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


How the Mauritshuis row put the spotlight on the Dutch colonial past

How the Mauritshuis row put the spotlight on the Dutch colonial past

Prime minister Mark Rutte this week had to backtrack on his criticism of the Mauritshuis museum for removing a bust of its founder, Johan Maurits, from its foyer. But as Gordon Darroch explains, the ensuing debate has exposed deep divisions about how the Netherlands should view its colonial past. The Mauritshuis museum in The Hague stirred up a hornet's nest this week with its decision to remove a plaster bust of its founder, Johan Maurits, from its foyer. Prime minister Mark Rutte called the move 'crazy' and warned against 'imposing the preconceptions of today's society on events in the distant past'. Rutte had to temper his criticism at the weekend when the museum's director, Emilie Gordenker, explained that the bust had been removed because it was no longer needed. Instead the museum has set up a gallery to explain Maurits's personal history, including an original statue and several portraits. 'Once we'd done that there was really no need to have a plaster replica in between the toilets and the cash desk,' Gordenker said. 'This is about improving the way we tell the story so that we can share all the aspects, positive and negative, in a balanced and nuanced way with our visitors.' Mijn argument was en is de verder weg liggende geschiedenis niet te beoordelen met de bril van nu, maar begrijp in Buitenhof van mijn buurvrouw dat mijn voorbeeld van het Mauritshuis niet goed gekozen was. Ik kom graag snel weer langs. — Mark Rutte (@MinPres) January 21, 2018 Rutte, a qualified historian, had argued that the museum should change its name if it wanted to disassociate itself from the man who built the Mauritshuis in the 1630s. Maurits paid for the lavish residence behind the parliament complex out of the fortune he made as governor-general in Brazil from the Dutch colony's sugar cane plantations. Gordenker retorted that the prime minister should have checked the facts first and there was 'no question' of changing the name. 'Territorial behaviour' Imara Limon and Tom van der Molen, curators of the Amsterdam Museum, said Rutte's intervention was part of a 'necessary and useful' debate, but warned against interpreting the past too narrowly. 'As museum staff we are very aware that history is only relevant to people if you relate it to the experiences of people and society today,' they said in an emailed response to DutchNews.nl. 'This debate is being reduced to the question of whether somebody is a hero or a villain. The somewhat territorial behaviour of claiming public space for your own hero and ignoring what that person might symbolise for others detracts from the debate and gathering of knowledge about how we want to engage with our history, which in the end has shaped the society we live in now.' The bust of Maurits is not the only artefact to stir up controversy recently about the Netherlands' relationship with its colonial past. The Golden Age brought wealth and social advancement – as well as independence from Spain – to the young Dutch Republic, but much of it was underwritten by colonial regimes in which hundreds of thousands were enslaved and uprisings were brutally punished. Last week the JP Coen Elementary School in Amsterdam's Indische Buurt announced it was changing its name because it no longer wanted to be associated with Jan Pieterszoon Coen. The former governor-general of the Dutch East Indies was known as the 'butcher of Banda' for his violent conquest of the Banda Islands. Only 1,000 of the islands' 15,000-strong population survived the massacre. Coen's bloodthirstiness earned him a rebuke from the Heeren Zeventien, the committee that ran the Dutch East India Company (VOC). Head teacher Sylvie van den Akker said Coen's name was incompatible with the school's values: 'We are the only multicultural school in a special neighbourhood. Coen's name doesn't fit with our vision and the image of tolerance and diversity that we want this school to express.' Coentunnel The move was criticised by Christian Democrat (CDA) party leader Sybrand Buma: 'As if you can just wipe away history, forgetting that our identity is grounded in our history.' Buma also attacked a campaign to rename the Coentunnel, which takes the A10 motorway under the North Sea Canal. 'The debate about the Coentunnel has started. But JP Coen is part of our history. If you relativise everything, you're left with nothing.' Coen has also been the focus of debate in his home town of Hoorn, where the local council set a new plaque beneath his statue five years ago explaining his misdeeds as well as his achievements. The demand to rename the tunnel came from new political party Denk, which draws much of its support from the Netherlands' Muslim youth. Denk says bridges, tunnels and streets should be renamed where necessary to end the glorification of 'cruel colonisers' and promote awareness of 'our inhumane history of slavery'. Witte de With In Rotterdam, the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art sparked a similar row last year when it said it no longer wanted to bear the name of De With, a vice-admiral in the Dutch navy who played a pivotal role in several major sea battles, but also laid waste to the city of Jakarta in 1618 and destroyed clove tree plantations in the East Indies in order to drive up commodity prices. The plan prompted a backlash from the populist party Leefbaar Rotterdam, which threatened to stop its funding of €400,000 a year if the name change went ahead. 'It's unacceptable that tons of taxpayers' money from Rotterdam's citizens is ending up in the pockets of cultural mavens who are bent on wiping away our national history,' said Leefbaar Rotterdam councillor Tanya Hoogwerf. The question of which voices should be heard is crucial to the current debate, say Limon and Van der Molen. 'When talking about history and iconic figures that are seen as part of a national history there is a tendency for newcomers and people from minority groups to be excluded from the debate. That carries the danger of social division and hyper-polarisation of the debate.' General Lee Unlike in the United States, where a campaign against monuments to Confederate-era figures such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson has led to statues being taken down several states, few Dutch historians argue that figures from the Golden Age should be removed from public view. 'Statues don't need to be taken away,' Dienke Hondius, historian at the VU university in Amsterdam, told RTL Nieuws. 'It's better to leave them standing and put them in context.' However, often that context is difficult to compress into a plaque. As Emilie Gordenker pointed out, Johan Maurits enriched the former Portuguese colony in Brazil through education, art and literature. 'He did fantastic things, which is why he's regarded as a hero over there.' But Maurits also acquired labour for the sugar cane plantations by invading a Portuguese slave colony on the west African coast and shipping thousands of slaves across the Atlantic in inhuman conditions, to work (if they survived the journey) in bonded servitude. Eighty Years' War Rotterdam's city council agreed last October to revise the plaque on the statue of Piet Hein, a naval officer who led the plunder of the Spanish silver fleet in 1628. The proceeds from that raid boosted the Dutch economy to the tune of €500 million in today's money and underwrote the last phase of the Eighty Years' War with Spain. The council still has to decide how to portray Hein, who also played a key role in establishing the Brazilian colonies. Leefbaar Rotterdam alderman Joost Eerdmans has insisted it would be wrong to make Hein shoulder the blame for the slave trade. 'The point is absolutely not to refer to the dark side of our colonial past,' he said. 'Of course we have different values nowadays, but we're not going to judge the maritime heroes of that time by today's standards.' Yet as Limon and Van der Lolen point out, all eras interpret history in the light of their own values. 'A lot of the statues were erected out of of a 19th-century need for national heroes. So that generation judged history on the basis of its own needs just the same.' The debate about how to place historical figures in context shows no sign of abating. 'It would be good if people don't try to draw immediate conclusions,' say the curators. 'It's not about whether we preserve these statues or not, it's about having a discussion about who should be involved in the decision making, why we really need these heroes and what history we want to share in public spaces such as town squares and museums.' Further reading: Rutte softens Mauritshuis criticism as 'statues to slavery' row rumbles on Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum to hold an exhibition on slavery in 2020 Orange and black: the forgotten history of black servants at the court of Willem V  More >


Be a good sport at the 2018 Feel at Home in The Hague fair

Be a good sport at the 2018 Feel at Home in The Hague fair

If you've always fancied finding out more about the traditional Dutch sport of korfball, had a secret wish to take up belly dancing or sail across the seas in the Volvo Ocean Race, this year's Feel at Home in The Hague fair is the place to be. This year, the central theme of the annual Feel at Home in The Hague fair is sport, leisure and wellness, and some 70 sports and cultural organisations and community groups will be on hand to help you find out more. The Feel at Home Fair will bring The Hague’s city hall to life with an exciting programme of activities, demonstrations, try-outs and challenges. 'Sport is a great way of getting people together because language and cultural barriers are more easily overcome by a shared interest,' says fair organiser Billy Allwood. 'Being active also contributes to our sense of health and well-being, while belonging to a club or participating in events gives us an important sense of belonging somewhere.' Family focus Unlike fairs where the focus is purely on expat services, the Feel at Home in The Hague fair is a fun day out for the whole family. A complete range of sports clubs are taking part, from hockey, tennis, cricket and cycling to more unusual team games like lacrosse, floorball and korfball - the traditional Dutch game played in mixed teams. The Hague has recently been named 2022 European Capital of Sport and the city will be showcasing the wide range of sports and leisure facilities available in the region - to watch as well as play. You'll be able to take part in hockey, tennis and fitness challenges to test your skills or raise funds for local charities such as The Krajicek Foundation, the fair’s sponsored charity, which develops playgrounds to less privileged parts of Dutch cities. You could even win tickets to the ABN Amro tennis tournament in Rotterdam this February while practising your serving technique. Advice and information Among the diverse list of around 150 exhibitors, visitors looking for advice and information will find experts on financial and tax matters, careers and health, childcare and education options. 'These are the essential services which help you make the most of life in The Hague,' says Billy. You'll also be able to attend free interactive workshops on subjects ranging from mindfulness to career transitions; learn how to write or speak effectively; how to cope with stress, headaches and back pain, or to face the challenges of learning a new language and culture. And not to mention, enjoy the comedy, theatre, music and international cuisine which make the Feel at Home Fair such a special meeting place for the entire international community. More than this, the entire day is free to visitors who sign up in advance for tickets on the website. So be a good sport and join in!  More >


