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


Who will take care of your child when you’re gone?

Who will take care of your child when you’re gone?

Historically, if you wanted to designate a guardian for your child in case something should happen to you, it had to be done by will. Today, a new option is available which makes this process cheaper and easier: appointing a guardian via the parental authority register. As a parent in the Netherlands, you want to know that if something happens to you, your child will have someone to protect their best interests. However, until recently the only way that a parent could designate a guardian was to state this in their will. Appointing a guardian via the parental authority register Since April 1, 2014, it has been possible to designate a guardian for your child via the parental authority register. This second option makes the process easier and cheaper – but is available only in Dutch. Visit the parental authority register With the parental authority register, parents can appoint a guardian by submitting an online request, or completing a form in writing and posting that form to a district court. Entering a name into the parental authority register costs nothing, however you will need to submit certain documents together with the form, and you will need to pay for the documents you receive from the municipality. What to do if you have already made a will and appointed a guardian? If you have already appointed a guardian in your will, this can be replaced by a guardian's instruction via the authority register. It is therefore not necessary to delete the guardian's instruction from your existing will. Always remember: the last instruction given will result. This means that if you first made a will in which you appointed person A as guardian, but you later appointed person B as guardian via the parental authority register, then the last instruction will apply. In the example above, this means that person B would become the designated guardian. What happens if there are multiple guardians? It is also possible to appoint two guardians. In fact, it is not unusual for parents to appoint one or two guardians together. If you, as parents, cannot come to a choice by mutual agreement then each parent is also free to choose the guardian(s) independently. If both parents die at the same time and you have appointed a different guardian for your child than the other parent, then the judge will make a choice between the various guardianship instructions. Who will have authority over your child if you die and you have not appointed anyone as guardian? If you and your partner have joint authority over your child and you have not designated a guardian, then in the event of your death your partner will retain the authority over your child. In principle their parental authority will simply continue. In the event that you have exclusive authority over your child, then if you die without appointing a guardian, a judge will determine who will henceforth have authority over your child. The other parent can submit a request to obtain authority and the judge may (understandably) prefer the other parent in his choice. However, this does not imply that the other parent will always obtain the authority; after all, the judge may decide that a third party will be given authority if this is in the interest of the child. What if you hold joint authority with someone other than the parent? If you exercise joint authority together with a person who is not the child’s other parent (step-parent) and you die, their authority ends. However, they will continue to exercise custody of your child by operation of law. It is possible for the other parent to obtain authority by submitting a request – but they will not have a preferential position. The judge will instead try to continue the existing family situation for the child. TIP: More can be arranged through testament While appointing a guardian via the parental authority register is a cheaper alternative, it has a number of disadvantages compared to a guardian's instruction made by will. For example, as a parent, you can give instructions to the guardian in your will regarding the care for your children and how to deal with your estate. In addition, you can arrange other relevant matters in relation to your children, including financial issues. For example, you can determine until what age the assets of your children should be managed and by whom. The person who manages your children’s assets does not need to be the same as their guardian. Get advice you can trust Guardianship is a challenging issue to consider, and the decisions you make may impact your children’s futures. Get help finding the best solution for you and your children – contact one of our experts in expat inheritance law, or submit your question with our easy online form. Dylan Bertsch is a specialist in family law and inheritance for GMW lawyers, and is a contributing expert on Legal Expat Desk. He pays particular attention to the interests of children.  More >


