Celebrate in your home from home: How to go Dutch at Christmas

Celebrate in your home from home: How to go Dutch at Christmas The count down to Christmas has begun, but according to weather forecast there's not much chance of a white Christmas this year. So just how do you give your Christmas that extra touch of 'Dutchness' while living in the Netherlands? Here is a list to inspire you, based on some of the ways the Dutch celebrate Christmas at home. Get a tree The Dutch love their trees - in fact they love Christmas decorations in general. If you really want to be overwhelmed, check out any garden centre and you will be spoiled, and we do mean spoiled, for choice. Christmas lights tend to be terribly good taste which can come as a shock to the Americans and the British. Give your new home a festive feel with a beautiful paper star in the window. Go to church The Nachtmis is the only time lots of people go to church. The midnight mass is usually a jolly affair of Christmas carols and lots of twinkling lights in a heated church (if you’re lucky) followed by a Christmas breakfast with lots of kerststol....  More >

12 Dutch ads everyone should know

12 Dutch ads that have become cultural touchstones Keep Calm and Carry On? Lovely Day for a Guinness? Just do it? Good advertising can do more than sell shoes and beer, they can become cultural touchstones, referenced over and over again, years after they first appeared. So, if a colleague shouts 'Heyyyy biertje…' during a borrel and everyone else laughs but you’re left out in the cold, we’ve got you covered. Molly Quell has put together a list of 12 Dutch advertisements that you need to know. 1 Heineken - Rudi Possibly the most famous television ad in the country, we follow a lowly goat herder who turns into a suave ski instructor with the appearance of the first snowflake. He walks into a ski lodge bar and shouts “Heyyyyy biertje!” (Hey beer) to the delight of the crowd. While popular with most Dutch people, bar staff find having “Heyyyyy biertje!” shouted at them rather annoying. 2 Ohra - Purple crocodile Ohra's purple crocodile, which hit the television screens in 2005, has now become synonymous with...  More >

Dutch Destinations: explore Utrecht

Dutch Destinations: explore Utrecht from high up and from way down DutchNews.nl destinations: Utrecht  Located on the eastern edge of the Randstad, Utrecht is a picturesque city full of history and culture - if you avoid the hideous concrete area around the main railway station - that is. From the top of Dom Tower all the way down to its iconic canals, there’s no shortage of cafes, museums, and other attractions to keep you busy for a weekend trip or an entire lifetime. Human activity in and around Utrecht dates all the way back to the Stone Age, but the area remained almost entirely untamed until the Romans showed up to build a fortress named Traiectum around 50 AD. It helped mark their empire’s northernmost border...until it was burnt to the ground during a revolt a few decades later. Then it was later rebuilt bigger and stronger to house roughly 500 soldiers. Traiectum actually had to be rebuilt three more times before it was finally raided by invading Franks sometime in the 3rd century. The Romans skedaddled and the area remained pretty...  More >

Collective health insurance can be costly

Health insurance via your employer? You could be paying too much The chances are that your health insurance policy is part of a collective plan which you signed up to via work, a sports club or even your local council. But you could very well be paying more than you should. Almost two-thirds of the Dutch population are insured through a collective plan - a type of insurance scheme set up for a group of people, such as company colleagues, a patient organisation or a local authority. Even nature protection groups like the Wadden Vereniging offer special health policies for members. If you sign up for a collective agreement you are offered a seemingly attractive discount on your monthly health insurance premium. But beware! Research by comparison website Zorgwijzer.nl shows that you could actually be paying for the discount out of your own pocket. Spokesman Koen Kuijper says there are numerous cases where an individual insurance plan is cheaper than one that is set up through a collective. 'There are over 50,000 different collective policies...  More >

Podcast: The Soros Eye Shadow Edition

DutchNews podcast – The George Soros Eye Shadow Palettes Edition – Week 49 As a round-the-clock deportation-busting church service draws the attention of the world's media, Amsterdam calls time on the giant letters outside the Rijksmuseum, Dick Advocaat causes some ophef when he gets a time out in the referee's room and Emile Ratelband is told he can't turn the clock back on his passport. We also discuss why the Marrakesh pact to control migration has sparked a heated debate both in the Tweede Kamer and internationally. Ophef of the week: Intratuin's packaged pine cones create needle on Twitter TOP STORY Non-stop church service stops government deporting Armenian family NEWS Government aims to cut number of road deaths to zero by 2030 Shell to link executive bonuses to carbon emissions targets Giant Iamsterdam letters removed from city's Museumplein Emile Ratelband loses fight to cut 20 years from his age SPORT Oranje draw Germany in European Championship qualifiers DISCUSSION: Marrakech migration pact Dutch Parliament...  More >

