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


Bol.com’s English site is online but not yet ‘under the knee’

Bol.com’s English site is online but not yet ‘under the knee’

Since mid-June online hypermarket bol.com has been available in English to increase its appeal to non-Dutch speakers in the Netherlands and Belgium. The feature is in the beta phase and bol.com has been using automated translation software to translate the content from Dutch to English. So how is it working out so far? To carry out the translations, bol.com is working with Microsoft Translate. Because the translation is done automatically, the English doesn't always come out perfect. Bol.com admit to their customers in the drop-down information bar that they don't quite have the service ‘under the knee’. You can, of course, buy a dictionary from bol.com to look up the original Dutch phrase onder de knie, which mean's you've mastered something. Books, music, computers, washing machines, baby clothes, cat baskets, bikes... you name it, bol.com probably sells it. Since being founded in 1999 bol.com has become the biggest online store in the country. And after receiving a number of queries from the non-Dutch speaking community it started developing a translated version of its site. There are already over 200,000 people in the Netherlands who would rather shop in English than in Dutch. Most of these customers surf Dutch or Belgian webshops with the aid of Google Translate, albeit with mixed results. Easy to switch   You can switch to the English version of the site by clicking on the country flag in the top right-hand corner of the screen and selecting “translate into English”. Emails are not yet translated but contain a link that will take them directly to the relevant information in English on bol.com. Customers who have their browser configured in a language other than Dutch or English will automatically see a translated website. You can switch back to Dutch at any time using the flag. Customers can help to improve the translations using the feedback service on the translate bar, by saying if they understood the translation easily and whether it suited their the needs. Bol.com plans to continue improving its English machine translation step by step in order to ensure accurate English throughout the site. To be continued!  More >


New to the Netherlands and not a tourist? This is the fair for you

New to the Netherlands and not a tourist? This is the fair for you

Learning Dutch, finding a house, experiencing Dutch culture, making connections, solving immigration and tax issues, and finding employment – all at the 'I am not a Tourist' fair for Internationals in the Beurs van Berlage - Amsterdam on Sunday, 2 October 2016. For those not familiar with this annual celebration, the I am not a Tourist' fair is the biggest expat-oriented event in the Netherlands – expected to host 4,500 internationals and friends again this year. Still going strong after 13 previous editions, and the introduction of the Eindhoven edition, it brings you everything you need to enjoy life in the Netherlands. In just one day and under one roof at the beautiful Beurs van Berlage, this event is all about enriching your life abroad, whether you are new to the expat lifestyle or an old hand. Featuring the Job Fair for Internationals This year the Expat Fair will feature the Job Fair for Internationals, where expats can meet with some of the top employment agencies, recruiters, and companies currently looking for new team members. For an additional fee, visitors looking for employment can attend exclusive workshops and presentations and will be provided with an upgraded visitors pass, enabling them to provide recruiters with their CV digitally. Order your FREE tickets for the 'i am not a tourist' Expat Fair 2016 at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam here (€12.50 on the door) or your exclusive ticket for the Job Fair for Internationals (access to both fairs) for a discounted price of €12.50 (€17.50 on the door) here! Fun and factual: exhibitions, workshops and entertainment Newcomers who are still finding their feet in the Netherlands will have the chance to learn about setting up a bank account, doing their taxes, or finding childcare, a school or university. Both arrivals and settled expats can enjoy these resources alongside entertainment and a wealth of cultural activities to dive into Dutch culture. Discover delicious Dutch food and beverages, entertainment, networking opportunities and much more. The extensive program also includes a variety of workshops to help you integrate into life in the Netherlands. There will be entertaining performances and presentations on the main stage, and even speed dating for expat singles. For families with children, the Expat Fair has a dedicated kids’ area managed by childcare professionals. Shake up your world and broaden your horizon by discovering what's going on in the rest of the expat community. Whether you have lived in the Netherlands for days, months or years, or are yet to move, make sure you keep Sunday 2 October 2016  free in your diary. Get your FREE ticket online now to ensure you don’t miss this valuable opportunity!  More >



What’s on this autumn? English language theatre, comedy and other shows

What’s on this autumn? English language theatre, comedy and other shows

The International theatre scene continues to blossom, with an increasing number of English language companies, language-no-problem shows and internationally focused festivals popping up all over the country. Esther O’Toole had a look at what the new season promises. Theatre Toneel Groep Amsterdam In the last few years TA’s programming has become increasingly interesting and diverse. This season the theme of freedom runs through all the productions. Though most shows are in Dutch they still offer English surtitles on all their Thursday night performances and are continuing their cooperation with internationally renowned theatre directors. This season stellar director Katie Mitchell (UK) will be one to watch out for. Website The International Theatre in English Theodora Voutsa’s company return to the Compagnie Theater in Amsterdam November, with their much lauded modern version of Sophocles’ Antigone, which enjoyed a sell-out run back in March. November 4 and 25 only. Well worth a look. Website Badhuis Theater This lovely little spot in Amsterdam Oost is home to the inventive Shakespeare Karaoke nights led by Shakespearean performance specialist Will Sutton. In October it’s the turn of Antony and Cleopatra to get the ‘Shaoke’ treatment. A fun and imaginative way to get familiar with Shakespeare’s greatest hits. Also, back by popular demand is their English language show The Shadow of a Gunman which will have an extended run at the end of September. Website Mezrab A firm favourite among Amsterdammers and those in the know, Mezrab cultural centre does storytelling, impro nights and music for English and Dutch audiences. Highlights this season include improvised storytelling on the 16th September and a Storytelling Festival starting on the 22nd. Great homemade soup too! Website NT Live! at Pathe The British National Theatre first launched broadcasts of their live performance back in 2009. Now they offer multiple shows per year, at venues worldwide. On September 22 you can catch a new production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill´s The Threepenny Opera in Amsterdam or The Hague. In Utrecht, they will also be reprising Terrence Rattigan´s masterpiece The Deep Blue Sea, and reruns of other shows are on offer at various local arthouse venues. Website STET Well loved company STET have been in The Hague for 10 years now. With this being their anniversary year they have pulled out the stops for some great international collaborations. Alongside their own language-no-problem shows for kids (this season a puppet version of Cinderella, 5+) they are also bringing in the freshest new talent from London's acclaimed Guildhall Drama Academy for a series of one-man shows and have partnered with Nationale Toneel Gebouw for a new production of Medea in Greek. Website Comedy Boom Chicago Amsterdam-based comedy group Boom Chicago have a packed autumn programme, including their US political show Angry White Men - Trump up the volume, with focuses on the presidential election. A one-off on September 26 is a look at the Amsterdam startup ecosystem. It's big, they say, and so is its ego. Website English Language Stand-Up More and more excellent stand-up comedians are now making the Netherlands a stop on their tours. Amy Schumer was over recently and Eddie Izzard will be playing Carre in November (18th). What is cooler still is new international talents, like Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss and Swedish sensation Johan Glans, are becoming a strong feature at Toomler in Zuid. Website International Comedy Festival Rotterdam Also tapping into the demand for some serious laughs, the ICFR is now in it's third year. It has a great line up this time round including massive names like deadpan Jimmy Carr (UK), Brendon Burns (Australia/UK), and Gina Yashere (UK). October 7-9 in Rotterdam. Website Other shows BOSCH500 Celebrations of the life and works of Hieronymous Bosch, continues through the Autumn in the city that shares his name. With 500 events planned overall there’s documentary films, a VR experience and a special theatre spectacular, Bosch Dreams (at Theater de Leest in Waalwijk) all still to come. A spectacular evening is promised in the form of a specially composed Bosch Requiem, at St John’s Cathedral on 6th November. Events will continue throughout the year and right up until April 2017. Website Scapino Ballet One more group enjoying an anniversary this year, Scapino Ballet. They´ve been producing high quality dance for 70 years now. To celebrate they are showing revivals of some of their best work alongside the ambitious new project TING!, which is an unusual collaboration between their choreographer Wubbe and the Dutch band NITS. Website  More >


