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


Summer in the Netherlands: our favourite readers’ photos

Summer in the Netherlands: our favourite readers’ photos

We asked our readers to send us their favourite summer photos in the Netherlands. We got lots of great photos from far and wide but we had to narrow down our favourites to pick the winner, who gets two tickets to MUST. You can see all of the photos that were submitted on our Facebook page. A post shared by Dutch News (@dutchnewsnl) on Sep 11, 2017 at 6:15am PDT A summer terrace - Stepan Khachatryan A post shared by Dutch News (@dutchnewsnl) on Sep 11, 2017 at 6:46am PDT One happy couple - Jaileen Jasleen A post shared by Dutch News (@dutchnewsnl) on Sep 11, 2017 at 5:36am PDT Local wildlife in Zuid-Kennemerland National Park - Karolina Kasperek A post shared by Dutch News (@dutchnewsnl) on Sep 11, 2017 at 5:25am PDT The Pooping Man in Flevoland - Marko Markov A post shared by Dutch News (@dutchnewsnl) on Aug 29, 2017 at 5:21am PDT What's a Dutch summer without rain? - Hanneke Sanou A post shared by Dutch News (@dutchnewsnl) on Sep 2, 2017 at 1:55am PDT Ferris wheel - Ron den Hollander A post shared by Dutch News (@dutchnewsnl) on Aug 31, 2017 at 1:03am PDT Amsterdam - Ayşenur Kuran A post shared by Dutch News (@dutchnewsnl) on Aug 30, 2017 at 12:21am PDT A sunny day on the canals - Matt Peters And finally, our winner! A post shared by Dutch News (@dutchnewsnl) on Aug 31, 2017 at 2:50am PDT An evening in Rotterdam -Egle Budryte  More >


Forget savings accounts: Buy-to-let is catching on in the Netherlands

Forget savings accounts: Buy-to-let is catching on in the Netherlands

With interest rates at record lows – making the return on savings minimal – investing in property to rent out is becoming increasingly popular. Buy-to-let has been big business in Britain but is now catching on in the Netherlands as well. ‘A buy-to-let mortgage is intended specifically for someone who wants to buy residential property to rent out,’ says Ralf van Arkel, of Expat Mortgages. ‘For expats who have the financial means, it's a great way to invest their savings and enjoy extra, tax-free income in the form of rent.’ Buy-to-let mortgages were out of favour in the Netherlands for years but in 2015 the tide began to turn. Expat Mortgages, which specialises in helping expats find a mortgage, has now introduced a special unit Expat Buy2Let, specifically to help international workers looking for an alternative to banks to put their money. ‘Given the incredibly low interest rates right now, it is a much more lucrative thing to do than putting money in a savings account,’ says Van Arkel. ‘Property also represents a sound long-term investment.’ Tax advantages Tax-wise there are benefits too. The rental income from one or two properties is tax-free. Your property (part of your assets), is taxed in tax box 3 of your annual tax return, but the size of your mortgage is first subtracted from your total assets. The assets left over are taxed, depending on your total net worth, at 0.86% to 1.62% - an added bonus from an investment perspective. The first bank to reintroduce buy-to-let mortgages in select Dutch cities was NIBC which offered a maximum loan-to-value of 70%. Other players have now come on board, offering mortgages of up to 85% of the value of the property with interest rates of around 3% - well below that offered by NIBC when it started out in the lucrative buy-to-let market. Who qualifies? So who qualifies? You will either need to have Dutch nationality or you need to be registered in the Netherlands. Some banks, such as NIBC, require non-Dutch citizens to be registered in the Netherlands for a minimum of three years but other banks don't have this requirement. Your financial situation needs to allow you to pay for your owner occupied or rental place as well as your buy to let property. Sometimes it’s possible to also take potential rental income into consideration. Please check with Ralf van Arkel at Expat buy2Let what your personal options are! And as for the future, Van Arkel expects interest rates to remain virtually stable in the Netherlands for some time to come. However, he says, predicting what will happen to interest rates is like trying to predict the Dutch weather. Nevertheless, he adds, ‘buy-to-let is proving to be a stable investment and solid source of extra income from rent.’ After all, demand for good housing in the Netherlands is only set to increase in the future. Thinking about buying an investment property in the Netherlands? Contact: www.expatbuy2let.nl ralf@expatbuy2let.nl +31 20 7173908 or +31 611151553.  More >


Banks, bulbs, beer and oil: The 10 largest Dutch companies

Banks, bulbs, beer and oil: The 10 largest Dutch companies

Annual revenue is usually the main yardstick in judging corporate size. In the Netherlands, however, another standard has to be applied: Dutchness. Many large global companies are domiciled in the Netherlands through a shell or letterbox construction, but their presence in the domestic market is much smaller than the figures suggest. Chief among them is LyondellBasell Industries, a multinational chemical company with American and European roots, incorporated in the Netherlands and based in Rotterdam. However, its US headquarters are in Houston and its global operations are run from in London. We say it ain't Dutch enough. The same goes for EADS, the parent of European aerospace group Airbus. EADS Is headquartered in Leiden, but its very substantial operations are elsewhere in Europe. That has the distinct clatter of the letterbox, so we've discounted it too. And with the current global takeover mania just warming up, who knows how many of the companies on our list will remain Dutch? So, with those filters applied, here is our top 10 list of Dutch companies 1 Royal Dutch Shell Shell is not just the largest company in the Netherlands by far – Forbes ranks it first in Europe and number five in the world. Shell was formed in 1907 with the amalgamation of the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and UK-based "Shell" Transport and Trading Company, a move largely driven by the need to compete globally with Rockefeller's Standard Oil in the US. In 2005, a new parent company  was formed, with its primary listing on the London Stock Exchange, a secondary listing on the Amsterdam bourse, its headquarters and tax residency in The Hague and its registered office in London. Dutchness? When the company's shares were issued they were weighted 60/40 in favour of the shareholders of Royal Dutch, in line with the original ownership of the Shell Group. 2 ING ING is a multinational banking and financial services corporation headquartered in Amsterdam. Its name stands for Internationale Nederlanden Groep and the company was formed from the 1991 merger of insurer Nationale Nederlanden and state-owned NMB Postbank. Its primary businesses are retail banking, direct banking, commercial banking, investment banking, asset management and insurance. ING has more than 48 million individual and institutional clients in more than 40 countries, with a global workforce exceeding 75,000. 3 Unilever Even if is Anglo-Dutch, with each party holding 50% of the shares, it would be churlish to deny the food and detergents group its certificate of Dutchness. Founded in 1930 through the merger of the Dutch margarine producer Margarine Unie and the British soapmaker Lever Brothers, Unilever has twin headquarters in Rotterdam and London and operates as a single business with a common board of directors. The company's focus has shifted recently towards high-margin personal care products. 4 Ahold Delhaize The 2016 'merger' of Dutch supermarket group Ahold (Albert Heijn) and its Belgian counterpart Delhaize left Ahold with 61% of the shares, Delhaize with the remaining 39%. But the Dutch are firmly in the driving seat, which is located in Zaandam, just up the coast from Amsterdam. The first Albert Heijn grocery store in was opened in 1887 in nearby Oostzaan. The grocery chain expanded through the first half of the 20th century and went public in 1948. In the 1970s Ahold went into the off-licence sector (Gall& Gall) as well as health and beauty care (Etos). Ahold also holds major supermarket interests in the US. 5. Aegon Aegon is a multinational life insurance, pensions and asset management company headquartered in The Hague. At the end of 2015, Aegon employed approximately 31,500 people worldwide, serving millions of customers. The company was created in 1983 with the merger of several Dutch insurance companies and has been expanding rapidly ever since. Aegon's other major base is in the US, where it is known as Transamerica. 6 Rabobank Once unkindly labelled the farmers' bank, Rabo is a cooperative whose scope today goes far beyond its agrarian roots. Utrecht-based Rabobank is a multinational banking and financial services company specialising in food and agriculture financing and sustainability-oriented banking. The group comprises 129 independent local branches and is the second-largest bank in the Netherlands in terms of total assets. 7 Philips Philips was started up in 1891 in Eindhoven with the production of carbon-filament lamps – lightbulbs to us – and other electrical goods. So successful was Philips that with a nod to Paris, the southern Dutch city became known as 'the city of light'. Nowadays the company is headquartered in Amsterdam and concentrates on healthcare. The lighting division was hived off in 2014. 8 GasTerra A newish name for a thoroughly Dutch company. Groningen-based GasTerra is active in the worldwide trade and supply of natural gas. It is owned by Royal Dutch Shell (25%), ExxonMobil (25%) and the Dutch government (50%). The company was formed in 2005 from the break-up of gas company Gasunie. Before then Gasunie was authorised to sell and transport natural gas discovered in the Netherlands. But the liberalisation of the European gas market meant transportation and trade and supply had to be divided among independent companies. In 2005, this separation created both GasTerra and the gas transportation company which retained the Gasunie name. 9 SHV Utrecht-based SHV Holdings is a privately owned Dutch trading company, regarded as one of the world's largest private trading groups. The highly diversified company's interests span transport, retail, oil, food and financial services. It currently employs around 47,000 people. SHV is owned by the Fentener van Vlissingen family which also helped found KLM as well as steel producer Hoogovens, currently part of Indian-owned Tata Steel. 10 Heineken The world's second largest brewer, Amsterdam-based Heineken was founded in 1864 by Gerard Adriaan Heineken. As of 2017, Heineken owned over 165 breweries in more than 70 countries. It produces 250 international, regional, local and specialty beers and ciders and employs approximately 73,000 people. The company remains majority owned by the Heineken family. The original brewery in Amsterdam, which closed in 1988, is preserved as a museum called Heineken Experience. Our list leaves out a lot of large companies in the Netherlands. But an honourable mention is certainly due to the Aalsmeer flower auction, now known as Flora Holland. The largest flower auction in the world, it moves 12.6 billion flowers and plants each year. Flora is housed in the second-largest building in the world, with 518,000 square metres of floor space. Flowers from all over the world – Europe, Ecuador, Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and other countries—are traded there every day.  More >


