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


11 things Dutch shopkeepers will say to you

11 things Dutch shopkeepers will say to you

You thought going shopping was a great way to practise your Dutch on the natives? Indeed it is. But here are a few key phrases you really do need to watch out for. Wil hij (of zij) misschien een plakje worst? If the butcher likes you, possibly because you have just paid a fortune for a piece of meat, and you have a child with you, he will ask ‘would he (or she) like a piece of sausage?’ They invariably ask the parent, not the child who has no say in the matter. Some butchers have been known to offer sausage to dogs… who never say no. Hoekje of plat? You are now at the cheese shop. The cheese man wants to know if you want your piece of  cheese wedge-shaped or flat. Why is unclear. Possibly wedge people have big fridges with plenty of room while poorer people have to stack stuff. Or want to cut it into cubes. Anders nog iets? Anything else? Mag het ietsje meer zijn? Do you mind if it’s a bit more? This is usually a rhetorical question because the assistant has scooped too many olives into the plastic pot or cut too big a piece of cheese. You are free to object if you dare. Met vijf maakt tien Good shopkeepers don’t thrust your change into your hand.  They count it out. Their concluding phrase might be ‘and five makes ten’ (or any other amounts of course) Gaat het zo mee? This literally means 'is it going with (you) like that?' - a somewhat obscure way of saying 'do you want a bag'. Met staart? Uitjes en zuur erbij? We’re at the fish stall  buying herring. Would you like the tail with that? the fishmonger will ask. You need the tail to dangle the herring over your mouth if you want to eat it that way. Purists poo poo uitjes and zuur, this is why the fishmonger always ask you if you want them. Onions are onions but the pickle is only referred to by its taste: zuur or sour. Meenemen of opeten? Are you taking this home or eating it (here). The Dutch omit the ‘here’ which always suggests that when you take it home you will immediately throw it in the bin, and frankly if you buy a frikandel that is exactly what you should do. Met of zonder? Do you want your French fries with or without mayonnaise. With, please. Papier of plastic? You are at the health food shop for a change. You are buying a piece of spelt bread with chia seeds and the person at the bread section asks ‘would you like paper or plastic’ to put your loaf in. In that split second you have to consider which is better for the environment. Eh…. Fijne dagen!/Prettig weekend! Fijne dagen (enjoyable days) is what shopkeepers wish harassed Christmas shoppers. Your prettig or fijn weekend, starts on Friday morning. This article was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers  More >


Video: I have tinnitus and I want to die

Video: I have tinnitus and I want to die

Gaby Olthuis suffered from constant noise in her head, ‘like a train screeching or someone scratching their nails on a blackboard’. To end her suffering, she was given a lethal potion to drink by a doctor from a clinic set up to help people who want to die. This documentary with English subtitles was made by television programme De Monitor and was filmed a few weeks before her death. More on this story  More >


Washington DC has nothing on Amsterdam

Washington DC has nothing on Amsterdam

The Dutch embassy in Washington has published this handy infographic, outlining all the ways Amsterdam and Washington are different. It's a response to DC's mayor's assertion that decriminalising marijuana will not turn the city into, shock horror, something like the Dutch capital. The embassy even published a special website page highlighting the differences in drugs policy. The page concludes by pointing out that Americans are more likely to smoke weed than the Dutch. 'The lifetime rate of marijuana consumption for ages 15-64 in the Netherlands is 25.7% compared to 41.5% in the US,' the website states.  More >


Six Dutch words and one gesture which are impossible to translate

Learning Dutch but bogged down in the grammar? Or are you a complete failure at the difference between de and het? Never fear, help is at hand. Here are six essential but untranslatable words and one gesture to help you sound like a native. Gezellig A gezel was an apprentice in medieval times and we still use the word levensgezel for someone who accompanies you on the journey of life, in other words your better half. Conviviality, the Dickensian kind, comes close with its emphasis on having a jolly time in the company of friends. No one would say how convivial, however, the way the Dutch say Hè gezellig. It also denotes a degree of intimacy, so a gathering at home or around a restaurant table would be labelled gezellig in a way a gathering at a discotheque or a football match would not. Hè hè Depending on how you say it expresses relief at a job well done or the end to something strenuous, like an afternoon’s shopping. You sit down, take your shoes off and utter a heartfelt hè hè. If someone says (Ja) hè hè in an irritated tone it means you are stating the obvious. Ja, ja Means yes, yes but actually denotes disbelief. Pull the other one. Gedogen Turning a blind eye, tacitly allowing something. The Netherlands has a drugs gedoog policy. The possession of more than five grammes of hashish or marihuana is illegal but the authorities choose not to prosecute even though they know what you’ve got in your pocket. The concept of gedogen has a long history in the Netherlands. The Calvinists of the Dutch Republic did not allow the Catholics, or any other faiths, to worship publicly but turned a blind eye to the celebration of mass in schuilkerken or hidden churches.  Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) in Amsterdam is an example of a hidden church. It is now a museum. The most recent but much less profitable example of gedogen is the so-called gedoogkabinet from 2010 to 2012, a minority cabinet made up of the right-wing liberal party VVD and the Christian Democrats, supported by the anti-immigrant party PVV. The PVV did not form part of the government but could effectively block or condone any decision it made. The fact that everyone who is not Dutch failed to understand the set-up is proof of how difficult a concept gedogen is. That weird gesture The Dutch also have a gesture that is uniquely theirs. Place your hand next to your cheek as if you were going to slap it. Make a waving motion and pull a happy face. You are now saying that what you have in your bulging cheeks is very tasty indeed, or lekker. Lekker Tasty, but not just used for food. Someone can have een lekker kontje or a nice butt, and calling someone a lekker ding means you would enjoy some, let us say, good conversation with him or her. Ga lekker zitten means make yourself nice and comfortable. Lekker puh is said by a child who has put one over on a another child: so there. Trendy people use lekker in a slightly different and extremely irritating way: Extreme sporten? Dat vind ik wel lekker (extreme sports? Like it). Beleg Sandwich fillings doesn’t cover it because a boterham, or a single slice of bread, is not strictly speaking a sandwich and can’t be filled unless you fold it in half. ‘The stuff you put on a slice of bread’ is the nearest thing. Beleg is an essential part of Dutch lunch and can mean anything, from chicken curry mush to slices of ham and the dreaded smeerkaas. This article was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers.  More >


