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


Blogwatching: Keukenhof, the Netherlands

Blogwatching: Keukenhof, the Netherlands

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


A taste of home: International food stores in the Netherlands

A taste of home: International food stores in the Netherlands

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


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

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

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


Medicinal cannabis users left high and dry by Dutch tolerance policy

Medicinal cannabis users left high and dry by Dutch tolerance policy

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


Dutch destinations: Go south and mooch around in Maastricht

Dutch destinations: Go south and mooch around in Maastricht

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


DutchNews podcast – The Belgium is Cancelled Edition – Week 10

DutchNews podcast – The Belgium is Cancelled Edition – Week 10

Plenty of ground to cover in this week's podcast, from Ajax's swashbuckling conquest of Madrid to Wopke Hoekstra's peacemaking mission to Paris and a setback for Albert Heijn in Belgium. Dutch ministers call for short-haul flights to Brussels to be scrapped, IS fighter Yago Riedijk is told he'll have to find his own way back to Arnhem and Willem Holleeder's long career as the Netherlands' most notorious gangster may be running out of road. In our discussion we look at the latest moves to return works of art taken during the colonial era to their countries of origin. Top story: Willem Holleeder trial Public prosecutor demands life sentence for Willem Holleeder Feature: The hottest ticket in town is a seat at the Holleeder trial News Economic growth forecast cut to 1.5% for this year Housing market shows signs of cooling down Jihadi Yago Riedijk 'will not be allowed to bring his family to the Netherlands' France and Netherlands make up in wake of Air France-KLM shares raid Dutch MPs call for flights to Brussels to be phased out Belgium shoots down Albert Heijn's 'buy 1 get 2 free offer' Sport Ajax dump Real Madrid out of the Champions League in sensational style Patrick Roest retains world allround speed skating title Nadine Visser crowns successful European Indoor Championships with gold (Runners World, Dutch) Discussion: Should Dutch museums give back stolen colonial art? Dutch museums willing to return stolen art to former colonies The counter for returning stolen art has been opened (Trouw, Dutch) Rijksmuseum investigates source of colonial collection (Volkskrant, Dutch) Benin Bronzes: Why western museums should hold on to their treasures (Guardian) France's return of African artefacts sets tricky precedent (New York Times)  More >


