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


‘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 >


‘On my first day at work I told my colleagues not to speak English to me’

‘On my first day at work I told my colleagues not to speak English to me’

New Zealander Jason Bruygoms has been living in the Netherlands for over 10 years, and is a leading light in Dutch rugby league. He learned Dutch by banning his colleagues from talking English to him, is a vanillevla addict and relishes Rotterdam's melting point society. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My father is actually Dutch and when I was 27 a workmate of mine back in New Zealand told me I was eligible for a Dutch passport but had to apply before I turned 28. So I applied and a couple months before my 28th birthday a Dutch passport arrived for me. At the time I didn't have any children so took this as a sort of sign to fulfill my dream of travelling and checking out my father's homeland. That was over 10 years ago now. Before I traveled though I checked out the national rugby league situation and I actually ended up playing for the Dutch national squad for a bit. Then I started to help develop rugby league in the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? To be perfectly honest I am a Kiwi through and through and always will be. I guess it is that connection we have with our homeland, tangata whenua. But here in the Netherlands I now have a beautiful daughter with an awesome Dutch lady whom I am actually going to marry in a couple of months. So I now have my own strong family roots here in the Netherlands as well. I guess the term lovepat would be suitable. How long do you plan to stay? The original plan was a maximum of two years.....I guess plans change but if I can find a job back in New Zealand that can support me and my family then I would go back to New Zealand in a heartbeat. But I have now started a rugby league club called the Rotterdam Pitbulls RLFC, which I am really enjoying. This season we became the Dutch champions and did not lose a game. I would like to stick around for a bit to see how far we can go with the club and the sport. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I speak Dutch but writing I still find very difficult. I am self taught. The first few years here I was living in a house full of expats so I didn't learn much as I didn't need to. When I started the job I am still doing now about six years ago I made a decision to tell the other workers on my first day that they were not to speak English to me. Full submersion basically and that is when I really picked it up fast. Plus reading the Dutch subtitles when watching television and reading Dutch newspapers helped a lot. What’s your favourite Dutch food? That would have to be roti. It might be Surinamese but I love it, and my girlfriend makes a mean one. Second on my list would be vanillevla. I got addicted to that stuff when I first arrived here and I'd drink a litre a day. How Dutch have you become? I might be half Dutch by birth but I don't think I'm very Dutch at all. My identity as a Kiwi is very important to me and makes me who I am. I do think that when I eventually move back to New Zealand that it will take some time to adjust to the laid back lifestyle there again. It is something I really miss. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Vincent van Gogh - I am a bit of an artist and he was awesome plus a bit of a crazy mofo so I think it would be cool to meet him. I guess my opa (grandfather) as I was too young to remember him when he was alive and I never really got a chance to see him anyway because I was living on the other side of the world. And the 3rd one.....Maybe Abel Tasman.....just so I could laugh at him because he got his ass kicked by the Maoris when he first tried sending his men to the shores of New Zealand. What’s your top tourist tip? Don't just visit Amsterdam. Amsterdam is great but there is so much more to the Netherlands. It's the same as going to New Zealand and only visiting Auckland. Explore and you will find little gems all over the country Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands I guess it's the melting pot of cultures here. I was expecting it to be a very European white culture but that is not the case, especially Rotterdam where I live. There are so many different cultures, races, creeds, colours and religions which I really like. As an immigrant myself, its nice to be surrounded by other immigrants too. It makes the Netherlands a very diverse country. And it is the way things should be, side by side no matter where you come from, embracing and sharing each others differences and cultures. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would throw a big party and invite all the people that have been a part of my life for the past 10 years here. You can find out more about the Rotterdam Pitbulls via their Facebook page.  More >


‘Don’t just stick to expat groups if you really want to enjoy living in Holland’

‘Don’t just stick to expat groups if you really want to enjoy living in Holland’

Haseeba Saban, 45, is a British national who lives in Rotterdam and works as a freelance marketing consultant. Her children are at Dutch schools, she would have liked to have discussed intolerance with Anne Frank and recommends everyone buys a museum card. How did you end up in the Netherlands? After returning to the UK from a 2-year work jolly in Dubai in 2010, we were hit by the recession and found that there were not many employment opportunities in the UK. My husband found a job in Amsterdam and we made a decision to move the entire family over over after three months of him being away. The boys found it hard to just see their dad on weekends so they were eager to move, even though we told them that they would have to attend local Dutch schools. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? I am a globetrotter or if you would like a lovepat as such. I have lived and worked on three continents and have loved every minute of it. I love people and learning about new cultures and history. I also love traveling and exploring. How long do you plan to stay? After six years, this is a permanent move. The kids have integrated well into Dutch life. My eldest (18) is studying application development at a Dutch college and my youngest son (14) will soon start his third year of high school. They are fully bilingual and speak Dutch way better than I do. We also own our home, have two beautiful cats and feel quite settled here. Although, I can’t say what the future holds and whether or not I will get itchy feet once the boys are older, my husband and I may move to a warmer country. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I understand Dutch and have some basic conversational skills. I do plan to improve it soon with a proper language course. At most of the international companies I have worked for in Holland the main language was English, and all my Dutch work colleagues spoke English so it was never an issue not knowing Dutch at an advanced level. What's your favorite Dutch food and why? The Dutch love their fries and I have learnt to love them too with mayo and ketchup - a combination of sauces I had never tried prior to moving to Holland. I also like the yummy oliebollen especially during the autumn and winter. It’s a perfect pick me up in the cold weather. How Dutch have you become? Apart from cycling, I am still very much me and won’t say I have become very Dutch. The Dutch do find me too generous though, lol. I don’t do one cookie per person. In my home you can eat as much as you wish and I always cook enough so that anyone visiting around dinner time is always welcome to join in and eat with us. There is always more than enough to go around. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet ? I would love to meet Anne Frank. I'm curious about how she coped with intolerance. It may well help us today as we still face a huge level of intolerance in our society. Then there is queen Maxima – I'd just like to meet her in person. I admire her and she too is a lovepat. And then there is Neelie Kroes, a dynamic woman who is focused on driving start-up culture for the Netherlands. I love her tenacity and energy for a 75-year-old. What's your top tourist tip? I love all things Amsterdam. I can’t get enough of the canals and cute little shops. Learn about the local culture and mingle/socialise. It helps to network during the early days. Don’t just stick to expat groups if you really want to enjoy living in Holland. The locals love telling you about cool places to visit and things to do. Get a museum card annual subscription, it’s really fab and great for learning more about the country’s history and art. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands There’s the saying, ‘Let’s go Dutch’ when paying a bill. Until I lived here I had not realised how true it rings, right down to every last cent. I am so used to splitting a bill evenly whether or not I have had the least or most to eat but not the Dutch. They will only pay their share. They are very direct and not excessive. Good traits I may add too. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would definitely visit the islands. I have just not had the time to do that and would so love to, as I have heard so many great things and also seen such beautiful pictures.  More >


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

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

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


‘Amsterdam’s character is being whittled away by council policies’

‘Amsterdam’s character is being whittled away by council policies’

Federico Lafaire, a master's student in philosophy and self described ‘bookmonger,’ first moved to the Netherlands in 2007. He can often be found working behind the counter at The Book Exchange, a second-hand English bookshop in central Amsterdam. How did you end up in the Netherlands? The University of Amsterdam. I had to figure out something to do so I said, ‘hey, I’ll go study philosophy.’ That was in 2007. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I was born in Mexico. If that means I’m from there originally or not, I don’t know. I often get asked that at the store. I also spent 10 years in California. As I’ve learned during my studies, even the simple questions can be tough. I’d be reluctant to call myself an expat because it’s a word that’s so loaded. If I was a Nigerian guy, I wouldn’t be an expat, I’d be considered an immigrant. I’ve never really felt at home anywhere in particular, as far as nationality goes. I don’t classify myself too easily. How long do you plan to stay? I think Amsterdam has a good balance, for the time being. It’s not too big that you get a sense of anonymity that you would have in a jungle like Mexico City or Los Angeles, but it’s not so small that it’s provincial. It also has a lot of character, but that’s being whittled down by the marketing strategies drawn up by the city council. The story behind this whole ‘I amsterdam’ thing is fascinating and, if that keeps on progressing, I’d be loathe to say that I’ll still be here in 10 years. Aside from that, I feel remarkably and surprisingly at home in this city. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch. I can’t write it very well. It’s got to be a labour of love if I’m going to write a letter in good, proper Dutch. I learned most of my Dutch through a programme from the University of Amsterdam’s language centre. If you’ve got a friendship circle that’s willing to speak Dutch that’s helpful. Without that, you’re always going to keep struggling or at least I would continue struggling. What’s your favourite Dutch food? Madre mia, that’s a tough one, especially since I don’t eat cheese anymore. I like Dutch bread, in different stages of fermentation. How broad are we talking here? I like the sweet and sour drinks at Wynand Fockink, the distillery near the Dam. Either that or frietjes. It’s a close call between the two. How Dutch have you become? I still don’t have a diary since I don’t like to write things down, but I do use Google Calendar to send email reminders to myself. I hate planning things ahead of time like the Dutch are said to but it’s creeping in there. It’s got its foot in the door. When I’m cycling, I can be, to put it diplomatically, somewhat assertive with my fellow cyclists. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Like if I was going to meet them for brunch? I wouldn’t mind meeting Baruch Spinoza but I’d probably fall behind in that conversation. I’d love to go watch a film with him and see what he thinks. Obviously, the man would be freaking out though. I’d love to talk with (prime minister) Mark Rutte and see how much of a true believer he is. I’d also, why not, speak with (painter) Piet Mondriaan. What’s your top tourist tip? Ask yourself why you’re a ‘tourist’ and not a ‘traveller'. No, I’d sugarcoat it a bit but, along those lines, I’d tell them to have the courage to get lost. I was talking with a friend recently about why people still travel, especially when you can get yourself some nice brandy, go on Google Maps and ‘street view’ your way through a city to see what you already, more or less, had in mind. One thing I love to do when I’m travelling is, after I arrive at the bus station, the train depot or the airport, is just follow some people and see where that goes. I don’t wind up in a crocodile-infested pit, typically. More than anything, people should try to make their travelling their own experience instead of just going to Madame Tussauds, at least here in Amsterdam. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. I did not know there was an electrified fence in the first World War that separated the Netherlands from Belgium. For starters, I didn’t even know they had the infrastructure to build an electrified fence in those times. I knew they had electric lighting but to separate two countries like that? It’s one of those weird factoids, as they call them. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I guess I’d at least try to find my passport. I would say ciao to the people I know. I’d say goodbye to the city in my own way but my main priority would be to close things off here. Maybe I’m taking the question too seriously. Philosophy doesn’t prepare you for one like this. Maybe I’d go to Middelburg. If I had to consider the Netherlands as an ‘experience,’ I’d go ‘experience’ Middelburg. I’ve never ‘experienced’ Middelburg, nor has it ‘experienced’ me.  More >


‘Kapsalon is by far the best post exam food on the planet’

‘Kapsalon is by far the best post exam food on the planet’

