The Art of Living in Amsterdam

The Art of Living in Amsterdam

Amsterdam's historic network of concentric canals earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 2010. The impressive architecture and facades of this elegant town centre are mirrored by the luxury and chic of the building's interiors. Italian photographer Listri and author Van Ogtrop take the reader on an indulgent photographic tour of this refined environment, where the Dutch Golden Age past meets with contemporary interior design and technologies in the homes of artists, collectors and antique dealers. Buy this book    More >

Dutch Scoop

Dutch Scoop

Mary Petiet is an American writer and reporter. She is currently exploring all things Dutch as she adjusts to life in More >

Dutch Wannabe

Dutch Wannabe

Lesia is the writer behind Dutch Wannabe, a travel blog focusing on culture-oriented travel in The Netherlands and bey More >

Amsterdam Foodie

Amsterdam Foodie

Amsterdam restaurant reviews, seasonal recipe suggestions and all the latest culinary news from a local foodie. More >

Kristen in Clogland

Kristen in Clogland

'Kristen in Clogland' is a blog about an Aussie discovering the Netherlands and adjusting to life in another country More >

The Dutch Golden Age

A beautifully illustrated book about the Golden Age of The Netherlands. Produced to Accompany the Dutch documentary series De Gouden Eeuw. Buy this book  More >

Stuff Dutch People Like takes on food and mothers

The Stuff Dutch People Like empire has done some considerable expansion in 2016 with a look earlier this year at language and now a plunge into food and the world of motherhood. Author Colleen Geske, a Canadian by birth, has now turned her attention to celebrating Dutch parenting and asks herself 'why do Dutch mums have it all?'. It did not start out that way. 'Home births were not urban legends, as I had hoped, but a frightening reality,' she writes in the introduction. 'Could I actually give birth, let alone raise a family, in this country far away from the comforts and familiarities of home?' Colleen is now the proud mother of two children, both born in the Netherlands and both growing up into little Amsterdammers. The book Stuff Dutch Moms Like is based partly on her experiences, partly on heaps of facts and useful information, and partly on the experiences of others mothers, both Dutch and foreign. Dutch parenting, she states, has often been described as laid-back, relaxed and quite permissive. Not that she would argue with these observations, you understand, but that 'you could make the wrong assumption that this parenting style is without substance or reason'. Helicopter mums have yet to arrive in the Netherlands and freedom, independence and letting children be children are paramount. The style is light and informative - like chatting to a friend - and Colleen's enthusiasm so persuasive you might end up wishing you were having a baby yourself, just to test it all out. Buy this book   Stuff Dutch People Eat The fourth book in the Stuff Dutch People Like stable is a homage to the Dutch snackbar and dinner table. Complete with recipes for pea soup, grandmother's apple pie and even stroopwaffels, Stuff Dutch People Eat is a lavishly illustrated celebration of Dutch food. And yes, she does throw in recipes for roti and nasi goreng for good measure. Liberally sprinkled with humour and exclamation marks, Colleen is even positive about boerenkool and herring - which must mean she is a fully integrated Dutch cook. This is a great gift for a new arrival, a longer term resident or someone who has left the Netherlands and is still nostalgic for a bitterballen or olliebollen at New Year. Now they can make them themselves. Buy this book  More >

