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


Nine great Dutch reads, translated into English

Nine great Dutch reads, translated into English

The nights are drawing in, so why not curl up in front of the fire with a good book? Here's our pick of nine great Dutch novels in an English translation. The selection is a random one from website Netherlands by Numbers and of course there are many, many more.   The Dinner by Herman Koch Novelist Herman Koch’s fifth novel takes place in a well-known Amsterdam restaurant (a thinly disguised De Kas) popular with the upwardly mobile. Two brothers and their wives meet for dinner and as the evening wears on some very unsavoury truths emerge. The narrator  is disillusioned and deeply cynical former teacher Paul. Although he and his wife Claire seem to enjoy a happy home life, free from the hypocrisy he lays at his politician brother’s door, it transpires that his son has committed a disgusting and cold-blooded crime. Paul may have mislaid his moral compass but his vicious comments on middle-class tastes are right on target.   In my father’s garden by Jan Siebelink The book, which won the 2005 Literatuurprijs, follows Hans, a father and gardener who becomes more and more obsessed with Calvinism as the story progresses. Set in several parts of the Netherlands, the book does a wonderful job depicting the Dutch countryside and living conditions of the time. Siebelink develops interesting characters whose stories you genuinely become involved in. The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch This book is truly about ‘life, the universe and everything’ and consequently the plot of the Discovery of Heaven is far too convoluted to explain in a few lines. But here goes: God has decided to break his contract with mankind and wants his tablets back, seeing that no one lives by them. Two of his angels are given the task to manipulate earthly circumstances which results in the birth of a boy: he who will be destined to bring back the tablets. We are told about the events that shape the lives of the people involved and their own attempts at coming to grips with destiny. The Evenings by Gerard van ‘t Reve The Evenings, Reve’s ( he dropped the Van ‘t later) first novel, was published in 1947. It chronicles ten days in the life of 23 year-old Frits Egters which also happen to be the last ten days of the year 1946. Frits works in an office, lives with his parents and finds both frustrating. Frits’ encounters with friends and family show his unerring and merciless eye for the desolate minutiae of life: the decay that comes with passing time - a friend is going prematurely bald - , the dreary lives of his parents, and his own less than promising future. A book that makes you laugh and cringe at the same time.     Max Havelaar, or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company by Multatuli Max Havelaar is a civil servant in the Dutch East Indies who, appalled at the cruelty and corruption of Dutch colonial rule, writes an inflammatory book about what he has witnessed. The manuscript makes its way to pompous coffee trader Droogstoppel who, wrong-footed by the title, promises to publish it. Multatuli ( pseudonym for Edward Douwes Dekker) , like his protagonist, was a civil servant in the East Indies. His book is said to have hastened the demise of colonialism. Max Havelaar lives on in a 21st century fair trade food label. The Darkroom of Damocles by WF Hermans Another Dutch WW II classic. Hermans’ novel tells the story a man whose double /alter ego encourages him to get involved in anti-German activities during the second World War. When the war is over he is branded a war criminal. His double, the only one who can clear his name, fails to materialise convincing his prosecutors that he is a figment of his imagination. To Hermans’ dismay critics tended to believe the same. Anything by Marten Toonder Okay, we can't choose here. Many of writer and illustrator Marten Toonder’s Oliver B. Bumble stories have been translated into English. Bumble is a great comic character. A ‘ gentleman of means’ he is always aspiring to greatness but never seems to quite get there in spite of the help of his friend Tom Puss. Very funny, and great drawings.   The Tea Lords by Hella Haasse The story of ambitious and straight-laced Rudolf Kerkhoven who becomes a tea planter in the Dutch East Indies. Haasse based her documentary novel on documents and letters from the relatives of the characters. Here’s what the Guardian critic said about it: ‘ realising her characters were once flesh and blood made me feel I had read the most humane sort of biography, in which the writer inhabits every emotional recess and significance’. The House of the Mosque by Kader Abdolah Novel about the deposition of the Shah and the return of Khomeini and the political division grips Iran seen through the eyes of the Aqa Jaan family. Abdolah, who fled Iran and was given political asylum in the Netherlands in 1988, wrote the book in Dutch. This list was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers.  More >


Seven reasons why the Netherlands is a great place to live

Seven reasons why the Netherlands is a great place to live

Okay. We all go through bad patches and we all want to go home at some point because the health service/weather/food/beaches/television/football is better there. But here are seven reasons to stay in the Netherlands 1. Holidays While most civilized countries (looking at you, America) offer 20 days of holiday a year, the Dutch are serious about taking it. They have mysterious extra holidays called ATV days. They get compensation for working public holidays. See seven holidays in three months. They save for their holiday before retirement. If you don’t take a few weeks off every year, you’re not doing it right. 2. Travel With all those vacation days, the Dutch travel. They pop over to Tunisia for a few days. Or head off to Thailand for a few weeks. They might own a vacation house in Italy or Estonia. They have lots of weekends on the Wadden Islands. No-one works on Friday afternoon because they have all gone on a weekend break to Istanbul. 3. Honesty Some call it rudeness, but the Dutch don’t pull any punches. If you want an honest answer, consult your Dutch friends. Just don’t expect it to be sugar coated. They will tell you straight that they don’t like your new coat or your boyfriend. They are also terribly proud of this Dutch trait, and not afraid to tell you that either. 4. No Overtime (unless you work for an international law firm) Your boss is going to leave at 5pm and you’re expected to do so as well. Go home and enjoy that “work life balance” the Dutch are so serious about. 5. No long commuting Speaking of work life balance, the Dutch think a commute longer than they can bike is unacceptable. Don’t live to far from the office and you’ll be home promptly at 5.30pm like the rest of your colleagues. 6. Dairy products Hopefully you aren’t lactose intolerant or on some kind of diet. The Dutch know their way around dairy. Skip the cheese at the grocery store and find a real cheese shop. Try vla (it’s like delicious pudding and the vanilla version is like English custard) and all the varieties of yogurt. And try karnemelk if you’re brave, very brave. 7. Tolerance Did you know marijuana is not actually legal in the Netherlands? The Dutch simply decided that rules against it were dumb. So they stopped enforcing them. Simple as that. This article was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers.  More >


