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


‘I am trying to define the notion of feeling at home’

‘I am trying to define the notion of feeling at home’

Film maker Leonardo Cariglino has Italian nationality, was born in Germany and has a Greek mother. He came to the Netherlands 10 years ago and won’t tell us the name of his favourite bar in case we all go there too. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to the Netherlands for the most pragmatic reasons. As the eldest son of an Italian-Greek household, I was very busy. Too busy to manage my parents business. I didn’t get the chance to find out what I wanted from life myself. When I heard a friend of mine was studying in Amsterdam I decided to move in with him and apply for work. From there everything else happened. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? Being born and raised in Germany to an Italian father and a Greek mother made me always feel like a hybrid between an immigrant and an international, even in Germany. The first years in Amsterdam I thought of myself as an expat but I believe that term has worn out for me after living here for 10 years. This subject about one’s definiton and place in a different country is also the main theme of a new short film I recently finished. It is called Home and tries to define the notion of what it means to feel 'at home'. How long do you plan to stay? I plan to stay as long as things go well for me and my career as a film maker. I’m currently in the process of developing my first feature film with the Dutch film fonds but anything can happen during that process. I hope for the best and give all I’ve got. Generally I don’t feel bound to any country as I always felt a little rootless. But Amsterdam managed at last to feel home to me due to the friends I made, but especially after I met Cornelia, who is my best friend, my big love and my partner in crime. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak dutch if I have to. Because of my German background it was fairly easy to understand and read Dutch from the beginning. Speaking was the main issue, as I never managed to feel comfortable when using it. What's your favourite Dutch food? Honestly, there is none. Maybe stampot. What do you miss about back home? My family and friends. How Dutch have you become? Not at all. What's your top tourist tip? I won’t recommend my favourite bar (sorry Phillip) to tourists and spoil it by doing so. This particular bar is too dear to me and should remain a hub and save haven for expats, immigrants and internationals. I also used it as such in my new short film. But I would recommend visiting the OT301, especially the 'Mixtree'. The place is an independently-organised community which offers parties, workshops, cinema and all kinds of interesting cultural events Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands That the royal family earns way too much money, that people like Wilders have a real chance to flourish here and that Dutch indifference can be a real blessing. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would spend 24 intense hours with those people I learned to appreciate and love in the Netherlands. I owe it to them that the Netherlands finally became a sort of home to me.  More >


‘I asked if I could pin when paying the bill in an American restaurant’

‘I asked if I could pin when paying the bill in an American restaurant’

American Chris Osman, 31, has been in the Netherlands for four years and is surprised by how different all the 12 Dutch provinces are, given the size of the country. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was finishing a teaching gig in Hong Kong and visited a friend in Maastricht on my way home. I focused on finding a job first in Europe before returning home and received a promising lead that ended up not working out. However, I found an opening with Webster leading graduate enrollment in Webster’s graduate programmes and got the job! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I’m definitely an international. I caught the travel bug when I did a study abroad programme for one year in Germany during my Bachelor’s degree. One internship and a Master’s degree later, I travelled through Asia and am now living in the Netherlands. As the Netherlands is a very international country, we are the perfect fit. How long do you plan to stay? Until they kick me out! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I would say I’m conversational in Dutch and am now slowly starting to be able to hold philosophical conversations. I learned by using my German as a basis and took courses in Amsterdam and in Leiden. What's your favourite Dutch food? Definitely bitterballen! What do you miss about back home? Naturally I miss the convenience and customer service. You do have to put up a bit more of a fight and prove that it’s actually not your fault. How Dutch have you become? When I was back home in the US I was uncomfortable because random people would just start talking to me. I thought they wanted something from me until I realised they were making small-talk. Also, when I had to pay a tab at the restaurant I asked if I could pin. The Dutch is having an influence! What's your top tourist tip? Brouwerij ‘t Ij in Amsterdam is a great place to try some really great local Dutch beer. Also a quick trip to Leiden is really worth it and you can do the Leidse Looper and check out the city’s history in a day. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands The most surprising thing I learned about the Netherlands is that the different provinces are quite different from each other in terms of accent, culture, eating habits and football. A Dutch person can immediately tell where someone is from even for such a small country! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would hop on a train to Zeeland and eat as much herring, mussels, smoked eel and friet speciaal as I could. Chris Osman is Graduate Admissions Officer at Webster University in Leiden.   More >


‘I knew when I saw this beautiful girl I was going to marry her’

‘I knew when I saw this beautiful girl I was going to marry her’

Lorenzo Serna, 58, is an American who fell in love in Amsterdam and never left the Netherlands. He lives in Soest and owns and operates a Mexican food truck, Amigo’s Cantina. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It’s the classic story of an American GI marrying a local girl. I was on leave from the Army and while visiting Amsterdam I took a tour of a diamond factory. In walks the tour guide and it’s love at first sight. I KNEW the moment I laid eyes on this beautiful young girl I was going to marry her. On January 31 we’ll celebrate our 29th anniversary. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I’m definitely an ex-pat. MOST certainly a love-pat. If it wasn’t for my wife being Dutch I’d not be living here. She has taken me, and our family, on this life’s experience here in Europe which, had I not met and married her, we would not have otherwise enjoyed. How long do you plan to stay? I expect till I die. My roots have grown so deep with the addition of a daughter-in-law and grandchild, plus, let’s hope, future grandchildren, that I don’t see myself going back and missing out on their growing up here without me. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak it very well, I’ve had several courses over the years to improve my speaking as well as writing, plus having your own business you need to be able to communicate on a certain level to succeed. What's your favourite Dutch food? I love raw herring, plus kibbling (small pieces of fried fish with onions). And their wonderful cheeses, and believe me, American bakeries could take lessons from the Dutch on how to bake several types of delicious bread. What do you miss about back home? My family - cousins, aunts, uncles. I have a huge family back in California and to miss out on all that happens within the family can be rather difficult at times. That, and the sun and convenience of Southern California. How Dutch have you become? Somewhat Dutch I would say. I’ve learned how to deal with their mannerisms and culture but I’ve kept my own personality intact. What's your top tourist tip? If anyone is planning on visiting the Netherlands then do it on King's Day! For more than 24 hours. the whole country is just one big party! This is one of Europe’s unique culture experiences. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Their business expertise. They began the concept of Wall Street, which started in New Amsterdam, which is now New York City. They began the East Indian trade route bringing spices to the west. Our currency, the dollar, was named after their old currency, the dalder. Our American business culture is built on the foundation that the Dutch laid long before America became a country. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? EAT. Say good-bye to so many friends, eat some more. Lorenzo Serna organises the International Food Fair in Amersfoort which takes place on the third Thursday of the month.  More >


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

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

Colleen Reichrath-Smith, 48, met her Dutch husband while skiing in her home country of Canada and now uses speculaas spices to make pumpkin pie. She has been in the Netherlands for nine years and lives in Zoetermeer. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It was love. I went backcountry skiing in Canada in March 2005 and my group of friends ended up sharing the alpine ski hut with a group of Dutch skiers for one night. I taught one of them to play cribbage and then we all ended up playing a Dutch farming game together. When we left the next day, we left a note on their rented SUV in the parking lot 11 km away inviting them to meet for dinner when they flew home. My now husband followed through and we met for a second time. Thanks to Skype, within a week we were planning how and where we could see each other again. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I call myself an immigrant because when we made the choice to settle here it was not a time-limited one. Being married to a Dutch man I saw the need to learn the language and integrate. That said, when I started meeting fellow internationals I felt a bond and it was nice to be able to speak English alongside the Dutch. It brought some balance and connectedness into my identity and reality here. There is also a sense of being a ‘reverse immigrant’ because my mother was born in WWII Amsterdam and had emigrated to Canada with her parents and siblings when she was eleven. That said, the only real Dutch culture I had in my upbringing was green pea soup, hagel slag (chocolate sprinkles) and homemade croquettes. How long do you plan to stay? There is no time-limit on our decision. However, we are always free to explore making different choices when we wish. That could mean travelling anywhere! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch. When I came for the first 6 months, my intention was to learn the language. It was something I really wanted to do – learn a language while living in another culture. I enrolled in an intensive Dutch course with the Interconsultancy Bureau of the University of Leiden and took a second one through them as well. After that we had decided to stay here and I applied for a residency permit. This process brought me to the attention of the city where I live and one day a letter appeared demanding I show up for an appointment that had been planned for me or face a penalty (this is normal Dutch bureaucracy). I was offered free Dutch lessons up to five half-days a week and I saw it as a golden opportunity. At the end of eight months I was able to pass my NTII exam (Dutch as a second language) and complete the formal language learning process. Recently, after a Dutch friend whom I’ve known for over five years said in a shocked way, “You have a sense of humour!”, I enrolled in an improvisational theatre course to further my Dutch learning and become more spontaneous with the language. What's your favourite Dutch food? I love extra belegen cheese and it’s a treat to have it so affordable here. I now also really enjoy La Trappe Witte beer. My husband has clearly had an influence on me! Green pea soup, nasi goreng and croquettes are something that my mom makes and that I also make here. It’s nice to have those ties between my past and present lives. I shouldn’t forget to mention I really like all things speculaas. What do you miss about back home? I miss the space and the mountains being closer by. I miss having snow to play in more often. How Dutch have you become? I think this last Canadian Thanksgiving is a good indicator: I made pumpkin pies and when I realised I didn’t have any nutmeg I started looking for spice alternatives. When I read the list of what’s in speculaas I decided that would work to substitute for all the spices. Pumpkin pie never tasted better – it’s a match made in heaven! What's your top tourist tip? I think the Netherlands is seen best from a bike (or train if biking’s not an option). It’s important to first understand about shark’s teeth and who has right of way where and when, but then I say get out and cycle around. I love the way every bit of space is so well used here and hikers, bikers, rollerbladers and horse riders are all taken care of in the same square mile of nature. The network of paths and routes is amazing when you know how to read the maps and route markers. They’ll get you cycling through a farmer’s field in the polders on a narrow little strip of asphalt you wouldn’t have found on your own. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I learned this year that every Dutch house must have two doors between the living room and the WC. I’d never thought about it before, but it’s true for every house I’ve been in here. And I think it’s a good thing! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would spend time in the Veluwe going for a long hike and using their free bikes to explore too. I would finish the day with a pub dinner at de Waag in Doesburg (dating from 1478) and then stay at the Grand Café Hotel Kruller in Otterlo. Colleen Reichrath-Smith  is a self-employed career consultant and one of the organisers of the Rotterdam Expat Fair, which takes place on February 8.  More >


