Happy Streets: Rotterdam mobile activists

Meet Happy Streets: Rotterdam’s cheeky activists for social mobility in the city A cheerful squad of urban agitators are using Rotterdam to conduct quirky experiments in social mobility. Is this car-centric city ready to rethink its use of space? Deborah Nicholls-Lee finds out more. If you wake up one morning to find your street covered in pink and yellow dots, a lawn where once there was a parking space, or a bike-through cafe in your neighbour’s front room, then it might be the work of Happy Streets, a mischievous but well-meaning group of urban activists, with a mission to reclaim the streets of Rotterdam for people rather than cars. Working in association with DRIFT, Veld Academie and the local council, Happy Streets uses urban experiments to trial more inclusive and sustainable mobility concepts. Jorn Wemmenhove is one of the movement’s initiators. Happy Streets, he explains, sprang from the municipality’s 2015 Mobility Arena programme, which was already challenging current models of mobility in the city. ‘It became a much more social story...  More >


Learn from history, both good and bad

Let’s learn from history, both good and bad History's saints as well as its villains carry lessons for the present, writes historian Tineke Bennema. I could see where Urk city council was coming from when it decided to name some of the town’s new streets after discredited sea heroes such as Michiel de Ruyter and Jan Pieterszoon Coen. I believe Urk didn’t do this to stir up controversy but to show that the history of human beings is not a blank slate but a product of the past. A people that denies its history loses its bearings and flounders like a drowning man in the ocean. The discussion about whose view of the nation’s history is the right one focuses on whether values and actions of the past can be judged by modern society and, consequently, rejected or approved, particularly when the these values and actions refer to harm done to others. First of all we need to ask if the past is something we can or want to learn from. You could say we do learn from the past whether we want to or not otherwise we would still...  More >


Podcast: Spekkoek and Straciatella Edition

DutchNews podcast – The Spekkoek and Straciatella Edition It's an election results special in this week's podcast, as we discuss why local parties rule the roost, how D66 lost out in the cities, whether it can get any worse for Labour and who fared best of the newcomers, including Denk, the PVV and the Animal Rights Party. There's also news of the 'dragnet' referendum, technological advances in football and death in the Oostvaardersplassen. Local election special GroenLinks and local parties are big election winners How the parties fared in the DutchNews focus cities Coalition challenges for GroenLinks after topping poll in Amsterdam Groep De Mos pull off surprise win in The Hague News Referendum set for narrow 'no' vote Dead sea eagle was hit by wind turbine Sport KNVB approves video referees for next league season Discussion: Local elections The votes have been counted, now the coalition building can begin What the papers said about the local election results Wilders breaks through with a...  More >


Farewell Facebook, we're through!

Farewell Facebook, you and I are through! Economist Mathijs Bouman has said goodbye and good riddance to Facebook and he won't be back (he hopes). I would like to start this column by offering my sincere apologies to all my friends. Bart Stoffels, Rineke Gieske-Mastenbroek: my apologies. A hearfelt sorry is also due to Witdietma Narain from Arnhem, Willem-Aart Hop from Spakenburg and of course Fokke Obbema from Amsterdam. Apologies too to Remco Dijkstra and Annette van Trigt. And even to Thierry Baudet who, to my surprise, is also a friend. Sorry one and all, I really regret to inform you that we are no longer friends and that goes for the friends of friends as well. I hope you have a good life. I’m quitting, pulling the plug. I have deleted my Facebook account. Which is not as easy as it sounds. Facebook doesn’t like final goodbyes and at first it only agrees to deactivate my account. It will only remove the account permanently in two weeks’ time. Unless I log in between now and then, because then it will be reactivated...  More >


Nine things to know about tulips

It’s spring, so to celebrate here are nine things to know about tulips Spring is officially here and that means the Keukenhof bulb gardens in Lisse are now open. It is the 69th time that the gardens will have opened to the public and they are expecting over a million visitors in eight short weeks. This year's theme is romance and so among the special gardens in 2018 are Cupid's Garden, with a kissing gate, a Holiday Romance garden, with a tropical atmosphere under the palms and Rob's Oriental Romance. For those of you who are a little less soppy about your flowers, the Hipster Garden could be a good alternative, with such no-nonsense pastimes as chopping wood, throwing some meat on the barbecue and knocking back a beer or two! The Keukenhof - first designed in 1957 as a garden for the Keukenhof castle - might be open for business for just eight weeks, but you'll still need a little patience before the tulip fields are in full bloom - as you can see from this report. In the meantime here are some facts and figures about the Netherlands' eponymous...  More >


