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


Christmas is coming, and here’s some special events to get you in the mood

Christmas is coming, and here’s some special events to get you in the mood

The festive season is almost upon us, and whether you're looking for cosy, cultural or culinary, we have Christmas holiday highlights to suit one and all. Amsterdam Amsterdam Light Festival If you're in the capital during the holidays, make sure to give yourself time to tour the canals and take in the many exhibits of this year's Amsterdam Light Festival. Special highlights include light artworks inspired by Van Gogh's Starry Night and, for the first time, a specially commissioned theatre piece during a canal cruise of the festival sites - The Light Code by Chris Bajema. The festival runs all the way through December and into January. Website  Eye Film museum Too cold outside? Then head over to the EYE in Noord. Escape the wind, and the general state of the world, with the joy of the upbeat 50's classic White Christmas, or a screening of the Royal Opera House's (UK) spectacular version of The Nutcracker (2015), complete with sparkling prosecco.  Website Utrecht Nijntje museum For the littlest in the family you could head to the Nijntje Museum in Utrecht, where the country's favourite bunny is exploring everything wintry throughout December. There are light-games to play and life size snowman puzzles to be built, strap on skis or go on a sleigh-ride with Nijntje herself. Website Kerstival While you're in Utrecht you could also head to Kerstival at The St Catherine Convent, between 22 Dec and 6th January, if you're after a nice hands-on way to explore a more traditional side of Christmas. The museum will be transformed both inside and out and offers an all-inclusive ticket for arts & crafts, magic lantern shows, cookie making, magic swings that produce 'snow' and much more! Website (Dutch only) Rotterdam Concerts and dancing If you're looking for music and/or romance, Rotterdam may be the place for you. There are a wealth of Christmas concerts on throughout the city in December whether you're looking for classical or organ, party favourites or 50s hits (see the uitagenda for a full list, Dutch only). A personal favourite is V11 - a bright red ship in the centre of town, with a great bar on the upper deck and dancing downstairs in the belly of the boat. Various live acts are on all through December. Website For classical music lovers, the Laurenskerk has an interesting programme of classical and Christmassy favourites, like Handel's Messiah, alongside a specially composed Rotterdamse Passion on Dec 14th. Website (Dutch only). IJsvrij Festival Going all out for a romantic weekend away over the festive holidays? Then why not take your loved one icy skating at the Ijsvrij Park Festival next to the Euromast? Often compared to NYC's central park ice rink, the festival boasts not only a romantic atmosphere but a great cafe/bar, sports, theatre and music. Then head up the Euromast itself to warm up, get a great view over the city at night, and enjoy one of their special holiday menus in the restaurant or a stay in one of their quirky hotel rooms. Website Elsewhere  Groningen: the Winterwelvaart If you want to visit the cold north this year, then our best bet would be head to Groningen! During the Winterwelvaart (21st - 23rd December) all the traditional ships in the city centre harbour are lit up like Christmas trees, and there is a full-on programme of mini concerts, theatre performances and dining on board, plus boat tours, an art route and a winter market. You can even arrange to stay overnight on one of the boats. Website (Dutch only) The Hague: Royal Christmas Market Christmas markets are popular up and down the country at this time of year. Like their German counterparts you can anticipate plenty of mulled wine, hot chocolate and gingerbread, plus artisanal crafts, trinkets, toys and jewellery for under the tree. One of the most extravagant is the Royal Christmas Market in The Hague (14th - 23rd December). Located on the Lange Voorhout in the city centre, it boasts hundreds of stalls, plus storytelling, theatre and caroling to balance out any frenzied shopping. You´ll find other markets in Lelystad, Amstelveen, the pretty little village of Vreeland and a funky one in the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam to name but a few. Website Breda: The Avenue, Christmas Dinner Circus Circuses are a big tradition in The Netherlands at this time of year, and Amsterdam, Den Haag and Rotterdam always have large, spectacular and often international circus on. Putting a twist on that traditional Christmas show though is The Avenue in Breda. A small theatre and events location, they specialise in cabaret, circus and various other sorts of dinner shows. Throughout December, starting on the 14th, they have a series of special festively themed dinner shows, suitable for anyone hungry for a truly alternative Christmas dinner. 8+ Website (Dutch only. Note: limited accessibility to some parts of the venue). For more December events, see our regular Whats On listing: 11 great things to do in December.  More >


DutchNews podcast – The Commercial Breakdown Edition – Week 50

DutchNews podcast – The Commercial Breakdown Edition – Week 50

Our last podcast of the year features a helter-skelter game of red cards, own goals and penalties that ultimately changed nothing, while away from the Brexit negotiations Ajax qualified for the next round of the Champions League. We ask why girls are more likely to move up the educational ladder then boys, whether stints will ever be allowed back on cycle paths and why a group of Chinese villagers were told to Buddha off by a Dutch court. In the discussion we look at the catchiest – and the most irritating – adverts in the Netherlands and how they have affected cultural life. TOP STORY Rutte has May for breakfast as EU rules out reopening Brexit deal MPs denounce no-deal emergency powers bill as undemocratic NEWS Electric 'stint' wagons still not allowed back on cycle paths Girls more likely than boys to move up secondary school ladder Dutch court throws out Chinese villagers' claim on Buddha statue Boyan Slat says ocean clean-up plan is still on despite setback SPORT Ajax settle for second in Champions League group after six-goal thriller The Hague bids to host Tour de France start in 2020 DISCUSSION: The best – and worst – Dutch adverts Twelve Dutch ads that have become cultural touchstones    More >


Celebrate in your home from home: How to go Dutch at Christmas

Celebrate in your home from home: How to go Dutch at Christmas

The count down to Christmas has begun, but according to weather forecast there's not much chance of a white Christmas this year. So just how do you give your Christmas that extra touch of 'Dutchness' while living in the Netherlands? Here is a list to inspire you, based on some of the ways the Dutch celebrate Christmas at home. Get a tree The Dutch love their trees - in fact they love Christmas decorations in general. If you really want to be overwhelmed, check out any garden centre and you will be spoiled, and we do mean spoiled, for choice. Christmas lights tend to be terribly good taste which can come as a shock to the Americans and the British. Give your new home a festive feel with a beautiful paper star in the window. Go to church The Nachtmis is the only time lots of people go to church. The midnight mass is usually a jolly affair of Christmas carols and lots of twinkling lights in a heated church (if you’re lucky) followed by a Christmas breakfast with lots of kerststol. The Stadsschouwburg theatre in Amsterdam has an alternative for people who want the experience without the religion. Prepare for two Christmas Days The Netherlands celebrates Christmas on both December 25th and December 26th, known as first and second Christmas Day (Eerste Kerstdag and Tweede Kerstdag). Both are statutory public holidays but you will find the shops open on the 26th - and increasingly on the 25th itself. This year, with Christmas Eve (Kerstavond) falling on the Monday, you get an extra long weekend. Eat Christmas in the Netherlands includes its fair share of food. And while some food items are more traditional than others, it really is an anything goes scenario when it comes to designing the menu. Many Dutch families enjoy gourmetten—an activity similar to the Korean BBQ or Vietnamese hot pot. You'll use tiny pans and spatulas to cook equally tiny hamburgers, sausages, vegetables, pancakes and other items on a hot griddle. If you are not going for the self-cooking option, the main meal can be anything from venison to mussels or rabbit stew but rollade – rolled up pork with herbs – is also very popular. The only real designated Christmas foods are kerstkransjes, the little biscuits tied to Christmas trees with ribbons, and kerststol, a delicious current bread with a little island of ground almond paste in the middle of each slice – unless you get the end bit. Swap gifts Swapping gifts with family members and friends on Christmas Day has become increasingly popular in recent years - never mind that you may well have done the present thing three weeks ago at Sinterklaas. If you have been invited to someone else's house to celebrate, don't be embarrassed to ask about the present situation. That good old Dutch bluntness has its advantages. Listen to the king's speech King Willem-Alexander's Christmas speech is broadcast on both state and commercial stations at 1pm. No subtitles but always a message of hope and goodwill. Listen to (Dutch) Christmas songs Turn the radio on in the run up to Christmas and you will find plenty of Christmas songs to get you in the festive mood—both in Dutch and English. And Willeke Alberti's Met Kerst wil ik by jou zijn has all the nostalgia of Chris Rea's Driving Home for Christmas. Be gezellig No matter how you decide to celebrate your Dutch Christmas this year, the most important element to add is a good dose of gezelligheid! If you are looking for a home away from home, ServicedApartments.nl offers short and long-term rentals - the perfect place for unpacking your old and new holiday traditions whilst working abroad.  More >


