All posts by Stephanie

Special Dutch Days – King’s Day, Dodenherdenking and Bevrijdingsdag

At the end of April and the beginning of May three typical Dutch events take place every year. I noticed that these events often raise questions to internationals living in the Netherlands. If properly explained, internationals can more easily relate to the Dutch behavior during these days. Understanding the customs and rituals also helps to emotionally connect with the Dutch during these days and take part in the celebrations. I therefore will try to bring some clarity on the meaning of these events to the Dutch and  explain some of the customs, habits and rituals that can be seen during these events.

Continue reading Special Dutch Days – King’s Day, Dodenherdenking and Bevrijdingsdag

Our members recommend – Almere Veertje!

Special guest post by Katie Schmitt!

Our experience

My husband and I had the pleasure to be part to take a trip this year on Almere Veertje , and now I am eager to share our experience from a newcomer to Almere’s point of view!

The almereveertje website provides all necessary information, unfortunately exclusively in Dutch. So if you are still working on your Dutch language skills, my suggestion would be to opt for contacting the ferry staff via e-mail, or just give them a call. It won’t be a problem for the staff to answer your questions in English. Continue reading Our members recommend – Almere Veertje!

Member Recommendations – Festive Season Turkey and Goose!

We asked our members recently about where to find the best turkey, goose and poultry in Almere for the upcoming festive season – and here’s their best picks for you!

Hans v.d. Bor – On the market in Stad (Wednesday and Saturdays) (turkey and goose)

” I got a big turkey from the market in Stad last year” – Michelle 

 “I always get it from Hans in the Market” – Christina

Kalkoen Express
Poulier Slagerij j. Tromp (Purmerend) (turkey and goose)

“Tromp is awesome!” – Tanja

Kalkoen Bestellen
Poelier Rijlaarsdam Almere (turkey and goose)

“We got turkey legs and rollade here last year (also kipfilet) and it’s great quality too!” – Brenda

De Worstmakerij 

“There’s a great wholesale butcher in Lelystad, who’s dirt cheap and has the best pork belly! They do turkey too.” – Maarten

Don’t forget, you can still get turkeys from Albert Heijn and from Jumbo (frozen), and closer to Christmas you can also get them fresh in the supermarkets!

Internationals in Almere are welcome at the FREE music festival this weekend – Popronde Almere 2017!

Guest Post by Jens Lendering, producer of Popronde Almere!

This Saturday (September 30th), the city centre will transform into a music festival landscape as the Popronde will land there for the eight time. The newest and hottest upcoming Dutch (and international) acts will present themselves for free (gratis!). Popronde Almere hosts 38 shows at 15 different locations with stages within shops, restaurants, bars, cafés and even on the street. If you are an expat living in Almere, this is the perfect opportunity to get to know great locations within Almere as well as new bands that may even break through and become big artists. After reading this guide, you will know everything you need to get started! Continue reading Internationals in Almere are welcome at the FREE music festival this weekend – Popronde Almere 2017!

Is Almere serving its expat community well?

Sometimes you are in the right place at the right time. We were this time. The Municipality (Gemeente) of Almere is more and more aware of its international community here in town. They have decisions coming up (like about the international school campus) for which they would like to have more information on the international community. So, we offered them to do a survey among the internationals of Almere that we are connected with, to find out their opinion about Almere. What are they happy with, what not, and what are their suggestions? We published an online questionnaire on the Facebook page and website of International Almere.

The questions

In April 2017 we sent out the following five questions to more than 1000 internationals/expats living in Almere:

  1. Why did you choose to live in Almere?
  2. What can the Almere municipality do better to help you to find your way in Almere? 
  3. What do you like about living in Almere?
  4. What don’t you like about living in Almere?
  5. How could Almere attract more internationals?

