‘It’s important to know what people are saying, it makes life richer’

‘It’s important to know what people are saying, it makes life richer’

Kenyan national Elizabeth Njeru, 39, came to Amsterdam in 2000 for love and now runs her own catering company. She is surprised by how willing successful people are in the Netherlands to help others, thoroughly enjoyed her Dutch lessons and is on a mission to make Kenyan food a household name.How did you end up in the Netherlands? Actually, I met a Dutch guy at the Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya. He was an exchange student, that’s how he came to be there. I had two Dutch girlfriends who were friends with him. We were hanging out a lot. Then he went back for the Christmas holidays and I missed him like crazy. I suddenly realised dammit, I’m in love!How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I think of myself as a global citizen, I see myself as just Elizabeth. I believe I can live anywhere in the world as long as it’s peaceful and I can develop myself.How long do you plan to stay and why? Let’s put it this way, I am not planning on leaving, yet! The Netherlands has become my home. If I go to Kenya or where ever I want to be there for a maximum of four weeks, then I go crazy, missing my bike and whatnot. I just want to come home to Amsterdam. I’ve travelled a lot but I just love this place. I just feel in my place here.Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Well, I arrived on the 4th August 2000 and on the 7th I was in class in Utrecht, at the James Boswell Institute - they are damn good! The teachers are super motivated, develop their own teaching materials and make it loads of fun. We laughed a lot. For me it’s really important to know what people are saying, it makes life so much richer.What's your favourite Dutch food? Stroopwafels! They’re the only thing I take to family and friends when I go to visit abroad. I make sure my visitors take a few packets with them when they leave.How Dutch have you become? What is Dutch? What is African? I have sometimes been accused by my fellow Africans of being too Dutch! And I’ve been told by some Dutch friends that I’m more Dutch than them. I think that when you learn about a culture as an adult you practise even the small rules. Like those I picked up at James Boswell… like, always take something when you visit people, a bottle of wine or flowers. And keep right, even when walking on the pavement! Oh, and you can’t visit someone spontaneously – especially at dinner time!Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Actually it is difficult to choose only three Dutch people I’d like to meet. This country is bursting at the seams with inspiring and interesting people. I have met a lot here in Amsterdam at all kinds of places such as Pakhuis de Zwijger, the Impact Hub and Kitchen Republic, not to mention in every day life. What really touches me is the readiness of successful people in Holland to help other entrepreneurs – with ideas, knowledge and networks.The mayor of Amsterdam would be one for sure. I would speak with him about my ideas on how Amsterdam can really benefit from the abundant African talent that is present. It’s a shame that so much of it goes to waste. I want to help develop more talent-based entrepreneurship among African migrants, help bring more high quality African products to the mainstream market. When Africans come here they’re often highly skilled and well educated, and they try to find a job. But they don’t have the right networks, don’t understand the infrastructure, the language is a problem and they don’t have the right access to financial resources; so sooner or later they find themselves in a precarious financial situation. If we could support and develop more talent-based enterprise it would allow Africans to make a good living and it would be an enrichment for the Dutch community. You just need to do it the right way.I would also love to meet Olcy Gulsen – because she is a very successful young business woman and not born in Holland. I have seen her on television and I’m very inspired by her energy and drive. Very inspiring lady. A real go-getter!Elianne Fresen – the owner of Peperwortel Traiteur and Catering in Amsterdam - is yet another entrepreneur who, in my opinion, has done an amazing job. And then there is Sacha Roozemond of Sterren van Hemel Catering as well.Okay, I now have more than three and I’ve just decided that I am going to meet all these people within this year. I am sure I will get an appointment.. Everything is possible in Amsterdam.What's your top tourist tip? One place that I take everybody who comes to visit from abroad is the Restaurant Moeders, at Rozengracht 251. We always have the Hollandse rijsttafel. You get a variety, it’s shared dining and it tastes great. It’s a special experience because you don’t find Dutch cuisine easily elsewhere.Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The longer I have lived here the more I have come to understand that Holland, at first sight quite a tiny country compared to many others around the world, is actually a giant in terms of achievements. In terms of business and agriculture for instance. Did you know that Holland is actually the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world? Just crazy!If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd go count the grazing rabbits early in the morning in the Amstel Park, which is my favourite in Amsterdam. Then I'd ride my bike along the Amstel river ending up at the canals, then go appreciate the beauty of Amsterdam one more time on top of the Amsterdam Tower. I'd finish off the day with a call to my family thanking them for their love, and a nice dinner with my closest friends. After all that, and if there still was time, I'd then go to bed with some chocolate and some D'asti moscato, and watch a romantic comedy on Netflix as I awaited the inevitable.Elizabeth Njeru is the owner of catering company Mama Kenia. Very Lekker.  More >

