Learn to cycle in Amsterdam

Learn to cycle in Amsterdam

This gorgeous how-to book brings out all of the rules and norms of cycling in Amsterdam alongside amazing pictures of every day cycling experiences. Get it for anyone who comes to visit and needs a primer before heading out on a bike in the city. Author Xing Chen is a neuroscientist who moved to the Netherlands for work in 2014. She grew up in Singapore and lived in the UK and the US before arriving here. She learned how to ride a bike as a child, but quickly learned that the cycle paths of Amsterdam were nothing like the quiet suburban streets she was used to. The book is divided into five chapters, covering bikes and bike accessories; road signs; tips and etiquette; behavior and weather. Do you have any idea what all of the road signs mean? You will after you read this. Cycling for dummies It is, essentially, a cycling for dummies book. The material is dry in places, but so are the cycling rules. There’s an enjoyable narrative about the author in the beginning but what mostly keeps the book entertaining are the photos. Many of them were taken by Shirley Agudo, the photographer behind The Dutch and Their Bikes and showcase the interesting and weird things you may see while cycling in Amsterdam. But the photos also extensively showcase the traffic signs, conditions and road layouts you might encounter while biking. As the title suggests, the book is wholly focused on Amsterdam. While most of the information is valid across the Netherlands, there are some specific things that only apply to the city itself, such as information about local bike rental shops and the police contact details. Fortunately, if you want to find any of this information out for your own city, it’s fairly easy to search for or to find on your local council website. The book is small, making it easy to carry with you and would make for a great gift for newcomers. Or keep it around your house for guests who are nervous about venturing out on their own. Buy this book  More >




European Mama

European Mama

A blog by a Polish mother living in the Netherlands with her German husband and two daughters. 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 >


Holland Cycling

Holland Cycling

Explore the Netherlands the Dutch way - by bicycle. Includes where to go, planning your trip, tips and info. More >


Amsterdamming

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I love Noord

I love Noord

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Diligent Candy

Diligent Candy

Diligent Candy is a lifestyle blog based in Amsterdam, which features art, culture, books, travel, products, and food. More >


Roxy

Esther Gerritsen seems to specialise in writing about calamitous female characters. Her 2012 prize-winning novel, Dorst (published in English translation as Craving) featured Coco, a young woman embarking on a journey of self-destruction after learning that her mother is dying. In Roxy, the main character of the same name, quickly unravels upon learning that her husband and his young intern have been found naked and dead in his car. Her disintegration is disturbingly ugly - drawing an analogy between the reader and Roxy, who describes herself as the type of person who 'always want to look when there’s an accident on the motorway.'   Who is Roxy? Roxy, the only child of a working class parents, spends her childhood in a small town in North Brabant. Her father is a long-distance truck driver who revels in telling his jokes to strangers. Her mother routinely enjoys her wine to excess. After writing a book, loosely autobiographical, Roxy attracts some fame and quickly meets Arthur, a television producer 30 years her senior. Arthur whisks Roxy away from her parents, to a new life of comfort, celebrity and money. The novel opens with 27-year-old Roxy being told by police that her husband has died in a car accident. She takes the information and goes back to bed, deciding that by not telling Louise, her three-year-old daughter, or notifying family and friends, she can delay making the news a reality at least until the morning. This proves to be her modus operandi – delaying or refusing to confront her own pain by indulging in behaviour that distracts her from facing her true emotions. Her conduct picks up speed and intensity as the novel progresses, starting with Roxy having sex with the undertaker and ending with her flipping sheep on their backs (a dubious belief by some that this can kill a sheep). But the Dutch seem so mild-mannered…. Attempting to support Roxy as she faces the first days and week following her husband’s death are Jane (Arthur’s personal assistant), Liza (Louise’s babysitter), Marco (Roxy’s only friend) and Roxy’s parents who take up this opportunistic chance to enjoy the comfort and involuntary hospitality available in Roxy’s marital home. While all characters try to help Roxy, their help is compromised by their own psychological limitations and the irrational demands that Roxy makes on them. Escaping on an impromptu road-trip with Jane, Liza and Louise is far from a therapeutic experience for Roxy and her passengers. With each day, Roxy isolates herself further from her companions by her recklessness and inability to relate to the women as anything but paid help. In the final pages she calls her father to come and collect her in France, yet when he arrives she quickly refuses his help to continue on her own path of ruination. An uncomfortable yet captivating tale. Gerritsen has written a compelling novel. While difficult to maintain empathy for Roxy, or, indeed, any of the characters, there is a strong impetus to discover what happens next and a hope for a positive conclusion that urges the reader to keep going. The dialogue is sharp and the character interactions credible. Roxy was originally published in 2014. This novel, written in Dutch, has been translated into English by Michele Hutchison and was published by World Editions in 2016. Roxy is the third book by Gerritsen to be nominated for the prestigious Libris Literature prize. Selected as author of the 2016 Boekenweekgeschenk (Dutch Book Week gift book), Gerritsen’s latest novel Broer is now available.  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 >


