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


‘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 >


‘I made most progress in learning Dutch at the local rowing club’

‘I made most progress in learning Dutch at the local rowing club’

Poffertjes addict Heidi Maurer is Austrian and is assistant professor of European studies at Maastricht University. She has been in the Netherlands since 2007 and says career opportunities will dictate how long she stays. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to Maastricht on a nine-month academic fellowship with the Austrian academic exchange service to work at the European Institute for Public Administration (EIPA) in Maastricht. During my stay I got to know a few colleagues working at university who encouraged me to apply for teaching assistant job there, once my fellowship approached its end. I got the job, and since then I enjoy the international environment at Maastricht University and the atmosphere in Maastricht. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? Over the past few years I think I've grown into an ‘international’ person. This is partly due to my work which allows me to travel and work with many different people within and outside Europe. This was really something I never planned – it just happened and I enjoy it incredibly. How long do you plan to stay? Not sure, and this is going to depend mainly on future career opportunities. For now I enjoy my life in Maastricht, and I would not mind staying here in the future, but it will depend on the job. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Een beetje. I followed a course when I started at university to learn the basics, but it was hard to practice as our work language is English. Using every possible opportunity in everyday social interaction certainly helped, as well as watching Dutch TV and reading newspapers to pick up vocabulary. However, I made the most progress in speaking when I joined a local rowing club. What's your favourite Dutch food? Definitely poffertjes, because there is nothing more uplifting on a bad day. What do you miss about back home? In terms of food, dark bread – although with many organic shops and local bakeries there is a great choice in Maastricht. Coming from Vienna I missed the coffee house culture and ‘ good’ coffee, but also in these respects Maastricht has developed very positively during the last few years – there are now various wonderful new places: great to sit, work, eat, drink good coffee. How Dutch have you become? My Austrian colleagues often remark that I have become way more direct in workplace communication. In Austria you small talk and often talk around the issue, but you seldom say directly what you want. I've certainly been socialised into this in the Netherlands. What's your top tourist tip? Visit the Keukenhof tulip gardens. This is not necessarily an innovative suggestion but it is really nicely done and great for getting into spring mood. And visitors love it too. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Biking is normal, and you can transport anything on your bike. I was also surprised that not only youngsters but everyone cycles, even omas and opas. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Go for a long walk along the Maas, have coffee at Slavante at the Sint Pietersberg. Then walk back into town for a relaxing lunch, watch people and later on have a biertje on one of the many cafe terraces.  More >


‘I’ve finally given up trying to look good in the rain’

‘I’ve finally given up trying to look good in the rain’

Jane Dean is a freelance editor and writer and has lived in the Netherlands for nine years but still misses family and friends. She was involved in the launch of The Hague magazine, The Underground, and is very partial to Luciano's ice cream. How did you end up in the Netherlands? We arrived here from New Orleans, USA. In 2005, three days before Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana coast, my husband was offered a position with his company in Rotterdam. Eleven months later, after rebuilding our home, my youngest son and I joined him in the Netherlands – leaving our daughter in the US and our eldest son in the UK, where he’d decided to relocate. It was a difficult transition going from a close family unit to living in three different countries. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’ve never felt comfortable being described as an expat as home is where we are. Nor do I feel I’m an immigrant, as we don’t intend to stay here permanently. We are international but it’s not a term I would use to describe myself either. I have used the term non-expat expat in the past and it’s the best I can come up with. How long do you plan to stay and why? Our reason for being here is job related, so who knows? I’m ready for a move. All our children now live on a different continent to us and the friends we’ve made here over the years have moved on. It’s not about whether we like living here or not, but the life stage we’re at. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I signed up for Dutch lessons within weeks of arriving. My early efforts at spoken Dutch were met with derision by several local shopkeepers, which destroyed what was left of my fragile self-esteem. Dutch friends refused to speak their native language; rather they saw me as an opportunity to improve their already perfect English. I read Dutch and get by. At my age I figure that’s good enough - as I won’t be speaking Dutch outside the Netherlands. What's your favorite Dutch food? Ummm… Luciano’s ice cream. What do you miss about back home and why? Home is where we are, but I miss family and friends and wish we could be geographically closer to share in life celebrations. Other than that there’s nothing I miss that isn’t available here or can’t be brought in by friends. In nearly 20 years we’ve never run out of Sainsbury’s Red Label teabags. How Dutch have you become? I’ve finally given up trying to look good in the rain, so scraped back hair and barely-there make-up is the order of the day. This has coincided with shop assistants assuming I’m Dutch rather than an expat, so I guess I’ve cracked it with blending in. What's your top tourist tip? Use the Netherlands as a base to explore Europe - travelling is so easy from great airports or by car. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Perhaps I’ve been here too long – can’t think of anything! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Walk my dogs in the woods by our home – along the trails and canals we’ve known for years. Jane Dean also writes the blog www.Wordgeyser.com  More >


‘Dutch potatoes are the best I have ever eaten’

‘Dutch potatoes are the best I have ever eaten’

Paola Montino, 39, gave up everything in Italy three years ago and moved to Amsterdam on the off-chance to make a new start. She bought a house, found a job as a customer service rep for a pharmaceuticals company and loves her new life. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I moved to the Netherlands in April 2012 together with my boyfriend. We were both working in Italy, but we were not really satisfied with our lives. We had low salaries, a static environment and we did not see how things would ever get better… at least, this was what we felt! So, within two months, we quit our jobs, we left our place and, after choosing the destination on a map, we came to Amsterdam.  We bought an apartment without even knowing if we would find a job… really exciting indeed! We saw more than 50 places in two weeks and at the end we found ‘home’! Of course, we were able to do it financially, but it was a risk anyway. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international? I would call myself an expat. I feel more Dutch and integrated now than I did three years ago but I will be Italian for the rest of my life! How long do you plan to stay? I have no plans at the moment, but I really like Amsterdam (except the weather) and I think I will live here for long time. I've met a lot of nice people, I have a job that I like and I am completely independent… it is not easy to give everything up! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch, not fluently, but I can understand almost everything… I should just practice a bit more! I attended Dutch classes for more than a year thanks to the free courses offered by the city council and I have also passed the NT2 Staatexamen. What's your favourite Dutch food? Mhmm…I think potatoes, because they are the best I have ever eaten! What do you miss about back home? To be honest, the only thing I really miss, besides my family of course, is the sun! How Dutch have you become? I use my bike in winter and I cycle even if it is raining. I have learned to be more direct when I do not like something… but I will never put salad and pasta on the same plate! What's your top tourist tip? Go to a park on a sunny morning… you will feel like you are in paradise! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands? People do not stare at you in the street… no matter what you are wearing or what you look like! Everything seems to be normal here! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? A long evening walk in Weesperzijde, which is one of my favourite streets in Amsterdam.  More >


‘The Dutch are responsible for the cultivation of orange carrots’

‘The Dutch are responsible for the cultivation of orange carrots’

Former banker Stephanie Ernst has lived in the Netherlands for three years and volunteers for the International Almere organisation. An Australian national, she misses sunshine and Vegemite but has gone Dutch enough to run a cargo bike  How did you end up in the Netherlands? I fol­lowed my hus­band here so I guess you could say a Boe­ing 737 owned by Cathay Pacific, fol­lowed by a trip on the won­der­ful NS rail net­work. A while back I met this wonderful Dutch guy, so a few years later I ended up marrying him. His job prospects were better here, so I left Australia to join him. We moved to Almere because that’s where his job was located at the time. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I really define myself as me. I guess that sounds a wee bit trite and pre­ten­tious, but I don’t believe we all fit into boxes. I think any­one who has made the deci­sion to move to another coun­try really has a chal­lenge on their hands. So we adapt and change small things about our­selves and our upbring­ing to acco­mmo­date the dif­fer­ences in our lives. Some peo­ple embrace change, some don’t. How long do you plan to stay and why? Forever. Scary, right? At least as long as my husband has a job, we will be staying here. We bought a house here, have enrolled our children in school, we’re happy. And my residence permit lasts at least until 2018, so seeing we paid for it … Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Natuurlijk. I’m not one of the lucky ones that can bypass inburgering, so I had to take a Dutch course. I studied at a fantastic school in Amsterdam, and although I fell pregnant with twins toward the end of my course, I managed to pass B1 level. I now practice when I can – and luckily I have neighbours who ‘spreek Nederlands met mij’. It’s important to learn at least the basics of the language. Much to my husband’s despair, I’m also now fluent in swearing and curse words. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? I used to say poffertjes. But now, it’s all about krokettenbroodjes. With mustard. I still haven’t got the courage to try haring though. Blergh. What do you miss about back home and why? Sunshine and Cadbury chocolates. And Vegemite! How Dutch have you become and why? Other than my stupendous ability to balance my Albert Heijn bargains on my bike whilst riding at full speed and cursing cars for taking over my road space? Not really. I’ve adapted to life here, but I still would call myself Australian in my daily life. I don’t believe you become ‘Dutch’ by living here, it’s more like you adapt to your surroundings and adopt some things, but you retain your own values. However, I do own a bakfiets (cargo bike)… What's your top tourist tip? Leave the cities and the typical tourist places. Get out to the countryside. Explore the villages and towns. Go to places like Schokland, Giethoon or Urk and experience something that is completely unique. Experience the new cities, like Almere and it’s amazing architecture and city design. It’s not all tulips, windmills, cheese and clogs. The Netherlands is a really diverse place and you can have experiences outside the stereotypes. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I am fascinated by the fact each province is so different – Friesland is completely different to Limburg, Gelderland is different to Zeeland. We don’t have that diversity in Australia when it comes to the different states and I find it intriguing. That, and the Dutch are responsible for the original cultivation of orange carrots. Politics and fashion dictated the colour of a vegetable! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? That is a hard question! Probably take a final wander through the market here, or visit some of my favourite places, or even just take a day to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made here. Stephanie is a former banker/insurance guru from Australia who now spends her time wrangling her twin toddlers and volunteering for International Almere (www.internationalalmere.com). She also writes the  blog The Inbuggering Diaries  More >


