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


A year without money: one Dutchman’s journey to find human happiness

A year without money: one Dutchman’s journey to find human happiness

When Mundo Resink (35) realised that money was holding him back in life, he chose a drastic solution: to live without it. Deborah Nicholls-Lee finds out more about his life-changing experiment. On the evening of January 6, 2013, Mundo Resink couldn’t sleep. Something had been growing inside of him: a resounding truth which this night refused to be silenced. ‘It was like something from my belly just came up and it was unstoppable,’ he says. That night Mundo realised that the path he had chosen - the startup he was working on, the money he was trying to make - was unnatural, joyless and at odds with his inner voice. The more he chased money, the more it eluded him. ‘Every time I allowed myself to be talked into things I didn’t want to do, that didn’t feel right... we would end up throwing money into a bottomless pit, working with clients that were not happy, making ourselves unhappy and just not living,’ he says, five years on. The reverse was also true: ‘Every time I just went for something on an impulse that felt good, I would meet the most amazing people. Beautiful projects would come out of that and, more often than not, I would actually be given money for it as well.’ The message became impossible to ignore. ‘It was like someone turned around my hand and tattooed there was, ‘Mundo, stop trying to fool yourself.’ And this tattoo had been there my whole life, I just hadn’t seen it.’ No money Acknowledging that money was not his lifeblood and a major cause of stress to boot, Mundo began to organise gatherings and to blog on the topic. Eventually, he decided to explore and transform his relationship with money in the clearest manner possible: by simply removing it temporarily from his life. For eight months between 2015 and 2016, he made himself the subject of his experiment. He travelled across Scotland and Portugal ‘and all the countries in between’, hitchhiking, volunteering and knocking on doors, until a sudden decline in his father’s health brought him back to Amsterdam, where he continued the project until he felt the experiment was over. The first few days were not easy. When he reached the east coast of Scotland with no tent, no sleeping bag, no destination and no money in the middle of winter, Mundo felt for the first time the fear of being without food or shelter and of having ‘dived into the unknown’. ‘I encountered all of the worries that you might think of,’ he admits. ‘I had an infected toe and I was feeling physically ill and miserable and very depressed.’ But imagining the worst-case scenario and reminding himself that he been through worse ordeals in the past, allowed him to embrace the experience - however challenging - and revived the conviction that something positive lay ahead. No Measuring His instincts were good. While hitchhiking, he passed a farm: ‘Something told me that I had to get out there.’ He met a family who welcomed him with open arms and put him up for the night. They told him about a place that was doing restoration work and this became his next stop. A commune, a retreat centre, an overgrown estate - he rolled from one place to the next. Building jobs, repairs, cooking and cleaning – he was open to it all. ‘I made more beds than I’ve done in my entire life,’ he jokes. Taking money away had a stripping-down effect and forced a journey of self-knowledge. ‘I ran into myself a lot,’ he confesses. ‘I would arrive somewhere and my drive to want to pay someone hadn’t gone, I just didn’t have money to do it. So, I would be like, ‘I can help with this; I can do this for you…’ … People would even tell me, ‘Mundo, you’ve been travelling all day, relax. Welcome. Have dinner with us and we’ll see tomorrow.’' Letting go of the idea that his value was somehow measurable – in money or otherwise - was difficult. Yet having no money did not impoverish Mundo’s relationship with the people he met. Instead, he says, it forced an honesty, free of personal gain, which enriched the bond. Often, people would offer him more than he needed. If hunger did strike, he would ‘practise not labelling that sensation as something bad,’ rather than ask for food. ‘It came down to just trusting that I would meet my needs, even if it meant a day of fasting, which never happened in the end.’ And ringing strangers’ doorbells and hitchhiking became a positive thing, rather than something to fear, always leading him to ‘an avalanche of new experiences and new connections.’ England was the only place where, the further south he went, the more often he was asked 'Are you an axe-murderer?'. ‘People are afraid of people,’ he tells me. ‘[Yet] in all of those ten months, I didn’t have a single negative experience.’ Leven not Overleven Returning home, Mundo stopped defining goals and success in terms of money, creating space to do the things that really brought him joy, such as writing about his experiences. His book, Geld Gaat Nooit Over Geld (Money is Never about Money), is free to read and his travels required nothing but the willingness to ask and to give. Neither were about making money, but both, he says, made him feel more alive than ever before. ‘The desire for a life that feels like living instead of surviving – leven [rather than] overleven is something we all know inside to be the life that we are born to live, but we are not validated in that,’ explains Mundo. ‘We are validated by something else that completely goes against the grain of who we are in our hearts.’ ‘And what of norms and expectations?’ I ask. He looks me straight in the eye: ‘They are unshakable only so long as we believe them.’ Visit Mundo’s website to find out more about his trip, his writing and his workshops.   More >


An allround experience: watching Sven and Ireen skate in front of their home crowd

An allround experience: watching Sven and Ireen skate in front of their home crowd

There are some things you just can’t avoid to really understand the Dutch and speed skating is one of them. Robin Pascoe went to see Sven (Kramer) and Ireen (Wüst) in action at the world allround championships. Many years ago, when my children were small, we did the obligatory skating lessons at the Jaap Edenbaan ice rink in Amsterdam. This usually involved spending all day of the one-week autumn holiday at the rink, watching small boys and girls strap skates to their boots, don waterproofs and set off round the ice at breakneck speed. After a year of watching little Svens and Ireens, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and sign up for the adult class which took place at the same time. I bought a pair of ‘hoge noren’ speed skates and signed up for lessons. Eventually my years of Saturday mornings at the Silver Blades ice rink in Bradford attempting to learn how to do a half lutz were converted into something vaguely resembling the Dutch long glide – if you put your hands confidently behind your back, it looks pretty convincing to the novice. I’ve skated a couple of tours – when the ice is thick enough to follow a route of 10, or 20 or even 50 kilometres – and I get my skates out and look at them every time it freezes – as I did a couple of weeks ago. Speed Just one thing was missing from my skating education – attending a full on Dutch speed skating competition – so when I saw that the world allround championships were being held in the Olympic stadium in Amsterdam, what could I do but buy tickets? Allround is a very particular test of endurance - skating four distances and totting up the times. The men’s competition involves races of 500m, 1,500m, 5km and 10km, the women’s 500m, 1,500m, 3km and 5km. Now, the Dutch being skating fanatics had snapped up all the bargain seats so we were stuck with the €70 tickets – given the fact that it rained most of the night and we were under the roof, we did get one advantage out of it. There was a lot of queuing involved – queuing to get in, queuing to get something to eat – the queues to the loos were so long we decided not to drink anything in case we needed to take advantage of that particular facility. There was also a lot of orange about - shades of King’s Day in the orange hats, the face painting and the orange everything. The stadium itself was packed – a sea of orange with the odd nest of Norwegians in between. The mood was enthusiastic, hyped up by the stadium announcer and the constant boom boom boom of the chart hits blaring over the sound system. Pop star The first event was the men’s 500 metres – which takes about 35 seconds a race – in other words, almost over before you’ve even noticed. You watch, somewhat bemused, the first couple of races and then it happens. Someone has noticed Sven is warming up. The crowd begins to roar as if he is a pop star. I have once attended a papal mass and witnessed the nuns screaming for the pope. This is pretty similar. We can call him Sven. Everyone knows him. The presenter announces he will be in the outside lane. ‘Sven Krrrrrramer’ he booms, before listing all his achievements – which take longer to read out than the race itself. It’s pretty much the same when Ireen Wüst takes to the track a while later for the 1,500 metres. She is the Netherlands most successful Olympic athlete, the announcer tells us several times. She has hundreds of gold medals… Like Sven, Ireen waves at the crowd and acknowledges her fans. They go wild. Rain The 1,500 metres is a better race length… a couple of the heats are actually exciting and the crowd is on its feet, roaring the leader home, despite the rain. Their orange gear has been covered up by yellow and green rain capes, thoughtfully provided by the organisers. In between all this racing, the track, which is covered in rain, gets cleaned up a few times while the audience is entertained with oompah bands and some dreadful chap at a piano singing Queen and Meatloaf songs. The crowd love it. They are on their feet waving and singing along. I start to think I may have slipped into a parallel universe. Next up is the men’s 5,000 metres. This is a race which takes over six minutes… which is quite a long time to watch two men skating round an ice rink – 12 laps and a bit extra in total. We get to worship Sven again. He’s just pipped at the post by Sverre Lunde Pedersen who is in the last race. Final More work on the ice, more oompah music and then comes the final event of the evening – the women’s 5,000 metres. We already know that Ireen won’t retain her title, but we love her anyway. We are all on our feet cheering when she beats Japan’s Miho Takagi at the finish, but we know Miho is the new queen of allround. And I have a sneaking feeling that Miho didn’t quite pull out all the stops, so that Ireen could celebrate victory in the 5,000 metres in front of her home crowd. After that it is a mad dash for the exit so you don’t get caught in the queue to go home. We’re out before the prizes are handed out. I can’t take any more hyped-up Ireeeeeeeen Wüst and boom boom boom music. The men’s competition finishes on Sunday and I am quite happy to watch that on the telly. Stop press: Sven did not win the men's title. Young whippersnapper Patrick Roest picked up the gold after Sverre Lunde Pedersen fell. Sven came in fourth.  More >


Dying is expensive: so do you need Dutch funeral insurance?

Dying is expensive: so do you need Dutch funeral insurance?