On International Women’s Day, here are 10 remarkable Dutch women

On International Women’s Day, here are 10 remarkable Dutch women

Dutch women get a lot of stick at times - for working part-time, for dressing down and for letting their children run riot. So here, to celebrate International Women's Day, are the brief stories of 10 Dutch women who broke the mold. A businesswoman and soldier To be called a Kenau in Dutch is not a compliment - it means you are a harridan - and yet Kenau Hasselaar (1526 – 1588) was by all accounts courageous and clever. When the city of Haarlem was under siege by the Spanish in 1572 Kenau is said to have led 300 women into battle and, according to contemporary historians, gave as good as any man. There are many other traces of her in the local judicial archives: Kenau was a business woman who did not shun conflict and there were many. It is not too great a leap of the imagination to think that many a man must have considered her pretty troublesome, and the epithet stuck. A playwright Belle van Zuylen (1740-1805), writer, playwright and prodigious correspondent, had her own opinions on the equality of men and women and, luckily for her, she could afford them, as she was born into a rich aristocratic family. ‘I have no talent for being subordinate’ Van Zuylen famously told James Boswell who asked her to marry him but on the condition she cease writing to other men. Her first book, Le Noble, written when she was twenty and swiftly taken out of circulation by her scandalised parents, laments the lack of  education for girls  – Van Zuylen was not allowed to enter university but took private lessons and sneaked into the lecture hall of Utrecht university. Her letters to famous contemporaries remain popular to this day. An explorer and photographer Alexandrine Tinne (1835 – 1869) has a couple of ‘female firsts’ to her name. Born into an affluent The Hague family she used her substantial inheritance to become one of the first women to travel to the far-flung places she had become fascinated by when reading the tales of famous explorers. She was also one of the first female photographers, leaving not only a great record of her travels but also of her native The Hague. Tinne’s story did not end well. In 1896 she went to what is now Libya in search of the Tuaregs. She did indeed have a meeting with a Tuareg chief but later her camp was attacked by groups of Arabs and Tuaregs and she was hacked to death. Her grave was never found. A doctor Aletta Jacobs (1854 -1929), doctor and champion of women’s rights, was the first woman to be admitted to university in 1871. At 16 she simply wrote to minister Johan Thorbecke to ask if she could be admitted and after a lot umming and ahhing about her tender age and the wisdom of her choice he finally told her father (!) she could. Apart from opening up higher education to women, Jacobs alleviated the misery of many women by offering them contraceptives at her surgery in Amsterdam. She also campaigned tirelessly for women’s right to vote which was finally granted in 1919. It took until 1922 before women actually presented themselves at the ballot box. Jacobs was 68 at the time. A defender of unmarried women's rights Neeltje Lokerse (1868 – 1954) was one of the first women to defend the rights of servants and unmarried women. Lokerse, who was from Zeeland and always wore the traditional dress of the province, worked herself as a servant in The Hague where she fell pregnant by a lawyer who refused to marry her. A year after her son was born Lokerse hid a gun in a pram and made her way to the court where her former lover worked. She took a shot at him but missed and was immediately arrested. Lokerse had public opinion on her side and she was let off because there was no proof she actually wanted to kill the man. Lokerse then started out on a public speaking tour to highlight the plight of servants, occasionally whipping out her son Jan ‘the cause of my unhappy fate!’ An aviator Beatrix de Rijk (1883 – 1958) is the first Dutch woman aviator. Like many of the women who could strike out in a different direction in those days she was born into a wealthy family - her father was a banker in Surabaya in Indonesia. After an unhappy marriage and a spell as a model for Worth in Paris De Rijk gained a pilot’s license in France in 1911 – which was regarded as ‘a license to commit suicide’, she said – and bought herself a plane. She repeatedly offered her services as a war pilot in both world wars but was rejected. Her fortune spent, she ended up back in the Netherlands doing menial jobs until a the Dutch aviation society recognised her merits and collected funds to supplement her pension. A gay bar owner Bet van Beeren (1902 – 1967) was the legendary owner of gay bar ‘t Mandje on Amsterdam’s Zeedijk. Van Beeren, herself openly gay, had taken over the bar from her uncle in 1927 and it easily absorbed a gay clientele among the sailors, artists and intellectuals who frequented the place. But Bet, mindful of the law and her liquor license, forbade kissing in the bar. She would drive around on her motorbike in leathers, often with a conquest riding pillion and liked to keep a souvenir of people she had had a jolly time with at the bar. She would often cut off men’s ties but would settle for a shoe, a bra, a stuffed iguana or a set of false teeth as well.  After having been closed for 26 years, the bar was re-opened, false teeth and all, in 2008 by Van Beeren’s niece Diane van Laar. A journalist and Spanish civil war veteran Fanny Schoonheyt (1912 – 1962) was a journalist and photographer who fought on the Republican side in the Spanish civil war. Her commander said of her: ‘La joven más valiente de Barcelona’ (the bravest girl in Barcelona) and ‘una maestra con la ametralladora’ (a crack shot with the machine gun). After the war Schoonheyt was stripped of her Dutch passport and left for the Dominican Republic where she had a child. She never spoke again of her Spanish past, not even to her daughter. When she was finally allowed to return to the Netherlands her health was seriously impaired and she died of a heart attack. A popular writer Annie MG Schmidt (1911-1995), whose work for children and adults remains as popular as ever, was dubbed ‘the spare queen of the Netherlands’, so familiar a presence was she in most Dutch households through books like Jip en Janneke, Abeltje, the tv show Ja Zuster Nee Zuster and much much more. Her reign began when, after having worked as a librarian, she landed a job as an archivist at the Parool in Amsterdam. She began to write for the paper’s cabaret and her talent for writing funny verse for both adults and children quickly brought her huge recognition (which she didn’t relish). Towards the end of her life Annie MG Schmidt became a television favourite for the way she wrong-footed interviewers, like the naughty eight-year old she said she had always remained. A star athlete Fanny Blankers-Koen (1918- 2004) was a Dutch track athlete who won 4 gold medals at the Olympic Games in London in 1948 and smashed 12 world records and 57 national records during her career. The war years interrupted Blankers-Koen’s rise as an athlete but after the war – and a pregnancy – she decided to give competitive sport another go. She was dubbed ‘the flying housewife’ and on her return to the Netherlands she was presented with a bicycle ‘because she had done enough running’. Inspired? You have just two days left to visit a great exhibition on 101 remarkable 20th century Dutch women at the Amsterdam Museum. The exhibition runs until March 10.  More >


