Author Archives: europeansinthenetherlands

10 things you might like to know about Girl with a Pearl Earring

Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665) has been voted ‘the most beautiful Dutch painting’ and described as ‘timeless, like the Mona Lisa’. She’s also a massive money-spinner and features on anything from bikes to baggage. Here’s 10 key facts.


1 It’s not a pearl
For starters, the pearl is not a pearl. A pearl of that size would simply not have been available to Vermeer. The painting didn’t acquire the name until 1995. Before then she was simply a ‘Tronie’, or a head or face, ‘Girl with Turban’, or ‘Head of a Girl’. Experts at the Mauritshuis think she may be wearing a Venetian bauble of varnished glass which was fashionable at the time while astronomer Vincent Icke opts for polished tin, which would also explain the shine.

2 Who’s that girl?
Nobody knows. She could be Vermeer’s daughter who was around twelve in 1665. Others put the date of the painting at 1655, putting Vermeer’s young wife of two years– literally – in the frame. Perhaps she was simply an anonymous model. According to Rembrandt expert Ernst van de Wetering most artists preferred actual models for their ‘Tronies’, so it is probably safe to conclude that whoever she was, she was not a figment of Vermeer’s imagination.

3  What does it mean?
If the painting was meant to showcase the artist’s mastery at depicting emotion as some art critics have it, the Girl with a Pearl Earring does not give much away. But perhaps that is the point.

girl with a pearl earring cuffllinks

4 The source of the blue

The headband of the turban is painted in Vermeer’s iconic blue. Although poor he used the very expensive natural ultramarine or crushed lapis lazuli in most of his paintings. In 2012 when the Rijksmuseum restored ‘Woman in Blue reading a Letter’  it found a layer of copper green paint underneath, which gave the blue extra depth.

5 How did the girl end up in the Mauritshuis?

In 1902 the painting, along with 12 others, was bequeathed to the Mauritshuis by army officer and art collector Arnoldus Andries Des Tombe who bought it at auction for two guilders in 1881. The Mauritshuis unfortunately managed to lose the original invoice.

6 Who painted it?
Girl with a Pearl Earring is among some 30 odd paintings attributed to Vermeer. Little is known about the artist- nicknamed the Sphinx of Delft – and many of his paintings went unsigned (although not this one: the signature is in the upper left hand corner) . Documents of the period contain descriptions which – tantalizingly – refer to paintings that are lost or perhaps remain hidden in an attic.

7 Who copied it?
The girl features on hundreds of souvenirs and in hundreds of parodies. Even Marge Simpson has posed as her. In 2014 elusive graffiti artist Banksy painted Girl with a Pierced Eardrum on a wall in Bristol. It was defaced hours after it was discovered.

girl with a pierced eardrum

8 What has it influenced?
Vermeer’s life and times spawned a multitude of novels. One of the best-known is Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring which was made into a film starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson as Vermeer and his model – she’s a servant in this version.

9 Did Vermeer like women?
The women in Vermeer’s paintings outnumber the men: women are depicted 40 times while men only put in an appearance 14 times. Not that it matters.

10 Where has she been?
Although Vermeer was probably not known very far beyond his native Delft, his Girl with a Pearl Earring has travelled extensively. Up to until now she’s been to Paris, Washington, Osaka, Tokyo, Kobe, San Francisco and Atlanta.

The 10 best places to live in the Netherlands

Every year, current affairs magazine Elsevier draws up a list of the best places in the Netherlands to live. The list is based on three things. First is the ambiance – the proximity to museums, luxury shops, cafes and if the town centre is ‘historic’. Second is Groen-Blauw – how close it is to parks and nature and the sea? Third is Harmonie – what the neighbourhood is like to live in – is there crime, dog shit and noisy neighbours?