‘I make my own pea soup and I’ve gotten pretty good at it’

‘I make my own pea soup and I’ve gotten pretty good at it’

American John Mahnen is a sports marketeer, a Eurosport commentator and helps out at the Dutch-American football association. He has been in the Netherlands half his life. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I originally came here for graduate school. I received a master’s degree in International Business Administration from Nyenrode. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? That’s a really difficult question! I suppose I fit the immigrant model at this point but I don’t rule out a return to the US. Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, I had a hunch I would end up in a bigger city. It just did not turn out to be Chicago! How long do you plan to stay? Until the housing market has rebounded, I don’t even need to think about that one! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak passable Dutch. I do commentary for Eurosport and the viewers haven’t run me off the air yet! I learned by watching Sesame Street on TV then moved to the news and graduated listening to Radio 1. What's your favourite Dutch food? Ewrtensoep (pea soup). I make my own and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. It’s part of what makes winter so special here in the Netherlands. What do you miss about back home? I miss sports being on TV at reasonable hours. Since I still follow American sports, I sometimes end up watching games after they have been played. How Dutch have you become? I like herring with a jonge borrel, watch the speed skating on TV and complain about the weather with the best of them. On the other hand, I still love making chili, follow the Yankees and I am very involved in American Football - so it would seem I am straddling cultures. What's your top tourist tip? I don’t think the Begijnhof is a big secret anymore so I’ll divulge the newest spot most tourists don’t know – the public library! You can have lunch for a very reasonable price at La Place on the 7th floor of the OBA and enjoy a perfect view of the city! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I think sports fans are even more committed to their teams than their counterparts in America. What else could explain the fans at NAC Breda who support their team year in, year out without the faintest chance of ever winning the title? Then again, as a Cleveland Browns fan, I can relate. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d have a look at the Nachtwacht and them make my way through the Leidseplein to the Singel where I’d light a candle in the Krijtberg. Then I would have a broodje halfom nearby the Spui, followed by a beer in ‘t Dokterje in the Rosemboomsteeg and perhaps a kopstootje at Bols before heading off to the Concertgebouw for an evening of music. John Mahnen is a partner in HEG Consult, a  business development consultancy, focusing primarily on sports marketing.  More >


‘Pancakes are great fast food when you have no time to cook’

‘Pancakes are great fast food when you have no time to cook’

Interior designer Aileen Martinia is 35 and comes from Indonesia. She's been in the Netherlands for 14 years and dreams of retiring to a beach on Bali. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Young, innocent love. In the end, the relationship did not work, but I love it so much living here, I stayed. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc – and why? A bit of everything; it is all about the adventures, is it not? How long do you plan to stay? Until I retire, maybe? Then hopefully I can hang out on the beach in Bali. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? When I decided to became a freelancer I was forced to speak Dutch while meeting a lot of different people. My learning curve went through the roof. Currently I am able to understand about 80% of what people are talking about and reply accordingly. What's your favourite Dutch food? Pancakes. They are great 'fast food' when you have little time to cook for dinner. You can also eat them the next day for breakfast, and lunch. How handy is that? What do you miss about back home? My family, the food and the sun. How Dutch have you become? I swear like a true Amsterdammer when others are slow on the bike lane, hahahaha. What's your top tourist tip? In Amsterdam and surrounding area it would be Twiske Park. It's lovely in all seasons and a great place for BBQs in the summer. Outside Amsterdam: then the underestimated camping experience that is loved so much by the Dutch. One of my favourite camp sites is het Waldhoorn in Eefde, in the east of the Netherlands. It is so liberating being surrounded by so much green. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The landscape is soooo flat, and the fact that one can get used to it. I remember being really shocked looking at Belgian hills as it was my first time looking at a mountain ever. Previously I never really appreciated the many hills and mountains in my home country, Indonesia. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd take my bike and enjoy one last biking trip in the city while munching on a Hema hotdog. Aileen Martinia is an interior designer. Find out more at www.levenssfeer.nl   More >


‘I now like brown shoes with a dark suit more than I should’

‘I now like brown shoes with a dark suit more than I should’

Benjamin Arthur, 42, is a British corporate and wedding photographer who has lived in the Netherlands for 3.5 years. He and his familiy will soon move into their own house in Amstelveen. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My wife was offered a job to work for a boutique executive search firm specialising in filling marketing positions. At the time we both thought Amsterdam would be a great adventure. Happily, we weren’t wrong and now we can’t imagine living anywhere else. This city is insanely brilliant. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? If lovepat means we love Amsterdam then lovepat! We certainly don’t lead an expat lifestyle and I’m not even sure I know what that means anymore. We try to be careful not to define ourselves in this way. How long do you plan to stay? Indefinitely. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? No, and learning the language has got to be next on the agenda after our recent house purchase. It is extraordinary to think that we could stay here for the rest of our lives and, thanks to google translate and the amazing linguistic talents of the Dutch, not have to take a single language class. We won’t do that but we could. What's your favourite Dutch food? That’s a toss up between bitterballen with mustard and Vlaamse frites slathered in Zaanse mayonnaise. You didn’t expect me to name something healthy did you?! What do you miss about back home? Hills – Britain has the most wonderful countryside on the planet and we all too rarely appreciate it. How Dutch have you become? I like brown shoes with a dark suit more than is acceptable for an English gentleman. And, oh, what’s a car? What's your top tourist tip? Any time you are here on a Saturday be sure to spend at least the morning in and around the Noordermarkt market. Breakfast in the Finch café (Croque Madame every time) or munch on herring and have a broodje beenham for lunch down the Lindengracht. Chat to the stallholders. Get some nuts from De Nootzaak Gotjé. Browse Timbuctu’s books and even buy a couple. When we have a future with no markets and only Amazon left, life will be dismal. Slink off for a quick beer in Cafe Papeneiland. Its heaven. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. How absurdly slim and good looking most Dutch people are. Considering their deep fried diets this is quite an achievement. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Mourn. Hope it was Saturday and do all of the above (see ‘What’s your top tourist tip’!) Then I’d take a long bike ride around the canals and end up in the Vondel park. Contact Benjamin Arthur via www.benjaminarthur.com  More >


‘I get annoyed when I’m cycling behind a slow tourist’

‘I get annoyed when I’m cycling behind a slow tourist’

Christina Caljé is chief operating officer at online sharing platform Peerby. An American by birth, she describes herself as an expat, a lovepat and an international. How did you end up in the Netherlands? A chance meeting with a charismatic entrepreneur at a pitch event in San Francisco brought me to Peerby, which brought me to the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? Can you be more than one of these things? If so, I’d say I’m an expat, a lovepat and an international. Expat because I still feel most at home when I’m in my hometown of New York City. A lovepat because I’m in love with a Dutchie - my husband of three years. An international because work and studies over the years have brought me to Britain, Spain, Sweden and now, the Netherlands! How long do you plan to stay? Definitely for the foreseeable future. I’m really loving this stage of life working with an amazing team of people in a role that challenges me on a daily basis, while still being able to spend quality time with my adorable son and husband (yes, he is also adorable!). The Netherlands is a fantastic home for now, but like I said before, I’m an international and love new cultural experiences, so let’s see what the (far out) future holds. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I have a basic understanding of Dutch, thanks to one year of private lessons with a tutor. But, I have a really long way to go and all of these English speaking Dutchies are not helping my feeble attempts to become fluent. My benchmark has always been that I need to understand what my son and husband are saying about me - my son is 19 months old now, so I think my Dutch is right on track. What's your favourite Dutch food? Hands down it would have to be the ‘Brussels lof’ my schoonmoeder makes. It is kind of like a casserole, with endive wrapped in ham, then smothered in mashed potatoes and cheese. It covers (almost) all the food groups so it’s healthy. Well, that’s what I tell myself as I’m devouring the burnt cheese from the edges of the pan. What do you miss about back home? Food, mainly. I miss my favorite snacks like cheez-its, pretzels, twizzlers. Turkey, broccoli rabe. Salad bars! How Dutch have you become? I’m riding my bike to work now, which is a big deal for me. What makes me even more Dutch is that I get annoyed when I’m cycling behind a slow tourist while on my way to or from work. 'Outta my way - I’ve got important places to go!' Haha, just kidding. I would never say that (maybe just think it). What's your top tourist tip? Stay away from the touristy spots and go exploring the city like a local. Amsterdam is such a beautiful city, especially when you get away from the busy centre. Borrow a bike for the weekend from a local, via Peerby, and when you’re picking it up, ask them for suggestions on where to visit / eat / drink! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands That it has beaches. They are beautiful sandy beaches, although I’ve never managed to make it while it was sunny outside. A goal for the future, I suppose. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Ice skate on a pond - presuming it is winter, of course. Christina Caljé is COO at Amsterdam-based Peerby. Peerby is an app that enables you to borrow the things you need from others in your neighbourhood and has just launched its Android version.  More >


‘How Dutch have I become? I ride my bike everywhere’

‘How Dutch have I become? I ride my bike everywhere’

