Longer articles about living in the Netherlands, Dutch society, culture and travel plus third party content from our partners


Six classic Dutch winter warmers – all involving mashed potatoes and bacon

Six classic Dutch winter warmers – all involving mashed potatoes and bacon

Now winter has muscled in, it is time to eat real Dutch comfort food - and that means lots of mashed potato with either a bacon chop, a sausage or a meat ball. Robin Pascoe recommends six classic stamppot recipes. Despite all my years of living in the Netherlands, there is one classic Dutch dish that I still cannot bring myself to eat - the dreaded spinazie a la creme. Deep-frozen spinach with some sort of cream added in, served with fish fingers and mashed potato was, at one time, a Dutch tea time staple - and may still be if the television ads are anything to go by. The same goes for the ubiquitous ovenschotel (oven dish involving mince and/or pasta), and chicken with apple sauce. There are, however, some classic Dutch winter warmers, all based around the humble potato which have a lot to recommend them. And a generous amount of fried bacon bits (spekjes) are essential in every one. Hutspot Absolutely the best among the Dutch mashed meals, hutspot is probably related to the late Middle English hotchpotch - a mutton stew with vegetables - which has now come to mean a confused mixture of unrelated items. Chop up equal quantities of potato, carrot and white onion and boil over a low heat for about 20 minutes. Drain the liquid and mash with a big dollop of butter and splash of milk. Add lots of fried bacon bits and serve with braised beef or a smoked bacon chop. Delicious. Stampot rauwe andijvie I always find this the most complicated stamppot to get the quantities right but it is worth the effort and extremely good for consuming large amounts of green leafy veg at one sitting. For four people you need about one kilo of potatoes and one very large curly endive. Wash and slice up the endive into thin strips. Boil the potatoes in a large pot. When done, drain and put the potatoes back in the pan, mashing in the endive in several batches with butter, salt, pepper and a splash of milk, allowing it to steam cook. Add in lots of fried bacon bits and serve with classic meatballs in a thin gravy Boerenkool The rebirth of curly kale as a super food has helped put boerenkool met worst firmly back in the top of the Dutch culinary tree. You are, as a fully integrated foreigner in the Netherlands, supposed to love it. Put 1.5 kilos of potatoes, peeled and chopped in a large pot with 600 grammes of washed and finely chopped curly kale (buy it ready-prepared, as all good Dutch cooks do). Boil together for around 20 minutes, drain and mash with a good dollop of butter and 100 ml of milk. Add salt, pepper and lots of fried bacon bits. Eat with classic Dutch sausage and mustard Zuurkool Boil around a kilo of peeled potatoes in a large pot for 15 minutes. Add around 500 grammes of drained zuurkool (sauerkraut) and cook for a further five minutes. Drain and mash together with salt, pepper, butter and a splash of milk. Add fried bacon bits. Serve with a classic Dutch smoked sausage and plenty of mustard. Some people add apple as well as zuurkool to the mash. It is also extremely good with bacon chops. Stamppot met spruitjes Stamppot with sprouts is yet another variation on the theme. Again, you need twice as much potato as sprouts. Boil the potatoes for 10 minutes then add the sprouts. Cook till done, then remove some of the sprouts. Mash the rest with butter, milk and bacon bits. Add the rest of the whole sprouts and serve with a bacon chop or a meat ball. Hete bliksem Hete bliksem literally translates as hot lightning, but is also slang, I am told, for a wanton woman. This stamppot is made in the classic stamppot manner, cooking equal quantities of potato and apple - half sweet apples and half sour. Mash well, adding butter and bacon bits and serve with bloedworst - blood sausage. The Dutch are very inventive with their stamppots and add all sort of different ingredients, including curry flavourings, other vegetables, sweet potatoes, goat's cheese, pineapple and even fish. Albert Heijn's recipe website has 410 variations, if you are feeling like further experimentation. More food favourites: 10 classic Dutch recipes  More >


Dutch health insurance in 2018: what you need to know now

Dutch health insurance in 2018: what you need to know now

All the Dutch health insurance companies have now published their premiums for 2018. So now is your chance to change your health plan or shop around for a more suitable or better deal. Here's some key things to think about. Like everyone who lives in the Netherlands, you have between now and January 1 to decide whether or not to switch to a new Dutch health insurance company. So what should you be taking into account? Health insurance premiums Firstly, there is the question of price. Some health insurers have put up their rates by a few euros a month, while a few have even made cuts. The average rise is around €2 a month, well below the €6.50 a month the government had been expecting. Nevertheless, the difference in premiums between the cheapest and most expensive policies is huge, despite the cover being exactly the same! In addition, as time goes on, the chances are that you have top up policies which exceed your budget or cover things you don’t need anymore as well. So having a look at your health insurance policy and changing your insurer may cut your insurance bill by a tidy sum of money. What changes in 2018? So what changes has the government - which decides what should be included in the basic health insurance policy - introduced this year? The new coalition government has decided that the deductible excess (eigen risico) will remain €385 next year and up to 2021. The basic health insurance package has also been expanded slightly and now includes: New medication for treating hepatitis C, breast cancer and obstipation 12 physiotherapy treatments for patients with arthritis of the knee In addition, the healthcare allowance (zorgtoeslag) for people with low incomes will probably increase slightly to compensate for the higher insurance premiums. How to choose an insurer? Selecting an insurance provider (in Dutch: zorgverzekering vergelijken) can be difficult, as a lot of information on the insurer’s website is presented in Dutch and there are so many policies to choose from. ZorgWijzer.nl is the first insurance broker that offers a fully functioning English comparison tool, allowing you to find the most suitable and affordable health plan for yourself and your family. Don’t forget to check it out. If you do decide to change insurance company, make sure you do it before January 1. Your new insurer will automatically cancel your old policy, so that is one other thing you won't have to take care of. By the way, if you have recently moved to the Netherlands, you will need to take out Dutch health insurance as well. By law need to do this within four months of your arrival, or your residence permit kicking in.  More >


To buy or not to buy? Is buying a home in the Netherlands worth the risk?

To buy or not to buy? Is buying a home in the Netherlands worth the risk?

Does it sometimes seem as if all your mates are jumping on the bandwagon and buying a home and you are still stuck in your rented flat with the creaky floors? Sometimes buying a home makes more sense, but not always. Here are a few key things to think about. The housing market, particularly in the big Dutch cities, is rarely out of the news at the moment - soaring prices, lack of choice, changes to the mortgage rules - you might consider yourself lucky in your rental flat, dodgy plumbing and all. After all, the greatest advantages of renting a home are flexibility and the lack of risk. You can come and go whenever you want, you’re not responsible for major maintenance, and you don’t have to worry about what would happen if the value of your property goes down. Of course, this comes with a price – literally. Renting in the Netherlands is not cheap and depending on where you are, you could be worse off financially in a rental property. A three-room flat in Amsterdam’s Buitenveldert district will cost you around €1,900 a month in rent, but if you bought the same property, it could be as much as €700 a month cheaper – and that is taking all the bills into account as well. Check out more comparisons here. Above all, the rent you pay helps your landlord beef up his investments and does nothing to help you build up a nest egg. Cost-effective So why buy? Well, today’s market is attractive for buyers because mortgage rates are relatively low so you can get a lot of house for your money. Buying also means you can try to find the perfect property. Buying offers you more choices and the opportunity to renovate your home exactly as you like it. Of course, becoming a home owner is not risk-free. The greatest risk a home-buyer faces is ending up in negative equity - or under water, as they say in Dutch. In the Netherlands, you’ll be liable for repaying the mortgage no matter what happens to your property value. Of course, the risk of having a residual debt is quite low. Within five years of owning your home, you would already have paid off approximately 10% of the loan. So if the house price were to drop by 10%, you wouldn’t have any residual debt. Buyers also run the risk of buying a house with hidden defects. However, there are laws in the Netherlands to protect buyers from purchasing a property that has a lot of problems. For example, sellers are required to notify you of any known defects such as leaking roofs, rotten floors or noisy neighbours. If the sellers don’t do this, they can be held responsible. You could go as far as dissolving the purchase agreement even after you bought and moved into the property. So what is so great about renting? You can move at any time The landlord is responsible for maintenance and insurance You don’t have to worry about losing money if house prices fall You have a high level of rent protection You don’t have to pay property tax (OZB) On the other hand Rental prices are high Your rent will increase every year There is limited choice You won’t build equity with your monthly payments, and you won’t make money if property values rise Your opportunities for renovation will be limited or non-existent When you move, you may have to return the property to its original state And the benefits of buying? Your mortgage and other housing costs are often less expensive than renting Mortgage interest is tax deductible You build equity by making monthly payments, and the property will become yours once your mortgage is repaid. You can profit from rising house prices You can renovate the property however you want And what could go wrong? Your monthly payments might go up at the end of each fixed interest rate period You will be responsible for all repairs and maintenance You may lose equity if property values decline You have to pay property tax (OZB) and other communal taxes You need homeowner’s insurance In the end it all boils down to what you are comfortable with. Buying can be interesting if you plan a longer stay, say more than three to five years. Time is your friend when it comes to buying a home. For more on the pros and cons of buying a home, check out MortgageMonster.nl where you can also calculate your maximum mortgage.  More >