Home ownership is hot in the Netherlands: Here’s how not to burn your fingers

Home ownership is hot in the Netherlands: Here’s how not to burn your fingers

While there are signs that the rise in house prices in the Netherlands may be slowing down, the market is still extremely tight. So what can you do to boost your chances of buying a home of your own? Rotterdam-based estate agent Wil Jansen of @Work Real Estate Agency has been watching the housing market closely, as prices pick up in the port city. House prices in the most popular areas have more than doubled in the past two years, and are still rising, he says. Nevertheless, there are still bargains to be had, if you know where to look and are prepared to step outside the areas currently considered hot. ‘If you look in Rotterdam Prinsenland, for example, you get much more house for your money,’ he says. ‘But you can still cycle to the city centre for work. Or take Noordereiland, an island in the middle of Maas river, which has a real village-like atmosphere. Kop van Zuid is another place where there is a lot of investment and development going on.' Schiedam too is going up in price and is a good place to invest, he says. 'It is just next door to Rotterdam which is easy to reach by public transport or bike.' River view ‘These are all popular places to live but still under the radar to some extent. On Noordereiland, for example, there are two or three bedroom flats with views over the water to be had for around €300,000.' So what can you do to maximize your chances while making sure you are not going to make a mistake and are not rushing in without thinking things through properly? For a start, says Wil, you should remember that not every house which is for sale can be found on Funda. And some estate agents specialize in selling property before it hits the internet – so it is crucial to make sure your buying agent has a good network and knows what is what. A buying agent will also make sure you don’t pay over the odds for a property because you don’t want to miss out. ‘Selling agents don’t like it when people bid for a property themselves, rather than through a buying agent, because it could be they don’t yet have their finances in order,’ Wil says. Wil works a lot with mortgage advisor Richardo Cruz Fortes of Expat Mortgages so his clients know exactly how much they can borrow. 'Trust is very important, and that is what you have with a buying agent on your side,' he says. Overbidding ‘And sometimes a selling agent will price the property too high or too low – something a buying agent will alert you to. Remember, even though the trend at the moment is to overbid the asking price, you don’t have to always do that!’ Remember too, that the seller does not have to sell the house to the highest bidder. ‘That is, of course, usually the case,’ says Wil. ‘But if you have a lot of your own money to invest in the property, or if you don’t place any, or just a few, financial conditions on the sale, it could make a difference… if there is little to choose between the offers.’ ‘And it could be that the seller decides they want you to have the property for some reason. They might want a family to have the property or think that you would look after their old home well. That “I’d like you to have it” factor should not be underestimated.’ Surveyor Of course, you may have the money lined up and have found the home of your dreams, but how do you know that the property is sound and are not about to make a mistake? ‘The selling agent is required to brief potential buyers if the property has a known defect,’ says Wil, who has around 20 years experience in the field and knows the signs to look for. Asbestos is one hazard you may have to deal with (check, for example, under the laminate floor for old asbestos-based flooring), and a second is the state of the property’s foundations. In older properties which are built on wooden piles it is crucial that the top of piles are under water to stop them rotting away. Putting in new foundations costs some €1,500 a square metre. If you are buying into a property with several owners, the cost of the work will be split between all the home owners. ‘You can bring in a surveyor to check the condition of the property, but it is wise to ask for that after you have agreed a price,’ Wil says. ‘If there do turn out to be problems, you still have time to pull out of the sale. But the most sensible thing is to use an estate agent who knows what to look for in the first place.' Wil Jansen works in Rotterdam, The Hague, Barendrecht, Capelle aan den IJssel, Delft, Gouda, Ridderkerk, Schiedam, Vlaardingen and Zwijndrecht. Check out the website or contact info@workmakelaardij.nl for more information.  More >