‘When I’m in California, I actually yearn for grey Dutch days’

‘When I’m in California, I actually yearn for grey Dutch days’

Californian Carol Govaert has lived abroad for the past 25 years, of which the last 15 have been in the Netherlands. She is fascinated by how organised Dutch nature is - all those trees in rows - and partial to pancakes. How did you end up in the Netherlands? When I was studying I belonged to a group called A.I.E.S.E.C, an international business exchange programme at San Jose State University. We were hosting an event for the universities on the west coast and I was part of the welcoming committee. I checked in a handsome, young Dutch man and from that day on we’ve been inseparable. Who would’ve thought this encounter would’ve changed my whole life. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I describe myself as global nomad: I belong everywhere and nowhere at all. How long do you plan to stay? We finally put down roots and bought our dream home in Amsterdam. So, we’re here for the long run. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I speak Dutch. When I first arrived 25 years ago my then boyfriend, now husband, sent me to intensive Dutch courses. But where I really learned how to speak Dutch was from a friend of mine called Klaasje. We walked every day and spent a lot of time together. She took me under her wing and taught me the ins-and-outs of Dutch culture. What's your favourite Dutch food? Pannekoek – It's like a French crepe but a little thicker. It’s served with all kinds of toppings and then topped off with stroop, which is a delicious syrup What do you miss about back home? I miss my family and friends, especially during the holidays. How Dutch have you become? I’m from California and when I first got here I couldn’t believe that people could live in such a miserable climate. That was my biggest complaint. I hated being cooped up in the house. I’ve completely acclimatised to the climate and enjoy the changes. Now when I’m in California, I actually yearn for a grey day to wear cosy clothes. What's your top tourist tip? Don’t just stay in the tourist areas. Walk or bike in the residential areas. They’re full of fun shops, restaurants and cafes where the locals hang out. If you walk, Amsterdam is an outdoor museum. There are plaques everywhere commemorating historical events. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I was surprised at the amount of multinationals in such a small country. What I found odd was that the Dutch have organised nature. When we would first go out on the highways. I was amazed that the trees were in rows. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Bike around Amsterdam, go to a couple of museums, and eat at my favourite places. Carol Govaert is a photographer and has dual Dutch and American nationality. You can find her work at www.magpeyephotography.com  More >


‘I enjoy my life and our setting here and this feeds my soul’

‘I enjoy my life and our setting here and this feeds my soul’

Artist Albert Dolmans, 86, was born in the Netherlands but emigrated to the US when he was 11 during World War II. Back now for 32 years, Albert lives near the water close to Rotterdam and thinks the Dutch weather is getting better. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I made frequent visits from the US to my parents who had returned here after the war. I later met my present partner, and together we organised exhibits of my work, art workshops both here and in France and other art activities. The good life! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I'm an expat though my partner thinks I still have some typical Dutch idioscyncracies I will not divulge!  I was born in Breda, but at age 11 travelled across Europe by train to Genoa and a ship that would take my mother, sisters and me to NY. One month later the Germans marched into my home town. We proceeded to California where I spent the next 40 years of my life in Berkeley. How long do you plan to stay? Until 2029 when I will be 100 or have a lived a century or whatever is the longest. I enjoy my life and our setting here and this feeds my soul. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, fluently. I learned Dutch during my early years like all Dutch kids at home and at school. What's your favourite Dutch food? Nasi goreng, boerenkool en worst, croquettes. What do you miss about back home? Food-wise, I miss a good T-Bone steak and real hot dogs. I miss real camping, particularly in the rugged mountainous scenery and spacious landscape you generally find there; the silence of nature. I also miss my friends. How Dutch have you become? I don’t think I have changed. I guess after 40 years in California, I was too old to change when I arrived back. What's your top tourist tip? I can give you many. The white village of Thorn in Limburg, the Keukenhof during tulip season, the windmills of Kinderdijk, the Open Air Museum in Arnhem... I could go on. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The climate here has improved if anything. It has been much more moderate of late. During my childhood, winters were more severe and I remember summers being a wash-out with much more rain. Global warming seems to be working in our favour. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Without telling them why, I would bring my friends over for a great meal and a good glass, and I would tell and show them what it was that had held me here in the lowlands all these years. Albert Dolmans has published an autobiography, 'Painting is my life', which contains many of his watercolours and drawings.  An exhibition of his landscapes is being held at Kunstzaal van Heijningen, Noordeinde 152, in The Hague from July 11. The book is available as a free download for iphones and ipads.   More >


‘So much awesome pop music came from the Netherlands’

‘So much awesome pop music came from the Netherlands’

Music fan Laura Beeby has dual Dutch and Canadian nationality and says she will miss decent public transport when she goes back to Canada later this year after 11 years. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I’m a music lover and my Dutchie is a musician; we met the 21st century way on a Yahoo forum for fans of the Hollies. He came to visit me in Canada in 2004, and since I had just been made redundant at my copywriting job and my son was moving away for college, I thought it was time for an adventure. Not being the biggest risk-taker in the world though, I found a supply teaching job in the UK as a plan B…then flew to the Netherlands to visit the Dutchie…and never left! We married in 2006. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? Immigrant! I think the word has had an unnecessarily bad rap, personally. How long do you plan to stay? Actually I’m moving back to Canada by the end of the year and sponsoring Dutchie to follow. I’ve worked pretty steadily since 2005, but after a health-related break from 2012-2014, I discovered that there was little call for a 50+ monolingual with a CV gap. Times have really changed since I first moved here when all you needed was a degree and English fluency to qualify for a job. Time to return home where I have friends, family and hopefully more of chance. Maybe. Yes, I’m petrified! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? The inburgeringscursus basics, I’m afraid. Enough to get by. I’ve never stopped trying but oh well. If there’s one thing I wish I'd known before I moved here it is that it’s best to do it while you’re young, especially if you only speak English. What's your favourite Dutch food? I make an awesome stamppot and I love rijsttafels. What do you miss about back home? My son. My parents. My friends. Real winters. Christmases. Perogies. Gravy on my fries! How Dutch have you become? Not very; I think I’ve become more British. I blame my Dutchie who isn’t very Dutch either! What's your top tourist tip? Get out of Amsterdam!! So many other lovely cities to visit…Maastricht, Haarlem, Delft, Leiden, Rotterdam…etc! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. How much awesome pop music came from this country over the years. Golden Earring, Shocking Blue, Q65, The Outsiders, Cuby and the Blizzards, De Dijk…the list is endless. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Take a train trip… I will definitely miss decent public transport when I move back to Canada! Laura Beeby writes the blog Canucky Woman  More >


‘The Dutch eat a lot of bread and potatoes without getting fat’

‘The Dutch eat a lot of bread and potatoes without getting fat’