German national Florian Volz is a 22-year-old International Studies student at Leiden University's campus in The Hague. He would like to meet DJ Martin Garrix, has an eye for a bargain night out and has become so keen on cycling, he plans to bike from The Hague to Greece this summer to make a documentary about refugees. How did you end up in the Netherlands? The Dutch university system caught my attention when I was still at school. At the time, Leiden was (and still is, I believe) ranked more highly than all the universities back home. In addition, Germans pay the same tuition fees as Dutch students, so the high quality education that I receive here comes at a very good price! Besides, I am a world traveller at heart. I would not have been able to study for three years in Germany as my travel bug is just too strong. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? I'm not an expat or an immigrant because German and Dutch culture is quite close and I do not plan on staying here forever. I'm just an international student. How long do you plan to stay? I need exactly one more year to finish my Bachelor's degree. After that I plan on taking another gap year and then I might come back for a Master’s. I would really like to live in another Dutch city to experience if Dutch accents are really as different as many of my Dutch friends say. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Sadly, I do not. I was planning on learning it when I moved here just by talking to people. However, my course is completely in English and many of my fellow students have an international background as well So my vocabulary only extends as far as ‘Pinnen, ja graag’ and ‘Bonnetje alstublieft’. What's your favourite Dutch food? Kapsalon all the way. [French fries covered with doner kebab or shwarma meat and melted cheese, then topped with some lettuce and tomato: ed] It is by far the best post-exam food on this planet. And its name means ‘hairdresser’. You can’t get better than that. How Dutch have you become? If I think about it, not at all really. As I live in an international bubble, I rather grew more as a traveller than a local. Nevertheless, I have come to love biking everywhere I go and this is one habit that I’ll definitely keep up. This summer, a friend and I will actually cycle over 2,500 km from The Hague to Lesvos in Greece as part of our project Refugee Roads to film a documentary about the Balkan route. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Martin Garrix is younger than me and is already one of the top five DJs in the world. His music is brilliant so I would just like to hang out with him for a day to see what life on tour is like. It is also my dream to experience a festival such as Tomorrowland from the DJ’s perspective. Martin, if you happen to read this, will you take me in 2017? I'd like to interview prime minister Mark Rutte about the Dutch approach to the refugee crisis for our documentary. Since the Netherlands currently holds the EU presidency, I would also like to ask him how the EU plans to deal with the crisis of political will and the rise of right-wing populism throughout the member states. Pieter de la Court's book ‘Interest van Holland’ was published in 1662 and had a profound impact on the liberalisation of the Dutch economy. I would like to talk to him about whether his ideas on the republican state are still applicable in our world today. What's your top tourist tip? The Penthouse bar here in The Hague is a must-see. For just €6 you get to take a glass elevator up to the highest restaurant in the Netherlands. Once at the top you can enjoy the view of the whole city while drinking their yummy cranberry juice - one drink is included in the entry fee. Especially recommended at night. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Dutch people are stereotyped as being strict, punctual, ambitious and hard-working. This only applies for 364 days a year. I have experienced King's Day twice now and I can say that no other nation is able to celebrate its national pride quite like the Netherlands can - all over the country in just one day. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Load my roommates Cornelius, Michel and Lukas into a car and do a road trip across the country with them. I really would like to compare if kapsalon in Groningen, Maastricht and Amersfoort are as good as they are here. Florian Volz and fellow student Timo Schmidt are spending the summer cycling the Balkan route taken by thousands of refugees with the aim of producing a documentary. Follow their progress via the Refugee Roads website.  More >


‘As soon as I arrived in the Netherlands I needed to go to the Van Gogh museum’

‘As soon as I arrived in the Netherlands I needed to go to the Van Gogh museum’

Denisse Gaudin (46) is a marketing specialist who came to the Netherlands 18 years ago. In those years she has developed a taste for raw herring, and has learned to savour every ray of sun she can. She now lives near Delft in the small town of Den Hoorn where she and her family are ‘the only foreigners on the street.’ How did you end up in the Netherlands? Well, I met my husband in Brazil, and when he wanted to do a Phd. Delft was an option. I thought I might enjoy it here, so I said ‘let’s go.’ I really like it here, and feel really integrated, so we stayed for quite some time. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I’m international, definitely. I was born in Chile, grew up in Brazil, married a Frenchman and now I’m here in the Netherlands. Although, I must say, I still feel Latina. I’m short, and culturally I think I’m relaxed, open and smile easily. Although Dutch people are not closed, I feel more informal than them. How long do you plan to stay? No idea! When we came here, we thought it was just for three years. But we’ve lived here for 18 years now and have two children. From time to time, there’s the question of whether my husband might have to go abroad but we enjoy it here. To be honest, both of us love to travel, and we miss the sun. We might retire to a sunny place but we have no plans. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I am fluent in Dutch. In the beginning I went everywhere with a pocket dictionary, and I asked everybody to speak Dutch with me, even if I couldn’t understand. At shops I’d ask the clerks how to pronounce things, and I’d say ‘please, no English.’ I got my NT2 Dutch exam in 2002, and between working with Dutch colleagues and my children going to a Dutch school, it got easier. What's your favourite Dutch food? I love a lot of food and don’t have one real favourite, but I’d choose Nieuwe Haring. I love raw fish! However, I think sate sauce is more special. I always take it to family and friends abroad, and they love it. It’s not typically Dutch though, it’s Indonesian. How Dutch have you become? I like living here, and I have started to plan things in advance, which is very Dutch. Not only activities, but also my free time. Now I also dare to say what I think, which for Latin Americans is a no-go. I also enjoy every ray of sun. As soon as the sun is out, I’m outside. This is for me typically Dutch. But at home, I’m the only one who prefers to use my car instead of my bike. Shame on me! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Vincent van Gogh, because I was always fascinated by the emotions he captured in his paintings. As soon as I arrived in the Netherlands I needed to go to the Van Gogh museum. Every time I have visitors we go to the museum, and I really get emotional there. I don’t think I’d like to talk to him. I’d just like to watch him paint. Second, would be the writer Heleen van Royen. She’s around my age, and I enjoy reading her columns. I like how she talks openly about her life and she’s not afraid to be herself. She’s quite controversial but I like how she speaks her mind freely. The third one is not a person, but a band. Within Temptation are a Dutch band who live around Amersfoort. I’m a huge fan and go as often as I can to their concerts. I’d like to talk to them about their music and their influences, and just have a good time. What's your top tourist tip? I love Delft! I’d say walk along the canals in Delft, enjoy the small white bridges, and taste Nieuwe Haring at the market. If you come to the Netherlands, this is something you need to do. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The open windows everywhere really surprised me. You can see inside everyone’s house and admire it without any shame. Also, in the big cities people put mirrors on the upper floors of the houses, so people inside can watch people passing by outside. It’s a little voyeuristic, and made me a little uncomfortable in the beginning, but now I’m used to it. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would ride my bike to the polder, among the grazing cows. I’d rent a kayak for an hour, then go back to the centre of Delft and walk along the canals. I’d finish the day drinking at a bar with friends, and I’d say ‘thank you, and see you some day, somewhere.’  More >


‘I love the Amsterdam lifestyle. You can’t beat Amsterdam on a sunny day’

‘I love the Amsterdam lifestyle. You can’t beat Amsterdam on a sunny day’

Jessica Lipowski, 28, is an American writer who fell in love with Europe as a child and came to Amsterdam straight after college. Although after five years she considers herself an Amsterdammer, she still gets thrown sometimes by the Dutch ‘three kisses’ greeting. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Thanks to my parents, travel has always been a huge part of my life. When I was 12 years old I travelled to England for the first time and I remember telling my mom ‘I’m going to move here’. Every other European country I visited over the years, I repeated the same thing. She told me ‘if you want it, make it happen’, and that’s what I did. A few months after finishing university I applied for jobs in Amsterdam and London, and after I met my Dutch boyfriend a few months later, the decision was easy. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? Most of the time I use the term expat. But I’m half German, half Polish, 100% American, and living in the Netherlands, so I also really like the term ‘global citizen’. I feel like I’m a citizen of the world. How long do you plan to stay? I have no immediate plans to leave the Netherlands, and I’m really happy where I am right now. I just published my first book and want to see that through, and I really enjoy the Amsterdam lifestyle. You can’t beat Amsterdam on a sunny day. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do! I’ve been taking Dutch lessons since March 2011. I have one-on-one lessons over Skype with a Dutch woman living in Mexico. We have a great connection and she’s helped me pass the state exams. I can definitely hold conversations, but I wouldn’t consider myself fluent. What's your favourite Dutch food? I’m going to have to go with the Stroopwafel, it’s dessert heaven. If you can’t get the fresh ones, the next best thing is to warm up a packet one and make it extra gooey. How Dutch have you become? I’m somewhere in the middle. I love scheduling appointments in advance and biking everywhere. In my humble opinion, I feel like I blend right in with the other Amsterdammers speeding around the city. On the other hand, I definitely don’t eat as much bread as the Dutch, and sometimes I go in for the hug instead of shaking hands or the three kisses. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I’d definitely love to meet Anne Frank, even though she’s technically German. I read her diary as a young girl and visited the house a couple of times and still can’t comprehend what she went through. Then I’d like to meet the Amsterdam food critic, Johannes van Dam. I thought about contacting him to write the foreword for my book, but unfortunately he passed away before I could ask. I’d love to share a meal with him and get a glimpse inside his reviewing process. For number three, I would love to have been on the voyage with Abel Tasman, when he discovered Tasmania. To be there when they arrived and to see that pristine nature would be amazing. I’d like to add a bonus. Snollebollekes has so much energy and sings crazy carnival songs. I’d like to meet him and see what he’s like in a normal conversation. What's your top tourist tip? I’d go to the Doubletree hotel by central station for the best view of Amsterdam. The 11th floor sky lounge is great for a coffee or beer and watching the sun set. I’d say bring good walking shoes too, as walking is still one of the best ways to explore Amsterdam. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I’ve recently learned that after the Scandinavians, the Dutch are the world’s biggest coffee drinkers. They drink no less than 140 litres of coffee a year on average. That’s 3.2 cups of coffee per person per day! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d head out on a boat and sail through the canals of Amsterdam. I love seeing the city from the water. I’d definitely pack a picnic and a bottle of white wine, stop somewhere for bitterballen, and just enjoy the sights. Jessica's first book, Flavors of Life, is a collection of biographies about 62 people from around the world who all own restaurants in Amsterdam and has just been published. Find out more via her website.  More >


‘At certain moments in the year you realise you’re totally not Dutch and never will be’

‘At certain moments in the year you realise you’re totally not Dutch and never will be’