Volunteer organisation Access has been helping new arrivals settle for 30 years

Volunteer organisation Access has been helping new arrivals settle for 30 years

Whether it be sensible advice about childbirth or making friends, finding a job or even where to buy a tie, volunteer organisation Access has been helping internationals in the Netherlands for the past 30 years. Molly Quell looks back at the organisation's history as they celebrate their anniversary this month. The Access model is unique in the world but the problems it seeks to solve aren’t. The experience of moving abroad is, unsurprisingly, a stressful one. In 1985, the American Community Council (ACC), an organisation which brought together all of the American-focused groups in The Hague - from churches to schools - took on this challenge. According to Gale Metcalf and Joel Wallach, who helped with the founding of Access: 'It was not about the availability of support or information, it was access to and awareness of it that we noted as being absent in The Hague.' The ACC looked at that model and concluded that what its community needed was a clearinghouse for information that international families needed, including opportunities for professional development and a list of service providers who worked with international families. From this, Access was born. Volunteers Within the first year, it had 70 volunteers. They came mostly from the community of spouses who had followed their partners and were often highly educated and with in-demand skills but who were unable to find work in their new country. This very volunteer pool is what makes Access so unique.. The organisation currently has only four paid roles. While providing services to the international community, Access also seeks to provide opportunities for those very same people to have something to do that wasn’t 'house, spouse or kids' says the organisation’s director, Deborah Valentine. During its 30 year history, Access has worked with 3,000 volunteers. The organisation currently boasts 130 volunteers with around 40 nationalities with John Pellet, the longest serving member of the team after 12 years. Nationwide Those volunteers staff their national back office, which can be contacted via email or a 0900 number. They also staff the first Access help desk in The Hague and the satellite offices it has recently opened in Utrecht and Amsterdam. Soon it will have a similar desk in Leiden. When relocating from France with his partner, American John Fields ventured to City Hall to visit the desk located there. 'I spoke with an Access volunteer who was extraordinarily welcoming, friendly, knowledgeable, and supportive. I had been doing volunteer work in France and within 6 months of arrival, I had successfully become part of Access as well.' Internationals can get practical information about health, employment and legal matters but advice about life necessities isn’t the only information it provides. Office manager Qin Cai was once asked where one could buy a tie within a five minute walk from The Hague central station. Funding Initially the organisation was supported in large part of a grant from the US State Department’s mental health services division and was supplemented by support from local organisations. By the mid-90’s, Access was receiving most of its income from publications. In more recent years, the funding has come from sponsorship. It is also launching a patron programme, in which international organisations can contribute financially and in return, receive assistance with onboarding their international employees. Despite some financial difficulties in the past, the core of the model remains strong. In 2015, Access became part of Utrecht's official expat centre. When the Expatcenter in Amsterdam wanted to expand its services, it looked to to them as all. 'Access was the perfect partner to help us. In particular, their team of volunteers is highly knowledgeable,' says Colleen Geske, international community liaison at the Expatcenter Amsterdam. The organisation is now talking with the city of Leiden as well. 'I believe ACCESS’ role will continue to prosper and flourish with all the new initiatives that continue to be undertaken,' says board member Pauline O’Brien. Access returned to its origins with its 30th anniversary celebrations by hosting a reception at the American School in Wassenaar, where the organisation was founded. The party was attended by current and former volunteers and a whole host of friends and supporters. 'The reception,' says Valentine, 'gave us an opportunity to reflect on our history and celebrate our volunteers. Without them, what we do would not be possible.' Find out more about Access and volunteering via www.access-nl.org  More >


Make the most of the last days of summer with a swim in a Dutch lake

Make the most of the last days of summer with a swim in a Dutch lake

Children are back at school and the workplaces are almost back to normal. But a bout of late summer sun means shrieks of delight can still be found in lakes and rivers from Friesland to Limburg. The Dutch do love their water, as Simon Weedy discovers. The celebrations which followed Sharon van Rouwendaal and Ferry Weertman's gold medals in the 10K open water swim at the Rio Olympics were a joy to behold. But to a nation which needs little excuse to jump into a lake or river, their achievements – as superb as they were – should have come as little surprise. Weather-wise, you wouldn't honestly say that it's been the best summer ever. Frankly, it's been a bit of a wash-out. Or at least it had been until a couple of weeks ago. Right on cue, a decent spell of sunshine arrives and suddenly everyone is rushing to embrace this 'Indian Summer', topped off with a cooling dip. And despite an abundance of outdoor swimming pools, there is no shortage of places to indulge in 'wild swimming', be it at a local lake, river, canal or, of course, in the North Sea. Facilities The facilities for swimming in lakes and rivers are often excellent, with many boasting a mixture of spotless toilet blocks, manned car parks and refreshment vans, to ensure the best possible experience. Amsterdam, for example, has nine official places where you can swim, if you dare, and the water is currently around 22 degrees. In fact in the Netherlands as a whole, there are around 600 official places to swim. Noord-Holland tops the provincial league with 151 but even Utrecht has 25 places you can take a safe dip. Every province publishes an annual list of approved swimming spots, and the transport ministry – which manages 6,000 kilometres of rivers and canals – teams up with local water suppliers and the environment ministry performs weekly checks on the water quality at each site during the official swim season, between May 1 and October 1. Health risks The risks to public health are plentiful. Bacterial contaminants range from dogs playing in the water to discharge from sewer overflows and the presence of blue-green algae. But the biggest problem, according to the government, is actually a self-made one. 'The greatest threat to swimmers in outdoor water is not in the quality of the bathing water, but by the people themselves' says official guidance. 'People are jumping from unsafe sites in rivers and canals, and swimming in unsafe locations in the sea... navigation, currents and objects in the water pose the greatest threat to the safety of swimmers.' River swimming is a particular bugbear of many provinces, simply because of the sheer number of potential risks to life and limb from shipping lanes, cramp and hypothermia. Anyone found swimming in places where it is banned can face a fine of up to €140. High spirits But none of this seems to dampen the spirits of a nation proud to show off its credentials as a land at one with nature in more ways than one. The Netherlands, don't forget, has history with water. About a quarter of the country remains below sea level, thereby explaining why flooding remains the country's biggest natural threat. Little wonder then there is such a collective fascination with the wet stuff. The crowds which lined the waterways of Dordrecht recently for the Swim to Fight Cancer event exemplified the nation's passion for wild swimming. And if that were not enough, they were treated to a guest appearance by gold medallists van Rouwendaal and Weertman. Popularity 'People here have always been keen swimmers but now the popularity of open water swimming is certainly increasing,' says Ellen Julius of the Dutch swimming federation, which organised the event. 'Swims like the one in Dordrecht are regularly happening across the country and attract lots of people. People love to take to the water in the Netherlands, but they are also well aware of the regulations around these activities,' she adds. And that really is the key. To all of you out there soaking up the last bits of summer, take the opportunities to swim outdoors but take heed of the warnings. Above all, enjoy. * Visit www.zwemwater.nl for a clickable map of all the official swimming places  More >


Trix the T Rex makes her mark on Leiden in new exhibition

Trix the T Rex makes her mark on Leiden in new exhibition

What’s over 66 million years old and roughly the length of a city bus? Why, it’s Trix the Tyrannosaurus Rex, one of the most recent expats to arrive on the shores of the Netherlands. Trix goes on show at the Naturalis natural history museum in Leiden on September 10 and Brandon Hartley has the low down. When a team of paleontologists and other scientists from Naturalis embarked on a journey to the United States in the summer of 2013, they weren’t sure what they would find. By the following September they had unearthed a remarkably well-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton during an excavation in the state of Montana. During its lifetime, the dinosaur would have stood 4 - 5 metres tall and weighed 5,000 kilogrammes. According to their analysis, the dinosaur was likely a female and would have died at about the age of 30 around 66 - 67 million years ago. Finding a nearly complete T Rex skeleton like this one is the paleontology equivalent of coming across a long lost Rembrandt or a Van Gogh painting. It’s hard to exagerate the importance of the discovery. The team from Leiden were able to extract 80% of the skeleton during the excavation. ‘[It’s] one of the best three that have been found,’ Pete Larson, president of South Dakota's Black Hills Geological Research Institute, recently told The Chicago Tribune. Cost But the cost of purchasing and moving a T Rex skeleton that weighs roughly 13,000 pounds from the United States to the Netherlands doesn’t come cheap. Naturalis was able to initially work out a deal with the landowners to purchase the dino but a large chunk of the millions of euros that the centre invested in the project and its upcoming exhibition came from donations. To help raise all that cash, the centre launched a cheeky fundraising campaign titled Tientje voor T Rex in late 2013. It included collection containers located in cafes and shops in addition to a television advert featuring a clumsy dinosaur going door-to-door in search of spare change. The skeleton was eventually christened ‘Trix’ in honour of former queen Beatrix. The name was suggested so many times by donors and Naturalis visitors that it became ‘an obvious choice’ according to museum representatives. Plane On 23 August, 250 passengers on a KLM flight departing from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport heard a surprising announcement while they were waiting to board. They were told that they’d be flying to Amsterdam with the 66+ million year old Trix. At an earlier press conference, a group of representatives from the Netherlands and the US unveiled a large Dutch passport for the dino. Trix officially arrived in Leiden a few days later and was welcomed to town with a celebration featuring hundreds of local school children. A caravan that included a marching band, a T. Rex parade float, tv naturalist Freek Vonk, and paleontologist Anne Schulp led a lorry carrying the bones to a stage set up in the city’s historic Beestenmarkt. But all's not well in Dinoland. Reports have recently emerged of a battle between landowners in Montana over which one of them deserves the payment for Trix’s bones. The initial seller and a neighbour each say that they deserve the estimated €5m the museum paid for the dinosaur. This isn’t the first time that the discovery of a T. Rex skeleton has led to a legal standoff over ownership. The extraction of a similar dino named ‘Sue’ in 1992 resulted in a ruckus that later involved the FBI and members of the US National Guard. Now in place, Trix is the first and only T. Rex to be permanently displayed in mainland Europe. The exhibition will continue to June next year and will then go on an international tour. Trix will return to the Netherlands to take up permanent residence at a space in the newly renovated Naturalis in late 2018. Trix is being presented in a unique, low to the ground pose that will make her seem more dangerous and intense than other T Rex skeletons in museums around the world. The decision was a practical one. Unlike similar displays, Trix will feature her actual skull instead of a replica, which will require a substantial amount of support that can’t be achieved with a more traditional pose. As Schulp told The Chicago Tribune, 'You can really look the beast in the eye.' Oh, and in case you were wondering, her missing bones will be replaced by 3D printed replications based on previously discovered T Rex skeletons. For tickets and further information about the exhibition, head over to the museum’s website.  More >