A memorial in Friesland tells the human story of a WWII bomber crew

A memorial in Friesland tells the human story of a WWII bomber crew

Two graves in Bergen op Zoom, a memorial at Soarremoarre and a handful of photographs are among the reminders of the pilots who risked their lives and dropped food parcels over the Netherlands during the Second World War. By Gordon Darroch As a boy Vic Jay wanted to know all about the Lancaster bombers his father flew during the Second World War, but like many veterans, Bob Jay was reluctant to talk about it. 'He was a quite scientific sort of person, and he would tell me about what flak was and how an aeroplane could fly, how something as big as that could actually get off the ground and what he had to do during the flight,' Vic recalls. 'But he didn't talk a lot about the actual bombing. He had very mixed feelings about bombing after the war.' Vic's curiosity waned as he got older, and when Bob Jay died of stomach cancer in 1974, at the age of 55, he left behind a slate of unanswered questions. Vic knew his father had been a flight engineer in a New Zealand squadron and flew bombing missions over the Netherlands during the last two months of the war. Bob Jay was more forthcoming about one of his last sorties, one of the so-called 'manna drops' when the planes dropped food parcels onto the starving Dutch population. 'They flew so low they could see people on the ground and I can remember he told us, “We thought it was amazing because people were waving flags and sheets”.' Birthday present It took almost another 40 years for Vic to turn his interest in his father's service into something more substantial. It began when he stepped into the cockpit of a Lancaster bomber on an airfield near his home in Lincolnshire. 'My daughter's husband's step-dad had been given a taxi run in a bomber as a birthday present. My wife said, “Why don't you go with him? You've always wanted to be in a Lancaster.” 'When the time came I wasn't really prepared for how emotional it would be. There were maybe a dozen people on the aircraft, and they started up the engines and it started to roll across the tarmac onto the runway. I was standing next to a chap whose dad had just died six weeks earlier and he was crying. And as I was talking to him it struck me that I really hadn't found out very much about my dad, other than what I had asked him when I was five years old.' That taxi run in April 2012 was the start of a five-year quest by the retired schoolteacher to unearth as much information as he could about his father's former colleagues. Log book Armed with little more than his father's log book and the name of his squadron, Vic started a blog, Bob Jay's War, to try to trace them or their surviving relatives. 'My dad was only operational for two months of the war, so I thought any research would be over fairly quickly, but I was amazed by the stories that came out of it,' says Vic. 'It took over my life.' As Vic's research took him deeper into his father's story he collected poems, drawings, letters and photographs. One particularly poignant artefact was a photo of the bomber on its final mission, with Bob's head just visible in the cockpit. He found the transcript of an interview the pilot, Bill Mallon, had given in 2004. Mallon and three of the other crew members were New Zealanders who had travelled halfway round the world to fight in Europe, but Vic managed to track their families down and obtain vital pieces of what was becoming a large and intricate jigsaw puzzle. He visited and interviewed the last surviving member of the team, Charles Green. 'He was pretty much the same age as my dad would have been been if he had survived,' says Vic. 'Although he was 95, his memory was brilliant. He remembered in great detail kneeling down for eight hours in the aircraft, holding a machine-gun and looking out of a turret at the bottom of the Lancaster. It was a very emotional experience.' The Mallon Crew What had begun as a blog had become a major historical project that was eventually condensed into a book, The Mallon Crew, published in 2016. Unlike many war histories, it focuses less on heroism, strategy and the mechanics of flying and more on the stories of the crew members, both during the war and afterwards. 'It's about the impact of the war on families,' says Vic. 'I don't dwell on the technicalities and the armaments, although there is enough in there to make it interesting for enthusiasts. But it's the human stories that really grab me.' One of the New Zealanders Vic's project brought him into contact with is Lorraine Gray, whose father, Trevor, is commemorated in a war memorial at Soarremoarre, near Akkrum in Friesland. Lorraine never knew her father, who set sail for Canada then Europe two days before she was born in May 1941 – she believes the distress of separating brought on her mother's contractions – and was shot down less than six months later on his way back from a bombing raid over Berlin. Photograph As the Wellington bomber fell to earth, Sergeant Trevor Gray and the rest of the crew are believed to have steered it away from the village and into a peat bog, sparing hundreds of lives. It was so firmly embedded in the ground that the bodies of the airmen were not dug out for another six years. When they were, Sgt Gray was found to have gone down carrying a photograph of his infant daughter. Like Vic, Lorraine only discovered the full story of her father's wartime service decades later, when the Dutch Missing Airmen Memorial Foundation, based in Leeuwarden, invited her to unveil the memorial in 2010. When she was growing up in the coastal town of New Plymouth, Taranaki, the war was a constant presence but rarely mentioned directly. 'My father was missing, later identified as killed, on a bombing raid but that was all I knew. The fact was simply absorbed into the general sense of the war which pervaded our home,' she wrote in an email to DutchNews. She has a clear memory of her grandmother running out of the house waving a tea towel and shouting 'it's over, it's over' when news of the ceasefire came through. 'My father's trunk came home and they unpacked it in the front bedroom,' she says. 'I remember seeing his alarm clock and a big tartan tea cosy. I could not make out why he was not here with his trunk. I remember going into the sitting room and just sitting and looking at his photo on the mantelpiece for a long time.' Years of silence Lorraine was sent away to a Quaker boarding school, where the Quaker code of pacifism precluded any discussion of the war. 'Nobody ever spoke of my father to me,' she said. 'All I knew was that he had been killed in the war, by flying a bomber plane.' Years of silence followed. A veterans' business association called Heritage sent her a book for her birthday each year and a gold watch for her 21st, but she was only vaguely aware why. Her mother remarried, coincidentally to a Dutch migrant. Years later, her half-brother, Pieter, discovered a box in the attic containing her father's papers: his log book, a photo album and a diary he had kept in his last two months. 'I did not see these papers until I was 69 years old,'she says. 'It was an epiphany for me. By then my stepfather had passed away and my mother’s memory had gone because she had Alzheimer's.' The letters Trevor wrote to his family were preserved and collected by her uncle Max, who left them to Lorraine when he died at the age of 93, but these, too, only reached her when she was in her sixties. Memorial The memorial in Akkrum was unveiled in 2010, shortly after Pieter discovered the box of papers in the attic and two months after Lorraine's mother died. For her the unveiling was another step in the process of putting the pieces of the past back together. On her way to Friesland she stopped to visit her father's grave at the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Bergen op Zoom, where the airmen's bodies were laid to rest after being recovered from the plane. 'I took his very own bible so I could read the 21st psalm, and a bag of sand from Moturoa Beach in New Plymouth, his boyhood beach where he used to swim, and scattered it on his grave. We planted a pink chrysanthemum. I absolutely sobbed. I'd never expected to. I was 69 years old and standing beside the earthly remains of my father for the first time.' She was struck by the number of people that turned out for the ceremony, including RAF and Dutch air force personnel, airmen's families and the New Zealand ambassador, as well as dozens of primary schoolchildren. The idea of a permanent memorial had first been proposed four years earlier by children at two local schools in Akkrum and Aldeboarn. 'The thing that moved me most is over the week I was in the Netherlands, culminating with the unveiling ceremony, is that the war is still so very, very real to these people,' says Lorraine. 'Many came up to me and said “Thank you for your father.”No one in my life before had ever said that to me.' Bergen op Zoom is also the last resting place of Tom Mallon, one of two brothers of Bill Mallon who died during the war. Vic Jay visited both graves in 2016, on a trip that also took in the First World War battlefield at Ypres. 'I sat in front of a computer for five years looking at the statistics and the number of people who were killed, and the tragedy touches you, but not to the extent that it does when you see the lines of gravestones,' says Vic. 'Bill Mallon's niece sent me an email six months ago which really brought tears to my eyes, because for the first time I felt what the families must feel. 'She described how she'd attended a dawn service in New Zealand on Anzac Day when she was a girl, and she said she couldn't understand why her mum and her nanna cried so hard. Those little touches bring it home and make you feel how devastating it must have been for the families. We remember the dead, but we tend to forget about the bereaved.' Traumatic It was only in researching his father's story that Vic realised why his parents' generation were so reticent about their wartime experiences: the horror of what they lived through was so traumatising that they were unable to articulate it. It was left to the postwar generation to give a voice to their parents' experiences. The two graves in Bergen op Zoom are among millions around Europe that testify to the bravery of those who gave their lives in military service, but the suffering of those who survived has been largely overlooked. In researching their fathers' stories, both Vic and Lorraine discovered how deep the scars ran. 'War is a generational thing,' says Lorraine. 'It does not stop with the immediate damage done or the death of a parent. It is destructive.' After publishing The Mallon Crew Vic was put in touch with the one member of the crew whom he had been unable to trace during his research, mid-upper gunner Don Cook. 'I spoke to his widow and she didn't even know he'd dropped bombs,' says Vic. 'All he'd told her was that he dropped food supplies over Europe. So some airmen didn't want to talk about that side of the operations.' Vic says his book has struck a chord with many people whose families were affected by what nowadays is recognised as post-traumatic stress. 'A number of people have said to me that we should remember those that came back as well as the ones that didn't come back,' he says. 'I know that, just from a crew like my dad's who only flew eight operations, at least one of them suffered mental problems later in life. So it's important that we do remember.' You can buy The Mallon Crew directly from Vic Jay by emailing TheMallonCrew@gmail.com or via the American Book Centre  More >