'Dutch people don't like long silences'

‘Dutch people don’t like long silences but in Sweden we can live with them’ Helena van Heel is a Swedish mezzo soprano who moved to the Netherlands 25 years ago. She lives in Amsterdam Noord with her Dutch husband and daughter, recommends you visit the 11 Fountain tour in Friesland and sneaks off to Ikea when she gets homesick. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met a Dutchman in Stockholm, he was playing in an orchestra and it was love at first sight. The first time I had visited him I did an audition for Netherlands Chamber Choir - it just happened to be that week - and they said I could have a job - if I moved to Holland. I decided to finally make the move after a year. So the move was a combination of work and love. Actually, the love only lasted six months - we were very different. Anyway I had a job of course with the choir and then I met another man, who is now my husband. He is the reason I stayed. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I think I say I am Swedish. That never goes away. I am considering...  More >

Bunkers and naked volleyball

Blogwatching: bunkers and naked volleyball What do you do if you have been sent to live in the Netherlands as a trailing husband for six months, while your wife works in a high powered job? Visiting columnist Joe Weeg has been exploring his neighbourhood. Part 1: Bunkers and naked volleyball. They are stark naked. Yup, not a speck of clothes. The eight old men have the volleyball net pulled tight in the sand and are shuffling to new positions as I come over the dune. The server makes some comment that tickles everyone’s fancy and then hits the ball underhanded to a loud cheer. A flurry of naked men descend on the net. Point to server. Trust me, this began innocently enough. I was curious about the bunkers that line the beaches at Scheveningen in The Hague, Netherlands. They are leftovers from World War II and were part of Hitler’s plan to defend the coast. The North Atlantic Wall ran all the way from Norway to France. And it just happens that in Scheveningen the bunkers sit directly above a nude beach. No kidding. The...  More >

Podcast: The Ginger & Lime Brexit Edition

DutchNews podcast – The Ginger and Lime Brexit Edition – Week 48 The past looms large in this week's podcast as rail operator NS agrees to compensate Holocaust victims who were transported on its trains. Amsterdam's mayor comes under pressure to enforce the so-called burka ban, there's a run on contraceptive pills, Mark Rutte delivers a 'deal or no deal' message on Brexit and health insurers sound the death knell for reincarnation therapy. In our discussion we look at the contenders for the annual Word of the Year competition. Ophef of the week: Forum voor Democratie members are mostly there to make up the numbers TOP STORY Railway operator NS agrees to pay compensation to Holocaust victims NEWS Burka ban will not be prioritised in Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Utrecht British nationals will not be able to vote in next year's European elections Scarce contraceptive pills being sold on Marktplaats for four times cover price Insurer CZ stops covering reincarnation therapy and other 'ridiculous' treatments SPORT Ajax reach...  More >

Dutch under threat in higher education

‘The threat to Dutch in higher education is no idle chitchat’ In the garden of higher education, Dutch is being weeded out. It’s alarming that the education minister seems oblivious to the demise of Dutch in higher education, say Annette de Groot, Erik Jurgens, Jean Pierre Rawie and Ad Verbrugge. The language policy of education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven is like a garden where English is allowed to bloom unhindered while Dutch is withering on the vine. In a recent radio-interview with journalist Frits Spits the increasing influence of English in higher education was recognised at once, but then the subject was conspicuously avoided. All the minister was willing to say was that we should not accept the prevailing idea that all teaching is already being done in English. ‘Higher education is still mainly conducted in Dutch’, she said. In other words, the public commotion about the unbridled colonisation of Dutch higher education by the English language is just so much idle chitchat. This stance wilfully denies the disastrous...  More >

11 great things to do in December

There is no snow on the way, but here are 11 great things to do in December Classic films, Christmas events and Chanel - here are some DutchNews.nl December delights. But if you are more of a bah humbug person who can't wait for 'the season to be jolly' to be over, there is something for you too. Meet Sinterklaas The Catharijneconvent in Utrecht is Sinterklaas' home away from home and right up until the busiest day in his calender he is inviting all good children up to 8 and their parents for lots of Sinterklaas-related activities and a meet and greet in his study. Until December 5. Website Climb every mountain The Sound of Music is 50! How time flies when you're frolicking in an alpine meadow. The colours of the film were always glorious but the new 70mm copy shown at the Eye in Amsterdam renders the Austrian Aalps even more resplendent, or 'newly-washed' as the Eye has it. We dare you not to sing along. December 19 to January 9. Website   Force your child to be creative Kasteel Keukenhof, a dinky little castle in Lisse, is offering...  More >

