Members of the international community answer 10 key questions about their lives in the Netherlands


‘The Dutch are sometimes more emotional than they claim they are’

‘The Dutch are sometimes more emotional than they claim they are’

Belgian Peter Vandermeersch has been editor of the NRC newspaper since 2010 and now has no intention of living anywhere else but Amsterdam. He misses long Belgian lunches and still hates karnemelk but is planning to become Dutch so he can vote in the national elections. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came here in a rather special way because I was elected editor of the NRC in 2010, the best newspaper in the Dutch language. Professionally it was much more exciting to work here - my dream come true. My wife is a lobbyist and she stayed in Brussels. One weekend I go back there and one weekend she comes here. We said we would do this for a year but it has now been seven years. We'll probably change the arrangement when my son completes secondary school. It would be nice to live together again. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc ? Sometimes I say I am a Vlaming who got lost in Holland and sometimes I say I am a Dutchman who was accidently born in Flanders. But I don't really consider myself as an expat or an immigrant ... it's a bit strange. Obviously I'm not Dutch... I'm a sort of inbetween. How long do you plan to stay? I plan to stay for the rest of my life. I am so happy here both professionally and personally.  I love Amsterdam, I love the culture, I love the way people behave. So that is why I have started the process of becoming Dutch. I want a Dutch passport. I can do everything I want here. I work here, I pay my taxes, I build up my pension but there is one thing I cannot do and that is vote.  And I want to do that. Its important that I can take part in that celebration of democracy. I can vote in Amsterdam and in Europe but not for the Tweede Kamer. I would lie if I said I do not mind about giving up my Belgian nationality but wanting to become Dutch is more important. But it will be a bit strange not to be formally Belgian. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Well of course my accent is very Flemish and I try not to speak with a Dutch accent because I hate it when Flemish people try to speak Dutch - they come out with a strange mixture. But my accent has changed. When I give interviews in Flanders people say that I sound so Dutch. Dutch people can make the Flemish very angry by claiming they are not speaking Dutch. Its the same language with the same vocabulary and same organisation, the Taalunie, in charge of the rules. But of course there are different expressions and I can make the staff here wonder what on earth I am talking about at times. What's your favourite Dutch food? I have to say one of the biggest cliches in Belgium about the Netherlands is that you can't get a decent meal in Holland. And that is just not true, especially in the bigger cities, you have excellent cuisine. But I really miss the lunch culture in Belgium and Brussels, and in journalistic circles. It is very important at 12.30 to go out to lunch and to stay out for two hours... lunch is part of work. When you meet politicians in Belgium it is work, with a bottle of wine on the table. It is very strange to sit here behind my desk eating my salad or broodje gezond. I still hate karnemelk but when we do go out for lunch and there are no croquettes on the menu, I am the first to say that is what I want. And drop (liquorice)... the secretaries always have big bowl on their desk and when a new one joins the team, I always explain that bowl has to be kept filled up. How Dutch have you become? In Flanders I had a reputation for being straight forward, a little bit hard, always saying what I thought - so I apparently already had all those aspects of the Dutch identity. But of course I am extremely Flemish as is my accent. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Rembrandt van Rijn - I am so obsessed by what he did in the 17th century. But then, perhaps I should pick Van Gogh. I was a correspondent in Paris for five years and I often took people to visit his grave in Auvers. It was always very emotional. Johan Huizinga:  He's an early 20th century historian but was very influential when I was studying and I thought he was a great writer. Mata Hari, the spy: She was very sensual and very beautiful and she had such an interesting life. She was spying for everybody and going to bed with too many men. Of course, this all took place in the First World War which is much more important to the Belgians than the Dutch, but a subject I am very interested in. What's your top tourist tip? I have to say since the Rijksmuseum has been renovated I always send visitors there. And it might be cliched but I would also say a boat tour. More people in Amsterdam should do it, even if you live here. You see the city from another perspective. I also go to the Adam Tower on the IJ because I love the view. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands The one thing I find very emotional and surprising is the one minute's silence on May 4 to remember the World War II. I knew there was a ceremony on the Dam but not that it was marked everywhere else. This year I was making a reservation in a restaurant and they asked me if I realised that it was May 4 and that there would be a minute's silence. And indeed, just before eight the music was turned down and everyone went quiet. I think it is beautiful and emotional. And it is interesting that the Dutch are sometimes more emotional than they claim they are. They always say they are so sober and down to earth. But they also have these really wonderful traditions which I love. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go to my favourite restaurant Kaagman & Kortekaas for the last time - it is excellent, one of the best in the world. I think I would take my bike and cycle from here maybe to Hoorn. I have one of these typical Dutch bikes with a crate... I'd go north  past Edam and Volendam and follow the sea. It's so Dutch. But I would cycle first and eat later, of course. Peter Vandermeersch's book 'Ik Zou Zo Graag Van Jullie Houden' was published in September. Peter Vandermeersch was talking to Robin Pascoe  More >


‘If someone says “we’re going to meet at 10am” we really do meet at 10am’

‘If someone says “we’re going to meet at 10am” we really do meet at 10am’

Carlos M. Roos relocated to Leiden from Caracas in 2008 to pursue a master’s degree. Nine years later, the Venezuelan native teaches at a local university, when he’s not working on his doctorate and a series of innovative musical projects. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came over looking for a very specific master’s programme, which was Philosophy of Art. At the time, that wasn’t the most popular subject out there. I found something along those lines in Bologna, Italy but it wasn’t offered in English. There was also one in Norway but it was a PhD programme. Finally, I came across the website for Leiden University and found one for masters students that had the content I wanted to study and research. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? Right now? An expat, I suppose. For a while, I was more of an international. I spent two years in Leiden and then I moved to Brussels in 2010 where I started a research project. It gave me the opportunity to travel over the world. I had the chance to visit many countries in Southeast Asia, both East and West Europe, and Northern Africa. I was never in the same place for very long. It was great but, after a while, I got tired. My contract ended and I came back to the Netherlands. Not because of a relationship with a girlfriend or anything like that. For me, it was a relationship with the city, with Leiden. I liked it very much. How long do you plan to stay? I would like to stay as long as I can. I feel a lot of hope here. I come from a massive and chaotic city. Sometimes that’s fun and sometimes it isn’t. I appreciate the scale of this town. It’s a place that seems conceived for actual human beings. You can get from Point A to Point B by walking or on your bike in no time. Try doing that in Caracas, Los Angeles, or Moscow. I also like the straightforwardness of people here. No filter. It’s like my old man says, ‘you know what’s going to kill you’. So you know what’s going to happen and that’s not the case in every culture. Elsewhere, people say one thing but they have something else in their mind. It can be a hard game to play but I definitely prefer this way of interacting. Oh, and the landscape is pretty cool. No mountains, I’m a fan of mountains, but I remember when I was moving back to Leiden from Brussels. I was on a train and we cut across a field that was filled with little cows and it was so green. I remember thinking, ‘Dude, this is beautiful!’ Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? The biggest piece of the puzzle is the language. In order to really join this community and all its social, political, and professional circles, both in the city and the country, I definitely need to know Dutch. When I was first here, I learned informally while speaking with friends. After I moved to Belgium, I took a class for six months, just the basics. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been trying to use Dutch but, because of my research, I have to study and use German. My mental box for Germanic languages has really been taken up by German. I feel like, right now, I can’t speak any Dutch. I feel like I’ve got a salad in my head of different terms and words. The real problem is having the time to invest. I like learning languages but it’s a skill like any other. It’s like going to the gym or surfing. If you stop for a year, your skills will go down. What’s your favourite Dutch food? There’s the widespread belief that there is no such thing as Dutch cuisine. Maybe not like the French have a cuisine, but I think it’s a simply different thing. Take the pastries, for instance, the ones filled with almond paste. When you get them fresh from the bakery, they’re really nice. Or stroopwafels. When you get them right from the pan? Wow, really nice. Herring I do like and they’re great to eat after a party. But rookworsten, the smoked sausages, would have to be my favourite. How Dutch have you become? Do I have to quantify that? I’d say significantly. When I moved to Leiden for the first time from Caracas, there was an element of shock. I could feel that I was entering a different cultural space, but I knew what to expect. I knew that the Dutch were very systematic, organised, and punctual. I was looking forward to it since I come from a comparatively messy place. If someone says ‘we’re going to meet at 10 am’, we meet at 10 am, we get to work, and we’re done by 11. I found that fantastic! Then I moved to Brussels and assumed the Dutch way of doing things was the European way in general. Little did I know, that’s certainly not the case. That was much more of a cultural shock because I was so used to the Dutch way. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Vincent van Gogh. I would like to hear more about that ear of his! But, seriously, I find him to be a very interesting character out of what one can tell from his paintings. He wrote beautiful letters, very insightful ones, with theoretical and philosophical thoughts on how he saw life that were kind of playful, too. Having read some of those and seen his paintings, that gives me an image of what he was like and I’d love to have a cup of coffee with that guy. Rembrandt. A totally different character with a totally different vibe. You can see that in his paintings and he obviously shared a different place in the social structure than Van Gogh. Yet their work would give you a good idea of what Dutch life was like at different points in history. They were not the same at all but I think it was Mark Twain that said ‘it rhymes’. There were points and coincidences that made these two artists resonate with one another. But I would love to talk to Rembrandt about his drawings, not his paintings. There’s something to those drawings and you can see them up in Haarlem. Anouk. I would love to go partying with her! She seems pretty cool and her voice is very representative of Dutch female vocalists. Since I play music, I’ve had the chance to share stages with these singers often. There’s a specific thing with the timber and colour of their voices that I haven’t heard in other countries. It’s not quite a mezzo, it’s like a dark soprano kind of thing they’ve got going on and Anouk totally nails it. What’s your top tourist tip? That’s a tough one. I think the one thing you should see in the country, if you only have a few hours and you’ve got to catch a flight but you want to take home one memory of the Netherlands, I’d choose the Museumplein in Amsterdam. You don’t have to enter the museums. Just go for the vibe. Or there’s the Vlaggenparade in Rotterdam by the Erasmus Bridge. That area is a great place to take a walk and it’s pretty cool. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. The fact that the Dutch had to take the country back from the sea, just like that, out of sheer will. Wow, respect! If not for that, we’d be even more packed into an even tinier piece of land. There would be fish swimming where we’re sitting right now here in Leiden. That is amazing to me. They took it all from nature and, yes, that’s impressive, don’t get me wrong, but the most impressive thing? They keep doing that. It never goes to hell at some point because someone fell asleep. It takes serious discipline and systematic planning, thinking, and acting to achieve this. That’s fantastic. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? There’s two options for me: the contemplative one and the active one. For the first one, I’d just sit with a cup of tea somewhere. This could be at one of my favourite places in Delft, Rotterdam, or Den Haag, but here in town? I would go to a place in the southwest part of Leiden. It’s not a popular tourist destination, but there’s some canals there with a forest. It’s beautiful. I would sit there, drink my tea, and play my guitar. Now the other one? I’d throw a 24-hour in a row party with live music. I don’t know if Leiden would be the place for that but there’s a few places that could work like the Vrijplaats. I’d bring a band, or two bands, and we’d go all night. You can check out Carlos’ musical, visual, and theatrical projects via his website. He also leads The Involved Stage, a performance group based in Leiden. Carlos Roos was talking to Brandon Hartley  More >


‘You can’t bike on the roads in Italy. Here it’s a lot safer, and smoother’

‘You can’t bike on the roads in Italy. Here it’s a lot safer, and smoother’

Sofia and Elena are 11 years old, of British and Italian extraction, and have lived in the Netherlands for three years. Sofia is partial to the Dutch way of adding whipped cream to everything, while Elena thinks Dutch children are much more independent. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Sofia - We ended up here because of my mum’s job. She teaches Year 5 at the [British] school. Before that we were living in Italy. Elena - In Italy we also went to a British school and my mum taught there as well. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? Sofia - I would describe myself as European because I’m half British and half Italian and I’m living in Holland. Elena - I’m going to copy my sister’s answer. How long do you plan to stay and why? Elena - We’ve been here for four years and we think we might stay for another three years. We’re going to decide as a family if we’re going to stay here or if we’re going to move back to Italy. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Sofia - We speak a little bit of Dutch. We get lessons in school. Elena - We have Dutch lessons twice a week at school. And we used to have a girl from our swimming team give us lessons on Saturday morning. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Sofia - I like that there’s lots of whipped cream on everything. I also really like kibbeling. Elena - I like that there’s lots of fries. And stroopwaffels. I like to eat them for breakfast. But we don’t really like hagelslag. How Dutch have you become and why? Elena - I think a bit Dutch. Dutch children as much more independent. We take the train by ourselves to school every day. You couldn’t do that in Italy. In Italy, your parents would drive you to school every day. Here you have a lot more freedom. We meet our friends on the train and walk to school together. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? Sofia - The three princesses! In Italy, they don’t really have a royal family so I would like to meet the ones here. We saw them once at a volleyball tournament. One of the princess [Catharina-Amalia] is a bit older than we are and the other two [Alexia and Ariane] are a bit younger. What's your top tourist tip? Sofia - Go to Trixs. It’s a big indoor trampoline park where you can jump all over, even on the walls. You can play volleyball too. Elena - Or to Duinrell. It’s in Wassenaar and it has twelve indoor water slides. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands Elena - The weather. Sofia - The roads. Elena - Also the roads. In Italy, the roads have potholes that are huge. Here the roads are very well surfaced. Sofia - You can’t bike on the roads in Italy. Here it’s a lot safer. And smoother. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Sofia - I would have a sleepover with friends and go to Trixs. Elena - Me too. I’d meet up with friends and go to Trixs. Or Duinrell. Earlier this year, we asked readers if they knew any children who would like to take part in our 10 Questions section. We had several responses, and Elena and Sofia are the first. Sofia and Elena were talking to Molly Quell  More >


‘Biting into bitterballen is like having flaming lava pour into your mouth’

‘Biting into bitterballen is like having flaming lava pour into your mouth’