Amsterdam’s Nieuwe Kerk welcomes Marilyn Monroe – and (not quite) that dress

Amsterdam’s Nieuwe Kerk welcomes Marilyn Monroe – and (not quite) that dress

On June 1 actress Marilyn Monroe would have turned 90. That, and the lucky discovery of a substantial collection of Marilyn-related objects practically on the Dutch doorstep, has prompted the Nieuwe Kerk to mount an exhibition ‘reflecting on the life of a female icon’. By Hanneke Sanou The exhibition is almost completely made up of items bought by German collector Ted Stampfer, who also collects Rock Hudson memorabilia. At his Mannheim treasure trove, Stampfer has over 700 items relating to the star - including such startling ones as a few strands of Marilyn’s hair in a curler and a half-empty pot of face cream. He describes himself nevertheless as someone who likes to ‘keep at a safe distance from Marilyn fanatics’. Stampfer’s chance came when many of Marilyn’s personal and professional possessions  were auctioned off in the nineties after having been boxed up for forty years. No doubt Stampfer will be found in the auction room again in November this year. That is when the largest collection of film costumes worn by Marilyn comes up for auction, including the black dress she wore in Some Like it Hot. De Nieuwe Kerk managed to borrow some 140 objects owned or worn at one time by the actress. ‘We have lots of different types of objects,’ says Nieuwe Kerk spokesperson Martijn van Schieveen. Capri pants ‘There are her clothes – a turtle neck sweater and black-and-white capri pants which was one of her looks – dresses from several of her films, jewellery, a quite moving little silver baby cup with her name engraved on it.. We also have interesting documents, such as contracts and scribbled notes. Marilyn was a highly organised person and kept her bills and diaries, of which we have a few as well.’ Also on show is some of the boxes that contained her medication ‘a poignant reminder of how she died’, says Van Schieveen. One of the exhibition highlights is one of two nearly identical dresses costume designer William Trevilla designed for Marilyn Monroe. The one on show in the Nieuwe Kerk is not the dress Marilyn Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch (1955) when she stood on that draughty New York subway grate trying to keep her dress from wrapping itself around her head. It apparently took three hours and 14 takes before director Billy Wilder was happy. The several thousand onlookers could have stayed there all night. Not that Wilder was happy for long: the final version of the scene was shot on a Hollywood lot. Silly dress William Trevilla later called the ivory halter-neck number ‘that silly dress’. He had, in his opinion, designed far better dresses for Marilyn, among which the pink dress she wears in Gentlemen prefer Blondes when she sings Diamonds are a Girl’s best Friends. In 1971 the dress Marilyn wore in the film was bought for 200 dollars by actress and musical star Debbie Reynolds who had become an avid collector of Hollywood memorabilia and costumes when she was a young actress (with remarkable foresight). Financial difficulties and the failure to find backing for a museum finally forced her to part with the collection. In 2011 that dress fetched a staggering 4.6 million dollars. The dress on show in the Nieuwe Kerk forms part of the Maite Minguez Ricart collection. And what about that curler with Marilyn’s hair and that pot of face cream? ‘Yes, they’re both here,’ says Van Schieveen. Doesn’t he think the inclusion of these objects is…well, a little bit too morbid and intrusive? ‘Not at all. It’s fantastic to have them. What better than to have the icon’s DNA right here in the Nieuwe Kerk? It brings her that much closer.’ 90 years of Marilyn. Reflecting on the life of a female icon' October 1 – February 5 Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam. Tickets available now   More >


10 key periods in history which made the Netherlands what it is today

10 key periods in history which made the Netherlands what it is today

Being the well organised folk that they are, the Dutch have drawn up a list of 50 key events and periods which shaped the country and made the Netherlands what it is today. This mighty list is known as the Canon of Dutch history and forms the basis of history teaching at primary schools. We can't possibly remember them all, so here's the 10 we think might just be the most significant. 1 The early farmers The first people to abandon the hunter-gatherer existence in the Netherlands are known as the Trechtervolk, named after the funnel-shaped pottery they left behind, most of it in tiny pieces. These early farmers settled in what is now the province of Drenthe around 3400 BC. There they built a more enduring legacy: the hunebedden, which are among the oldest historical monuments in Europe. Like stone age monuments everywhere, they required much hauling and stacking of colossal (hune means giant) stones, in this case conveniently left by a passing glacier. Little is known about the Trechtervolk, or the status of the folk who were buried in the hunebedden. Any bones have long since disappeared and the graves, vandalised and misunderstood in later years, were most likely robbed of any enlightening artefacts. 2 The Roman conquest The Roman conquest of the south of the Low Countries - attempts to conquer the north failed and after a while the Roman stopped bothering - was successfully achieved in 12 BC under Augustus. They stayed for the next 300-odd years and built numerous fortresses to stave off attacks from troublesome local tribes. They also built public baths (Heerlen boasts the best-preserved thermae http://www.thermenmuseum.nl/ ), villas and roads- and provided a basis for a legal system that is still with us today. 3 Conversion to Christianity The tribes in the north of the Netherlands presented a challenge to the missionaries of the 8th century. Both Willibrord and Bonifatius – revered saints in the Catholic church – travelled from England to convert the unruly Friesians but they stubbornly refused to give up their own form of worship. The culmination came when Bonifatius, who did much to establish the catholic church in Europe, was killed at Dokkum by the Friesians as he was making another conversion attempt in 754. Whether the deed was done in open combat or during a cowardly night time attack remains unclear. Catholiscism never did become the dominant religion in the Netherlands. 4 The Hanseatic League In the 14th century a number of Dutch towns and cities became part of the Hanseatic League, a powerful organisation created by North German merchants to protect shared trade interests. In the century that followed the Dutch reclaimed the North Sea, ousting German traders and then continued jostling for power in the region with the Brits. Later still, in the 17th century, or the Golden Age, the Dutch East India Company VOC earned traders huge fortunes. The VOC gave out shares to finance trade expeditions and is therefore seen as the first multinational company. 5 The Republic of seven provinces By the time the Dutch were making their fortune in the East Indies the Dutch had gained independence of the Spanish after a war that lasted eighty years. A satisfactory king couldn’t be found so in an unusual move for the times they formed a republic of seven provinces (1588 to 1795) ruled by prince Maurits of Orange as stadtholder and Johan van Oldebarnevelt as the main legal advisor until the two fell out and Maurits had Van Oldebarnevelt beheaded. 6 An independent kingdom The Netherlands didn’t become an independent kingdom until 1815. In 1795 the republic had become a vassal state of France. In 1806 Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother – who suffered from rheumatism and didn’t relish a post in a damp country - reluctantly became king of the Netherlands. He soon rallied, however, and even tried to learn Dutch. Legend has it that he called himself ‘konijn van ‘Olland’ his French accent turning koning (king) into konijn (rabbit). After Napoleon was defeated Europe changed shape again and the Netherlands started on it royal course under king Willem 7 Women's rights In 1878 Aletta Jacobs (1854 – 1929) became the first Dutch woman to leave the university, of Groningen in this case, a fully-fledged doctor of medicine. She went on to promote birth control as a way of fighting poverty among the poor and became a vocal advocate for women’s right to vote and stand for election. Dutch women won the right to vote in 1917. 8 Two world wars The Dutch managed to stay neutral during the Great War (1914-1918) and, compared to the casualties and devastation suffered by many other countries it came off relatively lightly. The Second World War (1940-1945) was to have much more profound effect on the Netherlands. Some 89, 000 Dutch civilians lost their lives and over 100,000 Jewish citizens were killed in the German death camps. The war was followed by the ‘wederopbouw’, or reconstruction, a period in which the Netherlands rebuilt the country’s infrastructure and fractured economy. One of the most important and revered figures of the post-war period was socialist Willem Drees, who introduced old age pensions. 9 The flood of 1953 In the night of January 31 and February 1, 1953, a violent storm and a spring tide combined fatally to flood parts of the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Germany. In the Netherlands the province of Zeeland was hardest hit. The dykes were too weak to withstand the impact of the storm and 1,836 people died. Numerous heads of cattle were lost and agriculture in the area destroyed. The ‘watersnoodramp’, or flood disaster, led to the so-called Deltawerken, an enormous complex of coastal defences that was started in 1958 and finished in 1991. 10 Natural gas Much of the Netherlands’ present-day wealth is based on the ‘gasbel’ or gas bubble. In 1959 a huge natural gas field was discovered in the province of Groningen. This heralded an economic boom time in the Netherlands. At this moment it is thought that there is enough gas to last for another 25 years. The extraction of gas has recently developed a downside - large parts of Groningen are suffering earthquakes as the ground settles and gas extraction has been scaled back.  More >