It's time for a new social contract

It’s time for a new social contract, says a former Dutch union boss The gap between the employed and the unemployed is growing and this division will cause serious problems for society. It's time for a new social contract, writes former CNV union boss Doekle Terpstra.The unemployment rate is down but not in a way that might be called significant. The CBS calculated that in April some 2,000 people found work. The total unemployment figure now stands at 6.4%, or 572,000. The economy is recovering but unemployment is still at double the number compared to the eve of the crisis in 2008.Recent research has shown that government employment measures are only minimally effective. The national audit office reports that €266m has been spent on creating employment for people over 50 but that the effects have been unclear.All in all hundreds of millions of euros have been spent on similar types of job creation and stimulation. The general expectation was that the economic recovery would solve the problem. That doesn’t appear to be the case. On the...  More >

11 pretty Dutch villages worth a visit

11 of the prettiest Dutch villages which aren’t too over-run by coach parties Cobbled streets, waterways, tiny thatched cottages covered with roses, secret gardens and wooden bridges - Dutch villages can be a delight. So this is a totally subjective compilation of places we think worth checking out - and which (we hope) won't be totally full of coach loads of tourists.AppingedamAppingedam first evolved on the banks of the Delf river in around 1200. With open access to the sea, it was somewhat prosperous and second only in importance in the region to Groningen. It enjoyed a resurgence as an industrial centre in the late 19th century and was home to the Appingedammer Bronsmotorenfabriek, which made ships motors until 2004. Appingedam's most famous attraction is the hanging kitchens above the Damsterdiep.BourtangeThe leafy star-shaped fortified village of Bourtange in Groningen province has pretty houses, a charming central square and several museums and fortifications to poke around in. Totally renovated in the 1960s, Bourtange was built way...  More >

'Amsterdam's character is whittling away'

‘Amsterdam’s character is being whittled away by council policies’ Federico Lafaire, a master's student in philosophy and self described ‘bookmonger,’ first moved to the Netherlands in 2007. He can often be found working behind the counter at The Book Exchange, a second-hand English bookshop in central Amsterdam.How did you end up in the Netherlands? The University of Amsterdam. I had to figure out something to do so I said, ‘hey, I’ll go study philosophy.’ That was in 2007.How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I was born in Mexico. If that means I’m from there originally or not, I don’t know. I often get asked that at the store. I also spent 10 years in California.As I’ve learned during my studies, even the simple questions can be tough. I’d be reluctant to call myself an expat because it’s a word that’s so loaded. If I was a Nigerian guy, I wouldn’t be an expat, I’d be considered an immigrant. I’ve never really felt at home anywhere in particular, as far as nationality...  More >

The real role of Dutch dads in focus

It’s Father’s day, and this Dutch professor is exploring the real role of Dutch dads Go to any park in the Netherlands on a sunny Wednesday afternoon and you are sure to find a good sprinkling of dads and their offspring, enjoying what has become known as a papadag. But despite the apparent popularity of daddy day, just one in four new Dutch fathers takes the unpaid paternity leave they are entitled to by law. In April, Renske Keizer (32), made headlines when she was named the world's first professor of fatherhood or, to be more formal, she was appointed a professor of child development at the University of Amsterdam’s social and behavioural sciences department.Keizer's research focuses on the role fathers play in the early development of their children and how policy towards all parents can be improved. ‘As a professor of fatherhood, I aim to provide insights into the questions of whether, why, and in what ways, fathers influence their children’s development.’ Keizer told DutchNews.nl.Who gets the kids dressed?Earlier research by Keizer highlighted...  More >

Nine things you need to know about herring

Nine things you need to know about herring The new herring season has just begun with the sale of the 'first' barrel of Hollandse Nieuwe for charity. On Saturday, the official launch - Vlaggetjesdag - takes place in Scheveningen. Here's nine things you need to know about the Dutch favourite fish.The humble herring The herring (from the Clupeidae family) grows up to 20 cm in length and lives in very large schools. They feed on plankton and other tiny sea creatures. Herring stocks had been threatened by over-fishing but quotas have solved that problem.Hollandse Nieuwe Hollandse Nieuwe is the name given to young herring caught between mid-May and the end of June which have a body fat percentage of at least 16%. The fish are gutted and salted but the pancreas containing an enzyme which helps the fish to ripen is left in place. This process – known as haringkaken  – apparently dates way back to 1380 when it was developed by a certain Willem Beukelszoon of Biervliet.Maatjes New herring are also known as maatjes,...  More >