Leiden’s not-so-visible oddities: Mysterious stairways, stone tables and Gandalf

Leiden’s not-so-visible oddities: Mysterious stairways, stone tables and Gandalf

Leiden dates back all the way to the 9th century. Over the past 1,100 years, it’s steadily acquired its fair share of historical oddities and other curiosities that are unique or simply bizarre. Here’s a few that are often overlooked by visitors and locals alike. 1 A mysterious stairway Outside Leiden’s medieval Stadhuis, there’s a stairway that leads to a small platform. Together, they seem pretty pointless but they served an important purpose back in the day. The platform was once used by civic leaders to make important announcements to the public. These included everything from information about political dealings to the latest developments in criminal proceedings (stuff like which convict was going to get hanged next and when). A closer look at the stairway reveals two other interesting details. There are two rods that served as measuring sticks back when a unit of measurement called the Rhineland Foot was still being used. Okay, well, one of the ‘rods’ is merely an etching on the wall but you can read all about their history, and how Napoleon played a part in rendering them obsolete, in this article over at Atlas Obscura. Location: 90-92 Breestraat 2 One shop to rule them all Rene van Rossenberg is the proprietor of the Tolkienwinkel, a shop and museum devoted to the works of novelist J.R.R. Tolkien...and dozens upon dozens of pieces of merchandise inspired by the countless characters and conflicts of Middle Earth. He’s been running the place since 1986. Here you’ll find everything from Lord of the Rings alarm clocks to replicas of props from the films that would each make great gifts for the various elves, hobbits, wizards, and/or orcs in your life. You can even buy not one but several different versions of Gandalf’s smoking pipe. The adjacent museum opened in 2004. It contains Van Rossenberg’s private collection of 1,500 books by or about Tolkien along with some of the author's personal letters. There’s also a permanent exhibit about the trip Tolkien made to the Netherlands in 1958. Just a quick heads-up, though: the Tolkienwinkel is only open on Thursdays and Saturdays or by appointment. Location: Utrechtse Jaagpad 2  3 Where the Pilgrims set sail The American Pilgrims spent a decade and more in Leiden before they hightailed it to the New World. There are a few different historical sites featuring their history that you can visit around the city, but the one that not too many people know about is located in a quiet nook around the corner from the entrance to the Erfgoed Leiden en Omstreken. This statue, called Pilgrim Fathers, marks the spot where the colonists began their journey to America. There’s also a large plaque that lists their names. However, this isn’t where the Mayflower set sail. Instead, the Pilgrims climbed aboard a river barge that took them to Delfshaven where a ship called the Speedwell was waiting to take them to Britain and onward. Location: Along the Vliet near the Vlietburg  4 A star is born It’s one of the most iconic corporate symbols on the planet, and it was ‘born’ at one of Leiden’s oldest pubs. Café De Vergulde Kruik (The Gilded Jar Café) opened for the first time back in 1881. Some time later, representatives from Heineken, perhaps after drinking one too many of their own products, became infatuated with a sign bearing a red star that was hanging over the pub’s front door. They paid the owner 35 guilders (roughly €350) for it. Or at least that’s one version of the tale. According to former proprietor Hans Seisveld, the star was actually drawn on a beer mat one evening in the 1920s while several of the brewery’s higher-ups were gathered around a large table in the back room. ‘Heineken has said that could be the story,’ current owner Paul Herman added. ‘No one will guarantee it and send a letter saying that’s absolutely what happened but no one is denying it either.’ The specifics may be lost to the ages. Meanwhile, the star has since served as the company’s logo and has helped it earn billions in revenue. The original sign, if it ever existed, has yet to make its way back home, but the pub still features plenty of vintage furniture and historical decor, including very rare silver beer taps. It’s a great spot to grab a pint, provided you don’t mind the occasional Dutch drinking song. The clientele often enjoy demonstrating their vocal prowess. 5 Is that a bowling alley? There’s a seemingly uninteresting brick building near the city’s historic De Valk windmill that has no windows or doors that face the street. If you didn’t know any better, you might assume that it serves as a storage shed for the cafe around the corner. Nope! It actually belongs to Sociëteit Amicitia, one of the country’s oldest gentlemen’s clubs. The game they play date back to at least the 17th century and is similar to bowling but much more difficult. Players roll their ball down a thin, elevated platform in order to hit the pins, a skill that definitely requires plenty of practice to develop. Needless to say, you’d need to become a member in order to try it yourself, but the club typically opens the building to the public on Monumentendag every September. Location: 2e Binnenvestgracht 6 But is it art? A long walkway leads to the front entrance of the Museum Volkenkunde. Along the way, you can gaze at small, and rather strange, displays made out of iron. Some of them are, shall we say, not safe for work. They feature everything from dildos and dog poop to coffee percolators and random bicycle parts. The point of it all? They’re commonplace objects that can be found all across the Netherlands that the curators deemed representative of everyday life in this country. During the spring months, the cherry blossom trees that fill the nearby courtyard are also in full splendour. They can be found near an equally photogenic totem pole. Location: Steenstraat 1 7 A retirement home for religious relics The basement of the Hartebrugkerk, a large church on the Haarlemmerstraat, is home to the the Greccio Museum of Devotional Items. The aforementioned items range from crucifixes that once hung on the walls of private homes to old cathedral statues and hand-embroidered vestments donated by Franciscan monks. All in all, the museum serves as a sort of retirement home for these objects. The staff also put several nativity scenes on display during the holiday season. Location: Lange Mare 79 8 Very fishy Leiden is home to one of the country’s oldest outdoor markets, which still takes place every Wednesday and Friday along the Nieuwe Rijn in the centre of the city. It’s a treasure trove of locally-produced foods and other products, but it’s also home to a simple, stone table that’s part of its historic Vismarkt. The table serves as a tribute to the countless fishmongers who have diligently worked at the market over the centuries. It’s also a common hangout for the city’s pigeon and seagull population. You can find it beside a much more picturesque fountain lined with two sculptures of sea creatures that spit water out of their nostrils.  More >


