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


‘Walking along Amsterdam’s canals can be an amazing experience’

‘Walking along Amsterdam’s canals can be an amazing experience’

Entrepreneur Melinda Jacobs, 28, is an American who studied digital gaming in Utrecht and now runs two start-ups. We ask her 10 questions about her life in the Netherlands.   How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to the Netherlands in 2008 to follow a two-year research MA at Utrecht University studying digital games. I did a summer abroad in Germany during my BA and afterward took the time to visit the Netherlands and Sweden. Following my graduation I decided I wanted to come back to Europe and chose the Netherlands. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I would describe myself as an international. Even though the Netherlands is my home base, I don't feel like living here is my main identity, so not an immigrant, and I don't feel like being American is either, so I'm not an expat. How long do you plan to stay? I plan to see where life and work takes me. For now, I have no intention to leave the Netherlands, but am sure a day will come where I want to explore a new country. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak enough Dutch to get by. I took one A level course, but I learned what I know mostly from reading the newspaper, watching television, and practicing with Dutch friends. It's hard to learn as my work is mainly with internationals, so on average no one speaks Dutch, or they prefer to speak English. Recently I've been practicing with my partner's 'oma'. I teach her more English, and she teaches me more Dutch. What's your favourite Dutch food? Not so original, but I would say stamppot with endive and 'spek'. One of the things I love most about the Netherlands is the easy access to food from around the world. What do you miss about back home? Customer service. I really miss the American mentality toward it. How Dutch have you become? Not necessarily very Dutch. I would say I feel more European if anything. What's your top tourist tip If you're a foodie like me, I would recommend going to the River Kwai (Utrecht) for amazing Thai or Loetje for the best traditional steak and chips in Amsterdam. There's also D’Vijff Vlieghen (Amsterdam) if you want a more modern gourmet menu. If you're a fan of craft beer, I would recommend going to In De Wildeman (Amsterdam), Cafe Olivier's (Utrecht), 't Klooster (Delft), or De Rat (Utrecht). 't Klooster also has an amazing menu for dinner with beer parings. For a true taste of the Dutch try Proeflokaal Arendsnest (Amsterdam). If you are more a whiskey fan, be sure to check out L&B's (Amsterdam). There's also the Brouwerij t'ij, especially in the summer. Try the IPA. For museums, I'd recommend Nemo and the House of Bols (do a cocktail workshop if you can!). Check out the EYE for a look into cinematography.  Just walking along the canals of Amsterdam can also be an amazing experience. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands The sense of entitlement. It has very positive, but also very challenging, effects. On the positive, education and gender equality are seen - by most - as a right (as it should be). On the other side, as a small business owner it can be difficult to manage expectations between what a small company can offer and what a large one can in terms of employment. This makes the Netherlands a very difficult place to be a startup. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Grab a beer at Brouwerij 't IJ, have dinner at the Bird, and walk along the canals of Amsterdam to Bourbon Street for some live music. Melinda Jacobs is the founder of Subatomic and recently founded startup, Clustr, which helps small local businesses create and manage an omni-channel presence.  More >


‘I’ve loved bacon and cheese pancakes since day one’

‘I’ve loved bacon and cheese pancakes since day one’

British accountant Stephen Huyton has lived in the Netherlands for 20 years and is former chairman of Britsoc, the British Society of Amsterdam. We ask him 10 questions about his life in the Netherlands. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was invited to be the first finance director of the company - Thermopatch, where I still work. The goal was to prepare it for a stock market launch in London or New York, or a sale to a third party. After five years the company was sold to a US competitor. I was asked to stay on and as they say the rest is history. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? Very much an international. I came to the Netherlands because I believe in the concept of a United States of Europe. I love the internationalism in my family life and the opportunities my children have had to grow up in an international environment. How long do you plan to stay? I have no plans to leave. I lost my 30% ruling many yeas ago and pay my taxes like any other Dutch person. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I learned very slowly. Accountants do not readily do languages!! Eventually I attended the famous nuns school. My Dutch is still not word perfect but I since I work in Dutch most of the day it continually evolves! What's your favourite Dutch food? Savoury pancakes - spek and kaas (bacon and cheese). I've loved the combination from day one. But no, I don't add stroop (syrup) like most Dutch people do. What do you miss about back home? Lancashire cheese. I used to smuggle it back in my suitcase like all expats. Now, with Marks & Spencer in the Netherlands, you can get hold of it. How Dutch have you become? I appreciate the greater seperation between your work and your private live. And I really value the emphasis on family life. What's your top tourist tip? Try the National Park and the Kroller Museum in the Hoge Veluwe. You get 5,400 hectares of park and nature and even when its busy, it is still so easy to lose yourself. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands Just how short I am. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? That depends on the time of year. If it is summer, I would start out early and head up for a day to Texel, hire a bike and cycle. It is really exhilarating. If it was winter and cold enough I would go skating on the Vecht. There is nothing better. Stephen Huyton is group finance director at Thermopatch International and has lived in the Netherlands for 20 years. He is the former chairman of the British Society of Amsterdam.    More >


‘I eat pea soup all year round when I want comfort food’

‘I eat pea soup all year round when I want comfort food’

