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


10 things about death in the Netherlands

10 things about death in the Netherlands

Enough of the jollity and fun. Never let it be said we shy away from difficult topics. So here’s some useful information about death in the Netherlands 1. Insured for death 60% of Dutch households have funeral insurance –  the Dutch love insurance after all and this is one policy which is bound to pay out at some point. But no matter how much you pay for your funeral in advance, there are always stories in the papers about grieving relatives being fleeced by funeral insurers for extra cars and coffee and cake. 2. Group of death Every year in the Netherlands a handful of people die alone, with no friends or family. In 2002, a poet known as F. Starik came up with the idea of the Poule des doods – a pool of poets who write and read a poem for the people who have no mourners at their funeral. Details of every funeral, plus poem, are on the website. Don’t read unless you want to weep. 3. The cost of death A funeral – service and cremation or burial – will cost you upwards of €5,000 depending on the extras. The dreaded coffee and cake for 50, for example, will add around €250 to the bill. But there is a new trend in the Netherlands towards budget funerals with no ceremony at all – a bargain at €1,200. By the way, if you have pallbearers they may well be students. It is a popular student job. 4. The crematorium Research by the crematoria association in 2010 showed Dutch crematoria only collect an average of 50 grammes of gold and other precious metals per body, but they could collect up to 150 grammes. The money raised from selling the gold, jewellery and other recyclables is, they say, given to charity. 5. The ashes Once you’ve been cremated, the funeral home will keep your ashes for a full month. This is in case they are needed for a criminal investigation – that is the official line anyway. After that, you can pick them up. But scatter them where ever you like? Oh no. This is the Netherlands, so there are strict rules about that. You need to ask permission from the landowner and that, if it is a local authority, can be rather expensive as well. Upwards of €1,000…. 6. Graveyards Still, getting buried in the Netherlands will cost you a whole lot more. The shortage of space means graveyards are scarce – so most people tend to ‘rent’ a grave for 10 or 20 years. After that, unless your family coughs up to keep you in place, your remains will be cleared out and placed in a mass grave. The most expensive council-run graveyard in the country is the Esserveld cemetery in Groningen, where a 30-year lease on a grave costs nearly €7,000, according to research by Dela. The cheapest council graveyard is in Littenseradiel, a group of hamlets in Friesland, where a 20-year plot costs just €456. 7. Funeral music According to funeral insurer Dela (yep, them again), the most popular song at Dutch funerals is Time to Say Goodbye by Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman, followed by Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven and Marco Borsato’s Afscheid Nemen Bestaat Niet (there is no such thing as goodbye). 8. Causes of death: In 2014, there were almost 140,000 deaths in the Netherlands. Cancer (led by lung cancer) accounted for 31% of all deaths, followed by cardiovascular diseases which caused 27%. There were an official 1,825 suicides in the Netherlands and 600 people died in traffic accidents, of whom 75% were male. 185 people died in bike accidents. Last year, 123 people were murdered. Seven in 10 victims and nine in 10 murderers are male. You are most likely to be murdered by a member of your family or a criminal associate – if you are a criminal that is. 9. After death Don’t worry if you have not made a will. This being the Netherlands, there are very strict laws to cover wills and inheritances as well.  That’s why there is a special breed of expensive lawyer, known as a notaris, to take care of it all. For example, you cannot disinherit a child no matter how much you would like to because they have a legal right to a percentage of your property and cash.  You can, however, refuse to accept an inheritance, especially if you suspect it may be made up of debts (like unpaid funerals). 10. Death in a proverb And if you are adding up the cost of dying in the Netherlands, do remember this very useful Dutch saying:  De een zijn dood is de ander zijn brood – one man’s death is another man’s money. Just about sums it all up really. After all, in een doodshemd zitten geen zakken, (there are no pockets in a shroud – you can’t take it with you). This list was first published by website Netherlands by Numbers.   More >


The ‘us’ and ‘them’ divide in the Netherlands

The ‘us’ and ‘them’ divide in the Netherlands

Former Labour politician and chairman of the Council for Public Administration Jacques Wallage feels that refugees shouldn’t be the victims of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality fostered by politics. The range of popular reaction to the influx of refugees shows that the Netherlands is a divided society. After a Red Cross appeal, some 20,000 volunteers have come forward and their number is growing. Some local councils have little problem providing emergency accommodation while in others emotions are running high. On closer scrutiny it is clear that the anger in places like Oudenbosch and Purmerend is about more than the arrival of the refugees. The angry citizen is filled with a mixture of resentment and long-felt frustration. The committed citizen is feeling relief at finally being able to act. For the angry citizen the sign ‘Welcome refugees’ is yet another indication of very unwelcome societal upheaval. In short, where one citizen is reaching for his wallet, the other is reaching for the emergency break. Grim divide Behind the façade of the traditional political factions there’s the grim divide between commitment and anger, self-reliance and exclusion. When PVV leader Geert Wilders talks about a ‘fake parliament’ he garners support across the board. The last Maurice de Hond poll showed that 44% of the VVD electorate agree with Wilders, and so does 30% of Labour voters. Looking at the educational level, the divide is even clearer. 55% of low-skilled people agree with Wilders against 35% of people with a higher level of education. The declining turnout at local and regional elections is yet another example of a divided country: people with a good level of education vote, an increasing number of lower skilled people don’t. According to public administration expert Mark Bovens, the Netherlands is turning into a ‘diploma democracy’: influence increases according to the level of education. New reality Slowly this new reality is challenging the tenets of politics and administration. Until recently it was a given that increased consumer confidence meant increased confidence in politics. But recent figures from the government’s socio-cultural policy unit SCP tell another story: the economy is recuperating – slowly but surely – but confidence in politics (and big companies!) is declining. The feeling of being an outsider, that one’s opinion doesn’t count is generating anger. It doesn’t take much for irritation about high public and private sector salaries to blend with worries about healthcare and immigration. Scandals such as the recent Volkswagen debacle further strengthen the feeling that power is manipulative and that citizens are at its mercy. People who feel that they are outsiders in their own society won’t be open to an appeal to solidarity with the fate of refugees. The committed citizen feels part of society and is firmly in the ‘us’ camp. Angry citizens only see ‘them’, the people who determine their lives. That cultural divide holds true across the classic political board. Consensus It’s a divide which can only be bridged when a consensus is reached about the big problems of today, such as sustainability and migration, inequality and employment. But here politics, which should be a force for unity, turns out to be the weakest link in the chain. It is focused more on amassing power than on sharing it, more interested in holding forth than listening. Refugees shouldn’t be the victims of this internal polarisation. Fortunately many people do care and try to help. But perhaps the anger of others should also be seen a sign of commitment: a cry that expresses the need to bridge the gap between institutions and people, between the vertical and the horizontal world. Politicians shouldn’t leave that task to the populists. This article was published earlier in the Financieele Dagblad  More >