Marry for a day? Dutch mock weddings which are surprisingly sincere

Marry for a day? Dutch mock weddings which are surprisingly sincere

At Wed and Walk, marriage isn’t for life, it’s for just one day. Deborah Nicholls-Lee finds out why romantics are flocking to Amsterdam to take part in a mock wedding. Toon and Tetty exchange rings under an arch festooned with roses and ribbons and crowned with two white doves. The birds, flowers and wedding are fake, but the sentiments are all real. Despite having presided over around 6000 mock weddings, Jona Rens (39), whose business Wed and Walk ‘marries’ people for just one day in the Netherlands’ only fake wedding chapel, still often finds herself in tears. She’s not the only one. ‘Nine out of ten men start crying,’ she tells me. ‘They just break down – it’s beautiful to see.’ Kitsch Jona is on the train, but I’m sat on the red carpet (her ‘aisle’) in the middle of her shop in Amsterdam’s Pijp district, whispering into my phone. Around me is a cornucopia of kitsch: plastic cakes, love-heart sweets, and trays of thrift-store rings. Frilly wedding dresses jostle for space on crowded rails, and dressing tables with vintage mirrors display a selection of flamboyant hair accessories. Jona explains that brides often choose an over-the-top outfit for the mock ceremony, telling her: ‘For my real wedding, I would never choose this, but I always dreamt of wearing a dress like this.’ Toon de Vree (50) from Hellevoetsluis in Zuid-Holland received the ceremony as a Christmas present from his girlfriend Tetty de Haan (50) and they ‘married’ in early January. ‘I was totally surprised,’ he tells me, but he loved the idea. ‘We enjoyed it so much,’ he says. ‘When you are there and you see your lovely girlfriend in a nice dress and you choose your music and you walk towards each other, you don’t have the feeling that it’s for one day. You are so in love, you think it’s for real and forever.’ Founded by accident Jona, a theatre director, is used to creating atmosphere. ‘Because of my work in theatre, I know how to build something from nothing, just with timing and expectations and with my attention,’ she explains. This sideline career in weddings, however, was unanticipated. The business ‘sort of founded itself’, she tells me. On Queen’s Day in 2003, Jona was selling rings in the Jordaan district when a friend walked past with his new boyfriend. ‘Oh, we’ll marry you for Queen’s Day!’ she told them, a little tipsy on vodka. ‘Sit down and we’ll make this whole show about it!’ Suddenly, a circle closed around them and then a queue began to form. ‘We spent the whole day marrying people,’ she remembers. ‘And the only thing we had was this big bowl of rings and enthusiastic first-floor neighbours who threw out rice every time someone was done.’ The next year it was even busier. In 2005, Jona offered mock weddings for Museumnacht. She received around 300 emails from people wanting to take part and ended up working until 4am marrying people. ‘We were totally blown away by the success,’ she says. Jona built a business around the concept and in 2015 she opened her shop, much to the relief of her husband, who, she says, ‘really got crazy with all these wedding dresses in the bedroom’. Varied Clientele Today, her weddings, which start at €75, are not just popular with drunk party-goers and hen parties. ‘It became more serious over the years,’ Jona explains. ‘Some people are so serious about it. They come dressed up really nice and they bring their own bouquet and they bring grandma – and everybody’s dressed up…’ One couple invited 50 guests. The reason for the mock wedding is often poignant. Jona has married terminally ill couples who want to express their love to the people they are leaving behind, and she once married a lesbian couple from China who cried throughout the ceremony despite not understanding a word of it. ‘In their country it’s forbidden to be lesbian, so it was important for them that they came all the way to Amsterdam to do the ceremony.’ Young and old have taken part, from octogenarians proceeding up the red carpet in wheelchairs, to a three-year-old girl whose adoptive parents wanted to do a ceremony for her ‘because they wanted to let her know that she was really wanted and welcome’. You can also have a laugh. ‘We’re really open-minded,’ says Jona, who once married a man with a work of art he’d just bought. ‘Apparently, it took him a lot of effort to get this piece, and when he got it, he wanted to marry it.’ Demand has been steady, but Jona has noticed a change in the clientele. During the economic crisis, her couples were mostly people who wanted to experience ‘the real thing’ but lacked the means. ‘Now the economy is going well again, the serious people now have money again to do the real wedding, and the customers are people that are already married and want to do the renewal of the vows or celebrate an anniversary or more fun stuff,’ she says. Better than the real thing In the Netherlands, real marriage is in decline, but Jona’s business is booming. Though the vows have no legal implication and the outfits are pulled to size with safety pins, the gravity of the occasion still makes itself felt, but without the pomp and stress of the real thing. ‘The ceremonies are really, really powerful, but we do it in a fun way,’ Jona says. ‘People tell me by email sometimes that they liked it more than their real wedding day.’ Toon and Tetty are enthusiastic about their experience. ‘I want to tell everyone what happened and what we did,’ says Toon. The couple made the most of their wedding day by going for lunch, exploring Amsterdam and spending the night in a hotel. When they awoke the following morning, and the one-day spell had broken, Toon tried to keep the mood going. ‘I told Tetty, we’re not married now for real, but in my heart, you’re always my wife.’ Toon and Tetty’s friends were astounded when they saw the wedding pictures on social media. ‘They all though it was for real,’ he laughs. ‘And they asked: ‘Why weren’t we invited?’’ ‘Everyone we told about it, they all liked it, and I think there are going to be more friends who are going to do it,’ he says. Toon hesitates when I ask him if he and Tetty plan to marry for real one day. ‘We have only been together for half a year, so we still have a long way to go,’ he says. ‘But maybe. We love each other, so let’s hope so.’  More >