Sofia Saxlund, 24, is from Uruguay and works as a design intern. She lives in Zaandam and has been in the Netherlands since April. How did you end up in the Netherlands? We did a trip around Europe with many of my friends from Uruguay. We were 28 friends travelling together, taking up almost entire buses and train carriages. I knew right from the start I was going to stay here as soon as the trip was over. I wasn’t sure which city to choose, but when we arrived in Amsterdam I fell in love with it and I knew this was the one. I first spent a couple of months living at my aunt's place in Amsterdam. Then I moved a couple of times, always in Amsterdam. But not only are the rents in Amsterdam too high, it's also difficult to find a place where they let you use the address to register at the council. Luckily I met a lot of nice people here, they helped me finding a new home and many of them told me Zaandam was a cool place to start looking, not so far from Amsterdam and much cheaper. I've been living there for a couple of months now. And I LOVE it! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I’m simple. I think we should all do what we really love and not worry about how much money we make doing it, or if others think it’s the right thing for us to do or not. The same goes for the place where we live. Once you find that place you love, where you feel ‘you’, there’s nothing that can take you away from there. How long do you plan to stay? So far, I have no intention of leaving. Maybe I want to keep travelling for a while, but I know I’ll end up here after all. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? No, I don’t speak Dutch. And that’s one of the reasons Amsterdam is the best. I should start learning though. What's your favourite Dutch food? Krentenbollen! What I like about krentenbollen is they look like regular rolls, so you'd think you should eat them with butter, or ham and cheese. But then you try them and they are not what you’d expect. That bread and raisins are a perfect match. And even if most of people in Uruguay think I'm crazy, we could easily survive just eating krentenbollen for lunch every day. What do you miss about back home? My friends and family, of course. And the beach. Uruguay has the most beautiful beaches. How Dutch have you become? Wow, that’s a hard one. I ride my bike everywhere. Does that count? What's your top tourist tip Don’t use any maps. Just walk around and get lost. You’ll get to know the most amazing places and people that way. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands Someone told me that a huge percentage of all the world’s bacon comes from here. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go to some park, have a picnic with my friends, and then a few drinks after the sun goes down. Then I’d go take a walk around the centre, and go from one cool pub to another until the night is over.  More >


‘I think the Scots and the Dutch are pretty close to each other’

‘I think the Scots and the Dutch are pretty close to each other’

Charlie MacGregor, 38, is Scottish and came to the Netherlands 11 years ago. He is the founder and CEO of The Student Hotel group. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I moved from London to Amsterdam after coming here for lunch with my girlfriend. We both fell in love with the city within 20 minutes. Six weeks later we moved here together. I rented an amazing flat on the Singel from a local guy who had a really good network of friends (all Dutch) which I slid into and never looked back. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I’m just me who lives here. I am very lucky that I have fitted into the Dutch scene very quickly. I don’t have many (if any) expat friends, they’re all Dutchies. It was harder the first few years than it is now. How long do you plan to stay? My plan was to stay two years then move onto Barcelona. I figured I may as well learn a bit of Dutch before I leave so I had my first Dutch lesson within my first week of living here. Eleven years later I still think about Barcelona but luckily the lessons have stopped. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Four years of lessons every week, a week at the nuns (hardest thing ever BTW), and I married a Dutch girl - well maybe that’s harder. What's your favourite Dutch food? Meatballs. What do you miss about back home? My best friends and my sister. And a hill would be nice to see more often. How Dutch have you become? I have no idea. I think the Scots and the Dutch are pretty close to each other. The Dutch win hands down on directness and while it's rubbing off on me, I hope I preserve the British ability to say a million words without saying anything. What's your top tourist tip? A good boat trip, not on one of the tour boats. A beer at the Brandon, a weekend on a house boat and a few nights at The Student Hotel, of course. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. There are no surprises, they really are what it says on the tin. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Spend it with my family walking, cycling or boating around the canals.   More >


‘When you get on a bus, the driver says hello’

‘When you get on a bus, the driver says hello’

Kristina Wilms is 27 and from Germany. She came to Amsterdam after winning a European competition to devise a start-up - which she now leads. How did you end up in the Netherlands? The whole story began in October 2013 when I won a ticket for the BeNeLux StartupBus. I didn't know anything about it at the time, but the StartupBus is a competition involving five buses travelling through Europe loaded with techies who compete against each other to devise a start-up within four days. At this time I was studying dance therapy in Germany - I suffer from depression and this was part of my treatment. As part of it, I had to track, reflect and later enhance my behaviour patterns and reactions. To do this, I had to fill out special forms at least three times a day. I had to fill them out in public and carry them with me all the time – which was an additional burden for me. Then I got this strange email in my spam:'Do you have an idea for an App? Tell us!' So I emailed them: 'I suffer from depression and I would like to have an app to improve and support my therapy.' You can guess what happened: I won the ticket, I joined the Benelux bus (which departed from Amsterdam – my first time in this beautiful city), we built a team and we won the entire competition in the end. We - a designer and an iOS developer (both from Amsterdam) and me - have been working on ARYA ever since. We are headquartered in Amsterdam because we managed to set up a great relationship with Interapy (a provider of online therapy). How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I guess I am an expat. I came here because of my project ARYA and to help people suffering from depression to get better. How long do you plan to stay? There is no fixed time. The team is in general very flexible when it comes to location. I enjoy Amsterdam pretty much and the others are very happy here – so why think about leaving? I have just started to explore the city. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do not yet speak Dutch. The only things I know are 'kan ik pinnen?' and 'tot ziens' and 'een biertje nemen'. What's your favourite Dutch food? No doubt about it - hagelslag with vla. Everytime I go back to Germany I take a sufficient supply of my special anti-depression treatment. What do you miss about back home? There is not too much that I really miss - my family and my friends of course. It is also nice to just speak German and use and listen to the local dialect. How Dutch have you become? I have found myself complaining in German shops that they only take cash. What's your top tourist tip? I was taken on an amazing trip last weekend and I really want my parents to come and join me there. You go by bike from Purmerend, which is about 45 minutes from Amsterdam, passing a beautiful area to a small village called Overleek. There you find an amazing café, the owners prepare everything themselves and everything is organic. There are ducks running around and you can rent a boat to explore the waterlands – you can even have a picnic on the boat. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Difficult question to be honest. The most surprising thing to me were the bus rides. You know, when you get on a bus in the Netherlands the bus driver greets you and you feel like you are part of the little bus family and the driver is in charge to make sure you travel safely. The experience gets real in the end, when you leave the bus: people say goodbye to the driver, even the exit is in the back part of the bus. I really like it. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go for a trip on the canals and drink beer on the boat before 12:00 in Amsterdam. I would finally visit the Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum. For lunch I would try all the crazy stuff from Febo. Then I would go to the sea – I have some childhood memories connected with that area. I would have fries and soft ice.  More >


‘I do enjoy a good herring – with uitjes’

‘I do enjoy a good herring – with uitjes’

Deborah Valentine works for herself as a project manager and copywriter and is current executive director of ACCESS. She has been in the Netherlands, this time round, for 10.5 years. We ask her the 10 traditional questions about her Dutch life. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met and married a Dutch diplomat when I was in Brazil with UNICEF. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I am in the Netherlands as a 'lovepat' - but truth be told, I am (was) the proverbial expat. I was born in Germany to Canadian/Jamaican parents who were on a diplomatic posting in Dusseldorf and relocated from my third birthday (until my 40th) essentially every three/four years. The countries I lived in (some repeated) include: Germany, Colombia, Brazil, Canada, Iran, England, Saudi Arabia (short stint), Ecuador, South Africa ...and the Netherlands How long do you plan to stay? Ask me next winter .... I have no idea. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? When I first came, newly wed to a Dutchman, I had some lessons, but spent a year watching Sesame Street and Jeugdjournaal and telling all the neighbourhood shops 'solo hablo español' - it was the only way I could get them to speak to me in Dutch and therefore practice what I was learning. But, my REAL teacher was a friend who CATEGORICALLY refused to speak English to me ...if I used an English word while speaking Dutch she stayed silent - no reaction - until I found a way, in Dutch, to transmit what I wanted to say. At the time, I 'hated' her - now, I am eternally grateful. Today we speak in a mix of both languages determined by subject - and how tired we are. Often it is each to their own language. What's your favourite Dutch food? Indonesian ...the rijsttafel to be exact, which is the way the Dutch eat Indonesian ...and I do enjoy a good herring ....with uitjes! And, yes, I can do the 'tail' delivery of the delicacy to my mouth! What do you miss about back home? Which home? I have had so many that I cannot answer this one ....from each home I miss something ...food, way of life, music ...the list goes on. How Dutch have you become? Now, this is a loaded one. Truth be told though I think the most honest answer is in the way I am raising my children - it seems to differ somewhat from how my siblings back in Canada are raising theirs. To illustrate: they are either described as incredibly independent or 'too opinionated' ...... What's your top tourist tip? Utrecht flower/market day - when the weather is good so you can 'close' the day with a drink and a meal on the banks of the canals. Reminds me, time to return. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands There is WAY more 'class division' than you may be led to believe when you meet Dutchies overseas - it is frighteningly subtle. Having said that, that could be a particularity of The Hague .... If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Visit the Rijksmuseum ...partially because (shame on me) I have not yet been back since it's reopening ....though the Van Gogh museum would be a very close second .... Deborah Valentine first came to the Netherlands in 1992 and her latest stint began 10 years ago. She works as a project manager and copywriter and is currently executive director of volunteer organisation ACCESS.  More >


‘I miss rolling hills and rock formations’

‘I miss rolling hills and rock formations’

