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A bittersweet farewell from a creative family that people around the world have come to love. The earliest art paintings ever discovered in human history happened to be discovered in Indonesia. Speaking of art – here are some powerful illustrations showing women how to fight gender prejudices. When should laboring women given an epidural? A new Cochrane review offers a clear answer: When she asks for it.
If you haven’t already heard about Brain Pickings, you need to head over there and make it part of your regular reading digest. A gentle reminder that it’s really silly being frightened of death (something I need!). Subscribe To Our NewsletterJoin our Finding Dutchland mailing list to receive the latest news. Inspired by the article How To Piss Off Singaporeans, I’d like to provide some useful insight as to how to piss off the Dutch, or more accurately, ways that will make it difficult for you to make genuine Dutch friends and easily alienate Dutch people. Surprise, surprise – there are a lot of angry, disillusioned, and disappointed expats clearly missing out on what a fabulous and wonderful experience living in the Netherlands could be. Not to be too much of a cultural chauvinist, but there are some insider tips that I would love to divulge to my fellow expats in the Netherlands.
Not everyone in the Netherlands speaks English, or would love every opportunity to practice their English. It took me quite a while to learn Dutch not because it was actually a challenge to learn, but simply because I didn’t want to learn. Just as the Dutch do not criticize the American Santa Claus, his elves and reindeer, the Dutch expect a mutual respect when it comes to their Sinterklaas traditions and Zwarte Piet. Biking is a part of life in the Netherlands, an everyday commodity and not an alternative, trendy lifestyle choice. Accept that the national pastime in the Netherlands is making complicated schedules and demanding that others (friends, strangers, acquaintances, work colleagues) keep track of and adhere to them.
Perhaps the reason The Expat Explorer Survey rates the Netherlands as the world’s most expat-unfriendly country is because racism is unfriendly for expats, especially expats of color. So, you believe that the portrayal of a colored man who likes kids that much that he gives them presents is RACIST?!?! The worst part is that children are being shown that this type of behavior is ok, and they grow up with these mistaken norms, and then pass them on to their own children. However, since there are already so many people of color in the Netherlands, three-year-olds like my daughter already can keep real people of color and Zwarte Piets separated.
1683, the Society of Suriname was founded by the city of Amsterdam, the Van Aerssen van Sommelsdijck family, and the Dutch West India Company.
Katie I am a person of colour and I find this practice incredibly offensive – that once a year people choose to wear my physical features as a costume and act in ways that stereotypes my race. I’ve translated my comment and hope I will not be classified as one of those dutch people that like showing off their english language skills !! As for Zwarte Piet, the debate on the racism inherent in the character’s portrayal grows louder every year, so in a few years we might reach a cultural watershed with a different approach to the character. I’ve lived in The Netherlands almost all my life (moved here when I was 8 and am now 35). Wherever you go, start learning the local language if you plan to stay longer that a month. Also, it’s not disputable that the character of Zwarte Piet is a celebration of the common 17th century practice of having household slaves.
It’s fictional, how on earth would they kidnap children from families in Africa in this day and age? As far as the background goes, there’s tons of stories about how Zwarte Piet came to be black. Zwarte Piet is modelled on black houseslaves (mostly orphaned boys) in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Usually people with an obsession get helped by a psychologist but here they seem to try to be their own doctor orso.
In the Netherlands, and probably elsewhere in the world, mental healthcare is more often to adopt to the patient rather then expect the patient to adapt towards what is considered healthy and normal, so I asumme you are right that it will change.
No big deal by the way, Sinterklaas traditions seem to have changed few more times in the past couple of hundred years. The reason that we Dutch are so passionate about Sinterklaas is because people really don’t understand how we celebrate this tradition. My parents were always impressed by the surprisingly unorganised and easy-going way the Dutch families were dealing with those things. In my case (my surroudings) I would think that Dutchmen in general are very interrested in foreigners and their culture.
About the whole Piet discussion, many people here, especially expats, are clearly missing the point.
I was raised by my parents with the idea that Piet was a helper to an old and charitable man, who arrives once a year from Spain with a shitload of presents. Well I’m from North-Brabant and it annoys the hell out of me when people say holland. As a Dutch person who grew up abroad and was moved back to the Netherlands at 12 years of age, I can totally sympathize with the poor expats ?? Although I eventually did get used to the culture, I now live abroad again so I guess it never really grew on me.
Part of the plan was to be writing monthly letters to you inspired by one of my favorite blogs – Nurshable. The infamous toddler tantrums are far and few inbetween simply because we finally learned your language, rythm and schedule.
You are absolutely crazy about everything and anything related to transportation vehicles – construction trucks, cranes, trains, motorcycles, boats, and cars. You love books and reading, whether it’s imaginary play reading, or one of us reading out loud. And of course, you are absolutely crazy over herring with onions, smeer kaas (spreadable cheese), hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) with white bread and butter, and french fries.
These must be the precious handful of little children years that empty-nesters long for the most. So for now, waking up from the fog of severe sleep deprivation and exhaustion the first year and a half brought (and occassionally still does), I’m reveling in the moment of the terribly, terrific twos. It’s been a little over a month since my two-and-half year old son started attending your preschool. For a brief moment I questioned whether or not the lack of exclusivity directly reflected the quality of preschool education my son was going to receive. Your open door policy for all the little preschool children reflects your country’s steadfast belief that quality education is a universal right, not just for the privileged few.
I’m also a bit ashamed that I have no idea what the pedagogical philosophy of your nursery actually is.
Thank-you for having great expectations of introducing him to the big kid world but also having the grace to understand that he’s also still a toddler and even sometimes, still very much a baby. The lines of cars filing into the city of Rotterdam were invariably packed with self-proclaimed gourmands, architect buffs, modern art enthusiasts and curious day trippers. The building is the Markthal (Market Hall), Rotterdam’s latest architectural pride and joy. While we strolled around the expansive Markthal, fighting the infamous Dutch crowds, I realized that my concerns were a bit naive.
Upon closer examination, is it because Dutch parents are following and living the advice that American parenting experts, medical professionals and psychologists have been emphasizing for years? Family quality time happens every day at the dining room table where everyone gathers to eat breakfast and dinner.
