'Home is where the heart is'

Rhode Island native Scott Mongeau works in Amsterdam as a data scientist. His path to the Netherlands began on the other side of the world in the mid 1990s. He currently lives in Leiden with his wife and dog. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Through my wife. I met her while I was studying in Melbourne, Australia. That was in 1995. We were living in a house for international students and things progressed. We had to decide what to do to avoid visa problems because we couldn’t spend more than three months in each other’s country. We were young and crazy so we said, ‘Let’s get married! If it doesn’t work out that’ll be OK.’ But it did work out and we’ve been married now for almost 20 years. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I suppose I started out as a lovepat but later converted to an international as a result of our relationship. We ended up getting citizenship in each other’s countries so she has US citizenship...  More >

A confrontation with death

A day trip to Amsterdam to catch a film and do some Christmas shopping ended up becoming a train journey Brandon Hartley will never forget. It was just another perfectly normal Sunday. I went up to Amsterdam to see a movie and buy a few early Christmas presents. As the sun was setting, I joined a few hundred people waiting on Platform 1 at Amsterdam Central to cram themselves and all their shopping bags onto a crowded train. I managed to find a seat in a second class compartment across from a woman reading a Murakami novel. A group of international students were chatting in English across the aisle. As the dusk turned to darkness, we rolled through Haarlem and on towards Leiden. Somewhere north of Oegstgeest, the train’s driver hit the horn. Its wheels screeched against the rails while he pumped the brakes. I bounced around in my seat like I was on a ride at Efteling. Then we all heard a chilling noise. It sounded like a stick getting dragged across an old wooden fence....  More >

10 of the best: Readers' photographs of NL

To celebrate DutchNews.nl's 10th anniversary, we asked our Facebook page friends to submit their favourite photos which they think best sum up the Netherlands. Yes, all the cliches were there, but so was Albert Einstein. Here are the five winners and the five runners-up. This photo had so many votes on Facebook, we suspect a little help from family and friends. But it was also a winner with the DutchNews.nl team. This reminds us of walks on a chilly winter's day. We know clogs are out of fashion among all but Volendam fishmongers and farmers, but we wonder if these were ever actually worn? You can't get more Dutch than skaters passing windmills in the snow. Fingers crossed we have a winter like this again soon. This has definitely been through some sort of filter but we like it. We love the idea of Albert Einstein as an Albert Heijn worker, complete with carrier bag. But could some bright spark please enlighten us... E=ah2? It wouldn't be...  More >

Trump, Zwarte Piet and Wilders

Election Day 2016. Too bad America won’t have its first female President. But we hope you enjoy America’s first president who’s legally insane, writes Greg Shapiro. Congratulations America, you just had your own Brexit moment. And - in classic American fashion - it was bigger and badder. Yes, the Brexit campaign featured misinformation and xenophobia. But the Trump campaign had all that plus p***y grabbing, pathological lying and Russia-mania! And in America - just like in Britain - on election day it looked like cooler heads, saner heads, would prevail. It wasn’t politically correct to think otherwise. Perhaps that’s why so many people lied to the pollsters. And perhaps that’s why we might continue to end up with hotter, insaner heads in charge. In the Netherlands, one politician’s head gets so hot it even bleaches itself platinum blonde: the populist politician Geert Wilders.  Not a good year From the US to the EU, it is NOT a good year to be in the ruling class....  More >

A bike helmet would be a cultural afront

While in Amsterdam as a visiting professor at the VU University, Clay Small realised the superiority of Dutch culture when compared to the US is best illustrated by their attitudes to bikes. Sure there are differences in the size of our countries. One’s a socialist society, the other a capitalist bastion. The Dutch painstakingly preserve their 17th- century art and row houses while we remain ever ready to move on. So what if the Dutch citizens of all colours and creeds gel just fine? Hey, we’re working on our issues. No, the hallmark of our differences is in the attitude to cycling. We all know Amsterdam is a river of bicycles from sun up to sun down. There are more bikes than people in Amsterdam, where 67% of the citizens commute by bike daily. The bikes, like Amsterdam’s citizens, come in every colour and shape. Some are lovingly cared for, others look barely functional. Transport Some seat one, two, three, even four! Many bikes have a three-foot basket between...  More >

