The Holland Festival celebrates democracy

The Holland Festival is back in June and this year it is celebrating its milestone 70th birthday. Julia Corbett spoke to the event's artistic director Ruth Mackenzie who is bowing out after five years at the helm. The programme of this year's Holland Festival includes 17 world premiers, a befitting celebration for the longest-running performing arts event in the country. Since being launched in 1947, the Holland Festival has increased in size and popularity, becoming known around the world for bringing opera, modern dance, poetry and music to Amsterdam. The festival’s notoriety for tackling controversial issues is also set to be reinforced with the theme of ‘Democracy’ taking centre stage. From London’s National Theatre’s new play about Brexit, to Richard Nelson’s trilogy The Gabriels which climax on Election Night in the USA last year, the public can get involved in debates surrounding what democracy means in the modern world. Artistic director and British national...  More >

'Even if the weather’s bad a boat is good'

Guy Livingston (49) is an American concert pianist and radio broadcaster. When he’s not touring internationally he lives in The Hague where he hosts “American Highways”, a weekly radio programme that aims to surprise listeners with the diversity of American music, from jazz to modern classical. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Well, I won a Dutch piano competition in 1995 and met a lot of people here. It just seemed like a great place to come and do music in, so I returned to do my master’s degree. When I graduated I went to live in Paris until recently and came back here for love, as my wife is half Dutch! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? Oh I hate this question! Any foreigner living in Holland has days when they just feel like a total outsider and others when they feel very integrated. That’s what’s interesting about Holland, that the Dutch are pretty welcoming. I guess I’d have to say international, as...  More >

Airbnb is harming Amsterdam's communities

Holiday rental giant Airbnb is harming Amsterdam’s communities Airbnb is becoming greedy. It needs to invest in Amsterdam for the long-term benefit of its communities, not just for short term financial gain, says Leiden University's David Zetland. Airbnb is a popular service for connecting tourists who want a cheaper place to stay in a city with ‘hosts’ willing to give them a room or a flat to stay in. Oh, did I say ‘give’? Sorry, I meant ‘rent.’ Like Facebook with its claims of helping you communicate with ‘friends,’ Airbnb uses ‘share’ in a way that replaces a child's use of that word with an alt-truth definition that means ‘rent.’ That distortion of reality is not a bug but a feature: Airbnb co-founder (and billionaire) Nathan Blecharczyk made his first millions spamming people's inboxes while claiming ‘there were frankly no rules around it’ in 2002. I don't know about you, but I knew that spam was a plague well before 2002, and I'm going to spend the rest of this post talking about how Airbnb's founders...  More >

12 great things to do in April

So much to do, so little time... Hanneke Sanou has a list of some of the best things to do in April. View Rotterdam from a giant ferris wheel Europe's largest mobile ferris wheel is in Rotterdam until April 9, so you've still got a few days to appreciate the view. The ferris wheel is 55 metres high with 42 gondolas and can take 800 people an hour. Tickets cost €6 for an adult and €4 for children. Website See museum highlights All that glitters in this year’s Museum Week (April 3 to April 9) is gold, well, not literally. The week highlights the finest objects from over 400 museums around the country and will be encouraging visitors to seek them out with a display of life size gilded representations of three celebrated objects in different cities around the Netherlands.  Check out the website for the treasures chosen by each museum. Savour delicious still lifes At the Mauritshuis until June 25 Slow food - The Still Lifes of the Golden Age. A smorgasboard of 22 masterpieces...  More >

Podcast: The Tunnelly McTunnelface Edition

In this week's podcast we learn why a traffic jam was headline news for three days, go out on a limb with an unusual sheep and discuss what Brexit really means for people on both sides of the North Sea. Top story Coalition talks continue News Geert Wilders's visit to Ghent International student numbers double in 10 years Junior finance minister under pressure on tax deals Pizza delivery driver caught up in house raid Five-legged sheep born in Zeeland News Sport Give us a role in finding a new coach, says Oranje captain Arjen Robben Discussion: Brexit and the Netherlands Hundreds of Dutch firms vulnerable to Brexit, some will fail   What the EU27 wants from Brexit (Politico) Trade Effects of Brexit for the Netherlands (Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis) (pdf) Parliamentary report on the Netherlands and Brexit (pdf)  More >