In fact, the current trend in the Netherlands is that women are doing less household chores and men are taking on more.
For the community-minded Dutch, the polder model that everyone pulls their own weight begins at the cradle.
The Dutch cultural obsession with having an agenda for everything is implemented the moment a child is born. Inspired by my blogger friends Deepa from Currystrumpet and Esther from Urban Moms, I’m going to share with you guys my favorite new discoveries and regular places that nourish my soul. On a more personal level, it’s a way for me to pause and to document the little things that bring joy to me and my family. When my dearest friend invited me to Baritimus Moestuin Doorn for a family date, I came with an open-mind. It felt like a hipster’s fairy tale, the kind that you read in magazines, come to life. The Dutch love Dick Bruna so much that they even opened the dick bruna huis in Utrecht, dedicating a museum of over 7000 pieces consisting of children’s books, book covers and posters created by Dick Bruna.
As one can see from the photo below, Dick Bruna playfully introduces the basics of visual art. And the great news is that there are 16 books available in English making Nijntje (Miffy) more accessible for children around the world.
This post is my contribution for the Read Around the World Summer Reading Series from Multicultural Kid Blogs!  From June through August, bloggers from all over the world will share their recommendations of great multicultural books for the entire family!  For more details and the full schedule, please visit the series main page.  You can also follow along on our Summer Reading Pinterest Board! A common complaint among fellow expats is how difficult it is for them to actually make friends with Dutch people.
Being a seasoned expat for the past 6 years now, I’ve gained some valuable insight on how to establish real, genuine friendships with these wonderful women. However, pure luck and a lot of practice has allowed me to forge genuine friendships with these wonderful women.
I’d love to impart my wisdom on other fellow expats on how to make Dutch female friends.
We’re in their country and no matter how obscure Dutch is, making a concerted effort to learn the lingua franca of the Netherlands demonstrates your seriousness of acclimating to the country. If a potential new Dutch friend suggests to meet up for coffee, lunch or dinner date, pretend that you are busy for the next month or so.
If you have your heart set on making friends with real Dutch women, go for the home-run and wear three quarter white leggings. It would not be that much of a coincidence, there is only one Dutch school ?? I might even know your friend, I know some Filipina’s. Having previously lived in London, Dubai, and Mumbai, I think it is easier in Dubai and Mumbai. I am 100% Dutch, but grew up in America, and this still holds true in my family’s culture. You’re officially known as the Netherlands mainly by the Dutch, but often referred to simply as Holland by the rest of the world, or the Low Countries for those who are more intimately acquainted with you.
Visiting Amsterdam to enjoy your country’s liberal attitude towards certain illicit behaviours is what you’re (in)famous for.
It’s quite refreshing to live in a culture that embraces the virtue of living within one’s means. A Singaporean expat friend once asked me, “What’s the difference between a Dutch breakfast and a Dutch lunch?”  I was stumped. Once you get past the monotony of having sandwiches for breakfast and lunch, you realize how pragmatic and genius it is. One of the most liberating aspects of living in this country is that the Dutch don’t seem to give a f*ck. As soon as we arrived at the farm in the early evening, Niki seemed to magically appear to greet us. For gourmands and camping enthusiasts, there’s a wood-oven stove right in the center of each tent (the beating heart) and an outdoor wood cooker.
Part of the highlight of the trip was on Saturday evening when Niki and Cees hosted a homemade pizza party for all the campers. And no need to worry about planning activities – just starting the fires and keeping them going is an exercise in communication, patience and resourcefulness.
As assured by Niki before our arrival,  De Groene Hoeve really has everything that a family needs for a comfortable stay. Take a cruise alongside the beautiful, historic city of Hoorn with Watertaxi Hoorn (ask for schipper Koen).
We are moving next month to Doorn, a small Dutch village nestled in the nature forest reserve area of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug (Utrecht Hill Ridge).
After seven years in the Netherlands, this expat-that-could is going to go where very little expats have dared venture out to, deep into the heart of the Dutch sticks. Granted, there are also lots of dangers to learn about and be aware of like ticks and snakes for example. So we’ve notified our landlord, contacted the movers and are now are looking forward to a month of preparing for the big move. Contrary to popular belief, the most beautiful canal city in all of Europe is not Venice, Amsterdam, Saint Petersburg, Annecy, Hamburg or Bruges.
For the culturally-sheltered mainstream tourist, Utrecht will appear a bit too far (35 kilometers away from Amsterdam) and too unknown (who’s ever heard of Utrecht?). So please forgive me for joining the bandwagon of publicly recognizing Utrecht as a wonderful place on my little space on the internet.
As mentioned by GoEuro and my Dutch husband (as local as you can get), Utrecht’s canals are one of a kind in the world with its wharfs and wharf cellars.
If you want to get a genuine, unadulterated impression of the Netherlands, you’re seriously wasting your time in Amsterdam.
One of the largest indoor malls in The Netherlands, Hoog Catharijne houses over 150 stores. Part of Utrecht’s charm is that the city center is actually quaint, especially in comparison to other world cities. Utrecht thrives not only in the aesthetic beauty of its canals and stately buildings, but also in her artists, poets, musicians, writers and anyone else who possess an artistic spirit.
To fall in love with Utrecht is to fall in love with life, its possibilities and all the different hidden and unexpected treasures that await you.
Since the Netherlands is the part-time work champion of Europe, visiting Utrecht during a weekday may not guarantee avoiding the crowds. Almost one year into parenthood, my husband sold me the idea of living in the Dutch suburb of Houten. Still uncertain about my decision to move to the city or stay in the suburbs, I started asking different moms about their own experiences. On this 5 of May, I’d like to commemorate National Liberation Day by sharing 10 powerful images of Dutch children celebrating their freedom as World War II comes to an official end in the Spring of 1945. When I first read of Peaches Geldof’s death on my Twitter feed, my heart ached for the loss of a young mother and for her two babies. Almost a month later, we get the answer that no one wanted to believe – Peaches Geldof died of a likely heroin overdose.
Social media such as Twitter and Instagram gives all of us the illusion of familiarity, of having intimate access to the everyday lives of celebrities.
