‘Dutch nature is so planned out but bike parking is totally random’

‘Dutch nature is so planned out but bike parking is totally random’

Romanian national Irina Damascan, 26, came to the Netherlands two years ago, failed to get the job she was after and decided to stay anyway. She's now co-founder of a company trying to revolutionise the Dutch relationship with their bikes, is planning to take a second master's degree in architecture and will never forget how her boss reacted when she was late for work.How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came two years ago for an internship in the PR department at [architects bureau] OMA in Rotterdam. I was giving up running a PR agency for architects and designers in Romania for an internship position but in the end, after four interviews, I was rejected. I felt miserable, but stayed anyway and learned to deal with rejections as an expat and ended up getting a lot of personal growth from the experience. I then came to Amsterdam and did a mentorship at THNK, the creative leadership school, that changed my life and my view on Dutch society.How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I am a blender! I blend in when tourists ask me directions and I reply exactly like a Dutch person would. But in my heart I am still Romanian and try not to forget where I came from, although the Dutch way of doing things is pretty contagious.How long do you plan to stay and why? I never make such plans. I enjoy my life here very much and since I’ve started a business here with the Dutch at the centre I'm not planning on going anywhere soon. Moreover, I plan doing a second master's degree in architecture here. I think a Dutch education will bring me a lot of new insights on how to better integrate, in addition to the implicit added value of having another degree from a top university.Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Not as well as I would want to. I learned most of my Dutch by listening to the radio (100%NL) and by reading official websites for the tax office and chamber of commerce. I also try to read the mail I get on my own and pick up words from random conversations.What’s your favourite Dutch food and why? I love a Bossche Bol because the first time I ate one I was in the city of Den Bosch with my Dutch boyfriend and the rainy day became a bit brighter with the soft inside covered in chocolate. It’s a simple yet effective dessert and I feel that it describes the Dutch perfectly.How Dutch have you become and why? I am more on time than I used to be because the Dutch hate it when you’re late. I had to learn that the hard way when my boss sent me home one morning when I showed up 15 minutes late. I spent the whole day in a café close to the office crying and working hard to prove I was still worthy of the job. Then I started loving this way of handling things. I respect people who are able to do that and keep their word.Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I've already met two of them and I am going for the third soon! I wanted to meet Rem Koolhaas and I met him in Venice at the Biennale. I hope to get to talk more to him one day as he is an inspiration to me. Second is his right hand, Reinier de Graaf who runs the AMO research department and twin sister of OMA. He is still on my 'to meet list' and third is [architect] Ben van Berkel who I met at THNK as he is part of the advisory board there.The choice of three architects might be a bit one-sided but they are truly inspirational for my profession.What’s your top tourist tip? Don’t follow the map! Get lost in the city and enjoy!Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. All nature is planned out! I miss the raw nature back home. Yet, the way bike parking is planned is still so random. I guess things can't be changed so easily. But my team and I are about to do that with our smart bike parking system!If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would be as much of a tourist as one can be. The ability to open your eyes to new things and see things in new perspectives is something you lose if you are focused on your job and getting from A to B. I would definitely still spend my time in the way most Dutch do, out in the sun on terraces, but I would just walk around and enjoy the architecture and the canals.Irina Damascan is co-founder and CMO at Linked&Locked which is developing a smart network of bicycle locks.    More >

Ebru Umar is a fool

Ebru Umar’s wretched columns are a small price to pay for press freedom As a 'shock columnist' who likes hurling playground insults, Ebru Umar is no fearless martyr to the free word in the mould of Vaclav Havel, writes Gordon Darroch.Ebru Umar might be a fool but we still have to fight for her. The Dutch Metro columnist’s holiday in the Turkish resort of Kusadasi has been indefinitely extended while police decide whether to charge her with insulting the country’s president on Twitter. She appears to be bearing it bravely: she's tweeted a picture of the sunset from her balcony.This in itself makes her a rarity among freedom of speech campaigners in Turkey, such as Erol Zavar, since for most of them sunlight is a rare privilege. Zavar, the editor of the leftwing magazine Odak, was given a life sentence in 2000 for ‘changing the constitutional order by force’ and is currently fighting a losing battle with cancer in a high-security jail in Ankara. Umar, meanwhile, is sipping tea in the sunshine and posting selfies from the hair salon.Umar...  More >