12 Dutch ads that have become cultural touchstones

12 Dutch ads that have become cultural touchstones

Keep Calm and Carry On? Lovely Day for a Guinness? Just do it? Good advertising can do more than sell shoes and beer, they can become cultural touchstones, referenced over and over again, years after they first appeared. So, if a colleague shouts 'Heyyyy biertje…' during a borrel and everyone else laughs but you’re left out in the cold, we’ve got you covered. Molly Quell has put together a list of 12 Dutch advertisements that you need to know. 1 Heineken - Rudi Possibly the most famous television ad in the country, we follow a lowly goat herder who turns into a suave ski instructor with the appearance of the first snowflake. He walks into a ski lodge bar and shouts “Heyyyyy biertje!” (Hey beer) to the delight of the crowd. While popular with most Dutch people, bar staff find having “Heyyyyy biertje!” shouted at them rather annoying. 2 Ohra - Purple crocodile Ohra's purple crocodile, which hit the television screens in 2005, has now become synonymous with red tape and bureaucracy and even has its own Wikipedia page in English. The ad features a hapless mother and daughter who have come to pick up the purple crocodile, left in the swimming pool, being given the run-around by a jobsworth civil servant. In 2006, draft legislation to cut bureaucratic nonsense was given the official shortened name Wijzigingsplan «Paarse krokodil». 3 Hema - Jingle Anyone who has ever visited a branch of Hema has had this tune stuck in their head. The high street store is one of the indispensable Dutch brands and it frequently plays this jingle in its stores, as well as during TV and radio ads. The tune is always accompanied by the slogan Echt Hema, in case you had not gotten the message yet. 4 Motta - Fruit Joy We’re not sure why this division of Nestle chose to advertise ice cream with a car accident and nose picking but it resulted in this classic Dutch TV ad from 1996. The advert is considered such a success it was twice nominated for the Gouden Loeki, an award for the best advertisement of the year. 5 Melkunie - Geen bommetje This ad, for milk and yogurt products, supposedly shows how upmarket Melkunie's cows are, as they lounge around in the pool. But the ad did get pushback from animal rights groups who criticized the portrayal of the animals when the actual farming conditions were, of course, far less comfortable. 6 Rolo - Olifant Another interesting case of animal casting, this ad for Rolos shows an ill-behaved child, teasing a baby elephant with the last Rolo toffee. Both grow up and the elephant gets its revenge later, admonishing the viewer to pay attention to whom who share your last Rolo with. The commercial won lots of awards, including the Gouden Loeki in 1996, and was a Dutch hit that went global. 7 Jumbo/Picnic - Max Verstappen Racing star Max Verstappen has been sponsored by supermarket chain Jumbo for years and has appeared in a variety of racing ads. New competitor Picnic parodied the “Snel besteld, snel thuisbezorgd” (Ordered quickly, delivered quickly) campaign with it’s own ad, showing someone looking very similar to Verstappen delivering groceries for Picnic. Verstappen sued and won compensation of €150,000. 8 Centraal Beheer - Even Apeldoorn Bellen Insurance company Centraal Beheer launched its Even Apeldoorn Bellen slogan in 1986 and it is still going strong today. The ads always feature someone unwittingly getting into trouble - with the pay off suggesting they call the insurer's HQ in Apeldoorn. The joke was not always on the victim. US president Bill Clinton was reportedly not amused at being likened to a voodoo doll in a museum. You can watch all of the series on YouYube, but the safari park lion is a classic. 9 Albert Heijn - Hamsterweken If you’re not getting your groceries delivered by either Picnic or Jumbo, you’ve probably been inside an Albert Heijn recently and have been overwhelmed by the images of rodents advertising cheap toilet paper or buy 1 get 2 pasta. If so, it was Hamsterweken or hamster (hoarder in Dutch) weeks at the grocery store chain. The company runs hamster themed ads on TV, radio, in the newspaper and pretty much anywhere you might look or listen. If you’re integrated enough to appreciate a good deal, know that when those furry rodents start appearing, you can head to the local AH to stock up on pantry staples on the cheap. 10 Kruidvat - Jingle You are not the only one who has ever set foot into a car in the Netherlands, tuned to Dutch radio, and immediately become annoyed at the sing-song jingle of drugstore Kruidvat. The company’s tagline is Steeds verrassend altijd voordelig or 'still surprising, always cheap', which, honestly, does sound better in Dutch. The company is frequently voted to be one of the most annoying ads on the radio. 11 Suit Supply - Posters Suit Supply is a Dutch men’s fashion brand, started in Amsterdam in 2002, which is known for its controversial ad posters. The company is always being slammed for the way it portrays women and went on to release an ad campaign earlier this year which featured two men kissing. This, of course, sparked its own outcry. 12 Calve peanut butter - Pietertje Hapless Pietertje is no good at football, despite the enthusiastic encouragement of his coach. But when the ball ends up in a ditch, Pietertje - or Dutch champion swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband at the age of seven - is only too delighted to dive in. The advert has so become part of the nation's psyche that this year the AD tracked down and interviewed the original actor, now aged 16 and not a peanut butter fan at all. Calve made a follow up to Pietertje in 2018, this time featuring a very youthful Lieke Martens playing football in the rain while the boys were all inside drinking hot chocolate. If the advertising bucks are in, it is a sure sign that women's football is slowly becoming big business.  More >


Dutch Destinations: explore Utrecht from high up and from way down

Dutch Destinations: explore Utrecht from high up and from way down

DutchNews.nl destinations: Utrecht  Located on the eastern edge of the Randstad, Utrecht is a picturesque city full of history and culture - if you avoid the hideous concrete area around the main railway station - that is. From the top of Dom Tower all the way down to its iconic canals, there’s no shortage of cafes, museums, and other attractions to keep you busy for a weekend trip or an entire lifetime. Human activity in and around Utrecht dates all the way back to the Stone Age, but the area remained almost entirely untamed until the Romans showed up to build a fortress named Traiectum around 50 AD. It helped mark their empire’s northernmost border...until it was burnt to the ground during a revolt a few decades later. Then it was later rebuilt bigger and stronger to house roughly 500 soldiers. Traiectum actually had to be rebuilt three more times before it was finally raided by invading Franks sometime in the 3rd century. The Romans skedaddled and the area remained pretty quiet for the next 400 years until a missionary named Willibrord arrived to build a church in what remained of the old fortress in the 7th century. Now dubbed Utrecht, the fledgling settlement gradually became an important stronghold for the Roman Catholic Church in the centuries that followed. Henry V granted Utrecht city rights in 1122, and its sunken canals, which feature werfkelders, storage cellars with buildings and streets built over them, really began to take shape. Since then, Utrecht has endured conflicts and invasions while retaining much of its classic architecture within its historic city centre, some of which was originally built in the Middle Ages. The city now serves as a thriving cultural and economic centre, and is home to the country’s largest university along with the iconic Dom Tower. Five things to do Dive into the underground Utrecht’s been around a long time and, at DOMUnder, you can explore the past 2,000 years of its history. The attraction takes visitors underneath the cobblestones of Dom Square where they can go on an archaeological journey, and take a close look at Roman ruins and other wonders while wielding an ‘interactive flashlight’. DOMUnder also features an impressive short animated film that vividly reveals the destructive might of a tornado that literally ripped the cathedral apart back in 1674. Hang out with Nijntje The Dutch call her Nijntje but non-natives might know her by Miffy, her international name. Over the past several decades, the bunny has become a worldwide marketing phenomenon rivalled only by the likes of Hello Kitty. Created by Utrecht native Dick Bruna, Nijntje now has an entire museum devoted to her in the city. Needless to say, it’s a perfect place to take the kids on a rainy day. Bruna fans can also explore the artist’s studio at the Centraal Museum across the street. It was transported to a space on one of its upper floors in 2015. Also keep an eye out for the electronic Nijntje crosswalk signs over on the St Jacobsstraat. Storm the tower Dom Tower has been standing proud over the streets of Utrecht since 1382. Rising to a height of 368 feet, it’s the highest church tower in the country. Visitors can climb the 465 steps to the top during tours that are offered daily. The tower is currently undergoing restoration, a project set to continue through 2022. Don’t let the scaffolding deter you, its galleries, belfry, and other features are still open to the public. Go shopping Utrecht’s train station is home to Hoog Catharijne, a shopping mall that often perplexes out-of-towners who inevitably wind up wandering through it in desperate search of an exit and is best avoided. The nearby city centre, however, is also filled with tons of unique businesses that sell everything from fashion to board games. If you’re in search of the latter, Subcultures is one of best places to go in the entire country. Along with a huge selection, the shop also has an area devoted to LARP costumes and supplies, in addition to its own escape room. Rock out, or just nod your head to the beat, at TivoliVredenburg The TivoliVredenburg opened its doors in 2014, and it’s one of the most unique music and cultural venues in the Netherlands. It contains five halls each with specific acoustics designed for a specific genre. There’s also a cafe and a stage for amateur acts downstairs. At TivoliVredenburg, you can enjoy performances by just about every type of music act imaginable, from local jazz combos to international rock bands. Just be sure to pack an extra dose of patience if you attend a show on a busy night when aggravating bottlenecks are a regular occurrence on the upper floors. Eat & Drink Utrecht is currently home to not one but several American fast food chains that have recently set up shop in the Netherlands. But if you like American food of discernible higher quality, aim for American Steakhouse Broadway. Housed inside a medieval wharf cellar in the heart of Utrecht, it’s been serving tasty ribs, steaks, and other meat-heavy dishes for over 25 years. Stadskasteel Oudaen, located inside a former castle commissioned by a wealthy family back in the 13th century, is a great place to go for a meal along with a locally-brewed beer. At Syr, an ambitious, crowd-funded cafe staffed by refugees, you can try traditional Syrian dishes with a European twist. The Winkel van Sinkel dominates a large chunk of the Oudegracht and diners flock to the grand cafe for lunch, dinner, and cocktails. The peculiar Lebowski’s, a bar and grill named for ‘The Dude’ himself from The Big Lebowski, is a great place to hang out on a quiet afternoon, especially if you enjoy sitting in the shadow of a taxidermied giraffe. It’s often completely swamped by students from the local university after dark, though. If you’re searching for an cool place to get a cup of coffee, try Village Coffee. It can be found in Utrecht’s university district but they also have a sister cafe over in the Science Park. The original location is a beloved hangout among the city’s students and ‘creatives’, and you’ll likely be served by a barista who looks like he plays bass in a metal band. Try ‘The Unit’ if you really need a jolt of caffeine. It could, quite possibly, be the strongest coffee drink available in Western Europe. It’s one of the reasons why Village Coffee often puts pictures of skeletons on their t-shirts and bags of fresh-roasted beans. Where to stay Grand Hotel Karel V was originally built as a monastery in the 14th century. Since then, everyone from medieval knights and emperors to tourists and weary business travellers have sought refuge within its walls. The property also contains a gorgeous, 10,000 square metre interior garden. Mother Goose Hotel also dates back to same era and now occupies the former Ubica buildings. These have housed, at one time or another, a private residence and a mattress factory. Mary K Hotel, located inside a canal house, contains ten rooms each with a unique theme and design by a Utrecht-based artist. For a totally different experience, there are several campgrounds located along Utrecht’s outskirts. Tussen Hemel en Aarde (which means ‘Campsite Between Heaven and Earth’ in English), offers cosy cabins in addition to spots for RVs and tents. How to get there Utrecht is one of the most easily accessible cities in the Netherlands. In addition to being home to the country’s largest (and busiest) train station, Utrecht Centraal, it’s about a 45 minute drive down the A2 from Amsterdam. If, for whatever reason, you wanted to walk there from Dam Square, Google Maps says it would take you between 8 and 8.5 hours. A journey by train from Schiphol Airport, meanwhile, usually lasts around 30 minutes. When to visit Pretty much any time is a great time to visit Utrecht. The city also hosts a series of vibrant music and cultural events throughout the year. SPRING Utrecht is a ten-day festival devoted to the performing arts. The Utrecht Early Music Festival takes place at the end of every summer and is a celebration of medieval, renaissance, and baroque classical music. Every November, Le Guess Who? attracts fans of eclectic and often boundary-defying musical performers.  More >