If we were to learn from the recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, chances are that the most recent revelation of Peaches Geldof’s death will inspire another round of essays and media coverage on addiction and relapse, unfounded speculation of her mental health and unwarranted reasons as to why she relapsed. While I may not have known Peaches personally, her public persona was always around my periphery as a fellow mommy with relatable views about attachment parenting and having sons around the same age. Learning that Peaches died due to a heroine overdose felt like a betrayal, the universe laughing in our faces for believing in happy endings, rainbows and fairytales. They say that becoming a mother changes you, that it expands your heart a million fold and opens you up to so much love that you thought you never had. What no one told me but I’ve come realize in my two years of being a mom is that parenthood is possibly the most unifying experience around the world.
And I’ll be holding my little one tighter tonight as he falls asleep in my arms, dreaming of what dreams may come. An all too common experience for American expats in the Netherlands is the infamous Dutch import taxes on packages from the United States.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the exact amount of cash lying around at home so packages are held hostage until the ransom (Dutch custom taxes + administrative costs) can be paid.
What many people are not aware of is that gifts from individuals from the United States (or any other non-EU country) is officially exempted from import taxes up to a maximum value of €45.
Why would the Dutch postal service still charge me taxes and administrative costs if the official Dutch government tax office has clearly indicated that gifts under €45 would not be taxed? The secret lies in how the declaration statement (United States Postal Service – Customs Declaration and Dispatch Note -CP 72) of the package if filled out. I’ve also included a picture below that you can send to grandma and grandpa just incase they are visual learners.
One of the most challenging aspects of raising my son in the Netherlands is that he is thousands of miles away from his loving grandparents. While a quarter-life crisis usually sends people to therapy, I celebrated my 25th birthday as an accidental expat in Holland.
While it is important to be open to new experiences, it is also crucial to stay true to yourself.
Chances are that as an expat living in a foreign country, you will find yourself in uncomfortable situations.
This might sound painfully obvious, but the first step of finding happiness in a foreign country is to acknowledge and accept that you are no longer in your home country.
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I had come to unrealistically expect a certain lifestyle and standard of living when moving to the Netherlands. It’s actually quite disrespectful to the locals and a disservice to yourself if you decide to live in a foreign country for several years and never make an honest attempt at learning the native language. Being in a foreign country, it’s only natural to gravitate towards other expats who speak the same language and come from the same country to establish familiarity and shared camaraderie.
Try to make friends with the locals and don’t fall trap to living life exclusively in the convenient expat bubble. But for the few who dare travel the road less traveled, I can guarantee you that they won’t look back with regret for having lived a life less ordinary. Arguably the best time to visit the Netherlands is in the end of April just in time to celebrate King’s Day (formerly known as Queens Day). King’s Day serves as a testament to how tradition and progressive ideas can peacefully co-exist, a national celebration of Dutch cultural identity and heritage in the context of modern life, liberties and entitlements. The national holiday commemorating the Dutch crown is actually an annual birthday celebration.
Orange is the national color of the Netherlands as a special nod to the royal House of Orange-Nassau. Perhaps the most endearing attribute to all this Dutch pomp and circumstance over royalty is the nationwide flea market, the Vrijmarkt. It is the one time in the year where anyone and everyone can freely sell their stuff. An absolute must to check-off your bucket list is to get on a party boat in the canals of Amsterdam. One of the most surprising and liberating aspects of living in the Netherlands as an American is how socially acceptable it is to start drinking before lunch on this national Dutch holiday. Forget eating at fine dining establishments and head over to the stands offering Dutch delicacies such as herring sandwiches, kibbeling, Dutch fries and bitterballen. In trying not to be the insufferable parental types, we’re keeping this celebration strictly between our small family of three (details to come in a future blog post). God knows how all four physicians at the local general practice office are already well acquainted with their newish hypochondriac American patient.
For the past seven years, I’ve been playing the dutiful role of an American expat living in the Netherlands.
After all, it’s one of the happiest places in the world especially for children and a Dutch city was recently crowned as the fourth happiest place on earth. My tacit knowledge of Dutch culture has been earned through cultural frustrations, surviving awkward cultural misunderstands, and years of expat experience. I experienced some psychological trauma that had less to do with cultural shock but rather having had to interact with very small minded people.
It’s also helped me get out of my comfort zone and experience the Netherlands at a deeper, more genuine level.

One of the first things you’ll be quick to notice is how everyone has or at least tries to prove they their lives are meticulously structured. Of course everyone can tell the difference between someone with their face painted black wearing a giant afro, from Dutch people of color.
I’ve asked my friends, and while a couple are ok with it, for the most part all of my Dutch friends who are minorities do not agree with the practice.
I get called zwarte piet by kids in stores, and I am told by the dutch that to feel honoured.
I am just a dutchman that never lived in Holland (I lived in Utrecht and Gelderland) and has always said so when confronted with this issue in the past. The difference between US and Dutch history with racism is that the Netherlands never had formal segregation and slavery was limited to the colonies. I found that when I was younger that people really liked to make appointments indeed weeks and even months in advance, but find that has changed somewhat over the past years, people still make appointments, but spontaneous get togethers have become much more common.
The whole chimney soot idea is the modernization that the Dutch society chose to give to the character in the 1970s. If that was the case, since when did slaves put naughty white kids in a bag to transport them to Spain? And since feast was celebrated in the Netherlands, it is most unlikely that Zwarte Piet was a slave.
In sinterklaas tradition nowadays (and back then I assume as well) there is no hate towards any race at all. After all, with the same ease people could look this caricature from another more positive point of view: from what i understand was bishop saint nicolas one of the very first who gave his houseslaves their freedom back. He carries a big bag in which he puts the naugthy children in order to kidnap them and bring them to Spain, where they have to work as slaves in the orange farms.
What you do not understand is that it’s part of the happiest tradition of Dutch children (ALL of them, caucasian or black). As a German, I grew up entirely in the Netherlands, where I went to a German school until I was 17. Combine this to the fact that the Dutch have always been a travelling nation and that about 87% of the population will be able to have a conversation with you, I would say that general foreigners should be fine. For all the children in the Netherlands (also children with a black skin) the 5th of December is the happiest day of the year (maybe birthdays as an exception). Combine that to the fact that the Dutch are a very direct people and you might get yourself into some nasty discussions. People living in the West of the country (especially in North or South Holland) will not mind it, and will actually call the country Holland themselves. Of course I miss some of it now that I don’t live there anymore, but that narrow-mindedness you often get in the smaller towns I will never miss! I had heard about many of those things in the article, but I didn’t really see them personally. I actually believed that If I allocated eight months (my entire pregnancy) of doing absolutely nothing but researching and reading all the highest rated parenting books according to Amazon and the New York Times, then everything would play out according to my plans. I was the perfect parent before I had you.