Wrangle over Rembrandt wedding paintings has no winners

Wrangle over Rembrandt wedding paintings has no winners

The cultural spat between the Netherlands and France has no winners but the losers will almost certainly be the two Rembrandt portraits themselves, writes art historian and art dealer Jan Six. In 1873 Victor de Stuers wrote a passionate indictment of the way the Dutch authorities treated the country’s cultural heritage. In his article Holland op z’n smalst [A narrow (minded) country, DN], Stuer described the depressing frequency with which important art works left the country only to boost the collections of foreign museums, and how wealthy overseas collectors were dominating the art market. Not that it did any good. Some four years later Annewies Van Loon-Van Winter sold her entire collection to Gustave de Rothschild, a clear sign that De Stuer’s protestations were not taken too seriously at the time. The transaction, which included the much-wrangled over wedding portraits by Rembrandt, did, however, signal the start of a private initiative to protect the Dutch national heritage. The Vereniging Rembrandt is with us today. This was a time when art dealers ruled the roost. They emptied the great British stately homes of their treasures and sold them to American robber baron clients like Pierpont Morgan, Frick, Rockefeller, Huntingdon and Kress, making monstrous profits from every deal. 1 Who says they’d fetch €160 million on the open market? In 2015 the old masters no longer dominate the art market, partly because most of them are in European museums and they never sell. But the main reason for the decline is the thriving market for impressionist and modern art. It would be great if the 19th century American art buyers of old masters were replaced by Arabic, Chinese or Russian art buyers but that is not going to happen. The 31-year-old Sheika Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bint Khalifa Al-Thani is considered today’s most powerful art buyer. One of her more famous acquisitions is Cézanne’s Card Players (bought for $250 mln) As far as is known, she has purchased not a single old master. There really was no reason to suppose that scores of non-European buyers were queuing up to make off with ‘our’ two Rembrandt portraits. It’s not unusual for Rembrandts to remain unsold for quite long periods of time. The respected art dealer Otto Naumann took his particular Rembrandt, a portrait of a man dating from 1658, to the TEFAF art fair, the London Frieze Masters and a private showing at Sotheby’s in London. Not a single Chinese could be bothered. It wasn’t the asking price of $48m dollars that kept buyers away. Modern art works were being sold for similar amounts at the same time. The only serious private collector interested in Rembrandts is the American billionaire Thomas S. Kaplan (1962). His famous Leiden Gallery is home to hundreds of old masters, seven of which are authentic works by Rembrandt. It is thought the collection cost Kaplan around $500m. None of the works came close to De Rothschild’s asking price but then none of his Rembrandts are life-size portraits. I think Tom would have liked to have bought them for his collection but not for €160m. We can only guess how De Rothschild arrived at his price: I would never venture to name a price if I hadn’t seen the works for myself. Incidentally, in none of the known documents has De Rothschild ever felt compelled to allude to possible interest from non-European buyers. This is significant in itself as the family has an extensive network in Arab and Chinese business circles. But suppose Chinese and Arab buyers were interested. I find it hard to believe that a person willing to spend €160m on the paintings wouldn’t take great care of them. I consider China and the Arab Gulf states as relevant guardians of culture. Many privately owned masterpieces are not locked away in safes but are lent to big museums all over the world, there for all to see. 2 A little political distance would have been in order The way ministers and museum directors have been wrangling over the matter these last few weeks demands an explanation. I don’t understand why the culture minister didn’t confer with the finance minister. Surely the size of the amount would warrant a closer cooperation between the two. If the director of an independent museum is confident enough to take on what may be an impossible task, it would seem sensible to give him a ‘proper’ shot at it first. A little political distance would have been in order, especially after the political decision was made to set aside half the money. How is it possible that the asking price was accepted without question? At this price level comparable cases are few and far between. Do I think the price is absurd? I’m an art dealer and I can tell you that I would have a big smile on my face if I could sell two Rembrandts for such an amount. Trade is trade, after all. But if a politician uses public money to push through a purchase saying speed is of the essence because ‘the works may disappear to a far-away country’, then I know I’m being had. Would France really have coughed up €160m if we hadn’t made the decision then and there, or would it have changed its mind about the national importance of the works? There’s a good chance the deal would have fallen through, creating an opportunity for De Rothschild to approach the Rijksmuseum without making France look silly. Mind you, the French sat on their hands for 18 months, apparently unafraid of non-European buyers muscling in. 3 Restoration: the French and the Dutch are diametrically opposed about why and how The restoration policy of the Louvre is diametrically opposed to that of the Rijksmuseum. The Louvre restores its paintings very sparingly (as the extremely mucky state of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa attests) which means there’s a very good chance we’ll be looking at a dirty and yellowing Oopjen and Maerten a few years from now. How will the two museums agree on restoration when the time comes? You can’t restore half of half a painting. Whenever I’m in Paris I visit the Louvre. Museums are the best places for an art dealer to check whether his instincts about a possible discovery are correct. But every time I look at a Dutch master I am dismayed at the terrible state of the paintings. Unrestored paintings in damaged frames are hung willy-nilly, covered in dirty layers of varnish. If there were such a thing as a hall of fame at the Louvre it certainly wouldn’t include a Dutch master. Everything points to the fact that France’s action wasn’t inspired by art historical gain but by political gain. 4 How can this be: a contract to subject fragile paintings to a constant to-ing and fro-ing. The deal – to exhibit the portraits as a pair ensuring a frequent exchange between Amsterdam and Paris – is sure to precipitate the deterioration of the paintings. Of all the Rembrandts only those that have always, or nearly always, remained in private hands are still in very good condition. There’s only one reason for this: they have hardly ever been moved. The comparison with the frequent travels of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Ear Ring doesn’t really hold water. Vermeer’s painting is 44.5cm by 39cm whereas Rembrandt’s portraits measure 207cm by 132cm! They will certainly be transported in a professional Turtle box but the greatest danger lies with manually taking the paintings down from the wall and mounting them again. I am an art historian first and foremost. The object comes first. That is why I’m worried. If something were to happen to damage the paintings, and it is statistically certain that something will one day, who will take the initiative to restore them? If the Louvre were to decide the paintings are too fragile to move how are the Netherlands going to recover their ‘rightful share’? I have a feeling the Dutch – ever ready to compromise when the French are clearly not - will have to make the French a present of €80m when that time comes. It’s an irony that 132 years after the Vereniging Rembrandt came into being, it – understandably - distances itself from contributing to a possible acquisition of the paintings which formed the catalyst for its inception. The 19th century statesman Thorbecke wrote that buying art was not a matter for governments. What he meant was that governments should facilitate but not intervene. Now the Rijksmuseum’s director’s original plan of securing both paintings for the country has been torpedoed I can understand he’s not too keen to discuss finance with finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem. It’s an attitude the outside world might find somewhat impolite considering the minister came bearing an €80m ‘present’. I hope Eric de Rothschild hasn’t signed the contract yet. An art loving man like him should know better than to agree to irresponsible decisions. But most of all I hope that on future occasions society and politicians will be informed properly before we all succumb to a collective panic attack and forget to question what is actually happening. This article appeared earlier in the Volkskrant  More >


Water, water everywhere: How being surrounded by water made the Dutch different

While researching a book on ‘Why the Dutch are Different’, Ben Coates realised that an amazingly large number of the things which an outsider might think of as ‘typically Dutch’ could be explained at least in part by a single factor: water. First, of course, there is the Dutch landscape itself. The Netherlands famously is not just fronted by water but permeated by it – a fifth of the total surface area consists of water. That figure would be even higher were it not for the intricate lacework of dikes and canals, and thousands of water-pumping windmills, which liberated land from the waves. As a result, Dutch topography is among the most unique in the world: acres of flat grassland, turning windmills, hunchbacked dikes, and barely a hill in sight. The fact that reclaimed land is both flat and fertile has also influenced many other things which help keep the Dutch tourism industry afloat. Tulips thrive in the silty reclaimed soil, while thick wooden clogs keep farmers’ feet dry when trudging through boggy fields. Tall buildings divided into tiny apartments help recoup the cost of building deep foundations. Red-brick roads prevent tarmac cracking on soggy subsiding ground. And then, of course, there are the bicycles: the perfect way of getting around a place where the steepest hill is usually a tiny bridge. Were it not for the water, the icons printed on Dutch postcards would look very different indeed. Diet Less obviously, omnipresent water also influenced Dutch diets. As land was reclaimed from the sea, Dutch farmers quickly realised that the silty soil left behind was perfect for growing rich grass; and that this grass in turn made perfect food for cows. Milk produced by the cows became a popular drink when clean water was in short supply. Whatever wasn’t drunk was churned into another product which soon became a national obsession: cheese. Today, the average Dutch person eats nearly a third more dairy produce than the average Brit, and high dairy consumption is one reason why the Dutch are the tallest people in the world. Without all the water, and the resulting deluge of dairies, the Netherlands might well be filled with short people eating croissants for breakfast. History Water also changed the course of history by lubricating the so-called Golden Age; the extraordinary era when the seventeenth-century Dutch led the world in commerce, art, architecture and science. With a long coastline lying at the nautical crossroads of Europe, the Netherlands was perfectly placed to become one of the continent’s greatest trading nations. Even far inland, a dense network of canals and waterways enabled German merchants to travel all the way to Amsterdam, Antwerp or Bruges without ever breaching the stormy North Sea. As a result, the country not only developed Europe’s largest port, but controlled an empire stretching from the Caribbean to Africa and Indonesia. Today, the legacy of the Golden Age is clear: without seagoing trade, cities like Amsterdam couldn’t have afforded their tall town houses and beautiful churches, and Rembrandt and Vermeer might be long-forgotten cobblers or blacksmiths. Were it not for the water, this tiny nation would never have become the tenth richest in the world. Politics In the political sphere, too, the watery landscape had a profound impact on the Dutch. Historically, the fact that one person’s land was liable to flood if another person failed to maintain their dikes meant that decisions had to be made jointly wherever possible. People therefore became used to negotiating to get their way. National governments were usually coalitions, and most political decisions based on compromise. The fact that even small minorities had an equal voice was one reason why the Netherlands developed famously liberal laws concerning things like drug use and prostitution, and why minority groups were awarded equal rights. To outsiders used to seeing politics as a blood sport, Dutch politics can seem either very sensible or very boring. And the damp terrain is at least partly to blame. Landscape Finally, the Dutch themselves have also been shaped by their landscape. All that empty sky and flat reclaimed land seems to have flooded their souls, making most Dutch as open and accessible as the landscape they live in. Travelling around the Netherlands, I was routinely amazed by how direct the Dutch were, and how little value they attached to quaint notions like privacy or solitude. Try as I might, I never found a shy or introspective Dutchman, and the waterlogged terrain was again partly responsible. As the great novelist Cees Nooteboom once wrote: ‘Holland doesn’t have mountains. Everything’s out in the open. No mountains, no caves. Nothing to hide. No dark places in the soul.’ There is, of course, far more to the Netherlands than just clichés like clogs and windmills. In the strange alchemy of national culture, many other influences have played a role – from the war against the Spanish to the religious divide between north and south, from the invasion by the Nazis to the influx of immigration. However, the deeper one digs, the more likely one is to strike liquid. In the Netherlands, water really is everywhere. 'Why the Dutch are Different: A Journey into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands' by Ben Coates is published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing. Ben Coates will soon be appearing in a series of events in Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam and London. For more information, see his website   More >


Go to an American university in the Netherlands? Yes you can!