Not surprisingly, this is not a list for those who prefer to live in the city.

zwarte berg in Laaren

In the far distance, you can see a pony

1 Zwarte Berg in Laaren

2 Rijkerspaarkbuurt in Velsen

3 Oostereng in Laren

4 Bredius Oost in Bussem

5 Bredius West in Bussem

6 Overveen

7 Rembrandtpark in Naarden

8 Heemsteedse Dreef and Schildersbuurt in Heemstede

9 Van Merlenbuurt and Valkenburgerplein in Heemstede

10 Aerdenhout centre

The seven metro lines of HollandCity

We think this is truly bizarre but the bright sparks in Holland Marketing seem to think this is the way forward – sell the Netherlands as if it is one big city and call it, yes, HollandCity.

The idea is to split the country up into districts, taking in all sorts of places of interest. So we have the Royal district of The Hague, the Lake district of Friesland and good old dynamic downtown Amsterdam. And, if you (and we quote) ‘are interested in architecture and feel comfortable in a dynamic (again) multicultural environment, you can stay in Rotterdam and still visit all the famous Dutch icons’.

To negotiate your way around this fictitious city, there are seven helpful routes you can take, depending on your own specific interests.  Please note, none of this is anything to do with real public transport.

HollandCity metrokaart

We’ve spent a good while trying to make sense of this map and we do have a few questions…

Why is Drachten is considered a suitable end to the Mondriaan Design Line?

Is Schiphol airport really such a great place to go shopping?

And what, on earth, is Zijpe?

10 start-up cliches we’d like to see go the way of the dinosaur

We love start-ups. Believe us, we absolutely do. And we fully support the efforts of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Groningen, Eindhoven,  XXX (fill in any Dutch city here), to become the start-up capital of the universe.

From the Dutch startupdelta website

From the Dutch website

It’s all hugely innovative and disruptive, of course, but we are becoming just a little bit tired of the clichés. Here is a list of 10 bits of start-up related lingo that we never want to see again.

Awesome – possibly the most over-used word in the start-up galaxy. We get the message, you are all awesome

Amazing – see awesome

Word play and puns involving App – What’sApp is enough. Appsterdam? Please no.

Upvote – the process of attempting to fix online polls in favour of your start-up by asking everyone in your social media system to vote for you – because you are awesome, or possibly amazing. Upvoting also renders all polls completely useless.

Hack – used in so many ways it has become meaningless. We see the word, we’re  hacked off.

Interns  – especially interns who are expected to become ‘head of visual design’ or ‘take charge of marketing and communications’ for pocket money, a pat on the head and the glory of being exploited by a company with a silly name.

Disruptive and revolutionary – is your takeaway dinner app or your online taxi platform really going to change the world order? We don’t think so.

Lean – another way of saying you have no money and you only exist because no-one is getting paid.

Describing yourself as a start-up when you have been around for years and years and raised millions of dollars in funding. It’s time to grow up.

Startup deltas, networks, portals, weeks and academies – when they have the helping hand of local government behind them. Amsterdam council is planning to launch a billboard and poster campaign as part of its ‘Startup City Branding’. Oh god.

And if you think we are being snarky about government involvement in the start-up scene, check out this video from We especially like the cowboy feature film music.

The 14 rules of Johan Cruyff

Our favourite ever Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff has a foundation which aims to get more children involved in sport. One of the things it does is set up special ‘Cruyff Courts’ where kids can play football or whatever in places where there is not much in the way of facilities. Attached to each court are these 14 rules.

This is a screen dump from the website, honest.

This is a screen dump from the website, honest.

1 Team player

To accomplish things, you have to do it together

2 Responsibility

Take good care of things as if they were your own

3 Respect

Respect one another

4 Integration

Involve others in your activities

5 Initiative

Dare to try something new

6 Coaching

Always help each other within a team

7 Personality

Be yourself

8 Social Involvement

This is crucial in sports, and even more so in life in general


The basics

10 Tactics

Know what to do

11 Development

Sports develop body and soul

12 Learn

Try to learn something new every day

13 Play Together

An essential part of the game

14 Creativity

The beauty of sport

We have to admit, we did edit them just a tad.

