main areas of focus include architecture, design, urban planning and the arts but they also include pretty much everything that falls in between these or overlaps. You can sign up free for their social network too. Mediamatic Mediamatic is a hothouse for the cross pollination of ideas that started life way back in 1983 and developed into a modern connected network. Varied is its middle name. They put on exhibitions, have acted as an occasional publishing company and you can go there for myriad workshop experiences. Their main aim is to find new ways of exploring cultural influences on technology and techs influences on culture. Current areas of primary focus include aquaponics for urban agriculture and their Myco Design lab looking at research with micro-organisms in search of new organic building materials. Check out their website for upcoming events from the creator of an algae eating robot and the ‘Drone Camping’ at the end July. A generalist’s playground! Mediamatic is internationally focused; the website and all events are in English. Events that do charge are low cost to maintain open access – check the website for specifics. They also offer varied internships. Cultureel Ondernemen C-O (cultural entrepreneurship) provides development and finance advice for all creative business fields. New entrepreneurs, those wishing to increase their level of professionalism or business acumen and more established cultural organisations with specific project plans can turn to them for information and assistance. Get in touch for a free face-to-face session or sign up for one of their training sessions via the website (prices vary.) Rockstart If you’re looking for a real powerhouse of entrepreneurial energy head to Rockstart. With pitching and networking events, office or co-working space and a specially designed Accelerator programme, Rockstart is a fantastic source of info for start-ups in their first 1000 days. An extremely international operation with English as the working language, extras include free yoga sessions and exotic lunches. ‘Broedplaatsen’ (Hothouses) and space sharing Artist-led initiatives, self-styled artistic hubs, often geared towards one medium or several overlapping disciplines have always done well in Amsterdam since the early 1980s - so much so that the city council set up a Bureau de Broedplaatsen ter Amsterdam. It provides advice and an easy access map of where different initiatives are based. These range from creative workshop spaces and networking hubs to places such as The Beehive, a cellular office complex where you can hire a cubicle, or an office, or a conference room at very affordable rates, they have complexes in West (Sloter) Oost (Ijburg) and de Zuidas. Outside Amsterdam Spaces.nl Affordable and interesting office space sometimes seems like a contradiction in terms. Spaces.nl is one of the organisations seeking to make flexible work space both affordable, attractive and useful. Their buildings in The Hague and Amsterdam (at 3 locations) offer a variety of priced rooms and offices together with flex-places and cafes. With a wide variety of entrepreneurs using them you can be working and networking at the same time and by becoming a member of their online community you can keep up with your fellows with ease. Seats2Meet Along the same lines but with a more global-minded vision is Seats2Meet. With affiliate locations in 67 locations in the Netherlands roving start-up workers are well served. If work takes you abroad there are further desk spaces, work spaces or meeting places waiting for you in Belgium, Germany, the UK and more. Funding and advice As well as offering shared offices, Rockstart travels the country answering questions at its Rockstart Answers sessions. If you’re looking for creative funding the Amsterdam Fonds voor de Kunst (Amsterdam Funds for the Arts) now do walk-in sessions to pitch your ideas before going through all the performance of full on application. Guidance in advance of applying greatly enhances your chances of success and/or stops you wasting time on a lengthy pitch on paper if the idea still needs work. They now also have grants aimed at artists looking for personal development money and with international focus so you can be sure that being an ex-pat does not put you at a disadvantage. Further funding bodies worth checking out include the Prince Bernard Fonds for the Arts and the Mediafonds. Esther O'Toole is the creative director of Quint-Creative.com  More >


