Longer articles about living in the Netherlands, Dutch society, culture and travel plus third party content from our partners


It’s Dutch-American Friendship Day, but have you filed your taxes?

It’s Dutch-American Friendship Day, but have you filed your taxes?

Friday, April 19, is Dutch-American Friendship Day, the day on which the Netherlands and the US celebrate 227 years of diplomatic relations. But not all is easy for the US nationals who have made their home in the Low Countries - especially when it comes to taxes and a mysterious thing called FATCA. As friendly as relations are between the two countries, American citizens living in the Netherlands still have the unfriendly obligation of paying US taxes - which they should have done by last Monday. It's a requirement that many are unaware of, or have conveniently forgotten, and it applies equally to US citizens to have never lived in the country as to those who are living away for a few years. It all stems back to 1902, when an American named George Cook moved to Mexico. He set up a business. He married a Mexican woman. And 22 years later, the Internal Revenue Service of the United States demanded $1,193.38 for unpaid tax. Cook claimed that the US had no right to tax income he earned in another country. The Supreme Court disagreed. In 1924, the court ruled, in Cook v. Tait, that '...government by its very nature benefits the citizen and his property wherever found...' and ordered Cook to pay. No idea 'I had no idea I still needed to pay my taxes when I moved here,' said Michelle Rounds. (Rounds did not want us to use her real name for this story, due to her ongoing issues with the IRS.) Rounds hadn’t filed a US return for seven years while she was living in the Netherlands. She’s currently trying to get herself back in compliance. She isn’t the only one, according to Charles Rubenacker. He’s the founder of Rubenacker and Company, a consulting company that helps internationals settle in the Netherlands, including helping Americans with their taxes. The United States is one of only two countries in the world that imposes citizenship-based taxation. The other is Eritrea. Fortunately, most US citizens working in the Netherlands qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion, which reduces their taxable income. 'For many citizens, this brings their tax liability to zero,' says Rubenacker. Physical presence The maximum exclusion in 2019 is $105,900 (which doesn’t include some extras, like a house allowance) or around €93,000. However, citizens must demonstrate that they were a resident of another country or that they were not physically in the US for 330 days per year. For Americans who earn more than this amount, there is a tax treaty between the two countries which can allow US citizens to avoid paying tax in the US if their tax liability in the Netherlands exceeds that in the US. 'Considering the top rate in the Netherlands is 52%, while in the US it is 37%, Americans generally meet this requirement,' says Rubenacker. The foreign earned income exclusion and the taxation treaty generally only apply to wages, so income from investments, rental property or inheritance may be taxed differently. Ignorance Regardless, Americans must file a tax return every year, even if they are under the foreign earned income exclusion. 'Ignorance is not an excuse,' says Rubenacker. Last month the US ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Hoekstra, took questions during a meeting for US citizens. During the forty-five-minute question session, most of the questions were related to tax issues. FATCA Others, however, related to FATCA - Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act - a piece of US legislation, which ostensibly aimed to track the assets of non-citizens living in the US, applies to US citizens living abroad as well. FACTA requires all US citizens to supply the government with information about any assets they hold abroad. This includes bank accounts, houses and more. Further, it requires non-US financial institutions with American clients to furnish the IRS with information about those holdings. 'Honestly, I’m considering giving up my citizenship,' said Tim Jenkins, who also did not want to use his real name. Time Magazine found US citizens giving up their citizenship increased sevenfold after the legislation was passed. Some Dutch banks will not open accounts or give mortgages to US citizens as a result of the onerous of reporting requirements and high penalties that FATCA brings. Jenkins says that FATCA has made it more difficult or even impossible for him to open a bank account in the EU. 'I couldn’t find a bank that would do it when we were living in Switzerland,' he said. He and his Austrian wife moved to the Netherlands two years ago from Geneva. Since FATCA applies to all US citizens, that includes anyone who was born in the US, even to foreign parents, even if they have never returned to the country since birth. 'Many people are confused by it,' admits Heather Van de Velde, the IRS attache at the US consulate.  More >


Debunking seven myths about recruitment agencies in the Netherlands

Debunking seven myths about recruitment agencies in the Netherlands

The Dutch unemployment rate may be at a record low and companies in some sectors are crying out for good staff, so does it still makes sense to use a recruitment agency to make the most of your chances on the career ladder? People have a lot of misconceptions about recruiters and the recruitment industry. Anastasia and Ljiljana, marketing specialists at Adams Multilingual Recruitment, a leading recruitment agency for international talent, help debunk the biggest myths about employment agencies in the Netherlands. Myth No1: As a job seeker I need to pay for the service Many job seekers think they need to pay a certain fee for recruitment services, but that could not be further from the truth. The service is free of charge for the candidates. Myth No2: Recruitment agencies only offer temporary jobs This is not always the case. Many agencies have positions that involve a direct contract with a company. Recruitment consultants have established relationships with hiring managers from many different companies. By choosing to work with a recruitment agency you can actually get ahead of other applicants and increase the chances of your CV being the first one to be reviewed. Myth No3: The agency sends your CV to companies but will not help you with the rest of the process Consultants will often guide you through the entire recruitment process, from the intake interview to the salary negotiation and contract signing. They will help you prepare for the interview or make suggestions about your CV, so that you can adjust it for the specific role you are interested in. In the event that you are in a recruitment process but the company you have applied to decides that it is not the right match, the recruitment consultant will explain clearly why the client made their decision. This should help you in your next application. Myth No4: Once I get a job, I’ll never hear from the agency again Recruitment consultants develop long relationship with their candidates and often help them more than once in their careers. They will not act as your personal coaches, but can definitely help you to manage your career and change jobs more easily. Myth No5: All companies advertise their jobs online so I can simply apply directly Recruiters maintain close contact with their clients. They know when new jobs are coming up and they can help you ‘jump the queue’ because they have access to jobs which are not yet advertised. Additionally, recruitment agencies use specialised software to store all applications. You might not get the job the first job you apply for, but your details and CV remain in the database which is always the first port of call for the recruiters when new jobs come in. Myth No6: My private data will be sent out to companies without my consent Privacy is, of course, a key issue. Adams Multilingual Recruitment never sends CVs to clients without your prior approval. Moreover, when Adams introduces you to a hiring company, they will not include any personal information about you, in order to eliminate bias and discrimination. Only when you are further along the recruitment process, a client might request more details if they are interested in inviting you for an interview. Myth No7: It takes more time to find a job through a recruitment agency The length of a hiring process depends very much on the nature of the job and the hiring company. Customer service professionals are really in demand, so you can expect a fast answer in that field. When it comes to Finance or HR roles for example, clients like to take their time to make sure they find the right person with the required skillset. Sometimes companies decide to change their requirements or they put a job ‘on hold’. This is something the recruitment agency cannot control. Nevertheless, you will be informed about this and receive the necessary advice on your next steps. What makes Adams Multilingual Recruitment different? Adams has a truly international team - 18 different nationalities from all over the world including the UK, Italy, Brazil, India, Greece, Romania…the list goes on. All Adams recruitment consultants have gone through the process of finding a job abroad and they all know about the complications and the questions that might arise along the way. ‘We help our international candidates because we truly understand their situation and know what it is like for them. We are happy in our jobs and our careers, and that is just what we want for them.’ Visit the website to find out more about how Adams Multilingual Recruitment can help you along your chosen career path.  More >


