Members of the international community answer 10 key questions about their lives in the Netherlands


‘Get a Museumkaart and go to as many museums as you possibly can’

‘Get a Museumkaart and go to as many museums as you possibly can’

Author, publisher, and mentor Jo Parfitt describes herself as a ‘serial expat’. She’s run the steeplechase of raising two sons while cultivating a portable career across seven countries—and still she’s eager for more. Jo lives in The Hague, where last month she launched a new book Monday Morning Emails. She runs her own company Summertime Publishing. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I moved abroad the day after I got married, in 1987. He, my husband, had already been posted to Dubai and we had to get married for me to be able to join him! We have been fortunate to have had many international postings: Dubai, Oman, Norway, the Netherlands, Brunei and Malaysia. My husband works for Shell. This is our second time in The Hague. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I would describe myself as a ‘serial expat’. We have moved again, and again, and again, and it’s something that I don’t necessarily want to stop happening. I’ve got used to moving and it’s something that I like doing, one after the other, after the other. I don’t feel I am trailing. I felt I was trailing for the first 10 years, and then I read the book by Robin Pascoe [not the DutchNews.nl editor] called Culture Shock: A Wife’s Guide. I realised I was not mad to be feeling like I was a 2nd class citizen—like chattel. 'I realised that, actually, I was not alone, and that changed my life. From that moment I chose whether I followed or not; I chose whether I stayed in a location and made the most of it; and I chose whether to create a portable career and take it with me. I had plenty of power. How long do you plan to stay and why? We plan to stay as long as the job is here and effective—and until the next opportunity comes along. It is impossible to know how long we will ever be anywhere; the sort of life we lead means that we are permanently in limbo. My husband and I thought that the years after the children had left home would be our golden years. But we find ourselves still very much involved in our adult children’s lives and increasingly in demand as our parents age. We have one son in Germany, another boomerang child at home again, and our parents are all still alive and in England. My father is lapsing into dementia, my mother is finding it impossible to cope; much as we love living abroad, I am torn. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? My Dutch is terrible. When I first came here in 2004, I had a few lessons. I tried to use it, and became rather disheartened when people replied to move in English. Then we went to Malaysia for three and a half years, and now we are back again. This time I am making more of an effort, and I find that most of my learning comes from food shopping and eating in restaurants. So I do my best to at least make my Dutch right in those situations. I thoroughly enjoy speaking languages and I find that my best teachers are the people in the shop below us. It’s called De Kruidentuin. The people in there, they have become my friends—my family even. They speak to me very slowly and clearly in Dutch, and correct me, and we have a huge laugh everytime that I’m in there. They call my son the bovenbuurman, we call them the benedenbuurmannen, and I’ve been known to go down in my dressing gown! What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Oh gosh—herring. Raw herring. Down in one with the onions on it. No bread. We went to Vlaggetjesdag last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. The herring is healthy, it’s local, it’s fresh, it’s extremely tasty, and good for me! How Dutch have you become and why? Well, I’ve always been fairly blunt, so I don’t know that I can blame the Dutch for making me more forthright! I’ve always had a dry sense of humour, so I understand their sense of humour and am less offended than some people. I adore having a bicycle—that has made a huge difference to me. I adore the green spaces and am almost proud of the architecture they have here, as if it were my own. And I wear purple glasses. People accuse me of having Dutch glasses. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? Anne Frank. For being an incredible writer who was able to write openly and honestly, and show her vulnerability at a time when she must have been full of emotions. She is a wonderful example of somebody who can write vividly and compellingly about real life. I would like to go, and I would congratulate her, and nurture her. I’d like to see whatever I could do for her career. We owe an awful lot to her. I would also like to meet Jan Steen. And go round with him painting his interiors. I would love to be a fly on the wall in those scenes, and to understand the culture that lies behind so many of his paintings. And I would like to meet Helene Kröller-Müller, for creating my favourite art gallery in the most wonderful place: in the Hoge Veluwe. I would like to go round with her and meet all these new artists that she met when she was buying from them—she wanted to get them going. I think she would be a thoroughly inspiring and wonderful philanthropist to meet. What's your top tourist tip? Get a Museumkaart and go to as many museums as you possibly can. They are incredible in The Netherlands and there are many of them. It’s about €60 a year to go to all the museums you like. So, even if you come for a month, the card will pay for itself in just three galleries.  Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands My knowledge of Dutch, albeit scant, has meant that I can now understand Norwegian more than I could—which I found very interesting. I was very interested to discover that some Indonesian, and Malay, words are also Dutch. I’m surprised at the influence. How such a language, that tends to not be spoken all over the world, actually does have little pepperings here and there. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go back to the Mauritshuis, and go catch the Keukenhof gardens before they close. I find the Mauritshuis a wonderful, manageable art gallery. I would say goodbye to my favourite paintings—my absolute favourite painting is Vermeer’s View over Delft, because I know that spot, I know that light. It resonates with me because I recognise it; it feels so real, yet it is so very old. I would go to the Keukenhof gardens because you cannot beat being surrounded by all that colour. It feeds the soul. I could sit in a kaleidoscope, but this is real. Jo Parfitt was speaking to her son, Joshua Parfitt. You can find out more about Jo and Summertime Publishing via her website. Monday Morning Emails can be ordered online.  More >


‘I plan to stay here forever, no question. My wife and everyone I love, is here’

‘I plan to stay here forever, no question. My wife and everyone I love, is here’

While he was working at NASA, Houston resident Carl Guderian decided he was ready for a change. A trip to an event for hackers in Lelystad wound up changing his life forever. He now lives in Amsterdam where he works as an engineer. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Around 1990, I was besotted with Mondo 2000 and Wired Magazine and I hung out with hackers. By 1991, I’d also gotten most of my way through a graduate study of Futures Forecasting and picked the newfangled Internet as my subject of study. In 1993, I went to a hacker camp out near Lelystad called Hacking at the End of the Universe. I’d been working for seven years at NASA and I was looking for a change. I was also tired of working for a government contractor. I visited Amsterdam and the Hague and liked both, but I had no definite plans to move here. At that camp out, though, I met someone else from Houston and we got together a year later. As luck had it, those hackers I’d hung with all went to work for an internet company in Virginia in 1996. One of them called me up out of the blue and said I should quit my job because I could easily work there. Two years later, the company opened a data-centre in Amsterdam and I managed to talk my way into that, too. The company sort of evaporated, but the remains were bought by another company, so here I am, 18 years later. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? A cross between immigrant and lovepat, I guess. I’m not with the person I came here with, but who I’m with now, we’re both lifers and wouldn’t really live anywhere else. It helped that I came here when times were relatively good in the US. It was 1998, the height of the dotcom boom, and during the relatively benign Clinton years. I was also living in DC at the time, so the higher cost of living relative to that of Houston wasn’t so much of a shock. I was ready to try something different. It also helped that I had met a lot of Dutch people before I moved here, and we had common interests related to my field, which was rare at the time. How long do you plan to stay? Forever. No question. My wife is here and everyone I love is here. I certainly love the labour laws, many of which don’t exist back in the US or even the UK. I live in Amsterdam and my life is generally relaxed, even though it’s a world capital and mobbed by tourists. I can walk everywhere or ride my bike. There’s also the way that people live. When you leave work, you generally don’t take it with you and people just appreciate life. They also generally push back if there’s any attempt to make things, how shall we say, more ‘Anglo American’. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I get by. I can speak it for awhile and can understand spoken Dutch most times, with some effort. I can read it very well and write it in a pinch. When I first came here, the company I worked for paid for a basic-level course. I also subscribe to De Volkskraant, and have collected a lot of old Dutch prints, especially the rude cartoons about the 1720 financial bubble. There were three bubbles, actually, and a lot of people invested in some really shady companies. The Dutch ones were fairly legitimate, like for public works projects, but there’s no way they could guarantee the returns. There were lots of satirical cartoons about them and they’re really hard to find. They’re very funny, they’re very rude, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make sense of them. So I practised my Dutch by studying 18th century cultural references and that sort of thing. It’s an odd way to practice Dutch but that’s what I did. I still collect old prints, optical views, and maps. What’s your favourite Dutch food? Broodje haring, no question. Erwtensoep in the winter, though I normally don’t like peas. How Dutch have you become? Hmm, hard to say. I’ve lost my Texas drawl, mostly. Maybe it’s more of a European thing than a Dutch thing, but I tend to take a longer view than I used to. I’ll be 55 in June. I try not to get too worked up about daily news. Of course, I follow it and jump on it like anybody else but I try to adopt a slower attitude, I suppose. It helps that I can have that though, with the kind of work I do and the hours I keep at my workplace. I’m not always stressed, like a lot of American or British people. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Pieter Teyler van der Hulst: He was a fellow collector and I collect a lot of things myself. He collected mostly old drawings by artists from Italy and France and some Rembrandts as well. What he intended as a sort of ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ turned into a massive collection instead. Hendrik Goltzius: He’s the artist in Haarlem who influenced Peter Paul Rubens. He’d travelled down to Rome and he helped popularise Caravaggio. During the 80 Years’ War Rubens actually came to Haarlem from Antwerp to visit him. I read an article recently about how it was fairly easy to travel back then. There were even time tables for the barges along the canals. It was just like taking the train now. Slower, of course, but still as dependable. Maria Sibylla Merian: She’s the artist of nature who travelled to Suriname and was one of the remarkable women from Dutch history. Merian was interested in naturalism and her father was an engraver from Germany. She did a lot of drawings and her engravings were complied in a collection that was published shortly after she died. What’s your top tourist tip? The Kröller-Müller Museum. It’s down by Apeldoorn in the Hoge Veluwe National Park. There’s a really big sculpture park with a museum that has a large collection of Robert van 't Hoff drawings. You can walk around on one of the sculptures. It’s by Jean Dubuffet and it’s pretty impressive. Arranging a trip there requires a lot of organisation, though. If you take public transport, you need to get started really early in the morning. You’ve got to get on a train to Appeldorn and ride a bus to the park. Then you’ve got to bike to the museum since it’s pretty far into the Hoge Veluwe. It’s a lot of fun, especially if the weather cooperates. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands The Palace on the Dam’s main floor has the first global map that shows part of Australia. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d go see the Jesuit art caves in Maastricht. There’s a lot of old salt and coal mines in the area. Once they were emptied out, they left behind caves that were quite useful. A Jesuit order had an art school in one of them, I believe, and it has a lot of drawings and paintings on the walls, many of which are based on works by famous artists. Maybe I should pick something more practical but I have always wanted to see them. Carl Guderian was talking to Brandon Hartley.  More >


‘I can feel at home here without knowing 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 that’s how I got to the Netherlands for the first time in my life. To my amazement they offered me the job on the very same day! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? Good question, actually I never thought about it before. I just live here. If I have to choose from that list, expat comes closest. But the word expat puts you in a bubble. It distances you from the rest of society, and automatically prevents you from integrating. I would rather say I feel like an Egyptian living in Holland. How long do you plan to stay? I plan to stay as long as the government will allow me, haha. No, I have been here now for more than four years, and meanwhile I married a Dutch woman. We are expecting a baby this year, so I have no plans to go elsewhere. Right now, I am very happy here, and that is all that matters. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? A little bit. Enough to manage day to day situations, such as grocery shopping. I did two language courses and I use online apps, such as Duolingo and Memrise. What's your favourite Dutch food? Stamppot is the first thing that comes up in my mind now, but to be honest I am not a big fan of it. I do like hagelslag, but I don’t count that as food. I think my real favourites are haring, and kroketjes. How Dutch have you become? I would say 80%, that is the language and the cycling excluded. I've really come to appreciate directness. In Egypt you always have to be diplomatic, you can’t just say whatever you think. Here it is the exact opposite. I also got more frugal since I got here. I proudly buy stuff with discounts, or use the same phone for years. That would never have happened to me in the Gulf area, where excessiveness and social status play a major role. Everyone wants to have the latest phone, the biggest house. Dutch culture to me is about honesty and simplicity. That is something I appreciate about the Netherlands, you don’t have to show off. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Joris Luyendijk, journalist and author of the book People Like Us. He has an interesting background, as he lived in both Cairo and the Netherlands. He almost perfectly understands the nuances of the two cultures that I am closest to. Eberhard van der Laan, the mayor of Amsterdam who passed away last year. I feel bad that I only got to know him after he died. From what I have heard and seen, he has had a big influence. Hany Abu-Assad, a Palestinian-Dutch film director. He is an amazing writer, and the way his movies explore different aspects of Palestinian culture and history are very impressive. What's your top tourist tip? My wife would say Terschelling, but I prefer the cities. Rotterdam is special because it is such a huge contrast with other cities, due to its modern buildings and architecture. But my number one is definitely Maastricht, with its rural landscapes and good food. I love to walk inside the cobblestoned town centre with its narrow alleys and winding streets. And I never leave Maastricht without visiting my favourite bookshop, Boekhandel Dominicanen. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands Even if you don’t speak the language fluently, you can easily integrate, make local friends, and feel part of society. In many other countries, such as Italy and France, language is essential for integration. But here, you can really feel at home without knowing the language. I think people easily use their inability to speak Dutch as an excuse not to integrate. Many of my friends do it, and I even catch myself doing it sometimes. Besides that, I am impressed by the strong work-life balance here. Working hours are clearly defined, and family and social life are considered extremely important. It still amazes me to see how many people here prefer to work part time, something which is rarely an option back home. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d take my wife and spend the day with her and her family. And hopefully I can take my cat with me as well! Shadi Mokhtar was talking to Laura Vrijsen   More >


‘The Dutch manage to make peace with water so it is not such a huge threat’

‘The Dutch manage to make peace with water so it is not such a huge threat’