Mike Russell (52) has lived in the Netherlands for 28 years, and manages an apartment rentals company. He feels at home here, but still doesn’t feel entirely Dutch. However, in true Dutch style, he gave this interview while riding his bike through the centre of Amsterdam to work. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I finished my Phd in computer science in Wales, then I registered with an agency in London and said ‘get me a job anywhere but the UK’. They came up with all kinds of options, and I started work as an Apple Mackintosh developer here in 1988. Years later, I had a consultancy company which I sold because I wanted to do something that I had no background, skills or qualifications in. I knew some people in real estate, had a chat with them and though it sounded interesting. So I started that in Amsterdam in 2002. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I guess I started as a classic expat, and over the years I have become pretty established here. My family, kids and business are here. How long do you plan to stay and why? Well I have no plans to leave, let’s put it that way. I’ve always felt a little like this is temporary and that was realistic for the first year or two. Then five years fly by, then ten. I think I’m in the position that a lot of expats are in, where they always think it’s temporary but they end up staying here for a big chunk of their lives. I’ve lived here now longer than I was ever in the UK. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch. I took lessons for a number of years. After a couple of years of not going for it, because this was supposed to be temporary, I went for it. My lucky break came when I started working somewhere with a colleague who was probably the only person in the Netherlands who didn’t speak any English at all. So that pushed me along a bit. What's your favourite Dutch food? Tapas. It’s not Dutch but it’s the best food I could find here. I’ll eat bitterballen with the best of them, but they’re not the national dish or anything How Dutch have you become? Well, speaking the language is part of the way, but at certain moments in the year you realise you’re totally not Dutch and never will be. For example, I don’t know any of the birthday songs, and at the Sint Maarten festival in the Jordaan all the parents of the kids are singing along. They look at me like I’m a grumpy parent but I don’t actually know any of the words. I have become quite direct in expressing my opinion without beating around the bush. It’s quite refreshing to be able to do that, but when I return to the UK I do come across as a bit brusque sometimes. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? Hans Brinker, the boy who stuck his finger in the dyke in the late 1800s. It was really cold that night and he could have walked away but didn’t. A pretty cool dude... okay, yes I know he is a fictional character. Desiderius Erasmus, who was a pretty brainy guy. An interesting philosopher and theologian. And the guy who invented cheese…yeah that guy, whoever he was! What's your top tourist tip? Look at a guidebook of Amsterdam, look at all the places mentioned there, and then decide not to visit any of them! In any city when you move off the main thoroughfares you discover something not evident in the guidebooks. The Netherlands has a lot to offer if you ignore the Keukenhof, the red light district, the parliament building at The Hague, etc. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I’m surprised sometimes by how people here keep a very accurate running calculation in their heads at bars and restaurants. When the bill comes people make a very quick calculation what their contribution should be, stick the money on the table, and run! The concept of splitting the table evenly doesn’t really exist here. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d probably do something I haven’t done yet. I’d visit one of the islands, Vlieland or Schiermonnikoog. I’ve been to Texel and it’s very nice, but I feel like I should make a bigger effort to visit the others. Mike Russell is managing director of Principle Vastgoed, a rental services agency  More >


‘The biking infrastructure on a warm, sunny, blue-sky day is still magic’

‘The biking infrastructure on a warm, sunny, blue-sky day is still magic’

Andrew Moskos (47) came to Amsterdam on a whim 23 years ago to bring English-language comedy to the city. His club, Boom Chicago, is now an institution on the Dutch comedy scene. Although comedy is his business, Andrew is deadly serious about quality strawberries and Dutch tram design. How did you end up in the Netherlands? After university, my best friend and I were tourists in Amsterdam and we fell in love with the city and wanted to move here. We thought there was a gap in the market for this sort of comedy, so we wrote to the city and said ‘here’s our idea, what do you think?’ They wrote back and said ‘your idea will not work, you won’t get any subsidy, think twice about it.’ We took that fax, framed it, and decided to come anyway. I’m happy we didn’t take their advice. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’d say expat. I have no problem with the term ‘tourist’ mind you. It has a bad name, but when you go to another city and you don’t live there, you’re a tourist. People say they’re ‘international’ or whatever like it’s somewhat better than a tourist. What’s wrong with being a tourist? How long do you plan to stay and why? Here for the long haul! I’m married, have two kids, and Boom Chicago is going great. I can make a living doing the creative job I want, so I’m never leaving. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch. When I realised I wanted to stay here I wanted to go to see theatre shows myself, read the paper and have Dutch friends. So I learned through a combination of lessons, reading the newspaper, and the desire to just do it. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Lambadas – the Dutch hothouse strawberries. You can get them about three months out of the year and they’re fantastic. They’re super expensive but they’re like candy. Soft and flavourful, unlike the hard American strawberries. I’d rather spend €50 on strawberries than gasoline, so I chose strawberries over a car here. How Dutch have you become and why? Pretty Dutch – I like a slow meal and I can sit on a terrace in any weather. I don’t like the Dutch birthday circle – that’s a bit silly – and I don’t like drop, so unfortunately I’m not that Dutch yet. I refuse to take an inburgeringscursus, as we pay so much tax here, I speak Dutch, and we hire people. I don’t see my friends enough as it is, so I’m not going to waste my time with an inburgeringscursus. I’m sorry, arrest me! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? I don’t know the names of these people, but there’s two people I’d be excited to meet and one guy who needs to be scolded. The bad guy is the person who made the decision to buy those Combino trams and put a conductor in the back of them. The fact that everybody has to filter past that spot, and it’s about 40cm wide, is just bad design. Rotterdam did it right, no conductor booth and a conductor walking around the tram. They’ve got the best trams and the best conductor system. I want to meet the guy who designed the new Amsterdam street lamps. They’ve got a fluorescent ring in them, they’re very old but very modern and they light the area wonderfully. The last good guy is the guy who invented the new traffic plan in front of central station. They’re taking the cars away so you can go all the way from central station to Dam square without crossing a street, and that is such an imaginative, innovative idea. What's your top tourist tip? The grachtenhuis (canal house museum) has a nice history of the canals. You’re in and out in about 30 minutes, it’s high tech, and done in different languages. It’s in an old canal house, and this was the centre of the financial world back in the golden era. The bankers that loaned America money back in the 1700s lived in a house like this, so it’s full of history. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Amsterdam and the Netherlands is pinball country! If you go to England nobody plays pinball any more, but there’s still a lot of places in Amsterdam where you can play good pinball machines. For 800,000 people, there’s a high ratio of pinball machines to people here. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d just go biking on a warm day. Because we’re in a country where the weather is not our strongest suit, everybody changes their plans when it turns nice out. The biking infrastructure of Holland on a warm, sunny, blue-sky day is still magic. Boom Chicago's new show, Angry White Men - Trump up the Volume - premiers in Amsterdam this week.  More >


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

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

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


‘In the Netherlands time is absolute – 3pm really does mean 3pm’

‘In the Netherlands time is absolute – 3pm really does mean 3pm’

Originally from Calcutta in India, Shazia Khan, 32, lives in Eindhoven with her husband and two children. Shazia runs her own fashion business, has learned to tone down the chili in her cooking and says her son is her Dutch teacher because he points out her mistakes. How did you end up in the Netherlands? We left India, and after living in Turkey for a year, my husband was offered a position at Delft University of Technology. We moved to Delft and two years later, when he changed jobs, we moved to Eindhoven. I've now been in the Netherlands for eight years. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? I see myself as an international because I have a strong interest in learning about other cultures, especially the culture of the country where I am living. How long do you plan to stay? I think that we will be staying in the Netherlands for a long time. My kids go to local schools and are growing up as Dutch (although they speak Hindi at home), so turning back seems very difficult. Setting up my own business has also helped to make me feel integrated into the local community. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Initially I encountered problems due to language, especially when dealing with the tax office, which would have been complicated even without the language barrier, but it is much better now. I speak Dutch with my neighbours, Dutch customers and the other parents at school. At the moment I am preparing for my final inburgering exam. Actually to be honest, my son has become my Dutch teacher as he quickly pinpoints my mistakes, so that I am learning every day. What's your favourite Dutch food? I have a sweet tooth so it would have to be those deep fried New Year dough balls oliebollen, which are similar to an Indian dessert that I like. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet? I would like to talk to Anne Frank about how she managed to maintain her positive outlook in spite of living in such a difficult situation. I would also like to meet Gerard Philips because he opened opportunities for social entrepreneurs in the Noord-Brabant region. Princess Beatrix is also someone I think would be interesting to meet because she is often described as having a very strong personality. How Dutch have you become? I guess I have become half Dutch. I ride a bike and make my own version of stamppot. I have learned to leave out the chili when cooking for Dutch friends, especially after my experiment with reducing a five-chili recipe to only one chili was still too spicy for them. From starting my own fashion business I understand what Dutch women like to wear, and have even made one customer very happy by turning a beautiful sari into a gown that she could wear easily in the Netherlands. What's your top tourist tip? The Keukenhof – I love the space and the tulips! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. In the Netherlands the concept of time is ‘absolute’, so when you have an appointment for 15.00 hours it really means 15.00 hours. In India it is a bit more ‘semi-absolute’. Arriving half an hour late for an appointment is totally acceptable, especially using traffic as the cause of the delay. I was also surprised by how limited social contacts are in the Netherlands. This is different in India, where social contacts don’t require making an appointment. There friends and family often visit, saying 'I was just passing by your neighbourhood so I thought I would drop by for a few minutes'. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I hope that it does not happen but if it did, I would like to spend the time cycling along the streets of Delft. Delft is my landing city, the place where I lived for two years and where my eldest son was born. Shazia Khan runs her own business selling traditional and Indo-western clothes, jewellery and leather accessories all over the country.   More >


‘The Dutch have a much calmer mentality when it comes to working’

‘The Dutch have a much calmer mentality when it comes to working’

Adonis Stoantzikis, 32, is a Greek artist and writer who has been living in the Netherlands since 2013. Now based in Amsterdam, Adonis enjoys the Dutch pace of life to the fullest, would like to have met Johnny Jordaan and has started eating sandwiches for lunch. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I initially came here to study in Groningen, but continued with the residency in Amsterdam. I wanted a university where they spoke English, so it was a choice of between here and England. The Netherlands was an easy winner. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? An international, because of the international student community in university and my collaboration with locals afterwards. I don’t think there are any Greeks in my environment here. How long do you plan to stay and why? It depends. Because of what I do I can’t be located in one place for too long. I have to move on and travel a lot. It’s important for art to be a nomad. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I only understand the basics. In the supermarket I know the beef from the chicken, just everyday stuff. Because it’s a very open society and an international environment it doesn’t seem obligatory to speak the language. I think it’s a lot to do with the arts too. Most people I know in the arts are internationals. What's your favourite Dutch food? Ribs! The way they prepare them and marinade them here is really nice. How Dutch have you become? I think it gets you after a while. In Greece everything is much more stressful, and the Dutch have a much calmer mentality when it comes to working. If that’s something that characterises the Dutch, then I became a lot like this during my time here. I started eating a lot of sandwiches for lunch too, so there’s that! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Of course Folkert de Jong, a Dutch artist. I love his playfulness and large-scale sculptures and installations. He’s very dynamic, and his work really shakes you. The second is the singer Johnny Jordaan. I was living on his street in Amsterdam, where his statue is now. I saw the statue every day, was curious, and discovered his music. The third one would be Spinoza, the philosopher. I’m familiar with his work and I’d like to meet him for a conversation. He was stabbed for being a heretic once, and kept wearing the coat with the hole in it afterwards. What's your top tourist tip? There’s lots of great art here, but tourists shouldn’t restrict themselves to Amsterdam. There’s so many young artists spread around the Netherlands, every city has something worth discovering, and contact with the art world is always nice for tourists. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The rhythm of everyday living. Compared to other countries I’ve lived in, everything is less stressful and there’s less pressure. I expected Amsterdam to be like any other European city, all running and stress, but actually you don’t feel like you’re in a big city here. That was a nice surprise. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would ride on my bike from coffeeshop to coffeeshop, seeing all the sights on the way. I’d probably fall asleep after ten hours, miss my flight, and wake up with another 24 hours to spend here! Adonis Stoantzikis is a resident at Gallerie Bart in Amsterdam city centre.  More >