Health insurance via your employer? You could be paying too much

Health insurance via your employer? You could be paying too much

The chances are that your health insurance policy is part of a collective plan which you signed up to via work, a sports club or even your local council. But you could very well be paying more than you should. Almost two-thirds of the Dutch population are insured through a collective plan - a type of insurance scheme set up for a group of people, such as company colleagues, a patient organisation or a local authority. Even nature protection groups like the Wadden Vereniging offer special health policies for members. If you sign up for a collective agreement you are offered a seemingly attractive discount on your monthly health insurance premium. But beware! Research by comparison website Zorgwijzer.nl shows that you could actually be paying for the discount out of your own pocket. Spokesman Koen Kuijper says there are numerous cases where an individual insurance plan is cheaper than one that is set up through a collective. 'There are over 50,000 different collective policies out there and that means consumers are unable to get a clear picture about the range of health insurance products on offer,' he says. 'And that €9 discount you are being offered might well mean you have more limited access to some healthcare providers or that the actual premium was too high in the first place.' Survey Recently, television current affairs show Radar carried out a survey involving 26,000 consumers and found that people with a collective health insurance policy pay on average €10 more per month more than people with an individual health insurance plan. Radar recommends that everyone with a collective health insurance plan checks their current insurance policy on price and coverage. Switching insurance policies may be worthwhile. Comparing health insurance plans (in Dutch: zorgverzekering vergelijken) is a good way to get started. Criticism Various political parties and government advisory groups have strongly criticised collective insurance policies as well. Some parties, like the PvdA, want to ban collective insurance policies altogether. Health minister Bruno Bruins has said he wants to end fake discounts on health insurance policies. Instead, he would like insurance companies to offer collective plans that differ on a healthcare-related level and not just on pricing. To further encourage this, he plans to reduce the premium discount that collective agreements give to 5%. Kuijper also doubts whether this type of insurance should be part of our insurance scheme. 'There is an unfair element in collective insurance,' Kuijper says. 'If you are not part of any group, you cannot profit from the discount. Everyone should get equal access to healthcare and basic health insurance. Fiddling with discounts for specific groups disadvantages others.'  More >


Blogwatching: bunkers and naked volleyball

Blogwatching: bunkers and naked volleyball

What do you do if you have been sent to live in the Netherlands as a trailing husband for six months, while your wife works in a high powered job? Visiting columnist Joe Weeg has been exploring his neighbourhood. Part 1: Bunkers and naked volleyball. They are stark naked. Yup, not a speck of clothes. The eight old men have the volleyball net pulled tight in the sand and are shuffling to new positions as I come over the dune. The server makes some comment that tickles everyone’s fancy and then hits the ball underhanded to a loud cheer. A flurry of naked men descend on the net. Point to server. Trust me, this began innocently enough. I was curious about the bunkers that line the beaches at Scheveningen in The Hague, Netherlands. They are leftovers from World War II and were part of Hitler’s plan to defend the coast. The North Atlantic Wall ran all the way from Norway to France. And it just happens that in Scheveningen the bunkers sit directly above a nude beach. No kidding. The North Atlantic Wall was not Hitler’s best plan, by the way. Jacques Hogendoorn and his brother Piet have been studying and teaching and collecting paraphernalia on German bunkers along the Atlantic Coast for years. Jacques gave my wife and I a tour at a command bunker safely tucked into a dune some distance from the sea. 'Total of German bunkers in Scheveningen (the port area of The Hague) is 900 bunkers. The estimated total of bunkers that made up the North Sea Wall were 90,000 bunkers.' Okay, that seems like a lot of bunkers. 'Not enough,' Jacques states emphatically, 'it is impossible to defend the coast in the way they tried. You have to have a normal airforce and you have to have a navy to support that defense. They didn’t have a sufficient airforce and the navy was not effective.' So there you have it. 90,000 bunkers — totally useless. A cement contractor’s nightmare. Or dream. And, of course, there was the small problem of all the people who lived by the sea at that time. 'Over 100,000 people were displaced from their homes in Scheveningen and The Hague so that the Germans could build their Atlantic wall,' according to Piet Hogendoorn, a museum-grade collector of World War II paraphernalia. And, as is the way of dictators, starvation was close on the heels of this displacement. Thus the stories of the Dutch folks in Scheveningen eating tulip bulbs during the hard winter of 1944-1945. Today, the empty bunkers stick out like broken teeth on this vibrant Scheveningen beach scene. Wind surfing and Ferris wheels and bungee jumping are the order of the day. War and death? Not so much. Back home in Des Moines, we really have nothing so physically in your face as a bunker. In fact, memories are growing dim as the last of that generation is slipping away. Sure, we have our World War II memorials in most towns.  And we have the stories of the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo killed in the sinking of the USS Juneau, and of the women recruits who trained at Fort Des Moines for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, and the stories from David and Jennie Wolnerman of Des Moines and of their survival in the Nazi concentration camps in occupied Poland. And don’t forget the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge with all its exhibits and stories. But there is just something about a large, concrete bunker that causes a sharp intake of breath. And not in a good-surprise way. Back on the dunes, the old men are still playing even though it’s late in the afternoon. A corner shot is missed and everyone tumbles into the sand, where they lay on their backs laughing at each other and at their old-man knees. A good time had by all. Who would have guessed? Naked as jaybirds . . . in the shadow of a bunker. This column was first published on blog Joe's Neighborhood  More >


There is no snow on the way, but here are 11 great things to do in December

There is no snow on the way, but here are 11 great things to do in December

Classic films, Christmas events and Chanel - here are some DutchNews.nl December delights. But if you are more of a bah humbug person who can't wait for 'the season to be jolly' to be over, there is something for you too. Meet Sinterklaas The Catharijneconvent in Utrecht is Sinterklaas' home away from home and right up until the busiest day in his calender he is inviting all good children up to 8 and their parents for lots of Sinterklaas-related activities and a meet and greet in his study. Until December 5. Website Climb every mountain The Sound of Music is 50! How time flies when you're frolicking in an alpine meadow. The colours of the film were always glorious but the new 70mm copy shown at the Eye in Amsterdam renders the Austrian Aalps even more resplendent, or 'newly-washed' as the Eye has it. We dare you not to sing along. December 19 to January 9. Website   Force your child to be creative Kasteel Keukenhof, a dinky little castle in Lisse, is offering parents the opportunity of getting in some leisurely Christmas shopping while junior makes a tasteful arrangement for the dinner table out of bits of fir and tinsel. December 12.  For this and other Christmassy activities for children at the castle go to the website. Put yourself in someone else's shoes Another, slightly more serious, one for the kids is 'Night Travel', the autobiographical story of a young child forced to flee with his family from Iran told by Dutch-Iranian Sahand. He confronts them with a challenging question: how would you feel? Presented by the English Theatre in the Hague on December 15 and 16. Website Say bah humbug What lessons can we still learn from Dickens' A Christmas Carol? Perhaps that austerity Britain is not a thing of the past, or that its Christmas goose will be well and truly cooked by March next year? Whatever the message, story teller Ashley Ramsden is sure to make this Christmas staple come to life. Presented by the English Theatre in The Hague. December 21, 22 and 23. Website Work up an appetite, or not Warning: Feast for the Eyes - The Story of Food in Photography is not just about scrumptious dishes cunningly lit to make your mouth water but also about 'a lifestyle or a nation, hope or despair, hunger or excess'.  It's enough to put you off your Christmas rollade. At Foam in Amsterdam from December 21. Website Join the circus Carré in Amsterdam celebrates 250 years of 'classic' circus acts (no wild animals) during the 34th edition of the World Christmas Circus. Prize winning horse acts, dazzling acrobatic feats, people whizzing through the air with the greatest of ease on the flying trapeze, and more jaw-dropping sequin stuff. There are Christmas circuses in Rotterdam and The Hague too. December 20 to January 6. Website Go for a post-Christmas walk If that venison/cheese fondue/vegetarian nut loaf is refusing to shift it's time for a Natuurmonumenten walk. On the programme for Boxing Day is a not too challenging 5 kilometre walk in the Kaapse Bossen (Utrecht) especially designed to clear up hangovers. There are walks throughout December but be quick because they are very popular. Website Create your own story The Oude Kerk in Amsterdam dates from the 13th century which makes it the oldest building in the capital. Apart from its splendid interior, the church boasts the 18th century Vater-Müller organ which features in The Instrument of troubled Dreams, a sound installation by Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. The sounds were recorded in and around the Oude Kerk and visitors are invited to make up their own stories by playing the so-called 'Mellotron'. Until April 29. Website Find the message behind the frock ‘That little seamstress’ largely forgotten is how Paul Poiret once described Coco Chanel. That was then. Today, female fashion designers are calling the shots and the question the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague is asking is how this shapes not just fashion but women’s place in the world. The exhibition Femme Fatale shows work by Coco Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin, Elsa Schiaparelli, Mary Quant, Vivienne Westwood, Sonia Rykiel, Miuccia Prada, Maria Gracia Chiuri (Dior) and Dutch designers Fong Leng, Sheila de Vries, Iris van Herpen and many others. Until March 24. Website  Count down If you want to see out 2018 dancing, check out the Tiktak (Tick Tock) events which are being held across the country. Lil Kleine and Broederliefde will be zooming from one festival to another at breakneck speed. December 31. Website  More >