Polish business consultant Daria Kanters moved to the Netherlands from Warsaw for love. Though the country now feels a lot like home, she still marvels at the Dutch ability to manage water, their future-oriented outlook, and the variety of hapjes they can make. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It was love, it was my [Dutch] husband, and it was a romantic adventure. We met skiing in France and then we met a couple of times in Amsterdam and in Warsaw. Then we decided to give our relationship a serious try. We were flying to each other almost every weekend. We met in 2009 and in 2011 we decided to start living together and I moved to the Netherlands. So, love is one reason, if you look up close. But I think - if you look from a distance - I can now say that many of us expats that come here are just adventurous. In our association [Polish Professional Women in the Netherlands], all the women have one great feature: they are courageous. There is this energy, wanting to start new things from the beginning. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? After almost seven years here, I’m a bit of everything. It fluctuated. It started as love, because love was the main reason I came here, but then I started to work as an in-house lawyer in Amsterdam, so I became more of an expat, let’s say. I also studied migration and European law at Radboud university and that was very international, with many people from around the world coming to study here. I got very involved in the creation of the Polish Professional Women network here in the Netherlands, working with fabulous women, all of them expats - so that was a big part of my life. But, on the other hand, I live in quite a small place, Cuijk [near Nijmegen], and there are not many expats here, and I think of myself, after all this time, as a local. I am very much involved in what is going on here. I try not to think too much about ‘us and them’. I connect with people, not based on the fact that I’m not Dutch-born, but rather: What are our interests? What drives us? What do we want to give? What do we want to get? This is very much human, regardless of what labels we acquire at given moments of our lives. How long do you plan to stay? I now have my family here and I’m not done yet here. I want to improve my Dutch. I also want to develop my business [with co-founder Monika Boomgaard]. We see that we can be a great example to other people, for example from Poland, coming to the Netherlands, who want to start their own business. I think that people disappear from where they come from much faster than they appear in the new place because building [a new life] takes time. It’s like with the garden: if you let it go, it’s going to grow, and the shape which you gave it in the beginning is going to disappear very quickly. But if you want it to look like your dream garden, you really have to make an effort. I think many people who move to another country don’t know that yet. My advice would be: go and volunteer in some organisation. Don’t stay at home and don’t think too much about what you left behind. Try to build something new. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes. I was very determined. When I moved here, I did a Dutch course for half a year and then I passed the state exam. I wanted to learn. I watched Dutch TV, I tried to read Dutch magazines. My advice for anybody who comes to another country would be to learn the language, otherwise you’re always going to lick the ice cream through the glass.  What's your favourite Dutch food? I like hapjes. For me that was something new - that you can present every food in this form of hapjes [small snacks]. They can be very useful as they are very quick to make. On the other hand, if you have more time, they can be very beautiful and sophisticated and you can make them very special. What a great invention! You don’t have to stand for hours in the kitchen. This was a revelation for me. I was brought up with parties where the food was more like a meal. Here, for the first time, there was this continuous eating during the party. How Dutch have you become? Am I Dutch? Am I Polish? Well, I feel myself – and I feel comfortable, and I like being in the Netherlands. My husband is very Dutch, I think. But I never think when I look at him ‘Oh, you are Dutch!’ No! I think, ‘You are Jos. You are my husband. And I am Daria.’ I think that I’m now more future-oriented than past-oriented. I think that this is a very Dutch thing. Now, I’m more like: OK, this was how it was in the past, but now we can all decide how we want it in the future. I don’t have this tearing feeling in me that I’m crossing some boundaries or destroying some traditional belief or monument. I also think I have become happier. I don’t know if this is very Dutch but whenever I read about happiness, I see that the Dutch are very high in the rankings, and I think that this is maybe something which I got from being here. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet ? I would start with a sportsman, for example, Epke Zonderland. I think I should do more sport, and if I were to meet a person like him who has been doing sport all his life, I would ask him, ‘How do you become so persistent?’ This is a feature which is also so necessary in business. You have this great idea: I’m going to get a gold medal at the Olympics - but how do you transform this ultimate goal into your everyday plan and start? After breakfast, I would like you to take me to meet Linda de Mol. I see her as a business woman. I would like to meet with her and ask her, ‘How do you do this – and for so many years already?’ It seems like all her business ideas are being transformed into reality. So that would be something which I could really learn from her. If I had already been enlightened by Linda de Mol and there was time for dinner, then Frans Timmermans would be the person who I would love to talk to. I would like to talk politics with him and ask him, ‘Where are we going in the Netherlands, in Europe, in Poland...?’ What's your top tourist tip? We have a tradition in our family that we go to every province of the Netherlands, and we go to a small town or the main town of the province. We spend two days there and we eat something traditional and we try to talk to people because they have different dialects. We also go to the provinciehuis [county hall]. We have a collection of photos of provinciehuizen! We still have three or four provinces to go and these are our weekends away. There are four of us in our family, so everybody has to prepare a couple of provinces and then they are the guide. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands What still surprises me is the water. Every country has neighbours and there are challenges with the politics. One of the neighbours of the Netherlands is water. You cannot talk to water. You cannot negotiate with water. Yet they still manage to make peace with water so that the water is not such a huge threat. It was not so long ago when they showed here on TV that in the neighbourhood of Nijmegen they’re going to let the water flood because the level is so high. How they do this is really remarkable and admirable. We could all learn from this how to deal with the things which we cannot change. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? If I had only 24 hours, then I would use my pragmatic side. Not to disappoint you, but I think I would start to pack. I could make something up like I would go and see the sunset, but it’s just not true! But I am also attached to people, so most probably there would be some kind of party - maybe not huge, but I would like to invite all of those people who helped me to become who I am here in the Netherlands. You can find out more about Daria’s business consultancy at condible.com. For more information about the Polish professional women's association, go to: www.polishprofessionalwomen.com. Daria Kanters was talking to Deborah Nicholls-Lee  More >


‘I’m incredibly touched by the Dutch dedication to the memories of the WWII liberators’

‘I’m incredibly touched by the Dutch dedication to the memories of the WWII liberators’

Sherry Keneson-Hall works for the US foreign service and has lived in 38 cities to date. During her stint in the Netherlands so far, she has done the Vierdaagse in Nijmegen, swum in the sea on New Year's Day and developed a passion for Limburgse vlaai with cherries. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I joined the Foreign Service right after graduate school in 2002, six months after 9/11. I went through formation classes, learned French, and began my first two year post in Guinea that December. Then I moved to Brussels where I served almost two and a half years and then on to Sofia in Bulgaria for three years and Prague for another three years. Now I’m on my fifth overseas tour here in the Netherlands. I’d been to the Netherlands before while I was living in Belgium to visit Delft, the Keukenhof and Amsterdam. I also came over as part of the delegation when former POTUS Barack Obama was here during the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit and it was a lot of fun. We do have some say when we apply for postings. We call that ‘lobbying,’ and it involves applying, sending out resumes, calling, and interviewing for jobs. As you might imagine, Den Haag is very sought after and it’s a very nice place to come for a posting. It was a hard battle to get here, but I’m very happy that it all worked out. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? I feel like a bit of a nomad. I was a military child and my stepfather was in the army so we moved quite often. So I now consider myself an ‘eternal expat’. Every few years, my family and I move to another place. After a little while, I also start to itch for a new adventure. However, my kids are now getting to an age where they’re getting less enthusiastic about moving. It becomes harder when you become a teenager and start to form real roots and things like that. So we’ll see how everything goes when we leave the Netherlands in a few years. How long do you plan to stay? We’ll get to stay here for three years, total, and I wish we could stay longer. In the Foreign Service, it’s a three year posting for ‘nice’ tours and for ‘hardship’ tours it’s generally two years. Then there’s ‘unaccompanied’ tours that are dangerous and you can’t bring your family. Those are a one year posting. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I studied Dutch at the Foreign Service Institute for almost six months. For postings, we usually do eight hour days, five days a week for 24 weeks in order to learn a language. It became so much harder when I actually got to the Netherlands, though, and I feel like my Dutch was better before I arrived. So many people here speak good English and it’s difficult to actually use your Dutch. I also thought it was funny that I was assigned to read one of the Harry Potter books in Dutch while I was in training. A lot of the names are different. In the original, the school is called Hogwarts. In the Dutch version, it’s Zweinstein. I thought that was entertaining, but it happens in other countries, too. I remember watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer in French and the character Xander’s name had been changed to Alec. What’s your favourite Dutch food? I adore Limburgse vlaai, or, as they call it in down in Limburg, ‘vla-uh’. I really like the cherry kind, which is like really good cherry pie. I’m kind of happy that it’s only available down in Limburg because I’d eat it more often if it was closer. How Dutch have you become? I keep trying to become more Dutch. I did the Rotterdam Marathon this year and the Vierdaagse, the ‘Four Day March’, in Nijmegen. At the same time though, I cannot ride my bike when it’s rainy, windy, or snowy. I’m not as brave as my Dutch friends. But I also did the Nieuwjaarsduik last year, when people dive into the North Sea on New Year's Day in Scheveningen. Even if you don’t go in the water, it’s still fun to go down there for the atmosphere. It’s probably more fun than actually doing it. It was really cool...and very cold. That sand was freezing! I didn’t know how cold sand could get since I’d never been barefoot on a beach in the middle of winter before. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Johannes Vermeer: I’ve been crazy about Vermeer since 1995 when I was in college. An exhibit came to the States with 21 of his 35 existing works. It was all over the place and featured in National Geographic. It seemed to be everywhere but I didn’t get to see it. I still became enamoured with Vermeer and would love to spend a day with him. Corrie Ten Boom: She was not only an incredibly brave person but I think she’s symbolic of the thousands of Dutch people who tried to hide and save their Jewish friends, neighbours, and colleagues during World War 2. She is truly inspirational and most American school children read The Hiding Place as part of the curriculum. Xander Bogaerts: I am a diehard Boston Red Sox fan and I think it’s incredibly cool that they have a member of the Netherlands national team playing for them. My eldest son is named Xander as well. We call him ‘X Man,’ which is Bogaerts’ nickname, too. He’s someone I’d really like to meet. What’s your top tourist tip? It’s not very well known but there’s the Drents Museum in the city of Assen. They currently have an amazing exhibition called ‘The American Dream: American Realism: 1945 - 1965’. So they have works by Hopper, Warhol, Rockwell, Wyeth, and Estes. It’s incredible. The amount of art they’ve been able to pour into it is really top notch and they’re from some of the best museums in the world. The city is decked out in American flags and they’ve even built their own Statue of Liberty that will be in one of the main squares for the duration of the exhibition. Assen is also a beautiful city. It’s very quaint and I don’t think many tourists ever go there. It would definitely be off the beaten path but also very special. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands Something that struck me as incredibly touching was the Dutch dedication to the memories of the liberators during World War II. As the public affairs person at the embassy, I often put together the programmes for the Operation Market Garden commemorations or the Nijmegen ‘Crossing of the Waal River’ commemoration. Every year, children in Nijmegen write poems and essays about the crossing and the American troops who did that. There are more than 8,000 American soldiers buried in Margraten at the Netherlands American Cemetery. I think there’s about 1,300 graves for soldiers that were never identified and they’ve all been adopted by Dutch citizens since 1946. There’s currently a waiting list of about 400 Dutch families that are waiting to adopt one. I find that incredibly touching, especially coming from a military family, that they haven’t been forgotten. I wish more Americans knew about that. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I really want to cross the Waddenzee. You can only do it during certain times of the year, though, usually in the summer. There’s a programme that I was going to do with a friend last year but the stars didn’t line up. It takes about eight to ten hours because you have to do it quickly enough to avoid getting trapped after the sea rolls back but you can literally walk from the Netherlands to the islands. It seems like something that would be so cool because it’s a UNESCO protected site and it’s something that you can only really do here. It’s definitely on my bucket list for the Netherlands. Sherry Keneson-Hall was talking to Brandon Hartley  More >


‘The Dutch make the most of the sun at every opportunity’

‘The Dutch make the most of the sun at every opportunity’

Online marketing expert Veronica Guguian is a Romanian national who moved to Amsterdam nearly eight years ago in search of adventure. She is a big fan of the Dutch diary culture, would like to meet Anouk and says stamppot reminds her of home. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My story is quite boring really. I fit in the classic pattern: I followed my partner here. He came to the Netherlands to work in IT and we thought 'let's have an adventure', so I came with him. Back in Romania I was involved in e-commerce and I had an e-commerce platform and a concept store selling French designer clothes. I used to organise fashion shows to promote them and had a lot of fun. Once in the Netherlands, I decided to get a job with a company to learn about Dutch work culture. This is how I started working at Expatica as a marketing consultant and account manager. I’ve since started up my own online marketing company Spin Ideas.  How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? I am an international. I believe we define ourselves through the life we live, our friends and our experiences. My friends are from all the corners of the world, same as my clients, and I love it. I feel I am learning so much from them; about life, different cultures, different ways of doing business. And because of that, I consider myself an international. How long do you plan to stay? I am not sure. I believe in: 'Never say never'. If you would have told me six months before moving the Netherlands, that is would happen, I would have never thought it  possible. And yet, here  I am, almost eight years later. One thing I know for sure - I will not die here. There is a whole world out there waiting to be explored. And I would love to live in a warm country, even if only for a short while. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I understand Dutch but besides ordering my food in Dutch, I don’t speak it. I want to, but is hard to get out of the comfort zone. And because everyone in Amsterdam and the Netherlands speaks English, it is hard to get motivated. Of course my mother tongue is Romanian, so I've spent the past few years getting my English up to scratch. Maybe now I should focus on Dutch. What's your favourite Dutch food? Stamppot. It is comfort food and reminds me of home. In Romania we eat a lot of stews in the winter, and the main ingredients - potatoes and sausage -  are the same. I've never cooked it myself, but my Dutch friends cook it for me - all sorts of different varieties. It reminds me a little of home. How Dutch have you become? I've become pretty Dutch in some ways - it suits me. I am an organised person, and always need to have a plan, so I love the way everyone uses a diary and plans in advance. It is hard to be efficient and productive without a plan. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Anouk – I love her songs. Piet Mondriaan – for him art was not a reflection of the reality, it was higher than that. He one said 'art should be above reality, otherwise it would have no value for man'. I would have loved to talk to him about how he viewed the world. This will sound odd probably, but the person who created the Walter's - The Walter Woodbury Bar on Javastraat. They've created several other locations on the same street and all are great. I would like to meet the person behind Walter's because I would love to work with them. What's your top tourist tip? Don’t stay in the touristy areas of Amsterdam. If you go couple of streets further out, no matter what area you are, you will discover the real city. Just enter a neighbourhood café, grab a coffee or a fresh mint thee and start talking to the locals. This is how you will get to know Amsterdam. And of course, don't forget to visit Haarlem either. It's only 15 minutes away by train and is a great place to find good food and to go shopping. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands The Dutch make the most of the sun at every opportunity. Before moving here, I took the sun for granted. But this changed when I moved here and saw how depressing it can get without the sun. I remember, not long after I moved, I saw a business man in a beautiful suit. The sun had just come out after a week of solid rain and I watched him take off his jacket and lie on the grass to enjoy the sun. I started doing the same thing. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would rent a boat and cruise the Amsterdam canals. Of course, in this scenario it is high summer, around 30 degrees, and there is not a cloud in the sky. You can find out more about Spin Ideas via the website,  Facebook and Twitter. Veronica Guguian was talking to Robin Pascoe  More >


‘The beaches on Terschelling are amazing – you can take fantastic photos’

‘The beaches on Terschelling are amazing – you can take fantastic photos’

