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


You may have a Dutch passport, but when are you really Dutch?

You may have a Dutch passport, but when are you really Dutch?

At least one of your passports may prove that you are Dutch. But who actually gets to be seen and accepted as a Dutch person by society at large? Traci White has been finding out. The 'average Dutch person' seems to be the only voter that Dutch political parties have cared about during elections this year and in 2017, even though no one knows who this imaginary man or woman is. One party’s 'gewone Nederlander' is another party’s 'boze burger'. During a 2017 lecture, Sybrand Buma of CDA said that the so-called 'boze burger' (fed up citizen) is just a normal Dutch person who feels he or she has hit a wall. 'His job has been given to an immigrant or an Eastern European person, his child’s education has become too theoretical and the coarsening of society is projected into his home on television.'Buma said. In a 2018 municipal elections campaign video, Geert Wilders, the leader of the Islamophobic PVV, avowed that Islam is antithetical to Dutch identity, implying that a person cannot be Muslim and Dutch. Videos The VVD made a series of question and answer videos in 2017, one of which featured prime minister Mark Rutte explaining his idea of who the average Dutch person is. 'They’re you and me,' he says, gazing cheerfully into the camera. To Rutte, being Dutch simply means working hard. 'Anyone who wants to make a positive contribution to this country in some way is a normal, average Dutch person.' Even left wing darling Jesse Klaver of GroenLinks invoked the 'average voter', describing him or her as someone who 'does not complain and doesn’t have a big mouth, but they keep this country going'. After all these invocations, Dutch newspaper NRC tried to nail down who this elusive average Dutch person is. Statistically speaking, he or she is a 42-year-old who lives in Hardenberg, earns €42,000 a year, has a cat, likes beer, goes to Germany on vacation, is not religious, works full time and is unmarried. And loves cycling, obviously. Who is  Dutch? So that’s the average, but who is Dutch in the first place? Better yet, who gets to be seen as Dutch? As of 2015, there were 1.3 million dual citizens in the Netherlands, nearly 8 percent of the entire Dutch population (the CBS statistics tracked the number of Turkish and Moroccan people who became dual citizens separately, and all other national origins were combined). Legal changes made it more difficult to qualify for Dutch citizenship starting in 2003: with a few exceptions, in addition to taking a citizenship test, immigrants have to live in the Netherlands uninterrupted for five years. The number of naturalised citizens was already in decline, but it dropped dramatically in 2004, and the numbers remain far lower than their peak period in the ‘90s. It takes three generations to be seen as Dutch, legally speaking. In 2017, there were four million people with a migrant background, which is 23.5% of the total Dutch population of 17 million. That breaks down into 2.2 million first generation immigrants (born abroad) and 1.8 million second generation immigrants (born in The Netherlands). Dutch identity The most famous first generation immigrant is Queen Maxima: the Argentinian-born royal became Dutch in 2001. In the early years after joining the House of Orange, her ability to speak the language charmed the Dutch public. But when she used those language skills to express an opinion in 2007, Dutch folks were less impressed. 'The Netherlands is too multifaceted to summarise in a single cliché' The then-princess alienated some in the Netherlands when she said, 'The Netherlands is too multifaceted to summarise in a single cliché'. It was an assertion that seems perfectly logical coming from the lips of a dual citizen: she also stated that there is no such thing as 'the' typical Argentinian. But eleven years on, it remains one of the most memorable and controversial statements the now-queen has ever made. Maxima acknowledged that of course there are traditions that define Dutch culture, but her point was that the Netherlands contains multitudes, and has for centuries. In her remarks, the queen went on to cite hospitality and warmth as typically Dutch traits, but the two characteristics that the Dutch are arguably best known for are tolerance and candour. Both bely a deeply fair and brutally honest character, which the Dutch pride themselves on. But as many minority Dutch citizens and immigrants have discovered, tolerance can feel more like you are being put up with than being truly accepted. The candid, sardonic sense of humour that so many Dutch people seem to possess can feel downright cruel when you are on the receiving end, precisely because it is brushed off as simply joking. In a 2015 book by Groningen residents Thomas Sykes and Iris Engelsman, 'Awareness: Discrimination in Groningen', Sanne Smid of the Discrimination Hotline Groningen wrote that people should consider the impact of a politically incorrect joke. 'Not that you can’t crack jokes anymore – humour is far too important for that – but how often do you stop and think about what your words and behaviour can do to someone else? Are you prepared to accept that your remarks may come across differently than intended?' 'Are you prepared to accept that your remarks may come across differently than intended?' Thomas Sykes, an African-American man, was prompted to write the book after he was racially profiled in Groningen. He was walking down the Gedempte Zuiderdiep, the same street where the barbershop he owns is located, fancy bike in hand, when two police officers started questioning him about where he got it. 'We don’t see a guy like you with a bike like this,' they told him. The incident moved Sykes to join forces with Iris Engelsman and write about similar experiences that people from other minority groups in the city have had. Bike Rodaan Al Galidi, an Iraqi-Dutch novelist, won the EU prize for literature for his 2009 book, 'The Autist and the Carrier Pigeon'. In early June, he was pulled over by police in Zwolle because the cops suspected he had stolen his own bike. 'Is this your bike? Why does it have a different lock? Where did you buy it? How much did you pay for it? How long have you had it? Why do the wheels have different numbers? Where does the man that you bought it from live? How do you know him? Does he sell bikes to other people? Can I see your I.D.? 'Do you spell it “A L” or “A I”? What is your telephone number? What is your address? You will be hearing from me.’ All of that, just because I went for a bike ride on a summer day after spending eight hours writing my latest novel…,' he wrote on Facebook. Othering In the Netherlands, Moroccan and Antillean-descended Dutch people are statistically likelier to be othered: they are suspected of committing crimes four times more frequently than so-called western migrants. Racial profiling is rooted in othering. Although it is not yet a recognised word in most dictionaries, Merriam Webster describes 'othering' as treating a person or culture as fundamentally different from another class of individuals, often by emphasising its apartness in traits that differ from one’s own. Othering seems antithetical to the tolerance that the Netherlands is known for and takes such pride in. Immigrants, and their descendants, whether they originally came here as refugees, knowledge migrants or something in between, may expect to be welcomed with open arms by the famously tolerant Dutch. But at times, it seems like the Dutch think that letting someone into the country at all is a grand enough gesture. 'Tolerating means you are claiming ownership over your own humanity and space' Dario Fazzi, a researcher at the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies in Middelburg, says that tolerance is not the right thing to be striving toward in the first place. Fazzi is Italian and has been working in the Netherlands for the past six years. He cites an essay written by the former American first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1940s called 'Tolerance is an ugly word'. 'I think she was right,' Fazzi says. 'Tolerating means you are claiming ownership over your own humanity and space, saying something is exclusively mine, be it space or nature. So you are not fully recognising somebody else as your peer.' Dutch tolerance Fazzi says that tolerance does not necessarily come from the kindness of one’s heart: there has been a mutually beneficial element to historic Dutch tolerance. The Dutch have traditionally let in people whom they felt had something to add, be it invited guest labourers from Morocco and Turkey in the 20th century or Sephardic Jewish people from Portugal who fled the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century and were seen as an economic asset in the Netherlands. Setting aside whether it should be a bare minimum or a goal, the question remains: is tolerance actually a defining trait of the Netherlands nowadays? Linda de Jong, an associate lecturer and process coordinator at NHL-Stenden University in Leeuwarden who is half Irish and half Dutch, says that she is not so sure. 'I don’t think we’re that tolerant at all,' she says. 'To me, tolerance means respecting one another, and being able to see another person for who they are. Our society has changed because so many foreigners have come over, but they’re Dutch as well.'   Melissa Weiner, an associate professor of sociology at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, argues that an Irish-Dutch woman, an Italian man or even an American woman like herself who speaks admittedly flawed Dutch are likelier to be accepted as part of Dutch society than a person of colour from one of the former Dutch colonies. Weiner says that having family that has lived in the Netherlands for generations and a Dutch passport are still no guarantee of actually being considered Dutch. Weiner and Antonio Carmona Báez are the co-editors of 'Smash the Pillars: Decoloniality and the Imaginary of Color in the Dutch Kingdom. The book, which was published on 15 June, revisits the former Dutch pillar system, which divided Dutch society – from television channels to labour unions – along religious lines well into the 20th century. 'The way the pillar system was set up always excluded people, even though it worked theoretically for some folks historically,' Weiner says. 'The pillars are a larger analogy for the whole country, where people have been excluded under a model that is perceived as being democratic when it’s really anything but.' 'The way the pillar system was set up always excluded people' Halleh Ghorashi, an anthropologist at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, is also a contributor to 'Smash the Pillars'. Ghorashi was born and raised in Iran, but she has lived and worked in the Netherlands for decades. Although much governmental policy emphasises learning Dutch and finding work as the best means for immigrants to integrate, Ghorashi’s research has found that it is not that simple. 

In fact, language inclusion can actually work against integration. Generalisations Being able to understand Dutch means knowing exactly what kind of sweeping generalisations are being made about foreigners, be it in overheard conversations on the train, in the media or during political campaigns. While Dutch fluency inarguably improves your employability, Ghorashi has carried out multiple studies which found that working in a job surrounded by Dutch colleagues can ultimately leave people feeling more left out. Being exposed to Dutch co-workers casually throwing around stereotypes about foreigners, joking or not, can make someone with a migrant background feel more isolated than accepted. Ghorashi says that exclusion is by no means limited to first generation immigrants. In a recent article in De Groene Amsterdammer, she pointed out that Dutch people with foreign – especially Muslim – sounding names were less likely to get invited for job interviews, less likely to get an apartment and more likely to be advised to seek a lower level of education than they are actually capable of. Teachers often recommend that students from a migrant background pursue a lower level of secondary school because their parents, many of whom were guest labourers from the post-war period, are not highly educated. Being underestimated instils a lower sense of self-worth in those students, who in turn end up being proportionally under-represented at universities. Slavery Another contributing factor is the inconsistency in how students are taught about Dutch history. The Dutch Golden Age overlapped with much of the Netherlands’ imperial colonising and enslavement, but Weiner says that only two Dutch text books make that connection explicitly. Indonesia, Suriname, Curacao, New York City and even Brazil were once part of the Dutch empire, which only technically ended in the 20th century when Indonesia fought for its independence against brutal Dutch resistance. The riches obtained during that era are the origins of modern Dutch wealth. For Urwin Vyent, the interim director of the Dutch National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery and its Legacy, the only way to achieve a more accepting and equal future is by being honest about the inequality of the past. NiNsee organises an annual Remembrance Day in Amsterdam for Keti Koti, the day that slavery officially ended in Suriname, on 1 July. Keti Koti means 'the chain is broken' in Sranan Tongo, which is spoken in Suriname. NiNsee wants the Dutch government to grant this holiday the same status as other remembrance ceremonies, like those in recognition of the Second World War. 'We have seen that there is growing awareness of the past' While NiNsee is focused on the Dutch history of slavery, Dutch society will also have to be honest with itself about the legacy of colonialism in order for everyone who lives in the Netherlands to ever be seen as Dutch. Slowly but surely, Vyent says that he sees things moving in the right direction toward true acceptance. 'We see that people are becoming more aware that the legacy of Dutch slavery is something that absolutely needs to be faced,' Vyent says. 'We have seen that there is growing awareness of the past.' Traci White is a journalist with The Northern Times. This article was first published on The Northern Times website.  More >