Coding for kids: digital literacy to become key in the curriculum

Coding for kids: digital literacy to become key in the curriculum

Digital literacy is increasingly recognised as a vital component of future education. As the Dutch government seeks to update both the primary and secondary curricula, teaching coding to children is set to become compulsory. Esther O´Toole took a closer look at the current state of coding for kids. Bo Boekelman and Hilde Verschuren, two primary school pupils at De Harlekijn school in Cuijk, Noord Brabant are exploring coding at Expedition Robot, one of the extracurricular courses on offer as part of the Techlab scheme at their local library. 'What I like best is when you have finished the coding part and can see your creation come to life,' says Bo, who is in her final year of primary school. 'I really liked it and would have liked more time. I'd definitely do something like that again, especially if it was at school!' says friend and classmate Hilde. Their school's director, Rob Lamers, is working with nine other local schools on  integrating 21st century skills throughout the curriculum, including critical and computational thinking. 'I think  for teachers who didn't grow up with this kind of technology, the idea that they have to teach using lots of complicated apparatus can hold them back,' he says. 'That's not true of course. In some ways it's a whole new knowledge area and kids get incredibly enthusiastic, which is great.' 21st century skills 'We plan to look at the situation now and compare that with the core goals of the new curriculum to see where there's overlap. A lot of these 21st century skills we may already be providing in other areas, but not as separate subjects, and that's good. As with citizenship, you can integrate them across the curriculum. It's teaching the mindset that's important.´' Plenty of schools are attempting to get a headstart on the compulsory coding part of the anticipated new curriculum by incorporating lesson plans and accompanying coding software, such as that from Amsterdam startup Bomberbot, into the school day. Jolanda Rietel, a teacher at Amsterdam school Vier Windstreken who has been using Bomberbot's game-based learning with her Year 7 pupils told Dutchnews.nl: 'At the moment it is proving very beneficial, as the pupils need to work in a solutions focused way and this helps with other subjects too'. Digital literacy Some tech educators like Deborah Carter, the founder and business director of NewTechKids in Amsterdam are concerned some schools might well place too much emphasis on technical skills such as coding as they begin making their digital literacy plans. 'Onscreen coding and software packages are useful, but what is essential going forward is to teach computational thinking and critical thinking about technology: young people need to be able to access, manage, communicate with tech, and apply critical thinking to create tech themselves,' she says. 'Many schools are going the technical skills route because it’s easy to pick up. But coding is only the last 5% of the technology development process. It's execution. There's a lot of thinking, problem-solving, designing and testing before coding can take place.’ Upon moving to Amsterdam from Canada, Carter found a lack of tech-oriented education and after-school activities for her primary age son. So, together with her business partner Marja Ilona Koski (a Finnish computer science teacher), she began providing these sort of extracurricular activities for children ages 4-12. Unplugged sessions NewTechKids teaches programmes focused on technological innovation, computer science and digital literacy during school, after school and during school holidays. Alongside computer and tech-building tools they also also have ‘unplugged' computer science sessions based on arts and crafts activities, pen and paper exercises, games and DIY sessions. ‘It’s not about learning to code in specific programming languages because that’s going to be out of date so quickly and programming itself is rapidly moving towards radical automatisation. Nor is it about iPads in schools,’ Carter says. 'It's about giving kids a solid foundation to understand technology and and start creating with it, rather than just being passive users. It's also about teaching kids to think critically about technology, its pros, cons, implications and ethics.' The group has run courses in all areas of Amsterdam. Parents' views about what boys and girls are capable of doing is just one of the obstacles they have come up against. But some children in less well off areas find using the modular tech kits difficult because they haven't played enough with basic building toys as youngsters. Carter believes having well-rounded tech education in schools is the only way to guarantee equal access. She is now moving on to helping schools develop their own digital literacy schemes. The Dutch government aims to have its plans for the new school curriculum ready to roll out in 2020 although some experts say it may take several more years to implement. A think tank of education professionals, Curriculum.nu, are currently working on a framework, covering nine different areas of learning including digital literacy. The plans, should be ready for presentation to the government by the end of this year. In the meantime Bomberbot's recent Digimissie offer, which offered 1,000 schools one year's free access, received over 30,000 requests from teachers within three days of its launch. Founder and chief executive Cristian Bello suspects that the surge in subscription requests is linked to the pace of the new curriculum rollout; as schools struggle to find a cost and time efficient way to bridge the gap between now and the new curriculum arriving. Bomberbot has now managed to extend the offer to 10,000 primary schools and are keeping a waiting list while they seek further sponsorship. 'I think the key action should be to accelerate it all,' says Bello. 'I understand that the government wants to avoid mistakes but there are 200,000 students per year in the Netherlands, and a lot of children could miss out on this essential education while the plans are still in development.'  If you are interested in introducing your child to programming you could check out some of the national coding events such as Coderdojo, for primary age and up, or Code Week, every year in October. For older students and adults the new coding school, Codam, set up by TomTom founder Corinne Vigreux, offers student led learning at the former marine base in central Amsterdam.  More >


DutchNews podcast – The Brex’nkaas Breakdown Edition – Week 46

DutchNews podcast – The Brex’nkaas Breakdown Edition – Week 46

In a week dominated by dodgy deals, Molly and Paul look at the implications of the Brexit breakthrough for UK nationals in the Netherlands, find out how a cinema chain lost €19 million in an internet scam and explain why Dutch language tests have been cancelled for the rest of the year. We also catch up with the ever petulant Max Verstappen, the triumphant women's football team and the soft cheese manufacturers who learned the hard way that 'over smaak valt niet te twisten'. In the discussion we look at plans to make the appointment of mayors more democratic and transparent. TOP STORY: BREXIT Foreign minister Stef Blok welcomes Brexit deal but will study terms closely NEWS Language tests postponed after students share exam details on social media Cinema chain Pathé left reeling by €19m internet scam Economic growth slows to 0.2% but sunny weather boosts spending Bitter aftertaste as cheese manufacturer loses 'copyright flavour' case SPORT Max Verstappen given community service penalty for post-race punch-up Dutch women qualify for World Cup via play-off route DISCUSSION: APPOINTING MAYORS D66 makes fresh attempt to change constitutional process for appointing mayors (Trouw, Dutch)  More >