Shakespeare and Gispen chairs: great things to do in September

Shakespeare and Gispen chairs: great things to do in September

From open air Shakespeare to designer chairs; from listed buildings to a good laugh - here's our pick of some of the best things to do this September. Dream in the open air Here’s your chance to see Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream in the open air, played by British theatre company Illyria which prides itself on performing the play much as it would have been in the bard’s time, minus the roof. Five players share the roles between them and props are kept at a minimum. The quick changes guarantee the brisk pace appropriate for this comedy of errors. Bring a brolly because no matter what the weather – barring disastrous flooding or hurricane-force winds- the show will go on. September 1 and 2, 7.30pm. Raadhuis de Paauw, Wassenaar  September 3, 7.30pm. Landgoed Schovenhorst - Putten (Veluwe) Tickets can be bought here. Pick a listed building Open Monumentendag is here again. It’s 30 years since the event first took place in the Netherlands and it’s been going from strength to strength. It’s free, which helps. This year’s theme is Icons and Symbols which means the focus will be on the stories the building’s ornaments tell us, and the iconic value of the church towers, windmills and stately homes that dot the Dutch landscape. September 10,11. Just about everywhere. Enjoy an embassy extravaganza Over thirty embassies have got together to host the annual Embassy Festival . It’s a ‘cultural, culinary and musical journey’ but fortunately you won’t have to travel any further than the Lange Voorhout in The Hague. Artists such as Akua Naru, Shishani and Sindicato Sonica are guaranteed to get feet tapping while French soprano Elodie Fonnard, Polish soprano Aldona Bartnik and Viola da Gamba player Susanne Herrer take care of the contemplative side of things. There will be lots of activities for kids as well. September 3, Lange Voorhout The Hague, from 12pm to 8pm. Go souvenir hunting If you are not among those whose souvenirs cannot be corny or garish enough this traveling exhibition is for you. No slogan t-shirts or fridge magnets, the organisers say, but tasteful, well-thought out souvenirs which honour the heritage monuments they are meant to remind us of. UNESCO guest curator Erik Kessels asked design students to come up with suitable souvenirs for 10 heritage sites in the Netherlands. 20 of those are now on show in a specially designed Souvenir House. Look out for the supremely uncomfortable Rietveld slippers and the Waddenzee ear plug. Here are the Souvenir House travel dates and venues. Be judged Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden is going to be renovated and has allowed its star attraction to travel to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam – its third outing in 450 years -where it will stay for the next two years. The work in question is the masterful Last Judgement (1526 -27) by Lucas van Leyden which is considered to be one of the most important surviving altar pieces in the Netherlands. The triptych has been given pride of place in the museum’s hall of fame. 2016-2018, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Be moved by an Italian in Albania Dynasty Marubi - A hundred years of Albanian photography tells the fascinating story of Italian photographer Pietro Marubi who traveled to Shkodra in Albania in 1850 (apparently for political reasons; Marubi supported Garibaldi) and started a photo studio where not only the great and the good came to have their portrait taken – king Zog among them – but also shepherds and criminals. Marubi’s assistant Kel took on his name when Pietro died and eventually passed the studio on to his son. The studio’s archive consists of some 150,000 glass negatives. The selection of photographs chosen for the exhibition depict social rituals, folkloric costumes and (group) portraits from Ottoman to Communist times in a country most of us know little about. September 16 - November 27, Foam Amsterdam Visit a house of horror House of Horror is the completely new show from one of the world’s greatest illusionists - Dutchman Hans Klok. There are new illusions, with girls disappearing and reappearing at lightning speed, and some top circus acts. And to create the right atmosphere, there are flickering candles, ghosts wandering across the stage and mist rising from beneath the stage. From August 14 at the Carre theatre in Amsterdam Ask is it art? The Stedelijk Museum presents Dream out loud: Designing for tomorrow’s demands. Social design, the Stedelijk explains, is all about ‘new technologies’, and ‘seeking solutions for humanitarian or ecological disasters and ‘using fiction to make the inconceivable conceivable’. 26 artists have been invited to show how to create art with a conscience. Not all works immediately strike one as being particularly helpful in a crisis. A (very pretty) carpet made from cocktail stirrers, for example, makes a good case for recycling but not very much else. The Post-disaster Shelter for Haiti by Pieter Stoutjesdijk, however, designed in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake and which can be made from locally produced materials is an altogether more useful proposition. But is it art? Until January 1 2017, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam Check out the chairs Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is celebrating the centenary of Dutch ‘nieuwe zakelijkheid’ furniture maker Gispen with a special exhibition called Gispen Specials – the customer is king. The exhibition will present 50 designs, some of which have never been shown before, that were produced in very small numbers for specific purposes, such as a cast iron chandelier for a church or an extra-large conference table for the Van Nelle factory. You won’t find those on Marktplaats (but pretty much everything else). September 10-February 26, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam Enjoy free theatre Theatre, discussion, performance art, film, music, animation, dance, video game art..all this and more crammed into 11 days of freshly created, vibrant and totally free cultural offerings from artists from all corners of the world. There is much to choose from so here is the programme. September 1 –September 11, Amsterdam, various venues Have a good laugh The British comedian Bill Bailey brings his new show, Limboland, to the Netherlands and talks about the gap between how we imagine our life to be and how it really is. He recounts the hilarious saga of a disastrous family trip to Norway to see the Northern Lights. He rails against a world that doesn’t match up to our expectations and contemplates the true nature of happiness. There is also music in the form of Bill’s version of the protest song, and a fabulously downbeat version of Happy Birthday. RAI, Amsterdam, September 23; 013, Tilburg, September 24. Advance warning Brian Ferry at the Carre in Amsterdam on October 5.  More >


Biertje anyone? Here’s some key facts about Dutch beer

Biertje anyone? Here’s some key facts about Dutch beer

Beer brewing in the Netherlands dates back to the 9th century, though craft beer has recently experienced a considerable resurgence. Ever since Heineken won the gold medal for its pilsner at the World’s Fair in 1889, the Dutch have been known for that brewery and style, but there is much more to Dutch beer than that. Here are some facts. Beer was not more common than water It’s commonly said that beer was more popular than water in Medieval Europe and the reason often given is that the water was contaminated and beer, which had to be boiled during the brewing process, was cleaner. While this is a great story, it isn’t true. It is true that people living in Medieval Europe, including the Netherlands, did consume a considerable amount of beer. Beer was inexpensive (unlike wine, which was for the rich) and significantly lower in alcohol than what we consume today. It also had an advantage over water - it contained calories. For the average Medieval labourer, it was akin to cola. The oldest brewery Brand is the oldest continuously operating Dutch brewery. It has been in operation since 1340, though it wasn’t purchased by the Brand family until 1871, when the then owner, Jan Hendrik Hubert L'Ortye, sold it to Frederik Edmond Brand. The original brewery was part of the charter of Wijlre which gave the city aldermen the sole right to appoint a city brewer. The big brewers Brewers in the Netherlands produce 2,300 million litres of beer per year, mainly at the large macro breweries like Heineken, Amstel and Grolsch. Of this, nearly 50% is exported, a larger proportion than any other brewing nation. This makes the Netherlands the second biggest exporter of beer in the world, after Mexico. More than 37% of Dutch beer sent abroad went to the US. Craft Brewers Not all the beer produced or consumed in the country comes from one of the big breweries. Brouwerij 't IJ in Amsterdam is the oldest of the new wave of craft breweries and was started in 1985. There are now over 250 small breweries operating commercially within the country with names like Oersoep (primordial soup), Oedipus Brewings, Frontaal and Brouwerij de 7e Hemel. Trappist and Bok The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance are more commonly known as Trappists or Trappist monks, members of a religious order founded in France who produce goods to support the monastery, including cheese, wool and, of course, beer. Most of the trappist breweries are located in Belgium but two are in the Netherlands: Brouwerij de Koningshoeven, more commonly know as La Trappe and and Zundert, which was introduced in 2013. The Dutch also have their own version of bok beer, which originally hailed from Germany. According to the official rules, bok must only be for sale between September 21 and December 21 each year. It is so popular in the Netherlands there are bok beer festivals in Amsterdam and Utrecht. How much beer do the Dutch drink? The Dutch drink, on average, 77 litres of beer per person per year, ranking them 14th in the world in terms of beer consumption. The largest portion of that (nearly 95%) is the pilsner style, popularised by Heineken and others. Biertje? If you walk into a bar in the Netherlands and order a biertje (little beer), you will be served a beer which will probably be the house beer (whichever major brewery they have a contract with.) That beer will probably be served in a .20l fluitje (little whistle) glass. Or it may be served in a vaasje (little vase) which can come in a variety of sizes, most commonly .33l. Unlike the English and the Americans, the Dutch don’t commonly serve pints. And unlike the Belgians, they don’t have a special glass for every beer. Bruin Cafes Your typical bruin cafe (brown cafe) is aptly named. The wooden floors, furniture and walls (either from wood panelling or years of smoking) will all be some shade of brown. This is your typical Dutch haunt and there are thousands all over the country. You can order a normal beer or perhaps some bitterballen. Don’t forget to pay your bill at the end of the evening; the bartender will normally keep track of your drinks on a scrap of paper behind the bar. Beer proverbs There are many sayings involving beer but most are never used and frankly we think that beer enthusiasts make them up as they go along. The best-known are 'Wanneer het bier is in de man dan is de wijsheid in de kan' which roughly means that you mustn't expect a person with a belly full of beer to explain the theory of relativity with any clarity. Another one is Bier na wijn geeft venijn, wijn na bier geeft plezier.  It means drinking beer after wine will give you a headache whereas drinking wine after beer will make you jolly and hangover-free. Cheers.  More >