Death in the Netherlands – how to deal with inheritance issues

The death of a relative is never an easy thing to deal with, but can be even more complicated and distressing when you live in a foreign country. What does Dutch law say about succession and inheritance? Say you are French, have an American partner and have lived in the Netherlands for the past three years. If one of you dies, what does that mean for the other’s inheritance? A relatively new European regulation has clarified the issue of succession when it comes to internationals. The EU regulation states that the law on inheritance in the country where the deceased had his or her last ‘habitual residence’ should govern that person’s estate, regardless of where the estate is located. This means that if the deceased person usually live in the Netherlands, their estate will be subject to Dutch law, even if they are, for example, American or French. However, the EU regulation also allows people to decide that the law of their own country should apply – a decision which needs to be included in their will. You will need to think carefully about which option to go for – and a lot will depend on the laws in your country of origin. Whichever option you choose, the law will apply to your entire estate in the EU, with the exception of  Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom, as they have separate rules.  A foreign inheritance If you are living in the Netherlands and are receiving an inheritance from abroad, you will often have to deal with foreign legal systems. If the person you are inheriting from had another EU country as their habitual residence, it is relatively simple to determine the which laws apply to the estate. If they live outside Europe the situation will largely depend on other factors, such as the location of the assets and the location where the deceased lived. For example, if you are living in the Netherlands and inherit a house in the Netherlands from a relative outside Europe, you may still have to deal with Dutch law. Be aware that determining which national law applies to the estate you are receiving should always be one of the important first things to find out.  Accepting or rejecting an inheritance has to be done in accordance with the appropriate law and if you make mistakes, the impact could be far-reaching. No will If someone dies in the Netherlands without leaving a will – and the Netherlands is their habitual place of residence – Dutch law will apply. The Dutch law on succession states that the children and spouse (or registered partner) are first in line to inherit (equal shares of) the estate. Brothers, sisters and parents are next, grandparents follow and great-grandparents are last. This means that if the person who dies has no children or partner, their brothers, sisters and parents will inherit the estate. If there are none of them, the estate will go to the grandparents and so on. It is worth noting that a partner who is not married to the deceased or has not undergone a registered partnership is not an heir and is barely protected by law. Children Dutch law also dictates that if the spouse or registered partner is the lawful heir, they are entitled to all the property (assets and debts) of the deceased. Children, however, only have a financial claim on the partner of the deceased, presumably their parent, though not always. This claim can be collected only if the partner dies or goes bankrupt. If the partner remarries, the children would be able to request material parts of the estate, but the partner will still retain the rights to use those items. Making a will If you have a will drafted in the Netherlands, it has to comply with Dutch law, so a notary will have to make up a deed in order for the document to be valid. Making a will allows you to make ‘bespoke’ arrangements regarding succession and the division of your estate. For example, you can name an executor to represent the heirs and lead the process of dividing up and settling your estate. You can also leave items or sums of money to charities or friends and include almost anyone you like as an heir. Disinheritance Sometimes, people want to disinherit relatives who are their legal heirs. While you can stop your mother or your brother inheriting from you, children and legal partners will always have certain rights and in these cases the law overrules the will. For example, children are always entitled to their statutory share in the estate. This amount is half of the value of what they would have been entitled to if they were not disinherited. A disinherited spouse will also have the right to the continued use of the marital home. As you can see, wills and inheritances can bring about many legal and financial difficulties. At the Legal Expat Desk, our experts can help you prepare yourself and your loved ones and save everyone more difficulty during a trying time. If you have questions about iinheritance law or any other legal issues, please don’t hesitate to contact us.  More >


English is no longer a foreign language in NL, but it has a unique character here

English is no longer a foreign language in NL, but it has a unique character here

Are the Dutch now native speakers of English, and is Dutch-English a distinctive thing? Deborah Nicholls-Lee meets linguistics expert Alison Edwards to find some answers. English is no longer a foreign language in the Netherlands, asserts Leiden University’s Alison Edwards, who has published widely on the subject. ‘If you can assume that you can walk down the street and that the hairdresser will be able to speak to you in English, and the bus driver, and the taxi driver, then functionally it’s a second language not a foreign language.’ This view is perhaps unsurprising. The Dutch speak, it is claimed, the best English in the world. They often prefer speaking English when foreigners try to practise their Dutch, and the higher education sector here is rapidly being anglicised, with more than half of all university courses now taught in English. Distinctive Despite all the accolades, Dutch-English is distinct - in grammar, idiom, and accent - from the language used by native speakers, and this has divided opinion. On one side, liberal academics have spent a long time validating new forms of English and rejecting an imperialistic view of linguistics. After all, there are now more non-native speakers of English than native, and even mother tongue speakers use a huge variety of forms. But even the Dutch themselves aren’t persuaded. ‘It’s a well-meaning idea, this idea of democratising English in different places,’ says Edwards, ‘but people don’t seem to want it. If you ask Dutch people, do you prefer to aim for British English or Dutch English? They will always say British English and they are really critical of anything that sounds Dutch-English or has a strong Dutch accent.’ Popular culture has made a folk devil of football manager Louis van Gaal and his bewildering Dutch-English, and even Mark Rutte has come under fire. ‘This is a guy who runs a country and speaks with other world leaders in English every day and gets stuff done,’ says Edwards, in his defence. ‘His English is perfectly functional, perfectly communicative.’ For the Dutch, though, it’s all about trying to speak English like Frans Timmermans (deputy president of the European commission), explains Edwards, who polled hundreds of native Dutch speakers as part of her 2014 thesis English in the Netherlands. Functions, forms and attitudes. Over 60% of her respondents agreed with the statement ‘When I speak English to outsiders, they should not be able to recognise where I’m from’ . Does Dunglish exist? Yet, in most cases, Dutch-English has a perceptible quality that identifies the speaker as non-native. Does this make it a language though? Edwards spent some time compiling a corpus of Dutch English to gauge how much English in the Netherlands deviates from standardised forms. Idiosyncrasies included front-loaded sentences: Especially for our external clients, this could be an interesting offer; redundant prepositions: to discuss about; and the use of an adjective instead of an adverb: The aim is to organise the services as efficient as possible. False friends also play an important part, such as public for audience and eventual for possible.  However, Edwards became disillusioned with such approaches. ‘It was a very liberal project, but it became really conservative because you were trying to put people into this box. So, it kind of backfired.’ She also found that Dutch people don’t think they speak Dutch-English. ‘For them, it’s not a variety, so it doesn’t really make sense in persisting to call it a variety.’ It’s social, not linguistic In fact, focusing on Dutch-English as a set of grammatical rules, says Edwards, misses the point. ‘What counts as a language or a dialect is a political and social question. It’s not a linguistic question.’ The Scandinavian languages, for example, are mutually intelligible but they have different names, due to what Edwards describes as ‘nation state building and a national mythology’. Conversely, languages that come under the umbrella of ‘Chinese’ are as diverse as German and French but, she says, it’s in the government’s interest to promote uniformity. The same can be said of Dutch-English. ‘When a Dutch person uses English with another Dutch person, it’s got nothing to do with communication,’ she argues. ‘That’s a part of the purpose of the language, but the other purpose is social: in order to share a culture, share your values, position yourself socially.’ Non-native English is not necessarily worse Far from being inferior, Dutch-English is becoming the English of choice in some spheres. Research has shown, says Edwards, that incoming international students choose the Netherlands, not just because it is cheaper, but because they deem the English to be ‘easier’. ‘The Netherlands has become an English-speaking education destination,’ she says, much like Singapore in Asia. There has been talk recently of native speakers actually causing confusion in international, English-speaking environments. In the European parliament, for example, where simple, imperfect language is the default, the complex, idiomatic English of the native speaker can, some claim, lead to a breakdown in communication. Apparently, once the native speaker has left the room, business often runs more smoothly. With a nation of enthusiastic speakers and an expanding global market, Dutch- English could one day be our second language too. Could we soon be front loading our sentences and shunting the verb to the end? It’s eventual. And, if so, scholars like Edwards will have plenty to discuss about. You can comment on this story in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.  More >


Blog Watching: The word ‘expat’ has become muddled in its meaning

Blog Watching: The word ‘expat’ has become muddled in its meaning

Molly Quell is an American journalist living in the Netherlands. She blogs at Neamhspleachas about anything that strikes her fancy and you can also follow her on Twitter at @mollyquell. Note: Molly is DutchNews.nl's social media editor. 'How do you describe yourself – an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc ?' It’s one of the questions on the Dutch News’ 10 Questions interview. It’s also a question I occasionally get asked. Expat, short for expatriate, has a long and sometimes problematic history. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (out of) and patria (native country) according to Wikipedia. So literally someone out of their native country. But English has a lot of other words that cover that concept as well. Immigrant. Migrant. Exile. Resident. Emigrant. People have been moving abroad since before national borders were a thing. In more recent history, people have been forced to leave their homeland due to war, famine, persecution or natural disaster. Or they have chosen to go, as missionaries, diplomats and merchants. In recent parlance, expat is commonly used to refer to people who are sent abroad on short-term work assignments. It connotes rich white people. Poor people are immigrants while rich people are expats. But that’s not universal. I was listening to a podcast about Manischewitzof all things and the podcast host referred to her Haitian mother as an expat. She’s described as working in domestic service, so likely not a rich person sent abroad by their employer. As the world has gotten smaller, as the internet has created more global work opportunities, as international air travel has made it possible to jet set, as the economy has become more interconnected, there’s been a muddling of the traditional definition of expat. If you study abroad and then land a job in that country, does that make you an expat? What if you’re a global nomad? Or if you retire in another country to enjoy a lower cost of living and sunnier weather? Both immigrant and emigrant imply a permanency that doesn’t cover my situation. I live in the Netherlands and probably will for the foreseeable future, but I’m not sure I’ll stay here forever. And I didn’t move here deliberately to stay. I’m not an exile (no matter how badly Trump’s Twitter feed gets.) I’m not an expat because I’m not here for work and it’s no longer temporary. I am a resident of the Netherlands, but that seems to only cover half the problem for me. There are many plays on the word expat, love-pat or a person who moves abroad for love. I am staying abroad for love and I did move here originally for love (or with my love) but I stayed on in between. I’m certainly not a re-pat (someone who returns to their home country after living abroad) or a flex-pat (someone who works short-term assignments abroad.) The English language has not caught up with what I am exactly, it seems. This blog was first published on Neamhspleachas. Every month we feature a blog post from one of our favourite bloggers. Interested? See if your blog meets the criteria to be included on the site.  More >