The premise would be to highlight your different quirks, personalities and milestones month by month. And while you also have your set of preferences, you’re also open to and curious about discovering the world around you.
I’m not sure where you got that from because your dad and I are tone deaf and each have two left feet. Perhaps I read too much of Scary Mommy and The Huffington Post. Rather seeing the humor of all the wonderfully witty stories, I became anxious about this stage and dreaded it. The superstitious voice in my head (a byproduct of having Filipino parents) warns me that providing an honest snapshot of my personal life would mean sabotage. When a young family’s life can be chaotic and exhausting, but delightfully simple and refreshingly ordinary. At the expense of sounding like the neurotic American mom in this lovely Dutch village, I would love to share a few of my thoughts. There was no formal preschool application requesting a full summary of all the accomplishments our son made in the first 28 months of his life.
That all children, regardless of socioeconomic background and educational attainment of their parents, are to be educated to a high standard, starting with early childhood education. Thank-you for the diaper changes (Bless your hearts!) and not requiring him to be fully potty trained before he’s truly ready. Staring up at the spectacular mural makes one feel like one just went down Alice in Wonderland’s psychedelic rabbit hole. Markthal had garnered international intrigue and helped solidify Rotterdam’s place in The New York Times annual 52 Places to Go list in 2014.
But the seaport, one of the largest in Europe and considered its gateway, and its middle class laborers, are still the bread and butter of Rotterdam. My son is growing up in a multicultural household with a Filipino-American mom (me) and a Dutch dad. Dutch parents can be seen everywhere walking around their babies in strollers, or baby-carriers.
Not only will you’ll have happier moms, but recent research suggests that there daughters of dads who do household chores grow up with more ambition.
Graffiti artists Hendrik and Robert-Jan Brink, also known as the verfdokters (the paint doctors) painted the scene with the owner’s permission.
It’s a market where handmade and handcrafted goodies made by local Dutch artists, designers, gourmands and anything else that falls within the artisanal category.
The website was relatively nondescript about the vegetable garden, leaving lots of room for imagination. The inner geek in me was suddenly reminded of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – a magical place where one goes to seek sanctuary among the blooms and with one another. What better way than to introduce a book about spending a day at the beach, a beloved national pastime among the Dutch, written by acclaimed Dutch writer and illustrator Dick Bruna?
Through his work, babies and toddlers are immersed in a world of colours, shapes and lines along with a simple story line written in lower-case letters.
Expat forums are filled with questions and concerns on just how to infiltrate the local Dutch circles. I’ve also learned a thing ( or two or more) actually about how not to make friends with them.
I guarantee that it will make your stay in the Netherlands no matter how short, or long a worthwhile experience. Being cool, calm, and collected goes a long way with making a good first impression among Dutch women. If you can somehow crack the sanctity of the inner circle and one of them vouches for you, you are sure to have at least 10 new Dutch friends. Do not fall victim to their self-deprecating humor about their own country and their country(wo)men. Unexpected visitors during dinner time may find themselves either being sent away, or made to sit in the living room while dinner is being eaten. It’s true that it does take a while to figure out these kind of subtleties in social relationships. And have in fact made some good Dutch friends over the last year as well, they do tend to grow on you, I suppose you found the same. The only thing you need is to be yourself anywhere you are without pushing to much when you meet people and they will naturally accept you or not. This seems dishonest to me and almost backwards in the ideals of Dutch people (being honest). People definitely have a hard time making friends with me it takes a long time to be comfortable with someone and I’m very timid but i do like it that way. But to me, you are “Dutchland”, the world in which I choose to see you and turn my face towards the sun (if we’re lucky and it’s around).
But actually moving here and setting up roots, especially in one of your villages, is not a “thing” like moving to Paris, or somewhere under the Tuscan sun. They live life according to their values and don’t try to live up to societal standards or bow to the pressure to be perfect and successful. If you love procrastinating and want to join an awesome Facebook community, come join our page. The premise was that we would be given a gentle introduction to the world of camping while getting a glimpse of authentic farm life. Each large canvas tent is fully equipped like a miniature two-bedroom apartment (one with bunk beds and the other with a queen size bed), a fully equipped kitchen with cold running water, a living room with a dining area and sofa, and private bathroom facilities.
It’s easy to fall in love with their rustic outdoor eating area with a large king size table and their wood-fired brick oven. For starters, living off the grid (no internet connection and spotty cell phone reception) can do wonders for the soul.
Though it took us about two hours on our first try, we appreciated the sense of accomplishment of finally having a hot fire to cook food. We accepted on the premise that it was merely a loan and that we would hopefully return it next year. The Dutch who live in a country that would be about 44% submerged underwater if it wasn’t for Dutch ingenuity would refer to this area as hills.
Not at this moment. Right now, I am a mother to a precocious and adventurous two-year old boy who loves nothing more than to play outside.
Rather, according to Berlin-based travel search engine GoEuro, the honor is bestowed upon our very own city of Utrecht.
After all, it takes a certain je ne sais quoi to recognize the gem of a city that Utrecht is. And with all the accolades that Utrecht has been receiving through the years and yet still remains in the limelight, I have a sneaking suspicion that the locals would actually prefer to keep tourists away. Back in the Middle Ages (circa 12th century) when the main flow of the river Rhine moved south, parts of the old river bed were dug out to create the Old Canal (De Oudegracht) and wharfs were added to create an inner city harbour system.
Thanks to its canal wharfs and various squares serving as restaurants, bars and cafes, Utrecht has arguably one of the largest outdoor terraces in Europe. Amsterdam is an enchanting, international city, complete with a strong expat bubble community, but it fails to represent what the Netherlands is all about.