The 15 best B&Bs in the Netherlands

The Dutch Bed & Breakfast foundation has drawn up a list of the country’s top B&Bs. The list is headed by the Tala Lodge in Ravenswoud in Friesland – thanks to its ‘outside spa’ and its ‘large private suites’.

We think that sounds more like a hotel than a humble B&B and at €150 a night for a minimum of two nights, it costs as much as a hotel as well.

tala lodge b&b

A bathroom at the Africa themed Tala Lodge. Photo:

The one on the list we are not so sure about is Hotel California in Wichmond. But then, perhaps it is so fab we will never want to leave.

Five tulips

  1. Tala Lodge in Ravenswoud
  2. Life is Good in Heeswijk-Dinther
  3. Carpe Diem in Oirschot

Four tulips

  1. The Black Horse B&B & More in Ureterp
  2. De Paasloërhof in Paasloo
  3. Rietveld Cottage in Hazerswoude-Dorp

Three tulips

  1. Bed in de Betuwe in Hemmen
  2. De Boksloot in Ravenswoud
  3. Tulpen & Zo in Julianadorp

Two tulips

  1. Hotel California in Wichmond
  2. De Tuinkamer in ‘s-Gravenzande
  3. Lots4U in Culemborg

One tulip

  1. B&B Passage in Driebergen
  2. Motorschip Elisabeth in Leeuwarden
  3. De Vlinder in Nijmegen

Nine Dutch words every foreigner in NL uses, even if they don’t speak Dutch

There are some Dutch words which just sneak in to the conversation either because we use them so much or because there is no equivalent in our own tongues.

These should not be confused with 10 Dutch words which made it into everyday English or 11 false friends. Here’s a list of nine Dutch words every buitenlander drops into the conversation.

Lekker: the proverbial first word everyone seems to learn and which describes just about everything which is positive. Even people who say they don’t speak a word of Dutch will use the odd ‘lekker’.



Borrel: For some reason, we don’t go for drinks, we always have a borrel. And if you are young expats working in an international environment you may even have an vrijmibo

Btw: Always pronounced bee tee wee and meaning tax, not ‘by the way’.

There is no escaping accijns


Atv: Unlike btw, atv is often pronounced in the English way (by English speakers), as in ‘I’ve got an ei tee vee tomorrow. Lucky you.

Gemeente: perhaps it is because foreigner have so much to do with the good folks in the town hall, but everyone talks about the gemeente, never the council.

Makelaar: Those other good folk who find houses for extortionate fees.

Bel: When you have been in in the Netherlands a few weeks, everyone seems to stop phoning. We bel, as in ‘I’ll bel you tonight’.

Bellen on a bicycle?

Bellen on a bicycle?

Horeca: As in working in the horeca… its a terrifically handy term – hotel, restaurant cafe – and one which the rest of the world could easily adopt.

Apotheek: Another word that just sneaks in, even though there are plenty of respectable foreign language equivalents.

Feel free to contribute more… we know this is just the start.

10 Dutch football clubs with really ridiculous names

The Dutch, as we know, are a sensible folk. But not when it comes to naming their football clubs. In most countries football clubs have really boring names like Manchester United, Barcelona or Paris Saint Germain. But not so in the Netherlands. Our names are descriptive. Take Vlaardingen club CION for example. Its name is an abbreviation of Chevron Is Onze Naam  (Chevron is our name) – er, right!


Here is an alphabetical list of professional Dutch football clubs with weird names and one amateur side with possibly the weirdest name of them all.

ADO Den Haag
ADO (Alles Door Oefening or everything through practice) is the main football club in The Hague. ADO has never matched the successes of the other big city clubs Ajax (Amsterdam) and Feyenoord (Rotterdam), although it did win the national title in 1942 and 1943, as well as the league cup in 1968 and 1975. In 2008, the club was bailed out of financial difficulties by the local city council and opened its new 15,000-seat stadium. In 2014 it was bought by a Chinese sports marketing firm.