Indian designer bridges east and west to go Dutch

Indian designer bridges east and west to go Dutch

A fashion designer in India is reaching out to the international community in the Netherlands in a bid to break into Europe. Dutch women may not be renowned for their passion for high fashion, and their casual approach to both work and formal wear is one of the first things which new arrivals often notice. But Indian designer Amit Sachdeva hopes his cross-over designs will help change all that. Amit uses simple cuts and classic drapes for his designs, which, his supporters say, are bound to appeal to the native Dutch as well as internationals and expats. ‘My approach to fashion is a melding of western notions of cut, construction and finish, but using Indian detailing and craftsmanship,’ Amit says. ‘My way of designing is very meditative. I like to take my own sweet time to finish or start a design. I can’t design under any time pressure. I am a perfectionist and pay attention to minutest details.’ Many in the Netherlands’ growing Indian community have heard of Amit’s label but as his client Charlotte Mulder, who lives in Amsterdam says, says, his designs are perfectly matched for everyone – whether or not they have Indian roots. 'Amit is a great thinker and an even better observer which makes him an amazing designer,' she says. Amit produces two collections every season, one bridal and semi bridal and the other one is from his label HAS (handlooms by Amit Sachdeva). Amit, who qualified as a textile designer is currently working with a set of weavers in the north east part of India for one collection. This is a region which is largely ignored as far as the Indian fashion scene is concerned. The label HAS, or Handlooms by Amit Sachdeva is particularly suited to the less formal Dutch approach to fashion and is made of handloom or handwoven fabrics. It takes almost the entire day to weave a few inches of fabric, Amit points out. The resulting silk – Eri – which he uses its also known as non-violent or wild silk, as it is made from the cocoon after the worm has left and is picked in the wild. The silk also offers 70% protection against UV lights. This results in a fabric which is densely textured and has a slight sheen to it, making it very rich and unique. The current collection features bomber jackets, short and long dresses, crop tops and palazzo pants. ‘This collection,’ Amit says ‘is a perfect one for a high tea or a sun-downer be it summer or winter or even as resort wear.’ The Miabella bridal collection, on the other hand, is about a Italian girl who likes to drink wine and dreams of getting married yet refuses to grow up, Amit says. The collection is made up of pastel gowns, handcrafted with rich textiles and embroidery.  Cuts are simple and classic with a modern twist and the dresses are embellished with pearls, sequins and cut work.   'I was definitely the best dressed person at our 2018 Christmas dinner,' says Regina Komakec, who lives in Utrecht and works for ABN Amro. And Farzana Ahmadali, a finalist in the Miss India Holland contest and who lives in The Hague says: 'Amit designs beautiful Indian clothes - and the pastel colours are really special, something I have not seen before.' If you think the Dutch winter rules out wearing his designs, summer is only a few months away after all. And if you are an Indian bride-to-be, Amit's designs are the perfect combination of modernity and Indian traditionality. ‘My brand operates as one that belongs neither in one market or the other, nor one country or another, Amit says. ‘It is a self developed niche for women who wish to dress in modernity and luxury, without abandoning their personal style and identities.’ 'My designs are for the free-spirited women who love to experiment and have a unique sense of styling, irrespective of nationality.' What could be more Dutch? Amit's clothes are available by mail order via www.amitsachdevastudio.com. The website includes a specific section dedicated to the Indian diaspora.  More >