It’s back, the ‘I am not a tourist’ Amsterdam expat fair for internationals

It’s back, the ‘I am not a tourist’ Amsterdam expat fair for internationals

Find out everything you want to know about the Dutch expat life, under one roof: on Sunday 7 October 2018, the 16th edition of Amsterdam’s renowned I am not a tourist Expat Fair will shake up the Beurs van Berlage in the heart of Amsterdam. Explore what the Netherlands has to offer, including this year’s highlight sections: 'Jobs for Expats' and 'Houses for Expats'. Every year we give you the chance to take part in engaging and useful workshops, mingle with thousands of fellow internationals and network with companies from across the country in what has become the largest expat-focused event in the Netherlands. And, what’s more, it’s free! Living, working and studying in the Netherlands We have over 125 exhibitors and 40 professional presentations arranged around the themes of relocation, finance, employment, families, healthcare, education, transport, housing and setting up home. Next to that we have an entertaining programme. So whether you have just moved to Holland, are a long-term resident, or a digital nomad the I am not a tourist Expat Fair promises everything you need to know about living, working and enjoying your time here. This year’s fair will be the biggest yet; offering more than 3,000 expats the chance to talk with professionals from diverse industries and explore a wide variety of social clubs, volunteering and entrepreneurial opportunities. For families with children, the Expat Fair has a dedicated kids’ area managed by childcare professionals of Hestia Kinderopvang. Special housing and jobs themes This year the Employment and Housing themes at the fair will be extra highlighted, recognisable with the 'Jobs for Expats' and ‘Houses for Expats’ signage. Jobs for Expats : employers, experts, job coaches and recruiters will be on hand to help internationals wishing to build a professional network, continue their education, pursue their career or succeed as an entrepreneur. Bring your CV! Note: only exhibitors with the Jobs for Expats signage offer multilingual vacancies. Houses for Expats: There are many homes in the Netherlands available for expats looking to buy or rent, that is why we introduce this year at the Expat Fair ‘Houses for Expats’. Getting an understanding of tenants’ rights and property law is a must. At the fair you will find among others real estate agents, short stay residences, mortgage advisers, and notaries to help you find answers to your questions regarding housing in the Netherlands. Time to get in touch with all things Dutch Whatever your question, from ‘How do I set up a bank account and do my taxes?’ to ‘What is the best childcare, school or university for my child?’ the I am not a tourist Expat Fair can point you in the right direction. Both settled expats and new arrivals can find out about study, clubs and cultural activities. Whether you have lived in the Netherlands for days, months, years, or are yet to move - you are not a tourist! So make sure you keep Sunday 7th October 2018 free! Places are limited so book your FREE ticket online now to avoid missing out!  More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: enjoy art and cream pastries in Den Bosch

DutchNews.nl destinations: enjoy art and cream pastries in Den Bosch

Whether you call it Den Bosch or s-Hertogenbosch, the capital of North Brabant is a great place to spend a weekend. Its museums and quirky cafes are truly one of a kind. Here’s Brandon Hartley’s rundown on just a few of the city’s attractions. s-Hertogenbosch means ‘The Duke’s Forest’ in English but learning how to properly pronounce it if that’s your native language could take hours or longer. This is why many people opt to use ‘Den Bosch’, the city’s colloquial and much less tongue-twisty nickname. Once upon a time, Duke Henry I of Brabant and his family owned a large estate in the area. When he was still in his 20s, he decided that a nearby marsh with a few dunes would be a positively fantastic place to start building a city. He established Den Bosch in the late 12th century but it was allegedly all part of a scheme to protect his family’s land holdings from encroachment. The duke envisioned the city as an impenetrable fortress but his efforts all came to naught when soldiers from the nearby regions of Gelre and Holland stormed in and raided the place in 1203. Much of the fledgling city was destroyed. Amazingly enough, Den Bosch bounced back and later became the home of Hieronymus Bosch, the legendary artist. His vivid and often nightmarish depictions of the Christian afterlife may or may not have been inspired by a devastating fire that tore through the city in 1463. In the centuries that followed, Den Bosch endured wars and sieges from the French, the Spanish, and the Prussians, earning itself the nickname ‘Marsh Dragon’ along the way due to the marshes that surrounded the city’s ramparts. Nowadays, Den Bosch is known for its music and theatrical festivals in addition to being one of the wildest places in the Netherlands to head for Carnival. The annual event attracts thousands of attendees as the city is briefly renamed ‘Oeteldonk’ for three straight days of drinking, singing, and merriment galore. Things to do Journey to hell and back Den Bosch is home to several museums but this one is definitely the strangest. Housed inside an old church, the Jheronimus Bosch Art Centre is devoted to the life and works of Hieronymus Bosch. It contains life-sized reproductions of many works from his oeuvre along with sculptures of a few of the weirdest inhabitants from his often downright hellish paintings. Along with a recreation of his workshop in the basement, visitors can ride a glass elevator to the top of the church for stunning views of the city. There’s also an astronomical clock that features some grim depictions of Judgement Day. Check out the Van Goghs If Bosch’s paintings are just too dang creepy for your tastes, there’s also the Noordbrabants Museum. It’s devoted to the art, culture, and history of Noord-Brabant. Vincent van Gogh was born in the province and the museum currently houses several of the artist’s paintings. It’s also home to artifacts from the region’s Roman period along with art collections that date from the 16th century all the way to the modern era. Wander the streets Den Bosch wasn’t heavily damaged during World War 2, which means much of its architecture dates back centuries. One of the best ways to explore the city is by following this pedestrian route through its historic centre. The route features seven statues, arguably the most famous of which honours Dieske, a young boy who reportedly loved urinating in Den Bosch’s canals back in the 15th century. One night while answering nature’s call, he noticed enemy troops on the move. He quickly notified the city’s guards and became a hero in the process. Heaven’s hotline If you’re in the mood for more statues, you’ll find over 96 of them on the exterior of the Sint-Janskathedraal, the city’s famous gothic cathedral. During an extensive restoration project that was completed in the early ‘10s, over two dozen new angels were added, one of which has a modern twist. She can be spotted dressed in blue jeans and holding a cell phone that, as the story goes, allows her to make calls to heaven. At one point, there was a phone number that allowed visitors to contact the angel and leave messages for her. On a far more somber note, the elaborate interior of the cathedral also features an intense stained glass window that depicts the apocalypse and includes a panel showing the September 11th attack on New York City. Explore the sands of the ‘Sahara’ If the weather’s behaving and you’re looking for an outdoorsy adventure, consider a trek out to Loonse en Drunense Duinen. This national park, which is nicknamed the ‘Brabant Sahara’, was established in 2002 and is located about 19 km outside of the city. The ever-changing landscape is perpetually being shaped by the wind and it’s an interesting place to roam while on foot, bike, or horseback. Where to eat Den Bosch’s Bossche bollen have become world famous and, if you enjoy pastries, digging into one is considered something of a prerequisite if it’s your first trip to the city. Roughly the size of a tennis ball, the chocolate-covered puffballs are stuffed full of whipped cream and go great with a cup of coffee. You can find them pretty much all over the place but Banketbakkerij Jan de Groot often winds up on various 'best of' lists. Salon De Roosekrans, which dates back to 1794, is a great cafe that also serves Bossche bollen along with various lunch items and a selection of cookies and chocolates. Drab is a cool cafe to stop for a flat white or a more traditional cup of joe and they use beans from the acclaimed Blommers micro-roastery in Nijmegen. It’s also a great place to people watch at the window-side table (which is held up by ropes attached to the wall). For lunch, visitors often rave about Visch, a seafood market with a few tables that offers simple and freshly-made meals. Nom Nom is an adorable cafe with a more relaxed vibe and both lunch and dinner menus. The San Juan Cantina is where to go if you enjoy Latin American cuisine. 7evenden Hemel also typically receives top marks from lovers of seafood and meat dishes. If you’ll be up and about for breakfast, Buurt is one of the best spots to head in town. It’s a vibrant neighbourhood cafe with a few unique items on the menu. Their ontbijt pizza (breakfast pizza) comes covered in créme fraiche, bacon, fried eggs, cheese, and spring onions. They also serve American-style pancakes and worstenbroodje (sausage bread), a local favourite. If you can’t make it over there in time for breakfast, Buurt has lunch and dinner menus as well. Where to stay For a truly heavenly experience, book a night or two at De Soete Moeder. It offers comfortable rooms that recall its holier days as a monastery. Each room has retained its original details right down to the home stoups. Their restaurant also serves unique regional dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients that can be hard to find outside of Noord-Brabant. The always dependable Golden Tulip chain has a hotel in Den Bosch but, for a more unique experience, you could also try CubaCasa. This bed and breakfast has furnishings and decor that recreate the vibe and zest of the Caribbean island in the 1950s. There’s also an on-site sauna. How to get there Getting to Den Bosch is fairly easy. By car from Amsterdam, it’s around a 75 minute drive down the A2. Getting to Den Bosch by train from the country’s larger cities also isn’t too terribly daunting. Anything else? Carnival is a very big deal in Den Bosch. The annual festival is filled with local traditions and renaming the city for three days is just one of them. If you like to party, you can do worse than celebrate here. But if not, avoid the the weekend before the start of Lent.  More >