South African Anesca Smith has lived here for 2.5 years and doesn't think the Netherlands is as flat as people say. About to marry a Dutchman, she says she intends to live here happily ever after. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I worked as foreign correspondent for a South African news group in London and after returning to South Africa I found myself inexplicably restless. To cure my wanderlust I decided to study International Business Administration in the Netherlands for a year. Only, I met and fell in love with a Dutchman about a minute after I arrived here and that was that. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? My heart is divided. I am immensely proud to be African, to be from the land of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. South Africa will always be the country of my heart, but I am loving life in Holland and this is where I see my future. How long do you plan to stay? I am marrying a Dutchman in September so I fully intend to live happily ever after here. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? My mother tongue, Afrikaans, is an offshoot of the Dutch language so I already had a great vocabulary but my grammar is rubbish. For instance, I don’t know when to use the two definite articles het and de. Mind you, navigating two similar languages has led to some amusing situations. For example, the Dutch word kont, which means buttocks, has a completely different meaning in Afrikaans and let’s just say you won’t go tossing it around. (Hope it’s okay to say kont in 10 Questions!) What's your favourite Dutch food? Erwtensoep! It’s the first thing I ordered when I arrived in the Netherlands. What do you miss about back home? I miss the people. South Africans are very friendly and open – it is commonplace to strike up small conversations with strangers on the street. The Dutch are a bit more reserved. How Dutch have you become? Very. I promptly eat dinner at 6pm now. Before it would be anything around 8pm or even 9pm. To everyone’s surprise I have also become quite sporty. My mother, upon hearing I’m off to play badminton the other day, asked: Do you even know how to hold a racket? What's your top tourist tip? If you venture out of Amsterdam, Mauritshuis in The Hague is unmissable. I would also recommend the Royal Summer Residence, Het Loo Palace in Apeldoorn. Next to its entrance is a gorgeous hiking trail. Finally De Tuinen van Appeltern is just the most enchanting garden idea park. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. You know how everyone always tells you the Netherlands is as flat as a pancake? Well, they’ve clearly not visited Arnhem. I’m still out of breath whenever I have to cycle up one of its almighty hills to get home. Also, I find it weird walking around in the evening and seeing so many houses where the curtains are wide, wide open – you can see everything they’re doing in there (which, admittedly is not much, but still). Finally, the Dutch seem to eat an awful lot of bread and potatoes without getting fat. The girls are all golden hair and long limbs. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? If weather permits, I would take a hot-air balloon ride – I love seeing Holland from above. If I am forced to do something more earthly, I would cycle around in the Hoge Veluwe National Park on one of the free white bikes they provide and visit the Kröller-Müller Museum in the afternoon to look at the Van Goghs and the Sculpture Garden. Anesca Smith is PR and communication officer at Wittenborg University of Applied Science in Apeldoorn  More >


‘Part of having an international life is saying goodbye’

‘Part of having an international life is saying goodbye’

Linguist Ute Limacher-Riebold has lived in the Netherlands for 10 years and describes herself as an expat, a multinational, a European and a Third Culture Kid. She's partial to stroopwaffels, walking in the dunes and using her diary in the Dutch way. How did you end up in the Netherlands? After some years in Italy (Florence) where I had a research grant, my husband and I applied for several jobs all around Europe. When my husband received a positive reply from an international company in The Hague we took that chance and moved here. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I'm a European expat-since-birth (also the name of my blog) because I've never lived in my parents' passport country, Germany. I use the term expat in its strictest sense, ie 'ex' out + "patriam" father country. I'm also an adult European Third Culture Kid for the same reason. European, because I have 'only' lived in different countries in Europe and when you tell someone that you are a TCK, people still assume that you have lived in several continents. I'm also a multinational and multilingual. How long do you plan to stay and why? We'll probably stay longer because of my husband's job, but we never know. I have the typical three-years-itch and it could be that sooner or later we'll move to another country. But I would love to give my three children (they are nine-year-old twins and 12) the chance to finish school here before the next move. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Naturlijk spreek ik nederlands! – Yes, of course! I'm a linguist and the first goal for me, when we moved here, was to improve my Dutch. I already knew some basics but I find it important to be able to communicate with locals. This was also the reason why I sent my then 2.5-year-old son to a Dutch crèche and daycare, and later my twin daughters too. I learned Dutch alongside my son and by talking with everyone. I literally acquired Dutch, like children. After five years I also took a Dutch course, but that was already at conversational level. I learned most of my Dutch by listening to the radio, watching Dutch TV, reading newspapers and magazines, talking with locals and making lots of mistakes. 'We need to make mistakes in order to learn,' is my motto. I worked for a Dutch research institute where I improved my Dutch even more. What's your favourite Dutch food? My favourite Dutch food are stroopwaffels, pannekoeken and sprinkles. And I like snert or erwtensoep in winter, which is similar to the ribollita in Tuscany (without the sausage though). What do you miss about back home? I think that I no longer miss what was in the past. I think that I really adjusted to my life here and I fully embrace it. The places I've lived before were perfect, too. They all had a very special 'taste' and marked special moments in my life, but I wouldn't say that I miss anything. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I consider 'home' the place I am in the moment and that I've learned to fully live in the present. I can't even say that I miss the people there because it's part of an international life to say goodbye – and then hello again! – and to savour the moments we're given to spend in company with our loved ones and friends. Of course, when I go back to the places I've lived before I enjoy and savour the food, the smells, the different climate and habits. But I'm very much aware that the same food would taste different in other places. How Dutch have you become? I think I've become quite Dutch when it comes to welcoming guests. I used to cook a lot, to always focus on food when friends came over. I think in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and many other countries, people focus so much on 'feeding their guests' that they miss out on really dedicating time to them, to listen and enjoy being with them. Here I learned that what counts is to talk, spend gezellig and enjoyable time together – but not disappear into the kitchen or spend most of the time talking about cuisine. Don't get me wrong: I love cooking (and eating), but when someone comes over (not for lunch or dinner) I won't prepare a festive meal anymore. I do the same as the locals: whenever it's nice weather, I'm outdoors. I use my diary in a very Dutch way and am as punctual as locals – but this is very Swiss, too (I wasn't like that when I grew up in Italy though). What's your top tourist tip. I think the best way to really enjoy the Netherlands is on a bike. Rent a bike and enjoy a long journey. Unmissable: walk or ride through the dunes and the beach on a Sunday morning. I don't have 'one' top tourist tip: there is a long list of places one should have seen during a visit in the Netherlands. I'd also recommend taking time to observe the locals: I learn a lot about life in a place by observing people who live there - and by doing what they do. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. When we moved to the Netherlands from Italy, I didn't expect it to be such a child-friendly place as Italy! Actually, I think it's even more child-friendly because restaurants, museums and the like are very welcoming for families. What surprised me a lot here in the Netherlands was the way old people get around. They bike, use a wheeled walker, take public transport. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I think I would take a (last) walk through The Hague and Rijswijk, to the places I feel especially connected with, to say goodbye. I would take many many pictures of 'my' places, and say goodbye to people I know. – I would spend a gezellig evening with friends and family in a strandtent at the beach if it's summer, or I'd go to one of my favourite restaurants. Ute Limacher-Riebold is a multilingual coach and trainer for internationals and runs Ute's Expat Lounge.  More >


‘I used to call myself an expat but am now more an immigrant’

‘I used to call myself an expat but am now more an immigrant’

Jodi van Keeken-Hamilton came to the Netherlands for love 15 years ago at the age of 51. She recommends a spring visit to the Hortus Bulborum in Limmen, and is annoyed by the lack of facilities for the deaf in the Netherlands. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I am one of those women who met their Dutchie online, way back in 1999. We did not meet in person until eight months later. I decided to move to be with him, since I was no longer working, my son was married and basically it was time for ME. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I used to call myself an expat/lovepat but now I guess I am more of an immigrant. How long do you plan to stay? Another couple of years. My Dutch husband is planning early retirement and I am planning to apply for my Dutch citizenship after being here for 15 years. We then aim to go to America, and try to spend some time with my two grandchildren. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do not speak a word of Dutch because I am deaf and I am unable to hear how words are put together. So I figured I'd better not try to butcher the language. When I arrived, I was pushed from pillar to post and no one wanted to teach me Dutch one-on-one.The council played hide and seek with my husband for about six months.  The deaf services coordinator in Amsterdam said there was no help for me because I was not from a third world country and nor was I a Dutch citizen. They told me to come back when I had a Dutch passport. What's your favourite Dutch food? I do like stroopwafels but as far as food goes, maybe fries? Actually, to be honest, I have no favourites at all. What do you miss about back home? My family and the accessibility for a deaf person. How Dutch have you become? I do not think I have become Dutch at all. I came over when I was 51 so I was pretty set in my ways. What's your top tourist tip? If you are deaf, go for the visual things that do not require audio description. Visit the zoos, they are pretty cool. In the spring, go to the Hortus Bulborum in Limmen. It is a small but lovely historical bulb garden. Call ahead and you get a real nice person who speaks English during the tour. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. How small it is, and how wet. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? People watch and have lunch somewhere close to the water - preferably on the beach at Bakkum. Jodi van Keeken-Hamilton used to be a counsellor for the deaf and their families and taught sign language and deaf studies.  More >


‘The Dutch love making rules and regulations but they’re anarchists’

‘The Dutch love making rules and regulations but they’re anarchists’