Gedogen, polderen, osseworst? 10 Dutch things to get your head around

Gedogen, polderen, osseworst? 10 Dutch things to get your head around

There are some things about the Netherlands which can be impossible to get your head around - partly because every Dutch person will assume you know what they are talking about. Here's a mix of concepts, events and physical things that everyone needs get to grips with. Polderen Polder is the Dutch word for reclaimed land and is now used as a verb to describe the very Dutch process of working together to reach consensus on some issue or another. This comes from the idea that everyone was forced to work together to protect the country from the sea. The polder, therefore, has come to mean the tripartite discussions which take place between unions, employers and politicians as they attempt to tackle some particularly thorny issue like pension reform. So when you see a Dutch news headline which states 'klimaatconflict in de polder', it does not mean that there is a conflict about the climate on reclaimed land, but that no-one agrees what to do about climate change. Koopkrachtplaatjes Everyone's obsession at budget time and indeed every time taxes go up or down, koopkrachtplaatjes are calculations of what that will mean for the man in the street's spending power. Of course there is no standard man in the street, so the government think-tanks which do the sums come up with a huge range of households: single person, couple,  couple with one child and one bread winner and an average salary, couple with two children and two breadwinners, one of whom earns €60,000 a year and one €45,000, couple with ... the combinations are endless and so are the debates about how inaccurate koopkrachtplaatjes always turn out to be. Boter Boter - butter - is a minefield. Boter tends to refer to margarine, halverine, butter... any yellowish spread to put on your bread so the filling won't soak in. If you ask for butter on your sandwich, the shop assistant will spread margarine from an enormous tub on one piece of bread only. Roomboter - literally cream butter - tends to mean the real thing. The Passion The Passion is a yearly television musical spectacle which takes place at Easter and involves a line-up of Dutch celebrities enacting the final hours of Jesus up to and beyond crucifixion. During the broadcast, a group of people take it in turns to carry a massive illuminated white cross to the stage on the main square where the show takes place. The event, which is now in its eighth year, is  performed live in a town or city on the Thursday before Good Friday and attracts enormous audiences. The music is usually contemporary Dutch songs from the likes of Marco Borsato, BLØF and Guus Meeuwis The event is not without its critics who say that not enough attention is paid to Jesus rising from the dead, that the use of contemporary music is inappropriate and that the lead performers are often not religious. For language purists, for some reason the event is always known as The Passion, rather than De Passie. Andre Hazes André Hazes was not the first to sing what the Dutch call levensliederen (songs about real life), but he was the first to bring this genre into the modern era and if anything gets the Dutch waving their arms in the air and singing along with great emotion, it is a quick burst of Zij gelooft in mij or Bloed zweet en tranen. Hazes was a man crippled by insecurity, a prodigious drinker of beer, a negligent father to the children from his earlier marriages and a less than attentive husband. He died in 2004 but his legend lives on. Two of his children now perform his hits and they are joined by a host of Dutch stars in the Ziggo Dome for a string of sell-out Holland Zingt Hazes concerts every year. Elfstedentocht The Elfstedentocht - or 11 city skating race - is fast developing mythical status as the weather gets warmer and the prospect of skating over 200 kilometres of frozen Dutch ditches becomes ever more distant. The race was last held in 1997 but every year, if the temperature dips below freezing for a few days, people will start talking about de-greasing their skates and getting ready to skate on open ice. If the cold snap lasts a little longer, experts are brought in to give their view on whether the race will take place and to review past glories. Then, with just a few days to go, when the ice is almost thick enough, the weather moves on and mass depression sets in. The tension surrounding 'will there be one or not' has spawned the legendary Frisian catch phrase  Het giet oan - it's on. Osseworst There are some Dutch foodstuffs out there that take some getting use too - think curly kale with mashed potato or raw salted herring. But Osseworst is one of the most bizarre. Osseworst is a raw beef sausage - yes, you read it right - which dates back to the 17th century - although the present day version neither contains the spices of the orginal nor is it aged or smoked. You will usually come across it served in slices with mustard or pickles at borrels. Top 2000 The Top 2000 is said to be the Netherlands’ most popular radio event of the year. The list is made up of the favourite songs of listeners – 10 million of them, according to broadcaster Radio 2 - and the number one spot is almost always held by Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody. The Top 2000 is broadcast from December 25 to December 31 and in recent years has faced competition from the Top 4000, which is, conveniently, broadcast from December 6 to 24, and is, true to form, always crowned by Queen. Vierdaagse You may find your children's school is organising an 'avondvierdaagse' and you are expected to spend every evening for four days walking around your neighbourhood with a lot of other parents. Or, if you live in Nijmegen, you may notice that your city is taken over by thousands of people in walking boots for a few days every year. The first Vierdaagse - or four day march - was held in 1909 as a way of keeping the army fit after the introduction of motor vehicles. Now it is largely civilian operation, although soldiers still take part, and involves walking 30, 40 or 50 kilometres a day over a four-day period. The biggest of these marches takes place in Nijmegen and attracts over 40,000 walkers from all over the world every July. The Vierdaagse is an extremely Dutch institution and expect raised eyebrows if you do not show willingness to join in at least once. Gedogen Gedogen roughly translates as 'turning a blind eye' and is the classic Dutch way of dealing with controversial subjects or minor infringements of the law. Dutch soft drugs policy which allows you to buy small amounts of marijuana in a council-licenced cafe - even though the drug itself is illegal - is based on gedogen. When Geert Wilders was an unofficial partner to a minority government, he was said to be turning a blind eye to the cabinet - propping it up without actually supporting it. Once you get the hang of it, gedogen is a remarkably useful concept. Other concepts and things bugging you or that you really don't understand? Email editor@dutchnews.nl and we'll see if we can come up with some answers.  More >


The journey starts and ends here: why expats are buying in Eindhoven

The journey starts and ends here: why expats are buying in Eindhoven

It has world-leading tech firms and start-ups, an innovative university of technology and a bustling, well-connected centre – and experts believe that buying a house in Eindhoven could start your vibrant new life in the Netherlands. ‘It is expected that in three years, one third of the population in Eindhoven will be foreign – students, seasonal workers and expats,’ says Roy Schreurs, Mortgage Consultant at Expat Mortgages in the region. ‘It is a modern place, very vibrant, with plenty to do, lots of young people and start-up companies, so it attracts people from all over the world. They even call it the “silicon valley of Europe!”’ Such is the demand that Expat Mortgages opened an office in Eindhoven in 2017, covering the Noord Brabant town and the south of the Netherlands, and has already helped almost 60 people with the door keys to their new home. Rich life Schreurs, who lives in nearby Roermond, says the location unlocks a rich life with the help of its excellent transport links and close proximity to other attractive locations in the Netherlands and rest of Europe. ‘There’s a lot of green around Eindhoven – you can be in a forest within 20 minutes, and the city also has a lot of parks,’ he adds. ‘You’re near to Belgium and Germany, and you can also be in Maastricht or Amsterdam within one hour. Eindhoven is really a good hub to start your excursions.’ This area of strong economic growth is home to massive companies such as Philips and ASML, the Brainport ‘smart district’ to test technology and community initiatives, plus wild and wonderful experiments like the glow-in-the-dark Van Gogh-Roosegaarde bike path or connected lampposts to keep an eye on revels on the central nightlife street of Stratumseind. Its popularity is reflected in rising house prices, although these have grown by less than the country average of 10% last year: still, €300,000 will buy you a family home. ‘In the bidding process in Amsterdam, which is really overheated at the moment, you could go 30% over the asking price and in Eindhoven it would be, say, 5%,’ says Schreurs. ‘Now 70% of all properties in Eindhoven will go above the asking price, and there are even complete suburbs which consist largely of expats, like Meerhoven.’ Villages Olivia van den Broek-Neri, the project coordinator for communications and events at the Holland Expat Center South, has noticed a rise in the number of people settling down in the region. ‘A lot of people are choosing to live in Eindhoven for longer, for example, PhD students settle down and get a job after they’ve finished their research,’ she says. ‘Meerhoven is one place where homes sell very quickly and has a lot of expats. But I’d recommend people get on their bikes and look at other places too. Look north as well as south and check out the villages.’ Chris van Maasdijk, one of the founders of Expat Mortgages, recommends checking out nearby towns like Son en Breugel, Best, Nuenen and Helmond. ‘Look at places like the suburb of Veldhoven and the village of Waalre,’ he adds. ‘Knowing the best places to look requires research, so it is always good to talk to experts on the ground.’ Schools and airport An advantage of Eindhoven is that there’s plenty of choice to suit many types of buyer, according to estate agent Anita Fiers, owner of Pit Makelaars. ‘Depending on their culture, expats might want a large kitchen if cooking is important for them, and they also want a good-sized guest room and second bathroom for visitors who might come over for long periods of time,’ she says. ‘Areas around the international school are very appealing, and there are also other schools that speak English 50% of the time and Dutch the other half. ‘Accessibility is also important, and Eindhoven airport means that a woman might fly to Sweden for three days a week while her partner is based in the Netherlands.’ She adds that an expert can help you find the right house in a fast-moving market, but also stop you paying more than a house is worth if you are competing against 10 to 15 other offers. ‘We often hear of houses through our contacts before they have gone on the internet,’ she adds, ‘and we also play an important role making sure buyers stay sensible and don’t overbid!’ If you are in the Eindhoven region and are thinking about buying a house, feel free to get in touch with Roy Schreurs via firstmeeting@expatmortgages.nl Expat Mortgages is running a free housing seminar in Eindhoven on April 16th from 6.30pm to 9pm, to give expert advice on the area and the Dutch house buying process.  More >


Read all about it: Local news from every corner of the country

Read all about it: Local news from every corner of the country

The DutchNews.nl team is a small one and we cover the entire country. So sometimes local news stories don’t make the cut on our site. But there are other options out there. Here’s a round-up of local, English-language news sources and specialist news websites. Amsterdam Amsterdam, unsurprisingly, has a few options. The city government’s office for internationals, InAmsterdam, regularly updates its website with news stories from around the city. The city government itself also translates from of their news items into English and posts them on their website. The University of Amsterdam has an active English-language student paper, The Amsterdammer. The content is geared towards the student body but they also cover lots of local events and issues. InAmsterdam City of Amsterdam The Amsterdammer The Hague The city itself provides a lot of English-language news on their website. In addition, The Hague Online regularly updates with news stories about the city and region, plus lots of events and other useful information for local internationals. The Hague city council The Hague Online Utrecht Utrecht has Utrecht Central, which aims to keep internationals in Utrecht up to date with all the happenings in the city. Invest Utrecht is the province's business agency which publishes some corporate news and information. Utrecht Central Invest Utrecht Groningen, Drenthe and Friesland Going north, the Northern Times covers Groningen, Drenthe and Friesland. It provides daily news about the region and keeps a regional calendar so internationals can find lots of things to do. Northern Times Eindhoven To keep up with local events there check out Eindhoven News, a news website focused on the city which is updated daily. Eindhoven News Maastricht The southern city's international population can get their news from News Maastricht. It’s a Facebook page, not a website, but will keep you up to date. News Maastricht is part of the local RTV news station. News Maastricht Specialist news websites Tech and start-ups There are several 'official' start-up and tech websites focusing on the Netherlands out there, but our favourite is Silicon Canals which covers the whole of the Benelux and manages to avoid the hype. Football For fans of Oranje and the Dutch professional leagues, Football Oranje has the lowdown. Have we missed out your favourite local news source? Email editor@dutchnews.nl  More >


Is it time your fitness training schedule got personal?

Is it time your fitness training schedule got personal?