Starry Night the wrong way round

What Van Gogh’s Starry Night looks like – the wrong way round For centuries, people have been intrigued by the Mona Lisa’s smile, but Brazilian artist Vik Muniz was more interested in her back. Muniz has just opened a show at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague revealing a side of the world’s most famous paintings that the public rarely sees: the back of the canvas.By Senay BoztasTalking his way into leading international museums, Vik Muniz photographed and then reproduced the flip side of paintings including the Mona Lisa (otherwise known as Leonardo da Vinci’s La Gioconda), Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night (above) and Pablo Picasso’s Woman Ironing.Verso is his first ever museum exhibition of this 15-year project, and also has five works based on the Mauritshuis’s collection, including Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring and Johannes Vermeer’s View of Delft.Talking to DutchNews.nl on the phone from his next stop in Paris, he explained that in a digital world, seeing paintings as actual, physical objects...  More >

'Racism is like being touched up'

Racism, says Sylvana Simons, is like being touched up Television presenter Sylvana Simons caused a media storm when she announced she was getting involved in politics. She talks to Senay Boztas about why people would rather see her dance than hear about the dark side of colonial history, and why she believes the Netherlands is suffering a crisis of racism.‘Somebody touches you as a woman. You say, “oh, I don’t like that”, and the guy says, “I was just trying to be nice”. People deal with racism in the Netherlands in the same way. Because they say they mean well, you’re not supposed to be offended.’The 45-year-old television presenter has launched her own offensive now, against xenophobia in the Netherlands. She first announced that she will stand for the new ‘tolerance’ party Denk in the general election next year. Then she went to a police station in The Hague to report the worst of 40,000 instances of racist insults that followed.Simons lives in Amsterdam and was born in ‘one part of Holland’ known...  More >

The Atlas of Amsterdam packs in the facts

From allotments to zoos: The Atlas of Amsterdam is packed with weird facts Discover Amsterdam from the comfort of your armchair with the Atlas of Amsterdam - a new book which contains hundreds of maps, graphs and photographs that bring the city to life.Curious about how many bikes are in the city or the main reasons for murder? Or perhaps you're interested in the city's international make-up or the fact the number of cannabis-selling coffee shops has halved to 176 in 20 years? Here's a selection of random factsThere are 6,000 allotments in Amsterdam and its surrounding areas, and 3,000 people are on the waiting list for a space to grow their own veg. There are 3,800 cafes, bars and restaurants in Amsterdam, most of which are in the centre and Zuid. The Vondelpark was created for the Amsterdam elite who lived in the nearby mansions. Today the park is used by 10 million people every year. There are 145 football pitches in and around the city - yet Amsterdam only has one professional football team. Ajax players earn around €400,000 a year on...  More >

Helmut Newton takes over Amsterdam

The work of Helmut Newton takes over Amsterdam’s Foam gallery A major exhibition of the work of photographer Helmut Newton (1920-2004) takes over the entire building of photography museum Foam on Amsterdam’s Keizersgracht from June 17. Helmut Newton: A Retrospective features over 200 photographs, ranging from early prints seldom on display to monumental photographs. Most of them are vintage prints from the collection of the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin. There is also the opportunity to see Helmut by June, the film made by Newton’s wife June in 1995.Newton is famous for introducing eroticism to fashion photography and his output is considered one of the most iconic of the last quarter of the 20th century. To fill in the life of this colourful character, here are ten facts you might like to know.1. Helmut Newton was born Helmut Neustädter on October 31 1920 in Berlin into a liberal, affluent and Jewish family. His father, Max, owned a button factory. Berlin in the 1920s was at the centre of the hedonistic and decadent Weimar Republic,...  More >

'Kapsalon is the best post exam food'

‘Kapsalon is by far the best post exam food on the planet’ German national Florian Volz is a 22-year-old International Studies student at Leiden University's campus in The Hague. He would like to meet DJ Martin Garrix, has an eye for a bargain night out and has become so keen on cycling, he plans to bike from The Hague to Greece this summer to make a documentary about refugees.How did you end up in the Netherlands? The Dutch university system caught my attention when I was still at school. At the time, Leiden was (and still is, I believe) ranked more highly than all the universities back home. In addition, Germans pay the same tuition fees as Dutch students, so the high quality education that I receive here comes at a very good price! Besides, I am a world traveller at heart. I would not have been able to study for three years in Germany as my travel bug is just too strong.How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? I'm not an expat or an immigrant because German and Dutch culture is quite close and...  More >