Brexit boom for Dutch clinical trials

Brexit boom ahead for Dutch clinical trials and human test subjects The arrival of the European Medicines Agency in Amsterdam next year will be a major boost for the Netherlands' own drugs testing sector, and moves are already being made to make the most of the opportunities, writes Max Opray. Amsterdam was announced as the new home for the EU regulatory body in November when the Dutch city’s name was effectively drawn out of a hat after tying with Milan in the final round of voting. The announcement prompted a wave of concern from British experts such as John Hardy, professor of Neuroscience at UCL, who predicted the move of the EMA would extend beyond the regulatory body’s 900 employees and ‘be a magnet to Holland and Flanders (which already have strong pharma industries) for inward drug company investment and for divestment from the UK.’ Drugs testing firms and other pharmaceutical industry players are already jostling for position. After all, the Netherlands is in prime position to poach Britain’s lucrative clinical trials industry...  More >


Podcast: The Disaster Tourism Edition

DutchNews podcast – The Disaster Tourism Edition – Week 11 With a week to go until the local elections, we bring you up to speed on the soap opera that is Rotterdam's campaign and explain how and where you can cast your vote. Elsewhere, was ING's about-turn on its CEO's pay rise a victory for people power, and did Unilever's decision to close its London headquarters really have nothing to do with Brexit or the Dutch government's abolition of dividend tax? There's also the remarkable story of the Paralympic athlete who won two gold medals amid an ongoing 18-year battle against cancer. In the discussion we pick out our favourites from the growing crop of books about the Netherlands. Top story Rotterdam 'left alliance' folds amid outcry over Islamic party's tweet News ING backtracks on plan to raise CEO's salary by 50% Unilever moves headquarters to Rotterdam MPs back overhaul of 'patronising' integration exams Rotterdam museum takes in kingfisher frozen in ice (AD, Dutch) Sport Bibian Mentel wins second Paralympic...  More >


The best Mexican food in the Netherlands

From tacos to tiras a la Mexicana – the best Mexican food in the Netherlands Many people from North America often bemoan the lack of quality Mexican food here in the Lowlands. Fortunately, things have been steadily improving on this particular culinary front in recent years. Whether your gut demands fajitas cooked to near perfection or you simply can’t shake your cravings for Grilled Stuft Burritos, here’s a few of Brandon Hartley’s picks that will help you get your fix. KUA - The Hague and Rotterdam What’s the best authentic Mexican restaurant in the Netherlands? It’s open to debate but these two cafes owned by Monterrey, Mexico native Daniel Muñoz and his colleague Rass Butt are both a safe bet. Their menus are packed with dishes from all over Mexico and many of their tacos are among the best you’ll find anywhere in Europe. Doubt it? Reserve judgement until you give their slow-cooked taco de barbacoa a shot or try a mouthwatering taco estilo al pastor before you wash it down with a margarita at their taco bar in Rotterdam. The menu at their...  More >


A year without money: finding happiness

A year without money: one Dutchman’s journey to find human happiness When Mundo Resink (35) realised that money was holding him back in life, he chose a drastic solution: to live without it. Deborah Nicholls-Lee finds out more about his life-changing experiment. On the evening of January 6, 2013, Mundo Resink couldn’t sleep. Something had been growing inside of him: a resounding truth which this night refused to be silenced. ‘It was like something from my belly just came up and it was unstoppable,’ he says. That night Mundo realised that the path he had chosen - the startup he was working on, the money he was trying to make - was unnatural, joyless and at odds with his inner voice. The more he chased money, the more it eluded him. ‘Every time I allowed myself to be talked into things I didn’t want to do, that didn’t feel right... we would end up throwing money into a bottomless pit, working with clients that were not happy, making ourselves unhappy and just not living,’ he says, five years on. The reverse was also true: ‘Every...  More >


Dutch agriculture is not a beacon

Dutch agriculture is not a beacon of good farming practice to the world Dutch agriculture has to become a lot less efficient or the environment will suffer even more, say agro-environmental scientists. Greater awareness among consumers and voters may make it happen. In an opinion piece in January, Volkskrant columnist Bert Wagendorp claimed most farmers simply can’t help being fraudsters when it comes to manure: it’s a national sport to hoodwink the authorities. We are not trying to make excuses but isn’t it also true that we are all responsible for the mess agriculture is in today? ‘This tiny country feeds the world’ National Geographic headed one of its articles in November 2017. It’s because of articles like these the Netherlands is seen as a beacon of good agricultural practice around the world. But over the last 50 years that agricultural practice has wiped out over 70% of partridges, godwits and skylarks. Large-scale expansion not only swallowed up small farmers but traditional landscapes as well, all in the name of efficiency. But...  More >