2019 is the year of Rembrandt: here’s where to catch his works

2019 is the year of Rembrandt: here’s where to catch his works

The life and works of Rembrandt van Rijn are being celebrated across the country this year to mark the 350th anniversary of his death. Deborah Nicholls-Lee has a round-up of the main events. 2019 marks 350 years since Rembrandt van Rijn’s death and the Dutch tourist board has leapt at the chance to extol one of the country’s best-loved artists and wax lyrical about the Golden Age, when Amsterdam was the wealthiest city in Europe. Amsterdam The Rijksmuseum Rembrandt spent most of his life in Amsterdam and painted his most iconic pieces there. The city’s Rijksmuseum is home to the largest collection of Rembrandts in the world. Currently courting huge press attention is the exhibition All the Rembrandts (15 February – 10 June) – a giant celebration of all Rembrandt’s styles and periods, comprising 22 paintings, 60 drawings and over 300 prints. Alongside world-famous works such as The Night Watch and The Jewish Bride, the public will get a rare view of fragile drawings and prints which have been released from the museum’s archives for this special occasion. If The Night Watch is your favourite painting, you may like to return to the museum in July when a glass chamber will be created around the painting and visitors will be able to observe its restoration in action. If you are an artist yourself – aspiring or accomplished – submit your piece of Rembrandt-inspired art by the end of March for a chance to be featured in the Rijksmuseum’s Long Live Rembrandt summer exhibition. Visitors can view the selected pieces from 15 July – 15 September. The Rijksmuseum will round off the year with Rembrandt – Velázquez. This collaboration with Madrid’s Museo del Prado explores the dialogue between the works of Rembrandt and fellow 17th century painter Diego Velázquez of Spain. The Rembrandt House Museum In Amsterdam’s old Jewish quarter stands the building where Rembrandt lived for 20 years. Today it is a museum telling the story of his life and displaying numerous precious works. The Rembrandt House Museum kicks off the year with Rembrandt’s Social Network (1 February – 19 May), an introduction to the people who shaped his life and helped him hone his talents. Like the Rijksmuseum, the summer exhibition will focus on work influenced by Rembrandt, but this time with a spotlight on celebrated painters whose works form part of the museum’s collection, such as Degas and Picasso. Inspired by Rembrandt runs from 7 June to 1 September. If you want to find out more about how researchers know so much about Rembrandt and learn about the science behind modern-day restorations, visit Laboratory Rembrandt (21 September 2018 – 16 February 2020). The Jewish Historical Museum Courtesy of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the Jewish Historical Museum will be displaying Rembrandt’s St.Peter in Prison (1631), which will be the focal point of an exhibition there from 13 September to 10 November. This famous History painting shows Rembrandt’s ability to convey emotion through his art as well as his mastery of light and shadow. Amsterdam City Archives During his estimated 38 years in the capital, Rembrandt – and those that knew him – left a trail of letters, documents and works of art offering a fascinating insight into his life – from financial difficulties to romantic connections. The Private World of Rembrandt (7 December 2018 – 7 April 2019), hosted by the city archives, uses Augmented Reality to bring some of these archival sources to life. Leeuwarden The Friesian Museum is ahead of the game with Rembrandt and Saskia. Love and Marriage in the Dutch Golden Age, which launched last November and runs through until 24 March 2019. Saskia Uylenburgh, originally from Leeuwarden, married Rembrandt in 1634 but would die just eight years later aged 29, survived by just one of their four children, Titus. Her story, alongside tender sketches and paintings of her are on display. Leiden Leiden may be the birthplace of Rembrandt, but art-lovers will have to wait until the autumn to view Young Rembrandt (3 November 2019 – 9 February 2020) as the Museum de Lakenhal is currently closed for renovation and expansion. When it reopens, freshly painted in a palette of the 12 colours used by Rembrandt, visitors will be treated to an exploration of the painter’s early work. The exhibition is a collaboration with the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and features almost 200 etchings, paintings and drawings by Rembrandt and his contemporaries. In the meantime, visitors can head to the tourist information centre (Stadionsweg 26) and follow a walking trail of the city, following in the footsteps of the painter in his youth. The Hague For the first time in the Mauritshuis’s history, the museum’s entire Rembrandt collection will be on display for the exhibition Rembrandt and the Mauritshuis (31 January to 15 September), including The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp and Rembrandt’s last self-portrait. Several paintings purchased by the museum which are no longer considered to be by Rembrandt will also be exhibited, making an interesting comparison with the undisputed pieces. A visit to the Mauritshuis is also an opportunity to see the recently acquired St John the Baptist Preaching (1627) by Pieter Lastman, who taught Rembrandt for six months from 1625-26 and was a major influence on his mastery of History painting. Rembrandt and the Golden Age 2019 also includes nationwide exhibitions that take the Golden Age as their focus and do not include Rembrandt. You can find out more about these here.   More >