‘Amsterdam is so beautiful: rich and poor lived within metres of each other’

‘Amsterdam is so beautiful: rich and poor lived within metres of each other’

Mike Manicardi, 63, manages Mike’s Badhuis Theatre in Amsterdam’s district of Oost. He arrived in the Netherlands in 1978, has five children here, and remembers how different it was to be a new arrival in those days. 'Expat is very modern Europe,' he says. 'I'm a first generation migrant.' How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was on tour with a theatre company and in that period Holland was the most exciting country in the world, culturally, to work in as a young theatre artist. Back then, the Dutch imported their artists. They picked up people from all over the world. We had different tours, and after one of the last tours, in 1978, I decided to work permanently in Amsterdam. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’m not really happy with these kinds of categories. But my father was Italian and my mother was Irish and as children we constantly travelled in Europe. I studied in England, but we always thought of ourselves as Europeans. The idea of ‘expat’ is very modern Europe. When I came here first we were just foreigners. How long do you plan to stay and why? I have been living in Amsterdam since 1978 and I have five children who were all born in Amsterdam. I see Amsterdam as my permanent home. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes. I learned Dutch on the street. In those days, being an expat was totally different. When you needed a stamp from the Foreign Police the line would stretch down the street from the office. Sometimes they’d take your passport away and tell you to f*** off. The next day you’d have to do the whole thing again. But we loved being outsiders. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Erwtensoep: that thick pea soup served with brown bread. How Dutch have you become and why? I see myself as a first generation migrant. My father was the same. My children laugh at their father’s Anglicisms. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? First of all, I’d say Johan Cruijff, for the entertainment. Then Gerrit van der Veen, for his idealism. Van der Veen was an artist, a poet, an educationalist, and a member of the Dutch resistance in World War 2. When he realised the Germans had all the information about Amsterdam’s Jews, he went out and blew up the building where the records were kept. They all got killed, but it was a tremendously brave attempt. Thirdly, Mathilde Wibaut is not so well known, but she was the wife of Dutch socialist Floor Wibaut, and I admire her intellectual brilliance and social values. She would organise food, events and free education for impoverished kids in Amsterdam, just a hundred metres away from the theatre here. I reckon they’ll make a film about her sometime soon. What's your top tourist tip? Visit the Dutch islands, made famous in the wonderful novel by Erskine Childers, The Riddle of the Sands. The island of Texel is a completely different world, out in the sea. They produce their own milk, cheese, bread and a lovely strong beer. It’s very healthy out there. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The proximity of rich and poor in Amsterdam in the small streets. I lived for 20 years in the heart of the Jordaan in an old broken-down hiding place of Gerrit van der Veen in World War 2. Amsterdam is so intricate and beautiful in that rich and poor lived within metres of each other. That is quite unique. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go to the island of Texel and drink one of their wonderful beers with my children. Mike is busy putting the finishing touches to a production of Irish playwright Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, marking the centenary of Ireland’s 1916 uprising which takes place later this month. The Shadow of a Gunman will follow in June.   More >


‘The Dutch know how to deep-fry properly’

‘The Dutch know how to deep-fry properly’

Cypriot Alexia Solomou is an associate legal officer at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. She has been in the Netherlands for nearly 18 months, is still working on her cycling skills and would love to have met Anne Frank. How did you end up in the Netherlands? In 2010 I was at Columbia University in New York and I got a fellowship with the president of the International Court of Justice which ended in June 2011. I then went off on my travels and when I was working at Cambridge University, I applied for an actual job here, which I was lucky enough to get. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? A globetrotter because I love moving around. How long do you plan to stay and why? Two years, and possibly another two, because that is how long my contract is at the International Court of Justice. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak an intermediate level of Dutch. I have a private tutor. I'm a bit of a language buff actually. When I lived here the first time I felt uncomfortable because I did not speak the language, so this time around I started learning straight away. Dutch is my fifth language... once you have learned a few, you get the hang of picking up new ones. What's your favourite Dutch food? Warm stroopwafels from a street vendor in the city centre of The Hague because they do good to the soul. How Dutch have you become? I have taken up all the good Dutch habits: I have become well-organised and efficient. I have even planted some tulip bulbs - they've all come up and are really beautiful. I am still working on my cycling skills though. I'd cycled before I came here but never in the rain or the snow. Now I can do both, although I had a horrible fall the first time I cycled in the snow and did not realise my brakes had frozen up. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I would have liked to meet Hugo Grotius because he is one of the founding fathers of public international law. I would also like to meet Tobias Asser, the initiator of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, and a member of the Dutch delegation at The Hague Peace Conferences. And I would love to have had a chat with Anne Frank to discuss her home confinement during the World War II. Her diary is one of my favourite books. I'd really like to find out the truth about her relationship with Peter. What’s your top tourist tip? Eat anything that is deep-fried: kibeling, bitterballen, French fries, kroketten. The Dutch know how to deep-fry properly. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. I am always amazed with what Dutch people can carry on their bicycles, from umbrellas and briefcases to surf-boards and drying racks; in addition to their children, cats and dogs. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would visit my favourite museums in the Netherlands once more: the Mauritshuis in The Hague, the Speelklok in Utrecht, and the Van Gogh in Amsterdam. I would then have a coffee at Hometown and then dinner at Mochi (both in The Hague).  More >


‘At home we talk that horrible Dutch and English hybrid’

‘At home we talk that horrible Dutch and English hybrid’

Tracy Metz, 61, is a journalist and author who has lived in the Netherlands for over 36 years and has just been awarded the prestigious Grote Maaskantprijs 2016 for her work on architecture and landscape. She is currently director of the John Adams Institute, lectures on water management all over the world and describes herself as a gelukszoeker. How did you end up in the Netherlands? After college in the US I headed to Europe and planned to spend time in Spain and France. The cheapest ticket I could get was to Amsterdam so I ended up working there for a time to earn some money and then going off travelling again. I had a fluid relationship with the city until 1980 when I decided I'd like to settle here. I'd been teaching English to adults and had met the editor of the Parool newspaper. He introduced me to journalism and gave me a six-month internship. I knew immediately that being a journalist was what I wanted to do. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I'm a gelukszoeker - an adventurer, a seeker of good fortune. It has become such a politically laden term used by the right to dismiss asylum seekers so I'd like to reclaim it. Everyone is a gelukszoeker, looking for the society they can blossom in. I found it here. How long do you plan to stay? I'll probably be here the rest of my life. I'm assuming I will. My work, my friends, my house, my husband are all here. When I was a Harvard fellow in 2006/07 and spent a year in the States I realised how long I had been away. I felt like an outsider. And coming back here was like coming home. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I learned it by speaking and reading children's books, novels, newspapers and asking millions of questions. And insisting people spoke Dutch to me. The way people switch to English is an obstacle to many expats - and it is convenient sometimes as well. But you have to insist. At home we talk that horrible Dutch and English hybrid. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Draadjesvlees (very slow cooked beef) is delicious if well done. My husband does all the cooking and if you ask me for my favourite meal, how about some Texels lamb with roast potatoes in goose fat and lots of veggies. All Dutch grown of course. How Dutch have you become and why? I guess I have become quite Dutch. I know how things work and how people think. I was born in another country and that will always colour my perspective but the Dutch rituals are all par for the course for me now. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? The architect Hendrik Berlage is a very august figure in the world of art and architecture. He was the embodiment of the transition from the Dutch romantic style to modern times. Willem Drees (Labour party politician and prime minister) came up with the notion of social security - that Dutch feeling of being all in it together and responsible for each other. He laid out the Dutch system of solidarity, so that everyone could have a basic level of financial security. Cornelis Lely was a master of water issues and extremely influential. Lely designed the Afsluitdijk between Noord-Holland and Friesland. Actually, it's a dam not a dyke. What's your top tourist tip? The Ceuvel. It's a disused shipyard in Amsterdam Noord where all sorts of things are  happening. They've taken old houseboats and beached them and turned them into work spaces, they've built raised walkways, the cafe has been constructed out of discarded stuff. It shows great initiative, is a really exciting place and it is within cycling distance of the centre. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. What surprises and disappoints me now is when I look at the polls and see how popular Geert Wilders is. It is such a contradiction. The Netherlands is the country of tolerance and acceptance of others but the meaner side of human nature is getting a grip. It is really sad. The people are withdrawing into their shell and that makes me wonder how real that tolerance actually was. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I don't like to think about that happening. Tracy Metz is director of the John Adams Institute and initiated and hosts the monthly talk show Stadsleven at the Balie in Amsterdam. She is currently leading the HEYU! Urbans talk show series with leading urban thinkers.   More >


‘Forget Amsterdam and come straight to The Hague’

‘Forget Amsterdam and come straight to The Hague’

Born in the former Yugoslavia but travelling on a British passport, Azra Secerbegovic came to the Netherlands eight years ago. A big fan of living in The Hague, Azra has adopted the Dutch way of being on time for appointments and has no hesitation about chatting with the former queen. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was working for an Israeli company based in Rotterdam, then started working for a Dutch company here. I did sales and marketing for natural products and organic food. I decided I wanted to make a career switch, but I wanted to stay in the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I would say I’m a really international person. I was born in former Yugoslavia, and have lived in the UK, Israel and now in the Netherlands. I call myself a citizen of the world, and really feel comfortable surrounded by other people like that. How long do you plan to stay and why? I really enjoy living and working in The Hague and have no plans to leave. In The Hague you have the feeling of the big city but you’re actually really close to nature, and that’s how I spend my free time. For me this is home. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes I do speak it and I like to. Speaking Dutch helps me to understand the place I live in. I learn something new here every day! What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Erwtensoep! I love it. I love most soups but this pea soup is my favourite. I also like the Dutch appelgebak. How Dutch have you become and why? I've lived in so many different countries and always try to accept the culture of the country I’m in. I’m doing the same here but what exactly should I do to become Dutch? One thing I’ve definitely picked up though is being on time for appointments. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? Well I’ve already met the former queen Beatrix by chance. I was in an antique shop talking to my friend and she walked in looking for a mirror. My friend’s shop didn’t have one so I suggested somewhere else. My friend looked shocked but to me it was so normal, there was no pomp about her at all. It would be nice to meet the current queen Máxima, because she’s also an international person and I like what she’s doing for female immigrants in the Netherlands. I would like to meet Geert Wilders too, just to have a face to face chat and find out what he’s really like. What's your top tourist tip? Lots of people think Amsterdam equals the Netherlands, but that’s completely not true. I would say: forget Amsterdam and come straight to The Hague! You will be amazed. The Dutch Dance Theatre is amazing, and so is the nature here and the sea. There’s lots of events happening here and lots to see. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I didn’t know that the Dutch were so family-orientated. I think it’s really great that family is so important to them. I thought they were much more disconnected from each other before I came here. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d take a visit to the Mauritshuis museum to see Vermeer’s work, then I’d go to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. It’s a lovely little Dutch village and there’s some great restaurants there. I’d also go to Giethoorn – the Venice of the north. You can rent a little boat, get a drink, and on a nice day it’s fabulous. Then I’d get myself down to Schiphol and off I’d go! Azra owns lifestyle concept store ASPA in The Hague, which provides hair and beauty treatments as well as nutrition advice, pilates and yoga classes.  More >