Video: Happy to help KLM bails out passengers from other airlines

Video: Happy to help KLM bails out passengers from other airlines

Have you ever sent out a frustrated comment on social media about plane delays, your lost luggage or the fact you are about to miss your flight? There is nothing worse than that sinking feeling you get when you realise your carefully planned trip is going wrong. So, Dutch flag carrier KLM has been helping passengers from other airlines in a five-day project to solve travellers' problems all over the globe. The project, known as Happy to Help, was run by a specially-set up control centre at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport but KLM staff all over the globe were asked to be on the look out for travel-related problems that needed solving. A team constantly scanned Twitter looking for passengers in need. No problem was too small or or trivial to be taken care off. At one point, a KLM staffer even sang a lullaby down the phone to help Sean, who could not sleep. Urbain Zibo was rushed to the airport by speed boat to catch his flight to Bermuda. Tom and Kelly, who asked Twitter if champagne was available on their flight because they was off on honeymoon, got the star treatment. Lost luggage was found, passports were picked up by motorbike and Eva was given a wake up call to remind her to get up in time for her flight. The aim of the project was to allow everyone experience KLM's customer service, even people who were not flying with the airline. Were they surprised? You bet they were. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ef7n2s3j-BU&list=UUOzdP6ZlqpPKDdx7zibzJmw  More >


Solar cycle paths – the way forward?

Solar cycle paths – the way forward?

Last week, the world's first solar cycle paths were opened in Holland: 'Starry Night' near Eindhoven and SolaRoad in Krommenie. The cycle paths use two entirely different technologies to generate solar energy, but are solar cycle paths a crazy idea or the way forward? asks Holland-Cycling.com’s Hilary Staples. Starry Night near Eindhoven is both a functional cycle path and a work of art by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde. It’s inspired by a painting by Vincent van Gogh. The opening of the cycle path marks the start of the celebrations for the 125th anniversary of Van Gogh’s death in 2015. The glow-in-the-dark cycle path uses light-emitting techniques: light stones are charged during the day and emit light during the evening. This not only lights up the cycle path, but also creates the impression of cycling through Van Gogh’s eponymous painting.. Smart fun The Starry Night cycle path received a lot of attention from media all over the world. Most people love the project: ‘Beautiful. Technology making the present both futuristic and magical. Should embrace more of this to make life just a little bit more special,’ writers said. However, one sceptic is a bit confused by the concept: ‘I just don’t see the reasonable application.’ Obviously the Starry Night cycle path is meant as a bit of fun, but it’s also intended as a way to generate publicity for a serious, energy saving application, the Smart Highway: interactive road markings powered by solar energy that light the roads (no more street lights!) and increase road safety. SolaRoad SolaRoad in the village of Krommenie is a pilot project testing the practicality and cost efficiency of embedding solar panels into a cycle path. The path is to generate energy that can power anything from street lights or traffic lights to electric cars or houses. The experimental cycle path is made up of rows of solar cells, encased in concrete blocks. The road surface consists of a one centimetre thick translucent layer of tempered glass which is said to meet all (safety) requirements. A non-adhesive finish and a slight tilt so the rain can wash off dirt keep the solar panels clean so they can work as efficiently as possible. The path is now 70 metres in length, but will be extended to 100 metres in 2016. The developer of the solar bike path concept, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research TNO, sees great potential in the idea. They say there are only enough roofs suitable for solar panels to meet 25% of the demand for electricity in Holland. With SolaRoad, up to 20% of the 140,000 km of road in Holland could potentially be used to harvest solar energy. ‘It could mean a breakthrough in the production of sustainable energy.’ The cycle path in Krommenie is expected to generate between 50 and 70 kWh per m2 per year. This would be enough to power three households. The cycle path, which cost an impressive €3m, has been financed by the local government and Dutch companies who believe the project has economical potential. More sustainable The idea of using existing road infrastructure to generate solar energy is not new. Holland already has solar panels on street lights, sound barriers and sides of bridges. In a small and densely populated country efficient use of space is simply a must. The idea is now also catching on across the globe. The Dutch media and public, who are usually very quick to voice any criticism, are overall optimistic. They hope ‘cycling is to become even more sustainable’ and are waiting for the test results to see whether the concept works. Heated debate Outside Holland, the response has been sceptical if not outraged. British newspaper The Guardian wrote a positive piece about the experimental cycle path, but pointed out that ‘since the path cannot be adjusted to the position of the sun, the panels produce roughly 30% less energy than those fixed on the roofs.’ This triggered a heated debate as to whether roads are the best location for solar panels. The main concerns are the inefficiency of the solar panels on a road (due to their position, shade and dirt), the high production and maintenance costs, and the unsuitability of tempered glass as a safe road surface (dangerous, not durable and costly to replace). Roads need roofs The strongest critic of the solar cycle path is Craig Morris of Renewables International, who hopes that people will quickly realise how terrible the idea is, so that the project will not be copied elsewhere. ‘I’ve been in the Netherlands, and I can tell you one thing - the roads need roofs. You should put a solar roof over a bike path, provide protection from the rain (most of the year) and the sun (a few days of a year), and actually generate a decent amount of electricity. Cyclists would not shade the panels, not as much dirt would build up on the panels if they are three metres up, and you would have a much less expensive, safer bike path underneath.’ His alternative is readily embraced by the sceptics. While it’s hard to disagree that, from an energy efficiency and economical point of view, covering cycle paths with a solar roof would probably be a better idea than a solar cycle path, Morris misses the point of the pilot: using existing infrastructure to generate energy. Leaving aside the question whether we should build roofs over cycle paths in a country where it only rains 7% of the time (and the rain rarely comes down straight!), I can’t help but wonder how many cyclists would still be eager to come and explore Holland by bike if the whole countryside were covered by ribbons of solar roofs. Way forward? Are solar cycle paths the way forward? It’s good to explore new technology and if the solar cycle path in Krommenie contributes to the development of more efficient, durable and affordable solar panels, who could be against it? However, many people - including me - wonder whether solar cycle paths and roads are the most economically viable option. Even if every suitable road surface would be used, it still wouldn’t be enough to supply every Dutch household with electricity. Surely we should focus on developing more efficient solar panels and place them in the best possible locations, to start with on roof tops. And if all our roof tops aren’t enough, shouldn’t we ask ourselves: what are we doing wrong? One thing is clear: solar cycle paths are of no benefit to the people for whom the cycle paths are intended. Some cyclists worry that the investment in solar cycle paths will come out of the budget for cycle paths and have a negative effect on cycling infrastructure in Holland. That should never be the outcome of a project aimed at more sustainability. After all, cycling is the most energy-efficient mode of transport! This article was first published on website Holland-Cycling.com.    More >