From heather fields to eagles – seven Dutch national parks to visit

From heather fields to eagles – seven Dutch national parks to visit

The first national parks in the Netherlands were established in the 1930s and they now cover over 130,000 hectares nationwide. Esther O'Toole takes you on a tour through seven of the Netherlands' natural treasure troves. If you have been led to believe that the natural landscapes of the Netherlands are flat, grey, largely rainy and agricultural then you have been mistaken. There are hills, dunes, forests and a beautiful coastline to explore; where you may encounter, wildlife as diverse as wild boar, beavers, seals, birds of prey and even… flamingos Most National Parks in Holland are now looked after by the Dutch forestry commission (Staatsbosbeheer) and their regional partners. As well as preserving the integrity of each area's unique character and maintaining a healthy environment for indigenous species, they also operate a great outreach programme, such as guided night-time walks with the forester. You can even stay on or very close to many of the 20 parks across the country. Choose from 22 small-scale nature campsites (with just the basic facilities like toilets, showers, bins and a fire hut) and associated B&Bs or small holiday homes. Best of all are the 'pole sites' - designated areas within which 'wild' camping is still allowed for adventurous and environmentally minded folks. Find them by GPS. 1 Utrechtse Heuvelrug (Utrecht) A high point in the middle of the country, this naturally undulating landscape gets its name from the glacial ridge at its centre. The hills range from the Gooimeer near Huizen down to the Grebbeberg by Rhenen. Founded in 2003 and extended in 2013, the park now covers 10,000 hectares of dunes, heath, forests, grasslands and floodplains. Loved by hikers and bikers for obvious reasons; but you can also join the forester to look for rare butterflies, learn about the edible plants of the area, or take an evening walk to spot one of the 100 bird species resident here - the rare, night-swallow. 2 Alde Feanen (Friesland) One of the youngest National Parks, Alde Feanen in Friesland is also a Natura 2000 European Special Area of Conservation. Formed in 2006 it covers 25 square kilometres of morass, meadow, peat bog, forest and waters including the Princenhof lake area. The park is popular with white storks who are making a resurgence, in part thanks to the work of the stork breeding station at It Ebertsheim. You can visit there or head to the park´s information centre in Earnewâld to hire boats to explore, take a drive on a tractor, or play in a haystack and find details of walks (with hired kit like magnifying glasses, tree measure, and pond nets for the kids). They also have a small agricultural museum here. 3 Veluwezoom (Gelderland) The oldest National Park in the country, Veluwezoom was set up in 1930. It sits on the southern edge of the Veluwe and takes up 50 square kilometres of (by Dutch standards) high country: the highest point in the park, is a full 110 metres above sea level! You can see highland cattle, badgers, and red deer here; and if you're lucky a wild boar, or rare pine-marten. Veluwezoom is one of a number of parks managed by the Dutch natural heritage conservation group Natuurmonumenten who, under the name Oerrr, provide fun, educational materials and events around the country. All of which are aimed at getting children familiar with, and out into, the wonders of nature for just €1.25 a month. 4 Drents-Friese Wold (Drenthe/Friesland) A mix of woods, sands and morass greet you in this 61 square kilometre park which crosses the border between the provinces of Drenthe and Friesland, home to unusual plants like bog-rosemary and diverse fauna including newts, lizards and snakes. You can also spot megalithic tombs, or hunebedden. 5 Maasduinen (Limburg) Some 4,200 hectares of heath and forest run along the German border here. You can keep walking for miles and straight from one country into the other, surrounded on all sides by banks of glorious, purple bell-heather. Alternatively, pick up the PieterPad, the longest continual walking route in the Netherlands which passes through here, between Pieterburen, in the province of Groningen, down to Sint Pietersberg near Maastricht. Watch out for the highland cattle, large goats and sheep employed to manage the moors! De Biesbosch (Zuid-Holland) Near Dordrecht lies this haven for water lovers - you can boat or canoe through its network of rivers and creeks, and moor up at the little islands dotted about. Locals say beware of getting stuck on the sandbanks though, or you may be there overnight! You would, however, be surrounded by the stillness of the willow forests and be able to watch kingfishers, sea eagles and possibly beaver in one of the last areas of freshwater tidal wetlands in north western Europe De Weerribben-Wieden (Overijssel) Another one best enjoyed by water, perhaps a canoe or a 'fluisterboot' (literally whisper boat) you can lose yourself in the maze of reed-bordered waterways while looking for the local residents: otters. Don't worry about getting lost though as you will soon find your way back to the Kalenbergergracht, the main artery running through the park. There are gorgeous little villages nearby, such as Giethoorn - which has become very popular indeed with coachloads of tourists. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, try Blokzijl or Vollenhove with their pretty town centres.  More >


From flowers to ballet and Islamic art: 12 great things to do in September

From flowers to ballet and Islamic art: 12 great things to do in September

The new cultural season starts in the Netherlands in September, and here is a round-up of some of the great things to see and do. Smell the flowers Zundert, in the province of Noord-Brabant is getting ready to stage ‘the biggest flower parade in the world’. The 20 small communities which make up the town give their all to produce the best float in a fiercely fought competition. The result is a parade of some pretty weird and wonderful – and enormous-  flowery creations which are well worth seeing. September 2 and 3. Website Meet Turkish writers The Balie in Amsterdam is organising an English-language evening with Turkish writers whose work does not meet with the approval of the powers that be in their country and who are forced to live and write abroad. Writers Çiler İlhan and Burhan Sönmez explain how living in exile has influenced their writing and how they feel about the present climate in Turkey. Translator Hanneke van der Heijden shares what it is like to translate politically sensitive work and how even translators may end up in court. September 6. Website Rave about the ravens For years Japanese photographer Masahisa Fukase's only subject was his (second) wife. When she left him, a devastated Fukase turned his attention to ravens of which he made a series of hauntingly beautiful photographs. Fukase's bouts with depression and alcoholism ended in a fall which left him in a coma for 20 years during which his work was largely ignored. Ravens and other series will be on show at Foam in Amsterdam, from September 7. Website Be blissful The Gemeentemuseum in The Hague has polished up 300 ornamental objects from its own collection exemplifying the magnificence of Islamic art. Splendour and Bliss - Art from the world of Islam - shows examples of calligraphy, lifelike depictions of animals and other intricate ornamental feats from the period between 900 and 1900.  From September 8. Website Celebrate monumental Europe 2018 is European cultural heritage year which is why the theme of this year's Open Monumentendag is 'In Europe'. International architectural styles, influences popping backwards and forwards over borders, you get the drift. And of course over 4,000 monuments will be opening their doors, from industrial monuments like the old Verkade chocolate factory in Zaandam to the luscious Huis Bartolotti in Amsterdam. There's a special treat for lovers of stage parafernalia: a recently discovered painted backdrop from the 1930s, on show in the Chassé theatre in Breda. September 8 and 9. Website Get your tickets if you haven't already The New Classics is the opening programme of the new ballet season of the Dutch Nation Ballet and a tribute to Jerome Robbins & Leonard Bernstein whose centenery it is this year. A triple bill features the European premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, set to Bernstein’s violin concerto of the same name. It also includes the Dutch premiere of Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering. It is rounded off with a revival of Chroma, choreographed by Wayne McGregor. From Tuesday September 11 to Tuesday September 25 at Nationale Opera en Ballet in Amsterdam.  Website Say hello to Freek and Hella Comedian Freek de Jonge and his designer wife Hella are taking up temporary residence in the Groninger museum this month amid a collection of personal items, such as the costumes worn by De Jonge during his shows, previously unseen film footage and other memorabilia linked to their shared professional careers. In other words: Het Volle Leven (Life lived to the full). From September 15 Website Do some royalty watching It's Prinsjesdag on the third Tuesday in September and that means politicians are reluctantly coming back from their hols to start the business of governing the country again. The King will once again travel by coach to the Binnenhof parliamentary complex before telling the nation how it is doing, accompanied by Máxima of course. You too, can be there and a paltry €17.50 will give you a perfect view of the royals.  September 18. Website Venez voir mes etchings Rembrandt in Paris is the somewhat misleading title of a new exhibition in the Rembrandt Huis in Amsterdam. It's not about the Netherland's most famous painter strolling around the Quartier Latin munching on a baguette but about a group of 19th century French painters who admired the freedom of his style, particularly in his etchings, which they emulated in their own work. Rembrandt in Parijs. Manet, Méryon, Degas and the rediscovery of the art of etching (1830-1890) opens on September 21. Website Move with nature September is here and the leaves will be turning soon. Time to visit the Bomenmuseum in Doorn and the Waterliniemuseum Fort at Vechten where artists have created work inspired by movement in nature. There is a 15k cycle route between the two open air exhibitions and you are allowed to picnic among the trees. On the Move is on until October 28. Website Get fruity You may, after the endless school holidays, be heartily sick of  taking junior on yet another outing but here's one where you can actually put him to work. Estate the Olmenhorst in Lisserbroek is celebrating its 25th do-it-yourself fruit picking festival which will have you eating apple crumble and pear tart until well into November. Lots of other activities are happening for parents as well such as a bric a brac market and a wine festival with mussels. From September 15. Website See a Dutch blockbuster, with subtitles The Dutch Film Festival kicks of on September 27 in Utrecht and this year it has a special treat in store for English speakers. The organisers have put together a special programme ofsubtitled Dutch blockbusters, films made in Englsih by Dutch directors and a series of talks and events in English. The full lneup will be available on September 3, which is also when ticket sales start. Website  More >


The 10 quirkiest locations to eat dinner in Amsterdam

The 10 quirkiest locations to eat dinner in Amsterdam

The Dutch have a long history of turning old buildings into something else. Think of the Kruisherenkerk (church) in Maastricht that is now a hotel. Or the old tram depot in Amsterdam that’s now the Foodhallen. So it’s no surprise that there are some weird and wonderful places to eat dinner in Amsterdam and its environs… Here are 10 of the quirkiest, for next time you feel like dinner with a difference: 1 Revolving office block: Moon When the old Shell building across the IJ River was transformed into the A’DAM Tower, restaurant Moon was one of the first new inhabitants to open. Any why? Because of the spectacular view diners are treated to from 360 degrees of revolving glass. Given that the restaurant is on the 19th floor, and the full rotation takes 90 minutes (just about long enough for a proper meal), it’s definitely a dining experience worth saving up for. And the food isn’t bad either: Chefs Jaimie van Heije and Tommy den Hartog have dreamt up a fine dining menu that presents classic dishes 'remixed' with international flavours. Dinner will set you back a pretty penny, but you’re paying for the view as much as the meal. https://restaurantmoon.nl/ 2 An island fortress: Pampus Forteiland Pampus is only accessible by boat – which is logical given that it’s a tiny island in the middle of the IJmeer that was built between 1887 and 1895 to defend Amsterdam against invaders. And while it’s no longer being used as a defence fort, the building itself remains largely unchanged save for what goes on inside it. Nowadays, you can take tours, attend festivals, and even get married there. But more importantly, you can reserve the Zomerlicht (summer light) experience during the warm months or the Winterlicht (winter light) experience during the cold months – both of which are culinary adventures in their own right. Either way, you’ll board an atmospheric boat in IJburg, and the rest of your evening will be taken care of for you – expect seasonal, local Dutch produce in a magical setting. https://www.pampus.nl/ 3 A moving train: Dinner Train Doing what it says on the tin, the Dinner Train is a restaurant housed in a train that runs from Amsterdam Centraal via Haarlem and Leiden to The Hague, and then back again via Gouda and Woerden. The entire experience takes around three hours, including a four-course dinner with wine. Although the food isn’t incredible, the kitchen does a decent job given the train’s obvious limitations, and freely flowing wine is certainly a plus. Whatever the time of year, you’ll look out over Holland’s fields and villages – although I’d imagine that it’s particularly spectacular in spring when the flowers are in full bloom between Haarlem and Leiden. http://dinnertrain.eu/ 4 A television studio on stilts: REM Eiland From the waters of the Houthavens, TV Nordzee broadcast to thousands of Dutch viewers for just a few months back in 1964. When the TV station was shut down by the government, the broadcasting station – essentially a platform built on stilts – fell into disuse until it was reborn as a restaurant several years ago. Nowadays, you can eat a modern European menu of meat, fish and vegetarian options while gazing out over the industrial terrain of the Houthavens (which is itself now being revived as a gentrified area to live and work). The terrace on the top deck is particularly sought after on sunny days – so long as you have a head for heights. https://www.remeiland.com/ 5 Water pumping station: Café-Restaurant Amsterdam When a city is four metres below sea level, water management is of paramount importance. So it’s no surprise that since the 1900s, the Westerpark area has had its own water pumping machine, water tower and engine room. While these have evolved in the intervening years, the disused engine room was converted into a café and restaurant in 1996. Unfortunately it seems they couldn’t think of a more creative name for it, but at least you know what you’re getting with Café-Restaurant Amsterdam. Nowadays, they serve a simple but well executed menu of sandwiches at lunchtime and classics like steak-frites or mussels at dinnertime. It’s also known for its child-friendliness. http://www.caferestaurantamsterdam.nl/ 6 An island: Vuurtoreneiland Yup, another island (that’s what happens when a city is built on water). This time, a lighthouse island originally built over three centuries ago and holding various functions since then. Now, you can take a boat from the Veemkade to the island just off Durgerdam for a Dutch fine dining experience that varies according to season. In summer, you eat in a giant greenhouse from which you can see the nature around you and (hopefully) the sunset. In winter, you eat in the converted fort – think open-hearth fireplaces, romantic candles and sheepskin rugs. As the island has no electricity or running water, food is cooked using old-school wood and fire, while cutlery and glasses aren’t changed between courses to save on water usage. And the menu has a clear local, seasonal message that’s heavy in vegetables and sustainable protein throughout its six courses. An intimate dining experience that’s well worth the waiting list. http://vuurtoreneiland.nl/ 7 The ground floor of a multi-storey car park: Waterkant Underneath a multi-storey carpark, Waterkant is now the place to be on sunny days in Amsterdam thanks to its expansive terrace stretching along the Singelgracht (the canal between Nassaukade and Marnixstraat, not to be confused with the Singel itself). Waterkant’s menu has much to offer in the realm of snacks and beers, but the focus of the main meals is Surinamese. Be sure to try one of their roti rolls (filled flatbread), gado-gado (vegetables with peanut sauce), or bakkeljauw (salt cod) – preferably washed down a Parbo beer. https://waterkantamsterdam.nl/ 8 A greenhouse: De Kas Housed in an enormous greenhouse and surrounded by plentiful gardens in the Frankendael Park is restaurant De Kas – a long-loved favourite in Amsterdam. The chefs pluck much of their menu from the greenhouse and gardens themselves, and what isn’t grown in their own backyard comes from nearby farms. So this dining experience is about as local as you can get. Dishes are small but you’ll eat five or six of them at dinnertime, and they change daily depending on what’s available. Expect Mediterranean flavours, impeccable service, and beautiful surroundings. https://www.restaurantdekas.nl/ 9 A ferry: Pont 13 Anyone who’s spent even just a day in Amsterdam will have noticed the public ferries that trek back and forth across the IJ River at various points. While most of these are for pedestrians and two-wheelers only, there are a couple of small car ferries – and what happens when one of these reaches the end of its ferrying life? It gets turned into a restaurant, naturally! Pont 13, just down the pier from REM Eiland, was one such ferry that’s now permanently moored for its guests. The dinner menu is simple – featuring a selection of antipasti to start, simple grilled fish and meal for main, and a few signature desserts (don’t miss the cheesecake!). It’s also an excellent option for group dining and large events. https://www.pont13.nl/ 10  A railway bridge: Wolf Atelier Housed on an industrial railway bridge from the 1920s that rotated to let boats pass through the Westerdok, Wolf Atelier may no longer move physically but it certainly buzzes with atmosphere. Chef Michael Wolf’s innovative cuisine has earned him a great reputation among the city’s gastronomes, and diners can choose from fixed chef’s menus as well as a la carte dishes. In fact, the bridge saw a few iterations of restaurants before its current version – but Amsterdammers are hoping this one’s here to stay. https://www.wolfatelier.nl/ Vicky Hampton blogs about the capital’s eateries on AmsterdamFoodie.nl – for more dining recommendations, download the Amsterdam Foodie’s Restaurant Guide.  More >