Indiana Janssen? Dutch teacher writes thrillers about a Leiden archaeologist

Indiana Janssen? Dutch teacher writes thrillers about a Leiden archaeologist

It all started when Jeroen Windmeijer’s wife challenged him to work on a novel during his days off from teaching classes at a high school in Leiden. A few years later, he’s now the author of a bestselling trilogy of thrillers that have spawned their own smartphone app and an upcoming film. The series focuses on the adventures of Peter de Haan, an archaeologist at Leiden University, and a student-turned-historian named Judith Cherev. Together, they set out to solve mysteries that involve Biblical lore and real-life historical events. Their trials and tribulations have been compared to those of the scholarly globetrotters in the Indiana Jones films and American author Dan Brown’s novels. But while Windmeijer’s books have been successful here in the Netherlands and among Dutch audiences all around the world, will they capture the imagination of English readers? On 31 August, HarperCollins published an English Kindle edition of St. Paul’s Labyrinth, the series’ second installment. It’s currently available on Amazon. Windmeijer recently met with DutchNews.nl for his first English language interview to discuss how the trilogy developed, his hopes for the future, and what he discovered under the streets of Leiden while he was conducting his research. You currently work as a teacher but have you always wanted to be a novelist? Not really. Since I was 14 or 15, I’ve been keeping a lot of diaries. I also used to travel a lot when I was a student. Every summer, I would go abroad for two or three months just with my backpack and barely any money; to places like Mexico for a few months or Turkey. I wrote a lot in both these diaries and letters back home. So I guess it all started with those but I also wrote short stories and two novels as a student but they never went anywhere. Then it all sort of went away and I became a teacher of religious education and social studies. So what rekindled your desire to start writing again? I didn’t stop reading, especially books about early Christianity and religious thrillers by authors like Dan Brown. I always wondered why they take place in cities like London, Paris, Venice, and Rome, but never in the Netherlands. I started talking about this with my wife and I remembered that I had read a thriller by a Dutch writer that I thought was really bad and poorly written. Then I looked on the back and learned that it had sold 250,000 copies! I said to my wife, ‘I can do this’ and she said, ‘OK then, well, show me’. She challenged me and I decided I wanted to write a thriller with a religious theme. They always say ‘write about what you know’ and I know a lot about Leiden. I’ve been living here for 30 years now and I knew about St. Peter as well, the city’s patron saint. So how did you get started? I did a lot of research over six months about St Peter and discovered that he never went to Rome. He supposedly died there and that’s why the Vatican was built in Rome, right? Yes, but that’s all myth and legend. It’s still incredibly important though for the Catholic church to have a straight line all the way from Peter in Rome to the present pope. But there’s not a shred of evidence that he ever left Palestine and that became the basis for my first book, De Bekentenissen van Petrus (The Confessions of St. Peter). But you had a day job as a teacher and a busy life at home, so how did you find the time to write? After the six months of research, I started actually writing. Six months after that, the novel was finished. Here’s how I did it: the weekends were always too busy but I was working four days a week. So I spent every Friday writing. I would take our young daughter to school first thing so I had from 8:30 in the morning to 15:30 in the afternoon to write. I completed, on average, about 8 to 10 pages and then I shared them with my wife on Friday evenings so she could read them.  Did you rely on any sort of an outline? Some authors put plot points on index cards to keep everything organised. No, nothing like that. I just knew where the story would end. Every Friday, I would just sit down and write. Sometimes, I was surprised about the course the story took. During the best moments, it was like I was listening to the story myself and just had to type it. That’s how I worked on the other books as well. I did six months of intensive research and six months of writing before I sent my pages off to my editor. Then I’d get them back for review and do another six months of rewriting. Some people might find that inefficient and I have a friend who is a writer who only does about one page a day, but he never has to alter or edit anything. I could never work the way he does and I don’t think he could work the way I do. When did you start looking for an agent or a publisher? I waited until I was finished with the first book. I sent it to about 30 publishers and most of them never responded. That makes sense, since many of them get 50 or 100 manuscripts a week. I got a few standard rejection letters through email and only two of them explained why they didn’t want to publish it. So how did you finally get your first novel published? After all those publishers turned it down, I figured it was never going to happen. Someone told me I should try a local publishing company. I found one here in Leiden owned and operated by one person and she only printed nonfiction books. I sent her a copy despite this. Sometime later, she was planning to write me an email to reject it but, fortunately, she had a coffee break and started reading the manuscript. Before she knew it, she was on chapter 4 and she really liked it. So, for the first time in her life, she decided to publish a work of fiction. She printed a thousand copies and said she would be very happy if they were eventually all sold. They were all bought within two weeks so she did another run of 2,000 copies. Those were gone in another two or three months. This month, there will be a seventh printing with over 10,000 copies sold. What would you say was the trick to selling those first thousand copies? I promoted the book as hard as I could. I agreed to talk with every Dutch newspaper and magazine that would interview me. I sent out hundreds of emails and I went to bookshops around Leiden to see if they would let me do readings. I also did things like convince ten of my students to go to the magazine shop at Leiden Centraal station to ask if my book was available every few days. Then I went down there, spoke with them, and they said ‘People keep coming in here and asking about your book.’ They bought 50 copies and they sold them all within a few days. So a big part of the success was me being so fanatical about it. Then HarperCollins Holland started looking for new Dutch novelists to publish about three years ago. They saw that my book had sold thousands of copies without any traditional promotion. They thought, ‘if his first book can do this almost by itself, imagine what we could do if we give his next one a lot of publicity’. But did you really plan to write an entire trilogy? No, not at all. Needless to say, my first publisher was not amused when I got the offer from HarperCollins to write St. Paul’s Labyrinth, the second book. I felt like a young player for the Ajax football club in Amsterdam. They often coach players as young as six to become really good at football. Then, when they’re 18, a club from England or Spain will hire them. My publisher felt like she gave me a great opportunity and then I left when a bigger one arrived. But if I had stayed with her, I would have likely remained a local author forever. There’s only so much she could do with promotion and publishing, and her network is centred almost entirely around Leiden. The Dutch edition of St. Paul’s Labyrinth sold many more copies, around 30,000 of them. There’s different versions and an audio book now, too. The third book, Het Pilgrim Fathers-complot (The Pilgrim Fathers’ Plot), was published in August and it’s already being translated into English. So the whole thing has become so much bigger and there’s lots of publicity to keep up with. I no longer have to go to bookshops and newspapers to ask them to let me promote my books. Now they come to me and HarperCollins does all the scheduling so I can focus more on actually writing. Why is St. Paul’s Labyrinth the first instalment to be released in English? It’s a bit complicated, but it’s because the first book is primarily owned by my first publisher in Leiden. Eventually it will be translated into English, but probably as the last of the three books. Does that cause problems with the trilogy’s timeline? No, you can read any of the three books in any order. It doesn’t matter since they’re three separate adventures, much like with the character of Robert Langdon in the Dan Brown novels. While you were doing research for St. Paul’s Labyrinth, you explored some of the ‘tunnels’ beneath Leiden. What did you find down there? Was it like being in an Indiana Jones movie? It felt like it. I went to houses around Leiden that I heard had cellars that may have been part of these tunnels. Many of their owners were very friendly when I told them I was a writer and doing research for a book. At one house near the Rapenburg, it was like being in a movie. They took me into a bedroom on the ground floor and rolled away a carpet. Then they opened a hidden door and there was a tunnel that led all the way to the Rapenburg. So that house plays an important role in the book. So were there actually once hidden tunnels beneath Leiden? No, I had to disappoint a lot of people. In the book, there is a tunnel network that goes all the way around Leiden. One reader emailed me to ask if they were open to the public but I had to tell her that I made them up. However, there were once a lot more canals around Leiden. Many of them were closed up but others just had streets and housing put on top of them. Those are still down there and it’s possible to walk through them for a bit but they’re nothing like the tunnels in the book. Most of them are just wine cellars that were once part of a canal. As long as I’ve lived in Leiden though, I’ve heard legends and rumours that there were once tunnels all around the city. Some people who live here still believe that. They were supposedly dug while Leiden was under siege by the Spanish in the 16th century and were used to sneak food and water into the city. Have city officials or anyone like that come to you with concerns about all the mysteries and intrigue featured in your books? No, they’ve actually been pretty pleased with them. All three of the books now have walking guides that you can buy at the tourist office. While I’m going around the city, I sometimes see people with one of my books and one of those guides. They don’t recognise me or anything like that. Now we’re working on an app for smartphones. Next week, I’m going to a studio to record audio for it with information about locations in the books. People will also be able to listen to me read scenes from them in the areas where they take place. What’s the latest on the movie version of De Bekentenissen van Petrus? The entire movie will be filmed here in Leiden, which will make it the first motion picture to take place entirely in the city. The script is being worked on now and the plan is to have it in cinemas in 2020. Shooting is scheduled to begin in the spring with more in September and October so they can include Drie Oktober, the annual festival that takes place in the autumn. How are you doing all of this while still working as a teacher? I think I’m just very disciplined but I did recently start teaching only three days a week. I like this very much, though. Going to my room to write in the morning makes me happier than just staying downstairs and watching Netflix. Some people love to dance or paint. My brother loves to play football, for example, and he plays or practices three nights a week. No one ever asks him how he does it. He loves football so much that he’d do it five nights a week if he had the time. For me, writing is like that. I often can’t wait to get started. Now that this trilogy is completed, what are your plans for the future? I have a book deal to work on another trilogy and it will take place in some of these countries. The first one, which I’m writing now, is set in Bolivia with many of the religious themes of the first trilogy but with different characters. Then the second one will be in Guatemala and the third one in Mexico. I have a strong interest in UFOs and I want to feature them in the third book since there’s a strange temple in Palenque in Mexico that, with some imagination, features a carving that looks like a spaceman. There’s that modern myth that the gods in human religion were all actually aliens so it will focus on that. My goal is to write one book a year. I’ve been saying I’m a teacher with a writing job on the side. In the future, I’d like to be a writer with a teaching job on the side. I think I want to keep teaching since it keeps you young. It helps you keep up with what’s happening in society and it would be lonely just to sit home and write all day.  More >


Health insurance premiums go up, so should you be switching insurer?

Health insurance premiums go up, so should you be switching insurer?

Dutch health insurance companies are putting up their rates by an average of €8 a month next year, according to research by insurance comparison website Zorgwijzer.nl. This well below the €10 per month the government had been expecting. In addition, the deductible excess (eigen risico) remains the same in 2019 as it was in 2018 - at €385 per person. Despite the small increase in insurance premiums, the difference between the cheapest and most expensive health insurance is over €300 a year in 2019, the biggest gap on record, the Zorgwijzer research shows. So having a look at your current health insurance plan and switching to another insurance provider may save you a tidy sum of money. Changes What else do you need to know about next year’s health insurance? Firstly, the government has decided to make some changes in next year’s basic insurance package (basispakket). A new item in the basic package this year is the so-called combined lifestyle intervention (GLI). This means people suffering from obesity can claim help to pay for developing a healthier lifestyle by eating less, taking more exercise and improving their mental health and behaviour. The intervention is only meant for obese patients with an increased health risk. The cover has also been extended for people suffering from COPD and for people entitled to patient transport (by car, taxi or public transport). However, unlike in previous years, the government has not made major changes in the provisions of the basic policy. Making the switch Zorgwijzer expects a significant increase in people switching insurance company this year. According to their survey, 1,250,000 people will take advantage of the end-of year window and will have a different insurance policy in 2019. It can be tedious to select a better or cheaper health insurance policy, especially when Dutch is not your native language. Luckily, Zorgwijzer has developed an English comparison tool, which allows you to find a suitable plan for yourself and your family within five to ten minutes. If you decide to make a switch, make sure you do it before the end of this year. The new insurance company will then terminate your old policy on your behalf, making the switch even easier.  More >


Dutch destinations: enjoy suikerbrood and sailing in Sneek

Dutch destinations: enjoy suikerbrood and sailing in Sneek

Most famous for its Sneek Week, a week long sailing competition and festival, the Frisian city of Sneek (Snits in West Frisian) has plenty to offer during the other 51 weeks of the year. Molly Quell goes north (again) to check out to eat more suikerbrood and see what the city has to offer. The area around Sneek has been inhabited since Roman times and received its city right in 1456, joining the other 10 Frisian cities that make up the Friese elf steden or Frisian eleven cities. They may be more famous for the ice skating race, the Elfstedentocht. Or if your preference is for unfrozen water, Sneek Week. The city itself is the only of the Frisian cities to be walled, an expensive and difficult project due to the surrounding geography. Today, all that remains of the undertaking is one picturesque bridge which has become the symbol of the city. Sneek is now home to around 30,000 people and both C&A and Tonnema (a sweets factory known for its brand of King mints) were founded here.   Wander about town The city itself is lovely and offers your typical canals and cute canal houses. The city centre isn’t large so start your trip by wandering around. You will want to check out the Waterpoort, which is the remaining part of the original city wall as well as the symbol of the city. Then you can visit the fountain, installed as part of the European Capital of Culture, which Leeuwarden/Friesland is in 2018. Other notable architectural features include the Stadhuis, built with a Rococo facade in the 15h century, and the Martini church, whose bells were confiscated by the Germans during World War II. Take in some history and culture Sneek offers two museums, the Fries Scheepvaart Museum and the Nationaal Modelspoor Museum. Both accept the museum card and both are in the city centre. The former ostensibly focuses on the shipping, though it also includes exhibitions about the history of Sneek and the Elfstedentocht. If land based transportation is more to your liking, then the miniature train museum offers a lot of exactly what the name suggests. Both museums are kid-friendly and small enough to negotiate on the same day. Drink some Weduwe Joustra Beerenburg, an herb-infused gin, was created in Sneek and used to be popular with sailors. It was brewed originally at Weduwe Joustra which is now a liquor store and museum. There you can find plenty of versions of this local spirit for sale, as well as take a tour of the museum which, of course, is followed by a tasting. The building is one of the oldest in the city, dating from 1484. Take a boat tour The city is famous for its water and offers plenty of options for boat tours. You can see the city from a whole different angle and, if you choose a small enough vessel, even travel under the Waterpoort. Where to eat De Walrus is one of the more famous cafes in the city, with a beautiful terrace when the weather is nice and good sandwiches year round. The cafe offers both lunch and dinner as well as high tea and high wine. If you want a slightly more adventurous menu, Stadscafe Dubbels is a trendy spot with an interesting menu configuration: everything is the same price and you order two dishes. The portions aren’t large, so in total you end up with a good and varied meal. Friesland is famous for its suikerbrood and Sneek offers some of the best. Try it at Bakkerij De Haan, which also counts oranjekoek and vanillestafjes among its specialities. It’s famous enough that you can even purchase a miniature of the building for your Christmas village. If all that food has you thirsty, find your way to Bier Cafe 3B. They have 25 beers on tap and 200 bottles, including many local brews from the city and the surrounding area. It also offers from finger food, in case you need to balance out the beer. Where to stay If you don’t want to stray too far from the beer, you can try Logement 3B. Located directly next to Bier Cafe 3B, it’s a funky and modern hotel located in the city centre. Run by a family, it’s walking distance to the train station if you choose to come by public transport and as it’s connected to the bar, so plenty of good beer options. For a more traditional hotel option, there is the Hotel Stadsherberg Sneek. The building was built in 1845 and reopened as a hotel in 2014. It overlooks the water and is located about 30 meters from the Waterpoort. There’s a cafe on the premises should you get hungry. How to get there Sneek is small and easily walkable. You don’t need a car for the weekend and you can get there by train. Trains run regularly to Leeuwarden and Stavoren. However, if you go by car, you can see the Wooden Bridges, which were built to resemble old ships using sustainable wood.  More >