10 traditional Dutch recipes – not all of which involve potato

10 traditional Dutch recipes – not all of which involve potato

It would be very easy to be snotty about Dutch food and talk about snack bars, chicken with apple puree and the ubiquitous ‘ovenschotel’.  We could go on and on about boiled chicory with ham and cheese sauce and meatballs with green beans and potatoes – served at 6pm sharp. But we won’t be doing any of that. We have a sneaking appreciation for some traditional Dutch recipes – especially those guaranteed to get you through the cold winters. Here are 10 dishes you really should try. 1. Stamppot and its ilk Let us get this out of the way to start with. When it comes to food it seems the Dutch like nothing better than to mash things. They cannot put a number of perfectly nice ingredients together without taking a hand blender to them. But then, it’s difficult to make a hash of a mash – the basic ingredients being simply potato and some vegetable or other. There is an endless list of things you can mash. Here are some examples. Hutspot is said to have originated in Leiden in 1574. The Spanish, on the run from William of Orange, lifted the siege of the city in a hurry and left a simmering pot of onions, carrots and parsnips (later to be replaced by potatoes). The famished people of Leiden, presumably all armed with forks, mashed the lot and invented hutspot. It is traditionally eaten with ‘klapstuk’ or boiled beef but we like it with bacon chops. Hete bliksem means ‘hot lightning’ and is made of apple and potato, mashed up of course. Use sour apples  (Goudreinette) and put in lots of crispy fried bacon cubes. Boerenkool and andijviestamppot are, respectively, potato and curly kale mash and potato and curly endive mash. Serve with rookworst (smoked sausage) and fried bacon bits. The more green vegetable the better. The other big hitter is zuurkool stamppot – pickled cabbage and mash which is a distinctly acquired taste. 2 Beetroot and herring salad Another simple dish consisting of pickled herring, cooked beetroot, some gherkins, pickled onions, boiled potatoes and some white wine vinegar. Cut everything up in small pieces and mix (not mash). 3 Wentelteefje Good camping food, a wentelteefje is a slice of white bread sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar dipped in milk and egg and then fried in butter. ‘Ey, waer ick t’huys alleen, ick backte wentel-teven Van suyckert witte broot, en butter-smeerigh vet,’ wrote one A. van de Venne in 1623.  ‘Were I home alone I would bake some wentelteven of sugared white bread and greasy butter.’ It must have been the 17th century equivalent of that ultimate solitary culinary pleasure, the bacon sandwich. The origin of the word is a little obscure. ‘Wentelen’ means to turn over which is understandable enough but teefje means ‘bitch’ and is therefore slightly puzzling. ‘Teef’ may have been a sort of confectionary in the olden days. 4 Spek en bonen Another simple winter favourite: bruine bonen (brown beans), smoked bacon, throw together, et voilà. ‘Voor spek en bonen meedoen’ originally meant to do something for very little remuneration and is one of several Dutch sayings involving beans. It now means your presence does not really bring anything to the proceedings. 5  Kapucijners with spek and piccalilly We have no idea what the proper name for this dish is because everyone we ask has a different answer. This feast is based on big Dutch peas known as kapucijners which are cooked and then served with slices of bacon, smoked sausage, boiled potatoes, apple puree, silverskin onions and piccalilly… at least. May also be known as the Captain’s Dinner, raasdonders or Zeeuwse rijstafel (with the addition of rice). 6 Draadjesvlees The perfect winter warmer. Draadjesvlees is beef that has been simmering in stock for about a month with a few spices thrown in. No, it’s not a month, but it is a good few hours –  long enough for the meat to become very tender and fall apart in little threads, or draadjes. Not surprisingly, old-fashioned draadjesvlees has been reclaimed by the slow food movement. Serve with red cabbage and apple (from a jar) and boiled potatoes. 7 Griesmeelpudding Beloved by some, gruesome childhood memory for others, griesmeelpudding is semolina pudding. It is often covered in bessensap, or berry coulis. 8 Hangop This is another dessert. You can buy it in the supermarket but don’t because it is laughably easy to make. All you need is a wet tea towel, a sieve and a container to sit under the sieve. Pour a litre of yoghurt onto the  wet tea towel, cover and leave for 8 hours in the fridge. What you are left with is hangop and very delicious it is too, especially with fruit or honey. The name has nothing to do with any hang ups the Dutch may have about the quality of their cuisine. The tea towel with yoghurt used to be ‘hung up’ for easy dripping hence the name. 9 Erwtensoep No list of Dutch dishes would be complete without the perfect lunch on a winter’s day – thick, creamy, sausage-filled pea soup. Pumpernickel bread with katenspek (yes, smoked bacon again) on the side is a must, as is a strapping Belgian beer. Make it yourself and feel you really have gone Dutch. 10 Haagse bluf The name of this dessert roughly translates as ‘all talk and no substance from the Hague’ which may or may not have something to do with The Hague being the political capital of the Netherlands. Haagse Bluf is a dessert made up entirely of fluff. Beat two egg whites with 100 grams of powdered sugar, then adorn with a bit of berry juice. Serve in a glass with ladies fingers biscuits. This article was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers  More >


10 Dutch ideas we wish we had thought of first

10 Dutch ideas we wish we had thought of first

The Dutch are an inventive lot. Among their clever ideas in the past: the stock exchange, the submarine, the fire pump and the speed camera. Here’s a list of other nifty ideas we wish we had come up with. 2theloo A chain of public conveniences. Corny name but business is booming. 2theloo started out in an empty shop in Amsterdam’s Kalverstraat and now operates WCs in 13 different countries worldwide and has 14 million customers a year. The key to their success? Decent, clean loos and you get your 50 cents back if you buy something in the personal products shop. The One Nights Tent Go to any festival ground after the big event itself is over, and you will find enough tents left behind by their owners to fill a large refugee camp. Step up Devin Malone, Amsterdammer from Alaska, who came up with the One Nights Tent – made of easily recyclable and biodegradable plastic so you don’t need to feel guilty about abandoning it. The company now makes lilos and sleeping bags as well. Dutch Cell Dogs We thought this was a bizarre joke when we first heard about it but no, the Dutch Cell Dogs foundation brings together people in prison with dogs that have been abandoned. The foundation helps prisoners to train dogs – all of which have behavioural issues or have been mistreated. The dogs benefit and the prisoners learn about communication and responsibility. Judging by the pictures, not the place to pick up a sweet little lapdog. Storm umbrella Not perhaps the most beautiful object but a perfect example of pragmatic Dutch design… sturdy, weather-proof and folds up small – the storm umbrella. Makers Senz swear their invention can withstand winds of up to 100 kph. Eau d’Amsterdam What does Amsterdam smell off? No, not weed and not deep fried snacks but elm trees. Well that’s the story according to crafty creatives Saskia Hoogendoorn and Lieuwe Martijn Wijnands. Amsterdam has 75,000 elm trees and every spring the streets are piled high with their ‘snow’. So why not capture the essence of the elm and sell it in a bottle for €58 for 50 ml? De Eenzame Uitvaart – the lonely funeral Every year about 15 people die in Amsterdam with no one to mourn them. Step up a group of poets who attend the funeral, choose the music and write a poem for the deceased, even though they have never met. Originally known as the Poule des Doods, the poets are now united in the foundation De Eenzame Uitvaart – the lonely funeral - with chapters in The Hague and Rotterdam as well. The poems read at all 189 funerals so far (February 6, 2015) are online. Read them and weep. The Van Gogh Path Witty, inventive, fun, romantic: the Van Gogh Path near Eindhoven is both a functional cycle path and a work of art by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde. If only every bike ride was like this. Peerby Need a tool, a step ladder or even a barbecue? Why not borrow if from your neighbours rather than buy it from a high street store? Peerby helps you do just that and there are no fees attached. Snappcar Similar in spirit, Snappcar helps you avoid Avis, Hertz, Europcar and all the rest. Instead. rent a car from a private citizen who lives around the corner from a few euros a day, all properly insured and with guaranteed payments. You get a much more interesting choice of cars as well. Findfence We just love the Vindhek. Designer Annemarieke Weber talks about the Findfence as a ‘concept about respect, honesty and trust’ and a ‘living work of art’. We just think it’s a damn good idea. A fence where you can hang up lost property and where people who have lost something can look and see if it has been found. Keys, gloves, favourite cuddly toys: we’ve seen them all hanging on the fence in the Vondelpark. Brilliant.  More >