We put 10 questions to Lucie Cunningham, a French national who lives in Delft and describes herself as a 'social activist'. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband accepted a position as a then assistant professor at TBM at TU Delft eleven years ago. We moved from Silicon Valley in California. We lived in Atlanta, GA and Brighton, England prior to this. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I started out being an expat, coming here for my husband’s two year contract to see how we liked it here. After 11 years of enjoying living in Delft, I believe that I have graduated to a well-integrated 'international' status. How long do you plan to stay? It all depends on our career prospects and our ten year old son’s well-being and education. We are open to staying for a very long time. I was a candidate for GroenLinks Delft (green party) for the local elections on March 19th when city councillors and commission members will be nominated for four years. I am part of their social policy team. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak, read and write Dutch. I first took a beginner’s course at TU Delft which helped me memorise standard phrases useful for daily conversations. I later took a three week summer course where I received some basic grammar knowledge. Three years ago, I signed up for a comprehensive advanced course that prepared me for a national exam of Dutch as a second language (NT2) called 'staatsexamen' that is of university entrance level. This was a very helpful tool for my career as advisor to the Gemeente Delft’s Expat project team and for helping my son with his homework as he goes to a Dutch primary school. What's your favourite Dutch food? My lovely neighbour Marijk makes an excellent erwtensoep, a thick pea soup with various cuts of pork meat and chopped vegetables. I like very dark brown bread rolls and enjoyed Applefleurtjes when they were available at a café’ in Delft a few years ago: it is a light apple tart without raisins with a thin glaze of apricot glazing. I discovered Surinamese food here and enjoy rotis and baras. What do you miss about back home? Apart from family and friends, I miss the rolling hills and big rock formations that are typical of my hometown. Food is very fresh there and supermarkets are stocked differently. I have adjusted to shopping here and know some very fine small stores in Delft where I enjoy shopping and trying out new foods. I miss French music but thankfully I can listen to some on line. How Dutch have you become? Dutch enough to bike through town, except when the streets are frozen or there is a heavy storm and I have the option of catching a tram or a bus. I have learnt about the various primary school systems available in town and am orienting myself about middle schools now. I volunteered at school to help young children learn how to read Dutch and I am currently overseeing my son’s school library where I discovered some really nice Dutch classic youth literature. I follow Delft news very closely in the local media and social media. What's your top tourist tip? Don’t forget to walk around the neighbourhood around Agneta Park, close to the DSM plant. There is surprising architecture in Delft with an interesting history. I would also recommend the city tour of Het Gilde Delft about remarkable women in Delft history. Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL What a successful country economically speaking! The Netherlands is the 17th largest economy of the world. It belongs to the top 10 of richest nations in the world and is presently the world's fifth largest natural gas exporter. If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? I would stop one last time at the Delft public library DOK. I would walk around the historical centre of Delft and I would bike around the Delftse Hout and Tanthof green areas. I would then say goodbye to my nice Dutch friends and take pictures of our house in the Westerkwartier to preserve the memories of my son’s childhood.  More >


‘Walking along Amsterdam’s canals can be an amazing experience’

‘Walking along Amsterdam’s canals can be an amazing experience’

Entrepreneur Melinda Jacobs, 28, is an American who studied digital gaming in Utrecht and now runs two start-ups. We ask her 10 questions about her life in the Netherlands.   How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to the Netherlands in 2008 to follow a two-year research MA at Utrecht University studying digital games. I did a summer abroad in Germany during my BA and afterward took the time to visit the Netherlands and Sweden. Following my graduation I decided I wanted to come back to Europe and chose the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I would describe myself as an international. Even though the Netherlands is my home base, I don't feel like living here is my main identity, so not an immigrant, and I don't feel like being American is either, so I'm not an expat. How long do you plan to stay? I plan to see where life and work takes me. For now, I have no intention to leave the Netherlands, but am sure a day will come where I want to explore a new country. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak enough Dutch to get by. I took one A level course, but I learned what I know mostly from reading the newspaper, watching television, and practicing with Dutch friends. It's hard to learn as my work is mainly with internationals, so on average no one speaks Dutch, or they prefer to speak English. Recently I've been practicing with my partner's 'oma'. I teach her more English, and she teaches me more Dutch. What's your favourite Dutch food? Not so original, but I would say stamppot with endive and 'spek'. One of the things I love most about the Netherlands is the easy access to food from around the world. What do you miss about back home? Customer service. I really miss the American mentality toward it. How Dutch have you become? Not necessarily very Dutch. I would say I feel more European if anything. What's your top tourist tip If you're a foodie like me, I would recommend going to the River Kwai (Utrecht) for amazing Thai or Loetje for the best traditional steak and chips in Amsterdam. There's also D’Vijff Vlieghen (Amsterdam) if you want a more modern gourmet menu. If you're a fan of craft beer, I would recommend going to In De Wildeman (Amsterdam), Cafe Olivier's (Utrecht), 't Klooster (Delft), or De Rat (Utrecht). 't Klooster also has an amazing menu for dinner with beer parings. For a true taste of the Dutch try Proeflokaal Arendsnest (Amsterdam). If you are more a whiskey fan, be sure to check out L&B's (Amsterdam). There's also the Brouwerij t'ij, especially in the summer. Try the IPA. For museums, I'd recommend Nemo and the House of Bols (do a cocktail workshop if you can!). Check out the EYE for a look into cinematography.  Just walking along the canals of Amsterdam can also be an amazing experience. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands The sense of entitlement. It has very positive, but also very challenging, effects. On the positive, education and gender equality are seen - by most - as a right (as it should be). On the other side, as a small business owner it can be difficult to manage expectations between what a small company can offer and what a large one can in terms of employment. This makes the Netherlands a very difficult place to be a startup. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Grab a beer at Brouwerij 't IJ, have dinner at the Bird, and walk along the canals of Amsterdam to Bourbon Street for some live music. Melinda Jacobs is the founder of Subatomic and recently founded startup, Clustr, which helps small local businesses create and manage an omni-channel presence.  More >


‘I’ve loved bacon and cheese pancakes since day one’

‘I’ve loved bacon and cheese pancakes since day one’

British accountant Stephen Huyton has lived in the Netherlands for 20 years and is former chairman of Britsoc, the British Society of Amsterdam. We ask him 10 questions about his life in the Netherlands. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was invited to be the first finance director of the company - Thermopatch, where I still work. The goal was to prepare it for a stock market launch in London or New York, or a sale to a third party. After five years the company was sold to a US competitor. I was asked to stay on and as they say the rest is history. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? Very much an international. I came to the Netherlands because I believe in the concept of a United States of Europe. I love the internationalism in my family life and the opportunities my children have had to grow up in an international environment. How long do you plan to stay? I have no plans to leave. I lost my 30% ruling many yeas ago and pay my taxes like any other Dutch person. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I learned very slowly. Accountants do not readily do languages!! Eventually I attended the famous nuns school. My Dutch is still not word perfect but I since I work in Dutch most of the day it continually evolves! What's your favourite Dutch food? Savoury pancakes - spek and kaas (bacon and cheese). I've loved the combination from day one. But no, I don't add stroop (syrup) like most Dutch people do. What do you miss about back home? Lancashire cheese. I used to smuggle it back in my suitcase like all expats. Now, with Marks & Spencer in the Netherlands, you can get hold of it. How Dutch have you become? I appreciate the greater seperation between your work and your private live. And I really value the emphasis on family life. What's your top tourist tip? Try the National Park and the Kroller Museum in the Hoge Veluwe. You get 5,400 hectares of park and nature and even when its busy, it is still so easy to lose yourself. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands Just how short I am. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? That depends on the time of year. If it is summer, I would start out early and head up for a day to Texel, hire a bike and cycle. It is really exhilarating. If it was winter and cold enough I would go skating on the Vecht. There is nothing better. Stephen Huyton is group finance director at Thermopatch International and has lived in the Netherlands for 20 years. He is the former chairman of the British Society of Amsterdam.    More >


‘I eat pea soup all year round when I want comfort food’

‘I eat pea soup all year round when I want comfort food’