Inheritance law for expats in the Netherlands – key considerations

Inheritance law for expats in the Netherlands – key considerations

Inheritance is fundamentally a difficult subject to think about, but as an expat with family in other countries, it can be even harder as you have to deal with contradictory and confusing international laws during a difficult time. Here are some key considerations to simplify inheritance law for expats living in the Netherlands. Determining which country’s law applies to an inheritance is an important first step, as it can affect how the estate is divided, as well as the rights and obligations of the heirs. Which country’s law applies to my (international) inheritance? If you’re living in the Netherlands, you may think that Dutch law will automatically apply to an inheritance you receive, regardless of where the deceased lived - but this is not guaranteed. Every country has its own rules to determine which inheritance law applies to a person’s estate. This could be the law of the deceased’s country of nationality, or the law of the country where the deceased lived, or the law of the country where the property is located. The only way to choose which law will apply to an estate is to stipulate that in a will. In a will, you may choose to apply the law of your own nationality to your estate. (You cannot choose another country’s law.) Simpler inheritance law in the European Union (EU) The new Inheritance Law Regulation simplifies inheritance within the EU by introducing uniform rules for cross-border inheritance law. This regulation applies to all EU countries except for Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Under this regulation, since August 17, 2015, the law that will apply to any inheritance for which no will is made is the law of the country in which the deceased had his or her habitual residence at the time of their death. This means that if you are, say, a Spanish person living in the Netherlands and you died after August 17, 2015 without making a will, then Dutch law could apply to your estate. Dying in the Netherlands without a will When you are living in the Netherlands and you die without making a will, then Dutch law will determine what happens to your estate. Under Dutch law, your heirs will each be entitled to an equal share of your estate. Here are four examples of what this could mean in practice: 1 If you are married or have a registered partner and you have children, then under Dutch law what is called the 'statutory division' will apply. In practice, this means the spouse will acquire the entire estate, and owe the children their share of your estate – but the children will not be able to claim their share until the death of your spouse. 2 If you have children but no spouse, the children will each inherit an equal share of your estate. 3 If you are not married and you have no children, then your estate will go to your siblings and parents. 4 If you are only living with someone, but have not married or entered into a registered partnership with that person, then the person with whom you live will not be legally entitled to any share in your estate. If you wish this person to inherit, you need to stipulate that in a will. Dying in the Netherlands with a will When you are living in the Netherlands and you die after you have made a will, then your estate will be handled according to your will. Making a will gives you more choices. You can specify in your will that you wish the law of your own country of nationality to apply, instead of Dutch law. For instance, an Italian person living in the Netherlands may choose to apply Italian law to the division of their estate. You may also choose to appoint an executor for your estate, to divide your estate unequally, leave specific bequests to heirs, name a cohabiting partner as heir, or disinherit someone, etc. – if those choices are allowed according to that country’s law. In addition, you can make use of an exclusion clause. This clause is especially important for expats because it allows a person to leave an inheritance to an heir without the risk that it could fall under a community of property. In other words, the heir will not have to share that inheritance with a spouse even if they are married in a community of property and later divorce – the inheritance will belong to him alone. If you are living in the Netherlands, then without question the best way to protect your heirs’ rights and to have your last wishes respected is to make a will. Get help with international inheritance Cross-border inheritance can be extremely complicated, and it is crucial to understand the consequences of your choices. An international inheritance lawyer can help you make the best choices. This includes advice you can trust on the best law to apply, your rights within that law, special clauses to protect your heirs’ inheritance, guardianship and estate planning. If you need help understanding your rights regarding a specific international inheritance, or if you’d like to discuss planning for your estate, our team of experts can help you. Marieke Morshuis is an expert in international inheritance law for GMW lawyers and the Legal Expat Desk. If you need advice or assistance with an inheritance issue, please contact her.  More >


