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


Tax cuts and premium rises: the main changes on your pay slip

Tax cuts and premium rises: the main changes on your pay slip

With the first month of 2019 now over, you will have received your first pay packet of the year. Financial advisor José de Boer knows what you should be looking out for. Dutch pay slips are complicated affairs - a sheet of acronyms and percentages that take a great amount of knowledge and concentration to unravel. Research by payroll processing company Raet has shown that 35% of people think their pay slip is too complicated for them to be able to check and a further 18% say they have no idea what is taken off their gross salary to start with. So here is a quick guide to the main changes this year. Netto loon (take home pay) According to calculations by the social affairs ministry, most people will have more take home pay this month, even if they do not enjoy a January pay rise. The increase will be between 1% and 2.4% of take home pay, so roughly Loonbelasting (income tax) The boost in take home pay is mainly down to changes to the income tax system, which will have moved from a four to two-tier system by 2021. This year, income tax rate in the second and third tax band (€20,142 to €68,507) has gone down from 40.85% to 38.1%. The tax rate is virtually unchanged in the lowest and highest tax band. Heffingskorting and arbeidskorting (tax free allowances) These have both gone up this year, meaning you are paying tax on slightly less of your income. Bijtelling auto (company car levy) Company cars are a nice perk, but that is just how they are treated when it comes to tax! From this year drivers with an electric car have to pay tax of 4% of the catalogue value of their cars up to €50,000 and 22% over the rest. Nothing changes for other company car drivers. Other changes Pension premiums and work-related health insurance premiums have also risen this year. What else will affect your monthly income in 2019? Holiday pay and a 13th month Two changes to watch out for later in the year - the government is increasing the tax on holiday pay (paid in June) and the 13th month (usually paid in December). Hypotheekaftrek (mortgage interest deduction) The maximum mortgage tax relief rate will go down from 49.5% to 49% – this only affects people in the highest tax band of over €68,507. Be aware, from 2020 the reduction in the tax deduction will be accelerated and by 2023, the maximum rate will be 37.05%. Kinderopvangtoeslag (childcare benefit) The maximum income limit for help with paying for regulated childcare will rise from €58,500 to some €75,000, so more people will be entitled to the benefit. Any more good personal finance news to look forward to? The tax free amount of savings and assets in box III will be increased from €30,000 to €30,260 in 2019 and if there are two of you (in other words, if you have a fiscal partner) you can have up to €60,720 in assets tax free. The fictitious yield on these assets on which you will be taxed is also changing. The new tax on assets up to €71,650 has been cut to to 1.935%. However, it will go up to 4.451% on assets above this amount up to €989,736 and to 5.6% on all assets above that. A financial advisor will be able to help you decide if you can do more to limit your tax liabilities. De Boer Financial Consultants has offices in Amsterdam and Wassenaar and is specialised in helping expats manage their mortgages, pensions,  investments, regular savings, taxes, insurances and more.  More >


Blogwatching: Amsterdam’s unique boutiques

Blogwatching: Amsterdam’s unique boutiques

There are dozens of boutique places to shop in Amsterdam and lots of independent stores. Tracy and Marc from blog Amsterdam Wonderland have put together a list of favourites. The city authorities have worked hard to keep international chains out of the centre, strictly limiting the number of fast food joints and coffeeshops (ie: the places that DON’T sell coffee!) within the the historic heart. If it IS a coffee you’re actually after, the chains you’ll find are, in general, Dutch ones with the likes of Bagels and Beans and Coffee Company far more ubiquitous than Starbucks and co. But if you want is to hit the shops, then read on.  Shopping in Amsterdam is a joy – IF (that’s a big if) – you know where to head. For us, the independents are what we really love.  Those little stores in the city centre that you know probably struggle to make a living, but that we all want to see thriving.  They are mostly not clothes shops (though there are many lovely ones scattered around) but rather quirky little enterprises more often than not selling things that none of us really NEED but are small and perfectly formed and simply make us feel happy. So here then is a selection from chocolate shops to football shops, stationary to sweets and even Amsterdam’s very own “Mouse Mansion”- the boutiques that are hugely unique and that will be eternally grateful for your custom. Confectionary Amsterdammers love sugary stuff and and there are some fabulous boutiques offering world class chocolates and tempting sweets or ‘snoep’ (pronounced snoop) on offer. Tony’s Chocolonely – a beloved Dutch brand famous for its flavours, packaging and ethos as much as the quality of its chocolate.  Branching out around the world, their store in the Westerpark (with its very own rainbow chocolate vending machine) is based under the head office – expect a whole lot more quirk than Cadbury’s World! Puccini Bomboni – high class (high price) and VERY high quality chocolates at both outlets of this lovely Dutch chocolatier.  It’s rather too easy to spend a little too much.  Our top tip for a very Dutch foodie souvenir is their version of hagelslag – chocolate sprinkles to be served on white bread with butter – we promise not to tell! Dutch Homemade – although the window is full of rainbow macarons, its the assortment of sensational ganache chocolate tablets that I adore here.  Whilst there are spiced flavours like ginger and coriander, rosemary and flower tea on offer, my favourites are the classics – the highest grade chocolate from around the world laced with tried and trusted flavours of cinnamon, coffee, mint, cherry and “smoky” caramel. Clothes Whilst chain stores are two a penny, there are still lots of one-off places to head for a wardrobe makeover.  So ditch H&M and Zara and instead try out these for starters. Copa – for unique football merch and THE BEST tees in town there is no other place to explore.  Copa is a true one-off – expect lots of love and admiration when you wander out in these threads. Patta – Marc’s fave for urban streetwear – this tiny boutique serves up the hottest limited edition gear beloved by the urban fash pack. Zipper – if you’re a vintage fiend then you’ll want to allow some time to browse Zipper.  An Amsterdam institution based in the 9 Little Streets. Concept stores Amsterdam loves a concept store and you’ll find them for both adults and kids around the city offering clothes, a place to grab a coffee, perhaps even a haircut and unique and playful nick nacks that you definitely don’t need but you know you want.   Hutspot – Hutspot is Amsterdam’s original concept store (think a retail outlet and barber in one).  In their words: “Hutspot offers a unique combination of pioneering fashion, innovative design and local art. Aiming to curate an accessible platform, we provide young designers and artists an opportunity to sell their goods alongside established brands.”  So now you know. Anna + Nina – jewellery and homeware in ‘cabinets of curiosities’ – lots of trinkets for the magpie in your life. Things I Like, Things I Love – clothing, accessories, interiors and more, this concept store is the darling of Amsterdam’s lifestyle bloggers who adore its quirky mix of new and vintage cool. MiniMarkt – looking for super cute kids wear, dreamy kids’ interiors and a place to stop for a hagelslag sandwich for your minis, MiniMarkt is definitely the place for yummy mums and their offspring to head.  Park your bakfiets outside and off you go… Stationary and magazines Despite the rise of digital, Amsterdammers still love paper in all its forms.  Given the modest population its astonishing how many Dutch magazines and books are published each month and the ‘dead tree business’ is definitely thriving over in the Lowlands.   Like Stationary – we stumbled across this little boutique some time ago and were enchanted by its stylishly curated collection of notebooks, pens and pencils.  How these speciality stores keep going is anyone’s guess so if you love all things independent, pop along and buy something to make their day. De Kinderfeestwinkel – this ‘children’s party shop’ is packed with gorgeous party streamers, cards, pinata’s and more.  A breathtaking explosion of rainbow celebration – I love browsing for stocking fillers and special party treats. Athenaeum – looking for international magazines and books in English at one of the city’s largest independent book sellers, then head to Athenaeum.  Located on the Spui which has a second hand book market on Fridays, there’s something slightly “Left Bank” about the place and the staff who speak excellent English are always keen to help. Impossible to categorise Het Muizenhuis Winkel and Werkplaats – the ‘mouse mansion’ is the quirkiest and most charming store in town.  Even if you don’t have kids, pop in and pick something up for a little one you know.  The enchantment is contagious and ‘big kids’ love it here too. Its a good list, but there’s so much more.  If you want to explore the most boutique streets in the city head to the Haarlemmerstraat, the Utrechtstraat and the 9 Little Streets.  For antiques wander the streets of the Spiegelkwartier , or spend time browsing the lanes of de Pijp including the Gerard Doustraat and Ferdinand Bolstraat. Amsterdammers have seen a tsunami of tourists arrive over the years and many locals feel they are being priced out of the centre and are no longer able to enjoy their city without someone standing in the middle of the road taking a selfie or crashing into them on a rental bike. Airbnb hosts are now limited to renting properties out for no more than 30 days a year and there is a complete ban on new hotels opening in the centre but it has proved more difficult to keep boutique shops alive and limit the mushrooming of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts in the city’s most picturesque spots. So, wherever you head, be sure to reward the endeavours of boutique store owners around the city and help keep Amsterdam an independent and vibrant city rather than another homogenous global metropolis. This blog was first published on Amsterdam Wonderland. Every month we feature a blog post from one of our favourite bloggers. Interested? See if your blog meets the criteria to be included on the site.   More >


