Expat life has made me a fickle friend

Expatriate life has made me a fickle friend There's something cruelly disposable about the expat friend and it is easy to become pragmatic about dealing with their comings and goings, says Deborah Nicholls-Lee. I have adopted a sort of no-strings-attached attitude when it comes to expat friendships; we can see each other but I can’t promise commitment. They are transient, itinerant types who will love you and leave you, so why invest in the relationship? And there’s always someone more interesting just getting off the plane. Cold nonchalance When a good friend recently told me that she was moving away, it was all I could do not to shrug my shoulders. You see, I’ve started to view my expat relationships a bit like an airport lounge. You might spend a little time with people there but essentially we’re all just passing through. I’m not heartless; I’m just pragmatic. In Amsterdam, where I live, nearly 8% of the population moved out of town in 2015 and around 60% of them were foreigners like me. That’s...  More >

Blog watching: six years of Amsterdam

Blog watching: Amsterdamian – six years of living in Amsterdam (and counting) Dana Marin is from Romania and has been writing about her life here since she arrived in the Netherlands. In this entry from her Amsterdamian blog, Dana writes about six years of living in the Dutch capital. It’s been six years since I left my home country, Romania, on a very early and foggy morning, with a big suitcase and a small cat, and a crazy heart mixed with joy, hope, and worry. It was a December day that happened to be my official moving day to the Netherlands, although my significant other had moved here a few months before and I had visited him a few times during that period, and all the papers I needed for my stay had been issued in November. Travelling with a cat was a stressful business but worrying about the cat, however, proved to be a welcome distraction from all the other thoughts I had in mind: leaving behind a quarter of my life, my family and friends, the start of a good career, a country whose language I knew and loved. All this to move to an almost unknown...  More >

How the Dutch electoral system works

Who can vote and for whom? How the Dutch electoral system works The Netherlands goes to the polls to elect a new lower house of parliament on March 15. Here are some key facts about how the Dutch political system works. The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy and the king (or queen) is the official head of state. There are four layers of government in the Netherlands: local councils, provincial councils, the lower house of parliament or tweede kamer and the upper house of parliament or senate. The water boards are also directly elected as a sort of side step, as is the European parliament. There are 150 MPs in the lower house or parliament and they are elected every four years, or earlier if the government collapses (which happens quite often). Their job is to make new laws and keep an eye on what ministers are up to. The 75 members of the senate are elected every four years - out of step two years with the lower house - by members of the 12 provincial councils. The senate's job is to 'reflect' on the implications of new legislation....  More >

Sorting jihadists from asylum seekers

It is almost impossible to tell a jihadist from an asylum seeker It’s very difficult to tell a jihadi from a genuine asylum seeker and the government should acknowledge the fact, say criminologists Joris van Wijk and Maarten Bolhuis. After the terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, the Dutch are also wondering whether the government is doing enough to identify jihadists among asylum seekers, especially at a time when the government inspectors have established that screening is inadequate. ‘We’ll pick out the terrorists at a later stage,’ the then justice minister Ard van der Steur told the Telegraaf in a reaction to the inspection report, which said checks on asylum seekers constituted the first of a number of steps. He might as well have told us not to lose any sleep over it. It was reassuring, but was it realistic? About a month ago we published a report called ‘Jihadisme en de vreemdelingenketen’ (Jihadism and the asylum chain partnership), written for the justice ministry. Asylum chain Its findings showed the...  More >

Toneelgroep Amsterdam is making waves

Catch top Dutch acting talent in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives Leading Dutch theatre group Toneelgroep Amsterdam is gathering up rave reviews in the English-speaking world of acting. 'I may not speak a word of Dutch but I know great acting when I see it,' wrote theatre critic Charles McNulty in the LA Times after catching one of Toneelgroep Amsterdam's performances during a foreign tour. 'But the overall scope of this wonderful project was impressive because of the acting quality of Toneelgroep Amsterdam. It made you want to go straight on to Amsterdam and catch the rest of their repertoire,' wrote The Independent. Now, non-Dutch speakers can enjoy the company's performances in Amsterdam, because the company provides surtitles in English at its Thursday performances. 'We want to welcome everybody who loves theatre, even if they don't understand Dutch,' the company says. The largest theatre group in the Netherlands is currently performing Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives at the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam, staring some of the Netherlands'...  More >