Veteran journalist Andy Clark has worked for BBC Radio, Radio Television Hong Kong, and Radio Netherlands Worldwide. The Middlesbrough native, who would like to interview Geert Wilders and loves the Dutch islands, currently lives in Leiden. He now hosts a popular podcast titled Here in Holland. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was working in Hong Kong where I met my wife, Julie, who is also British. We got together and lived there for a while. Then we decided to come back to Europe. My wife grew up here, although she’s British, in the town of Oegstgeest. She was an expat kid for many years and said, ‘well, home for me is the Netherlands’. I said, ‘OK, let’s give it a whirl’. That was in 1998 and I’ve been here ever since. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? International, I guess. I don’t really like these labels very much, to be honest with you, but I would pick ‘international’ out of that list. I’m British but I have Dutch nationality as well now. I took the Dutch nationality exam just a few months ago because of the uncertainties surrounding Brexit. I was eligible to keep my British passport and all. Now I have a Dutch passport as well so it was a bit of a no brainer. How long do you plan to stay? I’ve got no plans to leave as long as everything’s working well and I’m happy and our kids are happy. I have three daughters here. The oldest one, Bethany is 20 and she’s at Utrecht University studying medicine. There’s also Zoe, who’s 17, and our youngest, Melissa, is 15. Bethany was born in Hong Kong and she was six months old when we came here. The younger two were born here in Leiden at LUMC so they’ve all been brought up as Dutch kids in a British family. Zoe and Melissa will be leaving school and starting university in the next couple of years so I can’t see myself going anywhere anytime soon. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch. I learned while I was working for Radio Netherlands. I was lucky enough that my employer encouraged me and my international colleagues to learn Dutch. They facilitated that very well by having a Dutch teacher come in once a week. I continued by taking lessons a few years later. When my kids started going to school here, that was really the time when things started to take off. The first six months or year of your kids being in school is kind of nice and there’s a certain charm that comes with being the only English parent at the school playground. After a while though, you feel a bit embarrassed, especially after one year, two years, or even three years go by and you’re still not speaking Dutch very well. That’s when I felt the pressure to improve my Dutch and really get involved in Dutch society. What’s your favourite Dutch food? Let’s go with erwtensoep. It’s nice in the winter when the cold, wet, and miserable Dutch weather has taken hold. It’s great to warm yourself up with some erwtensoep and some nice Dutch bread. It’s good and practically a central heating system for the body for all those Dutch winter days. How Dutch have you become? Quite Dutch, I think. I speak Dutch and work in Dutch quite a lot as well. So more and more, I would say. I work for myself now since the beginning of this year. I work in a communal office space with lots of Dutch people and Dutch companies. So I don’t know what percentage that would make me. Maybe 70% Dutch? I think you’ll never become 100% Dutch as an international. There’s something in your background and there’s all those cultural references that you can’t really catch up with. Sometimes when I’m talking with my Dutch friends, they’ll mention something that used to be on TV or something they used to do as kids that I just don’t have. I think, to some extent, you’re always a bit of an outsider but the Dutch are pretty easy-going and they accept everybody as well. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Johan Cruyff: He’s still recognised as *the* best footballer or at least one of the best footballers of all time. He also had his own unique brand of philosophy and unique views on life. His whole story is kind of counter-intuitive and he followed his own path the whole time. So it would be great to talk to him and ask what motivated him. He was the hero of the Ajax but then he went on to play for their arch-enemies, the Feyenoord. Then there’s all his experiences with the Dutch national team. It’s all so fascinating and such a part of Dutch culture. Herman Brood: He was a cult figure, a Dutch cultural figure, and kind of a marginal figure in some ways. He was interesting in that he was an artist but also a musician and a drug addict. He threw himself off the top of the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam in the end so it’s a tragic, rock ‘n’ roll story of a misunderstood, pained artist. It would be fascinating to talk to him about what his drivers were and ask him for his thoughts on Dutch culture; maybe have him take a look at what’s happening now and ask him for his take on it all. Geert Wilders: Not because I’m a fan, but it would be interesting to sit down with him and ask, ‘What motivates you’? As a journalist and as a podcaster now as well, I think it could be a fascinating conversation if he was prepared to talk openly about what he’s really trying to do and why. I’d like to do a critical interview with Wilders and take him apart, which I don’t think would be so difficult. He protects himself and, like Donald Trump, he uses Twitter the whole time to communicate. He only comes out from behind the curtain when it suits him. I think it would be great to sit him down and surround him with microphones and cameras and say, ‘OK, you’re not moving for an hour and a half. Here we go!’ What’s your top tourist tip? Go to the islands, if you can. In a single day, that might be tricky, though. Texel and Terschelling are absolutely fantastic. The beaches on Terschelling are amazing. They’re so wide and you can take fantastic photos. It’s a great place for walks and there’s a fantastic feeling of nature, which can be a bit unexpected in the Netherlands. If you’re looking for cities, I’d say head to Leiden. It’s a great alternative to Amsterdam, which is so full of tourists and kitsch these days. Leiden doesn’t really have that and there’s so many great things to do. Otherwise, head to another small city like Delft or Gouda. But my number one tip would be to get to the islands. If you’ve got to pick one, go to Terschelling. Oerol, their arts and cultural festival, which is in June, is a fantastic thing to visit. There’s all these great, big art installations and performances all over the island. With all the nature serving as a backdrop, it’s fantastic. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands The formal rules of engagement in social situations. In some ways, the Dutch can be quite conservative. The shaking of hands, the kissing, and greeting everybody at birthday parties while they all sit in a circle. That’s all quite different from what I’d seen and experienced outside the country. A lot of people have this cliche that Dutch society is super liberal and anything goes but, in day-to-day social engagements, there are rules. If you don’t know those rules or don’t follow those rules then things can get awkward. A lot of expats and internationals struggle with this, especially in the beginning, but it’s something you’ve got to get your head around. You need to think to yourself, ‘OK, this is just how the Dutch operate’. Once you know that, then it’s fine. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I think I would take a mega walk. I would head to the coast and go to either Noordwijk, Zandvoort, or maybe even further. Then I’d walk all the way south to Scheveningen. I’ve done that in the past from Noordwijk and it’s about 20 kilometres. It would be a good way to contemplate all the years in the Netherlands before leaving. If I went down there with some good friends, at the end of it, we’d go for a meal and then back to Leiden to the Bonte Koe, which is a fantastic bar. So a big, massive walk down the beach and then finally finish up at the Bonte Koe with some great Belgian beer. You can check out Andy’s podcast, Here in Holland, by visiting its website or its Facebook page. Andy was talking to Brandon Hartley  More >


‘The red light district is one of the most beautiful parts of Amsterdam’

‘The red light district is one of the most beautiful parts of Amsterdam’

Travel blogger, museum guide and Dutch cheese addict Tea Gudek Šnajdar from Haarlem emigrated from Croatia in 2013 in search of adventure. At work or at play, there is nowhere she’s rather be than at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, marvelling at the Golden Age masterpieces. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband and I wanted to go somewhere abroad, and we had this idea while we were both still studying to go somewhere outside Croatia and get an international experience. When we graduated, we said let’s both look for jobs somewhere in Europe. We actually knew very little about the Netherlands before we came, but then my husband got an interview, and then a job offer, and within a month, we were in Amsterdam! It was really fast. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc I would say a little bit of all of them. When I came here I saw myself more as a combination of lovepat and immigrant, but then, today, I think this image of myself has changed. In my job, I work with people from all around the world. I also travel a lot. So, I consider myself today more of an international. How long do you plan to stay and why? I’m not sure, to be honest. I love the Netherlands and now I consider it to be my other homeland, but I don’t really see myself living in one place my whole life. Since I’m getting more and more location-independent in my job, I think that I will probably move somewhere else at some point. It’s sort of harder because now there are not only two of us - now we have a son who is three, and who is really a little Dutchie. He loves it here and it would be a hard decision because of him. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I can have a simple conversation in a restaurant or in a store or supermarket, but you know how it is, whenever I speak in Dutch, they really fix on my accent and then they speak in English. It’s very nice and polite from people here but it’s not helping with my Dutch. I did one of these very fast courses where you can learn a lot in a short time. I did a first level course in Croatia. I also did it twice after I came to the Netherlands, but I never continued to level two. We are now going to hire a tutor to tutor us over Skype. When we first came here, English was the first language I set to work on. I was talking to people in English, I started to work in English... But I think that it’s now time to start to work more on my Dutch. My son is very good at it and the other day, he actually corrected my pronunciation of a word, and I thought, ‘Our three-year-old is now correcting me!’ What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I love their sweets, and especially apple pie. It’s one of my favourite cakes – the way they make it with these large pieces of apple, I really love it. Dutch cheese is also something that I’m a huge fan of. I’m always going to the local farmers’ market. You know how they have these big stands where you can try some cheese and they also recommend nice cheese? I am always there – I love cheese. I even bought myself some of those special knives for cheese and so now we have also have them at home and we eat like pros! How Dutch have you become and why? I think that I have become Dutch on so many levels. I would say that my parenting style is very Dutch. I’m always taking my son around on a bicycle. Even when it’s raining, there are rain suits and rain boots and you’re good to go. We go out in the worst weather! I’m always trying to encourage him to be independent, to try to solve conflicts with other kids. This part of me is very influenced by the Dutch parents here. Lunch here is very light, with only a sandwich or a salad, and then a big dinner at home. It was completely the other way around for me in Croatia. Lunch is the biggest meal for us. It was very hard to get used to it when we first came here because you’d go to the restaurant at 1 o’clock and expect to have first soup, and then sometimes meat, a side dish, and a salad, and so on. But then, the other day, I was preparing my lunch for the office and I realised that I had just taken a slice of bread and two slices of cheese … and I realised, oh yeah, I’ve become a bit Dutch here. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? Jan Steen. He is one of my favourite Dutch painters - not only because he is one of the best of the 17th century, the Golden Age, but also because he includes so much humour in his paintings. There’s a painting in the Rijksmuseum, where you have a couple who are so drunk that they are not aware that there are three men in the back who are robbing them. Or he shows family scenes where a lot of things are happening. It’s so busy, but it’s also messy: children are smoking, drinking wine. I think that we’d have a great laugh together. Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger. She was the wife of Theo Van Gogh and the sister-in-law of Vincent Van Gogh. She was very important because while Vincent Van Gogh was painting he wasn’t earning any money. He sold only one painting during his lifetime. He was always poor. His brother Theo sent him money each month. If you read the letters between them, and between Johanna and Vincent, you can read how supportive she was. After Vincent and Theo died, she is the person who inherited most of Vincent’s paintings and she made him famous. If there wasn’t her, we wouldn’t know so much about him and he wouldn’t be as famous as he is today. This is quite an anonymous person, I think. There is this older man – I would say in his eighties - who lives in Haarlem, who is always dressed in such a traditional way, and each morning when I take my son to the day care, he is always so cheerful with his guitar, singing and playing these Dutch songs and saying hello to everyone on the street. He’s quite a character, but I think that he would be a great person to talk with about the Netherlands and the life here and I would really like to have a cup of coffee with him. Maybe I should just approach him one day, huh? What's your top tourist tip? I always advise people to go to the red light district in the morning. It’s world famous for the night life and the prostitution and it’s very busy in the evening, but in the morning it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the city. It’s very quiet and it’s also the oldest part of Amsterdam. You can really feel the Middle Ages over there. The other thing is to spend one day outside Amsterdam and rent a bicycle and ride a bit in the countryside. Amsterdam is very popular, very nice, but I think that the rest of the Netherlands is also very beautiful and very different from Amsterdam. One of my favourite places is Texel island. I’m always advising people to go to Texel or to take a train ride to The Hague and explore The Hague a little bit. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands When we first came to the Netherlands, I was surprised by the wind. I wasn’t expecting this wind at all. But then, this explained all the windmills! I’m also always surprised by the number of languages Dutch people usually speak. It’s something I really admire. English is not considered to be a foreign language at all and even my neighbour, who is 70-something, speaks fluent English. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go first in the morning to the beach - probably Zandvoort, it’s quite close. I love the beach and the sea here and I’m always amazed by this huge sandy beach and I love walking on it. It’s so relaxing and so beautiful. After the beach, I would go to the Rijksmuseum: it’s my favourite place in Amsterdam. I would just walk through the Gallery of Honour and take a look at all the paintings over there. And then I would probably finish the day with apple pie and a koffie verkeerd in the museum restaurant. I see the Netherlands as a country with a harsh climate and history, but also as a country of courageous people, who made of it one of the best countries in a world - and you can really feel it in these two places. You can follow Tea’s travels via her blog Culture Tourist or find out about her tours here. Tea was talking to Deborah Nicholls-Lee.  More >


‘I’m one of those people who loves the rain, so I’m in the right place’

‘I’m one of those people who loves the rain, so I’m in the right place’

In search of an affordable university course in English, Somaye Dehban left her hometown of Tehran to build a new life in Utrecht. Some 13 years later, she is a Dutch-speaking, pancake-loving, echte Nederlander, with a shiny new Dutch passport. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came here to study. I have a degree from Iran in Applied Mathematics and Computer Sciences, but I was more a Social Sciences and Humanities person and wanted to study in this field in English. The UK was very expensive and America was very difficult with Iranian nationality. I had a friend who did her PhD at Utrecht University … and I came across University College Utrecht [a Liberal Arts and Sciences college which is a faculty of Utrecht University] and I applied and I got in. I came in January, so one of my first impressions was the rain. I’m one of those people who actually loves the rain, so I’m in the right place. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? It’s a question of identity. My identity has evolved over time. I don’t call myself an expat and I didn’t come here for love. I don’t see those words describing me very much. I count myself very Dutch. At some point I emigrated here, but I’m now Dutch. My Iranian heritage is part of the package that I have, but it’s not my identity. How long do you plan to stay? I’m not going to leave. I call this country my home. Here, I can be who I want to be. I don’t want to make it an ideal place and say, ‘oh, this is paradise’ - it has its own dilemmas and challenges. But I still call it home because I feel very safe here – physically safe, and also, from a social perspective, I have the space to grow and I can apply for any job I want. And from a political stance, I can criticise the government and know that I am not going to be taken into custody. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes. When I came here, German was my second language and so I could identify [Dutch] words when I heard them in the street. I took a crash course in 2009 and that brought me to B2 level in the Dutch language. I’m moving more and more towards making it my work language. The challenge is that, the moment that I start speaking Dutch, my accent is a lot louder than my actual sentences, so the Dutch people just switch back to English. What’s your favourite Dutch food? Pancakes! Because you can make so many different varieties. I knew about pancakes from back home where I was born, but we have only one type and that was with meat and spices, and here we don’t eat things like that. When I saw it was a flat, kind of bread … it was very surprising for me. As a mum, when I ask my kids what they want for dinner and they say ‘pancakes’, I feel over the moon, because that’s the easiest thing you can do! How Dutch have you become? I can say that ‘Ik ben een echte Nederlander’ and I have found that I have become very direct. I have learned to ask directly when I want something. When you are a connector, you need to ask for things a lot. Instead of beating around the bush, I just say what I want to say. I have also learned how and when to compromise - and when not to. My parenting style is definitely very Dutch. I encourage my boys to play in the mud. I let them discover their environment and, if they fall, I go to them, I stand by them, and I tell them to stand up on their own. I like this Dutch attitude that the kids, when they turn 18, go and live on their own. I am very much preparing them for that moment by asking them to help around the house and do chores. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Anton Corbijn: I just love his style of photography. One of his movies, ‘Control’, really affected me. Once in a while, I just sit and watch it with a glass of red wine. He has a very great artistic view and I hope to one day meet him and do a project with him, in one way or another. The former queen, Beatrix: She was queen when I came to the Netherlands and I really like her – she’s so elegant and lovely. I would ask her about the controversy over her father. I’m very interested to see how she views it now and what she has to say about it. Pim Fortuyn: When he was assassinated, we heard about it even back in Iran. It was one of those events that shook many people. I think if he was still alive, we wouldn’t have a Geert Wilders. Maybe we would have a more moderate right-wing politician - although he didn’t call himself right wing; he always distanced himself from the label. What’s your top tourist tip? Once I made a trip with my mother from Utrecht to Texel. We went to Central Station in Utrecht and then picked a number and counted that number down from the departure board to see which train we would end up on. It was like a zig-zag. We just went around Holland, and at every station where we got off, we walked around a little bit, found a café and had a coffee. We started at around 10 in the morning and I think at around 9:30 in the evening we arrived in Den Helder. We stayed the night and the next day we took the boat to Texel. This was the best trip of our life. We have been travelling together over the last 10 years and still, whenever we sit together and review our memories, this is the best. Just buy one of these open tickets that is valid for a day and simply get on a train and see different places. One of those issues that we take for granted is that literally everywhere in Holland is accessible by public transport - just benefit from it and enjoy that. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. Back in Iran the air pollution is very high, and it was very amazing for me that I could actually see the blue sky here. The Dutch are always complaining about the weather, but when it’s summer here, everybody goes on holiday to another country! They know that for 10 months of the year it’s going to rain and from a very young age they keep telling kids that rain is terrible and then, when it’s summer time and the weather is actually quite good here, they all pack up and go camping in France! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I think I would get the best apple pie from Limburg and then go to the best brewery in Leiden, where they have over 150 types of beer. So, I take my cake and I go to the beer place and then I invite my five closest friends. First, we will have a beer and then we will eat the apple pie. I would take it very slow. And I would go to the sea, for sure. I love the Dutch sea. And I would just sit and watch. You can find out more about Somaye and her latest campaign on CrowdPress. For information about her connecting and fundraising services visit yourfundingnetwork . Somaye Dehban was talking to Deborah Nicholls-Lee  More >


‘The Dutch are sometimes more emotional than they claim they are’

‘The Dutch are sometimes more emotional than they claim they are’