Coding for kids: boosting digital literacy

Coding for kids: digital literacy to become key in the curriculum Digital literacy is increasingly recognised as a vital component of future education. As the Dutch government seeks to update both the primary and secondary curricula, teaching coding to children is set to become compulsory. Esther O´Toole took a closer look at the current state of coding for kids. Bo Boekelman and Hilde Verschuren, two primary school pupils at De Harlekijn school in Cuijk, Noord Brabant are exploring coding at Expedition Robot, one of the extracurricular courses on offer as part of the Techlab scheme at their local library. 'What I like best is when you have finished the coding part and can see your creation come to life,' says Bo, who is in her final year of primary school. 'I really liked it and would have liked more time. I'd definitely do something like that again, especially if it was at school!' says friend and classmate Hilde. Their school's director, Rob Lamers, is working with nine other local schools on  integrating 21st century skills throughout...  More >

Podcast: The Piets and Pensions Edition

DutchNews podcast – The Piets and Pensions Edition – Week 47 Things fall apart in this week's podcast as we update you on the increasingly bitter Zwarte Piet debate, plans to deal with a no-deal Brexit, the dispute over the 30% ruling and an electoral boycott triggered by a missing hyphen. Thankfully the football team salvaged some pride with their stunning comeback against Germany. In our discussion we ask if the breakdown of talks to reform the pension system is the beginning of the end for the Dutch polder model. Ophef of the week: Albert Heijn destroys Christmas with 'vegetarian propaganda' (RTL, Dutch) TOP STORY Rutte issues mild rebuke to hooligans who threw eggs at Zwarte Piet protesters NEWS Stef Blok proposes emergency powers to soften impact of 'no deal' Brexit Campaigners for 30% ruling transition period switch attention to Senate D66 success with constitutional reform paves way for elected mayors GroenLinks make major gains in Groningen in elections for new councils SPORT Late equaliser against Germany...  More >

'We are in love with the Netherlands'

‘We have fallen in love with the Netherlands, the people, the weather’ British national Hannah Bayliss, husband Tim and dog live next to the Valkenburg airbase near Katwijk where they distill gin, enjoy beach life and have gotten to grips with the weather. How did you end up in the Netherlands? We ended up here in 2015 after Tim sent me a picture of the beach at Noordwijk. We both wanted to live in another country and were debating between New Zealand or the Netherlands. Tim had a temporary job in the Netherlands and I was in New Zealand when he sent me the photo. It was an early morning shot, the beach was deserted and all I could see as far as the eye would go was flat golden sands and blue sky!  I just thought, this is an amazing place. Why would we move half way around the world when we could live here? Tim now works for KPMG and we have set up a craft gin business on the side. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc ? I think we would describe ourselves as EU citizens. We are both proud to be British,...  More >

Are you as bad at Sinterklaas as I am?

Parents, are you as bad at Sinterklaas as I am? So, Sinterklaas is back in the Netherlands and the count-down to December 5 is well and truly underway. After numerous debacles, Deborah Nicholls-Lee thinks she’s got the hang of celebrating Sinterklaas with her kids. But has she? When the pepernoten appear in Dutch stores at the end of the summer, I usually chime in with the moaning. Not this year. Succeeding during Sinterklaas is all about preparation. I know this from experience: last year was a shambles. The intocht (Sint’s arrival in the Netherlands with his Zwarte Piet helpers) is eagerly anticipated by children, but for foreign grown-ups like me it can be bitter-sweet. This is partly because, until recently, to my unaccustomed British eyes, it looked rather like someone had poured the contents of a 1940s comic book of smiling stereotypes onto the streets of 21st century Amsterdam. But it’s also because it signals the start of a tradition which I’m still struggling to navigate and frequently fail at. Christmas For...  More >

Podcast: The Brex'nkaas Breakdown Edition

DutchNews podcast – The Brex’nkaas Breakdown Edition – Week 46 In a week dominated by dodgy deals, Molly and Paul look at the implications of the Brexit breakthrough for UK nationals in the Netherlands, find out how a cinema chain lost €19 million in an internet scam and explain why Dutch language tests have been cancelled for the rest of the year. We also catch up with the ever petulant Max Verstappen, the triumphant women's football team and the soft cheese manufacturers who learned the hard way that 'over smaak valt niet te twisten'. In the discussion we look at plans to make the appointment of mayors more democratic and transparent. TOP STORY: BREXIT Foreign minister Stef Blok welcomes Brexit deal but will study terms closely NEWS Language tests postponed after students share exam details on social media Cinema chain Pathé left reeling by €19m internet scam Economic growth slows to 0.2% but sunny weather boosts spending Bitter aftertaste as cheese manufacturer loses 'copyright flavour' case SPORT Max Verstappen...  More >