Toronto native Matt McNeil decided to forgo a career as a broker in Canada to move to the Netherlands with his girlfriend. They’re now the parents of a baby boy and he’s the proprietor of Coffee Company Leiden, one of the few North American-style coffee bars in the city. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Like so many other people: love. I was studying at the University of Concordia in Montreal and my girlfriend was there doing a half-year exchange. We met at the beginning of her trip and we were pretty much inseparable for the remainder. This was followed by a long-distance relationship that went on for four years. By that point I was out of school and I was working as a business broker, which is sort of like being a real estate agent but for businesses. Something had to change. She was in the middle of her master’s degree so I came over here. I eventually started working at Coffee Company in Amsterdam and things went from there. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I’ve been living here for nine years. I’ve adopted quite a few Dutch habits but, at the same time, I fly the Canadian flag all over the place. I’m very proud of where I come from. Even though I’ve only lived in Canada and the Netherlands, I guess I’d have to say I’m an international. I’m not a huge part of the expat community, aside from the cafe, which seems to be a sort of hotspot for expats in Leiden for some reason. I guess it’s because we were the first North American-style coffee shop in the city. We were here before Starbucks, which is over at the train station. A lot of people, like international students or those here for a short time, aren’t going to get the opportunity to really integrate. This place is recognisable and comforting. They can come in, sit with their laptop and get a cappuccino, which is what they would do back home. This is also one of the obstacles we faced in the early days. Going to a cafe by yourself was not really a part of the Dutch coffee culture. Going out for coffee was something you always did with another person. Some of our older Dutch customers or those from outside the city are still taken aback when we offer them take-away cups. They’re still so used to Douwe Egberts, that black sludge that’s so strong it makes your eyes pop out. How long do you plan to stay? That’s a big question. For the time being we’re staying here. The Netherlands has become our home. Moving again would definitely be a bigger thing now. We’ve got a dog, a cat and a son. There’s a lot more elements in our lives that would make it harder to move again. But our son doesn’t have to enrol in school until he’s four so now would be the time to go live somewhere else for a while. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I took two courses. The first one was at the University of Amsterdam. It was very academic and devoted to grammar and sentence structures. It didn’t work very well for me. Then I took another course from the Learn Dutch Community. We would act out everyday scenarios like going to the supermarket or ordering something in a restaurant. It was more focused on conversations and certain words and then we’d build on that. At one point my girlfriend decided to stop talking to me in English, which helped. Listening to the radio during my daily commute was also great. The morning shows have lots of talking segments and the DJs speak very clearly. Working as a barista in Amsterdam definitely helped, too. I became a sort of novelty for the regulars. I was ‘The Canadian That Works at Coffee Company’. What’s your favourite Dutch food? Vlammetjes. They’re hot, spicy, tasty, fried food. Bitterballen always burn my mouth. On the outside, they’re cool. Then you bite into them and it’s like flaming lava just poured into your mouth. No matter how many times I’ve eaten bitterballen, I always make the mistake of biting into them too early. With vlammetjes, I know they’re hot and the sauce that comes with them is fantastic. They're an underrated bar food and harder to find, but well worth it. How Dutch have you become? I don’t think I’ll ever be fully Dutch because I’ll never understand some of the customs. Right now, I’d say I’m half-Dutch, based on the traits I’ve adopted. Put me in most situations and I can blend in pretty well. But the agendas? Those should be for doctor's and dentist's appointments, not for living your life. That’s too regulated. I threw out my agenda when I graduated from high school and I’ve been happy ever since. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Beatrix. She’s still so revered. When I first got here she was still queen and this sort of force that represented the Netherlands. No matter if people were republican or monarchist, they all respected her. Mino Raiola. He’s a football agent who was born in Italy but moved to Haarlem when he was really young. I’m a big football fan and I’ve read these stories about him and the players he represents. He’s one of those people that, if you’re in his ‘family’, he loves you unconditionally, but if you’re not: get out! There’s stories about Mario Balotelli calling him up and asking: ‘can I borrow your Bentley’ and Raiola saying: ‘yes, OK’. Or showing up to important meetings in a tracksuit. In the world of football, he’s a phenomenon. Escher. You look at his paintings and they’re so perfect. I’m a big fan of realism in art and it’s amazing that artists like him can completely replicate real-world things. Take, for example, his self portraits where he’s reflected in the glass ball. The perspectives he used were great. Then there’s the other paintings that make you wonder where he got his inspiration. How did his mind come up with those crazy and amazing things? What’s your top tourist tip? I think it would have to be Amsterdam but that’s hard. This country has things for everyone and it depends on the person. Some people are huge art fans so I would send them to the Rijksmuseum. If they’re sports fans, I’d send them to the old Olympic Stadium. But if I had to choose only one thing for everyone, even though it’s super touristy, I would say they should take a canal cruise at night. Amsterdam looks so much different after dark and, from the canals, the perspective is something that no other city on the planet can provide. There’s lights from the houses, the buildings, and the bridges that are amazing. Then, if the boat goes down into the Red Light and it’s a Saturday night, there’s this noise that the crowds make and it’s – well, it’s an experience. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands Having to buy cake for other people on your birthday. It’s my birthday: you guys should be buying me cake! I shouldn’t have to show up to work with a cake for everybody else. Birthdays in general and the parties where everyone sits in circles are strange. Having to enter a room and kiss dozens of people before you even get to sit down and then kiss them all again when you leave? No thanks. I prefer to just say ‘hi' ‘to everyone and ask them ‘where’s my cake’? The rituals associated with birthdays make no sense. What’s up with the birthday calendars and why do people put them in their washrooms? I still don’t know the answer. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would probably do as much as I could. In this scenario, I would hope it’s summer so the sun would set late, giving me more time. I’d wake up in the morning, go somewhere for coffee, sit in Vondelpark and read a book, meet friends for lunch at a waterfront cafe, take a boat ride in the evening, and make the most of it. Then I’d get all our friends together at a cafe, sit on the terrace, and drink beer until we all wobbled home on our bikes. I’d pack as much in as I could so, once I left, I could say, ‘there, I’m done’ and leave with no regrets. Matt was talking to Brandon Hartley. He regularly posts photos and information about his branch of Coffee Company on Instagram and the cafe’s Facebook page.   More >


‘Everyone should try and get their head around what Anne Frank went through’

‘Everyone should try and get their head around what Anne Frank went through’

British national Paul Brown has considered himself a Hagenaar for 26 years, eats his herring without bread and pickles and raves about Dutch beaches. Single with one son, Paul is the director of financial advice group Blacktower. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I moved to the Netherlands in the early 1990s for work. I was working in financial services in London, there was a recession in the UK and someone told me about the exciting market working with expats overseas. I wanted to go to Hong Kong. However, the company I had an interview with sent me to Holland instead. I was peed off, but it was a job. I stayed with that firm for a while before joining another firm where I became a partner. Subsequently, in June 1996 I started my own firm, which eventually merged with Blacktower in 2014. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? I'd say that I am an international because although I live here, I travel a lot. Technically I suppose I am an immigrant with an international mindset. How long do you plan to stay? I don't see myself staying in the Netherlands for the rest of my life. I'm restless. A restless immigrant. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? My Dutch is very poor for someone who has been here this long. It's because I've always worked in the expat sector and the Dutch are so fantastic at English. When I've been in the mood to speak Dutch, and it is not as if I don't speak any, I always get a reply in English. I guess you get your best Dutch out of me after a few glasses of wine. I had a girlfriend who was a schoolteacher and she decided we needed to speak Dutch at least one night a week. I was in love so I agreed. The first time we had a rather stilted evening and after that it just became a bit of a chore. The relationship did not last that long. What's your favourite Dutch food? Herring, hands down. No bread, by the tail, dip it in the onions and get it down you. Wonderful. A thing of beauty. And it is very good for you… natural fish oils. I love it. I always have herring on a Monday when I pick my son up from school. And if I go past one of those old-fashioned stalls – what big hands the fishmongers always have – then I'll pull over and have one. How Dutch have you become? Well, I eat herring! I'm not diary driven, I don't wear a white t shirt under my shirt, but as for brown shoes under a blue suit, I'm doing it now! The Dutch are very laid-back and while I am not a confrontational sort of person, the lifestyle here, having come from London, is very different. I've adopted the doe normaal, take it easy kind of approach. Everybody likes the Dutch. People might have issues with the French or the Germans, and the Brits, but I'd like to think I've taken on some of the positive aspects of the Dutch: friendly, calm and doe normaal. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Frank de Boer, because he's just been installed as Crystal Palace manager and that is my team. [This interview took place before De Boer was sacked.] Me and my son bumped into him at Schiphol airport last year and we got a selfie with him. I'd like to meet him again and get another selfie! It's another football person, but I love Martin Jol. I could listen to him all day. He's so Dutch and he is so engaging and nice to listen to. A third person, that's tricky. Queen Maxima. She does seem like quite a character. I'm not sure she was always accepted in the Netherlands, so I think she would have an interesting story to tell. What's your top tourist tip? Lock your bike up properly if you rent one and in the old days I would have said look out for the dog poop, but that has improved a lot. And as a place to go, you can't beat Scheveningen. It's a fantastic beach. I went to the Anne Frank house after I had been here 15 years. It's a box you have to tick when you come here: everyone should try and get their head around what this girl went through. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands How tall everybody is. I've never seen so many unusually tall people in one place. Actually, what really hit me is how flat it really is and how you miss hills. When I drive into England from the Channel Tunnel you go over the brow of a hill and you have this wonderful view... and that always leaves me with a smile on my face. It's only a hill, but because there aren't any hills in my part of Holland, I appreciate it. The Dutch are also super friendly. You could not have King's Day in London. There would be fights and flying glass. You go out in The Hague and people might knock into each other but you are much more likely to hear 'hey jongen' than that aggressive 'what's your problem mate?'. The Dutch also really do go Dutch. I have watched people at the table saying 'no, I didn't have the coffee', and moving the coins around. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go to Scheveningen beach. I've been a Hague guy the whole time I've been here. It's my city. I would have a nice lunch at the beach and… we'll draw a curtain over what would happen next. Paul Brown was talking to Robin Pascoe  More >


‘It baffles me that parts of the Netherlands are 6 metres below sea level’

‘It baffles me that parts of the Netherlands are 6 metres below sea level’

British national Lucy Borne is celebrating her third year in Amsterdam this summer and says she has fallen completely in love with the city. A plant buff, Lucy currently works as global publicity and marketing manager at the post-production studio Smoke & Mirrors. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I ended up here completely by chance. I came on holiday with my boyfriend during the sun-soaked summer of 2014 and never looked back. I'd just finished a contract so I had no ties to the UK. Having very little knowledge of the city before visiting, Amsterdam completely stole my heart. I still to this day feel Amsterdam has a unique spirit. I luckily get to walk via the canals to work every day. Each day, still, this chocolate-box town stuns me. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? When asked where I’m from, my response is always the same: ‘I live in the Netherlands’. I'm very proud to live here but I was born in Britain. I don't think I’ve referred to myself as any of the above. Take from that what you will. How long do you plan to stay? Amsterdam will always hold a place in my heart. Moving to a new country has been an incredibly rewarding experience. It has taught me about myself and given me confidence that only comes from being out of your comfort zone. I'd love the opportunity to learn from another culture again. I want to plant some roots in Amsterdam and then see where the wind carries me. Hopefully somewhere warm! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Een klein beetje. What’s your favourite Dutch food? Oh, that’s tricky. Grabbing a cold beer with a kaasstengel and a few bitterballen has become a treasured winter delight. But my ultimate favourite would have to be hachee. How Dutch have you become? Despite not speaking Dutch, I’d say I’ve ticked most Dutch boxes. Herring though? No way, never! One Dutchism I’m happy to have acquired is their honesty. There is something hugely empowering in being true to yourself and, with no frill of emotion, being able to communicate that, especially as a Brit.  Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Jan Sluijters, because during my first week in Amsterdam I visited the Stedelijk Museum where his work 'The Ball Tabarin' completely took my breath away. I've been back since just to visit that painting and I would love to pick his brains about the scene he captured so vividly in that painting. Mata Hari, she had such an overwhelming amount of chapters to her life; from falling into wealth, becoming a circus horse rider in Paris, then became a pioneer for exotic dancing and most famously her time as a spy. She has an endless list of interesting turns, admittedly some are dark - but what a fascinating person to meet. And thirdly, the original owner of Reguliersgracht 1. It was our first proper home in Amsterdam and will, for the rest of my life, be special to me. All 30 square metres of it. What’s your top tourist tip? Hire a boat for at least three hours, grab a picnic, and sail around the city. It’s the best way to take in the magic of this place. Not once in my three years have I gone on a boat and not been completely spellbound by the journey. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands It still baffles me that, at its lowest points, the Netherlands is six metres below sea level! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Simple pleasures. I'd start with a stroll along the Bloemenmarkt. It can get crowded, but at around 8 am on a weekday, it's a plant lover's paradise. I’d then hop on a bike and cycle around the Vondelpark with my favourite playlist in my ears. Then I'd make my way to the canals and jump on a boat with my pals and giggle the evening away, perhaps finishing off at the Eye Museum, where it all began, for a glass of bubbles. Lucy Borne was speaking to Brandon Hartley.  More >


‘Locals are extra friendly to me when I try to speak their language’

‘Locals are extra friendly to me when I try to speak their language’

“I moved here for love!” Graphic designer Yihmay Yap (40), hails from Malaysia and moved to Rotterdam for love. Two and a half years later, she’s still learning the language and discovering her favourite places in the country. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It’s a long story, but in short, I moved here for love! My husband is from Rotterdam and we met when he was traveling around Asia and I was living in Singapore. We initially met in Singapore but we decided to meet up in Vietnam. That’s where we found out that we clicked really well. So he decided to move to Singapore to be with me and he ended up living there for seven years. But then he moved back to the Netherlands and when I came to visit after a year, he proposed! So that’s when I packed up and moved to Rotterdam to start a new life! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? I am from Malaysia, but I’ve been living outside of my home country for more than half of my life. I wouldn’t call myself an expat because it sounds exclusive. I don’t want to categorise myself into a specific group. I am just living my life; trying to experience difference cultures wherever I am, whenever I can. How long do you plan to stay? I don’t have any concrete plans on how long I’ll be living here. I just take things one step at a time and see what life brings to me. Although I would love to move back to Southeast Asia one day, because I feel that my heart is still in Singapore and Malaysia. My husband, however, isn’t a fan of moving back there because housing is expensive and he thinks things are ‘crazier’ there. But I still keep my door open. I don’t know where else I’d move to. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I enrolled in a Dutch class when I came here two and a half years ago. Language is not really my forte, so it’s taking some time. I still try to use my broken Dutch whenever I can because I realise that the locals are extra friendly to me when I try to speak their language. When my colleagues found out that I am learning Dutch, they speak to me in Dutch to help me practice. I think that it is super sweet of them to do that. What's your favourite Dutch food? I love boerenkool! I fell in love with this dish the first time I tried it many years ago. I was still living in Singapore at the time and I would even try to make it over there. I also really like haring maybe it’s because I really love sashimi and sushi and it’s pretty close to that. I like the ritual of eating it whole too. But speaking of food, I do miss the food back home in Singapore and Malaysia. Even if you’re able to find a lot of international restaurants here, it’s just never the same. How Dutch have you become? I fiets every day to work, even when it’s raining. But I’m not sure if that makes me Dutch. I lost my bike a while back though and on that day my husband told me, ‘you’re a real Dutch person now!’ (laughs). Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I honestly can’t think of anyone in particular. I am an easy going person, so for me, if I meet you it’s nice, but if not, then it’s also okay. I am a fan of art and design but I’m not die-hard about it. Even with famous actors, I’m not too privy... Okay, maybe Leonardo DiCaprio! But he’s not Dutch (laughs). What's your top tourist tip? Even if it may seem intimidating, go and rent a bike. It’s a good way to feel like a local and it’s the best way to explore the city! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands There are quite a few things that have surprised me here. Aan tafel is one of them and it’s interesting to me how Dutch people have their meal on time every day. In Asia we eat hot food at almost every meal, so it’s interesting that warm lunches and breakfasts aren’t common here. Also, I moved here in the winter so there weren’t many people out on the streets. But when spring and summer came it came as a shock that there were so many people out! I’ve also noticed that spontaneous meet ups with friends isn’t common here. Even my inburgering book says that you should always make an appointment. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I feel like I still don’t know the Netherlands well enough. I’ve only been here for a little over two years so I don’t have my favourite places or restaurants picked out yet. I’m still searching for them. To me a places aren’t what makes a city special, it’s the people. So with that said, I would spend my last 24 hours meeting up with all of my friends because to me, their company is what’s most valuable.  More >