Blogwatching: The worst place on earth

Blogwatching: The worst place on earth

The blog Amsterfam is the creation of Lauren Collett. She moved from London to Amsterdam nearly two years ago with three kids and her other half, My Lawyer. These are her adventures. On Tuesday, My Lawyer says: ‘I might go to Dubai next week.’ I reply: ‘What is the likelihood in percent?’ ‘Like…. 50%.’ ‘Okay,’ I nod. ‘Keep me updated.’ On Wednesday, My Lawyer says: ‘I am 80% not going to Dubai next week.’ ‘Okay,’ I say. ‘Good to know.’ On Thursday, My Lawyer says: ‘I booked my tickets for Dubai. I leave Monday. First thing.’ This little back-and-forth, aside from sounding like a corporate reworking of Craig David’s Seven Days, will be familiar, I’m sure, to Trailing Spouses across the globe (I HAVE TWO SUBSCRIBERS IN PANAMA). Others might be wondering what the merry fuck a Trailing Spouse is, and why I’ve deigned to capitalise it, as if a Trailing Spouse is akin to a CEO (IMAGINE!). The truth is, written lower case, it brings to mind entrails, does it not? ‘I’m a trailing spouse.’ ‘Jesus, Patricia, don’t be so hard on yourself.’ See? I’m a trailing spouse. Trailing like a veil, trailing like a ball and chain, trailing like the innards of an Elizabethan woman who has been hung, drawn and quartered for being left-handed. No, YOU have a flair for the dramatic. I just don’t like the phrase trailing spouse. The seven year old is the only child awake when My Lawyer leaves on Monday morning. She is already dressed in the clothes that she laid out the night before. ‘I’m all in black today. Like a shy person,’ she adds, inexplicably. She has drawn felt-tip earrings on her earlobes. Dutch girls get their ears pierced younger than girls in the UK. The seven year old is The Only Girl Without Earrings, apparently. Apart from, you know. All the other kids who don’t have earrings. ‘Okay, I’m off!’ says My Lawyer. ‘Where are you going?’ asks the seven year old. ‘Dubai,’ replies My Lawyer. ‘That’s not a place.’ ‘Many would agree with you,’ nods My Lawyer. ‘What shall I bring back?’ ‘Bath bombs,’ says the seven year old without hesitation. My Lawyer looks at me with a vague look of panic. ‘It’s like a ball thing that you drop in the bath and it fizzes,’ I explain. ‘And it has to turn the water a different colour,’ says the seven year old. ‘Okay, fine,’ says My Lawyer. ‘See you all in a few days.’ He disappears down the stairs and the seven year old yells after him: ‘Don’t get one with bits in! I don’t want a bath with bits in!’ ‘Daddy is going to an island that is the shape of a palm tree,’ I say. The seven year old frowns. ‘Is he going to a spa?’ ‘Basically,’ I nod. I take the kids to school. It is bitterly cold. The nine year old is complaining that he doesn’t feel well. The nine year old is usually ill for the entire winter. He is small, pale, has a large vocabulary and a beautiful singing voice. If I were to describe him in one word, that word would be: ‘Victorian’. If I were to describe him in a sentence, that sentence would be: ‘Would not have survived childhood in Victorian times.’ I feel his head. He is a little warm, but, I reason, he has been wearing a hat. Also, I reason, the four year old has a day off school and I’ve promised to take him to the zoo, so it would just be a lot better all round if the nine year old wasn’t ill. ‘You’re a little warm,’ I say, ‘but you’ve been wearing a hat.’ ‘That seems inconsequential,’ says the nine year old. ‘See how you get on,’ I say. ‘If you get worse, school can ring me.’ ‘We are going to the zoo!’ says the four year old. ‘You’re going to the zoo,’ says the nine year old, processing the information. ‘We are going to the zoo,’ I confirm, resigned. It is literally zero degrees out. Artis Zoo is on the other side of Amsterdam, a 25 minute cycle from school on Steve the Bakfiets. Steve says nothing; he knows that I know he is judging me for some seriously iffy parenting back there, and questionable medical conjecture to boot. I ignore Steve’s accusing silence as I park him up outside the zoo, and I hobble after the four year old. Cycling a cargo bike in the freezing cold, over the course of a 25 minute ride, can age a person by approximately ten years. ‘It’s very cold, Mama.