Angel of Amsterdam

Finally, we have an English-language edition of prize-winning Dutch author Geert Mak's Angel of Amsterdam.  Mak is one of the finest of Dutch authors and the book provides unique glimpse into and better understanding of this fascinating city. First published in 1993,  The Angel of Amsterdam:  Seven City Stories introduces a large, varied cast of loyal Amsterdammers, dating from 1275 to approximately 1990, all boasting a unique attachment to the city. All seven stories are independent essays, connected only by being set in Amsterdam.  Readers familiar with the city will be able to identify neighbourhoods, buildings, and the names of historical figures. The first story, ‘A City in Blue’, is a modern-day description of Amsterdam from an aerial perspective. This is followed by, ‘Stone and Earth on the Burgwal’ which delves into the history of the city via the artifacts found in a house being renovated by the narrator.  The third story considers the mitigation of staunch religious standards as people from isolated rural areas move to the city seeking better opportunities. Rembrandt is the central figure in ‘The Forgotten Girl, the City and the Painter’ – with his changing fortunes reflecting the changing values of Amsterdam society in 1600s. The last three essays focus on population groups not generally photographed for Amsterdam tourist guides.  “Making Tracks around Central Station’ follows prostitutes, pimps, and homeless people with chronic substance abuse issues or mental health problems.  The narrator spends time with these individuals, learning how and where these people survive in the city. Similarly, ‘Three Afternoons with Henk Plenter’ sees the narrator accompanying a public health inspector responsible for investigating complaints regarding bad smells.  The cause of the stench often related to an individual, sometimes dead, but often suffering from an untreated psychiatric illness and abandoned by family, friends, neighbors or social services. Overall, this book of short essays provides an interesting insight into Amsterdam’s history, and the social fabric that make it the colorful city it is today. After 20 years, it is a little dated and may benefit from the addition of a present day story to add relevance for newer residents of the city.  Yet The Angel of Amsterdam remains a fascinating commentary on the city and its inhabitants. Buy this book Ana McGinley  More >


Amsterdam Slavery Heritage Guide

The Amsterdam Slavery Heritage Guide is a walking guide to Amsterdam that focuses on the history of slavery in the city. The guide, published in 2014, is part of the VU University 'Mapping Slavery Project' which also covers Utrecht and Haarlem. As it notes in the forward, little is taught in Dutch schools and known generally about the history of slavery and the slave trade in the Netherlands. The book opens with an overview of the history of slavery in the Netherlands, as well as the Dutch overseas holdings. It focuses on four overall themes: Trade and profit, black in the city, resistance and abolitionism, and museums and archives. The book starts with a fold out map, showing 115 different locations that it discusses in further detail in the rest of the book. Though it doesn’t highlight a specific walking route, most of the locations are in the city centre and it's fairly easy to create your own route. It’s a small book and easy to carry during your walking tour. Each number on the map gets a page or two, with images, to describe the location and its history. Popular Amsterdam locations are featured, from the palace on the Dam to the Nieuwe Kerk. But obscure locations are also included, like the two busts of Moors on a building on the Herengracht. Even without walking a route, the book is filled with lots of interesting tidbits about history. For example, the official residence of the city's mayor was once home to slave trader Paulus Godin. The entire book is published in both Dutch and English. This is useful, but occasionally it creates a confusing layout which makes it hard to find the texts in the language of your choice. The book also uses a number of photos which are without captions and thus leave the reader wondering who the people are and what they were doing to warrant inclusion. Overall, however, the book is immensely informative and easy to use. Buy this book  More >


Holland Handbook

Now in its 19th year, this richly illustrated handbook offers 256 full-color pages of essential information for the expatriate on all aspects of living and working in the Netherlands such as: career, fiscal issues, health care, housing, insurance, international education, registration and telecommunications. Buy this book  More >