New film brings Van Gogh’s brush strokes to life with vivid animation

New film brings Van Gogh’s brush strokes to life with vivid animation

Vincent van Gogh’s fluid brush strokes already seem to move across the canvas but now a film has brought them to life, animating physical paintings to tell the Dutch artist’s story, writes Senay Boztas. Loving Vincent is the title of the first fully-painted feature film, currently in cinemas, and a making-of exhibition at Het Noordbrabants Museum in ’s-Hertogenbosch until January 28 2018. Both the film and exhibition were beset with challenges, from erasing a Greek fly that got stuck in the paint of one of 65,000 stills to persuading museums this artistic project fits their space, co-directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman told DutchNews.nl. Wind back almost a decade and Kobiela, a passionate painter and Van Gogh fan with an idea for a seven-minute painted film animation, had taken a job at Welchman’s company, BreakThru films in London. Love and marriage ‘She had money from the Polish Film Institute, came to work for my company, we fell in love and got married…and we went back to Vincent deciding to do a feature film,’ explains Welchman. ‘I went to an exhibition in 2010 at the Royal Academy on his letters and queued for three-and-a-half hours to get in. That’s when I started to get an understanding of the power of Van Gogh.’ The film tells the fictional story of Armand Roulin, a postman’s son who sat for Van Gogh, trying to fathom the truth of the painter’s last days before he killed himself in July 1890. In some ways, the figure of Roulin represents Welchman – complete with his Vincent-ish beard – a sceptic, who is eventually won over to unqualified admiration of Van Gogh the painter. Swirly paintings At first, Welchman only had a vague notion of the Dutch artist. ‘You know he’s famous for swirly paintings and cut off his ear but you don’t really grasp how passionate people are about him,’ he says. ‘They treat him like a rock star, like Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain. ‘People identify with his struggle – his tragic early death, struggle with mental illness and finding love. His paintings and letters are so powerful because he had this immense frustration that he couldn’t communicate in the flesh.’ Vincent van Gogh, born in 1853 in the Brabantse village of Zundert, became an artist at the age of 27 and moved to France. But after a series of psychotic attacks, including the famous incident where he cut off an ear and presented it to a prostitute, he eventually killed himself. He left more than 850 paintings, almost 1,300 works on paper, and an extensive set of letters. These were the basis for what one critic has called a ‘near-lunatic labour of love’, the animated film using 377 paintings based wholly or partly on 125 Van Gogh works, animated by literally moving paint around and taking photographs. Challenges There were technical challenges for an animator, says Welchman, not least Van Gogh’s strange perspective and the fact that some of his figures are more expressionistic than anatomically correct. ‘Sometimes when people move through an environment, you can’t stick to his 2D perspective, because people think it’s wrong,’ he explains. ‘In the Night Café we managed to keep the strange perspective, but at other times like Wheatfield with Crows, we had to slightly modify it. ‘Sometimes his characters don’t have skeletons. Whereas, in animation, once you move people, they have to look like they are real people moving otherwise people will just go: it’s wrong. The boatman on the banks of the river Oise [was one example].' The $5.5mln film project combined colour images based on the artist’s paintings with black-and-white ones telling his story as described by other people. The screenplay was first shot with actors and then the stills were over-painted by hand, a painstaking process taking six years. Clove oil Kobiela says another challenge was to keep the oil paint wet enough to move – and after testing 30 paint retarders, they settled on the clove oil that Van Gogh himself had used. ‘One painting [in the Van Gogh Museum collection] is still kind of dripping slowly – one of the peasants from the Dutch period,’ she added. ‘Another big challenge was the shade of blue Vincent used on The Starry Night, which was just impossible – what was the pigment? ‘And in [our studio in] Greece when it was very hot, the paint was very thick and there was a fly that got stuck in one of the paintings. I think someone really wanted to get rid of it in post-production. We made so many mistakes but there were so many revelations.’ Unique project Geertje Jacobs, head of collections, exhibitions and education at Het Noordbrabants Museum says that the exhibition of the film’s story was so ‘unique and special’ they had to house it – even though museums normally programme years in advance. ‘You really feel what a unique project it is and that it really was all painted with a huge amount of passion and willpower,’ she says. ‘Van Gogh was born in Brabant and we feel we have a duty to give room to his story in our museum. This has an unbelievable eye for detail – not just looking at how he painted, and making his paintings bloom, but also with a lot of respect for the historical facts.’ The film, she says, is the artistic project more than the ‘independent objects’ of the paintings themselves – although they could be labelled a kind of 21st century ‘after Van Gogh’ school of painting. Details ‘I’ve seen the film a number of times,’ she adds. ‘The first time for the story, and the second and third time really watching the details. There are some paintings that you recognise immediately, but also very small details like a glass and bottle on a table in Café Terrace at Night from a still life Van Gogh made. I think it’s really worth seeing the exhibition, especially if you have seen the film.’ Van Gogh was, in a way, says Welchman, almost an early selfie-maker: his art was an expression of himself where he even imbued his shoes with meaning. 'He was radical, strong and individualist, striking out in his own style but although he wanted to be in a group of painters, he was in a group of one, really,' he adds. With their hand-crafted film – just as anachronistic in this age of computer-generated images – they have achieved the same. Van Gogh signed letters to his art dealer brother Theo ‘your loving Vincent’, and thanks to the film and exhibition, more Dutch audiences will undoubtedly soon be ‘Loving Vincent’ more too.   More >


Death and the Dutch – Amsterdam has a museum devoted to funerals

Death and the Dutch – Amsterdam has a museum devoted to funerals

With Halloween in full swing, it’s that time of year when people focus on the morbid. But, reports Deborah Nicholls-Lee, even a museum devoted to death can be a cheery affair. ‘We are very happy people here,’ says Guus Sluiter, director of Tot Zover (So Far!), the Netherlands’ only funeral museum, although he has just warned me that we may need to continue the interview elsewhere as our room is often used by the cemetery to plan ceremonies with the bereaved. I struggle to reconcile the two: the graveyard view behind us, and the cheerful director and his staff. It’s not a museum most would visit to lift their mood, but there is something unexpectedly soothing about it, like the catharsis you experience after attending a funeral. ‘We read a lot in the guest book that people are a bit surprised that it was not as sombre or dark as they thought it would be,’ he explains. ‘In our marketing, we always try to emphasise that we are not a dull or depressing museum.’ Sluiter acknowledges, however, the challenge of presenting such a topic positively: ‘The subject is of course not easy for everyone; it can be very sad, so we want the tone of voice to be light and open and a bit arty.’ Curious artefacts Tot Zover, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in December, has always stood out from the crowd, says its director. ‘There are many museums which have exhibitions related to death or mourning because many artists have death as a subject … but it is uncommon to have a [whole] museum devoted to it.’ The museum contains many fascinating curios, such as commemorative artworks created with human hair, diamonds forged from cremation ashes, and a paper urn fashioned from the correspondence of the deceased. Particular attention is paid to funeral rituals and how these vary from culture to culture. The museum believes that the way this closing ceremony is conducted can reveal a lot about us as humans. For an insight into Dutch funeral culture, an unusually pragmatic approach to mortality can been seen in several of the artefacts on display. The 1940s stamp book, where people would save up for their own funerals, for example, is a precursor to the life insurance policies which are used widely today in the Netherlands. The meticulously planned 1999 funeral, which terminally ill 29-year-old Merijn Luchtmeijer’s organised for himself, is both a mark of his coming to terms with the brevity of his life and a growing trend here for personalising the final journey. A New Direction This small museum’s unusual focus has always piqued people’s curiosity, but its new direction is expected to be even more interesting. ‘Initially, we were collecting and presenting all kinds of objects related to funerals,’ says Sluiter, ‘and now we want to help people reflect on death and everything that has to do with the subject.’ The museum collaborates with students, artists and theatres and organises conferences, embracing the intellectual life around its fascinating theme. ‘We work on deeper levels. We want to raise questions more than give answers. We want people to think about things.’ Taboo subject Part of Tot Zover’s refreshing approach is its refusal to shy away from difficult topics. ‘Sometimes we address very unhappy subjects like suicide and prevention,’ says Sluiter, ‘but we do not avoid it. We work with the artists. We always look at the right way to approach it, generally through art or photography, but we do not avoid it and we can be quite activist.’ The museum is keen to expand its role in helping others discuss death, particularly schools, fielding questions from students. ‘Children like to talk about death; they find it very interesting, but their parents don’t and also the teachers don’t,’ says Sluiter. A new educational package Dood Gewoon in de Klas, (Dead Normal in the Class) is launching in November http://www.doodgewoonindeklas.nl/   to support these difficult conversations. Thanks to additional funding awarded in September, the child-friendly Kleine Hein, a cartoonised mini grim reaper, will soon be a central feature of the museum’s marketing. This new strategy, along with the current museum trail suitable for 8-12 year olds, is a reminder that death is a subject for everyone. Lonely funerals The museum’s latest exhibition Hier Besta Ik (I Exist Here) focuses on the extraordinary way the Netherlands honours those who have no-one to attend their funeral. Amsterdam conducts around 15 eenzame uitvaarten (lonely funerals) per year. All are attended by a team of undertakers who provide a dignified farewell for the deceased, complete with flowers and a specially-commissioned eulogy penned by one of the country’s top poets. ‘Sometimes you can trace people, but nobody wants to come,’ explains Sluiter. ‘Sometimes you have people you don’t know the identity of. Sometimes people are from other countries, but in most cases they are isolated for many reasons.’ The exhibition includes photographs of a lonely funeral, a display featuring 12 poets and their poems (in Dutch) written for the deceased, and a more conceptual gallery exploring the theme of loneliness. Appreciate ife For Sluiver, death is something necessary and positive: ‘You don’t want to die, but if you didn’t die then your life would be very complicated – and your head would probably explode from all the experiences that you see and hear for hundreds of years. I don’t think humans could cope.’ It follows that talking about death need not bring sadness, but can also enrich your life and help you appreciate it more. ‘The fact that you are aware that you will die intensifies your life,’ says Sluiter. ‘It is good to think about death and perhaps also funerals, to realise that you will die … That’s not always a bad thing.’ Arriving at the museum, a hearse crunching slowly along the gravel to my left, visitors carrying flowers to a grave in the distance, and a crematorium up ahead, I felt mournful, my head full of past narratives. Leaving the museum, I feel stronger. ‘[It’s] a very positive place,’ insists Sluiter, ‘because we help people think of the deeper values in life and I think that’s a positive thing.’ Museum Tot Zover http://www.totzover.nl/english/ is located in the De Nieuwe Ooster cemetery in Amsterdam Oost. Hier Besta ik runs until the February11,  2018. Tot Zover is marking Museum Night on November 4 with poetry recitals from some of the poets featured in the exhibition and a night-tour of the cemetery. Further reading: 10 things about death in the Netherlands  More >