Rijksmuseum reopens Philips wing with a focus on 20th century photography

Rijksmuseum reopens Philips wing with a focus on 20th century photography

In a departure from the 17th-century paintings that thousands of visitors flock to see every day, the Rijksmuseum unveils its newly refurbished Phillips Wing on 1 November with Modern Life, an exhibition of the museum’s 20th-century photography. The exhibition will run until 11 January. Although the museum has a collection of approximately 130,000 photographs, it has never displayed them in a large-scale show. But photography, according to co-curator Hans Rooseboom, has a rightful place in the art world. 'The impact of photography should not be underestimated,' writes Rooseboom in Modern Times, the exhibit’s accompanying book. 'It progressively showed what the world looked like, and penetrated increasingly into the private domain.' Photography’s evolution We take for granted today that photography is used in advertising and journalism, and as a means of capturing family life and fashion, but these uses all came about gradually over time. This history of photography - its journey from amateur hobby to high art - is displayed in the exhibition, with works showing the evolution of techniques, equipment and even uses of the relatively young art form. What began as a privilege of the upper class around 1900 - those who could afford to have their photo taken or subscribe to a newspaper that featured photographs - became assimilated into the modern art movement around 1960, Rooseboom says. 'Not only was photography adopted by art itself,' Rooseboom writes, 'a serious collector’s market for photography also evolved. With that, a long-standing desire for recognition as a serious art form was fulfilled.' Premiere The show features 400 photographs selected from the museum’s collection of  20th-century photographs, which it has amassed over the last two decades. Rare photographs by Bassaii, Ed van der Elsken, John Gutmann, Lewis Hine, William Klein, Man Ray and W. Eugene Smith, among others, are among the work that is showcased in the nine rooms of the renovated Philips Hall. British photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s famous Horse in Motion is here - an 1886 experiment in motion photography that disproved a long-held idea that a galloping horse always has a least one foot on the ground. Portraits of Hollywood legends Joan Crawford (Edward Steichen, 1931) and Marilyn Monroe (Eve Arnold, 1960) also feature, as well as portraits of city life by the likes of Grant W. Pullis and Joel Meyerowitz are also on display. Philips Wing The Philips Wing is the last in a series of massive renovations that the Rjiksmuseum has undergone, beginning in 2003. Originally called the Fragment’s Building, the wing was built in three stages between 1898 and 1916 and incorporates pieces of other buildings around the country that were demolished at the end of the 19th century. For example, in the Philips wing, you can see the façade from the castle of Count Henrik III of Nassau in Breda, and the arches from the stairwell of the Constantijn Huygens house in The Hague. The refurbished space includes 13 exhibition rooms, a gallery that will feature changing photography exhibitions, a large restaurant and an outdoor terrace.  More >


Video: KLM celebrates its 95th birthday

Video: KLM celebrates its 95th birthday

Dutch company KLM was formed way back in 1919 as one of the world's first commercial airlines. It was Queen Wilhelmina who gave the fledgling KLM its royal moniker back in September 1919 but it was not until May 1920 when the airline flew its first commercial flight - taking two journalists and a pile of newspapers from Croydon airport in London to the Amsterdam. Commercial services started in 1921 and in 1924 KLM flew its first intercontinental flight between Amsterdam and Jakarta - a massive 11,350 kilometres! Regular services between the Netherlands and Java started in 1929 and until the outbreak of the Second World War, this was the world's longest-distance scheduled service! Who other than Dutch star DJ Armin van Buuren than to help celebrate 95 years of KLM? And who is going to make sure we get the 95th mini KLM house for our collection?   More >


Why letting your property is worth it for expat homeowners

Why letting your property is worth it for expat homeowners

There are several good reasons why it makes sense to rent out your Dutch home to expats if you have to leave the Netherlands. If, as an expat, you have decided to invest in buying home here in the Netherlands, congratulations! The thought of being relocated to another country should not stop you from taking such an important step. You can, after all, always let out your Dutch property when you leave. Here are some of the key benefits. Flexibility Being open to the possibility of renting out your Dutch home gives a lot more peace of mind than the thought of being ‘stuck’ with it. Whether it is returning to your home country, or moving on to the next adventure elsewhere, letting your property allows you to do so without any worries. Being a home owner does not have to tie you down. Your freedom of moving is not being curtailed, you are creating an additional opportunity for yourself. Income Letting your apartment and being an expat may seem like an unlikely combination, but there are good reasons why it is financially worth it. First of all, letting your apartment gives you an additional steady income flow. Secondly, you won’t be paying for housing in two countries. If you have purchased a home in the Netherlands, letting also gives you the freedom to return to your home country if need be. Safety Leaving your home in the hands of a stranger may not sound very appealing at first, but they will pay a deposit and look after your home. Letting your house or apartment not only benefits you, but the tenant family that needs a lovely place to stay. Renting from expats to expats Letting your apartment gives you, as an expat, the ability to rent to expats. By renting out your home through an agency, you are more than welcome to specify that you wish your tenants to be expats. Having done it yourself, you will be able to relate to and understand how it is to rent a home as an expat. You also know very well that after a few years, it will be time to pack up and move once again. If you would like more information about letting your property, feel free to contact Principle Vastgoed with any questions you may have!  More >


Zeeland: Home to a little piece of Scotland

Zeeland: Home to a little piece of Scotland

From oysters to medieval towns, from Scottish kings to quiet beaches, the province Zeeland has something for everyone, writes Stephanie Dijkstra. The only thing that is reliable about the Dutch weather is its unreliability. When we set out to explore Zeeland, the sun was shining and the skies were blue. A few hours later, it was overcast, with the sun breaking out every now and then to highlight a few features in the landscape. Then, an hour later, it was pouring, followed by sunshine again in the evening. Another typical Dutch day. When it comes to history, Zeeland, due to its location on (or, if you will, in) the sea, and with one part only accessible by tunnel or by driving through Belgium, has had quite a bit of interaction with nations and peoples that the rest of the country has not had. For instance, Veere; a gem of a village with a quiet rectangular square surrounded by ancient houses, and built around an old church (1348) that Napoleon’s soldiers used as a military hospital. Scottish ties Already in the 13th century, fishermen from Veere regularly ended up in the Scottish fishing villages, establishing ties with Scotland that would eventually lead to Veere’s appointment, by King Jacob V of Scotland, as the warehouse of Scotland in Europe; any goods going from Scotland to the European continent were stored in Veere, before further transportation. The town even had a ‘Scottish Quay’ with warehouses reserved solely for Scottish goods. The status of the Scots became so privileged, that they were allowed to establish their own courts and were exempted from taxes on… wine and beer. It makes one wonder what their favourite pastime was, while living in Zeeland… At one point, they even a appointed a Conservator of Scottish Privileges in the Netherlands, who oversaw their day-to-day life when it came to inheritances, diplomatic representation, and the fulfillment of positions of importance here. Despite all of this, you will not find any Scottish surnames in Veere anymore – at least not from those days. Though they were still to be found there 150 years ago, it appears that the Scots were never able to get used to life here and eventually all went back home. Sheep My Zeeland trip also took me to Kloetinge; founded in the 10th century as a temporary resting place for shepherds, it became so popular that the herders soon began using clumps of sheep dung and other waste to create artificial hills to protect them against the floods. And this is where its name comes from: the old word for clump was kloet – hence the name Kloetinge. The village is surrounded by several artificial hills and mounds, on many of which the remains of defensive towers can be found, underscoring the strategic importance of this area in the Middle Ages. Now it is a quiet little place, with narrow streets, lined with picturesque little houses, leading to an unexpectedly grand square with, at its center, the Geerteskerk church. Kloetinge is what is known as a ringdorp, or ring town, due to its shape, typical of the 12th and 13th centuries: a ring built around a central church, with a circular graveyard around it. In Kloetinge, the church is surrounded by a diamond-shaped green yard, criss-crossed by tree-lined pathways. Across from the church is a rectangular pond, home to happy ducks. All in all, the scene is quiet and peaceful, with a hint of affluence. Seafood Yerseke (pronounced EER-suh-kuh) is where you want to go to eat, particularly seafood and more particularly, oysters. Its centre is not particularly intriguing, but it has a harbour and a multitude of seafood restaurants that have been attracting visitors for, well, centuries probably. In the Oosterschelde waterway, you find two types of oysters: the flat Zeeland Oyster – considered by some the finest oyster in the world – and the Zeeland Creuse – a cross between a Japanese and a Portuguese oyster type. How did these oysters end up here?, one wonders. The answer is: they were brought over in the 1960s to stimulate the local oyster trade that had become threatened by the Oyster Disease. The indigenous oysters have since not recovered entirely, but thanks to the Creuse oysters – which have over the years acquired a similar taste as they have been part of the same ecosystem for 50 years now – Zeeland, and Yerseke in particular, can still enjoy an annual influx of oyster tourists between September and May. The oyster season officially opens with festivities in Yerseke in mid-September. Beach If a quiet day (or week, for that matter) on the beach in a cozy town is what you are looking for, then Domburg is the ideal destination. The village is made up of basically one main street that runs parallel to the beach with a few branches in either direction. It has plenty of restaurants and cafés, easy access to a lovely beach and you can rent anything from apartments to entire houses, as well as stay at anything from a B&B, to an unpretentious hotel, to a satisfyingly luxurious spa. It is slightly trendy and upscale. If a city is what you want to visit, then keep in mind that the province’s biggest cities – Middelburg and Vlissingen – have population that is so modest (40,000 and 45,000 respectively) that you feel more like you are in a village than in an actual city. Cities In fact, Middelburg only has 10,000 more inhabitants than it did 300 years ago, when it was the country’s second largest harbour and one of the main cities of the United East Indies Company (VOC). This city is approximately 1,100 years old and used to be surrounded by a ring wall that had been constructed to protect it against the Vikings – or perhaps by the Vikings themselves, that is still unclear. Middelburg has more than 1,100 monuments – placing it in the country’s top ten, one of which is the abbey. This abbey was built in 1100 and eventually home to one of the wealthiest and more powerful abbots in Zeeland - at least, until 1574, when the Prince of Orange forced the monks out and made the building the seat of the provincial Zeeland government, a function it still fulfills, as well as housing Zeeuws Museum and the Roosevelt Study Center. Where to stay If you are looking for out-of-the-ordinary places to spend the night, visit http://origineelovernachten.nl (for all of the Netherlands, incidentally) and see if you find something to your fancy. Other, more traditional yet exceptional places to spend the night (including cloisters, castles, farms and beach lodges) can be found on www.bijzonderovernachting.nl. In order to prepare yourself for your trip, be sure to visit www.vvvzeeland.nl, though you can also visit a local tourist office in almost any town or city. A longer version of this article first appeared in the September edition of the Xpat Journal.  More >