Life coach Madeleine Lenagh has lived in the Netherlands for 45 years but refuses to ride a bike. If she ever had to leave, she would spend her last day looking for sea eagles. How did you end up living in the Netherlands? When I was 21, I went walkabout. My money ran out in the Netherlands and I didn’t want to go home yet. I found an au-pair job for six months and sold my return ticket to buy winter clothes. I never got around to leaving. How would you describe yourself:  an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I guess I would describe myself as an international. I happen to have put down roots in the Netherlands but it could have been anywhere. How long do you plan to stay? Well, I’ve been here for 45 years now. I think I’m here to stay. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak fluent Dutch. I started out taking care of three boys aged five, seven and nine, so I had to dive in.  Plus, my Dutch friends were kind enough to always speak Dutch to me. What’s your favourite Dutch food? I’m going to cheat here and say an Indonesian rijsttafel! The Indo (Dutch-Indonesian) culture is very much part of the Dutch heritage. What do you miss about back home? I miss wild nature the most. I go back regularly: to the red rock country in the south-west, to Alaska and to New England where my roots lie. How Dutch have you become? I suppose I’m just myself. I’m neither very Dutch nor very American - but I do not like drop (Dutch liquorice) and I refuse to ride a bicycle! What’s your top tourist tip? The Netherlands has some beautiful re-wilding projects. The Oostvaardersplassen and the Biesbosch are favourites of mine. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands. Although the Dutch love making rules and regulations they’re anarchists at heart, so they immediately turn around and break them! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Take a boat and my camera out into the Biesbosch and look for sea eagles. Madeleine Lenagh had a long career in urban planning and project management before completely changing direction to retrain as a life coach and counsellor. She lives in Hank in Noord-Brabant and has just published a new book, Passage of the Stork.   More >


‘No one seems to have curtains; I rather enjoy the voyeurism’

‘No one seems to have curtains; I rather enjoy the voyeurism’

Russian national Anastasia Loginova, 29, works for a children's charity. She's been in the Netherlands for eight months and loves long cycle rides and thinks Amsterdam is a place of many layers, all waiting to be uncovered. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It was actually very un-Dutch and unplanned. While job hunting last summer, I reconnected with a high school friend who had just spent four years in Amsterdam and was preaching about the magic of the city. Moving to the Netherlands had not crossed my mind up to that point, but her stories intrigued me. Simultaneously, a position came up in her ex-company, a non-profit organisation called Child and Youth Finance International which facilitates financial education for children and youth around the world. Although it was not exactly my field (I have a background in art), I had the required skills and the cause greatly appealed to me. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? Honestly, the term expat makes me cringe a little. I have never actually lived in my country of origin. I was born in Cuba, raised in Cyprus, and having lived in the UK, USA and Germany before here, I would describe myself as a citizen of the Earth. How long do you plan to stay and why? No plans yet. For now I feel good, so I will stay. Having moved around so much, I also would quite like to stay and get to know a place in more depth. Amsterdam seems like a place with many layers to be uncovered - I am curious to get underneath some of those. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Not yet, I think I’m allowed a gap year before embarking on the Dutch lesson road. I do speak German and some claim that it is easy-peasy to learn if you know German. Others have told me Dutch is in fact the hardest language there is (this came from a language teacher) due to all the exceptions which exist in the grammar. I guess opinion is varied and I will just have to find out for myself… One day! What's your favorite Dutch food? Herring and pancakes! Not at the same time. I love the Dutch way of making pancakes; saturated in butter, embedded with soggy apples, raisins and covered in cinnamon - perfect any time. I also really enjoy going to the Noordmarkt on Saturdays where you can buy fresh fruit and veg, fish and all sorts of local produce. The mushrooms stand there is just a beauty to see and it’s great to chat with the local farmers from the countryside who ooze the kind of warmth, calm and humanity you rarely find in cities. What do you miss about back home? The sun, the sea, sharing, the inclusive Mediterranean attitude (sometimes!), laughing with friends and family and Cypriot bakeries. How Dutch have you become? I've opened a savings account here, so I guess I am beginning to become quite Dutch. What's your top tourist tip? Wow, there are so many! Firstly, get the season right and come in spring or summer. It’s incredible how the city changes and comes alive once the coat of hibernation comes off after a long, dark and heavy winter. I love taking a walk in the Jordaan along the canals; the cobbled streets and crooked little houses, each appearing to have a personality of its own, peeking into strange little shop windows and quirky businesses. All the layers of history and extremely well-kept charm are like nowhere else. With the onset of spring I have also been venturing out on the bike beyond Amsterdam. Biking from city to city feels great, since the distance is doable and you feel the accomplishment. Last weekend, we cycled from Amsterdam to Hillegom, which is just before the crowded Keukenhof, to see the tulip fields and then followed the sand dunes up to Zandvoort, the coastal town. This is a route which I loved and would definitely recommend. The combination of sports and leisure as well as incredible sights makes for a wonderful day trip. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands? Something which really surprises me here is that no one seems have to curtains in their windows, instead displaying the contents of their house and private life for all to see. I find this quite bizarre, considering that the Dutch culture appears to be quite reserved and private, but I must admit, I rather enjoy the voyeurism into other people’s lives. Another thing is the way Dutch people socialise. For example, if you are out with a Dutch person and they have an appointment with another friend, who you might also know, they will never encourage you all to meet and hang out, rather keeping to the allotted time slots and everyone separate. Coming from a Mediterranean culture where everyone always brings everyone together, this segmentation seems rather peculiar. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Take a walk along the streets of the Jordaan at sunrise and breathe it all in. Walk, walk, walk, discover a cozy café to rest in, peek in some book stores, end up in the Westerpark for sunset. Anastasia Loginova works for the Amsterdam-based NGO Child and Youth Finance International, which organises the annual Global Money Week event.  More >


‘The temperature I consider winter lasts for nine months’

‘The temperature I consider winter lasts for nine months’

Australian Renée Veldman-Tentori, 39, has been in the Netherlands for seven years off and on. She runs her own company and misses her parents, sunshine and Bouwen mangoes. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I fell in love with a Dutchman. We met when he was backpacking in Australia in 2001, just before I left for a four-year working holiday in the UK. After a year there, I ended up in the Netherlands instead.  After the birth of our first daughter in 2007, I managed to drag him to Australia for a few years. Our second daughter was born in Brisbane in 2009, and then two years later, when he was homesick and wanted to further his career, we ended up back here. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? An international Dutch Australian! How long do you plan to stay? My husband feels he has a lot more opportunities to further his career here. We’ve now bought a house and the girls are settled at a (Dutch) school so I think we’ll be here for a while. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Ja hoor. When I first moved here, as a non-EU citizen I was forced into the integration and Dutch language course for a year from 2003.  Though I hated it at the time, I can now see the benefits as I’m fairly fluent. I started with the Delftse Methode at the TU Delft then moved on to Mondriaan. After I passed the exams in 2004, I haven’t done any more formal study and as I now work in English, have become a little lazy with Dutch. I am considering going back to a formal class to 'brush up', though my two children attend a local Dutch school and seem to enjoy correcting me when necessary. What's your favourite Dutch food? Well I quite like olieballen but am allergic to peanuts and many of the olliebal kraams bake them in peanut oil! Good for my health to have to avoid these I guess. What do you miss about back home? Naturally my family and friends. I Skype my parents almost daily as I miss them so much and also so they can continue to have a relationship with their only grandchildren. Being from Queensland, Australia, other things I miss are sunshine, warmth and ginger beer. Oh and delicious, sweet, juicy Bowen mangoes! The mangoes are just not the same here. How Dutch have you become? Interesting question, as I’ve noticed I sometimes find myself fighting losing part of my Australian character. One thing I’ve become much better at is being much more direct and honest. In Australia, this would often be perceived as rude, but here I fit right in. What's your top tourist tip? I’m so fortunate to live right between Delft and The Hague, both are really beautiful cities to spend time just wandering around in.  I love taking my children to museums and blog about it at www.cultureandkids.com Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. That the temperatures I previously would consider as 'winter' last for around nine months of the year here. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? We’ve faced this before when we thought we were leaving the Netherlands 'for good' to move to Australia – and spent it mostly drinking coffee and eating appeltaart with my husband’s family. Renée Veldman-Tentori runs a social media consultancy Zestee Social Media   More >


‘Whenever I land at Schiphol, I am so glad to be back home’

‘Whenever I land at Schiphol, I am so glad to be back home’