11 Dutch phrases involving animals

11 Dutch phrases involving animals

In both Dutch and English you can catch bulls by the horns and run around like headless chickens. Here is a list of 11 more popular Dutch phrases involving animals. Be poedelnaakt, or as naked as a poodle. Except the word nothing to do with poodles and comes from poedelen, or splashing about in the bath. Wash a pig. If someone says: Ik zal dat varkentje wel eens wassen they mean that they will tackle this job good and proper. Be as stoned as a shrimp. This entered the language thanks to comedian Kees van Kooten who had a hit with his carnival song parody Stoned als een garnaal. Listen to it here. Have your sheep on dry land. If you have your schaapjes op het droge you are rich. Be caught in dog’s weather or hondenweer. You wouldn’t send your dog out in it. Unless you give him a little raincoat. Take the hare’s path. Het hazenpad kiezen, or scarper Be as bald as nits. Slightly puzzling. Nits don’t commonly have hair but there is probably a connection between a shaven head as a consequence of having nits, hence Zo kaal als de neten. See a monkey appear from a sleeve. Daar komt de aap uit de mouw means Aha! Now we know what’s really at the bottom of this. Be as healthy as a fish, or zo gezond al seen vis. Surely a remnant of less polluted times. You can also have butter with the fish - boter bij de vis - which means you pay for goods and services  straight away. Be in the presence of a man and a half and a horse’s head. Did lots of people come to your birthday party? No, anderhalve man en een paardenkop. It means a sprinkling of people. Note that the Dutch use ‘kop’ instead of ‘hoofd’ for the noble animal that is the horse, presumably to stress the piffling number of people. There are lots of other animal sayings in Dutch. Vooruit met de geit and send them to us. This feature was first published on blog Netherlands by Numbers.  More >