‘Invest in a museum card and see as many museums as you can’

‘Invest in a museum card and see as many museums as you can’

Kristin Anderson is a American novelist and her second book has a Dutch travel writer in the lead role. A stroopwafel fan, she would warn tourists not to eat space cake and would like to meet television naturalist Freek Vonk, who recently got chomped on by a shark. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I fell in love with a Dutch man of course. We met at a wedding in Santa Barbara, California where I lived at the time. He was the best man for his Dutch friend and I was the maid of honor for my friend. After his two week stay in the US, we fell for each other and had a long distance relationship, traveling back and forth. Nine months later I quit my job and moved to the Netherlands to live with him. After one year together in Amsterdam, we moved to the U.S. and lived there together for six years before moving back to the Netherlands in 2011 to pursue work opportunities. In 2013 my husband started a masters’ program in theology. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? After six years in the Netherlands, I am half expat, half immigrant, as I identify with both cultures. Although I wrote professionally for others for years, it wasn’t until moved to the Netherlands that I dedicated time to my fiction. How long do you plan to stay? My husband, son and I dream of moving back to the United States, but that dream is constantly shifting. I love living in Western Europe. I have expanded not only my sense of identity but I have also become used to multicultural living. The US has a lot to offer, and California is a wonderful place to live. However, when Trump became president, our desire to move back to the United States diminished. My husband is also finishing his masters and will soon be a Dutch protestant minister. Our future locale will be determined by the position he finds. Who knows: We may end up in Curacao or Maastricht! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Ik spreek Nederlands! I took a beginner’s course in that long-ago year of love when I moved to Amsterdam to be with my then Dutch boyfriend. When we returned to the Netherlands in 2011, I took another course, but I have learned most of my Dutch language skills on the fly, at my workplace and through communicating with others. Many consider me fluent until we start talking at a more in-depth level. I was never asked to take an inburgering course. What's your favourite Dutch food? Rijsttafel. I realise this is Indonesian food, but to be honest, I don’t care for the heavier Dutch foods, and many Dutch consider Indonesian ‘rice table’ as an integral part of Dutch gastronomic history. I do love stroopwafels as well. How Dutch have you become? I have become more direct in my communication, and I have developed a more international perspective that is hard to come by when you live in one, large country. Dutch culture has also infiltrated my writing. In my second novel, The Things We Said in Venice, I created a Dutch travel writer as the male lead character and although this novel is set primarily in Venice, the last third of the story takes place in Amsterdam, The Hague and one other locale. I wrote some of the Dutch conversations in the book, but had native speakers polish them into native Dutch-speak. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet ? Freek Vonk (television naturalist). He’s awesome and wild and if I could bring my son along to meet him, I would score some major mom points. Arjen Lubach (satirical tv show presenter), because he is witty, intelligent and informed. Saskia Noort (novelist). She’s a talented writer and I can read her novels in Dutch. Some of her novels are too gruesome for me, but I really liked Terug naar de kust (Back to the coast) and I still think about the characters even though I read the book a few years ago. I like how she incorporates the Dutch landscape and locations in her novels. What's your top tourist tip? 1. Don’t eat the space cake and then expect everything to be okay. My husband worked for some time after university as a night receptionist in a hotel in Amsterdam. A recurring theme was young visitors from around the world who had eaten space cake and then thought that they were going to die, going absolutely crazy. 2. Invest in a Museum card and see as many museums as you can while here. It’s worth the investment and you will see much more than Van Gogh and Mondriaan. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands The Netherlands is in the top three of the world’s largest fruit and vegetable producers. That is hard to grasp, considering the entire land mass of the Netherlands fits at least 11 times into my home state of California. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Throw a big party at Culpeper strandtent in Scheveningen and invite all of the amazing people I have met here in the last six years to come celebrate my last 24 hours. We would dance, run over the beach, whether it was raining or not and dip our toes into the North Sea. You can find out more about Kristin Anderson and her novels on blog and website  More >


‘I am surprised that I like living here!’

‘I am surprised that I like living here!’

Alma Patist (64), a Filipina married to a Dutchman, has been living in the Netherlands for two decades. She has no time for complaining expats, loves Dutch comfort food and works as a teaching assistant in an international school. How did you end up in the Netherlands? In short, I married a Dutchman. I didn't think that we would ever live in the Netherlands but certain circumstances brought us here. We were in our forties and living in Singapore as expats. Our work took us to different countries but my husband's company closed. Eventually we decided to move to the Netherlands because my husband and our two kids are Dutch, so we decided it was time to come back 'home'. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international ? I don't like to label myself. I am just a human being who has lived in many places! How long do you plan to stay? I'll be here forever. My kids and grandchildren live here and life is kind. The government and the people really look after you. Even if you don't have any money the state will make sure you have what you need. I have a friend who has been here for 20 years and she didn't contribute by working but she has a nice apartment and is on subsidised living. Some people may think that it's not fair but I the way I look at it is, if you can afford to help then you should. My husband and I are comfortable and have property and savings so why not take care of others too? Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I can hold a decent, simple conversation in Dutch but I will admit that it's not very good. I taught myself how to speak Dutch when I first came to visit in 1974. But when I moved here for good 20 years ago, I went to Dutch classes. On good days people understand what I am saying, but on bad days they have no idea what's coming out of my mouth! It can be difficult because sometimes I can't fully express myself. But I have no excuse, I should learn how to speak Dutch better. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I love Dutch comfort food like stampot with endive. In the Philippines our comfort food is arroz caldo and sinigang so it almost hits the spot in the same way. I also like kapucijners which I make at home and I fry up some bacon and onions. With regards to haring, I still haven't been able to enjoy it. I can't stand the smell and texture! How Dutch have you become? I've always just seen myself as a Filipina living in Holland. I suppose Dutch people are said to be direct and opinionated. I have always been that way and maybe living in the Netherlands has made me more like that. I believe that everyone should have rights. It's important that we speak our mind! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I would love to have Van Gogh, Mata Hari, and G. Bruggink over for dinner. I'd love to learn about Van Gogh's life. It would be interesting to find about the line between 'crazy' and 'genius' because I really think that he was a genius. I am also so curious about Mata Hari. She was this beautiful woman who was a spy. Can you imagine how brave she was, especially in that day and age? G. Bruggink was a parish priest in our neighborhood and we were connected in some unspoken way. I don't know what it was about him, but he would just show up on my doorstep when I needed advice or help. What's your top tourist tip? The Netherlands is a beautiful country, so I would advise tourists to see more than just Amsterdam. Another thing would be to see the country through the eyes of a local. When I have visitors, I always show them my daily life so we'll go to the markets and supermarkets. My most recent house guests were from the United States and they just loved looking at all the breads and cheeses at the local supermarket. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands I am surprised that I really like living here! From my experience, there is so much bashing about living here within the ‘expat’ community. They complain about anything and everything – the banking system, the food, and so on. But I can’t stand the complaining and comparisons. Living in the Netherlands is great, I don’t understand it. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd go for a walk in a park, stroll along a market, visit a museum, and then sit down in a corner pub and have a beer and a chat with the regulars. Amsterdam Bos, specifically, is huge and beautiful. Alma Patist runs the blog Alma Matters. She was talking to Marisse Gabrielle Reyes  More >


‘I appreciate how individualism works here, I find it very productive’

Theatre designer Vasilis Apostolatos (44) came to The Hague from Athens for love, and found an outlet for his creativity here. Vasilis teaches at a theatre academy in Maastricht and works with STET, an English language theatre in The Hague. He took time out of his schedule to talk about expat life, love, and oliebollen. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Love. This is the only thing that can move me. It’s quite simple, I met a wonderful Dutch guy online, and we met in Athens and fell in love. We met right after I finished with eight months of chemotherapy, and after something like that you’re more open to try new things. You value life in a different way. It was the right moment to move. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? All of those. There are moments when you feel like an expat, and a lot of moments when you feel like an immigrant, especially in northern Europe. After I left Greece, hundreds of Greek friends of mine were desperate to find a future in northern Europe. I am one of the lucky ones, in that I chose to be here. How long do you plan to stay and why? As long as I am productive, creative and in love, I will stay! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak a little bit, but it’s a language that’s not made for my mouth. I feel ridiculous when I’m doing it. So I’m trying to convince people to speak Dutch to me because I do understand 80 to 90% of what they say, and then I reply in English. It works sometimes, and the rest of the time I mime my answers or something. I have a few tricks to cover my inability! What's your favourite Dutch food? I love haring, but to be honest there’s nothing that can beat oliebollen. I go nuts for them. Here in The Hague there’s a guy who starts selling them in October so I start then and finish in the middle of January. That’s my oliebollen season. How Dutch have you become? I do appreciate how individualism works here, and I find it very productive. It also balances how I am as a Greek person because we live together and affect each other in bizarre ways in Greek society. Here you can stand by yourself, and I do a bit more of that than I used to. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Ivo van Hove is a theatre director working in Amsterdam. I admire his work and the way he approaches theatre and communicates. I’d love to work with him. I’d like to meet Spinoza for his openness towards religion in very dark times. Holland isn’t a very spiritual place and when you see how much a figure like Spinoza contributed to philosophy and the way we deal with religion, I think he’s very important. I’d say Berlage for his architecture. But then again I could also say painters like Mondrian and the whole Flemish school of painting. They were great teachers and way they used light was unique. What's your top tourist tip? I’d take visitors on a long walk on the beach near where I live with a patat met mayo. It’s wonderful here when the weather is good. I strongly believe that if this country had the weather we have in Greece, they’d have to put up fences around it. Everyone would want to be here. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands That it’s not as open-minded a place as I thought. As a gay man, you notice that people do judge your sexual orientation or your lifestyle. But because Dutch society is a society of traders, it’s much easier for them to accept everything and say ‘let’s make money together.’ At the same time, behind closed doors they do have opinions about gays, immigrants, refugees, and not always nice ones. I’m having a great time here, and I love the Dutch. It’s just something I’ve noticed with them. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Oh my God! Just one day left here. I’d spend a day seeing Vermeer and Van Gogh, have a nice haring, and probably make love. Why would I skip that if I only had 24 hours? Vasilis Apostolatos was talking to Graham Dockery  More >


‘Since taking citizenship I say “we” a lot more when referring to the Dutch’

‘Since taking citizenship I say “we” a lot more when referring to the Dutch’

Originally from Hampshire in the UK, Paul Oram moved to the Netherlands after meeting his future wife while scuba diving in Egypt. He now lives in The Hague, where he works as a graphic designer and volunteers for Stichting Present, an organisation that helps vulnerable individuals.  How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was working in London in 1997 and I was getting fed up, so I decided to do something completely different and booked a week's diving holiday in Egypt, on my own. It was shortly after a terrorist attack at a tourist site, but I decided to go because I'd already paid and couldn’t get my money back. My Dutch wife to be was there, doing exactly the same thing. We literally met underwater. I remember thinking at the time ‘she’s the one for me’ and we went from there. A few years later I sold my place in London a few years later and moved over here to be with her. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I’d say I’m a lovepat and an international. I never refer to myself as an expat. I think it’s more for people who have partners who are foreign as well. How long do you plan to stay? This is home. I belong here. I’ve just had my naturalisatieceremonie so I’m now officially half Dutch and half British. It was a Brexit-related decision: I consider myself a European. It was very easy to apply and I think there will be a flurry of other British people waiting to do the same. I applied and, about a month later, I went to the ceremony. It was quite amusing. We all had to go up on stage to get our certificates and we were spoken to in Dutch by the presenter. A lot of applicants clearly didn’t understand a word he was saying and a few people gave him some strange replies. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I think I can say I speak Dutch. It’s still not brilliant after hundreds of lessons, though. My last course was at the Volksuniversiteit in The Hague and it was really good. It was a year-long conversation course, quite a high level. We just chatted with each other and the teacher was fantastic. It’s often difficult to find enough people to attend these conversation classes. I wanted to take it again but they couldn’t find enough students for the next one. What’s your favourite Dutch food? I’ll say rolmops: rolled pickled herring held together with a cocktail stick. I usually get a whole jar of them from the supermarket. How Dutch have you become? Not very [laughs]. I read somewhere that you go through phases after you move here. You love everything Dutch for a few years. You even find yourself wanting to buy a rowing boat to tour the canals. When the novelty wears off you can get a kind of seven-year itch and start to get frustrated by everything. Then you get over that and sort of relax into it. I’ve found that I’ve been saying ‘we’ a lot more after the naturalisatieceremonie when I’m referring to the Dutch. I voted in the recent election. I figured we needed every anti-Wilders vote we could get. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Since I’m a designer, I should pick MC Escher. The museum here in The Hague is fantastic. You can’t get anyone more unique than Escher when it comes to a graphic artist. I would have loved to watch him and learn while he works. There’s also Gerrit Rietveld and the Rietveld Schröderhuis in Utrecht, which one of the best examples of De Stijl. It’s quite fascinating; it’s sort of an early IKEA idea. The house doesn’t contain traditional walls: they’re all movable. He’s most famous for the Rietveld Chair. I imagine it’s not very comfortable as it’s made of simple flat wooden panels. Lastly, Vincent van Gogh. I wish I could just go back and tell him: ‘It'll all work out. In the future, you will be remembered’. What’s your top tourist tip? In The Hague, they should visit the Gemeente Museum and GEM next door. One more, Beelden aan Zee. It’s a beautiful sculpture museum in Scheveningen and quite special. There’s also the dunes in Meijendel, between Scheveningen and Wassenaar. They’re really beautiful to cycle through at the end of the day as the sun is going down. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands This one is more of a personal thing for me. When I was made redundant several years ago, I decided to start my own business. I was pleasantly surprised by the support you get if you want to set up on your own in this country. Because I typically work at home on my own most days, I wanted to get out and become involved with something locally. I found out about Stichting Present. I’ve been volunteering for them for a few years and it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. We help disadvantaged people or those with disabilities. Many of them live alone and just need a little assistance in the home. Every project is different and can involve anything from painting and decorating, to gardening, cleaning and decluttering. It’s a lot of fun and, surprisingly, a great way to meet other internationals. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Go out in Amsterdam and enjoy lots of Belgian beer [laughs]. That would be it. I can never remember the names of places so I can’t think of any specific bars. I’d aim for someplace tiny that feels kind of authentic. There are plenty of them if you wander around the Zeedijk. My best friends live in Amsterdam. I’d meet up with them, drink and talk nonsense for the day. Paul Oram was speaking to Brandon Hartley  More >