Belgian Peter Vandermeersch has been editor of the NRC newspaper since 2010 and now has no intention of living anywhere else but Amsterdam. He misses long Belgian lunches and still hates karnemelk but is planning to become Dutch so he can vote in the national elections. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came here in a rather special way because I was elected editor of the NRC in 2010, the best newspaper in the Dutch language. Professionally it was much more exciting to work here - my dream come true. My wife is a lobbyist and she stayed in Brussels. One weekend I go back there and one weekend she comes here. We said we would do this for a year but it has now been seven years. We'll probably change the arrangement when my son completes secondary school. It would be nice to live together again. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc ? Sometimes I say I am a Vlaming who got lost in Holland and sometimes I say I am a Dutchman who was accidently born in Flanders. But I don't really consider myself as an expat or an immigrant ... it's a bit strange. Obviously I'm not Dutch... I'm a sort of inbetween. How long do you plan to stay? I plan to stay for the rest of my life. I am so happy here both professionally and personally.  I love Amsterdam, I love the culture, I love the way people behave. So that is why I have started the process of becoming Dutch. I want a Dutch passport. I can do everything I want here. I work here, I pay my taxes, I build up my pension but there is one thing I cannot do and that is vote.  And I want to do that. Its important that I can take part in that celebration of democracy. I can vote in Amsterdam and in Europe but not for the Tweede Kamer. I would lie if I said I do not mind about giving up my Belgian nationality but wanting to become Dutch is more important. But it will be a bit strange not to be formally Belgian. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Well of course my accent is very Flemish and I try not to speak with a Dutch accent because I hate it when Flemish people try to speak Dutch - they come out with a strange mixture. But my accent has changed. When I give interviews in Flanders people say that I sound so Dutch. Dutch people can make the Flemish very angry by claiming they are not speaking Dutch. Its the same language with the same vocabulary and same organisation, the Taalunie, in charge of the rules. But of course there are different expressions and I can make the staff here wonder what on earth I am talking about at times. What's your favourite Dutch food? I have to say one of the biggest cliches in Belgium about the Netherlands is that you can't get a decent meal in Holland. And that is just not true, especially in the bigger cities, you have excellent cuisine. But I really miss the lunch culture in Belgium and Brussels, and in journalistic circles. It is very important at 12.30 to go out to lunch and to stay out for two hours... lunch is part of work. When you meet politicians in Belgium it is work, with a bottle of wine on the table. It is very strange to sit here behind my desk eating my salad or broodje gezond. I still hate karnemelk but when we do go out for lunch and there are no croquettes on the menu, I am the first to say that is what I want. And drop (liquorice)... the secretaries always have big bowl on their desk and when a new one joins the team, I always explain that bowl has to be kept filled up. How Dutch have you become? In Flanders I had a reputation for being straight forward, a little bit hard, always saying what I thought - so I apparently already had all those aspects of the Dutch identity. But of course I am extremely Flemish as is my accent. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Rembrandt van Rijn - I am so obsessed by what he did in the 17th century. But then, perhaps I should pick Van Gogh. I was a correspondent in Paris for five years and I often took people to visit his grave in Auvers. It was always very emotional. Johan Huizinga:  He's an early 20th century historian but was very influential when I was studying and I thought he was a great writer. Mata Hari, the spy: She was very sensual and very beautiful and she had such an interesting life. She was spying for everybody and going to bed with too many men. Of course, this all took place in the First World War which is much more important to the Belgians than the Dutch, but a subject I am very interested in. What's your top tourist tip? I have to say since the Rijksmuseum has been renovated I always send visitors there. And it might be cliched but I would also say a boat tour. More people in Amsterdam should do it, even if you live here. You see the city from another perspective. I also go to the Adam Tower on the IJ because I love the view. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands The one thing I find very emotional and surprising is the one minute's silence on May 4 to remember the World War II. I knew there was a ceremony on the Dam but not that it was marked everywhere else. This year I was making a reservation in a restaurant and they asked me if I realised that it was May 4 and that there would be a minute's silence. And indeed, just before eight the music was turned down and everyone went quiet. I think it is beautiful and emotional. And it is interesting that the Dutch are sometimes more emotional than they claim they are. They always say they are so sober and down to earth. But they also have these really wonderful traditions which I love. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go to my favourite restaurant Kaagman & Kortekaas for the last time - it is excellent, one of the best in the world. I think I would take my bike and cycle from here maybe to Hoorn. I have one of these typical Dutch bikes with a crate... I'd go north  past Edam and Volendam and follow the sea. It's so Dutch. But I would cycle first and eat later, of course. Peter Vandermeersch's book 'Ik Zou Zo Graag Van Jullie Houden' was published in September. Peter Vandermeersch was talking to Robin Pascoe  More >


‘If someone says “we’re going to meet at 10am” we really do meet at 10am’

‘If someone says “we’re going to meet at 10am” we really do meet at 10am’

Carlos M. Roos relocated to Leiden from Caracas in 2008 to pursue a master’s degree. Nine years later, the Venezuelan native teaches at a local university, when he’s not working on his doctorate and a series of innovative musical projects. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came over looking for a very specific master’s programme, which was Philosophy of Art. At the time, that wasn’t the most popular subject out there. I found something along those lines in Bologna, Italy but it wasn’t offered in English. There was also one in Norway but it was a PhD programme. Finally, I came across the website for Leiden University and found one for masters students that had the content I wanted to study and research. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? Right now? An expat, I suppose. For a while, I was more of an international. I spent two years in Leiden and then I moved to Brussels in 2010 where I started a research project. It gave me the opportunity to travel over the world. I had the chance to visit many countries in Southeast Asia, both East and West Europe, and Northern Africa. I was never in the same place for very long. It was great but, after a while, I got tired. My contract ended and I came back to the Netherlands. Not because of a relationship with a girlfriend or anything like that. For me, it was a relationship with the city, with Leiden. I liked it very much. How long do you plan to stay? I would like to stay as long as I can. I feel a lot of hope here. I come from a massive and chaotic city. Sometimes that’s fun and sometimes it isn’t. I appreciate the scale of this town. It’s a place that seems conceived for actual human beings. You can get from Point A to Point B by walking or on your bike in no time. Try doing that in Caracas, Los Angeles, or Moscow. I also like the straightforwardness of people here. No filter. It’s like my old man says, ‘you know what’s going to kill you’. So you know what’s going to happen and that’s not the case in every culture. Elsewhere, people say one thing but they have something else in their mind. It can be a hard game to play but I definitely prefer this way of interacting. Oh, and the landscape is pretty cool. No mountains, I’m a fan of mountains, but I remember when I was moving back to Leiden from Brussels. I was on a train and we cut across a field that was filled with little cows and it was so green. I remember thinking, ‘Dude, this is beautiful!’ Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? The biggest piece of the puzzle is the language. In order to really join this community and all its social, political, and professional circles, both in the city and the country, I definitely need to know Dutch. When I was first here, I learned informally while speaking with friends. After I moved to Belgium, I took a class for six months, just the basics. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been trying to use Dutch but, because of my research, I have to study and use German. My mental box for Germanic languages has really been taken up by German. I feel like, right now, I can’t speak any Dutch. I feel like I’ve got a salad in my head of different terms and words. The real problem is having the time to invest. I like learning languages but it’s a skill like any other. It’s like going to the gym or surfing. If you stop for a year, your skills will go down. What’s your favourite Dutch food? There’s the widespread belief that there is no such thing as Dutch cuisine. Maybe not like the French have a cuisine, but I think it’s a simply different thing. Take the pastries, for instance, the ones filled with almond paste. When you get them fresh from the bakery, they’re really nice. Or stroopwafels. When you get them right from the pan? Wow, really nice. Herring I do like and they’re great to eat after a party. But rookworsten, the smoked sausages, would have to be my favourite. How Dutch have you become? Do I have to quantify that? I’d say significantly. When I moved to Leiden for the first time from Caracas, there was an element of shock. I could feel that I was entering a different cultural space, but I knew what to expect. I knew that the Dutch were very systematic, organised, and punctual. I was looking forward to it since I come from a comparatively messy place. If someone says ‘we’re going to meet at 10 am’, we meet at 10 am, we get to work, and we’re done by 11. I found that fantastic! Then I moved to Brussels and assumed the Dutch way of doing things was the European way in general. Little did I know, that’s certainly not the case. That was much more of a cultural shock because I was so used to the Dutch way. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Vincent van Gogh. I would like to hear more about that ear of his! But, seriously, I find him to be a very interesting character out of what one can tell from his paintings. He wrote beautiful letters, very insightful ones, with theoretical and philosophical thoughts on how he saw life that were kind of playful, too. Having read some of those and seen his paintings, that gives me an image of what he was like and I’d love to have a cup of coffee with that guy. Rembrandt. A totally different character with a totally different vibe. You can see that in his paintings and he obviously shared a different place in the social structure than Van Gogh. Yet their work would give you a good idea of what Dutch life was like at different points in history. They were not the same at all but I think it was Mark Twain that said ‘it rhymes’. There were points and coincidences that made these two artists resonate with one another. But I would love to talk to Rembrandt about his drawings, not his paintings. There’s something to those drawings and you can see them up in Haarlem. Anouk. I would love to go partying with her! She seems pretty cool and her voice is very representative of Dutch female vocalists. Since I play music, I’ve had the chance to share stages with these singers often. There’s a specific thing with the timber and colour of their voices that I haven’t heard in other countries. It’s not quite a mezzo, it’s like a dark soprano kind of thing they’ve got going on and Anouk totally nails it. What’s your top tourist tip? That’s a tough one. I think the one thing you should see in the country, if you only have a few hours and you’ve got to catch a flight but you want to take home one memory of the Netherlands, I’d choose the Museumplein in Amsterdam. You don’t have to enter the museums. Just go for the vibe. Or there’s the Vlaggenparade in Rotterdam by the Erasmus Bridge. That area is a great place to take a walk and it’s pretty cool. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. The fact that the Dutch had to take the country back from the sea, just like that, out of sheer will. Wow, respect! If not for that, we’d be even more packed into an even tinier piece of land. There would be fish swimming where we’re sitting right now here in Leiden. That is amazing to me. They took it all from nature and, yes, that’s impressive, don’t get me wrong, but the most impressive thing? They keep doing that. It never goes to hell at some point because someone fell asleep. It takes serious discipline and systematic planning, thinking, and acting to achieve this. That’s fantastic. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? There’s two options for me: the contemplative one and the active one. For the first one, I’d just sit with a cup of tea somewhere. This could be at one of my favourite places in Delft, Rotterdam, or Den Haag, but here in town? I would go to a place in the southwest part of Leiden. It’s not a popular tourist destination, but there’s some canals there with a forest. It’s beautiful. I would sit there, drink my tea, and play my guitar. Now the other one? I’d throw a 24-hour in a row party with live music. I don’t know if Leiden would be the place for that but there’s a few places that could work like the Vrijplaats. I’d bring a band, or two bands, and we’d go all night. You can check out Carlos’ musical, visual, and theatrical projects via his website. He also leads The Involved Stage, a performance group based in Leiden. Carlos Roos was talking to Brandon Hartley  More >


‘You can’t bike on the roads in Italy. Here it’s a lot safer, and smoother’

‘You can’t bike on the roads in Italy. Here it’s a lot safer, and smoother’

Sofia and Elena are 11 years old, of British and Italian extraction, and have lived in the Netherlands for three years. Sofia is partial to the Dutch way of adding whipped cream to everything, while Elena thinks Dutch children are much more independent. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Sofia - We ended up here because of my mum’s job. She teaches Year 5 at the [British] school. Before that we were living in Italy. Elena - In Italy we also went to a British school and my mum taught there as well. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? Sofia - I would describe myself as European because I’m half British and half Italian and I’m living in Holland. Elena - I’m going to copy my sister’s answer. How long do you plan to stay and why? Elena - We’ve been here for four years and we think we might stay for another three years. We’re going to decide as a family if we’re going to stay here or if we’re going to move back to Italy. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Sofia - We speak a little bit of Dutch. We get lessons in school. Elena - We have Dutch lessons twice a week at school. And we used to have a girl from our swimming team give us lessons on Saturday morning. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Sofia - I like that there’s lots of whipped cream on everything. I also really like kibbeling. Elena - I like that there’s lots of fries. And stroopwaffels. I like to eat them for breakfast. But we don’t really like hagelslag. How Dutch have you become and why? Elena - I think a bit Dutch. Dutch children as much more independent. We take the train by ourselves to school every day. You couldn’t do that in Italy. In Italy, your parents would drive you to school every day. Here you have a lot more freedom. We meet our friends on the train and walk to school together. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? Sofia - The three princesses! In Italy, they don’t really have a royal family so I would like to meet the ones here. We saw them once at a volleyball tournament. One of the princess [Catharina-Amalia] is a bit older than we are and the other two [Alexia and Ariane] are a bit younger. What's your top tourist tip? Sofia - Go to Trixs. It’s a big indoor trampoline park where you can jump all over, even on the walls. You can play volleyball too. Elena - Or to Duinrell. It’s in Wassenaar and it has twelve indoor water slides. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands Elena - The weather. Sofia - The roads. Elena - Also the roads. In Italy, the roads have potholes that are huge. Here the roads are very well surfaced. Sofia - You can’t bike on the roads in Italy. Here it’s a lot safer. And smoother. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Sofia - I would have a sleepover with friends and go to Trixs. Elena - Me too. I’d meet up with friends and go to Trixs. Or Duinrell. Earlier this year, we asked readers if they knew any children who would like to take part in our 10 Questions section. We had several responses, and Elena and Sofia are the first. Sofia and Elena were talking to Molly Quell  More >


‘Biting into bitterballen is like having flaming lava pour into your mouth’

‘Biting into bitterballen is like having flaming lava pour into your mouth’