The Darkness that Divides Us

Born in Amsterdam in 1954, Renate Dorrestein began her working life as a journalist for the Dutch magazine Panorama. Her first novel Buitenstaanders (1983) became a bestseller and marked the beginning of an industrious career in literature. Dorrestein has published more than 30 fictional and autobiographical books, some of which have been translated or made into films - gaining her international recognition as a writer of merit. Dorrestein’s collection of work was awarded the Annie Romein Prize in 1993. She won the Vondel Prize for Translation for her novel Heart of Stone and was nominated for numerous literary prizes including the Libris Literature Prize for Een Sterke Man (A Strong Man) and the AKO prize for Zonder Genade (Without Mercy).  Dorrestein has twice written the national Dutch Book Week complimentary book, in 1997 and 2008. The Darkness that Divides Us Initially published in 2003 as Het Duister dat Ons Scheidt, this recently released version was translated by Hester Velmans and is available to English readers as The Darkness that Divides Us. The novel is a family drama infused with mystery. The book is divided into three parts, with each part covering a six-year period. The 26 chapters are titled with a letter of the alphabet, beginning with ‘A is for Abacus’ and ending with ‘Z is for Zeal’. The storyline revolves around a Lucy, a Dutch girl who spends her early childhood living in a rectory with her artist mother and their two male boarders, Ludo and Duco. A tragic crime is committed, resulting in Lucy’s mother being sent to prison and six-year-old Lucy experiencing a drastic drop in popularity with her peers. Her childhood in this idyllic Dutch village becomes an ordeal when the children commence a constant regime of bullying. In Part Two Lucy’s mother is released from jail and returns home. The local community is unwilling to allow her re-entry into the life she had prior to her incarceration. Lucy too is unable to reconnect her relationship with her mother, preferring the company and guidance of Duco and Ludo. Seeking a panacea to their domestic unrest, the four escape to a life of anonymity on the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Here Lucy is given the chance to reshape her childhood with the island children. The final part of the book focuses on Lucy departing Lewis and the care of her guardians for Amsterdam where she plans to live independently and attend college. Her resolution disappears upon seeing someone from her past. She quickly slips into a funk, unable to leave her room. A meeting with her mother in the final pages resolves the mystery that has been weaved throughout the narrative, shaping the lives of the main characters. Beautiful, happy people? No. Dorrestein doesn’t write about beautiful people. She refrains from sentimentality in her character descriptions, choosing instead to expose their flaws. These negative attributes are easily identifiable in the general populace. The children in the book may be adventurous in their antics, yet in general, are written as nasty, dirty, destructive bullies. Adult characters are devoid of empathy and driven by their own insecurities. The plot holds tightly together, tempting the reader further to uncover the secrets hidden in later pages. The translation of this narrative of complicated interpersonal relationships is the work of an extremely skilled translator in Hester Velmans. The Darkness that Divides Us succeeds as an English language novel and is highly recommended. Ana McGinley Buy this book  More >

The Hague and the best of the Netherlands

Published in 2013, The Hague and the best of the Netherlands by Violetta Polese and Blake Evans-Pritchard, elects The Hague, and not Amsterdam, as the focus city of the book. The rationale behind this choice is that many expats relocate to The Hague. Although a valid explanation, curious readers may suspect the additional motive behind choosing The Hague is that it was the adopted home of the authors during their time in the Netherlands. The book is written in three sections, closing with a short language lesson supplemented by audio download. Essential Dutch Information The first section concentrates on information essential to people moving to the Netherlands, such as health insurance, opening bank accounts, paying taxes, and labor laws. The explanation of the Dutch economy and political scene in just two pages - is a gift to readers. Further, the concise history of the Netherlands (p62-73) provides the basics to understanding famous artworks, churches and monuments visited by millions of tourists each year. The Hague The advantage of the author'Ž“s first hand knowledge of the city and the local surroundings becomes obvious in the section dedicated to The Hague and surrounding areas. Walking and cycling routes, museums, sporting options, restaurant reviews, descriptions of neighborhoods, public transport, and hidden gems within the city _Ž are all tried and tested by the writing team. Contact details including opening hours and cost are met with comments on value and services. This is particularly useful if you are new to the city and need a bike repair store (p138), a cheap barber (p135) or a Japanese restaurant (p178)Ž yet don'Ž“t know where to start looking. Best of the Netherlands Undoubtedly the final section of the book will face some criticism from both locals and temporary residents alike. With the exception of South Holland, each province is limited to a few pages. This raises questions about the authors' views. Did the authors not like Haarlem, Hilversum and Eindhoven? And why does Amsterdam'Ž“s Red Light District get almost double the coverage given to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh'Ž“s museum combined? Regardless what the answers may be, The Hague and the best of the Netherlands is an informative, interesting, sometimes unusual city guide, filled with insider information and enthusiastic recommendations. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >

Little Kingdom by the Sea

Since the late 1950s, Dutch flag carrier KLM has been giving little Delft blue and white pottery houses to its first class (now business class) passengers. The houses, actually little bottles containing jenever, or Dutch gin, are all based on real buildings and Little Kingdom by the Sea tells their stories. The little houses are beloved by collectors and offered for sale on auction sites and specialist websites all over the internet. Among the collectors, the book says, is celebrated author Gabriel Garcia Marques who asked for a number of minatures in return for writing an article for the airline's magazine. King Willem-Alexander is said to be a collector as well, and when princess Christina put her collection up for sale at Sotheby's, it was bought by the Hungarian honorary consul. Every year gin maker Lucas Bols and KLM get together to decide which building to use next - a decision ultimately taken by KLM's chief executive. The buildings which have been turned into miniatures range from royal palaces to bars, from merchants homes and museums and all have their own stories to tell. If you are a collector, the book is a great source of information about the houses, from number one to number 95. If you like Dutch history, it is a treasure trove of stories. There are also suggestions for several heritage trails, including a historical pub crawl in Amsterdam which takes you past many of the bars which feature in the collection. One note of caution - it is a weighty little book and too thick to read comfortably with one hand. The English is also slightly clunky at times. Nevertheless, Little Kingdom by the Sea offers readers an exclusive peek into the lives of the people who lived in the houses and includes portraits of pioneers, adventurers and other glamorous figures who made their mark on Dutch history. Buy this book  More >

How to be Orange

How to be Orange, offers an insightful look at Dutch culture by social commentator and comedian, Greg Shapiro. Shapiro's extensive knowledge of Dutch culture and politics has been accrued over twenty years of living and working in the Netherlands. His cultural immersion has involved marriage to a Dutch woman and parenting first generation Dutch children, while living in Amsterdam and forging a durable career within the local art scene. In the Netherlands, Shapiro is the immigrant people laugh at. He happily accepts this fate, not just because it is how he makes his living, but because it indicates that his efforts at inburgering have been a success. Shapiro is an American, obvious in many ways including numerous comparisons of the Netherlands to the US throughout the book. His birth culture is the basis for what formulates his views about his adopted land. An example is chapter 22 on Dutch service, renowned for being non-existent if you are lucky, and terrible if your luck is running short. Shapiro rates service in North America as sitting on the other end of the hospitality scale - something akin to being downright annoying due to desire of earnest staff to increase their tips by attentive servitude. Stage show The book is the offspring of the author's stage show, and hence the material has been tried and tested in terms of relevance to the audience/reader experience. Newcomers to the Netherlands will identify with topics like dealing with government bureaucracies that don't make sense acquiring a cheap, used bike from unscrupulous sources feeling insulted by Dutch honesty and the irrational love of Zwarte Piet in a land that is otherwise unable to gracefully accept racial differences into its mix. Difficult topics are tackled with facts, sharp insights and often hilarious, personal anecdotes. Presented in two parts, part one contains 24 short chapters interspersed with caricature illustrations of Shapiro by Floor de Goede, and photos of Dutch things that become laughable in translation. Exam Part Two is the Assimilation Exam, a list of questions and answers used in the National Inburgering Test, a test of Dutch cultural understanding for foreigners. This second part emphasizes the idiosyncrasies of Dutch culture that are difficult to understood even for the Dutch, yet can be found in the examination questions for newcomers. Again, Shapiro addresses the odd image the Dutch have of themselves, compared to how the world sees the Dutch. A good example is the multiple choice question about where Dutch people go on holidays (p235). The answer that is officially correct is: A) The Netherlands, yet Shapiro states that the true answer is actually: B) In France and Spain. Most Dutch people, and camping ground staff in France and Spain, would agree with Shapiro. How to be Orange is not an official guide book to Dutch culture, yet the inclusion of this book on the essential reading lists of cultural assimilation courses would save newcomers unnecessary frustration in understanding their host country. For the rest of us, the book is a compendium of humorous subjects presented with respect, wit and sarcasm by an American with a strong attachment to the people and culture of his adopted homeland. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >

NLXL – possibly the biggest book about the Netherlands you have ever seen

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   More >

A Short History of the Netherlands

The development of the Netherlands over the centuries has been a remarkable one. Situated at 'the end of Europe,' between land and water, its people have, for more than three thousand years, fought to make the best of a country unfavoured by nature. They have shaped it into one of the world's foremost economic powers but also, and even more importantly, into a society that prides itself on having reached a fair balance between material and social well-being. The history of this achievement is a fascinating one. Since time immemorial, it is the history of the struggle against the sea, of man seeking to dominate the forces of water. It is the history of the early medieval Dutch traders, who travelled all over Europe to sell their wares. It is the history of the activities ofthe world's first multinationals, the Dutch East and West India Companies, that spanned the entire globe. It is also the history of the loss of colonial empire and of the triumphant rebuilding of a mainly commercial economy into a mainly industrial one, whose activities, once again, span the globe. It is, of course, also the history of a culture to match, of commonsense and realism, of the wonderful works of art produced by the Dutch 'Golden Age' of the seventeenth century and of the many attainments of Dutch civilization in more recent years. For all those who are often amazed at the industry and achievementsof this small nation, the 'Short History of the Netherlands' offers a succinct historical tale that goes a long way to elucidate the country's past and, thus, explain its present. Buy this book    More >

Quiet Amsterdam

Now here's an idea. Why not write a book about quiet, reflective little nooks in one of Europe's most vibrant and bustling little cities? What might sound like a dull excuse for a tourist guide, is actually an understated stroke of genius from an expat resident just looking for a spot of tranquility, in a tiny city with a reported four million visitors a year. Siobhan Wall, author of Quiet Amsterdam, has penned an elegant little Baedeker inviting readers to seek out over one hundred idyllic and rarely-seen places, in and around Amsterdam. Although the chapters list all the usual tourist necessities such as restaurants, museums, parks and so on, each place has been specially chosen for its peaceful qualities. This is unlikely to be of much interest to first timers visiting the capital, who will want to see all the usual stuff you associate with Amsterdam, but for long-time residents and natives, this offers something unique, and a novel way to explore some interesting and little-known corners of the city. As with anything Dutch there are a few quirky inclusions, such as the Schipol Airport Meditation Room (free entry with any valid airline ticket once you get through the security checkpoint), and my personal favourite, Spa Zuider, where nakedness is strictly enforced everyday throughout the year, except on Tuesdays. Everywhere mentioned in this charming and delightful little book is within a 45 minute bus, tram or cycle ride from Centraal Station. Buy this book Shelley Antscherl  More >

Dear Mr M

Herman Koch is widely acclaimed for his 2009 novel Het Diner (The Dinner) – a book that sold over 1 million copies in Europe, was translated into 21 languages, and has been produced as a play and film. In addition, Koch’s biography of work includes eight novels, seven short story collections, newspaper columns, and acting roles or collaborations with various Dutch film, television and radio programmes. Two years ago Koch published his latest novel Geachte heer M in Dutch. The book has been translated to English and released by Picador, a UK publishing house, under the title Dear Mr M In short, Dear Mr M is about a once famous writer (Mr M) adjusting to his decreasing popularity with the reading public. After an illustrious career, he is now reduced to book signings at village libraries and literary dinner events diminished by budget cuts matching the reduced earnings of the invited authors. Mr M is being stalked by someone who believes that he is a character in the author’s most famous murder mystery, and is seeking a different outcome to the tale. Thriller The book cover blurb describes the novel as a 'literary thriller', and indeed it is both literary (main character is an aging author; main plot is based on a real event shaped by the confabulations of the author without regard to facts; an abundance of criticism of the literary world) and a thriller (a missing person, many possible suspects and motives). Yet, 'literary thriller' is somewhat misleading and may disappoint readers seeking the excitement of a novel that demands to be read in a single sitting, like The Dinner. Nevertheless, Dear Mr M is a clever story. The narrative comes from the perspective of five characters covering several decades. Koch insists that the reader stay focused, offering the occasional red herring to the plot that disappears as the next clue box is opened. This technique continues to the last few pages. Not likeable The Dutch Foundation for Literature describes Herman Koch as 'an ironic-realistic writer relating dramas worth telling', who writes about characters '… burdened by their empty existence…'. Given his cast in both The Dinner and Summer House with Swimming Pool (2011), the description rings true. Koch does not create likeable people. At almost 450 pages it is a long, slow read with a cast of characters who don’t elicit reader empathy. Herman Koch exposes the underbelly of the Dutch upper class, a perspective not usually given, but perhaps one to be expected from the boy once expelled from Amsterdam’s Montessori Lyceum. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >