Making Friends with the Dutch

How to Make Dutch FriendsHow to Make Dutch Friends

Do you have many Dutch friends? It might sound like an odd question to put to internationals living in the Netherlands, but it isn’t.

Many internationals have no problem meeting Dutch people but when it comes to forming real friendships that’s when things get difficult.

Expat surveys back this up. The HSBC bank conducts a yearly survey on expat experiences in 45 countries around the world and the Netherlands scores badly on making friends and social life.

This time in the Here in Holland podcast internationals talk about their experience when it comes to making Dutch friends and there are some great tips too on how to melt the ice with the Dutch.

Feeling isolated

One of the expats featured in the podcast is Haseeb from Pakistan. An IT professional who has lots of expat friends but no real Dutch friends.

“Yeah it makes you feel a bit isolated, like you are not really taking part and you don’t really know what is going on around you,” he says.

Cheryl is an international student from Hong Kong:

“The Dutch are more comfortable in their own social circles and as an outsider, an invader, it is very difficult to break in.”

Take the initiative

Judy is from the US and lived as an international in Germany before coming to the Netherlands:

“I would say to people don’t expect people to come knocking on your door – they might, but don’t expect it. You have to make the effort yourself. It’s the same whether you are in Germany, the US or the Netherlands.”

Give the Dutch a reason to be with you

How to Make Dutch FriendsThis sentiment is echoed by Vassia Sarantopoulou who runs the Anti-Loneliness Project

“You need to insist on social contact and you need to keep on insisisting. If you are turned down once or twice just keep on going.”

“The Dutch need a reason to do things so give them a reason, find a common interest or hobby not just meeting over beers.”

Event to meet the Dutch

The city of Leiden is organising an event at the end August We Are Leiden to bring locals and newcomers together.

Newcomers will get a city tour and then there’s a picnic. The event is free and is being run by local cultural organisations. All internationals are welcome.

Video of internationals talking about the experiences of trying to make friends with the Dutch.

Here in Holland is the podcast in English about life with the Dutch – it’s produced by Andy Clark  – contact him via or Facebook – website – you can subscribe to get all the podcasts in via your iPhone podcast app or your Android app of choice.  Or follow on Soundcloud


Hilarious stories of international life in the Netherlands

Ever had a funny, disorientating or downright weird experience as an internationalHilarious stories of international life in the Netherlands living in the Netherlands?

You are not alone.

Life as a newcomer in the Netherlands never ceases to amaze – just when you think stuff won’t get any wackier then things get turned up a notch or two.

This time in the podcast a collection of random stories I’ve gathered over the past few months since I started making the show.

Unlinked and yet strangely interconnected by the wonderful world which is our collective Dutch experience.

Hilarious stories of international life in the Netherlands.

Podcast: Here in Holland – Weird and Weirder


Cycling mayhem

Hilarious stories of international life in the NetherlandsThe podcast has a range of great stories this time. Take Luke, a British guy living in Amsterdam. Like most internationals he is keen to hone his cycling skills in the Netherlands. So, imagine his embarrassment when ending up mounting the pavement on his bike and accidentally head-butting an old man.

“There was lorry coming the wrong way down the street and I had to swerve to avoid being hit – there was nothing I could do,” says Luke.

“I ended up having to go up on the pavement and crashed into an old man head-butting him in the face. He swore at me profusely and I just kept on trying to say it wasn’t my fault and there was nothing I could do.”

In the end the old man was ok, apart from the shock of having a young British guy literally in his face of course.

Surprise  – it’s a cremation

When Molly from the US was trying to improve her Dutch she made friends with a lovely little old lady in her eighties who didn’t speak much English.

A perfect way to learn more about Dutch culture and practice her Dutch skills.

So, Molly was explaining about surprise parties in her best Dutch – verrassings feesten (surprise parties) she said, or thought she said. The little old lady heard – verassings feesten, which means cremation parties. Only one ‘r’ less but a world of difference in meaning and probably not the best topic to talk to little old ladies about.