13 English-language theatre companies in the Netherlands

13 English-language theatre companies in the Netherlands

From open-air Shakespeare to comedy classics like ‘Allo ‘Allo!, the English-language theatre scene in the Netherlands now covers a myriad of genres. Here are our top picks from this rapidly-expanding realm. Amsterdam Toneelgroep Amsterdam Soon to be known as the International Theatre Amsterdam (ITA), following a merger with Amsterdam Stadsschouwburg, Toneelgroep Amsterdam is the city’s largest theatre group and is over 30 years old. Historically, performances have been in Dutch, with English surtitles on Thursdays to attract a broader audience, but the English-language offer is likely to improve as the new alliance seeks a more international following. They kick off the Amsterdam theatre season with an adaptation of the Ingmar Bergman classic Scenes from a Marriage, surtitled in English, which will later tour the country. International Theatre in English (iTIE) Run by Greek national Theodora Voutsa, the iTIE has – unsurprisingly – a taste for classical tragedy, with previous productions including Antigone at the Stadsschouwburg and Oedipus Rex at the Theatre of the UvA, although January’s The Ingenious Mind, based on the novel The Fountainhead, demonstrated the company’s versatility. Each year, iTIE stages at least one small production and one large-scale piece with a cast of over 20 players. InPlayers Amsterdam’s oldest English language theatre group has been drawing on international talent here in the Netherlands since 1957. The amateur company relies on a team of enthusiastic volunteers to run workshops, organise play readings and stage a range of plays, including pieces by Brecht and Shepard and fast-produced musical-in-a-weekend productions based on favourites such as The Rocky Horror Show and Fiddler on the Roof. Mike’s Badhuis Theater Converted into a theatre in 1982, this former bath house makes a characterful setting for a thriving amateur scene in Amsterdam Oost. The Badhuis International Theatre company stage four plays a year, as well as fill the programme with other local talent. Recent crowd-pleasing productions have included adaptations of vintage TV comedy shows Blackadder and ‘Allo ‘Allo! Orange Theatre Company Formerly the Orange Tea Theatre, the OTC – now under new management – has taken a more professional turn and is performing to larger audiences in some of the city’s most charming theatres. Recent productions ART and The Pillowman – which received a standing ovation – were very well received and this autumn’s Brexit-themed production is sure to strike a chord with the expat community. Queen’s English Theatre Company Founded in 2002, QETC stages plays and musicals performed by a largely professionally-trained cast. Past shows include The History Boys, Talking Heads and Little Shop of Horrors. In November, they are performing Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest at the CC Amstel in Amsterdam Zuid. Groningen Groningen University Theatre Society Better known as GUTS, this theatre company is a product of the English department at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen but welcomes off-campus talent. Now in its 150th year, the company has staged over 70 productions and continues to perform at least one play a year. GUTS also organises open stage evenings, monthly workshops and weekly social events. The Hague STET Stichting the English Theatre (STET) is based in Wassenaar but works with theatre companies such as Illyria and Tusk to bring English theatre to a variety of venues – including open-air – across the Netherlands. The broad programme includes musicals, Shakespeare and kiddie favourites such as Doctor Dolittle, aimed at the 5+ group. The Anglo-American theatre group If you want to give the kids a taste of traditional British pantomime, the AATG can oblige, and this year it’s Jack and the Beanstalk. This amateur theatre company is based near The Hague, though many of their plays are performed at venues and festivals across the Netherlands and sometimes in Belgium. In addition to an impressive back catalogue of pantomime, previous productions include ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore and Educating Rita. Leiden Leiden English Theatre (LET) Linked to the university’s English department but open to all, LET performs richly entertaining and ambitious works such as Dracula, The Great Gatsby, A Christmas Carol and The Three Musketeers, interspersed with plenty of Shakespeare, as befits students of English literature. They will be staging 1984 this November and Cinderella in December. The company also run acting and stage production workshops and organise regular meet-ups and parties for members. Rotterdam Rotterdam English Speaking Theatre The city’s first English-speaking theatre group is now in its 6th year. The amateur company hold open auditions for their – mostly comedy – productions, but are venturing into Lovecraft-style horror in April. Previous venues have included Roodkapje, De Unie and Theater ‘t Kappelletje. They also organise free improvisation evenings. Utrecht English Theatre Utrecht New kids on the block, amateur theatre group the ETU are only in their second year but have already had success with a stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, performed at the Theaterhuis De Berenkuil, which sold out. Their next production will be Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, which will open in February 2019. Theater Kikker Specialising in contemporary theatre, youth theatre and dance, the Theater Kikker is located on Utrecht’s Ganzenmarkt, close to the city centre. The theatre leans towards more experimental works and frequently stages plays in English, such as their recent English adaptation of Ionesco’s Amédée. Search for the ‘language no problem’ label to find upcoming entertainment suitable for an English-speaking audience.  More >


From the sea front to suburbs, here’s how to buy a house in The Hague

From the sea front to suburbs, here’s how to buy a house in The Hague

As the cost of rental housing continues to rise, buying your own home has become a very real alternative for expats – and no-where more so than in The Hague. The How To Buy A House events were created to help expats find their home in the Netherlands. The Hague is a welcoming city with a wide variety of places to live, from the rolling dunes in Kijkduin to the canals and gracious mansions of the city centre. You can live in an 18th century town house or a modern home in one of the many suburbs, a high-rise flat near the main railway station or close to the sea in Scheveningen. The first thing you need to do is decide where you would like to live, says Bernadette Willems, of estate agency BW Housing. ‘If your children go to an international school, you will want to be near them,’ she points out. ‘Otherwise, the Statenkwartier, Belgisch Park, Benoordenhout, Archipel and Duinoord are currently among the most popular areas. Price, of course is key and The Hague has homes for every budget. For example, a smart, four bedroom home on a new development near Kijkduin will cost you around €500,000 but while a seven-room flat in a 1920s house overlooking the sea will be nearer to €800,000. A family home in a popular area will cost around €1m, but there are large family flats to be had for around €550,000. Starter homes But if you are looking for a starter home at under €350,000, you have hundreds to choose from as well, especially if you are flexible about the neighbourhood. ‘€400,000 will get a young couple a good flat in a popular area,’ says Bernadette. So if you’ve decided to take the plunge, how to buy a house? Buying your own home in a foreign country might seem daunting, but it is perfectly possible – as long as you get proper advice. Currently in The Hague, properties are selling quickly and prices have risen to record levels over the past year. In fact, earlier this year, the Dutch real estate agent’s association NVM published a new report showing that house prices in The Hague are soaring, and have risen some 24% over the past 12 months. Nevertheless, there are still great buys around and a tuned-in estate agent will help you make the most of your money. There are plenty of legal ins and outs to deal with as well, so you will need to get good legal advice from a specialist notary too. To help more expats find out about the process, experts from across all aspects of the chain will be on hand in The Hague on Sunday September 30 to answer questions. This free seminar, organised by How To Buy A House, will take place at the Museum for Communications on the Zeestraat from 2pm-5pm . And you get free entrance to the museum as well! You’ll be able to talk to experts in getting a mortgage, an estate agent who understands The Hague market thoroughly, a notary to guide you through the legal process and a tax advisor. They all speak English, of course. ‘The event will guide you through the entire home buying process, including the roles played by the real estate agent, the mortgage advisor and the notary,’ says organiser Monique Burgemeester. ‘You can find out about getting a mortgage in the Netherlands, check out what the tax implications are and talk to a builder about renovations.’ Sign up here  More >