Alkmaar football club AZ was formed in 1967 when the professional clubs Alkmaar ’54 and FC Zaanstreek merged to create AZ ’67 (the ’67 was dropped in 1986). The club’s heyday was in the late 1970s and early 1980s but it was relegated to the first division in 1988. Ten years later, AZ returned to the premier division, taking the title in the 2008/09 season.

Go Ahead Eagles
Deventer side Go Ahead Eagles have possibly the most romantic name in Dutch football – if you are not into superheros like Ajax of course. The club was founded in 1902 as Be Quick but the name was soon changed to Go Ahead at the request of the Dutch Football Association. The suffix Eagles was added in 1971, following a suggestion from their then coach, Barry Hughes. The eagle part comes from Deventer’s coat of arms. Go Ahead are not, howwever, living up to their name and have relegated to the first division for the 2015/16 season.

Breda’s football club NAC was set up in 1912 as a merger between NOAD (translated, the letters stand for ‘Never Give Up Always Keep Going’) and ADVENDO (‘Pleasure Through Enjoyment and Usefulness Through Relaxation’). The resulting name was Noad Advendo Combinatie or NAC. Unless you want to write it all out in full – and then you probably have the world’s longest football club name. NAC has just been relegated to the Jupiler league

Nijmegen football club NEC, which has just moved from the Jupiler league to the Eredivisie, was founded in 1900 and claims to be the first in Holland to be set up by workers. Its name comes from Nijmegen Eendracht Combinatie or Nijmegen united combination.

PEC Zwolle
You need your wits about you to understand this one. PEC was founded on June 12 1910 following the merger of two other local clubs – Prins Hendrik and Ende Desespereert Nimmer (And Never Despair). The PH EDN Combinatie became PEC and added Zwolle in 1971. In 1982 it added ’82 to the name, only to drop the PEC and the ’82 in 1990 when it went bankrupt. The club was relaunched as FC Zwolle and continued on its merry way until 2012 when it won the first division championship and went back up the premier division. Cue a change of name again – the club once again became PEC Zwolle and won both the Dutch KNVB Cup and the Johan Cruijff Super Cup in 2014.

Roda JC
Roda JC is based in Kerkrade in Limburg and was formed in 1962 following the merger of Rapid JC and Roda Sport. Rapid JC, yes, you’ve guessed it, was formed through the merger of Rapid ’54 and Juliana. Roda Sport took its name when clubs SV Kerkrade and SV Bleijerheide merged – but we’re not really sure where the Roda bit comes from.

You might be forgiven for thinking the VVV stands for something exciting involving victorie or vooruitgang but you’d be wrong. VVV-Venlo stands for Venlose Voetbal Vereniging-Venlo or Venlo football association-Venlo – just in case you had not got the message where it is.

Willem II
Set up in 1896, the Tilburg premier league club Willem II is one of the oldest football clubs in the Netherlands. It was originally called Tilburgia but was renamed Willem II some 18 months later after the Dutch king of 1840-49 who was a local hero. The club has won the national title three times (1916, 1952, 1955). The team’s nickname is tricoloures because of its official red, white and blue striped shirts.

An amateur side in Amsterdam, the club’s name is the abbreviation of Zonder Samenspel Geen Overwinning en Wilskracht Maakt Sterk – Without Teamwork No Victory and Determination Creates Strength. The club was formed in 1996 following the merger of ZSGO and WMS, both of which date back to 1919. The club did not change its name to something more manageable because, according to the website, it can be easily found on internet and is a good advert. But what on earth do the supporters chant?

Want more? There are several websites devoted to mad Dutch football club names. WWNA, VAKO, HS Texas DSZ, Audacia (based on latin) – the list goes on and on and on.