Go to an American university in the Netherlands? Yes you can!

Some 9% of the student body in the Netherlands has come here to study from abroad, according to new figures out just this week. But students have more than Dutch colleges and universities to choose from. Webster University in Leiden, for example, is the only certified US university in the Netherlands, offering both bachelor and master’s courses taught by experts in their field. Leiden is a city with a rich past and a bright future – where you see students, bicycles, canals and charming buildings all in one place. The city has been a centre of historical and commercial importance for centuries, where new ideas and philosophies were explored and education cultivated. This heritage of education is still very much alive today. In the heart of Leiden is Webster University, the only certified US university in the Netherlands. It offers bachelor’s and master’s degree courses in business management, the behavioural and social sciences, international relations, and media and communications to a small, highly motivated and international group of students. Webster students are encouraged by both staff and professors to develop their leadership skills. This might include starting up a new club to participate in, attending the university’s Signature lectures on a variety of current affairs, or creating a piece of art to be shown at the Art gallery in the Living and Learning Center. Student life at Webster is filled with discoveries, interaction with people from all over the world and new experiences. ‘Our classes are small, you really get to know your teachers and it is a great way to build up an international network,’ says spokeswoman Joijcelyn Hoost. And if you are already forging ahead with your career, Webster even has an Amsterdam annex where you can study for an MBA or other Master’s programme part time. On October 10, Webster is holding an open day for prospective students at its Leiden campus where you can learn about its degree courses, study options, flexibility and what you can expect from the only accredited American University in the Netherlands. You will also be able to meet heads of department, students, staff and faculty members. Sign up online.   More >


10 Dutch football clubs with really ridiculous names

10 Dutch football clubs with really ridiculous names

The Dutch, as we know, are a sensible folk. But not when it comes to naming their football clubs. In most countries football clubs have really boring names like Manchester United, Barcelona or Paris Saint Germain. But not so in the Netherlands. Here, names are descriptive. Take Vlaardingen club CION for example. Its name is an abbreviation of Chevron Is Onze Naam  (Chevron is our name) – er, right! Here is an alphabetical list of professional Dutch football clubs with weird names and one amateur side with possibly the weirdest name of them all. ADO Den Haag ADO (Alles Door Oefening or everything through practice) is the main football club in The Hague. ADO has never matched the successes of the other big city clubs Ajax (Amsterdam) and Feyenoord (Rotterdam), although it did win the national title in 1942 and 1943, as well as the league cup in 1968 and 1975. In 2008, the club was bailed out of financial difficulties by the local city council and opened its new 15,000-seat stadium. In 2014 it was bought by a Chinese sports marketing firm. AZ Alkmaar football club AZ was formed in 1967 when the professional clubs Alkmaar ’54 and FC Zaanstreek merged to create AZ ’67 (the ’67 was dropped in 1986). The club’s heyday was in the late 1970s and early 1980s but it was relegated to the first division in 1988. Ten years later, AZ returned to the premier division, taking the title in the 2008/09 season. Go Ahead Eagles Deventer side Go Ahead Eagles have possibly the most romantic name in Dutch football – if you are not into superheros like Ajax of course. The club was founded in 1902 as Be Quick but the name was soon changed to Go Ahead at the request of the Dutch Football Association. The suffix Eagles was added in 1971, following a suggestion from their then coach, Barry Hughes. The eagle part comes from Deventer’s coat of arms. Go Ahead are not, however, living up to their name and have been relegated to the first division for the 2015/16 season. NAC Breda’s football club NAC was set up in 1912 as a merger between NOAD (translated, the letters stand for ‘Never Give Up Always Keep Going’) and ADVENDO (‘Pleasure Through Enjoyment and Usefulness Through Relaxation’). The resulting name was Noad Advendo Combinatie or NAC. Unless you want to write it all out in full – and then you probably have the world’s longest football club name. NAC has just been relegated to the Jupiler league NEC Nijmegen football club NEC, which has just moved from the Jupiler league to the Eredivisie, was founded in 1900 and claims to be the first in Holland to be set up by workers. Its name comes from Nijmegen Eendracht Combinatie or Nijmegen united combination. PEC Zwolle You need your wits about you to understand this one. PEC was founded on June 12 1910 following the merger of two other local clubs – Prins Hendrik and Ende Desespereert Nimmer (And Never Despair). The PH EDN Combinatie became PEC and added Zwolle in 1971. In 1982 it added ’82 to the name, only to drop the PEC and the ’82 in 1990 when it went bankrupt. The club was relaunched as FC Zwolle and continued on its merry way until 2012 when it won the first division championship and went back up the premier division. Cue a change of name again – the club once again became PEC Zwolle and won both the Dutch KNVB Cup and the Johan Cruijff Super Cup in 2014. Roda JC Roda JC is based in Kerkrade in Limburg and was formed in 1962 following the merger of Rapid JC and Roda Sport. Rapid JC, yes, you’ve guessed it, was formed through the merger of Rapid ’54 and Juliana. Roda Sport took its name when clubs SV Kerkrade and SV Bleijerheide merged – but we’re not really sure where the Roda bit comes from. VVV-Venlo You might be forgiven for thinking the VVV stands for something exciting involving victorie or vooruitgang but you’d be wrong. VVV-Venlo stands for Venlose Voetbal Vereniging-Venlo or Venlo football association-Venlo – just in case you had not got the message where it is. Willem II Set up in 1896, the Tilburg premier league club Willem II is one of the oldest football clubs in the Netherlands. It was originally called Tilburgia but was renamed Willem II some 18 months later after the Dutch king of 1840-49 who was a local hero. The club has won the national title three times (1916, 1952, 1955) but done nothing much of note since then. ZSGOWMS An amateur side in Amsterdam, the club’s name is the abbreviation of Zonder Samenspel Geen Overwinning en Wilskracht Maakt Sterk – Without Teamwork No Victory and Determination Creates Strength. The club was formed in 1996 following the merger of ZSGO and WMS, both of which date back to 1919. The club did not change its name to something more manageable because, according to the website, it can be easily found on internet and is a good advert. But what on earth do the supporters chant? Want more? There are several websites devoted to mad Dutch football club names. WWNA, VAKO, HS Texas DSZ, Audacia (based on latin) – the list goes on and on and on. This list was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers  More >


Publishers link up with techies to ‘renew the book’

E-readers, tablets, blogs and even online video have shaken up book publishing over the past decade. Esther O’Toole has been finding out about a Dutch competition that seeks to drive innovation in the industry and is backed by publishers themselves. It seems almost unthinkable that it was less than 10 years ago that the first effective e-readers came on the market, followed swiftly by the first iPhone and other smart phones with e-reader capacities. Now, reading on your phone, tablet or laptop comes as naturally to many people as picking up a book. However, the question of whether digital books and magazines mean the end is nigh for traditional print media has still to resolve itself. As smart phones have become bigger and better, e-reader sales have begun to slow. The number of e-book sales in comparison to hard copy sales is still steadily increasing though, with 7% of the Dutch consumer market being in e-books at the end of 2014. Traditional publishers are aware of the need for innovation in their industry and have now teamed up with the start-up gurus of Rockstart to stimulate further change. ‘Everywhere in the world publishers, whether in news, music or books, struggle with the internet,' says Wiet de Bruijn, chairman of the Dutch publishers' association GAU. 'With the Renew the Book project we say we want to stimulate change and we are not afraid to admit that the best ideas might come from outside the publishing industry.’ Challenges Digitised reading has affected the business models of publishers, book marketeers, libraries and book shops. The global book market is worth in the region of €89m  annually, so there is plenty at stake and a big incentive for rejuvenation. ‘The first big wave of disruption has hit its peak, so this is a good time for Renew the Book and to start looking for new, long term, sustainable methodologies in publishing,' says Rockstart's Christoph Auer-Welsbach, who is running the competition. 'It’s clear from changes in the music industry that a lot can go wrong if you’re not prepared to innovate.’ ‘Publishers need to re-examine their value proposition and think where they can improve upon it for the industry, authors and readers. The experience of reading a book needs to shift. I want different reading experiences for different times in my day, in my life,’ says Auer-Welsbach . Rockstart is putting its very best publishing gurus and years of experience in the hands of the Renew the Book winners. In turn, the publishers are providing a €15k non-refundable grant to allow the winning team to build a solid and sustainable foundation for their new business. So, what are they looking for? Renew the Book aims to be low risk for entrants and thereby as accessible as possible. The aim is to find ‘revolutionary ideas’ so the scope is wide open. Ideas might range from new forms of marketing that help book stores reinvent themselves and encourage in-store purchases, alternative ways to manage the publication process from start to finish or how gaming could be used to encourage children to keep reading. 'While the ways we publish and consume books are changing due to technology, the stories themselves help us understand the world we live in,' says Auer-Welsbach. 'We strongly believe books have been and will stay important for us as human beings. For more information, visit the Renew the Book website. Deadline for applications October 12.  More >


Words, words, words: celebrating languages in Utrecht

Words, words, words: celebrating languages in Utrecht

Boasting over sixty stand holders, key note speakers from all corners of the world, and children’s activities, the fourth Drongo Language Festival took place in Utrecht this weekend. Esther O’Toole went along to take a look. The Drongo Language Festival started in 2012 as a small event, at Amsterdam central library, on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. When over four hundred people turned up the organisers knew that they were on to something. Maaike Verrips, the festival director, talks about language so passionately it’s easy to see how her contagious enthusiasm kick-started the festival. Placing language in a wide context of culture, science, business and technology, she emphasises the many varied ways in which it is relevant to our daily lives, and how it makes them better. ‘What I like best about Drongo is that it brings together a wide variety of people who love language. A wide variety: singers, translators, language experts, businesses. They never get to meet each other except at Drongo and here they get the opportunity to look into each other’s house, as we Dutch like to do. It’s a chance to meet the neighbours!’ The organisers have taken a conscious decision not to focus on one aspect of language exploration but to keep the scope broad and so ‘stimulate and motivate’ the cross pollination of ideas. Zora the robot Introductions to key note speakers were made by Zora, the humanoid robot developed by Belgian company QBMT for use in health care, which speaks nineteen languages. The speakers’ varied radically, from Mamokgthi Phakeng, a maths professor dealing with the complexities of teaching in nine South African languages, to Mark Lesun, the localisation expert from Google. ‘I’m here out of pure curiosity. It’s not to do with work. I’m interested in the variety the festival has on offer. All different aspects of language learning and investigation are here,’ says Nell Van Otterdijk. Some visitors had come to attend lectures and language crash courses, such as Rachel Rubin who studies linguistics at the University of Leiden: ‘I’m originally from the States and potentially want to teach English here so I’ve come for the resources.’ Language speed dating The event is not all serious and academic. There were hands-on activities like rap workshops and testing yourself in the EU translator cabin. For those who are more theoretically minded, the festival was host to the first ever specifically language orientated Researchers Night in the Netherlands, including: live language experiments, readings, workshops and speed dating. Odette Scharenborg, a researcher at the Radboud University, and PhD student Polina Drozdova led games and quizzes to do with speech perception. ‘The idea is to entertain people and let them know more about what language really is. We take it so for granted’ Scharenborg says. ‘I love bringing our knowledge to the general public. Maybe we’ll attract a few new students in the process.’ Couch-surfing Other stand holders were more actively recruiting, with translation agencies on the look-out for new freelancers. It was tangible how new technology’s effect on the globalisation of work has made for huge and rapid growth in that sector. European Commission official Hugo Keizer said they too are always looking for new colleagues.‘Getting to work as an official is a bit of a hurdle,' he said. 'So, we’re here to promote multilingualism, transfer knowledge and let people know how it is to work at EU institutions.’ Even the members of Esperanto Nederland were hoping to draw new people to their cause. ‘First off we want to let people know we exist!’ said Ronaldo Nobel. ‘Then, we want to show them the egalitarian aspect of Esperanto and that we have our own version of couch-surfing!’  More >


10 things you might like to know about the Goldfinch

10 things you might like to know about the Goldfinch

The Goldfinch, painted by Carel Fabritius in 1654, is small but perfectly formed and is one of the most popular exhibits at the Mauritshuis in The Hague. Hanneke Sanou takes a look at this intriguing little bird and discovers some interesting facts about it. 1 Who’s a clever bird? The small wooden panel (it measures 33.5 by 22.8 cm) is a portrait of the painter’s pet goldfinch. The Dutch name of the painting is ‘Het Puttertje’ from the verb ‘putten’, or to draw. It refers to the fact that the ingenious little finch was able to draw water from a reservoir using a tiny bucket. 2 Obsession The Goldfinch became the obsession of French journalist and art collector Théophile Thoré-Bürger, who was also largely responsible for the rediscovery of Vermeer. Thoré-Bürger was bequeathed the painting by a relative of his friend the Chevalier Joseph-Guillaume-Jean Camberlyn in 1865. He wrote to him: ‘Felix, look at those feathers! The colours are as fresh as on the day he painted them…’ (Source: Deborah Davis’ Fabritius and the Goldfinch) 3 Restored But by 2003 the Goldfinch didn’t look quite as chirpy and its yellowing varnish was removed, revealing the ‘deadly pale wall’ described by Thoré-Bürger on which the finch’s perch is mounted. The whole restoration process was transmitted live via the internet. 4 What's its function? The function of the wooden panel is unknown. Was it a little door concealing another painting, or a very clever trompe l’oeil to take people in? Nobody knows. 5 Vermeer Carel Fabritius lived from 1622 to 1654 but managed to carve out quite a reputation for himself during his short life. He studied under Rembrandt, was favoured by the court of Orange and praised for the cunning perspective in his murals. Fabritius is said to have turned away from the darker tones of Rembrandt to introduce the lightness and stillness which also characterise Vermeer, who owned several paintings by him. 6 Blast In 1654 it all came to a very sudden and noisy end when the gunpowder arsenal near the painter’s house in Delft blew up just as he was working on a portrait of church deacon Simon Decker. Decker, Fabritius’ mother-in-law, his brother and one of his pupils all died in the blast. Fabritius was dug out alive after seven hours but perished shortly afterwards. 7 Phoenix When the Mauritshuis gave the painting its overhaul in 2003 curators noticed a number of small indentations in the painting’s surface ‘as if it had been pelted with something’ (Davis) giving credence to the story that the Goldfinch had indeed miraculously survived the blast and had been recently painted when it took a shower of debris. 8 Symbol The goldfinch is a widely used symbol in early religious paintings. There it represents endurance and salvation. Later artists, such as writer Charles Dickens, used the fettered goldfinch to symbolise slavery. Fabritius’ goldfinch sitting quietly on its perch does not invite such an interpretation, although Thoré-Brüger described it as sitting on its ‘case d’esclave’, its slave hut (Davis). 9 Donna Tartt In 2014, writer Donna Tartt won a Pulitzer prize for her novel The Goldfinch, in which the painting survives another blast, this time as a result of a terrorist attack. In an interview Tartt said she hadn’t known about the painting’s history and commented: ‘When coincidences like this start happening you know the muses are at your side.’ The publication of Tartt’s novel coincided with an exhibition at the Frick Collection in New York of which the Goldfinch was a part. The book caused a sensation and a record 61,000 people came to see the Goldfinch for themselves. 10 More work? Today, 15 of Fabritius’ paintings remain but according to art critic Cees Straus more may come to light. There are a number of potential candidates which may yet be added to the artist’s oeuvre.  More >


Dutch film festival kicks off amid drama over commercialisation

Dutch film festival kicks off amid drama over commercialisation

The Netherlands' most prestigious film festival is about to kick off but it wouldn’t be complete without a little drama outside the cinema. ‘Venice has a lion, Berlin a bear, and now Utrecht has a golden calf,’ said director Wim Verstappen in 1980 when he suggested a suitable emblem for the Dutch film festival. The 35th annual dance around the golden calf kicks off on Wednesday but various producers have bowed out, not because the calf is too shiny and ostentatious but because it is not shiny and ostentatious enough. Klaas de Jong, producer of Michiel de Ruyter whose director Roel Reiné and male lead Frank Lammers will remain in the running for Golden Calves, has withdrawn the film from competition. Blockbuster De Jong, and many producers with him, feel the festival is not blockbuster-friendly enough. ‘All too often the award for best film goes to a film which has been seen by 2,000 people at most while someone nobody’s ever heard of gets a Golden Calf for best actor. It’s a party for the elite,’ De Jong complained in the Volkskrant. As the festival is financed with public money, it should do much more to reflect the tastes of the public, De Jong said, and that means a spectacle along the lines of the Eurovision Song Festival or the Voice of Holland with people at home voting for the so-called ‘publieksprijs’, or the public’s choice of best film. De Jong goes further. ‘Why not have an award for best arthouse film and one for the best popular film?’ he asked. The organisers of the festival have promised rather vaguely to ‘look into the suggestions’ and perhaps next year the festival will be organised on a different footing. Grim tale So which of the five contenders will win the Golden Calf for best film? Critics are going for Gluckauf (Limburgs for ‘Come back up safely’, an old miner’s term), the grim tale of a small-time criminal and his relationship with his son, set in a Zuid Limburg still suffering from the wounds left by the closing of the mines. But perhaps the ultimate accolade will go to Bloed, Zweet & Tranen, a film about the life of singer André Hazes. That would make Klaas de Jong happy. A film about a singer of and for the people seen by lots of people: 310,044, some thirty times as many as went to see teen drama Prins, another hot contender. A publieksfilm if ever there was one. Much more Meanwhile the festival is about much more than popular blockbuster versus precious arthouse films with an audience of one. Documentaries, television drama and short films are also up for awards. The festival also caters for non-Dutch speakers and helpfully subtitles a large number of films and documentaries in English, among them romantic suicide comedy (if there is such a thing) Surprise, a nominee which could live up to its title and walk off with the top prize. The award ceremony will be broadcast by the VPRO on Friday October 2. Comedian Claudia de Breij presents.  More >