Looking for a new challenge? Climb Kilimanjaro, raise cash for War Child

Looking for a new challenge? Climb Kilimanjaro, raise cash for War Child

Dutch aid group War Child is looking for internationals with a taste of adventure to join the Kili Challenge - to climb mount Kilimanjaro and collect as much money as they possibly can to save children affected by war. If you love adventure and change, you will definitely enjoy the Kili-Challenge offered to you by War Child. You are invited to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and while you’re at it, collect as much money as you can to help children living in war zones around the globe. You will pay for your own trip, and War Child will challenge you to raise that sum by at least € 2,400 through sponsorships. To make sure you are perfectly ready to climb Africa’s highest mountain (5,895 metres) not only physically, but mentally as well, War Child is offering you an inspiring programme. This month we are organising the first out of at least three get-togethers. We will help you collect funds and make sure you are physically ready (think a weekend training in the Belgian Ardennes). Friends 'In the beginning I was unsure how I could collect the required sponsorship money because as an international living in Amsterdam I did not have a large family to get support from,' says expat Halima who did the challenge in 2015. 'But as soon as I announced my participation on social media, people around me responded with great encouragement and offers of help. A friend baked cup cakes I sold during Gay Pride, and others donated unwanted items which I sold at second hand markets.' So far over 250 people have climbed Kilimanjaro for War Child before. Tired but satisfied, they have reached their targets, marvelling at the rising sun from the rooftop of Africa. The three previous editions of the War Child Kili-Challenge have exceeded all expectations. Thanks to our participants, War Child has been able to help out thousands of children, offering them a better future. International group There are three departure dates: 20, 23 and 29 January, 2018. Departure date 23 January is an international group and the going language is English. The whole trip takes 10 days, of which you spend seven days on the mountain. Please bear in mind that climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a demanding adventure and the total cost will be about €4,000.  Find an overview of the costs here. Do you want to take up the challenge and help War Child provide a better future to thousands of war children? Then sign up for the Kili-Challenge! You may sign up as an individual or as a group of friends or colleagues. Attend our information evenings or join our webinars. You can also visit our FAQ page, check the brochure of Mountain Network, email us via challenge@warchild.nl or call us on +3120 422 77 77.   More >


5 great tips on how to get a prospective landlord to pick you over other hopefuls

5 great tips on how to get a prospective landlord to pick you over other hopefuls

If you are looking to rent a private property, you will have to be accepted by the landlord of the property. So how do you make sure he or she picks you, rather than the others queuing up to view? At a time where housing is in short supply, and every available space will have a number of keen tenants lining up, here are some ways in which you can stand out and persuade the landlord that you will be the right person to let the property to. How? Be prepared, be professional and be polite. Tip 1: Make a great first impression When going to view a property, or even when going to an open house viewing, make sure you come across well. Wear smart clothing, look neat, clean and respectable. If you think of it as a job interview, you won’t go far wrong. Also, make sure you arrive on time if a time has been agreed, don’t stand outside smoking while you wait, and make sure you put your phone on silent before the visit. Tip 2: Paperwork Check if the advert stated anything about bringing along paperwork such as proof of employment, credit history or references, and make sure you have this with you in case you are asked for it. Also, be prepared for the fact that your landlord may need proof of the fact that you have the money for the deposit and rent, possibly in the form of a bank statement or in the shape of a guarantor. If you are able to provide references from previous landlords, say so. Tip 3: Know your limits Save yourself and the landlord a lot of time and disappointment by being realistic about what you can afford. Landlords won’t miraculously lower the rent just because they like the look of you, so work out in advance what your monthly outgoings are going to be, and whether you can afford the associated costs such as first (and sometimes last) month’s deposit, fees for credit checks, security deposits, application fees, etc. Tip 4: Ask the right questions Come across as an experienced tenant by asking relevant questions of the landlord, such as which utilities are connected, whose responsibility it is to look after the garden, what the arrangements are about rubbish collecting, who to contact in case of an emergency and what the situation is regarding insurance. Does the property have broadband or a satellite dish, and if not will you be allowed to have these installed? These are things it is best to know in advance, rather than after you move in. Tip 5: Don’t hide anything If you have special requirements, be honest about them. Landlords often worry about pets, small children, multiple people sharing a property, and so on. If they feel that problems may arise in the future, they may just take the easy way out and choose another tenant. If the property has rules about no smoking, no pets or no children, respect them, because chances are you will be found out and asked to leave. Lastly, don’t forget to be enthusiastic if you like the place, and to let the landlord know that you are seriously interested. Ask when a decision will be taken, or follow up with a quick phone call to the landlord or agency after the visit to confirm that you would like to be considered as a tenant. Then just keep your fingers crossed and start planning your move! Rental apartments in Amsterdam Rent out your apartment as a landlord  More >


Amsterdam’s Paradiso: from flower power to punk and beyond

Amsterdam’s Paradiso: from flower power to punk and beyond

There can be few people in the Netherlands who have never been to Paradiso in Amsterdam. Everyone has played there - the Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Amy Winehouse... the list is endless. Next year, the celebrated former religious community centre will celebrate 50 years at the forefront of modern music. Brandon Hartley has been delving into the history books. Courtney Love was not having a good evening. The infamous lead singer of the grunge band Hole was in a particularly foul mood when she finally took the stage in the main hall of Paradiso on 24 April, 1995. After a long delay, the band managed to get through six songs before someone in the crowd hurled a drink at her head. That’s when Love completely lost it. Moments later, she was rampaging across the balcony in search of the culprit. The incident is just one of the countless unforgettable moments that have taken place in the venue after it first opened its doors on 30 March, 1968. Since first launching as a ‘peace and love culture centre’, Paradiso has played host to some of the best, worst and most notorious musicians of the past 50 years. James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Dexter Gordon, David Bowie, Willie Nelson, Frank Zappa, Curtis Mayfield, The Ramones, Prince, Duran Duran, U2, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Sonic Youth, The Pixies, Nirvana, Nick Cave, Ice Cube, Rage Against the Machine, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Arcade Fire and even 'Weird Al' Yankovic have all performed there over the years. The list goes on and on but Paradiso has also hosted political debates, cultural events, film and television shoots and even birthday parties for kids. As Paradiso rounds the corner towards its 50th anniversary next spring, its management is already in a celebratory mood. They’ve created a website that recollects performances that have taken place at the venue. Every day you can dig into a collection of stories and photos that commemorate one or more of the club’s events. Located near the Leidseplein, the building that currently serves as Paradiso’s home was originally built in 1880 as a meeting place for a Dutch religious organisation called the Vrije Gemeente. It’s often described as a former church but that isn’t quite true. The stained glass windows behind the stage in Paradiso’s main hall continue to contribute to this misconception (even though the current ones weren’t installed until 1993). The Vrije Gemeente relocated in 1965. Two years later, after briefly serving as a carpet store, a group of music fans fuelled by ‘flower power’ that included Willem de Ridder, Koos Zwart, Matthijs van Heijningen and Peter Bronkhorst set their sights on the building. They decided that it would be a fantastic spot for a youth centre. Amsterdam officials, who were in charge of the building, weren’t so sure. While the negotiations dragged on, a group of youths attempted to set up a squat there. Clashes with local police officers ensued. Despite crackdowns, De Ridder and Zwart remained undaunted. They started hosting musical and theatrical events in the building. As the fledgling entertainment centre started drawing larger and larger crowds, city officials finally gave them the go-ahead to convert it into a proper club. Folk and a steel band Paradiso celebrated its opening night the following March with the Dutch folk rock outfit CCC Inc., a steel band from Suriname and a dance event for women. A music publication called Hitweek gave the evening the following review: ‘Paradiso opened on the 30th of March. 1300 visitors helped create a fantastic light show, witnessed a unique, mind-expanding and breathtaking programme, heard excellent music and helped ensure a fantastic atmosphere.’ Within a few months, the club was drawing international acts like Pink Floyd and Captain Beefheart. Its organisers also created a description for it that served as a sort of subtitle: ‘cosmic entertainment centre.’ In addition to music and light shows, Paradiso also became known as an easy place to buy marijuana. It was one of the first places in the city where ‘soft drugs’ were tolerated. As De Ridder recalled in a 2008 article in Ons Amsterdam: ‘It was very cosy, jovial. People often sat on the floor, everyone was open and everything was very spontaneous. There was a kind of living room atmosphere.' The times, they were a changin’ But all those peaceful, easy feelings faded as harder drugs and harsher vibes began infiltrating the nation’s capital in the early 1970s. A reporter for Rolling Stone was in the city in the summer of 1970 and described Paradiso and Amsterdam’s increasingly dark atmosphere: ‘And everything seemed good. At Paradiso and Fantasio, state-supported youth clubs, and on the street, dope, music and atmosphere were cheap and abundant. Amsterdam was the most relaxed place anybody knew. But then, with August two-thirds gone, somebody up there pushed the harass button and ‘Head City’ began to disintegrate.’ As the world around it changed, so did Paradiso. Financial struggles, squabbles among management and staffers, and heroin dealers gave the club a nasty reputation for anyone not looking to zone out in the balcony or slam dance in front of the stage. Members of the Hells Angels biker gang became regulars and the American singer Iggy Pop had an unpleasant run-in with them during a gig in 1979. But things weren’t all bad. The late 1970s featured performances by now legendary acts including Sex Pistols, Blondie, The Police, The Ramones and Talking Heads. ‘In the early ‘80s, you might get hurt at a show there,’ Robbert Tilli, a web editor for Paradiso, recalled. ‘Not because it was dangerous but because there were so many people in the room and they were all so excited. It was still the punk rock period. So different than these days. The attitudes have changed. Back then, it was a lifestyle. People  completely identified with their music.’ Tilli remembers seeing The Undertones from Belfast when he was 18 or 19. 'They were the favourite band of my favourite DJ, John Peel from BBC Radio 1. It was so thrilling. They have a song called ‘Teenage Kicks’ that really sums up what makes life exciting,' he says. 'The Ramones also played there almost every year. They were always fantastic. At one of those shows, which were always very wild, I lost a shoe. I couldn’t find it and had to go home with only one.’ From raves to debates As the 1980s became the 1990s and the 1990s the 2000s, Paradiso continued to evolve and accommodate an increasingly eclectic series of events and performances. If you take a step back and look at the scope of the venue’s history, it’s not hard to see Paradiso as a sort lightning rod for whatever zeitgeists are dominating the music industry at any given moment. While it has and continues to throw open its doors for the latest and greatest musical acts out there, the venue has also hosted raves - Eddy de Clerq ran the Pep Club dance nights in the early 1980s -  classical orchestras, debates about politics and science and film screenings Many artists have grown to love the venue primarily for its intimate vibe, wrap around seating and a quasi-religious atmosphere that has earned it the nickname ‘rock temple.’ It was a natural pick for The Rolling Stones when they decided to take a break from playing stadiums in the mid 1990s and focus on smaller halls. The band played two nights at Paradiso in May of 1995. Hundreds of lucky fans were able to catch the shows live while thousands of others made do with video screens on the Museumplein. A performance of ‘Street Fighting Man’ from one of these shows was later included on the Stones’ live album Stripped. Along with drawing music fans to new and emerging acts as well legendary ones, Paradiso has also helped build the careers of local artists, promoters, and graphic designers. Marieke Stolk, Erwin Brinkers, and Danny van den Dungen among them. They currently collaborate together as part of Experimental Jetset, an Amsterdam-based design studio that has worked on projects for institutions including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. ‘In the mid-’90s, while we were still studying at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, we designed record sleeves and t-shirt prints for some friends who played in a punk band called NRA,’ they said. ‘Somehow, the shirts we designed became quite popular and they caught the attention of Top Notch, which was mostly known as a hip-hop label. They approached us and asked us if we wanted to design flyers for ParaDISCO, a twice weekly club night they organised for Paradiso. We gladly accepted their invitation.’ ‘We see Paradiso as a very important collaborator,’ they said. ‘They were one of our earliest supporters. Besides that, as a venue, they have had a huge influence on us. We spent so many nights at Paradiso and saw so many bands there. That place has been our cultural education. We really feel Paradiso is part of our DNA.’ Into the future Nowadays, Paradiso is contending with stiff competition from places like the Melkweg and AFAS Live. To keep up, it’s begun hosting shows in other venues around Amsterdam. One is Het Zonnehuis, a small theatre located in a community centre in Tuindorp Oostzaan, a former garden village on the edges of the city. Catching a show there is like taking a trip through time to the mid-20th century. Hank Williams or a young Bob Dylan wouldn’t have felt out of place on its stage. Paradiso’ management typically uses it for smaller acoustic sets by musicians including Josh Ritter and Father John Misty. There’s also Paradiso Noord, a mid-sized venue in Tolhuistuin near the EYE Film Museum. Its retro interior looks like a late 1970s discotheque and features wicker furniture, a disco ball and an old car from that era. In addition, Paradiso has recently begun hosting a regular series of concerts that celebrate new artists or those not well known in the Netherlands. Ticket to the Tropics is devoted to world music. Fans of indie bands can get an annual pass for Indiestad and their current lineup of shows can be found here. Those eager to learn more about fresh Americana, roots and country acts can check out Sugar Mountain. These latter two series have relied on the efforts of volunteer ambassadeurs to choose which performers to highlight. ‘With some genres, it can be easy to get people to come to the concerts,’ says Tilli  ‘With others, it can sometimes be really difficult. So it’s great to have people like the ambassadeurs who also help spread the word.’   More >