The Bold and the Beautiful comes to Amsterdam

The Bold and the Beautiful comes to Amsterdam

The picturesque canals of Amsterdam have long attracted filmmakers and now the city will feature on the small screen as well, as the American soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful films in the Dutch capital. Having filmed abroad in locations from Australia to Paris, Dubai to Mexico, this will be the first time —after 25 years on the air—that the show comes to the Netherlands. And this is no small thing to the show’s committed fan base. The soap opera has been enormously popular in the Netherlands since it first premiered in 1989. According to Marije Onderwaater, a communication adviser with RTL 8, the show has an ‘above average’ market share for a daytime show, and has a very steady fan base, for which RTL makes it almost impossible to miss an episode. The show airs daily on RTL 8 (first run), RTL 4 (second run) and RTL Lounge (preview). It’s also possible to watch on RTL XL. Fans Alicia Vreeman, 26, is the admin for one Dutch-based B&B fan page on Facebook. She began watching the show when she was just 10. ‘I find it very addictive,’ she says. ‘I watch daily, and on the weekends I really miss it.’ For Vreeman, being hooked on The Bold and the Beautiful is hereditary. ‘My mother was a fan when I was younger, so I would watch with her,’ she says. ‘As did my grandmother. She watches every day.’ Vreeman admits she also visits YouTube.com to look up earlier episodes or even later ones that broadcast in the US before being available here. It’s the characters and love triangles that pull her in. ‘My favourite character is Brooke,’ she says. ‘And I love to see Brooke and Ridge together.’ (For those not in the know: the programme mostly revolves around Brooke and Ridge breaking up and getting back together.) According to eight-time Emmy Award-winning executive producer and head writer, Bradley Bell, the Dutch-based action takes place over seven episodes. ‘We are very excited about showcasing the beauty of Amsterdam during our shoot,’ Bell says. Cast members Ashleigh Brewer (Ivy Forrester), Darin Brooks (Wyatt Spencer), Scott Clifton (Liam Spencer) and Kim Matula (Hope Logan Spencer) are all here to film the Amsterdam scenes. Romance According to Bell, the storyline will involve an unnamed couple that ‘finds love while another is falling apart,’ but Dutch fans roaming the canal belt looking to get a glimpse of the filming may not want to look too closely, as the episodes, which will air next month in the US, will not be shown here until sometime next year. But for fans needing their fix: in addition to those stars coming to film, cast members John McCook (Eric Forrester), Heather Tom (Katie Logan) and Hunter Tylo (Taylor Hayes) will appear in The Bold and the Beautiful Live! stage show at Theater Vredenburg Leidsche Rijn in Utrecht on Saturday. Also appearing will be Thorsten Kaye, who will be replace Ron Moss as central character Ridge Forrestor. Vreeman is skeptical. ‘I’ve seen what the new actor looks like,’ she says. ‘And I don’t know if I can get used to it. There is only one Ridge.’ The live show on Saturday would be a good chance for Vreeman to warm up to the new Ridge, but to her dismay she will not be able to attend. ‘I have a family weekend planned,’ she says. ‘Unfortunately.’  More >


It’s time to get drinking bok beer: here are six not to miss

It’s time to get drinking bok beer: here are six not to miss

It is officially bok beer season in the Netherlands. And there are official rules about these things. PINT (Promotie Informatie Traditioneel Bier), the largest beer association in the Netherlands, sets specific standards for bok beer, including that it must only be for sale between September 21 and December 21 each year. Boks herald from Germany and were traditionally strong, dark lagers brewed for special occasions. The beer takes its name from the mispronunciation of the city of Einbeck, where the style originated. It is so popular in the Netherlands, there are even bok beer festivals in Amsterdam and Utrecht every year. Macro All of the big Dutch breweries produce a bok bier, including Heineken, Gulpener, Hertog Jan, Brand, Amstel, Bavaria and Grolsch. They will all be showing up in your local Albert Heijn, probably alongside the all-too-early Sinterklaas treats. Here are six you should not miss. La Trappe Officially Brouwerij de Koningshoeven, La Trappe is the biggest and oldest of the Dutch trappist beers. Still produced by monks, they make a bok (but spell it as the Germans do, bock.) You can likely find this one in Albert Heijn as well. Jopen Their beers used to be brewed at La Trappe, but now they have a nice brewing space, with tasting room and restaurant, in Haarlem. The Jopen bok is brewed a bit differently than other boks and probably won’t be found in your local grocery store. Head to the brewery instead to try it out and while you’re there, have dinner at the restaurant. ‘t IJ If you want to get a craft bok but don’t want to leave Amsterdam, head over to ‘t Ij for their Ijbok. You can try their bok while sitting in the shadow of a windmill. Bike to the brewery and your experience can’t get more Dutch than that. SNAB Their Ijsbok has won a bunch of awards, including Lekkerste Bokbier and a silver medal at the Beer World Cup. The recipe is based on a travelogue from a Dutchman aboard a ship searching for the Northeast passage in 1597. You can watch a movie, Nova Zembla, about the journey while enjoying your beer. Emelisse A visit to the brewery is as good an excuse as any to visit Zeeland. Their Herfstbock (autumn bok) has an amber colour and a chocolate undertone. You can sample it alongside your meal at their restaurant. Duits & Lauret It’s a dubbelbock, with more alcohol and that makes it a good beer to end on. The brewery advises you to enjoy the beer alongside a stew. If you’ve sampled a number of boks, you may want to try it alongside a large glass of water. This list is published courtesy of Netherlands by Numbers  More >