The best Dutch game cafes and shops

Board and card games have made a big comeback in recent years largely due to the increasing complexity and maturity of newer titles. Indeed, they’ve become so popular that there are shops and cafes devoted to them. Brandon Hartley picks some of the best. Whether you love battling goofy monsters in Munchkin, losing your faith in humanity while playing Cards Against Humanity or having it restored while curing diseases in Pandemic, there’s plenty of places in the country where you can get your game on. Here’s just a few of them. Friends & Foes - Amsterdam At this game shop and cafe you can get a good cup of joe and a slice of pie while you try to figure out which one of your colleagues is a blood-crazed monster in Ultimate Werewolf. They purchase their beans from Spot On Coffee Roasters, also located in Amsterdam’s De Pijp district, and take gaming as seriously as they do their lattes. While Friends & Foes stocks plenty of titles and has a cabinet packed full...  More >

Pikachu, wookies and Seven of Nine

Five Pikachus buying samurai swords, Luigi flirting with Harley Quinn in the queue for coffee and Darth Maul and a wookie listening to a lecture about how salamander DNA could make real life X-men. James Field spent this weekend at a comics convention in Utrecht. If you don’t recognise any of these names and this seems like a surreal episode from the Big Bang Theory, then you’re about to embark on a journey into the weird and wonderful world of cosplay. On the other hand, if this make perfect sense to you, then you either have a superhero outfit hanging in your closet, or you were at Dutch Comic Con this weekend. Comic Cons—huge conventions originally based around comic book, science fiction and fantasy culture—have become big business around the world. This is Dutch Comic Con’s third year. Almost 30,000 self-proclaimed geeks and fans of all ages converged on Utrecht, thousands coming in costume. Taking the lead from US events like San Diego Comic-Con this once niche...  More >

Medical marijuana: Dutch not straight

The Netherlands is a major exporter of medical marijuana, even though it has never been formally approved here as a treatment for Dutch patients. And this year, the majority of Dutch health insurance companies stopped paying for it as well. Esther O’Toole investigates. Guus de Lange from Amsterdam has endured severe migraines for over 10 years: ‘Nothing else worked. The migraines were very frequent and extremely painful and medical cannabis is the only thing that alleviated them. All the other drugs came with dreadful side effects too.’ De Lange is one of an increasing number of patients in the Netherlands who have found mediwiet the best relief from conditions as varied as chronic pain, nausea associated with cancer treatment, and muscle spasms associated with MS. Medical cannabis has been allowed on prescription in the Netherlands since 2003 and until recently was often covered by health insurers, if patients could show no other medication gave adequate relief of symptoms. Cannabis...  More >

Podcast: The Crooks and Crocs Edition

This week's podcast features a cat burglar who stole two Van Goghs, a vintage map found up a chimney, an American donut invasion and some fully accredited guard crocodiles. We also look at the latest developments in the attempts to forming a new four-party government. Top Story Latest coalition talks News New Parliament sworn in The return of Dunkin Donuts Map recovered from Scottish chimney Crocodile Gang in court Stolen Van Goghs back in Amsterdam Brandpunt documentary: How this man stole two Van Goghs (Dutch) Sport FIFA World Cup qualifier: Bulgaria v Netherlands (Saturday, 20:45) Australian Grand Prix Discussion Coalition talks Budget surplus  More >

'I enjoy the diaries, they're organised'