DutchNews podcast – The Tweede Derde Vierde Kamer Mint Edition – Week 5

DutchNews podcast – The Tweede Derde Vierde Kamer Mint Edition – Week 5

It's a high-stakes edition of the podcast as political parties are banned from receiving foreign donations, the government sees an €8 million Rubens painting go west and cyclists face €95 fines for using mobile phones. In sport, physiotherapists' goldmine Robin van Persie leaves Ajax's €75 million man chasing shadows in the Klassieker, while FC Utrecht call time on Dick Advocaat's lucrative career. And we discuss whether the deal to grant amnesty for more child refugees to settle means Mark Rutte's cabinet will be allowed to stay in the Binnenhof. Ophef of the week: Viewers cry foul as quiz show sets music questions in 'sport' round Poll identifies Sonja and Sander as the most average Dutch people Top Story Government bans political donations from outside EU News Climate debate cancelled as leaders protest Dijkhoff no-show Mauritshuis to check authenticity of two of its Rembrandts Sale of Rubens drawing brings in €8m for Dutch princess Cyclists face €95 fines from July for texting on the go Efteling theme park to update characters at centre of racism row Sport Van Persie shines as Feyenoord beat Ajax 6-2 in Klassieker Discussion: Child refugees and coalition tensions Cabinet tensions rise ahead of debate on child refugee amnesty Coalition agrees deal to extend children's amnesty before abolishing it 96-day rolling church service in The Hague to protect Armenian refugees ends  More >


Expanding or going it alone? How to set up a business in the Netherlands

Expanding or going it alone? How to set up a business in the Netherlands

The Netherlands, with its stable business climate, its open economy and its excellent transport infrastructure, is one of the biggest draws in Europe when it comes to setting up in business. For a small country, the Netherlands packs a lot of punch. The country is considered one of the best connected in the world, thanks to its ports and transportation hubs - as well as its high speed internet. The country is currently sixth in the World Economic Forum's ranking of the most competitive economies, and as one of the most prosperous regions in the world, the local market also offers excellent potential. Coupled with that is the welcoming Dutch approach to doing business, a whole raft of organisations to help you establish in a new market, and, of course, a friendly fiscal regime. Company structure So how do you go about it to start a business in the Netherlands and what are the requirements? It is relatively simple, no matter where you live in the world. The Netherlands takes pride in having corporate legislation which is very open to foreign investment. There are six main types of company in the Netherlands (apart from the eenmanszaak for a sole trader) and all have their own advantages. The Dutch BV The BV (besloten vennootschap) is a limited liability company with a minimum share capital of €1. A BV requires a board of directors and local company HQ. 2 VOF The General Partnership or vennootschap onder firma is a business set up between two or more partners. All partners bring equity into the VOF in the form of cash, goods or labour, and no minimum start-up capital is required. The personal assets of each general member of the partnership can be taken by the creditors if there are debts that can’t be covered by the company funds. 3 CV The Limited Partnership or commanditaire vennootschap has at least two partners. One has unlimited liabilities and takes the management decisions - and one who is silent. He or she must deliver a capital to the firm and has his liability limited to his contribution. 4 Maatschap The Professional Partnership is formed by at least two partners and is used by the likes of dentists, architects, physiotherapists and lawyers. In a maatschap, you practise your profession alongside your partners under a shared name. 5 NV The Public Limited Company or naamloze venootschap is used for large investments and needs a starting share capital of at least €45,000. The NV is different from a BV in that an NV issues registered shares, but also shares that can be freely traded on the stock exchange. 6 Branches and subsidiaries of foreign companies The main differences between these two business forms is the degree of independence of the local branch or subsidiary related to the parent company. Deciding which form of company is best for your purposes can be a difficult decision. Your local KvK can help you with basic information, but it may also be worth turning to a specialist advisor who is aware of the pitfalls, depending on your business type. The procedure for starting a business in the Netherlands takes less than two weeks and getting documents authenticated is often the biggest take-up of time. Immigration If you are considering setting up a company in Amsterdam, The Hague, Eindhoven or Rotterdam, you will also need the services of an experienced immigration lawyer in the Netherlands. Dutch immigration rules are complicated - there are special visas for people working for start-ups for example - and you often have to start the procedures in your country of origin. You may, for example, need to study the language and take integration classes (inburgering) before you arrive or as soon as you do so. New arrivals from the EU, EEA and Swiss nationals do not need a visa. With a bit of help from the experts, it is all relatively easy to organise. Of course, if you can't face the Dutch weather, or if you are concerned about the Dutch bonus cap for the financial sector and the country's crackdown on shell companies with no economic value, you can always go through the process of opening a company in Singapore instead.  More >


Gods, perfection and dance: 12 great things to do in February

Gods, perfection and dance: 12 great things to do in February

There is plenty of art and culture on offer this February - from the start of the Rembrandt celebrations to the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon. Hanneke Sanou has some recommendations. Meet Rembrandt the social networker This year the Netherlands is celebrating 350 years of Rembrandt and the Rembrandthuis in Amsterdam, where the artist lived for 20 years, kicks of the festivities with an exhibition about the role of friends, relatives and patrons in his life. Rembrandt  was a good networker although his luck ran out in the end and even powerful friends like collector Jan Six could not save him from penury.  The exhibition also explores Rembrandt’s relationship with the Uylenburgh family, childhood friend Jan Lievens and fellow-artist Roelant Roghman. Highlight is a portrait of Titus, his son, which has ever been shown in Europe before. From February 1. Website Don't drop that phone The next best thing to outdoor skating is to go out for a bracing walk with the kids. Natuurmonumenten cunningly combines the youngsters' love for their mobile phones with nature by showing them how to make the best photographs of flora and fauna. Feb 2 Website Take a shot at a canon De Fundatie, the glittery-domed museum in Zwolle, has been making headlines in the art supplements by presenting a ‘canon’ of Dutch modern art in an exhibition called Freedom – Fifty key Dutch artworks from 1968. As one critic remarked, it’s the freedom to do anything in an era where there are no recognised art movements any more against which to rebel. Definitive or not,  the line-up contains plenty of Dutch artists to enjoy, among whom Rob Scholte and Tjebbe Beeman. Until May 12. Website Watch this space It's 50 years since the Americans put a man on the moon. The John Adams Institute in Amsterdam celebrates the fact with David Eischer, editor of Astronomy Magazine, who will talk about the hard-fought space race between the US and the then Soviet Union. He will also have a chat with Dutch astronaut André Kuipers. February 6. Website Come to the fair Art Rotterdam is celebrating its 20th edition, focusing particularly on work by young artists. Many of the presentations take place at the Van Nellefabriek but there is plenty to in other corners of the city. There will be free buses to get you to the Museumpark, Vierhavensgebied and Kop van Zuid. February 7-10. For a full programme go to the website. Be dazzled by a pinball wizard Jaqueline de Jong is hailed by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam as a versatile artist who is equally at home with expressionism, contemporary figurative art and pop art. The museum is presenting a retrospective of her works and explores her role in avant garde networks in and outside Europe. Pinball Wizard - The Work and Life of Jacqueline de Jong – the title should give you an idea of the kaleidoscopic range of the works – opens on February 9. Website Don't get too close The Boijmans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam honours Cor Westerik who died last year aged 94. Westerik's figurative subjects became strange beasts in the artist's hands and his extremely realistic close-up of a finger cut by a blade of grass, which was featured on Dutch trains when the NS still promoted culture, had to be removed because it made travellers queasy! From February 9. Website Work up an appetite at the LAM museum The Netherlands has a brand new museum. It is on the site of the Keukenhof bulb gardens but has nothing to do with flowers and everything with keukens, or kitchens. The privately owned LAM museum, which opens its doors in February, is about food in art and is based on the collection of the Jan van den Broek, of supermarket fame. Fun exhibits include the Food Chain project for which artist Itamar Gilboa made white porcelain copies of everything he consumed in a year and a lifelike statue of a shopper (without Dirk bags) by Ron Mueck. The museum opens for four days a week, tickets and info on the website. Discover what perfect is The English Theatre in The Hague presents a tale of 'anticipation, disappointment, acceptance and love' as a young boy awaits the birth of his baby sister who turns out to be disabled. Perfect is based on a book by Nichola Davies and illustrator Cathy Fisher and features puppetry and animations based on the book's drawings. February 15 and 16. Website Dance your life away Requiem is a new work for the Dutch national ballet and opera company written by British choreopgrapher and former dancer David Dawson, in which he addresses the role of human spirituality caught inside the the body which must inevitably disappear. The double bill also features Dawson's earlier Citizen Nowhere based on Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince. February 9, 16, 22, 23, 24 , 27. Website Bow to the gods It is probably not often that so many objects designed to stay in one place forever travelled so much. The current exhibition Gods of Egypt at Leiden’s Museum of Oudheden features antiquities from a multitude of European museums, all of them to do with the Egyptian way of death and the place of gods in society. The exhibits - statues, papyri, jewellery, sarcophagi - tell the story of how religious rituals guided the lives of the ancient Egyptians. Until March 31. Website Shiver at the Madness of King Donald Comedian Greg Shapiro, the voice of Donald Trump in the wildly successful Lubach video 'The Netherlands Second' is touring the country with a new one man show, based on the mental issues afflicting the current White House incumbent. Look for dates and venues here. Last chance: World Press Photo The best photos of the news events of 2018 as well as a multitude of other themes are on show at the World Trade Centre in Rotterdam.  Until February 10. Website  More >