It is connected to Utrecht Central Station, making the city easily accessible to the rest of the country, Europe and the rest of the world via Schiphol. If you loathe Hoog Catharijne, than welcome to the club of Utrechters who vehemently despise the monstrosity.
Utrecht is awesome because you just need one day to navigate the city center by foot with your eyes towards the Dom tower. Initially designed and preserved as a Medieval fortified city, the heart of the Utrecht is enclosed by an inner canal ring that is a little less than 6 kilometers around. Utrecht is awesome because it masterfully relishes in the old world beauty that inspired the Dutch masters while gently embracing the beauty of its present. Utrecht is a slice of bohemia, a haven for everyone and anyone that wants to call her home- free thinkers, philosophers, wanderers, conservatives, and entrepreneurs. After all, since a lot of people work part-time chances are that the terraces will be filled with people, especially if there is a remote possibility of sunshine. Contrary to popular belief, the best place to get a panoramic view of Utrecht is not climbing the Dom Tower but at the V&D Department store in the East side of Hoog Catharijne.
I ended up asking a Facebook mommy group consisting of over 4,700 members, “Out of curiosity, if you had a choice between living in an apartment in Amsterdam or in a stand-alone home with a huge garden and plenty of rooms in a Dutch village, which would you prefer, keeping in mind that you have a toddler who loves being outside. Hopefully these images can become part of our collective consciousness as we remember the sacrifices, heartache and lives lost due to a senseless war – if only for another day. If you like to get updates on parenting, my life in the Netherlands and other random stuff on the internet that move me to share, come join me on my Facebook page. The 25 year-old-British TV presenter, model, writer and daughter of Bob Geldof was found dead in her home in Wrotham, Kent – initial postmortem cause of death ruled inconclusive. The death of a vibrant, youthful, beautiful woman – what society considers the image of perfect health- challenged what we believed to be the natural order of things. No amount of money in the world protected her from the scandals of drug addiction and suicide as the media perilously documented her coming of age in the limelight.
The same drug that killed her mother Paula Yates in 2000 when Peaches was only 11 years old. But it was her story about redemption and reformation brought on by motherhood that struck a personal chord with me.
The fact that she died of a heroine overdose changes everything and nothing at the same time. But most of all, I mourn for two young boys, babies in their own right, barely old enough to remember her and who need nothing more in the world than their mother. The general scenario involves an unannounced visit from a Dutch postal worker, followed by a brief explanation that the recipient must pay import taxes and the unrealistic expectation that the recipient will have the exact amount in cash being demanded at that given moment. For first timers, this can be a frustrating experience given that the situation often involves unsolicited gifts from well-intentioned loved ones from home. What can be infuriating experience is that even if the value of the gifts was actually less than €45, one may subject to still first paying the (necessary) tax to receive the package and then resolve the dispute via a formal complaint letter to the post-office. If it is not properly filled out, the chances of being responsible for paying unnecessary  import taxes increases. Being the first and only grandchild, my parents love to send him gifts regularly to compensate for not being able to spend time with him. Please refer to the official tax office of the Netherlands for the most current information about import taxes on gifts to individuals from individuals.
Seven years and several stumbling blocks later, I’m taking ownership of my happiness in the Low Countries. My expatriation to the Netherlands was a culmination of a love-at-first sight, whirlwind, two year transAtlantic, long distance romance with a Dutch native. Embrace your natural curiosity, finding the courage to step out of your comfort zone to try new things and discover the world around you. Many expats fall into the trap of comparing everything to their home country, failing to appreciate what their host country has to offer. After all, my then Dutch husband made the innocent mistake of informing me that American culture and Dutch culture were inherently very similar. Regardless of our own intelligence, our age, our natural talents, and where we come from, who we surround ourselves regularly will has a disproportionate influence on our own successes. It’s often recommended and a healthy practice to reach out to other expats to build a supportive community, to create a safe space to vent frustrations and air out personal grievances. Your understanding of the country and culture will only get you so far unless you can get insight from a native.
Rather, being an expat changes you forever, allowing you to feel more connected to the rest of the world and helping you to live a life well lived.
If you feel like wasting more time, come join me on my Facebook page for random updates about life in the Netherlands, raising kids, parenthood and other random stuff on the internet that I couldn’t resist sharing.
The United Kingdom of the Netherlands with a hereditary monarchy was only established a mere 195 years ago on the 16th of March 1815. Members of the House of Orange-Nassau, starting with William of Orange, have been in rule since 1559 as stadhouder (place-keeper). The first official Queen’s day (originally known as Prinsessedag) was celebrated on 31 August 1885, the birthday of then- princess heir apparent  Wilhelmina. Not only is it customary to don on your Orange best, but the latest trend is how creative and crazy you can get. And in true Dutch fashion, most of the stuff are at bottom low prices, encouraging camaraderie and brightening up the spirits of the traditionally frugal, stoic Dutch. Utrecht holds the coveted title of being the largest Vrijmarkt in the Low Countries.
Reservations need to be made in advance (unless you have direct access to a boat yourself), but your careful, meticulous planning will pay off.
After seven years, I still can’t get over the state-sponsored public inebriation, complete with bars set-up on the streets. I finally caught the ugly cold that my husband and son were already suffering from since we returned from Italy three weeks ago. Saturday is also a day of celebration as we join in rejoicing and celebrating a friend’s 50 years of priesthood, followed by a long overdue reunion with other friends of faith. Excerpts (limited to 10% of content) and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rina Mae Acosta and Finding Dutchland with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Results from the The Expat Explorer Survey (4,127 expats, 100 countries) rates the Netherlands as the world’s most expat-unfriendly country. Perhaps by knowing some of these Dutch cultural idiosyncrasies and understood, but unspoken societal norms, they can have a much more positive, uplifting experience in the Netherlands. Complaints against or even any deviations from the modern day understanding and acceptance of Zwarte Piet have resulted in legitimate death threats. The topics include, but  are not limited to – the weather, bureaucracy, lack of customer service, entitled people, taxes, and the medical system. I admire his enthusiasm for Amsterdam, but if I may dare say that Amsterdam is not representative of the rest of Holland or even the country for that matter.
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It’s inappropriate for grown adults to wear afros, paint their faces black, and paint their lips red. I’ll be impressed with the Dutch when they can have meaningful conversations with people of color, immigrants, and those who oppose Zwarte Piet, and really begin to question the things they were taught as children.