DutchNews podcast – The Mosquitos Should Be Dead By Halloween Edition – Week 45

DutchNews podcast – The Mosquitos Should Be Dead By Halloween Edition – Week 45

The regular podcast team returns to discuss whether nuclear power will kill us faster than global warming, why there's been a rash of births among sports stars and whether filming at accident scenes should be banned. We also bring you up to date on the Pakistani lawyer fleeing religious persecution, Ajax's revival in Europe and a forthcoming feast of Rembrandt. In the discussion we ask why several hospitals were allowed to go bankrupt last month and how the government can prevent a repeat of the chaotic scenes that followed. Ophef of the week: Emile Ratelband wants judges to fix his Tinder profile TOP STORY Asia Bibi may be heading for Netherlands after acquittal for blasphemy NEWS Red Cross launches campaign to stop filming at accidents VVD backs plan to bring back nuclear power De Bilt sets record for November 6 at 17 degrees Rijksmuseum to put all its Rembrandts on display to mark artist's death SPORT Ajax on verge of first Champions League knockout qualification in 13 years New dad Epke Zonderland wins world high bar title for the third time DISCUSSION: BANKRUPT HOSPITALS Up to 10 bidders in running to take over Amsterdam and Flevoland hospital operators Health minister Bruno Bruins says don't blame me after hospitals go bust Two more hospitals in serious trouble, says Trouw IJsselmeer hospitals ran up huge bills for imported cancer medicine (RTL, Dutch) MPs criticise Bruins for standing by and watching hospitals expire (Trouw, Dutch)    More >


From hospitals to dance: getting to grips with Virtual Reality

From hospitals to dance: getting to grips with Virtual Reality

No longer the terrain of developers and gamers alone, Virtual Reality has made its way into hospitals, architects offices, classrooms and the arts. Last month, hundreds of aficionados got together in Amsterdam and Esther O'Toole went along to find out what other realities are taking shape. It's still unusual and we're not quite used to it: watching people with strange contraptions on their heads, flailing their arms about, as if in the dark. But step into the seeming darkness and you´ll be surprised at how immersive it really is, how quickly you forget where you are and imagine yourself somewhere completely different. It remains true: with VR - you have to try it to understand it. In the four years since VRDAYS Europe started as a small assembly of enthusiasts, the once sci-fi technology has made the jump from expensive, early prototypes to more general access. This was the biggest version of the event to date with 1,800 registered visitors. Alongside VR, AR (Augmented Reality) and MR (Mixed Reality) or as it is increasingly referred to XR (Extended Reality), are all coming together and changing how we perceive the world in unexpected ways. ¨VR is becoming more and more accepted as a medium that will have a serious impact in many industries like healthcare, enterprise, entertainment and the arts,' says festival director Benjamin de Wit.  ¨There are still a lot of big challenges to overcome, such as smooth user interaction, standardisation and quality of goggles but also many exciting developments,' he told DutchNews.nl.  'Content keeps getting better, applications keep getting more serious, like Virtual Human Agents, there is more integration of AI and some super exciting research.' Virtual Human Agents - like the recently unveiled personal assistant, Mica, from American AR company Magic Leap - are computer generated characters that combine AI algorithms, data about the physical room you are in and almost flawless graphics, to increasingly look and act like real people. Their uses can range from taking over where our current voice assistants leave off, to playing characters in games, cinematic experiences, and VR therapy. The first day, at the DelaMar Theatre, was a packed schedule of speakers from across the field and the globe. Many of them later fanned out across the rest of the festival at the Kromhouthal to lead workshops, panel discussions and hackathons. Topics covered everything from the latest research on the effectiveness of VR for treating phobias, for boosting mental performance, or understanding life in a different body; to tools for storytelling in VR and how to score venture capital for your startup. Passing through the small congress section, where technologists show off their latest hardware (think multi-user functionality, haptic gloves and bodysuits) there was the option to stop off at the Birdly stand and take a flight over a Jurassic world (on their simulator), or hang off the side of a skyscraper in The Impossible Leap experience from HP and Universal Pictures. Meanwhile, over at the 'Church of VR' a specially curated selection of the best international cinematic and artistic work from the last year, invited new visitors to take a leap of faith and explore XR's potential for creating empathetic experiences for audiences. A piece on digital shamanism sat alongside work that puts you in the centre of unfolding documentaries and prize-winning, poetic art pieces such as Hsin-Chien Huang and Laurie Anderson’s La Camera Insabbiata, and Where Thoughts Go from independent creator Lucas Rizzotto. Something more analogue was on offer in the yurt where attendees slipped off shoes for the Philosopher's Salon; here artists and thinkers such as Vesna Petresin led small, intimate discussions on the ethics and human presence needed to underpin real technological progress. 'I'm always asking myself what is the practical use of this,' says Tieres Tavares, CEO and co-founder of distribution company Quanta DGT, who was visiting the fair from Brazil. In the past year Tavares has been looking at ways to bring XR content to cinemas across South America. In doing so he also discovered an educational VR experience about prenatal health that originated in the UK. He is now organising the introduction of that experience into maternity hospitals back home to help mothers, and other relatives too, adapt to the arrival of a new family member. Another visitor was David Black, of Pitch Black Productions in Britain. Black specialises in immersive audio, working on performance and storytelling pieces. His new think-tank, The Human & Emotive Connection Assembly (HECA) is aimed at sharing best practice among current professionals while developing a complementary learning trajectory for young people. 'It’s very serendipitous how people get into this field at the moment,' he says. 'I’d like to create a channel that doesn’t exist yet for a new generation of makers to get into it too, one that gives a sense of community and support.' Someone else looking to create new chances for developing creators is Astrid Kahmke, creative director of  The Bavarian Film Centre. A lack of engaging content has long been considered a potential obstacle to mass adoption of VR and Kahmke focuses on helping to define VR/XR as a new art form. This could include, for example, combining dance with motion capture sensors and virtual environments or incorporating VR into theatre. 'There is something in the waters here that makes for a special, family-like atmosphere,' she says. 'An open-mindedness. I find it inspirational that at the end of a very, very long day, several hundred people come together to keep talking. Everyone is so curious. You see creatives blossom. We want them to get their projects made.'  More >


Write it down: why written notice is indispensable for employers

Write it down: why written notice is indispensable for employers

In a time when we accept VOIP calls, sound bites and instant messaging as standard work tools, it can be tempting to believe that a verbal discussion is sufficient – but this is not always true. In the case of ending a fixed term employment contract, written notice remains essential, writes lawyer Daniëlle van den Heuvel. As the end of an existing fixed-term employment contract approaches, employers have an obligation to notify their employee about how they wish to proceed. Whether the employer wishes to renew the contract or if they wish to end the working relationship, they must inform the employee of their intentions. This notice must be given more than a (calendar) month before the end of the existing contract, and – critically – that notice must be given in writing. Always put it in writing Under Dutch law, not only does an employer have an obligation to notify, it is also mandatory that they serve that notice in writing, whether this is done as hard copy (paper) or via a digital format such as email. In the event of a disagreement, the written notice can provide evidence of what was communicated and when. If the requirement to give formal written notice is not fulfilled, or is not done correctly, then the employer may find that they are liable to pay the outgoing employee compensation. Temporary or fixed term contract? The law still applies A fixed-term employment contract ends by operation of law by the end of the term. As such, employers do not have to take action to end the employment (unless otherwise stipulated in the employment contract). Nonetheless, they still have the same duty to inform the employee that the employment will end by giving them written notice at least a month before the contract expires. What happens when you get it wrong The following two cases give examples of the consequences of not adhering to the legal requirements for giving an employee notice in writing. In the first case, more than a month before the expiration date, an employer informed his employee verbally that they wished to extend the fixed term contract. The employee accepted this extension – but then subsequently changed their mind and gave notice to terminate the contract, informing the employer verbally of that decision. When the case went before the Court of Appeal in The Hague, the court could not determine if notice had been given on time, as it was not done in writing. Because the employer had not given written notice that they did not wish to extend the original contract, the court ruled that the employee was entitled to be paid compensation. In a second case, an employer notified his employee verbally that the existing employment contract would not be extended, but that the employee could continue to work for the organisation via a payroll system. When this case went to court, the court found that while the employee was aware that 'something' had changed his employment contract, the verbal notification did not make clear when the existing employment contract would end. As a result of the notice not being given in writing, and the resulting confusion, the employee in this case was also entitled to compensation. Employers, here’s how to get it right Do it on time, and do it in writing. At least one (calendar) month before the employment contract expires, give your employee written notice of whether or not you wish to extend or terminate the contract with them. If you do wish to extend, write down the conditions under which this will take place. If you are late in giving your employee notice, inform the employee in writing anyway and keep the original end date of the employment contract. You will then owe the employee a fee - but only for the number of days that you are late in giving notice. If you are unsure if you have fulfilled your duty to notify as an employer, get legal advice as soon as possible. Questions? More information? If you would like to know more about your legal obligation to notify your employees, or if you’d like to discuss one of the topics raised here, please contact us. About the author: Daniëlle van den Heuvel Daniëlle van den Heuvel works in employment law and property law at GMW lawyers and is a contributing expert on Legal Expat Desk. Within her employment law practice, Daniëlle is often called in to draw up or advise about settlement agreements between employers and employees. She represents both parties. Within property law, Daniëlle is mainly involved in rental disputes and procedures concerning real estate transactions, representing real estate entrepreneurs, project developers, housing corporations and private individuals. Daniëlle also gives regular advice on non-competition clauses, and publishes monthly in the legal magazine Rendement.  More >