Forget big art – here are some of the Netherlands’ stranger museums

Forget big art – here are some of the Netherlands’ stranger museums

Have you already checked out the latest exhibit at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam and explored every corner of the Rijksmuseum? If so, then you might want to visit one of the Netherlands’ smaller and much more unusual museums. Here’s Brandon Hartley’s look at some of the oddest ones scattered across the country. Pianola Museum - Amsterdam Over a century ago when phonographs were still in their infancy, pianolas were all the rage...among those that could afford them. These player pianos were quite the status symbol and some of them cost as much as the average school teacher’s annual salary. Nowadays, it’s hard to even give them away and many have wound up in dumping grounds. Fortunately, the proprietors of this museum, which can be found in a house along the Westerstraat, have spent the past several decades trying to rescue and restore as many of them as possible. Visitors can watch several pianolas pound out the greatest hits of the early 20th century and view thousands of preserved rolls that can play everything from classic symphonies to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. Glasses museum - Burgh-Haamstede The Netherlands is home to many offbeat museums and this one is devoted entirely to eyeglasses. Curator Henk Bergmans began collecting them as a hobby over 40 years ago. When his stockpile of spectacles outgrew both a bedroom and the garage at his house, his friends convinced him to open a museum. It recently relocated to the small town of Burgh-Haamstede from Amsterdam and contains tons of interesting and unique eyewear in addition to paintings and unusual clothing. Chess museum - Amsterdam You may be familiar with the large chessboard that is often used by players on the Max Euweplein but you might not know that the square also has a museum dedicated to the Dutch chess grandmaster. Euwe worked as a mathematician, educator and author during his lifetime but his real passion was chess. In the eponymous museum, you can view exhibits about his life and career along with others devoted to the culture surrounding the timeless board game. Museum de Heksenwaag - Oudewater Many Dutch communities are still home to historic weigh houses where goods were once placed on scales before being transported to nearby markets. This one in Oudewater is home to a strange set that dates back to 1482. They were used to test whether or not someone was a witch and still are to this day. The scales were authorized by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, which supposedly ensured that those on trial would be evaluated fairly, so they attracted alleged sorceresses from all over Europe who were determined to prove their innocence. Over five hundred years later, they have yet to yield a guilty verdict (former Dutch queen Juliana herself was declared ‘not a witch’ during a visit in 1952). If you’ve been thinking about sending an application to Hogwarts, you might want to hold off until you visit the museum and step on the scales yourself. But if you’re already skilled in the dark arts and would rather keep it a secret, you can instead enjoy the displays about the history of witch hunting in Europe. The Cube Houses - Rotterdam They’re among the most iconic and unusual architectural wonders that you’ll find in a city that’s full of them. Rotterdam’s Cube Houses were designed and built by Dutch architect Piet Blom in the 1970s. They still serve as homes but this one has been set aside as a museum so the residents can avoid being constantly pestered by curious visitors. You can explore nearly every corner of this ‘show cube’ and get a look at what it’s like to live in one of the planet’s strangest households. The Dutch Pinball Museum - Rotterdam Most museums won’t let you touch the exhibits but you can at Rotterdam’s Dutch Pinball Museum (provided you don’t tilt them). Located in a former warehouse across the Rijnhaven from the Hotel New York, it’s home to 70 different machines that span several decades. While some of the older ones are for display purposes only, visitors can play well-known classics like The Addams Family as well as more obscure titles inspired by everyone from the Harlem Globetrotters to Dolly Parton. Museum Bommelzolder - Zoeterwoude Zoeterwoude resident Pim Oosterheert is such a fan of cartoonist Marten Toonder that he turned his attic and eventually the ground floor of his own home into a museum dedicated to the late cartoonist. Best known for Tom Poes, a daily comic strip about the titular cat and Oliver B. Bumble, a wealthy bear, Toonder was once one of the most successful cartoonists in the country. Diehard fans of the strip typically refer to it as Bommelsaga (thus the museum’s name, which translates into English as ‘Bommel Attic’). Visitors to the museum can view over four decades of Toonder’s strips along with toys, puzzles, stamps, and other products that his work inspired. Entry to the museum is free but an appointment must be arranged in advance. Escher Museum - The Hague Its inclusion on this list may be a little too on the nose, but the Escher Museum and its namesake are undeniably weird. Housed within the gorgeous Lange Voorhout Palace since 2002, it’s home to many of the famous Dutch artist’s woodcuts, lithographs, and prints that still adorn countless dormitory walls all around the world. The third floor has several interactive exhibits that include the ‘Escher Room’, which makes tall visitors appear shorter than their more pint-sized cohorts. Also keep an eye out for the strange chandeliers designed by Rotterdam artist Hans van Bentem that feature everything from glass spiders to stars endlessly reflected in a series of adjacent mirrors. Atlantic wall museum - Scheveningen Museums are typically focused on what hangs on their walls rather than the walls themselves but this one is an exception. It’s devoted to the Atlantic Wall, a colossal project orchestrated by the Nazis to construct a 5,000 kilometre series of fortifications to prevent the Allies from invading the European continent during World War 2. Located in a former German bunker, the museum offers exhibits about the bizarre undertaking and the poor souls forced to help build it in addition to former living quarters furnished with historical furniture and other objects. Rietveld Schröder House - Utrecht Truus Schröder-Schräder, a widowed Dutch socialite and trained pharmacist who participated in the De Stijl art movement, came up with an odd idea while commissioning a new house for her and her three children: she wanted one without interior walls. It was a tall order, especially in the early 1920s, but architect Gerrit Rietveld was game. What the two created wasn’t quite what she originally envisioned but it was considered revolutionary upon its completion in 1924. The house is now one of the best known examples of De Stijl architecture and a World Heritage site. Oh, and a museum too where visitors can view unusual features like its ‘invisible corner’. The Waterlinie Museum - Bunnik Water has served as both a friend and a foe to the Netherlands for centuries. This museum located outside of Utrecht covers some of the times when it helped defend the country’s borders, instead of merely causing major headaches for its engineers. Housed in Fort bij Vechten, which is part of the historic New Dutch Waterline, the museum contains large models and exhibits that offer a glimpse at infamous moments when the Netherlands was able to use h2o as a weapon.  More >


DutchNews podcast – The Arkmageddon Alpacalypse Edition – Week 1

DutchNews podcast – The Arkmageddon Alpacalypse Edition – Week 1

The DutchNews podcast returns after an extended Christmas break with a feast of news from the old year and the new. We catch up on the Dutch winter storm that was too fierce for Noah’s Ark, the former minister who crashed his bus while texting behind the wheel and the whirlwind of fake news that engulfed the new US ambassador. Plus what happened when Rotterdam police unveiled plans to undress suspects in the street and an alpaca went walkabout in Haarlem. Top story First storm of the year causes €10 million of damage Noah's Ark breaks free and goes on rampage in Bible Belt fishing village News Regional bus and train drivers go on strike in dispute over pay and toilet breaks Rotterdam police under fire for plan to confiscate designer clothes on the spot National archive releases wartime documents on 'enemy' German nationals Mystery alpaca found wandering streets of Haarlem Sport Netherlands to send 'compact team' of mainly speed skaters to Winter Olympics Discussion: best of the news from the end of 2017 King calls for 'greater we' instead of 'big I' in Christmas TV address New Year celebrations caused €12 million of damage D66 leader Pechtold insists gift of Scheveningen apartment is 'private matter' Henk Krol angers Iran by throwing Christmas nuts in the bin (Telegraaf, Dutch) Wilders sacks local election candidate in Rotterdam for being too racist Thierry Baudet voted politician of the year Rutte taken for a ride for former minister turned bus driver Teeven (RTL, Dutch) Where your extra pennies will go: a round-up of new laws and price rises for 2018 US ambassador embroiled in multiple fake news row  More >


Key changes to Dutch taxes you need to know about in 2018

Key changes to Dutch taxes you need to know about in 2018

The new Dutch government is planning to make quite a few changes to the current tax system. While most of them won’t come into effect until 2019, it is time to start planning for their impact now. The centre-right Dutch coalition government sees giving people more cash to spend as key to ensuring future economic growth. Part of the strategy involves simplifying the income tax system and raising taxes from other sources. 1. Income tax The biggest shake-up in the tax proposals is cutting the number of tax bands to two in 2019 but there will be a slight change in the tax rates in 2018. At the moment, there are officially four income tax bands but the second and third band are the same. Currently taxpayers are charged 36.55% on earnings up to €20,000, 40.8% on earnings up to €67,000 and 52% above that. This year the mid tax band will go up marginally to 40.85% while the top band, for income over €68,500 will be 51.95%. The new system in 2019 will involve an income tax rate of 36% on earnings up to €68,000 and 49.5% for all income above that. What will this mean to you? In 2018 the tax cuts will have a minimal effect. In 2019, however, people on middle or high incomes will pay less income tax. People with a low income will pay slightly more. What can you do to prepare for the change? There is not much you can do. Your employer will withhold the payroll tax from your salary. Your net income will probably be a little higher. If you are self employed, consult a tax advisor. 2. Mortgage tax relief (hypotheekrenteaftrek) The interest you pay on your mortgage is deductible from your taxable income. This mortgage tax relief will be a little lower in 2018. The maximum percentage of interest that can be deducted will be 49.5% in 2018 (in 2017 it is 50%). The government is planning on reducing mortgage tax relief more rapidly from 2020. What will this mean to you? You will be able to deduct less of the interest you pay on your mortgage from tax so the cost of owning a house will be a little higher. 3. Home owners tax (eigenwoningforfait) Home owners pay an extra tax based on the fact that they own a property - which is considered an asset that financially benefits them. This tax is based on the official property valuation (WOZ) which local authorities use to calculate local taxes. Average WOZ values will be up 5% to 7% next year, which means the amount you pay in home owners' tax will rise too. At the moment people who have paid off their mortgages don't have to pay the home owners tax but the government is to start phasing this in from 2019. What will this mean to you? The value of your house will probably increase. As a result, you will have to pay more home owners tax. 4. Asset tax You have to pay tax on the income you are assumed to get from your savings and investments (the box 3 income). There is a tax-free capital threshold. This amount is increasing from € 25,000 in 2017 to € 30,000 in 2018. What does this mean to you? If you have savings and other box 3 assets valued at less than €30,000, you won't have to pay any asset tax. If you have more, the rates of tax are changing: € 30,000 – € 70,800 = 0.6% asset tax € 70,800 – € 978,000 = 1.3% asset tax Above € 978,000 = 1.61% asset tax 5. 30% ruling The 30% ruling applies to you if you were recruited outside of the Netherlands or seconded from a country other than the Netherlands to work here. The following conditions apply as of 1 January 2012: You are recruited outside a 150-km zone of the Dutch border. You have a taxable income of minimal € 37,296 before applying the 30% benefit. The maximum validity of the 30% ruling is currently eight years. There will be no changes in regards to the 30% ruling in 2018 but the new cabinet is planning to reduce it to five years in the future. 6. Other changes Other changes are on the way which may well eat up many of the benefits the income tax cut will bring. The lower rate of value-added tax (btw) is going up from 6% to 9% and this will impact on grocery bills and tickets for the theatre or cinema. In addition, energy bill taxes are also going up. According to calculations by home owners lobby group Vereniging Eigen Huis, the increase could be as much as €200 per household from 2019, when most of the changes come into effect. In 2018, the government says, the average rise will be €45. All the more reason, then, to make sure that you make the most of all the tax breaks open to you. If you’d like to speak to an expert, contact a tax advisor at Blue Umbrella, who will be more than happy to help you with all your Dutch tax matters.  More >