Photo journalist Shirley Agudo has lived in the Netherlands for 15 years and says she fits in very well with the more laidback way of life. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came to the Netherlands from the US in 1993 with my former husband and our two daughters, on the basis of my husband’s job transfer to an American-owned fiberglass company in Hoogezand, in the north of Holland. We lived for five years in a beautiful thatched-roof farmhouse (boerderij) in a very small – and wonderful – village called Balloo, near Assen, where our children went to the British school (which no longer exists). After five years we moved to Paris, for another five years, and then I returned to the Netherlands, by choice. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I would say that I am an expat/immigrant, since I intend to stay here long-term but will always consider myself an American expat as well. How long do you plan to stay? Indefinitely. The Netherlands suits me very well – I love it here! – and I consider it my home now. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Oh, this is a very delicate question…. I speak ‘redelijk’ Dutch, but, considering how long I’ve lived here, I should be fluent. I studied three levels of Dutch at Utrecht University’s James Boswell Institute, which I would highly recommend, and I continue studying with a private tutor – but not often enough. One gets very lazy in a country where everyone speaks English, and I’m afraid that I’m entirely guilty of that. I do wish I were fluent, however, so that I could read all the details of the Belastingdienst and insurance company letters. Those are my nemeses. I’m never sure if they owe me money or I owe them money, but chances are it’s the latter, so I just bank on that. What's your favourite Dutch food? Pea soup, by far. I eat it year-round when I want some comfort food … which happens quite often. What do you miss about back home? My daughters, first of all, who have their own careers and lives in the United States. Beyond that: customer service and enthusiasm – and the way all that translates into strong marketing behaviour, which is difficult to find here. How Dutch have you become? Wow, that’s an interesting question. Most people, probably myself included, would say that I have not become very Dutch at all. As a writer and photographer, I tend to keep to myself a lot, and very much enjoy doing so. I have a couple of very good Dutch friends, both male and female, and a few good English-speaking friends and, for me, that’s all I need. When it comes to friends – and many other things – quality is much more important than quantity. I do, however, feel that I fit in very well with the Dutch (and European) way of life … of café-sitting and lingering over cappuccinos – more easy-going and laid-back than American life, although people who know me well would say that I’m certainly driven, like most Americans. I also embrace the Dutch traditions – especially King’s Day, which I think is the best party on earth, and the most incredibly civil. Interestingly, almost every Dutch person I meet for the first time asks me why I haven’t gone back to America instead of staying here by choice, and I always tell them that I’ve “been there, done that”, and I plan to live the rest of my life in Europe. That said, the Netherlands is the perfect place – especially for an English-speaking person – to live in Europe. And I love being able to hop on the train and be in an entirely different culture in about two hours. …I can always move back to America, but, for now, I’m very happy to be planted here. What's your top tourist tip? For the Netherlands: get on the train and do a countrywide tour. Yes, include Amsterdam, of course, the city I absolutely adore, but this country is small enough to see several provinces on one trip. Some other favourite cities of mine include Maastricht, Groningen, Haarlem, Amersfoort, and smaller villages such as Broek in Waterland, which is picture-postcard pretty … and the beautiful village where I live: Laren. Elsewhere in Europe: I will always be most fond of Spain and Italy. I love everything Mediterranean –the climate, the food, the wine and, above all, the warmth and spiritedness of the people. Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL OK, for this one I’ll be dead-honest. Good and bad. On the good side: It would have to be how often people cycle here, routinely, as part of everyday life. That surprise led me to do both of my books: Bicycle Mania Holland and the new one that has just been released, The Dutch & Their Bikes. Before I moved here, I had no idea that cycling was so much a part of Dutch life. The Netherlands is the most cycling-friendly nation on earth, and that’s what I want the rest of the world to see, through my photographs. On the ‘less positive’ side: it surprises me greatly that the Dutch are not better marketers – as I have already alluded to – given their history as highly successful traders. I have been told that not wanting to promote themselves or stand out probably stems from Calvinism. It continually frustrates me, however. The Dutch are amazing designers, for example, but they are generally not very aggressive about marketing their own products or expertise. It’s the one thing that continues to baffle me … but perhaps I’m just too American in this regard. It’s very natural, as I’m sure you know, for us to promote what we do in a big way … and I can never understand why someone would come out with a new product and not want to promote it as much as possible. It’s a dilemma I constantly wrestle with here. If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? First, I would go back to the Rijksmuseum and stand in front of all the Vermeer and Jan Steen paintings for a while – as well as Rembrandt’s Night Watch, to stare at the amazing light that is cast from the female figure in it. Then I would head to the Begijnhof and stand in this quiet, beautiful oasis situated in the heart of Amsterdam. Then, for the rest of the day, I would do street photography in the city. If I had time, I would head out to Broek in Waterland for the late afternoon/evening, and a dinner at the Inn on the Lake, a magical location that holds very precious memories for me. But of course I would have to spend some time in my glorious Laren, so, I’m afraid I would need another day…. Shirley Agudo’s sixth book, ‘The Dutch & Their Bikes: Scenes from a Nation of Cyclists’, is available in bookshops and via www.hollandbooks.nl. For more information, see: www.dutchandtheirbikes.com. You can also follow Shirley on Twitter @BicycleMania.  More >


‘Dutch diaries can be a tool but also an excuse’

‘Dutch diaries can be a tool but also an excuse’

Spanish businessman Rogelio Vargas has been in the Netherlands for seven years and plans to stay here indefinitely. How did you end up in the Netherlands? Due to a job with a French multinational, Orange, which belonged to the France Telecom Group. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? Internationally-minded person who has been living in several countries: USA, Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands. Right now I live in the Netherlands, but I also spend some periods in my home country of Spain. How long do you plan to stay? Indefinitely. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, though not at the highest level. I learnt it studying, reading and talking to people. Nowadays I follow the Dutch newspapers and I read a lot of legal stuff in Dutch. What's your favourite Dutch food? Dutch herring. What do you miss about back home? Good Spanish cuisine and restaurants. But even more I miss the social life on the street. How Dutch have you become? I can use the Dutch social convention for things such as appointments, agendas and the lack of spontaneity, but I am very flexible because I am aware of the variety of conventions all over the world. What's your top tourist tip? If you ever come to Amsterdam, please, do not miss a boat cruise on the canals and see the city by foot or by bike like the locals. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. Dutch diaries can be a tool but also an excuse and barrier. People sometimes don't do things because they are not planned in their diaries and not because they really do not have the physical time. They just don't have the mental time if it is not in the diary. It is a matter of priorities because I have seen Dutch people changing their diary one day before if the alternative offered was appealing enough for them. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Meet my Dutch friends to have some beers and dinner. Rogelio Vargas, 46, owns Agencia International  a commercial service company with offices in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and is president of the Asociación Española de Profesionales en Holanda    More >


