How to Survive Holland

How to Survive Holland

Published in 2007, Martijn de Rooi's How to Survive Holland aims to explain Dutch culture to readers unfamiliar with the Netherlands , including the history and population. The book is written from the perspective of a highly educated man who clearly loves his homeland, and hopes to educate the reader - identified as working on such misconceptions as the need to request a life buoy on arrival in the Netherlands as a safety measure against the rising waters. How to Survive Holland is a 175 page paperback expanded over twelve chapters covering topics like history, geography, food, and culture. The insight into the Dutch culture is valuable for the uninitiated and includes explanations beneficial to people wanting to emerge themselves into local society. Of note is the explanation of the Dutch liberal attitude of - equality for all, and tolerance of most things - as presented in chapter 4 'Abnormally Normal'. Criticisms of this book are based on the writing style. Many times thirty words are used when five would suffice. The result is that the reader is distracted by the style and intake of information is reduced. Being proud of one's own homeland can also reduce objectivity. Comparing the Vaals hill in the province of Limburg to Mount Everest, or the former Amsterdam City Hall building to the Taj Mahal or Roman Colosseum (pg72-73) may sound a little silly - and that is not the writer's intention. Finally, and of no fault to the author, in the six years since its publication, some information is outdated and now incorrect: like strippenkaart use on public transport, and Dutch places on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Buy this book  More >



Neamhspleachas

Neamhspleachas

Molly Quell is an American journalist who blogs about everything she finds shiny. More >




Amsterdamian

Amsterdamian

I try to create a relationship with this mysterious city. I love it and can’t get enough of it. More >


Invading Holland

Invading Holland

The adventures of an accident-prone English man who arrived in the Netherlands in 2001 for a six month stay. More >




I love Noord

I love Noord

North Amsterdam is described as the Brooklyn of the Dutch capital. If you want to know why, read this blog. More >


Amsterdive

Amsterdive

Amsterdam based actress invites you to dive with her into the cultural life of the city. More >





The Anatomy Lesson

In 1632 serial thief, Adriaen Adriaenszoon (known as Aris Kindt), was sentenced to death by hanging in Amsterdam. The Anatomy Lesson is based on the events that take place on the day of his death and dissection as depicted in Rembrandt'Ž“s famous painting, Ž•The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes TulpŽ“, an artwork commissioned by the Amsterdam Surgeons' Guild. This second novel from American writer, Nina Siegal, is contrived from historical records and coloured by prose. The narrative chronicles Kindt_Ž“s life, the lives of the individuals laying claim to the dead man_Ž“s body: Dr Tulp (the anatomist) Flora (the woman pregnant with his child) Rembrandt (artist) Jan Fetchet (curio collector and acquirer of medical cadavers) and Kindt himself (both alive and dead). Siegal has obviously spent copious time researching the subject matter. This historic authenticity of The Anatomy Lesson makes it easy for the reader to conjure up the people, places and events described in the narrative. Her descriptions of the cold, greyness of the Dutch winter are commendable. The tale rumbles gently along. At times it reads more as a play than a novel. Characters enter the stage and present a short monologue before exiting. The audience enjoy the performance, while anticipating the moment when the denouement reels the characters and story together into a satisfying conclusion. Needless the say, no more can be added without giving away the end of the book. Some readers may feel that the author's concentration on detail is pedantic and slows the flow of the narrative and the pace is slowed by the adoption of numerous characters narrating the story. Chapter headings give no clue to the identity of the narrator, leaving it to the reader to deduce from whose perspective the story is being told. Adding to this, sometimes confusing, mix is the occasional interruption by a present-day conservator employed to restore the painting (notably easier to identify due to a change in font). This literary style demands full reader concentration. Despite these niggles, The Anatomy Lesson is an enjoyable read. It provides the reader with an historical insight into a specific time period in the Netherlands, and an interpretation of the background story behind one of the most renowned paintings of the Golden Age, which now hangs at Mauritshuis in The Hague. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