Mysterious suitcase contains WWII secrets

A suitcase full of secrets found in Amsterdam’s Jewish quarter after 70 years The discovery of a suitcase filled with photographs and paintings and hidden in a cupboard in an Amsterdam flat was the beginning of a story stretching back to 1920s Berlin. Gordon Darroch unravels a mystery which plays out across the globe.Cities are shaped by their past: it courses through them like blood, unseen but vital. Charlaine Scholten's boyfriend told her about the suitcase in his attic shortly after they started dating last February. It was a hard brown leather case, weighing about 30 kilos, familiar from those black-and-white photographs where cases are piled high on the quayside behind families waiting to board passenger steamers for a new life across the ocean. When Charlaine sprung open the brass clasps, it began a year-long quest spanning three continents and 70 years of history.Her brother-in-law had found it while renovating an apartment building in Amsterdam's Beethovenstraat in 2009. 'It was in a meter cupboard, shoved behind an old chair and beneath a bundle...  More >

10 great things to do in May

10 great things to do in May From swinging over a 100-metre drop and celebrating spring with a festival to learning about Meissen porcelain and getting fit at the fair, here's our pick of the best things to do in May.Admire the winning press photosThis year’s winning World Press Photo is the Australian photographer Warren Richardson’s image of a baby being handed through the barbed wire along the border between Hungary and Serbia. It takes pride of place in the exhibition of other winners in various categories, such as images of migrants wrapped in foil against the cold as they approach the Italian coast in a tiny boat, a hugging married couple who get their chemotherapy treatment together, a wrestling tournament in Sierra Leone and a young IS fighter being treated for burns in a Syrian hospital.Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam until July 10. www.worldpressphoto.orgLearn about Meissen Ceramics expert Anne Haworth talks about the history of Meissen porcelain, also known as the ‘white gold’ of Saxony....  More >

'In the Netherlands, 3pm means 3pm'

‘In the Netherlands time is absolute – 3pm really does mean 3pm’ Originally from Calcutta in India, Shazia Khan, 32, lives in Eindhoven with her husband and two children. Shazia runs her own fashion business, has learned to tone down the chili in her cooking and says her son is her Dutch teacher because he points out her mistakes.How did you end up in the Netherlands? We left India, and after living in Turkey for a year, my husband was offered a position at Delft University of Technology. We moved to Delft and two years later, when he changed jobs, we moved to Eindhoven. I've now been in the Netherlands for eight years.How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? I see myself as an international because I have a strong interest in learning about other cultures, especially the culture of the country where I am living.How long do you plan to stay? I think that we will be staying in the Netherlands for a long time. My kids go to local schools and are growing up as Dutch (although they speak Hindi at home),...  More >

10 ways to survive King's Day

10 ways to survive King’s Day – this year, take an umbrella If you are in the Netherlands at the moment, you cannot fail to have noticed it. Yes, King’s Day is upon us.This year the weather forecast is not doing us any favours... rain (possibly sleet), hail and a chilly 8 degrees. Event organisers have been reviewing their plans to take account of the expected chill, and the best way to make money this year will probably be to sell waterproof orange ponchos. King's Day is when the Dutch really let their hair down, so expect lots of bedraggled bunting and rain-wear clad revellers determined to party whatever the weather.Here at DutchNews.nl opinion about King’s Day is divided. Some of us have been collecting our clutter to sell for months, some of us have a 24-hour feest ahead of us and some of us are even leaving the country to get away from it all. All you need is a plan. Here’s an updated version of ours.1. If you are a party animal, you need to know that the best parties all take place the night before King’s Day and run...  More >

Should universities provide prayer rooms?