Are you still dithering about getting fit - even though you promised you really would take it seriously this year?  We visit the Personal Health Club in Amsterdam to find out why its personalised training concept gets clients such good results. ‘The personal attention that we give is what we stand for,’ says Ashton Payne, trainer and club manager at the Personal Health Club in the heart of Amsterdam’s Oud Zuid district. Founded in May 1997, the club has a long history of working closely with its members, the majority of which have stayed with the club in excess of 10 years. The Personal Health Club fills a gap between costly 1:1 personal training and conventional gym membership, offering a concept based on small groups working out with shared personal trainers. A month’s membership costs €115 and gives you unlimited access to the gym and a huge choice of (extra) classes such as Zumba, B-kick, yoga, boxing, Pump and more. Gym fatigue is unlikely. ‘[Normally] you go to the gym and you do the same thing over and over,’ says Ashton. ‘What they get here is a variety of exercises specific to their goals.’ The club has just 12 members of staff and feels much more welcoming than your typical corporate, inner-city gym. Though new guests from the Hilton hotel next door trickle in from time to time, almost every member is known to the team by name. ‘We don’t want you to just be a member of 1,500 people,’ explains Ashton. ‘We want you to have that personal feeling towards the gym that you go to.’ Each member has an individualised fitness programme. One or two trainers are always on duty and the main gym is limited to 16 members at any one time. Between 10am and 5pm, when the club is quieter, you can often get a trainer to yourself. Most group lessons are for a maximum of 12 members, while pilates classes are limited to six. ‘It’s unrealistic to want to make sure that everybody is doing something right if you have big classes,’ explains club manager and trainer Nando Chirino. Feel at home Clients are of all ages, but most are aged 40+ and appreciate the comfortable, social environment that characterises the club. ‘We just want people to feel like they are at home, that they are not scared to train,’ says Nando, who, like all the trainers, is also used to instructing members in several languages. ‘A lot of people have a fear of the gym and this is what we try to make a difference in. You can be free training with us, you don’t need to be afraid to tell us anything or tell us about any goal that you want to achieve.’ And since the trainers are part and parcel of your gym experience, there’s always someone to guide you or answer your questions. ‘It’s not like when you go to a store and you’re waiting to see who’s going to help you,’ says Nando. ‘We’re always there to help you and everybody tries to train everybody in equal measure.’ Anyone can come into the club and do two trial sessions for free. If they decide to enroll, there’s a thorough intake meeting – including a weigh-in and various computerised body mass calculations – designed to help the trainer get to know you better. In discussion with their clients, the trainers set realistic, attainable goals with a monthly follow-up and a full personal assessment twice a year. ‘I just love the reward you get from someone coming in and not being able to run five minutes on a tread mill, to doing 15-20 minutes after a couple of months of training,’ says Ashton. The Personal Health Club takes a holistic view of the client’s well-being. On-site facilities include a physiotherapist, beauty technician and masseur. There is also a Turkish steam bath, a sauna and a bar serving delicious smoothies. Instructors can offer nutritional advice and some clients even keep a food log as part of their training programme. Expert advice Ashton is my trainer for the afternoon and is giving me a taster of how they work. As I warm up gently on the cross trainer machine, we talk about my fitness goals: more stamina and better posture. Since he’s put me at ease, I also throw a pancake-flat stomach into the mix. I explain that exercise for me is mostly about boosting my mood and my energy. I tell him about the pilates I do, and the 6k runs I’ve recently taken up. Ashton is not at all sure I should be doing laps of the Vondelpark without seeking advice first. He is even less impressed when I wobble through a balancing test. You should build up your knee strength, he tells me, and be sure you’ve got the right running form, or the running may do more harm than good. We arrange a return visit to the gym where he will use a heart monitor to get a better idea of my fitness. We’ll also work on building strength around my knees, specifically the quadriceps and hamstrings, to help with running, and in my back to improve my posture. Doing exercises incorrectly wastes time and can be bad for your body, Ashton explains. ‘This concept is developed to make sure that you are efficient in the workout that you are getting.’ When I’m on the chest press machine, for example, Ashton notices that one shoulder is compensating for the other. We need to look into why that is, he tells me. As I write this, hunched lopsided over my computer, I have a pretty good idea. I think I’ll follow up my next session with a sauna and soak. Visit personalhealthclub.nl to find out more about how Ashton and the team can help you meet your fitness goals.  More >


Dutch destinations: 14 suggestions for that perfect spring break

Dutch destinations: 14 suggestions for that perfect spring break

With the weather turning warmer, what better thing to do with your weekend than go on a spring break? Since last year, DutchNews.nl has carried a monthly travel feature in which we give you the lowdown on a Dutch destination. Here's a round up to inspire you to see more of the Netherlands. Enjoy suikerbrood and sailing in Sneek Explore Leiden without the tourist hustle Deventer is an under-rated gem Explore Utrecht from high up and from way down Get a taste of the south in Venlo Enjoy art and cream pastries in Den Bosch Go Dutch with a holiday in the countryside There’s more to Delft than blue and white china Explore 2,000 years of history in Nijmegen Go north to Leeuwarden Exploring the shores of Ameland Take the train for a weekend in Rotterdam Getting windblown in winter on Texel Mooch around in Maastricht Would you like us to visit a particular destination and find out more? Email your suggestions to editor@dutchnews.nl  More >


Blogwatching: Keukenhof, the Netherlands

Blogwatching: Keukenhof, the Netherlands

Melissa Birdwell is behind the blog Mommy on a Mission. She's a mother of two living in The Netherlands and moved here from Texas 10 years ago.  I was asked yesterday (I think though maybe it was two days ago) why I have never written a blog about The Keukenhof. I have to admit I didn’t have an answer. I have been many times while living in the Netherlands and generally enjoyed the experience. Every year I contemplate taking the kids. Even better, every year I promise myself I will plan a grand adventure and rent bicycles and bike through the tulip fields taking magical pictures of my joyous kids. Then we would stop for a picnic on this perfect sunny day and I would feel pro-Dutch and all my friends on FB would be jealous of my perfect life amidst the tulips. I have never planned that biking trip and I only took the kids to the Keukenhof once a few years ago. It was a less than a joyous experience. I mean, it was fine. I’m not sure what I was more annoyed with: my kids at the Keukenhof: the tourists at the Keukenhof, or myself at the Keukenhof. My kids They can’t touch or pick the flowers. There was a lot of grass they couldn’t walk on. They were bored and moany and just wanted to run around and climb on things. I said the word “no” more on that day than I do in a month and it got really stressful. Looking back, I should have implemented a “stay on the path” policy from the beginning. Or, maybe, just chilled the fuck out a little. I was still in my “perfect mom who doesn’t raise her voice and never drinks” phase of parenting. I imagined people judging me for my boisterous children interrupting their serene tulip viewing experience. I am certainly not that person anymore. Thank goodness. It was so very stressful. Tourists Fucking hell I can’t tell you how busy it was. There were people everywhere. All standing around, taking pictures, pointing at things, just overall being annoying. I completely understand that they thought the exact same thing about me, but whatever. My personal bubble is sacred. Closer to closing time it started to empty out a little and I enjoyed that last hour or so very much. I felt free to move around and let the kids run (the website even says that the best time to be there is first thing in the morning or just before closing time. Me I was nuts. When someone asks me what I think of the Keukenhof my standard reaction is “driving 2 hours to spend a small fortune to hopefully get one pretty picture of your ungrateful kids in front of a pretty flower” (I’m such a delight, aren’t I). Logan, honey, sit next to your sister. No, not like that. Like this. Can you put your arm around her? NO? OK. I can work with this. Can you look at the camera, honey? Why are you making that face? Just smile normal. Riley, baby, look at mommy! Look at mommy! (she was still pretty little at the time) Logan, remember. NO!! STOP! PLEASE!!!!! Repeat that for an entire day. I was a crazy lady on a mission. Again, I am a much softer, gentler, boozier (if that’s even a word) person now so I think it would go differently now but that psycho mom still scares me a little. So what would I do if I were going to the Keukenhof with the kids tomorrow? First of all, layer. It is colder up north. I would resist the urge to put the kids in their prettiest clothes for the pictures and embrace the fact that they will most likely be wearing a coat or at least a sweater all day so that might as well be warm and comfortable. I would bring LOADS of snacks, an army runs on it’s stomach, after all. It is so freaking expensive to get in that I can’t afford eating out there all day as well. But this brings me to another point… How are you going to transport all that food (and for the love of god forget the juice boxes)? We have a red wagon that I bring on all day outings like this. It’s big and often difficult to navigate through crowds but I think it’s worth the bits of frustration. The kids are still at a size where they can both sit in with the food bags but it is a super tight fit. I would also save the playground for later in the day. After lunch or later in the afternoon if possible. I have known parents who started in the playground and found themselves stuck there for most of the day and when they left, the kids cried that they were bored and wanted to go back. Get the boring stuff out of the way first. Transportation You can take a car or public transport. There are plus and negatives to both, right? I mapped out the trip by car and door to door it will take just under two hours. It will take 2 hours 45 minutes bu public transport. If you drive you will have to pay €6 to park and pay for gas (in my car it takes about a half a tank of gas to get to Amsterdam so it would be about the same. So for me that’s around €35). If you go by public transport you will have to pay for 2 buses and at least one train. For more than one person it is, unfortunately, probably cheaper to go by car although I did see a special on the NS app for public transport and entrance for something like €35  and that’s a good deal. But I have no idea if that’s a limited offer so check it out and don’t get mad at me if it’s gone. Why is it so expensive to take the train here? I know they are nice and well cared for but jeesh. It shouldn't be cheaper for two people to drive than to take public transport, but whatever. So why am I writing this now having not been to the Keukenhof in a few years? Perhaps it’s because I was asked why I hadn’t written about it. Perhaps my backlog of super awesome places is massive and I thought I could start catching up on it (this is totally true). In reality, I think I am trying to convince myself to actually take the kids this year. I’m a calmer parent, my kids are a bit older, and I’ve developed this amazing “fuck you, I’m nearly a native” attitude that is essential in dealing with HORDES of tourists. After all, I can now handle Amsterdam like a champ. But the ideal day would be on a study day that is coming up and I have a super busy day before that and I’ll have limited time to prep. And it is super expensive. See that? I’m already trying to talk myself out of it. I would like to take them this year. If I do I promise a post about it and I’ll update anything that is needed. But I’m not going to promise anything. This was first published on Mommy On A Mission. Every month we feature a blog post from one of our favourite bloggers. Interested? See if your blog meets the criteria to be included on the site.  More >


