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, www.internationalalmere.com

Karin Gabor and Michel Daenen, Crossing Cultures, www.crossingcultures.nl

 

For further information, you can contact: Stephanie Ernst, marketing@internationalalmere.com 

or Michel Daenen, michel.daenen@crossingcultures.nl   

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 us..so 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
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.

sinterklaas-intocht
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.

sinterklaas-en-kind
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

www.crossingcultures.nl

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 Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SA
  2. Photo credit: Jacob Johan via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA
  3. Photo credit: han santing via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC
  4. Photo credit: Walther Siksma via VisualHunt.com / 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!

WHAT A FANTASTIC HALLOWEEN WEEKEND!

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!)

halloween-web

Free Financial Education Seminar

This is a sponsored post and contains affiliate links.

Expats have other financial needs and a different need for financial information than regular employees. Does your financial adviser know the financial implications of you moving from one country to another for your job? Will you be able to retire comfortably once you stop working?

Join Beacon Global Advisers at the WTC in Almere October 20th.

Register here

Free Financial Education Seminar

This is a sponsored post and contains affiliate links.

Do you know the Financial Implications of You Being an Expat?

Beacon Global Advisers’ free Financial Education Seminar covers topics such as Life Insurance Strategies for Expats, Cross Border Retirement Planning, (US FATCA Compliant) Investments and International Wealth Management.

Make sure you, your financial adviser(s) and/or accountant know what being an expat implies for your financial situation.

Register here

Free Financial Education Seminar

This is a sponsored advertisement and contains affiliate links.

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Do your Dutch financial advisers and those in your home country work as a team to help you achieve your financial goals?
Understand the implications of you, living and working abroad and educate yourself! Beacon Global Advisers organizes a free of charge financial education seminar at the WTC Almere on October 20th. Join us and register now!

Important Venue Change Announcement!

As you may know by now, our traditional home of First Friday Night Drinks, the Apollo Hotel is closed for renovations until December (and we can’t WAIT to see what their new look is going to be!)

We’re so lucky in Almere to have other great venues willing to come on board and take us – so we’re happy to announce our temporary home is none other than the fantastic CafeOp2 on the Stadhuisplein! (Members will still get their first drinks on us).

So why not pop on down to the Stadhuisplein on October 7th at 8pm, check out our temporary digs and enjoy a drink with some amazing people!

new-ffnd-poster

2016 Summer Picnic – Date Change!

There’s a date change for the summer picnic!

**EVENT RESCHEDULED**

10 September 2016

With the forecast calling for rain and a few members saying they’d love to come but cannot get tomorrow free, we’ve decided to postpone the picnic until Saturday, September 10th.

Hope to see you all there!

2016 web

Holiday Season Appeal – Can you help us?

It’s August, and being the busy little bees we are, we’re already planning ahead to December and our annual holiday festivities.

December’s holiday season is is a difficult time of year for our families.

Many do not have the opportunity to travel back to their home country, and often spend the holiday period alone, thousands of miles from their loved ones. We aim to try to alleviate this by hosting events aimed at keeping the festive spirit for everyone.

Every year, we plan 2 parties – one for the kids of the group, and one for the adults.  The kids party has magicians, crafts, gifts and a visit from Santa. The adults party is a sit down, 3 course dinner designed to provide a night of  relaxation and a festive atmosphere before the stress of the holiday period starts.

It’s increasingly difficult financially to put on these events, without eating into our reserve funds.

This year we are looking for a little help from all of you to spread our message and make our 2016 Holiday parties the best ones yet!

We are specifically looking for donations of raffle/tombola prizes, financial donations to help subsidise the cost of the children’s event, sponsoring a family in difficulty (financial, medical etc), or even just volunteer some of your time to help us organise the event, approach potential sponsors or be there on the day to help run an activity.

Ultimately, it all comes down to the amount of support we get as to how awesome the party is, and more importantly, how cheap we can put it on for.  We are a group of volunteers, and we very rarely call out for help – but this time we need you! If you can help us in any way – donations, financially or volunteering – click here and send a message through to us about how you can help us make 2016’s December events the ones to remember! (And don’t forget to share the message – the more people who see it, the more chances we have of people helping us!)

christmas appeal holiday webpage email

Featured Instagrammer for July!

Are you following our Instagram feed? 

A new month, a new featured photographer for Instagram!  Meet Melissa Longstreet-Homma, another talented member of our group. She’ll be sharing her pictures with us for the rest of July and some of August! Thanks for your wonderful pictures, Melissa, and we’ll see you on Instagram!