Five techie tools for getting to grips with Dutch

Five techie tools for getting to grips with Dutch

If learning Dutch was one of your New Year resolutions but you don't fancy going back to the classroom, help is at hand. Deborah Nicholls-Lee reports on the latest technological tools designed to help you get to grips with a new language. The language exchange app Due for release in early 2018, the Ananas app (pictured above) lets users find affordable help with Dutch while earning some extra cash themselves. Founder Gezi Fu, a perennial expat who has lived in five different continents and a former student of the University of Amsterdam, saw the need for a tool to help foreign students improve their Dutch and make new friends at the same time. Social isolation is a serious problem on campus, Fu told DutchNews.nl. ‘I am trying to create more diversity.’ The app, its founder claims, is more efficient than a real-life language exchange as you can pre-select who you talk to by screening profiles according to the languages they speak, their hobbies, age and sex. The GPS function also identifies language partners who are closest to you and most likely to be up for quickly proofreading your essay during a lunch break, for example, or doing some friendly conversation practice over coffee. ‘We want them to learn languages in the most organic way,’ explains Fu. With the app, learning Dutch fits in with what you already like doing and have time for, and vocabulary is built in meaningful contexts. If you sign up as a PRO user, you also have the option of charging for your time and offering lessons. Learners can search for teachers according to what they can afford. A professional teacher might cost €40 an hour, while a fellow student on campus might charge just €10 for some informal speaking practice. ‘It’s the cheapest private lesson you can look for,’ says Fu. Ananas will be available on android and iOS. Users offering lessons pay a monthly subscription of €3.99. Learners join for free. The handheld device 'No person should be misunderstood’ is the mantra of Travis the Translator, the portable interpreter who fits in the palm of your hand. This brand new product, founded in 2016 in Rotterdam, has crowdfunded over $1.4m via Indiegogo, and has just begun the shipping phase. Ideal for face-to-face conversations - and functioning online and offline – Travis’s Quad Core processor means that there’s just a two-second delay before it translates each utterance it hears. The device is a combination of software and purpose-built hardware, and makes use of artificial intelligence to improve the more you use it. The built-in speakers and noise-cancelling microphone mean that Travis can be placed on a table or chair between users, allowing them to maintain eye contact and carry out a more natural conversation. Batteries last 12 hours. Travis has partnered with refugee organisation Movement on the Ground to support conversations between aid workers and migrants. The Travis team see the product as part of a global mission ‘to bridge language barriers, spark connection and contribute to positive social change.’ Prices start at around €200. The social media network Social media is a tool for learning language with HelloTalk. The clever app functions as a vast, virtual meeting space, linking you up with native speakers worldwide eager to help you learn their language. With over 8 million users, there are plenty of friendly profiles to choose from and it is easy to search for like-minded learners in your neighbourhood or overseas. More social than scholastic, the app focuses on making connections with others, sharing pictures, doodles, status updates and voice messages, while all the time improving your level in the language. HelloTalk is full of handy functions. If you don’t understand what someone says to you, for example, you can make use of the voice-to-text option, which creates text from speech. It also works the other way round: you can choose to hear texts you receive to learn the pronunciation of the words. You can also tap unfamiliar vocabulary to get an instant translation. You can also play teacher, making corrections to each other’s messages or, like a model student, create your own database of notes, such as grammar corrections, vocabulary or audio files. Even if you leave the Netherlands, you can keep up your Dutch with your new-found contacts. Available on android and iOS. Free basic package. Subscriptions available for advanced features. The magic headphones Pixel Buds are Google’s first Bluetooth headphones and, used in combination with the Google Translate app, offer a modern way to navigate Dutch language issues. Working in tandem with the Google Translate app, the buds allow you to talk in one language and project another from your phone and vice-versa. It’s a handy way to decipher simple sentences in Dutch and works particularly well if a conversation is set up between users who are both wearing the buds. However, customers believing that inserting the little buds into their ears will work like Douglas Adams’ famous babel fish, should know that reality hasn’t yet caught up with science fiction, and the technology is - if we are to believe the lukewarm reviews - not quite there yet. For many users, the microphone is not always responsive enough to hear conversation partners who are more than a breath’s distance from the phone, the buds could do with a button to make them easier to operate, and background noise and longer utterances quickly cause confusion. While the Google Translate app is free of charge, the Pixel Buds will set you back around €135 – and you’ll need a Pixel 2 smartphone to operate them. You decide. The Google Translate app is available on android and iOS. The brain hack Opera singer Gabriel Wyner needed to learn multiple languages quickly to perform the most celebrated pieces in his profession. His search for a home-based system of immersive learning - and his discovery of some interesting neurological research on memory - led him to develop Fluent Forever, an app with an original approach to language learning. Based on the premise that it is almost impossible to remember sounds you cannot clearly identify and reproduce, the app focuses first on pronunciation, forming neurological connections between words based on sounds and semantics. Using a system of testing followed by immediate feedback, the learner trains their ears, while also learning to read and write by matching the sounds to spelling patterns. This helps you to think in Dutch, meshing concepts, sounds and spellings together in your mind, rather than trying to memorise abstract translations with no trigger points. ‘The ideal learning situation,’ Wyner told DutchNews.nl, ‘is where users are learning their target language while customising their study tools, so that they had a personal hand in creating everything they see repeated on future days.’ The resources created by each learner become available to other users as part of the Fluent Forever’s ‘universal language support’ system. This is ‘game changing’ for minority languages, says Wyner. ‘We’re not just making a neat tool; we’re creating something that’s tremendously important and powerful.’ The Dutch version of Fluent Forever is expected to launch late 2018. Willing beta testers can get early access by signing up via the Indiegogo page.   More >


From sugar in art to hemp in chocolate: 11 great things to do in January

From sugar in art to hemp in chocolate: 11 great things to do in January

Bag a bloom You know spring is on the way when the tulip season kicks off on a bitter January day. It’s National Tulip Day on January 20 and growers are creating a huge tulip garden on Amsterdam’s Dam square with some 200,000 tulips which you are welcome to pick, for free. The event begins at 1pm. Website Bring your specs Aptly enough you only have a very small window left to see ‘Xtra small. Miniature books in Museum Meermanno’, a large number of tiny books dating from the 17th century to the present. Making a miniature book was a way of showing off one's bookbinding and printing skills and it still is. Until January 7 at the august former baronial mansion in The Hague. Website  Meet a painter of tulips It is so heavily commercialised it is somethines hard to take the tulip seriously (see national tulip day). But painter Anton Koster (1859-1937) did and put the flower at the centre of his art. He was inspired by the tulip fields which lit up the drab Dutch country side around Haarlem and rendered them poetically but with a botanist's eye for the bulb's characteristics. A show of his work is now on until April 29 at museum De Zwarte Tulp in Lisse. Website Taste high cuisine Why not liven up a sombre January day with a visit to the Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum in Amsterdam to pick up a few culinary tips for a jolly dinner party  with friends. Hemp seeds are a super food practically bursting with omega 3, omega 6, iron, vitamin E and all essential amino acids, the museum says, while the buds come with a b(h)ang. Cannabis Cuisine is on until February 25. Website Don't be taken in Another museum, another 18th century mansion. Museum Bredius in The Hague presents ‘Schoonheid misleidt’ or, in a Trumpean translation, ‘Fake Beauty’. The museum owns one of only six 17th century perspective boxes or peepshows and has made it the centre piece of an exhibition on art that was created to wrongfoot the viewer. Until April 1 (!). Website Get a sugar fix Sticky Business, the Temptation of Sugar in Art tries to explain people’s relationship with what the Stedelijk Museum in Schiedam calls ‘this social issue’. The exhibits include women made of candy that can be licked, and artworks  inspired by the political issues surrounding sugar, such as slavery and food addiction. On the bright side there is a mountain of sweets several metres high which will provide a valuable educational moment for parents foolish enough to take their kids. Until February 18. Website Find out what trees do in winter The University of Leiden's Hortus Botanicus is organising a guided winter walk along its dormant trees. Nice and melancholy and timed just right for a warming snifter afterwards. January 14. The walk starts at 12pm and you can just turn up.  Website Discover a band Aspiring bands who are selected for the Eurosonic Noorderslag festival in Groningen are heading for success. Be there to see the megabands of tomorrow. Hot tips are SMIB, Declan McKenna and Thomas Azier. January 17 to January 20. For tickets and info go to the website Take a 'pont' to the EYE The EYE film museum in Amsterdam is exhibiting the cinematographic work of Danish artist Jesper Just. Just, who engages a professional film crew and trained actors for his large film installations, unsettles by using extreme sound effects and by lifting architectural icons from their familiar environment. His themes, EYE says, are 'gender, longing, relationships and identity'. Until March 11. Website Get your skates on On January 18 the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam becomes the coolest ice rink in the land where beginners fall flat on their faces and experienced skaters can improve their style. There are skating and curling clinics and for those who only like to watch there is the ISU Worldchampionship Allround skating to enjoy from March 9 to March 11. Website Look at some lace The Rijksmuseum shines a light on the collars and cuffs of the high and mighty. The museum is displaying the finest pieces of lace in its collection which is the largest in  the Netherlands. It comprises some 3,500 pieces dating from the late 16th century to the early 20th century, thanks in no small part to queen Wilhelmina who loved a bit of lace. Until July 22. Website   More >


20 of the best: The most read features on DutchNews.nl in 2017

20 of the best: The most read features on DutchNews.nl in 2017

From Dutch food with EU protected status to the king's 50th birthday and reforming the red light district - this year DutchNews.nl has published over 150 features. Here's a round-up of the best longer reads of 2017. 1 Dutch TV show says Hello Mr Trump, this is the Netherlands 2 Dutch TV documentary claims Trump has ties to Russian mobsters 3 11 key facts about king Willem-Alexander as he turns 50 4 Who can vote for whom and how the Dutch electoral system works 5 The main Dutch political parties 6 From sex to smoothies – reforming the red light district 7 11 reasons to be cheerful about life in the Netherlands 8 Here are 43 things which show you have gone Dutch 9 It’s tax return time - seven ways to cut your tax bill (sponsored) 10 A Thanksgiving story – How the Netherlands played a role in the US holiday 11 The best of the Netherlands in the summer 12 Instead of ending the 30% ruling, expats should be encouraged 13 The richest men in the Netherlands, Charlene Heineken does not count 14 Forget savings accounts, buy to let is catching on in the Netherlands (sponsored) 15 In Holland’s most right-wing town nothing is black or white 16 Banks, bulbs, beer and oil – the 10 largest Dutch companies 17 10 questions Georgia Regnault Smith 18 Seven things you need to know about skating in the Netherlands 19 Male circumcision is a violation of bodily integrity 20 Dutch food which has officially protected status within the EU  More >