Arnhem girls to Zeeland chatterboxes: here’s 11 Dutch regional food specialties

Arnhem girls to Zeeland chatterboxes: here’s 11 Dutch regional food specialties

There are lots of places in the Netherlands that have their own culinary speciality. And so as not to allow any misunderstanding as to their provenance, they tacked the name to the product. Here’s 11 local delicacies from all over the country in no particular order of preference. And before you mention it, no, we have not included cheese. There are simply too many of them. Amsterdamse uien Succulent yellow pickled onions, Amsterdamse uien are so named because they were a popular snack sold by Jewish street vendors in the working class areas of Amsterdam.The onions are pickled in vinegar and herbs and saffron or curcumin are added in, which gives them their distinctive colour. Bossche bollen They are the devil’s food, of course, or what else would you call a big puff pastry ball filled with whipped cream covered in chocolate. They were thought up in Den Bosch by a baker called Lambermont in the 18th century and are still going strong, selling in their thousands at Jan de Groot’s bakery in Den Bosch. Haagse hopjes This coffee flavoured hard candy is the brainchild of Baron Hendrik Hop who lived in The Hague in the 18th century. A coffee addict, he went to sleep (!) after a heavy night’s coffee drinking, leaving a cup of coffee with cream and sugar on a heater where it hardened. The taste appealed to him, his neighbour happened to be a confectioner and the rest is history. Texels lam  A breed specific to this Waddeneiland, the Texel lamb eats slightly salted grass and breaths slightly salted air which gives it its distinguishing taste. Rumour has it that former queen Beatrix is a fan and that she used to feed Texels lamb to visiting dignitaries. The lamb is allowed to frolic in a Texel field for 100 days, leading a happy, stress free life which, according to the local butchers, makes it taste even better and makes consumers feel better at the same time. Gelderse rookworst The origins of the Gelderse smoked sausage lie indeed in the province of Gelderland where 19th century farmers had to find ways of preserving the various bits of the pig they slaughtered and decided to smoke their sausages. Every year sausage makers, mostly from Gelderland, compete in the national Gelderse rookworstwedstrijd in Arnhem. Gelderse rookworst is not a protected name so everyone can make it and lots do. But consumer organisation Consumentenbond tested 16 and found they all contained too much salt and fat, so beware. Arnhemse meisjes We stick around a bit longer in Gelderland to savour the delights of Arnhem girls which, before you ask, are a type of biscuit made from yeast dough and sprinkled with sugar. They are called Arnhem biscuits in foreign parts and Roald Dahl liked them so much he put them in his Revolting Recipe cookbook. Zeeuwse boterbabbelaars A hard candy made with sugar, butter, water and a little bit of vinegar, the first Zeeuwse boterbabbelaars were commercially sold in Middelburg in 1892 by JB Diesch which is still churning them out today. A babbelaar is a chatterbox and the story goes that the sweet was much in demand at gatherings of chattering ladies who had them with their tea. Limburgse vlaai A Limburgse vlaai is a piece of a round bread dough of around 30cm in diameter topped with different fruits or rice and covered with a latticework of dough. The bakers of Limburg are lobbying for a European quality mark to ban inferior products which they say are bringing the name of Limburgse vlaai in disrepute. Zwolse balletjes If you want to buy Zwolse balletjes you will have to travel to the city of Zwolle in the province of Overijssel to buy them. It’s the only place that sells the real thing. Amazingly, these sweets are still made and sold on the same premises as when they were first invented in 1845. Made from sugar dough and with different flavours added to them, the Zwolse Balletjes’ exact formula is a closely guarded secret. Utrechtse Vockinworst So what is a Vockingworst except something that sounds rude in English? It is a dark grey coloured liverwurst named after one Paul Vocking who invented it in 1891. Groninger eierbal This one will be familiar to many: it is a Scotch egg. Groningen is famous for this deep-fried, egg and ragout filled breaded ball. It is typically sold in snack bars alongside berenhappen, frikandellen, kapsalons and other Dutch favourites.  More >


Dutch weed: the sustainable protein of the future (seaweed, that is)

Dutch weed: the sustainable protein of the future (seaweed, that is)

The Netherlands is low on the list when it comes to protein self-sufficiency. Joshua Parfitt visits the seaweed enthusiasts who foresee a greener, healthier, and more locally-grown future. When you eat a chicken, you are not just eating a chicken: you’re eating whatever the chicken ate. No one really cares for this when crispy wings are coated in paprika, honey, and salt or roasted with grandma’s secret stuffing, but Martinus van Krimpen, a senior researcher in animal nutrition at Wageningen University, thinks about these things. 'Soybean meal is our largest protein source; half of all the protein [in poultry and pig feed] is from soy,' he says, pointing to the offending figure: the Netherlands produces just 5% of its soy. 'We are very dependent on areas outside Europe for our protein, which is a risk. Most [soybean meal] comes from Brazil and Argentina,' he says. 'We need to increase EU protein production.' Van Krimpen suggests that, globally, by 2050 we will need to produce 70% more food, including twice as much meat. In such a world, widespread dependency could make the Netherlands vulnerable to catastrophe, and subordinate to foreign regulation—though it’s illegal to cultivate genetically modified (GM) soy in the EU, 95% of the Netherlands’ imported soybean meal is GM. Organic 'f you are eating poultry and pigs in the Netherlands you are eating GMO products as well,' he says (unless you buy organic). For the best part of 10 years, Van Krimpen has been figuring out how to grow protein for animal feed that is closer to home, and does not need extra farmland nor extra cost. The most promising alternatives are insects, algae, leaf proteins, and synthetic amino acids. Van Krimpen and his colleagues discovered that, with a protein content of 40%, soy can yield between 1.5 and 3 tonnes of protein per hectare of land. Seaweed? 7.5 tonnes of protein per hectare. There is a big problem, though. Seaweed is packed full of protein, minerals, and anti-oxidants; it requires no land, no fresh water, and no fertiliser; it cleans the ocean water of heavy metals, it reduces the need for antiobiotics in poultry and pigs, and by sucking up CO2 into its fronds it has a carbon-negative impact on the environment. But you can’t eat a lot of it. Seaweed it too mineral-rich, too much of a superfood, to replace the dreary soybean. It would be like feeding chickens caviar. Which leaves us with a question: if it’s too lavish for poultry and pigs, can we eat it instead? 'Don’t feed it to animals,' says Jennifer Breaton, co-founder of Dutch seaweed pioneers Zeewaar, in the most gorgeously hip and antiquated Impact Hub Amsterdam. 'How many things would you want to share with a cow?' In 2013, her company became the first seaweed farm in the Netherlands. They are still the only 100%-farmed seaweed producer in the country, and in May became the first 100%-farmed, organically-certified seaweed company in the EU. 'The highest cost price [of seaweed] is for food,' she adds, suggesting that direct consumption would therefore benefit farmers too. But do you want to eat it? Seaweed is not some new-fangled trend that will have a minor explosion in the vegan section at healthfood shops. It’s been eaten for centuries in the Far East (think sushi, miso soup, etc...) and even in Europe, where in Wales it makes the traditional laverbread. 'Seaweed is the original umami,' says Breaton. 'MSG is designed after the umami of kelp. It’s a flavour enhancer—dashi [stock used in Japanese cuisine] is all kelp.' Zeewaar have managed to get their crops of royal kombu and sea lettuce into an impressive array of products: bath salts, regular salt, roasted peanuts, tea, chocolate, falafel, mayonnaise, wraps, chicken(less) nuggets, beef(less) burgers, and hot dogs. Their biggest customer, and the chefs behind the aforementioned meat alternatives, is The Dutch Weed Burger. 'You have to be a hardcore lover of seaweed to eat it raw,' says Mark Kulsdom, founder of The Dutch Weed Burger, in a houseboat-cum-office within a reclaimed industrial area of Amsterdam-Noord. 'But if you dose it nicely, as a supplement, you have the flavour from the sea without having any fish, but also without the, ‘oh ****, all that seaweed’.' True to van Krimpen’s earlier conclusion, Kulsdom’s Weed Burger only uses kombu for protein, nutrition, and flavour. The bulk of the burger is made up from non-GM soy, 75% of which Kulsdom sources from within the EU. It sounds unlikely, but the Weed Burger is not just a far-off idea: Kulsdom has just returned from a production facility where he made 30,000 patties to last him through the summer. Besides his own epoynmous restaurant and festival food truck, he stocks over 200 outlets, including every café in the Bagels & Beans franchise. 'Most vegetarian burgers are 6-7% as good [as a beef burger],' says Kulsdom, referencing to his team’s research on environmental impacts. 'But us, because we’re all vegan and use the seaweed, it’s over nine times [as good]. Its got more protein than meat, more calcium than milk, and it’s fatter than a fish.' Mainstream EU-grown seaweed has recently gone even more mainstream than Bagels & Beans, for you can now find it in over 170 Albert Heijn supermarkets. The Amsterdam-based company Seamore behind this progress are probably the most prolific seaweed company in the Netherlands, stocking 12 European countries with their range of three look-a-likes: Seaweed Pasta, Seaweed Bacon, and Seaweed Wraps. Both the Seaweed Pasta and Seaweed Bacon, furthermore, are 100% seaweed, and can be fried up and easily added to all kinds of dishes. However, there is a difference between Seamore’s products and Zeewaar’s. Where Zeewaar is Dutch-grown, Seamore source their seaweed from France and Ireland; where Zeewaar is farmed, Seamore is harvested from the wild. 'In Europe, farmed seaweed has such a limited scale that the very high prices do not allow accessible seaweed products to be created, which is why we have created this path of wild first, farming second,' says founder Willem Sodderland. 'The MSC recently introduced a programme for certification of sustainable harvesting and farming of seaweed [and] we are now helping our partners to become certified as soon as possible,' he added. Hand-picked Seaweed could be a panacea. If handled correctly, it could bring all the above benefits; if handled badly, however, over-harvesting could decimate wild stocks and stress native ecosytems. Seamore do ensure that their seaweed is hand-picked—Sodderland says that sensitive harvesting can even improve ecosystem health—but both they and Zeewaar lament the current high prices of locally-farmed seaweed. 'Many producers come to us, and they fall in love with our philosophy,' says Breaton, 'but when [our seaweed] increases their production costs by even €0,01, they say ‘we think we’ll go wild’.' Whilst still the only commercial seaweed farm in the Netherlands, Zeewaar hopes their model could be replicated. They want to create what they call a Seaweed String of Pearls all along the European Atlantic coastline, where environmental stewardship, profitability, and protein go hand-in-hand. 'Currently our foods require a lot of pesticides, and GM seeds, and we don’t really know what these do to us,' says Breaton, referring to the struggle to produce enough protein to go around. 'Seaweed is a very popular alternative, with healthy components across the board, but it should be produced correctly.'  More >