Toronto native Matt McNeil decided to forgo a career as a broker in Canada to move to the Netherlands with his girlfriend. They’re now the parents of a baby boy and he’s the proprietor of Coffee Company Leiden, one of the few North American-style coffee bars in the city. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Like so many other people: love. I was studying at the University of Concordia in Montreal and my girlfriend was there doing a half-year exchange. We met at the beginning of her trip and we were pretty much inseparable for the remainder. This was followed by a long-distance relationship that went on for four years. By that point I was out of school and I was working as a business broker, which is sort of like being a real estate agent but for businesses. Something had to change. She was in the middle of her master’s degree so I came over here. I eventually started working at Coffee Company in Amsterdam and things went from there. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I’ve been living here for nine years. I’ve adopted quite a few Dutch habits but, at the same time, I fly the Canadian flag all over the place. I’m very proud of where I come from. Even though I’ve only lived in Canada and the Netherlands, I guess I’d have to say I’m an international. I’m not a huge part of the expat community, aside from the cafe, which seems to be a sort of hotspot for expats in Leiden for some reason. I guess it’s because we were the first North American-style coffee shop in the city. We were here before Starbucks, which is over at the train station. A lot of people, like international students or those here for a short time, aren’t going to get the opportunity to really integrate. This place is recognisable and comforting. They can come in, sit with their laptop and get a cappuccino, which is what they would do back home. This is also one of the obstacles we faced in the early days. Going to a cafe by yourself was not really a part of the Dutch coffee culture. Going out for coffee was something you always did with another person. Some of our older Dutch customers or those from outside the city are still taken aback when we offer them take-away cups. They’re still so used to Douwe Egberts, that black sludge that’s so strong it makes your eyes pop out. How long do you plan to stay? That’s a big question. For the time being we’re staying here. The Netherlands has become our home. Moving again would definitely be a bigger thing now. We’ve got a dog, a cat and a son. There’s a lot more elements in our lives that would make it harder to move again. But our son doesn’t have to enrol in school until he’s four so now would be the time to go live somewhere else for a while. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I took two courses. The first one was at the University of Amsterdam. It was very academic and devoted to grammar and sentence structures. It didn’t work very well for me. Then I took another course from the Learn Dutch Community. We would act out everyday scenarios like going to the supermarket or ordering something in a restaurant. It was more focused on conversations and certain words and then we’d build on that. At one point my girlfriend decided to stop talking to me in English, which helped. Listening to the radio during my daily commute was also great. The morning shows have lots of talking segments and the DJs speak very clearly. Working as a barista in Amsterdam definitely helped, too. I became a sort of novelty for the regulars. I was ‘The Canadian That Works at Coffee Company’. What’s your favourite Dutch food? Vlammetjes. They’re hot, spicy, tasty, fried food. Bitterballen always burn my mouth. On the outside, they’re cool. Then you bite into them and it’s like flaming lava just poured into your mouth. No matter how many times I’ve eaten bitterballen, I always make the mistake of biting into them too early. With vlammetjes, I know they’re hot and the sauce that comes with them is fantastic. They're an underrated bar food and harder to find, but well worth it. How Dutch have you become? I don’t think I’ll ever be fully Dutch because I’ll never understand some of the customs. Right now, I’d say I’m half-Dutch, based on the traits I’ve adopted. Put me in most situations and I can blend in pretty well. But the agendas? Those should be for doctor's and dentist's appointments, not for living your life. That’s too regulated. I threw out my agenda when I graduated from high school and I’ve been happy ever since. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Beatrix. She’s still so revered. When I first got here she was still queen and this sort of force that represented the Netherlands. No matter if people were republican or monarchist, they all respected her. Mino Raiola. He’s a football agent who was born in Italy but moved to Haarlem when he was really young. I’m a big football fan and I’ve read these stories about him and the players he represents. He’s one of those people that, if you’re in his ‘family’, he loves you unconditionally, but if you’re not: get out! There’s stories about Mario Balotelli calling him up and asking: ‘can I borrow your Bentley’ and Raiola saying: ‘yes, OK’. Or showing up to important meetings in a tracksuit. In the world of football, he’s a phenomenon. Escher. You look at his paintings and they’re so perfect. I’m a big fan of realism in art and it’s amazing that artists like him can completely replicate real-world things. Take, for example, his self portraits where he’s reflected in the glass ball. The perspectives he used were great. Then there’s the other paintings that make you wonder where he got his inspiration. How did his mind come up with those crazy and amazing things? What’s your top tourist tip? I think it would have to be Amsterdam but that’s hard. This country has things for everyone and it depends on the person. Some people are huge art fans so I would send them to the Rijksmuseum. If they’re sports fans, I’d send them to the old Olympic Stadium. But if I had to choose only one thing for everyone, even though it’s super touristy, I would say they should take a canal cruise at night. Amsterdam looks so much different after dark and, from the canals, the perspective is something that no other city on the planet can provide. There’s lights from the houses, the buildings, and the bridges that are amazing. Then, if the boat goes down into the Red Light and it’s a Saturday night, there’s this noise that the crowds make and it’s – well, it’s an experience. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands Having to buy cake for other people on your birthday. It’s my birthday: you guys should be buying me cake! I shouldn’t have to show up to work with a cake for everybody else. Birthdays in general and the parties where everyone sits in circles are strange. Having to enter a room and kiss dozens of people before you even get to sit down and then kiss them all again when you leave? No thanks. I prefer to just say ‘hi' ‘to everyone and ask them ‘where’s my cake’? The rituals associated with birthdays make no sense. What’s up with the birthday calendars and why do people put them in their washrooms? I still don’t know the answer. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would probably do as much as I could. In this scenario, I would hope it’s summer so the sun would set late, giving me more time. I’d wake up in the morning, go somewhere for coffee, sit in Vondelpark and read a book, meet friends for lunch at a waterfront cafe, take a boat ride in the evening, and make the most of it. Then I’d get all our friends together at a cafe, sit on the terrace, and drink beer until we all wobbled home on our bikes. I’d pack as much in as I could so, once I left, I could say, ‘there, I’m done’ and leave with no regrets. Matt was talking to Brandon Hartley. He regularly posts photos and information about his branch of Coffee Company on Instagram and the cafe’s Facebook page.   More >


‘Everyone should try and get their head around what Anne Frank went through’

‘Everyone should try and get their head around what Anne Frank went through’

British national Paul Brown has considered himself a Hagenaar for 26 years, eats his herring without bread and pickles and raves about Dutch beaches. Single with one son, Paul is the director of financial advice group Blacktower. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I moved to the Netherlands in the early 1990s for work. I was working in financial services in London, there was a recession in the UK and someone told me about the exciting market working with expats overseas. I wanted to go to Hong Kong. However, the company I had an interview with sent me to Holland instead. I was peed off, but it was a job. I stayed with that firm for a while before joining another firm where I became a partner. Subsequently, in June 1996 I started my own firm, which eventually merged with Blacktower in 2014. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? I'd say that I am an international because although I live here, I travel a lot. Technically I suppose I am an immigrant with an international mindset. How long do you plan to stay? I don't see myself staying in the Netherlands for the rest of my life. I'm restless. A restless immigrant. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? My Dutch is very poor for someone who has been here this long. It's because I've always worked in the expat sector and the Dutch are so fantastic at English. When I've been in the mood to speak Dutch, and it is not as if I don't speak any, I always get a reply in English. I guess you get your best Dutch out of me after a few glasses of wine. I had a girlfriend who was a schoolteacher and she decided we needed to speak Dutch at least one night a week. I was in love so I agreed. The first time we had a rather stilted evening and after that it just became a bit of a chore. The relationship did not last that long. What's your favourite Dutch food? Herring, hands down. No bread, by the tail, dip it in the onions and get it down you. Wonderful. A thing of beauty. And it is very good for you… natural fish oils. I love it. I always have herring on a Monday when I pick my son up from school. And if I go past one of those old-fashioned stalls – what big hands the fishmongers always have – then I'll pull over and have one. How Dutch have you become? Well, I eat herring! I'm not diary driven, I don't wear a white t shirt under my shirt, but as for brown shoes under a blue suit, I'm doing it now! The Dutch are very laid-back and while I am not a confrontational sort of person, the lifestyle here, having come from London, is very different. I've adopted the doe normaal, take it easy kind of approach. Everybody likes the Dutch. People might have issues with the French or the Germans, and the Brits, but I'd like to think I've taken on some of the positive aspects of the Dutch: friendly, calm and doe normaal. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Frank de Boer, because he's just been installed as Crystal Palace manager and that is my team. [This interview took place before De Boer was sacked.] Me and my son bumped into him at Schiphol airport last year and we got a selfie with him. I'd like to meet him again and get another selfie! It's another football person, but I love Martin Jol. I could listen to him all day. He's so Dutch and he is so engaging and nice to listen to. A third person, that's tricky. Queen Maxima. She does seem like quite a character. I'm not sure she was always accepted in the Netherlands, so I think she would have an interesting story to tell. What's your top tourist tip? Lock your bike up properly if you rent one and in the old days I would have said look out for the dog poop, but that has improved a lot. And as a place to go, you can't beat Scheveningen. It's a fantastic beach. I went to the Anne Frank house after I had been here 15 years. It's a box you have to tick when you come here: everyone should try and get their head around what this girl went through. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands How tall everybody is. I've never seen so many unusually tall people in one place. Actually, what really hit me is how flat it really is and how you miss hills. When I drive into England from the Channel Tunnel you go over the brow of a hill and you have this wonderful view... and that always leaves me with a smile on my face. It's only a hill, but because there aren't any hills in my part of Holland, I appreciate it. The Dutch are also super friendly. You could not have King's Day in London. There would be fights and flying glass. You go out in The Hague and people might knock into each other but you are much more likely to hear 'hey jongen' than that aggressive 'what's your problem mate?'. The Dutch also really do go Dutch. I have watched people at the table saying 'no, I didn't have the coffee', and moving the coins around. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go to Scheveningen beach. I've been a Hague guy the whole time I've been here. It's my city. I would have a nice lunch at the beach and… we'll draw a curtain over what would happen next. Paul Brown was talking to Robin Pascoe  More >


‘It baffles me that parts of the Netherlands are 6 metres below sea level’

‘It baffles me that parts of the Netherlands are 6 metres below sea level’

British national Lucy Borne is celebrating her third year in Amsterdam this summer and says she has fallen completely in love with the city. A plant buff, Lucy currently works as global publicity and marketing manager at the post-production studio Smoke & Mirrors. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I ended up here completely by chance. I came on holiday with my boyfriend during the sun-soaked summer of 2014 and never looked back. I'd just finished a contract so I had no ties to the UK. Having very little knowledge of the city before visiting, Amsterdam completely stole my heart. I still to this day feel Amsterdam has a unique spirit. I luckily get to walk via the canals to work every day. Each day, still, this chocolate-box town stuns me. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? When asked where I’m from, my response is always the same: ‘I live in the Netherlands’. I'm very proud to live here but I was born in Britain. I don't think I’ve referred to myself as any of the above. Take from that what you will. How long do you plan to stay? Amsterdam will always hold a place in my heart. Moving to a new country has been an incredibly rewarding experience. It has taught me about myself and given me confidence that only comes from being out of your comfort zone. I'd love the opportunity to learn from another culture again. I want to plant some roots in Amsterdam and then see where the wind carries me. Hopefully somewhere warm! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Een klein beetje. What’s your favourite Dutch food? Oh, that’s tricky. Grabbing a cold beer with a kaasstengel and a few bitterballen has become a treasured winter delight. But my ultimate favourite would have to be hachee. How Dutch have you become? Despite not speaking Dutch, I’d say I’ve ticked most Dutch boxes. Herring though? No way, never! One Dutchism I’m happy to have acquired is their honesty. There is something hugely empowering in being true to yourself and, with no frill of emotion, being able to communicate that, especially as a Brit.  Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Jan Sluijters, because during my first week in Amsterdam I visited the Stedelijk Museum where his work 'The Ball Tabarin' completely took my breath away. I've been back since just to visit that painting and I would love to pick his brains about the scene he captured so vividly in that painting. Mata Hari, she had such an overwhelming amount of chapters to her life; from falling into wealth, becoming a circus horse rider in Paris, then became a pioneer for exotic dancing and most famously her time as a spy. She has an endless list of interesting turns, admittedly some are dark - but what a fascinating person to meet. And thirdly, the original owner of Reguliersgracht 1. It was our first proper home in Amsterdam and will, for the rest of my life, be special to me. All 30 square metres of it. What’s your top tourist tip? Hire a boat for at least three hours, grab a picnic, and sail around the city. It’s the best way to take in the magic of this place. Not once in my three years have I gone on a boat and not been completely spellbound by the journey. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands It still baffles me that, at its lowest points, the Netherlands is six metres below sea level! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Simple pleasures. I'd start with a stroll along the Bloemenmarkt. It can get crowded, but at around 8 am on a weekday, it's a plant lover's paradise. I’d then hop on a bike and cycle around the Vondelpark with my favourite playlist in my ears. Then I'd make my way to the canals and jump on a boat with my pals and giggle the evening away, perhaps finishing off at the Eye Museum, where it all began, for a glass of bubbles. Lucy Borne was speaking to Brandon Hartley.  More >


‘Locals are extra friendly to me when I try to speak their language’

‘Locals are extra friendly to me when I try to speak their language’

“I moved here for love!” Graphic designer Yihmay Yap (40), hails from Malaysia and moved to Rotterdam for love. Two and a half years later, she’s still learning the language and discovering her favourite places in the country. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It’s a long story, but in short, I moved here for love! My husband is from Rotterdam and we met when he was traveling around Asia and I was living in Singapore. We initially met in Singapore but we decided to meet up in Vietnam. That’s where we found out that we clicked really well. So he decided to move to Singapore to be with me and he ended up living there for seven years. But then he moved back to the Netherlands and when I came to visit after a year, he proposed! So that’s when I packed up and moved to Rotterdam to start a new life! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? I am from Malaysia, but I’ve been living outside of my home country for more than half of my life. I wouldn’t call myself an expat because it sounds exclusive. I don’t want to categorise myself into a specific group. I am just living my life; trying to experience difference cultures wherever I am, whenever I can. How long do you plan to stay? I don’t have any concrete plans on how long I’ll be living here. I just take things one step at a time and see what life brings to me. Although I would love to move back to Southeast Asia one day, because I feel that my heart is still in Singapore and Malaysia. My husband, however, isn’t a fan of moving back there because housing is expensive and he thinks things are ‘crazier’ there. But I still keep my door open. I don’t know where else I’d move to. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I enrolled in a Dutch class when I came here two and a half years ago. Language is not really my forte, so it’s taking some time. I still try to use my broken Dutch whenever I can because I realise that the locals are extra friendly to me when I try to speak their language. When my colleagues found out that I am learning Dutch, they speak to me in Dutch to help me practice. I think that it is super sweet of them to do that. What's your favourite Dutch food? I love boerenkool! I fell in love with this dish the first time I tried it many years ago. I was still living in Singapore at the time and I would even try to make it over there. I also really like haring maybe it’s because I really love sashimi and sushi and it’s pretty close to that. I like the ritual of eating it whole too. But speaking of food, I do miss the food back home in Singapore and Malaysia. Even if you’re able to find a lot of international restaurants here, it’s just never the same. How Dutch have you become? I fiets every day to work, even when it’s raining. But I’m not sure if that makes me Dutch. I lost my bike a while back though and on that day my husband told me, ‘you’re a real Dutch person now!’ (laughs). Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I honestly can’t think of anyone in particular. I am an easy going person, so for me, if I meet you it’s nice, but if not, then it’s also okay. I am a fan of art and design but I’m not die-hard about it. Even with famous actors, I’m not too privy... Okay, maybe Leonardo DiCaprio! But he’s not Dutch (laughs). What's your top tourist tip? Even if it may seem intimidating, go and rent a bike. It’s a good way to feel like a local and it’s the best way to explore the city! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands There are quite a few things that have surprised me here. Aan tafel is one of them and it’s interesting to me how Dutch people have their meal on time every day. In Asia we eat hot food at almost every meal, so it’s interesting that warm lunches and breakfasts aren’t common here. Also, I moved here in the winter so there weren’t many people out on the streets. But when spring and summer came it came as a shock that there were so many people out! I’ve also noticed that spontaneous meet ups with friends isn’t common here. Even my inburgering book says that you should always make an appointment. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I feel like I still don’t know the Netherlands well enough. I’ve only been here for a little over two years so I don’t have my favourite places or restaurants picked out yet. I’m still searching for them. To me a places aren’t what makes a city special, it’s the people. So with that said, I would spend my last 24 hours meeting up with all of my friends because to me, their company is what’s most valuable.  More >


‘Invest in a museum card and see as many museums as you can’

‘Invest in a museum card and see as many museums as you can’

Kristin Anderson is a American novelist and her second book has a Dutch travel writer in the lead role. A stroopwafel fan, she would warn tourists not to eat space cake and would like to meet television naturalist Freek Vonk, who recently got chomped on by a shark. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I fell in love with a Dutch man of course. We met at a wedding in Santa Barbara, California where I lived at the time. He was the best man for his Dutch friend and I was the maid of honor for my friend. After his two week stay in the US, we fell for each other and had a long distance relationship, traveling back and forth. Nine months later I quit my job and moved to the Netherlands to live with him. After one year together in Amsterdam, we moved to the U.S. and lived there together for six years before moving back to the Netherlands in 2011 to pursue work opportunities. In 2013 my husband started a masters’ program in theology. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? After six years in the Netherlands, I am half expat, half immigrant, as I identify with both cultures. Although I wrote professionally for others for years, it wasn’t until moved to the Netherlands that I dedicated time to my fiction. How long do you plan to stay? My husband, son and I dream of moving back to the United States, but that dream is constantly shifting. I love living in Western Europe. I have expanded not only my sense of identity but I have also become used to multicultural living. The US has a lot to offer, and California is a wonderful place to live. However, when Trump became president, our desire to move back to the United States diminished. My husband is also finishing his masters and will soon be a Dutch protestant minister. Our future locale will be determined by the position he finds. Who knows: We may end up in Curacao or Maastricht! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Ik spreek Nederlands! I took a beginner’s course in that long-ago year of love when I moved to Amsterdam to be with my then Dutch boyfriend. When we returned to the Netherlands in 2011, I took another course, but I have learned most of my Dutch language skills on the fly, at my workplace and through communicating with others. Many consider me fluent until we start talking at a more in-depth level. I was never asked to take an inburgering course. What's your favourite Dutch food? Rijsttafel. I realise this is Indonesian food, but to be honest, I don’t care for the heavier Dutch foods, and many Dutch consider Indonesian ‘rice table’ as an integral part of Dutch gastronomic history. I do love stroopwafels as well. How Dutch have you become? I have become more direct in my communication, and I have developed a more international perspective that is hard to come by when you live in one, large country. Dutch culture has also infiltrated my writing. In my second novel, The Things We Said in Venice, I created a Dutch travel writer as the male lead character and although this novel is set primarily in Venice, the last third of the story takes place in Amsterdam, The Hague and one other locale. I wrote some of the Dutch conversations in the book, but had native speakers polish them into native Dutch-speak. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet ? Freek Vonk (television naturalist). He’s awesome and wild and if I could bring my son along to meet him, I would score some major mom points. Arjen Lubach (satirical tv show presenter), because he is witty, intelligent and informed. Saskia Noort (novelist). She’s a talented writer and I can read her novels in Dutch. Some of her novels are too gruesome for me, but I really liked Terug naar de kust (Back to the coast) and I still think about the characters even though I read the book a few years ago. I like how she incorporates the Dutch landscape and locations in her novels. What's your top tourist tip? 1. Don’t eat the space cake and then expect everything to be okay. My husband worked for some time after university as a night receptionist in a hotel in Amsterdam. A recurring theme was young visitors from around the world who had eaten space cake and then thought that they were going to die, going absolutely crazy. 2. Invest in a Museum card and see as many museums as you can while here. It’s worth the investment and you will see much more than Van Gogh and Mondriaan. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands The Netherlands is in the top three of the world’s largest fruit and vegetable producers. That is hard to grasp, considering the entire land mass of the Netherlands fits at least 11 times into my home state of California. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Throw a big party at Culpeper strandtent in Scheveningen and invite all of the amazing people I have met here in the last six years to come celebrate my last 24 hours. We would dance, run over the beach, whether it was raining or not and dip our toes into the North Sea. You can find out more about Kristin Anderson and her novels on blog and website  More >


‘I am surprised that I like living here!’