100 Years of De Stijl

100 Years of De Stijl: Mondriaan to Dutch Design In 2017, the Netherlands is celebrating the De Stijl, the pared-down artistic movement based around straight lines and primary colours. De Stijl artists turned their hands to painting and sculpture, architecture, industrial design, typography and even to literature and music. By Deborah Nicholls-Lee In a tree-lined residential street in the outskirts of Utrecht, a row of ordinary terraced houses is abruptly interrupted by an architectural anomaly. The Rietveld Schröder House, with its bold rectangular planes of black, white and primary colours, is a striking monument to the utopian Dutch movement De Stijl, founded by Piet Mondriaan and Theo van Doesburg in 1917. It is one of a collection of sites, exhibitions and events which make up a nationwide celebration of the genre’s centenary: 100 Years of De Stijl – Mondrian to Dutch Design. What is De Stijl? Also known as neoplasticism, the proponents of the De Stijl movement - mainly artists and architects - advocated pure abstraction...  More >

The main Dutch political parties

The election looms, so here are the main Dutch political parties The Netherlands has an ever-expanding range of political parties in parliament, due to the recent trend of dissidents breaking away after an intra-party row to form their own splinter group. There are also various flavours of Christianity to choose from. Here’s an alphabetical list of the 11 parties that won seats in parliament at the last election in September 2012, in alphabetical order. 50PLUS Campaign leader: Henk Krol Seats in parliament: 1 (originally two but the party split) Campaign slogan: Omdat ouderen het niet meer pikken (Because older people won't put up with it any more) Founded in 2009 as a pensioners' rights party – despite being named for the over-50s – 50PLUS is riding high in the polls and could win up to 10 seats according to current polls. The party wants the retirement age brought back to 65. Website CDA Campaign leader: Sybrand Buma Seats in parliament: 13 Campaign slogan: Voor een land dat we door willen geven (For a country we want to hand on) The...  More >

Erasmus scientist in genetics breakthrough

Erasmus scientist plays crucial role in genetics breakthrough A major development in the world of genetics has boosted hopes of better treatment for hereditary illnesses. By Moira Holden Researchers from a Dutch university have discovered vital components of genes which could lead to significant progress in the fight to eradicate genetic conditions. Scientists have attempted to crack these codes for the past 170 years, but now the breakthrough has been achieved. Tobias Knoch, head of biophysical genomics at Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, led the study into the structure of genomes, alongside German counterpart Malte Wachsmuth, from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg. The 20-year-long research has now yielded results which fill in the missing parts of the genetic jigsaw. Advances ‘This is a big step forward,’ says Knoch. ‘With our discovery we can now decode every level on which genetic information is stored, and, if differences occur, to see what this might mean in the possibility of it leading to a disease....  More >

'Kindness makes you feel at home'

‘Love and kindness is what truly makes you feel at home’ For Indian national Sabyasachi Sengupta, Amsterdam’s culture diversity and welcoming attitude makes it a city where dreams can come true. Sabyasachi, 30, is a banker for ABN Amro during the week and works as a professional trainer and speaker at weekends. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Following my dreams brought me to the Netherlands. I came here in 2010 on a scholarship to study for a Masters in Business Economics at the University of Amsterdam. After I graduated, I got a job, started working, and now Amsterdam is home. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? I will call myself dream-pat because in the six years I have lived in the Netherlands, I’ve been able to do everything I wanted to do. I’ve travelled to many countries, I bought my first house in Amsterdam and, most importantly, I’ve been able to pursue my passion of public speaking. The Dutch culture supports people in following what they truly wish to become. How...  More >

Welcoming internationals to The Hague

Welcoming internationals to The Hague – 10 years of FAHITH The Hague is the place to be during the first weekend of February, as the 10th edition of the Feel at Home in The Hague fair takes place - with the best ever line-up of cultural, culinary and community offerings. On Sunday 5 February 2017, The Feel at Home in The Hague Fair will be celebrating its 10th edition.  The fair will be officially opened by the Mayor of The Hague, Jozias van Aartsen, who will address a special welcome to the international community which plays an important role in the animation and identity of the region. More than 4,000 visitors attended the event in the Hague City Hall in 2016 and appreciated the unique ambiance created by the combination of 150 diverse exhibitors with a dynamic programme of activities and entertainment, workshops and seminars.   A meeting point for the whole community  No other expat event in the Netherlands engenders quite the same sense of community as the Hague Feel at Home Fair, where nearly a half of the stands are local...  More >