‘At one point I had three bikes’

‘At one point I had three bikes’

Carolyn Vines, who has been in the Netherlands for 15 years and likes to be known as a lovepat. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I moved here with my then Dutch boyfriend. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? A lovepat because I love the way it sounds. It always makes me laugh when I see or say it. How long do you plan to stay? Hmmmmm? Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I speak Dutch rather well. I taught Spanish as a second language when I was in graduate school in the States so I know how to learn a language. When I first moved here, I was required to take an inburgeringscurssen that provided me with a solid basis. My Dutch improved by leaps and bounds when my oldest daughter went to school. Since none of her friends spoke English, I had to speak Dutch. What's your favourite Dutch food? Stamppot. What do you miss about back home? The International House of Pancakes, grocery shopping whenever I want, space, warm and sunny summers, hearing the American accent and of course space. How Dutch have you become? Well, at one point I had three bikes. One I kept at Utrecht Centraal for when I worked. One nice bike that I used to transport my daughter and my groceries and one ratty old bike for leaving at the train station. I play field hockey – even in the rain and I’m into soccer. I think that makes me pretty darned Dutch, don’t you think? What's your top tourist tip? Pick a big city and take a canal tour. It’s the most beautiful and authentic way to see Holland. Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL? That the Dutch place such a high value on multilinguism. If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? Sit in my back yard and enjoy the flowers. Carolyn Vines, 46, is a certified professional coach and the author of Black and (A)broad.  More >


‘I went Dutch by walking on the right of the pavement’

‘I went Dutch by walking on the right of the pavement’

Tony Parr learned Dutch at a British university 35 years ago and likes his wife's boerenkoolstamppot. How did you end up in the Netherlands? That’s a long story, but I’ll try and keep it short. I’m one of a very select band of individuals who can actually claim to have studied Dutch language and literature in the UK. I’d started out doing French and Latin at university, but very quickly found myself getting bored with both of them, which just happened to be subjects I was good at at school. Since my mother was Belgian (Flemish) and I spoke a couple of words of Mechelen dialect, I thought it would be a good idea to ditch Latin and take up Dutch instead. Without a family connection it might just as easily have been Norwegian or Romanian. Unfortunately, I was attending an ancient and venerable English university, which meant that I graduated with a thorough acquaintance with medieval and 19th-century literature, but without being capable of speaking the language properly. So I decided to apply to all the Dutch universities to see whether they might not need a language assistant in their English departments. Which is how I found myself travelling to Groningen in 1978 to take up a very small teaching job at the university there. I was asked to teach a drama class to second-year students and planned to stay for a year. It was very gezellig, though, and I liked Groningen and the Groningers. So, without any clear plan to guide me, I ended up staying. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I suppose I started out as an expat on a one-year contract, intending to return to the UK at the end of it. I then became a lovepat of sorts when I bumped into this nice Dutch girl who insisted on taking me to Schiermonnikoog. Having now made my home in the Netherlands, I think it’s safe to refer to myself as an ‘immigrant’. How long do you plan to stay? Indefinitely. England is a great place to go on holiday, but I have no particular urge to go back there to live. Moreover, Holland’s a good place to live. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I do. I learnt a couple of words from my Belgian mother (pateekes, kriekskes, that sort of thing) and then spent a few months beavering away in a language lab (yes, I’m that old) in Cambridge. But my fluency did not really pick up until I spent a summer working as a waiter in a hotel restaurant in Paterswolde, near Groningen. It was a great experience (I remember being asked for ‘Maggi’ and not having the faintest idea of what it might be – was it an object, a dish or perhaps a person?): they were so friendly and patient with me! What's your favourite Dutch food? Although I’m usually the cook at home, my wife makes a really wicked ‘boerenkoolstamppot’ that’s up there on my list of favourites, together with a gud ol’ ‘gehaktbal’ with a generous helping of mustard. What do you miss about back home? Not a huge amount. Mainly the sense of space, the landscape, the trees and the fact that, if you’re standing in a queue, you generally end up in a conversation with the person next to you. That doesn’t seem to happen as much here. How Dutch have you become? I think I probably went Dutch when I started walking on the right-hand side of the pavement. It took me many years to realise that this was the done thing over here and I seem to have absorbed the habit. On the other hand, I’ve never seen the humour in certain typically Dutch comics like Toon Hermans and Freek de Jonge, so perhaps I’m still a bit of an outsider. What's your top tourist tip? A few years ago, I moved from the depths of Limburg to the Haarlem area. In the old days, visitors from abroad would be treated to a walking tour of the old town of Maastricht, but nowadays I tend to take people to the Zaanse Schans. It’s an open-air museum near Zaandam and is a fascinating combination of history and fun on a manageable scale. I should also mention the national maritime museum, the Scheepvaartmuseum, in Amsterdam, which I have got to know recently. It’s a brilliant place with stunning design. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. One of the aspects of life in Holland that I’ve never got used to is congratulating people on someone else’s birthday – a family member, a friend or a neighbour. It seems to be totally natural for the Dutch but I’ve never come across it anywhere else (although that’s hardly a scientifically confirmed finding) and I still have to remind myself to do it. And I somehow still feel uncomfortable doing it. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Do some of the things I’ve always been planning to do but somehow never got round to. Like go for a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant, visit Terschelling or go out on a fluisterboot in the Biesbosch. More realistically, though, I’d probably end up taking the dog for a walk in the Achterhoek. Tony Parr, 58, has been in the Netherlands for 35 years. He is a language trainer and translator and lives in Heemstede. www.tonyparr.nl  More >


‘A guilty pleasure would be a broodje haring’

‘A guilty pleasure would be a broodje haring’