Improving Your Life Through Language

Improving Your Life Through Language

Speaking more than one language fluently is a great addition your skill set, and it is never too late to get started. Being a multi-lingual adult can be hugely beneficial for both personal and professional endeavours, furthermore it’s never too late to improve one’s language skills! The benefits of early years linguistic development are well documented, however the benefits of learning languages as an adult are also wide ranging. Personal Whether you’re new to the Netherlands and just looking to communicate with a shop assistant, doing your online banking or greeting your neighbours, having a basic understanding of the Dutch language will provide you with a better sense of belonging to the community, and therefore an enhanced quality of life. Here’s one expat’s personal story: Lisa, an expat mother from Staffordshire in the UK moved to The Hague in 2013 for her husband’s work. Lisa had never lived abroad before and although many Dutch speak perfect English, she felt awkward not speaking the language. She initially tried studying online, as she said “I foolishly thought I could do it myself”. Then, with the help of The British School in The Netherlands Language Centre, she began a Beginners Introduction course.. Initially, Lisa was concerned about the amount of homework required, but quickly discovered it was quite manageable. “The textbooks are easy to use. You can pop in and out of a subject and it was quite easy for me to catch up, when I was unwell last month. In addition our group discusses everything from recipes, to our children, to telling the time and I also found the topic of Dutch etiquette to be really helpful.” Together with the day-to-day benefits of learning the Dutch language, Lisa is thrilled to be sharing this experience with her four year old daughter. “I can now practise Dutch with Annabel and understand the songs she sings from school. I also enjoy being able to communicate with my Dutch neighbours and interact with people in the shops. Raising bilingual children in the UK is not as common as it is here and I’m happy both my daughter and I are experiencing an enhanced future because of this opportunity.” Professional Naturally, as an expat seeking employment in a foreign market there will already be less opportunities for those that do not speak the native language.  All things being equal between candidates, the differentiator can often be the knowledge of additional languages. Therefore to improve the chances of landing your dream job, experts highly recommend improving ones knowledge of additional languages. The Employable, an organisation which provides career advice to people seeking employment, shares the following information: "When working in recruitment, we often found that sourcing candidates with proven abilities in a second language was one of the most difficult things to find. In sectors as varied as I.T., Marketing and Hospitality, proficiency in another language was often one of the most employable skills that a candidate could have. In addition it is a skill which, once acquired, could potentially benefit you wherever you go." Whilst many seek to improve their Dutch for local positions here in The Netherlands, there is also a worldwide trend towards improving English for career prospects. Sofio began her journey when she applied for a 10 week study leave from her employer, The Ministry of Defence, in her native land of Georgia. Working in Public Relations, she recognised the inherent value of improving her English speaking skills. The opportunity to be more comfortable when speaking English with foreign diplomats, could potentially advance her prospective career-path. "I realised how valuable it is for me to know the internationally important language of English. I already speak Russian and of course Georgian, but English is becoming more important. When I studied English in school in Georgia I learned the vocabulary and I could read and write quite well, but I was not confident in my speaking...until I came to The BSN Language Centre. Now I can go back to Georgia and do a better job speaking English with the foreigners I meet. This was very good practice for me." When asked about how she selected The BSN Language Centre, Sofio shared: "Since my cousin lives in Veghel (north of Eindhoven) I wanted a programme in the Netherlands so I could stay with her. After reviewing many websites, I chose the BSN Language Centre for two reasons. Firstly it was the only school I could find nearby that is British, and secondly, the website was easy to use. I spend 3 hours travelling each way by bus and train, but I only do it one day a week and I am very happy with my two months here." If you or someone you know is looking to improve their knowledge of Dutch or English, you may want to visit The BSN Language Centre in Leidschenveen for their Open Day (please link to www.bsnlanguagecentre.nl/openday), to be held Saturday 13 September between 10.00 – 14.00,  during which you’ll be able to meet with staff, ask any questions  you may have, carry out a language level test or register for a course. For more information on courses at both the Language Centre and at the new location: ZEIN Childcare, The Estate, close to the centre of The Hague, please visit BSN Language Centre Locations (include link www.bsnlanguagecentre.nl/locations) In celebration of 30 years of language teaching services to the International Community of The Hague, all BSN Language Centre private lessons will be offered at a reduced fee from September 2014 – July 2015. To sign up for private lessons or any other courses, please complete the registration form on the BSN Language Centre website or email: languages@britishschool.nl    More >


The Return on Investment of my MBA in the Netherlands

The Return on Investment of my MBA in the Netherlands

Studying for an MBA abroad takes all sorts of investments but the returns are definitely worth it, says Yoony Kim. Like many important steps we take in life, deciding to study for an MBA abroad is a serious matter that requires huge in­vestments. You need a financial investment to cover tuition and living costs, time investment to research the right course and to study, and emotional investment as you have to leave your fam­ily and friends for a new life in a foreign country. You also need to consider your career opportunities should you decide to continue with your current career. Getting an MBA from a foreign institution could be considered a leap of faith, because it’s difficult to predict what you will get out of it, and what your future career path will be — whether you de­cide to return home, stay in the country where you studied, or even move elsewhere. Korea I cannot tell you what your return on investment of doing an MBA would be, but I can tell you about mine which has, so far, proved more than satisfactory. After getting my BA in Korea, I chose to study further in the UK and got my MA in marketing communications as I was thirsty for more knowledge in an inter­national context. My investment was worth it as I instantly got a job with a global PR consultancy. For the next nine years I worked as a marketing and communications professional for various companies in Korea. I was in a stable middle-man­agement position which involved communicating daily with differ­ent organisations, departments and nationalities, which could be very challenging. I often wondered why it was so difficult to communicate with such a varied group. I came to realise that problems occurred when people were unable to see or understand the other person’s perspective. A lack of good com­munication between these groups meant nobody realised that objec­tives may differ from one depart­ment to the other, let alone the differences in communication between cultures. Multicultural environment I thought that doing an MBA in a multicultural environment would be the perfect solution to overcome this challenge, as I would learn the theories and practices of almost every depart­ment within an organisation whilst sharing ideas with like-minded professionals from differ­ent backgrounds. But, another degree? Giving up all I was enjoying? Leaving my family and friends? At the age of 32? I considered all of these questions, but I decided to invest in an MBA because I had a clear objective: to acquire knowledge, skills and experiences that would allow me to put myself in others’ shoes. After setting my objectives, the decision-making process was relatively straightforward. Find­ing the institution to fit me came out of the blue during a business trip to the Netherlands. At that time, I was working for Nuffic Neso Korea — a Dutch organisa­tion that helps Korean students with their decision to study in the Netherlands. I already knew a lot about it, and I liked the idea very much. I realised that  due to the open-mindedness and trade-oriented nature of the country, it would be the right destination for me. During my business trip I visited Nyenrode Business Uni­versiteit. I believe that education is a very personal experience which should meet your needs and desires. And Nyenrode was one of the few schools I encoun­tered which really put this into practice. Small, culturally diverse classes — I studied with 36 stu­dents of 18 different nationalities with diverse backgrounds — al­lowed students to interact with each other and staff in the most personal manner possible. Campus The prospect of doing a one-year intensive course whilst liv­ing on campus was also appealing as I’d be constantly surrounded by my fellow students, and would get to know them and learn from them in more ways than just professionally. This combination of being rationally prepared and emotionally taken by the institu­tion had made it easy to decide where to study. I am a good example of the phrase 'where there is a will, there is a way,' as I was so cer­tain of my path, both in my head and my heart. I applied, attained a scholarship, and started to study within three months of vis­iting Nyenrode. Challenges Staying true to my goals helped me to remain passionate about my studies and overcome various challenges. I used to say I was 'allergic' to numbers, but the MBA helped by requiring me to present reports in classes such as Accounting for Managers, International Financial Markets and Business Process Manage­ment. In addition, I became a member of a truly global fam­ily comprising my classmates, alumni, faculties and staff who know me not as just another stu­dent, but as a person. I was also emotionally torn to pieces when I had to return to Korea during my studies as my father had become very ill, but my classmates took care of me as if I was family. The ROI of my MBA has been higher than I expected. It started with setting a goal for myself — not what society im­posed on me. I’d suggest others should do the same: set a clear goal, be rationally prepared, listen to your heart when making deci­sions, and continue following your passion. Then I am quite certain your ROI will surge through the roof and you will not hesitate to answer the question 'are you happy?' with a definite 'yes'. Yoony Kim completed her full-time International MBA at the Nyenrode Business Univer­siteit in the Netherlands and is now working as the international marketing manager for the university. Discover the ROI of your MBA and become the best leader you can be. Meet Nyenrode in your city during the MBA Roadshow: 30 September 2014, Amsterdam WTC 14 October 2014, The Hague WTC 2 December 2014, Rotterdam WTC 9 December 2014, Eindhoven More information  More >