Dutch words every foreigner in NL uses, even if they don’t speak Dutch

There are some Dutch words which just sneak in to the conversation, either because we use them so much or because there is no equivalent in our own tongues. Here’s a list of 10 Dutch words every buitenlander uses from day one. Lekker: the proverbial first word everyone seems to learn and which describes just about everything which is positive. Even people who say they don’t speak a word of Dutch will use the odd ‘lekker’. Borrel: for some reason, we don’t go for drinks, we always have a borrel. And if you are young expats working in an international environment you may even have a vrijmibo Btw: always pronounced bee tee wee and meaning tax, not ‘by the way’. Atv: unlike btw, atv is often pronounced in the English way (by English speakers), as in ‘I’ve got an ei tee vee tomorrow. Lucky you. Gemeente: perhaps it is because foreigner have so much to do with the good folks in the town hall, but everyone talks about the gemeente, never the council. Makelaar: those other good folk who find houses for extortionate fees. Bel: when you have been in in the Netherlands a few weeks, everyone seems to stop phoning. We bel, as in ‘I’ll bel you tonight’. Horeca: as in working in the horeca… it's a terrifically handy term – hotel, restaurant, cafe – and one which the rest of the world could easily adopt. Apotheek: another word that just sneaks in, even though there are plenty of respectable foreign language equivalents. Storing: a word which all Dutch railway users will get to know very well. This list was first published on Netherlands by Numbers. Feel free to suggest more.   More >


10 Dutch statues inspired by novels

10 Dutch statues inspired by novels

Literature as an influence for sculpture? Well, why not? Here's a collection of Dutch statues which have been inspired by children's books and novels. 1 Miffy The internationally famous and merchandised-to-the-hilt Nijntje, or Miffy as the inscrutable bunny is called abroad, has a statue on a square named after her in Utrecht, the home town of creator Dick Bruna. 2 Dikkertje Dap Annie M. G. Schmidt created the little boy in the red wellies who wants to slide down the neck of a giraffe (and does). Frank Rosen’s sculpture at Amsterdam's Artis zoo shows the benign giraffe bending over to help Dikkertje Dap get on board: ‘Boem! Au!!’ 3 The Titaantjes Three pals are leaning back on a park bench in the Oosterpark in Amsterdam watching the world go by. They are the Titaantjes (Little Titans) who, one day, will do great things. Or not. The sculpture of the three characters from Nescio’s engaging story (1918) is by Hans Bayens. It also bears the famous first sentence of the book: ‘Jongens waren we - maar aardige jongens.’ (We were boys then - but nice boys). 4 Family Feenstra Afke’s Tiental (Nienke van Hichtum, 1903) is the heart-warming tale of a poverty-stricken Friesian family of ten and the small events that mark their lives. Nienke van Hichtum – who was married to revolutionary firebrand Pieter Jelles Troelstra - based her story on the Feenstra family from the village of Warga which is where you can find Suzanna Berkhout’s statue. 5 Marten Toonder The Toondermonument in Rotterdam (Pepijn van den Nieuwendijk with Luuk Bode, Boris van Berkum and Hans van Bentum) is a tribute to writer and artist Marten Toonder, who is best known for his cartoon featuring bumbling Olivier B. Bommel and his clever pal Tom Poes. The monument shows a number of Toonder characters, among which the inimitable Markies de Cantecler. 6 Bartje Bartels Bartje Bartels is the main character in two books by Anne de Vries which describe the fortunes of a young boy growing up in a poor farming community in Drenthe. Bartje is a bit of a non-conformist: he famously refused to pray for brown beans, or in his native Drents ‘Ik bid nie veur bruune boon'n!’ His statue, also by Suzanna Berkhout who must have specialised in the depiction of rural poverty, has for some reason been repeatedly defaced, wrenched from its reinforced pedestal and kidnapped. It is, for the moment at least, in Assen. 7 Kniertje Yet another story of hardship is Op Hoop van Zegen, a play from 1900 by Herman Heijermans set against the background of the fishing town of Scheveningen. Grinding poverty, exploitation by a wealthy ship owner and death at sea are the jolly ingredients of this incredibly popular and enduring saga which was filmed no fewer than three times, the last time in 1986. In 2008 it was turned into a musical, in spite of the bleak storyline which could only inspire dirges. Kniertje is the long-suffering widow who loses her son to the sea and rampant capitalism (‘De vis wordt duur betaald’ is her famous lamentation: We pay a heavy price for the fish). Her statue, on the Scheveningen boulevard, is officially a monument to the fishermen’s wives (Annie van der Velde) but has been dubbed Kniertje for obvious reasons. 8 Woutertje Pieterse Multatuli set this book in a bourgeois milieu in which a boy given to day dreaming is trying to find his way. Multatuli, who’s main claim to fame is Max Havelaar, never meant for the story to be separated from Ideas, a collection of miscellaneous texts, but his widow thought otherwise. The statue, by Frits Sieger at the Noordermarkt in Amsterdam, shows Woutertje and Femke, the daughter of a washerwoman whom he defends against some rowdy boys intent on spoiling her freshly laundered sheets. 9 Hans Brinker Hans Brinker did not spring from the mind of a Dutch author – he was thought up by American author Mary Mapes Dodge in 1865 - but he deserves a place in the list if only for having no fewer than three statues to his name, in Spaarndam, Harlingen and Madurodam. All show him with his finger in the dike saving the country from flooding. 10 Erik Erik of het Klein Insectenboek (Godfried Bomans, 1941) is the enchanting and funny story of Erik who finds himself inside a painting on his wall of a meadow with sheep and lots of creepy crawlies  ahead of a school test on insects. Erik meets a score of interesting characters and learns some valuable lessons, but when he uses the information from his visit in his test he fails miserably. That’s grown-ups for you. Erik op de Vlinder by sculptor Mari Andriessen can be found in a leafy corner of Bloemendaal.  More >


Dutch company launches plan for recycled plastic roads

Dutch company launches plan for recycled plastic roads

Dutch company KWS Infra is developing a new sort of road made from recycled plastic. This, the company says, will not only cut down on plastic waste but reduce CO2 output from road building and usage, and make roads more sustainable and safer. Esther O’Toole reports. An estimated eight billion tons of plastic is floating around in the oceans and 55% of our plastic waste is still incinerated. Innovative Dutch companies have been busy looking at feasible ways of fishing the plastic out of the sea and shipping it to shore. Now KWS Infra, part of the VolkerWessels construction group and the biggest road builder in the Netherlands, has come up with a plan to turn that kind of plastic waste into roads. The roads themselves would be made from prefab sections prepared offsite from 100% recycled plastic and brought en masse to the building site, with road markings and guard rails already in place. Being light weight and easy to transport they could take months off construction times. The fabric is thought to be more durable than asphalt and needs little or no maintenance, being weather proof and impervious to weeds. The other major advantage is that they are hollow allowing space for piping, electric cables and – another hot topic for VolkerWessels – internet connections. Internet VolkerWessels is now investing in multiple projects for urban renewal and connected city innovation, including placing internet receivers along roads, be they antennas and masts or embedded in street lights and wind turbines. Plastic roads fit into this picture perfectly. If the space inside the decking could also be used to house net connectors, losing reception in a tunnel would become a thing of the past. Driverless cars, cheap and affordable ones too, will be on the open market as early as next year. What benefits will be reaped from these innovative technologies when they begin to converge? With uninterrupted mobile internet connections along all main highways, a long commute could be set to become the most productive part of the day. No wonder then that VolkerWessels is not having trouble garnering interest for their projects. Rotterdam city council was the first to show interest in piloting the PlasticRoad, in early July. Interest Since then the company has had interest from cities all over the world and are looking to finalise partnerships with plastics and recycling experts soon, spokesman Anne Koudstaal told DutchNews.nl. The aim is to have a team in place by December and to run a feasibility pilot within three years. ‘We are feeling very positive about it,' he said. 'All the good reactions [to July’s announcement] are a huge boost for us and the idea. It makes it all seem so much more realisable.’ If all goes to plan, the roads themselves may in turn be recyclable. This would bring PlasticRoad completely in line with the ‘cradle to cradle’ notions of the circular economy being implemented by other innovative ideas such as The Ocean Clean Up Project and the Plastic Madonna art project. The Netherlands, despite being one of the smallest countries in the developed world by land mass, has one of the highest carbon footprints per capita; especially in relation to fossil fuel use and cement production. Cutting emissions related to road usage and building would seriously reduce that footprint. Especially when one considers that the road network in the country covers approximately 135,470 km and most of it is tarmacked.  More >