The Dutch are a pragmatic people about many things, not least of all about death. For many of them, that means planning ahead - and taking out insurance to pay for the cost of their funeral. Not surprisingly, a funeral insurance (in Dutch: uitvaartverzekering) is one of the most common types of insurance policies in the Netherlands. About 60% of the Dutch population have taken out insurance to cover the costs of their funeral. According to Dutch family spending institute Nibud, the Dutch spend an average of €7,500 on a funeral. Nevertheless, a large part of the population does not know what the true cost of a funeral is and around half of the policies they take out do not fully cover the ceremony and funeral costs. So, how essential is funeral planning? And do we really need an insurance that covers those expenses? Planning a funeral To put it bluntly, when you die, your family will suddenly have to find the money to pay for the funeral. This will almost certainly add to their stress levels at an already very difficult time. So, funeral insurance seems a sensible thing to have. When the times comes, the insurance company will ensure a smooth pay-out, taking one worry away from the family as well as removing the financial burden. Moreover, you can save 12% on average when you choose to insure yourself for the cost of your funeral instead of saving up for the expenses. Find a suitable funeral insurance here As an expat, you may want to be buried or cremated in your home country. These kind of arrangements are possible, but bear in mind that this is much more expensive than having a funeral in The Netherlands. The cost of having your body shipped back home can run up to more than €15,000.  Another reason, therefore, to consider funeral insurance. Types of insurances There are several different types of funeral insurances to chose from. Some insurance plans offer a pre-arranged package of funeral services and the insurance company will then settle the bill directly with a Dutch undertaker. Other plans are based on a ‘expenses only’ system, where the beneficiaries only get a pay-out for the expenses that are linked to the funeral itself. If you want to be completely free in spending the insurance money as you please, you may want to apply for a kapitaalverzekering. This type of plan will be very suitable for a funeral abroad, since the insurance money can be used for any purpose. Comparing insurances pays off Comparing different funeral insurance policies may save you a lot of money. This is because the Dutch funeral industry is a free market with numerous insurers, policy types and price differences. Asking for different quotations or using a comparison website is the wisest thing to do.  More >


Just how easy is it to buy a house in the Netherlands?

Just how easy is it to buy a house in the Netherlands?

So, you’ve lived in the Netherlands long enough to know that you plan to stay. Now it is time to get out of that rental apartment and buy a place of your own and really become a local. But how much do you really know about the process? Take our quiz and find out. You’ve decided to take the plunge and become a home owner. It should be pretty simple, right? Here’s 12 key questions to help you find out everything you don’t know about how to buy a house. 1 You’ve got a great job which pays you €60,000 a year but you’ve only got a one-year contract and your partner is a freelancer. Can you still get a mortgage? 2 You want to buy a neat little apartment which is priced at €350,000 and you’ve got around €20,000 in savings. Can you borrow enough to buy the property, pay all the bills and put in a new bathroom? 3 You’ve been to look at a great place but you are not sure about the sloping floor in the bedroom. Does the selling agent have to tell you what the problem is? 4 The selling agent tells you that the ownership association (VVE) in your building is not very active and that the fees are only €50 a month. Should you be worried? 5 To help pay the bills, you plan to rent out one of the two bedrooms in your new flat to a friend. Is that allowed? 6  To help pay the bills, you plan to rent out your flat via Airbnb when you go on holiday. Do you have to tell anyone? 7 What does a notary do, and do you have to use one? 8 You and your partner are from different countries but neither of you are Dutch. If one of you, heaven forbid, were to die, what would happen to your dream home? Added complication, you’ve got children. 9 You are planning to buy a property which you’ve been told is a monument. But will you be able to put in a new, bigger window in your bedroom? 10  You’d like to extend your downstairs sitting room into the garden a little and create a sun lounge. Will you need a special building permit to build it, and to get rid of that tree which is in the way? 11 Your Aunt Margaret left you a fantastic and rather valuable dining room table in her will. You want to bring it over to the Netherlands. What should you do 12 And how will you get that table into your third-floor flat? If you still think buying a house in the Netherlands is as easy as falling off a bike, you won’t need any more advice from us. But if you’d like to quiz the experts, come to the How to Buy a House event at the Vondelkerk in Amsterdam on Saturday, March 24. A mortgage advisor, a notary, an estate agent, a builder, an interior designer and an international moving company will all be on hand so you can get the answers directly from the experts. And if you do complete the quiz, you could win a great prize as well.  More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: explore Leiden’s canals without the tourist hustle

DutchNews.nl destinations: explore Leiden’s canals without the tourist hustle

Once considered a broken down, blue-collar burg, Leiden has shed this reputation in recent years to become a sort of ‘mini Amsterdam’. Brandon Hartley shares a glimpse at one of the most often overlooked cities in the Randstad. At first glance, it might be easy to mistake the canals of Leiden for those in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district. They’re lined with picturesque houses, arched bridges, and the occasional house cat snoozing in the sun. While the city lacks the world famous museums and bustling nightlife of the real deal, it’s also a welcome refuge from the stag parties and tourist hordes that have laid claim to the nation’s capital. It’s also a city rich with history. Leiden is the birthplace of Rembrandt and was once home to the American Pilgrims before they hightailed it to the New World. In 1574, its brave citizens managed to withstand a months-long siege by the Spanish. They were later rewarded by King William of Orange with their very own college. Leiden University’s alumni list includes prime minister Mark Rutte, former Queen Beatrix and her son, Willem-Alexander. Albert Einstein also lectured there in the 1920s, which is why one of Leiden’s most popular taverns was named in his honour. The city was in decline and unemployment was high throughout much of the 20th century. Over the past generation, however, Leiden has bounced back and it’s a great place to visit for both history buffs and those looking for a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the country’s larger communities. Things to do Hortus Botanicus Leiden Dating back to 1590, this botanical garden is the oldest in the Netherlands. You’ll find gigantic water lilies among the 60,000 plant specimens among its indoor and outdoor exhibits, which include a small Japanese garden. One of the Hortus’ ‘crown jewels’ is a Titan arum, a rare plant that’s native solely to western Sumatra in Indonesia. It gives off a notoriously foul smell when it’s in full bloom. Burcht van Leiden Located on a man-made hill in the centre of the city, this fortress dates back to the 11th century. It’s a great place to take in a 360 degree view of the city and the nearby Hooglandse Kerk, a gothic church built in the 15th century. Over the years, the Burcht has served as everything from a water tower to a stronghold for Ada van Holland, a 12th century countess who got into a bitter battle with her meddlesome uncle over her title. These days, the hill and the fort are used for public events, picnics, weddings, and sledding whenever it snows. Wander the streets Leiden is home to a series of gorgeous canals and cobblestone streets. The ones near the Pieterskerk, the final resting place of several American Pilgrims, served as stand-ins for Amsterdam in The Miniaturist. Pop into the nearly unpronounceable 't Suppiershuysinghe for a koffie verkeerd if you need a break. This centuries-old cafe is the very definition of gezellig but the adjacent public square’s blood-soaked history is anything but (it was used as an execution grounds for the neighbouring prison). Also keep an eye out for Leiden’s wall poems. At the last count, there are 110 of them all across the city. Naturalis This research centre and natural history museum is best known as the home of Trix, one of the world’s most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons. At the time of  writing, she’s on tour and will be making stops at museums in Barcelona and Paris before returning to Leiden in 2019. Naturalis is also undergoing renovations but it’s open to the public and currently hosting an exhibit about poisonous animals. De Valk Fully restored in 2000, this majestic 18th century tower mill currently serves as both a museum and Leiden’s centrepiece. It’s another great spot to take in a panorama of the city or learn more about the inner workings of windmills. De Valk also features living quarters that contain original furnishings and decor. Where to Eat It’s tough to find a decent bagel in the Netherlands but Leiden is home to the country’s first traditional bagel bakery. Proprietor Frank Zweerus and his crew at Better Bagels specialise in making them fresh each day and often break out themed-ones inspired by everything from Pokemon to Maria ‘Goeie Mie’ Swanenburg, the notorious serial killer who killed dozens of innocent Leideners in the late 19th century. It’s a great place to stop for lunch but, if you’re on the go, Mamie Gourmande is another option. This authentic French bakery is one of the very best in the lowlands. Stop here for a delicious sandwich or a take-away quiche along with a frosty Orangina. There are also plenty of freshly-made croissants, macarons, and eclairs up for grabs. If it’s a Saturday, check out Leiden’s nearby outdoor market, which has been going strong for over 900 years. Vishandel Atlantic owns a stand and they’re among the top contenders for the coveted ‘best herring’ award every year. The Bishop, a bistro located in an historic building that once served as a brothel, is where to head for ‘hip’ international cuisine. For more family-friendly fare that won’t break the bank, there’s Oudt Leyden, a beloved cafe stuffed full of ‘Old Dutch’ decor that’s been around since 1907. Over the past century, they’ve served Dutch-style pancakes to Charles de Gaulle, Sir Winston Churchill, and members of the royal family. Where to Stay The Golden Tulip owns two side-by-side properties near Leiden Centraal station; the four star Hotel Golden Tulip and the more low-key Hotel Tulip Inn. For a more unique experience, book a few nights at the historic Nieuw Minerva. Located inside a 16th century canal house, a few of its rooms feature some truly extraordinary beds. The Rembrandt Room contains an exact copy of a gorgeous box bed once owned by the artist himself. How to Get There Leiden is easy get to by train and you can be standing in Leiden Centraal within 15 minutes of departing from Schiphol Airport. Making the journey by car along the A44 from Amsterdam takes about 45 minutes. If it’s springtime and you’re feeling limber, you can also cycle down from Amsterdam through the tulip fields outside the city and make a pit-stop at the world famous Keukenhof. A non-stop journey via bike from the nation’s capital takes a little over two hours. When to visit? Much like the old cliché claims, just about anytime is a great time to come to Leiden. Every spring, the SieboldHuis museum hosts an incredibly popular Japanese market to honour a visit made by the country’s emperor in 2000. The annual springtime Lakenfeesten feature a whimsical boat parade that’s always guaranteed to be a hoot. The Leiden International Film Festival, which takes place in the autumn, keeps getting bigger and better with each passing year. The city also hosts a floating Christmas market with an ice rink during the holiday season on a canal located mere footsteps from its monumental stadhuis. But Leiden is best avoided during its notorious 3 Oktober celebrations. The city is invaded for several days by rowdy crowds on the prowl for carnival rides, ear-splitting dance music, and tons of cheap Amstel pilsner. Some people love it, some people loathe it and, if you can’t stand drunken revelry, stay away.  More >