Let’s make things beta at TEDxDelft

Let’s make things beta at TEDxDelft

On February 27 2015, TEDxDelft returns with a new and bigger event, featuring an impressive line-up of speakers and inspiring stories.  The event will take place from 14.00 until 22.00 at the Aula Conference Centre in Delft. This year’s theme, 'Let’s make things beta!', is all about remembering that every great idea was once raw and imperfect, and had to be refined in order to make it what it is today. Technology, entertainment and design are what TED is all about. In 1984, a conference was organised in California, centering around these three fields and with one mission in mind: 'ideas worth spreading'. Since then, TED has evolved to now cover just about every topic imaginable. For up to 18 minutes per speaker, the stage would be open to a person with an idea worth spreading. In June of 2006, these great ideas became more accessible to the world when TED started posting the talks online. These talks were now able to spark conversations with a wider audience. Two years later, TED decided to empower others and help to create 'independently organised TED events' called TEDx. With these events, communities around the globe have been able to spread and share their ideas. Indeed, this is where TEDxDelft comes into focus: an independently organised TED event situated in Delft that also shares in the mission of making ideas accessible to everyone. This year, the stage is set for the fourth TEDxDelft event. Speakers include Dr. Patrick Rensen from the Leiden University Medical Center who will talk about how the simple act of lowering your thermostat can help you lose weight. Moreover, TU Delft Master's student, Mileha Soneji, will present her solution to helping those living with Parkinson’s disease, while chef Yuri Verbeek will discuss how inspirational ideas can appear in the most unlikely of places. Tickets may be purchased online on the TEDxDelft website, at the Delft Tourist Information Point (Kerkstraat 3) or at the event itself (subject to availability). Student/PhD tickets are €24 and regular tickets are €49 per person. For more information, visit http://www.tedxdelft.nl/.  We hope to see you there!  More >


Ten Dutch cheeses

Ten Dutch cheeses

There is more to Dutch cheese than the plastic versions of Gouda and Edam you tend to find in foreign or even some Dutch supermarkets. Here are some of our favourites, and hard cheese if we’ve missed yours out. Dutch hard cheese, by the way, is either jong (young, 4 weeks), jong-belegen (young-mature 8-10 weeks), belegen (mature, 16-18 weeks), extra belegen (extra mature, 7 -8 months), oud (old, 10-12 months) or overjarig (very old, more than 18 months). 1. Leidse kaas Cheese with cumin seeds to give it flavour. 2. Friese nagelkaas Cheese with cloves and cumin seeds, an acquired taste for some and a tried-it-once-never-again experience for others 3. Bleu de Wolvega Organic French-style blue cheese from Friesland. Very tasty. 4. Goudse kaas, old. Crumbly, salty, pungent with overtones of sick (don’t let this put you off, just hold your nose and eat this delicious cheese on a piece of roggebrood or rye bread.) 5. Zeekraalkaas, Organic sheep’s milk cheese with samphire, made in Terschelling. Yum 6. Geska Glarus Not a Dutch cheese but such a pervasive presence on Dutch tables since times immemorial that it deserves a place. It’s stinky, powdered Swiss cheese which tastes like shredded cardboard. Expats who miss it can buy it in the home sickness shops on line. 7. Rommedoe (roum is the Limburg dialect word for cream and doe is derived from the French doux, or soft) A hold-your-nose Limburg cheese which is no longer made in Limburg because of Dutch regulations but pop over the border with Belgium and you’ll find it under the name Hervekaas. It’s production goes back to the fifteenth century. Sharp, pungent and stinky. Don’t take on any form of public transport. 8. Edammer kaas. Small round cheese whose production goes back to the 17th century and one of the best-known Dutch cheeses in the world. It was known as a klootkaasjes or ball (as in gonads) cheese. 9. Texelse schapenkaas. This cheese was made in the 16th and 17th centuries on the island of Texel. One of the more surprising ingredients was the juice of boiled sheep’s poo which gave it is characteristic colour (green) and taste (sharp). It also helped keep the cheese. This practice was discontinued in the 1930s but you can still buy the poo-less variety. 10. Limburger. Beloved of comedians for its pungent smell – often compared to body odour – Limburger cheese was made in the 19th century in the Duchy of Limburg, which is now divided between the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Nowadays its mainly made in Germany. They are welcome to it. Note: Some Dutch cheeses have brand names, like Leerdammer (also: Maasdammer) or Old Amsterdam. They have nothing to do with either Leerdam, Maasdam or Amsterdam and have been given a brand new tradition by cheesy marketing men. The Edam and Gouda in foreign supermarkets on the other hand have nothing to do with cheese. This article was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers   More >


