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


‘The Dutch have a much calmer mentality when it comes to working’

‘The Dutch have a much calmer mentality when it comes to working’

Adonis Stoantzikis, 32, is a Greek artist and writer who has been living in the Netherlands since 2013. Now based in Amsterdam, Adonis enjoys the Dutch pace of life to the fullest, would like to have met Johnny Jordaan and has started eating sandwiches for lunch. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I initially came here to study in Groningen, but continued with the residency in Amsterdam. I wanted a university where they spoke English, so it was a choice of between here and England. The Netherlands was an easy winner. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? An international, because of the international student community in university and my collaboration with locals afterwards. I don’t think there are any Greeks in my environment here. How long do you plan to stay and why? It depends. Because of what I do I can’t be located in one place for too long. I have to move on and travel a lot. It’s important for art to be a nomad. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I only understand the basics. In the supermarket I know the beef from the chicken, just everyday stuff. Because it’s a very open society and an international environment it doesn’t seem obligatory to speak the language. I think it’s a lot to do with the arts too. Most people I know in the arts are internationals. What's your favourite Dutch food? Ribs! The way they prepare them and marinade them here is really nice. How Dutch have you become? I think it gets you after a while. In Greece everything is much more stressful, and the Dutch have a much calmer mentality when it comes to working. If that’s something that characterises the Dutch, then I became a lot like this during my time here. I started eating a lot of sandwiches for lunch too, so there’s that! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Of course Folkert de Jong, a Dutch artist. I love his playfulness and large-scale sculptures and installations. He’s very dynamic, and his work really shakes you. The second is the singer Johnny Jordaan. I was living on his street in Amsterdam, where his statue is now. I saw the statue every day, was curious, and discovered his music. The third one would be Spinoza, the philosopher. I’m familiar with his work and I’d like to meet him for a conversation. He was stabbed for being a heretic once, and kept wearing the coat with the hole in it afterwards. What's your top tourist tip? There’s lots of great art here, but tourists shouldn’t restrict themselves to Amsterdam. There’s so many young artists spread around the Netherlands, every city has something worth discovering, and contact with the art world is always nice for tourists. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The rhythm of everyday living. Compared to other countries I’ve lived in, everything is less stressful and there’s less pressure. I expected Amsterdam to be like any other European city, all running and stress, but actually you don’t feel like you’re in a big city here. That was a nice surprise. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would ride on my bike from coffeeshop to coffeeshop, seeing all the sights on the way. I’d probably fall asleep after ten hours, miss my flight, and wake up with another 24 hours to spend here! Adonis Stoantzikis is a resident at Gallerie Bart in Amsterdam city centre.  More >


‘Amsterdam is so beautiful: rich and poor lived within metres of each other’

‘Amsterdam is so beautiful: rich and poor lived within metres of each other’

Mike Manicardi, 63, manages Mike’s Badhuis Theatre in Amsterdam’s district of Oost. He arrived in the Netherlands in 1978, has five children here, and remembers how different it was to be a new arrival in those days. 'Expat is very modern Europe,' he says. 'I'm a first generation migrant.' How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was on tour with a theatre company and in that period Holland was the most exciting country in the world, culturally, to work in as a young theatre artist. Back then, the Dutch imported their artists. They picked up people from all over the world. We had different tours, and after one of the last tours, in 1978, I decided to work permanently in Amsterdam. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’m not really happy with these kinds of categories. But my father was Italian and my mother was Irish and as children we constantly travelled in Europe. I studied in England, but we always thought of ourselves as Europeans. The idea of ‘expat’ is very modern Europe. When I came here first we were just foreigners. How long do you plan to stay and why? I have been living in Amsterdam since 1978 and I have five children who were all born in Amsterdam. I see Amsterdam as my permanent home. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes. I learned Dutch on the street. In those days, being an expat was totally different. When you needed a stamp from the Foreign Police the line would stretch down the street from the office. Sometimes they’d take your passport away and tell you to f*** off. The next day you’d have to do the whole thing again. But we loved being outsiders. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Erwtensoep: that thick pea soup served with brown bread. How Dutch have you become and why? I see myself as a first generation migrant. My father was the same. My children laugh at their father’s Anglicisms. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? First of all, I’d say Johan Cruijff, for the entertainment. Then Gerrit van der Veen, for his idealism. Van der Veen was an artist, a poet, an educationalist, and a member of the Dutch resistance in World War 2. When he realised the Germans had all the information about Amsterdam’s Jews, he went out and blew up the building where the records were kept. They all got killed, but it was a tremendously brave attempt. Thirdly, Mathilde Wibaut is not so well known, but she was the wife of Dutch socialist Floor Wibaut, and I admire her intellectual brilliance and social values. She would organise food, events and free education for impoverished kids in Amsterdam, just a hundred metres away from the theatre here. I reckon they’ll make a film about her sometime soon. What's your top tourist tip? Visit the Dutch islands, made famous in the wonderful novel by Erskine Childers, The Riddle of the Sands. The island of Texel is a completely different world, out in the sea. They produce their own milk, cheese, bread and a lovely strong beer. It’s very healthy out there. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The proximity of rich and poor in Amsterdam in the small streets. I lived for 20 years in the heart of the Jordaan in an old broken-down hiding place of Gerrit van der Veen in World War 2. Amsterdam is so intricate and beautiful in that rich and poor lived within metres of each other. That is quite unique. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go to the island of Texel and drink one of their wonderful beers with my children. Mike is busy putting the finishing touches to a production of Irish playwright Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars, marking the centenary of Ireland’s 1916 uprising which takes place later this month. The Shadow of a Gunman will follow in June.   More >


‘The Dutch know how to deep-fry properly’

‘The Dutch know how to deep-fry properly’

Cypriot Alexia Solomou is an associate legal officer at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. She has been in the Netherlands for nearly 18 months, is still working on her cycling skills and would love to have met Anne Frank. How did you end up in the Netherlands? In 2010 I was at Columbia University in New York and I got a fellowship with the president of the International Court of Justice which ended in June 2011. I then went off on my travels and when I was working at Cambridge University, I applied for an actual job here, which I was lucky enough to get. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? A globetrotter because I love moving around. How long do you plan to stay and why? Two years, and possibly another two, because that is how long my contract is at the International Court of Justice. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak an intermediate level of Dutch. I have a private tutor. I'm a bit of a language buff actually. When I lived here the first time I felt uncomfortable because I did not speak the language, so this time around I started learning straight away. Dutch is my fifth language... once you have learned a few, you get the hang of picking up new ones. What's your favourite Dutch food? Warm stroopwafels from a street vendor in the city centre of The Hague because they do good to the soul. How Dutch have you become? I have taken up all the good Dutch habits: I have become well-organised and efficient. I have even planted some tulip bulbs - they've all come up and are really beautiful. I am still working on my cycling skills though. I'd cycled before I came here but never in the rain or the snow. Now I can do both, although I had a horrible fall the first time I cycled in the snow and did not realise my brakes had frozen up. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I would have liked to meet Hugo Grotius because he is one of the founding fathers of public international law. I would also like to meet Tobias Asser, the initiator of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, and a member of the Dutch delegation at The Hague Peace Conferences. And I would love to have had a chat with Anne Frank to discuss her home confinement during the World War II. Her diary is one of my favourite books. I'd really like to find out the truth about her relationship with Peter. What’s your top tourist tip? Eat anything that is deep-fried: kibeling, bitterballen, French fries, kroketten. The Dutch know how to deep-fry properly. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. I am always amazed with what Dutch people can carry on their bicycles, from umbrellas and briefcases to surf-boards and drying racks; in addition to their children, cats and dogs. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would visit my favourite museums in the Netherlands once more: the Mauritshuis in The Hague, the Speelklok in Utrecht, and the Van Gogh in Amsterdam. I would then have a coffee at Hometown and then dinner at Mochi (both in The Hague).  More >


‘At home we talk that horrible Dutch and English hybrid’

‘At home we talk that horrible Dutch and English hybrid’

Tracy Metz, 61, is a journalist and author who has lived in the Netherlands for over 36 years and has just been awarded the prestigious Grote Maaskantprijs 2016 for her work on architecture and landscape. She is currently director of the John Adams Institute, lectures on water management all over the world and describes herself as a gelukszoeker. How did you end up in the Netherlands? After college in the US I headed to Europe and planned to spend time in Spain and France. The cheapest ticket I could get was to Amsterdam so I ended up working there for a time to earn some money and then going off travelling again. I had a fluid relationship with the city until 1980 when I decided I'd like to settle here. I'd been teaching English to adults and had met the editor of the Parool newspaper. He introduced me to journalism and gave me a six-month internship. I knew immediately that being a journalist was what I wanted to do. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I'm a gelukszoeker - an adventurer, a seeker of good fortune. It has become such a politically laden term used by the right to dismiss asylum seekers so I'd like to reclaim it. Everyone is a gelukszoeker, looking for the society they can blossom in. I found it here. How long do you plan to stay? I'll probably be here the rest of my life. I'm assuming I will. My work, my friends, my house, my husband are all here. When I was a Harvard fellow in 2006/07 and spent a year in the States I realised how long I had been away. I felt like an outsider. And coming back here was like coming home. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I learned it by speaking and reading children's books, novels, newspapers and asking millions of questions. And insisting people spoke Dutch to me. The way people switch to English is an obstacle to many expats - and it is convenient sometimes as well. But you have to insist. At home we talk that horrible Dutch and English hybrid. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Draadjesvlees (very slow cooked beef) is delicious if well done. My husband does all the cooking and if you ask me for my favourite meal, how about some Texels lamb with roast potatoes in goose fat and lots of veggies. All Dutch grown of course. How Dutch have you become and why? I guess I have become quite Dutch. I know how things work and how people think. I was born in another country and that will always colour my perspective but the Dutch rituals are all par for the course for me now. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? The architect Hendrik Berlage is a very august figure in the world of art and architecture. He was the embodiment of the transition from the Dutch romantic style to modern times. Willem Drees (Labour party politician and prime minister) came up with the notion of social security - that Dutch feeling of being all in it together and responsible for each other. He laid out the Dutch system of solidarity, so that everyone could have a basic level of financial security. Cornelis Lely was a master of water issues and extremely influential. Lely designed the Afsluitdijk between Noord-Holland and Friesland. Actually, it's a dam not a dyke. What's your top tourist tip? The Ceuvel. It's a disused shipyard in Amsterdam Noord where all sorts of things are  happening. They've taken old houseboats and beached them and turned them into work spaces, they've built raised walkways, the cafe has been constructed out of discarded stuff. It shows great initiative, is a really exciting place and it is within cycling distance of the centre. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. What surprises and disappoints me now is when I look at the polls and see how popular Geert Wilders is. It is such a contradiction. The Netherlands is the country of tolerance and acceptance of others but the meaner side of human nature is getting a grip. It is really sad. The people are withdrawing into their shell and that makes me wonder how real that tolerance actually was. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I don't like to think about that happening. Tracy Metz is director of the John Adams Institute and initiated and hosts the monthly talk show Stadsleven at the Balie in Amsterdam. She is currently leading the HEYU! Urbans talk show series with leading urban thinkers.   More >


‘Forget Amsterdam and come straight to The Hague’

‘Forget Amsterdam and come straight to The Hague’

Born in the former Yugoslavia but travelling on a British passport, Azra Secerbegovic came to the Netherlands eight years ago. A big fan of living in The Hague, Azra has adopted the Dutch way of being on time for appointments and has no hesitation about chatting with the former queen. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was working for an Israeli company based in Rotterdam, then started working for a Dutch company here. I did sales and marketing for natural products and organic food. I decided I wanted to make a career switch, but I wanted to stay in the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I would say I’m a really international person. I was born in former Yugoslavia, and have lived in the UK, Israel and now in the Netherlands. I call myself a citizen of the world, and really feel comfortable surrounded by other people like that. How long do you plan to stay and why? I really enjoy living and working in The Hague and have no plans to leave. In The Hague you have the feeling of the big city but you’re actually really close to nature, and that’s how I spend my free time. For me this is home. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes I do speak it and I like to. Speaking Dutch helps me to understand the place I live in. I learn something new here every day! What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Erwtensoep! I love it. I love most soups but this pea soup is my favourite. I also like the Dutch appelgebak. How Dutch have you become and why? I've lived in so many different countries and always try to accept the culture of the country I’m in. I’m doing the same here but what exactly should I do to become Dutch? One thing I’ve definitely picked up though is being on time for appointments. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? Well I’ve already met the former queen Beatrix by chance. I was in an antique shop talking to my friend and she walked in looking for a mirror. My friend’s shop didn’t have one so I suggested somewhere else. My friend looked shocked but to me it was so normal, there was no pomp about her at all. It would be nice to meet the current queen Máxima, because she’s also an international person and I like what she’s doing for female immigrants in the Netherlands. I would like to meet Geert Wilders too, just to have a face to face chat and find out what he’s really like. What's your top tourist tip? Lots of people think Amsterdam equals the Netherlands, but that’s completely not true. I would say: forget Amsterdam and come straight to The Hague! You will be amazed. The Dutch Dance Theatre is amazing, and so is the nature here and the sea. There’s lots of events happening here and lots to see. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I didn’t know that the Dutch were so family-orientated. I think it’s really great that family is so important to them. I thought they were much more disconnected from each other before I came here. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d take a visit to the Mauritshuis museum to see Vermeer’s work, then I’d go to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. It’s a lovely little Dutch village and there’s some great restaurants there. I’d also go to Giethoorn – the Venice of the north. You can rent a little boat, get a drink, and on a nice day it’s fabulous. Then I’d get myself down to Schiphol and off I’d go! Azra owns lifestyle concept store ASPA in The Hague, which provides hair and beauty treatments as well as nutrition advice, pilates and yoga classes.  More >


‘What is being Dutch?  Maastrichtenaars are very different to Groningers’

‘What is being Dutch? Maastrichtenaars are very different to Groningers’

John Flood, 43, is Irish and has been a lecturer in English literature at Groningen University for six years. He is surprised by the way the government thinks it worth trying to ban the burqa in the middle of a financial crisis and would like to meet stadhouder Willem III, to find out the truth about those rumours. How did you end up in the Netherlands? A job came up at the English department of the University of Groningen and when I emailed someone I knew who had worked there I got the longest reply she’d ever sent me. She was so positive that I sent in an application even though I hadn’t really been thinking of moving to the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? ‘International’ since this is the third country I’ve lived in and my working environment is a very international one. I do remind people that I am an immigrant when questions of immigration are discussed. How long do you plan to stay and why? Indefinitely. I have a permanent job here that I enjoy. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? No, I don’t. In fact I have read passages of Dutch aloud at a student comedy event as the Dutch students find it hilarious. I work in an English bubble since, as you’d expect in a university English department, our students are wholly taught and assessed in English. We also have many non-Dutch students who we don’t want to be excluded, so even small talk in the class breaks is in English. I advise students to dump their current boyfriends and girlfriends and date a native English speaker. None of this excuses my own lack of Dutch though. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Snert, the thick pea soup. It’s a dinner in itself and is great on winter days. How Dutch have you become and why? I don’t think I’ve become very Dutch. Of course I now automatically buy Dutch food and live on a Dutch timetable (early – for me – dinners at 6pm, holidays for King’s Day, Pentecost, etc.) but that’s fairly superficial. When I lived in England (where I did speak the language fluently and where I could vote in national elections), I didn’t become English, so I don’t think that it’s unusual that I don’t feel Dutch. In any event, I’m not sure what ‘Dutch’ is. If you visit the south of the country, the people and area around Maastricht seem very different from the people and province of Groningen (where some people still speak Groningens). I am a little nervous about saying that some things are Dutch or Irish or American. National stereotypes can be good for jokes, but otherwise they can easily become lazy ways of thinking that exclude the people who don’t fit into them or that fail to do justice to the diversity of those living in a country. In the Netherlands, as in many places, the fragmentation of the monolithic idea of ‘the Dutch’ is as much generational as anything else. I wouldn’t like to say that older Dutch people got to define what it is to be Dutch and younger ones are becoming less Dutch, or that the real Dutch people are the younger generation who are relegating their grandparents’ generation to obsolescence. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? William III (1650-1782), prince of Orange; Stadholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht and Gelderland; and King of England, Ireland and Scotland. Having been invited to England by powers that were worried about the Catholicism of King James II, William assumed the English throne alongside his wife, James II’s daughter, Mary. Part of James’s strategy to recover his throne lay in holding Ireland but in 1690 William defeated him at the Battle of the Boyne and James fled. This battle had an afterlife that made William the most famous Dutch person to intervene in Irish history. It metamorphosed into a mythical event that for many Irish people came to symbolise the relationship between Britain and Ireland. To this day, Protestant marches in celebration of the victory are held in Northern Ireland, often to the accompaniment of fighting with Catholic protesters or the security forces. In the midst of all this, William himself was simplified. A personally tolerant man, he became associated by Protestants and Catholics alike with religious bigotry. The reason that I’d like to meet William is that it has been suggested recently that he was partially funded by the pope (who, like William, was worried about the expanding power of France) and that he was gay. The truth of either or both of these would put an end to a great deal of silly but dangerous nonsense in Irish politics as marches in Northern Ireland led by the papal nuncio and a number of drag queens (orange is the new pink) would hardly excite as much violence. Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516). I’m reading a book about him at the moment before I go to the big exhibition in Den Bosch. I’ve seen his paintings in various galleries in Europe and had formed an image of him as a maverick outsider with an eccentric imagination. Now I learn that he was a stolid figure of civic life who stayed in his home town where he was a member of a religious guild. Where the startling imagery in his paintings comes from can only be guessed at and I would love to meet him to encounter the mind that produced such lurid visions. Christophe Plantin (c.1520-1589). There may be some objections to this choice as Plantin was French and he settled in Antwerp which is no longer part of the Netherlands. Still, it was his Antwerp printing shop that made Plantin famous and Plantin contributed to the city’s fame. There he founded the Plantin-Moretus dynasty whose printing shop, a UNESCO heritage site, can still be visited. These are all famous historical figures, but I’m lucky since in my job I get to meet Dutch people of all ages. Many colleagues across the various faculties are working on fascinating research and meeting them is as good as hours of TV documentaries. It’s also common for Dutch people to have had interesting experiences of or family stories about the Second World War and their perspectives on Europe are very different from those in Ireland or the UK. What's your top tourist tip? The Shakespeare Theatre Diever. It’s extraordinary that in Diever, a small town in Drente, there’s an amateur outdoor theatre that has been acting Shakespeare annually for the last seventy years. The plays are translated into Dutch and every year they have about 20,000 people attending their run of performances. Perversely, they did A Midsummer Night’s Dream in January at midnight one year and we sat surrounded by snow and layers of blankets. It was wonderful! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The political system is very different from the ones I am used to. Ireland is a Republic and although a lot of respect and influence attaches to various old or influential families, the head of state is elected. A constitutional monarchy is, of course, a familiar system to Irish people because of all the news coverage of the Queen of England. That the Netherlands manages to have a monarch without all the attendant tabloid journalism was a bit of a surprise. The Dutch law that surprised me the most was the one targeting the burka and the niqab. I first heard about it in a week in which, by coincidence, I was talking to my students about sumptuary laws (laws regulating clothes) in Elizabethan England. They considered that legislating to control people’s clothing was an amusing phenomenon from 400 years ago and were as surprised as I had been to learn that the Netherlands was debating introducing such laws. I remain astonished that in the middle of a financial crisis the parliament was worried about the hundreds (not thousands) of women who cover their faces in some way. In a society of high heels, Barbie doll models and the social pressures to wear fashionable and expensive clothes (all features that derive much of their power from Euro-American influences that are ‘foreign’ insofar as they are not natively Dutch), it seems odd to me to focus on such a minority of women rather than on the anorexia, bulimia and misery of people who populate doctors’ and psychiatrists’ waiting rooms and miserable beds in hospital wards. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d go and be a tourist in one of the many places I’ve yet to visit. When you live somewhere you take it for granted and often put off investigating somewhere that you’d certainly have gone if you were merely passing through. I’ve been to the Rijksmuseum when I came to the Netherlands before I moved here, but now that I live here I haven’t yet seen the new refit.  More >


‘I’ve become an impatient cyclist; I think I rule the road on my bike’

‘I’ve become an impatient cyclist; I think I rule the road on my bike’

Dan Fennessy (36) is the founder and CEO of Party With A Local, an app that helps travelers connect with locals and discover fun things to do that aren’t in the guidebooks. Since he’s been here, Dan has become a father, an impatient cyclist and a krentenbol aficionado. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I did a round the world trip back in 2006. Right at the end of that trip I was backpacking in Central America and I met a Dutch girl there. We spent some time together and then went home. I didn’t think anything was going to come of it, but we stayed in touch and decided we wanted to be together. I was ready to do something a bit different, so I decided to move over here. I've been here eight years now. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I’ve actually never heard of a ‘lovepat’ before! In some ways I don’t really like the term ‘expat,’ as it implies you’re excluded from the local community. Sometimes the expat community tends to stick together and keep to themselves. I prefer the term ‘international local.’ I feel like an expat who has integrated into Dutch society. Especially from my work with Party With A Local, I feel like an Amsterdam local now. How long do you plan to stay and why? I would say probably not forever, but I have no immediate plans to leave. If there’s opportunities to take the startup somewhere else, potentially the US, that could happen. Plus I wouldn’t mind living somewhere with warmer weather! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yeah, I can speak it but I rarely do. I did a few intensive courses when I first arrived and passed my inburgering exams. I guess having a Dutch girlfriend and friends helps. I can listen to it, read and write it, but when people hear me speak it they tend to switch to English. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Krentenbol. It’s just like a little scone with raisins and sultanas in it. It’s quite simple but it’s a nice little snack in between snacks. How Dutch have you become and why? I’m a little bit more direct than I used to be, which I think is a good thing. That comes from being around the blunt Dutch mentality for so long. I’m an impatient cyclist now too, I think I rule the road on my bike. I have a son now here as well, which makes me even more integrated but I still never refer to myself as Dutch. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? The explorer Abel Tasman, who discovered Tasmania and New Zealand. I’d like to ask him why him and the Dutch were there but decided not to colonise Australia. Another one, who’s still alive, is Johnny De Mol, the TV personality. I don’t really like Dutch TV in general but he’s an interesting character who goes to interesting places. I’d think he’d be fun to go out and have a drink with. Thirdly I’d pick a sportsperson, maybe Johan Cruyff. I’d like to talk to someone who’s succeeded at that level. What's your top tourist tip? After telling people to download our app and party with locals here, the next day I’d recommend freshening up with a bike ride across to the north and up to Broek in Waterland. You pass a farm on the way that sells fresh milk from a milk tap, and you ride through farms and green fields. It’s amazing how quickly you get out of the city and into fields and villages. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands I knew that Dutch people were tall, but not this tall. I’m about average height in Australia, but here I’m shorter than the average girl. Trying to see live music here is often pretty difficult. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d go for a boat ride with a bunch of friends, drinks and food. If it was a warm day maybe we’d do some swimming in the IJ. Then I’d go to a little café near where I live and eat there on the terrace. That would be perfect.  More >