Is a university campus prayer room any different to providing a bar? Universities provide bars, yoga classes and gyms on their campuses, so why not places where students of every religion can go to pray? asks Molly Quell.Last week, Delta, the Delft University of Technology magazine, reported that the university was investigating how to provide silent rooms on campus. The same week, the AD reported that students in The Hague had requested a prayer room.Judging from the reaction in the media, you could have mistakenly thought Muslim students at these schools had demanded the forced conversions of the princesses.The AD had something to say. Omroep West reported on it. PowNed had a story. Geen Stijl voiced their thoughts. Even the JOVD (the youth wing of the VVD) had something to say.The JOVD column reads, in part: 'A university should be a secular place where the gathering of scientific knowledge is the main aim and, therefore, there is no place for religious expression.'PubsSo I fully expect to see the JOVD calling for the closure...  More >

The Hague gets Europe's biggest urban farm

How local can you get? Farming fish and vegetables on a The Hague office rooftop An empty Philips office block in the heart of The Hague is producing vegetables and fish on a commercial basis. Senay Boztas explores Europe's largest commercial urban farm.Ramon Melon Martinez proudly displays a perfect, bright green, six-inch vegetable. ‘Our first cucumber!’ he exclaims, laying it reverently on the desk of a messy, temporary office.This dilapidated, 1950s office block in the middle of The Hague, is growing something astonishing: on its sixth floor is a 370 sqm fish farm, while the roof has been converted to a 1,200 sqm greenhouse for vegetables, making this Europe’s largest commercial urban farm.The project will be formally launched on May 20 and a team of young enthusiasts from the private business UrbanFarmers BV is busy with the fitting-out of a large events area and roastingly-hot visitor greenhouse.Martinez is director of operations at the unromantically-named ‘UF002 De Schilde’. This is the Swiss-owned business’s second farm; its...  More >

Why we should give free money to everyone

Long read: Why we should give free money to everyone We tend to think that simply giving people money makes them lazy. Yet a wealth of scientific research shows the contrary: free money helps lift people out of poverty. The time has come for a radical reform of the welfare state, writes Dutch author Rutger Bregman.London, May 2009—An experiment is underway. Its subjects: 13 homeless men. They are veterans of the street. Some have been sleeping on the cold pavement of the Square Mile, Europe’s financial centre, for going on 40 years. Between the police expenses, court costs and social services, these 13 troublemakers have racked up a bill estimated at £400,000 or more. Per year.The strain on city services and local charities is too great for things to go on this way. So Broadway, a London-based aid organisation, makes a radical decision. From now on, the City’s 13 consummate drifters will be getting VIP treatment. It’s adiós to the daily helpings of food stamps, soup kitchens and shelters. They’re getting a drastic...  More >

'The Dutch are calmer than Greeks at work'

‘The Dutch have a much calmer mentality when it comes to working’ Adonis Stoantzikis, 32, is a Greek artist and writer who has been living in the Netherlands since 2013. Now based in Amsterdam, Adonis enjoys the Dutch pace of life to the fullest, would like to have met Johnny Jordaan and has started eating sandwiches for lunch.How did you end up in the Netherlands? I initially came here to study in Groningen, but continued with the residency in Amsterdam. I wanted a university where they spoke English, so it was a choice of between here and England. The Netherlands was an easy winner.How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? An international, because of the international student community in university and my collaboration with locals afterwards. I don’t think there are any Greeks in my environment here.How long do you plan to stay and why? It depends. Because of what I do I can’t be located in one place for too long. I have to move on and travel a lot. It’s important for art to be a nomad.Do...  More >

Ukraine vote was a thrashing well earned

The Ukraine referendum was a thrashing the government deserved The government and Brussels may have deserved the thrashing they got on referendum day but the results are a wake-up call for ministers and voters, say economists Rick van der Ploeg and Willem Vermeend.There are only a few countries in the world where an advisory or binding referendum is part of the democratic tool box. It is generally thought to have too many disadvantages, reason why most have chosen a democratic system in which chosen representatives and administrators take policy decisions after having weighed all the options. Every four or so years voters judge their performance. This is the system that we have in the Netherlands.The main disadvantage of a referendum is that voters are limited to either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. There is no room for nuance or arguments. Fact is that only enthusiastic yes and no voters take to the ballot; those who have no particular sentiment about the subject or don’t feel they want to vote, don’t. That leaves us with an extremely...  More >