“Yeah it’s only one letter difference but I guess my pronunciation was not so great and she was totally confused. She probably still thinks to this day that Americans jump out with balloons and streamers at cremations,” said Molly.

Coffeeshop menus

Hilarious stories of international life in the NetherlandsAnd Ruba from Palestine was totally confused by coffeeshops when she first arrived.

“We knew that you could buy cannabis from a menu – but we thought it was just an item on a menu in a restaurant. You know, like always on the menu in all restaurants. We had no idea there were special coffeeshops with their own menus for cannabis. It was a big surprise.”

“What was also really weird is that we were told it was not allowed to smoke a cigarette in a coffeeshop, only weed. I’m mean, why???”

To hear these stories in their full glory listen to the latest podcast. There are other stories too about language mix ups, more cycling mayhem and total disbelief about missing floors in rental apartments.

Here in Holland is a podcast in English about life in the Netherlands – it’s produced by Andy Clark  – contact him via or Facebook – website – you can subscribe to get all the podcasts in via your iPhone podcast app or your Android app of choice.  Or follow on Soundcloud

Tips on how to get a good job in the Netherlands

Getting a job in the NetherlandsTips on how to get a good job in the Netherlands

The job market in the Netherlands is currently buoyant for internationals, according to recruitment expert Katerina Alikaridou from Randstad Multilingual.

And with determination and good planning internationals should be able to find a good job within two to four months.

This time in the Here in Holland podcast an interview on getting work in the Netherlands as an expat.

When it comes to your CV it should be a good reflection of yourself and something which exudes your passion.

“Your CV should be something you really believe in and something that really tells your story quickly so a potential employer knows what you have to offer.”

“It should not just be a paper that you don’t really pay attention too,” says Katerina.

And when it comes to photos on a CV the recruitment expert says it is not essential to have a picture but if you do have one then you need to make sure it is appropriate.

She’s seen pictures of women in bikinis on CVs and of men posing in sunglasses trying to look super cool.

“These sorts of photos are great if you want to send them to your boyfriend or girlfriend but definitely not on a CV – it needs to be professional.”

Adding a video pitch to your CV can also really help.

And being active on social media is a must in getting a good position in the modern Dutch job market.

Linked In is the most important – a good professional up to date profile listing your achievements and strengths.

And a word of warning. Be careful what you have open to the public on your other social media channels – those crazy party photos on Facebook are also there for a potential employer to see if you have everything open to the public.

When it comes to languages then English is pretty much vital when it comes to getting an international job in the Netherlands – learning to speak Dutch will also improve your chances.

Best of all is  combination of your native language, English and Dutch.

So what’s the golden tip when it comes to getting a good job in the Netherlands?

“ I people need to work on their motivation, they really need to be certain as to why they are here, what their goal is and then they need to really go for it. Once you know this then you will be able to stay focused build your network and achieve your goals, “ says Katerina.

Here in Holland is a podcast in English about life in the Netherlands – it’s produced by Andy Clark  – contact him via or Facebook – website – you can subscribe to get all the podcasts in via your iPhone podcast app or your Android app of choice.  Or follow on Soundcloud

Laughing out Loud – Improvised Comedy in The Hague

A stepmother and stepson are on honeymoon together and the stepmother confesses she murdered the son’s father so they could be together.

Minutes later a heart surgeon sews his thumb to a patient.

Sounds gruesimprovised comedy in the Hagueome and bizarre? Don’t worry these are scenes from an improvised comedy evening at Theatre Pepijn in the Hague.

If you are not familiar with improv then it works by the actors asking for prompts from the audience.

The theatre goers shout out locations, characters and motivations and then the actors get to work. Then the comedy chaos unfolds.

This time in the podcast – Laughing out Loud with The Cyclepaths.


So, what does it take to make an expat audience laugh?

improvised comedy in the HagueLuke Davies is one of the core members of The Cyclepaths.

“Well it’s great playing for an expat audience and especially at Theatre Pepijn in the Hague – they really great out jokes and afterwards they are always asking us if we can do more shows.”