10 things you didn’t know about renting an apartment in Amsterdam

10 things you didn’t know about renting an apartment in Amsterdam

You are bound to have lots of questions when it comes to renting an apartment. Here is a top 10 of things you might not think about, but that you really need to know, compiled by the experts at Perfect Housing. 1. Painting and drilling When moving into a new apartment you will want to make it feel like home. But changing the décor to suit your own tastes is something you should discuss with the owner. You can ask your rental agent what the situation is concerning painting the place, but ultimately it is the owner who has the final say. It may be that the owner says you can paint and drill holes to hang up your favourite works of art but that you will have to return it to its original state when you leave. On the other hand, the owner could be very kind and take responsibility for re-painting the apartment. Just make sure you ask before doing anything! 2. Prepare to pay four months rent up front This probably sounds like a lot, but it is an accumulation of costs. You will have to pay your first month rent, two (or one if you’re lucky) month’s deposit, and one month commission to the rental agent (plus taxes). If you are being relocated by your employer you should check with your HR manager and see whether they will cover the costs. 3. Who should you call if something goes wrong? Your rental agent can unfortunately not help you if something breaks down or the roof starts leaking. In the event something happens, you will have to contact the owner. If the owner is abroad, there should be someone in charge of managing the home. Your rental agent will inform you who your contact person will be during your stay. 4. Taxes not included in ‘all inclusive’ It might sound like a contradiction in terms, but ‘all inclusive’ does not include everything. Water, gas and electricity are included in the rent but not local taxes, so keep this in mind! 5. Pets Please remember to mention if you have a pet which will be moving into your new home with you. It will make it a lot easier if your rental agent knows not to show you places which don’t allow pets. Having a cat or dog may also lead to other changes in the rental agreement. It could mean, for instance, that you need to pay a higher deposit as there is more risk of damage. 6. Sharing Like pets, some owners don’t allow flat-sharing either. There are plenty of apartments available for sharing, but please do remember to inform your rental agent if you are planning to do this. It will be much more efficient for you to look at properties you could actually rent rather than those which don’t allow living with a group of friends. 7. Expat housing versus Dutch housing There is a difference between renting through the purely Dutch market and renting as an expat. Rental agents specialised in expat housing will usually have both furnished and unfurnished apartments available. Some families prefer bringing their own furniture so an unfurnished home is ideal. If you try to rent without using a specialised agent, beware. The Dutch market includes a lot of shell properties which are not only unfurnished but don’t have flooring or lighting either. As an expat this is usually very impractical. 8. Verbal agreements are binding According to Dutch law, if you make a verbal agreement, even without signing a physical agreement, it is still binding! So please beware of this when taking thinking about your options, and remember that when you come to an agreement with someone, by law, it is as if you signed a contract. 9. Point system and salary requirements In the Netherlands, rents are determined by a point system which is used to calculate the quality of the house, apartment, or room. Cheap apartments are usually rent-controlled and can only be lived in by people who earn a low salary. So make sure you are eligible to rent the apartment before you start the process. And remember, if the deal sounds like it is too good to be true, it probably is. 10. Amsterdam Canal Belt → no double glazing The apartments within Amsterdam’s central canal belt usually have no double glazing. These buildings are mostly rijksmonumenten or listed buildings. They are splendid to look at but may be poorly insulated because of regulations which determine what their owners can and cannot do with them.  More >


Global memories: an expat archive

Global memories: an expat archive

The Expatriate Archive Centre in The Hague is preserving a global memory of expat lives, writes Molly Quell. Would you like to preserve your memories as an expat while helping academics with research into expatriate issues? The Expatriate Archive Centre is actively looking for new material to add to its collection. Scrapbooks, diaries, even school reports and greetings cards are among the tangible evidence of mobile lives being collated at the centre in The Hague. The EAC has its roots in the The Shell Ladies Project, an organisation of Shell wives who wanted to document the lives of the Shell employees who were frequently posted to various places in the world. The group collected writings, poems and drawings from Shell families and published them in an anthology in 1993 entitled Life On The Move. It was such a success they followed with a second one in 1996. Mayor Ultimately, a former Shell CEO donated an unused property in The Hague to the group and they were incorporated into the Shell Outpost. Eventually the organisation became an independent one, inaugurated by the mayor of The Hague in 2008. The EAC has gone from a small project organised by the spouses of employees at a single company to a fully-fledged archive ‘We started it not knowing where we would go… empty rooms with five hundred separate pieces of source material… And now it is absolutely in place as a top-notch… dedicated collection,’ says EAC co-founder and former director Dewey White. Contributions to the collection originated from over 64 countries and are in 12 different languages. The staff have been digitising the entire collection so it can be made accessible to academic researchers. ‘It’s a growing field. Our collection offers a uniquely rich picture of global expatriate life that could be useful to researchers in social history, migration studies, human geography, psychology and more,’ says Kristine Racina, who is the centre's current director. Counted in the collection are the detailed account of the voyage of a ship from the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies in 1917 and the personal letters of the Verkerk family who worked for KLM in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Turkey among others during the 1950s and 1960s. Away from home The collection isn’t limited to traditional expats either. The centre defines an expatriate as 'someone who is temporarily outside the country that he/she considers to be his/her home country'. Alongside the memories are items from au pairs from Thailand and cleaning staff from the Philippines. It also includes a selection of materials from migrant workers who came to the Netherlands, including those from southern Europe and later Turkey and Morocco. The EAC is currently accepting donations of diaries, letters, scrapbooks, and other printed materials such as school documents and greeting cards. There is a full list of the items they accept on their website. Items can be in any language and from any expat worldwide Find out more about donating your story  More >