‘I’m surprised by how traditional Dutch people really are’

‘I’m surprised by how traditional Dutch people really are’

Originally from Israel, Inbal Tur-Shalom moved to Amsterdam after falling head over heels in love with a Dutchman during a road trip through New Zealand. She now owns a photography studio, leads tours around the city and enjoys live music in the Jordaan. How did you end up in the Netherlands After working as a customer care manager for a big IT company in Israel, I felt life had more to offer. So, at the age of 36, I resigned, packed a backpack and went travelling through Cuba, the Dominican Republic, South America and the United States. After a year, I came back to Israel but felt that I hadn’t had enough of travelling so I decided to go to New Zealand. I rented a car there and drove all the way from the top of the north island to the bottom of the south island. After two months, I met a Dutch guy who had been living in NZ for two years. It was crazy love at first sight, he asked me to stay with him and I did. About a year later, life, circumstances and the recession made us decide to leave NZ and go back to ‘The Centre of the Universe’ (also known as Amsterdam). How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? Since I’ve lived in a few places around the world, I guess I’m an international. But I have no plans to leave and I'm making the effort to integrate into Dutch society, so that might indicate that I’m an immigrant. How long do you plan to stay? After almost seven years here, I am still completely in love with Amsterdam. If I could, I would hug it! At the moment, I have no wish to move to another country, or another city for that matter. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I began learning Dutch on my own as soon as I moved here. Later, I went to Dutch classes at the ROC and once more at the VU. So, yes, I do speak Dutch but, as my Dutch is getting better, my English is getting worse. Nevertheless, I still feel more comfortable in English and, of course, in Hebrew. Because I have no expiry date on my stay here, I find it important to learn the language. I can get by with English, especially in Amsterdam, but sitting in the pub when the Amsterdammers are joking with each other and I can’t join in? Naaaaah! What’s your favourite Dutch food? I like all Dutch food but the food that I sometimes crave is Indonesian, which is sort of traditional Dutch food. How Dutch have you become? I think I have a Dutch soul and that’s why I feel comfortable here. For example, in general, Israelis are spontaneous in nature and don’t tend to make appointments more than a few weeks ahead. But I did back when I was living in Israel. Some of my friends didn’t mind that but others didn’t get the point and would make negative remarks about it. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Oh, that’s a hard one. There’s so many… I’ll begin with the 17th century Jewish Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza because he was innovative with his thoughts and ideas. He went against the flow and he paid a heavy price for it. He had an interesting life and faced many challenges. For me, André Hazes symbolises a very specific segment of Dutch society, particularly of Amsterdam and a certain era (the late 1970s and 1980s) when many changes in Dutch society occurred that fascinate me. He was a Dutch folk singer and had a real ‘Cinderella Story’. Ahmed Aboutaleb, a Moroccan Muslim immigrant who became one of the most appreciated mayors in the Netherlands. He is an advocate of nonviolence, tolerance, acceptance of the different and so on. That’s what the Netherlands is all about. What’s your top tourist tip? Take extra care when crossing roads and beware of the bikes! On a sunny afternoon, rent a boat. Bring a bottle of wine with you along with Dutch cheese, Dutch mustard and some fruit and enjoy the city from a different angle. Oh, and take at least one guided tour, preferably with me. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands I'm surprised by how traditional Dutch people actually are, and how Dutch directness is so different from Israeli directness. The Dutch put so many words in a simple, short sentence in order to make it milder. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would ride on all the tram lines in Amsterdam, one after the other, and step off at most of the stops to take street photos. Hopefully, it would be a sunny day so I would also take a boat and follow my own tips for tourists. It would be great if it was a weekend so I could enjoy some live Dutch folk music at the cafés in the Jordaan. I’d have a gathering with all my friends to say ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’. You can learn more about Inbal’s photography studio by clicking here.  More >


‘Even if the weather’s bad, a boat trip is still good’

‘Even if the weather’s bad, a boat trip is still good’

Guy Livingston (49) is an American concert pianist and radio broadcaster. When he’s not touring internationally he lives in The Hague where he hosts “American Highways”, a weekly radio programme that aims to surprise listeners with the diversity of American music, from jazz to modern classical. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Well, I won a Dutch piano competition in 1995 and met a lot of people here. It just seemed like a great place to come and do music in, so I returned to do my master’s degree. When I graduated I went to live in Paris until recently and came back here for love, as my wife is half Dutch! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? Oh I hate this question! Any foreigner living in Holland has days when they just feel like a total outsider and others when they feel very integrated. That’s what’s interesting about Holland, that the Dutch are pretty welcoming. I guess I’d have to say international, as I keep up contact with friends in Paris while I work here in Holland, and on a daily basis I’ll speak Dutch and English. It’s pretty mixed for me. How long do you plan to stay? I’m not going anywhere. It’s a comfortable place to live, I have a son in Dutch school and the quality of life is good. There’s also a lot going on culturally, which of course is important to me as an artist. Do you speak Dutch? I do speak Dutch but I don’t speak it well. I get reminded of this every Tuesday, as I have a Dutch coach who works with me to improve my language skills. But I use it at work, I read the Dutch newspapers and try to follow what’s going on. What's your favourite Dutch food? Oh! The haring, absolutely. I really also like Kompaan beer, which is brewed in The Hague. The brewery – which you can visit – is in the middle of nowhere in an industrial area on the edge of The Hague. It’s really cool, like a little slice of Berlin or something. How Dutch have you become and why? I’d say that I have not become at all Dutch. I’m still an American in most of my ideas, yet I have a very Dutch lifestyle; in that I bike everywhere, use the train, and don’t have a car. There’s some really good things here and I really like the atmosphere, so I feel at home here without feeling Dutch, and that’s one of the great things about Holland. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? There’s an artist, Willem De Kooning, who was just an amazing guy. He was an abstract expressionist who went to live in New York and painted these enormous canvases. He was a big drinker, so I’d want to go out drinking with him. I’m curious about someone like Hieronymous Bosch. He must have been nuts! I don’t know what it would be like to meet him, but I’m curious. We all know about his art but not much is known about what he was actually like. Of course there’s obvious ones like Vincent Van Gogh, but I guess I’m really interested in people who were doing arts at really creative periods in history. What were they thinking? What were they working on? There are lots of Dutch people I’d like to meet. What's your top tourist tip? We live in The Hague so we always take people to the beach, which is really great in the summer. Amsterdam of course is amazing, but I was recently at the Markthal in Rotterdam, it’s the coolest tourist attraction for me right now. Then to do a tour around the harbour is wild. I like the feeling of Rotterdam. It’s big and moving, and there’s lots of action. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands The Dutch don’t tend to be very surprising. They’re very stable. The thing about being here in Holland is you don’t get surprised much! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Of course it would probably be raining, but even if the weather’s bad, a boat trip is still good. I’d rent one of those old-fashioned boat and go around the canals in Amsterdam with all my friends and enough alcohol for 24 hours. I think that would be the best thing to do.  More >


‘I enjoy the diaries, they make everything so organised’

‘I enjoy the diaries, they make everything so organised’

Colombian native Elvira Mendoza met the man who would become her husband during a diplomatic project in Amsterdam. Now her six-year-old son is helping her learn Dutch, but she still has issues with Dutch coffee. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I grew up in Bogota and I studied political science and international relations at both Rosario University and Externado University. During my studies, there was an economic crisis and unemployment reached over 30%. There were hardly any jobs but I ended up teaching English for 12 years. My father is also the co-founder of the Colombian YMCA and I had been involved in the organisation since I was young. I joined the executive committee of the world alliance in 1994 and, because of this in 2003, I received an email about a project over here to promote development awareness and the help given by Netherlands to other countries. I came here a few times a year for the next five years to help at events and be interviewed during press conferences. I met my husband during one of my final trips in 2007. We moved to Colombia a year later since all I had was a temporary visa to stay in Europe at the time. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I just love the term ‘lovepat’. That’s the reason why I came back to the Netherlands. I’ve always loved travelling but Bogota is my hometown and I always thought I would stay in Colombia. When I met my husband, of course that changed. How long do you plan to stay? My husband and I had a very fast love story. We married in Colombia one year after moving there and two months later he got a job at an NGO in South Africa. Our son was born in 2011 in Pretoria and we returned to the Netherlands later that year. He’s already six and he’s in school. I can’t see us moving anytime soon since we’re parents now. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch but it’s such a difficult language. I understand when someone speaks to me and I read Dutch. Speaking takes a bit more time. I began learning by using Rosetta Stone and I took some classes at the Volksuniversiteit. My son has also helped me. He’s really good. He’s learning more and more Dutch at school so I’ve been speaking with him. What’s your favourite Dutch food? I think the herring. I do it completely with the onions and when you hold it by the tail and eat it that way. The food in the Netherlands has been an issue for me. Colombia has amazing food because of the sun and everything there is so fresh and wonderful. The lack of fruit here is difficult. We have many different types in Colombia, so many that no one really knows how many there are. Over here you have three or four in the supermarket maximum. They’re the same ones over and over again and the avocados are these little tiny things. Oh, and the coffee here? It sucks! [laughs] It sucks because they mix it. They go and mix different coffees from different places and put them in a bag. So I like to buy pure coffee from Colombia because what you get all comes from the same region. How Dutch have you become? Well, I’m a Dutch citizen now. I got my nationality in December. But how Dutch? I think quite a lot, actually. I hate to say it but I enjoy the diaries. They make everything so organised. I’m very direct sometimes and I say things bluntly. Then I’m like, ‘Oh, my God! What did I say?’ Then I remember that it’s OK. I also understand the culture more. I used to be more critical of some things but now I know there’s a reason for these things and why people act certain ways. I also live with a Dutchman so that helps me get into the culture and become a part of it. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I think Vincent van Gogh. That would be one. Anne Frank would be another. I know she wasn’t Dutch but she was here in the Netherlands so I relate her more to the Netherlands. There was also a person who was one of the leaders of the resistance during World War 2. She was in Haarlem and her name was Corrie ten Boom. She wrote The Hiding Place and it’s an amazing book about resistance, faith and love. What’s your top tourist tip? They should go to Efteling. It’s beautiful, it’s fun and it can show a person how this country is a unique place. It’s rumoured that maybe Walt Disney copied a lot of it because Efteling opened before Disneyland in the 1950s. The park has a lot of Dutch history and stories. It’s a great place to take people who have never been here before. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. How creative the Dutch are. They’re incredibly creative. They’re always trying to innovate. Maybe it’s because of all the water that’s around? They’re always trying to do things better, invent things and find new ways to protect themselves from the sea. You can even see it in Sinterklaas celebrations. Everything is handmade and they make an extra effort to make it themselves. I like that about them. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I think my family and I would go eat some herring. Maybe buy some bitterballen too or take a tour boat around the canals in Amsterdam. Dinner would be good too. I like a lot of the restaurants in Amsterdam so it would be difficult for me to choose one. I love De Plantage near the Artis Zoo. It’s a beautiful place. Bord'Eau, one of the ones in the Hotel de l'Europe, is maybe my favourite and it’s in a wonderful location.  More >


‘The office is just a 10 minute cycle away, it’s priceless’

‘The office is just a 10 minute cycle away, it’s priceless’

Lior Bornshtain, 43, is an Israeli entrepreneur who moved to the Netherlands in 1998 with his dog and his wife. He has learnt to skate, speak Dutch, and eat Stamppot, and never visit a neighbour without an appointment. He loves the village way of life in Amsterdam and has no plans to return to Tel Aviv. How did you end up in the Netherlands? We decided that we wanted to move from Tel Aviv to Europe. It was me, my wife and the dog. There were two cities at the top of our list: London and Amsterdam. Dogs had to be quarantined for six months in the UK so we said, ‘OK, let’s go for Amsterdam’. London was our first choice because of the language but, when I look back, I’m really happy we ended up in Amsterdam. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? My wife and I came together so I would say immigrant. How would you make the distinction between expat and immigrant? I think it’s the same. We moved here just to try it out - and we stayed and we love it. We came with the dog, and now we don’t have the dog, we have three kids, so we must like it! How long do you plan to stay? I have no plans to leave. We are happy here. It’s a nice life. Amsterdam is a great mixture of a village and a city. For a lot of Dutch people, Amsterdam is druk, druk, druk, but when you compare it to cities like New York or even Tel Aviv, it’s very small. You can cycle from one corner to the other. I live in the Pijp and my office is in the city centre. Dropping the kids at school and cycling just ten minutes to the office, it’s priceless. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes. I mostly use Dutch with the kids and their friends. For me, there was a sort of switch when I decided, OK, now I’m going to actually try to understand it. Before, I said, ‘I don’t understand. Speak English to me. Write to me in English’. And then I thought, let’s just try. You just build it up: you read and you try not to Google translate every word. When we came, I went on a course but I never really followed up on it all that much. What's your favourite Dutch food? Stamppot. You cannot go wrong with mashed potato. But it’s not something I would die for. How Dutch have you become? I still feel a sort of expat/immigrant but there are a few things that are Dutch that I have picked up, like cycling everywhere. I barely use my car. And I’ve been camping. I don’t know if ‘like’ it is the right word but I’ve learnt to cope with it. I love ice skating. I did it five years ago for the first time and I fell in love with it. In the skating season, I skate three or four times a week at the Jaap Eden IjsBaan. It’s the real deal, I’ve got the tights and everything! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Herman Brood sounds like a very fun person that I’d like to meet. He was a painter and a singer-songwriter, and a very colourful person. Also colourful was Mata Hari, the seductive spy. Who else? I want to meet the Queen! The former Queen, I mean. Beatrix. I’d rather meet her than her son. She has this ‘something’. What's your top tourist tip? If it’s the summer, get a boat and a bottle of wine. The city looks completely different from the water. Outside Amsterdam, go to the Kroller Muller Museum; they have one of the biggest collections of Van Gogh's work. You park your car and take one of their white bikes and cycle through the dunes. You stop at the museum, in the centre of the park, and then you continue to cycle. It’s a great day out. We always take our guests there. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands When we came here 18 years ago, we couldn’t believe the tempo. Everything was extremely slow. It was a big contrast to Tel Aviv. Also, with Dutch people, you need to make an appointment. You don’t just knock on somebody’s door and say, ‘Hey, I was in the neighbourhood, how are you?’ If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Go to the Efteling. The Efteling is one of the most magical places in Holland. I like theme parks and this one is one of the best. It’s more about fairy tales and less commercial than Disney. And of course, I could not leave the Netherlands before having a serious ice skating session at the Jaap Eden. Lior is the CEO and co-founder of Otly!, an app which allows parents and children to organise pocket money virtually.  More >