Bilingual People: language recruitment fairs for international job-seekers

Bilingual People: language recruitment fairs for international job-seekers

Thanks to its strong economy, the Netherlands is certainly becoming a European hub recruiting for bilingual and multilingual candidates in Europe. The high quality of life standards in most cities throughout the country, also makes the Netherlands one of the most attractive location for candidates with language skills looking for an international career. (source: toplanguagejobs.com) NEXT BILINGUAL PEOPLE FAIR: AMSTERDAM, 10th SEPTEMBER – NH GRAND KRASNAPOLSKY Register HERE (Please see below for a list of future events or visit www.bilingualpeople.com) At the Bilingual People fairs, companies based in-country are offering Bilingual / Multilingual job-seekers a chance to find their ideal job either for career progression or to kick start a new career. However, the Bilingual People fairs are not just about local opportunities but also about offering candidates (especially for German, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian and French speakers) a chance to look for global opportunities. An international experience is nowadays a great asset on a CV, and gives the opportunity to develop professional and personal skills. Therefore, Bilingual People fairs welcome companies looking for the right candidates to relocate and recruit bilingual and multilingual candidates for their available positions across Europe. Reasons to attend the Bilingual People Fairs: Meet local and international companies that are interested in recruiting for people with language skills, both for positions locally, and also throughout Europe. Apply and discuss opportunities for a wide range of positions across many industry specifications including Sales, Customer Service, IT, Tech Support, Accountancy/Finance, Gaming/ Betting and many more You will be able to meet leading employers as well as recruitment agencies under one roof, saving you time and energy when looking for your new job! You will be able to talk to leading employers and agencies face-to-face and discuss a wide range of employment opportunities. Most in demand languages: German, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian and French Upcoming Bilingual People Fairs: Physical events -           Krakow, 1st October – Sheraton Hotel Virtual events (ONLINE) -           Ireland Relocation Virtual Recruitment Fair, 22nd September -           UK Multilingual Virtual Recruitment Fair, 13th October -           German Relocation Virtual Recruitment Fair, 27th October Further info on www.bilingualpeople.com  More >


11 things you need to know about marriage in the Netherlands

11 things you need to know about marriage in the Netherlands

Planning to marry a Dutchie or attend the wedding of Dutch friends? Here's a few key facts and other things you ought to know first. 1 How many weddings? Around 64,300 couples tied the knot in the Netherlands in 2015 (of which 1,259 were same sex couples). In addition around 13,000 people agreed a registered partnership, which is legally like a wedding but without the ceremony and cake. 2 How old are the happy couple? The average age for a man to tie the knot is 37 while women are 34. By this time, they are statistically likely to have at least started having children. The charming, if biologically incorrect title for the second family of a man who has married before is tweede leg or second lay - referring to hens and eggs not two sexual encounters. 3 Church or registry office? In the Netherlands church weddings have to be preceded by a registry office wedding by law, otherwise you are not married at all. Unlike a registry office marriage, which is easily dissolved, a union blessed by the church is slightly trickier to get out of: ‘What God has joined together let no man break asunder’. An annulment is your only option. 4 The registrar's speech During the civil ceremony, weddings couples have to submit to a little speech about themselves given by the registrar - who has possibly only met them once. These usually focus on how the couple met and perhaps work in some mildly embarrassing mishaps following that momentous event. Some registrars, however, like to take control and may ask questions like ‘Why are you getting married?’ to which you may not instantly want to say ‘Well, for tax reasons, of course’. 5 Free weddings Cheapskates and genuinely poor people can get married for free: councils set aside certain times for this (usually early in the morning, they are not THAT charitable). Be prepared to have your friends and relatives tell you they will ‘come around later’ when there is a prospect of drinks and nibbles. 6 What does it all cost? According to the Nationaal Trouwonderzoek, the average Dutch wedding costs €15,000. That is probably the reason the most popular wedding gift is money (and 46% admit to counting it during the wedding night when they should have better things to do.) If you are a foreigner, however, you will need lots more cash and patience to get all your official documents certified as being genuine in your country of origin. 7 Wedding proverbs Surprisingly there are not so many sayings involving marriage in Dutch but there are a few: Trouwen is houwen: once you are married you are, or should be, with that person for life. If a Dutch person tells you Zo zijn we niet getrouwd he means: that was not the deal. Van bruiloft komt bruiloft means that one wedding usually augurs another. A famous Dutch joke is that there is only one word which rhymes with ‘huwelijk’ (marriage) - ‘afschuwelijk’ (horrendous). 8 Etiquette Wedding etiquette is a minefield and the Netherlands is no exception. Who to invite just for the ‘receptie’ (reception) so they can hand over the pressie and push off, and who to invite for both the reception and the ‘trouwfeest’ (wedding party) later on? If you are marrying a Dutch person, be warned that the party may include lots of silly sketches and songs about the happy couple performed by family and friends of your partner. 9 Legal stuff Unless you sign a prenup of some sort, all the assets you owned before the marriage, or which are inherited or gifted by others, become the property of both of you. This also applies to debts... which can lead to nasty surprises if your partner is a secret gambler. However, moves are underway to change this - supporters in parliament say this will reduce rows about dividing up assets during a divorce. Positive thinking there then. Married women in the Netherlands also tend to keep their own name, or join it to that of their husband, as in the case of grandly named Dutch transport minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen-Maas Geesteranus. This also makes it easier to revert back your maiden name if necessary. 10 Divorce And that brings us to divorce. Of course, not everyone lives happily ever after. In 2014, 35,409 couples decided to call it a day. The average age for a man to get divorced was 47 while the women checked out at 43. The average time people managed to stay together was around 15 years. 11 Anniversaries Of course if you make it past 10 years, there is more celebrating to do. For some strange reason 12.5 years (copper) is the first landmark anniversary - which is easy to forget. Then comes  25 (silver) and 50 (gold). If you got married 70 years ago, and you can still remember the happy occasion, you’ll be celebrating your platinum wedding anniversary. 80 is oak, the oak presumably referencing the coffin you will be buried in quite soon after.  More >