DutchNews podcast – Article 13 Is Worse Than Article 50 – Week 13

DutchNews podcast – Article 13 Is Worse Than Article 50 – Week 13

Foreign interference looms large in this week's podcast as tulip growers tell tourists to stop trampling through their fields, the Dutch and Australian governments begin a series of highly awkward talks with Russia on the investigation into flight MH17, a Picasso is recovered from the clutches of the international underworld and Oranje's bright young upstarts are taught a familiar lesson by the Germans. In our discussion we ask why Europe's new copyright directive has become the most hated thing on the internet since Pepe the Frog. Ophef of the week Top story Forum for Democracy wins in three provinces, multi-party coalitions needed News Dutch budget surplus hits €1.5bn, almost double government estimates Netherlands and Australia hold first meeting with Russia on MH17 disaster Bulb farmers tell tourists to keep off the tulips Picasso stolen from yacht 20 years ago tracked down in Amsterdam Sport Netherlands 2 Germany 3: Sucker punch stymies spirited Oranje comeback Zandvoort gives green light to Grand Prix with €4 million funding package Discussion: Why is Europe's new copyright law causing such a stir? Lobby group Bits of Freedom calls new European copyright law a 'disgrace' Europe's controversial overhaul of copyright law receives final approval (The Verge) What is Article 13? The EU's divisive new copyright plan explained (Wired) European Parliament approves new copyright rules for the internet (European Parliament website)  More >


Calling all scale-ups: there’s a new, interactive conference in town

Calling all scale-ups: there’s a new, interactive conference in town

This May a new international event for scale-ups is being held in Amsterdam. The BASE Conference, launched by local entrepreneurs, is dedicated to businesses which are about to, or already, scaling up. BASE is an acronym for Build, Advance, Sustain and Elevate - the four pillars that founders Veronica Guguian and Lana Jelenjev see as fundamental to grow a business to the next level. ‘We believe that building relationships and managing resources are key for scale-ups’, says Guguian. ‘They can really make a difference when expanding a business and building a strong team, especially when combined with advanced strategies for marketing & sales, and, of course, innovation.' For a sneak preview of the approach of the big event, sign up for the BASE webinar on how to get free publicity on April 9. The actual conference on May 29 will bring together business owners, professionals, managers and policymakers to share knowledge and create connections that will help any business scale. City council-backed organisation Startup Amsterdam is among the partners. Speakers Each speaker has been selected keeping in mind the four pillars of BASE and the actual needs of business owners who are in the process of growing their company. They include business transformation expert Elianne Oei, networking professional Charles Ruffulo and Patrick Wind, of AdsAccelerator.com and one of the Forbes 30 Under 30 ranking. Ben Shorter and Simone Vincenzi from the UK will be talking about exponential growth and how to organize your sales team while David Beckett, tedX speaking coach, will show you how to make the most of pitching. More speakers are being announced on a daily basis. International community The conference focuses on start-ups that have received their 3rd round of investment(s) and are ready to go to the next level, SMEs that are planning new launches or want to enter new markets and entrepreneurs who want to scale from a ‘one-man team’ to a business utilising multiple teams, systems and infrastructures. The BASE team is also launching an international community that will serve as a hub to facilitate business interactions, share of knowledge and resources, and support the building of a better business environment, both in the Netherlands and worldwide. Webinars, regular news updates and a LinkedIn group will all play a part in this. For more information about the event, the tickets, the team and the speakers, please visit; https://baseconference.amsterdam DutchNews.nl readers can enjoy a 50% discount on the price of a normal ticket. Sign up here and use the code DutchNews50, making sure to select 'partner ticket'.   More >


Yes, there are still places at an international school in Amsterdam

Yes, there are still places at an international school in Amsterdam

Finding a place at an international school has just got easier. We visit the newly opened Amity International School Amsterdam, which is creating much-needed places for expat families in search of an English-speaking education. Any conversation among expat newcomers to Amsterdam about finding a good quality international education for their children invariably includes two words: waiting list. Rapid economic growth in the Netherlands has seen Amsterdam emerge as a European hub for commerce, finance and technology, attracting twice as many foreign migrants (largely from the US, UK and India) as ten years ago. The education sector has struggled to keep up, with many international schools full to capacity, but Amity International School Amsterdam, which opened its state-of-the-art campus in Amstelveen in February 2018, is enrolling new students all the time and hopes to ease the shortage of places. Personal attention Amity is a not-for-profit organisation with schools in over 25 countries all over the world. The Amsterdam branch currently has just over 120 students aged 3 to 12, but as word gets out and the senior school expands – with Middle Years (12-13-year-olds) coming on roll in September – it is making steady progress towards its capacity of 600 students. Admissions from all year groups are accepted all year round. On the day we visit, three new children are starting. This gradual enrolment of students, says principal David Porritt, has enabled them to keep their 'one-size-fits-one' mission and ‘pay a lot of attention to individual children and their parents and really help them feel that this is their school and that they belong.’ This is why children who have had difficulties elsewhere appear to thrive at the school, he says. Parent Julie Goodey, who volunteers in the school library, moved her ten-year-old son to the school when he was struggling to settle into the Dutch system. The small class sizes and the personal attention he has received have really helped him, and he has adapted well to the inquiry-based Primary Years Programme* taught at the school. ‘It’s been really good,’ she says. ‘I really love the curriculum.’ Diversity More than 30 different nationalities currently attend the school and the staff are fully aware of how important it is that they all feel at home. ‘There is a genuine, authentic celebration of unity through diversity,’ says Mr Porritt. ‘What you see is a real sense of peace, fairness and justice amongst young people – they love each other [and] they care about each other in a way that we could learn a lot from!’ This openness to other cultures is also reflected in the school curriculum, which includes French and Dutch from age three. ‘There’s a celebration of language right from the start,’ the Principal explains. Though the student body is still small, the school has been fully staffed since the beginning to ensure that children have all the care and support they need from day one. As well as Modern Languages specialists, for example, there are full time Special Needs and EAL (English as an Additional Language) teachers, and even a school nurse. Facilities Amity’s glassy monumental building and colourful modern interior is a real showstopper – and having only recently opened, offers immaculate accommodation with brand new furnishings and equipment. An enormous vaulted reception, with sculptures and a marble floor, leads – via a security card – to spacious, light-filled classrooms with a beautifully designed, playful décor packed with impressive displays of the children’s work. Built into the design are wide communal spaces where students can come together to play and learn. Despite the school’s proximity to the capital, the site is surrounded by grass, canals and woodland –and most classrooms look out onto green spaces. Amity encourages its students to explore and be outside as much as possible. Today, unhindered by the drizzle, a group of enthusiastic pupils are busy digging up turf as they learn how to create their own garden. Yet, a site – however extraordinary – does not make a school: it’s the buzzing student community at this school that makes it special. One of the things that gives the Principal most pleasure is watching Amity slowly fill up and come to life. ‘It’s like the fizz in the bottle of lemonade,’ he says. To find out more about Amity International School Amsterdam, visit their website or contact the admissions office. The school is holding an open morning on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019 between 10 am and 12 pm. You can register via Facebook *Amity International School Amsterdam is a candidate school for the PYP pursuing authorisation as an IB World School. IB World Schools share a common philosophy – a commitment to high-quality, challenging, international education. Only schools authorised by the IB Organisation can offer any of its four academic programmes: the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), the Diploma Programme (DP), or the Career-related Programme (CP). Candidate status gives no guarantee that authorisation will be granted.  More >


From Kings Day to lions, lemurs and lino: 12 great things to do in April

From Kings Day to lions, lemurs and lino: 12 great things to do in April

There is a lot going on in April, from the traditional festivities of Kings Day to the start of the spring school break, plus a lot of gold, glitter, polka dots and crazy coloured glass at museums around the country. See Venice in Carré A musical theatre version of Death in Venice, directed by Ivo van Hove and performed by Theater Amsterdam and the Concertgebouworkest, is coming to Carré in Amsterdam and if you’re quick (and flush) you may just be able to get a ticket. The story by Thomas Mann was reworked by Ramsey Nasr to feature a writer in crisis who, in the privacy of his study, reinvents himself as Von Aschenbach, the kind of man he would like to be. American composer Nico Muhly wrote a new score for the production.. Surtitled. April 4 to April 13. Website Gaze at the glitter that is all gold The treasure of Utrecht’s Domkerk was all but destroyed during the Reformation but now the Museum Catharijneconvent has been given the chance to shine with the unparalleled riches of the Münster Domkirche which undergoing refurbishment and is farming out its collection. Silver, gold, precious stones, relics, including the solid gold head of St Paul from 1040 containing a piece of the man’s skull all illustrate the amazing wealth of the church. Until June 10. Website Don't be a muppet, come see the Pop Arts Theater Bellevue, de Krakeling, de Brakke Grond and Feikes Huis are the venues for the 10th International Pop Arts Festival in Amsterdam. Pop is Dutch for ‘puppet’, so nothing to do with pop music although that, along with dance, circus acts, mime and film may be part of the puppet and object acts on offer. April 16 to April 21. Website Pay a visit to the Passion It’s Easter, it’s time for the Passion. Edwin Jonker and Edsilia Rombley are Jesus and Mary in the popular annual musical extravaganza around the death of Christ. The passion is in Dordrecht this year and if you want to be there (it’s free) you will have to be early: there will be no more room at the inn if you’re not. If you can’t make the live show the Passion will be broadcast live at 20:30 on NPO 1 and NPO Radio 2. Thursday April 18. Website Knock yourself out on Kings Day Get rummaging and find the old tat that you thought was such a bargain last year and put it back into the eternally churning recycling circle that is Koningsdag. If you want to see the royals indulge in a spot of toilet bowl throwing then to Amersfoort you must go. As usual there is plenty to do on Koningsdag, so here is a handy guide.  April 27. Meet a mime Bill Bowers is not your average silent mime climbing out of box but a full-on, talking mime telling important and funny stories based on his travels around the globe, including an encounter with Happy Hooker Xaviera Hollander and – mime that – civil disobedience in Poland, to name but a few. All over the Map is presented by the English Theatre in The Hague. April 5 and 6. Website Discover how the other half died In the Golden Age The Hague was already at the heart of political power in the Netherlands and this attracted the seriously rich who built their sumptuous homes close by where they could keep an eye on it. The Haags Historisch Museum has a look at the (human) cost of keeping all these big spenders in luxury goods and clean linen, often the result of exploitation both here and in the colonies. The glitter, glory and misery of  the Golden Age in The Hague opens on April 28. Website Explore a hybrid The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam has been dusting of its collection of sculptures and even found some bits it had never shown before. Hybrid Sculpture features 19 artists and around 24 works ranging from the 1990s to the present day. The title for the exhibition was chosen to emphasise the multitude of genres and styles that characterise modern sculpture, and which sees classic methods combine with the latest technology. Until January 12. Website Enter the dotty world of Yayoi Kusama At the Voorlinden Museum in leafy Wassenaar a feast of colour awaits in the shape of works by 90-year old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Called the ‘princess of the polka dots’ Kusama’s dots serve to keep the psychoses she has suffered from most of her life at bay and have resulted in works such as the delightful stippled pumpkins, an example of which is on show. Until September 1. Website Smell the lino What did (some) of the Dutch interiors look like in the years between 1945 and 1965, the years of the so-called Wederopbouw or reconstruction following World War II. The quirky Van Eesterenmuseum in Amsterdam shows how increasing prosperity and new manufacturing techniques influenced furniture design. On show are a press room Gerrit Rietveld designed for the UNESCO headquarters in Paris in 1958, an Amsterdam doctor’s surgery from 1960 and a number of restored furniture ensembles by well-known Dutch designers. The exhibition also explores their influence on modern design. Rijke eenvoud (opulent simplicity) is on until May 5. Website Look at the lions and lemurs. The May school break starts on April 27 and after you have made your children earn their keep by playing the violin on Kings Day for five hours, you may want to take them out for a treat. You could, for instance, take them to Diergaarde Blijdorp zoo which has three very cute lion cubs and an  unexpected arrival in a group of female lemurs in the shape of an even cuter baby lemur. The sex of the animal, fruit of a close encounter before the mother came to the Rotterdam zoo, is unknown but let’s hope for its sake that it isn’t a male. Any time. Website Beat the blues in Groningen The Groninger Museum is hosting American artist Dale Chihuly whose colourful glass baubles, beads, balls and a host of other sparkly objects not beginning with b light up the museum in a dazzling display. Just the thing to combat a bout of spring fatigue. Until May 5. Website  More >