From Sinterklaas in Dokkum to documentary film: 12 great things in November

From Sinterklaas in Dokkum to documentary film: 12 great things in November

From the arrival of Sinterklaas in Friesland to a look at Van Gogh's Paris, there are lots of great things to do in the Netherlands in November, as Hanneke Sanou has been finding out. Pay a visit to the palace There is just time to check out this year's crop of promising young artists who have won the annual Koninklijke prijs voor vrije schilderkunst at the Palace on Dam square in Amsterdam. Until November 5. Website Catch a con at the Scheepvaartmuseum The Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam presents Gamechangers, a selection of 25 maritime inventions inspired by the life on the ocean waves, including Cornelis Drebbel's first submarine from 1620. The museum is promising to reveal a world of 'visionary pioneers, humanitarians and dangerous conmen'. Until July 1 2018. Website See Red with Rothko The Orange Tea Theatre's forthcoming production is John Logan's Tony Award-winning 'Red'. A portrait of the artist Mark Rothko emerges as he spars with his young assistant Ken. November 10-12 and 17-19. For venues and tickets go to the website. Travel to Paris with Van Gogh Ah, Paris..city of romance and impoverished artists and yet another place where Van Gogh didn't sell a single painting. Hundreds of Dutch artists flocked to the city between the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 20th to learn from their French counterparts. The Van Gogh Museum highlights Jongkind, Van Gogh, Van Dongen and Mondriaan and such lesser known artists as Gerard van Spaendonck and Frederik Hendrik Kaemmerer. The Dutch in Paris,1789 - 1914 is on until January 7. Website Meet Margaretha Zelle The Fries Museum is honouring a famous Frisian who was much-maligned and celebrated at the same time. One wonders if, during her time in Paris, Mata Hari ever bumped into a one of the Dutch artists featured in the Van Gogh. But then Mata Hari preferred men in uniform, as she herself wrote in one of her remaining letters which, along with other bits and pieces from het turbulent life are on show in Mata Hari, the myth and the maiden until April 2. Website Get engaged in Scheveningen Curaçaoan sculptor and performance artist Tirzo Martha is one of those artists who does not shy away from creating work with a clear social message. Apart from showing a number of works made especially for the museum Beelden aan Zee, Martha will engage students and locals in creating a work called Een Monument voor Samen (A Monument to Community). From November 3. Website Wait until dirty ditty o'clock According to the Museum Speelklok in Utrecht the 18th century rich folk got their kicks from dirty ditties played by their clocks. Some songs were about courting or drunken revels but others featured sex and pubic hair. Go and have a furtive listen to  Shady Songs on Majestic Musical Clocks until April 8. Website  Ditch the Dutch! It went strangely under-reported at the time on Dutch shores and the Dutch are still largely unaware of the fact that in 1795 the British fleet captured nine VOC ships auguring in the collapse of the world's first multinational. It's all a matter of perspective, the Maritiem Museum Rotterdam explains in How we ditched the Dutch. Until June 3 Website Fork out for fashion Dutch fashion designer  Mart Visser is celebrating 25 years in the business and 50 collections by opening a temporary museum - and a concept store so bring your purse - which achieves 'the ultimate synergy between his three disciplines: Haute Couture, prêt-à-porter and Artwork'. Beyond Context is on until November 19. Website Catch up with the masters The Hermitage in Amsterdam had a good rummage around the collection of its big brother in St Petersburg and emerged with a splendid collection of Dutch paintings, among which works by Frans Hals, Gerard Dou and Rembrandt. Dutch Masters from the Hermitage: Treasures of the Tsars’ is on until May 27. Website Watch hundreds of documentaries The International Documentary Festival Amsterdam kicks off on November 15 with a line up of documentaries and feature films from all over the world. The full programme will be published on November 2. Sing a song for Saint Nicholas By far the most important event this month is the arrival of Sinterklaas in Dokkum. For those who can't be there in person, the event will be show live on television. November 18 from 12.00. Website You can comment on this story on our Facebook page.  More >


Live near the beach: here are three unique opportunities in The Hague

Live near the beach: here are three unique opportunities in The Hague

Living in The Hague means living in the only large Dutch city by the sea. It takes just 15 minutes on the tram from the city centre to breathe in the fresh seaside air or a quick post work swim. With 10 kilometres of sandy beach nearby it is no wonder The Hague is such a popular place to live. Tempted? Here are three unique property developments currently being realised by leading national developer and builder, VORM, in various parts of the city. De Stadhouders De Stadhouders complex is named after several important city leaders from the 17th century. The project is being constructed on the border of the popular Statenkwartier and Duinoord city districts, which is one of the most sought-after living and working locations in The Hague. This new residential complex consist of three buildings, one for each of the stadhouders. The inner courtyard will be transformed into a green and car-free city square. Apartments in the tallest of the three buildings, Frederik Hendrik, are currently up for sale, while the other two buildings will be developed over the next year. In total, 260 new homes are planned in this development, all combining the luxury of a hotel with the relaxation of your own space. The apartments, available in a  a range of sizes, are characterised by spacious living areas and beautiful panoramic views of the city and the beach. All feature a Bulthaup kitchen, two bathrooms and have their own parking and storage facilities. Find out more Berlagehuis The beautiful and listed Berlagehuis in the heart of The Hague is in the process of being completely transformed into a residential accommodation. As a national heritage site, the building benefits from a stunning entrance hall, beautiful communal areas and high ceilings with interesting architectural details. The 57 stunning new homes will preserve the exceptional qualities of the building. Every home will be unique and will be available as town houses, apartments and penthouses. Parking is available on the site. There is even an opportunity for new homeowners to purchase a separate studio or atelier in the building, perfect for people who want to pursue a creative lifestyle or who want to have extra storage space or lay down an extensive wine cellar! Of course, the location of the Berlagehuis in the heart of the city is perfect, as it is close to all amenities. Access to public transport is good and motorway connections are within easy reach. Find out more. Binck Plaats Binck Plaats (Binck Place) is part of a larger development project in the Binckhorst, situated on Voorburg side of the city. The site, which was previously home to a large industrial warehouse complex, is to be transformed into 46 spacious family homes. The homes vary in living space at between around 164 m2 and 186 m2 across three or four levels. The homes lend themselves to a number of uses, with the ground floor providing ideal work/living spaces, and first floors being offered in a range of depths. Upper floors can be used for bedrooms or bathrooms, and properties benefit from gardens up to 15 metres deep. A garage is included in the development and homes offer views of the neighbouring waterways and open green spaces. Building is due to start in the middle of 2018 and properties will be ready to move into towards the end of 2019. Discover more. VORM, the homemakers VORM is a national developer and builder. We concentrate on locations where people love to live, both inside and outside of our towns and cities. Lively neighbourhoods, beautiful streets, and beloved architecture all play a role in projects that give people a real feeling of 'coming home'. With a focus on sustainable and responsible projects, as well as the possibility of arranging finance and insurance, VORM can help you make your dream of a new home into a reality. If you would like to find out more about one of these unique developments in The Hague, click on the links to register your interest and we will keep you informed on the homes under construction and about open days. Interested? You can visit VORM at their stand at the Woonbeurs The Hague on October 28. Here you will find all their projects and can ask any questions you might have. You can comment on this article on our Facebook page.  More >


Should international parents consider a Dutch education for their children?

Should international parents consider a Dutch education for their children?

With international schools in short supply and long waiting lists becoming the norm, more expatriate parents are considering a Dutch education for their children. Deborah Nicholls-Lee examines its pros and cons. ‘Within both of the kids’ classes, we’ve got Mexican families, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Canadian, - we have a really big mix there,’ says British expatriate Claire Mingay, who has lived in Amsterdam for 12 years. But the multi-cultural school that her children attend is not international: it is a Dutch primary school full of expatriates who, like her and her British husband Mark, have made the decision to enroll their children in the Dutch system. ‘We feel we have the best of both worlds in a Dutch school in the city centre, where there’s a large number of international families,’ she says. ‘We have the international context, the teachers are happy to speak to us in English and understand that we don’t speak good Dutch, and that’s made it quite comfortable for us to be in a Dutch system.’ She admits, though, that the transition would be harder outside the Randstad, where schools are less accustomed to foreigners. Competition for places It’s a step that more parents are having to consider, faced with a dearth of international places. A record number of foreign companies relocating to the Netherlands in recent years has rocketed the demand for international schooling. There are currently 47% more children in international education than five years ago, but large cities like Amsterdam are still unable to meet the needs of their new arrivals, despite a rapid expansion programme. Annebet van Mameren, founder of New2nl, whose relocation services specialise in helping families find schools for their children, describes the current situation as ‘very serious’. ‘The problem a lot of people are facing at this moment when they are looking for an international school is that the international schools are all full. And then they have to look for an alternative, which is often a Dutch school or they move outside [the city].’ Mismatch She recognises the mismatch between the needs of industry and the requirements of the foreign workers: ‘On the one hand, the government tries to attract companies from abroad, especially from Brexit – so companies from the UK - but then there’s no school for the children and also housing is very difficult.’ This problem is compounded by cuts to companies’ relocation packages. ‘In the past, there were more expats who came here with an allowance for the international schooling of their children, but it’s not really the case anymore – only for very senior managers,’ she says. For most, the annual school fees, which range from €14,000 to €20,000 - and are often topped by huge enrollment charges - are prohibitive. Though some schools are partially subsidised by the Dutch government and can charge far less, these are largely over-subscribed. The popular AICS school in Amsterdam, for example, currently has a waiting list of 2-4 years, says Annebet, and is struggling to keep up with demand. ‘They started last year with a satellite school, but that’s already full as well. They will move to a new building. That’s planned for 2020, so that doesn’t help much at this moment.’ An opportunity to integrate Research by the International Community Advisory Panel earlier this year shows that only around a quarter of expatriate families get help in paying for an international school place and half of families place their children in the Dutch system. In addition, some 70% of parents are happy or very happy, with the quality of their children's education. For some international parents, the Dutch system, as well as being more affordable, has helped their children adapt to life in the Netherlands. Leila Gray, who is British and married to a German, describes choosing a Dutch school for their two young children as a ‘no-brainer’. ‘We wanted our kids to go to a local Dutch school because it was important for us that they learn Dutch and become integrated. Everyone told us schools here were good, and paying for an international school on the other side of town was just not an option for us.’ ‘I'm constantly amazed at the quality and diversity of state schools here,’ she continues. ‘I discovered Montessori schools here … and was very excited when I found out they were state-run.’ A new language But what about learning the language? ‘We didn’t get any special help,’ says Leila. ‘My son went to kindergarten here so he had already learned Dutch. My daughter is four and she’s just started after a year in Berlin. When I asked the school about any extra help she could get language-wise, they told me I shouldn’t worry and she’d just pick it up. And that’s exactly what she’s doing. I know it’s not for everyone, but I love the pragmatic and relaxed attitude here.’ For children six or older, however, language help is provided. ‘The Dutch immersion classes are usually very good,’ says Annebet. ‘They have small classes, specialised teachers [with] a lot of knowledge and understanding of teaching Dutch as a second language. Every child gets a personal programme which matches their level and their progress.’ Immersion for primary school children is usually for less than a year, allowing them to stay with their peer group, but at high school, explains Annebet, it takes longer and can lead to a child falling behind. Immersion class ‘They first have to go to a Dutch immersion class for one or sometimes two years and then, depending on their level, … they may go to a high school but it’s often a year lower than their age.’ An international education, she says, can make it easier for older children to slot back into the system in their home country should the family move back. For French national Claire Coleman, this was a crucial factor in choosing an international school for her nine-year-old son and his five-year-old sister, although she is still uncertain of her decision. ‘We are still not sure if we will stay, but if we do, we are torn between moving them to the Dutch system to integrate better into Dutch life and it being too late for our eldest to catch up.’ Though she did not enjoy being on the waiting list and the ‘many stressful phone calls’ with the school to see if there was a place yet, she has been impressed with the international education her children have received. She describes the international diploma system and its ethos as ‘absolutely fantastic’. ‘Learning is fun and really develops confidence through presentation skills,’ she says. ‘Classes are small, so the teachers have the time and energy to help each child individually thrive.’ The long cycle-ride to school is ‘a good workout’, she jokes, but less handy when it comes to making play-dates. Adaptable Across town, Claire Mingay, whose young children were born here, is happy with her decision. She recommends that parents throw themselves into the Dutch experience, ‘scary as it may seem’. ‘Your kids will be fine; your kids will adapt; your kids will soak things up like a sponge and won’t look back,’ she says. But she draws the line at hagelslag in the lunchbox. ‘That,’ she says, ‘I will not budge on.’ If you would like to comment on this article, please go to our Facebook page  More >