‘Until I lived here I wouldn’t look at cheese unless it was in a burger’

‘Until I lived here I wouldn’t look at cheese unless it was in a burger’

Vince Dinga, 27, arrived in Amsterdam from Romania four years ago in search of a purpose in life. After studying for a masters degree he stayed on and is now PR manager with award-winning tech conference organisers The Next Web. He explains why wayward tourists make him laugh and he can no longer stomach stroopwafels. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It was a combination of the desire to start from scratch in a new place and wanting to have a purpose and a goal in life. so, I started looking for interesting Masters courses. The University of Amsterdam looked really good: it was the only one I applied for and luckily it all panned out. Finding a place to live was difficult; back home in Bucharest it’s much easier. I was lugging my heavy suitcase around the city and staying in different places for a few days at a time. After about a month I found a really central place near Dam Square. That was great for a couple of years, being able to walk to Uni and go out a lot. But eventually the hordes of tourists, the noise and the prospect of a better place drove me out of the centre. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? It’s difficult to say! Technically I’m a foreigner but I no longer feel like a stranger. Living somewhere radically different from your home, speaking a different language: I think it changes you. And when you go home you can feel out of place again. When I travel there’s always this long explanation that I feel I have to give - ‘Well, right now, I’m coming from Amsterdam but I’m not Dutch. I’m originally from Romania…’. I think it’s hard to say just one thing or the other, it depends on where you are and who’s asking. How long do you plan to stay? I thought I’d only stay for a year: now I’ve been here for four. I used to get this question from a lot of people at home. The answer remains the same: I’ll stay as long as I feel happy about my life here. If things took a turn for the worst I could just pack my bags and move on. I think that’s a healthy attitude to have. I’ve done it before, and I know I could do it again. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Back home the first language you normally study is French, when you’re about eight years old, then you start with English at about 11 but I started a lot earlier. I really like languages and started to try to learn Dutch before I arrived here. I used Rosetta Stone: it was fun, but I can’t say it helped a lot in real life situations. I remember that when I actually got here and started taking classes my pronunciation was pretty good because the software made you do it again and again until you got it right. I call my Dutch ‘supermarket level’. I can get by in simple situations but I’d like to improve it. At work it’s an international environment and at home I speak English as my girlfriend is from Poland. I know I’m missing out on many things because I don’t speak Dutch fluently, so I’m sure I’ll come back to it again, provided I stay. What's your favourite Dutch food? I guess Dutch food is an acquired taste. I would have said stroopwafels but I ate so many of them when I first came here that I can’t touch them anymore! So, I guess it would have to be bitterballen - they take me back to uni. There’s just something unique about having a few hot ones with spicy mustard on a terrace by the water, on a brisk late summer evening, drinking a nice craft beer. How Dutch have you become and why? It’s funny but I used to hate cheese before I came here. If it didn’t come in a cheeseburger I wouldn't touch it. Now, I like trying different kinds – and I'm in the perfect place. I like many of the local traditions too. I discovered the burning of the Christmas trees (De Kerstboomverbranding) in Museumplein last year and I liked it. Lots of families, really nice. I draw the line at salty liquorice, though I pranked some friends with it back home. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? The artist behind The Little Woodcutter across the Leidsekade - There is a big tree opposite the Hotel Americain and there is a small bronze statue on a branch of the tree. It appeared in 1989 and no one knows who put it there. I’d like to know. It’s still there. If you pass it, it’s worth checking out. His feet have sunk into the tree and it’s now growing around it. MC Escher - I realised a few years ago he was Dutch. His work is brilliant and unlike anything else. I love art and film photography. I take photos as a hobby, I’m quite passionate about it and I’ve done it for many years. I had an exhibition back home once, I haven’t done much with it since I’ve been here; I just do it for myself basically. The third one would be the Dutch historian, Johan Huizinga. I studied his Homo Ludens in high school, so it brings back nice memories. It’s about the importance of the playful element in people and society, it’s a really good book. What's your top tourist tip? First I tell my friends what not to do! Don’t call it the Dam, stay off the bike lanes, ignore street dealers, don’t fall in the canal at night when you’re drunk! The funniest thing is when you see tourists come here for King’s Day and they turn up on the wrong date. That makes me laugh, they’ve probably got an out-of-date guidebook. One thing I do always tell people is to get out of the city centre and look past the iAmsterdam hitlist. The centre is becoming a bit of a Disneyland anyway. So instead of going to the Heineken Museum, go have a real beer at Brouwerij ‘t IJ instead. Skip the lines at Madame Tussauds and head for the Pipe Museum – you’ll get a guided tour and you might learn more history there than from the big, crowded museums. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands? I heard something interesting recently. If you follow the house numbers in descending order, on any given street in Amsterdam, they should eventually lead you to Centraal Station. All the roads lead there apparently. It makes sense if you look at how the centre, with the canals, was constructed. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Deregister from the municipality! You can get in real trouble if you don’t! Other than that, I’d ask Mr Reinier Sijpkens to give me a tour of the city on his ‘Notendop’ music boat while he performs. He usually just sails around and plays music. People gather on the bridges and listen. That would be a great send-off.  More >


‘I always laugh because of the way the Dutch sing their goodbyes’

‘I always laugh because of the way the Dutch sing their goodbyes’

Originally from Canada, Savannah Grace has set her sights on becoming the youngest woman to visit every country on the planet. At the age of just 26 she has already ticked 111 off the list and written three books cataloguing her travels. After falling in love with a Dutchman while travelling in Africa, Savannah now lives in the Netherlands where she continues to travel and share her experiences abroad through her writing. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was on a round-the-world trip with my family that was meant to last a year and turned into four. While in Africa we met my fiancé, who was using a truck to travel round the continent. We ended up spending eight months travelling round 36 African countries and fell in love. I went back to Canada but after four months I decided to come to the Netherlands where my partner lives because I felt if I didn't it would be something I would always regret. Seven and a half years later here we are, about to get married next week! How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc – and why? I guess technically I am a lovepat. I hadn’t heard of that term until recently. I assume it means that you move for love, which is what I did, so I think that's the best phrase. How long do you plan to stay and why? The idea that I am settled in Holland forever is a bit of a stretch because we are definitely world travellers, but I expect I'll stay here for at least the next five years. I am still so young that I can’t imagine where I might be in the future. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak a bit but I always feel like I sound a six-year-old! It is difficult to get your practice in because everyone always speaks English back to you. That was especially true when I first moved over and people knew I didn’t speak the language. However, a couple of years ago we lived with my partner’s 84-year-old mum for two years and she didn’t speak a word of English, so that is where I learned my Dutch. We had to communicate somehow so I had to learn Dutch. When people stop replying in English and have to ask whether you are Dutch yourself, I think that’s a good sign. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? To be honest I'm not a big fan of Dutch food, I love Thai food, but I did go through a big phase of eating kroket with mustard, running around all the Febos for my kroket fix. It took me forever to realise kroket and bitterballen are basically the same thing. I also like french fries with mayo. I prefer it to ketchup because I don’t really like sweet food. The cake is amazing here but it is too sweet for me – with the cream and richness it's too much. How Dutch have you become and why? Recently I got a job as a flower delivery girl, which I think is so Dutch – delivering flowers in Holland. Nobody switches to English when I speak to them so I think I am doing OK. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? I had a hard time with this one, but I suppose my first would be Carice van Houten because people say I look like her, even though I don’t see it myself. I am a huge Game of Thrones fan so anyone from the cast would be amazing. My next choice would have to be Anne Frank because that would be pretty awesome. A last person would be Albert Heijn because I go into his shops all the time. What's your top tourist tip? My recommendation for something a bit different from the obvious is to do the 12 province tour, that was so fun. You can tailor it to your own personality and find something in each province you are interested in. This was my bachelorette party, the road trip representing my love for travelling. It was so fun and in every province we experienced something new and interesting. It takes just two days because it is such a small country and you can do all the tourist things in each province. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands A small thing, but I think it is so strange how the Dutch leave their curtains open. Their houses are so close to the street and you are walking by in the dark and you can look right in. Why don’t they want privacy? It's so strange. I see what you're eating and the steam coming off your food, don’t you care?! The other thing is I always laugh because the Dutch always sing their goodbyes: Daag and doei! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would probably spend it with my new Dutch family. I don’t know what the reason would be that I only have that time left here, but I guess I would spend it with them. Savannah can be found on twitter @Sihpromatum and is the founder of the world ranking weekly twitter chat #TRLT (The Road Less Travelled). Read more about her travels and explore her collection of memoirs "I Grew My Boobs in China”and “Backpacks and Bra Straps” at sihpromatum.com.  More >


‘Love and kindness is what truly makes you feel at home’

‘Love and kindness is what truly makes you feel at home’

For Indian national Sabyasachi Sengupta, Amsterdam’s culture diversity and welcoming attitude makes it a city where dreams can come true. Sabyasachi, 30, is a banker for ABN Amro during the week and works as a professional trainer and speaker at weekends. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Following my dreams brought me to the Netherlands. I came here in 2010 on a scholarship to study for a Masters in Business Economics at the University of Amsterdam. After I graduated, I got a job, started working, and now Amsterdam is home. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? I will call myself dream-pat because in the six years I have lived in the Netherlands, I’ve been able to do everything I wanted to do. I’ve travelled to many countries, I bought my first house in Amsterdam and, most importantly, I’ve been able to pursue my passion of public speaking. The Dutch culture supports people in following what they truly wish to become. How long do you plan to stay? I think I can stay all my life in the Netherlands. I am single, but am lucky to have some good friends who are like family to me here. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I am in the process of learning the language. So hopefully a year from now I will be fluent in Dutch. It’s process that takes time. What's your favorite Dutch food? I miss Indian food so badly. Taste-wise nothing has changed for me. I still love spicy food. Yet just like my Dutch friends, I have dinner at 7pm – and have developed a liking for bitterballen, stroopwaffels and stamppot. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet and why? I would like to meet queen Maxima because she is a great lady who made her way in a foreign country through guts and determination. DJ Tiesto is on my list because he is conquering the world with his passion for music. Finally, Rembrandt because I love art and am totally mesmerised by his creativity. How Dutch have you become and why? I think I've become pretty Dutch. I have become much more direct than I ever was. I keep a diary and I need to know what I am doing weeks in advance. Splitting bills with friends at a restaurant or café is the most obvious and right thing to do. Above all, I believe the true spirit of Amsterdam is to accept and love people from different nationalities, and that this attracts excellence and diversity. What's your top tourist tip? Go to the top floor of the central library in Amsterdam to get a free and fabulous view of this city. Don't forget to enjoy the hot noodles and the yummy pizza that they serve at the library. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands In 2014 and 2015, I had the honour and privilege of representing the Netherlands in the Toastmasters District 59 Speech Evaluation Contest (a Europe-wide speaking competition). I was so overwhelmed by the support I received and still remember all my Dutch friends cheering for me when I won in 2015. I was surprised by this level of affection, love and kindness. It was truly touching, and that's what makes you feel home. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? If I had only 24 hours left, I would organise a workshop. In past years I have given many workshops and masterclasses on how to improve speaking skills in various places in the Netherlands. So I would like to do one last masterclass and share every bit of knowledge I have on how to be a better speaker, and say goodbye. In this way even if I am gone, neither the Netherlands nor me will ever forget each other. You can find out more about Sabyaschi's workshops via his website   More >


My Dutch husband told me: ‘I married an American, please stay American!’

My Dutch husband told me: ‘I married an American, please stay American!’