12 men who helped shape the Netherlands into what it is today

12 men who helped shape the Netherlands into what it is today

They've given their names to schools, to squares and to streets - every Dutch town seems to have a Hugo de Grootstraat, for example - but who are the men behind the name plates? Here's a quick profile of 12 masters of war, learning and thought who helped shape the Netherlands into the country it is today. Willibrordus Willibrordus (658- 739), a Northumbrian priest, is the most famous missionary to come to the Netherlands. Called the ‘apostle of the Low Countries’, he had no success whatsoever converting the stubborn Friesians to Christianity. It wasn’t until the end of his life when he had settled in Utrecht that cohorts of missionaries sent into Frisian territory managed to convert some – but not all – Frisians. Erasmus Desiderius Erasmus (1466 – 1536) was a priest, philosopher, writer and humanist whose best-known work is In Praise of Folly (1509), a satire on the follies of mankind, the vanity and frippery of bishops and princes of the church included. The book paved the way for the Reformation. Erasmus was an educational reformist as well: he disapproved of corporal punishment and thought the study of the Latin and Greek texts would teach children all the moral values they needed. Charles V Charles V (1500- 1558), Holy Roman Emperor, king of Spain and regent of the Low Countries (the area that now covers the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium) decided to turn the 17 provinces into an administrative union in an effort to make some of the bits of his vast empire a bit more manageable. This is seen as a first step towards Dutch nationhood. William of Orange William of Orange (1533-1584) is regarded as the ‘father of the fatherland’. His revolt against fiercely catholic Philip the Second of Spain who was tightening his religious and financial grip on the Netherlands started the Eighty Years’ War which eventually led to the independent United Provinces in 1581. Philip put a price on his head and French Catholic Balthasar Gérard took him up on it. In 1584 he shot William in the Prinsenhof in Delft where the bullet holes in the wall can still be seen. Hugo de Groot Hugo de Groot (1583-1645) was a lawyer and theologian. He wrote his book De Jere Belli ac Pacis (On the law of War and Peace) in exile having famously fled his native country concealed in a book chest after his religious work got him in trouble with the authorities. That publication earned him the title of ‘father of international law’. Rembrandt van Rijn Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), the Netherland’s finest painter and ongoing source of income for the Dutch tourist industry, was born a miller’s son. Apprenticed to Pieter Lastman, Rembrandt began a career that would yield some 280 etchings and 300 paintings, although the exact number of paintings remains a bone of contention. Rembrandt is best-known for his use of clair-obscur and rendering of rich textures. He is, possibly, best-loved for his self-portraits which give us an impression of the man. Michiel de Ruyter Michiel de Ruyter (1607 – 1676) went from being an unruly rope maker’s apprentice to becoming the saviour of the Dutch republic. After a successful career at sea he was made lieutenant-admiral of the fleet in 1665 to fight the Brits in three consecutive Anglo-Dutch wars. In a daring feat he attacked- and clobbered- the British fleet at Chatham in 1667, securing an advantageous peace for the Dutch. Baruch Spinoza Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was a philosopher and mathematician. His magnum opus is Ethica in which he proposed his radical theory that god equals nature. This flew in the face of conventional religious beliefs as did his contention that the Thora – Spinoza was a Sephardic Jew - and the Bible were the work of man, not God. His works were banned and Spinoza had to rely on his skills as a lens cutter and the kindness of friends to survive until his death from tuberculosis in 1677. Willem I In 1813, when the  Napoleonic empire collapsed Willem I (1772 - 1843) became the first sovereign king of the Netherlands. In 1815 Austria handed Willem Belgium as well, much to the Belgians' disgruntlement. Willem governed with an iron hand. His motto was ‘The old times will soon live again’, and he set about promoting trade, infrastructure and industry, not forgetting to pocket some of the proceeds himself. When he decided Dutch should become the first language of the realm, the French speaking Belgians started a revolt which ended in the independence of Belgium in 1839 and a curtailment of his power through the inclusion of ministerial responsibility in the constitution. A humiliated Willem I then abdicated in favour of his son Willem II. Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker) After a largely unsuccessful career int the Dutch East Indies Multatuli (1820-1887) published the book he is most famous for: Max Havelaar or the Koffieveilingen van de Nederlandsche handelsmaatschappij (Max Havelaar or the Coffee Auctions of a Dutch Trading Company). In it he criticised the dire treatment of the local Javanese population by the Dutch 'robber state on the sea between East Friesland and the Scheld'. The book 'sent a shiver' through the country but did little to help the Javanese. It did put Multatuli on the map as a writer, however. Max Havelaar went on to the be name of a Dutch fair trade organisation. Cornelis Lely Engineer and waterworks minister Cornelis Lely (1854 -1929) is the father of the Zuiderzeewerken, a project to increase the amount of  fertile agricultural land and protect the surrounding country from floods. The unruly Zuiderzee was turned into what is now the IJsselmeer, Waddenzee and various polders. The best-known feature of the Zuiderzeewerken is the Afsluidijk, literally the closing-off dyke.  Lely launched his plan in 1891 (many earlier plans had come to nought) but had to wait until 1920 to see the first steps towards the realisation of the project. He died in 1929 and never saw the completion of the Afsluitdijk in 1932. Willem Drees Labour prime minister Willem Drees (1887-1988) introduced the ‘Emergency help for the elderly’, a precursor of the 1956 state pension law, in the Netherlands in 1948, having seen at first hand the misery of the crisis of the 1930s.  It earned him the nickname ‘Vadertje ( little father) Drees’ and the undying gratitude of the nation. Drees was renowned for his frugality. The best-known (but perhaps apocryphal) story is about Mrs Drees offering a visiting American diplomat a cup of tea and a humble Maria biscuit. It convinced him that here was a man who wouldn’t squander what Marshall help he was given. Drees is regarded as one of the architects of the welfare state. When he died at 101 years of age he had been a recipient of the state pension he had established for 36 years. You will have noticed, of course, that all these leading lights are male. So to restore the balance, check out our list of 10 women who made waves in the Netherlands  More >


Gay Pride marketing: all puns and profit

Gay Pride marketing: all puns and profit

The Gay Pride festival is used by many companies to promote their products. But let's have some really gay-friendly policies on the workfloor, says Joep van Zijl, head of The News Makers. There’s funny puns like Power to Joohoo! (Vodafone) and AH to gay (Albert Heijn), and a tasty gaybar in a rainbow wrapping (Tony’s Chocolonely). And let’s not forget those amusing sausage and tompouce t-shirts from the Hema. It’s easy for companies to show a gay-friendly face. But actually having gay-friendly policies in place is much more important. My first reaction on seeing the Hema pride t-shirts (sausage heart sausage, tompouce heart tompouce) was: how nice, and what a fantastic idea! Here we have two intensely Dutch iconic Hema products used in a brilliant marketing campaign for EuroPride 2016, with the added bonus that the profits are going to the Gay-Straight Alliance, an organisation of students and teachers who want their school to be a safe place for everyone. Many companies are latching on to Gay Pride to show they’re absolutely fine with homosexuality.  Unfortunately most of their campaigns are primarily focused on promoting the name and image of the company and increasing turnover. As an entrepreneur and owner of a communications bureau I understand this completely but I also think companies should be serious about diversity and acceptance and tell the world they are. Limited acceptance It’s very amusing and commercially attractive to see people walking around with cream cakes and sausages plastered across their chests. But wouldn’t the Hema’s message have been much more powerful if the marketing department had communicated what it does to promote the acceptance of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (the LGBT community) on its own workfloor? What is the Hema doing to make sure its employees can be themselves and feel safe enough to come out to their work colleagues? Christian conservative paper Reformatorisch Dagblad quoted a spokesperson of the Hema as saying that the company is not identifying itself with the participants in the canal parade who, in the words of the paper’s journalist, often walk around ‘half naked in tiny latex suits’. Supporting the acceptance of the LGBT community is one thing but losing customers is another, that much is clear. Loo pride Meanwhile the boys and girls at the Unilever marketing department have come up with a doozy. Their campaign, called Plee Pride (Loo Pride), is meant to put the spotlights on Glorix bleach. They are calling on people living along the parade route to open their toilets- to be turned into to veritable gay thrones courtesy of Unilever - to  desperate members of the public. The consumer goods giant is also providing Loo Pride ambassadors and toilet ladies and uses social media to point visitors to the pink pee locations. What a clever ploy to solve the problem of overflowing public toilets and visitors peeing on people’s doorsteps, you might think. But the risks attached to a massive invasion of private loos are not carried by Unilever but by the people themselves. They receive a small amount of money for every visit which they can either keep or donate to Community Approaches to Total Sanitation (CATS), a programme run by Unilever and Unicef to improve sanitation in developing countries. I don’t begrudge anyone proper sanitation. But why doesn’t Unilever double the final amount and donate it to an organisation dedicated to supporting the LGBT community? What on earth does this have to with Gay Pride? Glorix bleach is proving itself to be an efficient product: the colours of the rainbow flag have definitely faded into nothing. This article was published earlier in the NRC  More >


From the sprint to swimming: Dutch ones to watch at the Rio Olympics

From the sprint to swimming: Dutch ones to watch at the Rio Olympics

The Netherlands has sent a team of 241 athletes to the Olympic Games in Rio which kick off later this week. In total the Netherlands will be represented in 21 of the 28 disciplines at the games, well up on the London squad who returned with 20 medals, including six golds. So it be medals galore for the Netherlands this year?  Here are some sportsmen and woman who stand a more than fair chance of bringing home the gold, silver or bronze. 1 Athletics Dafne Schippers is, of course, among the favourites for the 100m and 200m sprints. Will she repeat her performance at last year’s world championships – silver and gold respectively - or will she do even better? The Dutch women also took the 4x100m relay title at the European championships in Amsterdam, so they too could be in for a prize. In other athletics events, Hassan Sifan is considered to be a contender in the 1,500m while Anouk Vetter and Nadine Broersen have both made names for themselves in the heptathlon. 2  Swimming Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Femke Heemskerk, Sharon van Rouwendaal and Inge Dekker have proved themselves over and over in the swimming events and are sure to make their way to the podium to pick up a medal in Rio, either for the individual or the team events. For the 10k open water race, 2015 world championship silver medallist Ferry Weertman is the one to watch. 3 Water polo The Dutch water polo team, good for gold in Beijing, may repeat that surprise performance. 4 Sailing Marit Boumeester (Womens’ laser) and Dorian van Rijsselberghe (windsurfing) are both Olympic medal winners and are expected to do well. The Dutch rowing team won three bronze medals during the last world championships in Aiguebelette and could do equally well, or better, in Rio. 5 Judo Henk Grol and Edith Bosch are among the best judo contenders, both having gained a bronze medal in London. Kim Pollling took gold at the 2014 European judo championships. 6 Gymnastics Epke Zonderland and Yuri van Gelder are the Dutch hopefuls for the men’s gymnastics events. The Wevers twins may make the difference for the women’s gymnastics team. 7 Cycling Tom Dumoulin was widely tipped as a gold medallist in the time trial event but after crashing out of the Tour de France, his participation is still uncertain. 8 Equestrianism Reigning European and world champion show jumper Jeroen Dubbelman and his horse Zenith are definitely going for gold. Dubbelman is said to be focusing on a team gold as it’s the only medal that is missing from his collection. Hans Peter Minderhoud is tipped as a potential dressage medalist. 9 Hockey They did it in London and Beijing and they could very well do it again in Rio: the Dutch women’s hockey team is in with a chance. Their male counterparts – winners of the European Championships final in 2015 against Germany – will be meeting the Germans again early in the tournament. 10 Other events Other potential medal winners include Reinder Nummerdor and Christiaan Varenhorst for beach volleyball, Niek Kimman (BMX) and middleweight boxer Nouchka Fontijn. The complete list  More >