How to bank in the Netherlands, with full service and support in English

How to bank in the Netherlands, with full service and support in English

Have you just arrived in the Netherlands? You will notice that a lot is different here: the language, the food, but also the way of banking. We would like to help you find your way around financially. Welcome to the Netherlands. First things first: a Dutch bank account The first thing you need in the Netherlands is a current account with a debit card and credit card. Your employer will use this to pay your salary. And you will need it to shop and to pay your rent, for example. Opening a current account is easy and you can do so at ABN AMRO even before you receive your Dutch citizen service number (BSN). Once your account has been opened, you will receive a complete package to manage the account: a debit card, a credit card and tools for online banking. And did you know that in the Netherlands you can do all your banking online from your computer, tablet or smartphone? Our Mobile Banking app can be also set to run in English, German and Spanish. We offer you more than just an account Once you have settled in, you may have other needs or queries regarding your financial situation. You may want to ask about insurance, savings or investments, for example. Or maybe you need a loan. And possibly you will consider buying a house. Did you know that this can offer you interesting advantages? Our experts will gladly give you advice that is tailored to your personal situation. In English, of course. Or in one of the 25 other languages we speak. Welcome to our experts at the International Clients Desks Our staff will be glad to help you with information and advice on all your financial matters. They know the rules and legislation governing expats and many of them either come from outside the Netherlands themselves or have worked abroad. They are therefore aware of the financial problems you may encounter, but also how they can resolve them for you. Banking with ABN AMRO also means banking in the way that suits you, on a device of your choice, 24 hours a day: through our International Clients Desks, by telephone, via Internet Banking or Mobile Banking. That’s how to bank in the Netherlands. At ABN AMRO. The advantages of banking with ABN ARMO Full service and support in English 24/7 Internet Banking in English Mobile Banking apps in English, German and Spanish Financial advice in more than 25 languages at one of our IC desks Money transfers and withdrawals from cash dispensers in Europe at no additional cost Worldwide access to own personal accounts More information? Please visit abnamro.nl/newcomers to find out about banking in the Netherlands. Or call 0900 – 8170 (you pay your usual call charges set by your telephone provider) or +31 10 – 241 1723 from outside the Netherlands. // // //   More >


10 buildings worth a visit during Dutch Heritage Weekend

10 buildings worth a visit during Dutch Heritage Weekend

Saturday is the start of Dutch National Heritage Weekend when over 4,000 listed buildings up and down the country open their doors to the public. Some of these remain firmly closed during the year but on this occasion the owners grant a privileged peek to the curious. And the best thing is it’s absolutely free! This year the organisers of the Open Monumentendag have chosen to highlight the arts & crafts movement. This is where DutchNews would go if it could be in ten places at once. 1. Menkemaborg, Uithuizen A stunningly beautiful estate from the 17th century, choc-a-bloc with artefacts of the time and impressive architectural features. The garden was re-created using the original design from 1705. Sat 10am – 5pm 2 Atelier Roland Holst, Oude Buisse Heide, Noord Brabant It doesn’t really get more artsy and craftsy than this. This hobbit house of a little studio was designed in 1918 by the Netherlands’ first female architect Margaret Staal-Kropholler for artist Richard Roland Holst and his politically active, poet wife Henriëtte Roland Holst. Roland Holst loved the design and told Staal-Kropholler: ‘(..) There’s nothing about it I don’t like. It’s lovely and rural and practical at the same time and I wish it was there already on that beautiful spot on the edge of the wood.’ The studio is still used by artists and descendants of Roland Holst but is also in use as a holiday let. Sun 11am-5pm 3 The Jan de Jonghuis in Schaijk This is an example of the so-called ‘Bossche School’ of which architect Jan de Jong was the main representative: a starkly classical style with a strict emphasis on proportion much used in the Dutch church architecture of the time. ‘DISPONERE MOLEM CONDECET SAPIENTEM ET ORDINARE STRUCTOREM SPATIA CORPORI TECTUM MENTI PARARE STRATUM’ was De Jong’s dictum which is cut into one of the stone lintels of the house. It means roughly that a home needs to be a roof over your head but also a place conducive to contemplation. Sat & Sun 1pm – 5pm 4 The Talens paint factory, Apeldoorn It’s actually Royal Talens, an honour bestowed on the paint makers in 1949 by queen Wilhelmina who dabbled in art and used Talens products. Just how many great works of art have been made using Talens paint is unknown but the factory has been going for a hundred years so it can be rightfully called a monument to art. Sat 10am – 5pm 5 Radio Kootwijk Radio Kootwijk is a broadcasting station built in 1923 in the middle of the Veluwe national park. In 1929 its international telephone service was inaugurated by queen mother Emma whose words to the Dutch colony of Indonesia were ‘Hello Bandung, can you hear me?’. The station was decommissioned in 1982 with the arrival of satellite communication. The building is a great example of 1920s architecture. There are guided tours and an exhibition to explain the building’s history. Sat & Sun 10am-5pm 6 Kasteel Huys Heyen, Heyen Yes, it’s one of those, a private pile from the 16th century. It was built by the Spaenrebock family who went on to live in it for centuries. The house was shot to bits by the Germans during World War II but in 1949 artist Peter Roovers bought and lovingly restored the stronghold on the Meuse. Of the historic interior nothing remains but the history of the house makes up for that. Ask the owners to show you the little window in the dungeon, they’ll know why. Sat&Sun 11am – 5pm. 7 Huis Deenik This house in Amsterdam dates from 1882 and was built as a calling card for builder Zeeger Deenik. Architect I Gosschalk was given plenty of scope for crafts: the façade unites wood, brick and fancy plasterwork. The painted interior of the main room is a beautiful example of 19th century arts & crafts. For more listed buildings open in Amsterdam go to the website. Sat & Sun 10am – 5pm 8 SS Rotterdam Now a hotel and restaurant, the SS Rotterdam was once the flagship of the famous Holland-America Line. Between 1959 and 1997 the ship made over 1,000 voyages. Its pristine ‘50s interior should be enough to entice you aboard. For more listed buildings open in Rotterdam go to the special website. Sat 10am – 5pm 9 The Westkapelle lighthouse This splendid building didn’t start out as a lighthouse but as a church tower which accounts for its un-lighthouse like exterior. You can climb all the way up to the top, or go towards the light so to speak. It’s only 8 (eight) floors, or 53 meters. The view is spectacular. Sat 10am-5pm 10 The Fundatie van Renswoude In 1754 Maria Duyst van Voorhout, a so-called ‘vrijvrouw’ or member of the aristocracy, left her considerable fortune to a foundation which had to make sure that ‘the cleverest, most intelligent and most capable youngsters should be selected to learn mathematics, drawing, painting, sculpting and "oeffeningen in sware dijkagien of dergelijke liberale kunsten"', by which she meant building dikes and other useful public works. The foundation still supports youngsters who, for some reason or another, cannot get a grant for a university education. The building that houses the foundation retains many of its original 18th century features. Sat 10am - 5pm  More >