Entrepreneur Deborah Carter is a British Canadian dual national and has lived in the Netherlands on and off for 12 years. She fell in love with Amsterdam because of its people and says the Dutch are the most loyal friends you could ever have. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was working for The New York Times in Manhattan and gradually came to the conclusion that there’s more to life than work, cocktails and ceaseless social climbing. I was looking for a kinder, gentler way of life (along with more than 10 vacation days per year) surrounded by culture, the arts and endless travel possibilities. I wanted to spend one year working in Europe before ‘settling down’ back in Canada where I come from. I had been to Amsterdam several times for vacation and loved the city and its vibe. While still in NYC, I started emailing people in Amsterdam for advice on where to look for jobs in digital media. I wrote to a woman who had just set up an Internet research company. We exchanged tips and then out of the blue, she invited me to come work for her and set up a new business unit. She warned me that the pay was crap but that I’d meet lots of potential employers after a few months. All this based on five emails and a 15-minute interview. I remember my sister telling me that I was crazy decamping to Amsterdam like that. But I thought ‘you only live once’. I did it and the rest is history. One year has turned into 12 years and counting! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc? I’m an Amsterdammer with international origins more than anything else. I love the Netherlands but I also love the country I come from: Canada. But what I love most is Amsterdam, this amazing city where you can be whoever you want to be and meet people who are just like you, foreigners who choose to be here because of the quality of life and values that this city stands for. How long do you plan to stay? Who knows? When I lived in NYC, I thought I’ll stay here forever and that didn’t happen. Somehow, though, Amsterdam is different. Whenever I land back at Schiphol or arrive back at Amsterdam’s Centraal Station, I relax and think “I’m so glad to be back home.” Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Not well but I can get by. I’ve taken lessons on and off and I took continuous lessons last year and until this Spring. I enrolled in a great course called ‘Goed. Beter. Best.’ given by an organisation called Alsare. Basically, it’s for parents who want to help their primary school children. You learn Dutch in the context of understanding the Dutch school system and how you can help your child do well at school. You learn Dutch vocabulary and grammar as well as things such as the logic behind how maths is taught here (splitsen). It was an amazing experience to learn with women from Morocco, Turkey, Israel, Mexico, the US, Italy, the UK, Russia and Bosnia. And you know what: the Moroccan and Turkish ladies left us in the dust. Their Dutch is way better than ours! I had to stop my Dutch lessons for the time being because I’ve just launched a start-up which takes all of my time. But my intention is to start the lessons again. They have made such a difference. My son is now my Dutch teacher. He’s constantly reminding me that his Dutch is better than mine so I remind him that my English is better than his. What's your favourite Dutch food? Definitely stamppot and stoofvlees with appeltaart, Bossche bol (giant profiterole) or Haagse Bluf (berry-flavoured meringue) for dessert. It’s a solid, no nonsense meal which is hearty and pure. Kind of like the Dutch. One of my best friends is a Dutch woman who has made it her business to expose us to Dutch culture and traditions. She taught my son to make a hole in the stampot and fill it with gravy. She taught us to make Haagse Bluf. What do you miss about back home and why? I miss my family and my friends from way back. I miss endless amounts of space and convenience. I miss the friendliness and politeness of Canadians. The thing I miss the most: that multiculturalism is normal. It’s okay to be from different places and still be proudly Canadian. Oh yeah, and free universal healthcare. (Canadians have access to free healthcare which would save me around €150 per month if I still lived there.) How Dutch have you become and why? Sex. (Shrug.) Drugs. (Shrug.) Bad weather. (Shrug.) The Belastingdienst. (Heart palpitations. Pour me a drink!) What's your top tourist tip? Go to a brown café in a non-touristy area by yourself and pull up a chair at the bar. Chat over a drink with the bartender or locals. That’s how I fell in love with Amsterdam. The people, plain and simple. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I’ve found that the Dutch can be very wary towards foreigners. So you have to invest in relationships and you have to put in the time and effort to earn their trust and loyalty. But when you do, the Dutch are the most steadfast and loyal friends you could ever have. That’s what a lot of expats who don’t integrate never get to experience. Having a son who goes to Dutch primary school and who identifies strongly as being Dutch has opened up Amsterdam and the Netherlands to me in a way that I never could imagine. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Aimlessly wander around the city all day, window-shopping, stopping in local bars and peering boldly into as many home windows as possible. I’d then stuff my face with stamppot, stoofvlees and appeltaart before grabbing the free ferry to NDSM island to view the city at night from the water. Then I’d begin plotting my permanent return to the city. Deborah Carter is co-founder and business director of NewTechKids, an after-school technology and programming academy in Amsterdam for kids aged 4-12 years.  More >


‘Sitting in a circle at Dutch parties makes it hard to start talking’

‘Sitting in a circle at Dutch parties makes it hard to start talking’

Rick Lightstone is PR director at the ABC bookstore in Amsterdam and has been in the Netherlands for 28 years. If he had to leave, he would cycle down the Amstel into the sunset. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met my wife on a kibbutz in Israel. She is Dutch and wanted to live in Holland. We were in Vancouver for a few years and after moving back and forth a bit, we ended up here. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? That's a tricky one. I’m a Dutchified Canadian. How long do you plan to stay? For ever, permanently. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I went to Dutch language schools for a while. At home we speak primarily English and my kids have grown up to be completely bilingual. What's your favourite Dutch food? I’m not going to say Indonesian. Does it count as Dutch?  I guess bitterballen. Every time we host an author at the ABC they freak out about stroopwaffels but I don't really get them. What do you miss about back home? The space and the nature, the mountains and being able to get away from it all. I don’t miss that much about Canada… not any more. Things change when you've lived away for so long. How Dutch have you become? I’m pretty integrated into Dutch culture. We followed all the Dutch traditions at home when the kids were growing up. Of course, I cycle everywhere. I'm completely used to living here. Sometimes you just don't remember how things were before. What's your top tourist tip? I’d have to say the Rijksmuseum since its renovation. I just love the building and they way they exhibit everything. It is the most extraordinary place. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. There is one thing which still stands out, and which I really hate, and that is the party format at peoples' homes. You have to sit in a circle and this makes it very hard to begin a conversation with someone.  In the US or Canda you would introduce yourself. Here, no one asks you what do you do for a living and there are no openers at social gatherings. It is much more difficult to initiate conversations. That was very frustrating in the early day. Now I just jump in. I don’t care any more. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd take my bike and cycle down the Amstel river and I’d be gone the whole day. I’d take a picnic and ride off into the sunset.  More >


‘The Dutch underestimate their impact on the world’

‘The Dutch underestimate their impact on the world’

American Claire Taylor came to Amsterdam almost 30 years ago and now has dual Dutch nationality. A fan of smoked eel sandwiches, she is most proud of her allotment where she grows vegetables. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Love. We met in Queens, New York, and it was pretty much love at first hug. I’d already lived in Sweden and Italy, and I wondered about Amsterdam… so when I visited him, I also went to see if I loved his city, too. If I hadn’t liked Amsterdam, it would have never worked out between us! And we’re still together, after all these years. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I am an Amsterdammer because I love this city, warts and all. And I’m also an 'American living abroad' – a term we used when I was working with Democrats Abroad to describe us expats, because so many Americans living abroad do not like the expat label. To them, it means 'rich business person who does not assimilate'. Personally, I don’t mind being called an expatriate, because that is what I am – a person who has withdrawn from living in her home country. Though by now, Holland is my home country. How long do you plan to stay and why? I have no plans to return to the USA, though I never had any plans to move here, so who knows. By now, I have lived here more than half my life. My business is here, my apartment is here, my cats are here, my volkstuin (garden allotment) is here. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak fluent Dutch. After so many years, people still say, 'Wow, you speak Dutch. How did you do it? It’s the hardest language in the world.' Well, it’s not, and it can be learned. Before I moved here, when I lived in Italy and Sweden, I didn’t do my best to learn the language. So I made it my job to learn Dutch. I took three years of lessons and did all my homework – at first at the UvA Talenpracticum and later at the Volksuniversiteit. It helped that I lived in an immigrant neighbourhood where the old Amsterdammers didn’t tolerate people speaking English. There was nothing worse than working up your courage to speak Dutch only to have people respond with 'shall I speak English?'. What's your favourite Dutch food and why? Smoked eel makes a wonderful sandwich, as does smoked mackerel (with Amsterdam pickles). Washed down with a couple of shots of very old jenever – preferably a Loyaal from van Wees. What do you miss about back home and why? I miss the chance to help my parents, now they are very elderly. My mother has dementia, and we can’t speak on the phone anymore. So I visit more often, and spend as much time with them as possible. How Dutch have you become and why? I make appointments for everything, and hate to over-schedule my weekends. And I have a volkstuin (garden allotment), which tested my Dutch wait-list skills. I love the volkstuin community, and being the 'youngster' among all those old-time Amsterdammers. I even made a short video about volkstuinen to explain to the folks back home. What's your top tourist tip? Go biking! Take the ferry across to Amsterdam Noord and bike down the Nieuwedammerdijk. Stop half way for a beer and a tosti. Or bike to Flevopark and spend a few hours sipping the jenever at Distilleerderij ‘t Nieuwe Diep. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Holland has a lot of leading companies that no one in the country even knows about. I have written for Raptim, the world’s first humanitarian travel organisation; Vlisco, which makes Africa’s most loved and colourful fabrics; VMI, the world’s leading supplier of tire building machinery; Bugaboo, the company that made baby carriages hip; Zonnatura, whose founder helped initiate Europe’s natural healing movement. And on and on. These are Dutch companies that make an impact, and the Dutch don’t even really know about them. That’s Dutch modesty for you – they are always underestimating their impact on the world. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d cry, then bike to a café to drown my sorrows. Claire Taylor is a creative copywriter and branding specialist. Contact her at Claire Taylor Copy & Creativity and Brandframe Investigative Branding. Photo of Claire: Lieor van Os   More >