Get to grips with living in the Netherlands at the IamExpat Fair in The Hague

Get to grips with living in the Netherlands at the IamExpat Fair in The Hague

Need help with finding the perfect place to live, a good place to work out or even mates to hang around with? You'll find all the answers at the second edition of the IamExpat Fair in The Hague, which takes place on Saturday November 4, 2017, at the Grote Kerk in the city centre. The IamExpat Fair was set up support internationals in the Netherlands and connect them with local businesses and service providers and the organisers are delighted to be back in The Hague for a second edition. 'The IamExpat Fair is designed for both new arrivals and established expats who want to discover something new or find answers to questions that have been bugging them for some time!,' says co-organiser Nikos Nakos. 'For example, finding time to make an appointment with a mortgage or financial advisor, can seem daunting, but here we've got them all under one roof,' says his colleague Panos Sarlanis. Indeed, the event is a great opportunity to find everything you need in one location, on one day. From companies and services in the areas of career, housing, education and expat services, to family, health and leisure - the IamExpat Fair has it covered! 'There’s something for everyone: from finding a job, house or childcare for your kids, to choosing a legal advisor, accountant or MBA and so much more,' says the third member of the team, Charalampos Sergios. Free workshops and presentations will also be running throughout the day. Visitors to the IamExpat Fair in The Hague can: - Get assistance with finding rental properties or understanding Dutch mortgages - Learn about advancing your career through professional development - Attend workshops about living and working in the Netherlands - Benefit from many special offers - Find local health and lifestyle organisations - Connect with like-minded locals and expats from around the world Book your free ticket now! The IamExpat Fair - The Hague, 2017 Date: Saturday, November 4, 2017 Time: 10am to 5pm Location: Grote Kerk, The Hague   More >


Multilingual recruitment comes of age: from CVs by post to video presentations

Multilingual recruitment comes of age: from CVs by post to video presentations

Twenty years ago Maureen Adam launched her own recruitment company from her home in Edam. Since then the company has blossomed, but the recruitment industry has changed enormously as well, as Robin Pascoe found out. ‘I came to Holland in 1991 and I really struggled to find a job. The Netherlands was in the middle of a recession and it was at a time when you went to an agency and there were notices on the door stating “if you can’t speak Dutch, don’t come in”,’ says Maureen Adam, sitting on a bench in the sun in Westerpark, close to the company’s Amsterdam offices. ‘Then I found a job working in customer services and everyone working there was an international. So I thought “hang on a minute, there is work for people who don’t speak Dutch”.’ It was not, however, until a few months and another job later, that Maureen decided to take the plunge. Adams Multilingual Recruitment was born. “I’d worked in recruitment in London and Hong Kong and I thought the level of service here was not what it could be,’ she says. ‘I never planned to set up my own business, but it was born out of frustration.' 10 vacancies Starting from home in Edam, with a much-wanted baby at the same time, Maureen struck gold with her first call. ‘I rang Sykes, a call centre operator and they asked me to come for a meeting that afternoon. They also had 10 vacancies for me to fill.’ That was the start. Twenty years on, Maureen says she was really lucky with the timing. The Netherlands was becoming more internationally-orientated and the hunt for multilingual workers was heating up. The likes of Intel and Cisco were among her early clients, won not by networking but by getting on the phone and selling both herself and the fact that she could provide them with people. In those pre-internet days, tracking down potential candidates was a lot more challenging. The volunteer organisation Access was one source of recruits, as were adverts in the Telegraaf newspaper. Word of mouth also proved to be important and candidates would recommend Adams to their friends and colleagues. ‘I received CV’s in the post, which is hard to imagine today,’ she laughs. “And the phone rang non-stop.’ Expansion In 1998, Maureen moved with a part-time worker to a basement office on the Keizersgracht, followed soon afterwards, by a shift to a bigger office in the south of the city. ‘In those days many companies did not have recruitment departments, emails were not the norm and we sent CV’s via fax. We were in constant contact with department heads, either in person or on the telephone,’ she says. ‘These days things move so much faster. When a client gives us a vacancy, they want to see CV’s quickly, preferably the same day. We have to manage expectations as we live in a world in which everything is expected to happen immediately.’ Although methods of finding candidates have changed, the real leap forward is being made in terms of technology, says Maureen. ‘Nowadays we all have a database, we have a website and easy access to candidates on LinkedIn and job boards, but the forward-thinking recruitment agencies are buying software systems using artificial intelligence to screen candidates at the application stage. Interview The role of the recruitment agency, says Maureen, will not be so much about providing CV’s but a highly personal level of service and a quality selection of candidates. We still interview all our candidates to ensure that the profiles of the candidates we send are a match for the role. ‘We have a lot of loyal clients and repeat business and we understand what our clients are looking for,’ she says. ‘It is important that our consultants can tell their clients “this person does not look perfect on paper but we know they will fit your company”.’ The perfect CV ‘Research has shown that recruiters read a CV for an average of 6 seconds, so it is essential that a CV is easy to read and to the point. Recruiters want to know what a candidate’s added value was for their company, not just a list of tasks. A more recent trend is video presentations – difficult to present to a client but we get some amazing applications. ‘These applications get attention of course, although we’ll probably ask them to send a normal CV,’ she laughs. Candidates often send a link to their LinkedIn profile instead of a CV. LinkedIn, she says, is all about personal branding: ‘Candidates need to sell or brand themselves. They need to stand out in the crowd.' Maureen says that making sure the candidate is happy has always been a key part of the process but one of the main changes in the field of recruitment is matching the demands of the candidates with those of the clients. ‘Nowadays, candidates are not afraid to say what they want… when I was young I was just happy to have a job. They are looking for more freedom in the way they work, room for growth, training and a sense of purpose in their work.' Secondary benefits Companies, on the other hand, can attract the best staff even if they don’t offer the highest salary, by offering excellent secondary benefits and a great working atmosphere. ‘Regular social events, a nice canteen, like-minded colleagues, more responsibility and a challenging role… these are all very important,’ she says. Whilst there is a definite move towards more flexibility in the Netherlands, this is not always out of choice. Many companies are reluctant to give indefinite contracts even though this is important to many millennials. 'People still want security and not to worry each time their contract is up for renewal,' she states. The future To celebrate Adams Multilingual Recruitment’s 20th anniversary, Maureen and her team have organised a half day conference on November 2: The Future of the Recruitment. ‘It is our way of giving back to our clients,’ says Maureen. ‘They are part of the key to our success.’ The speakers include trend watcher Richard van Hooijdonk who will talk about the impact of technology in our lives and business while Gen Z expert Thimon de Jong and teenager Lecyca Curiel will give an insight into the next generation of employees. Former BBC HR Director Lucy Adams, will be talking about HR practices in a disruptive world and Lindsay Britton, the social media specialist at Adams will be sharing tips on the use of the new social media channels to reach candidates. Asked what has been the most important thing over the past 20 years, Maureen is silenced for a moment. ‘For me personally, the essence of being a recruiter is the client contact and successfully finding someone a job,’ she says, eventually. ‘That remains a tremendous kick. But a real joy is to see how our staff have developed and how they’ve made friends… we’re like a family really.’  More >