An allround experience with Sven and Ireen

An allround experience: watching Sven and Ireen skate in front of their home crowd There are some things you just can’t avoid to really understand the Dutch and speed skating is one of them. Robin Pascoe went to see Sven (Kramer) and Ireen (Wüst) in action at the world allround championships. Many years ago, when my children were small, we did the obligatory skating lessons at the Jaap Edenbaan ice rink in Amsterdam. This usually involved spending all day of the one-week autumn holiday at the rink, watching small boys and girls strap skates to their boots, don waterproofs and set off round the ice at breakneck speed. After a year of watching little Svens and Ireens, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and sign up for the adult class which took place at the same time. I bought a pair of ‘hoge noren’ speed skates and signed up for lessons. Eventually my years of Saturday mornings at the Silver Blades ice rink in Bradford attempting to learn how to do a half lutz were converted into something vaguely resembling the Dutch long glide – if you put...  More >


Podcast: The Uber Dull Blok Edition

DutchNews podcast – The Uber Dull Blok Edition – Week 10 In the week when the most boring man in politics returned to the cabinet, a plot by taxi drivers to storm Uber's offices with fireworks and molotov cocktails was foiled Dutch cyclists won a clutch of medals at the indoor track world championships, we dig deep to find some more riveting news – like the car abandoned in the middle of the sea and the homeless man who was fined for cooking heron's legs. We also have the second part of our discussion on referendums and the so-called 'dragnet' law that will give AIVD agents more powers to tap your internet traffic. TOP STORY Stef Blok, the grey man of Dutch politics, returns to cabinet NEWS Wilders and Baudet pull out of radio debate Police investigating alleged taxi drivers' plot to storm Uber HQ Afghan refugees tell court they are too westernised to be sent home Teenager apologises for parking car in Waddenzee Roasted heron joins museum of fascinating dead animals SPORT Dutch cyclists sweep the boards...  More >


Optimism and openness is priceless

Local elections 2018: Openness and optimism is priceless What happened to the Dutch sense of adventure? Where is the bold confidence that we used to have? And why are people so gloomy when really there is every reason to feel hopeful? GroenLinks' council candidate Arjen Kapteijns makes a plea for openness and optimism. It won’t come as a surprise to you that GroenLinks - the left-wing greens - has great ambitions regarding the environment and fighting climate change. And as you might expect, as a left-wing party we strive for more equality in our society. But there’s a third pillar supporting our ideology that you might be less familiar with and that is our progressive side. Now that the Netherlands is shifting towards the conservative right, our views on an open and forward thinking society might be of interest to you. For many, many decades our tiny country boasted a worldwide reputation for its tolerance and open-mindedness. Yet, while we are still known as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world and are still in...  More >


Do you need Dutch funeral insurance?

Dying is expensive: so do you need Dutch funeral insurance? The Dutch are a pragmatic people about many things, not least of all about death. For many of them, that means planning ahead - and taking out insurance to pay for the cost of their funeral. Not surprisingly, a funeral insurance (in Dutch: uitvaartverzekering) is one of the most common types of insurance policies in the Netherlands. About 60% of the Dutch population have taken out insurance to cover the costs of their funeral. According to Dutch family spending institute Nibud, the Dutch spend an average of €7,500 on a funeral. Nevertheless, a large part of the population does not know what the true cost of a funeral is and around half of the policies they take out do not fully cover the ceremony and funeral costs. So, how essential is funeral planning? And do we really need an insurance that covers those expenses? Planning a funeral To put it bluntly, when you die, your family will suddenly have to find the money to pay for the funeral. This will almost certainly add...  More >


'I can feel at home without the language'

‘I can feel at home here without knowing the language’ Shadi Mokhtar (29) moved to Amsterdam four years ago, after he got a job at Booking.com. The Egyptian native says he loves the simplicity and honesty he witnesses in Dutch culture, and he is surprised by the strong work-life balance here. How did you end up in the Netherlands? After working for several startups and small agencies in Egypt, I wanted to work for a bigger company. Many Egyptians move to the UAE or the Gulf countries to build their career, but I was looking for something different. In some of those countries, you get a different treatment based on where you come from. One of my father's friends lived in the Gulf area for thirty years, raised all his children there, but never got permanent residency or citizenship. After so many years he still couldn't call that place home. I was looking for a new home, not just an opportunity with an end date. So I applied for a few jobs in Europe, one of them at Booking.com in Amsterdam. They invited me for an interview, and...  More >


How easy is it to buy a house in NL?