DutchNews podcast – The Broken Referendum Edition – Week 9

DutchNews podcast – The Broken Referendum Edition – Week 9

  It may be just about the coldest start to March on record, but there's plenty of hot topics to digest on this week's podcast. We find out why Geert Wilders's efforts to thaw relations with Russia got a less than warm reception from the MH17 relatives, how a teenager won the right to brand himself a prince and what burning issues the Netherlands plans to tackle as chair of the UN security council. Plus the Winter Olympians return home in a blaze of glory and one of Johannes Vermeer's best-known paintings is back in the spotlight. And as D66 prepares to consign its referendum law to the flames, we discuss why successive attempts at direct democracy in the Netherlands have failed to catch fire. Top story: Weather Last day of February breaks cold weather record Man, 75, dies after falling through the ice while skating News Wilders infuriates MH17 relatives with friendship pin on trip to Russia Son of Prince Carlos wins court battle to use father's name and title Netherlands to chair UN security council for the next month Vermeer's Girl with the Pearl Earring given a check-up Sport Speed skaters finish on 20 medals as Esmee Visscher interprets for Ivanka Trump Discussion: Referendums and democracy Cabinet stands firm: no referendum on law to end referendums Gordon's blog: The vote to end all votes  More >


From bubbles to boats: Five Dutch initiatives which are tackling the plastics crisis

From bubbles to boats: Five Dutch initiatives which are tackling the plastics crisis

Empty drinks bottles, plastic packaging, microscopic plastic particles in the food chain: this once oh so useful invention is fast becoming an environmental catastrophe. Deborah Nicholls-Lee has been checking out some Dutch projects which are seeking solutions. The Great Bubble Barrier   Founded in Haarlem in 2015, The Great Bubble Barrier comprises an all-woman team of experienced sailors, who were tired of the plastic in the water spoiling their favourite sport. Based on a concept already used in the oil industry, in locks and in dredging, air is pumped through a perforated tube, creating bubbles which push the plastic to the surface and off to one side, where it can then be removed by a conveyor belt. Recent tests in the river IJssel showed that pieces as small as 3mm long can be trapped using this system. 'The Great Bubble Barrier can block plastics across the entire width and depth of the river and does not hinder ships and fish and it doesn’t require major infrastructural changes,'co-founder Francis Zoet told DutchNews.nl. Aerating the water with bubbles is also good for the wildlife, say the organisation, and is visually more appealing than construction-based systems. For the moment, the team are focused on the Netherlands, but eventually they want to use the technology to reduce plastic pollution in Asia. ‘Our hands are itching to get to work there,’ Zoet says. Plantics While researching biofuels, chemists Gadi Rothenberg and Albert Alberts at the University of Amsterdam stumbled upon an extraordinary new bioplastic. The material is strong, fully biodegradable and created with 100% renewable raw materials derived from biomass. In 2014, Plantics was founded to research the product’s applications and bring them to market. While current resins are based on petrochemical sources and often use poisonous ingredients such as formaldehyde and epichlorohydrin, the thermoset resin Plantics is developing is non-toxic and can take the form of rigid or elastic plates and foams. The plant pots which the company recently launched, together with WP Trading, have won two awards in the last six months and are in the final for the Rabobank Sustainable Innovation award. Bioplastic is currently one of the fastest growing material businesses worldwide and a key step towards EU targets to make all packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030. Plastic Whale Amsterdam’s UNESCO-listed canals are fast becoming a soup of plastic flotsam as tourism spirals and more waste finds its way into the picturesque waterways. Plastic Whale run plastic fishing tours which flip the script, making tourists part of the solution rather than the problem. As more plastic treasure is scooped from the water, so the Plastic Whale fleet expands. The discarded plastic bottles, bags and packaging are melted down to make new boats, increasing the number of tourists they can take out and broadening the impact of the clean-up. There are also plans to trial the concept in developing countries where plastic pollution is severe and poverty levels are high. ‘By creating value from the waste, we give an economic impulse to the local community and attack the problem of public waste at the same time,’ explains founder Marius Smit. Plastic Whale was founded in 2011 and opened a second tour in Rotterdam in 2016. This February they launched their Circular Furniture collection, made from the plastic fished during the trips. vanPlestik Nout Kooij was unsatisfied with the 3D-printing filament he had created from recycled plastic. It only worked with the highest-quality, cleanest plastics - just 10% of plastic waste - and the market was already saturated with similar products. Together with high-school buddy Sam van Til, they came up with an idea: to forget smaller, intricate objects and focus on big ones. This way, any minor contaminations, particles of sand or air bubbles, would not matter, meaning they could use a broader range of plastics. They designed and built their own 3D printer capable of coping with cruder materials and vanPlestik was born. The duo are currently partnering with the Prael brewery, converting plastic beer kegs into new furniture. They are also working with artist Peter Smith and Stichting Klean to print a 12m-long statue of the Madonna, created from recycled PET bottles. Last year, vanPlestik won the ‘Amsterdammmers, maak je stad!’ prize. But their vision for this new technology goes well beyond the Netherlands. ‘Our idea is that some day developing countries may use this kind of machine to reduce the plastic waste that goes into the ocean and nature,’ Van Til told DutchNews.nl. The Ocean Cleanup Could a huge floating curtain purge the infamous Pacific Garbage Patch of plastic detritus? When this ground-breaking project launches later this year, we’ll know for sure. Boyan Slat, the brains behind the invention, is the youngest person to win the UN’s Champion of the Earth Award and was last year named Elsevier Weekblad’s Nederlander van het Jaar. The idea came to him while on a diving course in Greece in 2010. Appalled by the amount of plastic he was swimming in and its harmful effect on the wildlife, he felt impelled to make a change. Moving with the currents, rather than chasing the plastic, the Ocean Cleanup consists of a giant buoyant tube with a solid screen suspended beneath it which gathers the rubbish and shepherds it into a collection reservoir. The system is intended to be self-funding through the recycling and resale of the recovered plastic. It is estimated that a fleet of 60 such systems, each around one kilometre long, could, over a 5-year period, clean up around 50% of the plastic trapped between Japan and the west coast of America.  More >


Irish dancing, DIY and meeting monsters: 13 great things to do in March

Irish dancing, DIY and meeting monsters: 13 great things to do in March

The freezing temperatures may not make it feel like spring is on its way, but the Netherlands is gearing up for the start of the tulip season as the Keukenhof opens later this month. Here's a selection of great things to do in March. Look at the beautiful people The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is celebrating the return of Rembrandt's wedding portrait of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit after its restauration by tapping into the celebrity culture of centuries gone by. On show will be a collection of 35 full length portraits of such distinguished figures as femme fatale Luisa Casati and the rather dreamy playboy and gynaecologist (!) Dr Pozzi. High Society is on from March 8 to June 3. Website Look at the hoi polloi More Rembrandt at the Rembrandthuis, where a collection of etchings show the artist's powers of observation. Ordinary folk, children at play, beggars and tinkers are all depicted with the same attention to detail he lavished on the great and the good. From March 3. Website Say Sláinte It's Lá Fhéile Pádraig on March 17th, time for some grand Irish music, dancing and drinking for all to enjoy. In Amsterdam the St Patrick's Festival presents a host of activities ranging from an evening with writer John Banville to Irish dancing workshops and late night Irish traditional music and céilí dancing. March 16-17. Go to the website for tickets and venues. The Hague stages its own festival on the Grote Markt on the 17th, with lots of live bands and fleet-footed dancing as well. Website Or say Sayonara If you're not into Irish fiddles you could spend your weekend at the International Butoh Festival watching an international group of artists performing Japanese dance theatre.  March 16-17. Website Do a spot of DIY with Buurman and Buurman The Museum of the 20th century in Hoorn is celebrating 40 years of DIY disasters with Buurman & Buurman, or Pat and Mat as the characters are called in their native Czech Republic. Children (and grown-ups) will enjoy the life size dolls and other exhibits and can even do a bit of DIY of their own. A je to!  is Czech for 'there we are!' which was maintained in the Dutch translation. It is also the title of the exhibition which is on until Jan 6 2019. Website Get romantic at the Keukenhof The Keukenhof opens its doors on March 22 (until May 13) and this year's theme is Romanticism, both the period ( the park was designed in 1857) and the mushy stuff.  'Come to the tulip garden with your beloved and go down on one knee' the Keukenhof gushes. If you would rather not spoil your clothes, there are flower shows and gardens to admire. Mind you don't walk through the kissing gateway of Cupid's garden or you will be for it after all. Website Come to the fair The prestigious European Fine Arts Fair (TEFAF) will be opening its doors in Maastricht again to showcase art of all kinds and from every corner of the globe. It prides itself on its vetting so you won't buy a dud. But if you are 'just looking' you're welcome too. From March 10 to March 18. Website Meet a monster The Teylers museum in Haarlem casts a scientific eye on man's age-old fascination with monstrous animals. Apparently Marco Polo spotted a rhino and thought: that is  one ugly unicorn. What did people think they saw and what was it they really saw? The exhibition Monster Animals, fake or real? explains all. Until June 10. Website Listen to the music at the film museum The EYE film museum in Amsterdam is pairing up films and music in its new programme Eyeshadow. Indie classics from 1990 onward are followed by live performances which some way reflect the films. The monthly series kicks off with the film Drive (2011) with singer BEA1991 doing the reflecting. March 25. Website Share a joke with Frans Hals 'The Frans Halsmuseum in Haarlem is hahahahahahahaha!' its website guffaws. The joke is on characters depicted in the paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, such as lazy maids, drunks and quacks. While a modern audience is unlikely to fall about laughing or may not see the joke, the exhibition does give an insight in what made the people of the 17th century snigger. The Art ofLaughter, Humour in the Golden Age is on until March 18. Website Don't miss Fashion designer Paul Poiret, father of the art deco movement, is the subject of an exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. Poiret delivered women from the corset and put them in stunning and comfortable kimonos. He also worked with the artists of the time. You have until March 4 to admire clothes, paintings, jewellery and other superior knicknacks from the roaring Twenties in Poiret, Le Magnifique. Website If you hurry you can just catch Jump into the Future - Art from the 90's and 2000's at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam with works from the collection of German collector Thomas Borgmann. Cosima von Bonin, Matt Mullican, Lucy McKenzie, Jutta Koether, Paulina Olowska, Wolfgang Tillmans, Christopher Williams, Cerith Wyn Evans en Heimo Zobernig are some of the artists who, according to curator Martijn van Nieuwenhuizen, mark the shift towards art that eluded fixed categories. Until March 4. Website Vermeer's Girl with the Pearl Earring is being probed and prodded by scientists in the next two weeks to see what she's made of. Mauritshuis paintings conservator and head researcher Abbie Vandivere will explain what is taking place inside the workshop using videos and daily updates. The Girl in the Spotlight is on until March 12 at the Mauritshuis in The Hague. Website  More >