Expat Centre Leiden gives internationals a warm welcome

Expat Centre Leiden gives internationals a warm welcome

    Leiden has a thriving international community, and many of the region’s expats have been helped to feel at home by Leiden Expat Centre. So what is the secret of its success? Last year, Expat Centre Leiden registered its 1,000th international worker. It’s a testament to the success of the project, which aims to give a soft landing to people coming to live and work in the region and create a community of internationals. Expat Centre Leiden is a public private partnership, funded partly by local authorities and partly by local industry, including the university and the science park. In short, the centre helps highly skilled migrants, traditional expats, scientific researchers, entrepreneurs and recent graduates with their move to the Leiden area, as well as offering consultations to companies and HR departments who are dealing with an international workforce and the paperwork. The centre covers Leiden itself and the surrounding municipalities of Leiderdorp, Zoeterwoude, Katwijk, Oegeest and Voorschoten. In total, the region has around 12,000 international employees. The key to the centre’s success, says centre manager Corine van der Ceelen, is the positive impact it has on the local economy. ‘By helping internationals we actually help the companies and the investment climate,’ Van der Ceelen says. Attracting talent Leiden University, for example, is a large employer in the region with a considerable international workforce. ‘We want to attract talented people and for us it is important that they have a soft landing. That is what the expat centre does,’ Jacqueline Ton, who is director research policy at Leiden University Medical Centre. As soon as new arrivals are registered at the centre, they are given their all important BSN – the burger service nummer – which opens the door to getting a bank account, health insurance and all the necessaries of day to day life. They also get a welcome pack plus a 30 minute conversation with an ACCESS volunteer where they can ask all the questions they want about moving to the Leiden region. In addition, it provides information and a network for internationals living or working in the Leiden region as well as referring people to preferred services. The centre organises events and workshops and keeps its clients up to date via social media and a lively newsletter. These events and other expat-targeted and expat-friendly events in the region are advertised on the website, helping to foster a real community spirit. The website also provides lots of useful information about living and working in Leiden – from education to cultural tips. The section on ‘social behaviour’, for example, gives tips about shaking hands and kissing, and points out that ‘the Dutch generally call in advance to make appointments with friends. It is not very common to just drop by.’ And don’t forget, the website states, that ‘if it is your birthday your colleagues or class mates will expect you to bring your own cake or treats to share with them.’ International companies The Expat Centre Leiden is a very important part of making international companies and their staff feel at home when they move to the Leiden area, says Harry Flore, chairman of the entrepreneurs association at Leiden’s science park. ‘We attract a lot of companies and personnel and many of them come from outside the Netherlands,' he says. 'They need a safe landing space and that is what the centre provides.’ In fact, the project has been so successful that at the end of last year, Expat Centre Leiden was awarded joint second place in a competition to find the best public private collaborations. In making their award, the jury praised the support offered by the centre to highly-educated expats in the region. ‘The centre does this with a mostly practical set of services performed by partners from the business, educational and government sectors,’ the jury report said.  More >


Find your community at the international Feel at Home Fair

Find your community at the international Feel at Home Fair

The Feel at Home Fair is the biggest gathering of the international community in the Netherlands. Over 4,000 people, representing more than 100 nationalities, come together in The Hague's city hall to share their experience of life in Holland. The Feel at Home Fair is known for the special warmth and atmosphere which it brings to The Hague every winter. The fair is a one-stop shop for help with everything from buying a house or choosing a school, to finding a sports club or even building a business. Just as importantly, it is a meeting point and fun day out for the whole community! ‘Sport, for example,  is a great way of getting people together because language and cultural barriers are more easily overcome by a shared interest,’ says fair organiser Billy Allwood. ‘Being active also contributes to our sense of health and well-being, while belonging to a club or participating in events gives us an important sense of belonging somewhere.’ All interests and pastimes Around half of the 150 stands at the Feel at Home Fair are the domain of community groups representing all manner of hobbies and pastimes for every age. If you wish to play football or play the saxophone, even play the villain in the Christmas panto… you’ll find others who share your interest at the fair. Try out Pickleball or Tai Chi on Central Park or join in with the Irish set dancers and cheerleaders from The British School. Take a stroll to The Community Centre for a workshop in Spanish dance or coffee and cake in the German Language Café. Or relax by The Podium and be charmed by the Finnish choir and the traditional Indian dancers. Food for thought The International Food Court brings together a diverse range of communities to share their passion for worthy humanitarian projects, as well as home cooking. In keeping with the community spirit of the Fair, all proceeds raised from food sales will be donated to these good causes. As well as sampling culinary delights from around the world, you’ll have the extra satisfaction of supporting these community champions and fundraisers. Highlights include a delicious range of freshly baked and vegan dishes, produced by the Teach Nepal project, and flavoursome West African fare sold by Ataro Food and Spices in aid of the Beauty in Every Life Foundation. Aadhaar4u will also be offering a choice of tasty Indian snacks to support projects in their native land. Showcase for small business Alongside these community groups are dozens of small business stands, many of them run by people who originally moved to the Netherlands as expats but have since made it their home. These multicultural entrepreneurs have a special insight into the products and services that international people are looking for. Information and workshops Why is volunteering a smart career strategy? This workshop from Volunteer The Hague is just one in a full programme of free interactive sessions covering topics from effective writing and public speaking to life wisdom and succeeding in a Dutch work environment. Several language schools are also on hand to help you improve your language skills. But don’t worry if your Dutch needs a little work. You will find hundreds of meaningful volunteer opportunities with local non-profit organisations which are open to English speakers. Whatever your age or skill-set you can find something for you to build your relationships, extend your network and maybe even discover a new career!  Free Tickets Entry is free to visitors who register in advance on the website:  www.feelathomeinthehague.com. You can also sign up here for the free workshops as well as view the entertainment and activity programmes.  More >


