‘A Dutch house must have two doors between living room and WC’

‘A Dutch house must have two doors between living room and WC’

Colleen Reichrath-Smith, 48, met her Dutch husband while skiing in her home country of Canada and now uses speculaas spices to make pumpkin pie. She has been in the Netherlands for nine years and lives in Zoetermeer. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It was love. I went backcountry skiing in Canada in March 2005 and my group of friends ended up sharing the alpine ski hut with a group of Dutch...  More >

Ten Dutch cheeses

Ten Dutch cheeses There is more to Dutch cheese than the plastic versions of Gouda and Edam you tend to find in foreign or even some Dutch supermarkets. Here are some of our favourites, and hard cheese if we’ve missed yours out. Dutch hard cheese, by the way, is either jong (young, 4 weeks), jong-belegen (young-mature 8-10 weeks), belegen (mature, 16-18 weeks), extra belegen (extra mature, 7 -8 months), oud (old, 10-12 months) or overjarig (very old, more than 18 months). 1. Leidse kaas Cheese with cumin seeds to give it flavour. 2. Friese nagelkaas Cheese with cloves and cumin seeds, an acquired taste for some and a tried-it-once-never-again experience for others 3. Bleu de Wolvega Organic French-style blue cheese from Friesland. Very tasty. 4. Goudse kaas, old. Crumbly, salty, pungent with overtones of sick (don’t let this put you off, just hold your nose and eat this delicious cheese on a piece of roggebrood or rye bread.) 5. Zeekraalkaas, Organic sheep’s milk cheese with samphire,...  More >

Going on strike is old-fashioned

Going on strike is old-fashioned and serves no purpose Industrial action doesn’t serve any useful purpose and De Unie is right to reject it, writes Annemarie van Gaal. There has been one piece of news recently that made me smile. Chairman of union De Unie Reinier Castelein announced he wouldn’t support any strike action. Strikes are old-fashioned and serve no purpose, he said. It is better to talk. ‘If arguments can’t do the job, doing the conga on the Malieveld won’t do it either. In 2015 we will get results at the negotiating table,’ Castelein said. FNV chairman Ton Heerts was aghast; he had plans for 2015. This year would be the year of ‘having it out on the streets’ and he was looking forward to a ‘war of attrition with the employers’ should they fail to comply with the union’s demands. According to Heerts, a union that doesn’t dare use industrial action ‘has no right to call itself a union’. Castelein, according to Heerts, has ‘said goodbye to union land.’ But is that Heerts’ union land or Castelein’s? Stuck It...  More >

This week: Indonesia, taxes and rabbits

A round-up of the best Dutch newspaper and magazine editorials this week: Death penalty Last weekend Dutch national Ang Kiem Soei was executed in Indonesia. The Netherlands recalled its ambassador and is considering other sanctions. ‘The death penalty for involvement in drugs is extremely harsh’, wrote Elsevier commentator Gerry van der List, ‘but what would the Dutch sanctions be based on exactly? If the Netherlands does not want diplomatic relations with countries that have the death penalty it would have to make quite an adjustment to its foreign policy.’ To protest now that a Dutch national has been executed is a peculiar kind of ‘moral and legal selectiveness’, according to Van der List, as it would be ‘very inappropriate to condemn the punishment of a Dutch drugs trafficker and not that of drugs criminals with a different nationality.’ ‘It is understandable that the execution caused anger and indignation in country that prides itself on it mild punishments...  More >

10 myths about the Netherlands – debunked

10 myths about the Netherlands – debunked If you believe the tourist industry and tabloid newspaper approach to the Netherlands, we all race around on our bikes in clogs, eating cheese, smoking weed and killing off our old folk. Yes, there are lot of myths about the Netherlands and the Dutch. Here's 10 - debunked. Tulips come from Amsterdam It’s spring again, I’ll bring again, tulips from Amsterdam. But did tulips originate in Amsterdam, or even the Netherlands? No, they didn’t. The tulip (Tulipa) was originally a native of Turkey. The dainty, pointy-petalled little tulip was introduced to the West in the 16th century. The Dutch immediately started to mix-and-match like nobody’s business which made them very rich and turned the Netherlands into the home of the tulip. Tulip mania broke out in the 17th century with bulb prices going through the roof, in one instance fetching some 3,000 guilders, or the yearly income of a wealthy merchant. The bubble, or bulb, soon burst, of course. The main tulip growing area is...  More >

Finance sector needs to wake up: minister

Dutch finance minister criticises financial sector’s willingness to change The Dutch cabinet has come up with a number of measures which it hopes will  reform the financial sector and boost stability at times of crisis. But Dutch financial insitutions are not being cooperative enough in making the changes, says finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem. One of the questions that kept surfacing in 2014 was whether or not the crisis was over. The economic recovery is slow but it is safe to say that we have left the acute crises that hit banking and the housing market behind us. The important question now is whether the recovery is sustainable. Are we willing to learn from the crises and prevent other bubbles from forming? The cabinet came up with wide-ranging measures to make our financial institutions more sustainable. Stability, in times of crises, is important. Taking risks is sometimes inevitable. But financial institutions should always avoid having to renege on their core activities because the risks they are taking are too great for them to bear, or when...  More >