The Netherlands in 26 iconic objects

What do ice skates, orthodox Christians and ecstasy pills have in common? They are all quintessentially Dutch objects featured in a new anthology which explores what it means to come from the Netherlands. Dutch writers were given the task of jotting down their favourite facts and memories about the objects that surround them in the Netherlands. The result is a pretty unique insight into what makes this country tick, from the herring cart to the notorious face mitt. Contributions come from writer Mano Bouzamour who tackles the beer bike, columnist Gerry van der List who looks at the Dutch love of garden gnomes and Wim Brandts who deals with the ubiquitous stroopwafel - among many others. Of course, many of these objects were not even invented in the Netherlands, as the book reluctantly admits, but the adoration for them is still clear. According to Henk van Os, the cheese parer, a Norwegian invention, belongs in the Netherlands and should be left to the Dutch to operate properly. Overall the tales create a picture of what is important to the Dutch and how this makes them unique. And the stories show the eccentric ways in which the Dutch fiercely guard national traditions, such as their passion for using orange at all national celebrations. There are also times when the book reveals something new about the country known for its windmill owning, bike riding tendencies. The books list of items might seem stereotypical but all is not as it seems. The tulip bulb has less to do with Dutch culture than with continuing a booming tourist industry and is certainly not seen by the Dutch as their national flower. From geraniums to black stockings, the stories provide many anecdotes from the typically Dutch childhoods of the 26 writers who contributed. However be warned, the romanticised memories experienced through the eyes of the infant Netherlander becomes heavy reading experience when read together. With the words 'Dutch' and 'the Netherlands' used over 175 times, this collection is stuffed full of factoids that you can impress both visitors and Dutch nationals with. Julia Corbett  More >


Dutch for Dummies

Joining the growing number of Dutch language books is the 2nd Edition of Dutch for Dummies by Margreet Kwakernaak. Adhering to the Dummies format, this four-part book with supplementary cd is both a Dutch language and culture guide. Part One covers the basics including 'de' or 'het', spelling rules, numbers, adjectives, propositions, past/present/perfect tense, and basic sentence construction. Language skill training is enhanced by snippets of cultural wisdom like - knowing what time you should visit your neighbors for coffee, and how many cups you will be expected to drink (p72), or how to talk about the weather (p74). The second part introduces language tools frequently utilized in activities of daily living with example conversations from the book available on the CD for listening and pronunciation practice. In addition to increasing the reader's vocabulary, these sample discussions are opportunities to teach further grammatical skills. Part Three continues to build on the previous section by extending the scenarios to those the reader may encounter when leaving their local area. Topics such as - arranging a car rental, hotel reservations, or dealing with emergency situations are included. Finally, Part Four comprises three chapters of information and advice on fitting into Dutch society as a non-Dutch person. Some of the tips on cultural wisdom, especially those in Ch16 seem outdated, and should perhaps be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Criticism includes complaints from some readers that the pronunciation on the CD is German rather than Dutch, and that the occasional spelling error is distracting. Overall the new Dutch for Dummies package offers a useful introduction to both the Dutch language and culture. Adopting the phrases found in specific situations presented in the book should provide the reader with confidence to continue in their efforts to master this challenging language. Buy this book  More >


Safe Passage

In the process of moving families around the world, the task of finding international schools with available places for children is sometimes the deal-breaker. While most international schools offer consistency in language, education and teaching philosophy, these schools have also been given the task of helping children to establish themselves within the school community. A new book by Douglas Ota argues that many students in international schools are suffering, psychologically and academically, due to an absence of available support during the transitional phases of joining and leaving the school environment. Hence, children are grieving the loss of the safe lives they had known, as they navigate through an unknown new school system, resulting in negative implications on confidence, self-identity and learning. As a Cross-Cultural Kid (CCK), psychologist and previous school counsellor at The American School in The Hague (ASH), Ota presents relevant psychological theories and research, adding personal anecdotes to advocate the need for transitional programmes in international schools. His book Safe Passage – How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should Do About It begins by considering the psychological stress children face when parents are relocated to a new country.  He utilises attachment theory and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to identify the responses of children and staff members confronted by the ever-changing population of students and staff in international schools. In later chapters, Ota presents a transitional model based on ‘Safe Harbour’, the programme he designed and introduced at The American School. Over seven chapters, this model is detailed in its design construction, implementation and evaluation phases. The book concludes with eight ‘Messages in Bottles’ – or letters to the relevant stake-holders: students, parents, teachers, administrators, board members, counsellors, human resource managers, and admissions staff – that identify the need for a transition programme from their specific individual perspective. These messages offer a quick learning, or Cliff Notes option, for readers not wanting to read the entire book. Safe Passage is based on thorough research conducted by an obviously highly experienced psychologist. The bibliography, notes and CIS accreditation standards total 32 pages, indicating that this book is more educational psychology textbook than a general expat resource guide. Even as a parent of children who have been in the international school system in different countries, Safe Passage is an intense book, yet it should be a mandatory read for all staff of international schools. Helping to ease children through the transitional phase, central in expat lifestyles, is crucial in ensuring these children are happy, confident and able to fully benefit from the academic programmes on offer at international schools. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