Photo journalist Shirley Agudo has lived in the Netherlands for 15 years and says she fits in very well with the more laidback way of life. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to the Netherlands from the US in 1993 with my former husband and our two daughters, on the basis of my husband’s job transfer to an American-owned fiberglass company in Hoogezand, in the north of Holland. We lived for five years in a beautiful thatched-roof farmhouse (boerderij) in a very small – and wonderful – village called Balloo, near Assen, where our children went to the British school (which no longer exists). After five years we moved to Paris, for another five years, and then I returned to the Netherlands, by choice. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I would say that I am an expat/immigrant, since I intend to stay here long-term but will always consider myself an American expat as well. How long do you plan to stay? Indefinitely. The Netherlands suits me very well – I love it here! – and I consider it my home now. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Oh, this is a very delicate question…. I speak ‘redelijk’ Dutch, but, considering how long I’ve lived here, I should be fluent. I studied three levels of Dutch at Utrecht University’s James Boswell Institute, which I would highly recommend, and I continue studying with a private tutor – but not often enough. One gets very lazy in a country where everyone speaks English, and I’m afraid that I’m entirely guilty of that. I do wish I were fluent, however, so that I could read all the details of the Belastingdienst and insurance company letters. Those are my nemeses. I’m never sure if they owe me money or I owe them money, but chances are it’s the latter, so I just bank on that. What's your favourite Dutch food? Pea soup, by far. I eat it year-round when I want some comfort food … which happens quite often. What do you miss about back home? My daughters, first of all, who have their own careers and lives in the United States. Beyond that: customer service and enthusiasm – and the way all that translates into strong marketing behaviour, which is difficult to find here. How Dutch have you become? Wow, that’s an interesting question. Most people, probably myself included, would say that I have not become very Dutch at all. As a writer and photographer, I tend to keep to myself a lot, and very much enjoy doing so. I have a couple of very good Dutch friends, both male and female, and a few good English-speaking friends and, for me, that’s all I need. When it comes to friends – and many other things – quality is much more important than quantity. I do, however, feel that I fit in very well with the Dutch (and European) way of life … of café-sitting and lingering over cappuccinos – more easy-going and laid-back than American life, although people who know me well would say that I’m certainly driven, like most Americans. I also embrace the Dutch traditions – especially King’s Day, which I think is the best party on earth, and the most incredibly civil. Interestingly, almost every Dutch person I meet for the first time asks me why I haven’t gone back to America instead of staying here by choice, and I always tell them that I’ve “been there, done that”, and I plan to live the rest of my life in Europe. That said, the Netherlands is the perfect place – especially for an English-speaking person – to live in Europe. And I love being able to hop on the train and be in an entirely different culture in about two hours. …I can always move back to America, but, for now, I’m very happy to be planted here. What's your top tourist tip? For the Netherlands: get on the train and do a countrywide tour. Yes, include Amsterdam, of course, the city I absolutely adore, but this country is small enough to see several provinces on one trip. Some other favourite cities of mine include Maastricht, Groningen, Haarlem, Amersfoort, and smaller villages such as Broek in Waterland, which is picture-postcard pretty … and the beautiful village where I live: Laren. Elsewhere in Europe: I will always be most fond of Spain and Italy. I love everything Mediterranean –the climate, the food, the wine and, above all, the warmth and spiritedness of the people. Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL OK, for this one I’ll be dead-honest. Good and bad. On the good side: It would have to be how often people cycle here, routinely, as part of everyday life. That surprise led me to do both of my books: Bicycle Mania Holland and the new one that has just been released, The Dutch & Their Bikes. Before I moved here, I had no idea that cycling was so much a part of Dutch life. The Netherlands is the most cycling-friendly nation on earth, and that’s what I want the rest of the world to see, through my photographs. On the ‘less positive’ side: it surprises me greatly that the Dutch are not better marketers – as I have already alluded to – given their history as highly successful traders. I have been told that not wanting to promote themselves or stand out probably stems from Calvinism. It continually frustrates me, however. The Dutch are amazing designers, for example, but they are generally not very aggressive about marketing their own products or expertise. It’s the one thing that continues to baffle me … but perhaps I’m just too American in this regard. It’s very natural, as I’m sure you know, for us to promote what we do in a big way … and I can never understand why someone would come out with a new product and not want to promote it as much as possible. It’s a dilemma I constantly wrestle with here. If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? First, I would go back to the Rijksmuseum and stand in front of all the Vermeer and Jan Steen paintings for a while – as well as Rembrandt’s Night Watch, to stare at the amazing light that is cast from the female figure in it. Then I would head to the Begijnhof and stand in this quiet, beautiful oasis situated in the heart of Amsterdam. Then, for the rest of the day, I would do street photography in the city. If I had time, I would head out to Broek in Waterland for the late afternoon/evening, and a dinner at the Inn on the Lake, a magical location that holds very precious memories for me. But of course I would have to spend some time in my glorious Laren, so, I’m afraid I would need another day…. Shirley Agudo’s sixth book, ‘The Dutch & Their Bikes: Scenes from a Nation of Cyclists’, is available in bookshops and via www.hollandbooks.nl. For more information, see: www.dutchandtheirbikes.com. You can also follow Shirley on Twitter @BicycleMania.  More >


‘Dutch diaries can be a tool but also an excuse’

‘Dutch diaries can be a tool but also an excuse’

Spanish businessman Rogelio Vargas has been in the Netherlands for seven years and plans to stay here indefinitely. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Due to a job with a French multinational, Orange, which belonged to the France Telecom Group. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? Internationally-minded person who has been living in several countries: USA, Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands. Right now I live in the Netherlands, but I also spend some periods in my home country of Spain. How long do you plan to stay? Indefinitely. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, though not at the highest level. I learnt it studying, reading and talking to people. Nowadays I follow the Dutch newspapers and I read a lot of legal stuff in Dutch. What's your favourite Dutch food? Dutch herring. What do you miss about back home? Good Spanish cuisine and restaurants. But even more I miss the social life on the street. How Dutch have you become? I can use the Dutch social convention for things such as appointments, agendas and the lack of spontaneity, but I am very flexible because I am aware of the variety of conventions all over the world. What's your top tourist tip? If you ever come to Amsterdam, please, do not miss a boat cruise on the canals and see the city by foot or by bike like the locals. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Dutch diaries can be a tool but also an excuse and barrier. People sometimes don't do things because they are not planned in their diaries and not because they really do not have the physical time. They just don't have the mental time if it is not in the diary. It is a matter of priorities because I have seen Dutch people changing their diary one day before if the alternative offered was appealing enough for them. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Meet my Dutch friends to have some beers and dinner. Rogelio Vargas, 46, owns Agencia International  a commercial service company with offices in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and is president of the Asociación Española de Profesionales en Holanda    More >


‘At one point I had three bikes’

‘At one point I had three bikes’

Carolyn Vines, who has been in the Netherlands for 15 years and likes to be known as a lovepat. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I moved here with my then Dutch boyfriend. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? A lovepat because I love the way it sounds. It always makes me laugh when I see or say it. How long do you plan to stay? Hmmmmm? Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I speak Dutch rather well. I taught Spanish as a second language when I was in graduate school in the States so I know how to learn a language. When I first moved here, I was required to take an inburgeringscurssen that provided me with a solid basis. My Dutch improved by leaps and bounds when my oldest daughter went to school. Since none of her friends spoke English, I had to speak Dutch. What's your favourite Dutch food? Stamppot. What do you miss about back home? The International House of Pancakes, grocery shopping whenever I want, space, warm and sunny summers, hearing the American accent and of course space. How Dutch have you become? Well, at one point I had three bikes. One I kept at Utrecht Centraal for when I worked. One nice bike that I used to transport my daughter and my groceries and one ratty old bike for leaving at the train station. I play field hockey – even in the rain and I’m into soccer. I think that makes me pretty darned Dutch, don’t you think? What's your top tourist tip? Pick a big city and take a canal tour. It’s the most beautiful and authentic way to see Holland. Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL? That the Dutch place such a high value on multilinguism. If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? Sit in my back yard and enjoy the flowers. Carolyn Vines, 46, is a certified professional coach and the author of Black and (A)broad.  More >


‘I went Dutch by walking on the right of the pavement’

‘I went Dutch by walking on the right of the pavement’

Tony Parr learned Dutch at a British university 35 years ago and likes his wife's boerenkoolstamppot. How did you end up in the Netherlands? That’s a long story, but I’ll try and keep it short. I’m one of a very select band of individuals who can actually claim to have studied Dutch language and literature in the UK. I’d started out doing French and Latin at university, but very quickly found myself getting bored with both of them, which just happened to be subjects I was good at at school. Since my mother was Belgian (Flemish) and I spoke a couple of words of Mechelen dialect, I thought it would be a good idea to ditch Latin and take up Dutch instead. Without a family connection it might just as easily have been Norwegian or Romanian. Unfortunately, I was attending an ancient and venerable English university, which meant that I graduated with a thorough acquaintance with medieval and 19th-century literature, but without being capable of speaking the language properly. So I decided to apply to all the Dutch universities to see whether they might not need a language assistant in their English departments. Which is how I found myself travelling to Groningen in 1978 to take up a very small teaching job at the university there. I was asked to teach a drama class to second-year students and planned to stay for a year. It was very gezellig, though, and I liked Groningen and the Groningers. So, without any clear plan to guide me, I ended up staying. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I suppose I started out as an expat on a one-year contract, intending to return to the UK at the end of it. I then became a lovepat of sorts when I bumped into this nice Dutch girl who insisted on taking me to Schiermonnikoog. Having now made my home in the Netherlands, I think it’s safe to refer to myself as an ‘immigrant’. How long do you plan to stay? Indefinitely. England is a great place to go on holiday, but I have no particular urge to go back there to live. Moreover, Holland’s a good place to live. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I do. I learnt a couple of words from my Belgian mother (pateekes, kriekskes, that sort of thing) and then spent a few months beavering away in a language lab (yes, I’m that old) in Cambridge. But my fluency did not really pick up until I spent a summer working as a waiter in a hotel restaurant in Paterswolde, near Groningen. It was a great experience (I remember being asked for ‘Maggi’ and not having the faintest idea of what it might be – was it an object, a dish or perhaps a person?): they were so friendly and patient with me! What's your favourite Dutch food? Although I’m usually the cook at home, my wife makes a really wicked ‘boerenkoolstamppot’ that’s up there on my list of favourites, together with a gud ol’ ‘gehaktbal’ with a generous helping of mustard. What do you miss about back home? Not a huge amount. Mainly the sense of space, the landscape, the trees and the fact that, if you’re standing in a queue, you generally end up in a conversation with the person next to you. That doesn’t seem to happen as much here. How Dutch have you become? I think I probably went Dutch when I started walking on the right-hand side of the pavement. It took me many years to realise that this was the done thing over here and I seem to have absorbed the habit. On the other hand, I’ve never seen the humour in certain typically Dutch comics like Toon Hermans and Freek de Jonge, so perhaps I’m still a bit of an outsider. What's your top tourist tip? A few years ago, I moved from the depths of Limburg to the Haarlem area. In the old days, visitors from abroad would be treated to a walking tour of the old town of Maastricht, but nowadays I tend to take people to the Zaanse Schans. It’s an open-air museum near Zaandam and is a fascinating combination of history and fun on a manageable scale. I should also mention the national maritime museum, the Scheepvaartmuseum, in Amsterdam, which I have got to know recently. It’s a brilliant place with stunning design. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. One of the aspects of life in Holland that I’ve never got used to is congratulating people on someone else’s birthday – a family member, a friend or a neighbour. It seems to be totally natural for the Dutch but I’ve never come across it anywhere else (although that’s hardly a scientifically confirmed finding) and I still have to remind myself to do it. And I somehow still feel uncomfortable doing it. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Do some of the things I’ve always been planning to do but somehow never got round to. Like go for a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant, visit Terschelling or go out on a fluisterboot in the Biesbosch. More realistically, though, I’d probably end up taking the dog for a walk in the Achterhoek. Tony Parr, 58, has been in the Netherlands for 35 years. He is a language trainer and translator and lives in Heemstede. www.tonyparr.nl  More >