Banking on bunq: the banking app that wants to challenge the status quo

Banking on bunq: the banking app that wants to challenge the status quo

They don’t do fat banker bonuses, overdrafts or loans. Built like a mirror image of the financial systems that brought on the last economic crisis, bunq is a mobile-only bank that wants to shake the foundations of the system. If you don’t have the money to buy something, they advise you to save rather than offering a high-interest loan. Instead, for a straightforward monthly fee, they will offer you 25 interest-paying joint or solo accounts, bank cards that link to any of them, and the ability to do everything with a swipe of your mobile phone. After all, bunq says, its mission is 'to wake up the banking system.’ bunq was launched in 2015 by Ali Niknam after he ran into a banking system that seems to be there for consumers, but is, in fact, only trying to make it as complicated as possible. Not any longer, says bunq. The system bills itself as the ‘bank of the free’, with three types of membership for individuals, business owners and groups. The monthly fee starts at €5 per member in a bunq Pack (four accounts of which one can be also bunq Business). Flexibility You can link cards to different accounts, have different pin numbers on the same card, transfer money internationally without extra fees through an integrated TransferWise service, and share accounts with multiple people. The app is particularly attractive to expats as you can set up your account without visiting a branch – you don’t have to go to the country you are going to. You can do it from home, and don’t need to enter your tax identification number until 90 days after you open the account. You can come prepared and with a fully operational bank account in the country you’re going to live in. In addition, bunq has integrated TransferWise into the app to send money home to a non-euro destination - which is up to eight times cheaper than a traditional bank. And you don’t have to pay any exchange fees if you are making payments or taking out cash abroad, saving you money on that weekend trip to London or further afield. Anyone in the European Economic Area can open an account, and bunq is live in France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain as well as its home country of the Netherlands. Even the word ‘bunq’ represents what the service is trying to do, because if you turn it round 180 degrees – or from the other side of the table – it reads the same. ‘We want to be on your side, and not on the bank’s side,' the company says.'We are turning  the banking world upside down.’ In this vein, the business offers account holders the chance to choose where some of their money is invested – European green companies, for instance – and pledges to avoid products broadly considered unethical, such as tobacco. Its modern, mobile-only structure also means that it doesn’t have the problems of old ‘legacy’ software at many other banks – and the challenge of upgrading them evident in crises such as UK bank TSB’s IT meltdown a year ago. No bonuses The company doesn’t have bonuses either and says its lean management board is modestly rewarded – pointing out parallel controversies such as a 50% pay rise for ING chief executive Ralph Hamers, while the company was facing a huge fine for money laundering. You won't get an overdraft with bunq, and they don't do loans either. 'We believe if we seduce you or persuade you to get loans, it will ensure you die in debt,' the bank says. 'That’s what bunq wants to prevent. Instead, we are  working on tons of possibilities to make banking more easy, from the perspective that it’s your money.’ So you can save for a holiday with a group of friends with a joint account set up on the fly which every group member can access and use and divide the leftovers and close that account when the trip is done, for example. Or set up accounts with anyone you like. If you want a joint account with your girlfriend or partner, you set one up – and if the love is gone, you cancel it! Whatever happens to romance, though, bunq is digging in for the long haul.  More >


Thinking of renting a Dutch holiday cottage: here’s what you should know

Thinking of renting a Dutch holiday cottage: here’s what you should know

The Netherlands is stuffed full of places where you can rent a cottage for a few days to get away with friends and family. Center Parcs is, after all, a Dutch invention. But there are a few things you should be aware of before you get too excited. It looks so great on the website - that May holiday bargain cottage for four, which will cost you just €319 for three nights. But, as we at DutchNews.nl have all discovered to our cost, there are some things you may find out the hard way when renting a Dutch holiday home. The price That bargain price of €319 may not all it seems. You may notice the little asterisk or the small print which point out that this price does not include compulsory additional costs. If you are booking through a holiday company you will probably be asked to pay reservation costs - adding between €20 and €30 to the invoice. Then will come taxes and possibly a deposit. Tourist taxes are upwards of €3 or €4 per person a night. But there is more. What about the exact location? Center Parcs, for example, will charge you an extra €33 to pick your location - so you can decide if you want the view of the lake or to be next to the car park. Then there is the question of the bed linen. How many of us have failed to notice we have to ask for bed linen in advance and pay an extra €7 or €8 for the privilege of not bringing our own sheets on holiday? You may well find that the sheets you have ordered are just placed on your bed and you will have to make it up anyway. You will also be asked to pay extra if you can't be bothered to bring your own towels. It might be worth doing so if you like more than a postage stamp to dry yourself on. And then, you may find added on to your bill the dreaded eindschoonmaak, the end cleaning, which will cost you upwards of €60. This may be presented as optional - which means they will expect you to scrub the bathroom and get the burnt bits off the cooker if you decide not to pay. Even if there is no extra charge (and there usually is) you will still be asked to strip the beds (even if you used their sheets) and leave your cottage bezemschoon (broom clean). What you need to bring Apart from your bed linen, towels and drying up cloths, there are a number of things you will need to bring with you. If you are renting from a private owner it is probably worth asking if there are basics like washing up liquid and salt and pepper in the kitchen. Often you will find the house stripped of everything.... right down to any extra loo rolls. And don't think you are being nice by leaving the salt, pepper and washing up liquid you ended up buying for the next person. It will be taken away by the person who does the eindschoonmaak to add to the enormous collection of half-empty pots and bottles they have in their garage. Coffee filters, a sharp knife or two, dishwasher tablets and a washing up brush should also be on your list of essentials. Unpleasant surprises We have stayed in holiday cottages which you have to clean before you start your holiday because they are so dirty (presumably left that way by people who decided to do it themselves rather than pay for the eindschoonmaak). We once rented a house in Friesland and decided it was being illegally rented out by the neighbours after the owner died and no-one had noticed. It had not been updated since the pre-war years - which is great if you like yellow lino on the floor and ancient moth-ridden quilts on your bed. We have also been surprised by the half bottle of wine left in the fridge which was only half full. Also, beware of the one bedroom cottage that sleeps four. The sofa in the sitting room/ kitchen is the other bed. How to find your holiday cottage If you've got small children who need entertaining, the big holiday parks like Center Parcs and Landel Green Parks have swimming polls and other stuff laid on. There are also loads of Dutch websites which rent out on behalf of private landlords as well as well as the Airbnbs of this world. Staatsbosbeheer, the Dutch forestry commission rents out holiday houses - often really in the middle of nowhere. Not cheap Natuurhuisje.nl specialises in rural lettings and gives all in prices Strandhuisjes.nl focuses on beach huts Bellavilla is a bit more upmarket and the prices are all inclusive We've always had good results using the local tourist office - the VVV. They are happy to give you personal advice if you have specific needs and know their localities and their landlords.  More >