The answers

The overwhelming response we received gave valuable insights for the municipality about the motives, complaints and suggestions of the international community living in Almere. Some highlights of this survey: many expats are very happily living in Almere. Important reasons to live in Almere are the affordable prices of the houses (especially compared to Amsterdam), the proximity to Utrecht and Amsterdam and many expats view Almere as a child friendly city. Specially appreciated are the nature in and around the city, the public transport and the safety and quietness of Almere. Main topics of dissatisfaction are the roadblocks on the A6 and A1, the negative image of Almere and the somewhat boring atmosphere of the city center, especially at night. Almere seems to be appreciated especially by families with children, that want to escape the busy cities of Utrecht or Amsterdam. So, this is more or less the same group as the non-internationals who like to live in Almere. What should the “Gemeente” improve the most?  By far: availability of online information for living in Almere in English and a sort of helpdesk for internationals at the town hall to help newcomers to get started. If Almere wants to grow the expat/international community, international school availability is very important. People want to live in the near vicinity of the school their children go to.

General conclusion

Next to the availability of schools the main issue for current residents and future newcomers is communication: give information in English and also actively promote the city. The possibilities and opportunities that Almere has to offer are little known amongst new arrivals.

Now what?

A report along with a list of recommendations for the municipality was presented and discussed with a delegation of four representatives of the municipality of Almere on Monday 15th of May.  At the end, we officially handed over the report to Monique Vredenburg, senior project manager Economic Affairs of the Municipality. Again, we’d like to thank all the internationals that took the time to fill in the questionnaire, called us with their remarks or sent us emails with answers. Your input is highly appreciated. We hope the municipality will use all suggestions you gave to further improve their service to the internationals in Almere.

Stephanie Ernst and Michel Daenen present Monique Vredenburg with the results of the survey.

Stephanie Ernst, International Almere,

Karin Gabor and Michel Daenen, Crossing Cultures,


For further information, you can contact: Stephanie Ernst, 

or Michel Daenen,   

Kings Day by our Members …

April 27th is here and when you’re an international living in the Netherlands, it can seem like the whole country is going orange crazy … so International Almere is here to help you survive Kings Day in Almere, and some tips for if you decide to head out to the bigger celebrations in Amsterdam.

We asked our members for the best tips on where to go in Almere, personal experiences and stories, and survival tips so we could make a Guide to Kings Day in Almere and beyond!

Memories of Kings Day

Our members shared their experiences of Kings Day – the good, the funny, the cultural mishaps and the bad.  From childhood memories of selling toys, to broken down cars, relocation disasters and even those who were disappointed in the party, they told their stories.

When I was young me and my brother went to sit and sell stuff with my dad. We got up early (well, like 5-6 am) and drive to the city centre, which was not nearly as big as it is now. We would find a nice spot and sit there all day ’till about 5 on our blanket. We did this for years. But slowly the people started to realize that the early bird gets the best buy, and sellers started to realize they would have to come earlier to have the early birds scouting their stuff.. and to claim a good space. Because, Almere was getting bigger every year. Well, that resulted in today people starting to sell from the day before. And although it’s not allowed to sell before 6 pm on the 26th people usually start earlier than that. Petra (Netherlands)

Queens Day and I didn’t start off the right foot. Back in ’89 I was young, naive and came from the country of street- and community party’s. Any party held in public, whether it was the a public holiday, a 700th anniversary of the city, the annual fair of the fire brigade/men’s choir/local gymnastic society/ local church etc., came always with a) music b) beer (ok, in case of the church tea and coffee) and c) food. A LOT of food. Dozens of cakes and pies, “Schwenkbraten” (BBQ), Bratwurst ohne ende…You get the picture. Anyway, at my first Queens Day I left the house, excited to discover the Dutch way to party and try their specialties and found thousands of happy Dutch people drinking beer (Yay!!) and selling their old belongings (huh????). I went home, hungry and disappointed. These days we have Kings Day though, and I have to admit, it has it charms. Once I realized beer is a good companion with almost anything at Kings Day AND I found a charming Dutchman who introduced me to the real thing (Amsterdam), I started to enjoy it. Kings day has everything. From spontaneous street parties, to markets, to gigantic festivals. In Almere I love going to the Belfort Plein, enjoying the sunshine (if we get so lucky) and some music, In Amsterdam I love the market which is kids only at the Vondelpark. Utrecht is also great with lots of terraces, music and a relaxed day out. The fun is starting the evening before though, with Kings Night. In the city centre people start to sell their second hand goods and the first parties are getting started. My advice if this is your first Kings day? Go with the flow and enjoy. Just like the Dutch do! Doreen (Germany)