The American Book Center is a Dutch institution

The American Book Center is a Dutch institution

The American Book Center has turned into a Dutch institution and Lynn Kaplanian-Buller has been its director for over four decades. In this interview, Lynn tells Brandon Hartley what originally brought her to the Netherlands and how two postcards once helped the business pay its rent for an entire year. How did it all start? The American Discount Book, Magazine Retail and Distribution Centre was started by two Americans, Mitch Crossfield and Sam Boltansky, in 1971. Mitch already lived here in Amsterdam and Sam had a lot of books back in Baltimore. Mitch said to him: ‘Everybody speaks English over here and there’s not enough books. You should send them over and I’ll sell them.’ Mitch had a hard time selling them to other bookshops due to a cartel; an arrangement which prevented others from breaking into the business. Mitch told Sam to come over to Amsterdam and around Christmas in 1971 they were walking along the Kalverstraat. They came across a jewellery store and made a deal with the owner to take it over. They shipped the books over, didn’t change much in the store and maybe added a few shelves. They didn’t even change the carpet [and officially opened for business in 1972]. That’s around when I walked in looking for magazines, which were cheaper there than elsewhere. I spoke with Mitch and talked my way into doing security over the weekend. By Sunday night, he left me alone in the shop and from there I started doing administration and just stayed. Taking a step back, what originally brought you to Amsterdam? I was travelling with my ex-boyfriend at the time. We were going to go overland to India and we sort of got stuck here. The city was so nice. We were walking around one afternoon and I was running out of things to read. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money and I thought if I could find a bookshop to work in I could read cheaper. So what was the next big thing that happened with the ABC? [Lynn shows me two postcards. The first features a man in a blue sports jacket standing in front of a window in the Red Light District. Inside, a woman in a dress is smiling at him. The second is a photo of the same woman standing in a doorway beside the window. A long haired man is sitting in her place. Each includes the caption 'Window Shopping in Amsterdam'.] This is a photo of Sam and it was taken by Mitch. At the time, there were absolutely no postcards of the Red Light District available in Amsterdam. They got releases from the models and we put them together. We sold so many of these postcards that we were able to pay our rent for one whole year. I think we eventually sold over two million of these cards. We've also recently produced a new line of postcards, entitled Typical Dutch, which show iconic images with their phonetic pronunciation in Dutch. We're hoping to sell 2 million of them, too, as postcards, posters, or as blank notebooks, all made on our Espresso Book Machine. And after that? Eventually, Mitch went back to the states and we opened the second store in the Hague. It opened in ‘76 and we expanded to Eindhoven and Groningen. I met my husband, who trained as an anthropologist, here. Then, when I was five months pregnant, I was asked if I wanted to run the place. I said ‘sure.’ We eventually bought the stores with my sister. That was in 1983. We didn’t know what we were doing. We figured it out as we went along. What sort of challenges did you face in the early days? Back in the ‘70s and into the ‘80s? One was the opening hours. [The Amsterdam store] was open from nine in the morning to 11 at night, seven days a week. That was way more hours than other shops on the Kalverstraat. There was an ordinance that said that stores for tourists, like diamond cutters and movie theatres, were OK. Places that sold magazines and newspapers could also stay open late. At the time, the Red Light District was full of dirty book shops. Whenever someone would come by with a cap on and say ‘you’re open too long’, we’d say that we catered to tourists and sold books and magazines just like the shops over in the Red Light. ‘When they stop, we’ll stop,’ we told them. What were some big events of the 1980s? We opened a new, larger location down towards the V&D on the Kalverstraat. Nike is in there now. We were there from 1986 through 2005. The [two shops in Eindhoven and Groningen] were only open for five years each. We opened another shop in Leuven in Belgium. We also had that one for five years. The shop on the Kalverstraat was enormous and, originally, we only rented half of it. We eventually filled the rest and started hosting weekly lectures and other kinds of events. We moved our warehouse in there too. This was back in the pre-internet days when anything ‘backlist’ wasn’t easy to come by. Not in this country, not in a lot of countries. Your business has always catered to lots of English speaking expatriates and travellers. What about Dutch people? Oh, definitely. They like to read these books in their original language. You can get a trade paperback from us for €11 or €12 that, if it’s ever translated into Dutch, will cost double that over 18 months later. The Amsterdam store has a big tree trunk running down the middle of it and your event space is called the Tree House. Why the tree theme? When we took over the space where the Tree House is located in 1998 we had to call it something. As a kid, I really liked tree houses. They’re special places. You couldn’t just go into a tree house. You had to be a member. It was a special place where you could ponder deep questions with others and keep secrets from grown-ups. It was also closer to the store on the Kalverstraat, practically in its backyard, much like a tree house. When we were planning our current Amsterdam location, we had a brainstorming session with the architect. We thought it would be really cool to build a tea house on the roof. Someone suggested that we paint it green so the entire building would be like a big tree. That idea didn’t come together but the tree theme reminds all of us that books originally came from them. However, we do have an [environmentally friendly] green roof here on the building now. Where did the tree trunk in the Amsterdam location come from? I have a friend who’s in charge of the Vondelpark and all the green stuff over there. He knew the guys that have to remove trees around the city. We got one that had to be sliced into two pieces and fit around the steel column in the centre of the store. It came from Osdorp. What would you say is the secret of the success behind both of your current locations? They serve as a ‘home away from home’ for Americans and others who are staying in the Netherlands for a while. A bookstore can often serve as a safe third place from home and work. It’s a place where people can hang out, browse the shelves, and be inspired. We’ve always tried to be really welcoming. We also invest in people. It’s not about widgets. We’re not selling widgets, diamonds or shoes. Those are all fine things to sell but this is a community of people who care about ideas. I know you’ve had a lot of famous writers come to the stores for events ... We’ve had quite a few. They weren’t always famous at the moment they were here though. We had David Baldacci after he wrote his first book and only six people showed up. We hosted Stephen Fry. That was really nice but we had to have him speak at the church over there [since so many people came]. Patti Smith has come and she’s coming back in October. This time she has two new books so that will be good. Spike Lee has signed here. Dionne Warwick too. David Sedaris has been here several times. A lot of publishers know that if one of their authors is coming through, even if it’s only two days' notice, we’ll arrange a flash mob to show up since so many people subscribe to our newsletter and follow our website. You can learn more about the history of the ABC, explore its events calendar, and shop online via its website [http://www.abc.nl].   More >


Moving to the Netherlands: should you rent or buy a home?

Moving to the Netherlands: should you rent or buy a home?

The Dutch housing market has had its ups and downs in the past few years, so is it better to buy or rent? How do you know what’s the right thing to do in your personal situation? ABN AMRO, specialised in expat banking, can give you tailor-made advice. Expats are not always sure how long they will stay in one place or country. This makes it important to to think carefully about buying or renting a house. Renting in the privately-owned sector is very expensive. But buying isn’t always beneficial either. Buying or renting Are you renting a house at this moment? Then this might be the right moment to buy a house. The low mortgage interest rates and house prices are tempting, while private sector rents are increasing. On the other hand, the decreasing house prices can lead to uncertainty. Will they drop even further, and is now the right time to buy? Before making a decision, it is useful to take a look at the pros and cons. Which aspects are important for you? By carefully considering your wishes, you will discover what fits you best. Pros and cons of buying a house There are advantages and disadvantages to buying a house. One advantage is the fact that you can rebuild and furnish the house to your own wishes. You also build up your own equity and when you have completely repaid your mortgage, the house will be yours. But there are also a couple of disadvantages. You will have a lot to arrange financially. You also are responsible for the maintenance of the house and the costs will be higher because of the extra insurances and taxes. If you are sure of staying in the same place for a long period of time, then buying might be the best option. But what about renting? In some situations, renting is a better option than buying. If you rent, you can cancel your lease and move out quickly, and the homeowner is responsible for the maintenance of the house. The increasing rental prices and the limits to how much you can change in the property are among the disadvantages. Are there uncertainties about how long you are likely to stay in the Netherlands? If so, renting might be the best option for you. ABN AMRO the bank for expats ABN AMRO is the leading Dutch bank for expats. Our employees not only understand the language, they also understand your situation. They know everything about the financial rules and regulations for expats. They can give you tailor-made advice about buying or renting a house. Read more on www.abnamro.nl/house You can also contact the bank for other matters. When opening an account you will receive a complete package to manage your account: a debit card, a credit card and various tools for online banking. Other benefits include: 24/7 full service in English Internet banking, apps and documentation in English Financial advice in many other languages Worldwide access to personal accounts The ability to open an account without a BSN (citizen service number) Detailed knowledge on rules and regulations for expats Expert advice on payments, savings, insurance, credit, mortgages, loans and investments About ABN AMRO ABN AMRO is a full-service bank with many years of international experience. As the leading Dutch bank for expats, we have detailed knowledge of all financial and insurance rules and regulations international clients encounter. We make sure you don’t have to worry about your banking matters. Please visit one of our four International Client Desks or www.abnamro.nl/en to make an appointment with one of our experts. Disclaimer: This article contains general information which has not been tailored to your personal circumstances. This article therefore does not give you personal advice on whether or not to do something. Any decisions you make purely based on the information on this article will be at your own risk. We would be happy to help you if you do want personal advice. Simply get in touch with us through the website, by telephone or by visiting a bank branch to make an appointment. // // //   More >