Blogwatching: Opening night (a play about women, sex and porn)

Blogwatching: Opening night (a play about women, sex and porn)

The writer of Amsterfam moved from London to Amsterdam nearly two years ago with three kids. She switched school systems, ditched the car and threw her children into the box on a cargo bike. She has also been known to swear. In my privileged capacity as Tulse Hill’s greatest export to Amsterdam, twice Mumsnet’s blog of the day, guardian of #stevethebakfiets, fair-weather Instagrammer, diarist, documenter of disaster, dealer in schadenfreude – ALL my stock is in schadenfreude, that’s my only horse in the race, if you start to yearn for some actual useful intel about Amsterdam then I am FUCKED, I tell you, FUCKED – I am often, these days, on the receiving end of a phenomenon that I believe is called reaching out. The people who reach out and find me in their unwitting grasp are public relations consultants, and they have googled Amsterdam Bloggers – or, worse, Amsterdam Mummy Bloggers (Christ) – and, look! They found Amsterfam! Here’s a woman with 1.4 more children than average. She’s made some weird decisions. Let’s see what else she’ll do! It’s usually clear that they haven’t read the blog. No, I won’t review a baby car seat. I don’t have a baby. Or a car. I am not the droid they are looking for. It’s a little depressing, though; mothers only appeal to other mothers, and mothers who write? Well, you’re WordPress’s bread and butter, ladies! You’ve got some stuff to say? Say it into the internet! Or scream it into your pillow. Your choice. No-one else really cares. But every now and again, something lands in my mailbox that makes me think I won’t end up having a fourth baby just so I can review chamomile-infused teething earrings, or womb-music CDs, or pelvic floor rehabilitation retreats. “We’d love to invite you to review a performance of our Dutch première of ‘WET’”, says an email from Screw Productions. “A play about women, sex and porn.” How many tickets would I like? Well! I will take ONE TICKET! For myself! This is what happens when you’re an artist in Amsterdam, I think to myself. People say to you, do you want to come to this sexy sex thing? And because you’re very cool and easy-going, you say, yeah sure. I’ll go to that, on my own. I can do this, because I am comfortable in my own skin, and also too embarrassed to ask any of my friends if they’d like to come to a porn play with me. HELLO! We haven’t known each other long, but I thought it would be nice to sit next to each other whilst we watch something called “Wet”, which is about women, sex and porn. Our elbows might brush against each other whilst the pornographic pornography play is happening in front of us and I would be FINE with that. ABSOLUTELY FINE. Okay I’m going on my own. As I cycle into central Amsterdam on opening night (OPENING NIGHT! NUDGE NUDGE! Because, you know, SEX!), it strikes me that this will be the first time I’ve ever been to the theatre alone. I’ve never even been to the cinema on my own. It’s strange, that these passive activities are normally associated with accompaniment. Since my father died, my mum has been to countless plays and films on her own. She knows all the tricks to get the cheap tickets; what time to phone, where to go, which days are usually available. She takes herself off into central London, which she now knows like the back of her hand. She takes in an afternoon show, thinks it’s good or shit, and then she’s home in time for Coronation Street. Tell me you’ve got better retirement plans? The theatre, Perdu, is at the bottom of De Wallen – the red light district. The sex for sale is a few streets up from here, and as I lock up my bike I see families walking in that direction, to tick it off on their Amsterdam To Do List. The odd lone man wanders in the same direction; he also has a To Do List, but it’s probably shorter. I look down at my feet and find a silver turtle, which I find incredibly funny. It’s just as well I came by myself. (AS IT WERE! HAHA! YOU KNOW, SEX!) Waiting for the show to start, I realise that I am the only person in the room who has, um, come on their own. This, I realise, as I sit drinking bad white wine, is why we enjoy company at the theatre. The vulnerability of being your own date, the apparent audacity of pleasing yourself, is embarrassing. I think again of my mum. What does she do at this bit, when the theatre is filling up around her? She will always be early, as I am now, for fear of last minute disruptions. People leave gaps either side of me, assuming that someone will join me. Does this happen to my mum? A funny thing, about being alone – you are afforded more personal space than you need, as if you are contagious. The play, Wet, isn’t really about porn. The starting point is porn – we see Holly flicking through some generic snippets of internet porn, unable to find anything that really turns her on; men deliver packages and then get to the real package, women have been very naughty and need to be spanked, a secretary wants to know if there’s anything else she can do for her boss. Meanwhile, Holly’s flatmate, Sophie, has just been dumped by her boyfriend in favour of an Instagram Influencer called Simply Saskia who, I’m sure, has never been asked to review a fucking baby car seat. Holly is The Sex One, with a long list of conquests, and Sophie has only ever slept with her ex. In order to stop Sophie internet-stalking Simply Saskia, Holly suggests that they make a porn film – a good one. For women. This is where pornography exits, stage left. Because it quickly becomes apparent that pornography as we know it – spanked, shaved, oily and badly acted – is predominantly made by and for men. The women are sex-bots, tongues hanging out of their mouths, nymphomaniacs, begging for it. Men looking for pornography do not want a challenge; there can be no suggestion of failure, because you know what failure means? VULNERABILITY! And you know what doesn’t like vulnerability? PENISES! But do you know what turns women on, as Holly and Sophie discover? VULNERABILITY! Messy sex, not knowing what will happen next, telling each other what you like, what you don’t like, having these desires accepted and fulfilled by a sexual partner who is listening to you. It doesn’t mean you have to cry, or be in love, or even know each other’s name; it means not having to pretend that your labia are extensions of your clitoris. It means embracing mistakes and clumsiness in order to get to a place that feels good. It means intimacy, with or without emotional dependency. The writers of Wet, Bryony Cole and Grace Carroll, discussed pornography with groups of women whilst researching for the play, and their conclusion is the same one that Holly and Sophie come to – female arousal is hard to bottle; it’s ours, and ours alone. Sorry, fellas. No package deliveries today. The house lights come up, and this the best bit about going to the theatre on your own; no-one immediately says to you, “WHAT DID YOU THINK?”, when you’re still not quite sure what you think and you also really need a wee. On the ride home, heading out of the red light district as more men head in, I remember the only porn film that I have ever watched, during my Masters degree in Gender and Sexuality in Cinema. 'According to the university’s safeguarding guidelines, I can’t tell you to watch porn,' said my tutor, 'but this will be a tricky seminar to participate in if you haven’t.' At the time, I lived in South London with a group of opera singers. If you know any opera singers yourself, you’ll know that they are salacious animals. Quite insatiable. They hooked me up, and I hid in my room, watching a man fuck a lady over some gym equipment. Occasionally, the opera singers would pop their heads around the door to watch me watching porn, because I’m really very sweet. I remember two things about this pornography. Firstly, that there was an extreme close up of the penis going into the vagina, like something from the Discovery channel. As if to say, 'Look! It is really going in! We didn’t pretend! PENIS CAM!' Secondly, that it was clearly filmed in an actual functioning gym. Imagine if that was your gym! It was on the thigh cruncher machine, if you really want to know. I guess the angle worked. My father found it very funny that I had to porn as part of my Masters degree, and he told many people about it, to show that I was cutting edge, unafraid, a modern woman. Imagine if he saw me now! Blogging to many tens of people about my life as an Amsterdam housewife. Imagine. Some would say it is strange to be thinking about my dead father after watching a play about porn; others would say it’s inevitable. Either way, I’m at Museumplein before I know it, smelling the Heineken brewery on the air and dodging drunk Brits and rich Dutch people walking their dogs before bed. I cycle past the giant Iamsterdam letters in front of the Rijksmuseum, and then I think I should have stopped to take a photo – the night is beautiful, and the letters may shortly disappear in a move to dampen down tourism in the city. I’m annoyed with myself that I didn’t stop. Two minutes further on, I turn back. You can do that, when you are on your own. You can please yourself. No one’s watching. This blog was first published on Amsterfam.   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 >


Dutch News podcast – The Feminazis Take Over Edition – Week 44

Dutch News podcast – The Feminazis Take Over Edition – Week 44

The Dutch News podcast this week moves to Amsterdam, ditches Gordon and Paul, and introduces a whole new host of characters behind your daily news site. Senay Boztas and Deborah Nicholls-Lee join Molly to talk about the latest in the story about an electric wagon maker filing for bankruptcy, what advice Mark Rutte is giving schoolchildren and a new turn in the case of a Dutch collector accused of owning a stolen mummy. Molly talks sports and the latest with Max Verstappen, under sufferance, and Deborah goes on an unusual fishing trip. In the discussion, Dutch News editor-in-chief Robin Pascoe joins the crew to debate the merits (or otherwise) of moving Amsterdam's red light district. TOP STORY Electric wagon maker files for bankruptcy after fatal crash Manufacturers call for greater clarity on new electric vehicles on the road (in Dutch) NEWS Who's the Daddy? Buddha with mummy in hands of new owner, court hears Rutte advises schoolchildren to just say no to cannabis Cabinet divided on junior health minister's 'nanny state' plans for booze and fags SPORT Kiki Bertens ninth in world rankings Ajax beats Feyenoord Boy racer: Max Verstappen wins Mexico Grand Prix PSV Eindhoven B team out of KNVB cup. (No news on its giant Asian hornets.) DISCUSSION: MOVING THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT Amsterdam councillors propose moving the red light district to combat tourists who look but don't pay Prostitutes ask for 'gawp charges' (in Dutch) Parool reader proposes moving prostitutes from De Wallen (in Dutch)  More >