Colombian native Elvira Mendoza met the man who would become her husband during a diplomatic project in Amsterdam. Now her six-year-old son is helping her learn Dutch, but she still has issues with Dutch coffee. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I grew up in Bogota and I studied political science and international relations at both Rosario University and Externado University. During my studies, there was an economic crisis and unemployment reached over 30%. There were hardly any jobs but I ended up teaching English for 12 years. My father is also the co-founder of the Colombian YMCA and I had been involved in the organisation since I was young. I joined the executive committee of the world alliance in 1994 and, because of this in 2003, I received an email about a project over here to promote development awareness and the help given by Netherlands to other countries. I came here a few times a year for the next five years to help at events and be interviewed during press conferences....  More >

Bright sparks: female entrepreneurs

In a city as entrepreneurial as Amsterdam some may find it unusual that a community focused on female entrepreneurs would be needed, let alone that it would be growing and thriving year on year. Amsterdam offers many opportunities for entrepreneurs, a culture which allows for flexible working and a creative vibe which encourages innovation irrespective of gender. Isn’t that enough? Look a little closer though, and you will find a different story, because if women make up 52 % of the total European population then doesn’t it seem incongruous that only 34.4 % of the women in the European Union are self-employed or that they represent a mere 30 % of EU start-up entrepreneurs? In a female dominant society, why is entrepreneurship still considered a male vocation? It shouldn’t be, but it is. Research shows that: Women and men demonstrate different motivations when choosing entrepreneurial careers. Women choose different business formations when starting in business ...  More >

Anti-rights rhetoric goes mainstream in NL

Dutch election: anti-rights rhetoric goes mainstream despite Wilders’ defeat Last week's general election in the Netherlands was one of the most closely watched in years. But the fact that Geert Wilders' radical right party failed to make major gains does not mean he has not had an impact, writes Anna Timmerman of Human Rights Watch. While most of the world was focused only on one party, the radical right populist Party for Freedom (PVV) and its leader Geert Wilders, the Dutch cast their votes widely across 13 parties, two of them winning seats for the first time. No party got more than 22% of the vote. For the rest of the world, the fact that the PVV fared less well than many polls had predicted and was soundly beaten by the centre-right Liberal party (VVD, 21.3% of the vote and 33 seats) is an understandable cause for celebration. Populism failed its first big test since Trump’s election and Brexit. While its share of the vote (13.1%) and seats (20) are an increase from 2012, they are lower than the party garnered in 2010, when this brand of radical...  More >

Podcast: The Panda to Populism Edition

In this week's election podcast we analyse the results of the vote and look ahead to the business of forming the next government. There's also some news on the giant pandas and a businessman who's been ordered to remove 280 goldfish from a canal. Note: this episode was recorded on Friday morning before it was known that PvdA MP Lilianne Ploumen had retained her seat on preference votes. Top Story Election results News Goldfish Pandas Discussion Election 2017: Cabinet formation: And since we had a go at the foreign media...  More >

11 dead animals with a story

The Natuurhistorisch Museum  in Rotterdam is home to an extraordinary collection called ‘Dead animals with a story’. The stories of how the animals came to their sticky ends are told, very entertainingly, by curator Kees Moeliker who, as the following selection shows, has a particularly good nose for sniffing out a carcass. The domino sparrow Just when the organisers of an attempt to break the world domino toppling record had painstakingly placed four million tiles in the right place, a sparrow (Passer domesticus) decided to knock down some 23,000 to help them on their way. The sparrow, which was soon dubbed the Dominomus, was shot dead for its pains and became world famous. The parliamentary mouse Moeliker, reading about a plague of mice in Dutch parliamentary complex, started a quest for a dead mouse with a background in politics which, he said, would be just the thing for his collection. No-one would help him. Then, a package arrived. In it was a dead mouse still in...  More >