Canadian Noah Millman teaches at Leiden University and would use his last 24 hours in the Netherlands to visit the Efteling amusement park. How did you end up in the Netherlands? In late 2006 I was looking for a highly rated master’s programme in my field and several universities in The Netherlands caught my attention. I applied, and here I am. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? Somewhere between immigrant and international/expat. I’m not an immigrant because I’d like to keep my Canadian citizenship and dual nationality is not allowed. For me expat and international are the same and I see myself more closely related to this category. How long do you plan to stay? I do not have a current plan to leave. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? The dreaded question. I have taken three Dutch courses, but living in Amsterdam there aren’t many opportunities to practice as the English level here is incredible and there are so many internationals. My accented Dutch is often met with English responses, so for the time being I am happy to understand, read and write in public and speak among friends. What's your favourite Dutch food? A guilty pleasure would be a broodje haring but standard Dutch fare is too deep fried for regular indulgence. I am a big fan of the many wonderful fusion and non-Dutch restaurants in Amsterdam, however. What do you miss about back home? Evening shopping hours, sinus medication and a responsive customer care industry. How Dutch have you become? I believe I have retained most of my Canadian-isms, but I have embraced offering up a healthy dose of bluntness every now and then. What's your top tourist tip? 1) Pre-buy museum tickets. There is no better feeling than walking right past a giant queue. 2) Blend in. As much as Amsterdam is perceived as a tourist city, the people here don’t like tourists. So: A) Don’t rent a bike that is a specific colour (red, yellow, green, orange). B) Just finished the Heineken Experience and bought a few things? That green bag screams ‘charge me more’ when you walk through the market; put it in a backpack. C) Nobody living in Amsterdam wears a hat that says AMSTERDAM with marijuana leaves on it, save that for home. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands. A lot of famously liberal/tolerant/relaxed policies are only legend. It is much stricter and more regulated than I could have ever imagined. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? Morning: Efteling. Evening: Walk through Amsterdam, take a boat out on the canals. Late Night: Visit one of Amsterdam’s legendary night life locations like Boom Chicago, Paradiso or Sugar Factory for some Wicked Jazz Sounds. Noah Millman, 31, is completing a PhD in psychology of religion and teaches at Leiden and Amsterdam University.  More >


‘With a lap-top and a good internet connection, there are no borders’

‘With a lap-top and a good internet connection, there are no borders’

Greek radio producer Nikos Koulousios is surprised by how much the Dutch love their kings and queens. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I came on an Erasmus student exchange programme and then continued and completed my studies in The Hague and Amsterdam. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I am a citizen of the world. With a lap-top and a good internet connection, there are no real borders any more. I feel like we are moving towards a time where you can 'live and/or work' in any city of the world without being physically there. How long do you plan to stay? I am waiting until everything I have invested in here in Holland starts paying off. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch, but not on an everyday basis. I did some courses and conversation lessons. What's your favourite Dutch food? Herring What do you miss about back home? The way people care about each other and support each other. The humility of a society that is not as money-driven as the Dutch one. I miss the fact that NOT everything comes with a price… I miss the generosity of the Greek spirit. And the Greek hospitality. How Dutch have you become? I have developed a bi-cultural mind. I can function well within the norms of the Dutch culture but my intention was never to become Dutch. Assimilation is not a goal for me. What's your top tourist tip? Read the history of the creation of the Dutch state, do not tip a waiter unless you are really happy with the servics, ask for better service when you see sloppiness, ask for good value for your money, don’t just eat French fries. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands I was surprised to find that the Dutch build their own land and that they love their kings and queens so much. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would like to see Holland from above. I would rent a small plane or an air balloon and hope for a clear blue sky. Nikos Koulousios has been in the Netherlands for 14 years. He has a radio show Hellas Pindakaas    More >


‘ I enjoyed freedom in every sense of the word”

‘ I enjoyed freedom in every sense of the word”

Journalist Malgorzata Bos-Karczewska is fascinated by the Delta Works and feels more Dutch than Polish at times. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met my Dutch husband in communist times in my hometown of Gdansk. We were both economic students. He came in 1978 on a student trip because he was very interested in what was going on behind the Iron Curtain – something which was pretty rare at the time. We got married in Gdansk a month before the birth of Solidarity in August 1980. I left Poland legally on a consular passport for Amsterdam, where I continued my study of economics at the University of Amsterdam. A new chapter in my life began. I enjoyed freedom in every sense of the world. I was absorbing knowledge like a sponge, learning by doing. I was also demonstrating against martial law in Poland and cruise missiles in the Netherlands. It was a great formative time for me, it shaped me. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? Now, with Poland in the EU, I feel I am part of the European family and no longer a stranger from the grey under-developed ‘Oostblok’. Now I am a European with Polish roots and some Dutch traits. I never considered myself as an immigrant, which is an outdated phrase in this mobile world. The sense of belonging comes partly from your roots and your childhood, and also from how people treat you in the new place where you live, and what you make of it. When I come back from holidays or from Poland I feel at home here. At the same time, the geographical borders are artificial, but the mental barriers still remain – you can see that when the Dutch still talk about the ‘Oostblok’. How long do you plan to stay? The Netherlands was paradise for me when I first came, in the early 1980s. Over the past 12 years it has changed a lot. In 2012 I wanted to leave because of Geert Wilders’ ‘report a Pole’ website and the anti-Polish attitudes. I’ve become used to it. However, if someone offered me my dream job abroad I would not hesitate to leave the Netherlands for a while to get some fresh air. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? My Dutch is pretty good, with an accent.  Some people think I am German or Swedish (due to my blond hair) or even from Limburg, because of my soft g. I learned Dutch by reading press clippings on Poland in 1980-1981. Later I followed two advanced courses in Dutch simultaneously in order to understand the fascinating world around me. And the rest was practice. After three years I joined the editorial board of the monthly magazine of the economics faculty at Amsterdam university. There I learned about writing articles and I conducted my first interviews. What is your favourite Dutch food? Poles love all kinds of soup - they even eat them in the summer. But Dutch erwtensoep (pea soup) is ‘lekker’. It is thick - good stuff for winter. And Dutch herring with onions are fabulous. They melt in your mouth. What do you miss about back home? I miss spontaneity and fantasy, visiting friends and their hospitality, making jokes, having fun together. How Dutch have you become? Interesting question, When in Poland I feel myself more Dutch. When I am there, I see how my way of thinking and handling issues have changed. So even though I speak perfect Polish, I can see by their reactions that others think some of the things I say are strange. I don’t behave in a Polish way anymore. I have become more pragmatic and direct, but also more responsible and I think about the consequences. What's your top tourist tip? I always recommend visitors to go and see the Delta Works in Zeeland. They are a magnificent piece of water management, set up to prevent a flood disaster like that of 1953. Fighting against the sea shaped the Dutch spirit of cooperation and consultation – what they call the polder way of communication. As everybody is dependent on everyone else, you have to achieve consensus for the sake of a common higher goal. The Dutch are not a people for quick fixes, but for stability in the longer term. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands As a newcomer I was very much impressed by Dutch pragmatism. I found communication not only very direct but goal orientated. The Dutch talk with each other as if they are exchanging information including all the pros and cons. Everything must have a reason, consequence and conclusion. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go on a cycle ride along the coast from the Delta Works to Zierikzee, watching seagulls, the tides and the amazing skies with so many different types of cloud formations. You see water, a thin strip of land and a huge sky. It is liberating, like meditating on a bike. Definitely worth trying! Malgorzata Bos-Karczewska is a journalist and editor-in-chief of Polish community website Polonia.nl  More >