10 myths about the Netherlands – debunked

10 myths about the Netherlands – debunked

If you believe the tourist industry and tabloid newspaper approach to the Netherlands, we all race around on our bikes in clogs, eating cheese, smoking weed and killing off our old folk. Yes, there are lot of myths about the Netherlands and the Dutch. Here's 10 - debunked. Tulips come from Amsterdam It’s spring again, I’ll bring again, tulips from Amsterdam. But did tulips originate in Amsterdam, or even the Netherlands? No, they didn’t. The tulip (Tulipa) was originally a native of Turkey. The dainty, pointy-petalled little tulip was introduced to the West in the 16th century. The Dutch immediately started to mix-and-match like nobody’s business which made them very rich and turned the Netherlands into the home of the tulip. Tulip mania broke out in the 17th century with bulb prices going through the roof, in one instance fetching some 3,000 guilders, or the yearly income of a wealthy merchant. The bubble, or bulb, soon burst, of course. The main tulip growing area is a good few kilometres south of Amsterdam as well. And as for the city’s famous flower market. There were, at last count, two stalls selling flowers and the rest selling tourist tat and bulbs. The Dutch all vote for Geert Wilders Well, that’s easy: they don’t. However, the anti-Europe, anti-immigration party leader did manage to get 10.1 % of the national vote in the 2012 general election which means 933,000 people think the blond one is the bee’s knees.  And he’s currently riding even higher in the polls. The PVV would be the biggest party if there were a general election tomorrow – all of the polls seem to agree on that. But even so, eight out of 10 people would not give their vote to Wilders. A fact worth remembering. Hans Brinker put his finger in the dyke to save the country from flooding No. The story of the boy who put his finger in the dyke and saves the country is part of the book Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates by American author Mary Mapes Dodge. The name Hans Brinker got transferred to the anonymous hero, who did not stick his finger in the dyke, and nor did anyone else. However, there is a statue to the mythical boy in Spaarndam, and Amsterdam has a Hans Brinker hotel. The Dutch all ride bikes No they don’t. There might be 18 million bikes in the Netherlands, but according to the Dutch cycling union just five million of us make a trip by two-wheeler on a daily basis. And the sale of electric bikes, which are not really bikes at all, is going up. They accounted for 10% of bike purchases last year. And that’s cheating. The Dutch are mean We don’t know where this idea comes from. Rumour has it the Belgians had something to do with it. The Dutch are not mean – they just like value for money. Here are the facts: The Netherlands is one of the five countries which spends at least the UN’s target of gdp on development aid – although this is to be cut by 25% this year. The Dutch (private individuals and companies) donate over €4.25bn to charity every year.  Seven out of 10 Dutch primary school pupils get pocket money. The Dutch spend nearly €800m on Sinterklaas and Christmas presents every year and €75m on fireworks at New Year. The list is endless. The Dutch kill off the old and sick at the drop of a hat If you think you can get away with offing your wealthy gran in the Netherlands you will find yourself under arrest quicker than you can say ‘mercy killing’. Nor are elderly persons sporting wrist bands saying ‘Do not euthanise me, please’, as one-time US presidential candidate Rick Santorum had it. The law on euthanasia, which dates from 2002, doesn’t allow euthanasia tourism and doctors who practice euthanasia have to abide by a number of strict rules. In particular, the patient must be suffering unbearably and the doctor must be sure they are making an informed choice. According to the national statistics office, assisted suicide now accounts for 2.8% of all deaths in the Netherlands, or just a few thousand a year. The Netherlands is a ‘frog country’ When the Dutch are pleased with a national achievement of some sort – winning a gold medal or coming top in some poll – they always say it is ‘not bad’ for a kleine or a koude kikker land. Is the Netherlands a little or a cold frog country? Cold? Well compared to much of the world it is, although we would not say no to a decent winter and some skating. Is the Netherlands small? According to UN statistics, the Netherlands is the 134th biggest country in the world – out of a total of 249 countries – so it is not that small at all. In terms of population density, it is in 24th place – so even if the Netherlands ain’t that big, it packs in a lot of people. Is it all a swamp? Much of it might have been once, but drainage and land reclamation have put paid to that. As for the frogs: the Netherlands is home to six different types - the European tree frog, the common brown frog, the marsh frog, the pool frog, the common water (or edible) frog and the moor frog. There are over 4,500 different types of frog in the world, and we have just six. The Dutch are tolerant A sticky issue this one. The National History Museum says the Dutch reputation for tolerance harks back to the 16th century Dutch Republic when different religions were allowed to exist peacefully side by side. Works by Descartes (portrait) and Spinoza were printed without a murmur largely, the museum intimates, because money could be made from them. However, a year after Descartes died his books were banned, no matter how well they sold. According to a poll conducted by independent public advertising body SIRE in 2012, 66% of Dutch people think tolerance is ‘a key value’ but that the country has become less tolerant in the last twenty years. Take tolerance of homosexuality, for example. A report by the government’s social policy unit SCP found although just 4% of people don’t accept homosexuality, 20% don’t think gay and straight people should have equal rights to adopt children. And research by middle class publication parenting magazine J/M voor Ouders shows one-third of parents would consider it unacceptable if their offspring were gay. It is perhaps worth pointing out that tolerance does not mean the same as acceptance. The Dutch all smoke weed all the time You may be forgiven for thinking that a nation which tolerates or turns a blind eye to the purchase of cannabis (actually it’s only five grammes or less) must be walking around in a state of perpetual high spirits. But here is the thing. According to United Nations figures, just 5.4% of the Dutch used cannabis at least once in 2010. In the US, the figure is a sky high 24%. Yep, all those coffee shops in Amsterdam are largely for tourists. All Gouda and Edam cheese is made in the Netherlands Well, yes and no. The names Gouda and Edam are not EU protected, so any old country can make them and does. Most Gouda and Edam cheese is produced in Poland and Germany. New Zealand and the United States also make lots. A cheese sporting the name ‘Gouda Holland’ or ‘Edam Holland’ is, however, made in the Netherlands and was given protected status in 2010. It is not, however, made in Gouda or Edam. The name derives from the fact the cheese used to be sold there in the olden days. This feature was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers  More >


The Netherlands and fair trade – from coffee to bank notes and local councils

The Netherlands and fair trade – from coffee to bank notes and local councils

Most of us know how the Netherlands made its riches in the Dutch golden age – thanks to its strength as a trading nation – but hundreds of years later a new trading narrative seems to have grown out of the embers of that legacy - fair trade - writes Cathy Leung. Simply put, fair trade is a system of producing and selling goods that ensures the people selling them receive a fair price. During the 1940s to 1960s, mostly craft items from supply chains in developing countries began to be sold in churches and charity shops like Oxfam in the UK, and what is now Ten Thousand Villages in the US. These could arguably be seen as more of a charitable donation than a commercial transaction but certainly raised awareness of disadvantaged producers in the developing world. The Dutch organisation Komitee Steun Onderontwikkelde Streken (‘Support for Underdeveloped Regions Committee’, S.O.S.) imported the first fair trade product, wood statues from Haiti, in the Netherlands in 1967, and went on to use 'Not aid but trade' as its motto. Coffee The first coffee imports began in 1973, making 2013 a 40 year anniversary for fair trade. It is now known as the fair trade brand, Fair Trade Original. In 1969, the first European ‘worldshop’ selling exclusively fair trade goods opened in Breukelen, the Netherlands, staffed by volunteers. Worldshops are still going strong in the Netherlands with around 400 outlets across the country. The Dutch were to take the lead once more in the late 1980s with the introduction of a fair trade certification system, Max Havelaar, which opened the door to selling fair trade goods in supermarkets – in the belief that to have a meaningful impact on the livelihoods of producers in the developing world, their goods needed to be traded in the mass market. Since the concept of fair trade was developed, it has grown into a worldwide multi-billion euro industry with a variety of labelling organisations extending the fair trade principle to an increasing range of markets outside of agriculture (and its fair share of critics). Why Max Havelaar? Despite the fact that he was not a real person, Max Havelaar has been remarkably influential in Dutch foreign policy. The main character in the 1860 satirical novel of the same name, Max Havelaar fights against the corrupt government system and coffee trade in the Dutch East Indies, with the wider story being how the wealth that was enjoyed in Europe at the time was the result of suffering in other parts of the world. Widely read in its day, and leading to educational reforms and a new ethical policy in the Dutch East Indies, this damning exposé was also recognised by one writer as 'the book that killed colonialism'. The name of Max Havelaar has endured to become a symbol of ethical trading with poorer nations; the brand name given to the world’s first fair trade labelling system www.maxhavelaar.nl, established by the Dutch in 1989 and now part of the worldwide labelling organisation, Fairtrade International (FLO). On the Dutch high street Over 1,700 fair trade products are for sale in the Netherlands and recent research shows that over half of Dutch households buy fair trade products. So how might you notice this down at your local Dutch supermarket? Fairtrade coffee is well represented and together with chocolate and bananas, probably makes up the bulk of a fair trade shopping basket. To a lesser extent, all sorts of other fair trade products are available in the supermarket, including tea, sugar, wine, and more. Fair money The long-established Dutch banking industry has also seen a fair trade influence success with Triodos Bank. Trading since 1980, their ethical approach is that only organisations that generate a proven added value to people and the environment are eligible for loans. Furthermore, its ownership structure has been designed specifically to guard its independence, with share certificates unable to be sold on the stock market but only sold via buy-back to the bank. Triodos has also expanded to provide banking services in Germany, Spain and the UK triodos.nl. In fact, slap-bang inside our wallets, we are surrounded by another Dutch fair trade item in the very instrument of trade – money. Since 2007, the Dutch central bank (DNB) has used a percentage of fair trade cotton to make our euro notes. By 2011, the amount of fair trade cotton used for Dutch money had tripled to about 96 tonnes, and now about 30% of materials used for bank notes are sourced from fair trade suppliers with this trade supporting cotton farmers in Africa and India. Fairtrade Towns Textiles and gold are other areas with various Dutch fair trade initiatives and there are other initiatives that could bring about greater access to fair trade products as well. Dutch communities can campaign for their local municipality to become a Fairtrade Gemeente (Fairtrade Town) – it’s a global initiative (not started by the Netherlands this time), also doing well in Brazil, South Africa and the UK. In the Netherlands there are now 50 Fairtrade Towns, including Amsterdam, Delft, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Rotterdam, for example, boasts some 41 public organisations and 28 private companies that use fair trade products, as well as the inclusion of fair trade in the procurement policy of the municipality. Cathy Leung is a freelance writer and radio presenter on www.englishbreakfast.nl. Follow her on Twitter @cathycentral. A longer version of this article first appeared in ACCESS magazine.  More >