Margo van de Linde is another core member of the group and she says playing for expats is great:improvised comedy in the Hague

“We can really express ourselves in these shows as the audience speaks such good English so we can use all kinds of word plays and puns and metaphors that we would not necessarily use with a Dutch audience.”

The group always performs in English and does a lot of work with Dutch schools which have English language streams – the TTO (tweetalig onderwijs) streams.

improvised comedy in the HagueInyaki Magno has been with The Cyclepaths from the start – when asked what makes form a good show he says:

“Not trying to be funny – that’s an important one – and how drunk the audience is.”

Find out more about The Cyclepaths

Here in Holland is a podcast in English about life in the Netherlands – it’s produced by Andy Clark  – contact him via or Facebook – website – you can subscribe to get all the podcasts in via your iPhone podcast app or your Android app of choice.  Or follow on Soundcloud

Blogger’s fight with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome

An Aussie blogger pregnant with twins finds herself in a fight with an incredibly rare condition which threatens to kill her unborn twins.

Blogger's battle with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome

Twins Mathilde (left and very red) and Emilie (right and very pale) – mum Stephanie first developed TTTS and then TAPS.

“Sometimes life throws something at you and you just have to deal with it. I sometimes asked myself how I remained sane,” Stephanie Ernst – blogger and mum of twins.

We all know that life can be random and just when you think things are running smoothly you are most likely to be thrown off course.

This certainly happened to Aussie Stephanie Ernst. First, she found out she was pregnant with twins – shock number one. Then then the twins developed an incredibly rare and life threatening disease whilst still in the womb, shock number 2.

This edition of the Here in Holland podcast features a story about the desire to have children and the fear of losing them.

Blogger’s battle with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome

Fighting Twin to twin transfusion syndrome

Stephanie Ernst

When the Aussie blogger heard she was having twins her reaction was typical: “You’ve got to be shitting me,” she told the nurse before going to ask if she could have a vodka.

But it certainly was for real. Terrible morning sickness followed: “I think I threw up in every bin between my house and the local hospital,” she says.

But apart from this, things were continuing smoothly. Until a routine scan at 23 weeks.

An anxious technician calls for the doctor and then the wheels of the rollercoaster are set in motion.

The doctor at the Flevo Hospital in Stephanie’s home town of Almere suspects TTTS – Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome – and she is sent to the LUMC, a specialist centre for this rare condition.

“It was terrible – it was like I’d been given a death sentence for the twins,” says Stephanie.

The diagnosis was confirmed in Leiden.

Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome occurs in some identical twins who share a placenta.

These twins are connected by veins cross the placenta and when the syndrome strikes one fetus transmits a lot of its blood to the other.

TTTS Donor and recipient

One baby is known as a donor and the other a recipient.

“I was told that baby A was stuck to the uterus wall and had very little fluid,” says Stephanie.

The recipient baby – Baby B in this case – then receives too much blood and as a result starts to pee too much.

This leads to a rapid build-up of amniotic fluid and call lead to a premature birth and death of the babies.

Signs of TTTS

One of the signs women pregnant with twins need to look out for is rapid growth over just one or two days. This can be due to a rapid rise in amniotic fluid resulting from TTTS.

Stephanie was given the choice of having an operation or adopting a wait and see approach as there was still a chance the fluid levels would stabilize.

She chose to wait – it was a dramatic time. Ultra-scans every three days at the LUMC and constant travelling and stress.

“Stable became our mantra – as long as everything was stable we were ok…”

Things did stay stable for a while but then another scan revealed more complications.

Twin Anemia Polycythemia Sequence

Another dash to Leiden from Almere follows and an even rarer disease is diagnosed – TAPS –  Twin Anemia Polycythemia Sequence.

TAPS is very rare.

About 60  cases are recorded in the Netherlands each year, on average there are around 180,000 births each year in the Netherlands.

Two days of intense monitoring follow and then an emergency caesarian section.

The twins are born – Emilie and Mathilde. The fight to save their lives kicks into overdrive.