The bison are back: rewilding the Dutch dunes brings back a mega beast

The bison are back: rewilding the Dutch dunes brings back a mega beast

Hunted to near-extinction by the 1920s, European Bison clung to survival in a handful of zoos. Thanks to continent-wide conservation programmes, Europe’s largest megafauna now roams wild in one of its most densely populated regions: the Randstad. Joshua James Parfitt has been bison spotting. I stand gazing out over the dune slacks, as the sun sets orange behind apartment blocks in the distance. Within earshot, a motorbike noisily chases fame or fun at the Zandvoort race track. Distant cars zoom by in their monotonous growl; it seems that nowhere in the Netherlands is safe from the sights and sounds of civilisation. But, behind me, a blond-haired child steps cautiously between tufts of grass as if stalking something. I turn to the child and open my mouth to ask... 'Shhh!' the retort comes rapidly. He hides behind a clump of marram grass. 'The bison are here!' he proclaims, wide-eyed. The boy had good reason to be afraid. As Europe’s largest land mammal, a full-grown bull can weigh 1,000 kilogrammes, and its shoulders can tower at a height of up to two metres. That’s twice his height — something he probably already figured out while standing in front of the stuffed bull at the Kennemerduinen Visitor’s Centre just outside Haarlem. But that doesn’t answer a different question: what in the world are bison doing here? The fall of the bison The European bison is one of two living species of bison. Many of us may be acquainted with the bisons of North America — which were hunted to near-extinction in the 19th century. That’s America, though, with its grizzly bears, ‘wild west’, and Super Size cups; this is Western Europe. Records indicate that the European bison once roamed this continent, from Russia in the east to France in the west. In fact, it was still present in southern France up until the 15th century. Expanding agriculture, civilisation, and hunting eventually pushed the European bison from much of its former range until it survived in just two forested enclaves: the Białowieża Forest in Poland, and the Caucasus region on the Russian border with Georgia. Retreating German soldiers slaughtered all but nine animals in Poland after WWI — they were locally finished off by 1921 — and the last European bison was hunted down in the Caucasus in 1927. The bison were gone. Rewilding Often the source of criticism from the environmentally-inclined, it was the zoo that saved European bison from extinction. From a starter pack of 12 animals held in captivity, they now number close to 5,000. After their reintroduction into the Białowieża Forest in 1952, Poland has now exported their bison to 14 European countries. One of the smallest countries hosting a bison herd is the Netherlands. Here, the megafauna can be seen in the Hoge Veluwe national park in Gelderland, the Maasthorst nature reserve in Noord-Brabant, and in the Zuid-Kennemerland national park in Haarlam — tucked inside the densely-populated Randstad metropolis. So, how did it happen? Much of the fuss is to do with the word ‘rewilding’. Whereas the environmental movement is clear about what they are against — fossil fuels, plastic pollution, hydroelectric dams etc... — English journalist and advocate George Monbiot says that rewilding is the movement’s chance to declare 'what we are for'. Rewilding means the rehabilitation of nature; not just the gazetting of national parks, but the restoration of ecosystems and the food chains therein. Wolves '[Wolves] always excite me,”' says Yvonne Kemp, an ecologist at ARK — the organisation who ‘own’ the bison herd in the Zuid-Kennemerland national park. 'We’ve had a wolf coming [to the Netherlands] since 2013, and whenever we see that a wolf has been near — especially when there are no sheep kills or angry opinions — then, that’s great!' Before you run for the hills (which you can’t really escape to in the Netherlands anyway) the wolves only briefly cross over from the German border. The presence of bison, however, is not just something to excite ecologists and frighten the rest of us. According to Yvonne, European bison are known as a ‘keystone species’ that engineer greater biodiversity just by, well, being themselves. According to the ‘Revitalising Dunes in Kennemerland’ report by PWN, the water company who own the parkland, by the 1930s dune birds such as the short-eared owl, the golden oriole, and the red-backed shrike were racing towards local extinction. Insects Noting the installment of artificial dune barriers and the encroachment of non-native vegetation, the blame was placed upon the decline of a common food source: specialist insects that need patches of open sand in a shifting dunescape to survive. 'Bison open up the area,' continues Yvonne, 'they wallow a lot, so with this behaviour all year long you can see very much local patches of sand so pioneer vegetation [and insects] have a chance again.' Since they also debark shrubs and trees, and encourage the dispersal of native grasses through their manure, the bison are essentially bringing back the original biodiversity for free. Trail There are currently 22 European bison in the enclosed Kraansvlak section of the Zuid-Kennemerland national park. It lies between Haarlem and Zandvoort, and can easily be reached by car and public transport. For the time-constrained, there is a viewing area overlooking a small lake — Meertje van Burdet — that can be reached in 30 minutes by foot from the Kennemerduinen Visitor’s Centre. It’s not likely you will see the bison from here, but I suppose it was my lucky day! For the intrepid, there is a 1.4 km path known as the ‘bison trail’ that cuts across the Kraansvlak enclosure from Bloemendaal aan Zee, and is simply that: a trail. As may be frowned at by visitors from more protective societies, the Dutch do not always put fences around their canals; neither do they fence off their bison paths. Since the Polish migrants were first released from their long-haul journey in 2007, there has not yet been a bison-human incident, I was assured. However, a shifting rota of volunteers patrol the trail making sure that no one strays from the well-marked trail just in case. There is a catch involved: the trail closes on the March 1 until September 1, on account of the migrant bird-nesting season. So, if you would like to traverse the up-and-down dunes, with your heart rate beating as much from the physical exercise as the excitement of maybe seeing Europe’s largest megafauna round the next hill, get down to Haarlem quick!  More >


From 3D selfies to replica engagement rings, Local Makers can bring your product to life

From 3D selfies to replica engagement rings, Local Makers can bring your product to life

If you can’t find the product you need, you might like to create it yourself. We visited Local Makers, the product design team who are serving a growing market for self-made solutions. Amsterdam product development company Local Makers have had some odd commissions. These include a home enema kit, a hand-painted 3D-printed model of a clitoris for a science programme, and the VU University Medical Center once got in touch regarding a special holder for an anal probe. All of these items were duly discussed, designed and brought to life. Whatever product people want to create, the answer is almost always ‘yes’. Many of Local Makers’ products are made of plastic or metal, but they also work with apps and other digital products. The team can insert circuit boards and motors or add robotic features. They offer 3D FDM printing, where the plastic is melted in fine layers at between 200 and 300 degrees, and SLA printing where liquids are set by UV light. With all these tools, getting a product to market - however unusual - is quicker and more straightforward than ever before. A team on your side ‘Having an idea is easy, execution is the hardest part of it,’ says company director Mark Austen from the UK, who founded Local Makers in 2014. ‘We make this process simple and we make it an enjoyable experience for the customer.’ The team of talented designers, who make the magic happen, is predominantly female. ‘This is really rare in product development,’ says Austen, who claims that the sector is normally full of ‘geeky guys’. Lead designer Lisa Klaever from Germany recognises the importance of working closely with clients and listening carefully to their vision for their product. The designer’s role is to understand, interpret, and adapt the client’s idea, she explains, while all the time guiding the customer through a process which is ‘really hard’ and ‘a huge thing for them.’ Local Makers is unusual in offering a one-stop-shop solution for people, says Austen. ‘If you, the customer, have an idea for something; you need to find a way to put it on paper; you need someone who can do a technical drawing; then you need a 3D design for manufacturing; then you need a mould engineer; … then you need to do all the logistics for that, and if something goes wrong on that chain, it’s really stressful for the entrepreneur. But now, the entrepreneur can just come to us and if something goes wrong, they shout at us and we know exactly what to do.’ Working in partnership with a huge network of experts, the team can outsource any special requests clients have, such as mass production, metal printing, SLS (selective laser sintering) or injection moulding. They can also advise on website design, patenting and branding. Product design is for everybody The company’s customers come from all walks of life, from a boxer making a jaw trainer, to a man wanting a plastic replica of an expensive engagement ring to see if his girlfriend, who had frequently criticised his cheapness, could make light of this failing before he presented her with the real version. What they have in common is a vision and the desire to create something original. When you shop in a high street store, explains Austen, you come out with an item that has been produced for thousands of buyers. ‘You’re unique, but what you do isn’t unique, what you wear isn’t, what you buy isn’t. All these gifts, they’re just not special. People want to have choice and they want to have them customised for them. 3D printing and small-scale manufacturing is becoming cheaper and allows for that sort of customisation for people.’ One example of this is the 3D-printed selfie, popular with families seeking small models of their children or their baby bump, often as a present for the grandparents. The Delft-style hand-painted houses are also doing well. Originally commissioned as a corporate gift for KLM's most frequent flyers, the trend has widened, with customers outside the company designing printed models of their own homes. Local and global clients Despite big name clients like Adidas, Schiphol Airport and Starbucks, the team pride themselves on their personalised approach, meeting the needs of the newbie entrepreneur who happens to have a great idea, as well as the industry leaders with big budgets, seeking a specific product to streamline their operations or to award as a bespoke corporate gift. ‘What makes us special is that we’re accessible,’ explains Austen. ‘It doesn’t cost you anything to tell us your idea. That’s why we’re on the high street and we’re not in an office in Sloterdijk. Anybody can approach us. You don’t have to be Schiphol airport, you can be John Smith, you can be anybody.’ Following his clients’ success stories brings huge job satisfaction. Austen gives the example of Foam Locus, a device which makes foaming milk less wasteful, which last year scooped the Speciality Coffee Association’s Best New Product award. ‘These are people who’ve had ideas for a long, long time and, until they came to us, they had no idea that it was so simple to make,’ says Austen. ‘These guys, from an idea, they now have a business. And I think that’s really special.’ Got a great idea that you'd like to put into practice? Contact the Local Makers team to find out more.  More >