Georgia Regnault-Smith came to the Netherlands for a year in 1965, met her husband in Amsterdam and ended up staying. She settled in The Hague, became a relocation consultant and has been active in the American Women's Club of The Hague and the Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas (FAWCO) for 40 years. Her work with both organisations was recognised when she was recently made a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was working for a student travel agency, NBBS, in New York. I'd finished college and couldn't get a job in my field of mathematics, but I wanted to live in NYC, so I thought I'd try this for a year. Back in those days the agency was purely for students. They ran tours of Europe for American college girls – Volkswagen bus trips with a Dutch student driver. It was as close to backpacking as we had then. Part of the NYC job was that you got a free passage to Europe, by boat. I spent 10 days getting here! I met some marvellous people during that time; I still call them my 'Dutch family'. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc – and why? At the beginning I was more of an adventurer, coming over here on my own. Then I turned into a lovepat when I met a Dutch man. I was about to leave for America again when I met him. He was set on emigrating to the US but he never did. The US Government considered him Indonesian because he was born in the Dutch East Indies, even though it was to Dutch parents. There was no immigration quota for Indonesians then so I would have had to petition for him to enter. With the Vietnam War going on I was worried they would draft him – they were drafting green card holders too – so we didn't do it in the end. How long do you plan to stay and why? My husband and I did plan on returning to the US but once you have three children you don't move so easily. We thought perhaps when we retired, but we didn't in the end. Our two sons now live in the US, but luckily our daughter lives here. I'll definitely stay here now, the healthcare is so much better and I don't want to take Holland away from my kids who do live in the US. Holland is definitely home to me. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch but I learnt slowly. I never took lessons, so I just learnt by listening. I only read when I have to, official things. I don't really write it. My husband never tried to make me Dutch, that was important. Dutch families' expectations can be quite overpowering, at least in the 60s, but he always said: 'I married an American, please stay American!’ He was an Americophile before he met me, so no one was surprised when we married. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Witlof! In all its forms: cold as a salad, or with ham and cheese. It ́s rarely eaten in the States, but one can get it sometimes in big American supermarkets, where it's called Belgian Endive. I still cook very American, except for Dutch stew and the occasional stamppot. How Dutch have you become and why? I would not dream of welcoming someone into my home, or to a business meeting even, and not offer them a drink. Everything here starts with a cup of coffee. So no, I don't think I am very Dutch. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? The king – I'm a big royalty watcher. I find that in the US our President has to be that figurehead as well as the political leader – he has to kiss the babies as well as doing everything else. I think it's best to split the roles because, well you see it in the US Election this year: everyone is so interested in the personality of the person that you spend all the time talking about them personally instead of the issues. Ten years ago I would have said Princess Beatrix; it would be really nice to meet the figurehead of the country. Johan Cruyff – I was a fan of his from the very first moment I came to Holland. I've been a big Ajax fan since then. I lived with the parents of a friend from NYC when I first came here and her father had a box at the Olympic Stadium, so he used to invite me to Ajax games. I like all sports, but Cruyff had these funny sayings and philosophies, and I appreciate those. Like: elk nadeel heeft z'n voordeel – every disadvantage has its advantage. Professor Bas Bloem, the director of ParC (The Parkinson's Centre) at the Radboud university in Nijmegen and set up the Parkinson Net, which is a network of caregivers such as physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, who have been specifically trained to help people with Parkinson's and related conditions. When we discovered almost four years ago that my husband had something akin to Parkinson's this network was a godsend for us. Apparently Dr. Bloem has since helped set this up in California as well. He is one of the top neurologists in the country and he's spread that knowledge worldwide now. I think he's also just a very nice guy, according to people who have studied with him and the video's I have seen of his lectures. What's your top tourist tip? The tulip fields in spring. I have about five paintings of tulips in my house; they're really my favourite flower. Every spring it still surprises me, they're so beautiful. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands I think that I have to go back 50 years, but to some extent it is still true today. I felt it has a big storybook feeling about it: the landscape, the windmills, the little villages. When I was in elementary school I built a Dutch village with my teacher, so I guess I was destined to come here. It ́s all a bit like Madurodam. It's all still there, very picturesque despite all the industrial success of the country, with big brands like Albert Heijn, Shell, Philips to name just a few. The Dutch are quite modest about that success to a certain extent. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd take a walk in the Clingendael Park, which has traditional woods, a 100-year old Japanese garden and a formal Dutch garden. Lots of different things in one place. Or I'd take a walk in the dunes. From my apartment I look out onto the dunes, they stretch out for 3km before you reach the beach at Scheveningen. I love being near water. Where I grew up I saw water every day, it's important that I don't live inland. And a lake doesn't do it for me – I want to see the sea!   More >


‘My life here is totally agenda-based. If it’s not in the diary it doesn’t happen’

‘My life here is totally agenda-based. If it’s not in the diary it doesn’t happen’

Nitesh Saini first came to the Netherlands from India on business nine years ago. He works as a senior ICT manager in Amstelveen and in his spare time supports clazzez.com, a community-based website where talented individuals can showcase their skills in their local city or neighbourhood. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My previous employer wanted to open up business with a leading Dutch bank and I was asked to travel to the Netherlands for the company. In the few months it took to conclude the deal my family came to visit a couple of times. We found the Netherlands a great place to consider living with our beautiful daughter for the next phase in our lives. We moved lock, stock and barrel in 2007. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc – and why? I don’t think these categories should define anyone. Having travelled to and lived in many countries, I strongly feel part of a global community that is not bound by any borders. Perhaps this reflects how I think of myself more as a global citizen. As Kofi Annan put it: ‘to be a global citizen, begin with your own community’, which for me means that everyone should work to make a positive difference in their own way. How long do you plan to stay and why? This is a tricky question. We originally planned for one to two years, which became five and is now touching 10. For my daughter the Netherlands is home. Although our families are in India, my wife and I have found great like-minded friends and developed a large multicultural social network. So for now, we don’t see ourselves leaving for a few years. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I cleared A2, so that’s the level of Dutch I know! However, since most of our friends are expats from various countries and I work with a very international mix of colleagues, English remains our primary language of conversation. My wife and daughter are fluent Dutch speakers, though. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Patat, kipsate and oliebollen. Kipsate may not be Dutch, but this is where I discovered it and its just perfect. For me, patat is an any-time meal: with a few toppings, you can be done for the day. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet and why? I would like to meet Anne Frank to appreciate her incredible story that has touched millions of lives throughout the world, even though I realise now she is not Dutch. Then Neelie Kroes for her inspirational support of the technology scene in the Netherlands. Finally, the founders behind Adyen so that I could ask how they set up an international payment platform for businesses, and then understand their journey to the Unicorn Club. So impressive. How Dutch have you become and why? My Dutch neighbour and I have our offices near each other. She often encouraged me to bike to work yet I couldn’t resist getting into my car every morning. So when it was time to sell our second car, I decided not to buy a new car and started biking to work! I hope I can sustain this. Also, life is totally agenda-based now. If it’s not in the calendar, it doesn’t happen. We celebrate Dutch holidays, the key ones being King’s Day and Sinterklaas. We love the spirit of Sinterklaas and look forward to the celebrations, especially the pepernoten. What's your top tourist tip? Don’t trust the weather forecast. Rent a bike and just go! Every corner of the country is connected with a bike path. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Not using a credit card is perfectly normal. No matter how old one is, hagelslag is still the favourite breakfast food. The cure for everything is a paracetamol. The Dutch openly disagree with one other until they reach a point everyone agrees with (no matter how long this takes) and only then do they start work. The results thereafter are of high quality, which is visible all around us. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’ll probably take another Amsterdam canal tour with my wife. It makes you feel so touristy that leaving the Netherlands may not hurt so much. Later, one final run in the Amsterdamse Bos, a visit to the goat park (or a farm) with my daughter and a first visit to some remaining museums. Find out more about Clazzez at https://www.clazzez.com or subscribe to the blog at https://blog.clazzez.com  More >


‘I think any city built on water has something magical about it’

‘I think any city built on water has something magical about it’

Satarupa Bose Roy, 37, is from India and has lived in the Netherlands for around 10 years. She is the founder of Indyana, a magazine for Indian nationals in the Netherlands, can't ride a bike and would like to meet Ruud Gullit because her grandad is his biggest fan. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I accompanied my husband who had come over as a knowledge migrant. He is an IT consultant. He came over from Calcutta and I joined him about 6 months later. We were first based in Utrecht and then Eindhoven, and now we're in Almere. It's been a bit of a journey for us in the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I would consider myself first as an Indian, and then perhaps an international, but I don't really consider myself an expat.  Since I set up my 'expat' magazine I feel I have come much closer to Dutch society. I do call myself an international. I feel very fluent in the ways of the world having lived and studied in the UK too. How long do you plan to stay? This is always the trickiest part, actually! I've always felt this strong force that drives me back to my roots. But, I find it very peaceful here, especially when it comes to thinking about my kid's future. We have strong family ties back home and I know it's all ticking along there at the same time as my life moves forward here. We do have responsibilities back home, ageing parents (I'm an only child) and there is always the undeniably strong pull of our roots. I always thought I would go back, perhaps when my daughter starts university. I´ll definitely stay here a few years longer but perhaps then I'll shift again, closer to where I feel I belong. That said, I do not feel in transit in the Netherlands.  My daughter was born here and she is really leaving her footprints here already; she speaks Dutch, has Dutch friends. So, the real answer is - I really don't know at the moment, I will have to see what my destiny turns out to be. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch but with a foreign accent, and I'm definitely not fluent. I still think in my mother tongue (Bengali), translate it into English and then into Dutch in my head, and then speak. That´s an elaborate process, and makes me a bit slow. I remember when I went to the UK to study I had a strong Indian accent and so I probably speak Dutch with an Indian-British accent. I picked up the language from the supermarket, the bus drivers, my friends at the gym, roadside joggers, and then I went to a language institute to get diplomas and make the bond stronger. What's your favourite Dutch food ? I like kibbeling! I first had it at one of the beaches Holland is famous for, I forget which one.  It so reminded my of the street food in India. It was from a fish vendor's cart. I remember it was in the summer-time, and the sun was shining bright on my face, and there was a salty breeze in my hair.  I sat on the sand with a paper plate on my lap, with this greasy, oily, salty, hot kibbeling; it felt great. It´s also a good contrast with the normal ideas about Dutch food. How Dutch have you become and why? I wish I had become more Dutch. But, I don't go for a jog in the rain, I cannot drink milk and then orange juice at lunch, and I can't ride a bike. What I do now however, is speak my mind unabashed, so perhaps that makes me more Dutch. I speak loud and clear and choose words that are more direct. Wherever you go people will tell you they're very 'in your face'; they´re proud of their directness. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to mee? Mata Hari: You may be shocked by that answer, but I really was intrigued to read about her.  Europe's queen of unbridled eroticism! An exotic dancer, a courtesan, liar, deceiver, harlot, she was a true femme fatale. I wish I could meet her, interview her and write her biography. There must have been so many masked realities under the guise of that mysterious, seductive dancer; behind her performances, both onstage and off. Anne Frank: As a child I remember reading Anne Frank as part of our English literature syllabus, it was the first European diary I had read. My copy probably came from my grandfather´s collection. The first thing I did in Amsterdam was to visit the museum dedicated to her. I would have loved to have met her in person. Ruud Gullit: I really remember watching him in the world cups, as a teenager. I just loved his pace and passion for the game. He was my grandfather's favourite football player. I´d like to tell him that in some remote corner of the world, miles away across the ocean, he had a fan who thought he was the best football player the world had ever witnessed. What's your top tourist tip? Walk by the canals; explore the bridges built on them, and the narrow alleys. I think as a whole the Netherlands is a really picturesque country. Walk around for any length of time and you will find beauty in abundance. The old city centre in Utrecht is lovely but I've always loved walking by the canals in Amsterdam the most. I think any city built on water has something magical about it. I've been to Venice too, but I think Amsterdam has something really amazing and special about it. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands How the entire country follows the clock! They are very time efficient here. When I say that, I mean, like at the train station - you´re a minute late and the train doors will be closing! It´s so punctual! I really feel that the entire transport system is so efficient. I follow Indian stretchable time. If I go to a Dutch meeting I really have to try and be on time. Sometimes I feel it can have negative connotations too, as it has a mechanised quality about it, but it is astonishing. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go for a drive over the Afsluitdijk, preferably at sunset. I have always felt a strange one-ness with nature whenever I have visited it. I´d love to bid my final adieu to the country from there! The new issue of Indyana Magazine has just been published.  More >


‘I’ve lived all over the world and home is where the heart is’

‘I’ve lived all over the world and home is where the heart is’

Rhode Island native Scott Mongeau works in Amsterdam as a data scientist. His path to the Netherlands began on the other side of the world in the mid 1990s. He currently lives in Leiden with his wife and dog. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Through my wife. I met her while I was studying in Melbourne, Australia. That was in 1995. We were living in a house for international students and things progressed. We had to decide what to do to avoid visa problems because we couldn’t spend more than three months in each other’s country. We were young and crazy so we said, ‘Let’s get married! If it doesn’t work out that’ll be OK.’ But it did work out and we’ve been married now for almost 20 years. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I suppose I started out as a lovepat but later converted to an international as a result of our relationship. We ended up getting citizenship in each other’s countries so she has US citizenship and I have Dutch citizenship. We’re both internationals now. We got married in Austin, Texas in 1996 and we moved to Amsterdam In 1998. How long do you plan to stay? I get asked that question a lot by well-meaning Dutch people. ‘Where are you from and when will you be leaving?’ It’s like they assume that I couldn’t possibly be happy here and will want to move back home at some point. I think a lot of Dutch people have a close connection to their home town. For me, I’ve lived all over the world and home is where the heart is, so to speak. Right now, we don’t have any plans to leave. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes. I started learning by buying beers for people at the original Cafe Gollem in Amsterdam. It was the only way I could get people to speak to me in Dutch. I eventually got some basic conversational skills going and started doing my shopping and errands in Dutch. I remember feeling very embarrassed that I couldn’t speak the local language. I felt like I was being impolite but, as I got older, I figured out that not too many people care, especially in Amsterdam since a lot of them speak English. I also worked in a Dutch office for two years and completed an intensive course at the famous nuns' school in Vught. What’s your favourite Dutch food? Definitely the cheeses and the Indonesian food. Well, it’s sort of a Dutch interpretation of Indonesian food but it’s quite good. Many times I’m a bit disappointed by the price versus quality of what you find in restaurants in the Randstad, especially compared to places in Italy or Spain. How Dutch have you become? Pretty damn Dutch, do you have a problem with that? [laughs] More and more, when I go back to the United States or other countries I find myself practically having a little Dutch person on my shoulder critiquing everything. Saying how things could be better organised or how to improve stuff that isn’t working well. When we go on vacation I’ll often hear tourists from the Netherlands complaining among themselves in Dutch about dirty subway stations or if something is late. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Paul Verhoeven, the Dutch director who did Robocop and Basic Instinct but a number of good Dutch films too, like The Fourth Man and Black Book. Even though he’s Dutch, he’s made some of the most American films of all time. [laughs] He seems like a deep thinker who has been able to direct some really entertaining movies. Jan Steen, the painter who lived and worked in Leiden. He did these crazy pictures of family scenes where everything has gone awry. The father is drunk on the floor and his children are stealing his money while a dog is ripping apart cushions. There’s even a Dutch expression, huishouden van Jan Steen, which describes a home that has gone out of control. He also did portraits of hard drinkers and local characters around Leiden. He ran a pub too and probably would be fun to have a beer with. The last one would be a toss up. I like the director Alex van Warmerdam, who did The Northerners. He does really fantastical, surrealist films. Most Dutch people are very sensible and I’d want to ask him why he’s so different, weird and creative. I don’t see that too often in Holland. There’s also the historian Johan Huizinga who wrote about medievalism. Living here, I’m often struck by the echoes of medieval life and how patterns of daily existence go back to those times. He was a brilliant guy. What’s your top tourist tip? I’d recommend that people get off the tourist track and go to a brewery in Bodegraven. It’s called the Brouwerij de Molen and it’s won many international awards. They have an annual beer festival and a restaurant. It’s an adventure to get there. You’ll meet some very interesting people while enjoying some very tasty local beer and food. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. After people pass away, there is a tradition still observed by many where the body of the loved one is hosted at the family's home for several days until it’s time to say the final goodbye and to conduct the burial. It’s a very different take on death than you’ll see in America, where it’s to be avoided and not spoken of. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Amsterdam has changed quite a bit over the past 20 years since we lived there. It’s become very touristy but I still have a soft spot in my heart for the city and its beer cafes. I’d probably go back to my old haunts like In De Wildeman, hang out, and have some beer and cheese.  More >