Dutch destinations: Deventer is an under-rated gem

Dutch destinations: Deventer is an under-rated gem

Best known for its annual Dickens festival during the winter holiday season, Deventer is a picturesque city located east of Apeldoorn with a rich literary history. Here you’ll find gorgeous architecture, great cafes, and a very old kettle with a blood-soaked past. Deventer’s history goes all the way back to the Dark Ages, and it’s one of the country’s oldest communities. Historians theorise that it was likely founded by the English missionary Lebuinus in the mid 8th century. He constructed a wooden church in the area that was later destroyed by the Saxons. Over a hundred years later, the fledgling village known as Deventer was hit by another major setback. This time, it was burnt to the ground by rampaging Vikings. It was quickly rebuilt, this time with a protective wall that was steadily improved during the centuries that followed. The city served as one of Europe’s most important centres for publishing in the 15th century after Richard Paffraet brought a printing press to town along with his partner Jacob van Breda. Folks came from all around to get a look at their first printed book in 1477, and Deventer was later nicknamed Drukkersstad (Printing City). The Industrial Age turned the city into a key centre of production and Deventer became known for its factories, which cranked out everything from bicycles to beds. It was hit hard by World War II, during which bombings decimated its port and industrial district. Deventer’s city centre and classic architecture was largely spared though. As a result, it stood in for Arnhem during a 1977 film production of A Bridge Too Far. Now, in the year 2019, locals and travellers alike enjoy its lovely downtown area, which is filled with unique eateries, shops, museums, and more. Things to do Enjoy a real Toy Story You can get an up close look at over a century’s worth of classic toys at the kid-friendly Speelgoedmuseum Deventer. Located inside two warehouses that date back to the medieval era, the museum features everything from dolls' houses and mechanical elephants on bicycles to antique toy cars and rockets. Fans of train sets will enjoy the large display in the museum’s Train Hall that includes a track that goes through tunnels, past miniature houses and winds its way around a mountain landscape. Bookworms unite! Print may indeed be dead for many modern readers, but Deventer’s history as a mecca for printing presses and bookshops goes all the way back to the 15th century. It’s still home to several of the Netherlands’ largest publishing companies along with several literary festivals throughout the year, one of which is Europe's largest annual book fair. The 30th edition of Deventer Boeken is set for 4 August, 2019 and will once again feature thousands of books in 878 stalls that stretch over 6 kilometres. The fair is so large that the organisers publish an annual guide every July to help visitors navigate the sprawl. The city also has several shops that specialise in rare 1st editions and/or the latest page-turners. Praamstra Boekhandel is definitely a must-stop if you’re the sort of person who’d rather give up reading altogether than buy a Kindle. It’s one of the nation’s oldest bookstores, and it first opened its doors in 1893. Deventer’s city centre also offers a variety of other unique shops and cafes, many of them in buildings that date back to the 16th century. Go on a trip through time Hanseatic Museum De Leeuw is a small museum located in a storefront that dates back to 1645. It houses a variety of unique kitchen items so you can browse centuries-old coffee grinders and candy containers. The real draw though is the sweet shop in the back. It features a restored interior from an old bakery in Nijmegen along with over 200 varieties of traditional Dutch candy. There’s also a small dining area that serves coffee, tea, and cake. The proprietors have an on-site bed and breakfast as well with nine rooms and a family apartment that’s available for larger groups. If you’d prefer to take a trip even further back in time, Visit a stone house Deventer is also home to the Buveburcht, the country’s oldest stone house and its oldest continually inhabited home. Located on