10 English expressions involving Dutch

10 English expressions involving Dutch

In the 17th century, when the English and the Dutch were trying to lord it over the rest of the world, the English tried to smear the competition by prefixing anything cowardly, fake or otherwise worthy of disdain with ‘Dutch’. Some of these expressions are still around and have taken on additional meanings. Here are 10 of them. Double Dutch is not only gobbledegook, or gibberish, it is also a rope skipping game played by two people turning two long ropes in the opposite direction while a third person jumps up and down in the middle trying not to get hopelessly entangled. This versatile little idiom also means using both a condom and the pill at the same time. Context is all, obviously. A Dutch uncle is someone most people would want to avoid. Someone who talks to you like a Dutch uncle is usually berating or admonishing you. Unless of course you have an uncle who is actually from the Netherlands in which case he might be very nice and never tell you off. A Dutch wife is a rattan bolster used in the tropics, a hot water bottle and, oddly, associated with the Japanese name for a plastic sex doll, apparently of the cheaper kind thus confirming the Dutch reputation for stinginess. Going Dutch is the perfectly sensible practice of going out for a meal on the understanding that each of the participants pays for his or her own share instead of divvying up the bill between you which invariably favours the heavy drinkers and leaves the frugal I-only-want-a-starter types out of pocket. A Dutch treat on the other hand is a completely different kettle of fish. If you are invited to go out for a meal thinking you will be treated only to find out that you are expected to cough up half the money then you have been taken for a ride, or Dutch treat. If this happens to you don’t hesitate to be a Dutch uncle and berate the person severely before stalking off. Dutch courage is usually displayed after imbibing a lot of alcohol. Thus: a semblance of courage. A Dutch roll is not a cheese sandwich but the left to right tipping movement made by an aircraft. It is said to derive from the rolling motion of a particular design of Dutch ship. It could also come from the movement made while speed skating, a sport the Dutch are particularly proficient in. Taking Dutch leave means defecting. The Dutch are not alone in absconding: there is also such a thing as taking French leave which means doing a moonlight flit. A Dutch oven is a cooking pot in America but it is also used to describe the horrible practice of trapping a bed-fellow under the blankets after releasing a particularly nasty fart. Perhaps you didn’t want to know that but there we are. A Dutch agreement is an agreement made between two people who are drunk (‘I will go halves with you if I win the lottery’) and which neither of them remembers afterwards, which is fortunate if the lottery is indeed won by either party. This article was first published on website Netherlands by Numbers  More >


Eight Dutch castles not to be missed

Eight Dutch castles not to be missed

The Netherlands has some 300 castles and fortified palaces, dating from medieval times to the 20th century.  From five-foot-thick defence walls for protection against the enemy to lavish palaces to house the elite, Erin Wille picks out a few of the best. De Haar The Rothschild family funded a 20-year neo-gothic restoration project for De Haar, one of the most luxurious castles in Europe, and the largest in the Netherlands. Surrounding the castle, 7,000 40-year old trees transported from the province of Utrecht created a modern-day park. In 2000 the family passed ownership on to the Dutch Natuurmonumenten (national heritage society) but retained the right to spend the month of September in the castle until the end of time. Necessary maintenance funds come through tourism, private receptions and events. Nyenrode This stunning Dutch Renaissance castle is surrounded by water and only accessible by a drawbridge, Nyenrode was rebuilt and passed through the hands of multiple families over the decades. Since 1947 the lucky students at Nyenrode Business University can call it their campus. The main fortress is now closed to the public. However, music concerts are still held in the coach house. Duin & Kruidberg During the 17th century many wealthy Amsterdammers fled the city, mainly due to the unbearable smell of the canals/sewers that occurred in the summer. Balthasar Coymans, councillor and the sheriff of Haarlem, built the Kruidberg in Dutch Renaissance style. Today, visitors can rest their heads here, as this country estate has been converted into a luxury hotel. They can also enjoy top restaurant De Vrienden van Jacob, which has gained one Michelin star. Valkenburg Valkenburg has not been restored since its final destruction in 1672 but is still well worth the visit. The only hilltop castle in the Netherlands has a dramatic history of many sieges, destruction and power through conquering knights. Most extraordinary about this castle is the extensive underground tunnel system running beneath the ruins, which was used in both WW1 and WWII, serving as a shelter for soldiers. 50-minute tunnel tours are offered daily. Het Loo Palace William III of Orange, who later became King of England (by marriage with his British wife Mary), built Het Loo - the 'Versailles of Holland' - as one of his hunting lodges and leisure house. The symmetrical Baroque palace and its lavish gardens are open to the public.   Chateau St. Gerlach The St. Gerlach was founded in 1201 as a monastery to accommodate pilgrims who came to pay homage to hermit Gerlach of Houthem. The main chateau and Baroque gardens date to the 18th century. Now one of the finest five star hotels in the Netherlands, Château St. Gerlach, has welcomed many well-known guests. Loevestein Castle This Loevestein medieval fortress became a prison for political prisoners in 1619. One famous inmate was the eminent lawyer, poet and politician Hugo de Groot, who was serving a controversially imposed life sentence. De Groot managed to pull off a daring escape in a book chest. The idea for this escape came from his wife Maria van Reigersberg. He subsequently became the Swedish Ambassador to France for 10 years. Radboud Castle Radboud castle is beautifully situated on the coast of the former Zuiderzee. On September 4, 1939 Rembrandt’s painting The Night Watch was hidden here temporarily before it was moved to a bunker for safety. Currently the site hosts concerts, medieval weekends, children’s parties, cooking workshops, weddings and many more activities. Its future, however, is uncertain, as it has just been put up for sale. Erin Wille is an American expat living in the Netherlands. She currently serves as the photo editor and ‘What’s on’ coordinator for ACCESS e-zine in addition to freelance writing. A longer version of this article was first published in the ACCESS e-zine  More >



Video: Amsterdam’s Light Festival in time lapse

Video: Amsterdam’s Light Festival in time lapse

Amsterdam's canals and city centre squares are once again full of light sculptures and installations for the annual Light Festival. 'Light festivals are flourishing, not just in Amsterdam, but everywhere around the world,' a festival spokesman told the Telegraph. 'They add more meaning to the public area, demonstrate culture and the beauty of simplicity and they bring people together.' The art, which can be viewed either from the water or a special walk, is on show until January 18.   More >