‘What is being Dutch?  Maastrichtenaars are very different to Groningers’

‘What is being Dutch? Maastrichtenaars are very different to Groningers’

John Flood, 43, is Irish and has been a lecturer in English literature at Groningen University for six years. He is surprised by the way the government thinks it worth trying to ban the burqa in the middle of a financial crisis and would like to meet stadhouder Willem III, to find out the truth about those rumours. How did you end up in the Netherlands? A job came up at the English department of the University of Groningen and when I emailed someone I knew who had worked there I got the longest reply she’d ever sent me. She was so positive that I sent in an application even though I hadn’t really been thinking of moving to the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? ‘International’ since this is the third country I’ve lived in and my working environment is a very international one. I do remind people that I am an immigrant when questions of immigration are discussed. How long do you plan to stay and why? Indefinitely. I have a permanent job here that I enjoy. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? No, I don’t. In fact I have read passages of Dutch aloud at a student comedy event as the Dutch students find it hilarious. I work in an English bubble since, as you’d expect in a university English department, our students are wholly taught and assessed in English. We also have many non-Dutch students who we don’t want to be excluded, so even small talk in the class breaks is in English. I advise students to dump their current boyfriends and girlfriends and date a native English speaker. None of this excuses my own lack of Dutch though. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Snert, the thick pea soup. It’s a dinner in itself and is great on winter days. How Dutch have you become and why? I don’t think I’ve become very Dutch. Of course I now automatically buy Dutch food and live on a Dutch timetable (early – for me – dinners at 6pm, holidays for King’s Day, Pentecost, etc.) but that’s fairly superficial. When I lived in England (where I did speak the language fluently and where I could vote in national elections), I didn’t become English, so I don’t think that it’s unusual that I don’t feel Dutch. In any event, I’m not sure what ‘Dutch’ is. If you visit the south of the country, the people and area around Maastricht seem very different from the people and province of Groningen (where some people still speak Groningens). I am a little nervous about saying that some things are Dutch or Irish or American. National stereotypes can be good for jokes, but otherwise they can easily become lazy ways of thinking that exclude the people who don’t fit into them or that fail to do justice to the diversity of those living in a country. In the Netherlands, as in many places, the fragmentation of the monolithic idea of ‘the Dutch’ is as much generational as anything else. I wouldn’t like to say that older Dutch people got to define what it is to be Dutch and younger ones are becoming less Dutch, or that the real Dutch people are the younger generation who are relegating their grandparents’ generation to obsolescence. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? William III (1650-1782), prince of Orange; Stadholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht and Gelderland; and King of England, Ireland and Scotland. Having been invited to England by powers that were worried about the Catholicism of King James II, William assumed the English throne alongside his wife, James II’s daughter, Mary. Part of James’s strategy to recover his throne lay in holding Ireland but in 1690 William defeated him at the Battle of the Boyne and James fled. This battle had an afterlife that made William the most famous Dutch person to intervene in Irish history. It metamorphosed into a mythical event that for many Irish people came to symbolise the relationship between Britain and Ireland. To this day, Protestant marches in celebration of the victory are held in Northern Ireland, often to the accompaniment of fighting with Catholic protesters or the security forces. In the midst of all this, William himself was simplified. A personally tolerant man, he became associated by Protestants and Catholics alike with religious bigotry. The reason that I’d like to meet William is that it has been suggested recently that he was partially funded by the pope (who, like William, was worried about the expanding power of France) and that he was gay. The truth of either or both of these would put an end to a great deal of silly but dangerous nonsense in Irish politics as marches in Northern Ireland led by the papal nuncio and a number of drag queens (orange is the new pink) would hardly excite as much violence. Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516). I’m reading a book about him at the moment before I go to the big exhibition in Den Bosch. I’ve seen his paintings in various galleries in Europe and had formed an image of him as a maverick outsider with an eccentric imagination. Now I learn that he was a stolid figure of civic life who stayed in his home town where he was a member of a religious guild. Where the startling imagery in his paintings comes from can only be guessed at and I would love to meet him to encounter the mind that produced such lurid visions. Christophe Plantin (c.1520-1589). There may be some objections to this choice as Plantin was French and he settled in Antwerp which is no longer part of the Netherlands. Still, it was his Antwerp printing shop that made Plantin famous and Plantin contributed to the city’s fame. There he founded the Plantin-Moretus dynasty whose printing shop, a UNESCO heritage site, can still be visited. These are all famous historical figures, but I’m lucky since in my job I get to meet Dutch people of all ages. Many colleagues across the various faculties are working on fascinating research and meeting them is as good as hours of TV documentaries. It’s also common for Dutch people to have had interesting experiences of or family stories about the Second World War and their perspectives on Europe are very different from those in Ireland or the UK. What's your top tourist tip? The Shakespeare Theatre Diever. It’s extraordinary that in Diever, a small town in Drente, there’s an amateur outdoor theatre that has been acting Shakespeare annually for the last seventy years. The plays are translated into Dutch and every year they have about 20,000 people attending their run of performances. Perversely, they did A Midsummer Night’s Dream in January at midnight one year and we sat surrounded by snow and layers of blankets. It was wonderful! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The political system is very different from the ones I am used to. Ireland is a Republic and although a lot of respect and influence attaches to various old or influential families, the head of state is elected. A constitutional monarchy is, of course, a familiar system to Irish people because of all the news coverage of the Queen of England. That the Netherlands manages to have a monarch without all the attendant tabloid journalism was a bit of a surprise. The Dutch law that surprised me the most was the one targeting the burka and the niqab. I first heard about it in a week in which, by coincidence, I was talking to my students about sumptuary laws (laws regulating clothes) in Elizabethan England. They considered that legislating to control people’s clothing was an amusing phenomenon from 400 years ago and were as surprised as I had been to learn that the Netherlands was debating introducing such laws. I remain astonished that in the middle of a financial crisis the parliament was worried about the hundreds (not thousands) of women who cover their faces in some way. In a society of high heels, Barbie doll models and the social pressures to wear fashionable and expensive clothes (all features that derive much of their power from Euro-American influences that are ‘foreign’ insofar as they are not natively Dutch), it seems odd to me to focus on such a minority of women rather than on the anorexia, bulimia and misery of people who populate doctors’ and psychiatrists’ waiting rooms and miserable beds in hospital wards. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d go and be a tourist in one of the many places I’ve yet to visit. When you live somewhere you take it for granted and often put off investigating somewhere that you’d certainly have gone if you were merely passing through. I’ve been to the Rijksmuseum when I came to the Netherlands before I moved here, but now that I live here I haven’t yet seen the new refit.  More >


‘I’ve become an impatient cyclist; I think I rule the road on my bike’

‘I’ve become an impatient cyclist; I think I rule the road on my bike’

Dan Fennessy (36) is the founder and CEO of Party With A Local, an app that helps travelers connect with locals and discover fun things to do that aren’t in the guidebooks. Since he’s been here, Dan has become a father, an impatient cyclist and a krentenbol aficionado. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I did a round the world trip back in 2006. Right at the end of that trip I was backpacking in Central America and I met a Dutch girl there. We spent some time together and then went home. I didn’t think anything was going to come of it, but we stayed in touch and decided we wanted to be together. I was ready to do something a bit different, so I decided to move over here. I've been here eight years now. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I’ve actually never heard of a ‘lovepat’ before! In some ways I don’t really like the term ‘expat,’ as it implies you’re excluded from the local community. Sometimes the expat community tends to stick together and keep to themselves. I prefer the term ‘international local.’ I feel like an expat who has integrated into Dutch society. Especially from my work with Party With A Local, I feel like an Amsterdam local now. How long do you plan to stay and why? I would say probably not forever, but I have no immediate plans to leave. If there’s opportunities to take the startup somewhere else, potentially the US, that could happen. Plus I wouldn’t mind living somewhere with warmer weather! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yeah, I can speak it but I rarely do. I did a few intensive courses when I first arrived and passed my inburgering exams. I guess having a Dutch girlfriend and friends helps. I can listen to it, read and write it, but when people hear me speak it they tend to switch to English. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Krentenbol. It’s just like a little scone with raisins and sultanas in it. It’s quite simple but it’s a nice little snack in between snacks. How Dutch have you become and why? I’m a little bit more direct than I used to be, which I think is a good thing. That comes from being around the blunt Dutch mentality for so long. I’m an impatient cyclist now too, I think I rule the road on my bike. I have a son now here as well, which makes me even more integrated but I still never refer to myself as Dutch. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? The explorer Abel Tasman, who discovered Tasmania and New Zealand. I’d like to ask him why him and the Dutch were there but decided not to colonise Australia. Another one, who’s still alive, is Johnny De Mol, the TV personality. I don’t really like Dutch TV in general but he’s an interesting character who goes to interesting places. I’d think he’d be fun to go out and have a drink with. Thirdly I’d pick a sportsperson, maybe Johan Cruyff. I’d like to talk to someone who’s succeeded at that level. What's your top tourist tip? After telling people to download our app and party with locals here, the next day I’d recommend freshening up with a bike ride across to the north and up to Broek in Waterland. You pass a farm on the way that sells fresh milk from a milk tap, and you ride through farms and green fields. It’s amazing how quickly you get out of the city and into fields and villages. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands I knew that Dutch people were tall, but not this tall. I’m about average height in Australia, but here I’m shorter than the average girl. Trying to see live music here is often pretty difficult. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d go for a boat ride with a bunch of friends, drinks and food. If it was a warm day maybe we’d do some swimming in the IJ. Then I’d go to a little café near where I live and eat there on the terrace. That would be perfect.  More >


‘I will keep the Dutch tradition of playing games with all the family’

‘I will keep the Dutch tradition of playing games with all the family’