The 12 tribes of the Netherlands

If you are Dutch yourself, or you have been here for some time, you will be well aware that the typical Dutchman does not exist. So here is a list of the 12 tribes of the Netherlands, to help newcomers identify who is who.

1 The Grachtengordelaar
This tribe is a mix of the seriously rich and bohemian (but still rich) arty types. They vote D66, or at least say they do. Despite this they are still dismissed disparagingly as the ‘linkse elite’ by right wing populist Geert Wilders and his ilk.

cargo bike

Habitat: The canal homes of Amsterdam, the Negen Straatjes, Noordermarkt organic market.

Clothes: Shabby chic, red trousers (men), white trousers tucked into boots (women)

Accessories: Cargo bikes, hockey sticks (adults), football boots (children of both sexes)

2 The Tokkies
The Tokkies take their name from a reality television programme Family Pride – which focused on a family with a matriarch surnamed Tokkie. The family was described by an exasperated housing association as having ‘terrorised the neighbourhood for years.’

Habitat: The original Tokkies lived in the notorious Burgemeester van Leeuwenlaan in Slotermeer – an area of post war social housing. Today, the generic Tokkie can be found everywhere.

Clothes: a campingsmoking, or tracksuit

Accessories: A big gut, a canta, a belligerent nature and some stuff that fell off the back of a lorry.

3 Jordanezen
Jordanezen are the original inhabitants of the Jordaan, a neighbourhood in the heart of Amsterdam. A poor but tightly knit community, the Jordanezen of yore shared a love of Italian opera – played on a street organ and danced to enthusiastically – and the neighbourhood spawned lots of famous singers, both male and female. The Jordaan has become a coveted place to live over the years and has been taken over by yuppies and most of the authentic Jordanezen have moved to Almere. They all return ‘home’ for the annual Jordaan Festival.


Habitat: Cafe Nol and the Johnny Jordaanplein

Clothes: Well worn but clean (in the olden days)

Accessories: lots of red plush, nostalgia for the olden days and CDs featuring  Johnny Jordaan, Willy Alberti and Tante Leen.

4 Volendammers
Volendammers form another tightly knit community. The inhabitants of the fishing village of Volendam are notoriously insular. No matter how long you have lived in Volendam you will never become a Volendammer. Volendam youngsters have a reputation for substance abuse. Volendam has also spawned pop groups (who excel at the ‘paling sound’, or ‘eel sound’) and famous football players.

Habitat: Volendam, fishmongers in Amsterdam (they own them) and building sites (they work on them)

Clothes: Klederdracht, or traditional costume but only for the numerous tourists.

Accessories: a fishing rod, a football, a microphone

5 Gooische vrouwen
A very popular tribe at the moment thanks to the television series and films. Gooische vrouwen are typically married to rich men, don’t work and spend their time meeting other Gooische vrouwen for lunch.

gooische vrouwen

Habitat: ‘t Gooi in Noord Holland – Naarden, Bussum, Blaricum and Laren.

Clothes: Frosted hair, white trousers tucked into boots, botox

Accessories: A Hummer, lots of bling, one overweight child with a hockey stick

6 Corpsballen
The corpsbal, or bal, is arrogant, misogynistic and hard-drinking and wears a tie at the age of 20 – in other words, a frat brat. Ballen are predominantly male and prone to indulge in weird rituals. Not good with women.


Habitat: Bars, student association premises, the hockey pitch

Clothes: blazer and (frat house) tie

Accessories: a biertje (never a pils)

7 Tukkers
The tribe of the Tukkers is confined to the east of the country, in the province of Overijssel where they live cheek by jowl with that other eastern tribe the Achterhoekers in Gelderland. Perhaps unsurprisingly, both areas are mobile phone blackspots. The name Tukkers was a derogatory one for the mainly rural population of Twente, now it is carried with pride.