‘ I know the Dutch system is one of the best in Europe’

‘ I know the Dutch system is one of the best in Europe’

Student and Romanian national Antonia Raileanu loves fish, would like to visit the Apenheul and was a candidate in the 2014 local elections. How did you end up in the Netherlands? In 2010 I decided to continue my studies and pursue a Master's degree in the Netherlands because I know the Dutch system is one of the best education systems in Europe. I applied to several Dutch universities and on my first trip to the Netherlands I ended up getting a place at the University of Twente to take a double degree Master's programme in European Studies. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I would describe myself as a European citizen. I don’t consider myself a typical Romania. I like to learn from other cultures and in the Netherlands I have plenty of opportunities to do this. How long do you plan to stay? I now call my place in Enschede home. I am a candidate on the list for the European elections for Dutch party ikkiesvooreerlijk and I am certainly not considering moving. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Unfortunately, I don't speak Dutch yet. I took several courses at the university and the city hall in Enschede. I want to learn but I haven’t had many opportunities to practice. At the university I studied in English, at work we speak English and my dutch friends are really happy speaking English. And if I want to ask for directions in Dutch I usually get an English reply. At the university we have a badge with the message ‘Spreek Nederlands met mij’. Maybe I should wear this more often. What's your favourite Dutch food? I like fish a lot and of course I like Dutch fried fish. I've developed a tradition of going every Saturday to the open market to eat fish. What do you miss about back home? Spontaneity! In the Netherlands I have learned to be more organised and punctual. I like to plan activities and tasks but I also like to be spontaneous from time to time. I think that in Romania people tend to be less strategic and usually come up with last minute plans. How Dutch have you become? I would say that I adopted more from the Dutch culture than I realise myself – usually my friends from other countries see it better. I got used to cycling very quickly and now I find even short distances are impossible to walk. I almost like the cold Dutch lunch. It doesn’t take long and you don't feel lazy after eating. As I said, I like to be more punctual, and now I expect everybody to be the same. I have also became more direct. I like to speak my mind and be honest! What's your top tourist tip? I would recommend the island of Terschelling. Not many tourists know about the Netherlands' five northern isles. Away from the crowed city, the island is a great place to relax and embrace nature. I even enjoy the ferry ride to the island. Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL I never knew that carrots are orange because they were cultivated as a tribute to Willem van Oranje. If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? Buy a year's supply of stropwaffels! Then, I would fly a plane (I know that in NL you can get lessons to fly a plane), and the rest of the day I'd spend at Wallibi and the Apenheul. I have never been to the Apenheul, but I really like the idea of spending time in a wildlife park where you can interact with the animals. Antonia Raileanu, 25, was a candidate in the EU parliamentary elections for ikkiesvooreerlijk.eu. She is a Master's student in European Studies at the University of Twente, and intern at StudyPortals BV and marketing assistant part-time University of Twente.  More >


‘I studied here on an Erasmus programme back in 2001’

‘I studied here on an Erasmus programme back in 2001’