See out the Dutch summer with an exclusive party in Scheveningen

See out the Dutch summer with an exclusive party in Scheveningen

If you are looking for an amazing night out to celebrate the end of the summer, where better than an exclusive party at Scheveningen’s stunning Kurhaus hotel? The Kurhaus, where Europe’s elite came to take in the sea air, has seen its fair share of magical events over the years. The Rolling Stones even ran riot there in the 1960s. This year the MUST party team are back in town on September 23 for the latest edition of their legendary dance events, set against the stunning backdrop of the Kurhaus ballroom. The dress code is come as you are – but make sure it is the most beautiful version of yourself, of course. Dance the night away to a top line-up, sipping on champagne from the Moët & Chandon bar or a cocktail from Belvedere and Bacardi. Good tip: you can order your bottles in advance at a discount via must.cc. This year's performers include Shermanology and Benny Rodrigues, and more star names will be announced next week. And then after the party is over, you can tuck up in bed in one of the hotel’s great rooms. What better way to start a new day than waking up to the sound of the sea? All you need to know: Date : Saturday September 23, 2017 Time : 20:30 uur – 02:00 uur Location : Grand Hotel Amrâth Kurhaus, Scheveningen Tickets : www.must.cc/ticketskopen Prices: €44.50 per ticket or €249 for two including overnight stay and breakfast Website : www.must.cc Check out the DutchNews.nl Facebook page to see how you can win two tickets!  More >


From visiting borgs to singing sea shanties: 11 great things to do in September

From visiting borgs to singing sea shanties: 11 great things to do in September

It's almost September, so here is our list of some of the best things to see and do next month - from visiting Groningen's historic country houses to watching a Greek tragedy and checking out the wonders at the Netherlands' botanical gardens. Sample different cultures The annual Embassy Festival in The Hague is all about great music and delicious food. Visit the cultures of exotic countries against the backdrop of the Lange Voorhout which is saying a temporary goodbye to its august dignity in favour of colour and sound on September 1 and 2. Website Get stitched up 24 international textile artists show their work and techniques at the Textiel Biënnale for the fifth time at Museum Rijswijk.'Hard-hitting messages about repression, terrorism, old age and gender packaged in soft textiles', is how the museum puts it. Until September 24  website Enjoy a little bare cheek Theatre company Illyria's acclaimed version of The Emperor's New Clothes comes to Raadhuis de Paauw in Wassenaar on September 2 & 3 ('strictly for people between 5 and 99') and it will be performing Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors - featuring a Mexican band - on September 2 at Landgoed Schovenhorst in Putten.  Both plays are performed in the open air. Go to STET for tickets and info. Sing sea shanties in Rotterdam Rotterdam's annual celebration of its port is livened up with rollicking sea shanties courtesy of the International Shanty Festival which is held at the same time. 40 (!) choirs from the Netherlands and abroad will sing of lost love, strange ports and the seaman's longing for the sea. It's free. September 1-3 Leuvenhaven Rotterdam Website Marvel at Medea, with surtitles Simon Stone turned Euripides’s Greek tragedy about revenge into a contemporary play, inspired by the true story of an American doctor who set fire to her own house after a difficult divorce in 1995, killing two of her children. There's just one chance to see the play with surtitles this month, on September 7. Website Visit a listed building The Open Monumentendagen have a distinctive rustic flavour this year, with a strong emphasis on 'working' buildings, such as farms, milk factories, mills, breweries etc. Over 4,000 monuments across the country will be opening their doors on September 9 and 10. Website Accessorise in the museum of bags and purses The delicious Tassenmuseum Hendrikje in Amsterdam went digging in some musty old chests in the attic of the Rijksmuseum and emerged with armsfull of superior old tat in the way of parasols, umbrellas, hats, hair accessories, shawl, gloves, fans, stockings and shoes. Contributing some exquisite bags of its own the museum put together 'Accessories are a girl's best friend'. From September 16. Website Don't forget your glasses A great exhibition of tiny carved religious objects from the late Middle Ages is entering its final two weeks at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Marvel at the craftsmanship and steady hands of these Dutch artists. Small Wonders is on until September 17. Website Bag a borg Still plenty of time to visit the Groninger Museum and gawp at the riches of bygone ages. Paintings, silverware and all manner of expensive furniture filled the urban mansions and country villas, or borgen, of rich Groningers in the 17th and 18th century. The museum also organises a bus tour of various Groninger borgen. Until November 12. Website Eat appeltaart at the Hortus 2017 is the year of the botanical garden and 25 botanical gardens throughout the Netherlands have been showing off their 'Crown Jewels'. The Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam has one of the longest running exhibitions and has set out a route along its rarest and most interesting trees and plants. The café does an excellent appeltaart as well. Until November 1. Website Say cheerio to summer Why not say a final goodbye to summer, such as it was, and go for a walk on the beach at Scheveningen. If it pours down you can always pop into the Muzee Scheveningen which has a fine collection of beach and fishery related objects, among wich a bathing machine for discreet ablutions. Alternatively, you could risk life and limb and climb the lighthouse. Website  More >