‘I will keep the Dutch tradition of playing games with all the family’

‘I will keep the Dutch tradition of playing games with all the family’

Polish national Marysia Bialek came to the Netherlands as a teenager 15 years ago and is now a marketing and communications advisor. She describes herself as a European, feels at home in two cultures and would love to meet John de Mol and Neelie Kroes. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My mother’s second husband was Dutch and they decided to leave Poland so I didn’t have a choice. That was 15 years ago. I came to the Netherlands when I was a teenager. It was a difficult time to leave the environment I trusted and all my good friends but I made it and the Netherlands has become my home. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’m a European. I love Europe and the open borders. My home is Poland and the Netherlands. My background allows me to think and act naturally in two cultures. By mixing the Dutch directness with the Polish politeness I seem to have managed to generate interesting business contacts and long-lasting relationships. How long do you plan to stay and why? The Netherlands is a friendly country for doing business and allows you to travel all over the world. I will probably stay here for a while longer. We will see. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch and Polish equally - I had to learn Dutch at school. But I have a lot of friends who are not trying to learn because everyone speaks English. Please try! If you speak Dutch a lot of doors will open for you. Dutch people appreciate it when you try to speak their language and you will understand all Dutch jokes and the hidden messages in their words. What's your favourite Dutch food? Soesjes - little profiteroles -  I can’t live with out them, sooo lekker! How Dutch have you become? I think in Dutch and have Dutch friends, making appointments in my agenda and reading Dutch books.  But I will always stay a Polish girl. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? John de Mol is a Dutch media icon. He developed highly popular television programmes and he’s still working on new formats. I just want to see him brainstorming about the show and thinking up programmes people will want to see. Neelie Kroes is very powerful and influential. What she says matters, and I'd love her to be a special guest at the conference we are organising to celebrate International Women's Day. Television presenter Matthijs van Nieuwkerk has such a rich vocabulary. Every day when I watch his show I learn new words. What's your top tourist tip? If you like nature, visit Oostvaardersplassen between Lelystad and Almere. Years ago you could even ice skate there  – really beautiful.  Now you can go there for a long walk on a sunny day. Take your binoculars with you to spot a lot of different animals. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The Dutch love playing games with their family. Whole families get together to play cards, scrabble, Settlers of Catan or Monopoly. For me it means gezellig. And this is a tradition I will keep with my future family. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Eat patat oorlog (French fries with sate sauce, mayonnaise and raw onion). Marysia Bialek is one of the organisers of Business Women Congress, a conference for women from central Europe which will take place in The Hague on March 12.  More >


‘The Kröller-Müller museum in Arnhem is a real gem’

‘The Kröller-Müller museum in Arnhem is a real gem’

American Robert Chesal (50) is a journalist, writer and university lecturer. Three decades ago he followed his heart to the Netherlands and never looked back. Now he lives with his wife and children in Zutphen, eats koolpot with passion, but still doesn’t feel 100% Dutch. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to Utrecht on an exchange programme in the mid-80s. Eight months later I returned to the US and met a Dutch girl who was on the same programme, only in the other direction. We fell in love, and when she had to go home I saw no reason to stay in America. So I came to the Netherlands on a wing and a prayer. At the time I had no Dutch so I enrolled in the only suitable course at Utrecht University – English. During my studies I became a journalist and never looked back. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I would describe myself as an international, but with a desire to put down roots. As a child I moved a lot within the US, but I feel comfortable to settle here with my family. How long do you plan to stay? It’s hard to say. I could see myself spending the rest of my life here, but if the opportunity to go somewhere else and do something great came to me I’d take it. As long as it suited my wife and children, I could follow an opportunity tomorrow if it came. Do you speak Dutch? Yes. I learned by reading Dutch newspapers, watching Dutch TV, and listening to Dutch radio. I’m a news junkie, and I found that if I knew what was happening in the world in English, I could follow it in Dutch. Basically I learned through over-exposure to Dutch media. Now, I’ve written a book in Dutch and am married to a Dutch woman, so everything from lovemaking to arguing happens in Dutch. What's your favourite Dutch food? It’s called koolpot. It’s made from mashed potatoes, onions, cabbage, ground beef, and a blend of spices including hot pepper sambal - perfect served with some peanuts and a nice cold beer. The recipe has been in my wife Mischa’s family for generations, and I like the contrast between the typical Dutch mashed potatoes and the hot spices. How Dutch have you become? Between speaking the language, eating the food and raising a family here, I’d say I’ve become as Dutch as I could. However, as a foreigner you can do everything possible to integrate but there’s a kind of glass wall that prevents you from ever becoming truly Dutch. You can be a familiar outsider, but there’s something about Dutch society that never really lets you 100% of the way in. I think that comes only with being born and raised here. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? I’ve thought about this, and first I’d have to say Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch governor of New Amsterdam (New York) in the mid-1600s. He must have seen a raucous time with drunk Dutch sailors and colonists making trouble all over the city. I’d like to ask him about keeping the peace in that wild time. Second, I’d ask prince Bernhard, husband of former queen Juliana, about the corruption scandals he implicated himself in. And finally I’d like to interview Mata Hari, the dancer and spy. I’d like to find out about all the behind-the-scenes intrigue she was involved in. What's your top tourist tip? Go to the Kröller-Müller museum in Arnhem. For so many foreigners it’s unknown, but it’s a real hidden gem. It’s in the middle of a large forest, so you borrow a bike and cycle through a strange landscape before arriving at this amazing collection of modernist art. The collection features everything from Van Gogh, to Mondrian, to Picasso. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I was surprised to discover how conservative the people are. Before I came here I thought the Netherlands would be a wild and free wonderland, but the people are much less adventurous than I expected. Thankfully there’s some forward-thinking people in government here, and the laws here are very progressive, but the average Dutch person doesn’t like change. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go back to the first neighbourhood I lived in in Utrecht, cycle around and rediscover all the places that made me fall in love with this country 29 years ago. After taking in how much the place changed over the last three decades, I’d stop for a cold beer and maybe relax with something that wouldn’t be legal in my home country.  More >


‘I think the spirit of engineering is ingrained in the Dutch psyche’

‘I think the spirit of engineering is ingrained in the Dutch psyche’

Finnish-Canadian Timo Mashiyi-Veikkola (47) came to the Netherlands with his South African husband Ossie four years ago. The couple have been running a pop-up restaurant – Bulelani BBQ - for the last 18 months and are now looking to crowdfund a permanent location in Amsterdam. A fan of Dutch design and Dutch haring, Timo feels at home and comfortable here. How did you end up in the Netherlands? In 2011 Ossie and I had just gotten married in South Africa. I was working successfully as a consultant in London, but we wanted a change of scenery and an opportunity to relocate. When I was offered a job here we took that opportunity and moved. Ossie looked for work in hospitality but wanted his own business, and the Netherlands has always provided entrepreneurs with a good platform to succeed. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? Identity is always a good question, and it’s something I come across frequently as an anthropologist. I don’t mind being referred to as an immigrant. My parents were immigrants to Canada and were proud of it. However, as a Canadian-Finnish man who’s married to a South African and came here from the UK, I’d consider myself in today’s terminology to be a global citizen. I feel rich to have so many different places to call home. How long do you plan to stay and why? We love the Netherlands and feel comfortable here. We’re planning to open a restaurant and I do my consultancy work from here, so we’re really putting down roots in Amsterdam. The culture and relaxed lifestyle suits us. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? We took courses offered to us by the local council and had some really great teachers. My husband is good with languages and took to it straight away, but I’ve been a little more apprehensive. You want to practise Dutch but people in Amsterdam switch to English when they hear a foreigner speak, so I’ve found myself leaning on my English here. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I’ve tried all the borrelhapjes in the brown cafes, and plenty of fish and meat dishes, but my favourite is zuurvlees, a speciality from Limburg. My friend makes the best zuurvlees in the Netherlands. And of course, being Finnish, I love the haring and smoked eel. How Dutch have you become? It’s difficult to say. Lots of typical Dutch behaviour and attitudes are similar to Finnish ones. We share the directness, entrepreneurship, and the full-spirited approach to life. I think you become a mix of your own culture and the one you live in. You take on certain traits, hopefully the good ones! Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Aside from the obvious ones (Anne Frank, Van Gogh, Vermeer), one person I’d love to meet would be Mathilde Willink. She was a model and a big personality around Amsterdam in the 1970s. She was married to an artist and had the most amazing life. As a futurist involved with design, I’d like to meet the architect Rem Koolhaas and talk about designing the society of the future. And thirdly, I’d love to meet Mata Hari, the dancer and spy. I bet she would have so many interesting stories to tell. What's your top tourist tip? Do what we do some Sundays. Pick a town or village, go there by train, rent a bike, and just explore. The Netherlands has some amazing and varied cultural experiences to offer outside Amsterdam. Within the city, get out of the centre! There’s so many up-and-coming areas that can give you a taste of all the different cultures that make Amsterdam what it is. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Learning about the engineering that has shaped this country and maintains it every day never stops surprising me. From the land reclamation to the intricate network of dykes and waterways, it’s all fascinating. The Dutch utilise every space, every technique, and every idea. I think the spirit of engineering is ingrained in the Dutch psyche. On a smaller scale, the scooters on the bike paths just bewilder me every day. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would have some Bulelani BBQ ribs, invite over all the lovely people who’ve embraced us here, and just enjoy their company for the day. Timo and Ossie Mashiyi-Veikkola are running a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for a permanent location for their restaurant.  More >


‘I’m a fair weather cyclist – if it’s raining we take the car’

‘I’m a fair weather cyclist – if it’s raining we take the car’