Mata Hari and Margaretha Zelle return to Friesland in new show

Mata Hari and Margaretha Zelle return to Friesland in new show

Who could blame the Dutch for focusing on the glamour and intrigue that surrounds their most unlikely heroine? It is not often, after all, that one of their own becomes an international by-word for sex and scandal. But now Mata Hari is back in the spotlights. The Friesland Museum has mounted an exhibition which highlights not only Mata Hari the dancer, mistress, and – alleged – spy but Margaretha Zelle the wife and mother. It is a 100 years since Margaretha Zelle, alias Mata Hari, was executed by the French for being a German spy. There was never any conclusive proof she was seducing high ranking officers into divulging military secrets but the Dutch beauty moved in military circles as the Great War was in progress and during that uncertain time rumours flew. According to Friesland Museum curator Hans Groeneweg the French arrested Mata Hari on a trumped-up charge. ‘Things were dire at the front in 1917, with one mutiny after another. Generals came and went in quick succession, France was on the verge of collapse. Mata Hari was famous, and was made an example of. The French thought: if we shoot her, the world will tremble. Point made.’ Leeuwarden But before fate gave her a role in history, the young Margaretha Zelle was an ordinary girl growing up in a moderately well to do family. The exhibition has one of her school report cards on which a teacher has disapprovingly noted that ‘obedience’ is not her strong suit but that she is doing better in German and French. By the time she was 18 both her parents were dead and Zelle had to fend for herself. Perhaps her bolshie side made her answer the ad from John MacLeod, an officer serving in the Dutch East Indies and twenty years her senior . They married six months after they met but the marriage was not a happy one as MacLeod accused his wife of flirting with his fellow officers while Zelle retaliated by blaming him for giving her syphilis. During their time in the Dutch colony she spent time studying the local East Indian dance tradition, something that was to stand her in good stead when she had to make her own living. A letter written during a difficult divorce and custody battle for their daughter Nonnie reads: ‘I am tired of fighting and I only want one of two things: either to have Nonnie by my side and be a decent mother, or live the splendid life that is being offered me. I know life will end in misery- but I have accepted that.’ She was never going to be the dedicated mother. A short note to her daughter, whom she last saw in 1905, reads: ‘Dearest Nonnie, I long to see you once more. I have always tried but it never worked out.’ They were never to meet again. Paris It was to be the splendid life, in Paris, and that is where the (in)famous Mata Hari was born, a persona she always kept separate from her true self. ‘What happens to Mata Hari does not concern Madame Zelle,’ she was to write in prison. Her exotic dancing, her numerous affairs with officers, her fantastic stories about her past, and the final burst of gun fire in the Bois de Vincennes have become the stuff of legend, embroidered and glamorised in numerous films. Although the Fries Museum claims this is the most comprehensive exhibition on Mata Hari to date, very few of her belongings remain apart from her children’s baby books – her eldest child, a boy, died in the East Indies under mysterious circumstances – scrap books and letters have survived. But much has been done to evoke the atmosphere of the time, with life size photos of Mata Hari in her different guises and a portrait of her by Isaac Israëls painted in 1916. There’s the music she danced to in one of her ‘temple dances’ and the organisers are even contemplating piping some of the perfume popular at the time into the rooms in an effort to copy the sensual spell Mata Hari held over her audiences 100 years ago. The exhibition Mata Hari, the myth and the maiden is on at the Fries Museum until April 2, 2018.  More >


Stedelijk show ‘I am a Native Foreigner’ uses film, photos, textiles and more

Stedelijk show ‘I am a Native Foreigner’ uses film, photos, textiles and more

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam continues its exploration of the theme of migration with a new exhibition, I am a Native Foreigner. Deborah Nicholls-Lee  went along to check it out. ‘We’re all foreigners,’ says Beatrix Ruf, director of the Stedelijk Museum. ‘It’s an experience we all share, in a way. Even if you travel for a holiday, you experience displacement in relation to other contexts.’ The Stedelijk’s latest exhibition I am a Native Foreigner offers a 13-gallery exploration of the theme of migration and showcases photographs, textiles, paintings, installations, recordings and films from multi-national artists. The oxymoronic title is taken from a quote by Mexican conceptual artist Ulises Carrión (1941-1989), whose work features in the exhibition. A migrant himself, he moved to the Netherlands in his thirties and experienced first hand this duality. Not at home ‘As an artist, you do not always feel at home,’ explains Leontine Coelewij, the exhibition’s chief curator. This sense of distance and loneliness is communicated in many of the selected works. Kors van Bennekom’s photographs, for example, show Surinamese children arriving in the Netherlands, dwarfed by the immense, stark architecture of Schiphol. There is also Aslan Gaisumov’s film of a white Volga car, which stands solitary in a vast field, until crammed full with migrants in heavy winter clothes, who appear like ghosts from the mist behind it. A broad theme I am a Native Foreigner is one of a series of exhibitions at the museum that, from 2017 to 2018, are being devoted to the theme of migration. Across the corridor, Carlos Motta: The Crossing, which runs until January 21, tells the story - largely in video form - of LGBTQI refugees in the Netherlands. The exhibits - real people with real stories - ‘talk very openly and directly with you,’ says curator Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen. Ruf encourages visitors to view the neighbouring exhibitions in tandem, ‘to see how they dialogue,’ but she is keen to point out that I am a Native Foreigner is a wider treatment of the theme than has been seen before. ‘This exhibition,’ she says bluntly, ‘is not about refugees.’ Instead, it explores ‘what migration in a broader sense means for artists’. For Coelewij, this open interpretation of the theme was crucial. ‘I really wanted to provide a place in the exhibition for a variety of approaches,’ she explains. ‘You see work from artists who are migrants themselves … also work from photographers who show the realities of migration … and you’ll also see work from more conceptual artists.’ A plural perspective Visitors used to a more focused interrogation of a theme may find this sprawling, all-encompassing exhibition hard to take in. Works span many different eras, introduce numerous perspectives, and make use of a huge range of media. But its ambitious eclecticism – born, in part, of the museum’s desire to explore its own collection – is also a comment on the plurality of the migrant experience and avoids the trap of a singularly colonial, Eurocentric outlook. In one gallery, for example, hang Nola Hatterman’s oil portraits of Surinamese immigrant workers in the Netherlands. In another, the tables are turned, as Lewis Wickes Hine’s photographs record the Dutch at their most vulnerable, arriving at Ellis Island, New York, with huge identification numbers pinned clumsily to their jackets, uncertain of their future. Material displacement As well as displaced people, the exhibition includes materials and techniques which have crossed continents. The brightly-coloured textiles of the Amsterdam artist Michiel Schuurman, for example, make use of the primarily Asian tradition of batik, but are sold in bulk to the African market. Material displacement and the plundering of riches is explored by Nigerian-born Otobong Nkanga in In Pursuit of Bling, a huge multi-media display to the rear of the exhibition. Non-native minerals, dug out of their homeland and used to decorate overseas monuments, is the subject of a poem set to film: ‘You have travelled a long way through land and sea to crown your captors’ roofs,’ the wistful voice reads. ‘I am raw. I just came visiting. I am a tourist in this land. But I knew you’d be here … I am raw, a distant cousin, but we are from the same core.’ Abstract art You can also find more abstract pieces, such as Rossella Biscotti’s giant Mondrianesque carpet, inspired by the patterns created by American punch cards used in the 1980 census. Particularly bold is the inclusion of the vivid, erotic art of Miguel-Ángel Cárdenas, a Columbian whose migration to the Netherlands in the sixties permitted a freedom that, as a homosexual, had been impossible in his home country. His work offers a graphic – sometimes shocking - exploration of sexual organs and sexual interaction, with face-reddening titles such as Hard, Hot Diagonal Wound. Future exploration of the theme The Stedelijk sees I am a Native Foreigner as part of a longer process of discovery as it unearths the treasures of the museum’s own archives. ‘The exhibition,’ explains Ruf, ‘is deeply rooted in the project which we started in the collection … We want to learn continuously from the collection … to see which narratives have been started and which have maybe been overlooked.’ This project is set for the long term, ‘but,’ warns Ruf, ‘don’t always expect the same approach.’ I am a Native Foreigner opened 23 September 2017 and runs until 3 June 2018.   More >


Grab your agenda: 52 tell-tale signs you’ve gone Dutch

So there you are, sitting chomping on your French fries with mayonnaise and cheering on Oranje on the telly, or lingering in the bathroom to check which birthdays are coming up, and it suddenly hits you: you're turning Dutch. At what point does integration become assimilation? Here's a list of some tell-tale signs; feel free to add your own in the comments. You complain about the number of tourists in Amsterdam You complain about the way tourists ride their bikes You've learned to cycle while carrying an umbrella You've learned to cycle in the snow You no longer wait at red lights on your bike, or wear a helmet You drop Dutch words like lekker, borrel and gemeente into English conversation You start calling your diary an agenda and keeping it meticulously Bar staff and shop assistants have stopped replying to you in English You correct visitors on the pronunciation of Utrecht, Breda and Maastricht You complain about expats not learning Dutch You arrive at a birthday party and go round the entire circle shaking hands, kissing and congratulating everyone without feeling stupid You own a set of miniature forks for eating birthday cake You've learned to lie to your doctor about how ill you are so they can't fob you off with paracetamol As soon as the sun appears you dash out to the nearest pavement cafe As soon as the sun comes out you wear shorts and flip-flops to work and clock off at lunchtime on Friday to head to the beach You've accepted the absence of Sunday papers You've stopped thinking washing powder was better back home You've given up longing for sweets and snacks from your home country You've found yourself kissing your non-Dutch friends three times on the cheek You've stopped defending your home country all the time You refer to political parties, government agencies and football teams by their initials When people ask where you are from you say: 'I'm English/French/American/Nigerian but I actually live in…' If your home country is taking on the Netherlands in a sporting event, you are torn between the two As soon as the temperature drops below five degrees, you start hoping for the Elfstedentocht You watch the Tour de France round the telly at work with your colleagues You get obsessed with collecting stickers for the latest Albert Heijn kitchenware promotion You have strong feelings about which AH salads are the best You own a flessenlikker, aardappelstamper, kaasschaaf, poffertjespan and gourmet set You can use a cheese parer on very old cheese without shredding your fingers You've ordered pancakes in a restaurant without feeling embarrassed You've learned to call a cheese sandwich lunch and eat it with a knife and fork You call margarine butter You drink a glass of milk with lunch You've considered having boerenkool and snert for dinner You can eat a tompoes without getting cream all over the place You buy raw herring from a fish stall because you like it You don't raise an eyebrow if someone only chips in €15 to the common restaurant bill because they only had one glass of wine and no starter You buy flowers for yourself regularly You have a birthday calendar in the loo You have a birthday calendar in the loo and you've actually put everyone's birthdays on it Trees planted in a neat straight line look natural You no longer freak out if you see a line of cars parked 5mm from the edge of a canal You know who Andre Hazes is and can sing along to at least two of his songs You know that half seven means half six and 'five quarters' is a normal measure of time Really long steep staircases feel completely normal You start saying what you think in an aggressive aggressive way, not just a passive aggressive one When your boss asks you what you think of something, you give him or her your honest opinion You stop inventing polite excuses for skipping social engagements and just tell your friends: 'I don't feel like coming' You describe people with an ethnic minority background as allochtonen You avoid discussions about Zwarte Piet You no longer wince when your kids say shit and kut! You've actually gone the whole hog, signed the participation declaration, sworn your allegiance to king Willem-Alexander, sung the Wilhelmus and claimed your Dutch passport  More >