From great women to drug dealers: 14 great things to do in November

From great women to drug dealers: 14 great things to do in November

November may be a gloomy month but there is much going on to lighten the day, or night. Catch a play about Brexit, check out some Dutch masters which live in England and ask yourself why a hair that fell of the head of Maradona is in an exhibition in Utrecht. Say hello to old friends Matilda, the BFG, the Enormous Crocodile and many more are all waiting for young and old fans to come and say hello at the Quentin Blake exhibition in the Meermanno museum in The Hague. Some150 drawings, sketches, miniatures and photographs show how the illustrator based his instantly recognisable characterisations on the written text. Until March 3. Website Admire the Dutch masters with an English accent In total 22 17th century Dutch Masters are travelling to the Mauritshuis in The Hague from their august surroundings in 12 stately homes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland courtesy of the National Trust.  Among the paintings are Rembrandt’s self-portrait with a feathered bonnet and Gerard Terborch’s The Introduction or, depending how you interpret the look on his face, An officer making his bow to a courtesan.  Until January 6. Website  Catch, or be, a drug dealer An ‘experience/exhibition’ in the Maritime Museum in Rotterdam reveals the extent of the criminal drugs trade that is conducted through the port. Visitors will be put through their paces as they take on the role of a port worker, customs officer, dealer or judge in a scenario by Chris Westendorp of tv series Penoza fame.  Will you be taking that bribe? ‘Dealing with drugs’ is on until October 2020. Website Go for a walk Now that the brrr is finally in the month Natuurmonumenten is organising (among lots of other things) a bracing winter walk in the Kennemerland. With a high tea at the end to replace any calories you may have lost on the way. November 11. Website Behold B The B Word – Strategies for a Graceful Exit - no prizes for guessing what the B stands for although Bastard would score points – is an original play about three people who no longer feel they belong in Britain and make their way to the Netherlands. Presented by the Orange Theatre Company in Amsterdam, it explores the ramifications of B on personal lives. It’s a comedy drama so (hollow) laughter is on the menu too. November 9 (premiere)  and November 10, 11, 16 and 17 . Website   See two worlds collide Borders, a play by acclaimed playwright Henry Naylor, tells the story of Syrian artist Nameless who is trying to escape the Assad regime and photographer Sebastian who, to save his cynical soul, travels to Syria for a magazine. They meet in the middle of the Mediterranean. Presented by STET in The Hague on November 15, 16 and 17. Website Have a giggle at Easylaughs English-language improv theatre Easylaughs presents an evening of anything that pops into people's heads at the time at the CREA Cafe in Amsterdam. Will the improv actors and stand-up comedians dazzle you with their brilliance or will you need to bring a book? Find out on November 16. Website Get the Ehrenreich perspective De Balie in Amsterdam presents what should be an interesting conversation between Dutch journalist Joris Luyendijk and American investigative journalist Barbara Ehrenreich about her life and work and her unflinching look at American society. November 23. Website Meet some extraordianary Dutch women The Amsterdam Museum is making room for 200 remarkable Dutch women most of whom no one has ever heard of. Typical!  Based on historian Els Kloek's book 1001 vrouwen in de 20e eeuw, visitors meet scientists, educators and politicans as well as a courtesan, a brothel keeper and a poisoner. Until March 3. Website Adore a hair on Maradona's head Fascinating stuff at the Catharijne Convent museum in Utrecht: the world of relics. From a richly decorated holder for a splinter of the crown of thorns to a little altar for a hair from Diego Maradona's head, the exhibitions shows the meaning people have always invested in the tangible (if often fake) objects connected with perceived greatness. Until February 3. Website Be swept away by Rubens 'Avid, lively, lushcious' is how museum Boymans van Beuningen in Rotterdam describes its exhibition of 65 Rubens oil sketches. Some people would add pink and podgy but that wouldn't do justice to the extraordinary sense of movement  and exitement Rubens infused in his sketches. 'Pure Rubens' is on until January 13. Website Compare different strokes The impressionists of the late 19th century discovered that their rough and ready brush stroke had much in common with that of the 17th century Dutch master Frans Hals and claimed him as one of the their own. 'Frans Hals, c'est un moderne,' they said.  The Frans Hals museum in Haarlem gives you a chance to compare styles. Until Februari 24. Website Don't miss 'Our problem is that we live in just about the most beautiful city in the world' said Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan (1955-2017). Van der Laan, who worked on the exhibition in the Amsterdam Museum until shortly before his death, takes visitors on a tour of 80 photos and objects illustrating the history of Amsterdam and the challenges economic growth and expansion have brought the city. Until November 4. Website You have just four days left to catch the Crossing Border Festival in The Hague where writers, artists and musicians from all over the world meet. Until November 4. Website  More >


What makes the Dutch who they are? New book aims to unravel NL’s dna

What makes the Dutch who they are? New book aims to unravel NL’s dna

For a small country built on boggy ground, the Netherlands has punched well above its weight in global history. Foreigners, as outsiders, have written many books which aim to unravel the peculiarities of the Netherlands. Now local journalist Cees van Lotringen has written his own insider story about what makes the Dutch Dutch. There are three reasons why the Dutch have become what they are, says financial journalist Cees van Lotringen. 'Firstly, the landscape. We have built our country in a difficult environment  and that has forced the Dutch to be extremely inventive - not only in water management. They had to get their food from elsewhere as well because the marshy ground was not good for farming. And when they bought too much, they sold it on, which of course helped drive their business instinct.' The 80 Years War with Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries, which resulted in the provinces which then made up Netherlands toppling their ruler and winning independence was another major factor in making the country what it is. And the third factor, says Van Lotringen, is that the Netherlands has never had the top-down system of rule that other countries had. 'The Netherlands has never been in that situation, with a monarch and a population of serfs,' he says. 'The landscape meant that the Netherlands urbanised much more quickly than the rest of Europe. We had autonomous cities of 10,000 people in the 17th century which was pretty unique. Amsterdam was a city state, with a population of 175,000 and was the third biggest population centre in Europe.' Free will These city and provincial states created an independent people, who worked together out of necessity. So how did they become the free thinkers of the Golden Age. Much of it, says Van Lotringen, is down to the philosopher Erasmus, whom he sees as the founder of Dutch society and by far the most important person in Dutch history. This stems from his work alongside Thomas Moore on humanism and his development of the concept of free will, which was later adopted by Spinoza and helped drive forward the Enlightenment. 'The concept of free will and free thought ultimately stems back to Erasmus. The concept of tolerance as we know it today comes from him,' Van Lotringen says. The Dutch may have invented the stock exchange in 1602 and traveled the world in search of trade, but they also took good care of their poor. But this free-thinking approach to society began to change in the second half of the 19th century when Catholics were once again allowed to worship in public after decades of being forced into hiding after the Iconoclasm. The concept of verzuiling - a society made up of different pillars based on faith or belief systems which operate independently - dominated the country up to the 1950s and 60s but was broken down in subsequent years. Social segregation 'I know from my own youth how awful the effects of this type of social segregation can be,' Van Lotringen says. 'I lived in a street with some Protestants but you were not allowed to talk to them. And the same is happening again. Verzuiling is returning via immigration, partly because we don't have a national and inclusive story to tell about who we are and have a hard time encouraging integration. People with very different cultures have arrived here and they have been allowed to go their own way. Erasmus's legacy is at stake.' So how then, for example, can the foreigner become truly integrated into Dutch society. 'I think the Dutch should do more to help people to integrate,' Van Lotringen says. 'You are expected to join in, not to complain, to keep it business-like and add something to society. But the Dutch are not going to go to a lot of trouble to show you how you can get involved in the first place.' This sense of distance and 'just get on with it' attitude poses an increasing risk, given the arrival of so many people with different backgrounds, Van Lotringen points out. 'We've got no idea how to deal with this. The English, for example, have a much better story about being English, but what is our story? I think much of this is due to our economic identity. We are only interested in how we can make money, to put it bluntly.' 'There are advantages to this frugality, but I can imagine that from the perspective of foreigners, we are not probably the most interesting people.' Entrepreneurship and pragmatism Van Lotringen's book traces the story of the Dutch from the Golden Age to the present day, interweaving it with parts of his own family history. Then, as now, a period of growth and prosperity is being threatened by growing inequality, moral decay and shifts in the balance of power, he says. The Dutch and most Europeans may be living in a period of peace, stability and prosperity at the moment, but what is crucial now, says Van Lotringen, is to keep hold of what has been learned over the past 500 years. Entrepreneurship, pragmatism, free thinking - these are the concepts which, he says, we need to take with us into the future. So could the Dutch still fight together against a flood? 'If we are inclusive and continue not to involve people with different backgrounds then we have a big problem,' he says. What we need now, he says, is political leaders with intellect, vision and an inclusive story. 'However, there is more discussion between people from different backgrounds these days, which is a step in the right direction.' The influence of climate change, combined with geopolitical, social and technological developments, show the need for a change in mentality throughout Europe. The Dutch, he says, with their pragmatic, anti-fatalistic and 'get stuck in' approach, can make a real contribution to that. 'Tot hier en nu verder: Nederland op de drempel van een nieuwe tijd' can be ordered directly from tothierennuverder.net DutchNews.nl has three copies of the book (which is in Dutch but is an uncomplicated read) to give away. Email editor@dutchnews.nl, explaining why you would like a copy and including your address. The best three emails will win a signed copy. Cees van Lotringen is giving a talk on the Dutch dna at TEDxAmsterdamED on October 31.  More >