‘I am surprised that I like living here!’

Alma Patist (64), a Filipina married to a Dutchman, has been living in the Netherlands for two decades. She has no time for complaining expats, loves Dutch comfort food and works as a teaching assistant in an international school. How did you end up in the Netherlands? In short, I married a Dutchman. I didn't think that we would ever live in the Netherlands but certain circumstances brought us here. We were in our forties and living in Singapore as expats. Our work took us to different countries but my husband's company closed. Eventually we decided to move to the Netherlands because my husband and our two kids are Dutch, so we decided it was time to come back 'home'. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international ? I don't like to label myself. I am just a human being who has lived in many places! How long do you plan to stay? I'll be here forever. My kids and grandchildren live here and life is kind. The government and the people really look after you. Even if you don't have any money the state will make sure you have what you need. I have a friend who has been here for 20 years and she didn't contribute by working but she has a nice apartment and is on subsidised living. Some people may think that it's not fair but I the way I look at it is, if you can afford to help then you should. My husband and I are comfortable and have property and savings so why not take care of others too? Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I can hold a decent, simple conversation in Dutch but I will admit that it's not very good. I taught myself how to speak Dutch when I first came to visit in 1974. But when I moved here for good 20 years ago, I went to Dutch classes. On good days people understand what I am saying, but on bad days they have no idea what's coming out of my mouth! It can be difficult because sometimes I can't fully express myself. But I have no excuse, I should learn how to speak Dutch better. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I love Dutch comfort food like stampot with endive. In the Philippines our comfort food is arroz caldo and sinigang so it almost hits the spot in the same way. I also like kapucijners which I make at home and I fry up some bacon and onions. With regards to haring, I still haven't been able to enjoy it. I can't stand the smell and texture! How Dutch have you become? I've always just seen myself as a Filipina living in Holland. I suppose Dutch people are said to be direct and opinionated. I have always been that way and maybe living in the Netherlands has made me more like that. I believe that everyone should have rights. It's important that we speak our mind! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I would love to have Van Gogh, Mata Hari, and G. Bruggink over for dinner. I'd love to learn about Van Gogh's life. It would be interesting to find about the line between 'crazy' and 'genius' because I really think that he was a genius. I am also so curious about Mata Hari. She was this beautiful woman who was a spy. Can you imagine how brave she was, especially in that day and age? G. Bruggink was a parish priest in our neighborhood and we were connected in some unspoken way. I don't know what it was about him, but he would just show up on my doorstep when I needed advice or help. What's your top tourist tip? The Netherlands is a beautiful country, so I would advise tourists to see more than just Amsterdam. Another thing would be to see the country through the eyes of a local. When I have visitors, I always show them my daily life so we'll go to the markets and supermarkets. My most recent house guests were from the United States and they just loved looking at all the breads and cheeses at the local supermarket. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands I am surprised that I really like living here! From my experience, there is so much bashing about living here within the ‘expat’ community. They complain about anything and everything – the banking system, the food, and so on. But I can’t stand the complaining and comparisons. Living in the Netherlands is great, I don’t understand it. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd go for a walk in a park, stroll along a market, visit a museum, and then sit down in a corner pub and have a beer and a chat with the regulars. Amsterdam Bos, specifically, is huge and beautiful. Alma Patist runs the blog Alma Matters. She was talking to Marisse Gabrielle Reyes  More >


‘I appreciate how individualism works here, I find it very productive’

Theatre designer Vasilis Apostolatos (44) came to The Hague from Athens for love, and found an outlet for his creativity here. Vasilis teaches at a theatre academy in Maastricht and works with STET, an English language theatre in The Hague. He took time out of his schedule to talk about expat life, love, and oliebollen. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Love. This is the only thing that can move me. It’s quite simple, I met a wonderful Dutch guy online, and we met in Athens and fell in love. We met right after I finished with eight months of chemotherapy, and after something like that you’re more open to try new things. You value life in a different way. It was the right moment to move. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? All of those. There are moments when you feel like an expat, and a lot of moments when you feel like an immigrant, especially in northern Europe. After I left Greece, hundreds of Greek friends of mine were desperate to find a future in northern Europe. I am one of the lucky ones, in that I chose to be here. How long do you plan to stay and why? As long as I am productive, creative and in love, I will stay! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak a little bit, but it’s a language that’s not made for my mouth. I feel ridiculous when I’m doing it. So I’m trying to convince people to speak Dutch to me because I do understand 80 to 90% of what they say, and then I reply in English. It works sometimes, and the rest of the time I mime my answers or something. I have a few tricks to cover my inability! What's your favourite Dutch food? I love haring, but to be honest there’s nothing that can beat oliebollen. I go nuts for them. Here in The Hague there’s a guy who starts selling them in October so I start then and finish in the middle of January. That’s my oliebollen season. How Dutch have you become? I do appreciate how individualism works here, and I find it very productive. It also balances how I am as a Greek person because we live together and affect each other in bizarre ways in Greek society. Here you can stand by yourself, and I do a bit more of that than I used to. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Ivo van Hove is a theatre director working in Amsterdam. I admire his work and the way he approaches theatre and communicates. I’d love to work with him. I’d like to meet Spinoza for his openness towards religion in very dark times. Holland isn’t a very spiritual place and when you see how much a figure like Spinoza contributed to philosophy and the way we deal with religion, I think he’s very important. I’d say Berlage for his architecture. But then again I could also say painters like Mondrian and the whole Flemish school of painting. They were great teachers and way they used light was unique. What's your top tourist tip? I’d take visitors on a long walk on the beach near where I live with a patat met mayo. It’s wonderful here when the weather is good. I strongly believe that if this country had the weather we have in Greece, they’d have to put up fences around it. Everyone would want to be here. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands That it’s not as open-minded a place as I thought. As a gay man, you notice that people do judge your sexual orientation or your lifestyle. But because Dutch society is a society of traders, it’s much easier for them to accept everything and say ‘let’s make money together.’ At the same time, behind closed doors they do have opinions about gays, immigrants, refugees, and not always nice ones. I’m having a great time here, and I love the Dutch. It’s just something I’ve noticed with them. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Oh my God! Just one day left here. I’d spend a day seeing Vermeer and Van Gogh, have a nice haring, and probably make love. Why would I skip that if I only had 24 hours? Vasilis Apostolatos was talking to Graham Dockery  More >


‘Since taking citizenship I say “we” a lot more when referring to the Dutch’

‘Since taking citizenship I say “we” a lot more when referring to the Dutch’

Originally from Hampshire in the UK, Paul Oram moved to the Netherlands after meeting his future wife while scuba diving in Egypt. He now lives in The Hague, where he works as a graphic designer and volunteers for Stichting Present, an organisation that helps vulnerable individuals.  How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was working in London in 1997 and I was getting fed up, so I decided to do something completely different and booked a week's diving holiday in Egypt, on my own. It was shortly after a terrorist attack at a tourist site, but I decided to go because I'd already paid and couldn’t get my money back. My Dutch wife to be was there, doing exactly the same thing. We literally met underwater. I remember thinking at the time ‘she’s the one for me’ and we went from there. A few years later I sold my place in London a few years later and moved over here to be with her. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I’d say I’m a lovepat and an international. I never refer to myself as an expat. I think it’s more for people who have partners who are foreign as well. How long do you plan to stay? This is home. I belong here. I’ve just had my naturalisatieceremonie so I’m now officially half Dutch and half British. It was a Brexit-related decision: I consider myself a European. It was very easy to apply and I think there will be a flurry of other British people waiting to do the same. I applied and, about a month later, I went to the ceremony. It was quite amusing. We all had to go up on stage to get our certificates and we were spoken to in Dutch by the presenter. A lot of applicants clearly didn’t understand a word he was saying and a few people gave him some strange replies. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I think I can say I speak Dutch. It’s still not brilliant after hundreds of lessons, though. My last course was at the Volksuniversiteit in The Hague and it was really good. It was a year-long conversation course, quite a high level. We just chatted with each other and the teacher was fantastic. It’s often difficult to find enough people to attend these conversation classes. I wanted to take it again but they couldn’t find enough students for the next one. What’s your favourite Dutch food? I’ll say rolmops: rolled pickled herring held together with a cocktail stick. I usually get a whole jar of them from the supermarket. How Dutch have you become? Not very [laughs]. I read somewhere that you go through phases after you move here. You love everything Dutch for a few years. You even find yourself wanting to buy a rowing boat to tour the canals. When the novelty wears off you can get a kind of seven-year itch and start to get frustrated by everything. Then you get over that and sort of relax into it. I’ve found that I’ve been saying ‘we’ a lot more after the naturalisatieceremonie when I’m referring to the Dutch. I voted in the recent election. I figured we needed every anti-Wilders vote we could get. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Since I’m a designer, I should pick MC Escher. The museum here in The Hague is fantastic. You can’t get anyone more unique than Escher when it comes to a graphic artist. I would have loved to watch him and learn while he works. There’s also Gerrit Rietveld and the Rietveld Schröderhuis in Utrecht, which one of the best examples of De Stijl. It’s quite fascinating; it’s sort of an early IKEA idea. The house doesn’t contain traditional walls: they’re all movable. He’s most famous for the Rietveld Chair. I imagine it’s not very comfortable as it’s made of simple flat wooden panels. Lastly, Vincent van Gogh. I wish I could just go back and tell him: ‘It'll all work out. In the future, you will be remembered’. What’s your top tourist tip? In The Hague, they should visit the Gemeente Museum and GEM next door. One more, Beelden aan Zee. It’s a beautiful sculpture museum in Scheveningen and quite special. There’s also the dunes in Meijendel, between Scheveningen and Wassenaar. They’re really beautiful to cycle through at the end of the day as the sun is going down. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands This one is more of a personal thing for me. When I was made redundant several years ago, I decided to start my own business. I was pleasantly surprised by the support you get if you want to set up on your own in this country. Because I typically work at home on my own most days, I wanted to get out and become involved with something locally. I found out about Stichting Present. I’ve been volunteering for them for a few years and it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. We help disadvantaged people or those with disabilities. Many of them live alone and just need a little assistance in the home. Every project is different and can involve anything from painting and decorating, to gardening, cleaning and decluttering. It’s a lot of fun and, surprisingly, a great way to meet other internationals. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Go out in Amsterdam and enjoy lots of Belgian beer [laughs]. That would be it. I can never remember the names of places so I can’t think of any specific bars. I’d aim for someplace tiny that feels kind of authentic. There are plenty of them if you wander around the Zeedijk. My best friends live in Amsterdam. I’d meet up with them, drink and talk nonsense for the day. Paul Oram was speaking to Brandon Hartley  More >


‘I’m surprised by how traditional Dutch people really are’

‘I’m surprised by how traditional Dutch people really are’

Originally from Israel, Inbal Tur-Shalom moved to Amsterdam after falling head over heels in love with a Dutchman during a road trip through New Zealand. She now owns a photography studio, leads tours around the city and enjoys live music in the Jordaan. How did you end up in the Netherlands After working as a customer care manager for a big IT company in Israel, I felt life had more to offer. So, at the age of 36, I resigned, packed a backpack and went travelling through Cuba, the Dominican Republic, South America and the United States. After a year, I came back to Israel but felt that I hadn’t had enough of travelling so I decided to go to New Zealand. I rented a car there and drove all the way from the top of the north island to the bottom of the south island. After two months, I met a Dutch guy who had been living in NZ for two years. It was crazy love at first sight, he asked me to stay with him and I did. About a year later, life, circumstances and the recession made us decide to leave NZ and go back to ‘The Centre of the Universe’ (also known as Amsterdam). How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? Since I’ve lived in a few places around the world, I guess I’m an international. But I have no plans to leave and I'm making the effort to integrate into Dutch society, so that might indicate that I’m an immigrant. How long do you plan to stay? After almost seven years here, I am still completely in love with Amsterdam. If I could, I would hug it! At the moment, I have no wish to move to another country, or another city for that matter. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I began learning Dutch on my own as soon as I moved here. Later, I went to Dutch classes at the ROC and once more at the VU. So, yes, I do speak Dutch but, as my Dutch is getting better, my English is getting worse. Nevertheless, I still feel more comfortable in English and, of course, in Hebrew. Because I have no expiry date on my stay here, I find it important to learn the language. I can get by with English, especially in Amsterdam, but sitting in the pub when the Amsterdammers are joking with each other and I can’t join in? Naaaaah! What’s your favourite Dutch food? I like all Dutch food but the food that I sometimes crave is Indonesian, which is sort of traditional Dutch food. How Dutch have you become? I think I have a Dutch soul and that’s why I feel comfortable here. For example, in general, Israelis are spontaneous in nature and don’t tend to make appointments more than a few weeks ahead. But I did back when I was living in Israel. Some of my friends didn’t mind that but others didn’t get the point and would make negative remarks about it. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Oh, that’s a hard one. There’s so many… I’ll begin with the 17th century Jewish Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza because he was innovative with his thoughts and ideas. He went against the flow and he paid a heavy price for it. He had an interesting life and faced many challenges. For me, André Hazes symbolises a very specific segment of Dutch society, particularly of Amsterdam and a certain era (the late 1970s and 1980s) when many changes in Dutch society occurred that fascinate me. He was a Dutch folk singer and had a real ‘Cinderella Story’. Ahmed Aboutaleb, a Moroccan Muslim immigrant who became one of the most appreciated mayors in the Netherlands. He is an advocate of nonviolence, tolerance, acceptance of the different and so on. That’s what the Netherlands is all about. What’s your top tourist tip? Take extra care when crossing roads and beware of the bikes! On a sunny afternoon, rent a boat. Bring a bottle of wine with you along with Dutch cheese, Dutch mustard and some fruit and enjoy the city from a different angle. Oh, and take at least one guided tour, preferably with me. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands I'm surprised by how traditional Dutch people actually are, and how Dutch directness is so different from Israeli directness. The Dutch put so many words in a simple, short sentence in order to make it milder. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would ride on all the tram lines in Amsterdam, one after the other, and step off at most of the stops to take street photos. Hopefully, it would be a sunny day so I would also take a boat and follow my own tips for tourists. It would be great if it was a weekend so I could enjoy some live Dutch folk music at the cafés in the Jordaan. I’d have a gathering with all my friends to say ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’. You can learn more about Inbal’s photography studio by clicking here.  More >