Polish national Marysia Bialek came to the Netherlands as a teenager 15 years ago and is now a marketing and communications advisor. She describes herself as a European, feels at home in two cultures and would love to meet John de Mol and Neelie Kroes. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My mother’s second husband was Dutch and they decided to leave Poland so I didn’t have a choice. That was 15 years ago. I came to the Netherlands when I was a teenager. It was a difficult time to leave the environment I trusted and all my good friends but I made it and the Netherlands has become my home. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’m a European. I love Europe and the open borders. My home is Poland and the Netherlands. My background allows me to think and act naturally in two cultures. By mixing the Dutch directness with the Polish politeness I seem to have managed to generate interesting business contacts and long-lasting relationships. How long do you plan to stay and why? The Netherlands is a friendly country for doing business and allows you to travel all over the world. I will probably stay here for a while longer. We will see. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch and Polish equally - I had to learn Dutch at school. But I have a lot of friends who are not trying to learn because everyone speaks English. Please try! If you speak Dutch a lot of doors will open for you. Dutch people appreciate it when you try to speak their language and you will understand all Dutch jokes and the hidden messages in their words. What's your favourite Dutch food? Soesjes - little profiteroles -  I can’t live with out them, sooo lekker! How Dutch have you become? I think in Dutch and have Dutch friends, making appointments in my agenda and reading Dutch books.  But I will always stay a Polish girl. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? John de Mol is a Dutch media icon. He developed highly popular television programmes and he’s still working on new formats. I just want to see him brainstorming about the show and thinking up programmes people will want to see. Neelie Kroes is very powerful and influential. What she says matters, and I'd love her to be a special guest at the conference we are organising to celebrate International Women's Day. Television presenter Matthijs van Nieuwkerk has such a rich vocabulary. Every day when I watch his show I learn new words. What's your top tourist tip? If you like nature, visit Oostvaardersplassen between Lelystad and Almere. Years ago you could even ice skate there  – really beautiful.  Now you can go there for a long walk on a sunny day. Take your binoculars with you to spot a lot of different animals. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The Dutch love playing games with their family. Whole families get together to play cards, scrabble, Settlers of Catan or Monopoly. For me it means gezellig. And this is a tradition I will keep with my future family. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Eat patat oorlog (French fries with sate sauce, mayonnaise and raw onion). Marysia Bialek is one of the organisers of Business Women Congress, a conference for women from central Europe which will take place in The Hague on March 12.  More >


‘The Kröller-Müller museum in Arnhem is a real gem’

‘The Kröller-Müller museum in Arnhem is a real gem’

American Robert Chesal (50) is a journalist, writer and university lecturer. Three decades ago he followed his heart to the Netherlands and never looked back. Now he lives with his wife and children in Zutphen, eats koolpot with passion, but still doesn’t feel 100% Dutch. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to Utrecht on an exchange programme in the mid-80s. Eight months later I returned to the US and met a Dutch girl who was on the same programme, only in the other direction. We fell in love, and when she had to go home I saw no reason to stay in America. So I came to the Netherlands on a wing and a prayer. At the time I had no Dutch so I enrolled in the only suitable course at Utrecht University – English. During my studies I became a journalist and never looked back. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I would describe myself as an international, but with a desire to put down roots. As a child I moved a lot within the US, but I feel comfortable to settle here with my family. How long do you plan to stay? It’s hard to say. I could see myself spending the rest of my life here, but if the opportunity to go somewhere else and do something great came to me I’d take it. As long as it suited my wife and children, I could follow an opportunity tomorrow if it came. Do you speak Dutch? Yes. I learned by reading Dutch newspapers, watching Dutch TV, and listening to Dutch radio. I’m a news junkie, and I found that if I knew what was happening in the world in English, I could follow it in Dutch. Basically I learned through over-exposure to Dutch media. Now, I’ve written a book in Dutch and am married to a Dutch woman, so everything from lovemaking to arguing happens in Dutch. What's your favourite Dutch food? It’s called koolpot. It’s made from mashed potatoes, onions, cabbage, ground beef, and a blend of spices including hot pepper sambal - perfect served with some peanuts and a nice cold beer. The recipe has been in my wife Mischa’s family for generations, and I like the contrast between the typical Dutch mashed potatoes and the hot spices. How Dutch have you become? Between speaking the language, eating the food and raising a family here, I’d say I’ve become as Dutch as I could. However, as a foreigner you can do everything possible to integrate but there’s a kind of glass wall that prevents you from ever becoming truly Dutch. You can be a familiar outsider, but there’s something about Dutch society that never really lets you 100% of the way in. I think that comes only with being born and raised here. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I’ve thought about this, and first I’d have to say Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch governor of New Amsterdam (New York) in the mid-1600s. He must have seen a raucous time with drunk Dutch sailors and colonists making trouble all over the city. I’d like to ask him about keeping the peace in that wild time. Second, I’d ask prince Bernhard, husband of former queen Juliana, about the corruption scandals he implicated himself in. And finally I’d like to interview Mata Hari, the dancer and spy. I’d like to find out about all the behind-the-scenes intrigue she was involved in. What's your top tourist tip? Go to the Kröller-Müller museum in Arnhem. For so many foreigners it’s unknown, but it’s a real hidden gem. It’s in the middle of a large forest, so you borrow a bike and cycle through a strange landscape before arriving at this amazing collection of modernist art. The collection features everything from Van Gogh, to Mondrian, to Picasso. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I was surprised to discover how conservative the people are. Before I came here I thought the Netherlands would be a wild and free wonderland, but the people are much less adventurous than I expected. Thankfully there’s some forward-thinking people in government here, and the laws here are very progressive, but the average Dutch person doesn’t like change. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go back to the first neighbourhood I lived in in Utrecht, cycle around and rediscover all the places that made me fall in love with this country 29 years ago. After taking in how much the place changed over the last three decades, I’d stop for a cold beer and maybe relax with something that wouldn’t be legal in my home country.  More >


‘I think the spirit of engineering is ingrained in the Dutch psyche’

‘I think the spirit of engineering is ingrained in the Dutch psyche’

Finnish-Canadian Timo Mashiyi-Veikkola (47) came to the Netherlands with his South African husband Ossie four years ago. The couple have been running a pop-up restaurant – Bulelani BBQ - for the last 18 months and are now looking to crowdfund a permanent location in Amsterdam. A fan of Dutch design and Dutch haring, Timo feels at home and comfortable here. How did you end up in the Netherlands? In 2011 Ossie and I had just gotten married in South Africa. I was working successfully as a consultant in London, but we wanted a change of scenery and an opportunity to relocate. When I was offered a job here we took that opportunity and moved. Ossie looked for work in hospitality but wanted his own business, and the Netherlands has always provided entrepreneurs with a good platform to succeed. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? Identity is always a good question, and it’s something I come across frequently as an anthropologist. I don’t mind being referred to as an immigrant. My parents were immigrants to Canada and were proud of it. However, as a Canadian-Finnish man who’s married to a South African and came here from the UK, I’d consider myself in today’s terminology to be a global citizen. I feel rich to have so many different places to call home. How long do you plan to stay and why? We love the Netherlands and feel comfortable here. We’re planning to open a restaurant and I do my consultancy work from here, so we’re really putting down roots in Amsterdam. The culture and relaxed lifestyle suits us. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? We took courses offered to us by the local council and had some really great teachers. My husband is good with languages and took to it straight away, but I’ve been a little more apprehensive. You want to practise Dutch but people in Amsterdam switch to English when they hear a foreigner speak, so I’ve found myself leaning on my English here. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I’ve tried all the borrelhapjes in the brown cafes, and plenty of fish and meat dishes, but my favourite is zuurvlees, a speciality from Limburg. My friend makes the best zuurvlees in the Netherlands. And of course, being Finnish, I love the haring and smoked eel. How Dutch have you become? It’s difficult to say. Lots of typical Dutch behaviour and attitudes are similar to Finnish ones. We share the directness, entrepreneurship, and the full-spirited approach to life. I think you become a mix of your own culture and the one you live in. You take on certain traits, hopefully the good ones! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Aside from the obvious ones (Anne Frank, Van Gogh, Vermeer), one person I’d love to meet would be Mathilde Willink. She was a model and a big personality around Amsterdam in the 1970s. She was married to an artist and had the most amazing life. As a futurist involved with design, I’d like to meet the architect Rem Koolhaas and talk about designing the society of the future. And thirdly, I’d love to meet Mata Hari, the dancer and spy. I bet she would have so many interesting stories to tell. What's your top tourist tip? Do what we do some Sundays. Pick a town or village, go there by train, rent a bike, and just explore. The Netherlands has some amazing and varied cultural experiences to offer outside Amsterdam. Within the city, get out of the centre! There’s so many up-and-coming areas that can give you a taste of all the different cultures that make Amsterdam what it is. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Learning about the engineering that has shaped this country and maintains it every day never stops surprising me. From the land reclamation to the intricate network of dykes and waterways, it’s all fascinating. The Dutch utilise every space, every technique, and every idea. I think the spirit of engineering is ingrained in the Dutch psyche. On a smaller scale, the scooters on the bike paths just bewilder me every day. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would have some Bulelani BBQ ribs, invite over all the lovely people who’ve embraced us here, and just enjoy their company for the day. Timo and Ossie Mashiyi-Veikkola are running a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for a permanent location for their restaurant.  More >


‘I’m a fair weather cyclist – if it’s raining we take the car’

‘I’m a fair weather cyclist – if it’s raining we take the car’

Australian Rebecca Overmars has been in the Netherlands for two years, has three children and runs her own maternity nurse practice. A fan of  flip-flops, she has learned to appreciate Dutch beaches, even in winter, and likes waving back when angry cyclists shout 'hallo'. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband and I were both born in Australia, me into an Aussie-British family and him into an Aussie-Dutch family. In 2009 we left Australia to live in Andorra, which is a tiny little country in the Pyrenees mountains. It was during our time living there that I first travelled to Amsterdam, and returned home declaring that I wanted to move there! We visited a couple of times a year and fell in love with Haarlem, as a less touristy version of Amsterdam. So when it was time to leave Andorra there was no question as to where we would come! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I think others would see us as expats but I don’t really feel like one. International would probably describe us best. How long do you plan to stay? The intention is to stay long term, at least until all of our children have finished their schooling. I love the Netherlands; in some ways it feels more like ‘home’ than Australia. I could definitely see myself growing old and spending the rest of my life here, but I have learnt to never think in absolutes. Who knows where we will end up, but for now I am very happy here. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Not yet. After four years of learning Spanish I was a little burnt out when it came to language studies by the time I moved here. But I am picking it up slowly through the environment. I understand quite a bit and can read Dutch easily enough, particularly if it’s related to work. I really need to enrol in a course but finding the time whilst running a business is difficult. My children are all trilingual - which is both a blessing and a curse as it throws up some unique challenges, especially as my four-year-old has switched to Dutch as his primary language. It makes for some interesting conversations as they switch between English, Dutch and Spanish depending on who they are talking to. My seven-year-old has decided she is going to teach me Dutch and regularly takes me through her school work, getting me to practise my pronunciation of ‘ei’ and ‘ij’. It gives them all a good laugh when I try. What's your favourite Dutch food? Dutch food to me is comfort food, and unlike a lot of expats, I really love it! I also love how accessible various cuisines are here; you really can have anything you fancy! The first time I tried bitterballen I wasn’t impressed, but now I get a craving for them every three months or so and nothing will satisfy it until I have a piping hot tray of them from my local takeaway shop - with mustard of course. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet ? The Dutch have a rich history as leaders and innovators in the sciences and as a medical professional I would love the opportunity to meet some of the historically significant individuals who shaped our modern understanding of medicine, such as geneticist Hugo de Vries, anatomist Reinier de Graaf and physician Herman Boerhaave. Or alternatively I’d love to meet the royal family, because I’m a bit of a sucker for a good monarchy. How Dutch have you become and why? Pretty Dutch I think. We currently have ten bicycles of various qualities and sizes at our house, for a family of five, including a bakfiets. I am used to my children scattering all over the suburb for playdates after school or ending up with six kids in my house most days of the week. I know to never go to the bank without my passport. My kids leave their shoes out for Sinterklaas and I get excited when the oliebollen trucks spring up during the festive season. In other ways we are still quite Australian. I’m a fair weather cyclist - if it’s raining we take the car. Christmas remains our biggest celebration and I still can’t get used to inviting only a small selection of my children’s classmates to their birthday parties. I have to invite everyone or else I feel awful. The biggest sign that I’m still very Aussie is that I get around in flip-flops whenever possible, sometimes even in winter! I get some odd looks for that one. What's your top tourist tip? When Dutch cyclists yell ‘Hallo!’ at you they aren’t being friendly. It probably just means you’ve mistaken the bike path for a sidewalk. But waving back enthusiastically can be fun. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. We spend a lot of time at the beach, which is something I didn’t expect would be a part of life when we moved here. As an Aussie who grew up on the beaches of Fremantle and Cottesloe my standards when it comes to beaches are pretty high, and whilst Dutch beaches are very different to those I grew up with, they have a certain charm about them. I love the beach clubs and the social side of meeting friends for lunch or afternoon drinks during the summer. And there is something pleasantly calming and exhilarating about taking a walk along the sand on a wild, windy, winter’s day. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would probably go and meet up with all my old clients for a cup of tea and to see how their babies are growing and changing. I love my job so much and you grow close in one way or another to every single family you work with. I know I learn something new about myself, my job or life in general with every single one. The only downside is I have to leave them when their babies are still newborns and I often wonder how they are doing in the months following. I love seeing those tiny little newborns turn into chubby, grinning babies and seeing how well their families are adjusting to life with their new addition. That is the ultimate satisfaction. Rebecca Overmars is owner of Cherry Tree Lane Kraamzorg   More >