Nearer, not dearer: why house hunters are looking to Almere

Nearer, not dearer: why house hunters are looking to Almere

Want to find your dream house? Why not build it yourself, in the green stretches of Almere, a new town and a space where more than 2,000 people have done just that. If embarking on a quirky construction is a little ambitious for you, Almere still has plenty to offer, according to local experts. It may not have an ancient historic centre, but pretty much everything else you might want is there or nearby (including the dream houses other people have built). Forty years young, and quickly growing, Almere has matured into an attractive place for house buyers, says Mira Makkinje, a mortgage consultant for Expat Mortgages. ‘At first, nobody knew about Almere but nowadays property prices here are much better than Amsterdam, public transport to Amsterdam and Schiphol is very good, there’s an international school in Almere Poort, and a lot of people are thinking about moving here.’ Prices Amsterdam prices – an average of €5,129 per square metre at the end of 2018, according to estate agents association NVM – are increasingly out of reach for most people. But in the reclaimed lands of Almere, a stone’s throw from beaches, harbours, and nature reserves, €275,000 can still buy you a modern, family home with a garden. ‘It’s very easily reachable from all parts of the Netherlands, it’s very central, and it has everything you can dream of – shops, restaurants, beaches, forests, lakes,’ says Makkinje. ‘You can do anything in Almere. The only thing that’s missing is an old city centre – and a lot of expats don’t have that at home either, so they don’t miss it at all.’ Well-planned Makkinje says that interest in the area has been steadily growing, and when she suggests Almere to house hunters and they go to explore, they are pleasantly surprised by the well-planned districts, their excellent, segregated bike lanes and efficient public transport. ‘I think people under-estimate it – it’s still a bit of a secret,’ she says. ‘But now I’ve been talking to a lot of Indian expats, especially young families or couples who are trying to start a family, and they really like Almere.’ Rents have been rising in the area, with the platform Pararius reporting a rise of 20% at the end of last year – the largest increase in the Netherlands. Marcel Schumacher, an estate agent who has lived in Almere himself for 30 years, says that house sales are booming too, especially for expats. ‘It is growing really hard,’ he says. ‘In the past years, more and more expats have come to Almere, especially from India and other countries, there are a lot of nationalities here, and perhaps you can meet some people from your own country too. The prices, especially compared to Amsterdam, are much better, as are the waiting lists for schools.’ When he first moved to the area, he says, some people thought a similar move would be a ‘crazy idea’, but that has changed entirely now – especially as Amsterdam struggles with over-crowding, rocketing prices, and a lack of affordable homes. Enzo There’s a bit of fun each year at the Free Festival on the beach, says local estate agent Daniëlle de Jong – although it’s a bit less free (financially) than it used to be when she was younger! Meanwhile, if you like flowers, the massive Floriade 2022 is coming up, offering employment opportunities as well as a spotlight on the area. Even the local habit of ending sentences with ‘enzo’ – ‘and so on’ – is rather endearing, she says, because it suggests it’s a young town with a lot more to come. ‘For us it’s a very good market,’ says De Jong. ‘Fifteen years ago, everyone said, “You don’t want to live in Almere – you don’t even want to die in a place like that.” But now, we are cheaper and have better houses than in Amsterdam. Zaandam is more expensive, but the foundations are terrible. That’s why everybody’s coming this way.' Although Makkinje always advises that her clients do a house survey, she says there’s another great advantage of Almere because everything is relatively well constructed and newly-built. ‘Usually the properties are alright, and there are no problems with leakages and so on,’ she says. ‘They don’t have the leakage problems of Amsterdam – which will cost you extra money – and there’s no monument protection service looking over your shoulder either!’ If you are thinking about buying a house in the Almere region, feel free to get in touch with Mira Makkinje via info@expatmortgages.nl You can also meet the Expat Mortgages team at the IamExpat fair in Amsterdam on April 6.  More >


Wynia’s Week: Thierry Baudet’s meteoric electoral rise explained

Wynia’s Week: Thierry Baudet’s meteoric electoral rise explained

A first time participant in the provincial elections and newcomer to the senate becomes the biggest party in the land in one fell swoop. It’s not something the Netherlands has ever experienced before, says columnist Syp Wynia. Forum voor Democratie, the party of Thierry Baudet, Henk Otten and Theo Hiddema, all of three years old, scorned by politicians as well as the Hilversum media, was hoisted to the top of the political tree by the voters. It is now the biggest in a number of provinces and the city of Rotterdam. The political establishment can no longer ignore it, lest it wants Baudet’s party to become a bigger winner still, starting with the European parliament election on May 23. The VVD miraculously managed to hold its own, although the party scored the worst provincial election results since 1970. Not so the other parties traditionally at the heart of Dutch politics. CDA and PvdA did poorly as did D66, a trend that started in 1989. Never before could ‘right wing populist’ parties (FvD plus PVV), count on the support of over a fifth of the electorate. The PVV lost, by the way, as did the SP. VVD, but mainly PVV deserters Forum’s electoral gain is mainly down to voters who deserted the VVD but even more to former PVV voters. Pollster Maurice de Hond found that new FvD voters are predominantly male, between the ages of 35 and 64, have a mid to low educational level and an above average middle income. A relatively large number of non-religious people and (former) Catholics voted FvD which confirms the trend that it’s the latter group which is determining the direction of politics in the Netherlands. Forum voters are not, in the main, people who read newspapers (although many of them read the Telegraaf, the Algemeen Dagblad and the Financieele Dagblad) which confirms the impression that Forum is mostly geared towards communicating via the internet in general and social media in particular (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube). At Forum meetings in the last couple of weeks disappointment about the ‘prejudiced talk shows’ of the Hilversum broadcasters abounded with people saying they would get their information on YouTube. And yes, in the final run up to the election, the disdain for Baudet, Hiddema and Forum in programmes such as De Wereld Draait Door (DWDD) was particularly palpable. The broadcast on March 19 was almost an orgy of Forum aversion. Baudet was a ‘rat catcher’ and Hiddema a ‘louche lawyer’. One of the more considered comments was made by columnist Özkan ‘Eus’ Akyol who warned that Forum sympathisers would see this carping as another sign that they are up against not only a ‘party kartel’ but a ‘media kartel’. Why did Forum win? FvD’s meteoric rise is a result of how Baudet and his friends presented themselves but even more by how the established parties presented themselves. At the time of the national elections two year ago, voters were only marginally interested in climate and debates on the subject were few and far between. But the government agreement put together by VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie suddenly turned the Netherlands into the world’s leading champion on climate.  Months later all homes were to be gas free, the bill for which was to be largely paid by the population which, relatively speaking, is not the greatest source of CO2 emissions. Initially Forum was the only party to dispute the government climate stance. Not only did Baudet criticise the high cost of climate policy, he also questioned the United Nations’ IPCC panels’ prevailing views and those of the Paris agreement. The mendacious energy bill was a godsend for Baudet. Baudet also took aim – albeit not as straight an aim as he used to in the last few weeks – at the European Union: the Netherlands should leave. And immigration should be modelled on the Australian system. Only those who can make a contribution will be allowed into the country, if not the doors remain closed. And in general, the Netherlands and western civilisation as a whole, should stop blaming itself and be less self-effacing. Forum seems to grow because of a dichotomy between a trend for re-nationalisation and a movement towards handing over more power to Brussels and the United Nations. The Marrakesh migration pact – supported by most MPs- was also seized on by Forum and that unconventional but reasoned opposition helped Forum in this year’s provincial election. The ‘cartel parties’ helped too  The traditional parties actively contributed to Forum’s success. They supplied the ammunition by focusing on climate(and the business climate, in the case of VVD and CDA) and not purchasing power after years of austerity. The ban on gas in homes, the ambition to be climate champion, the Marrakesh migration pact, none of these were put to the voters. What is more, the referendum was abolished by Rutte III (and defended by none other than D66). The results of the provincial elections bear more than a passing resemblance to the rise of Pim Fortuyn in 2002. Baudet even displays a little of the intellectual debater that Fortuyn was while at the same time appealing to ‘the man in the street’. At the same time it is surprising that the VVD, Baudet’s most important target, did as well as it did. Perhaps both parties benefitted from the Utrecht attack, Baudet by opposing the The Hague ‘cartel agreement’ not to continue the campaign and VVD leader Rutte by showing his leadership qualities as a prime minister. This column was first published in Wynia’s Week. Syp Wynia is a journalist and columnist who writes primarily on politics and economics, as well as Europe, migration and the government’s finances.  More >


A taste of home: International food stores in the Netherlands

A taste of home: International food stores in the Netherlands

We asked you where you buy the food and drink that makes you think of home. This is what you told us, in no particular order. Brazil Finalmente Brasil has outlets in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and its range includes home grown cosmetics and over the counter medicines. Romania The Netherlands' Romanian community obviously misses a lot from home. Website Români în Olanda lists shops in Tilburg, Breda, Roermond, Boxtel and The Hague as well as a butchers in Dordrecht! British, Irish, Australian and American The English-speaking community is pretty spoiled for choice, with bigger Albert Heijn and Jumbo supermarkets selling the likes of HP sauce and Marmite (albeit in those silly squashy jars) as well as Irish butter. Kelly's Expat Shopping can be found in Wassenaar and The Hague and has recently expanded into Amsterdam. It stocks all the usual suspects. Sterk in Amsterdam is boosting its sourcing of Anglo-American favourites and has a secret supply of home made scones in the freezer. They are also happy try and track down your favourites. Still in the capital, the Eichholtz deli on the Leidsestraat has Poptarts, Campbells soup and Marmite in glass jars. The Valk Versmarkt in Voorschoten also sells some British and Australian food - including every Aussie's craving, Tim Tams. A classic shop mentioned by several readers is A Taste of Home in Haarlem, which has food and drink from the UK, Ireland, Australia, America and South Africa. In Utrecht, you can buy Canadian, British and US food at Delicatessen Jac. Bostelaar. The Coop also has some American foods. Zuidlaren, we are reliably informed has a 'tiny' international shop - Gio's Corner - which does a bit of British and Asian food. And in Groningen, Amazing Oriental stocks lots of American tinned products and those all important English tea bags, alongside Chinese groceries. In Arnhem English tea and biscuits plus toiletries can be bought at Hartleys and they do have mince pies and puddings at Christmas. Portugal Dom Bacalhau Store in IJmuiden, we are told, is the place to go for Portuguese groceries and delicacies while Casa Bocage in Amsterdam has Portuguese wine, cakes and other goodies. You can also get Portuguese pastries at the Blaak market in Rotterdam. Hungary Magyar Supermarket in The Hague, our readers tell us, not only has most of the stuff you need from Hungary but it also looks like a typical Hungarian small shop. Another reader tells us she gets her kids' favourite salami from Hagai Magyar Bolt in The Hague. Poland Whenever you want to try something Polish search for 'Biedronka supermarkt,' says one reader. 'There is around 15-20 of them all around Netherlands so chances are good that you have one close to you. And Polish sausages and cheese are tasty and cheap as hell!'. Another reader recommends the Malinka Polish supermarkets for kielbasa, pierogi and cold beer. The Lowiczanka supermarket in Utrecht is also highly regarded. South Africa Is the South African community concentrated in Haarlem? Our readers recommend two stores in the town for their favourites - KuierKos and A Taste of Home. Die Spens in Amersfoort also gets the thumbs up for selling the likes of Mrs Balls Chutney, and Sparletta Creme Soda. Nigeria, Congo, Ghana, Rwanda and Burundi The African Food Shop in The Hague comes highly recommended and is especially known for its wide range of cosmetics and hair care products plus great food. Mail order or drop in. Mexico Tjin's Toko is one reader's primary source of TexMex items, including soft corn tortillas, poblano peppers, tomatillos, and hominy, who adds and they also have a good selection of American, British, and Asian products. Russia The Russian community is well-served in Amsterdam with two stores to chose from - Blin and privet Rossia. Telega in Beverwijk is also worth checking out. One reader tells us about the Russian store in on the Petersstraat in Eindhoven where they even serve Russian ice cream on summer days. In Utrecht, Slavjanski Dvor on the Amsterdamstraatweg is the place to be. Argentina For Argentine groceries: www.ladespensa.nl and www.mate-tee.de For Argentine meat without taking a second mortgage: Uruguayan bavette in Sligro which offers the same quality as Argentine one, our reader in the know informs us. Peru Sweets to spices and grains to drinks are all available by mail order from Dutch firm Que Rico. Home delivery or pick up in Tuitjenhorn near Alkmaar. Spain The Ibericus deli in Amsterdam and Rotterdam is, we are told, the place to pick up Ibérico pork products, wine and other Spanish specialities Nordic Amsterdam West is home to the Selma's Bakery, which sells classic Scandinavian open sandwiches, cakes and its own homemade aquavit. Danish The Danish seamen's church in Rotterdam has, we are reliably informed, a wide collection of Danish groceries. Balkans You can pick up the best of the Balkans - at Prijatelji in Amsterdam. They offer deliveries within Amsterdam and mail order nationwide. Philippines Pinoy Food in Amsterdam's Pijp district comes highly recommended. Asian Amazing Oriental has branches across the country, including the usual suspects plus Duivendrecht, Almere, Breda, Den Bosch and Groningen. It has a decent American food aisle and, our readers tell us, an amazing mix of items from Japan, China, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and other Asian nations. Hong Kong Superstore on Amsterdam's Kinkerstraat is also highly recommended. More suggestions -  email editor@DutchNews.nl and we'll keep updating the list.   More >