Emilie is pale and anemic whereas Mathilde is swollen and so red she’s almost purple. Mathilde is in the most danger her blood is also full of the blood from her sister and is so think there is a danger of clotting.

“One baby has blood which is like tomato sauce and the other has blood which is like rosé wine – both need immediate care in the neo-natal intensive care unit.”

Luckily the babies are in the right place as the LUMC is the leading centre of expertise on this rare disease.

LUMC expertise centre

The twins are constantly monitored and after a few days, and a few ups and downs, they can leave intensive care.

After several more weeks in hospital they eventual go home and normal family life can finally begin.

“I’m such a control freak normally but when something like this happens you realise there are some things you just can’t control. It just makes you feel so humble” says Stephanie.

For more resources on TTTS and TAPS you can go to the Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome Foundation is a good place to check online.

Leiden University Medical Centre discovered the disease TAPS and is world leader in research and treatment Dr Enrico Lopriore (link in Dutch)  heads the Leiden team on this and is conducting pioneering research.

When asked if Stephanie’s babies would have survived if they had been in a different hospital he says:

“That’s impossible to answer – there are lot of what ifs – and I prefer not to go down that road. What I will say is that she was in a place with the right expertise and we were prepared to treat the babies and we knew what to do.”

“But we still need to do a lot of work, a lot of research, it is a work in progress. We all these books and all this knowledge but we still need to be humble – there is a lot more to learn.”


Expat stories from around the globe

Expat stories from around the globe

Expat stories from around the globeWhat’s your story and are you willing to share it?

The Expatriate Archive Centre in The Hague collects stories from expats from around the globe.

And they are always looking for more.

This time in the Here in Holland podcast an interview with the centre’s Sarah Bringhurst Familia.


So what are the common threads in all of these stories?

“There’s a lot of nostalgia and looking back and some home sickness but at the same time there’s a lot of looking forward too. There’s  excitement about the opportunities offered from living in a new culture,” says Bringhurst Familia.

The Expatriate Archive Centre was set up by a group of Shell spouses as an activity to fit in with the multinational’s centenary celebrations.

“They were then known as the ‘Shell Wives’ and they wanted to start something which represented the different stories from expats around the world,” adds Bringhurst Familia.

Now the archive has 50 metres worth of material from all corners of the globe. There are letters, emails, videos and  photos – a real wealth of history documenting expat lives.

The archive is used by academic researchers to draw new insights on the effects of expat life.

There has been research into transnationalism, expat loneliness, the ‘trailing spouse’ and there is also a photo project

You can submit material to the archive too – this page tells you exactly what sorts of things they are looking for.


In-depth interview with Amsterdam Shallow Man

There are bloggers who think everything is great and lovely and there are others who have it as their life mission to cause chaos and mayhem at every opportunity.

Amsterdam Shallow Man falls into the second category.

This time in the Here in Holland podcast an in-depth interview with the man who describes himself as the most sarcastic blogger in the Netherlands.

Cultural minefield ahead? Then Shallow Mine runs straight on through stamping as hard as he can on the way.

“I first started as I saw all of these lovely and quaint blogs with people saying how great it was to be in the Netherlands – ‘oh look at me on my bakfiets, oh look at me with a stroopwafel’ – no-one was talking about the elephant in the room like why do so many Dutch people dress like they slept on a park bench.”

The man behind the Amsterdam Shallow Man blog is Brit Simon Woolcot – he started blogging a couple of years ago and quickly found a following for his style of comedy.

And he now has a substantial audience for his blog and on social media.

Dating is one of the Shallow Man’s favourite topics and he has guides to help expats through the dating maze.

He also has tips on fashion and learning the language – Shallow Man style of course.

And when it comes to sensitive topics the sarcastic blogger is not afraid from tackling even the most explosive issues.

“I was one of the first international bloggers to criticise the Zwarte Piet tradition – this was way before the whole UN thing and the broader international critique.”