How to celebrate New Year in the Netherlands – with recipes

How to celebrate New Year in the Netherlands – with recipes

New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands is celebrated in a most untypical over-the-top way. Here's list of 10 things you must do to fit right in. 1. Buy fireworks – lots of them and enormous ones – if you have not smuggled them in from Belgium or Eastern Europe months ago. This year you can only buy fireworks on December 28, 29 and 30 - and for some reason, garages seem to be popular licenced stockists. Start setting off your fireworks well before 6pm on December 31, which is when you are officially allowed to do so. Frighten dogs. 2. Listen to the final 50 or so entries in Radio 2’s Top2000 which, for some bizarre reason, is listened to by millions of people every year and won every year (almost) by Queen’s Bohemiam Rhapsody. And 2018 is no exception. 3. Watch whichever comedian is giving this year’s televised Oudejaarsconference – a long and winding monologue wrapping up the year. This year it is Youp van 't Hek on NOS tv. 4. Buy a New Year lottery ticket – in the hope of winning millions of euros. You and 17 million other people. 5. Eat oliebollen and appelflappen – deep-fried dough balls covered in icing sugar and deep-fried apple dough balls. Forget the diet until January 2. Recipes at the bottom of this list. 6. Set fire to a car or two – but only if you live in a village in Brabant or Drenthe where it is tradition, of course. 7. Other rural traditions include massive bonfires made up of Christmas trees and carbidschieten (or death by milk churn) which involves mixing carbide and water in a milk churn and blasting off the lid. 8. Throw a few fireworks at the police and emergency service workers if you are in a car fire, Christmas tree fire or carbide zone. Become one of the 1,000 or so people who get arrested during the New Year celebrations every year. Or one of the hundreds who end up in hospital accident and emergency departments with firework burns. 9. Have a New Year’s Day swim in the sea – along with tens of thousands of others attempting to shake off their hangover. 10. Wear an orange hat advertising smoked sausage company Unox while having your swim. Beware: if you are a pretty girl in a bikini you may end up the Telegraaf newspaper’s new favourite front page pin-up. 11. If you'd like to prove just how integrated into the Netherlands you are, why not make your own oliebollen and appelflappen? Ingredients for 20 oliebollen Half a liter of lukewarm milk A sachet of dried yeast (7 grammes) 3 tablespoons of sugar 500 grammes of flour 1 egg As many raisins, sultanas and as much Turkish delight as you like A pinch of salt Sunflower oil for frying Mix the milk, sugar and yeast and leave for ten minutes. Put the flour and salt through a sieve. Add the egg and the raisins etc. Add in the milk while as you whisk the mixture. Cover the mixture and leave to rise for an hour and a half on a radiator or some other warm surface. Heat the oil to 180 degrees. Wet two spoons and make balls of dough and slip them into the oil. Turn after three minutes or so and retrieve after another three minutes. Eat with glass of champagne, or a cup of tea. Oliebollen without appelflappen are like Laurel without Hardy: still very good but much better together. They say every Spanish person swears his mother’s tortilla is the best in the world and the same is true of appelflappen. Ingredients for about 20 appelflappen 5 lovely sour goudrenetten apples 300 grammes of flour 2 eggs 220ml corn oil 30 grammes of sugar Sunflower oil for frying. Peel the apples, core them and cut into slices of a thickness of your choice. Sprinkle half of the sugar on them. Put the flower through a sieve and separate the eggs. Mix the rest of the sugar, the egg yolks and the oil. Beat the egg whites until stiff and spoon into the batter. Heat the oil to 175 degrees. Cover the apple rings in batter, then put them in the oil and fry until crispy. Leave for two seconds to get rid of the worst grease leakage then cover in a great layer of powdered sugar and enjoy.  More >


To change or not to change health insurance company? Five key questions

To change or not to change health insurance company? Five key questions

There are just a couple of days to go before you have to decide whether or not to change health insurance company. Here's the answers to some of the questions which expats most frequently ask about Dutch health insurance and the healthcare system. Changing healthcare insurance company does not have to be a complicated business. But there are some things you do need to think about before you do. When do I need to pay the deductible excess? The deductible excess (eigen risico) is part of the out-of-pocket medical expenses. Put simply, you have to pay the first €385 of your treatment - with a few exceptions. So, if you need to have a broken arm taken care of on January 2, you will have to pay €385 of the bill yourself. Once you have paid this amount, your health insurance company will reimburse any further medical expenses. Some healthcare costs are exempted from the excess, such as: Consultations with a family doctor Maternity care Healthcare for children below the age of 18 Healthcare that is covered by your supplemental insurance Should I increase my excess in exchange for a lower premium? Increasing your deductible excess by up to €500 will result in a discount on your annual health insurance premium of up to €300, depending on your chosen insurance company. If your annual medical bills are usually below €385 a year, it may be worth increasing the excess charge. However, keep in mind you will need to pay the full amount (€885) in one go if you need extensive (emergency) hospital treatment. Since insurance companies offer varying discounts, you really do need to compare policies to make sure you pick the right one for you. How can I cancel my current insurance policy? If you switch insurance company (overstappen zorgverzekering) before January 1, your current policy will be automatically cancelled. Your new policy will be active from the beginning of January. You can also cancel your insurance policy by notifying the insurer by e-mail or post. This gives you an extra month in January to compare and select a new insurance policy. Can I go to any Dutch hospital for a treatment? The Dutch healthcare system is arranged in such a way that treatment which can be planned in advance can be carried out by any hospital, as long the hospital has enough space and the required qualifications. The insurance company will, however, only fully cover the medical expenses if it has a contract with the hospital concerned. This means if you want to go to a hospital which your insurance company does not have a contract with, you may have to pay part of the bill yourself. That percentage for non-contracted health providers depends mainly on the type of policy: Naturapolis: your insurer will pay 65 to 80% of the average contract charge Combinatiepolis: your insure will pay 100% of the average contract charge Restitutiepolis: your insurer will pay up to 100% of the medical bill, except when the medical bill is excessively high Does Dutch health insurance cover medical care abroad? Yes it does. However, you do need to take some things into account. First of all, the basic health insurance only covers emergency medical care up to the cost of the treatment in the Netherlands. For example, if a certain treatment costs €500 in the Netherlands, the insurance company will only pay up to €500 of the foreign doctor or hospital's bill. If you go to a private clinic you will probably have to pay a large part of the bill yourself. It is possible to extent your level of cover by choosing a supplemental insurance with a Europe or global cover for emergency medical care abroad. Use an insurance comparison website like Zorgwijzer to compare the cost of doing this.  More >


Going home for the Christmas holidays is about more than nostalgia

Going home for the Christmas holidays is about more than nostalgia

The winter holiday season in the Netherlands is magical, with all the trees and houses lit up by twinkling lights. But for DutchNews.nl editor Robin Pascoe, the Christmas period is also about an intangible nostalgia for ‘home’, wherever that is. When I first came to the Netherlands in the early 1980s, Christmas was something that just happened between Sinterklaas and New Year. You had a tree and a family dinner and that was about it. More and more, however, the ghastliness of the British and American traditions is sneaking in. I have been shocked at how much mawkish Christmas nostalgia is being packed into the Dutch television schedules - the same Christmas family films, the same fake snow and the same jolly family get-togethers around a table groaning with Lidl and Plus festive meals. And then I remember how excited I was when we took a double decker bus into London to look at the Christmas lights when I was six and we had just moved to Britain from Singapore and my cynicism slips away. Traditions My sons too, look on Christmases spent with my parents in Christmas through a haze of candle-lit nostalgia. They have a ‘Victorian’ idea about Christmas which I put down to the fact that the last four times we spent the holidays in Scotland we had masses of snow. This year, there is no going ‘back home’ to Scotland. My parents have, against their better judgment, been persuaded by elder son that they should come to our house, not go to the sun somewhere. Christmas with granny and granddad is one of those traditions which both my sons seem to think will go on for ever. Both sons live elsewhere now, but both will – as every year - be home for Christmas. Home is, after all, more than just four walls and a roof. Home is about your roots, and about habit and belonging, and when you’ve spent time living in more than one place, home becomes wrapped in tradition and nostalgia as well. Brexit A couple of weeks ago, the European Commission and Britain reached a preliminary deal on securing citizens rights when the UK leaves Europe. I’ve waded through the lengthy and wordy official document trying to find out exactly what it means for me, and whether or not I can avoid the inevitability of applying for a Dutch passport. There is something very odd about the idea of being something else as well as British – my husband is Dutch so I don’t have to renounce my British nationality – but even so I’m not sure I like the idea very much. I don’t really understand why. I’ve lived here for over 30 years and my life is here, but then, my original family and my roots are definitely on the other side of the channel. When I talk to British friends in the Netherlands – nearly all of whom seem to be in the process of going Dutch – there’s a sharp difference between those who just don’t care, or are so angry about the whole Brexit mess that they can’t wait to ditch their British passports and those, like me, who think the idea very odd. Christmas cards It’s a feeling which is perhaps intensified at this time of year, when the Christmas cards from old friends and ancient relations start dropping through the letter box, complete with little letters outlining a year’s events. (‘This year I had a triple heart bypass’ being the most notable episode in this year’s dispatches.) In our household we have determined that Brexit is obviously having an impact on the size of Christmas cards from the UK, which seem to be shrinking to almost postage stamp size. Yet, the expectations of snow aside, our Christmas traditions are in essence the same as they are in Scotland – bucks fizz for breakfast, presents from under the tree and then dinner – well lunch - in the late afternoon. But this year, unlike others, I will not be in charge of stuffing the turkey and insisting that we have Christmas pudding, even though everyone hates it. Goose This year younger son announced he is taking over. Actually, that is not quite true. Younger son gave me an ultimatum. ‘Mum, this year either you do the dinner and I don’t help you or I do it and you don’t help me,’ he said a couple of weeks ago. ‘Whatever happens, we are not sharing the kitchen.’ I had to think about it for about 10 seconds before choosing option 2. It felt a bit odd – after all, I have ‘done’ the Christmas dinner for as long as I can remember and it is my home after all - but once I had decided, it seemed the most sensible thing to do. The innovations have already started. It is goose not turkey and there has been a bit of a battle about little sausages wrapped up in bacon and the sprouts. We will also eat later in the day and Christmas pudding is banned (although I have bought a tiny one). Perhaps this is the latest step along the way towards giving up some of my Britishness and really call the Netherlands my home. If I can get through Christmas done the Dutch way I can get through a town hall naturalisation ceremony, can’t I? A version of this column was published earlier in winter edition of the Xpat Journal.  More >