Decoding the history and mysteries of the Dutch national anthem

Decoding the history and mysteries of the Dutch national anthem

Suggestions that the next government might make lessons about the Wilhelmus part of the Dutch school curriculum led to raised eyebrows and considerable criticism earlier this month. But then, as Ryan Walmsley reports, the world’s oldest national anthem is steeped in heritage, myths and misunderstandings. It’s the 1570s. Spain is in the midst of a golden age after conquering the mighty Incan and Aztec empires. Silver, gold and other treasures from the New World are flowing into the Spanish Hapsburg’s coffers through newly-opened oceanic trade routes. King Phillip II rules over a formidable and extensive global empire. But for Spanish interests in continental Europe, things are starting to unravel. Religious unrest, brewing in the Netherlands since 1566, led a famous nobleman named William of Orange to lead a revolt opposing the unbridled persecution of Calvinists and the inefficiencies of some Spanish governors. Against this background, and in ode to their leader, the world’s oldest national anthem Het Wilhelmus was penned. Although the genuine author is wrapped in mystery, Wilhelmus is written from the point of view of William. The structure is complex and symmetrical, with each stanza having a related partner on the other side: the first and last verses emphasise William’s loyalty, while the second and penultimate highlight religious devotion. The anthem is also an acrostic, meaning the beginning letter of each fifteen stanzas spell out the name William van Orange. First verse Since its official adoption in 1932, the length of the piece means that usually only the first verse is sung. A decade later, under Nazi occupation, the sixth verse was popularised by resisters, with the last two lines reading: 'And drive the plagues that try us, And tyranny away'. The anthem was adopted by all Dutch - even the anti-monarchist socialists - and helped to unify the nation. But Wilhelmus might hide a more chequered past. One legend asserts that during the gruesome torture of Balthasar Gérard, William’s assassin, guards sang the anthem to drown out his screams. Another rumour claims Dutch sailors, mocking the warning shots fired by their English counterparts, sang Wilhelmus during a tense encounter in the North Sea. Upon finishing, captain Maarten Tromp fired on the English flagship, beginning the first Anglo-Dutch War. Rumours aside, Wilhelmus has a long history of controversies and misunderstandings. The the first verse is often a cause for confusion, where William seemingly speaks of his German blood and professes his loyalty to the King of Spain. Why would the author, speaking as the father of the Dutch independence movement, want to highlight his loyalty to Phillip? The answer lies in the structure of society at the time and the ‘divine right of kings’ argues Jan Burgers, specialist in medieval history at the University of Amsterdam. Monarch's authority 'At that time, most people were convinced that society, as it is, was ordered by God’,  Burgers says. And so it was extremely uncommon to question a monarch's authority, as the King was 'set by God to reign the land, and to stand up against the King was felt by many as heretical’. Unlike today’s European monarchies, a ruler in those days held absolute, unquestionable authority. They were not accountable to any legal constitution, or anyone other than God. What’s more, a lot of the popular discontent centred on the incapable (and often oppressive) Spanish governors, rather than the King. By stressing William’s longstanding allegiance to Phillip, he effectively shifts the criticism onto the administrators, and does not question Philip’s ‘divine right’ - a highly unorthodox act. Another controversy concerns William’s origins. A direct translation of the original text refers to William as being ‘van Duitsen blood’. Today in the Netherlands, the word Duits is used to reference anything relating to Germany, and it can come as a shock to hear the narrator, the patriotic symbol of the Netherlands, speaking of his 'German blood'. However, this view rests on a historical misunderstanding of the word Duits, says Thijs Porck, lecturer in historical linguistics at the University of Leiden. German ‘Duits, as well as the English variant Dutch derive from a word that meant people or folk’, explains  Porck. Old English, along with Middle Dutch: 'are known as Germanic languages, and were spoken by the people who lived in North and Central Europe’. Anyone in this vast area not speaking Latin (which would have been almost everyone outside the Church), would be said to have used diu diutisca zunga, or ’the language of the Germanic people’. Porck says the confusion around William’s heritage is a recent development, as only in modern language has the meaning of Duits narrowed to refer exclusively to Germany. When the Wilhelmus was composed: 'the Dutch word Duits could have referred to Dutch, modern-day Germany, or simply of the people’. The historical context supports this argument. The nation we now know as ‘Germany’ would not exist for hundreds of years, and simply did not exist in the collective imagination of people at the time. During this period ‘Germany’ was a patchwork of loose, interconnected peoples and states. William would have been referring to a large stretch of territory including Central Europe, Denmark and the Netherlands. Amongst its most famous enigmas, the author of Wilhelmus is unknown and has always been fiercely debated. For years, many assumed it to be Philips of Marnix, the mayor of Antwerp and a close friend of the House of Orange-Nassau. The changing of certain vowels in order to pair them with others is, however, very different from the mayor's style of writing. Last year, the debate over the authorship of Wilhelmus was blown wide open by a team of Dutch researchers using advanced computer analysis techniques. ‘Our model is called the imposters method’ explains Mike Kestemont, a researcher on the project from the University of Antwerp. ‘This method for authorship verification will compare an anonymous document to a document written by a known author’, before comparing these findings with a large database of ‘imposter’ authors whose styles are similar to that of the Wilhelmus. From this, it is possible to build a statistical database of different writing styles used by each author, and check for similarities between these and the style of Wilhelmus. Things like word frequency, word patterns, and the frequency of conjunctions are all taken into account. After analysis, the findings presented a strong connection to a previously overlooked candidate - named Petrus Datheen. 'Petrus Datheen was a Calvinist theologian from the West of present-day Flanders’ says Kestemont. ‘He enjoyed good contacts with William of Orange’, and was present at the Siege of Chartres: ‘where he could have picked up the melody for the Wilhelmus’. Although it is unlikely we will ever know for sure, this new method has shown remarkable similarities between Datheen’s style and the anthem, far more than candidates posed by previous historians. Whoever the author, the text’s advocacy of religious liberty, and its symbolic meaning during Nazi occupation, stand as a testament to Dutch unity and multiculturalism. The recent discoveries show that the world’s oldest national anthem is an example of a core belief in Dutch culture: when an ancient society embraces new technologies, it can uncover important new ideas.  More >


Dutch food which has officially protected status within the EU

Dutch food which has officially protected status within the EU

You thought the Netherlands was all mashed potato dishes, cheese and herring when it comes to traditional food? But there are a fair few Dutch items on the EU's official lists - even if rather a lot are cheese. And just so you know what we are talking about,the EU logos PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) indicate region while TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed) means the production process is as old as the hills. Hanneke Sannou has the the Dutch score. 1 Boeren-Leidse met sleutels (PDO). The sleutels, in case you are wondering are imprinted on the reddish rind of the cheese and refer to the keys of Saint Peter who is the patron saint of Leiden. The cheese, from the Leiden region and from the Leiden region only, is made from skimmed cow’s milk and therefore only has a 30% fat content. Available with or without cumin and said to go down very well with stewed rhubarb. 2 The Westlandse druif (PGI). This Dutch grape actually has its own theme park in the Westland area in the province of Zuid Holland. Anyone who’s ever flown into Schiphol at night will have seen the light given off by the green houses there which may very well have housed, at that very moment, a bumper crop of Westlandse druiven which by all accounts are sweet and delicious. 3 Brabantse Wal asparagus (PDO). Dutch white asparagus, also called ‘the white gold’ is grown in the area of Bergen op Zoom in Brabant. Apparently its unique flavour is a result of the pure groundwater that runs underneath the Kalmhoutse heath and the salty sea wind blowing in from Zeeland. With a buttery sauce and sprinkling of boiled egg, yes please. 4 Kanterkaas (PDO). This cheese comes from Friesland and the Westerkwartier, which is part of Groningen province. Made from cow’s milk it comes with either cloves or cumin. Its deliciousness is a result of a clean environment, the EU says, which leads to a superior type of grass and, presumably, contented cows happy to produce good milk. 5 The Opperdoezer Ronde (PDO) is a potato which can only be grown around the town of Opperdoes in the province of Noord-Holland. In spite of its knobbly, pale appearance it is a delicate flower of a potato with a thin skin which has to be harvested and sorted by hand. It has a relatively short growing time although it is no longer the ‘nine weeker’ it used to be 145 years ago. The Meerlander (PDO) is another protected potato, developed and grown in the Haarlemmermeer in Noord Holland. The taste, according to potato connoisseurs is ‘mildly velvety, somewhat dry but with a lot of body’. 6 Gouda Holland and Edam Holland (both PDO). We are lumping these two together because there are an awful lot of cheeses on the list and because these two had a battle on their hands with Germany which produces cheeses labelled Gouda and Edam as well. It took seven years for a solution to be found and it simply consisted of adding ‘Holland’ to the original Dutch, now protected, version. The Brexit negotiations will be shorter. Confusingly, the protected cheese platter also comprises Noord-Hollandse Gouda and Noord-Hollandse Edam. Not that it matters; it will all be eaten: the Dutch munch their way through 16 kilos of cheese a year. There’s also a Dutch goat’s cheese (PDO), made from milk from Dutch goats. 7 Jenever (PGI), or Dutch gin, can only be produced in the Netherlands and Belgium. The most popular drink during the 1960s and 70s, its consumption has now plummeted to record lows. The drink does not appeal to the young: the image of an elderly man gingerly bringing a kelkje filled to the brim to puckered lips is not the coolest in the land and the competition from drinks like vodka and British gin have further done for jenever. Producers are, however, trying to boost its image by introducing different flavoured jenevers. 8 Suikerstroop (TSG), a thick sugary syrup, is a traditional Dutch product used to put on sandwiches and pancakes. It also goes by the name of pannenkoekenstroop or simply stroop. Little Dutch children (and many an adult) like to write their names in stroop on their pancakes. 9 Basterdsuiker (TSG), a type of caster sugar has also made it onto the list; its production process is apparently unique to the Netherlands. ‘Basterd’ comes from ‘bastard’ as the stuff is made with a waste product of sugar production mixed with suikerstroop, sugar, glucose, fructose and a little acid. It dissolves easily and gives your apple pie a nice colour. 10 Hollandse Nieuwe, Hollandse maatjesharing (TSG). The Hollandse Nieuwe pickled herring was accorded protected status as well, not for being Dutch, which it isn’t, but for the way it’s processed. The young herring is gutted and salted but with the pancreas left in place. This organ contains an enzyme which allows the fish to ripen. Nieuwe herring is caught and sold between June 15 and September 30, after which it goes by the name of Hollandse maatjesharing.  More >