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Let’s see Mr Crocodile. His house is warm.’ We warm up in the reptile house, where I spend most of the time pointing out lizards that the four year old cannot see but are right in fucking front of us. We see a couple of turtles shagging (‘He’s having a piggyback ride!’), and then head out to the lions, who, huge as they are in a tiny enclosure, are almost impossible to miss. There’s always someone worse off. ‘It’s very cold, Mama. Let’s go to the café.’ We drink hot chocolate in the café. We have been in the zoo for almost fifty minutes when my phone rings. It is the school. The nine year old has worsened and I have to collect him. I explain this to the four year old, who is not at all on board with the new plan, and cries all the way back to Steve the Bakfiets, who doesn’t need to say ‘I told you so.’ Back home, I put the feverish nine year old in my bed, and he falls asleep straight away after apologizing profusely for ruining the zoo trip. I play games with the four year old until it’s time to collect the seven year old. I wake the nine year old up and give him the iPad so that he can Facetime me on my iPhone during the 15 minutes we are out of the house. ‘Can I Facetime Daddy?’ asks the nine year old. ‘No, he’s still on the plane.’ ‘He’s been on the plane a long time,’ says the nine year old, ‘on his own.’ ‘Yes,’ I say wistfully. ‘He has.’ The nine year old sleeps in my bed and stays at home on Tuesday. I take the four year old and the seven year old to school, and ask my friend Australian Mum to sit with the nine year old whilst I go to physiotherapy in an ambitious new bid to still be mobile when I’m 50. I sit in the waiting room, relishing the three minutes I have to myself. Outside, it starts to snow. Everything seems better. My phone pings. It is My Lawyer: Dubai is the worst place on earth. Wednesday is the half day at school. It is also the day I see Hendrik, my unorthodox language coach, in a brown bar in central Amsterdam. I drop all the kids to school (‘Try to cough quietly.’), take twenty minutes to read an article to discuss with Hendrik and then I hot-foot it into town. Hendrik is not very interested in the article that I have brought. Instead he would like to know, who hates English people more? The Irish or the Scottish? ‘It’s difficult to say, because we are very unpopular with both,’ I explain. ‘Yes!’ he says, delighted. ‘This is what I hear!’ ‘My husband is getting his Irish passport,’ I say, as an aside. ‘Your husband is Irish?’ I shrug. ‘Irish enough.’ We wrap up early when I get a message from My Lawyer: At airport. Shit! Left bath bombs in hotel room. I spend my last free 20 minutes sourcing bath bombs in central Amsterdam, for which a more popular man will take the credit; it’s like Christmas all over again. But it’s nice, right? Nice that I can do this; be on constant call for sick kids, for days off school, for emergency shopping to replace gifts ‘left in the hotel room’. My Lawyer can travel with a few days’ notice. I can go on school trips, I can sort of learn a new language. Sure, I get the odd comment (‘Don’t you want to work?’), but that’s a dip in the ocean of Daily Mail Reasons To Hate Myself. (An aside: No woman, working or not working, has ever said this to me. Just to repeat that: NO WOMAN HAS EVER SAID THAT TO ME. But yet, it gets said. Weird. I wonder who’s saying it, then. Huh.) What was I saying? Oh right – aside from the judgemental undercurrent and associated self-loathing, there are a lot of good things about being a Trailing Spouse. It’s just that trailing isn’t one of them. I don’t trail. I hardly go anywhere. I am the flag in the ground, until we move again. I am the Static Spouse. I am the Still Spouse. I am the Spouse that Stays the Same. This was first published on Amsterfam. Every month we feature a blog post from one of our favourite bloggers. Interested? See if your blog meets the criteria to be included on the site.  More >