Just how easy is it to buy a house in the Netherlands? So, you’ve lived in the Netherlands long enough to know that you plan to stay. Now it is time to get out of that rental apartment and buy a place of your own and really become a local. But how much do you really know about the process? Take our quiz and find out. You’ve decided to take the plunge and become a home owner. It should be pretty simple, right? Here’s 12 key questions to help you find out everything you don’t know about how to buy a house. 1 You’ve got a great job which pays you €60,000 a year but you’ve only got a one-year contract and your partner is a freelancer. Can you still get a mortgage? 2 You want to buy a neat little apartment which is priced at €350,000 and you’ve got around €20,000 in savings. Can you borrow enough to buy the property, pay all the bills and put in a new bathroom? 3 You’ve been to look at a great place but you are not sure about the sloping floor in the bedroom. Does the selling agent have to tell you what the problem...  More >


Explore Leiden's canals without tourists

DutchNews.nl destinations: explore Leiden’s canals without the tourist hustle Once considered a broken down, blue-collar burg, Leiden has shed this reputation in recent years to become a sort of ‘mini Amsterdam’. Brandon Hartley shares a glimpse at one of the most often overlooked cities in the Randstad. At first glance, it might be easy to mistake the canals of Leiden for those in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district. They’re lined with picturesque houses, arched bridges, and the occasional house cat snoozing in the sun. While the city lacks the world famous museums and bustling nightlife of the real deal, it’s also a welcome refuge from the stag parties and tourist hordes that have laid claim to the nation’s capital. It’s also a city rich with history. Leiden is the birthplace of Rembrandt and was once home to the American Pilgrims before they hightailed it to the New World. In 1574, its brave citizens managed to withstand a months-long siege by the Spanish. They were later rewarded by King William of Orange with their very own college. Leiden University’s...  More >


Podcast: The Broken Referendum Edition

DutchNews podcast – The Broken Referendum Edition – Week 9   It may be just about the coldest start to March on record, but there's plenty of hot topics to digest on this week's podcast. We find out why Geert Wilders's efforts to thaw relations with Russia got a less than warm reception from the MH17 relatives, how a teenager won the right to brand himself a prince and what burning issues the Netherlands plans to tackle as chair of the UN security council. Plus the Winter Olympians return home in a blaze of glory and one of Johannes Vermeer's best-known paintings is back in the spotlight. And as D66 prepares to consign its referendum law to the flames, we discuss why successive attempts at direct democracy in the Netherlands have failed to catch fire. Top story: Weather Last day of February breaks cold weather record Man, 75, dies after falling through the ice while skating News Wilders infuriates MH17 relatives with friendship pin on trip to Russia Son of Prince Carlos wins court battle to use father's name and...  More >


5 Dutch ways to tackle the plastics crisis

From bubbles to boats: Five Dutch initiatives which are tackling the plastics crisis Empty drinks bottles, plastic packaging, microscopic plastic particles in the food chain: this once oh so useful invention is fast becoming an environmental catastrophe. Deborah Nicholls-Lee has been checking out some Dutch projects which are seeking solutions. The Great Bubble Barrier   Founded in Haarlem in 2015, The Great Bubble Barrier comprises an all-woman team of experienced sailors, who were tired of the plastic in the water spoiling their favourite sport. Based on a concept already used in the oil industry, in locks and in dredging, air is pumped through a perforated tube, creating bubbles which push the plastic to the surface and off to one side, where it can then be removed by a conveyor belt. Recent tests in the river IJssel showed that pieces as small as 3mm long can be trapped using this system. 'The Great Bubble Barrier can block plastics across the entire width and depth of the river and does not hinder ships and fish and it doesn’t require major infrastructural...  More >


13 great things to do in March

Irish dancing, DIY and meeting monsters: 13 great things to do in March The freezing temperatures may not make it feel like spring is on its way, but the Netherlands is gearing up for the start of the tulip season as the Keukenhof opens later this month. Here's a selection of great things to do in March. Look at the beautiful people The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is celebrating the return of Rembrandt's wedding portrait of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit after its restauration by tapping into the celebrity culture of centuries gone by. On show will be a collection of 35 full length portraits of such distinguished figures as femme fatale Luisa Casati and the rather dreamy playboy and gynaecologist (!) Dr Pozzi. High Society is on from March 8 to June 3. Website Look at the hoi polloi More Rembrandt at the Rembrandthuis, where a collection of etchings show the artist's powers of observation. Ordinary folk, children at play, beggars and tinkers are all depicted with the same attention to detail he lavished on the great and the good. From March 3. Website Say...  More >