‘A guilty pleasure would be a broodje haring’

‘A guilty pleasure would be a broodje haring’

Canadian Noah Millman teaches at Leiden University and would use his last 24 hours in the Netherlands to visit the Efteling amusement park. How did you end up in the Netherlands? In late 2006 I was looking for a highly rated master’s programme in my field and several universities in The Netherlands caught my attention. I applied, and here I am. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? Somewhere between immigrant and international/expat. I’m not an immigrant because I’d like to keep my Canadian citizenship and dual nationality is not allowed. For me expat and international are the same and I see myself more closely related to this category. How long do you plan to stay? I do not have a current plan to leave. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? The dreaded question. I have taken three Dutch courses, but living in Amsterdam there aren’t many opportunities to practice as the English level here is incredible and there are so many internationals. My accented Dutch is often met with English responses, so for the time being I am happy to understand, read and write in public and speak among friends. What's your favourite Dutch food? A guilty pleasure would be a broodje haring but standard Dutch fare is too deep fried for regular indulgence. I am a big fan of the many wonderful fusion and non-Dutch restaurants in Amsterdam, however. What do you miss about back home? Evening shopping hours, sinus medication and a responsive customer care industry. How Dutch have you become? I believe I have retained most of my Canadian-isms, but I have embraced offering up a healthy dose of bluntness every now and then. What's your top tourist tip? 1) Pre-buy museum tickets. There is no better feeling than walking right past a giant queue. 2) Blend in. As much as Amsterdam is perceived as a tourist city, the people here don’t like tourists. So: A) Don’t rent a bike that is a specific colour (red, yellow, green, orange). B) Just finished the Heineken Experience and bought a few things? That green bag screams ‘charge me more’ when you walk through the market; put it in a backpack. C) Nobody living in Amsterdam wears a hat that says AMSTERDAM with marijuana leaves on it, save that for home. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. A lot of famously liberal/tolerant/relaxed policies are only legend. It is much stricter and more regulated than I could have ever imagined. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Morning: Efteling. Evening: Walk through Amsterdam, take a boat out on the canals. Late Night: Visit one of Amsterdam’s legendary night life locations like Boom Chicago, Paradiso or Sugar Factory for some Wicked Jazz Sounds. Noah Millman, 31, is completing a PhD in psychology of religion and teaches at Leiden and Amsterdam University.  More >


‘With a lap-top and a good internet connection, there are no borders’

‘With a lap-top and a good internet connection, there are no borders’

Greek radio producer Nikos Koulousios is surprised by how much the Dutch love their kings and queens. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came on an Erasmus student exchange programme and then continued and completed my studies in The Hague and Amsterdam. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I am a citizen of the world. With a lap-top and a good internet connection, there are no real borders any more. I feel like we are moving towards a time where you can 'live and/or work' in any city of the world without being physically there. How long do you plan to stay? I am waiting until everything I have invested in here in Holland starts paying off. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch, but not on an everyday basis. I did some courses and conversation lessons. What's your favourite Dutch food? Herring What do you miss about back home? The way people care about each other and support each other. The humility of a society that is not as money-driven as the Dutch one. I miss the fact that NOT everything comes with a price… I miss the generosity of the Greek spirit. And the Greek hospitality. How Dutch have you become? I have developed a bi-cultural mind. I can function well within the norms of the Dutch culture but my intention was never to become Dutch. Assimilation is not a goal for me. What's your top tourist tip? Read the history of the creation of the Dutch state, do not tip a waiter unless you are really happy with the servics, ask for better service when you see sloppiness, ask for good value for your money, don’t just eat French fries. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands I was surprised to find that the Dutch build their own land and that they love their kings and queens so much. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would like to see Holland from above. I would rent a small plane or an air balloon and hope for a clear blue sky. Nikos Koulousios has been in the Netherlands for 14 years. He has a radio show Hellas Pindakaas    More >


‘ I enjoyed freedom in every sense of the word”

‘ I enjoyed freedom in every sense of the word”

Journalist Malgorzata Bos-Karczewska is fascinated by the Delta Works and feels more Dutch than Polish at times. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met my Dutch husband in communist times in my hometown of Gdansk. We were both economic students. He came in 1978 on a student trip because he was very interested in what was going on behind the Iron Curtain – something which was pretty rare at the time. We got married in Gdansk a month before the birth of Solidarity in August 1980. I left Poland legally on a consular passport for Amsterdam, where I continued my study of economics at the University of Amsterdam. A new chapter in my life began. I enjoyed freedom in every sense of the world. I was absorbing knowledge like a sponge, learning by doing. I was also demonstrating against martial law in Poland and cruise missiles in the Netherlands. It was a great formative time for me, it shaped me. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? Now, with Poland in the EU, I feel I am part of the European family and no longer a stranger from the grey under-developed ‘Oostblok’. Now I am a European with Polish roots and some Dutch traits. I never considered myself as an immigrant, which is an outdated phrase in this mobile world. The sense of belonging comes partly from your roots and your childhood, and also from how people treat you in the new place where you live, and what you make of it. When I come back from holidays or from Poland I feel at home here. At the same time, the geographical borders are artificial, but the mental barriers still remain – you can see that when the Dutch still talk about the ‘Oostblok’. How long do you plan to stay? The Netherlands was paradise for me when I first came, in the early 1980s. Over the past 12 years it has changed a lot. In 2012 I wanted to leave because of Geert Wilders’ ‘report a Pole’ website and the anti-Polish attitudes. I’ve become used to it. However, if someone offered me my dream job abroad I would not hesitate to leave the Netherlands for a while to get some fresh air. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? My Dutch is pretty good, with an accent.  Some people think I am German or Swedish (due to my blond hair) or even from Limburg, because of my soft g. I learned Dutch by reading press clippings on Poland in 1980-1981. Later I followed two advanced courses in Dutch simultaneously in order to understand the fascinating world around me. And the rest was practice. After three years I joined the editorial board of the monthly magazine of the economics faculty at Amsterdam university. There I learned about writing articles and I conducted my first interviews. What is your favourite Dutch food? Poles love all kinds of soup - they even eat them in the summer. But Dutch erwtensoep (pea soup) is ‘lekker’. It is thick - good stuff for winter. And Dutch herring with onions are fabulous. They melt in your mouth. What do you miss about back home? I miss spontaneity and fantasy, visiting friends and their hospitality, making jokes, having fun together. How Dutch have you become? Interesting question, When in Poland I feel myself more Dutch. When I am there, I see how my way of thinking and handling issues have changed. So even though I speak perfect Polish, I can see by their reactions that others think some of the things I say are strange. I don’t behave in a Polish way anymore. I have become more pragmatic and direct, but also more responsible and I think about the consequences. What's your top tourist tip? I always recommend visitors to go and see the Delta Works in Zeeland. They are a magnificent piece of water management, set up to prevent a flood disaster like that of 1953. Fighting against the sea shaped the Dutch spirit of cooperation and consultation – what they call the polder way of communication. As everybody is dependent on everyone else, you have to achieve consensus for the sake of a common higher goal. The Dutch are not a people for quick fixes, but for stability in the longer term. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands As a newcomer I was very much impressed by Dutch pragmatism. I found communication not only very direct but goal orientated. The Dutch talk with each other as if they are exchanging information including all the pros and cons. Everything must have a reason, consequence and conclusion. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go on a cycle ride along the coast from the Delta Works to Zierikzee, watching seagulls, the tides and the amazing skies with so many different types of cloud formations. You see water, a thin strip of land and a huge sky. It is liberating, like meditating on a bike. Definitely worth trying! Malgorzata Bos-Karczewska is a journalist and editor-in-chief of Polish community website Polonia.nl  More >


‘ I know the Dutch system is one of the best in Europe’

‘ I know the Dutch system is one of the best in Europe’

Student and Romanian national Antonia Raileanu loves fish, would like to visit the Apenheul and was a candidate in the 2014 local elections. How did you end up in the Netherlands? In 2010 I decided to continue my studies and pursue a Master's degree in the Netherlands because I know the Dutch system is one of the best education systems in Europe. I applied to several Dutch universities and on my first trip to the Netherlands I ended up getting a place at the University of Twente to take a double degree Master's programme in European Studies. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I would describe myself as a European citizen. I don’t consider myself a typical Romania. I like to learn from other cultures and in the Netherlands I have plenty of opportunities to do this. How long do you plan to stay? I now call my place in Enschede home. I am a candidate on the list for the European elections for Dutch party ikkiesvooreerlijk and I am certainly not considering moving. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Unfortunately, I don't speak Dutch yet. I took several courses at the university and the city hall in Enschede. I want to learn but I haven’t had many opportunities to practice. At the university I studied in English, at work we speak English and my dutch friends are really happy speaking English. And if I want to ask for directions in Dutch I usually get an English reply. At the university we have a badge with the message ‘Spreek Nederlands met mij’. Maybe I should wear this more often. What's your favourite Dutch food? I like fish a lot and of course I like Dutch fried fish. I've developed a tradition of going every Saturday to the open market to eat fish. What do you miss about back home? Spontaneity! In the Netherlands I have learned to be more organised and punctual. I like to plan activities and tasks but I also like to be spontaneous from time to time. I think that in Romania people tend to be less strategic and usually come up with last minute plans. How Dutch have you become? I would say that I adopted more from the Dutch culture than I realise myself – usually my friends from other countries see it better. I got used to cycling very quickly and now I find even short distances are impossible to walk. I almost like the cold Dutch lunch. It doesn’t take long and you don't feel lazy after eating. As I said, I like to be more punctual, and now I expect everybody to be the same. I have also became more direct. I like to speak my mind and be honest! What's your top tourist tip? I would recommend the island of Terschelling. Not many tourists know about the Netherlands' five northern isles. Away from the crowed city, the island is a great place to relax and embrace nature. I even enjoy the ferry ride to the island. Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL I never knew that carrots are orange because they were cultivated as a tribute to Willem van Oranje. If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? Buy a year's supply of stropwaffels! Then, I would fly a plane (I know that in NL you can get lessons to fly a plane), and the rest of the day I'd spend at Wallibi and the Apenheul. I have never been to the Apenheul, but I really like the idea of spending time in a wildlife park where you can interact with the animals. Antonia Raileanu, 25, was a candidate in the EU parliamentary elections for ikkiesvooreerlijk.eu. She is a Master's student in European Studies at the University of Twente, and intern at StudyPortals BV and marketing assistant part-time University of Twente.  More >