Thinking of going freelance? Here’s six key issues to consider

Thinking of going freelance? Here’s six key issues to consider

Becoming self employed is increasingly popular in the Netherlands – in fact nearly all the 191,000 new companies registered with the Chamber of Trade last year were one-man operated firms. If you are thinking of taking the plunge, what key issues should you think about? 1 Can you set up a company as a non-Dutch national? Yes, nationality as such is not relevant for registering a business, particularly if you are already living in the Netherlands. However if you are not living in the Netherlands you will need to meet substantial conditions.  You will need to prove what ties your business has with the Netherlands. If you want to set up a sole proprietorship you will at least need a Dutch business address and Dutch fiscal number and, if you are setting up a limited company (BV) you will need a local director. 2 Do you need a business plan and if so, what should it include You don't need a business plan to set up your business but it is wise to have one as part of your business set up and to know where you are heading. If you need external financing, you will need to produce one. A business plan should include the following 10 points: What will your company’s goal be? Why are you setting up this company? What is your customers situation at the moment? What problems do they encounter? How are they solving this? What would be your company’s added value? How do you help your customers in their current situation? How relevant is your company? What does your market look like? Who are the competitors in your business area and why is your company better? What will your company’s product or service be? What is the purpose of this product or service and how will it be produced? What type of company will it be? What is your financial plan and when will you reach the break even point 3 What sort of company should I set up? The most common form of self employment is to set up as an eenmanszaak (sole proprietorship), which means you are a ZZP'er (zelfstandig zonder personeel - or independent with no personnel) You have to declare any income from freelance work or self-employment to the tax office, but as an eenmanszaak, you can benefit from a number of tax breaks. Self-employed deduction (Zelfstandigenaftrek) You are entitled to the self-employed deduction if you can show you are an independent entrepreneur and spend at least 1,225 hours a year on business related activities. The self-employed tax deduction is €7.280. Start-up deduction (Startersaftrek) Once you have started your business, you may be entitled to the start-up deduction of € 2.123. To qualify you must be entitled to the self-employed deduction, have not been an entrepreneur for at least one of the previous five years, and have not used the self-employed deduction more than twice in the previous five years. Note: It is possible that the self-employed deduction and the start-up deduction add up to more than your company's profit. This will result in a loss, which is deductible against other tax years in which you made a profit. Small business profit exemption (MKB-winstvrijstelling) After applying the above deductions, 14% of the remaining profit is tax exempt and therefore deducted from the taxable income. If your income as a ZZP'er grows and becomes more permanent, the tax advantages become proportionally less substantial. In that case a limited liability company (BV) may be an option for you. As a BV is a separate entity, it has limited liability and in principle you should not be liable for claims on the BV (unless you as director are held responsible for mismanagement of the companies finances). And, very importantly, the BV structure might offer the possibility to (continue to) make use of the 30% ruling. Contact an expert such as Suurmond Tax Consultants to find out more about setting up a BV. 4 What about company taxes? For a sole proprietorship you will have to file an income tax return with company accounts, and a quarterly or monthly btw (value added tax) return. As a self-employed person, you will also have to pay a percentage of your income towards health insurance. Employers currently pick up part of the health insurance bill for their staff, and if you technically employ yourself, you have to do the same thing. In 2019 the fee is 5.7% on taxable profit of up to € 55,927 - or a maximum of €3,187. 5 Can I be a freelancer alongside working at my regular job? Yes, but you may not be able to use the complete tax facilities. Apart from the hours criterion of 1,225 hours you must also spend more hours working for your business then on your job as an employee. You will also have to pay additional health insurance contributions based on your self-employed income. 6 Would I be eligible for advanced tax agreement? No. Only large enterprises such as multinationals can make agreements with the tax office about their potential tax liabilities. But a good tax advisor will make sure you make the most of the tax breaks open to you. If you would like to find out more about the tax implications of freelancing, please contact Suurmond Tax Consultants www.suurmond-taxconsultants.com . Our experts have been helping expats from all over the world make use of existing tax regulations in the Netherlands to reduce their tax liability for more than 30 years. We offer a free tax scan, to check whether you are making the most of the opportunities on offer. Feel free to email taxadvice@jcsuurmond.nl  More >


Medicinal cannabis users left high and dry by Dutch tolerance policy

Medicinal cannabis users left high and dry by Dutch tolerance policy

Many patients find cannabis calms their symptoms, eases pain and reduces the side-effects of other medication – but despite the relaxed attitude to marijuana in the Netherlands, acquiring this alternative medicine is often a battle. Deborah Nicholls-Lee investigates. ‘I wish I could tell you that this was conventional – it isn’t,’ says Dutch-Israeli multiple sclerosis (MS) patient Anat Avissar Koren. Inhaling cannabis is one of the few things that helps relieve her chronic pain but socially, even in the Netherlands, it is not fully accepted. ‘The stigma is the horrible part for a patient,’ she says. But the low-percentage CBD oils she was offered on prescription were useless. ‘I have low absorption problems,’ she explains. ‘The oil doesn’t affect me at all.’ Figures from the National Drugs Monitor (2017) estimate that Anat is one of around half a million people in the Netherlands who use cannabis medicinally – the vast majority without a prescription – yet Dutch law-makers and prevailing attitudes have been slow to catch up. Under the Netherlands’ hazy tolerance law, which turns a blind eye to low-level cannabis use, marijuana – including CBD – is still officially illegal. Patients who self-medicate do so at their own risk, despite its widely-demonstrated positive effect on conditions such as Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, rheumatism, fibromyalgia, epilepsy and MS. In December 2018, the decision on the rescheduling of cannabis, as recommended by the ECDD (Expert Committee on Drug Dependence), was postponed by the World Health Organisation, leaving patients once more in legal limbo. Expense Prescriptions (available since 2003) are gradually adding credibility and respectability to medical cannabis but are likely to become harder to get since 2018 guidelines from the Dutch College of General Practitioners (NHG) recommended prescribing cannabis for pain relief in the palliative phase only. ‘For patients in Holland it’s very difficult to acquire cannabis the legal way,’ a spokesman from the Cannabis College information centre in Amsterdam told DutchNews.nl. As a result, he says, many patients are turning to coffee shops, where staff are not trained to answer medical questions. Patients who do get prescriptions must still bear the cost of their medication. According to The Dutch Care Institute, there is insufficient evidence of the effectiveness of medicinal cannabis for it to be included in basic health insurance, despite contradictory information published by the ministry of health. In a placatory move, health minister Bruno Bruins reduced the prescription cost of medicinal cannabis last year by 40 cents. Those who work in the cannabis industry are frustrated by the current impasse. ‘We consider access to cannabis as an essential right patients have,’ says David Duclos, CCO at Sensi Seeds, the company who created the genetics for Bedrocan, who manufacture all medicinal cannabis products currently offered on prescription in the Netherlands. ‘The fact cannabis is not covered anymore makes it prohibitively expensive for them,’ he says, describing it as ‘a definite step backwards in terms of cannabis acceptance and regulation’. Anat estimates that she spends around €1000 a month on cannabis products. Dissatisfied with the medical cannabis available on prescription, and unable to get a referral for the products she needed, she began experimenting with combinations of vitamins and CBD. ‘It took about six months to get to the right dosage,’ she says, and then – in astonishing defiance of her medical diagnosis – she began to leave her wheelchair behind and walk again with sticks. Following promising results from 1,349 users, Anat has turned her home recipe into a product - Reimmuneo BV - and is working hard to spread the word to other patients who could benefit. Home-growing Faced with the cost, limited choice and inaccessibility of prescription cannabis, some patients have taken to home-growing the weed they need. However, while up to five grammes of cannabis and five home-grown outdoor plants (for personal use) is tolerated, the plants can still be removed by the police if a complaint is made. Furthermore, most housing associations prohibit marijuana cultivation, creating a gap in the law between home owners and social housing tenants. HIV patient Rudolf Hillebrand uses cannabis to ease the nausea caused by his HIV medication. When he could no longer afford to get his daily five grammes from coffee shops, he decided to grow what he needed. In 2015, his home was raided by police and his plants destroyed. It wasn’t until 2017 that both the municipality and the housing association agreed to let him cultivate his medicine and only after he could demonstrate that more conventional treatments were less effective for him. MS patient Jean-Paul van ‘t Gilde from Middelburg, Zeeland also had his supply confiscated - just 14 grammes of marijuana and 360 grammes of leaves, from which he brewed a tea. In 2016, the authorities invoked the Opium Act, evicting him from his home for three months. Frustrated by the inconsistency between cases and the grey area in the law, Rene Barendse from Naaldwijk, Zuid-Holland took an extraordinary step. When the five plants he used to treat chronic back and leg pain were seized by authorities, he sought to clarify his legal right to cultivate medical cannabis by invoking Article 12 and demanding to be prosecuted as both victim and perpetrator. The question remained unresolved when he was declared guilty but no sentence was imposed. However, medical cannabis users in Tilburg – with the help of Stichting PGMCG – have been granted an exception and are allowed to continue small-scale cultivation. It is hoped that this will set a precedent for patients campaigning in other municipalities. Social clubs With the commercial cultivation of weed prohibited and small-scale home-growers subject to the whim of the authorities, social ‘mediwiet’ clubs such as Suver Nuver, The Tree of Life and SNSH have sprung up across the country, with Suver Nuver exploiting a loophole in the law by providing members with cannabis oil through a means-based donation system. The clubs serve as information points for patients and campaign leaders for the decriminalisation of cannabis. ‘In the current environment in which medical cannabis is not fully legal, it is hard for patients to find good and honest information as nothing is regulated,’ SNSH founder Yassine Boulahfa told DutchNews.nl. ‘When patients have decided to treat themselves with a cannabis product, there are many illegal online suppliers. It is very difficult for the patients to know what is inside a product they buy – and there is a huge difference in price and in quality. THC oils and pastes are regarded as category 1 drugs so officially it is illegal to possess any of them.’ Patients While the social clubs do much of their work at grass-roots level, Anat is appealing directly to medical professionals and doing a tour of medical conventions, where she says patients are woefully under-represented. ‘I’m not against regular treatment at all – I’m a paramedic from Israel, for God’s sake!’ she says with characteristic candour. ‘I just think they should take the patient under advisement a little more.’ Patients who have found cannabis a life-changing treatment will continue to test Dutch tolerance laws until their medicine is legitimised and widely available. ‘I’m never going to give up on getting better,’ Anat tells me. ‘As patients, we don’t have that privilege.’  More >