Australian Rebecca Overmars has been in the Netherlands for two years, has three children and runs her own maternity nurse practice. A fan of  flip-flops, she has learned to appreciate Dutch beaches, even in winter, and likes waving back when angry cyclists shout 'hallo'. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband and I were both born in Australia, me into an Aussie-British family and him into an Aussie-Dutch family. In 2009 we left Australia to live in Andorra, which is a tiny little country in the Pyrenees mountains. It was during our time living there that I first travelled to Amsterdam, and returned home declaring that I wanted to move there! We visited a couple of times a year and fell in love with Haarlem, as a less touristy version of Amsterdam. So when it was time to leave Andorra there was no question as to where we would come! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I think others would see us as expats but I don’t really feel like one. International would probably describe us best. How long do you plan to stay? The intention is to stay long term, at least until all of our children have finished their schooling. I love the Netherlands; in some ways it feels more like ‘home’ than Australia. I could definitely see myself growing old and spending the rest of my life here, but I have learnt to never think in absolutes. Who knows where we will end up, but for now I am very happy here. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Not yet. After four years of learning Spanish I was a little burnt out when it came to language studies by the time I moved here. But I am picking it up slowly through the environment. I understand quite a bit and can read Dutch easily enough, particularly if it’s related to work. I really need to enrol in a course but finding the time whilst running a business is difficult. My children are all trilingual - which is both a blessing and a curse as it throws up some unique challenges, especially as my four-year-old has switched to Dutch as his primary language. It makes for some interesting conversations as they switch between English, Dutch and Spanish depending on who they are talking to. My seven-year-old has decided she is going to teach me Dutch and regularly takes me through her school work, getting me to practise my pronunciation of ‘ei’ and ‘ij’. It gives them all a good laugh when I try. What's your favourite Dutch food? Dutch food to me is comfort food, and unlike a lot of expats, I really love it! I also love how accessible various cuisines are here; you really can have anything you fancy! The first time I tried bitterballen I wasn’t impressed, but now I get a craving for them every three months or so and nothing will satisfy it until I have a piping hot tray of them from my local takeaway shop - with mustard of course. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet ? The Dutch have a rich history as leaders and innovators in the sciences and as a medical professional I would love the opportunity to meet some of the historically significant individuals who shaped our modern understanding of medicine, such as geneticist Hugo de Vries, anatomist Reinier de Graaf and physician Herman Boerhaave. Or alternatively I’d love to meet the royal family, because I’m a bit of a sucker for a good monarchy. How Dutch have you become and why? Pretty Dutch I think. We currently have ten bicycles of various qualities and sizes at our house, for a family of five, including a bakfiets. I am used to my children scattering all over the suburb for playdates after school or ending up with six kids in my house most days of the week. I know to never go to the bank without my passport. My kids leave their shoes out for Sinterklaas and I get excited when the oliebollen trucks spring up during the festive season. In other ways we are still quite Australian. I’m a fair weather cyclist - if it’s raining we take the car. Christmas remains our biggest celebration and I still can’t get used to inviting only a small selection of my children’s classmates to their birthday parties. I have to invite everyone or else I feel awful. The biggest sign that I’m still very Aussie is that I get around in flip-flops whenever possible, sometimes even in winter! I get some odd looks for that one. What's your top tourist tip? When Dutch cyclists yell ‘Hallo!’ at you they aren’t being friendly. It probably just means you’ve mistaken the bike path for a sidewalk. But waving back enthusiastically can be fun. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. We spend a lot of time at the beach, which is something I didn’t expect would be a part of life when we moved here. As an Aussie who grew up on the beaches of Fremantle and Cottesloe my standards when it comes to beaches are pretty high, and whilst Dutch beaches are very different to those I grew up with, they have a certain charm about them. I love the beach clubs and the social side of meeting friends for lunch or afternoon drinks during the summer. And there is something pleasantly calming and exhilarating about taking a walk along the sand on a wild, windy, winter’s day. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would probably go and meet up with all my old clients for a cup of tea and to see how their babies are growing and changing. I love my job so much and you grow close in one way or another to every single family you work with. I know I learn something new about myself, my job or life in general with every single one. The only downside is I have to leave them when their babies are still newborns and I often wonder how they are doing in the months following. I love seeing those tiny little newborns turn into chubby, grinning babies and seeing how well their families are adjusting to life with their new addition. That is the ultimate satisfaction. Rebecca Overmars is owner of Cherry Tree Lane Kraamzorg   More >


‘After 22 years here, I’m no longer as materialistic as I used to be’

‘After 22 years here, I’m no longer as materialistic as I used to be’

Londoner Billy Allwood is the founder of website The Hague Online and organiser of the Feel at Home in The Hague fair, which celebrates its 10th edition on Sunday. Posted here 22 years ago, Billy has now abandoned suits, would like to meet Frank Rijkaard and says the North Sea is too cold to swim in. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to the Netherlands in 1994 when the Brazilian mining company I worked for relocated its headquarters from London. I worked in their strategy department and  when the company was taken over, we were let go. I decided to stay on and started a financial software company. In 2004, when I had been in the Netherlands for 10 years, I launched The Hague Online. I realised there was not enough information out there in English about daily life in The Hague. So that is what I decided to provide. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I'm an international person living in an international city. I don't feel like an immigrant. I feel European and I'm living in Europe. I was born in the UK but my parents are from Jamaica so that may have something to do with it. I think I find it more annoying to be asked where I am from by people in Britain than when it happens here. How long do you plan to stay and why? The Hague is my home but of course you never know what is going to happen in the future. I plan to stay here as long as I am enjoying life. I don't expect to be thrown out if Britain votes to leave the EU. I don't think a Brexit will happen. The world is getting smaller and you can't be isolationist. There would be chaos if all the Brits who live outside the UK had to deal with that. The Hague and Amsterdam are full of young people from all over Europe which gives me a real buzz. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch well enough. When I first came here I worked for an international company and my wife was British, so there was little incentive to really learn. That changes when you start being more interested in what's happening around you. If you go out for a beer with Dutch people, you can't expect them to speak English all night. My children went to Dutch schools, so I learned more with them. They watched Dutch telly so I watched Dutch telly. Learning Dutch is a gradual process and my vocabulary is always expanding. What's your favourite Dutch food? I'm a simple soul and Dutch borrelhapjes after a game of squash are always a temptation. I'm not going to say there is no such thing as Dutch food - I'm from England after all, so say no more. It's more about the experience and the culture of eating - the herring parties at the start of the new season are typically Dutch and I like that. How Dutch have you become? I've become pretty Dutch in the way I dress. In London it was all about what type of tie you were wearing and your cufflinks. Here, the approach to dressing is much  more relaxed and low key. In the beginning I thought it was weird but now I am quite used to it. I still own suits, but I very rarely wear one. I like cycling as well. It's great to turn up at a business meeting on a bike. No one thinks it strange. I'm also not as materialistic as I used to be. That's another Dutch trait. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? Football player Frank Rijkaard - he was always the odd one out of the three if you compare him to Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit and I think the more interesting character. Film director Paul Verhoeven is another person with a story to tell. And Spinoza - people still talk about him today. What's your top tourist tip? I used to go to the Nemo science centre a lot with the children when they were younger. Its a nice, interactive way to spend some time. But actually cycling is the best. Once, some friends came over from London and brought their own bikes. We cycled from The Hague to the seaside resort of Noordwijk. The North Sea is too cold for me to swim in, but I do appreciate the fried fish. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. When I first came here, I was surprised by how many people smoked. Not weed, but cigarettes. It's getting less, but it still surprises me. The smoking ban has made a big difference. You don't come home from a bar smelling of smoke any more. When I look at those smoking corners, I think people must be really desperate. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd go on a nice, long cycle ride to the beach and come back via Leiden with my kids. The Netherlands is a great place to bring up children. If I have to leave, the Netherlands will always be a part of me. The 10th edition of the Feel at Home in The Hague fair takes place on Sunday at city hall. You can book free tickets online.  More >


‘Beware of speculaas spread. That stuff is addictive’

‘Beware of speculaas spread. That stuff is addictive’

Blogger and translator Olga Mecking, 33, is Polish and has lived in the Netherlands for going on six years. She would like to meet the king and queen, doesn't cycle and has developed her own version of stamppot, using sweet potatoes and chorizo. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Actually, I didn’t plan on moving to the Netherlands. I thought I would move to Germany where my then-boyfriend, now-husband lived. But then we got engaged, I got pregnant and my husband found a job in the Netherlands. So that’s where I moved - with a six-week-old baby, no less. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? Good question. I am probably all of these things: expat (understood as someone who lives abroad), lovepat (I didn’t even know this term existed, but yes, I moved to Germany, and Canada, and the Netherlands for love), immigrant (because I came here to stay), and, as someone who has lived abroad several times and speaks many languages, I am definitely an international. I would only add one thing: European. I’ve moved around a little, but mostly around Europe (except for a 4-month stay in Canada). So I haven’t lived in one place my whole life like some people have, but I am not really global either. European is how I identify and my whole experience has been shaped by living in Europe. How long do you plan to stay? When I was moving to Germany I thought we’d stay there long-term, possibly forever. But then we moved to the Netherlands. We’re planning to stay here long-term. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I speak Dutch. I managed to learn it through classes at the university and then at my husband’s workplace. And I am getting plenty of practice while running errands, shopping, etc. It’s important to me to speak Dutch - not only because it helps me get more integrated but also because my kids speak it. What's your favourite Dutch food? Well, I like poffertjes and stroopwaffels. But erwtensoep is also nice - I’ve even managed to learn to make it myself. Also, I’ve discovered my own version of stamppot - with sweet potatoes and chorizo! Oh and speculaas spread. Beware of that stuff, it’s addictive. Luckily, I can grow some of the fruit I miss and buy many things at the Polish supermarket near us. But that’s not the same as back home, obviously. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet? MC Escher, definitely - he's my favourite artist! My parents are professors and they love him. We used to have postcards. Then I'd like to meet the king and queen, especially Máxima, she seems so nice. And if I can have one more, Van Gogh. I love his paintings, but let's face it, who doesn't? How Dutch have you become? Probably not very Dutch, I must admit. I think I’m more of a person who likes adding cultures and languages to her repertoire rather than going local. We've adopted some Dutch customs - like going outside whenever there’s no rain - but otherwise we’re not very Dutch. We create our own family culture and it tends to change all the time. Besides, I don’t cycle, I’m very short and I didn’t have a home birth, hahaha. What's your top tourist tip? Delft, for sure! I used to live there and it’s my favourite city in the Netherlands. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I was very surprised that so many women give birth at home - and many go to see a midwife for their pregnancy check-ups. The whole healthcare system is so weird - and I don’t even know how often I was told by my Dutch doctor to stay at home and take paracetamol. Sometimes they would miss bigger problems because of this approach and they didn’t even notice that my daughter needed her adenoids removed. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I don’t know. It would depend on whether I was be alone or with my family. Alone, I’d go to Rotterdam, shopping (mostly for kitchen gadgets) and visit some museums. With the family, it’d probably be the usual: a playground, a park or maybe a kid-friendly museum or event. Olga Mecking writes the blog The European Mama. Her articles have been published on various websites including The Huffington Post, Babble and the Wall Street Journal.  More >


‘I love being on time, I love structure and I love organisation’

‘I love being on time, I love structure and I love organisation’