Hello Mr Trump, this is the Netherlands

TV show says ‘Hello Mr Trump, this is the Netherlands’ Dutch satirical television show Zondag met Lubach has made a short video introducing new US president Donald Trump to the Netherlands. The aim is to show Trump the best of the Netherlands in a way which will appeal to him, presenter Arjen Lubach says in his introduction.   More >

60% income tax would put Dutch top

Dutch would be world champions with a 60% income tax rate The proposals to raise taxes for companies and high earners which the left-wing parties have included in their election programmes are out of step with current trends and should be ditched, say economists Rick van der Ploeg and Willem Vermeend. The election date is drawing near and campaigns have kicked off. Important issues include health care, immigration, integration, security, jobs and pensions. The parties on the left of the spectrum are making efforts to enter higher taxes on the election agenda as well. SP, GroenLinks and Labour are all in favour of raising taxes for companies and high earners. They feel such a move would be fairer and promote equality. They also need the money to finance the items on their wish lists, such as more spending power for people on lower incomes, lower health care costs and measures to protect the environment. These lists constitute a political choice which we won’t go into now. We are limiting ourselves to the effects of the tax proposals...  More >

Welcome to Planet IFFR

What’s On: Rotterdam’s film festival welcomes you to Planet IFFR The annual Rotterdam film festival has been regaling cinephiles with films from all over the world since 1972. It’ll be back in action this winter with another treasure trove of cinematic wonders. Brandon Hartley takes a look at the fest along with some of this year’s highlights. Whether you enjoy Oscar contenders, bizarre comedies from Japan or innovative short films, there’s something for every taste at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Now in its 46th edition, the festival is a bit different than its contemporaries and it remains one of the most ambitious galas of its kind in the world. While IFFR offers dozens of traditional film screenings for the public, it also features showcases for experimental movies and events for filmmakers that encourage them to chat with attendees rather than get blinded by flashbulbs while they stroll down a red carpet. There’s certainly less of the glitz and glamour that can be found at Cannes. IFFR is more about celebrating...  More >

Seven key things about skating outdoors

Seven things you need to know about skating in the Netherlands A keen skater back home? Do not think the fact you can do a triple lutz or a double toe loop will be appreciated. The Dutch have been forced onto skates almost as soon as they can walk and they are into distance and speed, not kunstschaatsen. 1. Will it freeze? As soon as it starts to get cold - like now - the Netherlands is overtaken by ice fever. It starts with the television weather forecasters, but after a few days everyone is at it. How much did the ice grow last night ? Will it snow and spoil everything? After a few days of this, the question on everyone’s lip is ‘Will there be an Elfstedentocht (the 200 km 11 city ice marathon)?’. We've not gotten quite that far this year because everyone knows the thaw is about to set in. 2. Technique Without natural ice, skaters have to make do with artificial outdoor tracks which are usually open from October to mid-March and get very busy on sunny days. Rent skates and take lessons if you want to show off a perfect pootje over...  More >

How to go Dutch: High stakes, long waits

How to go Dutch: The waiting continues as the stakes are unexpectedly raised Five years ago Molly Quell moved to the Netherlands with her husband, an academic, for a short-term project. Now she’s single, has fallen in love with the country and finds herself in the unexpected position of having to integrate. Read the first, second and third parts of her series. Well, I did it. I have officially passed all five sections of my inburgeringsexamen. Four language sections (reading, writing, speaking and listening) and the infamous culture exam. Before anyone jumps in with: ‘Well, now you should speak Dutch!’ and immediately switches to some complicated narrative in their regional dialect, this exam does not prove I am fluent in Dutch. It proves I can pass a standardised exam about a basic level of Dutch. In my third instalment, I had already passed Reading and Listening. In the three months since I have added Writing, Speaking and Culture to the pass list. Exam results But first I had to wait. Because in the Year of Our Lord 2016 the Dutch authorities...  More >