British Amsterdammer Vicky Hampton loves Osseworst and is definitely not an expat. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I studied here on an Erasmus exchange programme back in 2001/2002. I fell in love with Amsterdam and didn’t want to leave… At the time, I did the sensible thing and returned to the UK to finish my degree, after which I ended up in London with every other graduate for a couple of years. But at a certain moment, my love of Amsterdam got the better of me and I quit my job, handed in my notice on my rented room and moved to Amsterdam permanently… I’ve never looked back! How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I’m glad you asked that question, because a lot of other companies/websites that have published interviews with me seem to assume I’m an expat. Isn’t that someone who’s paid to be here by their company? I’ve never been an expat, so I guess I consider myself to be an international Amsterdammer. How long do you plan to stay? As long as I love being here! That could be a year, or it could be a lifetime. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? Yes, I do speak Dutch, although not perfectly. I took various group classes (which was a great way to meet people, too) and eventually took my NT2 (Nederlands als Tweede Taal) exams a few years ago. What's your favourite Dutch food? I’d have to pick ossenworst. It’s a raw, smoked beef sausage that’s not to everyone’s taste, but I love it with a touch of mustard and a bock beer. By the way, top tip: the best ossenworst is to be tasted at Café de Dokter (Rozenboomsteeg 4, just off the Spui). Incidentally, I’m a food blogger, so for more food tips check out AmsterdamFoodie.nl for all the latest restaurant recommendations! What do you miss about back home? Not too much, really. But I do like to see the rolling hills of the English countryside when I go back… And the British sense of humour – it’s not quite the same anywhere else! How Dutch have you become? In some ways, I think I was fairly Dutch before I arrived. My directness never went down too well in England, so it was a relief to find fellow straight-talkers over here. I also couldn’t live without my bike these days, but I expect everyone says that! What's your top tourist tip? I love taking visitors out of the city, across the free ferry to Amsterdam Noord, into the Waterland area by bike. The Dutch countryside may not be spectacular, but all the flat green fields and waterways have a calm, understated kind of beauty. Plus, all that biking means you feel completely justified in stopping at one of the picturesque little villages for a slice of apple pie en route! Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL People aren’t as tolerant as the Netherlands’ reputation would suggest. They just don’t much like other people telling them what to do. If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? What a terrible thought! Much as I love Amsterdam, it’s the people who make my life here what it is, so I’d round up all my friends for as many glasses of white beer and fried borrelhapjes as we could stomach and then head to my local park, the Westerpark, to watch the sun rise together. Vicky Hampton runs the food blog AmsterdamFoodie.nl and is a writer, editor and marketeer. She has also written a cook book Vicky Hampton's Working Lunch  More >


‘You could make me happy with a local ingredient stamppot’

‘You could make me happy with a local ingredient stamppot’

Sharyn van Ees-Cooper has been in the Netherlands for 10 years and would like to take a balloon trip over the Betuwe region. We ask her 10 questions about her life in the Netherlands. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I married a Dutchman whom I met in Vienna. His work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continuously takes us back to The Hague, which of course is the country’s seat of government. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? None of the above. I’m not really a fan of labels. I’m an American with Dutch citizenship who has lived outside of the United States since 1990. If you do the math, you’ll see that I spent my first 23 years in the US (I grew up in the Washington, DC, area and I studied in Boston) and an equal amount of time ‘abroad’ (including two stints in Vienna and three years in Almaty, Kazakhstan). How long do you plan to stay? Who can plan anything anymore? We’re kind of at the mercy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aren’t we? Happily the MFA has been generous enough to grant us a long, uninterrupted period in The Hague, affording our three children excellent Dutch schooling and a grounded childhood and me a career in my field of journalism. And my husband was just named Director of Protocol, which means that we’ll be staying put in The Hague another four years. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I speak Dutch fluently although it’ll never be quite as good as my English. I started taking lessons when my husband and I were still dating, during my lunch breaks at the Belgian Embassy in Vienna. It was already important to speak and understand the language back then as we were invited to many social functions where Dutch was being spoken. When I moved to The Hague the first time in 1994, I enrolled in an intensive language course three mornings a week. I was placed at a high level as I suspect my German language skills had already given me an excellent foundation. I never did finish the course or take the NT2 proficiency exam, because I quickly found a job working as an English editor at a joint venture between the Rabobank and Robeco (IRIS bv). There I was immersed in a Dutch-language environment, which is probably the best way to learn a language. What's your favourite Dutch food? Hmm. I follow a pretty strict diet nowadays so I’m not allowed to eat too many typical Dutch dishes. In the past I probably would have said aged Gouda cheese but now I don’t eat dairy products. I guess you could make me happy with a stamppot made from fresh, locally produced ingredients (for example: curly endive, kale, spinach, parsnip and rutabaga), but no pork! Oh and I just adore the Calvé peanut butter – it contains no sugar. What do you miss about back home? My family and my relatives, especially celebrating the Jewish holidays and simchas together. How Dutch have you become? Dare I say ‘too Dutch’? Environmentally aware, politically active, inseparable from my bike, fixated on holidays, coffee loving, pennywise, sun worshipping, overscheduled. Nonetheless, I still like to think of myself as spontaneous and am always ready to drop everything to meet up with a friend for a chat. What's your top tourist tip? I think The Hague is often overlooked as a tourist destination and many tourists are pleasantly surprised when they decide to spend time here. We’ve got great museums (Mauritshuis, Gemeentemuseum and Escher Museum), a historic city centre with beautiful shops and restaurants, many stunning parks (including the Japanese Garden in Clingendael) and, of course, 11 km of coastline. You can’t visit The Hague without taking a walk or bike ride through the dunes. Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL I’m continuously surprised and saddened by the rich amount of Jewish history in the Netherlands (dating back to the 14th century), including all of the former synagogues now serving other purposes. If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? Take a hot air balloon ride above the Betuwe area or a ride in an open boat through the canals of Amsterdam. Sharyn van Ees-Cooper, 46, is editor of official city council website thehague.com and has lots of volunteer positions. She is a board member of STET The English Theatre, co-presenter on DutchbuzZ radio and chairman of the Cultural Committee of LJG Den Haag.  More >


‘I happily followed my husband for a horse and our dream home’

‘I happily followed my husband for a horse and our dream home’