Lidia Barro Kooger, 47,  has a Dutch mother and Spanish dad and has lived all over the world. Now settled in Overveen, she loves good Dutch organisation, misses the bright blue Spanish sky and says she does not know where her roots are. How did you end up in the Netherlands? When I was three years old I moved with my Spanish father and Dutch mother from Madrid to the Netherlands. My parents met each other in Spain and decided to live in Madrid where my sister and I were born. When my mother became homesick they moved to the Netherlands where I grew up. Although I grew up in the Netherlands, from a very young age I knew that I wanted to go back to Spain. So when I turned 18, I moved to Spain where I lived and worked for 10 years. I enjoyed life so much: the people, the culture, the food, the weather, everything was so wonderful! I married a Spaniard. We moved to New York, then to Singapore and later back to Spain. And then we decided to split up. I decided to go back to my family in the Netherlands. It surprised me but I was missing Dutch structure and organisation. That was almost 20 years ago. I continued to miss Spain but just when I decided to go back to Spain I met my husband – a Spaniard living in the Netherlands. We now live in Overveen with our four children. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I describe myself as an international because for many years I have lived in several countries, mostly Spain and the Netherlands. I feel comfortable in all countries because I grew up in a very multicultural area of Amsterdam with people from all over the world. I feel good when I am surrounded by many cultures. How long do you plan to stay and why? As long as my children are living in the house I will not move. My dream is to buy a house in Spain and maintain an apartment in the Netherlands and live six months in Spain during winter (because I miss the brightness of the blue Spanish sky) and summer in the Netherlands. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak fluent Dutch because my mother is Dutch and I grew up as a bilingual. What's your favorite Dutch food and why? When I was living in Spain I did not miss Dutch food as Spanish food is much more tasty. But friends could really surprise me by sending me pepernoten around the 5th of December. I still love them. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet? I would like to meet my mother's family. My Dutch grandpa and grandma passed away when I was very young. The only family I have contact with, in the Netherlands, is my aunt. There must be more Koogers but where are they? How Dutch have you become and why? I don’t have my roots in the Netherlands….I don’t know where my roots are. When I am in Spain they say Holandesa to me and here in the Netherlands they say Spaanse dame to me. I feel Dutch when I am in Spain because I notice that I love being on time, I love structure and I love good organisation. When I am in Spain I really miss these three very Dutch characteristics. Yet here I notice that I feel irritated when the Dutch are too punctual, too structured and too organised! What's your top tourist tip? Always take some change when you go to a public toilet. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The Dutch have surprisingly bad taste when dressing for a wedding. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I think I would be happy to go back to Spain, and would be fully occupied with preparing everything at home that we needed to pack for our way back. For our last dinner we would go to my favourite restaurant in Haarlem, Het Goede Uur - for a nice kaasfondue with my best friends and small Dutch family. Lidia Barro Kooger teaches Spanish for CursusSpaans.nu and Dutch as a second language (NT2) for Language Partners and VU-NT2.  More >


‘The very first Dutch word I think I ever learned was belasting’

‘The very first Dutch word I think I ever learned was belasting’

This year, it is 10 years since DutchNews.nl was launched. To kick off the celebrations, DutchNews.nl founder Robin Pascoe, who has lived in the Netherlands for over 30 years, answers our 10 questions. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I originally came here as au pair for an Anglo-Italian family way back in 1981. I hung around for a few years working in Stilett, the notorious t-shirt shop in the Damstraat. This was the time of squatters, punk and New Wave. When I turned 25 I thought I had better get serious so went back to Britain and amazingly got accepted by the BBC as a trainee reporter. Four years later I came back to marry a Dutchman and have worked here as a journalist ever since. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I am an immigrant in the traditional sense because I moved to Amsterdam to make my life here. How long do you plan to stay? I have no idea. It might be nice to retire to the sun one day but at the moment I have no plans to go anywhere.  My life, my friends, my work, my children are all here. I have family back in Scotland and we meet when we can. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Attitudes to speaking Dutch were very different when I came here - it was not such an issue. The very first Dutch word I think I ever learned was belasting because the shop's accountant refused to speak English to me. I'm not sure if he actually could, to be honest. Of course I have become fluent in reading and speaking over the years but I can't write it. I do get irritated when people criticise my accent - I will never sound like a Dutch person and at a certain point my children asked me not to speak Dutch in front of their friends. I was never sure as to whether this was because I was an embarrassment or that they wanted to show off their perfect English. They don't care anymore and neither do I. What's your favourite Dutch food? The perfect winter warmer - Draadjesvlees - a very, very slow cooked beef stew. I'm also partial to kapucijners - big Dutch peas served with slices of bacon, smoked sausage, boiled potatoes, apple puree, silverskin onions and piccalilly. How Dutch have you become and why? It's a funny thing about being away from your home country for so long - you forget or romanticise what it was like. When I go back, I can't deal with the money and end up letting shop assistants pick out the coins because I can't recognise a 10 pence piece for the life of me. When people ask me where I am from, I say Amsterdam. I'll never officially become Dutch and I think long-term taxpayers like myself should have full voting rights. It is also absurd to think that when I reach retirement age at 67, I will have paid taxes here for 45 years but will not be entitled to a full state pension. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you most like to meet and why? Willem Barentsz, who set out to find a northern trade route to Asia in 1596 and got stuck in the ice floes near Nova Zembla. He and his crew managed to survive the Arctic winter - it's an amazing story - but Barentsz died on the way home. In terms of people who are still alive - there are lots of people I would like to interview as a journalist. Top of my list would be artist Daan Roosegaarde - his ideas, like the smog vacuum cleaner and smog jewellery, are so witty and clever. And Johan Cruijff. I actually had pictures of him on my bedroom wall as a young teenager. What's your top tourist tip? If we ignore all the obvious stuff, rent a car and head up to Friesland to visit the planetarium in Franeker, which is extraordinary. Any time left over and you should nip down the road to the hamlet of Wiewerd to check out the air-dried mummies in the crypt of the church. Seriously bizarre. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The Dutch are obsessed with what other people think about them and about where they are in international rankings. We're always being told they are fifth best in the world at this or 3rd best at that. And any time there is a big news story here, you'll always find a headline about how X or Y is 'global news' with quotes from the BBC and CNN. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Rent a little boat and cruise around the Amsterdam canals with a picnic, lovely husband, sons and all my mates. Then head out to the beach at Parnassia for a late afternoon swim and eat sate and chips - with mayonnaise - as the sun goes down.   More >


‘In a weird way, this is the closest I’ve come to really feeling at home’

‘In a weird way, this is the closest I’ve come to really feeling at home’

American Sarah Bringhurst Familia, 35, has been in the Netherlands for just eight months but already feels like a local. She owns two bikes, loves the Dutch work-life balance, and says she and her family are in it for the long haul. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I’ve lived on five different continents during the past 15 years, so expatting is kind of a way of life for me. My husband and I both grew up American, but about 10 years ago we found out that he could claim Italian citizenship through his great-great grandfather, who emigrated from Italy to the United States in the mid-19th century. I’d always wanted to live in Europe, so we spent several months in Italy wading through red tape at government offices till he was granted citizenship. We lived in Italy for a while after that, but the job market isn’t ideal there, so we started looking at other European cities. I’d had a one-day stop-over in Amsterdam during a study abroad at university, and remembered it being beautiful, so we sort of picked it on a whim. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? Kind of a complicated question. I have always thought of myself as an expat, and have really enjoyed living in different places. Usually I get itchy feet after a while, and I’m ready to move onto somewhere new. Recently, though, I’ve just felt this urge to settle down - call it a mid-life crisis, perhaps. I don’t know that I’m quite ready to call myself an immigrant yet, and I think I’ll always feel like an international. So yeah, hard to define. How long do you plan to stay and why? I keep telling people that if I make it through one Dutch winter, I’ll know I can live here forever. I love the way of life here. In a weird way, this is the closest I’ve ever come to really feeling at home somewhere. I love the work-life balance, cycling everywhere, being so close to the rest of Europe, and the international vibe of Amsterdam. There’s so much going on here culturally and socially. I never get bored. And at the same time, I’m quite content with how my daily life plays out. It’s both a beautiful and a very livable city. When we came here, both my husband and I were working remotely for American companies. But we’ve since both gotten local jobs. Our kids are in a Dutch school. We’ve effectively moved our life here, and I think we’re in for the long haul. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? So far my Dutch skills are pretty basic. In contrast to a lot of places I’ve lived, Amsterdam is somewhere it’s easy to get by with zero local language skills. My work environment is in English, my kids go to a bilingual school, and nearly every Dutch person I meet has near-native English-language skills. I try to do my 10 minutes on Duolingo every day, and I’m planning on starting a Dutch course next month, but I’d say my reason for wanting to learn is to be a good guest in the Netherlands, and not any sort of practical necessity. I hate the moment when I’m in yoga class, and the teacher asks if there is anyone who doesn’t speak Dutch, and I’m the one who sheepishly raises my hand, and causes an entire room full of courteous Dutch people to have the class in English just for me. What's your favourite Dutch food? Don’t hate me, but what I really like is the ready availability of Turkish and Indonesian food here. I’m not that enchanted with Dutch food, whether it’s the old and young cheese, the hagelslag, or the herring. Poffertjes are pretty good, though. What do you miss about back home? Not a whole lot. I don’t think it will take long before the Netherlands feels like home. I miss other places I’ve lived, though. It’s hard not to leave a piece of your heart in every country you’ve called home. How Dutch have you become? Things I do that people tell me are 'so Dutch': I cycle everywhere. In fact, I just bought a second commuter bike to ride to work from the train station in The Hague. Also, I’ve developed a terrible habit of texting whilst cycling. I obsessively talk about the weather, especially the rain. But I don’t feel too much of a compulsion to become more Dutch. I’ve spent enough time as an expat to know that you never really fit in as if you were born somewhere. It’s best to embrace your identity as someone different, at least to some extent, and get comfortable with the idea that no matter how long you live somewhere, you’ll always be at least a little foreign. I was at a museum with my 10-year-old daughter last week, though, and she saw a life-sized photograph of the king and queen. She walked up to it, made a little bow, and then turned to tell me that she knew most of 'our' national anthem. I love that she already feels such a connection. What's your top tourist tip? I haven’t actually done a lot of tourist stuff here beyond the obligatory museums. I guess I’d say rent a bicycle, because it’s a great way to get around, convenient, and I like the vantage point. You see differently from a bicycle than when you’re walking or driving in a car. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands Can I say the staircases? Do Dutch people find them as nerve-wracking as I do? Pretty much every expat I’ve met has had some kind of near-death experience on a Dutch staircase. I guess it’s probably one of those things that seems insane when you first encounter it, but eventually becomes normal. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Go on a long walk in central Amsterdam with my husband and kiss on every canal bridge. Sarah Bringhurst Familia is in charge of PR and marketing at the Expatriate Archive Centre, an archive that collects and preserves primary source material documenting the social history of expats worldwide. She blogs on Casteluzzo.com.   More >


‘I feel most Dutch when I check the special offers in the supermarket’

‘I feel most Dutch when I check the special offers in the supermarket’

Jordanian national Mai Hammad, 37, was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, raised in Jordan and met her Dutch husband in Malta. She loves poffertjes, would like to meet queen Máxima and even eats her chips with mayo. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband is Dutch, although he lived outside the Netherlands from the age of six. We met when we were both living in Malta. After getting married in Jordan, we were seeking somewhere more suitable to live to start a family. I suggested the Netherlands and as he didn’t mind. We started looking for work opportunities. He found work here first! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’m a mix. I hang out with the expat community and find I have a lot in common – so I’m a bit of an expat. At the same time I did move here with my husband who is Dutch (although we could have ended up anywhere), so maybe I’m a bit of a lovepat. I’m also an international because my concept of home becomes more distorted every day. I was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, raised in Jordan, worked in Malta, and now live in the Netherlands. In addition to all that, I’m also an immigrant because I want to belong to this country. How long do you plan to stay and why? We plan to make the Netherlands our home base, but we’ll probably move in a year or two. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch. When I was still in Malta I listened to Dutch lessons and read some Dutch language books. After moving to the Netherlands I took a few lessons. Later I improved my Dutch by speaking to daycare workers, colleagues, neighbours, people in shops, and by listening to the radio. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Poffertjes! They are heavenly, light, small and delicious. Which three Dutch people (dead or alive) would you like to meet and why? I would like to meet queen Máxima because I am told that I sound like her when I speak Dutch; chef Jonnie Boer because he cooks amazing food; and Monique Smit because my kids listen to her CD in the car all the time. How Dutch have you become? I think I´m becoming more Dutch than my husband. Every year I put the flag out on King’s Day. I go around the neighbourhood with my kid for Sint Martin and I get excited about seeing Sinterklaas! I feel most Dutch when I check the special offers in the supermarket (I never did that before); when I eat my chips with mayo; when I say ‘gefeliciteerd’ to people on their birthday in English; and when I use ‘gezellig’ because there is no other word I can think of that makes sense. What's your top tourist tip? Don’t focus only on museums and monuments. Go to the parks and enjoy the beauty of nature. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The Dutch like to drink milk at lunch, and it´s impossible to order a pizza before 4pm. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go to Giethoorn. I’ve wanted to go there since I got here, and as yet haven’t had the chance to go. Mai Hammad lives in Velserbroek near Haarlem and is a customer marketing manager at SC Johnson.  More >