Gender pay gap: Meet the Dutch lawyer who is training women to ask for more

Gender pay gap: Meet the Dutch lawyer who is training women to ask for more

  Though the gender pay gap in the Netherlands is closing, progress is being made at a snail's pace and the country lags behind much of Europe. Expert negotiator Wies Bratby is helping international women take the issue into the own hands and getting great results, as she tells Deborah Nicholls-Lee. Wies Bratby does not mince her words. The negotiation coach and gender pay gap crusader is unimpressed with my question about positive discrimination at work. ‘It’s again us waiting for men to grant us a favour,’ she says witheringly. ‘I’m done waiting for others. Forget that. What I want is for women to pull that sh** for themselves.’ Bratby (36) has a lot to be angry about. Of 144 countries analysed by the World Economic Forum in 2017, the Netherlands was ranked a mere 32nd for gender pay equality despite coming first for educational attainment. For gender equality in wages for undertaking similar work, it plummets to a pitiful 50th position. CBS figures from 2016 identify household and care duties as one of the factors reducing women’s available working hours, income and access to senior positions (women make up just 19% of the board of directors or supervisors in the Netherlands’ 100 largest companies). But it is much harder to explain the 2% gender pay disparity for identical jobs in the same company – or 4.7% across multiple companies – identified in a recent study by Korn Ferry. Mindset With her background in corporate law and HR, Bratby realised she had the skills to help women narrow the gap for themselves. For four years she trained hundreds of women in workshops all over the world, before founding Women in Negotiation (WIN) in 2017, an online support group that now has 2,800 followers, and devising a group coaching programme that teaches women how to successfully negotiate their careers and salaries. Psychological empowerment, she believes, is the key to getting better pay deals for women, along with a toolkit of strategies and techniques. Two weeks ago, one of her clients achieved a staggering 45% salary increase after following her course. ‘The biggest mistake people make when they negotiate pay is that they don’t do it’, she tells me. ‘They don’t even start the process.’ But surely the straight-talking Dutch have no problem discussing money? ‘It’s not about the words they use,’ Bratby explains. ‘It’s the mindset.’ She says she sees this in clients of all nationalities. ‘Across the world, parents describe their newborn sons as more capable, more alert, stronger than their daughters,’ she says. ‘It’s encouraged that they stand up and speak up for themselves, [while] girls are communal thinkers; we have to think about others.’ ‘This upbringing makes it really difficult when we [women] hit the workforce – that is designed by men and for men – and suddenly we have to play a completely different game that we’ve not been prepared for in any shape or form.’ Lower expectations Women’s lower expectations of their value also play a role. A 2014 study undertaken by four Canadian universities, revealed that women graduates expected 18% less pay for the same job. A US study of Carnegie Mellon graduates (2003) showed that only 7% of women negotiated their first salary, compared to 57% of their male peers. Bratby failed to buck the trend when she was offered her first job in 2007. ‘It was a summer’s day. I remember it like it was yesterday,’ she says. ‘I was offered a job at one of the most prestigious law firms in the Netherlands and I was super grateful for that.’ The HR manager told her to take the contract home and have a think about it. ‘I looked at her and I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ The salary that they offered was very good; it was a high number - I’d never seen anything like that.’ ‘So, I was like, ‘I’ll sign here.’’ During the intake, she realised that some of her peers had been placed in a higher band. ‘I found out that I was making less than the others. I’d missed the boat. I had no idea – which was funny because negotiation was such a big deal for me; it was the reason I went into law in the first place and my specialty in the firm.’ ‘Someone [a male colleague] had asked for more money because they’d done a master’s abroad. I’d done a master’s abroad!’ she laughs, exasperated. Negotiation is good for everyone Bratby went on to become part of the team which negotiated one of the largest settlements in Dutch history. ‘When women are negotiating for their companies, they are in no way worse,’ she explains, but they ‘feel greedy’ when they ask for themselves. When she moved to Hong Kong in 2013, she negotiated the role offered, emphasised what else she could bring to the company, and agreed a 35% salary increase, creating what she describes as her ‘dream job’. ‘The moment I was paid what I was worth, I showed up differently. The company got so much more and I became a different person.’ ‘Women think that negotiating is like going into a fight or something, that is scuppers their chances and damages the relationship. What I teach my clients is that the relationship actually improves because you’re having a meaningful conversation around how you can best contribute to the organisation. These conversations are good for everybody.’ Life-changing Bratby’s clients, she says, are ‘kick-ass women’ and ‘insecure over-achievers’ from all over the world who are committed to putting in the time and energy required to transform their thinking. ‘You’ve changed my life,’ one Amsterdam client recently told her in tears. ‘Women come back [to thank me] and it’s never about the money – they are grateful for the change in mindset. They say, ‘I’m a different person at work. I take no sh**’. ‘That’s a lot more lasting than a quick and dirty 45% salary increase,’ she says. And then she pauses and laughs, ‘although that’s not to be sniffed at.’  More >


700,000 items dug up during new metro works feature in virtual museum

700,000 items dug up during new metro works feature in virtual museum

Some 700,000 objects, some old and some not so old, have gone on show on Below the Surface,  a virtual museum dedicated to the archaeological objects found during the building work on the Noord-Zuidlijn, Amsterdam’s recently opened new metro route. Connecting the north to the south of the city, the 9.7 kilometre route took 15 years to complete and was first a gleam in the eye of developers and engineers as long as 100 years ago. As the protracted digging continued, archaeologists were given the opportunity to go down into the bowels of the earth to find out about the development of the city along the route where once the Amstel river flowed. They objects they encountered along the way range from Neolithic and early Bronze age (2700-1800 BC) funerary gifts and tools and fibulae dropped by careless Romans to modern day objects such as flippos (remember them?), mobile phones and lost bicycle keys. Some 9,500 of the objects are on show in glass cases at Rokin metro station, one of the eight metro stations that make up the line. They can only be seen as you glide past on the escalator down to the platform so the virtual museum is an excellent source of information should anything interesting catch your eye. It could be the hearthstone from the 16th century found at Damrak, for example, showing the coat of arms of the emperor Charles V or the tin button of a coat belonging to a uniform of the schutterij, or local militia. Then as now, the Netherlands harboured immigrants from all over Europe and beyond. This particular button, found at Rokin, was made by an Italian tinsmith who made his home at Nieuwendijk. There’s also a 15th century skate made of iron also found at Rokin, illustrating the long Dutch tradition of getting your skates on when a proper winter permits. A large collection of boating hooks dropped by irate boatsmen shows just how awkward that corner in the canal was and you can just about imagine the swearing that went on as another one went overboard. Some of the finds shine a light on a very particular moment in time. The very beautiful radiator cap featuring Tutankhamun, which once graced a very exclusive American Stutz Model AA Vertical Eight motorcar, illustrates the craze for Tutankhamun related objects that swept the world as a result of the discovery of the pharaoh’s grave in 1922. Another car-related find is part of a model version of Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Bluebird which broke the record for speed by whizzing up and down the Utah salt flats at 301 miles an hour in 1935. The toy was probably brand new when it fell in the Rokin which was filled up in 1937, and probably left a very disappointed boy in tears. The modern day objects – the antiquities of the future – are given the same careful treatment as the objects of centuries ago and they are just as intriguing. We can only speculate how a set of false teeth and the high heel of a woman’s shoe ended up in the water. Apart from offering hours of fun looking at all the finds, and even assembling your own collection, Below the Surface also explains in great detail how the archaeological work was planned and executed. And while it remains to be seen if Amsterdammers take the new metro to their hearts, visitors to the virtual museum cannot fail to be amused by all the items that were unearthed during the making of it. Some may even claim a bicycle key.  More >


How to buy a house in Amsterdam and Amstelveen – don’t be afraid to take the plunge!

How to buy a house in Amsterdam and Amstelveen – don’t be afraid to take the plunge!

The housing market in and around Amsterdam and Amstelveen can be pretty complex but more and more international workers see owning their own home as the best answer to ever rising rents. The How To Buy A House events were started to help expats buying their own home in a foreign country. It might seem daunting, but buying a home in the Netherlands it is perfectly possible – as long as you get proper advice. Currently in Amsterdam and Amstelveen, properties are selling quickly and prices have risen to record levels over the past year. Nevertheless, there are still great buys around and a tuned-in estate agent will help you make the most of your money. There are plenty of legal ins and outs to deal with as well, so you will need to get good legal advice from a specialist notary too. On Sunday, September 23, a special event is being held at the Posthoornkerk on the Haarlemerstraat in central Amsterdam. to help expats find their way around the housing maze. ‘The event will guide you through the entire home buying process, including the roles played by the real estate agent, the mortgage advisor and the notary,’ says organiser Monique Burgemeester. ‘You can find out about getting a mortgage in the Netherlands, get get legal advice or even talk to a builder about renovations.’ Shortages ‘It's hard to buy a house in Amsterdam because there is so little owner-occupied property,’ says real estate agency Barry Burgemeester. ‘Just 30% of the city’s total property stock is privately owned. So finding and buying that house can be quite a challenge. That’s why it’s good to talk to someone who really understands the market.’ Of course, before you really get stuck into house hunting you need to find out how much you can borrow. ‘If you find a nice place it is crucial that you can act quickly and know your financial limits,’ says Henk Janssen of Expat Mortgages. ‘You need to know exactly what you can afford, so that you can make a bid and start negotiating. But you also need to know about the risks associated with a mortgage. We work with most banks and insurance companies so should be able to outline all the options open to you.’ Family law Once you’ve found your ideal home and secured a mortgage, it’s time to think about the paperwork. And that is where the notary – a type of lawyer who deals with housing contracts, wills and other family law issues – comes in. ‘All the official ‘moves’ for buying a home take place in the presence of a notary,’ says Dirk Kasper, of Kasper Notariaat, which specialises in helping internationals deal with the legal side of home ownerships. He too will be on hand to answer questions at the Amsterdam meeting. And if your dream home needs some renovations, Gisela Bakker of building company Bakker Bouw can guide you through the process. 'Getting the right permits can be complicated, but we can take care of that for you,' she says. 'It is our job to find out rules and regulations, before we start. 'Big renovation projects can take up a lot of time and research, and often requires a lot of patience, but the end result will be more than worth it.' In short, there is a lot to think about. If you’d like to find out more, or get answers to some of your questions, sign up for Sunday’s session and talk to the experts face to face. And if you’ve got the kids in tow, there will be a free nanny service to keep them entertained as well.  More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: go Dutch with a holiday in the countryside