The Amsterdam Chronicles: Def-Con City

The Amsterdam Chronicles: Def Con City is a trilogy of crime novels by Irish writer, Brian Christopher, with Part 3 published in January this year. As the title suggests, the novels are set in Amsterdam - where good and bad guys run amok along the canals encircling the famous city centre. Harvey Wall is a homicide detective sent from the New York City precinct to the Amsterdam police on a six-month work exchange. His background is somewhat murky, and hints of him acting as a sole operator outside the confines of police procedures. Arriving in the Netherlands, Harvey outsmarts the two Dutch detectives sent to welcome him at Schiphol, dodging them to enter the city on his own terms. Before even setting foot in his guest precinct, he has detained three thieves and acquired himself a reputation for being slippery and brazenly unorthodox in his professional conduct. To the mirth of his new colleagues, Harvey is partnered with his antithesis Frank Bakker, '… a born-again hippie in his early thirties whose greatest pleasure in life was catching criminals' and eating stale pizza slices found in his desk drawer. This unlikely pair make for a successful police duo. When two unusual deaths take place on the same night within the same neighbourhood the police and a pathologist are called to investigate. More deaths follow in quick succession, expanding the crime scene to encompass recognisable Amsterdam neighbourhoods including Rembrandt Park, Kinkerstraat and the area around the Concertgebouw. The murders are creative and the culprit is endowed with specific powers akin to those of minor superhero characters. Links to the streets are included in the electronic version of the book for readers keen to follow where the action is taking place via Google Maps. The narrative is tight and fast-paced keeping the reader turning pages until the end. Occasionally there is a dip in credibility due to the use of character stereotypes, which do add colour to the story but are (hopefully) inconsistent with real Dutch police personnel. Ana McGinley Buy these books  More >


The Dutch: Prelude to their Golden Age

A historical novel about the time before the Dutch Golden Age? 'This could be hard work to wade through,' I said to myself. But as often happens when I judge a book by its cover, I was completely wrong, and it was well worth the effort. Author Richard E. Shultz has woven a huge amount of historical information into his book, which European history buffs should find very interesting. It also tells a good story, and what I found particularly impressive was the American author'Ž“s understanding of the Dutch psyche, particularly those in the North. Having lived among rural West Friesians for nearly three years, I certainly recognized the characters he depicts in the story, with the giant, no-nonsense, and uber pragmatic people I shared a remote village with, despite a few hundred years separating them. The author claims to have no-known Dutch ancestry, just an appreciation of the many gifts the Netherlands has given America and the entire world,Ž— but you'Ž“d think he was at least second generation Dutch from the way his book is written. A long-held admiration for the impact this little country has had on North American culture, was the driving force behind what is essentially, a very readable first novel. Buy this book  More >


Cloudless Amsterdam – City in Motion

An unexpected and beautiful view of a changing city From the wonderfully undulating Zeedijk and the monumental Westertoren to the copper-green Nemo in the Eastern Docks and the Water District of IJburg: Amsterdam has a wealth of striking places with impressive nuildings, fascinating streets and delightful squares. Photographer Peter Elenbaas took around seven thousand aerial photographs - most in the summer of 2012, but some of them decades ago - and chose his favourites for Cloudless Amsterdam: A City in Motion. Together they provide an unexpected view of the changing city. Journalist Lambiek Berends wrote a brief history to accompany them. Buy this book  More >


The Harbour Master

The latest novella from British author, Daniel Pembrey, is a thriller set in modern day Amsterdam. The Harbour Master escorts readers into the seedier parts of the Dutch capital in this fast-paced tale of prostitution, murder, human trafficking and police corruption. Amsterdam police detective, Henk van der Pol, is on the downhill run towards his retirement. During an early morning patrol, he discovers a woman's body floating in the Amsterdam harbour. Henk becomes overtly suspicious of the police investigation into the case, and is soon denied all access to information about the dead woman and the cause of her demise by his superiors. Fortunately, Henk is able to identify the tattoo on the corpse'Ž“s ankle before he is barred from the investigation. The tattoo directs him to Amsterdam'Ž“s underbelly, the red light district, where he uncovers an unhealthy relationship between the pimps, prostitutes, police and politicians. This discovery places Henk and his family in peril, and entails Henk fighting for their safety without the support of the local constabulary. The Harbour Master is a fast, tight and suspenseful read. The economical format of the novella demands the removal of all excess fodder from the narrative. The characters are swiftly introduced, developed and connected to the plot. Henks'Ž“ colleagues, both old and new, are smoothly incorporated, with dialogue and action congruous to the specific character and situation. The relationships linking Henk, his wife, and their daughter are flawlessly executed. A good example is the description of Henk's daughter, Nadia, receiving a surprise visit from her father at the café¸ she works in. Her discomfort, apparent in what she says and how her movements are described, makes the reader feel like an eye witness. Pembrey shows great skill as a crime fiction writer. His understanding and portrayal of people, places and situations is remarkable. The Harbour Master is a highly recommended addition to this popular literary genre. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