Asscher: don't ignore real injustice

Lodewijk Asscher: Ignore real injustice at your peril The one lesson to be learned from Brexit and Trump is that ignoring real injustice comes at a price, says social affairs minister and Labour leadership contender Lodewijk Asscher. The results of the US elections will be scrutinised for a long time to come but one thing is clear: the left must never again humiliate or disregard voters. Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables’ was more than just a slip of the tongue. What it showed was a an unwillingness to understand why people are angry or frightened. It is wrong to talk only of a sense of discontent. In many cases there is real injustice: labour migration leads to lower wages. Unfair competition leads to insecure contracts. Globalisation wipes out entire professions. The people at the top of the tree are getting richer and the middle groups are left behind. If that is the daily injustice people experience and there is no credible alternative to vote for, they are cornered. And if progressive parties limit themselves to an explanation...  More >

10 ways Dutch homes surprise expats

Moving to a new country always comes with a handful of new experiences and the Netherlands is no exception. Trying unusual foods, learning some of the language, and getting to grips with cultural nuances all await the newcomer. However, that’s not where the differences end. Even your new home will have a few surprises. Gardens or hallways full of bikes It is no secret that the Netherlands is a bike nation. Just glance outside, and you will be treated to scenes of people on bikes, transporting everything from small dogs to several children. And at the end of the day, those bikes have to go somewhere–and quite often that destination will be the communal garden or downstairs hallway. Hello shower, goodbye bathtub If you are used to relaxing after a long day at the office in a hot bath, perhaps with a good book, you might need to find another relaxation activity. While it isn't impossible to find a bathtub in the Netherlands, they aren't that often found in the average Dutch...  More >

'I worked hard to become more Dutch'

‘In the 80s I was embarrassed to be American, so I worked hard to become Dutch’ Joanne Schweitzer has lived in the Netherlands since 1986 and learned a lot of her Dutch while working in a lingerie shop. The 51-year-old former Oregonian is now a passenger assistant at Schiphol airport and would love to have met the early Dutch settlers in Manhattan. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met a Dutchman who was studying photography at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon, way back in 1982. By January of 1986 we’d moved over here. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I’ve never really felt like an expat. A lovepat? Eh, I don’t know. This is the first time I’ve heard that term. Although I did originally come over here for love, I guess I eventually became an expat. Now I feel more of an international though. How long do you plan to stay? Well, I have two children, Emma who is 20 and Peter who is 22. He has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. It would be really difficult for me to go back to America...  More >

Fraudsters sent Airbnb tourists to my home

Living in a foreign city, away from family and friends, means you get a steady stream of visitors. But not everyone turning up at Deborah Nicholls-Lee's home has been expected. When you live in a city as beautiful as Amsterdam you get lots of house guests from all over the world, but on previous occasions the guests were known to me. So I was surprised when one Saturday in October a Korean couple with a toddler appeared on my doorstep and announced that they had booked my city centre apartment through Airbnb. Our chaotic household, with the washing-up piled high, floors littered with unfinished Lego projects and my husband’s pants drying on the radiator was no place for paying guests. It was our home. There must be some mistake. The mistake was a scam, and a clever one. Our house had been advertised by a smiling couple, Marijn and her partner, set against a background of stock photographs and fake reviews. None of it had any connection with us and the place we have...  More >

Six tourist tours to send your parents on

Your in-laws have arrived. They are staying for over a week. They've recovered from the jet lag, you've taken them to the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum and checked out the Girl With The Pearl Earring. Now what? Molly Quell has six suggestions for tours for the seasoned traveller. It's autumn, so you can't head out for a tour of the tulip fields. So why not then combine those other Dutch cliches of biking and beer on the Bikes and Bites Tour. The craft beer scene has exploded in Amsterdam lately so there’s plenty to try besides Heineken. Offered by the Amsterdam Craft Beer company, the trip takes you to a brewery and you can try some Dutch snacks along the way. You do need to be a competent city cyclist for this. Food to go Should bites not be sufficient, you can go on a gastronomic tour of Amsterdam. Eating Europe offers a Food and Canal Tour of the Jordaan that serves up a dozen Dutch specialities. (Yes, there are that many tasty things in the Dutch culinary lexicon.)...  More >