They find it discriminating, racist, and just plain rude, which is the same way that I feel about it.
Which is why merely anyone has no problem with it, only because people are not even aware what black face is.
The Netherlands for several reasons, first and foremost that it’s my blog written from an American perspective. I understand that your blog is written from an American perspective, but that is where in my opinion the mistake is made on this subject, European history does not fit into an american template. After all, I do need to create more material and what better way than to have a blog post written all about the Dutch agenda. Editorial cartoons about Sinterklaas fighting Santa are a staple during the holiday seasons.
I also notice a difference between people who live in large cities vs small town folk, plus people with kids are usually much more scheduled than those without kids.
You are a disgrace to this country and a textbook example of how the proverbial Dutch tolerance is wildly overestimated. We just you as someone that is trying to teach us that it’s wrong, trying to TEACH US discrimination. Zwarte Piet refers to the black North African pirates and slave hunters that were a menace to European sailors and coastal areas for hundreds of years.
I will always remember the formal way our German parents used to plan and schedule time when we kids wanted to play together…. You absolutely love Filipino stews like Chicken Tinola (Chicken clear broth stew with lemon grass), Bulalo (beef marrow stew) and Sinigang (Tamarind soup) and Pinakbet (Filipino vegetable medley stew) with a generous helping of rice. But the reality is, and it took me becoming a mother to internalize this fact, is that nothing in life is permanent.
For now, there’s no worries about school bullies, fitting in, grades, standardized testing (CITO and Common Core come to my mind), schedules governed by soccer practices and music lessons.
I took a leap of faith and trusted that your combined 80 years of experience and credentials in early education would suffice. Your energy, creativity and passion demonstrate that you ladies understand this and are fully committed to helping instill a love of learning in all your students.
Books with beautiful images are also great way to introduce a baby to the world and to hopefully entice them to fall in love with reading early on. Their faces, softened by the Autumn sunlight, hungrily looked towards a mammoth horseshoe structure. The Markthal is also a living community with 230 apartments built into the arch shaped structure. In collaboration with famed cartoon animator Pixar, Dutch artist Arno Coenen created a 3D optical illusion of produce and fauna falling from the sky.

But I wondered whether, or not targeting a certain clientele would be at the expense of driving away and alienating everyday citizens. For example, Mei Sum Bakery offered delicious Asian treats for the same price of €10 for 12 pieces as their flagship location at West Kruiskade. Once again, this small North Western European country remains obscure compared to her European contemporaries – oh-so glamorous France and the hipster-approved Norway and Denmark.
We strictly follow the one parent, one language philosophy so our son grows up to achieve native fluency of Dutch and American English. Before Dutch toddlers can even properly walk or run, they are given a loopfiets (walking bicycle).
Healthy, open conversations are much more valued and nurtured around the dinner table than what’s actually being served. But as soon as they start school (usually at the age of four), Dutch kids are expected to make their own lunch. It’s conveniently located right behind the Oudegracht and in close proximity to our favorite stores. In all honesty, I was more interested in seeing my friend and her family more than exploring a new place.
Sometimes expat women spend their entire stay in the Netherlands not having any real Dutch female friends. My Dutch girl friends even flew all the way to my wedding in San Francisco to celebrate my special day.
However, making an effort to learn their language will be considered endearing and thoughtful to a potential new Dutch friend.
Having an impeccable, precisely planned out life is a character trait that many Dutch women pride themselves in. This often happens if you fall in love with a wonderful Dutch guy who happens to also have like-minded lovely Dutch female friends. If you are an expat experiencing culture shock, reconsider your readiness with making friends with the locals. The Dutch usually do not embrace spontaneity, especially from someone new in their routine-filled lives.
I realize that I came to this country when I was older than you ?? I already had a kid, was working and then got my twindaughters after exactly one year.
A good friend of mine is also living in Singapore and happens to send her half-Filipino, Half-Dutch kids to the Dutch school. Not being very social has gotten someone to think I’m stuck up but when I talked it changed there mind. Perhaps the best known example is the urban legend about Prime Minister Willem Drees and an American diplomat after World War II.
And I’m a certified bakfiets (cargo bike) mommy which is akin to the suburban American mom with a minivan. Adulting with a four-year-old and a baby has been so much easier thanks to the no fuss approach to meals.
It extends to parenting where they try their absolute best, but at the end of the day, being good enough more than suffices. We appreciate her hands-on, personal approach to giving us (and all the other guests) a crash course in the ins-and-outs of the camping grounds and the farm. And of course, decorative pieces scattered here and there, real hardwood floors and windows you can open and close that all add to the feeling of gezelligheid, a Dutch word that embodies coziness, warmth and love. And the highlight for many kids (and even adults) is cupboard type bed that can easily be shared by two children, or serve as a great reading nook.
There’s the option to dine indoors, or outside depending on your mood and the weather. It guarantees families the time and space to do a lot of bonding with each other, free from the distractions of everyday modern life. There is a fully equipped store offering organic and locally grown products from other Dutch farmers, as well as basic necessities such as olive oils, soaps, etc. Although it’s only a mere forty-five minutes away from Amsterdam, the bucolic surroundings transports you to another time. We will still be only half an hour drive away from Utrecht and forty-five minutes away from Amsterdam. And I find myself being more at ease and being able to enjoy the experience more when he’s exploring in a natural playground setting rather than the confines of an urban jungle, or non-descript suburbia. I want to be an authentic, genuine voice – as an Asian (Filipino)-American mother, wife and writer currently living in the Netherlands (Europe).
Clearly a direct example of Dutch ingenuity, boats were able to directly dock and unload their cargo onto the wharfs lining the canal. An added bonus is that it’s a car free pedestrian zone albeit everyone should be on the lookout for cyclists. Utrecht will definitely show you what it is like to live in a bustling Dutch city, complete with a lasting accurate impression of the Dutch culinary scene, how the Dutch translate customer service and hospitality, and other Dutch pleasantries.
You’ll naturally gravitate towards the Dom Tower, the tallest church tower in the Netherlands and the reigning symbol of Utrecht.