“The hate mail I received was huge there was so much of it – so I now make sure it is an annual tradition for me to keep writing about it.”

Asked if there are any subjects that are off limits Shallow Man is adamant that everything is fair game.

“I think this is why I have built up such a large and loyal following,” he says.

“ People know I tell it like I see it – I have always been a sarcastic person and was making all these funny comments to friends before I even started the blog. It’s just who I am.”

The Here in Holland podcast has interviews and stories each week for and from internationals living in the Netherlands each week. Share your story:
Whats App +31 (0) 6 12 42 83 87  Facebook.

Here in Holland podcast on You Tube

Here in Holland podcast on You Tube

As an experiment – this edition of the Here in Holland podcast is also available via You Tube.

It is the interview with the satirical blogger Invader Stu.

Does having the podcast on You Tube work for you? Let me know.

The podcast is available via all the usual channels so you can get it on your phone.

Subscribe to Here in Holland to get all the podcasts so far and each new one when it goes live.

Here is the intro to the article which goes with the invader Stu podcast.

What do yHere in Holland podcast producer Andy Clarkou do if you are an accident-prone expat trying to get to grips with life in the Netherlands?

Start a satirical blog and use comedy as therapy.

This is the tactic employed by Stuart Billinghurst aka Invader Stu. The man who’s invading Holland one blog at a time… read more

Here in Holland is on SoundCloud too.

You can find the podcast on SoundCloud too – easy to listen to, embed and share with friends.

This is the Small Victories story podcast on SoundCloud.


You can also find Here in Holland on Stitcher – click the logo to go see the podcast there.

You can rate and review Here in Holland in your app of choice.

This video shows how to rate and review in iTunes. Podcasts rely on getting attention online so please take the time to click on the rating stars and write a few words if you get the chance.

Share your story

Here in Holland is the podcast in English about life in the Netherlands. It is for people living gin the Netherlands, for people thinking about coming here and for anyone who wants to know what makes the Dutch tick.

Story to tell then contact – or use the WhatsApp storyline +31 (0) 6 12 42 83 87

There’s a Facebook page and HiH is on Twitter too @HereHolland.

Get in touch and let me know what you think of the podcast and tell me your story.

The joy of lonely – breaking the taboo

The joy of lonely – breaking the taboo.
Ever been lonely? It would be an odd person who says ‘no.’ 

But have you ever thought about being lonely as a good thing?

Psychologist Vassia Sarantopoulou runs the Anti-Loneliness Project:

“Periods where we feel lonely are good for self-exploration, for expanding yourself, for getting to know yourself. So, it is not actually a bad thing being lonely.”

The joy of lonely – breaking the taboo
Everyone goes through loneliness at some stage in their life and yet it is a big taboo.

This week in the Here in Holland podcast a fascinating interview with the psychologist Vassia Sarantopoulou who is the founder of the Anti-Loneliness Project.

Embrace lonely and break the taboo

“There is this taboo around the word loneliness everyone has the feeling that they shouldn’t be lonely that it’s not a good thing.

The joy of lonely - breaking the tabooActually it is a good thing – it is okay to feel lonely sometimes. Everyone goes through this at some stage in their lives.

The thing is that we don’t dare to admit it and that makes it hard. Especially in the social media age when everyone seems to be having a blast of a time and posting wonderful pictures of themselves the whole time.”

Sarantopoulou says people need to recognize loneliness for what it is and use is as a chance for self-reflection and examination.

“When you go through a period of loneliness it is a period where you have to draw some red lines and mark your boundaries. It can be a very rewarding period.”

“I see loneliness as an umbrella and under that there are a lot of issues or challenges – if you find the root causes you can solve other issues at the same time.”

The joy of loneliness – breaking the taboo

The psychologist says expat spouses are sometimes susceptible to loneliness. Moving without having a job and in a supporting role of a spouse can lead to a suppression of emotions.The joy of lonely - breaking the taboo

Without network and family things can become tricky and this group of internationals can become isolated.

The advice here is to get out and establish a network, try volunteering or take a hobby and make
sure you find something that interests you and build some friends around that.