the Sandrasteeg, one of its walls dates back to the 10th century and the rest isn’t much younger. The house is still privately owned and not open to the public but the exterior is worth a quick stop. Get a glimpse at a truly cruel kettle The Brink is a large public square in the centre of Deventer that’s home to Museum de Waag. The former weighing house was built in the 16th century and now contains exhibits devoted to the city’s industrial and trading history in addition to paintings and archaeological artifacts unearthed in the surrounding region. The museum also has a large copper kettle on display out front that’s over 500 years old. According to local lore, it was used in public executions during the Middle Ages. Counterfeiting was a big problem back then and convicted forgers were allegedly boiled alive in the kettle. Unimpressed, several of Napoleon’s troops used it for target practice in the early 1800s. The bullet holes are still visible. Dig into Dickens There are many Dickens festivals that you can attend all around Europe, but Deventer is home to one of the largest. The annual Dickens Festijn is held for only a single weekend every December, and it manages to attract roughly 125,000 attendees. Yes, you read that right, 125,000. Some 900 local volunteers dress up in elaborate costumes to transport the mobs into the 19th century and play the parts of chimney sweeps, street urchins, bawdy ‘ladies of the night’, Ebenezer Scrooge, and even Queen Victoria. Many of them have even been participating every year for decades. If you go, just watch out for the gentlemen who blast through the crowds on unwieldy but period-authentic bicycles. The city’s small museum devoted to the famed British author is also open year round but only on Saturdays. Eat and drink If you only eat one thing in Deventer, it should be a Deventer Koek. These honey cakes are one of the city’s most cherished traditions. The recipe dates back to at least the 16th century, and its specifics remain a closely guarded secret. You can buy one, or several, of the cakes at the Deventer Koekwinkel. If you’re looking for something more savoury, try out Fooddock. Housed inside a former salt warehouse, it was the first food hall to open in the eastern part of the country. There you can dig into a variety of sustainable and locally produced items. It’s a great spot if you’re in the mood for variety, or a quick lunch or dinner. Check out Restaurant El Popo, a Mexican cafe along the Brink, if you enjoy vibrant dining experiences that can become downright raucous. It caters to a young crowd with a healthy appetite for its extensive cocktail menu. Chez Antoinette is a quieter and more romantic cafe with a Portuguese/French menu. Mr. & Mr. Espressobar is a great place to pause for a midday cappuccino or an Americano. De Hip is a good spot for drinks and live music after dark or a beer out on the terrace when the weather is behaving. Bierencafe De Heks is a downright magical beer bar with a lengthy list of imports and domestic brews. It’s beloved by locals and visitors alike. Just look for the witch on her broomstick attached to the wall over the tables out front. Where to stay Hotel Gaia is located outside of the city on a gorgeous 19th century estate. It has two eateries, a spacious outdoor terrace with a great view of the surrounding countryside, and several cycling and walking routes. Grand Boutique Hotel House Vermeer sits in a 19th century house. It’s one of the country’s smallest four star hotels and has 11 rooms along with an on-site restaurant and lounge. There’s also the more modern Postillion Hotel Deventer. How to get there A train journey to Deventer from Amsterdam Centraal takes between an hour and ninety minutes. Getting there by car from the city typically lasts about as long. When to visit Deventer can be a madhouse during both the Dickens Festival in December and the book fair in the summer. Deventer Op Stelten, an annual outdoor theatre festival in July, can also get chaotic and attract over 100,000 attendees. If you aren’t big on crowds, try one of the city’s smaller festivals (here’s a link to Deventer’s events calendar for 2019) or visit during a quieter time of the year.  More >


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 >