Nice work if you can get it

Nice work if you can get it – no wonder so many 20-somethings still live at home Most people in their early 20s are not financially independent – which is hardly surprising when you consider how few of them have real jobs, writes DutchNews.nl editor Robin Pascoe. A while ago Dutch newspaper Trouw published a report which found that only 25% of 20 to 25-year-olds in the Netherlands can support themselves financially nowadays, compared with 45% at the turn of the millennium. As a parent of two sons in that age group, I can only nod in agreement and mail the link to all the other parents I know who are bewailing the fact their offspring are still turning to the Bank of Mum and Dad. Independence You know that when your 23-year-old son rings on a Monday morning, he’s not after a jolly chat. The conversation always starts with 'Hello mum, how are you?'. To which my reply is inevitably 'How much?' It’s a scenario that has everyone with children in their 20s nodding and reminiscing about how gloriously independent we were in our day. But it would be...  More >

Nine national parks and 1 nature reserve

Nine Dutch national parks and one nature reserve The Wadden Sea has just been voted the best nature reserve in the Netherlands. Yes, the country is small and one of the most densely populated places on earth, but it's got plenty of natural attractions. Here are some of the best places to get away from it all – just ignore the odd Highland cow or military training exercise. 1. Schiermonnikoog The island of Schiermonnikoog (‘Schier’ is Middle Dutch for ‘grey’ and refers to the colour of the habit of the Cistercian monks who cultivated the island in the 15th century, while ‘eye’ is another word for ‘island’)) is one of the six Dutch Wadden Islands and packs a lot of landscapes  – beach, dunes, woods, salt marsh, tidal flats  – into its 5,400 hectares. Only the locals are allowed cars on the island, so either rent a bike or walk, or take the bus from the ferry. Schiermonnikoog is home to over 300 kinds of bird, hundreds of different plant species, including nine types of orchid, and has a permanent...  More >

'The tulips in spring still surprise me'

My Dutch husband told me: ‘I married an American, please stay American!’ Georgia Regnault-Smith came to the Netherlands for a year in 1965, met her husband in Amsterdam and ended up staying. She settled in The Hague, became a relocation consultant and has been active in the American Women's Club of The Hague and the Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas (FAWCO) for 40 years. Her work with both organisations was recognised when she was recently made a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was working for a student travel agency, NBBS, in New York. I'd finished college and couldn't get a job in my field of mathematics, but I wanted to live in NYC, so I thought I'd try this for a year. Back in those days the agency was purely for students. They ran tours of Europe for American college girls – Volkswagen bus trips with a Dutch student driver. It was as close to backpacking as we had then. Part of the NYC job was that you got a free passage to Europe, by boat. I spent 10 days getting here!...  More >

MPs should represent the people

Reform the voting system to give us MPs who truly represent the people The Dutch party list system means most MPs are anonymous and undistinguished. Directly elected members would have to listen to voters, argues Roderik van Grieken, director of the Dutch Debating Institute. At the end of last year a sizeable majority in Parliament decided to curb the rights of MPs who split from their party. They are now to be deprived of part of their speaking time and funds. Although eight ‘parliamentary party deserters’ in four years is understandably annoying, this measure is not going to do much solve the underlying problem. At a time of unrest and discontent about politics and politicians we would do well to ask ourselves what type of MPs we’re really after. At the moment most MPs are capable inspectors who check what the cabinet is doing and frequently come up with law proposals of their own. That is the job their parties select them to do. Important selection criteria include experience, knowledge of specific subjects and, to some extent, regional...  More >

The strange death of Dutch Labour

The strange death of the Dutch Labour Party The Dutch Labour party (PvdA) might be part of the current coalition government, but its support has plummeted since the last election. Gordon Darroch examines the party's collapse. Just before Christmas the Dutch parliament gave Diederik Samsom the kind of send-off reserved for much-loved colleagues who are moving on after a spat with the management. Most MPs joined in a standing ovation for the departing Labour (PvdA) leader, who was praised by parliamentary chair (and party colleague) Khadija Arib as ‘indefatigable and combative’, ‘the type who pointedly refuses to accept that there are only 24 hours in a day’. Prime minister Mark Rutte, whose full term in office owes much to Samsom’s ability to keep his party on side, commended him as a man of his word who had instrumental in putting the economy back on course. Samsom himself contended, in his swansong speech, that the economic recovery ‘should silence the cynics for all time’. So why was Samsom quitting parliament,...  More >