When i was young it was heaps of fun.. sitting there at 3am .. people was kind and had lots of laughs. My parents car even broke down on our way with all our stuff in ! People started helping pushing the car down to the mall. We’d take food and coffee with us.. my aunts and uncles was always standing next to a whole line of family next to each other.. damn good times.. memories.. Katrina (Australia/Netherlands)

 I used to love Queens day in Hilversum, there was always a Kermis and loads of free activities for the children, bouncy castles, pony rides, face painting, lots of live music, it was always a fantastic day out. We loved looking what was for sale and getting a bargain. I have to say I was really disappointed when we moved to Almere as there really wasn’t that much on in comparison. Rachael (Australia)

Surviving Amsterdam

It’s said that you’ve never experienced Kings Day until you’ve been to one in Amsterdam.  And yes, we know that Almere is the place to be, our members have also given us their stories and tips for Kings Day in Amsterdam.

Jordaan is very nice on Kings Day! That’s near the Westertoren and Anne Frank museum area! Go early because it’s very busy there ! There’s very creative and funny people who do karaoke from out their window or more funny selling ideas and in the Elandstraat and the Eesterstraat, Noordermarkt & Laurierstraat are really easy to recommend!

 It is such an experience, Kingsday in Amsterdam! I really recommend it for that international feeling of togetherness, joy, and delightfulness, it always gives such a rewarding feeling that day  Internationalism and people from all over the world are like brothers it’s a genuine experience and gives hope (that’s my personal experience) for a better world it is possible Marita (Netherlands)

Survival tips for Amsterdam

  1. Go early
  2. Park legally – if you go to Amstel station and then bike or take public transport.
  3. Watch out for glass on the ground and wear closed shoes.
  4. Take small change for toilets and bargains!
  5. Take a litre of water
  6. If you’re going with friends, pick a meeting point for the end of the day in case you get separated
  7. Keep your personal items (phones, wallets) safe at all times.
  8. Wear orange!

An update from our sponsors at Beacon Financial Education.

This is a sponsored post and may contain affiliate links.

Blacktower Financial Management Group and Beacon Global Group announce strategic agreement in The Netherlands

 January 25th, 2017

Blacktower Financial Management International and Beacon Global Group today announced a strategic agreement to support the more than 45,000 Americans living in The Netherlands with financial planning and investment advice.

Financial planning and investing for Americans has become harder in recent years with the IRS & FATCA causing Americans to be unwelcome at many financial institutions. It’s caused difficulty opening bank accounts, closed U.S. brokerage accounts, complex and changing tax codes, confused & fearful financial advisors; and few quality investment options.

Continue reading An update from our sponsors at Beacon Financial Education.

Understanding “Sinterklaas” in the Netherlands.

Guest post by Michel Daenen of Crossing Cultures.  Please do not copy or use parts of this article without correct attribution.

Sinterklaas (or Sint Nicolaas) is the children’s friend from Spain who brings presents for the Dutch children every year.
Sinterklaas (1)

This Saturday, he will arrive by boat to the Netherlands. It’s meant to be a cheerful children’s celebration, but lately it has also been the source of heated discussions. Sinterklaas is a sensitive topic in Dutch society. For the newcomer in this country it would help to become a bit more aware of those sensitivities around Sinterklaas and their background. That’s why I wrote this article.

When I was 3 to 6 years old, Sinterklaas was one of the yearly highlights of my life. Sinterklaas, the friendly tall man with the red robe, white long beard and hair, his rod and high miter, came every year to Holland by steamboat from Spain. We would welcome him at the dock of the town on a cold day in November, waving at him and his funny, athletic and silly servants called “zwarte pieten”. On Saturday evenings we would place our shoes in front of the heater in the living room, containing a hand written letter and some drawings for Sinterklaas complete with wish list for presents and carrots for his white horse.