Add a bit of Dutchness to your Christmas celebrations

Add a bit of Dutchness to your Christmas celebrations

December is in full swing and that means it is time to begin preparing, enjoying, and celebrating Christmas. A sparkling tree in the living room, the smell of baking biscuits floating out of the oven and Christmas songs on the radio—Christmas celebrations really do start at home. But just how do you give your Christmas that extra touch of 'Dutchness' while living in the Netherlands? Here is a list to inspire you, based on some of the ways the Dutch celebrate Christmas at home. Put up the decorations Whether you are going for all one colour or prefer a multi-coloured effect, putting up the Christmas decorations is a must in the Netherlands. Each year the number of sparkling lights and Christmas baubles increases. However, if you find yourself lacking in inspiration, head over to your nearest Intratuin or other garden centre where they have the most overwhelming choice. Prepare for two Christmas Days The Netherlands celebrates Christmas on both December 25th and December 26th, known as first and second Christmas Day (Eerste Kerstdag and Tweede Kerstdag). While two Christmas Days doesn't necessarily mean more presents, it does mean more time for celebrating! Watch Serious Request Begun in 2004 by the radio station 3FM, Serious Request quickly became an annual event in the Netherlands. Each year a makeshift radio studio is built in the form of a small glass house. Inside three DJs are 'locked' inside for the week before Christmas without food. Sustained on nutritional (and sometimes disgusting sounding) juices, the DJs broadcast around the clock while encouraging donations for their chosen International Red Cross project. Nowadays, a television live-stream has even been added. While the Glass House location, DJs, and Red Cross project change each year, one thing remains constant—this is a hugely popular event on the Dutch holiday calendar which raises millions of euros for charity each year. Eat Christmas in the Netherlands includes its fair share of food. And while some food items are more traditional than others, it really is an anything goes scenario when it comes to designing the menu. Many people enjoy gourmetten—an activity similar to the Korean BBQ or Vietnamese hot pot. You'll use tiny pans and spatulas to cook equally tiny hamburgers, sausages, vegetables, pancakes and other items on a hot griddle. Eat some more While the Dutch Christmas menu is full of variation, there are some food items that really come into the spotlight during the Christmas season. Be sure to enjoy delicacies such as Kerststol, Kerstkransjes, and appelflappen. Swap Gifts Like many countries, swapping gifts with family members and friends on Christmas Day is also a Dutch tradition. Unless you are part of a family that prefers to combine the Sinterklaas and Christmas holidays. But if that's the case, go ahead and buy yourself something extra this year. We promise not to tell! Play (board) games One of the best times of year to dust off the family board games is during the Christmas holidays. There's something special about a full stomach, a glass of something alcoholic to hand, and a lively game of Risk. Listen to (Dutch) Christmas songs Turn the radio on in the run up to Christmas and you will find plenty of Christmas songs to get you in the festive mood—both in Dutch and English. One particular Dutch favourite is the song Flappie by the comedian Youp van 't Hek. Written in 1978, it's a Christmas song with a dark theme (especially for animal lovers), but Wikipedia has a good summary for those of you that want to know what it is all about. Be gezellig No matter how you decide to celebrate your Dutch Christmas this year, the most important element to add is a good dose of gezelligheid! If you are looking for a home away from home, ServicedApartments.nl offers short and long-term rentals - the perfect place for unpacking your old and new holiday traditions whilst working abroad.  More >


From Gouda by candlelight to a Christmas Carol – a round-up of holiday family fun

From Gouda by candlelight to a Christmas Carol – a round-up of holiday family fun

The school holidays are finally coming up! Esther O'Toole has a run down of special Christmas events and activities, for young and old, up and down the country, traditional and alternative; starting on December 15. Countrywide: winter circuses A trip to the circus is a popular Dutch tradition at Christmas. You will find Christmas Circuses all over: Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Haarlem, Nijmegen, Sittard…Eindhoven's will be in the Park Theater and offers lots of extra activities for kids throughout the building, so you can really make a day of it. Website Amsterdam: Kerstspel, Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ There are more than 10 special events going on at the Muziekgebouw this holiday season. Including a new tradition of their own making - Kerstspel. A modern Christmas concert to inspire your littlens as they watch performers as young as 4 years old perform alongside the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra. Website Amsterdam: The Christmas Show, Ziggo Dome It wouldn't be the season of 'goodwill to all men' if there wasn't a performance inspired by A Christmas Carol going on somewhere. If you're looking for a new take on an old tale then you can head to the Ziggo Dome on December 23 and 24 for the annual song and dance extravaganza, which this year is based on the Dickens classic and features lot of Dutch celebrities. Website More on celebrating the holiday season in Amsterdam Arnhem: Open Air museum It may be chilly, but there is still plenty of wintertime fun to be had outside. At the open air museum in Arnhem there will be skating, sledging and you can bake your own bread over an open fire. If the weather gets really inclement you can always retreat to the 'play shed' for shed-loads of good old-fashioned family games. Website Gouda: Candle Night Gouda may be best known for its cheese but their annual Kaarsjesavond (Candle Night) deserves to be well known too. This year on December 15th all electric lights will be turned off, and the festivities around the town Christmas tree (music & singing, food and theatre) will all take place by candlelight. Website Maastricht: Magical Maastricht, Het Vrijhof There are Christmas markets all around the country but Maastricht's has been completely revamped for 2017 to be bigger and better than ever. Their covered ice rink even has disco skating! Website Maastricht: The Christmas Elf Mystery (4-10), departs from Minister Goeman Borgesius Plantsoen Here's one for those bilingual families. The Christmas Elf Mystery is an underground treasure hunt in the tunnels under the city! Help Father Christmas find the key to the sleigh that his trickster elf has hidden. December 23 at 16:00, 17:00 and 18:00. Don't forget your torch! Website Nijmegen: Festival of Light Explore the Christmas story at the Museum Park Orientalis, dress up as a shepherd, take a donkey for a walk and listen to storytellers while stuffing yourself with oliebollen. Different activities are going on throughout the park, both indoors and out. From December 16. Website Oud Kampen: Open air theatre festival A cheap and cheerful day out can be had on December 17 and 18, as the streets of Oud Kampen fill up with theatre activities for young and old. Entry is just €2 per person, a bargain! From 16.00 hours. Website Rotterdam: Pillow Party, Ahoy If the teens are getting stir crazy and are glued to their tablets, why not take them down to the Ahoy and reintroduce them to the charitable spirit of Christmas while letting them go nuts at Rotterdam's annual Pillow Party? Proceeds from the giant pillow fight go to help Dutch children living in poverty celebrate their birthdays. December 15, from 20.30, pillows provided! Website More on celebrating Christmas in Rotterdam The Hague: Winter Wondertales (5+), Paradise Theatre Alongside their own production of the Charles Dickens story, performed by Ashley Ramsden, English Language theatre company STET has a new show to warm little hearts this year. Storyteller Caja will take you all on a magical journey with her repertoire of original short stories. December 16 and 17. Website The Hague: New Year's Dive - Scheveningen beach The crazy antics of a few swimmers has grown into a real tradition of taking a 'penguin dive' on New Year's Day. There are now 60 locations around the country where you can join in but the original Scheveningen dip is still the biggest, with an expected 10,000 people taking the plunge at noon on January 1 2018. Website The Hague: The Pier If you'd rather enjoy the New Year's dive at a warm and comfortable distance, then you can stay on the pier! Sup on something tasty from the artisanal food trucks, hit the shops or take a turn on the ferris wheel or the zip wire! Website More on celebrating the holiday season in The Hague Utrecht: My First Festival, Tivoli Vredenburg There's an eclectic musical offering to be found at this festival for kids, and parents. From pop to Prokofiev there´s something to delight everyone with performances and workshops throughout the day. December 29, family tickets available. Website  More >