(Are you interested in being a featured photographer for us?  Email us at marketing@www.internationalalmere.com because we’re always looking for people to feature!)

featured melissa

US Fatca Compliant Investments

So I guess the first thing everyone is asking is why did an Australian go to a seminar about US Investments and Pensions?  Well, I see the questions going up in our group all the time, and in other groups I belong to, and I hear some of my friends from the US cursing the beast that is ‘FATCA’.

So purely out of curiosity, I went along to find out a little more about the beast that has people quaking in their boots, as well as to find out more about what our new sponsors do, and what they can provide for our members. Continue reading US Fatca Compliant Investments

Don’t forget to register … Getting to know Poort is this week!

This sponsored post contains affiliate links to our sponsor – the Atlas of Amsterdam. 

It’s time for our annual photo hunt ! June 4th at 2pm – meet us at the bus station at Almere Poort and get to know Almere’s newest section – Almere Poort! (Sponsored by the Atlas of Amsterdam). This is a free, fun and family friendly event, but everyone is welcome to join in!

Continue reading Don’t forget to register … Getting to know Poort is this week!

Another shock win at Quiz Night!

In another exciting night of Quiz Night, the Upside Downers were again knocked off their perch by another new team – De Slim Club!  With first place taken with 69 points, a clear 11 point margin over second place, is it time to call the days of domination by the Upside Downers ended? Are we seeing a new trend?  Only one way to find out? Come along next month and see who will take the title!

quiz200516-7

Introducing our new sponsors – Beacon Global Advisers!

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

Who are Beacon Global Advisers?

Founded in 2012 by Randy Landsman and Robert Rigby-Hall, Beacon Global Group  was formed from a need for stable and smart financial assistance for expats, in particular after the introduction of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) for US citizens abroad.  Over the years, they have taken their vast experience and created a company that can give clients access to financial planners, insurance professionals and tax & accounting professionals.

Beacon Global Advisers can provide their clients with a worldwide network of financial professionals, who understand international and local financial regulations, no matter where they reside in the world.

How are Beacon Global Advisers helping International Almere?

Beacon Global Advisers have generously stepped on board to be our major financial sponsor for 2016-2017.  You’ll see their advertising in our newsletters and on our website.

It’s  not only a financial support though.  Throughout the year they’ll host some seminars here in Almere.  The first seminar is on May 25th (US FATCA Compliant Investments – Apollo Hotel Almere  ).  We hope this is the first of many events like this that will come to Almere, as so far, no one else is filling this niche.

Like International Almere, Beacon Global Advisers’ focus is on helping people  who are away from home.  Whilst our end results may differ, our focus is the same – making sure that people have a solid foundation to start and continue their expat journey.

From all of us here at International Almere, we’d like to welcome Beacon Global Advisers into our large family of many nationalities.  Looking forward to seeing you on the 25th of May and thank you for your support!

beacon

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

Welcome back in 2016!

It’s been a while since we caught up with everyone, and for that we’re really sorry!  Things have been crazy around our offices with the holidays and even some of the board being on holidays across the globe.  Thankfully, everyone is back in one piece and we’re excited that 2016 is shaping up to be a great year!

Become A Member.

We’ve updated our events policy and placed a copy on the website and in our Facebook Group so it’s easier for everyone to see.  Please take a moment to read through – nothing has changed, but now it’s all in one place.

February is a busy month! Check out the flyer below for all our upcoming activities – but not only do we have First Friday Night Drinks starting back, and our Quiz Night, but our faithful new regular event, the “Buiten Mums Night” is back.

Mark the date as well – February 26th is our AGM. This year we’ve started a dedicated section on our website for the AGM so you’ll be able to see all the information before we start!

As always, you can keep up to date by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus or simply tuning into our calendar here on the website!

Hoping to see you all soon at one of our events,

Gerard and the International Almere team.

Here's what's on the plans for February!

Kasteel Almere – Open to the public!

October 31st saw an amazing opportunity for residents of Almere – our very own famous ‘modern ruins’, the Kasteel Almere was opened for public viewing.

Recently purchased by local businessman, Ton Theuniss, the Kasteel will eventually become home to the Netherlands newest amusement park “WitchWorld“.  Ton and his partner in imagination, Anne Marieke Groot have developed an amazing story of the “Gravin van Almere” (The Earl of Almere), and plan to release a series of children’s books in line with the opening of WitchWorld, somewhere in 2019/2020.