Dutch destinations: Go south and mooch around in Maastricht

Dutch destinations: Go south and mooch around in Maastricht

Maastricht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, and it elegantly combines classic architecture with modern twists. Here you’ll find a vibrant bookstore and coffee bar in a centuries-old cathedral, electrifying boutiques located along cobblestone lanes, and what some say is the best bar in the country.  As one of the country’s most gorgeous (and strategically located) cities, it should come as no surprise that various empires have tried to seize Maastricht over the years. No one can quite agree on its exact origins. Celts lived in the area at least as far back as the 5th century BC, and the Romans showed up about 600 years later to build a bridge over the Meuse River that now runs through the centre of the city. Servatius, Maastricht’s patron saint, is said to have died there in 384 AD, and a stone church was built over his grave in the 6th century. It was gradually expanded and redeveloped into the majestic Basilica of Saint Servatius that’s still located in the Vrijthof, a square in the city centre. Maastricht played a vital role in the Carolingian Empire and the Holy Roman Empire, and its location made it quite coveted between the 16th and 18th centuries. Despite its fortifications, some of which are still standing, Maastricht was invaded by the Dutch, the Spanish, and by the French no less than three times during this era. Maastricht was also the first Dutch city to be liberated by the Allies during World War II. It hosted a series of councils roughly a half-century later that led to the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, which paved the way toward the establishment of the European Union and the Euro. A series of development projects in recent years have rejuvenated several sections of the city, helping to make it one of the region’s most important economic and cultural centres. Five things to do Find out what’s just below Saint Peter’s Mount Saint Peter’s Mount is home to an 18th century fortress, but what lies below it is also an important historical site in its own right. Local miners began collecting the limestone within the mount for building materials a millennium ago. Their toil resulted in over 80 km of caves that were used by the locals as a refuge during various conflicts. The caves served as the hiding place of Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch during World War II as well. Daily tours now lead visitors under a huge dome and down a Gothic hallway while pausing at murals left on the walls by various inhabitants over the years. Don’t forget to bring a coat, temperatures in the caves hover around 10 C. And be warned, only a very limited number of tickets are available at the Grotten Zonneberg entrance, so you should buy your ticket at the tourist office in town. There are also a couple of signposted walks you can follow which take you in to the heart of the Limburg countryside. Visit the ‘book church’ Located in what is now Maastricht’s main shopping district, Dominicanenkerk is over 700 years old, and it boasts lovely interior arches and frescos. Unimpressed, Napoleon used it to store equipment and military personnel while invading the region in the 1790s. Along with serving as a house of worship, the church has been used as a warehouse, an archive, a printing house, and even a place to store bikes. It was converted into one of Europe’s most unique bookstores following a restoration project in the mid 2000s. Go for a stroll Overlooking Amsterdam, Maastricht is home to the most rijksmonumenten (national historical sites) in the country, around 1,660 at last count, which helps make it one of the nation’s best cities to simply walk around in. There are several towers along with a portion of a city wall built in the 13th and 14th centuries that are worth a few snapshots, especially if you’ve got someone with you who’s willing to pose in front of the cannons out front. There’s also the still somewhat intimidating Helpoort (‘Hell’s Gate’) that was built around 1230 and is the oldest city gate in the country. If old military fortifications aren’t your thing, there are plenty of churches, squares, canals, and neighbourhoods filled with other classic architecture. The Jekerkwartier is just one of the latter, and it’s home to several of the city university’s facilities as well. Explore several centuries of art Maastricht’s Bonnefantenmuseum houses about eight centuries worth of art within one of the city’s most recognisable buildings (just look for the spaceship-shaped cupola). Along with masterpieces by Van Dyck, Rubens, and Brueghel, there’s an impressive collection of modern works. Reach great heights At a little over 322 metres tall, the Vaalserberg is the highest point in the Netherlands. Many other countries might consider this merely an average hill, but it’s also home to Drielandenpunt, a three country-point where the borders of Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands meet. Its lookout towers offer great views of the surrounding region and, oddly enough, a nearby labyrinth which is the largest in the country. The location itself is a bit of a tourist trap and can get very overloaded with visitors from all three countries, so avoid weekends if you can. Eat & Drink What exactly is a Limburgse vlaai? Well, it’s not quite a pie and it’s not quite a pastry, but it’s definitely delicious. It’s also pretty much the region’s official dessert. You may have tried one already from the supermarket, but to experience the real deal, one must order it in a proper Limburg cafe or bakery. Many places around Maastricht serve vlaai, and which one has the best is a topic that’s probably been debated for decades among the locals. Further complicating things, there’s at least 30 different varieties. De Bisschopsmolen currently has no less than nine on the menu at their bakery and cafe. If you’d like to try your hand at making your own, they also host vlaai workshops. For lunch, try TiramiSu for a quick Italian sandwich on the go. They also have vegetarian and vegan items. Livin’ Room is an adorable cafe specialising in organic food with hip furniture and decor that’s great for breakfast or lunch. There’s also Petit Cafe Moriaan, a cute lunch spot that claims to be the smallest in the Netherlands. KAFETHÉA is a trendy coffee joint and vegan bakery that’s popular among university students and has a bar made out of old books that’s destined to wind up on Instagram countless times. If you have a hankering for a total gut bomb, head to With Love Burrito. Their menu is a wonder to behold and their homemade hot sauces have names like Spark’s Horse Killer and Devil’s Perm. If you’re feeling particularly brave, or are simply incredibly hungry, try the Jesus Burrito. It contains every type of meat they’ve got in the kitchen, as well as scrambled eggs. Those searching for a much more refined experience will find it at Restaurant Chateau Neercanne. It offers an elegant menu of French dishes and seafood along with outstanding views of both its baroque gardens and the Jekerdal Valley. The chateau’s stables have been converted into a more low-key cafe called Restaurant l'Auberge that’s a nice spot for lunch or a coffee with a pastry. It also hosts much more fancy dinners that have earned it a Michelin Bib Gourmand award. If you head out there, be sure to check out the wine cellar. For drinks, try Mr. Smith, a somewhat mysterious cocktail bar located in a former cellar. Maastricht is also home to In de Karkol, voted the Netherlands’ best bar in 2016. The wood-panelled bar has friendly staff, great atmosphere, and a large painting on one wall emblazoned with a slug that explains its name and overall mantra, which serve as a testament to the virtues of taking it easy and enjoying the good things in life. Where to stay  Kruisherenhotel is the only five star hotel in the region. It’s housed in a 15th century monastery along the Kommelplein and each one of its 60 guest rooms features unique art and decor. Teaching Hotel Château Bethlehem dates back to the 13th century and is operated by hospitality students. There’s also Designhotel Maastricht that’s located a short walk from the train station. How to get there  Driving down to Maastricht from Amsterdam usually takes a little over two hours. The train journey from Amsterdam Centraal can run between 2.5 and 3 hours. When to visit As with any other city, it all depends on what you’re looking for. Even a stormy day in the dead of winter can be a great time to visit Maastricht if you’re content with sticking to the cafes and museums. Spring and summer are obviously better times to stroll along the river or check out the city’s classic architecture. If Carnaval isn’t your cup of lager, you might want to skip visiting Maastricht during its annual hootenanny, which attracts big crowds. The city and surrounding region also host music and cultural events throughout the year. You can learn more about them here.  More >