English woman Charlotte Bellamy has two bikes, a penchant for Dutch apple pie and misses fish and chips. What do you do? I am a photographer. I specialise in natural and relaxed family portraiture on location and equine photography. I also teach English language photography courses from my home and all over the Netherlands – I love my job! How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband came to work with the Rabobank International team, and on the promise of a horse and our dream home I happily followed him! How would you describe yourself? – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc. and why? I think of myself as an international individual. My son goes to an international school, and so daily I am mixing with individuals of so many nationalities, this creates so many opportunities for us as a family. How long do you plan to stay? We have no plans to leave at the moment. I have been here nearly two years and feel very settled. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I can speak enough Dutch to be able to shop, converse with my neighbours and understand the weather and traffic news on the radio! I’m one of those individuals that just starts talking using the Dutch that I know (regardless of whether the order of the word or if I’m talking in the correct tense!) It seems to endear me to my neighbours that at least I’m trying to speak their language. My husband and I have had 50 hours from a private tutor. What is your favourite Dutch food? That has to be apple cake and cream! Although this year my neighbour made me homemade olliebollen for New Year and they were delicious. What do you miss about back home? Not having to wonder if people can/will speak my language! I hate having to start every sentence with Spreekt U Engels? Also I’m quite a foodie and I do miss the wide variety of food back home - especially traditional English fish and chips out of the newspaper! How Dutch have you become? Well, I recycle far more here than I ever did in the UK, and I own two bikes, but that’s about as Dutch as I have got. I still use my car to get around most of the time, and use the back door of my house as the main door (which confuses all my Dutch visitors!) What’s your top tourist tip? The Netherlands is really not a very big country – don’t just limit a trip here to Amsterdam! There is so much to see and do. Where we live near Arnhem, I can get to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Kinderdijk, Delft, Gouda, Geithorne, Hoge Veluwe and the Dutch bulb fields within 90 minute drive. These are just a few of the fantastic places to visit in the Netherlands. Tell us something surprising you’ve found out about the Netherlands? I still have trouble getting my head around the fact that the Dutch don’t celebrate Christmas in the same was as we do in the UK. The two countries are not so far apart but they have such different customs. If you had 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I’d try and photograph as many of the amazing locations in the Netherlands as possible that I had not yet managed. I’d hope it was tulip time, as I would absolutely love to see the Dutch bulb fields from above in a small plane and photograph that. Charlotte Bellamy is English and lives near Arnhem. She offers location family photography and English language photography courses. www.charlottebellamy.com  More >


‘I’m Irish  living in Amsterdam, married to a Dutchman’

‘I’m Irish living in Amsterdam, married to a Dutchman’

Aisling Casey is Irish and has been in the Netherlands for 17 years. She is principal oboist with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. We ask her 10 questions about her life in the Netherlands. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met my (future) Dutch husband in the European Union Youth Orchestra and was studying oboe in Hannover, Germany when the co-principal oboe job came up with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. Since oboe jobs don't come up very often I applied and to my surprise discovered at 24 that it was time to move to The Netherlands. I stayed with this orchestra for 12 years and then moved on to the Radio. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? What's a lovepat?! I'm an Irish person living in Amsterdam, married to a Dutch man so I have an instant Dutch family. I think that makes integrating and feeling at home easier, although I still call Cork home. How long do you plan to stay? Indefinitely Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I'm fluent and learned it quite quickly as I was living in Germany first so had good German. Learning Dutch from German is a little easier than from English I'd say. What also helped was that I followed a beginners Dutch course in Germany which puts you in a class with other people who sound just as silly as you. This helped somewhat getting over the shyness of speaking in public and then when in Holland, because my accent was an Anglo-German mix, the Dutch didn't know whether to reply in English or German, so replied in Dutch. This helped enormously with the self confidence. I learned more by watching Dutch tv and reading stupid magazines(also the ads!) and letting colleagues, family and friends know to speak Dutch to me. Half the time I didn't understand what was going on, but in the end you get it. What's your favourite Dutch food? My husband's andijvie stampot What do you miss about back home? The pace of life, gentleness and giving each other space. How Dutch have you become? I've become quite direct which requires some adjustment when in Ireland. What's your top tourist tip? Go to the Concertgebouw to listen to the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra! www.rfo.nl. And if you prefer a more intimate setting, go to Splendor - it's a real gem with music from all genres and a great cosy bar in the heart of Amsterdam - www.splendoramsterdam.com. And if you're here on March 16th definitely go to Splendor at 16.30 as there is a concert of Beethoven's Irish Airs played by the creme de la creme of Dutch musicians. And at 20.00 hours fiddler Caoimhín O'Raghallaigh from the amazing Irish traditional band The Gloaming will jam with Splendor musicians from the worlds of jazz, improv, world & classical. It's going to be brilliant! Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL The sea is above us. Of course we all know that NL is under sea level, but I never really understood this until I climbed a tower behind the dunes in Den Helder(North Holland) and saw that the sea was higher than the land. Very shocking discovery coming from a country where we say we're going down to the sea. Here you go up to the sea! If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? I'd go on a picnic on our boat with all the Dutch friends I would miss - seeing Amsterdam from the water is magical. Aisling Casey is Irish and has been in the Netherlands for 17 years. She is principal oboist with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra.  More >


‘I intended to stay three months, that was 12 years ago’

‘I intended to stay three months, that was 12 years ago’

Ben Silburn, 45, is a computer programmer, presenter, writer and one of the chaps behind Easy Laughs. We ask him 10 questions about his life in the Netherlands. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I wanted a break from my writing job in London so I applied for short-term contracts anywhere in Europe. Amsterdam was the first place that offered me a job. I intended to stay for three months, that was twelve years ago... How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I am a child of the planet! I don't believe in national borders or political/administrative systems of control. If anyone from the belastingdienst is reading this then I am a Dutch resident. How long do you plan to stay? I don't make as many plans as I used to. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? My Dutch is very poor. That's not false modesty, I attended a course at the UVA and this was the result of the final exam. My Dutch is officially "very poor". What's your favourite Dutch food? I'm a big foodie so I love it all: raw haring, gehakteballes, traditional Dutch nasi-goreng... but I draw the line at kaas broodjes, a plakje of cheese between two slices of bread is NOT a sandwich. What do you miss about back home? Pints of ale in country pubs. How Dutch have you become? My girlfriend is Dutch, I own an apartment in Amsterdam, I check out what's on sale during Hamster Week. I guess I'm pretty ingeburgered. What's your top tourist tip Don't smoke pre-rolled joints. And of course, I would recommend *all* tourists to get their weekend started at the weekly English-language improvised comedy show that I perform in. We're called 'easylaughs' and we're on every Friday at the Crea Cafe. Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL Of all the Albert Heins in the country, the branch in the Red Light District sells the most toilet paper. If you had just 24 hours left in NL, what would you do? Breakfast at Singel 404, cycle to Oudekerk and back, picnic lunch on a boat round Prinseneiland, frisbee in Westerpark, drinks at Wynand Fockinck, ribs at Cafe Klos, mojitos at Cafe Cuba, MDMA at Paradiso, wake up in Vondelpark, breakfast at Singel 404... Find out more about easylaughs.nl  More >