Rembrandt died 350 years ago this year: some key facts about his life

Rembrandt died 350 years ago this year: some key facts about his life

Rembrandt van Rijn died 350 years ago this year and museums all over the land are commemorating the event. Here are some key facts about the Netherlands’ greatest – and most lucrative – old master. His early years Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born in the Weddesteeg in Leiden on July 15th 1606. The 17th century building is no more but a plaque marks the approximate spot. Leiden remained his home for the next 25 years and while among his many siblings there is a baker and a cobbler, Rembrandt chose a different trade, that of painter. Painters belonged to the same guild as house painters and, on average, earned around twice as much as carpenters. Where he lived After studying with local painter Jacob van Swanenborgh, Rembrandt went to Amsterdam to study composition with Pieter Lastman. After six months he returned to Leiden to set up shop for himself. His reputation as an etcher and painter grew and his work started to sell. By 1631 it was time to go back to Amsterdam where the patrons were. His marriage Rembrandt painted his first group portrait, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, a famous physician and mayor of Amsterdam, in 1632, aged 26.  Two years later he married wealthy Friesian Saskia van Uylenburgh and the couple moved into a house at the Nieuwe Doelenstraat, the first of a number of Amsterdam addresses to house the Van Rijn family. His popularity In 1639 Rembrandt and Saskia, by now quite affluent, bought a house in what was then the Breestraat (now the Rembrandthuis in Jodenbreestraat). The rich merchants of the Golden Age liked his portraits and allegorical paintings in his typical chiaroscuro. But his popularity fell around 1640, due to, it is thought, his lackadaisical way of handling clients, only delivering a painting when he was in need of funds and then demanding more than the agreed price. The Night Watch In 1642 Rembrandt's wife Saskia died. It is the same year in which he completed The Night Watch, arguably his most famous painting and one that has weathered various storms. In 1715, when moved to the royal palace on Dam square the canvas proved to be too big for its designated place and was subsequently cut to size, losing 101cm in the process. The painting has been attacked several times since then. In 1911, a sailor declared unfit for service took out his grudge against the government on the Night Watch with a knife. Another, much more serious, assault took place in 1975 when a disturbed man cut out a whole ribbon of canvas, necessitating an eight month restoration. In 1990 a man squirted acid on the painting but timely action by museum guards saved it. A poor man Rembrandt continued to paint, spend too much money and live in unmarried bliss with various women. Saskia’s inheritance, the money he would forfeit if he married again, eventually ran out and he had to sell his house and belongings. His next and final address was Rozengracht 184, where he died in 1669, a poor man. He was buried in the Westerkerk, it being the nearest church to his house, but where exactly is unknown. Not the most popular Rembrandt was not the most popular painter of his time. That honour goes to Bartholomeus van der Helst.  His status as the foremost Dutch painter is also quite recent, Antwerp-born Peter Paul Rubens being the national painter of choice when the Netherlands and Belgium were still one. But when Belgium became an independent country in 1830 the Netherlands needed a Dutch painter to take his place. Rembrandt was put in the spotlight and hasn’t left it since. No relatives There are no relatives extant of the Rembrandt family line but in 1991 a Leiden archivist tracked down the De Goeij brothers who can trace their ancestry back to Rembrandt’s brother’s daughter who married a baker named De Goeij and who remained in Leiden. Art dealer and Maecenas Jan Six, whose splendid portrait Rembrandt painted in 1754, fared better in that respect. The present-day Jan Six, also an art dealer, even discovered a ‘new’ Rembrandt in 2018. His oevre Thanks to the weeding activities of the Rembrandt research project, the total oeuvre of the painter is now thought to comprise some 300 paintings, 300 etchings and 2,000 drawings. Rembrandt’s own face appears in around 50 paintings, 32 etchings and seven drawings. His self-portraits effectively cover the whole of his life, from the 22 year-old stripling to the 63-year-old man.   More >


Why Dutch entrepreneurs need to know how to do SEO

Why Dutch entrepreneurs need to know how to do SEO

Thousands of people in the Netherlands, including DutchNews.nl readers, are online entrepreneurs. But what do all of these people have in common? They develop and promote their business through a website. However, not everyone's website gets visitors from search engines. We’re going to let you in on a secret, but to do that, we need to dive into the mysterious world of SEO. As you may know, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and is basically a method that ensures that your website gets on the radar of search engines like Google or Bing and is then displayed on their search results for relevant queries. Just imagine, according to the Internet Live Statistics, Google processes over 40 000 search queries every second on average, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Why your website appears in search results and what position it occupies Let's assume, you have a website (or are planning to have one) and you’ve decided to add a new page to it. In time, search engines will find this page (most often via links) and save it on their servers. When users Google something (enter a search query), the search engines compare the query to the information stored about your page and define how the page corresponds to the query. If the search engine believes that the page properly corresponds to the user's request, it will display it among the 10 SERP (search engine results page) links. It’s literally impossible to find out all the details about how search engines determine whether a page matches a query, as it's one of the best, if not the best, kept secrets of search engines. Let me guess – now you're wondering which position your site occupies on the search engine results page, right? Well, to find it out, you can simply enter a relevant query into the search bar and see the results for yourself. However, the SERP will be affected by your search history, location, and language. If you visit a certain site often, the search engine is more likely to show it to you among other results. In order to see more accurate results, it is better to use special tools, such as SE Ranking's Keyword rank checker. Usually, websites are optimised not for one keyword, but for many of them – ten, fifty, hundreds and even thousands. For this reason, it's impossible to check every query manually. When optimising a site, it is very important to know the real website rankings – the way users see it. This is the only way you can control your SEO success and make the right decisions. How to choose effective SEO tools and how your business can benefit from them To fully benefit from using special SEO tools, you need to make sure they have regional databases that specifically include your country – for example, the Netherlands. SE Ranking's Competitor SEO/PPC research tool has a database on Google Netherlands that contains 19,206,618 Dutch keywords, 38,561,810 domains and 50,319,465 search suggestions. Using this database, you can discover your competitors' (or any website’s, for that matter) keywords for paid and organic search, find out which pages bring in the most amount of traffic and discover the most popular and effective ads. With the power of this information, you can analyse your competitor's, customer's or your own site and use the data to adjust your SEO and marketing strategy.   What are the most popular sites in the Netherlands and why We've used SE Ranking's internal database to define the most popular domains in the Netherlands and analyze them according to the main SEO parameters. Now we can say a few words on how these websites managed to get the most amount of organic traffic from the Netherlands: The simple truth is that domain authority is very important in SEO. The sites you see in the list are reputable, with a large number of visits and those that started marketing out a long time ago. That is to say that they are currently reaping benefits from their previous hard work. Plus, SEO was a whole different game back when they first started out. Usually, the sites from the list have several sources of traffic: organic, PPC, social networks, referrals, and, therefore, it is difficult to say what exactly led them to their success. In addition, a company’s popularity in the offline world matters – it is clear that a well-known brand will have an easier time promoting itself than a new player. When it's better to start doing SEO and why it's worth trying In order to get tangible SEO results as quickly as possible, it is important to start working on the site before it is launched. Here are few reasons why you should: If all the technical SEO recommendations are taken into account during the site development stage, you can save a lot of time and resources. That way, your developers won’t have to go back to already finished blocks to make changes according to the search engine optimization requirements. The same goes for the website structure – it is necessary to plan the website structure before its development in a way that it is friendly for users and search engines alike. Moreover, while developing the site, it will be very useful to analyze your competitors. You need to understand who you’re fighting with, and develop your site and content based on this information. In order to get to the top of the search results, you need to be at least no worse and even better than your competitors. So what does all this mean? In a nutshell, SEO is one of the best ways to attract your target audience from the internet. Unlike classic advertising, SEO allows you to solve the problems of people who are currently looking for a solution. It means that users are interested in seeing your offer. On top of that, the search engine optimisation techniques can improve your brand awareness. When people see your site in the search results, they start associating it with the topic they're looking for (even if they don't click it). A high-quality SEO process improves the technical condition of the site and its usability. Thus, you get a long-term result – high-quality content often gets to the top and remains there for long. That's how you can get a constant flow of traffic and new leads.  More >