It’s Valentine’s Day. Here’s 11 reasons why you need a Dutch boyfriend

It’s Valentine’s Day. Here’s 11 reasons why you need a Dutch boyfriend

It's Valentine's Day, something a few years ago no self-respecting Dutch man or woman would think worthy of mention. Alas, this Anglo-American celebration of Cupid has become latest foreign fad to get the commercially-minded Dutch going. Not everyone has fallen for the marketing hype, however. A survey by ING economists in 2016 found just one in five Dutch people planned to give their loved one a Valentine's Day gift and the average amount they spend is €16. We admire their thriftiness. Here's 11 more reasons why Dutch partners need to be celebrated. 1. A Dutch boyfriend will give you flowers - even if you don't live in the same country. One member of the DutchNews.nl crew was the envy of all her flatmates in London while in a long-distance relationship with a Dutchman. Every week, a beautiful bouquet of flowers would be delivered to her door. 2. A Dutch boyfriend will treat you as an equal and won't patronise you by paying for everything. So don't forget your purse when you go on a date. 3. Dutch men are not afraid to wear pink. The Ajax football club pink kit from the 2013-14 season is still a much sought-after item. 4. A Dutch boyfriend will not tell you that you look fine in that too-tight dress worn with those shoes. He will tell you that you should put something else on. 5. Dutch men are tall - mostly - and often handsome. 6. A Dutch boyfriend knows how to fix your bike, fix your coffee machine and fix your dinner (stamppot). 7. A Dutch boyfriend knows how to do all those Dutch things that you don't learn about in inburgering classes: read the water meter, tip the newspaper delivery people and get adequate insurance. 8. Dutch boyfriends are down-to-earth about bedroom issues and they are not afraid of contraception. Little wonder then that the Netherlands has the lowest rate of teenage motherhood in the entire EU and one of the lowest abortion rates in the world. 9. When they are ready to embrace fatherhood, usually in their early 30s, Dutch boyfriends make great fathers. Go to any park in the Netherlands on a sunny Wednesday afternoon and you are sure to find a good sprinkling of dads and their offspring, enjoying what has become known as a papadag. 10. Dutch boyfriends are family-orientated. They will expect to celebrate your birthday and they will expect you to celebrate their mother's. 11. Your Dutch boyfriend will put you on the back of a bike and whizz you through town. Dutchmen not romantic? Nonsense. Before anyone gets indignant about our focus on Dutch men, the DutchNews.nl male team members tell us almost all of the above could be applied to Dutch women... although pink is usually confined to little girls. *Riding it Dutch Style features Rutger Hauer and Monique van der Ven from the classic Dutch film Turks Fruit.  More >


Dutch News Podcast – The F**k the King Edition – Week 6

Dutch News Podcast – The F**k the King Edition – Week 6

This week's podcast brings you the latest on the Brexit court case in Amsterdam, the race row engulfing the Forum voor Democratie and the party leader whose career capsized in the Maldives. The Dutch government replaces the leaders of its smallest Caribbean territory and Ronald Koeman replaces Dick Advocaat as manager of the national football team. Plus we look ahead to the Winter Olympics and ask if Dutch skaters will dominate the ice rink again in Pyeongchang. Top story British expats win case to have EU citizenship status decided in Luxembourg British applications for Dutch nationality surge following Brexit vote News Baudet challenged over race remarks and party democracy   Dutch government imposes direct rule on 'corrupt, lawless' Sint Eustatius Jobs section withdrawn from Dutch integration test Compulsory microchips could be introduced for cats Sport Ronald Koeman signs on as manager of Oranje Discussion: Winter Olympics Dutch take own bitterballen chef to Pyeongchang Johann Olav Koss condemns IOC and WADA for doping 'farce' NOS schedule detailing when all Dutch athletes are competing Google map showing different countries' favourite Winter Olympics sports    More >


DutchNews.nl destinations: getting windblown in winter on Texel

DutchNews.nl destinations: getting windblown in winter on Texel

In the winter, a wander along a blustery Texel beach is a popular way to blow the cobwebs away - lekker uitwaaien, as the Dutch would say. Robin Pascoe visited the biggest of the Wadden Sea islands. Just a few minutes by ferry from the navy town of Den Helder, Texel's regular population of over 13,000 is constantly inflated by a steady stream of holidaymakers all year round, mainly from the Netherlands and Germany. Texel is a something for everyone kind of place. The dune landscape is a haven for bird life and around one third of the island is a designated nature reserve. In the summer, tourists flock to its enormous sandy beaches, and the popular west coast villages of De Koog and De Cocksdorp, where most of the holiday villages and hotels are located. Despite Texel's popularity, it is easy to escape the crowds - but you will need to book the more popular restaurants in the evening. The local tourist office, which is extremely helpful, has a very comprehensive website in English. Things to do Museum Kaap Skil Oudeschild, the little fishing port on the south east coast, is home to the Museum Kaap Skil. The story of the Texel adventurers is told in vivid detail in the basement, while upstairs is case upon case of 'treasure' reclaimed from the surrounding seas. Outside, you can visit a working mill, several traditional fishermen's cottages and a warehouse containing part of a massive collection of finds made by beachcombers which is truely bizarre. Lots to entertain children as well. The Slufter The Slufter is a nature reserve on the west of the island, covering a large area of dune, marsh and sandbanks and populated by a huge variety of bird life. In total, the Slufter covers about 700 hectares, but that includes a huge stretch of tidal flats. There are several guided walks of different lengths and a wheelchair ramp down to the walkway for the less able bodied. Lighthouse The red lighthouse nestling in the dunes at the northern end of the island is open to the public, if you can climb the 118 steps to the gallery. The view, even on a rainy day, is stunning. There are two nice restaurants nearby where you can escape the wind and have a big bowl of pea soup instead. Wezenspyk A dairy farm with a cheese shop, plus a short guided walk across the polder to a traditional and restored Texel barn - you will see these distinctive barns all over the south of the island - so its interesting to get a peek inside. Wezenspyk has won prizes for its Texel sheep and goats cheese and we did, of course, buy them on the premises to bring home. Ecomare This combination of a sea life rescue centre and natural history museum is situated on the western side of the island and is a permanent home to two porpoise and some 15 seals which can no longer be released into the wild. The aquariums have a wide variety of native sea life - see how many flat fish you can spot - while the museum section includes the skeletons of several whales and other strange creatures which have washed up on the shore. Great for kids. Where to eat Texel has its fair share of snack bar/pancake/burger and chips joints, as any holiday destination, but it also has some highly rated eateries as well. Top of the bill is fish restaurant T' Pakhuus on the harbour front in Oudeschild which is described by Lekker magazine as a 'culinary pearl' but was fully booked when we were on the island. We had a perfectly respectable, if somewhat noisy, steak and chips dinner De Kastagneboom in Den Burg, the main town, and a very good four-course meal with local fish and lamb - and  their own liqueurs - in Topido, De Cocksdorp. We can also recommend lunch at beach bar Paal 17, even in winter. Where to stay There are hotels galore and the Texel tourist office has a wide range of privately-owned holiday houses and an easy to use website in English. We stayed at Vijverhof on the edge of a forest, which has a large, secluded garden, solar panels and sleeps up to 12. If you are renting a holiday house, check whether the price includes final cleaning, sheets and towels and energy costs. These are often added on as extras.  How to get there Drive, take the train or a bus to the ferry terminal in Den Helder, then take the ferry. It's an hourly service - every 30 minutes in peak periods - and you can't book. A return ticket costs €2.50 per person and €18.20 for a car of less than 2.5 metres. If you do take a car buy a parking ticket online for your whole stay - it saves a lot of money! If you are fit and love cycling, you don't need to take a car at all - there are lots of places to hire bikes - but it can get heavy going cycling into the wind so don't under estimate the long trip back after a day out. Anything else? Combine a visit to Texel with a boat trip over to neighbouring Vlieland from De Cocksdorp or island hop up the entire Wadden chain.  More >