Shoes by the fire
Shoes by the fire (2)

Together with my two older sisters I would sing typical Sinterklaas songs such as “Sinterklaas Kapoentje”, “Zie ginds komt de stoomboot” and “De zak van Sinterklaas”. Most of the time I had no idea what I was singing about, but I tried my best to sing as well as I could. Because every child of my age knew: if you are a good boy or girl, you’ll get presents from Sinterklaas, if you’re naughty, Zwarte Piet will beat you with his stick (called ‘de roe’), put you in his bag and take you to Spain. On Sunday mornings I would come in the living room and get exited seeing the carrots, letter and drawings having been replaced by chocolates and presents. Supposedly it was black Piet who climbed through the chimney at night in order to perform this wonderful magic trick. On the 5th of December beginning of the evening my parents wanted us to be upstairs and only come down when the bell rang. Entering the living room the table was covered with presents, sweets and chocolate. Heaven!

When I was 7 years old I found out I was collectively fooled about it all. Sinterklaas didn’t exist they told me. My parents ‘were’ Sinterklaas and “de Goedheiligman” I saw on tv was an actor. It was a shock to hear that even my two older sisters had been part of the conspiracy for years. Nevertheless, I hold sweet memories of Sinterklaas.

Now, about 40 years later, I have young children myself and the whole thing comes back to me: the songs, the presents, the suspense and also Zwarte Piet’s bag.

But times have changed during past decades. The “roe” is no longer there, the horse that was just a “Schimmel” to us is called Amerigo since the 90’s, Zwarte Piet is not always dumb anymore, there are some very clever Zwarte Pieten right now and Sinterklaas is not always the wise old man, sometimes he forgets things.  Along with Sinterklaas the last couple of years every autumn a nationwide discussion starts in the weeks before 5th of December. And it gets more intense every year.

The Stoomboot arrives (3)

It has become clear that not everybody in the Dutch society is happy with this event full of Dutch traditions. Some of the Dutch citizens, mainly but not exclusively and not all Dutch with a background from the former Dutch colonies Suriname, Indonesia and the Dutch Antilles, feel Sinterklaas to be a racist and discriminating event. At first the reply from other people in society was ‘nonsense, Sinterklaas has nothing to do with racism or discrimination, it’s only  tradition and we should not change a thing about it’, but more and more it was inevitable that things needed to be adjusted in this Dutch folklore. Especially since the UN Committee Against Race Discrimination called for change, concluding in August 2015 that ‘deeply rooted cultural tradition does not justify discriminatory practices and stereotypes’. It resulted for a while in emotional discussions on Dutch TV shows, newspapers and on the street. It was obvious that a sensitive snare of Dutch culture was touched, an episode of our history that is controversial, to say the least. Dutch people usually proudly tell foreigners about our Golden Age, some centuries ago, where we travelled the world, traded with all kinds of people in the East and the West and brought prosperity to our country. But part of this global trading was also slavery in which the Netherlands took massively part. Although the tradition of Sinterklaas is much older than this period in Dutch history, during and after the period of slavery it evolved to the stereotyping of black Piet being a dumb servant of the big white man, wearing big earrings and having fat lips. This is for some Dutch people a confronting memory of our past. Here lies probably the explanation for the emotions around the Sinterklaas-discussion. We’re not proud of that part of our history, yet it has brought us where we currently are: a multicultural welfare state with values like equality, freedom of speech and tolerance. On top of that, in a rapidly changing world with much uncertainty and (perceived) threats that create fear, people tend to cling on to their own identity, usually connected to one’s country. Then it is not about rational argumentation anymore, but about the “gut feeling”. So when you deeply feel the need of national identity it’s hard to let go of the artefacts of your culture that are part of that. You’ll strongly defend the status quo. Sinterklaas seems such an artefact. But in a society that by law prohibits discrimination and where we feel everybody who is a member of our society should get the possibility to feel included something needed to be changed. The question if you are included or feel included, are discriminated or feel discriminated is another one  I will not get into now. As said, something needed to be changed, but how?