How to make sure you keep that New Year get fit resolution

How to make sure you keep that New Year get fit resolution

We all start the year off with New Year resolutions and getting fit and taking up exercise is always somewhere near the top of the list. That might be easier said than done… Determination is key, but so is having a friendly, expert club to put you through your paces. At the Westvliet, fitness & racket club in The Hague we are ready and waiting to help you achieve your fitness goals. And why not bring the family along too? Exercising together as a family is a great way to start the New Year. So bring the kids, enjoy some sports, spend quality time together and enjoy a freshly-prepared meal in our restaurant afterwards – what better way to make sure those New Year resolutions don’t crumble in the first week. Come and meet us at our open day on January 18. Expats Many expats and international workers have already found their way to Westvliet, where the staff are happy to advise you in English as well as Dutch. They appreciate our warm, family atmosphere, which makes all the difference when it comes to feeling at home. We’re easy to get to as well, and offer ample, easy parking as well as good public transport links. Children are central to our way of thinking. We organise many activities to keep the kids busy while parents are working up a sweat on the tennis court. We also run sports camps during the school holidays. Racquet sports Westvliet was established in 1978 as a place for racket sports and we still offer the very best facilities: three large tennis halls and eight courts in total. We have nine squash courts and also offer racquetball and badminton. We run regular tennis competitions during the season and players of all ages can have lessons at the Jan de Rook tennis school. The squash players have weekly ‘club’ evenings on Thursdays from 20.30 to closing time. People from all over the region can walk in and join in a game with our host Philippe or other squash players. Beginners, intermediate and advanced players are all welcome. The atmosphere is informal and you will soon feel at ease amongst the friendly squash players. There are ladder competitions and tournaments with other clubs in the region. Fitness If you are more interested in general fitness, our well-equipped fitness hall is kitted out with Techno Gym apparatus and the ultra-modern Milon Strength-Endurance Circuit. This is a guaranteed way to lose weight and get fit in a safe way – a full training takes only 35 minutes. Make the most of our New Year offer for a free two-week trial period. At Westvliet physiotherapists (BBB) are on the premises who can help you with a training schedule after an injury as part of the therapy. We also have personal trainers on hand who can design a challenging workout for you. If you like to exercise as part of a group, Westvliet offers some 30 class sessions/workouts a week. The classes vary from yoga or tai chi to spinning, grit, body pump Xcó and much more… all you need for a sound body and mind and to work up a sweat. Give us a ring on 070-3864440 and we will gladly make an appointment for your first visit. No strings attached – we want you to see for yourself what all the buzz is about. Only then will you decide if you and your family would like to become members. We also have special corporate deals. If you are interested in getting your colleagues or employees healthy and fit please send an email to fred@westvliet.nl  More >


Health insurance in the Netherlands: all you need to know

Health insurance in the Netherlands: all you need to know

Everyone living in the Netherlands must have health insurance, whether the Dutch public health insurance or private health insurance. Most expats living in the Netherlands long term will be eligible to apply for the Dutch public health insurance but if you’re not, or you want to take out extra cover, then you’ll have to take out private health insurance. Public health insurance in the Netherlands is divided into two forms: The basic insurance package known as Zvw (Zorgverzekeringswet) covers most healthcare from GPs and hospitals, and is mandatory for all Dutch residents, including long-term expats, even if you already have health cover in your home country. Insurance companies have to offer the same basic policy to everyone regardless of age or state of health. The second scheme, AWBZ (Algemene Wet Bijzondere Ziektekosten), covers long-term nursing and care treatment and is automatically provided and funded by deductions from your salary. Who must apply EU/EEA and Swiss citizens and their families living for more than a year in the Netherlands need to take out the Dutch public health insurance; retirees may be covered by health care cover from their home country. European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) holders can use the card for healthcare in the Netherlands for up to a year but may have to pay up front and claim the money back later. Non-EU citizens staying for longer than three months will need a residence permit, after which they are required to take out the Dutch public insurance. Some people may need to take out private insurance, depending on personal circumstances or illnesses. Students under 30 who are studying but not working (even part-time) or in a paid internship, have to take out private insurance unless covered by insurance back in their home country. Over 30s who are employed or staying for more than one year have to take out the Dutch healthcare insurance. Children under 18 are covered for free under their parents' health care insurance. For more information about eligibility, what care and treatments are covered, how the insurance is funded, the excess and help with costs, see this comprehensive guide to the Dutch healthcare system Private health insurance in the Netherlands If you are not covered by the Dutch public health insurance or you want to take out cover for extra treatments (for example, physiotherapy or extensive dental treatments), then you’ll have to take out a private health insurance policy. Private policies can also offer access to private facilities so you can get treatment sooner than through the state system. Unlike the basic insurance policy, insurance companies are not obliged to accept you for private insurance, and your age and health condition can have an impact. How to choose a Dutch insurance provider You are free to select a basic insurance provider of your choice although it can be difficult to choose between different insurers as many of their sites are in Dutch, which, even with online translators, can be tricky to read through. You can start by looking at comparison sites (for example, www.independer.nl or www.kiesbeter.nl) in order to find one best suited to you and your family, taking into consideration price, what is covered, and how much is the excess payment (the amount you co-pay for certain treatments). Bear in mind that some employers also offer corporate health insurance for employees, which may be cheaper than taking out a policy individually. What to look for in a basic policy: How much is the premium? How does the policy work? There are three types: a policy in kind, where the health insurer has contracts with specific health providers and pays the bills for any treatment directly to them; a restitution policy, where you choose your health provider, pay for treatment upfront and get a refund from the insurance company afterwards; and a combination policy where part of the bill is paid by the insurer and part by you. What is the excess (the part of the cost that you have to pay yourself)? This could be nothing or as much as EUR 500. Do you have the option to take out supplementary insurance for any care or treatment that’s not included in the standard package? It is possible to purchase additional coverage (aanvullende packet) from a different insurer than your basic insurer. This may complicate processing your bills, but it can sometimes lower your overall costs, or allow you to purchase additional coverage tailored for the needs of international persons residing in the Netherlands. You can change your policy every year before 1 January, so it’s worth checking to make sure the insurance policy you’ve got still meets your needs. What to look for in a private insurance policy: Look carefully at individual packages to find the one that provides the best cover for you and/or your family’s personal circumstances. Do you have any pre-existing conditions? Do you have children? Do you plan to travel abroad regularly and need coverage for any medical emergencies? What are the premiums and excess? How to apply for Dutch health insurance You have four months to take out insurance after arriving in the Netherlands. If you fail to do so, you could face a fine, and be billed retrospectively for the time you were uninsured. When you register with a health insurer, you will be asked to provide your Citizen Service Number (burgerservicenummer or BSN). This may be issued to you by your employer or by application from the municipal authority where you live or from the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration (Belastingdienst). You’ll also need to provide proof of residence in the country, as well as an ID document such as your passport and a letter from your employer confirming your employment. The most common method of registering is to either contact the insurer online or by phone. Insurance policies are valid from the time you pay your very first premium. How to use your Dutch health insurance Whenever you seek medical treatment or purchase prescriptions, you must present your ID and health insurance chip card (issued by your insurer). Whether you pay upfront for treatments and claim back from the insurer or the insurer pays the health provider directly depends on your policy (see above). At the end of each year the government announces next year's basic insurance premiums and you have the right to change insurer once a year, provided you inform them of your intention to cancel prior to 1 January. Expatica / Bupa International Bupa International offers a variety of health insurance packages to expats around the globe.    More >