‘After 22 years here, I’m no longer as materialistic as I used to be’

‘After 22 years here, I’m no longer as materialistic as I used to be’

Londoner Billy Allwood is the founder of website The Hague Online and organiser of the Feel at Home in The Hague fair, which celebrates its 10th edition on Sunday. Posted here 22 years ago, Billy has now abandoned suits, would like to meet Frank Rijkaard and says the North Sea is too cold to swim in. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to the Netherlands in 1994 when the Brazilian mining company I worked for relocated its headquarters from London. I worked in their strategy department and  when the company was taken over, we were let go. I decided to stay on and started a financial software company. In 2004, when I had been in the Netherlands for 10 years, I launched The Hague Online. I realised there was not enough information out there in English about daily life in The Hague. So that is what I decided to provide. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I'm an international person living in an international city. I don't feel like an immigrant. I feel European and I'm living in Europe. I was born in the UK but my parents are from Jamaica so that may have something to do with it. I think I find it more annoying to be asked where I am from by people in Britain than when it happens here. How long do you plan to stay and why? The Hague is my home but of course you never know what is going to happen in the future. I plan to stay here as long as I am enjoying life. I don't expect to be thrown out if Britain votes to leave the EU. I don't think a Brexit will happen. The world is getting smaller and you can't be isolationist. There would be chaos if all the Brits who live outside the UK had to deal with that. The Hague and Amsterdam are full of young people from all over Europe which gives me a real buzz. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch well enough. When I first came here I worked for an international company and my wife was British, so there was little incentive to really learn. That changes when you start being more interested in what's happening around you. If you go out for a beer with Dutch people, you can't expect them to speak English all night. My children went to Dutch schools, so I learned more with them. They watched Dutch telly so I watched Dutch telly. Learning Dutch is a gradual process and my vocabulary is always expanding. What's your favourite Dutch food? I'm a simple soul and Dutch borrelhapjes after a game of squash are always a temptation. I'm not going to say there is no such thing as Dutch food - I'm from England after all, so say no more. It's more about the experience and the culture of eating - the herring parties at the start of the new season are typically Dutch and I like that. How Dutch have you become? I've become pretty Dutch in the way I dress. In London it was all about what type of tie you were wearing and your cufflinks. Here, the approach to dressing is much  more relaxed and low key. In the beginning I thought it was weird but now I am quite used to it. I still own suits, but I very rarely wear one. I like cycling as well. It's great to turn up at a business meeting on a bike. No one thinks it strange. I'm also not as materialistic as I used to be. That's another Dutch trait. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Football player Frank Rijkaard - he was always the odd one out of the three if you compare him to Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit and I think the more interesting character. Film director Paul Verhoeven is another person with a story to tell. And Spinoza - people still talk about him today. What's your top tourist tip? I used to go to the Nemo science centre a lot with the children when they were younger. Its a nice, interactive way to spend some time. But actually cycling is the best. Once, some friends came over from London and brought their own bikes. We cycled from The Hague to the seaside resort of Noordwijk. The North Sea is too cold for me to swim in, but I do appreciate the fried fish. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. When I first came here, I was surprised by how many people smoked. Not weed, but cigarettes. It's getting less, but it still surprises me. The smoking ban has made a big difference. You don't come home from a bar smelling of smoke any more. When I look at those smoking corners, I think people must be really desperate. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd go on a nice, long cycle ride to the beach and come back via Leiden with my kids. The Netherlands is a great place to bring up children. If I have to leave, the Netherlands will always be a part of me. The 10th edition of the Feel at Home in The Hague fair takes place on Sunday at city hall. You can book free tickets online.  More >


‘Beware of speculaas spread. That stuff is addictive’

‘Beware of speculaas spread. That stuff is addictive’

Blogger and translator Olga Mecking, 33, is Polish and has lived in the Netherlands for going on six years. She would like to meet the king and queen, doesn't cycle and has developed her own version of stamppot, using sweet potatoes and chorizo. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Actually, I didn’t plan on moving to the Netherlands. I thought I would move to Germany where my then-boyfriend, now-husband lived. But then we got engaged, I got pregnant and my husband found a job in the Netherlands. So that’s where I moved - with a six-week-old baby, no less. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? Good question. I am probably all of these things: expat (understood as someone who lives abroad), lovepat (I didn’t even know this term existed, but yes, I moved to Germany, and Canada, and the Netherlands for love), immigrant (because I came here to stay), and, as someone who has lived abroad several times and speaks many languages, I am definitely an international. I would only add one thing: European. I’ve moved around a little, but mostly around Europe (except for a 4-month stay in Canada). So I haven’t lived in one place my whole life like some people have, but I am not really global either. European is how I identify and my whole experience has been shaped by living in Europe. How long do you plan to stay? When I was moving to Germany I thought we’d stay there long-term, possibly forever. But then we moved to the Netherlands. We’re planning to stay here long-term. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I speak Dutch. I managed to learn it through classes at the university and then at my husband’s workplace. And I am getting plenty of practice while running errands, shopping, etc. It’s important to me to speak Dutch - not only because it helps me get more integrated but also because my kids speak it. What's your favourite Dutch food? Well, I like poffertjes and stroopwaffels. But erwtensoep is also nice - I’ve even managed to learn to make it myself. Also, I’ve discovered my own version of stamppot - with sweet potatoes and chorizo! Oh and speculaas spread. Beware of that stuff, it’s addictive. Luckily, I can grow some of the fruit I miss and buy many things at the Polish supermarket near us. But that’s not the same as back home, obviously. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? MC Escher, definitely - he's my favourite artist! My parents are professors and they love him. We used to have postcards. Then I'd like to meet the king and queen, especially Máxima, she seems so nice. And if I can have one more, Van Gogh. I love his paintings, but let's face it, who doesn't? How Dutch have you become? Probably not very Dutch, I must admit. I think I’m more of a person who likes adding cultures and languages to her repertoire rather than going local. We've adopted some Dutch customs - like going outside whenever there’s no rain - but otherwise we’re not very Dutch. We create our own family culture and it tends to change all the time. Besides, I don’t cycle, I’m very short and I didn’t have a home birth, hahaha. What's your top tourist tip? Delft, for sure! I used to live there and it’s my favourite city in the Netherlands. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I was very surprised that so many women give birth at home - and many go to see a midwife for their pregnancy check-ups. The whole healthcare system is so weird - and I don’t even know how often I was told by my Dutch doctor to stay at home and take paracetamol. Sometimes they would miss bigger problems because of this approach and they didn’t even notice that my daughter needed her adenoids removed. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I don’t know. It would depend on whether I was be alone or with my family. Alone, I’d go to Rotterdam, shopping (mostly for kitchen gadgets) and visit some museums. With the family, it’d probably be the usual: a playground, a park or maybe a kid-friendly museum or event. Olga Mecking writes the blog The European Mama. Her articles have been published on various websites including The Huffington Post, Babble and the Wall Street Journal.  More >


‘I love being on time, I love structure and I love organisation’

‘I love being on time, I love structure and I love organisation’

Lidia Barro Kooger, 47,  has a Dutch mother and Spanish dad and has lived all over the world. Now settled in Overveen, she loves good Dutch organisation, misses the bright blue Spanish sky and says she does not know where her roots are. How did you end up in the Netherlands? When I was three years old I moved with my Spanish father and Dutch mother from Madrid to the Netherlands. My parents met each other in Spain and decided to live in Madrid where my sister and I were born. When my mother became homesick they moved to the Netherlands where I grew up. Although I grew up in the Netherlands, from a very young age I knew that I wanted to go back to Spain. So when I turned 18, I moved to Spain where I lived and worked for 10 years. I enjoyed life so much: the people, the culture, the food, the weather, everything was so wonderful! I married a Spaniard. We moved to New York, then to Singapore and later back to Spain. And then we decided to split up. I decided to go back to my family in the Netherlands. It surprised me but I was missing Dutch structure and organisation. That was almost 20 years ago. I continued to miss Spain but just when I decided to go back to Spain I met my husband – a Spaniard living in the Netherlands. We now live in Overveen with our four children. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I describe myself as an international because for many years I have lived in several countries, mostly Spain and the Netherlands. I feel comfortable in all countries because I grew up in a very multicultural area of Amsterdam with people from all over the world. I feel good when I am surrounded by many cultures. How long do you plan to stay and why? As long as my children are living in the house I will not move. My dream is to buy a house in Spain and maintain an apartment in the Netherlands and live six months in Spain during winter (because I miss the brightness of the blue Spanish sky) and summer in the Netherlands. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak fluent Dutch because my mother is Dutch and I grew up as a bilingual. What's your favorite Dutch food and why? When I was living in Spain I did not miss Dutch food as Spanish food is much more tasty. But friends could really surprise me by sending me pepernoten around the 5th of December. I still love them. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet? I would like to meet my mother's family. My Dutch grandpa and grandma passed away when I was very young. The only family I have contact with, in the Netherlands, is my aunt. There must be more Koogers but where are they? How Dutch have you become and why? I don’t have my roots in the Netherlands….I don’t know where my roots are. When I am in Spain they say Holandesa to me and here in the Netherlands they say Spaanse dame to me. I feel Dutch when I am in Spain because I notice that I love being on time, I love structure and I love good organisation. When I am in Spain I really miss these three very Dutch characteristics. Yet here I notice that I feel irritated when the Dutch are too punctual, too structured and too organised! What's your top tourist tip? Always take some change when you go to a public toilet. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The Dutch have surprisingly bad taste when dressing for a wedding. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I think I would be happy to go back to Spain, and would be fully occupied with preparing everything at home that we needed to pack for our way back. For our last dinner we would go to my favourite restaurant in Haarlem, Het Goede Uur - for a nice kaasfondue with my best friends and small Dutch family. Lidia Barro Kooger teaches Spanish for CursusSpaans.nu and Dutch as a second language (NT2) for Language Partners and VU-NT2.  More >