‘I studied here on an Erasmus programme back in 2001’

‘I studied here on an Erasmus programme back in 2001’

British Amsterdammer Vicky Hampton loves Osseworst and is definitely not an expat. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I studied here on an Erasmus exchange programme back in 2001/2002. I fell in love with Amsterdam and didn’t want to leave… At the time, I did the sensible thing and returned to the UK to finish my degree, after which I ended up in London with every other graduate for a couple of years. But at a certain moment, my love of Amsterdam got the better of me and I quit my job, handed in my notice on my rented room and moved to Amsterdam permanently… I’ve never looked back! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I’m glad you asked that question, because a lot of other companies/websites that have published interviews with me seem to assume I’m an expat. Isn’t that someone who’s paid to be here by their company? I’ve never been an expat, so I guess I consider myself to be an international Amsterdammer. How long do you plan to stay? As long as I love being here! That could be a year, or it could be a lifetime. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I do speak Dutch, although not perfectly. I took various group classes (which was a great way to meet people, too) and eventually took my NT2 (Nederlands als Tweede Taal) exams a few years ago. What's your favourite Dutch food? I’d have to pick ossenworst. It’s a raw, smoked beef sausage that’s not to everyone’s taste, but I love it with a touch of mustard and a bock beer. By the way, top tip: the best ossenworst is to be tasted at Café de Dokter (Rozenboomsteeg 4, just off the Spui). Incidentally, I’m a food blogger, so for more food tips check out AmsterdamFoodie.nl for all the latest restaurant recommendations! What do you miss about back home? Not too much, really. But I do like to see the rolling hills of the English countryside when I go back… And the British sense of humour – it’s not quite the same anywhere else! How Dutch have you become? In some ways, I think I was fairly Dutch before I arrived. My directness never went down too well in England, so it was a relief to find fellow straight-talkers over here. I also couldn’t live without my bike these days, but I expect everyone says that! What's your top tourist tip? I love taking visitors out of the city, across the free ferry to Amsterdam Noord, into the Waterland area by bike. The Dutch countryside may not be spectacular, but all the flat green fields and waterways have a calm, understated kind of beauty. Plus, all that biking means you feel completely justified in stopping at one of the picturesque little villages for a slice of apple pie en route! Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL People aren’t as tolerant as the Netherlands’ reputation would suggest. They just don’t much like other people telling them what to do. If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? What a terrible thought! Much as I love Amsterdam, it’s the people who make my life here what it is, so I’d round up all my friends for as many glasses of white beer and fried borrelhapjes as we could stomach and then head to my local park, the Westerpark, to watch the sun rise together. Vicky Hampton runs the food blog AmsterdamFoodie.nl and is a writer, editor and marketeer. She has also written a cook book Vicky Hampton's Working Lunch  More >


‘You could make me happy with a local ingredient stamppot’

‘You could make me happy with a local ingredient stamppot’

Sharyn van Ees-Cooper has been in the Netherlands for 10 years and would like to take a balloon trip over the Betuwe region. We ask her 10 questions about her life in the Netherlands. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I married a Dutchman whom I met in Vienna. His work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continuously takes us back to The Hague, which of course is the country’s seat of government. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? None of the above. I’m not really a fan of labels. I’m an American with Dutch citizenship who has lived outside of the United States since 1990. If you do the math, you’ll see that I spent my first 23 years in the US (I grew up in the Washington, DC, area and I studied in Boston) and an equal amount of time ‘abroad’ (including two stints in Vienna and three years in Almaty, Kazakhstan). How long do you plan to stay? Who can plan anything anymore? We’re kind of at the mercy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aren’t we? Happily the MFA has been generous enough to grant us a long, uninterrupted period in The Hague, affording our three children excellent Dutch schooling and a grounded childhood and me a career in my field of journalism. And my husband was just named Director of Protocol, which means that we’ll be staying put in The Hague another four years. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch fluently although it’ll never be quite as good as my English. I started taking lessons when my husband and I were still dating, during my lunch breaks at the Belgian Embassy in Vienna. It was already important to speak and understand the language back then as we were invited to many social functions where Dutch was being spoken. When I moved to The Hague the first time in 1994, I enrolled in an intensive language course three mornings a week. I was placed at a high level as I suspect my German language skills had already given me an excellent foundation. I never did finish the course or take the NT2 proficiency exam, because I quickly found a job working as an English editor at a joint venture between the Rabobank and Robeco (IRIS bv). There I was immersed in a Dutch-language environment, which is probably the best way to learn a language. What's your favourite Dutch food? Hmm. I follow a pretty strict diet nowadays so I’m not allowed to eat too many typical Dutch dishes. In the past I probably would have said aged Gouda cheese but now I don’t eat dairy products. I guess you could make me happy with a stamppot made from fresh, locally produced ingredients (for example: curly endive, kale, spinach, parsnip and rutabaga), but no pork! Oh and I just adore the Calvé peanut butter – it contains no sugar. What do you miss about back home? My family and my relatives, especially celebrating the Jewish holidays and simchas together. How Dutch have you become? Dare I say ‘too Dutch’? Environmentally aware, politically active, inseparable from my bike, fixated on holidays, coffee loving, pennywise, sun worshipping, overscheduled. Nonetheless, I still like to think of myself as spontaneous and am always ready to drop everything to meet up with a friend for a chat. What's your top tourist tip? I think The Hague is often overlooked as a tourist destination and many tourists are pleasantly surprised when they decide to spend time here. We’ve got great museums (Mauritshuis, Gemeentemuseum and Escher Museum), a historic city centre with beautiful shops and restaurants, many stunning parks (including the Japanese Garden in Clingendael) and, of course, 11 km of coastline. You can’t visit The Hague without taking a walk or bike ride through the dunes. Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL I’m continuously surprised and saddened by the rich amount of Jewish history in the Netherlands (dating back to the 14th century), including all of the former synagogues now serving other purposes. If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? Take a hot air balloon ride above the Betuwe area or a ride in an open boat through the canals of Amsterdam. Sharyn van Ees-Cooper, 46, is editor of official city council website thehague.com and has lots of volunteer positions. She is a board member of STET The English Theatre, co-presenter on DutchbuzZ radio and chairman of the Cultural Committee of LJG Den Haag.  More >


‘I happily followed my husband for a horse and our dream home’

‘I happily followed my husband for a horse and our dream home’

English woman Charlotte Bellamy has two bikes, a penchant for Dutch apple pie and misses fish and chips. What do you do? I am a photographer. I specialise in natural and relaxed family portraiture on location and equine photography. I also teach English language photography courses from my home and all over the Netherlands – I love my job! How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband came to work with the Rabobank International team, and on the promise of a horse and our dream home I happily followed him! How would you describe yourself? – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc. and why? I think of myself as an international individual. My son goes to an international school, and so daily I am mixing with individuals of so many nationalities, this creates so many opportunities for us as a family. How long do you plan to stay? We have no plans to leave at the moment. I have been here nearly two years and feel very settled. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I can speak enough Dutch to be able to shop, converse with my neighbours and understand the weather and traffic news on the radio! I’m one of those individuals that just starts talking using the Dutch that I know (regardless of whether the order of the word or if I’m talking in the correct tense!) It seems to endear me to my neighbours that at least I’m trying to speak their language. My husband and I have had 50 hours from a private tutor. What is your favourite Dutch food? That has to be apple cake and cream! Although this year my neighbour made me homemade olliebollen for New Year and they were delicious. What do you miss about back home? Not having to wonder if people can/will speak my language! I hate having to start every sentence with Spreekt U Engels? Also I’m quite a foodie and I do miss the wide variety of food back home - especially traditional English fish and chips out of the newspaper! How Dutch have you become? Well, I recycle far more here than I ever did in the UK, and I own two bikes, but that’s about as Dutch as I have got. I still use my car to get around most of the time, and use the back door of my house as the main door (which confuses all my Dutch visitors!) What’s your top tourist tip? The Netherlands is really not a very big country – don’t just limit a trip here to Amsterdam! There is so much to see and do. Where we live near Arnhem, I can get to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Kinderdijk, Delft, Gouda, Geithorne, Hoge Veluwe and the Dutch bulb fields within 90 minute drive. These are just a few of the fantastic places to visit in the Netherlands. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands? I still have trouble getting my head around the fact that the Dutch don’t celebrate Christmas in the same was as we do in the UK. The two countries are not so far apart but they have such different customs. If you had 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d try and photograph as many of the amazing locations in the Netherlands as possible that I had not yet managed. I’d hope it was tulip time, as I would absolutely love to see the Dutch bulb fields from above in a small plane and photograph that. Charlotte Bellamy is English and lives near Arnhem. She offers location family photography and English language photography courses. www.charlottebellamy.com  More >