In the tradition of Dutch decision making habits (the notorious ‘poldermodel’) different points of view and ideas were discussed at length. Then the phase of actively looking for the ultimate compromise started. Extreme positions seem not to get so much support: we probably won’t see the complete disappearance of black Piets, nor will we see no change at all. The middle of the road seems to be this year a Piet that has some black stripes on his face (‘roetvegen’), grime that is supposed to come from the chimney he climbs through. We’ll probably also see other coloured Piets: orange, blue, rainbow coloured. Is everybody happy with the outcome? Probably not… but as you know from your own changes you have gone through when moving from one place to another, it needs time to adjust to change. Change is inevitable.

Meeting Sinterklaas (4)

And what about  the children? What do they think about it all? Dutch Child Ombudsman Margite Klaverboer published September this year a report based on conversations with Dutch children. She also concluded things need to be changed as children with coloured skin told the researchers they do experience negative effects because of Sinterklaas, such as discrimination and exclusion. Interestingly enough she also heard many children suggest adults stop fighting about it and simply adjust the appearance of Piet. Although Mrs Klaverboer received a lot of hate-emails and criticism after she published the report, ‘major changes’ around Sinterklaas have started to happen since then. “Het Sinterklaasjournaal”, the daily news show about Sinterklaas on National television announced this year to continue to show black Piet but will add ‘white’ Piets without any make up. Another TV channel will only have Piet with the earlier mentioned black stripes.

It can be concluded by now that the Sinterklaas tradition further evolves and also that children seem to accept any modification of it with ease. In their drawings for Sint they change the look of Piet according to the outcome of the compromise. Like always the flexibility of children is something many adults can learn from. Personally I hope the Dutch ‘poldermodel’ brought us a sustainable and satisfying solution for all so that we soon can focus again on the wonderful experience Sinterklaas can be and should be for all children in the Netherlands.

Michel Daenen

November 2016.

Guest post by Michel Daenen of Crossing Cultures.  Please do not copy or use parts of this article without correct attribution.

Photo Credits:

  1. Photo credit: Dogfael via / CC BY-SA
  2. Photo credit: Jacob Johan via / CC BY-NC-SA
  3. Photo credit: han santing via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC
  4. Photo credit: Walther Siksma via / CC BY-NC-ND

November 11 is Sint Maarten!

November 11. In the evening children (with their parents preferably) go door to door with a lantern and get candy in exchange for singing Sint Maarten songs. The feast has gained popularity in the Netherlands. In the previous century it wasn’t celebrated everywhere, but somehow it did find it’s way to Almere quite early on. It’s the name day of Utrecht’s Patron Saint Martinus van Tours, and the origin is purely speculation. Continue reading November 11 is Sint Maarten!

Reap what you sow – a message from our sponsors.

This is a sponsored post from Beacon Global Advisers and contains affiliate links.

Autumn has arrived, the harvest season has begun. Only a few weeks away until the holiday season officially starts. Thanksgiving sets off the holiday season for Americans across the globe. 

shutterstock_361361252Let’s take a moment to consider what it is you would like to reap when you have reached the “autumn stage” of your own life. What would you like to cultivate? 

Start planning now, and plan to harvest! Think like a farmer: determine what it is you Autumn has arrived, the harvest season has begun. Only a few weeks away until the holiday season officially starts. Thanksgiving sets off the holiday season for Americans across the globeeventually need and when. Weigh out your options, consider potential (financial) crisis and other unforeseen events, do not leave things to chance, and evaluate regularly.

Make sure, you sow now,… in order to live a comfortable life, and enjoy your retirement, later on.

 [Contributed by Beacon Global Advisers]  Continue reading Reap what you sow – a message from our sponsors.

Halloween Party 2016- Read all about it!


The ghouls, the goblins ,the fairies and the firemen were all out in force at this weekend’s Halloween Party!

This year the party was run by Norma, who did a great job for her first time ever! She was assisted by Margaret, Oishi, Jenneth, and Gerard who all were fantastic helpers.

Thanks to everyone who came along and joined us – you all went to a lot of effort and it was fantastic to see all the kids (and some parents!) in costume!! See you at the Kids Christmas Party (more to come on that soon – get an early reminder by signing up to our newsletter!)