Blogwatching: 9 ramen restaurants in Amsterdam – rated

Blogwatching: 9 ramen restaurants in Amsterdam – rated

Vicky Hampton is British by birth and Dutch by choice, a writer, cook and avid foodie who has lived and worked in Amsterdam since 2006. Vicky launched her blog Amsterdam Foodie in 2007 and it is now an indispensible guide to the city's eateries and beyond. Before we get into all the noodly details, let me start with a caveat: I’ve never been to Japan. I’ve never even eaten ramen outside of Amsterdam. I’m comparing these places on a level playing field – but I’ve never played on another field, as it were. So I’m no expert – I’m simply speaking as I find, according to my own subjective tastes. With that in mind, and without further ado, I bring you my Ramen Amsterdam Roundup: what you should eat at nine ramen restaurants, and how I rate them against each other. Tokyo Ramen Takeichi A relative newcomer on the Vijzelstraat, Takeichi gets packed with locals and tourists every lunchtime. The occasion I visited, I got the Nouko spicy chicken ramen with egg. The flavour of the broth was good (savoury and spicy), but a bit too thick for my taste and overly salty by the bottom of the bowl. The toppings in general were a highlight: I liked the little chicken meatball, thick slices of chicken, and spring onions. I wasn’t so keen on the raw yellow onions and slimy brown things that said they were bamboo shoots but had a texture very like mushrooms. The egg (which cost extra) was perfectly cooked, although seemed to have been chucked into the soup from cold. Unfortunately, the seaweed was also an optional extra so I didn’t get to taste that. In fact, a general point I’d make is that several of the newer ramen places seem to offer many of the toppings as optional extras – so what starts out as a €14 bowl of soup quickly tots up to €20 if you add in all the elements you’d actually want. What to order at Tokyo Ramen Takeichi: Nouko spicy chicken ramen Ramen rating: 3.5/5 Cost: €14 plus extras Website: takeichi-ramen.com Vatten Ramen In the same vein as Takeichi and also a newcomer, Vatten Ramen serves mostly chicken-based noodle soups – so once again I went for the spicy variety. The broth was slightly thinner than that at Takeichi but tasted good – I think I preferred it, but then again I dislike any soup that feels gelatinously thick. The toppings, however, were less impressive: the chicken char siu was just simple white chicken with little flavour. The egg came whole and was hard-boiled – which meant it was missing the gorgeously orange, rich, oozy egg yolk you’d expect. Also in the bowl were wilted greens (but more like spinach than seaweed), raw and fried onions – they tasted good, but again I missed the sea-fresh umami hit you get from seaweed (it was, once again, an extra). What to order at Vatten Ramen: Spicy chicken ramen Ramen rating: 3/5 Cost: €14 plus extras Website: vattenramen.com Umaimon Amsterdam I liked Umaimon so much the first time that I went back again four days later; the first time was a press event – the second I was a regular paying customer. Umaimon Amsterdam is 'powered by' Takumi Düsseldorf – where Japanese chef Saeki has been peddling noodles for over a decade. And with good reason: they keep their ramen noodles in a special temperature-controlled cupboard, only getting them out when they’re just about to be cooked. At the press event, I tried seven different types of ramen soup in one sitting – yes, that’s some serious ramen dedication for you. As fabulous as they all were, I liked three better than the rest; so when I went back a few days later with the Honey Badger, we attempted to order two of them. Clearly something got lost in translation as I ended up with a thin chicken bouillon rather than the creamy, almost medicinal soup I’d been craving. But the issue finally got resolved and I now know what I want to order next time: the Noukou Tori Soba – a house special that’s as rich as it is fresh, with generous slices of roasted chicken, tiny but tasty chicken meatballs, deep-fried chunks of chicken (imagine a version of KFC that’s Japanese and awesome), sweet bamboo, bok choi and excellently marinated and barely boiled egg. For something less rich, try the Teriyaki Wantan Ramen, which has a much lighter broth but is still generously stuffed with wantan parcels and all the other trimmings. The Butatama Miso Ramen is also a hit – a sweeter, miso-based broth plays host to thin slices of pork and what I assume are lightly caramelised sliced onion. Whatever you order, it’s pure comfort in a bowl. What to order at Umaimon: Noujou Tori Soba Ramen rating: 5/5 Cost: €15.50 (but includes everything) Website: facebook.com/UMAIMONamsterdam Sapporo Ramen Sora Tucked away behind the tiniest shopfront on the Ceintuurbaan is Sapporo Ramen Sora – judged by many to serve some of the best ramen in town. I have to say I disagreed: the pork bone broth that made up my Tonkotsu Shoyu ramen was thin and strange in texture – it looked like it had split. Meanwhile, the Charshu Shoyu’s broth was just a bit salty and uninteresting. Although I did appreciate the seaweed in both. The usual boiled eggs were off the menu due to the Dutch egg scandal the time I visited, which was a shame – and we weren’t offered anything else to make up for it. The venue itself is pretty basic and lacking in gezelligheid, which would be no problem if the ramen was better – but I remained unconvinced. What to order at Sapporo Ramen Sora: ISHII’s Tonkotsu Shoyu ramen Ramen rating: 2/5 (Editor’s note: I’ve had significant push-back from the many people who agree that Soro serves the best ramen in Amsterdam. I’m prepared to accept that they may have been having a particularly bad day in the kitchen, and will go back and try again. In the meantime, I’d appreciate it if everyone could refrain from further death threats!) Cost: €14 Website: ramensora.nl Fou Fow I first reviewed Fou Fow back in January 2015, although I’ve been back several times since. It was arguably the first place to be serving proper ramen in Amsterdam, and as such holds a bit of a special place in my heart. Fou Fow offer their noodle soup in three sizes, with various different bases to their broths. Pig addict that I am, I usually go for the pork broth which is served with more pork, various types of seaweed, and half a boiled egg (which is both warm AND oozing with yellow yolk). The first time I went, I was warned that the pork broth had 'a stronger flavour' than the regular chicken, vegetable or miso broths. Bring. It. On. I loved every spoonful. Having now tried other ramen places in Amsterdam, I realise that Fou Fow’s broth is not as thick as some of the other contenders – which I actually like as I find some ramen too rich and cloying. So if you want to try the pork broth without slipping into a food coma afterwards, this is the place to do it. Plus, they now have two locations: Elandsgracht and Van Woustraat. What to order at Fou Fow: Tonkotsu pork ramen Ramen rating: 4/5 Cost: €10-15 depending on size Website: foufow.nl Taka Japanese Kitchen Serving lunch Wednesday through Sunday in the cooking studio on the second floor of Toko Dun Yong, Taka Japanese Kitchen keeps its menu extremely simple: Tonkotsu or vegetarian ramen for €10 a bowl. With Jasmine tea at €1 a cup, this is probably also the cheapest ramen experience you’re likely to have too. The tonkotsu is made with a combination of pork and chicken bones, while the vegetarian has a miso-based broth. So what of the tonkotsu? Both the noodles and the broth were fine – not mind-blowing but perfectly good – and not excessively thick or fatty. Things I loved: surprise additions of kimchi, pickled ginger, and black truffle. Things that slightly let the side down: the egg was hard-boiled, and the pork was a little dry. However, for €10 a pop, you can’t do better for a ramen fix in Amsterdam – and I think all the customers with their ADE hangovers who were at Taka when I was there would agree. What to order at Taka Japanese Kitchen: Tonkotsu ramen Ramen rating: 5/5 Cost: €10 Website: facebook.com/ayanokouji.sasuke Ramen-Ya Ramen-Ya is in the Red Light District, which can be handy when you have visitors to show around. I’ve tried various versions of their wide selection of ramen since I first reviewed Ramen-Ya in December 2016: namely the 'Kimchi Ramen', the 'Hakata Deluxe' and the 'Veggie'. The former comprised chicken broth with kimchi (obviously), pork char siu (essentially BBQ-ed pork belly), black wood-ear mushrooms, half a boiled egg and, of course, the noodles. The ramen themselves had great bite and flavour to them; the char siu was melt-in-the-mouth; the egg was perfectly cooked with a rich orange yolk; the mushrooms tasted like seaweed (luckily for me); and the kimchi added a welcome sour kick. In short, I loved it. The vegetarian ramen was slightly disappointing compared to its meaty counterparts, but then that’s hardly surprising. It’s difficult to recreate the rich creaminess you get from bones in a broth made from vegetable stock. The Hakata Deluxe was a pork broth (far creamier and stronger in flavour than the chicken broth of the Kimchi Ramen) with soy sauce and a fattier variety of pork char siu. The Honey Badger loved it the first time, but I found the richness of it all a bit overpowering. With that being said, the last time we went to Ramen-Ya, either a different chef or a different recipe was being used and the pork broth was so thick and fatty that even the Honey Badger couldn’t finish it and ended up feeling pretty ill afterwards. Another foodie friend gave me a similar report just the other day. It’s a shame, but if you avoid the Hakata and stick with the Kimchi you should still be ok. What to order at Ramen-Ya: Kimchi Ramen Ramen rating: 4/5 Cost: €14.50 Website: ramen-ya.nl Men Impossible Given that I get a ramen craving at least once a fortnight, I clearly needed to find an alternative to my tonkotsu addiction during Vegetarian January. Enter Men Impossible: a communal-dining experience in the Jordaan, at which for €25 you can eat your fill of vegan ramen plus a veggie starter, drink and tea. I tried their yuzu beer, which had barely a hint of yuzu but was just a really nice Japanese beer. Light and fruity and not too bitter. At the same time, I tucked into my starter of aubergine topped with a sweet miso dressing. The flavour was good, but the aubergine was a tad undercooked, and the whole thing was, well, tiny. But cracking on with the main event: the Red Dragon Ramen. These are tsukemen – dipping ramen – the noodles hand-rolled, and the broth a thick, umami-rich, spicy, miso- and tomato-based soup. I must admit the noodles had an extremely satisfying bite and the soup was very generous in flavour, despite the lack of animal products. It also came with some shredded vegetables (raw carrot and red cabbage), cooked courgette, crispy fried onions, and a mushroom that I steered well clear of. Better still was the accompanying spoonful of black garlic oil that added an extra depth and savoury note to the whole dish. We skipped the tea on offer. but with or without it, €25 seems like rather a lot for a bowl of soup, a slice of aubergine and a beer – albeit they were pretty well done. I doubt Men Impossible will be replacing my ramen fix once Vegetarian January is over, but for now I’m happy to have found out that vegan ramen is – after all – possible. What to order at Men Impossible: Red Dragon tsukemen Ramen rating: 3.5/5 Cost: €25 (includes starter, one drink and tea) Website: facebook.com/MenImpossible TonTon Club The TonTon Club in Westerpark isn’t a ramen restaurant per se, but they do serve a dish called Tsukemen – or 'dipping ramen'. Cold noodles, pak choi, enoki mushrooms, a soft-boiled egg, and either pork belly or chicken katsu (breaded, fried strips of chicken). The soup was warm, but not warm enough to really heat up the rest of the ramen ingredients that were designed to be dipped into it – all of which were served fridge-cold. Plus, the broth tasted artificially thick, cloying, and overly sweet and salty. There are many other good reasons to go to the TonTon Club (the ramen burger is fun, as are the arcade games), but the dipping ramen isn’t one of them. What to order at TonTon Club: anything but the Tsukemen! Ramen rating: 1/5 Cost: €13.50 Website: tontonclub.nl/west This post was first published on Amsterdam Foodie. Every month we feature a blog post from one of our favourite bloggers. Interested? See if your blog meets the criteria to be included on the site.  More >


DutchNews Podcast – The Sacred Cows Edition – Week 5

DutchNews Podcast – The Sacred Cows Edition – Week 5

In this week's podcast we ask who was responsible for the cyber attacks that mysteriously hit Dutch banks a week after details emerged of the security services' role in a counterespionage operation against Russia. Plans to cut gas production in Groningen and compensate earthquake-hit householders got back on track, the senate debated changes to the law on organ donation and there was a happy ending for Hermien the fugitive cow. In our discussion we look at why the debate about the Dutch colonial legacy has flared up again. Top story Cyber attacks cause misery for Dutch banking system to a halt News Watchdog advises drastic cuts in Groningen gas production Archaeologists discover remains of 6000-year-old baby Senators ask for more time to debate organ donation bill Escaped cow given permanent reprieve in Friesland Sport Transfer window closes with no major purchases Assen challenges Zandvoort for Dutch Grand Prix Discussion: colonialism, slavery and statues How the Mauritshuis row put the spotlight on the Dutch colonial past    More >