Dutch school teacher takes on Dan Brown

Indiana Janssen? Dutch teacher writes thrillers about a Leiden archaeologist It all started when Jeroen Windmeijer’s wife challenged him to work on a novel during his days off from teaching classes at a high school in Leiden. A few years later, he’s now the author of a bestselling trilogy of thrillers that have spawned their own smartphone app and an upcoming film. The series focuses on the adventures of Peter de Haan, an archaeologist at Leiden University, and a student-turned-historian named Judith Cherev. Together, they set out to solve mysteries that involve Biblical lore and real-life historical events. Their trials and tribulations have been compared to those of the scholarly globetrotters in the Indiana Jones films and American author Dan Brown’s novels. But while Windmeijer’s books have been successful here in the Netherlands and among Dutch audiences all around the world, will they capture the imagination of English readers? On 31 August, HarperCollins published an English Kindle edition of St. Paul’s Labyrinth, the series’ second...  More >

Should you be moving health insurer?

Health insurance premiums go up, so should you be switching insurer? Dutch health insurance companies are putting up their rates by an average of €8 a month next year, according to research by insurance comparison website Zorgwijzer.nl. This well below the €10 per month the government had been expecting. In addition, the deductible excess (eigen risico) remains the same in 2019 as it was in 2018 - at €385 per person. Despite the small increase in insurance premiums, the difference between the cheapest and most expensive health insurance is over €300 a year in 2019, the biggest gap on record, the Zorgwijzer research shows. So having a look at your current health insurance plan and switching to another insurance provider may save you a tidy sum of money. Changes What else do you need to know about next year’s health insurance? Firstly, the government has decided to make some changes in next year’s basic insurance package (basispakket). A new item in the basic package this year is the so-called combined lifestyle intervention...  More >

Suikerbrood and sailing in Sneek

Dutch destinations: enjoy suikerbrood and sailing in Sneek Most famous for its Sneek Week, a week long sailing competition and festival, the Frisian city of Sneek (Snits in West Frisian) has plenty to offer during the other 51 weeks of the year. Molly Quell goes north (again) to check out to eat more suikerbrood and see what the city has to offer. The area around Sneek has been inhabited since Roman times and received its city right in 1456, joining the other 10 Frisian cities that make up the Friese elf steden or Frisian eleven cities. They may be more famous for the ice skating race, the Elfstedentocht. Or if your preference is for unfrozen water, Sneek Week. The city itself is the only of the Frisian cities to be walled, an expensive and difficult project due to the surrounding geography. Today, all that remains of the undertaking is one picturesque bridge which has become the symbol of the city. Sneek is now home to around 30,000 people and both C&A and Tonnema (a sweets factory known for its brand of King mints) were founded...  More >

Podcast: The Nuclear Mosquitos Edition

DutchNews podcast – The Mosquitos Should Be Dead By Halloween Edition – Week 45 The regular podcast team returns to discuss whether nuclear power will kill us faster than global warming, why there's been a rash of births among sports stars and whether filming at accident scenes should be banned. We also bring you up to date on the Pakistani lawyer fleeing religious persecution, Ajax's revival in Europe and a forthcoming feast of Rembrandt. In the discussion we ask why several hospitals were allowed to go bankrupt last month and how the government can prevent a repeat of the chaotic scenes that followed. Ophef of the week: Emile Ratelband wants judges to fix his Tinder profile TOP STORY Asia Bibi may be heading for Netherlands after acquittal for blasphemy NEWS Red Cross launches campaign to stop filming at accidents VVD backs plan to bring back nuclear power De Bilt sets record for November 6 at 17 degrees Rijksmuseum to put all its Rembrandts on display to mark artist's death SPORT Ajax on verge of first Champions League knockout...  More >

Getting to grips with Virtual Reality

From hospitals to dance: getting to grips with Virtual Reality No longer the terrain of developers and gamers alone, Virtual Reality has made its way into hospitals, architects offices, classrooms and the arts. Last month, hundreds of aficionados got together in Amsterdam and Esther O'Toole went along to find out what other realities are taking shape. It's still unusual and we're not quite used to it: watching people with strange contraptions on their heads, flailing their arms about, as if in the dark. But step into the seeming darkness and you´ll be surprised at how immersive it really is, how quickly you forget where you are and imagine yourself somewhere completely different. It remains true: with VR - you have to try it to understand it. In the four years since VRDAYS Europe started as a small assembly of enthusiasts, the once sci-fi technology has made the jump from expensive, early prototypes to more general access. This was the biggest version of the event to date with 1,800 registered visitors. Alongside VR, AR (Augmented Reality)...  More >