Blogwatching: 10 best restaurants in Amsterdam – the 2018 Edition

Blogwatching: 10 best restaurants in Amsterdam – the 2018 Edition

British by birth and Dutch by choice, Vicky Hampton, aka the Amsterdam Foodie, is a writer, cook and avid foodie who has lived and worked in Amsterdam since 2006.  Every December since 2014, I’ve looked back on my favourite restaurants of the year in Amsterdam. Not necessarily newly opened – but new for me. Usually, I base the list on my Restaurants of the Month – a revolving selection I make (unsurprisingly) once a month. But this year, for various reasons, a few of these restaurants no longer seem appropriate for this list – either they were temporary and have now closed down, or they’ve been replaced by something (to my mind) better. So for my 2018 list of best restaurants in Amsterdam, around half came from this year’s Restaurants of the Month, while the other half I discovered before or since. Also important to note: this list is not meant to be exhaustive. Firstly, because there are still a great many fantastic restaurants in Amsterdam that I’ve not yet visited; and secondly, because it’s just a snapshot of a single year. For my complete recommendations on the city’s food scene, download my Amsterdam Restaurant Guide or use the handy restaurant finder to search for places that meet your requirements. Best high-end dining: Restaurant C From one of the brains behind the popular BAUT concept, Restaurant C adds bold flavours and playfulness with temperatures from Chef Arnout van der Kolk – both of which make this place one of the best eating experiences in Oost. The five-course menu will set you back €55, but you’ll want to get the wine pairing as well for another €38 (a la carte options are also available). It’s well worth the price tag, however: some of my favourite dishes included raw mackerel and cucumber, yuzu gel, saffron kroepoek, and a spicy-sweet-citrusy sauce. Or clams and razor clams served with several varieties of seaweed and an umami-rich foam. Be sure to sit at the chef’s table at the bar (especially if there are only two of you) for a behind-the-scenes peak into the kitchen. Best Dutch restaurant: Floreyn There’s very little Dutch food in Amsterdam that’s both sophisticated and true to its traditions. But Floreyn walks that line perfectly. Think bitterbal, but then filled with Messeklever cheese and served with smoked beetroot, radish, apple and fennel. Or mustard soup that’s been deconstructed into a clear broth with cheese foam and three types of mustard. Even dessert uses local, seasonal vegetables: carrot and parsnip ice cream with a sweet hutspot and citrusy crème brulée. This is very accomplished cooking that stays true to its Dutch roots. It may not be cheap, but the quality of Floreyn’s food and wines, as well as its great location in de Pijp, is more than worth the price tag. Best Indonesian restaurant: Tujuh Maret I had an Indonesian place as one of my Restaurants of the Month this year, and it wasn’t this one – it was Ron Gastrobar Indonesia. But given that Ron Blaauw’s ode to rijsttafel is down in Oudekerk, and given that I discovered (and loved) Tujuh Maret soon afterwards, the latter just pips it. On the foodie-meets-shopaholic Utrechtsestraat, Tujuh Maret is a family-run restaurant that’s not much to look at but absolutely delivers. The regular rijsttafel (including dozens of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes to share, all served with rice) costs €27.75, which is cheaper than many in Amsterdam but is just as extensive. And (wait for the best bit) several of the dishes are actually properly spicy. Not uncomfortably so, but I’d have a few friends whose eyes might water a little. And that’s a good thing because it’s been regrettably hard to come by in Indonesian restaurants here in recent years. It’s hard to pick out favourite dishes because I enjoyed them all – even the tempeh, which usually I can’t stand. So that’s saying something! Best Middle Eastern restaurant: de Aardige Pers Warning: do not eat for at least four hours (more if you can manage it – I can’t) before stepping foot inside De Aardige Pers. There’s no way you’re getting out of there anything other than food-baby full. With the fasting out of the way, start by ordering the trio of starters – the chef’s selection – all top notch. Then move onto the grilled meats: simple but perfectly cooked kofte kebabs, chicken thighs, lamb loin and so on – all served with fragrant saffron rice and grilled tomatoes. Don’t worry – they’ll give you a box for the leftovers to take home if you ask. De Aardige Pers isn’t fancy looking, but the food is outstanding and the prices extremely reasonable (we paid €30 each for everything I described above plus plenty of wine). Best Mediterranean restaurant: Girassol Overlooking the Amstel River and with a huge terrace in summer is Portuguese restaurant Girassol – one of my favourite finds in my new neighbourhood (albeit the place has been there for donkey’s years so won’t be new to many of you). I’ve been there three times since I moved to Oost, and the last time was a little different – though no less delicious. While the food used to be rather rougher around the edges – think steaming, garlicky clams and perfectly charred octopus – it’s now prettier to look at with less on the plate for the price. But as the flavours are just as good, I wanted to include it anyway. I am, however, curious to know whether Girassol changed chefs or whether the existing chef just decided to pimp up their menu… Best Italian restaurant: Le Due Sicilie Speaking of Southern Europe, another fabulous find in my new buurt was Le Due Sicilie – a Sicilian restaurant presumably run by two people from the Italian island itself. And of course exuding all the warmth and sunshine in their food and in their manner that you’d expect. So far, I’ve tried the pulpo, the swordfish and the ziti pasta – all of which were spectacular, especially when washed down with a well-rounded glass of Nero d’Avola. I can’t wait to go back for more. Best all-day concept: 4850 Tucked behind the OLVG Hospital is the minimalist, Scandi-chic, hipster-tastic 4850 – so called because it occupies numbers 48-50 on the Camperstraat. During the daytime, pop in for excellent coffee and the most pillowy-soft cinnamon buns you’ve ever tasted. Then, in the evening, duck inside for a glass or several of wine (they have an extensive wine list) and a shareable snack (not your average bitterballen fare). Or go for the full-blown chef’s menu of four courses for €40. Whatever the time of day or your reason for visiting, this place delivers. Best romantic dining experience: Vuurtoreneiland Vuurtoreneiland literally means 'lighthouse island', and this outcrop of land just off Durgerdam was originally built over three centuries ago. Now, you can take a boat from the Veemkade to the island for a Dutch fine dining experience that varies according to season. In winter, you eat in the converted fort – think open-hearth fireplaces, romantic candles and sheepskin rugs. As the island has no electricity or running water, food is cooked using old-school wood and fire, while cutlery and glasses aren’t changed between courses to save on water usage. And the menu has a clear local, seasonal message that’s heavy in vegetables and sustainable protein throughout its six courses. An intimate dining experience that’s well worth the waiting list. Best hidden gem: Bistro Zebra Right on the southern tip of Indische Buurt, you’ll find hidden gem Bistro Zebra – a sort of Asian-fusion hybrid restaurant whose chefs aren’t afraid of big flavours. First up, I tried a plate of marinated grey mullet sashimi with pickled (lightly fermented?) root vegetables and wasabi mayo. It was fresh and inviting from the fish, sweet and sour from the vegetables, with both heat and umami from the wasabi and the soy marinade. An excellent combination. Still on my fish kick, I ordered the pollack next: it came with a heady mix of kimchi and sake cream that formed a rudimentary sauce for the udon noodles. Spicy, creamy and savoury – I couldn’t get enough of it. Ramen, ramen and more ramen Although I first published my Ramen Roundup back in October 2017, I’ve added half a dozen places since then. Yup, 2018 has been the year that ramen took Amsterdam by storm. Umaimon featured in my top 10 list last year, and it’s still a firm favourite, but there are a couple of others I’ve discovered in the meantime that I’m also loving. Namely Betsubara in Oud-West, Hinata near Westerpark, and Fou Fow’s new branch on Van Woustraat (dangerously close to home). I couldn’t pick just one for this year’s top 10, so suffice to say that ramen – in general – is one of 2018’s most unmissable food trends in Amsterdam. This blog was first published on Amsterdam Foodie. Every month we feature a blog post from one of our favourite bloggers. Interested? See if your blog meets the criteria to be included on the site.   More >