Eight things you need to know about Dutch at the Winter Olympics

Eight things you need to know about Dutch at the Winter Olympics

At the last winter Olympics, the Dutch squad won 23 of the 36 long track speed skating medals, leading to a lot of muttering about the Oranje dominance. No-one expects the medal haul to be as impressive at this year's event but here are 10 facts you need to know about the Dutch at this year's Winter Olympics. When are the Winter Olympics? The 23rd Winter Olympics will be held from 9 to 25 February 2018 in PyeongChang (which we will all learn to pronounce and spell correctly as the days pass), Gangwon Province, in the Republic of Korea. To show that sports does indeed unite people, the athletes from the two Koreas will be marching under a single ‘unification flag’. Where can we watch? There is a time difference of eight hours with PyeongChang, so any morning event there will have diehard sports fans here watching in their pajamas or fully dressed because they have not bothered to go to bed.  Here is the full programme. NOS will be broadcasting live for 10 hours a day, on radio, tv and online. Financial rewards Winning Olympic athletes are given a medal bonus by sports body NOC*NSF. Olympic athletes depend on sponsor deals and monthly stipends so every little bit helps. A gold medal is worth €25,500, a silver medal €19,125 and a bronze one €12,750. How many medals will the Netherlands win? Did we mention the Dutch won 23 medals out of 36 in the long track skating category (and 1 in the short track event)? Well, this year the Netherlands will not do as well, according to sport data bureau Gracenote. Based on the statistics and the present performance level of the skaters, the Dutch will go home with six gold medals, eight silver medals and four bronze ones, six down from 2014. Long track and short track refer to the length of the track, btw, which are 400m and 111.11m respectively. Who are the ones to watch? According to Gracenote, Sven Kramer, Kjeld Nuis and Jan Smeekens will bring home the gold. Kramer will win 3 gold medals in the 5,000m, 10,000m and the team pursuit events while Nuis will pick up the 1,000m and the 1,500m and Smeekens the 500m - in other words, a clean sweep for the men. Ireen Wüst is tipped for silver in the 3,000m, the 1,500 meter event and the women's team pursuit. Short-tracker Sjinkie Knegt, current European champion over 500, 1,000 and 1,500m and the Netherlands first short-track medal winner, is also tipped to pick up a couple more. And who can keep Kramer, Nuis and Wüst from the top? Anything can happen and the competition on some distances is stiff - often from the Dutch themselves.  Sven Kramer seems untouchable in the 5,000m and the 10,000m but will have to keep an eye on fellow Dutchmen Jorrit Bergsma. In the 1,000m for men Kjeld Nuis must keep ahead of team mate Kai Verbij to win the gold. Ireen Wüst, however, will have arch rival Martina Sablikova from Czechoslovakia to see off in the 3,000m. And the rest of the Olympics? But enough about ice. Let's talk about snow and how PyeongChang is unlikely to have much of it during the games. This is where former Dutch freestyle skier and Olympic contender Michiel Maas comes in. He makes the stuff via his company Polar Europa and, according to broadcaster NOS, will provide 25,000 cubic metres of the artificial snow to cover the jumps and ramps to ensure everything runs smoothly. The Dutch devotion to speed skating leaves little time for anything else, but snowboarder Nicolien Sauerbreij, who competed in four winter Olympics, won the gold in Vancouver in 2010 - Oranje's only non-skating winter Olympic medal. This year Kimberly Bos is taking part in the skeleton event (where you hurl yourself onto a bobsled and whizz down an icy corridor at frightening speeds) thanks to another banned Russian athlete. Snowboarders Cheryl Maas, Michelle Dekker and Niek van der Velden will also compete. Where to party? No Olympic games would be complete without the Holland Heineken House and PyeongChang is no exception. This sponsored meeting place for sports people, sponsors, fans and bigwigs has been going strong since the Barcelona games in 1992 and is where the medal winners go after their victories to celebrate in true Dutch style.   More >


The 30% ruling: what is it, who can claim it and how does it work?

The 30% ruling: what is it, who can claim it and how does it work?

You may have heard a lot about the 30% ruling, or you may even be claiming it already. Here's a definitive guide to this very Dutch expat benefit, by Tax Consultants International. The Netherlands has a beneficial regime for employees who are recruited or hired from abroad. The extraterritorial expenses you, as expat, can incur because you live outside of your home country, may under circumstances be reimbursed free of tax. Key for tax-free reimbursement is that your employer is able to substantiate these expenses. Examples of extraterritorial expenses are housing allowance, cost of living allowance, personal income tax return assistance, house hunting/acquaintance trips. This is not a limited list! 30%-ruling An alternative for tax beneficial reimbursement of costs, is to apply for the 30%-ruling. In a nutshell, this ruling means that instead of reimbursing the actual extraterritorial expenses, 30% of the gross taxable salary can be reimbursed free of tax. If the 30%-ruling applies, generally no tax free reimbursements of separate extraterritorial expenses can occur. Such expenses reimbursed in addition to the 30%-ruling, are subject to wage tax. The only exception is the reimbursement for international school fees for your children. Those expenses can be reimbursed tax free, even if you have the 30%-ruling. Requirements The requirements for the 30%-ruling need to be met continuously, otherwise the ruling ends. The conditions for obtaining a 30%-ruling are as follows: You (the employee) have to be assigned to the Netherlands or recruited from abroad to work in the Netherlands; You must have lived more than 150 kilometers from the Dutch border during at least 2/3 (16 months) of the 24 months period prior to the start of the employment in the Netherlands; and You need to have specific skills that are scarcely available on the Dutch labor market. Specific skills are deemed to be available if you have an annual taxable salary of at least € 37,296 (2018) excl. the 30% allowance (€ 53,280 incl. the 30% allowance). The salary criterion can be lower (i.e. € 28,350 excl. the 30% allowance) if you have a Master’s degree (MSc) and are not yet 30 years. For scientists and researchers of educational and subsidized research organizations no minimum salary threshold applies. Key is that you reside outside the Netherlands when getting the job. If you move to the Netherlands, register here and only then start looking for a job, you are not considered to be recruited/hired from abroad. The 150 kilometer requirement effectively means that if you currently live in Belgium, Luxembourg and (small) parts of Germany, France and the UK, you do not qualify for the 30%-ruling. However, the actual extraterritorial expenses incurred can still be reimbursed free of tax to you. The salary threshold is considered a minimum salary. If your taxable salary exceeds € 53,280, in effect 30% of the full taxable salary is free of tax. If you earn between the minimum threshold of € 37,296 and € 53,280, the tax free amount is the difference between your salary and the minimum threshold. Effectively, you have a partial 30%-ruling. Please note that each case should be reviewed on its own merits and in case of doubt, expert advice should be sought. 30%-ruling and Dutch personal income tax return An additional benefit if you have the 30%-ruling is to opt to be treated as a “partial non-resident taxpayer” in your Dutch income tax return. This means that you will be treated as a resident taxpayer for Box 1 (income from work and main residence). For Box 2 (income from substantial shareholding) and Box 3 (income from savings and investments), you will be considered a non-resident taxpayer. In such case, the value of your bank accounts do not have to be included in the Dutch income tax return. No income tax is due on your assets. Depending on the tax treatment of ‘wealth’ in your home country, this may be (more) beneficial. Other matters In principle, the 30%-ruling is granted for a maximum period of 96 months (8 years). Periods of previous stay or employment in the Netherlands ending within/during the last 25 years before the start of your employment are deducted from this period. The new government announced in its coalition agreement in October 2017 to reduce the period of 8 years to 5 years as per 2019. No new legislation has been drafted yet. Whether a transition rule for existing 30%-rulings will be introduced is currently unknown. For more information or assistance with the 30%-ruling, or the personal income tax return, please visit our website or call our tax expert Joukje de Jong-Mensink at 0031 20 570 9447.  More >


Credit cards not yet popular among the Dutch, despite the advantages

Credit cards not yet popular among the Dutch, despite the advantages

The popularity of credit cards in the Netherlands has always lagged behind when compared to many other Western countries. But new figures out last week show that there has been a bit of a catch-up - thanks to paid-for online entertainment such as Spotify. Last year the Dutch bought goods or services 160 million times with a credit card - that's a rise of over 10% on 2016. Nevertheless, credit card use still has some way to go to catch up with the rest of the world and the humble pin card - used 3.8 billion times to make a purchase in the Netherlands last year. There are lots of different cards available Netherlands so why are the Dutch so reluctant to use them? It may have something to do with the financial attitude of the Dutch people themselves: they are extremely debt adverse. It is not surprising that the word guilt and debt are the same word in Dutch - schuld. Bar bills For tourists and new arrivals to the Netherlands, the lack of acceptance of credit cards may cause problems, particularly when they don't (yet) have a Dutch bank account or Maestro debit card. Paying with a Visa Card in a bar or even at a supermarket might be quite normal back home, but is often impossible in the Netherlands, even in the big cities. Nevertheless, around 55% of the Dutch population has at least one credit card, which they mainly use during holidays abroad or when shopping online. Creditcard.nl has an English comparison page you can use to easily find a  Dutch credit card to meet your needs. They work with several banks and independent credit providers, such as ICS, ABN Amro, Knab and American Express. Advantages After all, the main advantage of having a credit card is that they are widely accepted around the world. And a credit card is a convenient way of managing hotel bookings and car rentals as well as topping up your Spotify account online. Furthermore, all (online) purchases made with a credit card are insured for theft, loss and damage for at least 180 days. Don't forget either that a credit card is handy for emergencies, such as when you need to pay for something but have no cash and no remaining balance on your account.   What you need to know The typical APR (annual percentage rate) for Dutch credit cards is around 12% to 14%. Yet, only between a fifth and quarter of the Dutch use delayed payments to clear their credit card debt. Most people pay their credit card bills on time using direct debit (automatische incasso). In addition, prepaid credit cards are also increasing in popularity. This type of card works in more or less the same way as a prepaid phone - you first need to deposit money onto the card account before you can use it. New EU directive Recently, a new EU banking directive (PSD2) has made the credit card transaction costs a thing of the past. This means, for example, that (online) shopping within the EU has become cheaper for consumers. The new directive also allows users to share their bank or credit card account with authorized third-parties. This opens a whole new range of possibilities for vendors and fintech companies, for example, paying for shopping without having to queue up at the till. This, and the gradual phasing out of cash - there are several retail groups in the Netherlands which only accept card payments - will also boost the use of credit cards in the Netherlands even more.  More >