‘It’s hard to beat pottering about in a boat in Giethorn on a sunny day’

‘It’s hard to beat pottering about in a boat in Giethorn on a sunny day’

Mike Garrent, 51, is an astronomer and heads up the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (Astron). He's been in the country for 19 years and has even taken up mudwalking but he still misses Scottish food. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I moved here from the University of Manchester (Jodrell Bank) to take up a job at JIVE (Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe) in Dwingeloo. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I guess I’m an expat – my roots in Britain are still important to me. How long do you plan to stay? Well, I’ve been here for 19 years. In my field of research, moving around the world is fairly common, so who knows what the future holds, but for the moment I’m very happy to be here. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I speak Dutch. When I arrived in the Netherlands, my boss sent me on a 5-day intensive Dutch course. My brain was completely saturated by day two so I didn’t learn very much but it was an expensive course, so I felt duty bound to attempt to speak Dutch when I got back to work.  So almost from day one I was speaking Dutch with our administrative and secretarial staff – it never bothered me that my Dutch was awful – I just kept on trying. For the last five years, I’ve had the best teacher in the world – my Dutch partner Miriam! What's your favourite Dutch food? I like Dutch cooking using simple but high quality food products. I haven’t been converted to raw herring, a broodje kroket or patat oorlog yet, but from the word go I liked pea soup, and I am beginning to take to bitterballen and some kinds of drop. What do you miss about back home? I miss the shops, supermarkets, Scottish food (slice sausage, tatty scone, fruit pudding, crumpets, empire biscuits, iced ginger bread, deep fried pizza/chicken), liberal opening times, thick weekend newspapers, mountains, the countryside, proper pubs and warm beer. Fortunately, the internet means I can listen to Scottish radio – I’m a huge Glasgow Celtic fan. In the evening I always listen to the local football talk shows – I love listening to the locals calling in – it keeps me in touch with home and the people there. How Dutch have you become? I’m pretty well ingeburgered – especially so over the last few years with a Dutch partner. I like the Dutch language and the people very much but I would never swap my British passport for a Dutch one, not unless the UK opts out of Europe of course! What's your top tourist tip? It’s hard to beat pottering about in a boat in Giethorn, near Meppel, on a sunny day. And every year I also go for the wadlopen (mud walking) to Ameland, one of the islands in the North Sea – it’s a good workout but the reward at the end is to land on what has to be one of the best beaches in the world! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. People in the Netherlands look outwards a lot and are very influenced by what is happening in other countries. Of course this is a good thing, but sometimes they are surprised to find that a lot of important things are happening much closer to home. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would get all my friends and family together in my kitchen, and make them all one of my special Indian curries, washed down with copious quantities of some excellent Italian wine! Mike Garrett is director of the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (Astron) and a professor at Leiden University.  More >


‘The Calvinist drive to downplay success is pervasive’

‘The Calvinist drive to downplay success is pervasive’

American psychologist and writer Doug Ota, 45, has lived in the Netherlands for 23 years. He loves running along the beach before dawn in winter and watching the sun come up, and would like to meet physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I followed my wife over for a year and that one year turned into 23!  Some societies have been described as 'centripetal', drawing one inwards, or 'centrifugal', propelling you outwards. Dutch society, at least as I experienced it, turned out to be high centripetal. Holland is a pleasant place to live, with well-managed public spaces and a sane balance between work and family.  It’s a great place to raise a family. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? Never heard the term 'lovepat' but glad to have a name for what I am! How long do you plan to stay and why? Indefinitely. I have three Dutch children and two dogs that bark Dutch. It’s become home. That sounds simple, but wasn’t. The tortuous path I took to feel at home in this country formed the basis for my niche in psychology, namely what moving does to people. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes. I learned Dutch in my first year here by mimicking the 6 o’clock evening news on the radio, and then figuring out what I was saying afterwards. What's your favourite Dutch food? Herring with onions - eaten overhead style. It’s delicious, it’s good for you, and it affords visitors an experience they’ll never forget. Which three Dutch people would you like to meet and why? If you could bring him back to life, I’d like to meet Harry Mulisch, my favorite Dutch writer; the world-famous physicist Robert Dijkgraaf, now at Princeton’s Institute of Advanced Study, so I can finally understand a thing or two about string theory; and Paskal Jakobson, the singer from my favourite Dutch band, Bløf. How Dutch have you become? I think it might be levelling off at exactly 50%! I appreciate and have internalised many Dutch values, but I think my ambitious and individualist tendencies have deep American roots. I work with some outstanding Dutch therapists, but I notice I’m often the first one there and the last to leave. It is very easy to still miss the coastline of Southern California where I grew up, the ocean and the waves, and the concept of open space further inland and in the rest of the US. In some ways, I miss the feeling I used to have of feeling confined in the Netherlands. It is remarkable how one can gradually get used to having less space. What's your top tourist tip? Running on the beach between Scheveningen and Wassenaar before dawn in the winter, and watching the sun brighten one of the most pristine patches in these parts. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Many people are far better at what they do than you would ever know if you judge by North American trappings. The Calvinist drive to downplay success is pervasive. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d take a run in the woods, order a pancake with bacon and a Duvel, see Bløf play live, and stay in a suite at the Amstel Hotel in Amsterdam. Doug Ota's book 'Safe Passage – How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should Do About It' is based on a programme he started during his years as a counsellor at the American School of The Hague.   More >


‘Holland is safe for women and children compared to India’

‘Holland is safe for women and children compared to India’

Process manager Deepti Varshney moved to the Netherlands from India in 2009 and is now a dual national. She loves olliebollen because they herald the start of the festive season and appreciates the fact the Dutch do not offer unasked-for advice. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband and I were eager to move to western or northern Europe. My husband got a job in the Netherlands and I followed him. That was seven years ago. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I would call myself an immigrant, because I moved from India for a better quality of life and safety. How long do you plan to stay? I would stay here forever, as long as job conditions are favourable. I really like Holland because its safe for women and children compared to India. There are lots of opportunities for children. I have also integrated into Dutch culture and I feel at home here. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I do, I can read, write and speak Dutch, but I do not speak it at a professional level. I still have to get there. I took a number of classes as well as Skype lessons which really helped me improve my language skills. My daughter who is 2.5 years old goes to Dutch peuterspeelzaal, so by reading books to her I learn more words and I am never out of practice. What's your favourite Dutch food? I love olliebollen. I just loved them the first time I had one. I love their soft texture, and they make you feel the festive season has begun. How Dutch have you become? I started cycling and doing my grocery shopping by bike. I even have a child's seat on my bike. I just cannot imaging my life without it. I love the fact that no one gives you unasked for advice or suggestions. In my country everyone has time to give you advice, even if you don't want it. Which Dutch people would you most like to meet and why? I would like to meet television chef Rudolf van Veen. I watch his show on 24 Kitchen and like it a lot. Now there is someone I would be happy to take advice from! What's your top tourist tip? Take a boat tour through Amsterdam. The canals are just so special. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. People keep their living room curtains open. When I was new here, I just did not understand why. After talking to people, I've come to understand that people like to show off their clean and tidy houses. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would take a tour of Amsterdam. I just love this city. Deepti Varshney specialises in business process re-engineering, helping companies improve products and processes using Lean Six Sigma Methods.  More >


‘We walk hand in hand in this romantic, crazy, awesome city’

‘We walk hand in hand in this romantic, crazy, awesome city’

Vyjayanthi Iyer is from India and has been in the Netherlands for 10 years. She runs a Bollywood dance school, would like to meet Rutger Hauer and is glad Dutch companies are finally realising the importance of good customer service. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband came here for a project and fell in love with the beautiful city of Amsterdam. One fine day he called me and asked me to come and live with him in this romantic city. He was so right, I fell in love with this city too How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I am an expatriate and Lovepatriate. If it was not for my husband I would not have moved to a different country, where I had to start my career from scratch. On top of that, this was my first ever international trip direct from Mumbai to Amsterdam. How long do you plan to stay and why? I didn’t even realise it’s already been 10 years, I have stopped counting now. I love this city and will live here as long as we both are happy and enjoy our lives. Life is very unpredictable, you never know. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Honestly, I speak very little Dutch, I understand more. People say it’s a difficult language to learn, I completely disagree. If you put your heart and soul into it you can learn and do anything. In my opinion it’s all based on need. If I need it and must learn the language I will invest time and money. I did some short courses but I am not sure if I will ever be fluent. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Poffertjes and pannenkoeken, tasty and delicious. My mouth is watering already. How Dutch have you become and why? I love my bike. I love to do hardlopen (run) irrespective of whether it is raining, cold, windy or too warm. I can spend hours in a café chatting with friends or be alone doing my own work. Which Dutch person would you most like to meet and why? I would love to meet Rutger Hauer, such a talented actor. I have always been passionate about acting. If given an opportunity I would like to talk with him and get to know his mantra of life. There is so much to learn from him. What's your top tourist tip? Keep some change (coins) handy when you enter the tram or bus to buy the tickets. And remember you need to push the green button in the tram to get off at your desired stop. Do visit the small cafes in an around the city to experience the local culture. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Coming from Mumbai and a customer service and public relations background, I was surprised and shocked how this country lacked good customer services. However, over the years it has changed a lot and I am happy they are realising the importance of customer services. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? My husband is a great photographer and I love to be in front of the camera. I would like to get more pictures clicked in every nook and corner of the city and then walk hand-in-hand together in this romantic, crazy, awesome city called Amsterdam for the rest of the evening. You can contact Vyjayanthi's  Bollywood dance school via the website and Facebook page.  More >


‘I love amusement parks and Walibi is one of my favourites’

‘I love amusement parks and Walibi is one of my favourites’