Traditional Dutch bikes: sit up straight, back-pedal brakes and a ring lock

Traditional Dutch bikes: sit up straight, back-pedal brakes and a ring lock

Dutch bicycles are a cultural icon and the classic Dutch bike has changed little in design for over 100 years. Joshua Parfitt finds out what makes them so enduring. The toilets at the National Bicycle Museum Velorama, in Nijmegen, are gendered. Any long-time resident of the Netherlands would quickly figure out the game: the diamond-frame bicycle is the men’s, the step-through-frame bicycle is the women’s. With or without a step-through frame, Dutch bikes are instantly recognisable. But ‘Dutch bike’ is actually misnomer. In the Netherlands the women’s version of this bike is known as an omafiets (‘grandma bike’), a men’s is known as an opafiets (‘grandpa bike’), and collectively they are called stadsfietsen (‘city bikes’). However, the English translation of stadsfiets however is not ‘city bike’ nor ‘Dutch bike’; it’s the English roadster. Yes - the traditional Dutch bike was English in origin. In 1895, 85% of bicycles traded in the Netherlands came from English manufacturers. Royal Dutch Gazelle, the largest bicycle manufacturer in the Netherlands, only began producing bikes under the name in 1902. Today, the English roadster has all but died out in its eponymous birthplace, but 43% of all Dutch-built bikes still take the stadsfiets style, and the design has changed little in over a hundred years. So, what is it about the bike and its back-pedal breaks that makes it so enduringly popular here? 'If you touch a bike in Holland, you touch a Dutchman,' says Chris Beer, owner of Beer Fietsen in The Hague. 'Back-pedal brakes are cheap and reliable. Holland is a flat country — in hilly countries when you go downhill back-pedal brakes get too hot. In Germany you have back pedal brakes, but you have to have a front brake too, by law. Here, nobody cares.' Beer's own personal bike is a hybrid bike with hand brakes, 14 gears and heavier tires. He’s just ridden to Austria and back on it — a feat that would be almost impossible on an upright, single-speed stadsfiets with back-pedal brakes. But this is the point. Stadsfietsen were designed for the city, after all. Their chains are encased in guards so that riders don’t get their trousers dirty. They have skirt-guards on the rear wheel, to circumvent entanglement. The bike has been shaped by daily urban use. And, according to Marco te Brömmelstroet, academic director at the Urban Cycling Institute, the upright posture gives something back to the environment that made them. Sitting upright, he says, 'makes it easier to engage with the surroundings. It makes social interaction and negotiation possible which deepens social connectedness. You actively engage with the other.' Being upright, the stadsfiets makes signalling far easier, and it makes it easier to look around and 'respond to incoming information' — all of which is more difficult on a racing bike, where the rider is bent over forwards, he says. The posture also makes riding no-handed far easier, since the body is in the same position when riding with one hand, two hands or no hands. If you see a Dutch person riding a bicycle whilst on their phone, or carrying shopping, or children, it’s likely they’ll be on a stadsfiets. Back pedal brakes further add to this no-handability. The ringsloten, the O-lock commonly seen on the rear wheels of a stadsfiets is an easy way to lock your bike. 'You just drop it off,' says Beer. This function allows the Dutch to pop in and out of shops, without having to search for a fence or a lamppost, and without having to lug a huge chain around. Of course, it also makes it more attractive for someone to wander off with your bike. 'I only use my stadsfiets for short trips,' says Patrick Ludovici from Top Bikes in The Hague. Though his shop exclusively sells racing bikes and electric bikes, he admits that he will never use one to go to Albert Heijn. 'I wouldn’t risk taking my expensive racer,' he says, suggesting that his stadsfiets is more utilitarian, or that he would rather risk losing it. Top Bikes has been in business for 70 years. They used to sell stadsfietsen, but Ludovici says that sales of racing bikes and e-bikes are growing much faster. The racers are selling for health-related reasons - people want the exercise - and the e-bikes are selling to the elderly who can’t quite hack a stadsfiets anymore and don’t want to be stuck in car. 'This is where the industry’s going,' says Patrick. Beer says that he too is selling more e-bike these days. But the frame of bike the batteries are largely mounted is the step-through omafiets. Beer says he sells barely any electric grandpa bikes, since the elderly purchasers can no longer swing their legs over the crossbar. 'Bicycles started with blacksmiths in France, then England and then they came to Holland,' says Beer. 'Bikes give you so much freedom.' Maybe that’s it. The stadsfiets was designed to provide the most practical, cheap and versatile freedom of movement in an urban environment. It wasn’t a Dutch idea; the bikes were English in origin, and they’re also known as ‘European city bikes’. Perhaps it’s just that the Dutch have done the best job of keeping them alive.  More >


From black activism to blue movies: 11 great things to do in January

From black activism to blue movies: 11 great things to do in January

So another year has gone by. We are all older and probably no wiser - especially those with a New Year hangover. Here are some jolly outings to escape the post festivity blues. Listen to the music The elegantly restored Oosterkerk in Amsterdam ushers in the new year with its annual New Year's concert performed by the 't Hart family and friends. They will be playing Bach, Brahms, Szymanowski and Shostakovich. It's free but a contribution would be appreciated. January 1, 12pm. Website Catch a Caravaggio The exhibition Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe does exactly what it says on the tin: it examines the influence of  Caravaggio’s brand of exuberant realism on Utrecht painters Dirck van Baburen, Hendrick ter Brugghen and Gerard van Honthorst and other European painters. The Centraal Museum in Utrecht has persuaded the Vatican to temporarily part with two Caravaggios. The monumental Entombment of Christ (form December 16 until January 16) and St Jerome in Meditation have never been shown in the Netherlands before. From January 15 a version of Caravaggio’s Medusa, graciously loaned by a private collector, will be on show. Until March 24. Website Come and see Rembrandt and Saskia It’s Rembrandt and more Rembrandt this year because it is 350 years since his death and we haven’t had a Rembrandt year since 2015. Most of the fun kicks off in February but the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden has taken first dibs with Rembrandt and Saskia: Love in the Golden Age. A collection of artefacts and paintings illustrate the joys and sorrows of marriage and family life in the 17th century. Frisian Saskia’s magnificent portrait by Rembrandt is there, too. Until March 17. Website Tax your credulity The Belasting en Douane (Tax & Excise) museum (don’t stop reading) in Rotterdam has put together an exhibition about 20 weird (and obsolete) taxes through the ages, from a tax on beards to a tax on urine. The urine tax came about when Roman emperor Vespasian needed money to build an arena and figured here was one source of revenue that would never dry up. It all made sense at the time, the museum says, a tad defensively. Bizarre Belastingen is on until March 17. Website Eye up a Dutch classic The Eye film museum in Amsterdam is launching Restored & Unseen, a series of showings for which they have dipped into their own film collection and that of other providers of restored classics. First up are digitally enhanced copies of the Dutch golden oldies Blue Movie (1971) and VD (1972) by director Wim Verstappen. The films will be introduced by a special guest who will explain if these sexually explicit films are as controversial today as they were then. January 14 and 28. Website Have a last look Those who want to have a final look at the Boijmans van Beuningen collection in its old configuration in the Van Steur building have another two weeks to do it in because that is when this part of the Rotterdam museum will be given a complete overhaul.  Until January 14. Website See the sun of Martinique (but not its misery) The clock is also ticking for Gauguin & Laval on Martinique at the Van Goghmuseum in Amsterdam. Van Gogh met Gauguin shortly after his return and greatly admired his work which chimed with his own love of colour. The exhibition shows the sketches and finished paintings of the island - which show nothing of the miserable lives of many of its inhabitants, the museum notes. Until January 13. Website Find out what makes NL tick The Balie in Amsterdam is presenting a series of master classes on the Netherlands taking in its political system, the economy, poldering, and much more. The first in the series, on the Dutch political system and the EU, is hosted by Alexander Rinnooy Kan, former boss of employers organisation VNO-NCW and currently professor of economics at Amsterdam University. January 17. Website Take your pick on tulip day It's National Tulip day on January 19th - even though it is the middle of winter - and from 1pm it's every man for himself on Dam square when the public is invited to pick - no more than - 20 tulips to celebrate the beginning of the tulip season. Be aware, these tulips were all grown in greenhouses and it is months until the real tulip season starts. Website Be Woke American actor Apphia Campbell embodies 1970s Black Panther activist Assata Shakur, then gives voice to a black student at the time of the start of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014. Woke is an award-winning performance about the batte for black civil rights against a system that is very hard to budge. January 23, 24 and 25 in the Koninklijke Schouwburg in The Hague. Website Attend a lecture At the Balie in Amsterdam this year's Freedom Lecture will be presented by Iranian activist Maryam Namazie. She will discuss the position of women and minorities in relation to religion and ponder on how to create a society in which women are free to eschew, or embrace, faith.  Jan 30. Website  More >