The Dutch love their cats – and here’s the proof

The Dutch love their cats – and here’s the proof

They peer down at you from the windows of canal houses and slink past your legs while you’re hanging out in cafes. Indeed, cats definitely seem to be everywhere in the Netherlands. According to one estimate, there’s over 2.8 million of them currently living in the country. Brandon Hartley has nine key facts about Dutch cats Cats in the Kunsthal You can sink your claws into an exposition devoted entirely to cats at Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum, until January 14, 2018. ‘Cat Love: Nine Lives in the Arts’ takes a look at how felines have been depicted in art from the mid-19th century to modern times. Along with paintings by Henriëtte Ronner-Knip and Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen and work by contemporary artists including David Shrigley and Wallasse Ting, the show includes tributes to international ‘cat sensations’ like Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub. There’s also an interactive exhibit that allows visitors to experience what it’s like to be a feline in the Netherlands. What does that entail exactly? You can learn more here. Other museum mousers There seems to be a museum for just about everything in Amsterdam and that includes cats. Located on the ground floor of a canal house along the Herengracht, Het Kattenkabinet features feline-related works by artists including Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Picasso. It was founded by curator Bob Meijer in 1990 partially as a tribute to his dearly departed cat John Pierpont Morgan. But that’s not the only place where you’ll encounter cats in Amsterdam museums. Cornelis van Haarlem's The Fall of Man, at the Rijksmuseum, includes a curious depiction of a small monkey hugging a grey cat. The meaning behind this unusual pairing in the 1592 masterpiece could be a reference to an old folk expression, or a parable that’s been lost to the ages. Cats can also be found in plenty of other paintings throughout the museum and, according to its website, they can be interpreted as metaphors for everything from lust and greed to strength and speed. But aren’t cats supposed to be afraid of water? De Poezenboot has been an Amsterdam landmark since the late 1960s. This sanctuary for abandoned and stray cats is located on a houseboat along the Singel. It was founded by Henriette van Weelde, who discovered a family of felines living under a tree near her floating home on the Herengracht in 1966. She adopted them and they were soon joined by additional strays. As more and more cats were drawn to her house, Van Weelde eventually transferred them to an old sailing barge that was retrofitted to be more cat-friendly. Since then, De Poezenboot has moved into a different houseboat and it’s helped rescue countless cats-in-need. You can learn more about the non-profit organisation by clicking here. The dangers of canals While the cats that live on De Poezenboot peacefully reside on the waters of one of Amsterdam’s most picturesque canals, other felines around the country aren’t so fortunate. Tragically, cats drowning in canals is a fairly common occurrence. This is why organisations including Leiden’s Kat uit de Gracht project have sought to develop unique ways to rescue felines that have run afoul of the nation’s waterways. Dine with felines Cat cafes continue to be something of a phenomenon in Asia, where cat-less residents living in tiny apartments in cities like Tokyo don’t have enough space to accommodate a furry friend. So instead they get their ‘feline fix’ while sipping a coffee or enjoying a slice of cake in a restaurant with half a dozen (or more) of them running around. While it’s easy to encounter a ‘cafe cat’ in any number of eateries, especially in Amsterdam, the Netherlands does have at least two that are fully devoted to them. At the time of writing, Pebbles Kitty Cat Cafe in Rotterdam had eight cats on staff, each one adopted from a local shelter. There’s also Kopjes in Amsterdam, which has seven. Much like similar businesses overseas, both cafes have an entrance fee and a list of rules that their clientele are expected to follow in order to help keep their furry employees happy and healthy. The most famous cat in the Netherlands? In Dutch, a ‘kater’ is a term for a hangover as well as a male cat. It’s also the nickname of a beloved cartoon character from the long-running comic strip series Jan, Jans en de Kinderen that’s probably the most famous cat to ever come out of the Netherlands. The Rode Kater’s real name is Edgar Allen Poes and he belongs to the Tromp family. Unlike his fellow cats, Edgar is a pacifist that refuses to hunt mice. He is also a bit of a philosopher and offers the reader his opinions on various real-world events and topics. Edgar was inspired by Kobus, a real cat that once belonged to the strip’s creator, Jan Kruis, who died earlier this year. He is now drawn and written by other artists. Over the years, the still popular strip has been translated into multiple languages and has spawned animated films, songs, comic spin-offs, tons of merchandise, an anti-smoking campaign, and even a stage musical. Other famous Dutch cats Real cats in the Netherlands have also gained substantial levels of notoriety. Buurtpoes Bledder, a tomcat that belonged to a student house in central Leiden, became a regional celebrity after he started hanging around nearby businesses and cafes. A clerk at a record shop decided to create a Facebook account to track his whereabouts that inevitably resulted in his own Wikipedia page as well. After Bledder was killed by a motorist in 2013, his death was reported in media outlets including the Leidsch Dagblad and the national television network SBS 6. Tram-Poes, another sadly deceased feline, became a celebrity in his own right while he spent a decade frequenting a tram stop near his home in Rotterdam. Anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, notoriously shy of appearing on Dutch tv chat shows, was happy to appear on one this year to talk about his two cats who have their own Twitter account and 9,000 followers. The felines of Rock ‘n’ Roll The Cats was the name of a popular Dutch rock band that was founded in Volendam back in 1964. They’re perhaps best known for their hit single ‘One Way Wind’ that became a top 10 hit in countries all across Europe and beyond in the early ‘70s. The band called it quits in 1979 but reformed briefly in the mid ‘00s to record a single for a greatest hits album and be inducted into the chivalric Order of Orange-Nassau. Good mews There’s plenty of places in the Netherlands where you can buy cat toys but one shop in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district is completely focused on felines and their human companions. At Cats & Things, shoppers, both furry and less so, can find tons of supplies for cats in addition to feline-related home accessories. They also host training and educational seminars. Interested in signing up? You can keep track of the store’s schedule via its ‘MIEUWSmail’ newsletter.  More >


Supplementary health insurance: what is it and do you need it?

Supplementary health insurance: what is it and do you need it?

Supplementary health insurance policies have been in the news a lot this month, with the central Dutch bank suggesting they could disappear in the future. So what's all the fuss about? Here's a handy guide to what supplementary health insurance policies cover, how they work and whether or not you need one in 2018. What should you look out for when assessing supplementary health policies? Cover The basic health insurance (basisverzekering) is the compulsory part of Dutch health insurance. It covers essential medical healthcare, such as visits to your GP, hospital treatments, emergency medical care and (some) medication. There may be treatment you might want but that is not covered by the basic health policy. Here is a list: Physiotherapy (for non-chronic conditions) Dental care (above 18 years of age) Alternative medicine Orthodontics for children and adults Glasses (or lenses) Podotherapy This is where a supplemental insurance comes in. These optional (private) packages are offered by various insurance providers to meet your additional health needs and lifestyle. Conditions When comparing these ‘extra’ insurance policies, you should study the policy terms and conditions carefully. This is because insurance policies may vary significantly in terms of: Cover: there are huge differences in the maximum amount of money you can reclaim for some treatment or medical aids Acceptance: unlike the basic insurance policy, supplemental insurances are privatised, meaning insurance companies don’t have to you accept you. That means you may  have to fill in a form about your medical history and current status before they agree to take you. Waiting-time: some insurance companies incorporate a waiting time for some coverage. This means you have will have to wait six months or a year before you get your costs reinbursed, while in the meantime, you do have to pay the monthly premium. ZorgWijzer.nl offers an English comparison tool which easily shows you what cover and which conditions apply per policy. Children On the upside, children under the age of 18 are insured for free through their parents, so they too are usually covered for exactly the same treatments as their parents. Remember this when choosing a supplemental insurance, especially if you feel it would benefit your children. Cost difference The cost difference for supplemental insurances is huge, depending on the chosen cover and insurance company. So, whether or not a supplemental insurance is worthwhile mainly depends on how often you will use it. Try to calculate if the premium you pay to the insurer is less than the total amount you can claim back for treatment. Changes Bear in mind that if you already have supplemental insurance, the cover may very well change next year. So, it is definitely worthwhile checking whether your current health policy still fits your needs and is not too pricey. Comparing the different insurance policies and companies (in Dutch: zorgverzekeringen vergelijken), and perhaps switching your insurer, is a good way to make sure you aren’t paying too much. According to recent research by the Dutch consumers union, changing policies could save you up to €100 a year.  More >


Books, clocks and tulips: we’ve got some great gifts to give away

Books, clocks and tulips: we’ve got some great gifts to give away

December is a time of giving and that's just what we are doing this month at DutchNews.nl. We've got some great gifts to give away to several lucky readers. NLXL by Karel Tomei The Netherlands might like to consider itself a small country - a kleine kikkerlandje, as the Dutch are so fond of saying - but this is one mighty big book. Karel Tomei's NLXL weighs in at a whopping 3.5 kilos but is such a joy to look at that you will forget the weight on your knees. The book draws on the tradition of birds eye view paintings in which the world is captured from the skies: the intricate patterns of reclaimed land crisscrossed by ditches, the contrast between bulb fields and a golf course, great swathes of sand with a city in the distance, a drone's view of a busy cafe terrace, the intricate carvings on the roof of a cathedral. But it's the landscape that really rules NLXL - the Netherlands might be oh so very flat, but it still has amazing variation in its countryside - from the seaside dunes to the southern heaths, from the the seals sunning themselves on a sandbank to intricate cityscapes. NLXL will make a stunning, if heavy, present for anyone who loves the Netherlands in all its variations. You can buy NLXL at all good bookshops and online from Xpat Media but we've got one copy to give away. To win, send your best photograph (one photo only) of the Netherlands to info@dutchnews.nl and we'll enter you in our prize draw. Put NLXL in the subject line of the email. You know you are Dutch when.... by Colleen Geske Find out how Dutch you really are with the latest book from the popular Stuff Dutch People Like stable. Do you think bicycle helmets are ridiculous, would you like Germans to stop digging holes on Dutch beaches and do you like chocolate sprinkles for breakfast even though you are an adult? Chances are, you really are Dutch. After a searingly funny look at Dutch culture, unraveling the mysteries of the language, praising Dutch motherhood and tickling your tastebuds with Dutch cooking, Colleen Geske turns her attention the key traits that separate Nederlanders from the rest of the herd. Lavishly illustrated and compact in size, You Know You're Dutch When... is the perfect book to add to the collection of easy reading in that small room downstairs. You know, the one with the birthday calendar on the back of the door and the tiny sink with cold water. You can buy You Know You Are Dutch When.. online or from all good bookstores, but we've got five copies to give away. Tell us what Dutch quirk makes you laugh by emailing info@dutchnews.nl and we'll enter you in our prize draw. Put 'You know you are Dutch when' in the subject line of your email. Vicky Hampton's Working Lunch We are so happy that Vicky Hampton, our favourite Amsterdam foodie, has been branching out into other cities - her rundown of a weekend's eating in Rotterdam is enough to make us all head for the port city asap. Vicky is no food snob and assessments of what and where she is eating are both down to earth and honest. We've said it before... she's never let the DutchNews.nl crew down. Vicky has taken that same approach to lunch - cheap and cheerful lunch recipes for those who are sick of cheese sandwiches or can't stand another wilted salad at the staff canteen. Soups and smoothies, delicious toasted sandwiches - surely every Dutch company office has a toastie maker - and a great selection of simple salads. If your staff kitchen has a kettle and enough space to fit a chopping board, this is the book for you. You can buy Vicky Hampton's Working Lunch via the website bookshop or from online bookstores but we've got one copy to give away. Tell us about your favourite office lunch  by emailing info@dutchnews.nl and we'll enter you in our prize draw. Put 'Working Lunch' in the subject line of your email. A bamboo wall clock by Stuff Dutch People Like If you don't manage to win won of these wonderful books, don't despair - maybe the best is yet to come. Who needs the ubiquitous Dutch agenda when you've got one of these bamboo wall clocks instead. Featuring canal houses, bridges, bikes tulips and windmills, we've got three to give away, courtesy of the team at Stuff Dutch People Like. Send an email to info@dutchnews.nl with 'Clock' in the email subject line and we'll enter you in our prize draw. Tulips from Amsterdam Our consolation prize - We've got five packs of assorted tulip bulbs to give away at random. Whether in a garden or a window box, plant now for a riotous display of colour in the spring. Terms and conditions Closing date, Friday December 8, 17.00 Prizes can sent to Dutch addresses only. DutchNews.nl may publish your photos and anecdotes on the DutchNews.nl website and social media platforms. Please submit one photo only. Please include your email address, name and postal address on your entry email.   More >