Habitat: Twente

Clothes: Twentenaren are indistinguishable from other Dutch people until they open their mouths and talk Twents

Accessories: a lighter, a milk churn, some milk and a bit of carbide to practice carbidschieten, or blowing up milk churns.

8 Dodgy politicians from Limburg
Limburg, along with Brabant, are two provinces that strait-laced northeners call ‘bourgondisch’. What they mean is that Limburgers like to eat, drink and be merry, and what they imply is that because of all this cosiness businessmen and politicians rub shoulder a little too enthusiastically, as indeed several scandals have revealed. Most belong to the VVD. Typical specimens include Jos van Rey and Mark Verheijen (allegedly of course)

Habitat: Limburg town halls

Clothes: business suit and tie

Speech: a Limburgs accent is Dutch ‘with a soft g’. Limburgs proper is one of three minority languages in the Netherlands recognised by the European charter for regional and minority languages. It is incomprehensible to non-Limburgers.

Accessories: little brown envelopes, credit cards

9 The Zwartekousenkerk
These scary men (and women) who belong to a zwartekousenkerk, or church of the black stockings, are members of one of  myriad of strict Protestant religious communities in the Netherlands. Go to Staphorst on a Sunday and there’s a good chance you’ll meet some of its members as they go to church at least twice.

church service

Photo: Rubenf

Habitat: The Dutch Bible belt: from the west of Overijssel to Zeeland.

Clothes: Dark suits for the men, hats and skirts for the women and never ever trousers.

Speech: When talking of things religious, they will use the ‘tale Canaäns’ (the language of Canaan), an archaic, biblical Dutch is used, with Hebrew expressions.

Accessories: a Bible and hats

10 De Friezen
Frisians are perhaps the most fiercely nationalistic of all Dutch tribes, coming from the northern province of Fryslân with its 11 cities and its own official language. Frisians speak Frysk at the drop of a hat, especially when they meet other Frisians for the first time – it’s a sort of test and mutual bonding ceremony. There is also a Fryske Nasjonale Partij which has five out of 43 seats on the provincial council. A long way to go there then.


Habitat: Ljouwert (Leeuwarden), Frjentsjer (Franeker), Hylpen (Hindelopen), Snits (Sneek) – you get the picture

Language: Learn this off by heart to fit in: Bûter, brea, en griene tsiis; (butter, bread and green cheese) wa’t dat net sizze kin, is gjin oprjochte Fries (who can’t say that is not Frisian)

Accessories: Speed skates and a Frisian flag ,which despite what you may think features waterlilies, not hearts

11 Brabos
Brabos are inhabitants of Noord-Brabant. Key word for this tribe is gezelligheid, as in a gezellige Brabantse koffietafel, or a jolly coffee-and-cakes get together where you are sure to be offered a Bossche bol, or chocolate and cream puff pastry ball. The Carnaval celebrations are another important part of Brabo culture. Brabos are hospitable and when you leave the coffee gathering full of cream puff pastry they will send you on your way with a hearty ‘houdoe!’ which means ‘Take care!’.

Habitat: Noord-Brabant

Clothes: Anything and everything at Carnaval

Accessories: Anything and everything at Carnaval

12 Expats
Quite how big this tribe is unclear but most foreigners in the Netherlands do not consider themselves to be expats. Expats tend to be very critical of their new environment and stick together in sub tribes, depending on where they originally came from. Favourite moans include the the awfulness of Albert Heijn, Dutch ‘directness’ and the non-acceptance of credit cards.

Habitat: Networking events, Zuidas, expat fairs and expat centres

Speech: Expats like to show off their three words of Dutch in front of friends and then get very angry when the waitress answers them in English with a French accent.

Clothes: Expats dress pretty smartly when they first arrive but quickly adopt Dutch standards – jeans with a jacket and suede shoes for both sexes – when they’ve been here a while.

Accessories: A bike, a 30% tax ruling, passports and a plane ticket home.