Orange and black: the forgotten history of black servants at the court of Willem V

Orange and black: the forgotten history of black servants at the court of Willem V

Child slaves, renamed Cupido and Sideron, ended up in the Dutch court as boys and spent the rest of their lives serving the royal family. Gordon Darroch visited a fascinating new exhibition about their lives in The Hague. You can see them in a painting from 1781 by Hendrik Pothoven, titled 'the Buitenhof during The Hague circus': two tiny, finely drawn figures that stand out among the entourage of Stadhouder Willem V for their striking outfits and prominent turbans, but above all for being the only black faces in the crowd. These were the servants, Cupido and Sideron, who arrived at the stadhouder's court as children in the 1760s and whose fates were bound up with the turmoil that engulfed the House of Oranje-Nassau following the French Revolution. Their story is the basis of a fascinating exhibition at The Hague's Historical Museum that trains the spotlight on a point where the elegant traditions of courtly life cross with the murkier aspects of colonial history. Cupido and Sideron were far from the first black servants to appear at a European court. Slave traders had presented children from the colonies as gifts for at least a century, not just to noble families but to sea captains in the trading companies as a kind of bonus payment. Collectors Some of these so-called 'present slaves' were sold on, often to German aristocratic households, for sums as high as 500 guilders, equivalent to a year's salary for a high-ranking servant. In France, the Duke and Duchess of Orléans were avid 'collectors' of African children as young as four. Amsterdam became a centre for this unofficial trade in human ornaments, says historian Esther Schreuder, whose extensive research for her book, Cupido en Sideron, forms the backbone of the exhibition. 'There was a market in children – present slaves, as they were called, were brought to the Republic where they could be sold or given away. But it wasn't advertised openly.' Most of these children arrived from the Dutch Republic's Caribbean territories or the west coast of Africa. Sideron was born into slavery in Curaçao and baptised in the Catholic parish of St Anna in Willemstad with the names Guan Anthony (though as a servant in the House of Orange, he had to observe the Protestant faith). How he came to The Hague is unclear, but it is likely to have coincided with Willem V taking his place in the States General and the Council of State in 1763, when he reached the age of 15. Cupido arrived three years later, probably as a gift from Jan Pieter Theodoor Huydecoper, head of the West-Indische Compagnie. His birthplace was recorded few years later as Guinea, and on joining the Oranjes' household he was given the name Willem Frederik Cupido. Neither would ever see their birthplaces again and all trace of their original names and families swiftly vanished. The status of these children was, as Schreuder points out, far from straightforward. 'As children, they were completely dependent on the place where they ended up,' she says. Playthings The flamboyant names reflect the fact that they were often acquired as playthings or accessories, but as they grew up they had to secure a place in the household. Cupido and Sideron received an education, learning to read and write in Dutch and French; they were given dance lessons, which were otherwise reserved for pages, and taught to shoot. A painting from 1770 by TPC Haag, The Shooting Party at Het Loo, depicts the two boys accompanying the prince on a day's hunting at the Oranjes' Gelderland retreat. At the age of 17 they were put on the wage bill, receiving 156 guilders a year. By comparison, a coachman earned 90 guilders in the same year, a lackey 120 guilders and a page 140 guilders. Their prospects were undoubtedly better than they would have been in the colonies. Slaves brought to the Dutch Republic who had not been sent back within a year were automatically freed. This law, introduced to prevent slave uprisings, meant that long before they reached adulthood, Cupido and Sideron ceased to be items of property and could look forward to joining the ranks of paid servants. (Others were less fortunate; newspapers sometimes carried adverts offering rewards for the return of negers who still lived in de facto slavery, unaware of their rights.) For a nobleman in the Dutch Republic, a black manservant was a walking statement of colonial power and status. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Jacques André Joseph Aved's portrait of William V's father, William IV, which depicts the stadholder standing in full battle dress while his valet, Jean Rabo, sits on his haunches on the fringe of the picture, holding his master's helmet and gazing reverently up at him. Shortly after arriving at court Cupido and Sideron were painted in full servant livery, complete with feathered turbans, and clutching tea trays, suggesting they had a strong curiosity value. They would be painted half a dozen more times during their childhood. As adults they had a status apart within the household. On a list of staff from 1764 Sideron appears at the bottom as 'The Moor Guan Sideron'. Like all black servants, regardless of origin, they wore a turban as part of their official dress. Though their duties and rank were comparable to the pages, that term was reserved for Dutch aristocratic children; to begin with, at least, Cupido and Sideron had no designation other than moor and neger. Etiquette But as their careers progressed, the pair earned the trust and respect of the court. In a society where codes of etiquette governed every aspect of life, rule number one was an absolute prohibition on 'insults or any names that may damage each other's honour or reputation'. Name-calling or personal abuse would be 'exemplarily punished', so overt racial slights would have counted as a serious breach of protocol. In 1782 they were promoted to the personal staff of Willem and Wilhelmina as chamber servants (though they retained their turbans). When the royal household fled to Britain in 1795, as French revolutionary armies encroached on the Republic's borders, Cupido and Sideron were among the family's reduced entourage. The latter was by then Wilhelmina's first valet de chambre, with ultimate responsibility for arranging her apartment, and stayed throughout the years of exile, leaving only after Wilhelmina had made it safely to the Oranjes' German palace at Oranienstein. Cupido was one of dozens of servants Willem sent back within months of arriving in London, as financial duress forced him to cut his staff drastically, and then discharged from the servants' temporary home in Brunswick. As a refugee in Germany his position was precarious, but by the time he rejoined the royal household in Oranienstein he was engaged, to Catharina Löwe, and married her in January 1802. At his wedding he was announced as 'a servant in the household of the prince of Oranje-Nassau and a moor', with no reference to his origins. Later that year Catharina gave birth to a daughter, Sophia Wilhelmina Cupido (two other children died before reaching adulthood). Schreuder traced Sophia's family tree and found dozens of direct descendants living in the Netherlands today. Handwriting One surprise for Schreuder was how many written documents the two servants left behind, especially Sideron, whose meticulous handwriting is instantly recognisable. Many are formal records relating to the household accounts, but occasionally a glimpse of their characters breaks through. Sideron appears to have been a model of dependability – on the journey back from England he was given charge of six women and five children in the party, and after his death in 1803 Willem wrote to his mother that Sideron was 'one of those old servants who will never be replaced'. 'He was a very elegant man, I think he was an ideal servant for Wilhelmina,' says Schreuder. 'Cupido was more vain. He kept running up debts with his clothes bills.' The question remains as to how much two servants, who were cut away from their roots as children and whose identities were wholly defined by the royal household, could really be described as free. Quite possibly it never occurred to them to seek their fortune elsewhere. True freedom in the 18th century was the preserve of a tiny elite and Cupido and Sideron's stories are evidence that black servants were not disadvantaged within the household staff. It is too simplistic to call them slaves, says Schreuder, who prefers the term 'privileged dependence'. 'If they'd wanted to leave, Willem V couldn't have stopped them. But they had no family here and they had a lot to lose: their pension, free medical care, half a bottle of wine a day. A lackey who left the palace had opportunities elsewhere; for them the opportunities were fewer. But I'm cautious about it in the book, because we don't know what might have happened.' African Servants at The Hague Court is at the Historical Museum of The Hague (Haags Historisch Museum) until January 28 2018. Esther Schreuder: Cupido en Sideron: twee moren aan het hof van Oranje is published by Balans You can comment on this article via our Facebook page  More >