10 ways to celebrate New Year in the Netherlands

10 ways to celebrate New Year in the Netherlands

New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands is celebrated in a most untypically over-the-top  way. Here are 10 things you must do to fit right in. 1. Buy fireworks – lots of them and enormous ones – if you have not smuggled them in from Belgium or Eastern Europe months ago. You can only buy fireworks on December 29, 30 and 31 - and for some reason, garages seem to be popular licenced stockists. Start setting off your fireworks well before 6pm on December 31, which is when you are officially allowed to do so. Frighten dogs 2. Listen to the final fifty or so entries in Radio 2’s Top2000 which, for some bizarre reason, is listened to by millions of people every year and won every year (almost) by Queen’s Bohemiam Rhapsody. 3. Watch whichever comedian is giving this year’s televised Oudejaarsconference – a long and winding monologue wrapping up the year. 4. Buy an oudejaarslot – a lottery ticket – in the hope of winning €30 million. You and 17 million other people. 5. Eat oliebollen and appelflappen – deep-fried dough balls covered in icing sugar and deep-fried apple dough balls. Forget the diet until January 2. 6. Set fire to a car or two –  but only if you live in a Brabant or a Drenthe village where it is tradition, of course. 7. Other rural traditions include massive bonfires made up of Christmas trees and carbidschieten (or death by milk churn) which involves mixing carbide and water in a milk churn and blasting off the lid. 8. Throw a few fireworks at the police and emergency service workers if you are in a car fire, Christmas tree fire or carbide zone. Become one of the 1,000 or so people who get arrested during the New Year celebrations every year. 9. Have a New Year’s Day swim in the sea – along with tens of thousands of others attempting to shake off their hangover. 10. Wear an orange hat advertising smoked sausage company Unox while having your swim. Beware, if you are a pretty girl in a bikini you may end up the Telegraaf newspaper’s new favourite front page pin-up.   More >


Seven tips to keep your health insurance premium to a minimum

Seven tips to keep your health insurance premium to a minimum

Health insurance premiums are rising by an average of €80 a year in 2019. Shopping for a new policy definitely pays off, considering the large premium gaps between insurance companies. But what things should you consider when comparing insurance providers?   Here's a list of seven tips to help keep your insurance premium as low as possible: 1 Consider a budget policy Budget policies are generally cheaper than the standard policies and will save you about €5 a month. The budget policy is similar to a natura policy in terms of cover. This means policy holders may undergo treatment in hospitals and clinics with which the insurance company has a contract. However, a budget policy has a much more limited selection of hospitals and clinics and if you decide to go elsewhere, you will have to pick up part of the bill yourself. Therefore, when your GP refers you to a hospital, it is important to check if that particular hospital is covered. Good to know: if you need emergency medical care you will be reimbursed by your insurer, whatever type of policy you may have 2 Increase your deductible excess If you opt to increase the deductible (eigen risico) by €500 above the statutory €385, you can cut your premiums by €300 a year. Keep in mind that you will need to pay the first €835 of any treatment, so, if you expect to go to hospital or if you use a lot of medication, it may not be profitable to increase your excess. 3 Don’t take out supplementary insurance You need to pay a premium for supplemental insurance and sometimes it is cheaper to pay for certain things yourself instead. This is definitely the case for items like birth control, glasses and contact lenses. Our tip is to check the difference between the premium you pay and what you will get back from the health insurer to decide if it is worth it. 4 Don’t take out dental insurance The same story applies to dental insurance policies. It does not make sense to have  dental insurance that covers €250 of treatment a year if you only have an annual check-up and visit a dental hygienist for a clean. The premium you will pay (around €150) is not proportionate to the dental costs (€90). It makes more sense to put some money aside and pay for dental treatment yourself. 5 Don’t stay with a collective insurance scheme Both the consumer show Radar and comparison website Zorgwijzer have shown that collective health insurance schemes often prove to be more expensive than individual insurance policies. So, if you are currently insured through your employer, a sports club or your local council, you are probably paying more than you should. Our tip? Apply for a new, individual health insurance policy. Check out Zorgwijzer’s English comparison tool. 6 Pay for a full year's insurance in one go If you decide to pay the premium once, at the start of the year, you will usually end up saving 2% on the total bill or €30 to €40. Remember, you will need to have around €1,200 free to pay over in one go. 7 Claim insurance benefits The government offers insurance benefits for people with a low income (zorgtoeslag) to help you pay the monthly premium. Most youngsters and students can claim this benefit - which can be worth as much as €99 a month. In order to qualify you must meet the following conditions: You are at least 18 years old You currently have Dutch health insurance (any will suffice) You do not earn more than €29,562 for a single person or €37,885 (couple) in 2019 Your financial assets are below €114,776 euro(individuals) or €145,136 (couples) in 2019 All international workers (and their family members) and international students who are also working in the Netherlands must take out Dutch health insurance. And if you are planning to switch insurer this year - remember, you must let your current insurer know by the end of December. You have until the end of January to pick a new provider.  More >


Make the most of the Dutch countryside – a few winter walks

Make the most of the Dutch countryside – a few winter walks

The Dutch are keen on walking and the countryside is riddled with signposted walks to encourage you to get out and about. Here's a few suggestions to help you walk off the effect of all that festive food. De Rijp - 7 to 22 km The pretty village of De Rijp in Noord Holland is famous as a place to go boating, but it also offers several walks past tiny villages and, outside the breeding season, across fields into the big wide open. Pick up a map at the VVV in the heart of the village. De Rijp has plenty of choice for lunch at the end or start of your walk. Website Zwanenwater - 4.5 km In Noord-Holland province close to the Callantsoog seaside village, Zwanenwater is a small nature reserve. The walk takes you through birch woods and over dunes around the edge of the lake, with a stop-off at a bird hide. In the spring, the grass is full of purple orchids. Website De Zilk - 9.4 km There are lots of signposted walks in the dunes west of Amsterdam but this is our favourite. It's not as busy as the others but that may be due to the lack of a cafe. The walk (follow the blue route) takes you through woods, past the gliding club and across high dunes with great views (a perfect spot for a picnic). Excellent for spotting deer. Website Oostvaardersplassen - 1-7 km This nature reserve on the 'new' province of Flevoland is the home of a pair of breeding sea eagles - so if its bird life you are after, this is the place to be. You'll also spot deer and wild ponies. Website Lage Vuursche - 2-4 km There are lots of walks to suit all tastes through the heaths and woodlands near Hilversum that make up Lage Vuursche. Set your route planner for Drakenstein where most of them start. Dogs welcome on many walks. Website Round Marken - 6 km Marken was once an island but is now connected to the mainland by a road over a dyke. Park as soon as you cross the water and hit the dyke path heading east. You'll pass typical houses with great wooden constructions in the water which keep the ice at bay during big freezes and a light house with an inviting little beach in summer. Lots of bird life for bird watchers. The route conveniently hits the village itself about 3/4 round, so its a good point to stop of for a break. Best avoided in strong winds. Website St Pietersberg, Maastricht - 10 km If you visit the marl mines on the outskirts of Maastricht, build in time to take in a walk across the Netherlands' highest hills. The 10 km (red) route takes in spectacular views over the quarry, winds through woods and past old mine entrances, and dips into Belgium. It ends with a bit of a boring walk back to Maastricht up the river. Website Oisterwijk - 9.4 km This is a charming walk through woods and past little lakes left by peat extraction between Den Bosch and Tilburg. Pick up the route (follow the blue arrows) at the Oisterwijkse Bossen en Vennen nature centre. The cafe is a good option for lunch but can be somewhat overwhelmingly full of children if you are after a quieter time. There is another stop off cafe around half way. Website Oppad, near Hilversum - 9.3 km The Oppad is an old path followed for hundreds of years by churchgoers across the fields and past the peat workings between Kortenhoef and ‘s-Graveland. Pick up the path next to the church and you will find yourself striding out into the fields. Just keep going in a straight line. Rich in wildlife, you might even be lucky enough to spot a kingfisher. Website Lange Afstands Wandelpaden (100 km +) If you are very keen walkers, the Netherlands also has its share of long-distance footpaths or LAWs. Like the grand randonnee in France, they use red and white stripes on signs to indicate which way to go so you may well come across them while out on the shorter strolls listed above. The Netherlands has 35 LAWS, which have to be over 100 km to qualify. Website  More >


Why is ‘The Evenings’ a Dutch Christmas classic?

Why is ‘The Evenings’ a Dutch Christmas classic?