10 great things to do in August

Here's our round-up of some of the best things to do this August, from a travelling theatre to a house of horror, from having a good laugh to checking out portraits of kings and queens. Botero’s podgy people Botero: Celebrate Life! is a retrospective of nearly a hundred colourful paintings, drawings and pastels by Columbian artist Fernando Botero (1932) plus ‘Caballo’, his giant sculpture of a horse. Botero satirises – religion, the rich and powerful, his country’s violent history- and admires: his podgy version of the Arnolfini portrait, a homage to Van Eyck, is something to behold. In Rotterdam until September 11. www.kunsthal.nl The circus is in town From August 12 to 28  De Parade touches down in Amsterdam with a preview of what’s on offer in the new cultural season. Performances of music, theatre, dance, opera and mime take place in tents, adding to the circus-like atmosphere. Many of the performances – which last between 3 and 43 minutes – are in Dutch but some are in English. Full programme on www.deparade.nl Royal photographs You have until August 21 to visit an exhibition of photographer – to- the-royals Vincent Mentzel’s best pics over 30 years of snapping the members of the royal family, on public occasions and in the privacy of their palace.  Paleis Het Loo in Apeldoorn forms the impressive backdrop to the exhibition. www.paleishetloo.nl Blz? Shake the sand out of your cozzie and head from Scheveningen to the Lange Voorhout in The Hague for Brasil Beleza?! , a collection of outdoor sculptures by 25 Brazilian artists. Beleza (shortened to ‘blz’ on social media) means ‘beauty’ but is also a cool  (well it was yesterday) way of saying ‘What’s up? Everything ok? Yeah fine’. Perhaps not something we should ask our Olympic hopefuls as they check out their accommodation. http://beeldenaanzee.nl/nl/brasil-beleza Awfully fascinating A grisly but fascinating exhibition for the voyeur in all of us is Crime Scenes: A Hundred Years of Photographic Evidence at the Netherlands Photo Museum in Rotterdam until August 21. It’s the first exhibition to show how photography has been used as visual evidence, from murder cases to the reconstruction of drone attacks in Pakistan in 2012.  https://www.nederlandsfotomuseum.nl/ Don’t forget the insect repellent The Hortus Festival is another opportunity to get out the insect repellent: this series of classical concerts takes place in the Netherlands’ most beautiful gardens. The festival features music by Schumann, Chausson, Schoenberg, Listz and Mendelsohn played by the Hortus String Ensemble. Venues include Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam, Oude Hortus in Utrecht, Hortus Botanicus in Leiden, Hortus Haren and Trompenburg in Rotterdam. Until August 28. Check out the programme on http://www.hortusfestival.nl/   Picasso and Dutch cheese In the summer of 1905, the young Picasso stayed in the province of North Holland for a few weeks. He visited the cheese market, studied the windmills and recorded this new ‘exotic world’ in his sketch books. The exhibition includes two sketch books from the collection of the Picasso Museum in Paris, and the paintings Les trois Hollandaises from the Centre Pompidou in Paris and La belle Hollandaise from the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane. Stedelijk Museum, Alkmaar until August 28. www.stedelijkmuseumalkmaar.nl Dance in the valley If you’re quick you can still find tickets to Dance Valley, the Netherlands’ oldest dance festival in Spaarnwoude, near Haarlem. This year’s line-up includes Carnage, Dannic, Headhunterz , Yellow Claw and many others. August 13. http://dancevalley.com/  The website also offers festival fashion tips Visit a house of horror House of Horror is the completely new show from one of the world’s greatest illusionists - Dutchman Hans Klok. There are new illusions, with girls disappearing and reappearing at lightning speed, and some top circus acts. And to create the right atmosphere, there are flickering candles, ghosts wandering across the stage and mist rising from beneath the stage. From August 14 at the Carre theatre. Have a good laugh Louis C.K. is one of the world’s best stand-up comedians. He sells out Madison Square Gardens in New York and recently won a Grammy for his latest comedy album. He has had over 30 Emmy nominations for his tv shows and has been seen in films such as American Hustle and Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. Note: Louis C.K. has requested that tickets be sold on names so that all fans have the opportunity to buy tickets at face price. Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam, August 16. www.ziggodome.nl  More >


The best of Dutch beaches: from Lloret de Holland to Timboektoe

The best of Dutch beaches: from Lloret de Holland to Timboektoe

While moaning about the bad weather may be a national pastime in the Netherlands, the country has an important and thriving beach culture – as soon as the sun comes out. Here's our guide to Dutch beach culture and the best Dutch beaches. The Dutch coast stretches over 1,900 kilometres, from the Wadden Sea Islands in the north to the Dutch-Belgium border in Zeeland. There are naturist areas, surfer hang-outs, family beaches and a wide selection of beach bars, ranging from the super hip to fried fish-bits and beer outlets. Even on a summer day, that first toe in the water confirms that North Sea waters are brown and cold, and a far cry from the tempting warm, crystal clear blue waters of the Mediterranean. Chilly But this does not discourage the multitude of visitors from braving the waves on summer days. Sea temperatures range from a cold 2 Celsius to an unusually warm maximum of 20 degrees in the height of summer. Local surf schools recommend wearing a wetsuit all year around to combat the colder water temperatures, especially if swimmers plan to be in the water for an entire surf lesson. In terms of water quality, the infrastructure ministry follows Brussels guidelines and carries out regular analysis of beach waters during the official bathing season (May 1 to September 30). Beaches flying a blue flag – the international symbol for a clean and safe beach - have met clean water and safety standards, and are therefore the best spots to hit the waves. Millions of people An estimated ten million visitors head to Dutch beaches each year. A large percentage of this figure can be attributed to the 2.5 million German tourists who cross the border seeking a place to plant a deckchair, to sit with toes digging in the sand, and to over-expose white bodies to UV rays. If horizontal sun worship and sand castles are not enough, numerous beach-side entertainment options are available:  taking surf lessons, playing beach football, yoga, indulging in local cuisine, heading into the dunes on bike or foot to explore local flora and fauna. The Netherlands has some 350 summer pavilions - most of which are only in place for the season. Beach regulars are familiar with the individual services and flavours of each of the pavilions, but newcomers may need to check menus and entertainment listings to ensure the food, music, chill zones and crowd suit them before pulling up a chair. The seasonal factor is also relevant to general pavilion business: a good summer means more visitors, hence better business. Fortunately the Dutch tradition of charging to use the toilet means there is always some income, irrespective of weather conditions. Overnight stays Where to stay on a Dutch beach holiday? The usual options of hotels, holiday parks, campsites, B&Bs are generally available. Another possibility is to rent one of the strandhuisjes, or beach huts, that temporarily line some of the Dutch beaches in the warmer months. This accommodation is suitable for self-catering couples with a maximum of two small children, who don’t mind living close to their neighbours. Many of the strandhuisjes on Zandvoort beach belong to Amsterdam residents, who have the option of living in or renting out the house during the beach season. If you are interested, you need to make early enquiries. Weather factors aside, Dutch beaches are the place to be on long summer days. Beach fanatics are even seen on the beaches during the winter months - walking dogs, jogging or fighting with the combination of waves and kite surfs. It is all a matter of finding the beach that matches the needs and relaxing requirements of the individual beach-goer. Here's our listing of 12 Dutch beaches with something for everyone: Bloemendaal aan Zee – easy to get to, all amenities and services available, and on a smaller scale than neighbouring Zandvoort. Bloomingdale beach bar is popular with the in-crowd while George Number 5 has a real south of France feel. Katwijk: Close to crowded Scheveningen, Katwijk boasts the oldest lighthouse in the Netherlands, has a delightful promenade and more space to spread your towel. Bergen: Close to the Schoorlse Duinen, Bergen is popular with nature lovers and artists. Renesse: 21 kms of beach with only about a dozen café/restaurants, some open all year round. Popular with youngsters in search of a good time and known by some as Lloret de Holland. Close neighbor is Ouddorp beach. De Koog on the island of Texel, the largest of the Wadden Sea Islands, and a very decent beach with something for every member of the family. Domburg: Located at the edge of a nature reserve, De Manteling, this is the oldest beach in Zeeland. Wide clean beach with accessible boardwalks, old historic buildings and numerous beach pavilions and cabins. Zandvoort: Busy coastal town and popular long strip of beach catering to most beach lovers. Some days the drone of racecars can be heard from the local racetrack, possibly a draw for some visitors. Kijkduin: Family friendly beach, 30-minute bike ride from Scheveningen. Children’s activities on offer include the lighthouse, the ‘Atlantis’ play boat and the artificial crater, ‘Het Hemels Gewelf’. Cadzand-Bad: Another Zeeland beach close to the Belgian border offering unspoilt beaches and many accommodation options. Scheveningen: Often compared to Coney Island in NY, critics claim it is too commercial and targeted at tourists. This seems to have little impact on the masses enjoying the beach on warmer days. In addition to the usual beach fare, Scheveningen offers a casino, cinema, bowling alley and a multitude of restaurants, cafes and beach pavilions. Velsen-Noord: Under the belching smoke of the Tata steelworks, the  beach is wide, wild and particularly suitable for surfing. Timboektoe started out as a popular surfers shack but is a great place for a sundowner.  More >