‘Even if the weather’s bad, a boat trip is still good’

‘Even if the weather’s bad, a boat trip is still 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 I keep up contact with friends in Paris while I work here in Holland, and on a daily basis I’ll speak Dutch and English. It’s pretty mixed for me. How long do you plan to stay? I’m not going anywhere. It’s a comfortable place to live, I have a son in Dutch school and the quality of life is good. There’s also a lot going on culturally, which of course is important to me as an artist. Do you speak Dutch? I do speak Dutch but I don’t speak it well. I get reminded of this every Tuesday, as I have a Dutch coach who works with me to improve my language skills. But I use it at work, I read the Dutch newspapers and try to follow what’s going on. What's your favourite Dutch food? Oh! The haring, absolutely. I really also like Kompaan beer, which is brewed in The Hague. The brewery – which you can visit – is in the middle of nowhere in an industrial area on the edge of The Hague. It’s really cool, like a little slice of Berlin or something. How Dutch have you become and why? I’d say that I have not become at all Dutch. I’m still an American in most of my ideas, yet I have a very Dutch lifestyle; in that I bike everywhere, use the train, and don’t have a car. There’s some really good things here and I really like the atmosphere, so I feel at home here without feeling Dutch, and that’s one of the great things about Holland. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? There’s an artist, Willem De Kooning, who was just an amazing guy. He was an abstract expressionist who went to live in New York and painted these enormous canvases. He was a big drinker, so I’d want to go out drinking with him. I’m curious about someone like Hieronymous Bosch. He must have been nuts! I don’t know what it would be like to meet him, but I’m curious. We all know about his art but not much is known about what he was actually like. Of course there’s obvious ones like Vincent Van Gogh, but I guess I’m really interested in people who were doing arts at really creative periods in history. What were they thinking? What were they working on? There are lots of Dutch people I’d like to meet. What's your top tourist tip? We live in The Hague so we always take people to the beach, which is really great in the summer. Amsterdam of course is amazing, but I was recently at the Markthal in Rotterdam, it’s the coolest tourist attraction for me right now. Then to do a tour around the harbour is wild. I like the feeling of Rotterdam. It’s big and moving, and there’s lots of action. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands The Dutch don’t tend to be very surprising. They’re very stable. The thing about being here in Holland is you don’t get surprised much! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Of course it would probably be raining, but even if the weather’s bad, a boat trip is still good. I’d rent one of those old-fashioned boat and go around the canals in Amsterdam with all my friends and enough alcohol for 24 hours. I think that would be the best thing to do.  More >


‘I enjoy the diaries, they make everything so organised’

‘I enjoy the diaries, they make everything so 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. I met my husband during one of my final trips in 2007. We moved to Colombia a year later since all I had was a temporary visa to stay in Europe at the time. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I just love the term ‘lovepat’. That’s the reason why I came back to the Netherlands. I’ve always loved travelling but Bogota is my hometown and I always thought I would stay in Colombia. When I met my husband, of course that changed. How long do you plan to stay? My husband and I had a very fast love story. We married in Colombia one year after moving there and two months later he got a job at an NGO in South Africa. Our son was born in 2011 in Pretoria and we returned to the Netherlands later that year. He’s already six and he’s in school. I can’t see us moving anytime soon since we’re parents now. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch but it’s such a difficult language. I understand when someone speaks to me and I read Dutch. Speaking takes a bit more time. I began learning by using Rosetta Stone and I took some classes at the Volksuniversiteit. My son has also helped me. He’s really good. He’s learning more and more Dutch at school so I’ve been speaking with him. What’s your favourite Dutch food? I think the herring. I do it completely with the onions and when you hold it by the tail and eat it that way. The food in the Netherlands has been an issue for me. Colombia has amazing food because of the sun and everything there is so fresh and wonderful. The lack of fruit here is difficult. We have many different types in Colombia, so many that no one really knows how many there are. Over here you have three or four in the supermarket maximum. They’re the same ones over and over again and the avocados are these little tiny things. Oh, and the coffee here? It sucks! [laughs] It sucks because they mix it. They go and mix different coffees from different places and put them in a bag. So I like to buy pure coffee from Colombia because what you get all comes from the same region. How Dutch have you become? Well, I’m a Dutch citizen now. I got my nationality in December. But how Dutch? I think quite a lot, actually. I hate to say it but I enjoy the diaries. They make everything so organised. I’m very direct sometimes and I say things bluntly. Then I’m like, ‘Oh, my God! What did I say?’ Then I remember that it’s OK. I also understand the culture more. I used to be more critical of some things but now I know there’s a reason for these things and why people act certain ways. I also live with a Dutchman so that helps me get into the culture and become a part of it. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I think Vincent van Gogh. That would be one. Anne Frank would be another. I know she wasn’t Dutch but she was here in the Netherlands so I relate her more to the Netherlands. There was also a person who was one of the leaders of the resistance during World War 2. She was in Haarlem and her name was Corrie ten Boom. She wrote The Hiding Place and it’s an amazing book about resistance, faith and love. What’s your top tourist tip? They should go to Efteling. It’s beautiful, it’s fun and it can show a person how this country is a unique place. It’s rumoured that maybe Walt Disney copied a lot of it because Efteling opened before Disneyland in the 1950s. The park has a lot of Dutch history and stories. It’s a great place to take people who have never been here before. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. How creative the Dutch are. They’re incredibly creative. They’re always trying to innovate. Maybe it’s because of all the water that’s around? They’re always trying to do things better, invent things and find new ways to protect themselves from the sea. You can even see it in Sinterklaas celebrations. Everything is handmade and they make an extra effort to make it themselves. I like that about them. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I think my family and I would go eat some herring. Maybe buy some bitterballen too or take a tour boat around the canals in Amsterdam. Dinner would be good too. I like a lot of the restaurants in Amsterdam so it would be difficult for me to choose one. I love De Plantage near the Artis Zoo. It’s a beautiful place. Bord'Eau, one of the ones in the Hotel de l'Europe, is maybe my favourite and it’s in a wonderful location.  More >


‘The office is just a 10 minute cycle away, it’s priceless’

‘The office is just a 10 minute cycle away, it’s priceless’

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 and we love it. We came with the dog, and now we don’t have the dog, we have three kids, so we must like it! How long do you plan to stay? I have no plans to leave. We are happy here. It’s a nice life. Amsterdam is a great mixture of a village and a city. For a lot of Dutch people, Amsterdam is druk, druk, druk, but when you compare it to cities like New York or even Tel Aviv, it’s very small. You can cycle from one corner to the other. I live in the Pijp and my office is in the city centre. Dropping the kids at school and cycling just ten minutes to the office, it’s priceless. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes. I mostly use Dutch with the kids and their friends. For me, there was a sort of switch when I decided, OK, now I’m going to actually try to understand it. Before, I said, ‘I don’t understand. Speak English to me. Write to me in English’. And then I thought, let’s just try. You just build it up: you read and you try not to Google translate every word. When we came, I went on a course but I never really followed up on it all that much. What's your favourite Dutch food? Stamppot. You cannot go wrong with mashed potato. But it’s not something I would die for. How Dutch have you become? I still feel a sort of expat/immigrant but there are a few things that are Dutch that I have picked up, like cycling everywhere. I barely use my car. And I’ve been camping. I don’t know if ‘like’ it is the right word but I’ve learnt to cope with it. I love ice skating. I did it five years ago for the first time and I fell in love with it. In the skating season, I skate three or four times a week at the Jaap Eden IjsBaan. It’s the real deal, I’ve got the tights and everything! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Herman Brood sounds like a very fun person that I’d like to meet. He was a painter and a singer-songwriter, and a very colourful person. Also colourful was Mata Hari, the seductive spy. Who else? I want to meet the Queen! The former Queen, I mean. Beatrix. I’d rather meet her than her son. She has this ‘something’. What's your top tourist tip? If it’s the summer, get a boat and a bottle of wine. The city looks completely different from the water. Outside Amsterdam, go to the Kroller Muller Museum; they have one of the biggest collections of Van Gogh's work. You park your car and take one of their white bikes and cycle through the dunes. You stop at the museum, in the centre of the park, and then you continue to cycle. It’s a great day out. We always take our guests there. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands When we came here 18 years ago, we couldn’t believe the tempo. Everything was extremely slow. It was a big contrast to Tel Aviv. Also, with Dutch people, you need to make an appointment. You don’t just knock on somebody’s door and say, ‘Hey, I was in the neighbourhood, how are you?’ If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Go to the Efteling. The Efteling is one of the most magical places in Holland. I like theme parks and this one is one of the best. It’s more about fairy tales and less commercial than Disney. And of course, I could not leave the Netherlands before having a serious ice skating session at the Jaap Eden. Lior is the CEO and co-founder of Otly!, an app which allows parents and children to organise pocket money virtually.  More >


‘Until I lived here I wouldn’t look at cheese unless it was in a burger’

‘Until I lived here I wouldn’t look at cheese unless it was in a burger’

Vince Dinga, 27, arrived in Amsterdam from Romania four years ago in search of a purpose in life. After studying for a masters degree he stayed on and is now PR manager with award-winning tech conference organisers The Next Web. He explains why wayward tourists make him laugh and he can no longer stomach stroopwafels. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It was a combination of the desire to start from scratch in a new place and wanting to have a purpose and a goal in life. so, I started looking for interesting Masters courses. The University of Amsterdam looked really good: it was the only one I applied for and luckily it all panned out. Finding a place to live was difficult; back home in Bucharest it’s much easier. I was lugging my heavy suitcase around the city and staying in different places for a few days at a time. After about a month I found a really central place near Dam Square. That was great for a couple of years, being able to walk to Uni and go out a lot. But eventually the hordes of tourists, the noise and the prospect of a better place drove me out of the centre. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? It’s difficult to say! Technically I’m a foreigner but I no longer feel like a stranger. Living somewhere radically different from your home, speaking a different language: I think it changes you. And when you go home you can feel out of place again. When I travel there’s always this long explanation that I feel I have to give - ‘Well, right now, I’m coming from Amsterdam but I’m not Dutch. I’m originally from Romania…’. I think it’s hard to say just one thing or the other, it depends on where you are and who’s asking. How long do you plan to stay? I thought I’d only stay for a year: now I’ve been here for four. I used to get this question from a lot of people at home. The answer remains the same: I’ll stay as long as I feel happy about my life here. If things took a turn for the worst I could just pack my bags and move on. I think that’s a healthy attitude to have. I’ve done it before, and I know I could do it again. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Back home the first language you normally study is French, when you’re about eight years old, then you start with English at about 11 but I started a lot earlier. I really like languages and started to try to learn Dutch before I arrived here. I used Rosetta Stone: it was fun, but I can’t say it helped a lot in real life situations. I remember that when I actually got here and started taking classes my pronunciation was pretty good because the software made you do it again and again until you got it right. I call my Dutch ‘supermarket level’. I can get by in simple situations but I’d like to improve it. At work it’s an international environment and at home I speak English as my girlfriend is from Poland. I know I’m missing out on many things because I don’t speak Dutch fluently, so I’m sure I’ll come back to it again, provided I stay. What's your favourite Dutch food? I guess Dutch food is an acquired taste. I would have said stroopwafels but I ate so many of them when I first came here that I can’t touch them anymore! So, I guess it would have to be bitterballen - they take me back to uni. There’s just something unique about having a few hot ones with spicy mustard on a terrace by the water, on a brisk late summer evening, drinking a nice craft beer. How Dutch have you become and why? It’s funny but I used to hate cheese before I came here. If it didn’t come in a cheeseburger I wouldn't touch it. Now, I like trying different kinds – and I'm in the perfect place. I like many of the local traditions too. I discovered the burning of the Christmas trees (De Kerstboomverbranding) in Museumplein last year and I liked it. Lots of families, really nice. I draw the line at salty liquorice, though I pranked some friends with it back home. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? The artist behind The Little Woodcutter across the Leidsekade - There is a big tree opposite the Hotel Americain and there is a small bronze statue on a branch of the tree. It appeared in 1989 and no one knows who put it there. I’d like to know. It’s still there. If you pass it, it’s worth checking out. His feet have sunk into the tree and it’s now growing around it. MC Escher - I realised a few years ago he was Dutch. His work is brilliant and unlike anything else. I love art and film photography. I take photos as a hobby, I’m quite passionate about it and I’ve done it for many years. I had an exhibition back home once, I haven’t done much with it since I’ve been here; I just do it for myself basically. The third one would be the Dutch historian, Johan Huizinga. I studied his Homo Ludens in high school, so it brings back nice memories. It’s about the importance of the playful element in people and society, it’s a really good book. What's your top tourist tip? First I tell my friends what not to do! Don’t call it the Dam, stay off the bike lanes, ignore street dealers, don’t fall in the canal at night when you’re drunk! The funniest thing is when you see tourists come here for King’s Day and they turn up on the wrong date. That makes me laugh, they’ve probably got an out-of-date guidebook. One thing I do always tell people is to get out of the city centre and look past the iAmsterdam hitlist. The centre is becoming a bit of a Disneyland anyway. So instead of going to the Heineken Museum, go have a real beer at Brouwerij ‘t IJ instead. Skip the lines at Madame Tussauds and head for the Pipe Museum – you’ll get a guided tour and you might learn more history there than from the big, crowded museums. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands? I heard something interesting recently. If you follow the house numbers in descending order, on any given street in Amsterdam, they should eventually lead you to Centraal Station. All the roads lead there apparently. It makes sense if you look at how the centre, with the canals, was constructed. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Deregister from the municipality! You can get in real trouble if you don’t! Other than that, I’d ask Mr Reinier Sijpkens to give me a tour of the city on his ‘Notendop’ music boat while he performs. He usually just sails around and plays music. People gather on the bridges and listen. That would be a great send-off.  More >


‘I always laugh because of the way the Dutch sing their goodbyes’

‘I always laugh because of the way the Dutch sing their goodbyes’