10 Dutch theme parks

The Efteling is the eighth best amusement park in Europe, according to Tripadvisor travellers. Here is the Netherlands by Numbers list of 10 Dutch theme parks. The Efteling (Kaatsheuvel) This popular park started off as a sports facility for Catholic youngsters and was turned into a theme park in 1951. The Efteling has some deeply impressive rollercoasters and a fair number of the original fairy tale displays, designed by artist Anton Pieck, are still there and haven’t lost their magic.  Sprookjeswonderland (Enkhuizen) For the little ones and (their nostalgic parents) - the name Sprookjeswonderland translates as 'fairytale wonderland'. Delightfully cheesy and old fashioned but very charming all the same. Originally a small settlement of only a couple of kabouters or gnomes, these quickly proliferated and there is now a sizeable kabouterdorp, or village where children can see the inhabitants ply their trade. Their movements are mostly restricted to arms going up down and heads turning from left to right but children love it all the same. There’s also a petting zoo and playground. Madurodam (The Hague) Madurodam deserves a big entry in spite of its littleness. Small but perfectly formed the miniature town combines a number of important architectural  landmarks/institutions in the Netherlands. The town was completely redeveloped in 2012. You can have a go at loading a ship in Rotterdam harbour, or saving the country from flooding by closing the Oosterschelde sluice doors. It’s all very educational but fun at the same time. Try not to tread on anything. Walibi (Biddinghuizen) Walibi (formerly Six Flags) is the next stage after the sedate tranquility of Sprookjeswonderland when your child may want a bit more excitement. The Walibi motto is faster, harder, higher so should will fit the bill.  Attractiepark Slagharen (Slagharen) Apart from its not too blood-curdling mechanical attractions, Slagharen is really most famous for its pony rides which is what the park started out with fifty years ago. The ponies disappeared for a while but are no back. Quite how they will compete with the Jules Verne World remains to be seen. Duinrell (Wassenaar) The posh one - given its location on the estate of the Van Zuylen van Nijevelt family, Duinrell is  most famous for its 'tropical swimming paradise' named the Tikibad which has the longest water slides in the Netherlands. Julianatoren (Apeldoorn) Julianatoren dates from 1910 and is the oldest theme park in the Netherlands. The park was named after the late queen Juliana. Slightly irreverently  the park has employed a full-time entertainer in a mouse suit named Jul in order to make things a little zippier. There’s lots of gentle rides so good for the smaller members of your household. Verkeerspark Assen (Assen) ‘You’re the driver’, is the Verkeerspark motto. But, for all those aspiring young drivers out there, that doesn’t mean you can zoom around and bump into people. In fact, it is very sternly educational: children can practice on a circuit in little leg-powered cars and then do a driving test after which they get a driver’s license. There’s karting for the older children. Avonturenpark Hellendoorn (Hellendoorn) This is another theme park that started out as a quiet tea garden with some swings and things to keep the little ones happy while mother and father had tea, or a g&t.  That was in 1936. Hellendoorn – no longer in the hands of the De Jong family who managed to hold on to it for two generations – is the usual mix of rides, slides and upset stomachs. Plopsaland (Coevoorden) The only Dutch branch of the Belgian amusement park chain dedicated to the delightful kabouter (gnome) Plop and his friends. The ticket price depends on your height. Conveniently located next to Centreparcs - which is a Dutch invention. This list was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers.  More >


Six tips to unveil your leadership potential

Six tips to unveil your leadership potential

Up for a challenge? Here are six tips to unlease your leadership potential, by Nyenrode's Christo Nel. When I was in my mid-20s I had the exceptional privilege of being involved in a nationwide project in which more than 100 CEOs and 2000 managers participated. It is where my lifelong love affair with the phenomenon of leadership and how to grow leaders started. Quite naïvely I was still in search for the formula that defines what makes a good leader, and what pathway is best to follow. Leaders are not born Listening to the stories of so many people in positions of influence rapidly made it clear to me that leaders are not born – they are developed and grown. The myriad of life journeys that defined individuals, and just how many started out life either from humble beginnings, or without showing early signs of leadership until they blossomed in early adult hood or even middle age laid to rest the idea that some accident of birth creates leaders. There is no ideal formula As I worked with these hundreds of people in managerial and executive levels I was faced with a conundrum. Sometimes a person would be very outgoing, charismatic and seemingly capable of energising and entire hall full of people – and the individual would have a reputation as a good leader. At other times I would cross paths with other similar people, but those around them would be very critical and have little respect for them as leaders. Then I got to know people at the other end of the spectrum who operated in a very quiet and low profile manner. They seemed to eschew publicity and performance in front of others. Yet again, some would be deeply respected and loved as leaders, whilst other similar individuals proved to be disappointing as leaders. So, if leaders are developed and there is no ready-made formula then the answer must lie elsewhere. Here the explosion of research that has taken place over the past 20 years is very helpful. A key theme that is repeated over and over is the need for individuals to cross and develop their own Personal Authentic Leadership. My own career spanning 40 years and working with hundreds of people in leadership positions and several thousand dissidents in MBA programs has led me to believe deeply in these six tips for driving personalised and sustainable high-performance leadership. Embark upon a life-long journey of learning Your own life journey holds very important information about what has shaped you as a leader. By understanding how your life journey has shaped you, you can make rapid progress in courageously defining and living out your own authentic being. Initially it can help to work with a good leadership coach to turn your life into a perpetual University of personal development. Define and live out your authentic leadership fingerprint Do not try to clone yourself based on what others do. Of course, others can always provide very valuable lessons for us to learn and apply, but to be comfortable and confident as a leader you must be yourself. Take time to think about and reach conclusions on who and what you are is a leader and what you are unlikely to be. Do not try to be all things to all people! Leverage strengths – yours and others Focus on your strengths and those of others. It is not our weaknesses that drive success – it is the integration and application of either’s strengths that make the difference. Have a council of peers High performance leadership is a team activity in which we cannot make it alone. Make sure that you always have a small group of friends or “council of peers” who care for you enough to be robust, share your celebrations, and give you tough feedback when needed. Invite dissent One of my mentors taught me that if you have two people in your management team that are continuously agreeing with one another, then one is probably redundant. Do not look for or expect agreement that is reached to quickly or without robust dialogue. By creating an environment of trust where people feel free to disagree with you, you will tap into their experience and complement your own contributions. Ready, Fire , Aim - learn by doing It is not possible to plan things into perfection. Winston Churchill famously commented that planning is critical but plans are useless. Do your homework well, but then act. It is only by doing something that you can rapidly discover what is working well; what can be refined; and what should be rejected. When these six leadership lessons start to operate as one system it creates an extraordinary energetic and creative environment which is capable of ongoing innovation and self-correction. At Nyenrode we have specialized in the design and implementation of processes that enable our MBA participants to use the entire duration of their studies to explore and develop their Personal Authentic Leadership. It is embedded in the vast majority of MBA courses, and is also a dedicated career and personal development process that significantly enhances the leadership capabilities of our graduates. Boilerplate Getting your MBA at Nyenrode is a 360° journey of discovering you potential as a leader and entrepreneur who creates value for society. Do you want more than just a degree? MBA Leadership Boot Camp(Aug 15th-16th) - Compete in groups to solve a business case - Assess your MBAbility with Nyenrode's LTP Test for free (normal price €220) - Win a Nyenrode Revolving Scholarship for full-time MBA starting in October. - Airfare will be reimbursed to invited talents who live outside of the Netherlands. Register here Hangout with Nyenrode: Leadership & MBA (online) Interact online wtih Christo Nel, Program Director of International and Executive MBA about the role of leadership for MBA students. July 23rd, 2014 (01.00 p.m.- 02.00 p.m. CET) August 6th, 2014 (06.00 p.m. - 07.00 p.m. CET) Christo Nel is the Program Director of International MBA and Executive MBA at Nyenrode Business Universiteit in the Netherlands. Christo Nel is a previous head of the Centre for Leadership Studies at the Stellenbosch University School of Business (USB), where he specialized in leadership development and high performance organization cultures and practices. His wealth of experience of the challenges facing leadership of medium to large and corporate organizations makes him one of South Africa’s most respected consultants and executive coaches.    More >