Anti-Loneliness Project on Facebook.

Anti-Loneliness Project on Twitter.

Self-knowledge is key

“Loneliness is that you have a feeling of being disconnected with others even though you are among a lot of people,” says the psychologist.

“It’s quite deep inside us – the sign of loneliness is that you are in desperate need of yourself. So, you need first to be a friend of yourself and then a friend of others.

This means that when you are with yourself you don’t feel that something is missing.”

Sarantopoulou adds that by embracing loneliness people can embark on a journey of deep self-knowledge and find out what really drives them. This discovery will help in relationships and create a virtuous circle of happiness.

Her golden tip :

“Be present, enjoy the day that is here and now and don’t confuse past experiences with future goals and stresses. Just be present – just live what you have today and be grateful for that.”

The Here in Holland podcast has interviews and stories each week for and from internationals living in the Netherlands each week. Share your story:
Whats App +31 (0) 6 12 42 83 87  Facebook.


Small Victories podcast – triumphs of expat life in the Netherlands

A victory is so much sweeter if you’ve overcome an obstacle to achieve it.

In this edition of the Here in Holland podcast expats tell stories of small victories and how overcoming these hurdles makes life in the Netherlands feel so much better.

Funny and touching stories of everyday life from getting to grips with the language to wrestling with Dutch bureaucracy.

Small Victories  podcast –  triumphs of expat life in the Netherlands.

Ineke came to the Netherlands from the Seychelles.

Funnily enough adjusting tSmall Victories podcast – triumphs of expat life in the Netherlandso the change in weather was not her main concern.

When she arrived she felt alone and was struggling to meet people.

“For the first four months I was alone with my two boys – at first it was really hard as we didn’t have any friends or family here. I’d left my whole family and network.”

By reaching out via social media Ineke overcame this initial phase of isolation.

“There are a lot of people out there and they have been through what you have been through too. It was an amazing response and now I am really proud to call the Netherlands home.”

Learning to speak Dutch is another obstacle for internationals.

For some it can really be tough to make the first steps.

Stan Levenson remembers finding it excruciating.

“When I got to the Hague I was kind of intimidated and I just couldn’t bring myself to speak.”

Stan was married to a Dutch woman and relied on her to do the talking. But in the end he couldn’t take it any more and took the plunge.

“It just made me feel so much better after that,” he says.

Angela Eldering from Australia faced a problem lots of expats do when it comes to speaking Dutch.

“Yeah well Dutch people will very often want to speak to you in English especially in the beginning.

“You have to be very persistent and keep on going and say that you want to speak Dutch. And if you don’t understand a word then ask. I found this worked for me.”

Small victories – triumphs of expat life in the Netherlands.

Small Victories podcast – triumphs of expat life in the NetherlandsRob Christian came up against Dutch bureaucracy. His story was a victory for common sense.

When he first applied for his Burger Service Number – BSN – he was told that he was someone else.

“I was like, what? Wait a minute, I’m me. There was confusion because  a guy with the same name and date of birth already had a burger service number. A guy from Poland.”

A nightmare scenario loomed. But luckily everyone remained calm.

“They launched an inquiry and within two weeks it was done. I have to carry an extra letter with me but I couldn’t have asked for a better treatment. They were great about it all.”

“If this had happened in Germany [Rob lived there] you be sure that they would have made you feel like a criminal.”

Opening a company in the Netherlands

Small Victories podcast – triumphs of expat life in the NetherlandsVassia from Greece was worried about Dutch bureaucracy. She wanted to open a company and knew that in Greece this could be a real nightmare.

She was prepared for the same here.

“I had every document I could think of – but hardly needed any of them. It was done in ten minutes. I was like ‘are you sure, it’s done?’ They told me that was it. It was so easy.”

A small victory over preconceptions for her.

The podcast has all these stories and more. Be sure to subscribe to get all the podcasts to date and every new edition as it goes live.

Here in Holland is the podcast in English about life in the Netherlands. How to subscribe.