10 documentaries you must see at this year’s IDFA festival

10 documentaries you must see at this year’s IDFA festival

The IDFA documentary film festival takes place in Amsterdam up to November 30. More than 300 films are being screened during the 11 day event, which was first held in 1988. Here is the Parool's list of 10 documentaries you should not miss. 'Plaza man' (Director: Kasper Verkaik) Robert Groder turned 18 the day president Kennedy was shot. He has dedicated his life to finding out the ‘truth’ about what happened that day. His obsession - Groder paints a big X on the road at Dealey Plaza, Dallas every day – has taken a heavy toll on his personal happiness. 'Solo – Out of a dream' (Director: Jos de Putter) In 1994 Jos de Putter’s 'Solo – De wet van de favela' was an Idfa winner. It turned Leonardo, an eleven-year old football player from the favelas, into a star who played for Ajax and Feijenoord.  Twenty years later De Putter and Leonardo return to Rio: the confrontation with his past is not an easy one for the football player. 'Finding Fela' (Director: Alex Gibney) A portrait of one of the best African artists - and a look at contemporary Nigeria - which does not shy away from the dark sides of the life of this musical genius. 'Wolflady' (Director: Daan Willekens) Will 21-year-old Sharon Kovacs from Eindhoven be the next Anouk or even the next Amy Winehouse? Willekens is there as a temperamental Kovacs takes her first steps on the slippery path to fame. 'Around de world in 50 concerts' (Director: Heddy Honigmann) Hedy Honigmann is this year’s guest of honour at Idfa. In this documentary she follows the Concertgebouw orchestra on its travels around the world and talks to people whose love for classical music is central to their lives. We also learn that cymbals weigh 4 kilos a piece. '1971' (Director: Johanna Hamilton) What happened to the anti-war activists who broke into an FBI office at the time of the Vietnam war? Now that the case is past the statute of limitations the activists involved tell their story. 'Exit through the gift shop' (Director: Banksy) A modern classic Idfa is showing this documentary as part of its ‘Framing reality’ programme. Notoriously secretive graffiti artist Banksy makes a portrait of Frenchman Thierry Guetta after Guetta’s effort to portray Banksy fails. What is fake, what is real, what is art? 'Tie Xi Qu: West of the tracks' (Director: Wang Bing) It’ll take a day but it is certainly worth watching Wan Bing’s 554 minute majestic portrait of the Tie Xi district in China. Once the industrial heartland of communist China all that is left are the ruined cathedrals of heavy industry and the workers’ sense of betrayal. ‘Democrats’ (Director: Camilla Nielsson) A fascinating film about the making of a new constitution in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. Nielsson follows two representatives of two diametrically opposed political parties on their travels through the country to consult the people. Mugabe’s menacing presence is felt throughout. ‘Raw footage' (Director: Aernout Mik) Artist Aernout Mik uses two screens to project images of unused news footage from the war in Yugoslavia. The discarded images show another side of war: the boredom, the chaos and the endless waiting for something to happen.  More >


The Dom tower in Utrecht by drone

The Dom tower in Utrecht by drone

Film makers Jelte Keur and Reinout van Schie say they were waiting 10 months for the perfect weather conditions to take this stunning footage of Utrecht’s Dom tower. The resulting film of the city's cathedral tower surrounded in mist was taken earlier in November using a drone. The Dom is the tallest church spire in the Netherlands at 112.5 metres and was built between 1321 and 1382. The cathedral itself was never completed and collapsed in 1674, leaving the tower as a separate structure.   More >