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 >


The Dutch, I Presume

All the cliches are here. This book deals with the forty best-known Dutch features and stereotypes, from windmills to Cruijff and from Rembrandt to the typical toilet. Were the clog and the infamous cheese slicer really Dutch inventions? How come some Dutch masters went bankrupt in the tulip trade? And why have most Dutch never heard of world-famous Hans Brinker? Providing the facts and unraveling the myths, this book gives you the essentials on living in the polders, and is yet another guide to surviving a Dutch birthday party. 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 >


Passage of the Stork

Born in the United States, Madeleine Lenagh’s early childhood years were that of an expat child living in Europe. At the age of five, Madeleine and her family returned home and settled in Connecticut, where Madeleine faced tumultuous time as she matured towards adulthood. Rebelling against her mother’s interference in her love life, Madeleine set out to travel Europe alone. By the time she arrived in the Netherlands in 1970 her savings had dried up and she needed to make a decision that would have long-term implications for her future. Madeleine accepted a job as an au pair for a Dutch family and cashed in her return airline ticket to buy winter clothes. So began her life in the land of cheese and tulips that has endured over four decades. Passage of the Stork is Madeleine’s story. Her memoir is an honest account of a woman who has faced personal struggles with strength and determination in an adopted homeland. Always seeking the truth, especially about her self, she faces struggles familiar to many expat women as they tackle relationships, parenthood and careers in the Netherlands. Many women who have been lured by love to the Netherlands will relate to the experiences detailed in the book. For others it will be inspiring to read about Madeleine’s career development, the opportunities and her resultant independence made possible because she fully immersed herself in causes and projects that she believed in. As a book, Passage of the Stork is a narrative sewn together with a thread of Nordic mythology providing a commentary of events, much like that of a Greek chorus in a classical drama. My initial doubts about including mermaids in a personal memoir subsided quickly as it became apparent that they provided parallel explanations of significant developments, especially on a psychological level. The book is about the process of unraveling your past to discovering your true self. For Madeleine this meant a long battle to uncover the secrets hidden in her family. These secrets held the key to explaining who she was as an adult and the reasons for the choices she made throughout her life. From this point, she gained self-acceptance, wrote her memoir, and is now moving on to a new chapter of her life. Ana McGinley  More >


Ready, Steady, Go Dutch

The Netherlands sells itself as a country of tulips, windmills, cheese and clogs, but that is not how international workers see it. In Ready, Steady, Go Dutch, a new book by DutchNews.nl and volunteer organisation ACCESS showed clogs don'Ž“t merit a mention. Nor do tulips and windmills. But mention bikes, doctors and the lack of sunshine and you will find international workers have plenty to say. Divided into 10 short chapters and with a list of extra information resources, Ready, Steady, Go Dutch takes the reader through the ups and downs of relocating to the Netherlands, learning the language, finding a job and a home, and making a new life. Doctors, shops, the weather and of course cycling are all dealt with in bite-sized quotes from people who have already made the move. Some of the comments are unexpected, some are amusing or poignant and some highlight the differences in expectations and experiences between different nationalities. Together they form a snapshot of the expat experience in the Netherlands which everyone can learn from. In particular, the relaxed atmosphere in the Netherlands, especially at work, is a big plus for international workers. The work environment is relaxed. I saw people cancelling meetings just because it was sunny that day, said one Turkish expat. Ž•I love the fact that where I work there is less emphasis on hierarchy and more on consensus and delivery,Ž“ said a Russian national who has lived in the Netherlands for nearly nine years. And an American expat was quite certain about the impact of working in the Netherlands on her work-life balance. Ž•I will never go back to a country where I only get one week's holiday a year, she said. Dutch houses also come in for a lot of comment. Ž•Having a washing machine in the bathroom was really strange as was the lack of a bath, wrote one British woman who moved in with her Dutch boyfriend. The steepness of Dutch stairs and big windows in many older properties came in for a lot of comment as well. One expat even warned people to be aware of moving too close to a tram line because of the excruciating noise made by the machines which clean the tracks early in the morning. The alternative to public transport is, of course, cycling, which all expats seem to adopt enthusiastically. 'I love how relaxed the Dutch are on their bikes. You see men in suits and women in fancy dresses,' said a Bulgarian office worker. The 140-page book has been put together by DutchNews.nl and ACCESS to help newcomers benefit from the practical experiences of people who've already gone Dutch. A large part of the profit will go to ACCESS to help the volunteer organisation continue providing information and advice to expats. Buy this book  More >