12 reasons to be cheerful about life in NL

If you listen too much to the politicians, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Netherlands is on the verge of collapse. Integration has failed, refugees are running riot, pensioners are impoverished and everyone supports Geert Wilders. Nonsense! The economy is on the up, crime is down and 80% of people don't vote for the PVV. Politicians may be waxing lyrical about the way the Netherlands used to be, but nostalgia for the 1950s is largely misplaced. Women were stuck at home, it was perfectly legal to discriminate against gay people, we were less well educated and even though there were far fewer cars, we were more likely to die in a traffic accident. So as 12 million people in the Netherlands cast their votes for the next government, here's a list of 12 reasons for optimism. 1 Women are working more and earning more Seven in 10 women now have a job. They might only work part-time but hey, it was not until 1956 that a law requiring married women to have their husband's...  More >

Seven ways of cutting your Dutch tax bill

It's that time of year again... the deadline for filing your annual tax return (May 1) is fast approaching. But don't be fooled by the Dutch tax office advertising slogan -  ‘we can’t make it nicer, but we can make it easier’. Anyone with anything but the standard situation will know that ‘easy’ is not the best word to describe the stress of filling in a Dutch tax return. Take heart, however, from the fact that as a foreign resident, you are more likely to be paying too much tax rather than not enough. But before you seek specialist help or decide to give it a go yourself, check out these seven basic tax breaks which might apply to you. 1 Personal deductions Have you had high medical bills not covered by insurance, or are you a generous giver to charity? There are all sorts of personal expenses which you can deduct from tax. It makes sense to cluster them into one year as much as possible so that you meet the threshold for the tax break. Items which can be entirely...  More >

Dutch normen en waarden - what are they?

Normen en waarden - when the Dutch aren't arguing or worrying about them, they're telling everyone else to observe them. Everyone agrees they're important and they have become a key election theme, but nobody seems to be quite sure what distinguishes the normen from the waarden. Here's our attempt to lead you through the moral maze. Who started the discussion? It goes back to Christian Democrat prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende (CDA) who first put norms and values on the agenda in 2002. Balkenende was worried that society was becoming more brutish (hufterig) and said the government should encourage citizens to treat each other with respect. It may or may not have been related to the frequent mocking that Balkenende endured in the media. Various projects were set up to promote good citizenship, from combating racism to encouraging motorists to be more polite behind the wheel. Where are we now? Nowadays no self-respecting politician is without an opinion about...  More >

The perfect PVV antidote: baba ganoush

Where would Amsterdam be without the cuisine of all those countries under fire from the current wave of anti-immigration politicians? Food writer Vicky Hampton picks her favourite restaurants run by North African and Middle Eastern immigrants - the perfect antidote to PVV populism. As a British immigrant (just about – I’ve applied for Dutch citizenship in this post-Brexit world), I don’t merit a vote in the upcoming general election in the Netherlands. But all the polls are pointing to one scary reality: yet more blonde-mopped craziness, this time in the form of Geert Wilders. Fearful of the 'Islamification' of the country, his solution is to stop Muslim immigrants – partly in the form of a Trump-style blanket ban on migrants from Islamic countries. As a food writer for over a decade in Amsterdam, I’m more than a little grateful for the Moroccan, Turkish, Lebanese, Syrian (the list goes on) restaurants that spice up the cuisine of the Dutch capital. The same is undoubtedly...  More >

The office is just a 10 minute cycle away

Lior Bornshtain, 43, is an Israeli entrepreneur who moved to the Netherlands in 1998 with his dog and his wife. He has learnt to skate, speak Dutch, and eat Stamppot, and never visit a neighbour without an appointment. He loves the village way of life in Amsterdam and has no plans to return to Tel Aviv. How did you end up in the Netherlands? We decided that we wanted to move from Tel Aviv to Europe. It was me, my wife and the dog. There were two cities at the top of our list: London and Amsterdam. Dogs had to be quarantined for six months in the UK so we said, ‘OK, let’s go for Amsterdam’. London was our first choice because of the language but, when I look back, I’m really happy we ended up in Amsterdam. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? My wife and I came together so I would say immigrant. How would you make the distinction between expat and immigrant? I think it’s the same. We moved here just to try it out - and we stayed...  More >