IDFA founder Ally Derks takes stock

With the 29th edition of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam about to kick off, Paris Carr talks to founder Ally Derks. Striking a pose against her office window, where she enjoys sitting to sneak a cigarette and just watch the world go by, Ally Derks (1958) – founder of the world’s largest and most influential documentary festival; International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), is having her photograph taken. One of the most important figures in the Dutch film industry, her office is humbly decorated compared to the ornate Frederiksplein it looks out upon, just metres away from Amsterdam’s prestigious canals. The combination of grandeur and modesty is not only evident within IDFA’s physical headquarters, but the festival’s ethos and founder herself. Labeled by Indie Wire as the ‘high priestess of documentary,’ Derks built IDFA from 2,000 tickets sales in its first 1988 edition, to an expected 250,000 in its 29th year due to kick...  More >

Get on with energy transition, urge CEOs

The government must get on with energy transition, urge CEOs The government must get its skates on when it comes to energy transition or the climate and the economy will suffer, according to the CEOs of Shell Nederland, Rotterdam port and energy firm Eneco, among others. The Netherlands finds itself at an important crossroads: are we going to postpone the decision to achieve sustainable energy management or are we going to step up efforts to make energy transition happen? We, the CEOs of a number of large energy sector corporations active in the Dutch market, are calling unequivocally for the acceleration of energy transition. As a transition coalition we urge the (next) government and parliament to prioritise energy transition and make it an important paragraph in the new government accord. Under the Paris Agreement, the Netherlands committed itself to reducing CO2 emissions by 80 to 95% by 2050. We wholeheartedly embrace this ambitious goal. It offers opportunities to strengthen the economy and create more green prosperity. A drastic...  More >

Dutch seaside town hosts Picasso sculpture

Pablo Picasso’s move into the world of ceramics and sculptures is detailed in a new collection of his work on show at the Museum Beelden aan Zee, Scheveningen. By Moira Holden Picasso had reached the height of his fame in the mid 1940s, but he was still striving for innovative ways to progress as an artist. He moved to the south coast of France to begin a new professional phase and the stunning results of it are now on display at the Dutch coastal museum of Sculptures by the Sea. The Malaga-born painter’s foray into the world of sculpture and ceramics began with a chance meeting on the beach with the owners of a pottery factory in the village of Vallauris, near Antibes, on the Mediterranean coast. This friendship with Suzanne Douly and Georges Raine was to prove crucial to a new development in his work. ‘In his life, he was always looking for new directions and new ways of doing things,’ says Lyke Burger, guide at the Museum Beelden aan Zee. ‘Every time there was a...  More >

Get arty: join the Amsterdam Salon

The Amsterdam Art Weekend is being staged for the fifth time in November, focusing on top notch contemporary art for the duration of four days. Over a hundred programmes are organised at some fifty renowned galleries and other locations around the city. Featuring exhibitions, performances, film showings, lectures and tours, the weekend gives you the opportunity to discover the latest developments in contemporary art. On Friday 25 November 2016 you can join  fellow art lovers for an exclusive tour around some of the city's leading galleries, organised by the Amsterdam Salon. Amsterdam Salon aims to build a vibrant community of professional internationals living in the Amsterdam region by introducing them to the very best that cultural Amsterdam has to offer. Unique events Whether you're working at an Amsterdam based company, you're a start-up entrepreneur or a graduate living in Amsterdam, Amsterdam Salon events are intended to bring together internationals at...  More >

7 US election nights in the Netherlands

The United States is in the middle of one of its most bitterly contested presidential elections and, as ever, the Dutch are taking a keen interest in the race to become the most powerful man – or woman – on the planet. Who will emerge victorious after America votes on November 8 - Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton or Republican nominee Donald Trump? If you’re willing to pull an all-nighter or wake up early, Brandon Hartley has a round-up of where you can watch the results emerge in real time. ‘Who’s the President?’ Breakfast Grand Hotel Amrâth Kurhaus - Scheveningen The organisers include the US Embassy and the Overseas Americans Remember group. Together they’ll create an elaborate election headquarters in the main hall of the Grand Hotel Amrâth Kurhaus. Flags representing all 50 US states will adorn the balconies and TVs broadcasting the election returns will be packed into every corner. A jazz band and Uncle Sam himself are also slated to appear. Attendees...  More >