The Dutch are a nation of fair traders

The Netherlands and fair trade – from coffee to bank notes and local councils Most of us know how the Netherlands made its riches in the Dutch golden age – thanks to its strength as a trading nation – but hundreds of years later a new trading narrative seems to have grown out of the embers of that legacy - fair trade - writes Cathy Leung. Simply put, fair trade is a system of producing and selling goods that ensures the people selling them receive a fair price. During the 1940s to 1960s, mostly craft items from supply chains in developing countries began to be sold in churches and charity shops like Oxfam in the UK, and what is now Ten Thousand Villages in the US. These could arguably be seen as more of a charitable donation than a commercial transaction but certainly raised awareness of disadvantaged producers in the developing world. The Dutch organisation Komitee Steun Onderontwikkelde Streken (‘Support for Underdeveloped Regions Committee’, S.O.S.) imported the first fair trade product, wood statues from Haiti, in the Netherlands in 1967, and went...  More >

It’s time to ditch the e word

Expat is meaningless. It’s time to ditch the e word Years ago, the word expat was glamorous and inspired a certain envy in the stay-at-homes. But now the term is almost one of abuse and covers such a wide variety of people as to be meaningless, writes Robin Pascoe. Expats, we used to think, lived in luxury with servants on exclusive estates and sipped cocktails at the club in the evening. But those days are long gone – if they ever existed in the Netherlands. Relocation packages have been slashed, travel is cheap, social media has revolutionised keeping in touch with the folks back home and spending several years working or studying abroad has become much more common. Last week the Dutch statistics agency CBS had a not altogether successful attempt at defining how many expats there are in the Netherlands. It based its calculations on the assumption that the expat is a high earner and aged 18 to 75. The total the CBS came up with was between 39,000 and 75,000, depending on if they were in the top 15% or top 35% of earners in...  More >

Aboutaleb and Asscher to the rescue

Labour party woes: Aboutaleb and Asscher to the rescue This weekend the Labour party held a two-day conference to set itself up for the provincial elections in March. The party is seriously suffering in the polls and is on course to lose many seats. Communications advisor Ton Planken thinks Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb and social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher are well-placed to build bridges – and help Labour over its electoral slump at the same time. A surprising by-product of the wave of indignation that followed the attack on Charlie Hebdo is that we have witnessed the emergence of the new leader of the Labour party: Ahmed Aboutaleb. He speaks to us like no other Labour politician since Joop den Uyl. If Labour knows what is good for it, it will persuade Aboutaleb to head the list for the next general elections and if it links him to Lodewijk Asscher as well the electoral fortunes of the party could soar. Two great politicians, one from Amsterdam and one from Rotterdam, the best Labour has to offer. Granted, Frans Timmermans...  More >

This week's best editorials

This week's editorials were dominated by recent events in Paris, leading to both soul-searching and criticism of the Dutch government's efforts to combat terrorism. Rotterdam's mayor, described as a hero by his London counterpart for his stance on domestic jihadis, did not win universal praise however. Terrorism The debate on how to cope with the terrorist threat in the Netherlands was ‘a ritual dance full of big words and inconsistencies and no concrete outcomes'. Political parties are divided while the cabinet is trying to hold on to its credibility,’ Elsevier wrote this week. The new measures initially proposed by security minister Ivo Opstelten to get tough on terrorism have now been replaced by complacency, the magazine wrote. All suggestions were dismissed as ‘We already do this’, ‘That is not opportune at the moment’, ‘We have the situation under control’, according to the magazine. Elsevier sees ‘a culture war between parties while the cabinet is constructing...  More >

Strike for a higher wage!

Go on strike for a higher wage! White collar union De Unie has just said it will stop organising strikes in support of its demands. Economist Mathijs Bouman thinks unions shouldn’t be rigid but to give up the right to strike is going just that little bit too far. Reinier Castelein is a civilised person. Dressed in banker’s pinstripes, an in-house tie and sporting the sleek hairstyle of the financial commentator, he is the antithesis of a rabid union leader. There is no megaphone in Castelein’s office, no union caps adorn his coat rack. His union De Unie is a civilised union for civilised people. Ranting on the Malieveld or raving on Dam square is not the sort of thing Unie members go in for. Constructive meetings with employers and an outcome that benefits all parties is much more their style. Arguments And that is how it came about that Castelein, with effortless nonchalance, put out the hard-fought right to strike with the other rubbish. Strikes don’t resolve anything, says Castelein. ‘If arguments...  More >