How the Mauritshuis row put the spotlight on the Dutch colonial past

How the Mauritshuis row put the spotlight on the Dutch colonial past

Prime minister Mark Rutte this week had to backtrack on his criticism of the Mauritshuis museum for removing a bust of its founder, Johan Maurits, from its foyer. But as Gordon Darroch explains, the ensuing debate has exposed deep divisions about how the Netherlands should view its colonial past. The Mauritshuis museum in The Hague stirred up a hornet's nest this week with its decision to remove a plaster bust of its founder, Johan Maurits, from its foyer. Prime minister Mark Rutte called the move 'crazy' and warned against 'imposing the preconceptions of today's society on events in the distant past'. Rutte had to temper his criticism at the weekend when the museum's director, Emilie Gordenker, explained that the bust had been removed because it was no longer needed. Instead the museum has set up a gallery to explain Maurits's personal history, including an original statue and several portraits. 'Once we'd done that there was really no need to have a plaster replica in between the toilets and the cash desk,' Gordenker said. 'This is about improving the way we tell the story so that we can share all the aspects, positive and negative, in a balanced and nuanced way with our visitors.' Mijn argument was en is de verder weg liggende geschiedenis niet te beoordelen met de bril van nu, maar begrijp in Buitenhof van mijn buurvrouw dat mijn voorbeeld van het Mauritshuis niet goed gekozen was. Ik kom graag snel weer langs. — Mark Rutte (@MinPres) January 21, 2018 Rutte, a qualified historian, had argued that the museum should change its name if it wanted to disassociate itself from the man who built the Mauritshuis in the 1630s. Maurits paid for the lavish residence behind the parliament complex out of the fortune he made as governor-general in Brazil from the Dutch colony's sugar cane plantations. Gordenker retorted that the prime minister should have checked the facts first and there was 'no question' of changing the name. 'Territorial behaviour' Imara Limon and Tom van der Molen, curators of the Amsterdam Museum, said Rutte's intervention was part of a 'necessary and useful' debate, but warned against interpreting the past too narrowly. 'As museum staff we are very aware that history is only relevant to people if you relate it to the experiences of people and society today,' they said in an emailed response to DutchNews.nl. 'This debate is being reduced to the question of whether somebody is a hero or a villain. The somewhat territorial behaviour of claiming public space for your own hero and ignoring what that person might symbolise for others detracts from the debate and gathering of knowledge about how we want to engage with our history, which in the end has shaped the society we live in now.' The bust of Maurits is not the only artefact to stir up controversy recently about the Netherlands' relationship with its colonial past. The Golden Age brought wealth and social advancement – as well as independence from Spain – to the young Dutch Republic, but much of it was underwritten by colonial regimes in which hundreds of thousands were enslaved and uprisings were brutally punished. Last week the JP Coen Elementary School in Amsterdam's Indische Buurt announced it was changing its name because it no longer wanted to be associated with Jan Pieterszoon Coen. The former governor-general of the Dutch East Indies was known as the 'butcher of Banda' for his violent conquest of the Banda Islands. Only 1,000 of the islands' 15,000-strong population survived the massacre. Coen's bloodthirstiness earned him a rebuke from the Heeren Zeventien, the committee that ran the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Head teacher Sylvie van den Akker said Coen's name was incompatible with the school's values: 'We are the only multicultural school in a special neighbourhood. Coen's name doesn't fit with our vision and the image of tolerance and diversity that we want this school to express.' Coentunnel The move was criticised by Christian Democrat (CDA) party leader Sybrand Buma: 'As if you can just wipe away history, forgetting that our identity is grounded in our history.' Buma also attacked a campaign to rename the Coentunnel, which takes the A10 motorway under the North Sea Canal. 'The debate about the Coentunnel has started. But JP Coen is part of our history. If you relativise everything, you're left with nothing.' Coen has also been the focus of debate in his home town of Hoorn, where the local council set a new plaque beneath his statue five years ago explaining his misdeeds as well as his achievements. The demand to rename the tunnel came from new political party Denk, which draws much of its support from the Netherlands' Muslim youth. Denk says bridges, tunnels and streets should be renamed where necessary to end the glorification of 'cruel colonisers' and promote awareness of 'our inhumane history of slavery'. Witte de With In Rotterdam, the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art sparked a similar row last year when it said it no longer wanted to bear the name of De With, a vice-admiral in the Dutch navy who played a pivotal role in several major sea battles, but also laid waste to the city of Jakarta in 1618 and destroyed clove tree plantations in the East Indies in order to drive up commodity prices. The plan prompted a backlash from the populist party Leefbaar Rotterdam, which threatened to stop its funding of €400,000 a year if the name change went ahead. 'It's unacceptable that tons of taxpayers' money from Rotterdam's citizens is ending up in the pockets of cultural mavens who are bent on wiping away our national history,' said Leefbaar Rotterdam councillor Tanya Hoogwerf. The question of which voices should be heard is crucial to the current debate, say Limon and Van der Molen. 'When talking about history and iconic figures that are seen as part of a national history there is a tendency for newcomers and people from minority groups to be excluded from the debate. That carries the danger of social division and hyper-polarisation of the debate.' General Lee Unlike in the United States, where a campaign against monuments to Confederate-era figures such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson has led to statues being taken down several states, few Dutch historians argue that figures from the Golden Age should be removed from public view. 'Statues don't need to be taken away,' Dienke Hondius, historian at the VU university in Amsterdam, told RTL Nieuws. 'It's better to leave them standing and put them in context.' However, often that context is difficult to compress into a plaque. As Emilie Gordenker pointed out, Johan Maurits enriched the former Portuguese colony in Brazil through education, art and literature. 'He did fantastic things, which is why he's regarded as a hero over there.' But Maurits also acquired labour for the sugar cane plantations by invading a Portuguese slave colony on the west African coast and shipping thousands of slaves across the Atlantic in inhuman conditions, to work (if they survived the journey) in bonded servitude. Eighty Years' War Rotterdam's city council agreed last October to revise the plaque on the statue of Piet Hein, a naval officer who led the plunder of the Spanish silver fleet in 1628. The proceeds from that raid boosted the Dutch economy to the tune of €500 million in today's money and underwrote the last phase of the Eighty Years' War with Spain. The council still has to decide how to portray Hein, who also played a key role in establishing the Brazilian colonies. Leefbaar Rotterdam alderman Joost Eerdmans has insisted it would be wrong to make Hein shoulder the blame for the slave trade. 'The point is absolutely not to refer to the dark side of our colonial past,' he said. 'Of course we have different values nowadays, but we're not going to judge the maritime heroes of that time by today's standards.' Yet as Limon and Van der Lolen point out, all eras interpret history in the light of their own values. 'A lot of the statues were erected out of of a 19th-century need for national heroes. So that generation judged history on the basis of its own needs just the same.' The debate about how to place historical figures in context shows no sign of abating. 'It would be good if people don't try to draw immediate conclusions,' say the curators. 'It's not about whether we preserve these statues or not, it's about having a discussion about who should be involved in the decision making, why we really need these heroes and what history we want to share in public spaces such as town squares and museums.' Further reading: Rutte softens Mauritshuis criticism as 'statues to slavery' row rumbles on Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum to hold an exhibition on slavery in 2020 Orange and black: the forgotten history of black servants at the court of Willem V  More >


Be a good sport at the 2018 Feel at Home in The Hague fair

Be a good sport at the 2018 Feel at Home in The Hague fair

If you've always fancied finding out more about the traditional Dutch sport of korfball, had a secret wish to take up belly dancing or sail across the seas in the Volvo Ocean Race, this year's Feel at Home in The Hague fair is the place to be. This year, the central theme of the annual Feel at Home in The Hague fair is sport, leisure and wellness, and some 70 sports and cultural organisations and community groups will be on hand to help you find out more. The Feel at Home Fair will bring The Hague’s city hall to life with an exciting programme of activities, demonstrations, try-outs and challenges. 'Sport is a great way of getting people together because language and cultural barriers are more easily overcome by a shared interest,' says fair organiser Billy Allwood. 'Being active also contributes to our sense of health and well-being, while belonging to a club or participating in events gives us an important sense of belonging somewhere.' Family focus Unlike fairs where the focus is purely on expat services, the Feel at Home in The Hague fair is a fun day out for the whole family. A complete range of sports clubs are taking part, from hockey, tennis, cricket and cycling to more unusual team games like lacrosse, floorball and korfball - the traditional Dutch game played in mixed teams. The Hague has recently been named 2022 European Capital of Sport and the city will be showcasing the wide range of sports and leisure facilities available in the region - to watch as well as play. You'll be able to take part in hockey, tennis and fitness challenges to test your skills or raise funds for local charities such as The Krajicek Foundation, the fair’s sponsored charity, which develops playgrounds to less privileged parts of Dutch cities. You could even win tickets to the ABN Amro tennis tournament in Rotterdam this February while practising your serving technique. Advice and information Among the diverse list of around 150 exhibitors, visitors looking for advice and information will find experts on financial and tax matters, careers and health, childcare and education options. 'These are the essential services which help you make the most of life in The Hague,' says Billy. You'll also be able to attend free interactive workshops on subjects ranging from mindfulness to career transitions; learn how to write or speak effectively; how to cope with stress, headaches and back pain, or to face the challenges of learning a new language and culture. And not to mention, enjoy the comedy, theatre, music and international cuisine which make the Feel at Home Fair such a special meeting place for the entire international community. More than this, the entire day is free to visitors who sign up in advance for tickets on the website. So be a good sport and join in!  More >