‘I met a Dutch guy in a bar and two years later I moved to the Netherlands’

‘I met a Dutch guy in a bar and two years later I moved to the Netherlands’

American small business coach Stephanie Ward is puzzled by the loos on NS trains and does not want to know what is in bitterballen. What do you do? I show small business owners how to get more clients and grow their businesses. I’m a marketing coach. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I met a Dutch guy in a bar and two years later I moved to the Netherlands. We’re still together and still madly in love. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc - and why? I moved for love but I don’t call myself a lovepat. I think of myself as an international person or a global citizen. How long do you plan to stay? I have no plans to leave and you never know. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I do, with a lot of mistakes but I can get my meaning across. Within the first months of arriving in the Netherlands I attended Dutch lessons for one solid week, one-on-one, from 9-5. It wasn’t pretty and yes, there were tears. I attended other courses over the years, including a lovely two week group course in Utrecht. In addition to that, watching TV and living in in the Netherlands for 15 years you pick things up and improve over time. The key is to speak Dutch and keep speaking Dutch even when people switch to English. What's your favourite Dutch food? Bitterballs are delicious (and no, I don’t want to know what’s in them) and I’m also a big fan of pea (erwten) soup. What do you miss about back home Enormous English language book stores with big chairs and tasty coffee. I know there are a couple in Amsterdam but remember, I’m in Apeldoorn. How Dutch have you become? I would say quite a bit. I’m very direct now and say what’s on my mind. And I have been told by more than one Dutch person that when I speak English it sounds like I’m a Dutch person speaking English. I know what they mean, but I don’t think it’s really true. I can still whip out my Oklahoma accent on a moment’s notice What's your top tourist tip? It sounds really corny but a boat trip on the canals of Amsterdam always delivers. Tell us something surprising you've found out about the Netherlands I’m pretty sure the Dutch don’t want this publicised, it embarrasses me and I seriously don’t get it. Here it is, the toilets on the Dutch trains do not have receptacles that collect the uhum, business. No, they all have open holes at the bottom of the toilets that 'flush' straight on to the train tracks. Yes, really. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? I would go on a bike ride to the Veluwe, a beautiful forest area near where I live, and have a picnic. Then I would go to the outdoor market in the centre and buy a loempia (spring roll) with spicy sauce and wander around. And finish the evening with an enormous party with friends and family with wonderful food, music, and dancing. Stephanie Ward is American and lives in Apeldoorn. She runs a business called Firefly Coaching which helps small firms get their (online) marketing in order.  More >


‘I miss the wind blow through an undulating landscape’

‘I miss the wind blow through an undulating landscape’

Peter Leggett has been in the Netherlands for 12 years. He likes deep-fried Dutch snacks and Zeeland and is definitely not an expat. How did you end up in the Netherlands? I was sent here by an old employer, Orange, to help with the change programme of re-branding Dutchtone to Orange NL. A one-year secondment basically. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international, etc - and why? Definitely not an expat. I live here, I am not on a short-term stint – nor do I really like the term. I feel like a Haagenaar, yet also maintain my Britishness. So perhaps – ‘Haagenish’ or as you put it, an ‘International’. How long do you plan to stay? Indefinitely. My roots are planted here, and I feel this is my home. Perhaps another 12 years. Do you speak Dutch and how did you learn? I am at the 50/50 stage, not quite fluent, and still with some struggles. I will most likely just keep learning as I understand a lot more than I can speak. I learnt from playing football here, encouraging shopkeepers and neighbours to respond to me in Dutch, and I did an intensive course back in 2005. Though if I'm honest this had little impact, as for me at that time there was little time or opportunity to practice in social circles. I learnt more French, Spanish, Italian and Romanian, for example, than I did Dutch. What's your favourite Dutch food? I absolutely love the Indonesian food here, yet this is of course not typically Dutch. If it were a Dutch food then I would most likely favour a deep fried array of treats. Kaastengels (big cheese straws) are certainly up there. What do you miss about back home? Topography and seeing the wind blow through an undulating landscape. How Dutch have you become? That is a tough one, as defining what ‘Dutch’ might be seems close to being political and my feeling is it leads to conflict rather than acceptance. I appreciate the transport network and infrastructure, the freedom of cycling and less reliance on having or needing a car. I would say I have not really become Dutch. I feel that is a state of mind, not a state of ‘being’. Maybe 20% Dutch. What's your top tourist tip? Zeeland. Just get out there and visit it, and go the long way down if you can. Tell us something surprising you've found out about NL. The Netherlands is the most densely populated nation in Europe, or at least, with 487 inhabitants per square kilometer, the Netherlands has the highest population density of any European country with more than one million inhabitants. If you had just 24 hours left in the Netherlands, what would you do? A walk on the beach in Scheveningen accompanied by a quick fish dining experience at Simonis, at the harbour. A bike ride and wander through Clingendael and the Haagse Bos, followed by some pancakes at the Malieveld. Then to cap it off, ‘one or two for the road’ in De Paas Bier Café, accompanied by the mandatory Turkse pizza whilst trying to locate one's bicycle, and then the last near death experience of cycling home trying to avoid the tram tracks. If time on route, as it would be rude not to, the definite last, last, beer in De Pijpela. Peter Leggett is British and has been in the Netherlands for 12 years. He works for an international communications and creative agency, coaches a U-14s team at the International School of The Hague (The ISH) and is a freelance photographer.  More >