The expert’s guide to having a baby in the Netherlands

The expert’s guide to having a baby in the Netherlands

If you're having a baby in the Netherlands, here's a guide to Dutch prenatal care, delivery, aftercare, and paternity leave in the Netherlands. When it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, the Dutch philosophy is that it should be a natural process and not a medical condition. Therefore, the general attitude within the Netherlands is that the expert guidance should come from a midwife rather than a doctor or a gynaecologist, both of which play only a small role in the pregnancy. A midwife is chosen by the parent or parents. The majority of births take place in a hospital, but there are specialist birthing houses (kraamzorghote) available in some towns or cities as well as outpatient clinics (poliklinisch). In the Netherlands, there are also an above average number of home births with around one in three babies born at home. This is dramatically different to the UK where just two per cent of births are at home and just one per cent in neighbouring Belgium, or the United States. And excellent 30-page booklet on birth in the Netherlands has been produced by ACCESS, who offer prenatal courses in English, and contains everything you need to know about the childbirth process. Prenatal care in the Netherlands The first decision you have to make, once the pregnancy is confirmed, is to decide the type of birth you prefer – in a hospital, clinic, birthing house or home birth. You will then need to choose a midwife to assist in the birthing process. Your doctor will be able to offer advice, or alternatively take a look at the list of midwives in your area listed by The Royal Dutch Organization of Miderlink (KNOV – Koninklijke Nederlandse Organisatie van Verloskundigen). The first appointment with your midwife will be at the 12-week stage of pregnancy, although you may be asked to visit before then. It is at this point that an initial test will take place and you will be given a booklet to chart the pregnancy process at various stages. This booklet is very important when it comes to home births with all information used by midwives at the delivery. You will have a test every four weeks throughout the early months of the pregnancy before becoming a weekly appointment during the latter stages. All midwives will use the Verloskundige Indicatie Lijst (VIL) to monitor potential diseases. Delivery and the birth If you have chosen to give birth in a hospital, the midwife you have selected will meet you in the maternity ward. For the one-third of mothers in the Netherlands who have opted for a home birth, the midwife will arrive to assist in the birth once alerted to an impending birth. A nurse or helper will also attend around an hour or so before the arrival of the baby. Mother and baby will tend to spend less than 24 hours in hospital following the birth and can be allowed to leave as soon as four hours after delivery if there are no complications. After the birth, a 'green book' (Het Groeiboek) is given to parents of each newborn baby. The book is used to document growth, vaccinations and other health related details of formative years. Aftercare in the Netherlands Following the birth of a baby, parents are entitled to up to seven days of aftercare with a maternity assistant (kraamverzorgster). These provide a wide range of services in your home including helping with the infant, domestic chores and providing general help with other children in the household. This is unique to the Netherlands and the kraamverzorgster will spend up to eight hours a day with you. The majority of the cost of such a service, if not the entire cost, will be covered by your health insurance policy. In home birth situations, the kraamverzorgster will be at the birth to provide assistance to the midwife. The midwife will also pay visits to the mother for the first week after the birth. All babies in the Netherlands receive vitamin K following the birth and are also vaccinated within their first eight days of life. More information on vaccinations can be found at www.rivm.nl. The registration of a baby must be made within 72 hours of the birth and must be made in the town of birth, which may not necessarily be the place you live. Once registered at the town hall (gemeentehuis), a birth certificate will be presented to the parents who must provide passports, birth certificates and residency papers of their own. For expats, the child must be registered with the Dutch authorities before any application for an international birth certificate is made with your embassy or consulate. Once the child is registered, you will be given a form to claim child benefits (kinderbijslag). Forms will be sent to you, but more information can be found in the brochure on child benefits at www.svb.nl/Images/9160EZ_0910.pdf. The approximate child allowance payment for those aged between 0–5 is around 200 Euros every three months, rising for those at school age between 6 –11. Dutch maternity and paternity leave For women in full-time employment, maternity leave totals 16 weeks and must begin between four to six weeks before the due date. A further 10 or 12 weeks is then allowed after the birth, taking the full period to 16 weeks. You must inform your employer at least three weeks before beginning maternity leave and apply for maternity benefits at least two weeks before leaving. Fathers are entitled to relatively little paternity leave, just two days. Nurseries and crèches Nurseries (Peuterspeelzaal) in the Netherlands tend to be connected to primary schools and offer an early schooling for children between the age of two-and-a-half and four. Many are Dutch-speaking only, but there are English language nurseries and playgroups available as well. Useful links ACCESS: www.access-nl.org The Royal Dutch Organization of Miderlink (KNOV – Koninklijke Nederlandse Organisatie van Verloskundigen): www.knov.nl Kraamzorg: www.kraamzorg.nl Dutch Association of Breastfeeding Experts: www.nvlborstvoeding.nl Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs: www.minbuza.nl Bupa Global offers a variety of health insurance packages to expats in more than 190 countries around the world.      More >


Things to do in the Netherlands with the kids this Christmas

Things to do in the Netherlands with the kids this Christmas

The weather outside may be frightful but, if you’re keen to escape the cabin fever of festivities and take the kids out to run off some energy then Esther O’Toole has ideas for you. She’s dug though Holland’s best seasonal activities for families to dig up some unusual and inspiring places to go this year. Amsterdam: Concertgebouw – sing along , Christmas concert and more December 20 sees the National Youth Choir arrive at the Concertgebouw for a special sing along performance Middle in de Winternacht. Starting at 13.30 ages 6+ can come to watch and, if you have Dutch speakers in the household, sing along. There are further shows later in the day. On Christmas Eve there is a free concert for all nationalities in the magnificent 19thC hall of the Concertgebouw; a festive selection suited for all ages. As it’s the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the other days round Christmas are not just Christmas classics but a great selection of classical greats including Beethoven and Mahler. Prices start at €20 and on Boxing Day there is a recital by renowned pianist Regina Albrink. For all prices and times visit the website. Amsterdam: The Eye film museum – Tutu, Magic Lantern show and workshop Just after New Year the Eye Film museum is hosting a Magic Lantern workshop for children ages 5-12 and it’s open to native and non-native speakers alike. It’s a great location with a fantastic café - complete with amphitheatre! Participants can make their own shadow puppets, learn about the origins of cinema and, with a combiticket, stay on for a fantastic Magic Lantern show Tutu. Places are limited so get in there quick. January 2,3. €8.50 for the workshop or €15 for the combi. Find out more via the website Utrecht: Cascade Circus – Equilibrium Cascade is the annual circus spectacle from Utrecht’s Stadschouwberg. This is the 23rd edition of this highly successful circus event and this year it’s based around the theme of Equilibrium – balance; well that’s one thing circus performers are particularly skilled in! The wondrous contortions and stunts of the artists are accompanied by music, mime and poetry from all corners of the world promising an impressive and poetic night. December 21 to 24 Utrecht: Skating and Christmas delights at the Transport Museum If you want to feel like you’ve walked into a Christmas movie perhaps the best place to be is the Utrecht’s Transport Museum (SpoorMuseum). There is ice skating between the locomotives, Christmas trees and fairy lights. Plus, there's a traditional carousel, a full programme of bands and street theatre; helping to keep everyone busy from the littlest to the biggest. Skates are free to hire and discounted ticket prices are available on their website. December 24 to January 4 The Hague: King Winter Festival The best of Old and New collide in The Hague’s King Winter Festival. It has lots of traditional fare and activities – Santa’s house is open daily for little visitors and the beer festival events keep their parents happy. There is skating and firework shows as well, weather permitting. Lots of great family shows are on in the theatres such as Billy Elliot the Musical (AFAS Circus Theater) and a new take on Peter Pan from Rabarbar Theater (5+). However, there are also more innovative events such as on the Spui plein where, from December 20, you can take part in and marvel at the Bright Nights 3D Video Mapping event. Haarlem: Serious Request; Glass House and Creative Confetti Club If you listen to Radio 3fm then you’ll already know of their annual charity fundraiser for the Dutch Red Cross. If you don’t then in brief: each year 3 DJs spend a week sleeping and playing music in a glass house on one of the main squares of a different Dutch town. With nothing to eat but vegetable smoothies they trying to raise as much money as possible for charity. This year it is Haarlem’s turn. You can visit the house and make a donation to get a track of your choice played and watch guest singers and bands play live in the house. For the smallest who aren’t able to spend too long outside soaking up the social atmosphere you can take them into the warm and welcoming Creative Confetti Club. During the second half of Serious Request week they are organising kids’ activities such as face painting, dressing up, arts & crafts, music & dancing and it’s complete with readily available festive snacks. Teach the tinies about the real meaning of the holidays and have fun to boot. December 20-24 Zwolle: Ice Sculpture Festival You no longer have to head to Lapland or Northern China for an ice sculpting festival, there’s one in Zwolle! And it’s a biggie. Every year by the station in Zwolle you can see 250,000 kilos of ice turned into the ultimate form of ephemeral art; this year’s theme is World in Motion. Last year the event enjoyed 145,000 visitors. Wander round and wonder and, when you and the wee ones get chilly, head to the Event Plaza for bouncy castles, carousel and Lego games. To January 25 Eindhoven: Fine Feast Days Festival Yep, there’s the ubiquitous Christmas market, skating and shopping in central Eindhoven this year but there’s more. Curling, sledging, stars and kids dancing on ice, a talent show and, wait for it, a Santa run! For more on the events happening throughout the festival – that’s just a selection – check the website for a full schedule. To January 4 Valkenburg: Underground Christmas Market At this time of year Valkenburg’s famous caves are turned into a Winter Wonderland - without the wind. A massive underground Christmas Market is waiting to be discovered for non-claustrophobics everywhere. With hundreds of stalls it promises a popular and magical take on the traditional. If you want to shop for curiosities and sip mulled wine without your fingers freezing off this could be the way to go. To December 23 Esther O’Toole is a freelance writer and founder of www.quint-creative.com  More >