Today it is ‘animal day’ – but in some places, every day is Dierendag

Today it is ‘animal day’ – but in some places, every day is Dierendag

On the the feast day of Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, the world celebrates World Animal Day - Dierendag. Around the country, on October 4th, business will host special events, children bring their pets to school and more. But, as Molly Quell reports, in some places, every day is animal day. The Dutch have nearly as many pets as bikes, almost two for every man, woman and child. According to Dibevo, the Dutch organisation for animal-related companies, there are 33.4 million pets living in 7.6 million Dutch households. Fish are by far the most popular pet - with 18 million, there are actually more fish in aquariums than people. Birds, cats, dogs, rabbits, reptiles and rodents make up the rest of the list . It isn’t just families trying to teach tweens lessons in responsibility by walking the dog or feeding the fish. Business owners also like to have friendly face hanging around their establishment. 'Who doesn’t love a little puppy?' asks Frontaal Brewery owner Roel Buckens whose dog Simcoe spends her days with him in the brewery's tap room. 'Our customer’s love Claus,' says Cafe Bax owner Clodagh Bax Coll. Cafe cats have their own hashtag on Foursquare so anyone who wants to cuddle with a cat in Amsterdam need only to search the location-based social networking site to get cat reviews from other users. Cafe cats in Amsterdam are so popular that they even have their own book, aptly titled Amsterdam Pub Cats, created by photographer Robert van Willigenburg. The demand for cuddly cats has even led to cafes dedicated to animals, such as Kopjes, a cat cafe in Amsterdam which charges a cat tax to enter. The owner, Lenny Popelier, raised €33,000 in start up funds with Kickstarter to bring the first cat cafe to Amsterdam, in the wake of earlier establishments in London, New York and Tokyo. (Tokyo, in fact, is home to cat, rabbit, dog, bird, snake and goat cafes.) Animals are often more than a fun way to advertise. The police in the city of Delft adopted a cat named Garfield after he was hit by a police vehicle responding to an emergency. They took him to the vet to treat his injuries and tried to locate his owner but none could be found. So Garfield came to call the police station home. 'He doesn’t judge anyone, he’s just a friendly face to anyone who is brought in to the police station,' the police told DutchNews.nl. But the police officers themselves also find Garfield a comforting presence. 'After a difficult call or a serious accident, he brings a lot of cheer to the office.' But less stressful working environments also benefit from an animal colleague. 'He just great to relax with,' says Diana Luchin of Dave, their office cat. Luchin and Dave work at Local Makers, a 3D printing shop, where Dave can sometimes be found napping in the printer. Comfort animals can reduce stress in a number of situations. Mental health facility GGZ Delftland employs Joris, a cat who is a friendly face to patients and employees alike. Animals have been used for therapeutic purposes from as early as the 17th century and Sigmund Freud sometimes allowed one of his dogs to be present during sessions. Many people with physical disabilities utilise specially trained animals to assist them with daily tasks, but there’s been a recent increase in using animals for emotional support as well. Amsterdam, for example, is home to Europe’s largest snoezelen centre. Snoezelen refers to a form of therapy for people with dementia, autism and neurological disorders where they are placed in a room with a variety of stimuli designed to reduce anxiety and encourage relaxation. Dogs, cats and rabbits, who reside at the centr,e are sometimes included in this therapy. Other groups, such as Stichting Snoezelhond, bring their service animals to homes for the elderly to offer comfort and reduce loneliness. Animals can offer more than just emotional support. “Claus keeps the mice out of the bar,” says Coll, of her ginger assistant. This is a common refrain among cafe owners. Owners of bars, restaurants, coffee shops and nearly every other type of shop cite cats as pest control. 'Cafes can’t survive without cats,' says Coll. She’s not the only one. Budget retail chain Xenos even employs night watchmen, as they are known, to police several locations in the evenings and keep them rodent free. Hygiene regulations prohibit animals from being in areas where food is prepared or, in the case of Kimberly’s Beauty Salon, the treatment room. 'Nena is fine so long as she stays out of the back,' says owner Kimberly de Cock. Her three-year-old Chinese crested splits her time between the salon and working on site with Kimberly’s husband who works as a roofer. Simcoe, the brewery dog, isn’t allowed in the section of the brewery where the beer is actually brewed, but is confined to the taproom.This is true of the other pets as well 'When Claus visits, which is nearly every day, he stays out of the kitchen,' says Coll. 'If you don't have a cat, you have to monkey about with traps and boxes of poison. Isn't that more unhygienic?' Katja van der Sluijs of ‘t Blaauwhooft told Vice in an interview. Sometimes, whether a proprietor wants it or not, the end up with a pet. 'Claus just showed up one day,' Coll says, 'and stayed. A few months later, the owner, a local butcher, came by and collected him. But Klaus just kept coming back.' Many owners, however, opt for self-employment precisely so they can be close to their animals. 'I always wanted to run my own business,' says De Cock, 'in part because it gives me the freedom to bring Nena to work with me.' And while most shop animals are cats and dogs, the range isn’t limited. The Eerste Klas Cafe at Amsterdam's central station has a cockatoo named Elvis who, the cafe claims, is the most photographed bird in Amsterdam. 'Anytime a dog comes in, he barks at them,' says one employee.   More >


Pension puzzle: what does Brexit mean for expat Brits’ finances?

Pension puzzle: what does Brexit mean for expat Brits’ finances?

Brexit is set to have more of an impact on expats than many people realise. Residency rules might be changing, but the financial fall-out is already being felt. International workers need to act now to make sure their finances are properly protected in a post-Brexit world. There is much uncertainty surrounding the eventual outcome of Brexit but whatever happens, investments in Britain - whether savings, pensions or property - will all be affected by the changes set to come into effect by 2019. 'Brexit is not going to land on your head out of nowhere. Everyone is watching,' says Paul Brown, director of expat financial management company Blacktower. 'Now is the time to act. You have got to hedge your bets.' So what should expats be doing to reduce potential risk exposure and to take advantage of opportunities which may no longer be available once the outcome of Brexit has been determined? Expats, says Brown, should start planning and considering their options now rather than waiting until it’s too late to do anything. Market volatility The current financial market volatility caused by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit is likely to consider for some years and this means the performance of investments and pension may be affected. The weakening pound hit an eight-year low against the euro at the end of August this year and is likely to slip further, particularly if Britain decides to press ahead with a hard Brexit. 'Your pounds are just sitting there going down in euro terms and if you are a deposit investor, with the low interest rates we are experiencing, you are getting nowhere,' Brown says. This, he adds, means expats may have already lost considerably on UK assets in currency terms over the last 12 months. Pensions Pensions are a different matter. In terms of retirement provision, the effect of Brexit depends very much on what kind of pension you have, when you intend to retire and the outcome of Brexit in terms of the rules surrounding overseas pension arrangements. One of the biggest worries is that company pension schemes may not be able to pay out what was initially promised because of low bond yields. Some people are also concerned about a potential UK exit tax for pension transfers and the uncertainty of future pension reforms. Those coming up to retirement age should adjust their risk profile and diversify now in order to protect their accumulated capital, says Brown. The overseas pension scheme QROPs may provide a solution to protect pension assets against future UK law changes and to improve your position when planning for passing benefits on to loved ones. Interest rates Brexit may not be to blame for the historic low interest rates, but this is no help to deposit investors. Interest rates look likely to stay low for the foreseeable future and most bank deposit rates are currently below inflation. There are, argues Brown, more efficient ways in which you can achieve growth on your savings and it is worth investigating these now. In addition, expats should not underestimate the effects of inflation. It  can significantly erode the spending power of capital. One advantage of being an expat is that you have flexibility in terms of the location of your investments and currency you invest in, says Brown. 'Make sure that, whatever way the wind blows, you have a plan,' he says. 'Rather than hoping everything is going to be okay and leaving your finances as they are, sit down with a financial advisor and make a plan so that, when the chips are down, you are in a position to react accordingly.' Paul Brown will be speaking about the potential effect of Brexit on expat finances at a series of seminars in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague in October. Find out more here.  More >


From pieta to pumpkin – 12 great things to do in October

From pieta to pumpkin – 12 great things to do in October

October is the time for Halloween pumpkins, Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven and the school half-term holidays. Hanneke Sanou has some suggestions of things to do. Get to know Couperus – surtitled in English For the third consecutive season, Ivo van Hove presents an adaptation of a novel by Louis Couperus (1863 – 1923). The Small Souls (De Boeken der Kleine Zielen), the story of a once prosperous The Hague family in decline, will premiere on October 8 in the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam. For tickets and other performance dates go to the website. Look up at Haring at the Stedelijk The Stedelijk Museum of modern art, also in the capital, welcomes back Keith Haring's 12 by 20 metre sun screen. Sprayed onto cloth some thirty years ago by the artist in a day long performance in situ, Haring's cartoony creatures needed restoring. Haring's 'velum' will be back shielding the museum's former entrance staircase from October 12. Website Raise an eyebrow with 007 On October 13 the Eye film museum becomes the Eyebrow for a day: Roger Moore would have been 90 on the 14th had he lived and to honour his memory the Dutch James Bond Society is screening The Spy Who Loved Me from 1977, apparently one of the actor's own favourites.007 has no trouble thwarting the evil psychopath trying to start a new civilisation under water and evades the metal dentures of homocidal maniac Jaws using only his irony! What a hero. Tickets can be bought on the website. Catch a 'relevant' movie The offerings at the Amsterdam edition of the Lift-off film festival are once again at the forefront of new and exciting independent cinema from around the world. Catch some documentaries, shorts and feature films that don't rot the brain. October 4 to October 7. Website Gaze at a Pieta The Rijksmuseum has managed to prise from the Louvre's reluctant curators' hands the most celebrated work by Dutch painter to the duchy of Burgundy Johan Maelwael (Nijmegen, 1370 - Dijon 1415). Few of Maelwael's works (his name translates as 'he who paints well') remain but here is a chance to see 'De grote ronde Pieta' (large round Pieta), which very rarely travels, surrounded by 50 works by other artists from the period. From October 6. Website Educate your child in Maastricht Is your child complaining about having to do some household chore? Take the little  brat to the Centre Céramique in Maastricht where there is an exhibition about child labour in the glass and ceramics industry in 19th century Maastricht. The ceramics sold far and wide but workers were exploited and their lives shortened by lead poisoning. Children as young as nine worked night shifts under dreadful circumstances. Photograph that on your iPhone, Tristram. Verloren Jeugd (Lost Youth) is on from  September 10 and is part of a wider manifestation about child labour then and now. Website Brush up on your Dutch history The Openluchtmuseum in Arnhem opens its exhibition 'Canon van Nederland' with a not very loud bang: children up to 14 get in for free (but you'll need to order the tickets online). The exhibition brings to life in glorious interactive technicolour the glories and ignominies of Dutch history according to the new canon, a series of landmark events and people from the stone age to the present. October 23 Website Send your sprog to Cinekid The autumn holidays are approaching again and what better to do with your sprogs then take them to a Cinekid film while you snore. Except you won't because the festival has great films that adults will enjoy as well. And activities but to those adults are not invited. The films are on in cinemas across the country from October 14 to October 27 and from October 21 to October 27 in the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam. Website And, by the way, Cinekid is looking for English speaking children willing to listen and give the thumbs up or down to directors pitching their projects. Discover Dutch Design Dutch design in all its variation -  food design, industrial design, product design, textile & fashion design and a whole raft of other designy design categories, will be on show during the Dutch Design Week at Eindhoven. Personally, DutchNews would make room in its cutlery drawer for these. Just hold the peas. From October 21 to October 29. Website Get out the creepy pumpkins October is Halloween month and scary clowns will jump you at every corner so carry a handy stick to beat them off. If you are up for this kind of thing you can come to any of the Amsterdam events listed here and have the daylights scared out of you. There are plenty of semi-scary events for children as well. October 28. Of course the effects may be with you much much longer. Collect something, anything Finders Keepers is the very aptly named exhibition of collections of, well, stuff, from carpenter's pencils and roof tiles to staircases, dip pens (there are 867) and bottle tops. Why and what do people collect? Where do you keep a collection of staircases is what DutchNews would like to know. Come and marvel at the Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. Until February 11. Website Go contemporary The Dag in de Branding music festival features 21st century composers and organises concerts on four days of the year in different locations around The Hague. Here is where you hear the latest developments in contemporary classical music, jazz and pop, opera and electronic music. This year the piano has been given pride of place.  October 14. Website  More >