Her eventual vocal resolve to chart her own way was admirable and inspirational, perfectly cultivating the image of a mama metamorphosis set on doing right by her two sons. The parallel deaths of mother and daughter are disheartening, a tragic story of a reformed wild child turned into model mommy only to inherit the same untimely death of her mother and leaving behind another generation robbed of a mother’s love. Because social media has allowed many to relate to her as a friend and a familiar face, her death and the sordid details behind it becoming part of dinner time conversations. Who would want to identify with someone given that at the time of her death, her eleven-month old son was supposed to be under her care?
The world is less forgiving to someone who dies at the unscrupulous hand of an illicit drug, unable to battle her own demons and protect her children from the same ill-handed fate of growing up without a mother. This tip does not cover packages from companies and organisations which fall under a completely different set of rules and regulations.
Life may not be perfect, but I finally found my happy place, one centered on gratitude, resilience, and family. If we only live once, why not take a leap of faith and be with the one that we love? After seven years of going through culture shock, homesickness and stumbling blocks learning opportunities, I’ve earned enough street credibility to impart some knowledge to expats who might currently be struggling in their host country. Constantly comparing one’s current situation with that of another place and time will definitely lead to unhappiness.
However, be mindful of toxic expats who will simply rain on your parade and prevent you from growing as a person. Plus, the more open you are to other people, the greater the likelihood of you establishing your own tribe.
Many expats, especially trailing spouses, were once overachievers whose self-worth was inextricably tied to their visible accomplishments. Just like the joys of parenthood, while nothing can really prepare you 100% for life as an expat, hopefully these seven tips will get you to a place of genuine happiness as you seek out your new adventure. What makes this year particularly special is that for the first time in Dutch history, we will be celebrating King’s Day in honor of King Willem-Alexander. Interestingly, the first country in modern European history to establish a republic would become a hereditary monarchy in hopes of securing domestic stability. Amsterdam canals are one of the most enchanting canals in the world and what better way than to celebrate King’s day on a boat with your friends? If you’d like to waste more time, come connect with me on Facebook for updates about my life in the Netherlands as a mommy and other random stuff that I find interesting. Parenthood (read = barely hanging on to our sanity) and wanting a bigger space for our precocious son has led us to move to the sticks, Dutch suburbia in all its glory. Even if your complaints are phrased exactly the same way and exasperated with identical intonations, most Dutch will still find your complaining offensive and will take it personally.
While almost no one wears helmets, almost everyone has recieved some form of bicycle training.
Hope the Dutch would scrap the word tolerant out of their traits and replace it with aggression.
Culturally conservative people complain about Santa encroaching on Sinterklaas’ territory, because (especially) larger families tend to transpose the gift-giving from Sinterklaas (Dec. That idea fails to explain the stereotypical bright red lips, huge gold earrings, overly athletic, musical, and playful aspects of the character that happen to precisely line up with outdated stereotypes of people of african descent and the blackface tradition. Why don’t you grow up and base your opinions on having read a few of the many, many articles out there providing the basics of the history instead of childhood fantasies and myths. However if you have been living in The Netherlands for a long time, I’m surprised how (wherever the tradition came from) you have found any racism in the way it is presented to the children. At the age children actually believe in Sinterklaas, they don’t even know what racisism is, thank god.
I, for example, grew up in Gelderland and now live in Overijssel, and generally do not mind foreigners calling the country Holland, but, when asked, will explain the different meanings of the words, and that I prefer using the Netherlands. I’m studying the language because I love it, not because I felt the need to speak Dutch. There isn’t a simple explanation, perhaps an apology in order and a cuddle that would make everything better. It’s hard not to get emotional about this because my immigrant Filipino parents made tremendous sacrifices to guarantee that my inheritance would be a world-class education. From my understanding, you’re following the general set pedagogy outlined by the Dutch government. Thank-you for making his heart jump with joy when it’s time for a snack and teaching him to wait to eat it until everyone received their own. It’s art appreciation at its finest as people of all ages seemed mesmerized and in awe of the largest artwork in the world.
Who could blame the Rotterdammers for being a bit smug and proud, whom like the rest of the tourist-worthy cities like Utrecht and Den Haag, had compete to play second fiddle to her more glamorous, world-renowned sister Amsterdam since time immemorial?
Yet ironically, for two consecutive times, UNICEF declared Dutch kids as leading the way in well-being. What is it about Tiger mothering, or bringing up Bebe that attracts the intrigue of Americans but not common sense Dutch parenting? And Dutch childhood wouldn’t be complete without lots and lots of unstructured play while Dutch parents relax, drink coffee or read. We were absolutely thrilled and couldn’t resist a spontaneous photo shoot with my son.
Who wouldn’t want to be friends with these tall gorgeous happy blonde beauties with flawless biking skills? An invitation to a Dutch bachelorette party and a wedding invitation that includes dinner are signs of a true friendship with a Dutchie.
Also, keep in mind that since everything is pretty much carefully planned out, such as the exact grams of meat per person, there is a high probability that there wouldn’t be any food to share anyway. I lived in the UK before moving to Singapore, and never had any problems making friends there either, it might be a language thing? Ironically I’ve also been in The Netherlands for about 6 years now, and I live one train stop away in Culemborg. When the American diplomat came to visit the Prime Minister’s home to discuss what America could do to support the Dutch economy, apparently Mrs. Just set the table with breads, slices of cheese, butter and hagelslag and they’re happily eating. As someone who grew up in the (sub)urban jungles of San Francisco, I was intrigued and a bit apprehensive. The wharf cellars had pedestrian walkways and provided storage at water level, hence creating a unique two-level street system along the canals.
It also provides a welcomed, consumer-driven distraction for those who are less inclined to appreciate the cultural aspects of Utrecht.
And as for my workaholic husband, he simply requires a comfortable place to unwind and sleep that’s conveniently located not too far from his office in Utrecht. Brisbane insightfully articulated that photographers are essentially storytellers and their photos would provide us an intimate glimpse of a moment in time. While Peaches death is still fresh in our minds, chances are that she’ll become the newest poster child for a cautionary tale against drugs. Had the post-mortem results declared that she died from a fatal, unforeseen heart condition, a brain aneurysm, or cancer, she would be remembered as a wonderful mother taken cruelly away by life’s unfair hand. Furthermore, whether or not an import tax will be made on the package is prone to human error so this tip cannot fully guarantee that no mistakes will occur. And I soon discovered that sunlight, an appreciation for food, multiculturalism, (American) political correctness and general pleasantries are not universal aspects shared throughout the world.