‘Amsterdam is fantastic for kids, there is a strong family culture’

‘Amsterdam is fantastic for kids, there is a strong family culture’

Amsterdam Mamas founder Emmy McCarthy, 39, is British and surprised by how family-orientated the Netherlands is. For example Amsterdam, she says, has over 400 playgrounds. How did you end up in the Netherlands? True story: my husband accepted a job at head office, and then told me it was head office Amsterdam, not London where we lived at the time. We shuttled between the two countries for a while before settling in Amsterdam after the birth of our son. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I’m definitely an international, more accurately a European. The Netherlands is the fifth country I have lived in so I feel very European. How long do you plan to stay? We have no plans to leave.  We love Amsterdam, we love the life we have built here and being actively involved with a large local community. It would be very tough to leave. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak a little Dutch, more than I usually let on! It is my fourth language and the one I am least confident speaking. My understanding is good, I read Dutch and can follow conversations, but like many people I struggle to respond in Dutch. It’s a work in progress and something I am continually trying to improve, especially as a business owner here. What's your favourite Dutch food? Cheeeeeese! I really love the cheese here, and the variety of cheeses. In general, the food quality is very high here and the opportunity to eat fresh and in season fruit and vegetables is something I am very grateful for. What do you miss about back home? I think, like any foreigner, I have pangs of homesickness sometimes. I miss my family, but they are pretty spread out anyway, I miss friends. Sometimes I really want to just understand something, without having to check and double check that I have translated it correctly. Every time I return from a trip 'home', however, I am so grateful to be back in Amsterdam and feel very privileged to have built a home here. How Dutch have you become? I’m not sure how to answer that! Not very, I would think. I tend to carry traits from all the places I have lived and cultures I have experienced. If there was something I would like to have absorbed from here it is that I am a much more relaxed parent than I would be elsewhere. The city is fantastic for kids, there is a strong family culture and I hope that I have become 'Dutch' in that way. What's your top tourist tip? Get off the tourist track, get lost for the day. Even if you have children, just wander and see where you wind up. There are dozens of tiny shops and cafes waiting to be explored and over 400 playgrounds, so even if you are travelling with shopping-hating kids you will find something to do. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The thing that surprised me most was just how family-orientated it is. Having lived in several countries, this is by far the most geared towards family life. There really is a reason that Dutch kids are the happiest in the world and Dutch mothers are consistently ranked amongst the highest in the world. Outside of the Netherlands some people think that Amsterdam is all about canals, red lights and marijuana but they couldn’t be more wrong. Amsterdam is one of the best-kept secrets in Europe for families, I believe. But shhhh, don’t tell everyone otherwise they will all want to live here! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? That’s so tough to answer! Whatever I did it would be in Amsterdam and hopefully with good (enough) weather. I would start the day with breakfast on the terrace of a café, wander the streets, soak up the atmosphere and ramble through some of the parks. We would grab a canal-side seat to watch the sunset and the day would end with dinner in one of our favourite restaurants. Then we would walk back alongside the canals, sparkling with lights. Emmy McCarthy is the owner of Stichting Amsterdam Mamas, a not-for-profit organisation providing information and support to English-speaking parents in Amsterdam and the surrounding regions. She has lived in the Netherlands off and on since 2007.   More >


‘I am trying to define the notion of feeling at home’

‘I am trying to define the notion of feeling at home’

Film maker Leonardo Cariglino has Italian nationality, was born in Germany and has a Greek mother. He came to the Netherlands 10 years ago and won’t tell us the name of his favourite bar in case we all go there too. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to the Netherlands for the most pragmatic reasons. As the eldest son of an Italian-Greek household, I was very busy. Too busy to manage my parents business. I didn’t get the chance to find out what I wanted from life myself. When I heard a friend of mine was studying in Amsterdam I decided to move in with him and apply for work. From there everything else happened. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? Being born and raised in Germany to an Italian father and a Greek mother made me always feel like a hybrid between an immigrant and an international, even in Germany. The first years in Amsterdam I thought of myself as an expat but I believe that term has worn out for me after living here for 10 years. This subject about one’s definiton and place in a different country is also the main theme of a new short film I recently finished. It is called Home and tries to define the notion of what it means to feel 'at home'. How long do you plan to stay? I plan to stay as long as things go well for me and my career as a film maker. I’m currently in the process of developing my first feature film with the Dutch film fonds but anything can happen during that process. I hope for the best and give all I’ve got. Generally I don’t feel bound to any country as I always felt a little rootless. But Amsterdam managed at last to feel home to me due to the friends I made, but especially after I met Cornelia, who is my best friend, my big love and my partner in crime. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak dutch if I have to. Because of my German background it was fairly easy to understand and read Dutch from the beginning. Speaking was the main issue, as I never managed to feel comfortable when using it. What's your favourite Dutch food? Honestly, there is none. Maybe stampot. What do you miss about back home? My family and friends. How Dutch have you become? Not at all. What's your top tourist tip? I won’t recommend my favourite bar (sorry Phillip) to tourists and spoil it by doing so. This particular bar is too dear to me and should remain a hub and save haven for expats, immigrants and internationals. I also used it as such in my new short film. But I would recommend visiting the OT301, especially the 'Mixtree'. The place is an independently-organised community which offers parties, workshops, cinema and all kinds of interesting cultural events Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands That the royal family earns way too much money, that people like Wilders have a real chance to flourish here and that Dutch indifference can be a real blessing. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would spend 24 intense hours with those people I learned to appreciate and love in the Netherlands. I owe it to them that the Netherlands finally became a sort of home to me.  More >


‘I asked if I could pin when paying the bill in an American restaurant’

‘I asked if I could pin when paying the bill in an American restaurant’

American Chris Osman, 31, has been in the Netherlands for four years and is surprised by how different all the 12 Dutch provinces are, given the size of the country. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was finishing a teaching gig in Hong Kong and visited a friend in Maastricht on my way home. I focused on finding a job first in Europe before returning home and received a promising lead that ended up not working out. However, I found an opening with Webster leading graduate enrollment in Webster’s graduate programmes and got the job! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I’m definitely an international. I caught the travel bug when I did a study abroad programme for one year in Germany during my Bachelor’s degree. One internship and a Master’s degree later, I travelled through Asia and am now living in the Netherlands. As the Netherlands is a very international country, we are the perfect fit. How long do you plan to stay? Until they kick me out! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I would say I’m conversational in Dutch and am now slowly starting to be able to hold philosophical conversations. I learned by using my German as a basis and took courses in Amsterdam and in Leiden. What's your favourite Dutch food? Definitely bitterballen! What do you miss about back home? Naturally I miss the convenience and customer service. You do have to put up a bit more of a fight and prove that it’s actually not your fault. How Dutch have you become? When I was back home in the US I was uncomfortable because random people would just start talking to me. I thought they wanted something from me until I realised they were making small-talk. Also, when I had to pay a tab at the restaurant I asked if I could pin. The Dutch is having an influence! What's your top tourist tip? Brouwerij ‘t Ij in Amsterdam is a great place to try some really great local Dutch beer. Also a quick trip to Leiden is really worth it and you can do the Leidse Looper and check out the city’s history in a day. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands The most surprising thing I learned about the Netherlands is that the different provinces are quite different from each other in terms of accent, culture, eating habits and football. A Dutch person can immediately tell where someone is from even for such a small country! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would hop on a train to Zeeland and eat as much herring, mussels, smoked eel and friet speciaal as I could. Chris Osman is Graduate Admissions Officer at Webster University in Leiden.   More >


‘I knew when I saw this beautiful girl I was going to marry her’

‘I knew when I saw this beautiful girl I was going to marry her’