‘I’m Irish  living in Amsterdam, married to a Dutchman’

‘I’m Irish living in Amsterdam, married to a Dutchman’

Aisling Casey is Irish and has been in the Netherlands for 17 years. She is principal oboist with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. We ask her 10 questions about her life in the Netherlands. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met my (future) Dutch husband in the European Union Youth Orchestra and was studying oboe in Hannover, Germany when the co-principal oboe job came up with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. Since oboe jobs don't come up very often I applied and to my surprise discovered at 24 that it was time to move to The Netherlands. I stayed with this orchestra for 12 years and then moved on to the Radio. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? What's a lovepat?! I'm an Irish person living in Amsterdam, married to a Dutch man so I have an instant Dutch family. I think that makes integrating and feeling at home easier, although I still call Cork home. How long do you plan to stay? Indefinitely Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I'm fluent and learned it quite quickly as I was living in Germany first so had good German. Learning Dutch from German is a little easier than from English I'd say. What also helped was that I followed a beginners Dutch course in Germany which puts you in a class with other people who sound just as silly as you. This helped somewhat getting over the shyness of speaking in public and then when in Holland, because my accent was an Anglo-German mix, the Dutch didn't know whether to reply in English or German, so replied in Dutch. This helped enormously with the self confidence. I learned more by watching Dutch tv and reading stupid magazines(also the ads!) and letting colleagues, family and friends know to speak Dutch to me. Half the time I didn't understand what was going on, but in the end you get it. What's your favourite Dutch food? My husband's andijvie stampot What do you miss about back home? The pace of life, gentleness and giving each other space. How Dutch have you become? I've become quite direct which requires some adjustment when in Ireland. What's your top tourist tip? Go to the Concertgebouw to listen to the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra! www.rfo.nl. And if you prefer a more intimate setting, go to Splendor - it's a real gem with music from all genres and a great cosy bar in the heart of Amsterdam - www.splendoramsterdam.com. And if you're here on March 16th definitely go to Splendor at 16.30 as there is a concert of Beethoven's Irish Airs played by the creme de la creme of Dutch musicians. And at 20.00 hours fiddler Caoimhín O'Raghallaigh from the amazing Irish traditional band The Gloaming will jam with Splendor musicians from the worlds of jazz, improv, world & classical. It's going to be brilliant! Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL The sea is above us. Of course we all know that NL is under sea level, but I never really understood this until I climbed a tower behind the dunes in Den Helder(North Holland) and saw that the sea was higher than the land. Very shocking discovery coming from a country where we say we're going down to the sea. Here you go up to the sea! If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? I'd go on a picnic on our boat with all the Dutch friends I would miss - seeing Amsterdam from the water is magical. Aisling Casey is Irish and has been in the Netherlands for 17 years. She is principal oboist with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra.  More >


‘I intended to stay three months, that was 12 years ago’

‘I intended to stay three months, that was 12 years ago’

Ben Silburn, 45, is a computer programmer, presenter, writer and one of the chaps behind Easy Laughs. We ask him 10 questions about his life in the Netherlands. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I wanted a break from my writing job in London so I applied for short-term contracts anywhere in Europe. Amsterdam was the first place that offered me a job. I intended to stay for three months, that was twelve years ago... How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I am a child of the planet! I don't believe in national borders or political/administrative systems of control. If anyone from the belastingdienst is reading this then I am a Dutch resident. How long do you plan to stay? I don't make as many plans as I used to. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? My Dutch is very poor. That's not false modesty, I attended a course at the UVA and this was the result of the final exam. My Dutch is officially "very poor". What's your favourite Dutch food? I'm a big foodie so I love it all: raw haring, gehakteballes, traditional Dutch nasi-goreng... but I draw the line at kaas broodjes, a plakje of cheese between two slices of bread is NOT a sandwich. What do you miss about back home? Pints of ale in country pubs. How Dutch have you become? My girlfriend is Dutch, I own an apartment in Amsterdam, I check out what's on sale during Hamster Week. I guess I'm pretty ingeburgered. What's your top tourist tip Don't smoke pre-rolled joints. And of course, I would recommend *all* tourists to get their weekend started at the weekly English-language improvised comedy show that I perform in. We're called 'easylaughs' and we're on every Friday at the Crea Cafe. Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL Of all the Albert Heins in the country, the branch in the Red Light District sells the most toilet paper. If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? Breakfast at Singel 404, cycle to Oudekerk and back, picnic lunch on a boat round Prinseneiland, frisbee in Westerpark, drinks at Wynand Fockinck, ribs at Cafe Klos, mojitos at Cafe Cuba, MDMA at Paradiso, wake up in Vondelpark, breakfast at Singel 404... Find out more about easylaughs.nl  More >


‘I met a Dutch guy in a bar and two years later I moved to the Netherlands’

‘I met a Dutch guy in a bar and two years later I moved to the Netherlands’

American small business coach Stephanie Ward is puzzled by the loos on NS trains and does not want to know what is in bitterballen. What do you do? I show small business owners how to get more clients and grow their businesses. I’m a marketing coach. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met a Dutch guy in a bar and two years later I moved to the Netherlands. We’re still together and still madly in love. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I moved for love but I don’t call myself a lovepat. I think of myself as an international person or a global citizen. How long do you plan to stay? I have no plans to leave and you never know. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do, with a lot of mistakes but I can get my meaning across. Within the first months of arriving in the Netherlands I attended Dutch lessons for one solid week, one-on-one, from 9-5. It wasn’t pretty and yes, there were tears. I attended other courses over the years, including a lovely two week group course in Utrecht. In addition to that, watching TV and living in in the Netherlands for 15 years you pick things up and improve over time. The key is to speak Dutch and keep speaking Dutch even when people switch to English. What's your favourite Dutch food? Bitterballs are delicious (and no, I don’t want to know what’s in them) and I’m also a big fan of pea (erwten) soup. What do you miss about back home Enormous English language book stores with big chairs and tasty coffee. I know there are a couple in Amsterdam but remember, I’m in Apeldoorn. How Dutch have you become? I would say quite a bit. I’m very direct now and say what’s on my mind. And I have been told by more than one Dutch person that when I speak English it sounds like I’m a Dutch person speaking English. I know what they mean, but I don’t think it’s really true. I can still whip out my Oklahoma accent on a moment’s notice What's your top tourist tip? It sounds really corny but a boat trip on the canals of Amsterdam always delivers. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands I’m pretty sure the Dutch don’t want this publicised, it embarrasses me and I seriously don’t get it. Here it is, the toilets on the Dutch trains do not have receptacles that collect the uhum, business. No, they all have open holes at the bottom of the toilets that 'flush' straight on to the train tracks. Yes, really. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go on a bike ride to the Veluwe, a beautiful forest area near where I live, and have a picnic. Then I would go to the outdoor market in the centre and buy a loempia (spring roll) with spicy sauce and wander around. And finish the evening with an enormous party with friends and family with wonderful food, music, and dancing. Stephanie Ward is American and lives in Apeldoorn. She runs a business called Firefly Coaching which helps small firms get their (online) marketing in order.  More >


‘I miss the wind blow through an undulating landscape’

‘I miss the wind blow through an undulating landscape’

Peter Leggett has been in the Netherlands for 12 years. He likes deep-fried Dutch snacks and Zeeland and is definitely not an expat. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was sent here by an old employer, Orange, to help with the change programme of re-branding Dutchtone to Orange NL. A one-year secondment basically. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? Definitely not an expat. I live here, I am not on a short-term stint – nor do I really like the term. I feel like a Haagenaar, yet also maintain my Britishness. So perhaps – ‘Haagenish’ or as you put it, an ‘International’. How long do you plan to stay? Indefinitely. My roots are planted here, and I feel this is my home. Perhaps another 12 years. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I am at the 50/50 stage, not quite fluent, and still with some struggles. I will most likely just keep learning as I understand a lot more than I can speak. I learnt from playing football here, encouraging shopkeepers and neighbours to respond to me in Dutch, and I did an intensive course back in 2005. Though if I'm honest this had little impact, as for me at that time there was little time or opportunity to practice in social circles. I learnt more French, Spanish, Italian and Romanian, for example, than I did Dutch. What's your favourite Dutch food? I absolutely love the Indonesian food here, yet this is of course not typically Dutch. If it were a Dutch food then I would most likely favour a deep fried array of treats. Kaastengels (big cheese straws) are certainly up there. What do you miss about back home? Topography and seeing the wind blow through an undulating landscape. How Dutch have you become? That is a tough one, as defining what ‘Dutch’ might be seems close to being political and my feeling is it leads to conflict rather than acceptance. I appreciate the transport network and infrastructure, the freedom of cycling and less reliance on having or needing a car. I would say I have not really become Dutch. I feel that is a state of mind, not a state of ‘being’. Maybe 20% Dutch. What's your top tourist tip? Zeeland. Just get out there and visit it, and go the long way down if you can. Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL. The Netherlands is the most densely populated nation in Europe, or at least, with 487 inhabitants per square kilometer, the Netherlands has the highest population density of any European country with more than one million inhabitants. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? A walk on the beach in Scheveningen accompanied by a quick fish dining experience at Simonis, at the harbour. A bike ride and wander through Clingendael and the Haagse Bos, followed by some pancakes at the Malieveld. Then to cap it off, ‘one or two for the road’ in De Paas Bier Café, accompanied by the mandatory Turkse pizza whilst trying to locate one's bicycle, and then the last near death experience of cycling home trying to avoid the tram tracks. If time on route, as it would be rude not to, the definite last, last, beer in De Pijpela. Peter Leggett is British and has been in the Netherlands for 12 years. He works for an international communications and creative agency, coaches a U-14s team at the International School of The Hague (The ISH) and is a freelance photographer.  More >