Originally from Canada, Savannah Grace has set her sights on becoming the youngest woman to visit every country on the planet. At the age of just 26 she has already ticked 111 off the list and written three books cataloguing her travels. After falling in love with a Dutchman while travelling in Africa, Savannah now lives in the Netherlands where she continues to travel and share her experiences abroad through her writing. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was on a round-the-world trip with my family that was meant to last a year and turned into four. While in Africa we met my fiancé, who was using a truck to travel round the continent. We ended up spending eight months travelling round 36 African countries and fell in love. I went back to Canada but after four months I decided to come to the Netherlands where my partner lives because I felt if I didn't it would be something I would always regret. Seven and a half years later here we are, about to get married next week! How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc – and why? I guess technically I am a lovepat. I hadn’t heard of that term until recently. I assume it means that you move for love, which is what I did, so I think that's the best phrase. How long do you plan to stay and why? The idea that I am settled in Holland forever is a bit of a stretch because we are definitely world travellers, but I expect I'll stay here for at least the next five years. I am still so young that I can’t imagine where I might be in the future. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak a bit but I always feel like I sound a six-year-old! It is difficult to get your practice in because everyone always speaks English back to you. That was especially true when I first moved over and people knew I didn’t speak the language. However, a couple of years ago we lived with my partner’s 84-year-old mum for two years and she didn’t speak a word of English, so that is where I learned my Dutch. We had to communicate somehow so I had to learn Dutch. When people stop replying in English and have to ask whether you are Dutch yourself, I think that’s a good sign. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? To be honest I'm not a big fan of Dutch food, I love Thai food, but I did go through a big phase of eating kroket with mustard, running around all the Febos for my kroket fix. It took me forever to realise kroket and bitterballen are basically the same thing. I also like french fries with mayo. I prefer it to ketchup because I don’t really like sweet food. The cake is amazing here but it is too sweet for me – with the cream and richness it's too much. How Dutch have you become and why? Recently I got a job as a flower delivery girl, which I think is so Dutch – delivering flowers in Holland. Nobody switches to English when I speak to them so I think I am doing OK. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? I had a hard time with this one, but I suppose my first would be Carice van Houten because people say I look like her, even though I don’t see it myself. I am a huge Game of Thrones fan so anyone from the cast would be amazing. My next choice would have to be Anne Frank because that would be pretty awesome. A last person would be Albert Heijn because I go into his shops all the time. What's your top tourist tip? My recommendation for something a bit different from the obvious is to do the 12 province tour, that was so fun. You can tailor it to your own personality and find something in each province you are interested in. This was my bachelorette party, the road trip representing my love for travelling. It was so fun and in every province we experienced something new and interesting. It takes just two days because it is such a small country and you can do all the tourist things in each province. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands A small thing, but I think it is so strange how the Dutch leave their curtains open. Their houses are so close to the street and you are walking by in the dark and you can look right in. Why don’t they want privacy? It's so strange. I see what you're eating and the steam coming off your food, don’t you care?! The other thing is I always laugh because the Dutch always sing their goodbyes: Daag and doei! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would probably spend it with my new Dutch family. I don’t know what the reason would be that I only have that time left here, but I guess I would spend it with them. Savannah can be found on twitter @Sihpromatum and is the founder of the world ranking weekly twitter chat #TRLT (The Road Less Travelled). Read more about her travels and explore her collection of memoirs "I Grew My Boobs in China”and “Backpacks and Bra Straps” at sihpromatum.com.  More >


‘Love and kindness is what truly 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 long do you plan to stay? I think I can stay all my life in the Netherlands. I am single, but am lucky to have some good friends who are like family to me here. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I am in the process of learning the language. So hopefully a year from now I will be fluent in Dutch. It’s process that takes time. What's your favorite Dutch food? I miss Indian food so badly. Taste-wise nothing has changed for me. I still love spicy food. Yet just like my Dutch friends, I have dinner at 7pm – and have developed a liking for bitterballen, stroopwaffels and stamppot. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet and why? I would like to meet queen Maxima because she is a great lady who made her way in a foreign country through guts and determination. DJ Tiesto is on my list because he is conquering the world with his passion for music. Finally, Rembrandt because I love art and am totally mesmerised by his creativity. How Dutch have you become and why? I think I've become pretty Dutch. I have become much more direct than I ever was. I keep a diary and I need to know what I am doing weeks in advance. Splitting bills with friends at a restaurant or café is the most obvious and right thing to do. Above all, I believe the true spirit of Amsterdam is to accept and love people from different nationalities, and that this attracts excellence and diversity. What's your top tourist tip? Go to the top floor of the central library in Amsterdam to get a free and fabulous view of this city. Don't forget to enjoy the hot noodles and the yummy pizza that they serve at the library. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands In 2014 and 2015, I had the honour and privilege of representing the Netherlands in the Toastmasters District 59 Speech Evaluation Contest (a Europe-wide speaking competition). I was so overwhelmed by the support I received and still remember all my Dutch friends cheering for me when I won in 2015. I was surprised by this level of affection, love and kindness. It was truly touching, and that's what makes you feel home. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? If I had only 24 hours left, I would organise a workshop. In past years I have given many workshops and masterclasses on how to improve speaking skills in various places in the Netherlands. So I would like to do one last masterclass and share every bit of knowledge I have on how to be a better speaker, and say goodbye. In this way even if I am gone, neither the Netherlands nor me will ever forget each other. You can find out more about Sabyaschi's workshops via his website   More >


My Dutch husband told me: ‘I married an American, please stay American!’

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! I met some marvellous people during that time; I still call them my 'Dutch family'. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc – and why? At the beginning I was more of an adventurer, coming over here on my own. Then I turned into a lovepat when I met a Dutch man. I was about to leave for America again when I met him. He was set on emigrating to the US but he never did. The US Government considered him Indonesian because he was born in the Dutch East Indies, even though it was to Dutch parents. There was no immigration quota for Indonesians then so I would have had to petition for him to enter. With the Vietnam War going on I was worried they would draft him – they were drafting green card holders too – so we didn't do it in the end. How long do you plan to stay and why? My husband and I did plan on returning to the US but once you have three children you don't move so easily. We thought perhaps when we retired, but we didn't in the end. Our two sons now live in the US, but luckily our daughter lives here. I'll definitely stay here now, the healthcare is so much better and I don't want to take Holland away from my kids who do live in the US. Holland is definitely home to me. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch but I learnt slowly. I never took lessons, so I just learnt by listening. I only read when I have to, official things. I don't really write it. My husband never tried to make me Dutch, that was important. Dutch families' expectations can be quite overpowering, at least in the 60s, but he always said: 'I married an American, please stay American!’ He was an Americophile before he met me, so no one was surprised when we married. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Witlof! In all its forms: cold as a salad, or with ham and cheese. It ́s rarely eaten in the States, but one can get it sometimes in big American supermarkets, where it's called Belgian Endive. I still cook very American, except for Dutch stew and the occasional stamppot. How Dutch have you become and why? I would not dream of welcoming someone into my home, or to a business meeting even, and not offer them a drink. Everything here starts with a cup of coffee. So no, I don't think I am very Dutch. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? The king – I'm a big royalty watcher. I find that in the US our President has to be that figurehead as well as the political leader – he has to kiss the babies as well as doing everything else. I think it's best to split the roles because, well you see it in the US Election this year: everyone is so interested in the personality of the person that you spend all the time talking about them personally instead of the issues. Ten years ago I would have said Princess Beatrix; it would be really nice to meet the figurehead of the country. Johan Cruyff – I was a fan of his from the very first moment I came to Holland. I've been a big Ajax fan since then. I lived with the parents of a friend from NYC when I first came here and her father had a box at the Olympic Stadium, so he used to invite me to Ajax games. I like all sports, but Cruyff had these funny sayings and philosophies, and I appreciate those. Like: elk nadeel heeft z'n voordeel – every disadvantage has its advantage. Professor Bas Bloem, the director of ParC (The Parkinson's Centre) at the Radboud university in Nijmegen and set up the Parkinson Net, which is a network of caregivers such as physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, who have been specifically trained to help people with Parkinson's and related conditions. When we discovered almost four years ago that my husband had something akin to Parkinson's this network was a godsend for us. Apparently Dr. Bloem has since helped set this up in California as well. He is one of the top neurologists in the country and he's spread that knowledge worldwide now. I think he's also just a very nice guy, according to people who have studied with him and the video's I have seen of his lectures. What's your top tourist tip? The tulip fields in spring. I have about five paintings of tulips in my house; they're really my favourite flower. Every spring it still surprises me, they're so beautiful. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands I think that I have to go back 50 years, but to some extent it is still true today. I felt it has a big storybook feeling about it: the landscape, the windmills, the little villages. When I was in elementary school I built a Dutch village with my teacher, so I guess I was destined to come here. It ́s all a bit like Madurodam. It's all still there, very picturesque despite all the industrial success of the country, with big brands like Albert Heijn, Shell, Philips to name just a few. The Dutch are quite modest about that success to a certain extent. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd take a walk in the Clingendael Park, which has traditional woods, a 100-year old Japanese garden and a formal Dutch garden. Lots of different things in one place. Or I'd take a walk in the dunes. From my apartment I look out onto the dunes, they stretch out for 3km before you reach the beach at Scheveningen. I love being near water. Where I grew up I saw water every day, it's important that I don't live inland. And a lake doesn't do it for me – I want to see the sea!   More >


‘My life here is totally agenda-based. If it’s not in the diary it doesn’t happen’

‘My life here is totally agenda-based. If it’s not in the diary it doesn’t happen’

Nitesh Saini first came to the Netherlands from India on business nine years ago. He works as a senior ICT manager in Amstelveen and in his spare time supports clazzez.com, a community-based website where talented individuals can showcase their skills in their local city or neighbourhood. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My previous employer wanted to open up business with a leading Dutch bank and I was asked to travel to the Netherlands for the company. In the few months it took to conclude the deal my family came to visit a couple of times. We found the Netherlands a great place to consider living with our beautiful daughter for the next phase in our lives. We moved lock, stock and barrel in 2007. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc – and why? I don’t think these categories should define anyone. Having travelled to and lived in many countries, I strongly feel part of a global community that is not bound by any borders. Perhaps this reflects how I think of myself more as a global citizen. As Kofi Annan put it: ‘to be a global citizen, begin with your own community’, which for me means that everyone should work to make a positive difference in their own way. How long do you plan to stay and why? This is a tricky question. We originally planned for one to two years, which became five and is now touching 10. For my daughter the Netherlands is home. Although our families are in India, my wife and I have found great like-minded friends and developed a large multicultural social network. So for now, we don’t see ourselves leaving for a few years. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I cleared A2, so that’s the level of Dutch I know! However, since most of our friends are expats from various countries and I work with a very international mix of colleagues, English remains our primary language of conversation. My wife and daughter are fluent Dutch speakers, though. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Patat, kipsate and oliebollen. Kipsate may not be Dutch, but this is where I discovered it and its just perfect. For me, patat is an any-time meal: with a few toppings, you can be done for the day. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet and why? I would like to meet Anne Frank to appreciate her incredible story that has touched millions of lives throughout the world, even though I realise now she is not Dutch. Then Neelie Kroes for her inspirational support of the technology scene in the Netherlands. Finally, the founders behind Adyen so that I could ask how they set up an international payment platform for businesses, and then understand their journey to the Unicorn Club. So impressive. How Dutch have you become and why? My Dutch neighbour and I have our offices near each other. She often encouraged me to bike to work yet I couldn’t resist getting into my car every morning. So when it was time to sell our second car, I decided not to buy a new car and started biking to work! I hope I can sustain this. Also, life is totally agenda-based now. If it’s not in the calendar, it doesn’t happen. We celebrate Dutch holidays, the key ones being King’s Day and Sinterklaas. We love the spirit of Sinterklaas and look forward to the celebrations, especially the pepernoten. What's your top tourist tip? Don’t trust the weather forecast. Rent a bike and just go! Every corner of the country is connected with a bike path. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Not using a credit card is perfectly normal. No matter how old one is, hagelslag is still the favourite breakfast food. The cure for everything is a paracetamol. The Dutch openly disagree with one other until they reach a point everyone agrees with (no matter how long this takes) and only then do they start work. The results thereafter are of high quality, which is visible all around us. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’ll probably take another Amsterdam canal tour with my wife. It makes you feel so touristy that leaving the Netherlands may not hurt so much. Later, one final run in the Amsterdamse Bos, a visit to the goat park (or a farm) with my daughter and a first visit to some remaining museums. Find out more about Clazzez at https://www.clazzez.com or subscribe to the blog at https://blog.clazzez.com  More >


‘I think any city built on water has something magical about it’

‘I think any city built on water has something magical about it’

Satarupa Bose Roy, 37, is from India and has lived in the Netherlands for around 10 years. She is the founder of Indyana, a magazine for Indian nationals in the Netherlands, can't ride a bike and would like to meet Ruud Gullit because her grandad is his biggest fan. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I accompanied my husband who had come over as a knowledge migrant. He is an IT consultant. He came over from Calcutta and I joined him about 6 months later. We were first based in Utrecht and then Eindhoven, and now we're in Almere. It's been a bit of a journey for us in the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I would consider myself first as an Indian, and then perhaps an international, but I don't really consider myself an expat.  Since I set up my 'expat' magazine I feel I have come much closer to Dutch society. I do call myself an international. I feel very fluent in the ways of the world having lived and studied in the UK too. How long do you plan to stay? This is always the trickiest part, actually! I've always felt this strong force that drives me back to my roots. But, I find it very peaceful here, especially when it comes to thinking about my kid's future. We have strong family ties back home and I know it's all ticking along there at the same time as my life moves forward here. We do have responsibilities back home, ageing parents (I'm an only child) and there is always the undeniably strong pull of our roots. I always thought I would go back, perhaps when my daughter starts university. I´ll definitely stay here a few years longer but perhaps then I'll shift again, closer to where I feel I belong. That said, I do not feel in transit in the Netherlands.  My daughter was born here and she is really leaving her footprints here already; she speaks Dutch, has Dutch friends. So, the real answer is - I really don't know at the moment, I will have to see what my destiny turns out to be. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch but with a foreign accent, and I'm definitely not fluent. I still think in my mother tongue (Bengali), translate it into English and then into Dutch in my head, and then speak. That´s an elaborate process, and makes me a bit slow. I remember when I went to the UK to study I had a strong Indian accent and so I probably speak Dutch with an Indian-British accent. I picked up the language from the supermarket, the bus drivers, my friends at the gym, roadside joggers, and then I went to a language institute to get diplomas and make the bond stronger. What's your favourite Dutch food ? I like kibbeling! I first had it at one of the beaches Holland is famous for, I forget which one.  It so reminded my of the street food in India. It was from a fish vendor's cart. I remember it was in the summer-time, and the sun was shining bright on my face, and there was a salty breeze in my hair.  I sat on the sand with a paper plate on my lap, with this greasy, oily, salty, hot kibbeling; it felt great. It´s also a good contrast with the normal ideas about Dutch food. How Dutch have you become and why? I wish I had become more Dutch. But, I don't go for a jog in the rain, I cannot drink milk and then orange juice at lunch, and I can't ride a bike. What I do now however, is speak my mind unabashed, so perhaps that makes me more Dutch. I speak loud and clear and choose words that are more direct. Wherever you go people will tell you they're very 'in your face'; they´re proud of their directness. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to mee? Mata Hari: You may be shocked by that answer, but I really was intrigued to read about her.  Europe's queen of unbridled eroticism! An exotic dancer, a courtesan, liar, deceiver, harlot, she was a true femme fatale. I wish I could meet her, interview her and write her biography. There must have been so many masked realities under the guise of that mysterious, seductive dancer; behind her performances, both onstage and off. Anne Frank: As a child I remember reading Anne Frank as part of our English literature syllabus, it was the first European diary I had read. My copy probably came from my grandfather´s collection. The first thing I did in Amsterdam was to visit the museum dedicated to her. I would have loved to have met her in person. Ruud Gullit: I really remember watching him in the world cups, as a teenager. I just loved his pace and passion for the game. He was my grandfather's favourite football player. I´d like to tell him that in some remote corner of the world, miles away across the ocean, he had a fan who thought he was the best football player the world had ever witnessed. What's your top tourist tip? Walk by the canals; explore the bridges built on them, and the narrow alleys. I think as a whole the Netherlands is a really picturesque country. Walk around for any length of time and you will find beauty in abundance. The old city centre in Utrecht is lovely but I've always loved walking by the canals in Amsterdam the most. I think any city built on water has something magical about it. I've been to Venice too, but I think Amsterdam has something really amazing and special about it. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands How the entire country follows the clock! They are very time efficient here. When I say that, I mean, like at the train station - you´re a minute late and the train doors will be closing! It´s so punctual! I really feel that the entire transport system is so efficient. I follow Indian stretchable time. If I go to a Dutch meeting I really have to try and be on time. Sometimes I feel it can have negative connotations too, as it has a mechanised quality about it, but it is astonishing. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go for a drive over the Afsluitdijk, preferably at sunset. I have always felt a strange one-ness with nature whenever I have visited it. I´d love to bid my final adieu to the country from there! The new issue of Indyana Magazine has just been published.  More >