10 great Dutch reads in translation

10 great Dutch reads in translation

Heading off on summer holiday? Here's a list of 10 great Dutch reads in translation to take with you. The Dinner by Herman Koch Novelist Herman Koch’s fifth novel takes place in a well-known Amsterdam restaurant (a thinly disguised De Kas) popular with the upwardly mobile. Two brothers and their wives meet for dinner and as the evening wears on some very unsavoury truths emerge. The narrator  is disillusioned and deeply cynical former teacher Paul. Although he and his wife Claire seem to enjoy a happy home life, free from the hypocrisy he lays at his politician brother’s door, it transpires that his son has committed a disgusting and cold-blooded crime. Paul may have mislaid his moral compass but his vicious comments on middle-class tastes are right on target. In my father’s garden by Jan Siebelink The book, which won the 2005 Literatuurprijs, follows Hans, a father and gardener who becomes more and more obsessed with Calvinism as the story progresses. Set in several parts of the Netherlands, the book does a wonderful job of depicting the Dutch countryside and living conditions of the time. Siebelink develops interesting characters whose stories you genuinely become involved in. The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch This book is truly about ‘life, the universe and everything’ and consequently the plot of the Discovery of Heaven is far too convoluted to explain in a few lines. But here goes: God has decided to break his contract with mankind and wants his tablets back, seeing that no one lives by them. Two of his angels are given the task of manipulating earthly circumstances which results in the birth of a boy who is destined to bring back the tablets. We are told about the events that shape the lives of the people involved and their own attempts at coming to grips with destiny. The Evenings by Gerard van ‘t Reve The Evenings, Reve’s ( he dropped the Van ‘t later) first novel, was published in 1947. It chronicles ten days in the life of 23 year-old Frits Egters which also happen to be the last ten days of the year 1946. Frits works in an office, lives with his parents and finds both frustrating. Frits’ encounters with friends and family show his unerring and merciless eye for the desolate minutiae of life: the decay that comes with passing time – a friend is going prematurely bald – , the dreary lives of his parents and his own less than promising future. A book that makes you laugh and cringe at the same time. Max Havelaar, or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company by Multatuli Max Havelaar is a civil servant in the Dutch East Indies who, appalled at the cruelty and corruption of Dutch colonial rule, writes an inflammatory book about what he has witnessed. The manuscript makes its way to pompous coffee trader Droogstoppel who, wrong-footed by the title, promises to publish it. Multatuli ( pseudonym for Edward Douwes Dekker), like his protagonist, was a civil servant in the East Indies. His book is said to have hastened the demise of colonialism. Max Havelaar lives on in a 21st century fair trade food label. The Darkroom of Damocles by WF Hermans Another Dutch WWII classic. Hermans’ novel tells the story a man whose double/alter ego encourages him to get involved in anti-German activities during the second World War. When the war is over he is branded a war criminal. His double, the only one who can clear his name, fails to materialise, convincing his prosecutors that he is a figment of his imagination. To Hermans’ dismay critics tended to believe the same. Anything by Marten Toonder Okay, we can’t choose here. Many of writer and illustrator Marten Toonder’s Oliver B. Bumble stories have been translated into English. Bumble is a great comic character. A ‘gentleman of means’, he is always aspiring to greatness but never seems to quite get there in spite of the help of his friend Tom Puss. Very funny, and great drawings. Tonio by A.F. Th. Van der Heijden Van der Heijden’s requiem novel about the death of his son. The rights of this novel were bought by publisher Scribe and it should soon be published in English. The Tea Lords by Hella Haasse The story of ambitious and straight-laced Rudolf Kerkhoven who becomes a tea planter in the Dutch East Indies. Haasse based her documentary novel on documents and letters from the relatives of the characters. Here’s what the Guardian critic said about it: ‘ Realising her characters were once flesh and blood made me feel I had read the most humane sort of biography, in which the writer inhabits every emotional recess and significance’. The House of the Mosque by Kader Abdolah Novel about the deposition of the Shah and the return of Khomeini and the political division that grips Iran seen through the eyes of the Aqa Jaan family. Abdolah, who fled Iran and was given political asylum in the Netherlands in 1988, wrote the book in Dutch. This list was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers.  More >