DutchNews.nl destinations: go Dutch with a holiday in the countryside

Looking for good weather, green woods and excellent beer? Head to the Dutch countryside for a summer break. Esther O’Toole takes you south to the small towns of Overloon and Venray, on the Brabant/N. Limburg border. There is plenty of history down this neck of the woods. The St Peter ad Vincula church in Venray has a large collection of medieval wood sculpture and the area in and around Venray and Overloon saw heavy fighting during WW2, as it lies right next to the river Maas, by the German border. Now an area rich in natural tourist attractions it is popular with the Dutch for holidaying at home Things to do Overloon If you’re after outdoor activities, whether mountain biking, hiking, swimming or fishing then this is a great area for all of the above. Explore the Overloonse Duinen by bike or on foot, or head to t’Schaartven, a pretty, well-maintained swimming lake with amenities; there you can also climb up the ‘uitkijktoren’ for panoramic views. Museum Park, Overloon: In the woods of Overloon, once the frontline in WW2 where one of the biggest tank battles of the war took place, there is now a park. Here you will find the acclaimed War Museum (Oorlogsmuseum Overloon) with interesting, interactive exhibitions for international visitors as well as Dutch speakers, and an array of original war-time vehicles. During the summer months, you will also find family-friendly Open Air Theatre there. It has gained a very good reputation since its inception and, though most shows are Dutch language, you can enjoy a lovely summer’s evening in their secluded amphitheatre, in its shady woodland setting. This year they kick off the season with The Little Mermaid Zoo Parc Overloon is pretty well known down south. It’s a welcoming, open air park with large enclosures, excellent educational materials and is a good size - big enough to fill a whole day, not so big that you have to rush to see everything or have to skip parts. They have a wide variety of animals, 71 species in total including: red pandas, black-footed penguins, and big cats (cheetahs, lions and this year white tigers). Pretty affordable as wildlife parks go: prices start at €13.50 p.p when bought online, and the food on offer is good quality too. Venray Escape Room - These seem to have caught on up and down the country. Venray is no exception, if the weather is less clement, then head to their escape room which has three unique themes: Noah’s Ark; Forest Mystery and Mayan Temple. There’s options for both children and adults… but you’ve got only 60 minutes to get out! In search of unusual experiences or fun for the grown-ups instead? Then why not be daring and try a visit to Altocumulus Ballooning, who have regular balloon flights from Venray. If you’re scared of flying, stay grounded by soaking at the thermal spa in nearby Arcen or head to Venray’s beloved Oda Park; an open air art and sculpture park where you can enjoy the exhibitions and follow a workshop. Eat & Drink If you haven’t stuffed yourself on sundaes at Overloon’s international prize-winning ice cream parlour, Clevers, then there are really cosy, welcoming independent bars and restaurants up the road in neighbouring Venray.  Not open long but already an established favourite with locals and visitors alike is De Goesting. A haven for artisanal beer-lovers, it has over 300 different varieties, without the big city markup, and on Monday nights they now have live music. Alternatively, there is Het Klokkenluiden up the road, which is a cafe as well as beer specialist, and has a lovely, little terrace on the Grote Markt. For proper dining try BRL, or the Beejekurf in Venray for great food in a chic and relaxing atmosphere. Or Brasserie Anno 54 for something a bit more casual on the terrace, or with a set menu. You’ll find great ingredients in use lots of local produce in use at all of these places, as well as at the new restaurant in Overloon, De Boompjes, where local and seasonal produce is at the heart of their kitchen. Where to stay If you're tired of the industrial size campsites of the Med, or working to a budget, then like the Dutch you too can try something ‘gezellige’ closer to home. In the vicinity of Overloon there are plenty of laid-back options for staying in beautiful countryside, without the crowds or the massive drive. Small, often family run, well maintained campsites such as the Ullingsebergen would be a good start. This dog-free site in St Anthonis has large pitches, small playgrounds, some good organised activities for children and a pool. Other well-equipped, small scale sites in the area include: D’n Twist, who provide camping spots, B&B, group accommodations and cute little camping huts all in one place; and Bosrijk de Kuluut, which offers a small number of deluxe holiday homes, near to the golf course and village centre - if you’re looking for a bit more luxury. How to get there Overloon and Venray are both just off the A73 between Nijmegen and Venlo. If you’re coming by train, get a connection from either of those cities to Venray, it will only take an extra 35 minutes from Nijmegen and 15 from Venlo. From Venray, Overloon is easily reached by bus (the bus station is right next to the train station) or by bike. When to visit The schools break up earlier in the south of the country, so from the beginning of July the areas around Overloon and Venray are in full on holiday mode!  Alternatively, if you like things quieter, head over at the end of August; the weather is at its peak but the normal school schedule, both Dutch and German, has resumed.  More >


Holiday reading: if you missed them earlier, here are some favourite features

Holiday reading: if you missed them earlier, here are some favourite features

Wether you're heading back home to visit family, off to the Mediterranean beaches or just enjoying another part of the Netherlands, holidays are the perfect time to catch up on your reading. Here's a round-up of our favourite features so far this year. It's been impossible to avoid the fact that Dutch gangster Willem Holleeder has been on trial in Amsterdam for most of the year accused of ordering various gangland murders. Gordon Darroch went along for a day and wrote a piece explaining why this is currently the hottest ticket in town. Another hot topic so far this year has been the rise of English at Dutch universities. Are the Dutch now native speakers of English, and is Dutch-English a distinctive thing? Deborah Nicholls-Lee went to meet linguistics expert Alison Edwards to get some answers. Housing and the shortage of affordable homes was the big topic of the March local elections, but solutions are being found. For example, could a custom-made tiny house be your new home? If you are planning to use your summer holidays to brush up your Dutch, technology could be the answer. In January, we had a look at five different techie tools to help get your languages up to scratch. Also on the tech front, earlier this year we had a look at what the Dutch are doing to solve the problem of plastic soup. From dredging canals to turning waste into nifty new furniture, here are five Dutch initiatives to tackle the plastics crisis. If you are considering taking up a new sport, rugby could be the one... the sport is really starting to take off in the Netherlands, as Rachel Kilbee found out. Does money make you happy? One of our best-read interviews so far this year has been with Mundo Resink, who spent a year living without cash. And if you are spending time in the Netherlands this summer, you might want to drop in on some of the Netherlands' strangest museums. Brandon Hartley visited some of the oddest collections in the country. You could also go bison spotting. Hunted to near-extinction by the 1920s, European bison clung to survival in a handful of zoos, but now Europe’s largest mammal roams wild in one of its most densely populated regions: the Randstad. And if you are looking for some romance this summer – and what better place than the Netherlands to fall in love – our Valentine's Day piece on why you need a Dutch boyfriend should tick the boxes. And yes, most of the reasons apply to Dutch girlfriends too. Happy reading  More >


From butterflies to body art: 12 great things to do in August

From butterflies to body art: 12 great things to do in August

Hello? Anyone there? If you're not sunning yourself on a beach in Crete, here's what you can do in the Netherlands this month. On your bike Get to know Amsterdam by taking a guided bike tour around Amsterdam Oost, the Bijlmer and other bits of Amsterdam that you thought would not be that interesting but are. Pay Attention Please is the somewhat admonishing title of the tours. Throughout August. Website Listen to the human voice What better way to forget the 30% ruling and Brexit for a while than to listen to an opera about other people's troubles in the sedate surroundings of the garden of the Museum van Loon in Amsterdam. La Voix Humaine, based on a play by Jean Cocteau, is about love and heartbreak. And it's only a shorty with drinks afterwards! Dutch language only. August 9 - 14. Website Grab a gracht It will be difficult NOT to catch a tune during this year's Grachtenfestival as it will be taking place in 94 locations around Amsterdam. Some even take place underneath a bridge where the pidgeons have the best seats. It's music classical and modern from August 10 to 19. Website Find a fake We love a good story about fakes. In 1965 amateur archaeologist Tjerk Vermaning dug up some flint tools in Drenthe made by Neanderthals some 50,000 years ago. He was hoisted onto the nation's shoulders and carried around the streets in triumph until doubts began to emerge. Could Vermaning himself have been the creative Neanderthal? The Vermaning Affair is on at the Drents Museum until January 13. Website Get a crest There are lots of activities for kids in August and one of the classiest is a creative afternoon at the venerable Huis Verwolde in Laren. In the hour and half, when parents can neck a gin and tonic or two on a sunny Laren terrace, the children will be learning about the family crest of ye olde family Van der Borch van Verwolde and get to design a family crest of their own! August 15. Website Come on down to Lowlands Gorillaz, Kendrick Lamar, Spinvis and Patti Smith are just some of the names that make up the line up of Lowlands this year. August 17-19. For information about tickets, camping and how to get to Biddinghuizen go to the Lowlands website Check out what's new The Uitmarkt proudly presents the next cultural season at the Oosterdokskade and Maritime complex in Amsterdam. Here is your chance to wander around and sample bits of some 300 theatre, dance, music and stand up performances which will be on offer soon. August 24 - 26. Website Get classical on the water The Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest is trying out its sea legs in another edition of the Veerhavenconcert, a floating classical music fest in the port of Rotterdam. Anyone who owns a boat, yacht or lilo is invited to amicably bump into each other. Or you could not get wet and attend from the quayside. The programme includes works by Verdi, Ponchielli, Britten, Dvorak, Puccini, Offenbach and Sarasate. August 25. Website Be scarified, very scarified From make-up to implants and from scarification to tattooed eye balls, what drives people to desecrate/beautify the temple? asks the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam. It also gives you the answer: it's an expression of identity. So think before you get that tramp stamp. Body Art is on until August 26. Website Find out what matters The Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam is also presenting Things that Matter, an exhibition featuring objects from all over the world centred around a number of themes, such as climate, culture, religion and migration. It includes such personal items as the keys to a bombed-out flat brought and treasured by a Syrian refugee. The exhibition is expected to be on until 2050. Website Behold the blue butterflies Enter the botanical gardens of Utrecht University and you will find yourself in a riot of colour and movement. The Tropical Butterfly Festival will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about exotic butterflies, including the gorgeous blue Morpho. Until September 16. Website That's the way to do it! The beautiful Schatkamer at the Stadsarchief in Amsterdam chronicles 125 years of Jan Klaassen en Katrijn (Punch and Judy) puppet booth shows on Dam square with some great photographs of Amsterdam in times gone by. Until September 9.  Website Early warning: The New Classics in Amsterdam The New Classics is the opening programme of the new ballet season of the Dutch Nation Ballet and a tribute to Jerome Robbins & Leonard Bernstein. 2018 is the centenary of the birth of two grand masters of American 20th-century art: choreographer Jerome Robbins and composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. The New Classics is a triple bill featuring the European premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, set to Bernstein’s violin concerto of the same name. The programme also includes the Dutch premiere of Jerome Robbins’ masterpiece Dances at a Gathering. It is rounded off with a revival of Chroma, choreographed by Wayne McGregor. From Tuesday September 11 to Tuesday September 25. Website  More >


Five great vegan lunchrooms and restaurants in the Netherlands

Five great vegan lunchrooms and restaurants in the Netherlands

Even the most committed meat eater cannot fail to have noticed the surge in veganism in the Netherlands. Marieke Mills has been checking out some of the best Dutch vegan restaurants and lunchrooms. Vegan restaurants are not just limited to Amsterdam anymore. You’ll be a happy vegan foodie if you live there, but Rotterdam and Utrecht have a number of vegan options as well. Beer and vegan food: Oproer Brouwerij (Utrecht) Vegan food and beer go hand in hand in Oproer Brouwerij. This restaurant and brewery is the go-to place for a plant-based dinner and a pint. Oproer Brouwerij is a merger between two breweries - Rooie Dop and Ruig - and the current restaurant was founded in 2016. Oproer Brouwerij’s vegan journey was one they stepped into by accident. The owners found a great spot for a pub, but were told the space was meant to be food-oriented. They decided to establish a restaurant. Oproer Brouwerij searched for great cooks and found two female chefs, who had experience in the vegan food business. The owners gladly took on the challenge. ‘There’s always been a connection between beer and meat and we wanted to break that bond,’ owner Mark Strooker says. ‘By serving only vegan food, we are able to serve almost everybody, because it is also halal and kosher.’ The restaurant has employees with eight different nationalities and their chefs are from Italy and Finland. Best-selling dishes: desserts from the monthly-changing menu Personal service: Mooshka (Amsterdam) Mooshka is a small vegan restaurant in Amsterdam founded by Sarah Raymond. The restaurant was opened in 2016 and offers many different dishes. It has some burgers, but also an Ethiopian dish, which Sarah claims, has become very popular. Starting a vegan place was something that Sarah did out of her own frustration with finding vegan food. ‘I noticed when I went out to eat, the food was often pricey,’ Sarah says. ‘It was difficult to find a snack on the road.’ For her own place, Sarah sticks to a personal service. ‘It’s just me in the restaurant.’ She’s also taken it upon herself to lead by example: ‘I just think it’s very important to offer people healthier food, I want to show there’s a different way we could eat.’ Best-selling dish: Injera, an Ethiopian dish A brand-new vegan restaurant: SNCKBR (Utrecht) SNCKBR in Utrecht is the first fully plant-based restaurant in the SNCKBR chain. Floris Beukers and Naphassa Parinussa wanted to start a small burger company and ended up with a stylish restaurant. The motivation for opening SNCKBR is based on the founders’ own experience as vegans. ‘Me and my girlfriend went vegan two years ago,’ Floris Beukers says. ‘It was hard to find proper restaurants, order what we wanted and have a nice all-in experience.’ One of the places they did find was a burger company in Eindhoven, which had several vegan options on the menu. That burger company was SNCKBR. They were open to an all-vegan restaurant and collaborated with Floris and Naphassa for a franchise in Utrecht. ‘We’re going to start a revolution here,’ Floris says. Best-selling dish: the kapsalon (fries, döner meat, cheese and salad) Plant-based junk food: The Vegan Junkfood Bar (Amsterdam) The Vegan Junkfood Bar was founded in April 2017 by Edwin Streep after he became convinced that going vegan is the only ethical option. Everything on the menu is plant-based and they also have some gluten-free snacks available. ‘With us you eat vegan without missing the taste or structure of meat for a second,’ says spokeswoman Mireille Sanches. The restaurant is keen on being a place for both vegans and non-vegans. The junkfood bar has already expanded to three locations in Amsterdam and the menu changes regularily. Best-selling dishes: the burgers, loaded fries and shawarma Sweet vegan treats: Heavenly Cupcakes (Rotterdam) Vegan food comes in many shapes and sizes including cupcakes. Heavenly Cupcakes is a vegan patisserie and lunchroom in Rotterdam with a focus on sweet: their store is filled with cupcakes and pies. There’s, however, a little more to Heavenly Cupcakes. This vegan lunchroom also makes vegan cheese, whipped cream and meat substitutes, which you can purchase in the store. You can also enjoy a high tea in the lunchroom or have Heavenly Cupcakes set a high tea up for you at home. Best-selling dishes: the great variety of cupcakes  More >