Eleven things you need to know about Dutch women’s football

With the Dutch women's team having won the European title for the first time in their history, here's a few key facts about female football in the Netherlands. 1 The first female team The first female team, the Oostzaanse Vrouwenvoetbal Vereeniging, emerged in 1924 but was soon side-lined by the Nederlandse Voetbalbond, the precursor of the KNVB, which was of the opinion that the role of women should be restricted to  that of ‘wife, mother or fiancée of football players’. 2 The national association In 1955 football-crazy women started their own league of 14 clubs while the KNVB pretended nothing was happening. More clubs joined who happily played each other in regional competitions. The number of female players had reached 5,500 by this time. It was not until 1971 that the KNVB finally admitted women’s football to the fold and 1973 before they played their first official international, losing 1-0 to England. 3 Over 150,000 players Last season the KNVB had 153,001 women and girls on its books, a rise of 4% compared to 2014/15. More than 2,000 of the country's football clubs have one or more female teams and pundits predict the European win will boost numbers even higher. Only England and Germany have more female players. 4 Going professional The women's Eredivisie was launched in 2007 and the title has been won by FC Twente for the past four years. Attempts to form a joint league with Belgium lasted for just three seasons. Currently eight clubs take part in the competition: Achilles '29, ADO Den Haag, Ajax, Heerenveen, PEC Zwolle, PSV, FC Twente and Telstar VVNH. Many of the top Dutch women play abroad. European championships star Lieke Martens, for example, left Limburg to follow football at the age of 15 and now plays for Barcelona. Jackie Groenen plays for Frankfurt and Shanice van de Sande plays for Liverpool. 5 The pay According to research cited by Trouw, 35% of female football internationals are not paid at all. Those who do make a living wage derive most of their income from sponsorships and endorsements. 6 National investment The nation that actually invests the most money in women’s football is England with some €15.8 million last year. The Netherlands comes second with a paltry €4.46 million while long-time favourites Germany do not make an appearance in the top three at all. 7 The prize money The prize money is certainly not much to write home about: the Dutch women will take a share of €8m in prize money for the European title. In the men's competition in 2016 the total prize pot amounted to €301m. 8 The coach The Dutch team was the only one of the final four in the competition with a female coach - Sarina Wiegman, a former international with 104 caps. She became national coach in January 2017 and led her team to European victory only a few months later. Her contract runs to 2019. 9 The final The 2017 European final was watched by a record numbers of television viewers in the Netherlands - an average of four million people watched the game, with peak moments of 5.5 million people tuning in. 10 A football pundit changes his mind Last but not least, Dutch women’s footie now has an unlikely advocate in football pundit Johan Derksen who always dismissed female players but who changed his mind when he watched a match involving American female soccer players. ‘I have to eat humble pie. That is tough. I now look like a dick because I always regarded football as an exclusively male sport,' he said in the Volkskrant. 'And now I have to admit women can play just as well. The time for laughing at women’s football is long gone.’ 11 What's next? The campaign to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in France kicks in October when Oranje take on Norway.  Slovakia and Ireland are next on the list.  More >


From pride to paper miracles: 11 great things to do in August

From pride to paper miracles: 11 great things to do in August

Spending your summer at home and looking for some tips for great days out? Here's some suggestions. Be proud The main event in August is Gay Pride or Pride Amsterdam, as it now inclusively styles itself. There are activities galore, such as the Drag queen Olympics and Bear Necessity (for extremely hairy men) with the Canal Parade on August 5 as an exuberant highlight. Until August 6, Amsterdam. Website Find love in Sloterpark On August 12 Amsterdam's Sloterpark becomes Loveland. The line-up includes Tale of Us, Ferro, Sad Girl and many, many others. Website Party on the beach The Northsea Summer Festival in coastal resort Katwijk aan Zee is a great family day out which combines music, activities like golf and fitness clinics, a Lego building competition and much more. Free. From August 4 to 12, Katwijk. Website   Check out some paper miracles The CODA Paper Art 2017 exhibition demonstrates the wondrous things artists can do with paper. Take Kumi Yamashita from Japan, for example. By tweaking sheets of paper she creates different shadow profiles projected against the wall. Here they are. Until October 29 in Apeldoorn. Website Enjoy glorious food The NDSM werf in trendy Amsterdam Noord is hosting Amsterdam Kookt, a four day food fest where you will be able to sample numerous culinary treats but also enjoy live music. And there is Karaoke (with Joke) for the brave. August 4 to 7, Amsterdam. Website Get fired up in Scheveningen The annual Scheveningen firework festival takes place over two weekends - 11/12 and 17/18 August - and this year eight countries are taking part in the competition to create the most spectacular firework displays out at sea. You can get a good view from a wide stretch of beach but get there early as the shows attract tens of thousands of people. Website Take in some culture The Amsterdamse Bostheater presents a tale of political intrigue, plots hatched in back rooms and thwarted ideals. No it's not the Dutch cabinet formation but Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, with actors Matthijs van de Sande Bakhuyzen, Jip van den Dool, Erik van der Horst, Mattias Van De Vijver, Charlie-Chan Dagelet and Amarenske Haitsma. Until September 9. Website For the little ones, there's The Gruffalo by theatre company Meneer Monster. He has orange eyes, a tongue as black as liquorice and purple spines from top to tail. Spoiler: he's real. From August 15 Website Take a long walk August, when so many people are away, is a great time to get out an enjoy the Dutch countryside. We suggested these walks in the winter - but they are pretty good in the summer too. Marvel at Mongolia Some 145 precious objects from inner Mongolia, many of which were discovered in the last thirty years, made the journey to Assen to impress and awe once more. The nomadic Liao became a great power in Asia and the mostly funerary objects - ceramics, gold jewellery, gilded horse tack and silver plate- reflect their riches. The Great Liao - Nomadendynastie uit Binnen-Mongolië (907-1125) runs until October 29 at the Drents Museum in Assen Website Watch a film The World Cinema Festival has selected four films for its free open air programme this year. Esteban, Newton, Mawlana en Wallay (uit Cuba, India, Egypte en Burkina Faso/Frankrijk/Qatar) can be seen at the Vondelpark open air theatre in Amsterdam on August 12, 18 and  19 and at Marie Heinekenplein on August 23 and 26. On August 11 and 12, and this will be a rare treat, the films will be shown in the garden of the Royal Tropical Insitute (KIT). Website Watch another film For €5 a pop you can watch films in the open air at Rotterdam's Pleinbioscoop. The line up includes gems such as Manchester by the Sea (handkerchiefs at the ready), The Shining, Apocalypse Now, Buster Keaton Live and Get Out. From August 9 to 27 at Museumpark. You can bring your own chair or rent one for €1. Cats, dogs and parakeets are welcome too. Website  More >


Top blogs: From cartoon Englishmen to the best food in Amsterdam

Top blogs: From cartoon Englishmen to the best food in Amsterdam

When you move to a new country, there’s nothing like getting some good information from people who have done it before. In the past, you’d have to venture out of your house and actually meet people to get that sort of knowledge. But now, anyone can share their insider tips on the internet for all to read. Molly Quell compiled a list of her favourite Netherlands-based bloggers Invader Stu Invader Stu is one of the most famous of all of the Netherlands-based bloggers. Nearly every international here has seen his iconic red-headed cartoons. You might even own an ‘I survived a Dutch Circle Party' tee shirt. Intending to apply for a job within bus distance of London, Stuart Billinghurst accidently found himself in Amsterdam nearly twenty years ago. Now the Englishman has a Dutch wife, two children and has moved to Friesland. His most famous post might be the Dutch Circle Party Guide, but I rather like the Hair Dye Incident. Amsterdam Foodie Don’t venture out for food in Amsterdam without first consulting the Amsterdam Foodie, the moniker of food writer Vicky Hampton. The British-born blogger started her Amsterdam restaurant review site in 2007 and it's grown to a small, foodie empire. She’s got a cookbook and has now written food-related articles for The Guardian and Rough Guides. She’s even contributed a few pieces to DutchNews.nl, on Christmas restaurants and North African and Middle Eastern restaurants. My favourite post is only somewhat food-related: Toilet Humour: 10 of the Weirdest Bathroom Signs in Amsterdam Restaurants. Words For Press You might be more familiar with our very own Gordon Darroch from the Dutch News Podcast, but when he’s not making coalition-talk related puns, he’s got his own blog to attend to. The updates are infrequent but the writing is excellent. The Scottish journalist discusses topics in depth and has a focus on politics. His work on the coalition talks are a must-read for anyone who wants to understand what’s going on with Dutch government. 24 Oranges 24 Oranges is a group effort based in Amsterdam which wants you to know it is not an expat blog. Instead, it’s a website which covers funny, weird and quirky things about the Netherlands in English. Canadian DJ  Natasha Cloutier and Dutch web developer Branko Collin update regularly on topics ranging from local Dutch news (Cat stays stuck in tree over weekend) to the weird (Dutch man with fake Scottish accent). Amsterdive Amsterdive is what you get when someone with excellent aesthetic taste starts a blog. The blog is the brainchild of Ana V. Martins who describes herself as an actress who writes. The blog centres around her life in Amsterdam and focuses on arts and culture events and activities around the city. Her weekly events agendas are a great way to find something unique to do. But she also discusses her personals struggles with integration and being an international. We’ve recently featured her post The Good Old Language Struggle on the DutchNews.nl site. Turning Dutch British-born blogger Amanda van Mulligen has found herself turning Dutch and she’s writing about it all on her aptly named blogged Turning Dutch. The mum of three writes about her own experiences of living as an international in the Netherlands and she’s got a focus on parenting. She has a positive view on being a Dutch parent, as she outlines in this post from earlier this year called 10 Reasons To Love Being Knocked Up In The Netherlands. Stuff Dutch People Like And you can’t compile a list of your favourite Dutch bloggers without including Stuff Dutch People Like. The blog turned book turned turned spin off books is immensely popular. The content is written by Canadian Colleen Geske who has lived in Amsterdam since 2004. As the title indicates, the blog chronicles a humorous look at stuff that Dutch people like, from liquorice to home birth. Check out #51, which covers a topic that we can all agree on. You can check out more blogs in the Dutch News blog section. There’s a lot of really talented writers in the Netherlands, on everything from coffee to parents. And if you have a blog of your own, you can submit it to be included in our list.   More >