Crab for breakfast? 10 facts about a Dutch still life featuring food

Crab for breakfast? 10 facts about a Dutch still life featuring food

Dutch still life paintings featuring food were all the rage in the Golden Age. Willem Claeszoon Heda (1594-1680) was particularly good at them. Hanneke Sanou looks at the hidden meanings in his Breakfast with Crab. All is vanity 1 An ‘ontbijtje’, or small breakfast, is a particular genre in Dutch 17th century still life painting, as were flower pieces, banquet pieces, paintings featuring dead animals and Vanitas paintings. But all were really vanitas paintings, or paintings that reminded the rich burghers of the Netherlands that everything – including their wealth – was transient. Fishy breakfast 2 This still life is called Breakfast with Crab. Did people in the Golden Age really have crab first thing in the morning? According to food historian Gillian Riley some did indeed have fish, or pie, for breakfast (accompanied by a frothy tankard of beer) but most would have bread and cheese and/or butter, much like the Dutch do now. Daily bread 3 Bread also features in the painting (right hand side) but it is white bread, a superior product that only the wealthy could afford. It was rye bread for the poor, or porridge or pancakes made of buckwheat, just the kind of thing that would now be considered the healthier option. Ceçi n’est pas un limon 4 The peeled lemon is not simply a peeled lemon. Like almost everything in Dutch 17th century painting there is a lesson to be learned and thus the lemon symbolises deceptive appearance: beautiful on the outside, sour within. Beware the beautiful looking man/woman for corruption may lurk inside, is the message. Disarray 5 On the right are some olives in a discarded little Delft blue platter. On closer inspection the whole scene is one of slight disarray, as if the breakfaster, once he’d dismembered the crab (with the utensils in the foreground) and drunk his fill, stood up hastily and ran off to his place of business. In fact, the rumpled table cloth and the up-ended gilded goblets represented another possibility for the artist to showcase his painterly skills. Who was Heda? 6 The artist in question is Willem Claeszoon Heda about whom not very much is known. He lived and worked in Haarlem and was considered extremely accomplished at rendering the gleam and sparkle of pewter, glass and silver. We would add that he was supremely good at olives as well. Glass 7 The glasses in the painting will look familiar to many. The Rijksmuseum has a beautiful collection of them. There are three glasses in the painting which, again, doesn’t suggest that three sat down to breakfast but rather that Heda was really good at painting glass. The big one in the middle is called a roemer which is meant for wine, as is the tall Façon de Venise glass. The knobbly bits were meant to keep greasy fingers from slipping, for instance after tackling crab. The small glass is probably a water glass. Realism 8 The depiction of the gilded goblets, the brightly polished tankard, the silver salt cellar all show how talented Heda was. Apart from acknowledging the usual moral message, the rich buyers of his pictures marvelled at the realism of the artefacts. The greater the ‘artificial miracle’ the greater the appreciation (and presumably the higher the price). What is that? 9 The rolled up bit of paper on the plate was used for sprinkling herbs. Well, we were wondering about it. Where is it? 10 If you want to see this particular painting you will have to travel to the Hermitage in St Petersburg. Other still lifes by Heda – and he never painted anything else – can be found in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden and the Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid.  More >


The Evolution of Bingo (third party content)

The Evolution of Bingo (third party content)

The way that we interact with each other has changed. The rise and popularity of social media profiles helps us to maintain connections with our friends and family, especially those who live in different countries and cities. But keeping in touch online can never replace spending quality time with the people you love. Bingo has been a popular pastime in the Netherlands for decades. There are still active bingo halls in use but over the past ten years the game of bingo had moved from halls to the internet. Online bingo is a booming industry all over the world, enabling users to play from the comfort of their own home but the sense of community that made the game so popular in the beginning is sometimes lost online. If you’re tired of winning bingo online and not having your friends there to share the moment with, Dutch company Bingocams has developed a solution. In order to connect you with the worldwide bingo community they have created a site that combines the game of online bingo with webcams! There are all sorts of ways to connect with people on Bingocams. You can share your wins in real-time with other players using webcams, either during a group chat in the bingo rooms you’re playing in, or by using the private chat function. As well as playing online bingo with your family and friends, Bingocams enables users to interact in the online bingo community where you can meet new people and make new friends. Take a look at the video below to see how the site works: Head over to Bingocams today to sign up for a free account and see some winning reactions on the Live Win Moment board!  More >


That time an American woman had to convince her Dutch doctor she wasn’t a sex worker

The Dutch have very distinctive ideas about sexual health, as Molly Quell found out. A few weeks ago, I got a letter telling me I was old. Well, not in so many words. I got a letter, from the government, saying that because I am turning 30 this year, it’s time for a pap smear. In the Netherlands, women only start getting pap smears done when they turn 30 and then every five years. In the US, you typically start getting them done when you become sexually active or when you turn 18. From then on, you have them done once a year, during your yearly check up. (Though now the recommendation has changed to every three years.) Needless to say, I have had plenty of pap smears done. I call my doctor’s office and make my appointment, indicating that I got the aforementioned letter. When I arrive several days later for said appointment, the receptionist asks me for my name and the name of my doctor. I tell her and she looks at me and says: 'He’s not in the office today.' I shrug. 'Ok.' ‘Well then you can’t have an appointment with him.’ ‘Clearly.’ We are at an impasse. I politely tell her that simply because my regular doctor isn’t there, doesn’t mean I don’t have an appointment with another doctor and perhaps she should check her computer for just such a thing. She asks me what time my appointment was. ‘I think 11:30.’ ‘Well there’s no appointment at 11:30.’ I take a deep breath. ‘Could you check to see if I have an appointment today?’ She asks my name again and consults the computer. ‘Yes, at 11:25. You can take a seat.’ I blink several times and join the crowd in the waiting room. A few minutes later, my name is called and I introduce myself to the nurse who I very quickly realise isn’t especially well-versed in English. She has an assistant with her who, apparently, speaks no English at all. We go into the office and the nurse asks me to sit, so she can explain the procedure. After a few minutes of tedious attempts to explain in English, supplemented by Dutch, I tell her not to worry. I’ve had a pap smear before and I understand the procedure. The nurse eyes her assistant. ‘When was your last test?’ she asks. ‘A year or so ago, the last time I was in the US.’ ‘And why did you get it done?’ I try to explain that it’s very common in the US to have your first pap smear at an earlier age and that you get them more regularly. The nurse and the assistant exchange sideways glances. ‘We have some more questions,’ the nurse tells me. They proceed to ask some rather probing questions about my sex life, sexual activities, sexual partners and all manner of sexual habits. As I haven’t actually been a nun for my entire life, some of my answers are vague. This only seems to upset them more. Eventually, the nurse declares that I need to talk to the doctor. She disappears from the office and leaves me with the assistant who just stares at the floor. The nurse returns and tells me that there are no female doctors available, so I will have to wait. I raise my eyebrows. ‘Are there male doctors available?’ ‘Yes but do you want to see a male doctor?’ ‘Yes, that’s fine.’ I’ve already been here for an hour, I haven’t had the test and I’ve got work to do. If they gave a chimpanzee a medical degree, I’d talk to her. Or him. The nurse again departs and returns with a man who is at least 85 and probably speaks about as much English as your average chimpanzee. He repeats a number of questions I’ve already been asked and, at this point, I’m beginning to get irritated. ‘Look,’ I finally say, ‘I’ve answered these questions already and I’m failing to see how any of them are relevant to getting a pap done.’ The doctor and the nurse exchange uncomfortable glances. The assistant continues to stare at the floor. The doctor nods and says ok. The test, is, as expected, a pretty standard pap smear experience. Once it’s over, the doctor states that he wants to take a blood and urine sample. Because, he says, ‘he’s concerned about infection.’ Considering this gentleman had just had a more intimate moment with my private parts than I am able to have, I grow concerned. ‘Is something wrong?’ I ask. More uncomfortable glances. ‘No, no,’ the nurse says, ‘Just in case.’ She hands me a sample cup. I go to the bathroom, lock the door and do what any foreigner would do. I call my doctor back home. After answering a series of questions about pain (I have none) and discharges (also none), she tells me there’s nothing to worry about and chalks it up to a language barrier. I return my sample, say my goodbyes and roll my eyes about the absurdity of the Dutch medical system. The next day, my phone rings, and it’s my regular doctor. For the record, his English is perfectly fine. ‘So,’ he starts awkwardly, ‘I hear you had an appointment yesterday.’ ‘Yeah, it was a bit odd,’ I tell him. ‘I heard as much. As you know it’s not common for women here to get pap smears until they are 30.’ ‘Right.’ ‘And, typically, the only women who do get them earlier more often work in certain areas…’ ‘Your colleagues thought I was a hooker?’ ‘I think we would say sex worker, but yes.’ ‘I hope you clarified things.’ ‘Well, I just want you to know that if you are participating in or contemplating that sort of work, I would want to know, as there are certain health precautions…’ he went on, explaining that sex work is legal in the Netherlands and I’d still be a welcome patient at their practice. The Netherlands. Where regular medical check ups are strange, but sex work is welcome. Taken from Dutched Up! Rocking the Clogs Expat Style, an anthology of expat essays written by 27 women, who have all relocated to the Netherlands and are attempting to find a place in Dutch society. Buy this book  More >