The Amsterdam IamExpat Fair is bigger and better than ever

The Amsterdam IamExpat Fair is bigger and better than ever

Amsterdam's biggest expat event is moving to a new location this year - the iconic Gashouder in the city's Westerpark. And that means the IamExpat Fair, which targets newcomers and established internationals, will be bigger and better than ever. Looking for a new job? Need mortgage advice? Looking for a good school or day-care for your kids? Want to enrol in a quality Dutch course or advance your career with an MBA? Find all the answers at this year's bumper edition of the IamExpat fair in Amsterdam. This year the fair is taking place in the Gashouder, a former gas storage tank, which has been converted into multifunctional but edgy event centre in the city's popular Westerpark. The building, which covers 2,500m2, is a major cultural venue, hosting events and festivals such as Awakenings and Unseen Photo Fair. 'We are always striving to offer a great experience to the thousands of internationals who visit our fair. We are confident that the IamExpat Fair in Amsterdam on April 6 will be next level,' says Charalampos Sergios, co-founder of IamExpat Media. Since its launch, the IamExpat Fair has hosted more than 260 companies, run 132 workshops and welcomed more than 18,000 visitors from 150 countries, making it the leading fair for internationals in the Netherlands. The new location, just a short walk across the park from the one used since 2015, gives the IamExpat team the opportunity to offer a wider choice of stands and seminars all under one roof. 'I am so happy to see how far the IamExpat Fair has developed since its inception. On April 6th, we are organising the 8th edition and we all feel that this will be a special one,' says fellow co-founder Nikos Nakos. At the IamExpat Fair in Amsterdam, you can browse dozens of stands from expat-friendly companies and organisations working in housing, careers, education, expat services, health & leisure and family needs. You will also have the opportunity to attend informative workshops and presentations and network with other expats. All of this under one roof, for free! 'Being an expat here, it just makes sense to visit the IamExpat Fair. Plenty of workshops, experts with answers for everything you need, a beautiful location at the park, and all for free. We look forward to welcoming the international community on April 6!,' says Panos Sarlanis, the third co-founder of IamExpat Media. Visitors to the IamExpat Fair can: Get assistance in finding the right rental property or understanding Dutch mortgages Learn how to advance their career through professional development Discover businesses with a focus on expats’ needs Benefit from many special offers only available on the day of the Fair Meet with recruiters and companies that are hiring Attend workshops and presentations to learn about different aspects of life and work in the Netherlands Connect with local health and lifestyle organisations Network with like-minded locals and expats from around the world Bring the whole family and have fun with little ones at the Kid’s Area, a free play space. Book your free ticket now! Save the date Save the date in your agenda and visit the IamExpat Fair website for more information and to get your free ticket!  More >


