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...  More >

Banking for the future is about reputation

Banking for the future: it’s all about reputation repair Annemarie van Gaal blasts banks who sell unfathomable financial products like derivatives to entrepreneurs. Reputation repair. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? I was reminded of it at a symposium called ‘Banking for the future’ held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Dutch banking association NVB. Six years after the banking crisis, winning back confidence and repairing a damaged reputation is still a work in progress. In his opening speech chairman Chris Buijink announced he was going to establish a ‘whistleblower facility’ for banks. Complaints will be registered and dealt with by a disciplinary committee. It’s a nice initiative. Of course we already have the Kifid, an ‘independent’ arbitrator in conflicts between clients and financial service providers. It has no disciplinary committee but, like the new initiative, it was established and financed by the financial service providers themselves. Kifid is not transparent and its arbitrations are published anonymously. Bruijink...  More >

Social innovation is good for companies

Technical innovation requires social innovation A happy staff makes for economic growth so it is time that companies put some effort into social innovation, says Erasmus University professor Henk Volberda. Sending real-time videos without the aid of a satellite, a melon which goes from green to yellow in the final one-and-a-half days of ripening so growers know exactly which are ready, a substance which rice growers in South East Asia can use instead of harmful insecticides - all these are Dutch innovations. The businesses which thought them up are Triple IT, Nunhems BV and Incotec and all three were nominated for the Erasmus Innovation Award 2014. The fourth company to compete for the award was YoungCapital which was nominated because of its innovative recruiting programme. So is innovation still doing well in the Netherlands? Unfortunately the answer is: far from it. The Erasmus Competition and Innovation Monitor 2013-2014 shows that radical innovation – completely new products and services – is down by 6% and incremental...  More >

'Pancakes are great fast food'

‘Pancakes are great fast food when you have no time to cook for dinner’ Interior designer Aileen Martinia is 35 and comes from Indonesia. She's been in the Netherlands for 14 years and dreams of retiring to a beach on Bali. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Young, innocent love. In the end, the relationship did not work, but I love it so much living here, I stayed. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc – and why? A bit of everything; it is all about the adventures, is it not? How long do you plan to stay? Until I retire, maybe? Then hopefully I can hang out on the beach in Bali. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? When I decided to became a freelancer I was forced to speak Dutch while meeting a lot of different people. My learning curve went through the roof. Currently I am able to understand about 80% of what people are talking about and reply accordingly. What's your favourite Dutch food? Pancakes. They are great 'fast food' when you have little time to cook for dinner. You can...  More >

Oil prices are down - we're doomed!

Oil prices are down- we’re doomed! There are a lot of worried noises out there. But what's so terrible about falling oil prices? asks Nyenrode University's Jan Maarten Slagter. As you may have noticed, I’m not an economist. This is possibly the reason why I’m surprised about the worried noises these experts started making when oil prices began to fall. Oh dear, it’s gone down to less than $70 – we’re doomed! Why is it a problem when one of our most important raw materials becomes cheaper? I have a car and I pay an arm and a leg for petrol. You won’t hear me moaning about paying 10 euro cents less since last summer. Transport makes up a huge part of a company’s costs and that money saved goes straight to profit. And that’s without including all those other parts oil products play in the production process. What surprises me most is the lack of an historical perspective. Until the millennium oil prices were around the $20 mark. Then prices rocketed. No sooner did The Economist warn about the dangers...  More >

Tax rulings: The right to know

Tax rulings: MPs demand the right to know MPs are supposed to supervise the cabinet but in the case of tax deals with Starbucks and the like they have no way of knowing which deals have been struck. Unconstitutional, cry MPs Jesse Klaver (GroenLinks), Arnold Merkies (SP), Pieter Omtzigt (CDA) and Carola Schouten (CU. MPs have no way of making sure if deals between the Dutch tax office and multinationals such as Google and Starbucks are fair and within the confines of the law. Finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem and junior minister Erik Wiebes are consistently refusing to inform them as to the particulars of these deals. By withholding this information from MPs they are effectively interfering with the lower chamber’s supervisory function. The air of mystery surrounding these deals does not inspire confidence in what it is the tax office is offering the companies in exchange for their presence in the Netherlands. Parliamentary supervision is vital and that is why we call on both politicians to respect the lower chamber’s...  More >

Maastricht mayor resigns: Hoes to blame?

Maastricht mayor stands down: Hoes to blame? Comedian and performer Youp van ‘t Hek looks back at the past week in politics - particularly the resignation of Maastricht's mayor Onno Hoes after he was caught with toyboys yet again. Who will be the next mayor of Maastricht? Newly between-jobs (ex-KLM chief) Camiel Eurlings will undoubtedly be recommended for the post by Maxime Verhagen. Maxime hasn’t forgotten how a shouty and saluting Camiel supported him when he sold his soul to Wilders in 2010. It was one of the funniest moments in Dutch recent political history. What does Maxime have to do with the candidacy for the new mayor of Maastricht, you may ask. Well, a lot. He’s from Limburg, a Christian Democrat, his father was an important member of the KVP (forerunner of the CDA, DN), and he is up to his eyebrows in Limburg clay as a lobbyist, ambassador and commissioner. That means he has everything to do with it, even if he doesn’t. Officially. He’s on the phone with Jos van Rey and Pietje van Pol six times a day,...  More >

Festive food: open eateries in Amsterdam

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:...  More >

This week: Unwanted presents and Uberpop

Sinterklaas has left the country and Maastricht's mayor is leaving office. But health service reforms remain firmly on the agenda and calls for change to the taxi laws are growing. A round-up of this week's editorials.   As many people were looking forlornly at yet another milk frother in the aftermath of Sinterklaas, Z24's Jasperien van Weerdt had the solution: put it (and all your other unwanted presents) on auction site Marktplaats or go to the nearest second-hand stuff shop or, alternatively, trade them in for something you really want at the swap shop. If you go for Marktplaats make sure your ad has something to distinguish it from all the other ads by adding the word 'free', Van Weerdt suggests. A ‘phone with free charger’ will generate more attention than ‘phone with charger’, Van Weerdt warned. Fast forward to Christmas: vegetarians and teetotallers who have been given a Christmas hamper full of duck paté and bottles of wine can go to www.kerstpakketruilen.nl...  More >

Housing 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...  More >

Alcohol damages adolescent brains

Alcohol does damage adolescent brain The headlines earlier this week were clear. A new research project seemed to indicate it was okay for teenagers to drink alcohol after all. But research results aren’t always easy to interpret and we shouldn’t jump to conclusions, writes Amsterdam University professor Reinout Wiers. The Volkskrant put it on its front page: research by Sarai Boelema cast doubt on the fact that alcohol causes brain damage in adolescents. In an analysis the following day, a link was made to government policy: ‘adolescents who drink don’t seem to suffer any noticeable brain damage. Is it time to tone down the increasingly strict rules surrounding adolescent drinking?’ The author of the piece didn’t think so. But before we even think about making the link to policy, we have to put Boelema’s study in perspective. What do we know about the links between alcohol and brain development? I want to make clear that the study itself was thorough and that the results were analysed (I was a member...  More >