Eight Dutch scientists who changed the world

We'd suggest calling the following Dutch scientists 'clever clogs' if it wasn't so disrespectful. So we won't. But these eight theorists and inventors from the Netherlands made breakthroughs that shaped our modern world. Christiaan Huygens Christiaan Huygens (1629 -1695) was a mathematician, astronomer and physicist. Huygens formulated the wave theory of light, determined the shape of the rings of Saturn and contributed to the science of dynamics. Late in life he speculated about life on other planets, niftily sailing around the religious implications by saying that god, underestimating mankind’s scientific progress, had put the planets at such a distance from each other as to preclude any possibility of contact. Cornelis Drebbel Inventor Cornelis Drebbel (1572 – 1633) is credited with building the first working submarine. Drebbel was born in Alkmaar but moved to England in 1604. Some 20 years later he was asked by the English navy to design a boat which could move underwater without the loss of human life. Drebbel built a watertight vessel clad with leather, with holes for oars, also made watertight with leather. It could go down to five metres below and stay there for a couple of hours at a stretch. His final prototype could hold sixteen passengers, with oxygen supplied through a kind of snorkel device. Drebbel’s submarine was never used for military purposes, but he had taken the science of warfare to new depths. Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) did all sorts of things not remotely connected with science and it wasn’t until he was 40 that he embarked on the career that would make him famous. Self-taught microbiologist Van Leeuwenhoek mastered the art of lens making and in 1674 he was able to observe single-celled life forms, a discovery which was met with disbelief. He also discovered bacteria in water and spermatozoa, and was the first to correctly describe red blood cells. He guarded the science behind his lenses jealously and never told anyone how he made them. Rogier Verbeek The first person to discover infrasound was Dutch mining engineer Rogier Verbeek (1845-1926). Infrasound is inaudible to human ears and includes anything up to 20Hz. Verbeek was given the task of analysing all the phenomena that occurred in the wake of the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. When he looked at the barometric records he noticed a spike in pressure occurring at certain intervals. That spike was a sound wave that had travelled the circumference of the earth four times. Infrasound monitoring is used to detect nuclear testing but also has other scientific uses, such as detecting earthquakes or tracking the movement of icebergs. Willem Einthoven Dutch physician Willem Einthoven (1860 – 1927) developed the first instrument with which to register the electrical activity of the heart, the string galvanometer electrocardiograph. His apparatus was too bulky to take to the patient, so the patient had to go to it. That was deemed too great an effort and doctors feared patients might expire before the experiment could be conducted, but undaunted, Einthoven used a phone line to make the connection between the patient and his giant string galvanometer and got his readings that way. The invention earned him the Nobel prize for physiology and medicine in 1924. André Geim In 2010 André Geim (1958) (Russian by birth, Dutch by nationality) and his colleague Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of graphene, a material with lots of properties – among them super-efficient conductivity – that make it fantastically useful for application in innovative electronics. Plastics combined with graphene turn into a material that is lightweight, pliable and extremely strong. Soon cars, planes and spacecraft will all contain graphene in some shape or form. Geim discovered graphene during his so-called ‘Friday night experiments’, a sort of scientific fooling around that, he said, ‘should take up 10% of one’s time at least’. During one such experiment in 2004 he pulled a piece of Scotch tape off the point of a pencil. The result was an ultra-thin layer of carbon: graphene. Jan Haartsen It’s used in billions of devices the world over but it hasn’t made Jaap Haartsen (1963), the Dutch inventor of Bluetooth, a penny. Haartsen invented the wireless connection between devices while working for Swedish company Ericsson in 1994. The patent, however, is in his name and Haartsen has been inducted in the American Hall of Fame, an honour he shares with Edison, the Wright brothers and Henry Ford. Desperate for a name, a harassed marketing department finally unearthed medieval ruler Harald Gormsson, nicknamed Bluetooth, presumably because walked around with a dead tooth in his mouth. Bluetooth unified Denmark and Norway much like the device that bears his name connects phones and computers. Or maybe the marketing department just liked the name. Ben Feringa Ben Feringa jointly won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2016 for his work in creating minuscule motors. The 65-year-old professor from the University of Groningen and chairman of the scientific board at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences told NPO Radio 1 he was ebullient. ‘This is the dream of every scientist, and I can’t deny I also dreamed about it,’ he said. In 2011, Feringa created the first synthetic motor, a tiny device that keeps turning in response to light. ‘I often feel like the Wright brothers, who built the first primitive plane. Nobody knew exactly what to do with it,’ he said of his invention.  More >


Blogwatching: Amsterdive – The good old language struggle

Blogwatching: Amsterdive – The good old language struggle

Ana V. Martins is a Portuguese actress and a writer who lives in Amsterdam. Her blog, AmsterDive, is about her relationship with Amsterdam with a focus on arts and culture. In this post, she writes about a common problem among many internationals - losing her native language. Yesterday I was thinking of the downs of living 'abroad'. I must say I very rarely ask myself this question, but I know that this is a very relatable topic to most expats. If you are one, you might immediately have a whole spectrum of ideas on it. Things like the absence of friends and family might automatically pop into your mind, or the missing of certain foods, your hometown, the weather, or a type of human warmth very specific to where you come from. Personally, the following sentence immediately banged in my head: Will I ever get used to making mistakes in almost every single sentence, or group of sentences I articulate? The biggest challenge I face as an expat is the fact that I am not able to express myself the way I could back in Portugal. When confronted with limitations, one becomes especially aware of how it feels not to have them. And it seems like a miracle to me now how one’s native language flows within. How you effortlessly communicate what you want in your language, the way you want, without giving it much conscious thought. Don’t get me wrong, my level of English is advanced and I speak fluent Dutch, but somehow I'm never satisfied with my proficiency level in either of them. First of all, my skills in the Portuguese language set a very very high bar in any other language I attempt to learn or improve. Second, most of my creative work is in English. I write, and mostly perform in English, and having to confront myself with a certain degree of language restriction is probably my biggest of daily frustrations. The notion of 'being abroad' is for me – I came to realize -, directly related to language. A language is an undefinable place: it does give you some sense of direction, but it doesn’t necessarily correspond to a physical location. It does correspond to a sense of intimacy, instead. Precious Now, I don’t have a very strong bond with my country of birth when compared to other fellow expats, but my native lexicon, Portuguese, used to be my precious (Smaug style). My self-esteem used to depend on my communication skills. The way in which I could put myself and my inner world into words was the measure of my own worth. I guess I still work like that, and that’s why I made myself learn Dutch, as fast as I was able to. I just couldn’t stand the fact that I didn’t fully grasp the world around me, that I couldn’t navigate it. I refused to be 'imprisoned outside'. Living abroad, I had to get used to expressing myself differently from the way I would, back home. And at first, it didn’t really matter. I was busy meeting people, happily absorbing whole new cultures around me, reinventing myself, surviving. What’s more, I love languages. When I had my first Portuguese friend visiting me in Amsterdam, I remember asking him to just keep on speaking English to me (imagine that). This, of course, doesn’t happen anymore, but that’s how committed I was to my life abroad. Creativity The beginner’s adrenaline made me, for the longest time, divert from a deeper loss: language allowed me to live creatively on a verbal level. Not anymore, or at least not in the standards I was used to. Back in Portugal, I could say exactly what I felt – in a regular way, or with more refinement, or in poetic fashion, or intentionally in a rough way - depending on the situation. I could surprise others with certain words or expressions, I could, more often, make people laugh. It allowed me for a sort of playfulness which, in return, made me feel smart. In a way, words are the matter from which we are made: it is through them that we perceive, reflect, and interact with the world around us. Through them we create. Through them we are. My native language was more than a sense of identity. It meant freedom. Just now, after 5.5 years living in The Netherlands, I feel that I have a full understanding of this. So there’s this little part of me which is mourning. And that’s okay. I feel happier living abroad than I did when living in Portugal, so this is a consequence of a very conscious decision of mine. But there’s one thing I have to tell you: now when I go on my once-a-year holiday to Portugal, my favorite activity isn’t lying on the beach anymore, nor swimming in the ocean, nor eating pastéis de nata. My absolute favourite thing is speaking with people. Chatting, making small talk: in the lift, in a shop, on the streets, basically everywhere. This verbal connection which fills me with joy, right from the gut, is incomparable to anything else. And you know what’s beautiful in all this? The Portuguese language will always remain this happy cherished zone deep within me, a solace which I can always resort to. You can read the original post on AmsterDive. Every month we feature a blog post from one of our bloggers. Interested? See if your blog meets the criteria to be included on the site.  More >


The art of thriving: how an Amsterdam chiropractor kept a dancer on his toes

The art of thriving: how an Amsterdam chiropractor kept a dancer on his toes

Early this spring, a Belgian dancer walked into an American chiropractor’s new office in Amsterdam—no, this isn’t the set-up to a joke. It’s the set-up to the dancer’s journey towards improved mind-body wellness, with the help of Kate Cox at Thrive Chiropractic on the Prinsengracht. ‘Dancing has always made sense’, says Birger van Severen, 41, of Amsterdam. ‘My earliest memories are of dancing to The Village People and Michael Jackson.’ These days, he dances and performs in Tineke Schouten’s touring show, performing for Dutch audiences in the tens-of-thousands each year. To still be dancing professionally at his age is extremely rare Van Severen started late as a dancer. At 18, he had his first ballet class—there, he says, he was surrounded by people who’d been at it for close to ten years already. They possessed a natural flexibility which he could not match. Instead, it was his passion and work ethic which propelled him, bringing him to Amsterdam to study at the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten, and eventually kick-starting his career in commercial musicals in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. Yoga He always had to take especial care of his body before, during, and after 6-8 weekly performances, though. Warming up and down was crucial. He became a yoga practitioner, leading his peers through exercises and meditations while on location for jobs. But a serious knee injury brought his work in musicals to an end. Then, after a brief ‘retirement’, Van Severen met the well-known comedic writer and performer Tineke Schouten. She was impressed by his spirit, humour, and tenacity. She took him on as a company manager, and with each new show she produced, she incorporated more of him, as a dancer and partner onstage, into her work. ‘Tineke provided the opportunity for me to dance and perform, while adapting the physical content of the show to suit my limitations and abilities’, he says. This kind of adaptation—unity of the body and the mind to produce remarkable long-lasting results—is also Cox’s primary interest at Thrive, where Van Severen has lately received chiropractic treatments to address back pain and muscular tightness. Long-lasting ‘At Thrive, we’re not interested in the ‘crack-and-go’ Band-Aid style of chiropractic care,’ she says. ‘That’s certainly a legitimate treatment option for some folks, but at my practise, I’m interested in equipping people to adapt the use of their bodies in order to effect long-lasting results.’ Cox, like Van Severen, was also an active and athletic kid; this led to an international rugby career. But after a serious injury of her own, for which she received extensive therapy, she realized that a love for the game was secondary to a passion for her own wellness, as well as that of others. ‘I’ve always liked the dirty work,’ she says. ‘The difficult tasks worth overcoming—because it’s those which teach us to thrive.’ Van Severen agrees with her philosophy. ‘Kate’s therapies have helped me to find a new physical balance,’ he says. He was impressed when, within minutes of their first meeting, Cox quickly diagnosed much of his medical history. And more impressively, over time her specialised treatments have gradually loosened and begun to erase his recurrent muscular tightness and back pain. Affordable option Chiropractic is a process of muscular and spinal correction—Cox is focused on its potential to produce long-lasting effects. And Van Severen’s experience at Thrive is shared by her many patients, who hail from a diversity of backgrounds and professions. The new practice, on the Prinsengracht, is steadily making a name for itself in Amsterdam as a viable and affordable option for life-changing therapy which addresses back and spinal issues and pain. ‘I have seen many physios, and many chiropractors, too,’ assures Van Severen. ‘Kate is the best in her field. Her work at Thrive can help a lot of people, dancers and non-dancers alike.’ The motto of the practice—a Maya Angelou quotation which greets visitors at the door—is fitting: ‘my mission in life is not merely to survive, but to Thrive.’ Schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with Kate on Thrive’s website here. You can also read posts on her blog for chiropractic-related information and advice here.  More >