Set in the period from Christmas to New Year 1946, The Evenings (De Avonden) is considered a classic of Dutch literature. Molly Quell wonders why De Avonden is so important and if you should read it. You could say The Evenings is about nothing, and nothing happens. The novel follows Frits van Egters, a 23-year-old office clerk living in Amsterdam and covers 10 days from December 22 to December 31 1946. Van Egters is bored, dissatisfied with his life and channels that unhappiness into obsessive behavior and, often, into being a jerk. Written by Dutch master Gerard Reve when he was just 24, The Evenings is divided into 10 chapters, each focusing on a day in Van Egters’ world. He lives with his parents in the Diamantbuurt, a poor neighbourhood which was built in the 1920s to house labourers. At the time of the novel, the country is recovering from the war, there are few entertainment options and Van Egters spends most of his time in the evenings getting bored. The book 'The Evenings is the book,' says Marie Hubert, a Belgian native who read the book, some 30 years ago, while stuck in Liberia after her plane was diverted. It received mixed reviews when it was first published in 1947, with some critics lamenting the book’s negative outlook and others praising its dark humor. It won the Reina Prinsen Geerligsprijs in 1947 and Reve himself won the Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren in 2001 for his contributions to Dutch literature. Together with Willem Frederik Hermans and Harry Mulisch, Reve is counted as one of the three giants of Dutch literature. Popularity The book sold out its initial run and had to be reprinted twice. Nearly 60 reviews were written about it in the six months after it was released. The initial attraction to the book may have had something to do with its controversy. One review described called the book’s bleak outlook 'shocking'. Some readers were stunned by the frank confrontation of Dutch values and the predictability of the mundane. Yet when when the paperback version came out in 1962, it sold 100,000 copies. The Evenings has remained popular with Dutch adolescents, who identified with the frustrations that Van Egters describes and is still a high school staple. After all, what young adult isn’t frustrated by the outdated behaviour of their parents? 'It is a book you can really relate to,' says Wim Blokzijl, a lecturer at Delft University of Technology, who studied Dutch at the University of Groningen. It is, he says, this narrative of frustration and embarrassment about parents that readers can find common ground with, even if they can’t relate to the post-World War II setting. However, that setting is another reason the book is so popular. 'The post-war period is mostly taught in the context of the Indonesian War of Independence in Dutch history, and doesn’t focus on what life was like living in the Netherlands,' says Constanteyn Roelofs, a journalist who studied history at Leiden University. The Dutch population may have been elated about the war ending but there is less discussion of the rationing, poverty and dejection many experienced after the war, which seeps through the book - even though the war itself is barely mentioned. Translation For a book so well regarded in the Netherlands, it took nearly 70 years to make it into the English language. Some have said this is because the book is 'untranslatable' - but it was published in French, German, Hungarian, Slovakian, Spanish and Swedish long ago. In fact Reve was highly critical of the English translation attempts by his publisher. The first serious attempt to translate the novel was organised by Reve himself when, in 1986, he employed famed translator Paul Vincent to do the job. That fell through, with both blaming the other. There were other attempts, but it was not until 2016 that Sam Garrett's acclaimed version was published by Pushkin Press. The Guardian described it as 'a masterpiece' and praised Garrett's work, adding that 'it is a pity Reve was not around to enjoy it'. Christmas As the book is set in 10 days around Christmas and New Year, fans of the work often read or reread it during this time. 'I read it just before Christmas in 2017, though that wasn’t planned,' said Oana Marin, a Romanian national who picked up the book during a trip to the Netherlands. She was converted to the author. 'Maybe the Dutch authorities could cough up some money and speed up the process of translating all of Reve’s work into English,' she added. Marin isn’t the only non-Dutch person who enjoyed the work. British national Gareth Newton, who lives in Amsterdam, also enjoyed it. And he found an added benefit. 'I’ve never had so many Dutch people strike up a conversation with me until they spotted me reading this book in public.' You can buy The Evenings at the American Book Center, in store and mail order  More >


Review of the year: The Seven Deadly Dutch Sins of 2018

Review of the year: The Seven Deadly Dutch Sins of 2018

The New Year beckons and with it a slate mercifully wiped clean of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, sloth and anything else you swore you would stop indulging in last December. But where does the Netherlands stand as a nation when it comes to the seven deadly sins? We have gone through the archives to gauge the nation’s sinfulness in this darkest of months.  Read it and repent, ye sinners. Pride Pride come before a fall and Camiel Eurlings’ has been an exceptionally lengthy slow motion tumble. The former CDA golden boy, who, after a glittering career in politics, went on to do an ignominiously short stint at KLM, found himself underperforming at IOC*NSF when he decided to beat up his girlfriend in 2015. Amid protestations of innocence, he clung on to the job until January this year. The Dutch love a survey especially when it shows them to be the best at English, the tallest race on the planet, or in possession of the happiest children in the whole wide world. And this year they were happy about absolutely everything. So yes, yes, YES we get the message: the Netherlands and the Dutch are the envy of the world. We think it pretty boastful to keep labouring the point, so we’re putting Dutch surveys under pride. Lust Where to start? VVD MP Han ten Broeke had to go after it was revealed he had lusted after a young party worker five years earlier while GroenLinks MP Rik Grashoff and GroenLinks party chair Marjolein Meijer had a fling and then lied about it. But the prize for the juiciest scandal has to go to D66 leader Alexander Pechtold whose affair with, and subsequent ditching of, a much younger local councillor made headline news, not to mention his alleged new fatherhood of a pair of lusty twins. Lust was also at the bottom of lifestyle guru Emile Ratelband’s wish to be officially twenty years younger than his biological age. Ratelband wants to be in with a fighting chance on Tinder, he said. Tjakka, is all we can say to that. Greed Money LaunderING bank faced a humongous fine of €775 million (but not prosecution) because it allowed criminals to use their accounts to wash, spin dry and air their ill-gotten gains with impunity. Greedy criminals, certainly, but how much was in it for that reprimanded bank staff? We shall never know. There was lots this year about greedy Airbnb gobbling up the Amsterdam rental market, sending local councils into a tizzy of regulation. We shall see how the company will get around, eh, adapt to it in the New Year. And a special place in hell is reserved for the pig breeders in Lunteren and Nuenen (and elsewhere) who cut off piglets' tails without anaesthetic so as not to compromise profits. Envy Envy of the mine-is-bigger-than-yours variety has been quietly raging between Amsterdam and Utrecht this year. Bike storage envy is fuelling the construction of ever bigger bike parks in the two cities, with Utrecht holding the crown, for now, with 12,500 spaces. But look out Utrecht. Amsterdam is working on another 4,000 spaces to add to the 10,000 it already has around its main railway station. However, many more are needed, so prepare to see bike parking envy increase even more. And here's Utrecht again. This time it's the cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face type of envy which saw the local council decide to ignore the charming but unwritten rule that no building in the city can exceed the height of the Dom church tower. The architects must have really, really envious to come up with a residential tower block 28 metres taller than the Dom. Gluttony Not a popular subject for this time of year but one that will undoubtedly feature on the good intentions list come January 1. However, the good news is that although the Dutch still eat and drink too much than is good for them, they are slowing down slightly. Glutton (for online punishment) of the year 2018 is Forum voor de Democratie's Thierry Baudet who wanted to let the nation know how well-rounded he was on the edge of an infinity pool. We are thinking too many nights at the opera followed by a steak dinner. Wrath There was a lot of righteous indignation in 2018, with peak wrath occurring around the annual Zwarte Piet protests. There were many overheated discussions and near riots but does he who shouts loudest shout longest? Surveys show black-face Piet is losing ground but next year's Sinterklaas celebrations will probably be yet another the test. There was much anger too about the starving animals in the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve. Social unrest – and death threats made to reserve wardens - made the PR sensitive park authorities decide to feed the animals during the winter months. However, having fed them to save them from starvation, officials have now decided to cull 1,830 deer as we speak. Doubtless, the venison will end up on Dutch dinner tables. Sloth A court effectively told the Dutch government to get of its lazy behind and do more to cut back CO2 emissions this year. Yes, it needed a judge to tell a government to keep to what it had already agreed in international climate agreements. We won't hold our breath (although it would mean sparing our lungs some crap). If there such a thing as ‘criminal slothfulness’ a number of Dutch political parties and mega farm owners win this badge. It is a miracle the whole country wasn’t covered in a blanket of smoke from the many factory farm fires that raged this year, killing thousands upon thousands of animals. More research needs to go into things like compulsory sprinkler systems, apparently.   Doubtless it will all be decided at some round-table discussion with input from ministers, industry, green groups, animal rights campaigners... the list is endless. We've lost count of how many of these consultations are currently ongoing but they do seem to be a good excuse for the government not to get round to actually doing anything at all. Any more sins we should include? Feel free to add them in below.  More >


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

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

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


DutchNews podcast – The Commercial Breakdown Edition – Week 50

DutchNews podcast – The Commercial Breakdown Edition – Week 50

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


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

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

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