If you are determined to find happiness as an expat, seek out those who inspire and encourage you to be a better person. Moving to a foreign country can easily leave one feeling naked and vulnerable, starting fresh all over again in a world that may not readily acknowledge one’s previous achievements attained abroad. It takes tons of courage, a hint of craziness, and relentless faith in one’s self to create a home in a foreign land. Come to think of it, wouldn’t it also be a memorable experience to get on a boat in Utrecht which was recently crowned as having the most beautiful canals in all of Europe?
Simply watch where you step and enjoy good old fashion drinking with your best buddies and random strangers – all for the gezelligheid of course.
There’s something admirable about the Dutch introducing responsible partying starting from the cradle, instilling the important cultural attribute of celebrating life till the grave. Hold your grievances about the Dutch culture and the Dutch way of life to yourself and your most trusted expat friends. Complaining about something none ever complained about, there are always people trying to find an excuse to complain about something. These helpers would have been originally kidnapped from their families in Africa and sold to aristocrats as permanent servants (i.e.
Having grown up in The Netherlands, I never experienced Zwarte Piet as being racist nor did I realise there was anything wrong with him being employed by a white Sinterklaas.
I wonder what is next, are we gonne rewrite the bible because certain examples do not fit in the spirit of the current ages? But I never ever saw a child actually getting hit by one, I did hit my younger brother with it once.. There’s also no dealing with teenage hormones, resentment issues, drama and a whole boatload of other emotional landmines that adolescence may bring. The only limitation was just how long the wait list happens to be. Thank-you for sparing us the unnecessary and ridiculous stress of trying to prove that our son is worthy of being part of an institutionalized playgroup. In fact, while my heart shouted out with glee with all the wonderful food, I became convinced that the Markthal was the new heart of Rotterdam.
Because the truth is, our reality really does resemble a United Colors of Benetton advertisement of multiculturalism. At the very least, I hope it inspires people to simply step out of there homes and find beauty (nature, art, love, random acts of kindness) waiting outside of their doorstep.
However, once you make a Dutch friend, you’ve more than likely made a friend for life. The article says you went to Penn State too (my alma mater); however, your blog says otherwise? About dinner that there is no extra food, I think that was in the past, nowadays an unexpected visitor can always join lunch or dinner. I also look forward to the days when my kids can cycle independently to and from school, their various sports practices and whatever it is on their social agenda.
On days when we just had enough of all the crying and tantrums, we can just serve pancakes for dinner.
And I’m convinced it’s one of the reasons why I’m so much happier – no second guessing, no passive aggressive communication, no uncertainty.
The cozy campground, limited to only five tents and far away from the nearest road, is structured in a way to allow toddlers and young children to roam safely.
Now that all the contracts have been signed, sealed and delivered, the world can officially know. Sometimes one photograph can encompass the entirety of the story, sharing with us an intimate understanding that history (other people’s words) might fail to deliver. We were left to speculate how this mother and media personality could have died so suddenly and unexpectedly. Now her death has become fodder for the media, the world turning away from sympathy and grief and towards disdain and apathy, an irresistible bait for trolls lurking around unwilling to let a dead woman rest in peace.
Learning about the culture goes deeper than simply wandering around and visiting various places – familiarize yourself with the history, try out the different foods, take part in local festivities and experience local customs. Once I got over these first-world problems and simply opened my eyes to all the positive attributes of life in the Netherlands, I realized just how wonderful it is to be an expat mom in the Netherlands. And if you have more discerning tastes, bottles of champagne are also sold for your drinking pleasure. Is it a wonder then that the happiest kids in the world happen to reside in the Netherlands? And how for the first two weeks, you held and consoled him, wiping away his tears and worries while he adjusted to his new environment away from his mom.
If Dutch kids are the happiest kids in the world, surely Dutch parents are doing something right. And since happiness is a cultural obsession in America, one would assume that they would look towards the Netherlands for some inspiration.
Also about being invited to weddings, well, and if they are already all married (with kids) or going through a divorce? Yes we are loud and say everything we think, even it’s not pleasant to hear and we really don’t like the oooooohhh soooooooo amazing things, just act normal! The American was so shocked at the meager hospitality that he considered it a clear indication that the Dutch needed a lot of assistance to climb out of poverty.
And since the Dutch are the tallest people in the world, this way of eating can’t be detrimental to the physical development of children. If anything happens to be lost in translation, we can all just have a meeting to talk it out. Life will surprise you when you are open to experiences, letting your curiosity take center-stage.
To be completely fair, almost everyone, regardless of income, in Holland receives some form of subsidy anyway so it’s only right that our beloved royal family gets support too. Zwarte Piet is just black because he is, there’s no reason other than tradition and the legend which comes forth out of it. The beautiful, underrated but essential act of playing is what almost all developmental psychologists, neuroscientists and education experts advise and emphasize for the seven year old and under crowd. Thank-you for giving him back to me with the widest grin on his face when playschool’s over, just the right amount of being tired and his bright brown eyes sparkling from all the new discoveries of the day.
I might write a post about how to make friends with Dutch women when your, let’s say, around 40 ?? – Thanks for the hint! Little did the American know that the “one cookie experience” and the modest home was simply Dutch thriftiness.
And as they say, all the problems in the world can be solved with a pot of tea and a heart to heart. And we must be patient enough to understand that there will be many learning opportunities along the way. Take not only the time to learn about your new environment, but also find some quiet time for yourself to tune into your feelings.
Contrary to misguided belief, Amsterdam is not the only place where King’s Day is celebrated. I can see how a foreigner looks differently upon the tradition, but there never was a negative connotation on the tradition until others told the Dutch it was supposed to be immoral. Expat life will forever change who you are and it’s only right to also get acquainted with your new self.
The entire country turns into one giant birthday party scene, hence appropriately being called the biggest street party in the world. Making a problem of something that is not being seen as a problem, that is in fact- the problem.

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