Spreek Nederlands met mij: A week of eschewing English

Spreek Nederlands met mij: A week of eschewing English

The Netherlands’ enthusiasm for speaking English leaves many newcomers struggling to learn the language. Could wearing a badge insisting on Dutch shake things up? Deborah Nicholls-Lee tries it out. 'Ah, it's you, David!' I sigh with relief as one of the two British hairdressers in the team of four picks up the phone at my local salon. No need to speak Dutch then. I have been in the Netherlands eight years and this wimpy attitude to speaking Dutch is hard to defend. My Dutch isn't too bad and it's time I got the bitterbal rolling. When I heard about the Spreek Nederlands initiative, I ordered the Spreek Nederlands met Mij! (Speak Dutch with me!) badge and committed myself to a week-long challenge. Founded in 2013, and billed as a chance to ‘fight for our right to speak Dutch’, the initiative is a response to the frustration felt by newcomers whose attempts to speak Dutch are thwarted by locals who insist on replying in English. Phone conversations aside - where the absence of visual cues and sympathetic smiles make the job ten times harder - I generally make a lot of effort to stick to Dutch, even if I feel a bit uncomfortable. But I’ve noticed that the Dutch proclivity to answer in English has left my listening comprehension lagging way behind. Could a cheeky little badge change that? I put it to the test. An enthusiastic response First up on my week of badge-wearing is the hair appointment that I booked in cowardly English a couple of weeks back. It is a three-hour stint with my Dutch hairdresser to highlight, wash, cut and blow-dry my tired-looking hair. I had better brace myself. Richa is enthusiastic when she sees my badge. She claps her hands together: ‘De enige manier om het te leren!’ (The only way to learn) she exclaims; and rather than dipping in and out as we normally do, we stick to Dutch for the duration. As well as discussing our various holidays – a favourite topic across salons worldwide – we cover parenting, immigration and health; and it’s all rather lovely. Afterwards, I feel all sort of glowing from the achievement – and my hair looks better too. 'Heel goed, dit!’ (This is great!), says one parent at school drop-off the following morning, grinning at me and tapping my badge appreciatively. 'Anders leer je het nooit!' (Otherwise, you’ll never learn). It seems like the Dutch are really on board with this challenge. But would those parents who seem hard-wired to answer me in English also play along? At pick-up, a bland comment of mine about the weather is batted straight back in English, but the parent is brought in line when I do a brisk tap, tap, tap on my badge, and we proceed in Dutch. What is cheating? The badge makes me question some of my own practices too. I catch myself clicking on the NL/EN button for English when doing some online banking and click back guiltily. And what about other non-native speakers of Dutch, do they have to muddle through too? On Thursday, a Spanish neighbour turns up to collect a parcel. He answers my Dutch with English and I don't have the heart to force him to switch. Is that cheating? After a while, I stop noticing the badge and insisting on Dutch becomes more automatic. People are happy to play along and my Dutch is improving too. On the Friday, I have a birthday party to attend. Rather than slowing the conversation, the badge - and its requirement for Dutch - makes a nice talking point. I learn a great new verb: bagatelliseren (to play down, trivialise) - a hefty six syllables that is sure to impress my hairdresser at our next appointment. No more badge The following week I leave the badge at home. No more pin pricks in my clothing; no more pointing and grabbing at its shiny little shell. It sits in my key tray in the kitchen, gazing up at me dejectedly. On the way to school, I strike up a conversation with a parent from the birthday party. He says hello in English and I reply in Dutch. He then apologises good-naturedly, says he remembers my badge from last week, and continues in Dutch. I feel really encouraged by this. The parent from the previous week, who had me tapping on my badge, now speaks to me in Dutch on the phone and in person. ‘I’m really trying to talk in Dutch to you, after I saw your button the other week,’ she says, lapsing momentarily into English. It’s working. Sort of. Do as the Dutch do Though the badge has now been put away, the effect has endured. Its cheerful little message has signalled to my neighbours that I am serious about learning their language, and it’s got newcomers and locals rethinking the way that they speak together too. I have learnt that if you want Dutch people to speak Dutch to you, you must do as they do, and state what you want clearly and directly. Even if it means wearing a badge. Spreek Nederlands Dag  is on Saturday July 1. Events will be taking place in the Central Library in The Hague. Free badges can be ordered here. info@directdutch.com  More >


Offering Brexit-affected citizens peace of mind is a priority, says UK minister

Offering Brexit-affected citizens peace of mind is a priority, says UK minister

The rights of British people in the Netherlands and Dutch nationals in Britain are central to the Brexit negotiations, says David Davis, Britain's secretary of state for exiting the European Union. Last week Michel Barnier and I sat down for the first time last week, to begin negotiating the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. The UK has been clear that our first priority is to provide certainty to EU citizens living in Britain – indeed, we had hoped to be able to do so last autumn – and to UK citizens living in the EU. I'm pleased that the EU has agreed this is one of the first issues we will address — and yesterday, the UK published a detailed policy document explaining our offer - Roughly 80,000 of our citizens live in each other’s country, highly integrated into their local community, reflecting the long-standing and close bonds between the UK and the Netherlands. Three million EU citizens have made the UK their home. They have contributed to the very fabric of this country. And they deserve to look at their futures with as much certainty as possible. Negotiations With Brexit negotiations just starting I will outline the UK’s offer to secure the rights of these people we value so much. And it is only fair we secure an agreement with the EU that protects over a million UK nationals in the EU in a similar, reciprocal way. We want to guarantee the status of EU citizens already living in the UK and enable them to continue to live their lives broadly as now.  We will treat EU citizens equally and will not discriminate between nationals of different member states. Our intention is to enable law-abiding EU citizens who have settled in the UK before an agreed date to apply for settled status under British law, along with their families. The UK believes this date should be no earlier than March 29 2017 and no later than when Britain officially leaves the EU. As long as they want to stay living here, they will see no immigration conditions placed on their residency. Work and study That means people will be able to work and study in the UK freely. They’ll be able to access UK healthcare. And they’ll be able to claim benefits, pensions and apply for social housing on the same basis as British citizens Why are we doing this? Because it is the right thing to do. We’ll continue to welcome people, whether in the EU or outside the EU, who want to come to Britain, work hard and contribute. There will also be a ‘grace’ period between the moment the UK leaves the EU and the time people obtain their residence document, to avoid a legal gap between the end of free movement rights and people from the EU getting settled status in Britain It means EU citizens will be able to remain lawfully in the UK during this interim period and bridge any gap for people waiting for their residency documentation to come through. Voluntary scheme And we intend to introduce a voluntary scheme to enable eligible EU citizens to apply for their residence document before the UK leaves the European Union — reducing uncertainty and making Brexit as smooth and efficient as possible for EU residents here. It is a fair and serious offer that rightly recognises the invaluable contribution EU citizens have made to the UK. Because our children go to school together. Our family and friends travel to each others’ shores to holiday, and work together in our hospitals and public services. And when faced with adversity, we stand together shoulder to shoulder. We hope that this deal will be reciprocated for the 80,000 Britons living in the Netherlands, including 3,000 students at Dutch universities. Because they too have made important contributions here too. Reciprocal deal That is why we are seeking a reciprocal deal, truly putting people first. Over the past year as I’ve spoken to leaders across Europe it has become clear that securing citizens rights and offering them peace of mind is a priority for both sides. Indeed, when I visited The Hague and met foreign minister Bert Koenders, it was one of the first things we discussed. I recognise that there has been considerable uncertainty for some of you and your family and friends in the UK. This is something I want to correct now. The UK is a tolerant, open, and diverse country. We will continue to be just that. We will make it simple for those Dutch people who have made their lives here to stay. We welcome the contribution you have made to our country. Welcome So I’ve no doubt this is achievable. We will continue to welcome your citizens to our shores after Brexit. We’ll continue to buy your goods, sell you ours, and holiday in your beautiful cities and countryside. Brexit is far from the end of our relationship — it is simply a new chapter in it. The histories of the UK and Europe are intrinsically linked, and our futures will be the same. I hope this offer demonstrates the fair way we intend to conduct these negotiations, and the deep and special partnership we now want with the EU.  More >