Hockney to Hair Peace – here’s 14 great things to do in March

Hockney to Hair Peace – here’s 14 great things to do in March

The John and Yoko peace protest in Amsterdam, English-language theatre, amazing art and the missing link in photographic history - these are just some of the events in our March list of great things to do. See nature through their eyes David Hockney's elegiacal homage to nature  begins on the first of this month at the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. 'Nature is never boring,' Hockney says, 'and Van Gogh knew that'. Hockney-Van Gogh - The Joy of Nature explores the relationship between the two lovers of landscape. Until May 26. Website Go West young girl The Nationale Opera in Amsterdam presents Girls of the Golden West, an opera by American composer John Adams directed by Peter Sellars. It tells the story of the gold rushes of the 19th century which combined the heights of racism and misogyny in one frantic greed and poverty driven push for gold. Adams based his opera on authentic experiences and stories from the time. March 2, 5, 7, 9, 13 and 17. Website  If you're quick you can catch Peter Sellars at the John Adams institute where he will be giving a talk on the future of opera. March 1. Website See some green Just the thing for spring: the Teylers Museum in Haarlem is showcasing 18th century botanical artists Franz and Ferdinand Bauer. Lots of exquisite drawings, the result of many perilous voyages to distant lands and an insatiable curiosity that matched their talents. The brothers used an elaborate colour coding system hence the exhibitions's name: 200 types of green. Until May 12 Website Be a night owl It's museumnacht in Rotterdam and museums and other venues are opening their doors to night owls, including the Rotterdam eye hospital which is organising a number of interesting activities centering on sight and art. March 2. Website Experience the world in dance The Butoh dance festival in Amsterdam features 18 performers from Israel to Tanzania and everywhere in between in what the organisers promise will be ‘unconventional, experimental and controversial’ shows.  March 22, 23. For tickets and more info go to Website Be snap happy According to exhibition curator Mattie Boom amateur photography which started at the turn of the 19th century is the 'missing link' in photographic history. It is great fun to see the first snaps, some of them taken by illustrious personages such as queen Wilhelmina and painter G.H. Breitner who used them to give his paintings that 'slice of life' quality. Iedereen fotografeert (Everyone a photographer) is on at the Rijksmuseum until June 10. Website Go for a Long walk The partial paths and stone circles of English artist Richard Long make you want to put your walking boots on and discover your own patterns in nature. Long's work is on show at De Pont in Tilburg until June 16. Website Find your tribe Tribes, a play by Nina Raine presented by the Orange Theatre Company, is about belonging, not just to one but several tribes. The boy Billy is deaf but although he lipreads and speaks he has not learnt sign language because his parents are afraid it will single him out. Meeting up with a hearing woman raised by deaf parents makes him aware of a tribe outside the one represented by his family: that of the deaf community. Het Parool theatre Amsterdam, March 1 (premiere), April 2, 8, 9 (signed matinee performance), 10.  Website Get on your Brexit bike This should be good in a backside-achy way: retired miner Don and former teacher Carol have decided to put their newly-found love to the test by cycling around Europe. Fitness aside, their budding romance may not survive their opposing opinions on Brexit. Or is there life after Brexit and saddle sores after all? QETC is taking Scary Bikers on tour in the Netherlands (by car) with performances in Haarlem (March 29), The Hague (April 5, 6 and 7), Leiden (April 10) and Amsterdam (April 12 and 13). Website Admire the tulips in Amsterdam It’s tulips galore in Amsterdam from March 30 and you don’t have to buy a ticket to see them. The fifth edition of the tulip festival, initiated by garden designer Saskia Albrecht to jolly up the capital, will see the presentation of new tulips and lots of tulip related displays all over the city.  Until the end of April. Website Be an early bird As we are into nature in this edition of great things, why not get up early and look at the birds at sunrise in the Vreugderijkerwaard, near Zwolle. It's a Natuurmonumenten walk and that means they are popular. Don't worry if you miss out on this one, there are plenty more. March 24. Website Give peace a chance It’s 50 years since John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged a Bed-in-for-Peace at the Hilton hotel in Amsterdam. John and Yoko famously spent a week in bed where they received the world press generating a huge amount of publicity. The hotel is commemorating the event with a photo exhibition called ‘What happened in room 902’ (it is now suite 702) and the sale of memorabilia, among which prints of hand-written lyrics and drawings. The photos will be on show  in the lobby from March 22 to March 31. The sale will take place from March 22 to March 24. Website Don't miss... Films and objects by Czech artist Jan Svankmajer at the Eye film museum in Amsterdam but only if you're quick. Some weird and wonderful surrealistic stuff from the more obscure corners of the artist's mind are on show until March 3. Website The wonderful exhibition highlighting the lives of remarkable 20th century women in the Netherlands at the Amsterdam museum. Until March 10. Website  More >