Cuban national Claudia Moreira Calzadilla is 15 and has lived in the Netherlands for five years. She goes to a Dutch high school, has a part-time job in a hotel, and her parents say she thinks like a capitalist. How did you end up in the Netherlands? When I was five years old my mother moved to the Netherlands and started living with my stepfather. In Cuba, the process of moving to another country is quite difficult, so I wasn’t able to move to the Netherlands with her at that time. My biological father also didn’t allow me to go because he felt I was too young, so I had to wait until I turned 11 and got his permission before I could move here. By that time I couldn’t remember what it was like to live with my mother, so this was also new experience for me. My mother used to come to Cuba on holidays, but only for a week of two. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’m not quite sure if I’m going to live my whole life here in the Netherlands so I don’t think I can call myself an immigrant. I think international suits me better. I like the Netherlands but I want to travel and get in touch with other cultures. So if this means living in other countries, I will do that. How long do you plan to stay and why? Firstly, I want to finish school and then attend Leiden University and study law. I guess that after finishing my studies I will search for a stable job with the possibility of travelling. If I ever get the opportunity to work in another country I’ll do so immediately. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I speak fluent Dutch but it’s not perfect yet. I went to a special school for foreign children called Taalklas, where they teach you the basics of the Dutch language. I think the only way to learn a language is being around the people who are native speakers. That’s why after about a year I started going to a Dutch school with local children. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I don’t have any. I eat it, but I really don’t like Dutch food. I am not sure why, although it might be because it’s totally different to Cuban food. To be honest I also don’t really like Cuban food either, so I don’t know what the reason is. If I had to choose one Dutch dish, it would be stewed pears (stoofpeertjes). I like how sweet and soft they taste. What do you miss about back home and why? Almost everything. My whole family and the friends I grew up live with there. I miss the beautiful, warm weather and the white-sand-and-blue-water beaches. I miss the people, even the ones I don’t know. Cuban people are so nice. I even miss school. So yeah, I miss almost everything. All that is and will always be a part of who I am, and I’m proud of that. How Dutch have you become? According to my parents I’ve become a real Dutch girl. They say I don’t think like a socialist any more but like a capitalist. I don’t know if I ever thought like a socialist but moving to the Netherlands has given me the opportunity to see how different my life in Cuba was. What's your top tourist tip? Rotterdam! I’ve been there twice and I love it. There is so much to see and to do. You can spend hours walking around and you will see lots of interesting things. There is also a waterbus which I think is an amazing experience. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. A few days ago I saw a documentary about the fact that wifi was discovered here in the Netherlands. This really surprised me. I used to think wifi was invented in the United States. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go to Walibi. I love amusement parks and Walibi is one of my favourites!  More >


‘Here is now my home and I plan to stay for a long time to come’

‘Here is now my home and I plan to stay for a long time to come’

In two short years, Kenyan national Serah Karani Andriessen has developed a morning coffee habit and discovered that spekreepjes can add a touch of flavour to most foods. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met and married Peter (who is Dutch) in Kenya where we lived with our son, Narsh, for a few years before making the decision to relocate to the Netherlands. Peter then returned to the Netherlands and I stayed with Narsh in Kenya for another two and a half years before we followed Peter. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I believe my previous answer explains what I am! How long do you plan to stay and why? Let me answer this in a different manner. In my culture when a girl gets married and leaves her family home, the place she and her husband call their ‘home’ is usually the home where the husband´s parents live. It does not matter if this means ‘home’ is across the country. In my case, ‘home’ was thousands of miles away. So, here is now my home and I plan to stay for a long time to come. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I like this question! Yes I do speak Dutch, but I know it is not as good as should be, especially as I have studied the language in various Dutch language schools up to level B2. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Spekreepjes! Lovely bacon flavour that can be used in almost all dishes; easy to use; no chopping involved; and always adds the missing flavour when my food is bland. I could almost use them in my cereal. What do you miss about back home and why? I miss my family and friends a lot. I also miss the general social nature of Kenyan people who are very warm and friendly towards other people including strangers. How Dutch have you become and why? Can’t seem to pick up my day without ‘een kopje koffie’ first! What's your top tourist tip? My top tourist tip is to just keep your eyes open. From the time you arrive in the Netherlands you notice that tourist attractions are everywhere and that the Netherlands is a very beautiful country. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Something surprising for me is that in every town or village I have gone to, what always stands out in the centre is an exceptionally beautiful and lovingly built church. Yet I have the feeling that religion is a very quiet and/or private matter in the Netherlands. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go for my morning swim with the special women who have really made me feel at home here, followed by our usual cup of coffee. Assuming there would still be a few hours leftover, I would take a drive along the back roads of Gelderland and Overijssel taking in the beauty and freshness of the well/kept farmlands - this is a hobby that I acquired from Peter. It always looks so surreal. Serah and her husband Peter run Brasserie Halverwege in the DroomPark near Spaarnwoude.  More >


‘I didn’t twig until I got here that the whole country is indeed flat’

‘I didn’t twig until I got here that the whole country is indeed flat’

South African Dominic Karatouliotis (24) came to the Netherlands for love just six months ago, but is already addicted to Hema's smoked sausage. He sees himself as an expat, lovepat, immigrant and an international. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to the Netherlands to join my partner and build a new life with her. We met two years ago while on holiday in Thailand, and our relationship flourished long distance, thanks to social media and Skype. We decided a year ago that one of us would have to make the move to join the other, and I was at a stage in my life where it made sense to do so. So here I am. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I think I would fall into each one of the categories mentioned: I am indeed an expatriate as I now reside in a different country than where I was born. I am a lovepat, as I have expatriated to join my loved one in the Netherlands (professional dancer Joyce Silva Xavier). I am an immigrant too, as I have come from South Africa. I am certainly an international with an internationally focused mind and global ambition. Most of all, I like to put myself in the category of human being who is blessed enough to be able to live and experience life from a different point of view. As many South Africans will know, it is extremely difficult to start a new life in a European country without having family, loved ones or a lined up career waiting for you as our global status and strength of our passport does not allow this. How long do you plan to stay and why? My partner and I are happy here in Amsterdam. It is an extremely vibrant and cosmopolitan city which celebrates the things we love most - art, music, dance and culture. I intend to stay here indefinitely, to build a good life and to help keep the wonderful buzz around Amsterdam. I am, however, always open to new adventures and opportunities which may come knocking from time to time, but whatever it may be, it will have to try and top what Amsterdam has to offer. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Growing up in South Africa, Afrikaans is taught in school which can be learned as a first or second language. I have been learning and speaking it all my life which I believe has helped me in my grasp of the Dutch language. Although the two languages are almost identical, there are some noticeable differences in pronunciation and word order which I am still getting the hang of. I do speak Dutch on a daily basis and have learnt so much since I have lived here. It really does help to practice by speaking and reading as well as watching television. What's your favourite Dutch food? Any day and any time of the week, I could eat a broodje rookworst from Hema. I really enjoy them. I have also taken a fond liking to the Turkish pizzas from the Turkish and Moroccan communities based in Amsterdam. What do you miss about back home? I would have to say I miss the friendliness and easy going nature of the South African people, specifically the people from Cape Town where I am from. I can link this to missing my family and friends as well which is something we all go through, but generally I don’t miss South Africa. I still keep up with what is going on in the country so that I have some form of connection. I do miss proper All You Can Eat Sushi though. How Dutch have you become? Like any other culture you come across that is not your own, you find the similarities and differences you share with the people and then figure out which habits and behaviour you have taken on yourself. I don’t think I have become or will become Dutch anytime soon...  I'm too much of a born and bred South African for that. I have, however, only been here for six months so who knows what it will be like in a long time from now. I do drink more coffee than I did back in South Africa and am an avid cyclist now as well as a supporter of Albert Heijn supermarkets. What's your top tourist tip? Get the stereotypical sights and attractions out of the way like the red light district, the museums, the coffee shops as well as the canal boat cruises, and by all means enjoy them to the max. But then take some trips away from the hustle and bustle to see the beautiful countryside. Something I really didn't twig until I came here is that the whole country is indeed flat. There are also some really impressive man-made structures as well, like the huge dikes splitting the oceans, the bridges and, of course, the windmills - both traditional and modern. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The Netherlands has a very interesting take on many social issues which each country deals with differently. I enjoy their view on everyone being equal and didn’t really understand this until I lived here. Allowing people to be who they truly want to be should be a reality across the world and I believe the Dutch execute it extremely well. For a country which is as efficient and direct as the Netherlands, the Dutch are more than happy with people from many walks of life co-existing with them  - as long as they are not hurting anyone around them. I think the world can learn from the Dutch way of doing things. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would head over to the nearest Hema and get my daily fix of rookworst. Then, depending on whether it was raining or not, I would go on a cycle with my lady next to me, hand in hand, enjoying the Vondelpark. I would also definitely make sure I stock up on stroopwafels and have one last, amazing portion of frites. Then, still hand in hand, we would go to Schiphol to head off on a new adventure. Dominic Karatouliotis is co-owner of Amsterdamskey.com and looking for full-time employment.  More >


‘I’m Scottish, but when Holland play football I’m a Dutchman’

‘I’m Scottish, but when Holland play football I’m a Dutchman’

Sixteen years ago, Scotsman Jim Weir, headed to The Hague to consult on a painting project and is still here 14 years later. How did you end up in the Netherlands? By accident. I had just finished work in Germany and was on my way back to Scotland when my agent asked me to do a small job in Rotterdam. Being there, I was asked to solve a problem on a project in The Hague. I did not really fancy going there but thought I could not refuse. That decision changed my life as I met my soulmate on 9-9-1999. She is now my wife and life changed for the better for me. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why?
 Once and for all I am a mad Scotsman who is crazy about football, but when Holland play I turn into a mad Dutchman. How long do you plan to stay and why?
 For the rest of my life. I love living in Haarlem and have set up my own company, Scots Painting, which both of us are really proud of. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn?
 I did try to learn it but since I speak fluent German I tend to use a lot of German words, which the Dutch do not appreciate, so I gave up. Most clients speak Dutch to me (I understand it for 99%) and I speak back in my Sean Connery accent, which they all seem to love. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I’d like to say saté but that’s Indonesian. Erwtensoep is always welcome, especially in wintertime. What do you miss about back home?
 I miss my family and friends, the mountains and Glasgow Rangers. Most of all I miss Saturday afternoons, spent in the pub with friends watching football and having a good time. How Dutch have you become and why?
 Sometimes I think I’m Dutch but then realise I am the only one stopping for a red traffic light. What's your top tourist tip? I just love Haarlem, especially the Vijfhoek. There’s so much to see and do. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Most of the Dutch are laid-back, but it can anger me when they do not acknowledge you for letting them go first. After all it’s nice to be nice. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Get all my friends together in my favourite pub (de Vijfhoek) to have a great party with them paying ….. then I’d cry all the way to Schiphol Airport.  More >


‘Here we can enjoy our lives together with no prejudice’

‘Here we can enjoy our lives together with no prejudice’