Lorenzo Serna, 58, is an American who fell in love in Amsterdam and never left the Netherlands. He lives in Soest and owns and operates a Mexican food truck, Amigo’s Cantina. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It’s the classic story of an American GI marrying a local girl. I was on leave from the Army and while visiting Amsterdam I took a tour of a diamond factory. In walks the tour guide and it’s love at first sight. I KNEW the moment I laid eyes on this beautiful young girl I was going to marry her. On January 31 we’ll celebrate our 29th anniversary. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I’m definitely an ex-pat. MOST certainly a love-pat. If it wasn’t for my wife being Dutch I’d not be living here. She has taken me, and our family, on this life’s experience here in Europe which, had I not met and married her, we would not have otherwise enjoyed. How long do you plan to stay? I expect till I die. My roots have grown so deep with the addition of a daughter-in-law and grandchild, plus, let’s hope, future grandchildren, that I don’t see myself going back and missing out on their growing up here without me. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak it very well, I’ve had several courses over the years to improve my speaking as well as writing, plus having your own business you need to be able to communicate on a certain level to succeed. What's your favourite Dutch food? I love raw herring, plus kibbling (small pieces of fried fish with onions). And their wonderful cheeses, and believe me, American bakeries could take lessons from the Dutch on how to bake several types of delicious bread. What do you miss about back home? My family - cousins, aunts, uncles. I have a huge family back in California and to miss out on all that happens within the family can be rather difficult at times. That, and the sun and convenience of Southern California. How Dutch have you become? Somewhat Dutch I would say. I’ve learned how to deal with their mannerisms and culture but I’ve kept my own personality intact. What's your top tourist tip? If anyone is planning on visiting the Netherlands then do it on King's Day! For more than 24 hours. the whole country is just one big party! This is one of Europe’s unique culture experiences. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Their business expertise. They began the concept of Wall Street, which started in New Amsterdam, which is now New York City. They began the East Indian trade route bringing spices to the west. Our currency, the dollar, was named after their old currency, the dalder. Our American business culture is built on the foundation that the Dutch laid long before America became a country. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? EAT. Say good-bye to so many friends, eat some more. Lorenzo Serna organises the International Food Fair in Amersfoort which takes place on the third Thursday of the month.  More >


‘A Dutch house must have two doors between living room and WC’

‘A Dutch house must have two doors between living room and WC’

Colleen Reichrath-Smith, 48, met her Dutch husband while skiing in her home country of Canada and now uses speculaas spices to make pumpkin pie. She has been in the Netherlands for nine years and lives in Zoetermeer. How did you end up in the Netherlands? It was love. I went backcountry skiing in Canada in March 2005 and my group of friends ended up sharing the alpine ski hut with a group of Dutch skiers for one night. I taught one of them to play cribbage and then we all ended up playing a Dutch farming game together. When we left the next day, we left a note on their rented SUV in the parking lot 11 km away inviting them to meet for dinner when they flew home. My now husband followed through and we met for a second time. Thanks to Skype, within a week we were planning how and where we could see each other again. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I call myself an immigrant because when we made the choice to settle here it was not a time-limited one. Being married to a Dutch man I saw the need to learn the language and integrate. That said, when I started meeting fellow internationals I felt a bond and it was nice to be able to speak English alongside the Dutch. It brought some balance and connectedness into my identity and reality here. There is also a sense of being a ‘reverse immigrant’ because my mother was born in WWII Amsterdam and had emigrated to Canada with her parents and siblings when she was eleven. That said, the only real Dutch culture I had in my upbringing was green pea soup, hagel slag (chocolate sprinkles) and homemade croquettes. How long do you plan to stay? There is no time-limit on our decision. However, we are always free to explore making different choices when we wish. That could mean travelling anywhere! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak Dutch. When I came for the first 6 months, my intention was to learn the language. It was something I really wanted to do – learn a language while living in another culture. I enrolled in an intensive Dutch course with the Interconsultancy Bureau of the University of Leiden and took a second one through them as well. After that we had decided to stay here and I applied for a residency permit. This process brought me to the attention of the city where I live and one day a letter appeared demanding I show up for an appointment that had been planned for me or face a penalty (this is normal Dutch bureaucracy). I was offered free Dutch lessons up to five half-days a week and I saw it as a golden opportunity. At the end of eight months I was able to pass my NTII exam (Dutch as a second language) and complete the formal language learning process. Recently, after a Dutch friend whom I’ve known for over five years said in a shocked way, “You have a sense of humour!”, I enrolled in an improvisational theatre course to further my Dutch learning and become more spontaneous with the language. What's your favourite Dutch food? I love extra belegen cheese and it’s a treat to have it so affordable here. I now also really enjoy La Trappe Witte beer. My husband has clearly had an influence on me! Green pea soup, nasi goreng and croquettes are something that my mom makes and that I also make here. It’s nice to have those ties between my past and present lives. I shouldn’t forget to mention I really like all things speculaas. What do you miss about back home? I miss the space and the mountains being closer by. I miss having snow to play in more often. How Dutch have you become? I think this last Canadian Thanksgiving is a good indicator: I made pumpkin pies and when I realised I didn’t have any nutmeg I started looking for spice alternatives. When I read the list of what’s in speculaas I decided that would work to substitute for all the spices. Pumpkin pie never tasted better – it’s a match made in heaven! What's your top tourist tip? I think the Netherlands is seen best from a bike (or train if biking’s not an option). It’s important to first understand about shark’s teeth and who has right of way where and when, but then I say get out and cycle around. I love the way every bit of space is so well used here and hikers, bikers, rollerbladers and horse riders are all taken care of in the same square mile of nature. The network of paths and routes is amazing when you know how to read the maps and route markers. They’ll get you cycling through a farmer’s field in the polders on a narrow little strip of asphalt you wouldn’t have found on your own. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I learned this year that every Dutch house must have two doors between the living room and the WC. I’d never thought about it before, but it’s true for every house I’ve been in here. And I think it’s a good thing! If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would spend time in the Veluwe going for a long hike and using their free bikes to explore too. I would finish the day with a pub dinner at de Waag in Doesburg (dating from 1478) and then stay at the Grand Café Hotel Kruller in Otterlo. Colleen Reichrath-Smith  is a self-employed career consultant and one of the organisers of the Rotterdam Expat Fair, which takes place on February 8.  More >


‘I make my own pea soup and I’ve gotten pretty good at it’

‘I make my own pea soup and I’ve gotten pretty good at it’

American John Mahnen is a sports marketeer, a Eurosport commentator and helps out at the Dutch-American football association. He has been in the Netherlands half his life. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I originally came here for graduate school. I received a master’s degree in International Business Administration from Nyenrode. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? That’s a really difficult question! I suppose I fit the immigrant model at this point but I don’t rule out a return to the US. Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, I had a hunch I would end up in a bigger city. It just did not turn out to be Chicago! How long do you plan to stay? Until the housing market has rebounded, I don’t even need to think about that one! Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do speak passable Dutch. I do commentary for Eurosport and the viewers haven’t run me off the air yet! I learned by watching Sesame Street on TV then moved to the news and graduated listening to Radio 1. What's your favourite Dutch food? Ewrtensoep (pea soup). I make my own and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. It’s part of what makes winter so special here in the Netherlands. What do you miss about back home? I miss sports being on TV at reasonable hours. Since I still follow American sports, I sometimes end up watching games after they have been played. How Dutch have you become? I like herring with a jonge borrel, watch the speed skating on TV and complain about the weather with the best of them. On the other hand, I still love making chili, follow the Yankees and I am very involved in American Football - so it would seem I am straddling cultures. What's your top tourist tip? I don’t think the Begijnhof is a big secret anymore so I’ll divulge the newest spot most tourists don’t know – the public library! You can have lunch for a very reasonable price at La Place on the 7th floor of the OBA and enjoy a perfect view of the city! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. I think sports fans are even more committed to their teams than their counterparts in America. What else could explain the fans at NAC Breda who support their team year in, year out without the faintest chance of ever winning the title? Then again, as a Cleveland Browns fan, I can relate. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d have a look at the Nachtwacht and them make my way through the Leidseplein to the Singel where I’d light a candle in the Krijtberg. Then I would have a broodje halfom nearby the Spui, followed by a beer in ‘t Dokterje in the Rosemboomsteeg and perhaps a kopstootje at Bols before heading off to the Concertgebouw for an evening of music. John Mahnen is a partner in HEG Consult, a  business development consultancy, focusing primarily on sports marketing.  More >


‘Pancakes are great fast food when you have no time to cook’

‘Pancakes are great fast food when you have no time to cook’