Number of energy suppliers in the Netherlands quadrupled since liberalisation

Number of energy suppliers in the Netherlands quadrupled since liberalisation

The number of suppliers of electricity and gas has almost quadrupled since the liberalisation of the Dutch energy market in 2004, according to research by website Energievergelijk. Before deregulation there were only 12 suppliers for electricity, based in different parts of the country. Now, there are 47 which all want a piece of the cake. In total, 35 companies offer gas and electricity for consumers. The remaining 12 only offer energy contracts to businesses and multinationals. Energievergelijk has made a convenient infographic that shows all active energy providers in The Netherlands. Confusion Each provider offers different types of energy contracts and cashback deals. And with the immense increase in competition, consumers are finding it more difficult than ever to find the cheapest deal. Comparing energy prices and deals is definitely worthwhile, according to an analysis by the Dutch Consumer and Markets Authority (ACM). It recently pointed out that households can save up to €391 a year by switching energy supplier.  Consumers with a variable rate tariff in particular can save a significant amount on their energy bill. So, it’s a good idea to run an energy comparison to see if your deal is the best out there for you. Green energy If sustainability and the environment are important topics, it may be worthwhile choosing a green energy supplier. Thirty-one out of the 47 companies offer energy from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and biomass. Do keep in mind though, that some suppliers buy renewable energy certificates (REC’s) from other European countries, such as Norway or Italy. These firms are not really contributing to renewable energy capacity in the Netherlands. If you want ‘real’ renewable energy, produced on Dutch soil, you may want to look closely at the electricity label. Several suppliers offer wind energy, produced by Dutch windmills. Cashback A large number of the energy suppliers in the Netherlands also work with ‘cashback’ deals. Whenever you choose their energy contract, you will receive cash back at the end of the contractual lifetime. When comparing rates (in dutch called the: energievergelijker), don't look just at the actual tariffs for gas and electricity and do take the cashback amount into account. It often pays out to choose a more expensive supplier with a large cashback. This means you pay a bit more on a monthly base, but you will be more than compensated for this at the end of the contract.  More >


The Dutch dunes are more than just sand: they’re a source of drinking water

The Dutch dunes are more than just sand: they’re a source of drinking water

The drinking water in Amsterdam, the Hague and large parts of Noord and Zuid-Holland is cleaned and filtered in the sand dunes along the Dutch coast with the North Sea. Joshua Parfitt has been finding out how. It is early in the morning and I am trying to take the perfect picture of the sand dunes in Meijendel—a 2,000-hectare nature reserve just five kilometres from The Hague city centre. As I race down the sandy trail from a dune offering a disappointing vista, I glance up at my bicycle. Something’s wrong. There are figures silhouetted around it—horses. They curiously sniff out this odd-shaped arrival. Delighted, I hang back. Three horses become five, and then nine, and then three more come whinnying down the dune behind me. Unused to horses—terrified, even, after a frightful riding experience in childhood—I scarper up a nearby tree. A good twenty minutes of deadlock ensue, the horses toppling my bicycle and treading dangerously around my laptop bag. I send out a cry for help on FaceBook much to the ridicule of everyone. One acquaintance makes mocking allusions to My Little Pony. Soon after, a pickup truck comes to my aid. But this was no ordinary pickup; it was emblazoned with the logo of a frog - the logo of piped water company Dunea. 'What’s a water company doing out here rescuing me from horses?' I thought to myself. Coast The Meijendel dune reserve is under the management of water company Dunea. It is here where they process their water and yet most of the 2,000 hectares of dune landscape are open to the public. In the Dunea visitors centre in the centre of the reserve I meet Rebecca Wielink, an education specialist who coordinates school trips. 'We are both water company and stewards of nature,' she says. 'It all began with a cholera problem,' explains Rebecca. 'The growth of The Hague’s population in the mid-19th century led to problems with sanitation.' Citizens of The Hague were used to drinking straight from canals—including from the Hofvijfer in front of the Binnenhof—but in 1874 the city fangled a new solution to the growing problems of hygiene: they began pumping up fresh groundwater from beneath the dunes outside the city. A veritable buried treasure. 'But if you take too much fresh water out, brackish water starts to rise up,' Rebecca points out. By 1940 the city had to act on a new problem, salt in the groundwater reservoir. From then on, it began the system of piping river water from further inland to be infiltrated through the dune slacks. The river water sinks through the sand, filters itself from harmful pathogens, and replenishes the underground stocks with clean water. In essence, Dunea is using sand as a water filter—cleaning some 75 million m3 of H2O each year. Most water companies across the developed world do use chlorine as a disinfectant, and have done so ever since outbreaks of water-borne diseases the 19th century. While the World Health Organisation has set a guideline maximum value of 5 mg/l, below which consumption is deemed safe, three companies in the Netherlands have been pioneering a different technique altogether. By following in nature’s footsteps, Dunea, Amsterdam's Waternet and PWN forgo chemical disinfectants. Together, they supply The Hague, Haarlem, Amsterdam and most of the central urban belt with clean water—and some of them claim their product is better than bottled - by mimicking nature. Better than bottled 'I know quite a few people from abroad who don’t think our water is good quality,' says Sjakel van Wesemael. She is the manager of nature and recreation at PWN—the water company supplying the province of North Holland. 'They don’t like it because it doesn’t smell like chlorine—there are no chlorides in it,' she continues. 'They don’t think it’s clean.' PWN’s system of water infiltration—similar in principle to Dunea’s—sinks water to a depth of 60 metres, before pumping it back to the surface for final processing. Much of the water is free of bacteria by means of natural gravitational filtration, but PWN use a non-invasive method of sterilisation by ultraviolet light—another natural method that leaves no trace chemicals. 'Drinking water in the Netherlands must pass 700 tests to ensure quality,' continues Sjakel. 'The drinking water is much more controlled compared with bottled water—which have about 20 tests—but I don’t think [bottled water companies] would like it if I say so!' Of course, Sjakel might be representing her own company’s interests. I probe further. 'Do you ever buy bottled water?' I ask. 'No, never. Never. Never. And even—no, never ever! Never. Well, never in Holland, at least,' she responds. Sterilisation by ultraviolet light may have benefits of negating by-products and trace chemicals, but it is a costly alternative to chemical sterilisation. Perhaps PWN have an unfair advantage in that for one hundred years the province of North Holland has given PWN some 7300 hectares of dune landscape to manage—not an easy acquisition in the heavily densely-populated western Netherlands. Sjakel is quick to point out, however, that by being a part private and part province-owned company, PWN has a maatschappelijke (or social) duty as well as a financial duty. Though the burden is somewhat shared by the public, this means that the high-quality water is on the whole cheaper, travels less distance, uses less packaging, and is more easily accessible than bottled water at home and in public places alike. Stewards of nature Only 5% of the land under PWN’s management is used for water filtration. In fact, 3,800 hectares of their land has been gazetted as a national park—the Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland (NPZK). There is, Sjakel explains, a pragmatic reason for this. 'The drinking water companies make a better connection with nature,' explains Sjakel, because they wish 'to protect their sources'. Rather than hand back over the land they don’t use for filtration, PWN remain in charge because year-by-year the dunes are naturally accumulating a reserve stock of groundwater to be tapped in the event of a disaster. Since the dunes must be in peak ecological condition in order to facilitate this natural process, PWN therefore has a duty to keep the land in as pristine a condition as possible. In the meantime, PWN’s dunes receive over six million visits annually, and the land is unlikely to be used for any other activity in the distant future. What makes these areas even more important is that they are a threatened habitat. The unique ecosystem found along the western Dutch coast has led the European Union to designate the whole NPZK, as well as the dunes near Zandvoort  managed by Waternet, and the Meijendel dunes managed by Dunea, as Natura 2000 protection areas. (Natura 2000 is a network of nature reserves comprising 18% of the EU’s land area.) In essence, the money PWN receives for their water is literally funding conservation. 'The dunes are indeed very special,' says Dick Groenendijk, an ecologist and conservationist working as a consultant for PWN tells DutchNews.nl. 'The area of PWN’s dunes is less than 0.5% of the total surface area in the Netherlands. However, over 50% of the total Dutch biodiversity is recorded in our dunes. That is the main reason why we will increase the quality of the habitats.' The system is not perfect. In the late 1990s, the legacy of nutrient rich river waterand nitrogen precipitation from acid rain began to take its toll on the dunes. As a result, the landscape became overgrown. In an effort to keep the dunes true to their ecological identity, all three dune water companies began introducing grote grazers (large grazers) to munch away at the invasive greenery. By grazing down grasses and scrub, the large animals create ecological niches for specialised insects, birds, and lizards. 'Revitalising the dunes is a long process,' says Dick. 'The focus is to increase the area and quality of open dune grasslands, which is the main and most important habitat in the dunes—and also of European importance. In addition, we will complete a set of three green birdges in Zuid-Kennemerland in 2018 to minimise habitat fragmentation in the dunes.' Living together The most popular large grazers employed by the three dune companies are Highland cattle, Galloway cattle, and a semi-feral breed of horse called a Konik horse. These horses are the same breed that sent me leaping for the trees when this story began. It is a bitter recollection but, with mild embarrassment, I can’t help marvelling that such an encounter with wild animals could even take place so close to the bustling, 500-strong city of The Hague. The coastal dunes protect the Netherlands from flooding, they make some of the purest drinking water in the world, and they support 50% of the country’s biodiversity. They’re also just a kilometre from my house.  More >