Christmas gifts with a touch of Dutchness

Christmas gifts with a touch of Dutchness

Gift-giving is becoming much more common at Christmas than it used to be. Here is the DutchNews.nl list of perfect presents with a touch of Dutchness for that last minute shopping list. Kids stuff Museum shop gifts have never been better. Forget the reproduction silver dishes and the wheelie suitcases featuring the Girl with the Pearl Earring. Start them off with Dutch art at a young age: Vermeer's Melkmeisje from Playmobile €4.95       Learn to read the Dutch way. Essential reading for all would-be Dutch kids - Jip and Janneke in English. Bought from local bookshop ABC for €19.95 Hema also has a wide collection of Jip and Janneke themed goodies.     For the little dreamer: we love the duvet covers from Snurk (snore)… for horizontal living. There are ballerinas, astronauts and all sorts of fantasies but our favourite is Bob the Beagle. €59.95       Bike stuff: How could we recommend gifts from the Netherlands without mentioning bikes. These are our favourite bike accessories. A plastic bike saddle cover keeps the rain off and your seat dry. Everyone should have one. From €11.75 A stand-up bike pump is a whole lot easier than the traditional hand-held pump attached to most bikes. Available at every bike shop. Bit awkward for packing mind you. Keep the police at bay. Portable bike lamps from Hema, your local bike shop or the dispensing machine in the bike park. They cost just a couple of euros but save €25 a time in fines – perfect for the teenagers in your life.   Designer stuff If you are feeling flush, anything by Hella Jongerius. We particularly like the animal bowls - no not for feeding your dog.       For the lady in your life. Check out the gorgeous gloves from Hester van Eeghen. We want them in every colour.         Not perhaps the most beautiful object but a perfect example of pragmatic Dutch design… sturdy, weather-proof and folds up small – the storm umbrella.     Household stuff   The Dutch love their potted plants, and here is a way to show them off with a difference. From Droog Design             No more excuses for forgetting to send a card and failing to take a cake to work. You cannot get more Dutch than a birthday calendar – preferably hanging on the back of the downstairs loo door. Buy a classic version from Verjaardagscalender for €15.95 or have your own made with AH or Albelli.nl’s photo service.           And finally, everyone’s favourite Dutch biscuit, combined with a pretty box – and cheap at the price. Albert Heijn stroopwaffels €3.95 in a souvenir tin.      More >


11 things you need to know about Christmas in the Netherlands

11 things you need to know about Christmas in the Netherlands

Like most other places where they celebrate Christmas, the Netherlands does tend to grind to a halt until the New Year. But what else should you be aware of about the festive season in the Low Countries? Here are 10 key things to know about Christmas in the Netherlands. Kerstpakket One of the joys of being employed by a Dutch company is the annual kerstpakket (Christmas hamper) distributed to staff in the days before the Christmas festivities. Around four million people will get one this year, most of them worth around €40 - companies have to be careful otherwise you'll end up paying tax on your hamper. Kerstpakketten are notorious for their tins of chicken ragout. Luckily, themes such as tea-tasting are on the increase, as are gift vouchers. Christmas trees Tradition has it that Christmas trees don't make an appearance in the Netherlands until after Sinterklaas, so as soon as the Sint has left, the tree sellers move in. The Dutch love their trees - in fact they love Christmas decorations in general. The top floor of the Bijenkorf department stores are always worth checking out for the latest in tree fashions, with matching ribbons, table placements and mood candles. Christmas lights Christmas lights in the Netherlands tend to be in terribly good taste - lots of illuminated canal bridges and trees in gardens - but if you want tacky Santas, you can find them if you know where to look. Den Ilp, a little village north of Amsterdam, is famous for its over-the-top displays. Nachtmis 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. No presents It used to be that the Dutch did not do presents at Christmas - which can be very embarrassing when you present your in-laws with a beautifully packed gift from under the tree. Nowadays, the great god of commercialisation is doing his best to make sure Christmas presents are catching on. If in doubt, ask. That good old Dutch bluntness has its advantages. Kerstman The Dutch name for Father Christmas or Santa Claus. Definitely still a very poor relative to Sinterklaas. In spite of his 'ho ho ho', the Dutch think Father Christmas singularly humourless whereas Sinterklaas and his endless repertoire of poems is regarded as the epitome of wit. He also brings a moralistic tone to the festivities which the Calvinistic Dutch love. Food The Dutch don’t have a particular Christmas staple. The main meal can be anything from boerenkool 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. Television It’s traditionally crap. There’s no other way of putting it. Boring Christmas circus shows and boring films you've seen 100 times before. However, the advent of all those alternative streaming services means everyone can sit around in a stupor watching whatever they like. The King's Christmas message Last year, king Willem-Alexander broke with the tradition set by his mother and filmed his first Christmas address to the nation at his home in Wassenaar, seated in front of a fire with photographs of his children, wife Máxima and parents behind him. This year yet another tradition has ended. The address is no longer exclusive to the public broadcasters and will also be sent out on commercial channels Tweede Kerstdag Second Christmas day is the day you get to eat the meal all over again with your other family - if you have a partner that is. Otherwise, it is leftovers. Christmas tree bonfires Otherwise known as vandalism. Most people hold on to their trees until most of the needles have worked their way into the carpet, pets and the grooves of the laminate flooring. When the trees are thoroughly dried out they are put outside (leaving what is left of the needles neatly spread on the stairs of your building) where they make excellent fuel for Christmas tree bonfires. In Amsterdam Noord they make a particularly spectacular one.  More >