Interior designer Aileen Martinia is 35 and comes from Indonesia. She's been in the Netherlands for 14 years and dreams of retiring to a beach on Bali. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Young, innocent love. In the end, the relationship did not work, but I love it so much living here, I stayed. How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc – and why? A bit of everything; it is all about the adventures, is it not? How long do you plan to stay? Until I retire, maybe? Then hopefully I can hang out on the beach in Bali. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? When I decided to became a freelancer I was forced to speak Dutch while meeting a lot of different people. My learning curve went through the roof. Currently I am able to understand about 80% of what people are talking about and reply accordingly. What's your favourite Dutch food? Pancakes. They are great 'fast food' when you have little time to cook for dinner. You can also eat them the next day for breakfast, and lunch. How handy is that? What do you miss about back home? My family, the food and the sun. How Dutch have you become? I swear like a true Amsterdammer when others are slow on the bike lane, hahahaha. What's your top tourist tip? In Amsterdam and surrounding area it would be Twiske Park. It's lovely in all seasons and a great place for BBQs in the summer. Outside Amsterdam: then the underestimated camping experience that is loved so much by the Dutch. One of my favourite camp sites is het Waldhoorn in Eefde, in the east of the Netherlands. It is so liberating being surrounded by so much green. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. The landscape is soooo flat, and the fact that one can get used to it. I remember being really shocked looking at Belgian hills as it was my first time looking at a mountain ever. Previously I never really appreciated the many hills and mountains in my home country, Indonesia. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I'd take my bike and enjoy one last biking trip in the city while munching on a Hema hotdog. Aileen Martinia is an interior designer. Find out more at www.levenssfeer.nl   More >


‘I now like brown shoes with a dark suit more than I should’

‘I now like brown shoes with a dark suit more than I should’

Benjamin Arthur, 42, is a British corporate and wedding photographer who has lived in the Netherlands for 3.5 years. He and his familiy will soon move into their own house in Amstelveen. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My wife was offered a job to work for a boutique executive search firm specialising in filling marketing positions. At the time we both thought Amsterdam would be a great adventure. Happily, we weren’t wrong and now we can’t imagine living anywhere else. This city is insanely brilliant. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? If lovepat means we love Amsterdam then lovepat! We certainly don’t lead an expat lifestyle and I’m not even sure I know what that means anymore. We try to be careful not to define ourselves in this way. How long do you plan to stay? Indefinitely. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? No, and learning the language has got to be next on the agenda after our recent house purchase. It is extraordinary to think that we could stay here for the rest of our lives and, thanks to google translate and the amazing linguistic talents of the Dutch, not have to take a single language class. We won’t do that but we could. What's your favourite Dutch food? That’s a toss up between bitterballen with mustard and Vlaamse frites slathered in Zaanse mayonnaise. You didn’t expect me to name something healthy did you?! What do you miss about back home? Hills – Britain has the most wonderful countryside on the planet and we all too rarely appreciate it. How Dutch have you become? I like brown shoes with a dark suit more than is acceptable for an English gentleman. And, oh, what’s a car? What's your top tourist tip? Any time you are here on a Saturday be sure to spend at least the morning in and around the Noordermarkt market. Breakfast in the Finch café (Croque Madame every time) or munch on herring and have a broodje beenham for lunch down the Lindengracht. Chat to the stallholders. Get some nuts from De Nootzaak Gotjé. Browse Timbuctu’s books and even buy a couple. When we have a future with no markets and only Amazon left, life will be dismal. Slink off for a quick beer in Cafe Papeneiland. Its heaven. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. How absurdly slim and good looking most Dutch people are. Considering their deep fried diets this is quite an achievement. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Mourn. Hope it was Saturday and do all of the above (see ‘What’s your top tourist tip’!) Then I’d take a long bike ride around the canals and end up in the Vondel park. Contact Benjamin Arthur via www.benjaminarthur.com  More >


‘I get annoyed when I’m cycling behind a slow tourist’

‘I get annoyed when I’m cycling behind a slow tourist’

Christina Caljé is chief operating officer at online sharing platform Peerby. An American by birth, she describes herself as an expat, a lovepat and an international. How did you end up in the Netherlands? A chance meeting with a charismatic entrepreneur at a pitch event in San Francisco brought me to Peerby, which brought me to the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? Can you be more than one of these things? If so, I’d say I’m an expat, a lovepat and an international. Expat because I still feel most at home when I’m in my hometown of New York City. A lovepat because I’m in love with a Dutchie - my husband of three years. An international because work and studies over the years have brought me to Britain, Spain, Sweden and now, the Netherlands! How long do you plan to stay? Definitely for the foreseeable future. I’m really loving this stage of life working with an amazing team of people in a role that challenges me on a daily basis, while still being able to spend quality time with my adorable son and husband (yes, he is also adorable!). The Netherlands is a fantastic home for now, but like I said before, I’m an international and love new cultural experiences, so let’s see what the (far out) future holds. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I have a basic understanding of Dutch, thanks to one year of private lessons with a tutor. But, I have a really long way to go and all of these English speaking Dutchies are not helping my feeble attempts to become fluent. My benchmark has always been that I need to understand what my son and husband are saying about me - my son is 19 months old now, so I think my Dutch is right on track. What's your favourite Dutch food? Hands down it would have to be the ‘Brussels lof’ my schoonmoeder makes. It is kind of like a casserole, with endive wrapped in ham, then smothered in mashed potatoes and cheese. It covers (almost) all the food groups so it’s healthy. Well, that’s what I tell myself as I’m devouring the burnt cheese from the edges of the pan. What do you miss about back home? Food, mainly. I miss my favorite snacks like cheez-its, pretzels, twizzlers. Turkey, broccoli rabe. Salad bars! How Dutch have you become? I’m riding my bike to work now, which is a big deal for me. What makes me even more Dutch is that I get annoyed when I’m cycling behind a slow tourist while on my way to or from work. 'Outta my way - I’ve got important places to go!' Haha, just kidding. I would never say that (maybe just think it). What's your top tourist tip? Stay away from the touristy spots and go exploring the city like a local. Amsterdam is such a beautiful city, especially when you get away from the busy centre. Borrow a bike for the weekend from a local, via Peerby, and when you’re picking it up, ask them for suggestions on where to visit / eat / drink! Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands That it has beaches. They are beautiful sandy beaches, although I’ve never managed to make it while it was sunny outside. A goal for the future, I suppose. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Ice skate on a pond - presuming it is winter, of course. Christina Caljé is COO at Amsterdam-based Peerby. Peerby is an app that enables you to borrow the things you need from others in your neighbourhood and has just launched its Android version.  More >


‘How Dutch have I become? I ride my bike everywhere’

‘How Dutch have I become? I ride my bike everywhere’

Sofia Saxlund, 24, is from Uruguay and works as a design intern. She lives in Zaandam and has been in the Netherlands since April. How did you end up in the Netherlands? We did a trip around Europe with many of my friends from Uruguay. We were 28 friends travelling together, taking up almost entire buses and train carriages. I knew right from the start I was going to stay here as soon as the trip was over. I wasn’t sure which city to choose, but when we arrived in Amsterdam I fell in love with it and I knew this was the one. I first spent a couple of months living at my aunt's place in Amsterdam. Then I moved a couple of times, always in Amsterdam. But not only are the rents in Amsterdam too high, it's also difficult to find a place where they let you use the address to register at the council. Luckily I met a lot of nice people here, they helped me finding a new home and many of them told me Zaandam was a cool place to start looking, not so far from Amsterdam and much cheaper. I've been living there for a couple of months now. And I LOVE it! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? I’m simple. I think we should all do what we really love and not worry about how much money we make doing it, or if others think it’s the right thing for us to do or not. The same goes for the place where we live. Once you find that place you love, where you feel ‘you’, there’s nothing that can take you away from there. How long do you plan to stay? So far, I have no intention of leaving. Maybe I want to keep travelling for a while, but I know I’ll end up here after all. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? No, I don’t speak Dutch. And that’s one of the reasons Amsterdam is the best. I should start learning though. What's your favourite Dutch food? Krentenbollen! What I like about krentenbollen is they look like regular rolls, so you'd think you should eat them with butter, or ham and cheese. But then you try them and they are not what you’d expect. That bread and raisins are a perfect match. And even if most of people in Uruguay think I'm crazy, we could easily survive just eating krentenbollen for lunch every day. What do you miss about back home? My friends and family, of course. And the beach. Uruguay has the most beautiful beaches. How Dutch have you become? Wow, that’s a hard one. I ride my bike everywhere. Does that count? What's your top tourist tip Don’t use any maps. Just walk around and get lost. You’ll get to know the most amazing places and people that way. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands Someone told me that a huge percentage of all the world’s bacon comes from here. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go to some park, have a picnic with my friends, and then a few drinks after the sun goes down. Then I’d go take a walk around the centre, and go from one cool pub to another until the night is over.  More >