Deep-lying, even violent, divisions are a recurring theme in Dutch history

Deep-lying, even violent, divisions are a recurring theme in Dutch history

Historian James Kennedy's new history of the Netherlands shows that the Dutch tradition of tolerance was not driven by idealism, but a hard-headed need to hold together the patchwork of minority groups that made up the nation. By Gordon Darroch To many outside observers the recent Dutch election campaign, and particularly the dominance of Geert Wilders and the issues of migration and identity, came as a violent shock. A country that had long been viewed – and sometimes derided – around the world as a bastion of tolerance, progressivism and unencumbered dope-smoking seemed to have succumbed to the populist bug. On the BBC's Newsnight programme, John Sweeney confronted a voter in The Hague with the question: 'When I was young Holland was the most tolerant and open society. What's changed?' The sense of aggrieved innocence was palpable, as if a much-loved celebrity from the 1960s had been exposed as an alcoholic wife-beating racist. James Kennedy's new history of the Netherlands should be required reading for anyone trying to understand this trend. Kennedy, an American historian of Dutch heritage, was appointed dean of University College Utrecht in 2015, having moved to the Netherlands in 2003. 'Since at least the seventeenth century there has been a sense, at least among some Dutch, that they were superior to others because of their tolerance,' he says. 'It's something that also characterised the predominantly Protestant nature of this country over its Catholic minority. Hierarchical 'That has a double legacy, because on the one hand it was a Protestant culture that did truly commit itself to a kind of freedom of conscience, but at the same time it was a hierarchical relationship. As I say in the book, there were people who tolerated and people who were tolerated. Tolerance was never intended to create equality of opportunity, and for a long time it certainly did not mean equal access before the law or equal social or intellectual status.' The limits of Dutch tolerance were reflected during the election campaign when Mark Rutte published an open letter 'to all Dutch people', but whose harshest criticism was reserved for a minority who refused to 'act normal'. 'We feel increasingly restless when people abuse our freedoms to stir things up, when that very freedom was the reason they came to our country', wrote Rutte. The prime minister later denied that his words were directed at migrant groups, but Kennedy says the message was clear. 'It's the idea that this is a normal country full of normal people, and those people are like you and me, or like the prime minister, and if you're not normal then you don't belong in this country. But it's is a particularly rude and confrontational choice of words; even by historic standards, it's a very direct way of saying who belongs and who doesn't belong.' Golden Age In his history Kennedy shows how the current polarisation and hardening of the political debate reflects the deep-lying, even violent divisions that are a recurring theme in Dutch history. He describes the popular uprisings of the Golden Age, when magistrates would come home to find their homes had been plundered and their worldly goods chucked in the canal by an angry mob. A more recent parallel is with the 1970s, when the political landscape was fragmented and divided, the rigid divisions between Protestants, Catholics and social democrats were breaking down, and there was widespread social anxiety driven by terrorism and fears about migrants – in that time the Surinamese – failing to fit in and radicalising. Kennedy cautions against drawing too many parallels between the past and the present, but he notes: 'There were 600 people wounded in the altercations between the police and the rioters in Amsterdam during the installation of Queen Beatrix in 1980. That's a level of violence that we couldn't countenance in this society any more. We'd all be astonished by it. So I think 37 years ago there was a greater acceptance that violence and terror went with the territory. But it does show that polarisation and ugly confrontations in the public sphere are not something unique to our own time.' One of the core lessons of Kennedy's book is that tolerance is not something that comes naturally to the Dutch or an accident of history, but the outcome of a rigorous, sometimes gruelling process of confrontation and compromise. 'Although I think I'm very clear about my appreciation of Dutch achievement, I also show that that achievement was often a perilous exercise, and that attempts to idealise the past are not the best way to consider the present. Social harmony and peace involve reconciling tough and sometimes intractable differences.' He cites as an example the way the Dutch presented their euthanasia policy to the world in the 1990s. 'They never said, “we're more humane than you are” or “we're better than helping people out of their misery”. What they said was: “We talk about it. We try to sort things out.” That's something I've always found interesting about the Dutch: they have this commitment to keeping the lines of communication open for some greater good before things lapse into violence or miscommunication.' The rising sea As a country the Netherlands is shaped to an unusual degree by its inhabitants rather than its landscape. Kennedy notes that even the fact that much of the country lies below sea level is the legacy of centuries of extracting clay to make bricks, in the absence of natural building materials. Measuring and mapping the world – another Golden Age speciality – is the first step towards controlling it. Kennedy explains: 'If you want to understand Dutch progressivism, it's built on two things. One is that there is this willingness to let groups or individuals give free form to their own lives. Up until the 1960s that meant letting people be themselves in a collective way, but more recently it's changed to letting individuals be themselves. But the other thing is that there is this very, very strong regulatory tendency. Part of Dutch progressivism is seeing social trends and coming up with working arrangements so that nothing gets out of hand. In that sense there's a control-freak side to Dutch society.' Between the 1970s and the start of the 21st century the Dutch strategy of settling difficulties by consensus produced a string of pioneering policies in areas such as soft drugs, prostitution, psychological treatment for prisoners, euthanasia and gay rights. Though all these innovations, with the possible exception of equal marriage rights, had negative as well as positive consequences, they contributed to the Dutch self-image of being a beacon of progressivism – a gidsland – that had the confidence and expertise to help build a better, more progressive world. Many foreign observers looked on in admiration, unaware of the conditions that had produced this pragmatic attitude, and concluded that the Netherlands was simply a more advanced society – in John Sweeney's words, the 'most liberal country in Europe'. Changes? So what, to pose Sweeney's question again, has changed? Fifteen years have gone by since the last groundbreaking social reform, Els Borst's law permitting euthanasia, and Kennedy believes the pioneering era has passed. 'I think two things have changed,' he says. 'The first is that what made the Dutch distinctive 15 years ago is no longer distinctively Dutch. There are other countries where euthanasia is allowed, there are other countries where gay marriage is settled law. The other thing is that the Dutch have come to talk about these things as past achievements to be cherished and defended. In that sense they've become more socially conservative. There's a stronger focus on preserving what's valuable about Dutch society. That's a very different mentality from the 1990s.' It was also around the same time that Pim Fortuyn arrived on the scene and articulated the grievances of those who did not celebrate the postwar consensus, particularly when it came to multiculturalism. 'What Fortuyn did was he catalysed doubt: silent doubt about the pieties of the last century and of the latter part of the century,' says Kennedy. 'When I came here in 2003 I remember thinking that multiculturalism as an ideal in the Netherlands was dead. It was the year after Fortuyn had been murdered and they were still letting the dust settle. But I think these more conservative tendencies and trends have become much more marked now than I anticipated even at that time.' Shifting debate The public debate has shifted, says Kennedy, from the ideological differences of the 1970s to divisions based on personal and cultural identity. 'It's really about what kind of country and what kind of society the Netherlands should be, and how we understand the dangers. I don't think that was true in the 1970s. You could still talk about the ideological triangle between Christian democracy, social democracy and liberalism, and that's largely fallen away now. 'Globalisation has destroyed the traditional left-right distinctions. You get people on the right and on the left who feel left behind, and you get people on the right and the left who feel globalisation and open borders is a great thing. 'But globalisation has also created the need for different kinds of identification. One of the things that strikes me is that 2017 is the breakthrough year of a party like Denk, which had been predicted for years. It shows in a way how slow migrant communities were to pick up on alternate forms of politics. For a long time Dutch parties were surprisingly successful in integrating them, particularly the PvdA (Labour party), but this is no longer the case.' The Dutch instinct for consensus is two-edged: Kennedy declares at the outset of his book his admiration for their ability to shape 'order out of chaos', both in the landscape and the political arena. But in our interview he admits that he predicted as far back as 2000, before the rise and murder of Fortuyn, that the Dutch were 'likely to become undone by their own progressivism'. The doubt that Fortuyn, and Geert Wilders after him, galvanised has forced the Netherlands to confront its progressive reputation and test the limits of its own tolerance like never before. Challenges Looking ahead, Kennedy says he expects the challenges of the next few years, such as the retreat of the US from the global stage under Donald Trump's 'America First' banner and the effect of Brexit in Europe, as well as the prevailing anxieties about terrorism and migration, to amplify the sense that the Dutch way of life needs to be protected from existential threats. 'You'll have parties on all sides that continue to emphasise national identity. I don't think it's going to be quite in a Donald Trump style, but I do think that there will be a strong tendency to do that.' Kennedy contends that the feeling of lost innocence that the likes of John Sweeney experienced during the election is a force in Dutch society too. 'I think for a long time the Dutch felt they were at the end of history, that they had escaped every human peril and become a completely free people in a completely free society. Since the turn of the century there have been profound doubts about that vision. So now the question is what is that history, and to what extent does that history matter? That's one reason for writing this book now.' A Concise History of the Netherlands by James Kennedy is published by Cambridge University Press on June 30.   More >


The best of the Netherlands in the summer: our list of lists

The best of the Netherlands in the summer: our list of lists

Amusement parks, beaches, islands, pretty villages... Here's a list of our lists of the best things to do in the Netherlands in the summer. One of the great thing about the Dutch coast is the sunsets, with the sun sinking into the sea. And they are not bad for swimming or sunbathing either. Here's a list of the best Dutch beaches, from Lloret de Holland to Timboektoe. Fancy some sightseeing but want to avoid the massed hoards of tourists? The Netherlands has some charming places which are off the beaten track. Here's some of our favourite villages. Want to go island hoping but no money for Greece? We've got it covered. Here's a list of some of the best Dutch islands where you can get away from it all. From pony rides to a roller coaster, the Netherlands is packed with amusement parks to keep the kids busy. Here's our selection of 10 of the best theme parks. If something more off the wall is your style, why not visit some of the Netherlands' weirdest places?  Mummies, witches, caves and pickled animals - there is a lot of strangeness in the Netherlands. If you are feeling active, why not take a cycle tour. Mike Cooper went on a bike-packing trip early this spring, but it will be much more pleasant in the summer. And if it is history you are after, we've got a list of some of the best Dutch castles to visit too. And if you feel that you have to give your relatives or other visitors to some truly Dutch experiences, here's a selection of tourist tours with a difference.  More >