‘The very first Dutch word I think I ever learned was belasting’

‘The very first Dutch word I think I ever learned was belasting’

This year, it is 10 years since DutchNews.nl was launched. To kick off the celebrations, DutchNews.nl founder Robin Pascoe, who has lived in the Netherlands for over 30 years, answers our 10 questions. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I originally came here as au pair for an Anglo-Italian family way back in 1981. I hung around for a few years working in Stilett, the notorious t-shirt shop in the Damstraat. This was the time of squatters, punk and New Wave. When I turned 25 I thought I had better get serious so went back to Britain and amazingly got accepted by the BBC as a trainee reporter. Four years later I came back to marry a Dutchman and have worked here as a journalist ever since. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I am an immigrant in the traditional sense because I moved to Amsterdam to make my life here. How long do you plan to stay? I have no idea. It might be nice to retire to the sun one day but at the moment I have no plans to go anywhere.  My life, my friends, my work, my children are all here. I have family back in Scotland and we meet when we can. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Attitudes to speaking Dutch were very different when I came here - it was not such an issue. The very first Dutch word I think I ever learned was belasting because the shop's accountant refused to speak English to me. I'm not sure if he actually could, to be honest. Of course I have become fluent in reading and speaking over the years but I can't write it. I do get irritated when people criticise my accent - I will never sound like a Dutch person and at a certain point my children asked me not to speak Dutch in front of their friends. I was never sure as to whether this was because I was an embarrassment or that they wanted to show off their perfect English. They don't care anymore and neither do I. What's your favourite Dutch food? The perfect winter warmer - Draadjesvlees - a very, very slow cooked beef stew. I'm also partial to kapucijners - big Dutch peas served with slices of bacon, smoked sausage, boiled potatoes, apple puree, silverskin onions and piccalilly. How Dutch have you become and why? It's a funny thing about being away from your home country for so long - you forget or romanticise what it was like. When I go back, I can't deal with the money and end up letting shop assistants pick out the coins because I can't recognise a 10 pence piece for the life of me. When people ask me where I am from, I say Amsterdam. I'll never officially become Dutch and I think long-term taxpayers like myself should have full voting rights. It is also absurd to think that when I reach retirement age at 67, I will have paid taxes here for 45 years but will not be entitled to a full state pension. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? Willem Barentsz, who set out to find a northern trade route to Asia in 1596 and got stuck in the ice floes near Nova Zembla. He and his crew managed to survive the Arctic winter - it's an amazing story - but Barentsz died on the way home. In terms of people who are still alive - there are lots of people I would like to interview as a journalist. Top of my list would be artist Daan Roosegaarde - his ideas, like the smog vacuum cleaner and smog jewellery, are so witty and clever. And Johan Cruijff. I actually had pictures of him on my bedroom wall as a young teenager. What's your top tourist tip? If we ignore all the obvious stuff, rent a car and head up to Friesland to visit the planetarium in Franeker, which is extraordinary. Any time left over and you should nip down the road to the hamlet of Wiewerd to check out the air-dried mummies in the crypt of the church. Seriously bizarre. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The Dutch are obsessed with what other people think about them and about where they are in international rankings. We're always being told they are fifth best in the world at this or 3rd best at that. And any time there is a big news story here, you'll always find a headline about how X or Y is 'global news' with quotes from the BBC and CNN. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Rent a little boat and cruise around the Amsterdam canals with a picnic, lovely husband, sons and all my mates. Then head out to the beach at Parnassia for a late afternoon swim and eat sate and chips - with mayonnaise - as the sun goes down.   More >


‘In a weird way, this is the closest I’ve come to really feeling at home’

‘In a weird way, this is the closest I’ve come to really feeling at home’

American Sarah Bringhurst Familia, 35, has been in the Netherlands for just eight months but already feels like a local. She owns two bikes, loves the Dutch work-life balance, and says she and her family are in it for the long haul. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I’ve lived on five different continents during the past 15 years, so expatting is kind of a way of life for me. My husband and I both grew up American, but about 10 years ago we found out that he could claim Italian citizenship through his great-great grandfather, who emigrated from Italy to the United States in the mid-19th century. I’d always wanted to live in Europe, so we spent several months in Italy wading through red tape at government offices till he was granted citizenship. We lived in Italy for a while after that, but the job market isn’t ideal there, so we started looking at other European cities. I’d had a one-day stop-over in Amsterdam during a study abroad at university, and remembered it being beautiful, so we sort of picked it on a whim. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? Kind of a complicated question. I have always thought of myself as an expat, and have really enjoyed living in different places. Usually I get itchy feet after a while, and I’m ready to move onto somewhere new. Recently, though, I’ve just felt this urge to settle down - call it a mid-life crisis, perhaps. I don’t know that I’m quite ready to call myself an immigrant yet, and I think I’ll always feel like an international. So yeah, hard to define. How long do you plan to stay and why? I keep telling people that if I make it through one Dutch winter, I’ll know I can live here forever. I love the way of life here. In a weird way, this is the closest I’ve ever come to really feeling at home somewhere. I love the work-life balance, cycling everywhere, being so close to the rest of Europe, and the international vibe of Amsterdam. There’s so much going on here culturally and socially. I never get bored. And at the same time, I’m quite content with how my daily life plays out. It’s both a beautiful and a very livable city. When we came here, both my husband and I were working remotely for American companies. But we’ve since both gotten local jobs. Our kids are in a Dutch school. We’ve effectively moved our life here, and I think we’re in for the long haul. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? So far my Dutch skills are pretty basic. In contrast to a lot of places I’ve lived, Amsterdam is somewhere it’s easy to get by with zero local language skills. My work environment is in English, my kids go to a bilingual school, and nearly every Dutch person I meet has near-native English-language skills. I try to do my 10 minutes on Duolingo every day, and I’m planning on starting a Dutch course next month, but I’d say my reason for wanting to learn is to be a good guest in the Netherlands, and not any sort of practical necessity. I hate the moment when I’m in yoga class, and the teacher asks if there is anyone who doesn’t speak Dutch, and I’m the one who sheepishly raises my hand, and causes an entire room full of courteous Dutch people to have the class in English just for me. What's your favourite Dutch food? Don’t hate me, but what I really like is the ready availability of Turkish and Indonesian food here. I’m not that enchanted with Dutch food, whether it’s the old and young cheese, the hagelslag, or the herring. Poffertjes are pretty good, though. What do you miss about back home? Not a whole lot. I don’t think it will take long before the Netherlands feels like home. I miss other places I’ve lived, though. It’s hard not to leave a piece of your heart in every country you’ve called home. How Dutch have you become? Things I do that people tell me are 'so Dutch': I cycle everywhere. In fact, I just bought a second commuter bike to ride to work from the train station in The Hague. Also, I’ve developed a terrible habit of texting whilst cycling. I obsessively talk about the weather, especially the rain. But I don’t feel too much of a compulsion to become more Dutch. I’ve spent enough time as an expat to know that you never really fit in as if you were born somewhere. It’s best to embrace your identity as someone different, at least to some extent, and get comfortable with the idea that no matter how long you live somewhere, you’ll always be at least a little foreign. I was at a museum with my 10-year-old daughter last week, though, and she saw a life-sized photograph of the king and queen. She walked up to it, made a little bow, and then turned to tell me that she knew most of 'our' national anthem. I love that she already feels such a connection. What's your top tourist tip? I haven’t actually done a lot of tourist stuff here beyond the obligatory museums. I guess I’d say rent a bicycle, because it’s a great way to get around, convenient, and I like the vantage point. You see differently from a bicycle than when you’re walking or driving in a car. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands Can I say the staircases? Do Dutch people find them as nerve-wracking as I do? Pretty much every expat I’ve met has had some kind of near-death experience on a Dutch staircase. I guess it’s probably one of those things that seems insane when you first encounter it, but eventually becomes normal. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Go on a long walk in central Amsterdam with my husband and kiss on every canal bridge. Sarah Bringhurst Familia is in charge of PR and marketing at the Expatriate Archive Centre, an archive that collects and preserves primary source material documenting the social history of expats worldwide. She blogs on Casteluzzo.com.   More >


‘I feel most Dutch when I check the special offers in the supermarket’

‘I feel most Dutch when I check the special offers in the supermarket’

Jordanian national Mai Hammad, 37, was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, raised in Jordan and met her Dutch husband in Malta. She loves poffertjes, would like to meet queen Máxima and even eats her chips with mayo. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband is Dutch, although he lived outside the Netherlands from the age of six. We met when we were both living in Malta. After getting married in Jordan, we were seeking somewhere more suitable to live to start a family. I suggested the Netherlands and as he didn’t mind. We started looking for work opportunities. He found work here first! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’m a mix. I hang out with the expat community and find I have a lot in common – so I’m a bit of an expat. At the same time I did move here with my husband who is Dutch (although we could have ended up anywhere), so maybe I’m a bit of a lovepat. I’m also an international because my concept of home becomes more distorted every day. I was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, raised in Jordan, worked in Malta, and now live in the Netherlands. In addition to all that, I’m also an immigrant because I want to belong to this country. How long do you plan to stay and why? We plan to make the Netherlands our home base, but we’ll probably move in a year or two. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch. When I was still in Malta I listened to Dutch lessons and read some Dutch language books. After moving to the Netherlands I took a few lessons. Later I improved my Dutch by speaking to daycare workers, colleagues, neighbours, people in shops, and by listening to the radio. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Poffertjes! They are heavenly, light, small and delicious. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet and why? I would like to meet queen Máxima because I am told that I sound like her when I speak Dutch; chef Jonnie Boer because he cooks amazing food; and Monique Smit because my kids listen to her CD in the car all the time. How Dutch have you become? I think I´m becoming more Dutch than my husband. Every year I put the flag out on King’s Day. I go around the neighbourhood with my kid for Sint Martin and I get excited about seeing Sinterklaas! I feel most Dutch when I check the special offers in the supermarket (I never did that before); when I eat my chips with mayo; when I say ‘gefeliciteerd’ to people on their birthday in English; and when I use ‘gezellig’ because there is no other word I can think of that makes sense. What's your top tourist tip? Don’t focus only on museums and monuments. Go to the parks and enjoy the beauty of nature. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The Dutch like to drink milk at lunch, and it´s impossible to order a pizza before 4pm. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go to Giethoorn. I’ve wanted to go there since I got here, and as yet haven’t had the chance to go. Mai Hammad lives in Velserbroek near Haarlem and is a customer marketing manager at SC Johnson.  More >