A Sample of Gouda

A Sample of Gouda - Photographs and Hidden Narratives of Gouda is the second book about this Dutch city by expats Persephone Abbott and Vinita Salomé. Their first book, published in 2012, The Bee’s Tour of Gouda, Buzzing through Vinita’s Lens, is a walking tour guide, complete with photographic highlights for the walker to identify along the route. The interest this guidebook attracted from the expat community and international media motivated Abbott and Salomé to continue their artistic collaboration. A Sample of Gouda is filled with beautiful photographs of historical relics located around the city, yet often missed by people living in or visiting Gouda. Each photograph is accompanied by a short story based on individuals like Davud from Bosnia, Nancy from New Jersey and Raj from Mumbai – people who relocated to Gouda from different countries and cultures. These concocted tales are loosely associated to the image apparent in the photograph on the facing page. A guide written from the visitor’s seat In terms of a city or culture guide, A Sample of Gouda- Photographs and Hidden Narratives of Gouda offers something new to Gouda and the increasing number of books about everything and anything ‘Dutch’. The book does not showcase the best of what the city, or Dutch culture, has to offer. Instead it offers readers 31 fictitious perspectives of trying to fit in to Gouda and the local culture as a foreigner. The struggles, apparent in the short stories, are given counterbalance by the photographic evidence of an old culture shaped by religion, traditions, and history. A Sample of Gouda- Photographs and Hidden Narratives of Gouda is a creative and interesting book by two women with an obvious love of Gouda and an understanding of the challenges many expats face with integration into this city. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


Why the Dutch are Different

At the risk of sounding like an uneducated pleb, I confess that being asked to review yet another book dealing with the history and culture of the Netherlands did not fill me with unabated excitement. A quick flip through the pages revealed the inclusion of the obligatory topics found in every book about the Netherlands – the Golden Age, water, windmills, land reclamation, bikes, drugs, Anne Frank and prostitution. Yet by the time I reached the last page of the book’s introduction, my hesitation had disappeared, and I eagerly sat up late into the night reading Why the Dutch are Different, laughing often and enjoying the  ride into the history of my adopted homeland. The Audacity to Go Searching Why the Dutch are Different provides the answers to all the questions I had but didn’t dare ask in my quest to understand what was going on around me in the Netherlands. New author, Ben Coates, is the Englishman brave enough to venture into the midst of the Dutch people, ask the questions, do the research, drink the cheap cocktails and wear the tiger outfit to Carnival. He unearths what the natives think about issues like immigrants, social security, Geert Wilders and Zwarte Piet. By connecting the dots of major historical events - up to and including present day events - the reader is presented with a clear explanation of what it means to be Dutch. The contents of the book are far reaching, albeit manageably sorted into seven chapters. In each chapter the author travels to various Dutch cities, attending local events. Each event is supported by historical background information with a modern day commentary.  An analysis of Dutch tolerance of prostitution, drugs, religious and political beliefs, is both interesting and accessible. A day spent researching and celebrating carnival in the southern cities of Maastricht, Eindhoven and Breda includes a discussion on the impact of religious divides on the Dutch people and country.  Attending Amsterdam’s museum night leads to a discussion about the Golden Age. Taking a picnic in Drenthe incorporates a discussion about the Nazi occupation during WWII and the Dutch response to protecting its Jewish citizens. So – Why are the Dutch Different? The answer seems to be hidden in how Dutch history has shaped the country's present position. There are many obvious factors like water management; windmills; an addiction to dairy products; biking; and the over-popularity of business meetings. A deeper understanding of the country and its people is a prerequisite to truly feel at home in the Netherlands. I can thoroughly recommend this book. Ana McGinley Why the Dutch are Different: A Journey into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands by Ben Coates. Published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing  More >