The Netherlands’ hidden holiday gems

The Netherlands’ hidden holiday gems

If an exotic foreign holiday is a bit beyond your budget this year and you’re still digging around for something closer to home, then look no further: Esther O’Toole has dug up some hidden treasures for you. Feather Down Get unwired and back in touch with a simpler way of living. Feather Down (in Dutch, Het BoerenBed) has a variety of working farm locations geared up for guests who still want comfort when they're in the great outdoors. If you like to 'rough it' in style then this is a great stop. The children can help fetch water and firewood for your stove and enjoy the novelty of sleeping in a cupboard bed or looking after animals, while you can still be assured of a great tent that doesn't leak, a comfy bed and a hospitable welcome. Special horse riding locations also available. From €455 for a weekend tent stay. De Vreemde Vogel If you're looking for something really quirky then De Vreemde Vogel has lots to offer.  It's in Vlaardingen between Rotterdam and the beach at Hoek van Holland, so a good place from which to explore the surrounding area. From treehouses to olde gypsy wagons, sleeping in a reclaimed aircraft or a giant birdhouse, they pride themselves on variety and comfort. Prices vary, starting from about €155 for a weekend stay, but all general information and contact details in English can be found at the above address. Stortemelk If you're looking for a real getaway how about Vlieland? Tucked in behind the dunes on this protected Wadden island is Stortemelk. It offers a variety of accommodation including small attractive cottages and different types of camping, e.g. family and teen areas. One thing they don't cater for is camper vans, because you can't take any vehicles onto the island at all. For a real 'get back to nature' feel this is a beautiful, untouched and remote spot.  Look at the site for details of how to book the ferry from Harlingen to the island and how to hire a 'baggage car' to go on to Stortemelk itself. Prices vary but tent hires start at €630 for a week in the school holiday season. Luxury and Romance Dutchen Holiday Parks Dutchen promise unusual holiday homes, in small numbers, located at beautiful spots throughout the country; complete with all luxury mod cons, including options such as a sauna or Jacuzzi. For example, Weideduyn has up-to-date luxury eco-cottages, lots of space from your neighbours and a beautiful beach; Vlindervallei is in the middle of the Veluwe woods, outdoorsy yet complete with spa and wellness facilities; at Baayvillas, on the border between Groningen and Friesland, there are large houses with lots of amenities for sea and sailing enthusiasts overlooking the sea off the Lauwersmeer National Park. Though their website is only available in Dutch and German at the moment all customer service workers speak English and can help you book. Prices upwards from €460 a week. Ask for details of where last minute discounts can be had. De Verrekijker If you want to,  you can sleep in a windmill. You can't get much more 'Nederlands' than that. Beautiful and atmospheric mills can be hired for private holidays, such as this one near Gelderland, one of many good quality holiday homes to be found on Belvilla. Prices for the Verrekijker start from €943 Friday to Friday. If you have special access needs, do check whether this is suitable for you. Castles from Bilderberg Hotels Who doesn't want to sleep in a castle? Honestly, who? At least once, let loose your inner Romantic or sweep someone else away with a special castle B&B such as these from Bilderberg Hotels located near Utrecht, Venlo and Maastricht. From €94 per person per night. Tugboat Willem If you're over 18 years old and a water lover you could opt for an unusual stay for 1-2 people on Tugboat Willem; an original 1930's working boat now transformed into a lovely bed and breakfast. Moored at Zoutkamp near the village of De Marne, you will get a truly personalised trip. If you have special access needs, do check whether this is suitable for you. As a sailing ship, it won't be able to accommodate wheelchair users unfortunately. Upwards from €80 per person per night, for a stay of 1-7 nights, including breakfast. Budget Camping Zeeburg, Amsterdam In high season, hotel prices in the capital may price out many families and students, so why not try an alternative city break at Camping Zeeburg? Located in the old harbour area to the east of Amsterdam, Camping Zeeburg offers you the chance to camp out in the city. Be it overlooking the water in your own tent or camper van or in one of their brightly coloured gypsy style 'wagonettes' or 'eco-cabins'. Good amenities include fresh baguettes/croissants daily and free wifi across the whole site.  They're located a short distance from tram 26 which takes you into Amsterdam centre in about ten minutes. Prices start at €25 a night for a three person tent spot, €105 a night for a 3-4 person wagonette, to €115 a night for a four person eco-cabin, in high season. Cube Houses, Rotterdam Another alternative city stay can now be had in the famous Cube Houses in Rotterdam which have been made into a Stay Ok Hostel; a great location from which to explore the city.  From €24.30 per night for a bed in mixed-sex shared rooms. Cycling Tours You're in the Netherlands so get on your bike. All sorts of bike tour holidays, including biking between hotels, family biking and short breaks are available to suit every pocket. All the information you could possibly need about cycling in the Netherlands can be found at Nederland Fietsland, the site of the official Dutch organisation for recreational cycling (Nederlands Fietsplatform). It includes maps, where you can hire bikes and a variety of  information on reputable tour operators.  More >



Hidden like Anne Frank: children who survived WWII tell their stories

Hidden like Anne Frank: children who survived WWII tell their stories

Anne Frank and her diary are a symbol of the Holocaust, but many other children also went into hiding and some survived World War II. Anne Frank has become both a symbol of the Holocaust and of the city of Amsterdam, attested to by book sales, film rights, and an annual figure of over one million visitors to the Anne Frank house on the Prinsengracht. Yet the story of Anne Frank is not the definitive Holocaust story.  An estimated 28,000 Jewish people living in the Netherlands were forced into hiding during WWII. Of this number, an estimated 16,000 people survived the war years, avoiding the concentration camps responsible for the deaths of an estimated 75% of the Dutch Jewish population during the 1940s. As a child, Marcel Prins became familiar with the story of his mother, Rita Degen (77), who at the age of five was separated from her family and hidden in the homes of non-Jewish families. Later, it was his mother’s story that motivated him to embark on a research project seeking other Jewish people with similar childhood experiences. Collaborating with Peter Henk Steenhuis, the project encountered individuals who agreed to have their stories made public, initially on a website (www.hiddenlikeannefrank.com) and later in a book entitled Hidden Like Anne Frank, recently released in English. Personal stories Hidden Like Anne Frank contains the personal accounts of 14 Dutch Jewish people, who like Anne Frank, hid from the Nazis during World War II, but unlike Anne, survived. All fourteen individuals were children when they were separated from their parents and siblings and concealed, sometimes with a frequently changing roster of strangers and sometimes with non-Jewish family members or friends - who had agreed to protect and hide the children from the German soldiers.  It was a time of uncertainty, loss and fear that forever shaped the lives of the survivors. Loss of Identity From 1941, Dutch Jewish people over the age of six where required to identify themselves by prominently wearing a yellow star inscribed with the word ‘Jood’ on their clothing. Obviously when a Jewish person went into hiding, the yellow stars were removed. Next, new names were given, personal stories discarded, new stories created, appearances were often changed, and behaviours modified to camouflage the person into the non-Jewish society. For young children already exposed to the loss of a familiar existence, this loss of identity was especially difficult.  As one woman who was eventually betrayed and imprisoned in Auschwitz recalled, 'It was good to use my real name again.  It was only then that I realised how difficult it had been to keep using that other name.  Bloeme Emden – I savoured my own name.' Loss of Attachment Attachment theorists have provided strong evidence of the correlation between childhood attachments and adult capacity to create and sustain good relationships. Adversely, a child removed from a loving supportive home and placed, over an extended period, in a stressful environment  risks developing problems with future close relationships.  This phenomenon is evident throughout many of the stories in the book. Leni de Vries, now 74, went into hiding at the age of four. 'I found it hard to become attached to people after the war,' she says. 'During the war I’d often longed for my parents, but once I was back at home I realised something was broken.  My mother was no longer able to make me feel safe and loved.' Similarly Jack Eljon (77), who was hidden in numerous homes between the ages of four to eight and eventually reunited with his parents, says 'I couldn’t forgive my parents… That warm feeling I had as a little boy sitting on my father’s shoulders was gone for good.  I rejected my father.' Anger It is almost 70 years since the end of WWII yet the memories are still fresh for many survivors.  Rose-Mary Kahn (89), daughter of the previous owner of Hirsh (a large clothing store on Leidseplein in Amsterdam), claimed that going into hiding 'was the worst time of my life'. Like many Jewish people who survived the war, the time of liberation was not the end of the suffering for Rose-Mary’s family:  their home was occupied; the family business destroyed; and they were given little assistance by the Dutch government who considered the Jewish survivors to be 'an administrative nuisance'. Jack Eljon says that even now, he still becomes anxious at the sound of heavy footsteps approaching. Tolerance Feeling towards the German soldiers was surprisingly tolerant.  Some survivors felt that the soldiers were forced into their role, often themselves only children blindly following orders. Jaap Sitters (80) identified a more human side to the soldiers with his account of being discovered by a German soldier as he hid in a cupboard.  The soldier closed the cupboard door and left the house crying, leaving Jaap in his hiding place. For others the anger lingers, as admitted by Jaap’s daughter, who spoke of being angry for many years at the persecution of the Dutch Jewish people, and the suffering her father had endured as a child.  More >