Here’s what you need to know about a Dutch divorce

Here’s what you need to know about a Dutch divorce

Divorce is difficult under any circumstances. Separating from a partner is a challenging emotional time and it also carries a number of financial, legal and practical implications. Those issues can be made more complicated if you or your partner (or both) are non-Dutch nationals. If you have more questions, you can visit our stand during the I Am Not A Tourist Fair on October 8th 2017, where we will be giving free fifteen minute legal consultations. Here are the top eight things that you should know. Regardless of which country you married in or what your nationality is, it is possible (in most cases, there are some exceptions) to divorce in the Netherlands. You do not need to provide a reason to get divorced in the Netherlands. All divorces are considered no-fault and can be requested for any reason. You must retain a lawyer to file for divorce. You and your ex-partner can share a lawyer or you may retain your own lawyers. You can also make use of a mediator during the divorce process. Unless you have a prenuptial agreement, Dutch law instructs that all marital property is community property and all assets will be divided 50/50. Matrimonial regime, or the system of dividing marital property, can change after living in the Netherlands for ten years. For example, you got married in France in February 2002. You and your partner moved to the Netherlands in June 2005. Now, it is 2017, and you have decided to divorce. From February 2002 until June 2015 (ten years after you arrived in the Netherlands) French law applies to the matrimonial regime. From June 2015 until now, Dutch law applies. Dutch law provides for both partner alimony and for child maintenance. You may be obliged to pay money to your former partner, depending on your financial situation. You also may be obliged to financially support your children. Should you be required to pay partner alimony, that spousal support can last for no longer than twelve years. However, if you were married for less than five years and do not have any children, then you only have spousal support for the period of time that you were married. If you want to move to another country with your children after your divorce, you will need permission from your ex-partner to do so. In fact, even to travel abroad, you may be required to provide proof of permission before you can do so. If your ex-partner is unwilling to provide this permission, you may be able to request it from the court. If you are considering a divorce or even if you’ve already decided to go forward with the separation, our specialised lawyers can help you with dividing marital assets, determining partner alimony and/or child maintenance and settling any sort of related issue. If you have further questions or you want more information, you can find the Legal Expat Desk at the I Am Not A Tourist Fair on October 8, 2017. We will be giving free fifteen minute legal consultations during the fair.  More >


New in Amsterdam: walk-in emergency dentist Dental365

New in Amsterdam: walk-in emergency dentist Dental365

Imagine falling off your bike and breaking a tooth before a crucial job interview or a great party that you've planned. Help is now at hand in the form of Dental365, the new walk-in emergency dentist in Amsterdam. Dental365 was established by a group of dentists and specialists who believe there is too little emergency assistance in dental treatment in The Netherlands. The concept of Dental365 is that quality, emergency care and availability are complementary to regular dental care. To get the most out of this concept, Dental365 works closely with dental care practices, hospitals and specialist in the regions The Hague and Amsterdam. When they are not able to provide aid, they can redirect their patients to Dental365 for example, outside working hours, at the weekend or when a dental practice is closed due to holidays. The first Dental 365 practice opened over a year ago with the emergency dental service in The Hague. This was followed by a second practice to deal with dental emergencies in Amsterdam. Tourists Both are regions popular with both tourists and expats, who are more than welcome to visit if they have a dental emergency. For tourists in particular, a chipped or broken tooth needs to be dealt with quickly. Aside from the impact on your holiday photos,  the longer you leave a chipped tooth untreated, the more likely you are to have added problems resulting from it. Thanks to Dental365 you can walk in to the practice and walk out again as if nothing ever happened. Dental365 is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 11pm and during the weekend as well. You can turn up without an appointment or make a phone call to find out more. In case of emergency, there is always a dental professional available to carry out treatment. Insurance You don't need to register in advance with Dental 365. After the treatment, you can pay directly if you are not insured. Otherwise Dental 365 will send an invoice to your dental insurance. Dental 365 does more than treat emergencies. The team can also deal with lost or loose fillings and provide urgent care in case of root pain as well as sort out problems with braces. For routine check-ups, please see your own dentist. The dental practice in Amsterdam has six treatment rooms and is equipped for emergencies. This way Dental 365 can treat patients with the speed that is needed in case of emergency. The teams at both Dental365 practices are multicultural and speak multiple languages, including Spanish, Greek, Moroccan Arabic, English and Dutch. This can be of a great help for expats and tourists, and above all for children. The practice also has a special room to put younger patients at their ease.  More >


What is a taalcafé and can it really help improve your Dutch?

What is a taalcafé and can it really help improve your Dutch?

Learning Dutch can be a tricky thing, so teachers are always coming up with new ways to help learners absorb the language. So what is a taalcafé and can it really help improve your Dutch? Deborah Nicholls-Lee tests it out. I have just had a French conversation with a Dutchman about Russian literature, discussed the shortage of student accommodation in Dutch with a Turk, and learnt - thanks to an English-speaking German PhD student - about Economics’ inability to provide concrete answers. I was nervous as hell beforehand, but the language café experience is proving fascinating. Tonight is party night where language learners are invited to come together in one big melting pot. It’s a polyglot’s paradise, but can it help me learn Dutch? According to Koen Gyzel, from Amsterdam Dutch language school Koentact, it can. He opened the school’s first language café to provide ‘a more free-style playground’ for students who had completed his courses to keep up with their Dutch and stay in touch. Learner in the lead Unlike lessons, where the focus is on the structured building of language, the language café is more about communication skills and lets the learner take the lead. In the Netherlands, says Koen, this works particularly well. ‘The Dutch are very interested in languages and the expats are interested in learning Dutch,’ he explains. ‘It’s like this perfect platform where you can use each other talents.’ Three quid in, beer in hand, and determined to overcome my shyness, I have found - to my surprise -that he’s right. Everyone is really friendly and keen to help me with my Dutch. The stickers - with our names on, the languages we speak, and the ones we want to practise - act as the perfect ice-breaker. I adopt a tactic of bee-lining anyone looking lost, on the assumption that two lonely people make one grateful conversation – and it works. People are brushing up their languages for a range of reasons. I meet Ahmet, a doctor from Turkey, who needs Dutch for his work; Stephan from Germany, who is in a long-distance relationship with a Brazilian girl and wants to improve his Portuguese; and Ruben, from Utrecht, whose list of languages is extensive, and who tells me with a grin: ‘It’s my hobby’. Range of nationalities Since the range of nationalities and ages is broad, it is remarkably easy to feel at home. As well as improving their target language, newcomers like me get an enthusiastic reception to their mother tongue – an aspect I hadn’t expected. ‘It has to do with feeling that you belong to something, feeling that your language skills are of benefit to others as well,’ says Koen. ‘Every single expat that comes to the Netherlands is an added value for our society; not just work-wise but also culture-wise and language-wise.’ Back at the language café, the salsa class on the mezzanine is in full swing. It’s a big hit with the party-goers but feels like a hip-thrusting step too far for me at this point. Besides, I am having too much fun downstairs to focus on choreography. I go home much later than anticipated, slightly tiddly, and excited by this underground language scene that I have uncovered. Emboldened by the success of the evening, I sign up for a language exchange at Pages Bookstore  the following afternoon. All in the same boat In contrast to the sweaty dancing and lively bar at the Salsa party, Pages – an Arabic bookstore in Amsterdam’s canal district - is a small-scale homely affair that feels rather like school crossed with afternoon tea. A small group are gathered around a dining table, cradling hot drinks in floral mugs, while our group leader, Ghiath from Damascus, directs the conversation in a mixture of Dutch and Arabic. He is also learning Dutch and it is encouraging to all be in the same boat. Among the group are Dutch Arabists, Tunisians, Syrians, and me – a Brit. Though I know just a few words in Arabic, I am made to feel very welcome and enjoy the opportunity to practise my Dutch and help others with the basics. Some of the group are teenage refugees who have been in the country just a few months but are already making great progress in the language. The liberal use of translation creates a nice safety net for beginners and the atmosphere is warm and relaxed. I go home feeling that I have not only stretched my Dutch language muscles, I have learned about other cultures and met some lovely people. French language night Four days later, I go slightly off-brief and attend a French language café in the Jordaan. This time the structure is more like speed-dating meets quiz night. We are grouped around tables and are tasked with making introductions, solving riddles and singing along to Les Champs Ėlysées as the group leader strums on his guitar. There’s a bar again – that’s good – and I am still there when they are taking down the flags and stacking the tables. There are familiar faces from the Salsa night and some exchanging of numbers. Focused on the language-learning aspect of the cafés, I had overlooked the important social benefits. ‘Language cafés are a great way of meeting other expats as well as friendly locals,’ says British expat Ben Compson, who has lived in the Netherlands for four years and is taking Dutch lessons with the ROC in Amsterdam. Though he acknowledges the ‘initial awkwardness’ of speaking in another language, he has found that struggling over a language together can be a great ice-breaker. ‘You tend to make mistakes and laugh together, as well as finding things out about the other person,’ he says. Excuse to meet people Koen agrees. ‘Learning a new language is the best excuse to meet new people,’ he tells me. I dig deeper. There seemed to me to be another extra-fun side to this language scene that no-one is mentioning. I ask him outright: ‘Have there been any language exchange weddings?’ ‘I have five friends who have relationships through the Amsterdam language café,’ he laughs. ‘I’m 100% sure that there will be some marriages coming up.’ I knew it. The matchmaker in me loves the concept even more. I’ve signed up to the Dutch one next week - and I’m bringing some single friends. ‘Deborah attended the French language café and salsa night with Amsterdam Language Café and the Dutch-Arabic language exchange at Pages Bookstore Café. To find a taalcafé near you, check out Meetup or Facebook. Many libraries also run language exchanges.  Here are a few that we know of. Most are either free or charge a small fee. Feel free to suggest more in the comments section below. Amsterdam The Amsterdam Dutch Language Meetup Group Mixtree Elsewhere Arnhem Deventer Eindhoven Enschedé Grave (Nijmegen) Groningen The Hague Roermond Utrecht   More >