Celebrating the 100th Vierdaagse: key facts about the four day marches

Celebrating the 100th Vierdaagse: key facts about the four day marches

The Vierdaagse - or four day march - is a very Dutch institution in which some 50,000 people walk en masse up to 220 kilometres over four days for fun and glory. This year the Nijmegen Vierdaagse is celebrating its 100th edition. Here's some key facts 1 The first Vierdaagse The Vierdaagse first took place in 1909 when 306 (male and mostly military) participants started from 10 different army garrisons around the country to walk 35k a day for four days - four day events being very popular in the day. The idea was developed by the Dutch League for Physical Education because, according to some reports we've read, there were concerns that the arrival of motorised transport would hit military fitness. 2 The Nijmegen connection In 1925 the big official Vierdaagse moved to Nijmegen where it has remained ever since. The marches have a different route each day through Gelderland, Brabant and Limburg as well as Nijmegen and its outskirts. There were no marches in 1914 and 1915 and during World War Two which is why Nijmegen is celebrating 100 marches this year. 3 The start The Nijmegen Vierdaagse always starts on the third Tuesday of July at dawn. 4 Who is taking part? This year, people from 68 different countries around the globe are among the 50,000 who will start out, including Afghanistan, Ireland, Sweden and Vietnam. There are soldiers from 27 different countries on official list. The youngest competitors (and there are four of them) are just 11, including Karl Gunnergren from Hono in Sweden. The oldest walkers are Herman Dubie of Amsterdam and Jan Zwijnen of Huizen who are both 93. The oldest international competitor is Svend Sorensen (89) from Rask Molle in Denmark. 5 The rules The Vierdaagse is the only walking event of its kind to have rules about distances based on sex and age. Youngsters between 12 and 15 and the over 60s can sign up for a  30 kilometre daily march or more if they’re up to it. The minimum distance for men and women over 15 is 40 kilometres a day but a group of men who were born between 1967 and 1997 start with a minimum of 50 kilometres. The equality commission has labelled the difference ‘discriminatory’ several times but to no avail. This year, the super fit of both sexes can also opt for a 55 kilometre a day walk. 6 The weather The event takes place in summer, not the most reliable of seasons in the Netherlands, and the Vierdaagse organisers sensibly advises to come prepared for both rain and shine. In 2006 the Vierdaagse was cancelled when two people died of heat stroke on the first day of the event and no change in weather was expected. This year, the organisers are warning people to take care because high temperatures are expected all week, particularly on Wednesday. 7 Alternative events Many people feel the Vierdaagse has become a victim of its own success and are voting, literally, with their feet. They prefer to take part in less crowded walking events such as the Apeldoornse Vierdaagse. For children who are not yet up to the 30k challenge there is always the Avondvierdaagse, an evening event with distances kinder to small feet and popular at primary schools. If you are a parent with children at a Dutch primary school you are likely to find yourself roped in. 8 Gladiola The finishing line of the Vierdaagse is in Nijmegen’s St Annastraat which is called the Via Gladiola for the occasion, in acknowledgment of the city’s Roman past and the arduous nature of the event. The expression ‘De dood of gladiolen’ (death or gladioli) is supposed to hark back to Roman times too, a gladiolus being a Roman sword.  Participants are given great bunches of gladioli (the flower not sword) when they cross the finish. To mark the 100th event, gladiolus flower grower Theo Theunissen and plant breeder Hermien Challa have developed a ‘new’ flower called 'The walk of the world' which is shorter and lighter than its predecessor, and is therefore, apparently, easier for walkers to carry. 9 The rewards Those who manage to drag themselves over the finishing line, blisters and all, receive the so-called ‘kruisje’, or cross. It’s official title is ‘Cross for manifest marching ability’. 84-year-old Bert van der Lans is the official Vierdaagse record holder and is going to walk his 69th Vierdaagse this year. 9 This year's celebrations In order to celebrate the hundredth edition of the Vierdaagse a number of special events have been planned, such as the launch of a Vierdaagse wine (not to be imbibed on the way) and a one-off new model of Hi-Tec trainers. There will also be an exhibition about the Vierdaagse at Museum Het Valkhof  (until September 4). If you don’t want to walk you can always go to the Vierdaagse festival (16- 22 July) with music and lots events for children.  More >


Nine weird things to do in the Netherlands

Nine weird things to do in the Netherlands

And you thought the Netherlands was just about tulips, windmills and clogs. Don't you believe it. There are some very strange places to check out indeed. Visit the mummies of Wiewerd Wiewerd is a tiny hamlet built on terps - raised mounds - in deepest Friesland. The story goes that in 1765, carpenters working in the church found a crypt with 11 coffins containing bodies that had become mummified. They are thought to have been members of an obscure Christian sect called the Labadists who lived nearby. Four bodies and several mummified birds are in the crypt today - the missing bodies are thought to have been stolen by medical students at long gone Franeker university. To visit ring a bell on the church and someone from the village will come and open the door to let you in. Get weighed to see if you are a witch The village of Oudewater near Utrecht features on most lists of the Netherlands' prettiest villages but we consider it to be seriously strange. Forget the cobbled streets and canals - if you go to the town's weigh house, they will find out if you are witch. This is not because the good folk of Oudewater were determined to stamp out witchcraft but because, so the legend goes, they were exceedingly honest. Hundreds of people made their way to Oudewater in an effort to prove their innocence and no-one was ever found to be light enough to be a witch. You can still get a certificate to prove it. Visit 22 bits of Belgium, completely surrounded by the Netherlands Baarle Nassau is a town of some 6,000 people in Noord Brabant which contains rather large chunks of Belgium. In fact there are 22 little bits of Belgium in the locality, the smallest of which is named H22 and measures just 2,632 square metres. The complicated border is due to a lot of complicated medieval treaties, agreements, land-swaps and sales between local lords. The border marked out clearly on the streets so you know if you are in Belgium (Baarle-Hertog) or in the Netherlands (Baarle-Nassau). Walk round an island that does not exist The island of Schokland, which used to have several villages, was finally abandoned in 1859 on the orders of the government which was fed up of rescuing its population from floods. All the buildings were destroyed so that the Schokkers, as the locals were known, could not move back. Then in the 1940s, the Zuiderzee sea around the island was reclaimed and Schokland became part of what is now the Noordoostpolder. Follow the round Schokland walk and imagine how bleak it must have been to live on this swampy rise in the middle of the sea, especially in a storm. Go underground in Limburg The St Pietersburg caves in Limburg are not caves at all but mines - the result of 2,000 years of digging for marl - the mud stone used in building and agriculture. The digging, which began with the Romans, led to the creation of a labyrinth of 20,000 tunnels and passageways, many of which are covered in graffiti dating back centuries.The caves are also home to what the local tourist board says is the 'largest and oldest underground Christmas market in Europe'. We cannot imagine there are any others.... Spend time in a village devoted to prisons In the depths of darkest Drenthe is the prison village of Veenhuizen which was developed in the early 19th century as a place where anti-social families, the jobless and the poor of Amsterdam were sent to be reformed. In the late 19th century the complex was turned into a penal colony, which it remains to this day. One poorhouse remains and has been turned into a rather good museum and two of the prisons still hold prisoners - you can visit the outside in a minibus. The houses in Veenhuizen which were lived in by the warders (and still are) have names like 'rest is rust' and 'labour enobles'. Check out human and animal deformities Not for the fainthearted - the Vrolik Museum in the heart of the AMC medical centre in Amsterdam Zuidoost is devoted to pathological specimens - from jars containing club feet or Siamese twins to framed pieces of skin covered in tattoos. Go as low as you can It is somewhat disconcerting to stand next to a lorry park not far from Rotterdam and imagine that you are nearly seven metres beneath the sea. The Zuidplas polder near Rotterdam is 6.76 below sea level, making it the lowest point in the Netherlands. Until 1995, the Lage Land polder had been considered as low as you can go in the Netherlands but it lost its title when government officials decreed that Zuiderplas was a whopping great two centimetres lower. Have a drink in Sexbierum Okay, school boy humour we know, but Sexbierum must be one of the wackiest names for a Dutch village - perhaps even beating the charmingly named Muggenbeet (mosquito bite) in Overijssel. Unfortunately, the name of this Frisian village of under 2,000 souls does not derive from various vices but from a combination of the name of the pope Sixtus II and the Old Frisian word for house or barra. The village does have a rather fine mill, but its most recent appearance in the headlines came in March 2016 when some of its more youthful residents were given three months probation for tying a dead porpoise to the back of a car and riding around with it until the creature fell apart.  More >