Costa Rican Javier Arias came to the Netherlands to study four years ago after winning a scholarship to Nyenrode Business Universiteit where he now works. He lives in Utrecht, cycles every day and has learned to wear brown shoes with a blue suit. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It was always my ambition to pursue an MBA abroad. Being in Costa Rica, the logical choice is usually to study in the US. I was getting ready to do this but then I came across the Netherlands as a study destination. Nyenrode got my attention so I decided to participate in an online case competition organised by the university for potential students all over the world. This resulted in me being the lucky winner of a scholarship to pursue my MBA. The rest is history... How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I would define myself as a 'glocal'. I acknowledge and celebrate my cultural background but I also aim to understand and embrace the roots of the Dutch culture. From my perspective, it makes sense to integrate as much as possible into the country and culture that you choose to live in. I want to learn from and contribute to this society. The only possible way is to understand how it works and how people think. I now live in the Netherlands and I happen to have been born and raised in Costa Rica. In this globalised world, who knows what the future holds! How long do you plan to stay? My partner joined me in the Netherlands almost two years ago and we have recently decided to invest in our own apartment. So we are planning to stay as long as possible, although we are open to the idea of relocating at some point if the right opportunity presents itself. However, it would have to be an LGBT friendly country. That is one of the reasons we have chosen to stay in the Netherlands. This is a place where we can be ourselves, enjoy our lives together and grow as a couple with no limitations and prejudice - or very little at least! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I am getting there. At the moment, I am somewhere between B1-B2 level. Daring to speak in Dutch is my biggest challenge but it is something I am working on. What's your favourite Dutch food? Winter food! I love erwten soep, poffertjes and oliebollen. Although that usually means putting some pounds on. What do you miss about back home? Desserts. There are many Latin desserts that are not really available in the Netherlands. Whenever I go back, one of my priorities is to find a good 'tres leches' and  a 'torta chilena'. How Dutch have you become? Do I cycle everyday? Yes. Do I wear a blue suit with brown shoes? Yes. I have learned to be much more outspoken in social settings than I was before. However, I still prefer to have 2-3 hot meals and I can't drink milk as part of my lunch. What's your top tourist tip? Visit the most popular amusement parks. This is usually a very entertaining experience and it also shows some of the cultural aspects of the Netherlands. And, of course, visit Utrecht! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. When I first arrived, I couldn't believe some supermarkets were not open on Sundays or late in the evening. That for me was a given. I have learned to appreciate the work-life balance in the Netherlands compared to that in Costa Rica, although sometimes I do miss the convenience of going shopping after work, finding a pharmacy open in the evening or having home delivery service from the largest fast food chains. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? There are a couple of places that I would still love to visit, but if I had only 24 hours then I would choose the Northern Islands. I just hope it is not winter. Javier Arias is an international marketeer at Nyenrode Business Universiteit  More >


‘The Dutch park next to you, even when the car park is empty’

‘The Dutch park next to you, even when the car park is empty’

Englishman Russell Broadbent, 51, moved to the Netherlands to look for work while competing on the professional golf circuit 23 years ago. Now settled in Haarlem, he runs a private gym and self-defence training business and thinks the Dutch have little spatial awareness. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I played golf on the Dutch professional golf circuit for 15 years. During this time I noticed that golf was growing in popularity, so I sent my cv to the golf club in Spaarnewoude. After a successful interview, they offered me a job teaching golf, which gave me time to continue playing on the circuit. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc ? International. I’m fully integrated in the Dutch culture and a fluent speaker, but still retain English roots. For me this means that I still love going back to Britain, read a daily newspaper, and enjoy a pint of Guinness in the Irish pub. How long do you plan to stay ? Indefinitely - as I have a gorgeous 5-year-old daughter here. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, fluently. I learned Dutch watching the soaps and in the cafes. What's your favourite Dutch food? Ha, ha. Dutch food? I eat a very specific healthy balanced diet for my work. So I guess if I can indulge, it would be apple pie. What do you miss about back home ? The countryside, village pubs, rugby, golf courses, Christmas and New Year celebrations, birthday parties, and all things synonymous with Britain. How Dutch have you become? I’m proud of my English roots, but I am also fully integrated into the Dutch culture. I hold down a job, run a business and speak the language fluently. I also vote. I haven’t taken Dutch nationality and never will, as I’m proud to be English born and bred. What's your top tourist tip? In summer it would be Amsterdam canals, cafes, Waterlooplein, Anne Frank House, King's Day, Gay Pride parade and the beautiful beaches. In the winters, go watch the Dutch skate on the canals (like a Lowry painting) - or put on some skates and try it for yourself. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The Dutch have very little spatial awareness. They stand too close to you when you pin money at Albert Heijn, and always insist on parking their car next to you even when the car park is empty. The Dutch hate waiting so everywhere you go that requires waiting means taking a numbered ticket. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? My priority would be to spend it with my daughter, on the beach. You can find more information about Russell and his gym via the website.  More >


‘A new culture – as gruelling as it can be — is very rewarding’

‘A new culture – as gruelling as it can be — is very rewarding’

For Canadian Maurice McGinley moving back to the Netherlands after an eight year break in sunnier climes has given him an appreciation of the new season's herring and having good neighbours. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Although my wife, Ana, is from Australia, she had a close relationship with her father’s family in the Netherlands. So when we decided it was time for a change of scenery in 1999, we headed here.  We lived in Eindhoven until Ana became pregnant with our third child. We decided life would be easier in Australia – and the Dutch weather was getting us down. Life is good in Oz, but in the end, we found Australia too far away from everything else. After eight years in Australia and Asia, we were happy to have the chance to come back to the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I’ve been away from Canada too long to feel truly at home there, so 'expat' doesn’t apply. 'International' describes me better, but it sounds a bit pretentious. We’ve changed countries as often as we have (6 times) because the experience of learning to live in a new culture – as gruelling as it can be -- is very rewarding. It helps you appreciate simple things that are easy to overlook when you are very settled - like sunshine. How long do you plan to stay and why? Indefinitely. We've been here four years now and have no plans to leave, especially not before the kids’ braces come off. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak English at work and at home. I study Dutch about three hours a week, and try to watch a Dutch tv show or movie every week, but I’m far from fluent. I can handle most daily transactions, yet when a conversation gets interesting, I have to switch to English. I’m proud that my children are fluent in Dutch, even if they do refuse to speak it to me. What's your favorite Dutch food and why? I like nieuwe haring with onion for the taste, the texture and the freshness. Plus, it’s local. What do you miss about back home? Good beef. How Dutch have you become? Sometimes the Dutch take moderation to extremes – the food’s consistently bland, for example. Apart from that, and the language, I’m completely at home. What's your top tourist tip? Carry 50 cents in change with you at all times. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The Dutch bike path network is the result of top-down civic planning decisions made in the 1970s. The cycle paths preceded the cycling culture. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Invite the neighbours over for a drink. In every one of the three houses we’ve lived in the Netherlands, we’ve been lucky to have great neighbours. I think it might be a Dutch thing. Maurice McGinley is design director at AVG Innovation Labs  More >


‘There isn’t much better than a plate of tiny pancakes’

‘There isn’t much better than a plate of tiny pancakes’

Amy Fuller, 41, is an American who is self-employed and works on process improvement for the payments industry. She has been in the Netherlands for 2.5 years. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My partner’s Dutch, and we made the decision to move here when her mom was diagnosed with cancer. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I guess I’m a mutt: maybe 75% lovepat and 25% expat? How long do you plan to stay? I’m not sure, I still feel like we’re trying to get settled. Time will tell, I suppose. For now we’re renting vs. buying. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I’m trying to learn! I would say that I’m a Beginner. Plus, I’m a shy person and I need to get over my hesitancy to speak it. I’m fairly decent at the following topics: work, family, vacation, health and purchasing stuff. That gets me pretty far, actually. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Poffertjes! There isn’t much better than getting a plate of tiny pancakes. Also, and this may be somewhat controversial, but I really like Nasi. I was asked this question when I first arrived, and the follow-up question was, 'don’t you like potatoes?' What do you miss about back home and why? I miss my friends and family the most. I didn’t live close by my family, but I was always able to travel home for Christmas, and now it’s not so easy. Other things I miss are the humor (sorry – no ‘u’; I’m American, remember!), which tends to be more self-deprecating, and the pop culture. Although a lot of shows and movies are available here, some things involving current events I don’t catch any more. I tend to be a pop culture junkie, so that’s a little hard for me. How Dutch have you become? I’m able to carry more on a bike than I ever thought possible! One major shift we’ve made is cooking at home more. I feel like there is more incentive to eat at home here – grocery staples like milk, bread and eggs are taxed at 6% versus 21% for eating out in a restaurant. Good produce is relatively cheap here. When we went to Canada this summer, we spent a fair amount of time complaining about the price of eggs, etc, relative to the Netherlands. Plus, (and I’m a little ashamed to admit this) I've gotten used to not having to tip in restaurants. What's your top tourist tip? Take your time in the Netherlands. Americans, since we have to travel so far to get to Europe, tend to take the 'If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium' approach and see a little of a lot of different countries. Don’t just go to the expected destinations like the Keukenhof or the Red Light District; venture out to other places/cities as well. Even though the Netherlands is a small country, it’s remarkable how different the regions are – Leeuwarden has a completely different culture than Maastricht, and I would never know that if I hadn’t been to both. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands? The Netherlands, despite being socially quite liberal, also strikes me as being somewhat conservative. I was surprised by stores being closed on Sundays; how much more frugal people are (the word for debt contains the word guilt), and how ingrained some habits are, such as dinner at 6 pm. However, I was able to observe this because we have not lived in major cities, like The Hague or Amsterdam, where the lifestyle is different. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? This is a difficult question to answer. I would want to go to the beach, maybe Zandvoort, and then head over to Haarlem, which has a great market, and do some shopping. Then we’d go to Amsterdam, find a nice, not too busy café terrace, get a beer and a plate of bitterballen, and watch the sun set over the canal. Of course in order to do this, the weather would need to comply.  More >


‘I’m a massive fan of cheese and love trying all the different ones’

‘I’m a massive fan of cheese and love trying all the different ones’

Lola Akinsiku, 33, is Nigerian but grew up in England and the US. An accountant by trade, she came to Amsterdam as an intern and is surprised to still be here 4.5 years later. More than that, she's been inspired by the Dutch entrepreneurial spirit to start her own fledgling enterprise. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came as an intern thinking I’d only be here for six months but then ended up with a full-time position. I was interested in living in a new city and fate gave me Amsterdam. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc? I’ve never heard the term lovepat before; that sounds so cute; I’d love to be one of those! But I’m definitely an expat. As boring as it sounds, I came independently and purely for work. If not for my job I’d likely leave. How long do you plan to stay? Never thought I’d have lasted one year let alone going on five! I tend to be quite impulsive and go where the tide takes me. Suffice it to say there is no specific plan; unless I become a lovepat of course… Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Unfortunately not. I’m not great with languages but have attempted a couple of introductory Dutch courses. I know basic greetings and some specific words but very few. This being due to the fact that I always thought that each year after my first would be my last; yet here I am, still! What's your favourite Dutch food? I guess it’s more of a snack but I love those hot kaas rolls that they do in Albert Heijn to go. I’m a massive fan of cheese and love trying all the different varieties. It’s here that I first had komijn kaas – love it! What do you miss about back home? Food, yes English food, because I love to eat. There is so much variety in English supermarkets and it’s so much easier to have a decent meal out for a fraction of the price you’d have to pay for the same here. How Dutch have you become? I love the entrepreneurial spirit here in Amsterdam. So many people have exciting projects going on; you can find some great small independent shops, and quirky services. I find the Dutch to be creative and robust in this sense and I think that living here has pushed me to pursue my own entrepreneurial dreams more boldly; so I’ve become a bit more Dutch in my attitude in that sense. I’ve also picked up the habit of saying eet smakelijk whenever someone is so much as eating an apple! What's your top tourist tip? Take the stairs to the roof of NEMO Science Center. It’s a great way to see the city centre on a sunny day. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands The way they enthusiastically celebrated the monarchy (I’d never heard of Queen’s/King’s Day when I first arrived here) as I always thought the Dutch were a rebellious lot… although when I saw how they celebrated, it all made sense! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Morning – eat Dutch pancakes. Afternoon – shop for unique Dutch designed products in the Jordaan. Evening – go to Café Brecht for a drink, I love their cute and cosy chairs. Lola Akinsiku also makes useful things with beautiful fabric. You can check them out on Facebook    More >