‘In the 80s I was embarrassed to be American, so I worked hard to become Dutch’

‘In the 80s I was embarrassed to be American, so I worked hard to become Dutch’

Joanne Schweitzer has lived in the Netherlands since 1986 and learned a lot of her Dutch while working in a lingerie shop. The 51-year-old former Oregonian is now a passenger assistant at Schiphol airport and would love to have met the early Dutch settlers in Manhattan. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met a Dutchman who was studying photography at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon, way back in 1982. By January of 1986 we’d moved over here. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I’ve never really felt like an expat. A lovepat? Eh, I don’t know. This is the first time I’ve heard that term. Although I did originally come over here for love, I guess I eventually became an expat. Now I feel more of an international though. How long do you plan to stay? Well, I have two children, Emma who is 20 and Peter who is 22. He has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. It would be really difficult for me to go back to America with him right now. I need to take care of him and make sure he’s OK. Here in the Netherlands there’s very generous financial help. From what I’ve heard about America, there’s not nearly as much support. I’ve been over here for more than 30 years now so I think I’ll be over here for a while. Never say never though! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Ja! When I first came over, I was still of student age. The first job I got was working as a dishwasher in Stadskasteel Oudaen in Utrecht. I figured I could wash dishes and learn Dutch from my coworkers. Unfortunately, the kitchen was downstairs and the dishes came down a dumbwaiter, so I never really got to speak to anyone. I took classes for a few years but I probably learned the most when I got a job working at Hunkemöller, a lingerie store, in Nieuwegein. I had to measure old ladies for bras and panties and that’s how I picked up a lot of Dutch. Sitting at Dutch birthday parties and trying to figure out what the hell they were talking about definitely helped too! What’s your favourite Dutch food? I like andijviestamppot. You mash up the potatoes and toss in milk and butter with some salt. Then you throw in some raw endive. The Dutch like to add pieces of fried bacon but I became a vegetarian about three years ago. So instead I make some vegetarian gravy and get a vegetarian sausage. It’s hearty stuff. How Dutch have you become? When I got here in the 1980s, it was around the time of the Challenger space shuttle disaster and Reagan was president. I was kind of embarrassed to let people know I was an American, to tell you the truth. I wanted to blend in so I worked really hard to become more and more Dutch. Because I’ve lived here most of my life I think… [her son Peter speaks up in the background and says, ‘you’re more Dutch!’] Am I? Oh God! Peter says I’m more Dutch. I don’t really want to be but maybe I am. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I’d love to meet the early Dutch settlers that settled Manhattan. The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto is my all time-favourite book. It tells their tale from the Dutch perspective, whereas a lot of world history is told from the English perspective. They were sort of the Dutch ‘Founding Fathers’ of America. While there were certainly more than three of them, I’d pick Cornelius Jacobsen May, Peter Stuyvesant and Peter Minuit. What’s your top tourist tip? Definitely the Rijksmuseum. The Dutch masters were amazing. They didn’t have photography back then and they had to paint everything. What they decided was important to paint and why is fascinating. That large hall with Rembrandt’s The Night Watch is just so impressive. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. Before I came to the Netherlands, I underestimated how crowded it is here. There were something like 15.5 million people when I moved here and now it’s 17 million. You really have to defend your personal space. For example, at Albert Heijn, while you’re waiting in line, people stand really close to you. You often find yourself fighting for your spot too. At a bakery, people will jump right in front of you. Politeness isn’t what it is back in America. If people see an opportunity to cut in front of you, they’ll do it. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would walk along the Oudegracht in Utrecht and go up the Dom. I’d also try to get to Amsterdam and walk along the canals up there and take a boat ride. If it was April, I might try to get to the tulip fields and maybe see a windmill. Something like that.  More >


‘Dutch parenting suits me much better than the neurotic expectations back home’

‘Dutch parenting suits me much better than the neurotic expectations back home’

Originally from Edinburgh, printmaker and writer Catriona Black has been living in Santpoort-Noord for five years and says her children are now more Dutch than Scottish. She hates labels, but recent events in politics have inspired her to call herself an immigrant. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband landed a job at the University of Amsterdam teaching neurophilosophy. I was seriously unhappy about leaving Scotland, because everything I have ever been passionate about was Scottish, yet there was one exception: Rembrandt. My curiosity about the painter’s home country meant that I said yes. To my surprise, I’ve loved it here from the moment we arrived! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? Ha! Lovepat? Never heard that one! Is it a nicer way of saying ‘trailing spouse’, which I hate with a passion? All these terms are so loaded. I think it’s easy to categorise other people and labelling yourself doesn’t come so readily. Since the Brexit vote I’ve made a point of calling myself an immigrant. I get so angry when people make an artificial distinction between white westerners (so-called expats) and those they want to keep out. They use ‘immigrant’ as a dirty word and I want to show solidarity. I have even bought a t-shirt with ‘immigrant’ emblazoned on it! How long do you plan to stay and why? We’re really settled here. The children are more Dutch than Scottish. My daughter speaks English at home but it’s totally peppered with Dutch words. Every year I have asked the kids if they feel more Dutch or Scottish. My son has been the slowest to switch, but having now spent more than half of his life here, the balance has finally tipped in favour of Dutchness. We’ve all established really fulfilling lives here, but on the other hand I do miss Scotland terribly. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I did a few terms of evening classes when I first arrived and I’m now taking private lessons to get me ready for my NT2II exams, which are the ones you sit if you want to work professionally or study in higher education. For me, the best way to learn has been looking after my children’s friends – there’s no switching to English and you don’t feel self-conscious. So I’m very good at talking about biscuits, juice and sore knees, and issuing stern commands with total authority. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I like all the variations on stamppot because being half-Irish, I’m a fan of anything mashed up with potatoes. Unfortunately my husband is not so keen, otherwise I’d happily live off the stuff. How Dutch have you become and why? I immediately embraced the relaxed Dutch parenting style as something that suits me much better than the somewhat neurotic expectations back home. I can take a step back and let the children make their own social lives without running things for them. I can let them play on the street and roam around as I did in my own childhood. I think that would have been frowned on where I lived in Edinburgh. I have always been a keen cyclist and bought myself a bakfiets within weeks of our arrival. I still rave about my fancy “new” wheels every chance I get. Other Dutch influences have yet to rub off on me. I am in awe of Dutch women who are amazingly fit, in control and together about everything! I aspire to that, but I am too fond of cake, wine and chaos to make it work. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet and why? I think I’d like to get Rembrandt and his lovers, Geertje Dircx and Hendrickje Stoffels, in a room together - explosive though that would be! He and Hendrickje seem to have plotted to get Geertje committed to a workhouse to get her out of the way, as she was very publicly claiming that Rembrandt had broken a promise to marry her. I’d love to get to the bottom of that whole sorry affair, and to do it in Dutch, face to face with the man himself! What's your top tourist tip? Six whole hours in the Rijksmuseum and if there’s any time left, a wander through the Rembrandthuis, with fuel stops for pancakes, ice cream and coffee. What is life for if not art and sugar? Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Some people really do wear wooden clogs. I once saw a big burly man in IJmuiden wearing bright yellow ones in the supermarket. You know those fancy decorated ones? There’s a bearded man at our allotment who wears a pair while he’s busy with his DIY! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Get together with all my friends for drinks round the fire at my allotment. Dutch allotments are amazing, and that is my happy place. I would really miss the wonderful friends I’ve made here and am certainly not planning my exit any time soon. For more about Catriona Black visit her art website or blog. Photograph of Catriona by Rudi Wells  More >


‘I speak Dutch with a foreign accent and English with a Dutch accent’

‘I speak Dutch with a foreign accent and English with a Dutch accent’

Cycling fanatic Bob Powers (70) arrived in Breda in 1972. He was only supposed to be visiting a friend but, apart from numerous international cycling tours, he's been based there pretty much ever since. A cartoonist, illustrator, writer and translator, he recently retired as the oldest cycle courier in the Benelux – unofficially at least. How did you end up in The Netherlands? Like most things I do – by chance! I'd finished teacher training college in England but realised I didn't fancy teaching after all, so I joined an American friend in the south of France for the grape harvest in 1972. After a few weeks hitchhiking around Spain and France I met up with him again, but this time in Breda, where he had a girlfriend. I'd started drawing cartoons and the people who lived with them in their house asked if I could do some designs for a ceramics factory where they worked. One thing led to another, a few weeks led to a few months, and I just never left Breda. After a few years some friends and I decided we fancied becoming cycle couriers, and that really took over. I had regular clients like the local council and some law firms, and it's only recently that I have retired. I was, or so I'm told, the oldest courier in the whole of the Lowlands. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I've never really thought about it to be honest. I guess… international European? I've rarely used the word expat as it conjures up – perhaps a little unfairly – the wrong images for me: groups of foreigners clinging together, retaining all their home habits and customs while resisting the culture of the country they are living in. However, I do occasionally use the word to show some affinity with my many young friends from central Asia who are trying to find their feet while studying and/or working in Europe. I got to know a lot of students in Kyrgyzstan on cycling holidays there and I began writing a regular column for them in English. A lot of them focus on my experiences as an Englishman living in The Netherlands, and last year a collection of them was published as a book, Letters to Kyrgyzstan. How long do you plan to stay? I have no plans to leave. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I speak Dutch pretty much fluently, although my grammar is not always quite as it should be. I never took any lessons, I just picked it up as I went along – which perhaps explains the grammar! It was very gradual, and there was a long period where I was speaking Dutch, and the Dutch people were replying in English, and I found that amusing. It's funny, an English friend and I were in a bar once, and suddenly we realised that we'd been automatically speaking Dutch to each other. English just felt strange. What's your favourite Dutch food? That's a difficult question to answer. I think I would have to say boerenkool stamppot. How Dutch have you become? I have not become Dutch at all – I think – but I have just about lost all of my 'Britishness'. What that makes me I'm really not sure at all. I speak Dutch with a foreign accent. When speaking English I now have a slight Dutch accent. My Dutch friends still joke about me being English. My English friends think of me as a foreigner. I like the directness of the Dutch when it isn't an excuse for rudeness. I find England scruffy and untidy but The Netherlands over-regulated. I once heard an American speaking on the radio who had lived more than half her life in England, and she was asked a similar question. So my answer is largely based on her reply, which sums up how I feel. I haven't become Dutch, but I am no longer English… Which three Dutch people, dead or alive, would you most like to meet? The first two are easy: M.C.Escher, a graphic artist (1898-1972) who was famed for his realistic, detailed prints that conjured up optical illusions and special effects. Second, Mata Hari (real name Margaretha Geertruida Zelle), the archetypal image of the seductive female spy, who was executed by a French firing squad in 1917. Third? A beautiful girl I saw on the train a couple of months ago! What's your top tourist trip? Zuid-Limburg (south Limburg) – but not at the weekend or on bank holidays. Tell us something surprising you've found out about The Netherlands I am not so easily surprised, though maybe after my first few weeks here I was surprised to discover that Dutch people were not actually arguing all of the time, but that it is just their normal way of speaking. If you had just 24 hours left in The Netherlands, what would you do? Pack. Bob's columns can be read at on his blog and you can order his book by emailing bpillustrations@hotmail.com  More >


‘How Dutch am I? You’ll never get me to love camping’

‘How Dutch am I? You’ll never get me to love camping’

British national Kerrie Finch, 46, has lived in the Netherlands for 16 years. She might be partial to herring but she's not into Dutch stereotypes and would never, ever call herself an expat. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came for a three-month freelance contract in August 2000 to work with a PR company. I stayed in that role for one year, then one thing led to another, which led to another. I love travelling and do a lot for business – I’ve been in the US, France, Croatia, Latvia, the UK and Sweden already this year, with trips to Russia, Singapore and Italy in the pipeline – but Amsterdam is home. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? European first, British second, international third, expat never. How long do you plan to stay and why? Nothing is forever, but I’ve already been living in Amsterdam for 16 years and counting, so I won’t be moving on any time soon, I’m kind of settled! I run a reputation management company called FinchFactor, so that keeps me rooted in Amsterdam. We opened the office in 2009 and also have an office in London, with a newly opened LA office since 1 September. My dream would be to have homes in all three places. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch but I’m not fluent. I learned by attending a lot of different classes over the years. At FinchFactor we’re 12 people strong in our Amsterdam office, across seven nationalities, so business language is English. We also work internationally, with clients based in Stockholm, LA, Dubai, Singapore, New York, and London, amongst other places. That also keeps business language to English. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I’m a big fan of herring with pickles and onion. Bread optional. I live in de Pijp near the Albert Cuypmarkt and I like visiting the herring stall on the market. How Dutch have you become? Are we talking cultural stereotypes? I don’t wear clogs, or live in a windmill, or sell tulip bulbs, or make cheese. I don’t eat hagelslag for breakfast, or drink milk with lunch, or eat stamppot every night for dinner. But then I don’t know anyone who does. I ride a bike, I’m proud of the city I live in, and I’m a pretty direct speaker. I have Dutch friends and watch Dutch TV and celebrate if the Netherlands wins gold at the Olympics. But you’ll never get me to love camping. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Neelie Kroes – an inspiring woman who has worked hard to further entrepreneurship and start-up culture within the Netherlands. There need to be more role-models like her; I’d like to discuss how to make this happen. Anton Corbijn – incredible photographer who has shot some of the most fascinating people in the world. Despite being a bit photo-phobic, I’d like him to take my portrait. Hieronymus Bosch – Wouldn’t it be incredible to hear about the inspiration for his paintings, and to know who he modeled his most evil demons on? What's your top tourist tip? Get in a boat and view the city from the canals. Any city built on water is special and Amsterdam is no exception. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands It’s not as 'tolerant' a country as the Dutch like to think it is. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d like the bell ringers at Westerkerk to take special requests, so I can hear some old classics from my office window. The medley would have to include Frank Sinatra, Talking Heads, David Bowie and Beyonce. That would make my day. Kerrie Finch is the founder of reputation management company FinchFactor. You can follow her on twitter via @kerriefinch and @finchfactor  More >