'Dutch parenting suits me much better'

Originally from Edinburgh, printmaker and writer Catriona Black has been living in Santpoort-Noord for five years and says her children are now more Dutch than Scottish. She hates labels, but recent events in politics have inspired her to call herself an immigrant. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband landed a job at the University of Amsterdam teaching neurophilosophy. I was seriously unhappy about leaving Scotland, because everything I have ever been passionate about was Scottish, yet there was one exception: Rembrandt. My curiosity about the painter’s home country meant that I said yes. To my surprise, I’ve loved it here from the moment we arrived! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? Ha! Lovepat? Never heard that one! Is it a nicer way of saying ‘trailing spouse’, which I hate with a passion? All these terms are so loaded. I think it’s easy to categorise other people and labelling yourself doesn’t...  More >

Hands off the electoral system

Hands off the Dutch electoral system There should be strictly no tinkering with the Dutch electoral system, says Patrick van Schie, a historian and director of the VVD think tank Teldersstichting. As the election date draws nearer, claims that the Netherlands has too many political parties are growing increasingly loud. At the moment 16 parties are represented in parliament. Of these, five are splinter groups, formed by MPs leaving the party they were elected to serve. In 2012, 11 parties won seats in parliament, and this is not a historical record by any means. Of course it is too early to predict how many parties will be represented in parliament come 2017. If  the aforementioned 11 parties were to return, possibly joined by DENK and VNL, the total would still fall short of the 17 parties that were represented in 1918. And in those days there were only 100 seats in parliament, not 150 as there are now. What exactly is it people are objecting to with every election? When they talk about health insurers they...  More >

WOZ, KK, VVE - how to buy a house

Mortgage interest rates are at a record low in the Netherlands so it could be the perfect time to buy a home of your own. Here’s a list of 10 key terms which every prospective home owner should understand before they start hunting for their dream dwelling. 1 KK or VON The letters KK in housing adverts stand for ‘kosten koper’ (buyer’s costs). This means that all the costs involved in buying a house –  transferring ownership in the land registry, notarial costs for drawing up the contract and the 2% property transfer tax – are to be paid by the buyer. Together with the cost of your estate agent and mortgage broker, this adds around 6% to the price of a house, some of which is tax deductible. ‘VON’ (Vrij op Naam)  means that part of the costs involved are paid for by the seller. This relates to the transfer tax. 2 Overdrachtsbelasting ‘Overdrachtsbelasting’ or property transfer tax, amounts to 2% of the price of your new home. The cost is included in...  More >

Urban farming in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a crowded city. In between the canal houses and bike racks you may have spotted the occasional flowerbed or tomato pot. But agriculture in the city is thriving and as local gardens bring in their harvests, Molly Quell looks into the state of urban farming. One especially hot July day, 13 students from as far as Singapore trampled through a garden in Amsterdam Noord. As it was summer holiday, the university students missed the usual gardeners, a group of nine and 10-year-olds from a nearby primary school. The students were participating in a month-long graduate course called The Urban Food Experience offered by the University of Amsterdam. As part of the course they were touring Voedseltuin IJplein, one of the many community gardens in the city. In fact Amsterdam has 188 registered city gardens, ranging from small community herb gardens to a football pitch full of pigs. Allotments The idea of farming small plots of land isn’t new to the Netherlands. The country...  More >

Diabolical Dutch Halloween celebrations

Though still not nearly as popular as Koningsdag, Halloween has been steadily gaining devotees in the Lowlands in recent decades. Brandon Hartley has put together a creepy collection of local events where you can celebrate the most spooktacular time of the year. Halloween Fright Nights Biddinghuizen, until October 30 The Walibi World theme park is once against hosting this colossal Halloween extravaganza. Do you dare experience its horrific events, activities and performances? Those who are not faint of heart or weak of stomach can try their luck in the haunted Jefferson Manor, or a blood-soaked clinic lorded over by the mysterious and malevolent Dr. Adams. The park’s other ‘scare zones’ are devoted to pesky pirates, mischievous monsters, yucky yokels and vexing video game characters. You can also dig into the Halloween Buffet or even spend a night in one of Walibi World’s cottages. Amsterdam Halloween Festival Until October 31 This annual Halloween blowout...  More >