‘Amsterdam in the 80s had a gritty, open texture and a kindly tolerance’

‘Amsterdam in the 80s had a gritty, open texture and a kindly tolerance’

Julia Barnes, 59, is a musician (viola) and composer based in Zaandam. An American by birth, she's lived in the Netherlands for 35 years and remembers the man who used to rollerblade around Amsterdam wearing just a thong. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came here from London to take lessons from a particular viola teacher. As a student I thought I would be in Amsterdam for one year. I had no idea about the local artistic scene and I found it to be diverse, wacky and wonderful. I met a man, now my ex-husband, and had two daughters. Today I am a performing musician, a teacher and a composer of new crossover projects mixing art, literature and music. I spent the last year and a few months composing nine song settings based on James Joyce’s Pomes Penyeach and putting them together with Dutch translations of the poems into a performance that tells the story of the poet’s journey from Dublin to Trieste to Zurich. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc ? I see myself as an immigrant after so many years, having lived and worked here for most of my adult life. I remain a Michigan native at heart, but a Dutch European as well. How long do you plan to stay? I don’t intend to leave the Netherlands. My daughters are both living in other countries now. One is studying abroad, the other is working with refugees in Athens. They are both Amsterdammers first and foremost, like New Yorkers are always New Yorkers. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak, read and write in Dutch daily. I learned by imitating people at the market and by listening to reminiscences told by my ‘Dutch mother’, my landlady, when I first lived here. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I suppose it would be stamppot, which reminds me of comfort food when I was a child, mashed or twice-baked potatoes with cheese. How Dutch have you become? I think having 30 years of my past here has created a Dutch layer in me full of memories of life in the 80’s in Amsterdam: flats without central heating, the strange and colourful figures who used to people Amsterdam then (remember the fellow who used to rollerblade through the city dressed in nothing but a thong?). Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I would like to meet Truze Lodder, the former director of the Nederlandse Opera, as I admire what she accomplished there. Second would be Marianne Thieme from the political Partij voor de Dieren; I admire her standpoints, she looks at things from a different perspective. The third place I’d reserve for the many artists I haven’t yet met, not necessarily well-known, but who make crazy and beautiful things. What's your top tourist tip? Westerpark. For the design, the planting, the restored and refitted buildings, and good cafes. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands It’s very provincial AND very international, full of out-of-the-box thinking and creativity AND prosaic predictability. When I came to Amsterdam I was amazed by the gritty, open texture of it. There was a kindly tolerance in those days. I came from the very conservative Midwest and here was a 'let it be' attitude. There was enormous room for imperfection. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd cycle or walk through all the places in Amsterdam where I lived. The Pijp before it was hip, the Vondelpark, Flevopark with its great trees to learn climbing, the linden trees opposite the Concertgebouw where I had my first date with my ex. I would revisit my past all over the city. By the Light of his Heart will be performed at Fluxus in Zaandam on October 2. For more information go to Juliaviola.com or facettenvandekunst.nl  More >


‘My first apartment had the toilet in the kitchen!’

‘My first apartment had the toilet in the kitchen!’

Professional field hockey player Justin Reid-Ross moved to Amsterdam in 2010. The 29-year-old South African, who played for his country at the 2012 Summer Olympics, can certainly tackle a big burger and score a decent G&T. He also has a passion for Chocomel. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was playing club hockey in Australia when I came in contact with the coach of a Dutch club called Pinoké, based in Amsterdam. I’d always wanted to play hockey here, as it is widely considered the best club competition in the world. When the offer came in to move to Amsterdam I jumped at the opportunity. After four years at Pinoké, I moved to Amsterdam hockey club (AH&BC). At that point, my wife Ash had also moved over and found a job so we decided to stay. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? A few years ago I would have considered myself an international. I was traveling a lot for hockey and always ended up back in South Africa. Now, Amsterdam is home so I probably fall into the expat category with the possibility of going full Dutch some time in the future. How long do you plan to stay and why? My wife and I are very settled in Amsterdam and have no intention of returning to SA any time soon, so at this stage we are here indefinitely. We love the lifestyle and easy access to the rest of Europe. We’d like to take advantage of that as long as we possibly can. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I do. The first few years were difficult, especially because Amsterdam is such an international city. I never took formal lessons, but when I changed hockey teams in 2014, I moved to a club where I was one of only two non-Dutch speakers. I decided to throw myself into it and only speak Dutch with my teammates and coaching staff. That was the turning point and I am now fairly confident in Dutch. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? There isn’t much that can beat an ice cold Chocomel! I've always loved chocolate milk but Chocomel is just on another level of deliciousness. I have a serious soft spot for it. I also love some bitterballen now and then. How Dutch have you become and why? Pretty-damned Dutch. I often find myself shouting ‘Halloooooo!’ at tourists on bicycles or pedestrians who have wandered into the bike path. I often have to remind myself that this was me just a few years ago. I also find myself constantly searching for any sliver of sunlight I can find, and taking full advantage of it. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? This is a tough one. I guess, as a sportsman, my first choice would be Johan Cruyff. I was fortunate enough to meet him very briefly last year and I would love to have had the chance to pick his brain for a while. Second would be Jan van Riebeeck, the man who colonised Cape Town. I think his story would be amazing. Finally, I would enjoy a chat with Dutch hockey legend Teun de Nooijer. I was fortunate enough to play against him a few times before he retired, but I never really had the chance to interact with him much. He was a hero of mine growing up, so that would be a great moment for me. What’s your top tourist tip? Take a food tour of Amsterdam. Since I arrived in 2010, the entire culinary landscape has changed. Brunch spots in Amsterdam are great and new restaurants open weekly. Amsterdam is rapidly becoming a foodies’ hotspot. Just on one street near where I live, there are great spots like Fier, Rotisserie, Van ‘t Spit, Radijs, Pesca and Hendrix. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Summers can be surprisingly hot! There are days that I honestly think I am back in South Africa, but to be honest those days are few and far between. When I first arrived, I was always surprised that when the sun came out, there is almost nowhere to move in the city. Everyone heads outside, clamouring for any sunlight they can find. I also found the extreme lack of space in Amsterdam quite intimidating. My first apartment had the toilet in the kitchen! That took a while to get used to. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Assuming it was a nice summer’s day and being a proud Amsterdammer, I'd spend the entire 24 hours in the city. I would wake up early and go for a run. I'd stop at White Label Coffee for a flat white and then head home to pick up my wife, Ash and our French bulldog pup Harvey and head to G’s Brunch Boat, for an awesome brunch and Bloody Marys while cruising the canals. After that, we’d head towards the Amsterdamse Bos for a walk with our dog and a quiet afternoon reading and lying in the sun. From there, head back towards the city and stop in at Rotisserie for the best burger in town and a great G&T. In an ideal world, we would end the evening off watching a great band playing at Melkweg or Paradiso.   More >


‘I draw the line at sitting in the circle at my own birthday party’

‘I draw the line at sitting in the circle at my own birthday party’

Photographer Vinita Salomé was born in Japan to Indian parents and has lived in the Netherlands for 16 years. She lives in Gouda with her husband and nine-year-old son, would like to meet the members of rock bank BLØF and says she has lost the nuances associated with Asian cultures. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met my Dutch husband at a friend’s wedding in Bombay. He was a friend of the groom. I fell in love and moved to the Netherlands where we ‘settled down’ in Gouda. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc ? I’d say I am an international or a world citizen. I speak five languages, enjoy travelling, and hosting family and friends at my home in the Netherlands. Compared to other Dutch cities, Gouda has less expat traffic and, by necessity, the expats who live here tend to be well integrated. I am a member of the group Living with a Dutchie, which started locally and now has 120 members coming from many nationalities. How long do you plan to stay and why? I lived in Japan for 17 years, where I was born, then India for 13 years and have now lived the Netherlands for 16 years. The travel bug has started to bite and it feels like time to move, although we won’t make any concrete plans until we can get our adventure mojo on. I don’t think I’d move back to either India or Japan but moving on is enticing. I like being open to new opportunities. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I do speak Dutch. When I arrived in the Netherlands, integration courses were free and obligatory, so I went back to school full time for a year and later went on to study an advanced language course in Utrecht. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I would say cheese, although I can only eat a small amount of some hard cheeses due to being lactose intolerant. Stroopwafels are high on my list and also a specialty of Gouda! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet and why? BLØF- the Dutch rock band that I like to listen to. Leo Vroman – the Dutch poet who left Gouda because of the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis, moved to America but retained strong links with his hometown,Gouda. MC Escher- I think his self-portraits are simply magnificent and I would have liked to observe him working on these portraits. How Dutch have you become? Going back to India for my annual family visit, I realize that I’ve lost the nuances and social protocols that are so prevalent in Asian cultures. I am not direct enough for the Dutch, yet far too direct for the Asians. Using an agenda has become important in my life – but I draw the line at sitting in the circle at my own birthday party. What's your top tourist tip? Having worked on two books about Gouda, my tip would be to come here. It is a great place to spend a day. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands Social engagements are planned months in advance! What happens when you don’t feel up to it on the day itself? The Dutch are such pragmatic people! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Although I am a night person, I would get up early to take a meditative walk in a calm and beautiful Gouda city centre. Later I would have lunch with friends in the square overlooking the medieval city hall, before going to Amsterdam to wander its cosmopolitan streets, have a couple of drinks on a canal and dance away the night in a drum and bass club. The best of both worlds! Vinita Salomé is co-author of two books about Gouda, The Bees Tour with Vinita and A Sample of Gouda.  More >


‘As much as I complain about Amsterdam, it is the best city I have lived in’

‘As much as I complain about Amsterdam, it is the best city I have lived in’

By day Nick Nugent is an account manager for ACD/Labs and by night he chairs the British Society of Amsterdam and hunts for decent curry. Nick has been in the Netherlands for 8.5 years and says he would never have had friends from so many different countries if he had stayed in Britain. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I have worked for a couple of Dutch companies, first Unilever and then Philips, which actually brought me here. By the time I was offered a job over here the part of Philips I was in had been sold to a UK based company but the headquarters was in Almelo. I spent the first 18 months of my life in the Netherlands in Almelo and eventually moved to Enschede. Almelo is a great place if you have kids but I was single at the time. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc ? I guess I am somewhere between an expat and international. I have been flying all over the world for my last job and have been to 44 countries. I am trying to stay one country ahead of my age, but as you can see, I am struggling at the moment. I have done business in the Middle East, CIS and Africa which can be real frontier stuff at times. In my current role I am more focused on Benelux so I spend a lot of time here now. How long do you plan to stay? My time enjoying the 30% ruling is close to an end. However I have bought an apartment which needs extensive renovation and I have a Dutch girlfriend. As much as I complain about all the bad things about Amsterdam - the terrible service and often bad food in restaurants, too many tourists and the prices for professional services - I still think it is the best city I have lived in. Unless I get an outstanding job offer or the circumstances around the EU referendum make it impossible to stay, I will most likely never leave. Do you speak Dutch? To my shame my Dutch is terrible. However heavy pressure is now being exerted by my girlfriend who has a new nephew and I am told I must be able to speak it soon. I have tried various different lessons which all seem to use a brute force approach to the language which just does not work well with me. Last year my girlfriend’s friends also bought me Dutch lessons, but the guy who was supposed to give them was less than enthusiastic about replying to my emails, so I never took them in the end. I much preferred the DJ lessons which my Amsterdam crowd bought for me! What's your favourite Dutch food? I lived in the east of the country for a while and celebrated carnival with Dutch friends on a couple of occasions. Their carnival breakfast was home made erwten (pea) soup. This I still like very much and I think the Dutch do a very good soup indeed. Various friends have cooked decent stamppots for me now and again. I used to think the Dutch treat food like fuel and it does not really matter how it tastes as long as there is a lot of it and it doesn’t cost very much. But this is changing and you can see that many restaurants in Amsterdam do not survive long if they are not delivering on quality. I reckon I have now been to around 30 of the 40 or so Indian restaurants in Amsterdam. There are only a handful I would recommend. As curry is a great British tradition, I have now started a curry club which meets once per month to go to one of the handful of good restaurants. We've expanded to Thai and Indonesian to give us more choice. Which three Dutch people would you like to meet? I think it would have been really interesting to go out and have a beer with Freddie Heineken. By all accounts he was a genius at marketing, a formidable character and quite the raconteur. Being a trained in chemistry and spending the majority of my working life selling equipment which is partly based on some of his theories, Peter Debye would be another interesting person to have a discussion with. And since he has just taken over the managerial role at football club I support, then I would like to discuss with Ronald Koeman what he has in store for us Evertonians this year! How Dutch have you become and why? Not very, I think. That being said, I was always a very direct person in the UK and I have no problem with saying I dislike something or don’t agree. So I guess in that sense I fit in nicely here. I do hate the obsession with special deals and cheapness. I prefer to look at whether you are getting good quality at the right price. I think I will remain very British. What's your top tourist tip Find a local who knows. If I see struggling tourists on the street I will often ask if they need help with directions. Recently I was in a bar watching football and met two young guys from Manchester. I thought the conversation was going to be all about where are the best bars  and the like but these guys wanted more culture and the best off the beaten track places to go. I duly obliged and for good measure I sent them my list of 43 tried and tested restaurants which never disappoint. If you are using well known review sites, especially for restaurants, look for the reviews from the locals not the tourists. Tourists in general are hoping to have a good time and have more time to waste in general. Their reviews are often short and gushing praise for the venue and food. If you can find a review by a local then in general they will only review what they think is very good or very bad and have probably been there more than once and so there is more quality control on those. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands This one I was told by a taxi driver so I am not entirely sure how true it is, but it's a great story. This taxi driver claimed that the place where Schiphol is now used to be an unprotected port area. The reason Schiphol is so called is because whenever there were storms a lot of boats would be sunk in this 'harbour'. The name literally translated means Schip – Ship Hell – hol. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? One of the things which makes this place for me is the great friends I have from all over the world. I think within my group of friends I probably have 10-15 nationalities which I think would be unheard of back in the UK. So if you could imagine an day where you have breakfast at your favourite place (Greenwoods) with close friends, head to the Butcher for lunch for a decent burger and finally end up at Dragon I, the best Asian fusion restaurant in Amsterdam. Probably there would be one maybe two roof top bars in there like Canvas or Skylounge, finally ending the night at Karaoke to deafen all my friends!  More >