WitchWorld will also feature a restaurant and function centre and creative workshops,  as well as attractions based around the central theme of witches, wizards and of course, the Earl of Almere and his stories.  It promises to be an exciting place to visit!

Tell us your stories of your visit to Kasteel Almere, and what you hope to see happen there!

A look insideKasteel Almere

“Buiten Mums” Night!

What an amazing night out in Almere Buiten!  October 19th saw us getting together at an old, but favourite haunt of ours – the GrandCafe Seventies Eighties.  The night proved to be a popular one, so you’ll now find us there on the second Wednesday of every month.  You don’t have to be a mum, or live in Almere Buiten to join us either – the idea just came from a group of Buiten based mums who thought it’d be nice to get out on a weeknight!  See you all on November 11th (maybe for a well earned drink after Sint Maarten? )

buiten mums october promo

A fresh new look …

This is it!  The moment we’ve all been waiting for – that something fresh that was promised!

Welcome to our new look website.  You’ll see things have changed a little around the place, and over the coming months, things will continue to change slightly – you’ll see content more relevant to the group, like articles written by our members and guest writers about their experiences, hints on where to find those hard to source goodies from home, and more information about this wonderful city we all call home – regardless if we’re here for a long time or a short time.

Continue reading A fresh new look …

International Almere

International Almere – Connecting Expats In Almere

Welcome to International Almere!

We’re a group of volunteers from all over the world whose mission it is to help others connect and meet in Almere.  We all know what it’s like to end up in another country and try to find a social network – so come along to our events (or feel free to contact us on info@www.internationalalmere.com ) and meet us.

We started with humble beginnings in 2010 – a group of ladies meeting on Friday nights for drinks, and over the past 5 years have evolved into a large group covering many nationalities and cultures, with  families, singles and couples.  Building a social network can be difficult for expats, and we aim to try to ease the transition into life here in the wonderful city of Almere.  International Almere is a volunteer based, not for profit organisation that creates opportunities for expats, internationals and internationally minded locals to create and foster friendships through regular activities and events.

We host a monthly Friday Night Drinks (held on the First Friday of every month at the Apollo Hotel, Almere Stad – Koetsierbaan 2, 1315SE Almere). You’ll find us in the restaurant area – and we’re hard to miss!

We also host a monthly Quiz night on the third Friday of the month, also at the Apollo Hotel.  You can find more details about our events by clicking here or by emailing us at events@www.internationalalmere.com . .

We also offer a membership package (which is now open for 2015!) which provides you with discounts on specified events, advance notice and registration on some events, and your first drink at our First Friday Night Drinks for free. More information, including an application form, can be found here.

More questions? Don’t be afraid to email us at info@www.internationalalmere.com

Looking forward to meeting you soon!

The Board, and Members of International Almere.

 

Bake Off 2013

The date – September 21, 2013.  The place – The Apollo Hotel Almere.  The Challenge – Who is International Almere’s best baker?

10 contestants lined up, each with their delicious entries ready to tantalise the judges.  The winner would be selected by popular vote – and the prize?  A voucher to Almere Haven’s own “De Leukste Taarten Shop”, bragging rights on the cover of the first IA cookbook and of course, the coveted crown of “International  Almere’s Best Baker”.

The entries were diverse. Cakes and pies and cheesecakes were all contending fiercely.  Each baker divulged their secret recipe and competition was fierce!

The Entries:

Chocolate Rasp- whatever berry cake! – Rebecca Komen

Red Velvet Cake –  Sandie Lind Pedersen

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies – Patricia and Jordan Weber 

Lemon Chiffon Cake – Dominique Du Toit

Covered Dutch apple pie – Carla Van Der Weide

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake – Maarten Muijs

Honey Blueberry Cake – Georgina Riddle

Citrus Shortbread Bites – Becky Riddle

Quiche Recipe –  Eddie Veltman

Rum Balls – Carly Bridgeman

 

The judges filed in, tasted each entry and slowly, deliberately cast their votes for the best entry.  As the evening went on, the delicious treats quickly emptied, and the votes were cast.  The adjudicating panel oversaw the voting process to ensure that each vote was cast correctly …

Then, the moment of truth.  The contestants waited in anticipation for the vote counting and the crowning of the IA Best Baker.

And the winner?

Voting was fast and furious, and Maarten Muijs emerged victorious, with his entry of the Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake.  Second place was a dead heat with Sandie Lind Pedersen’s Red Velvet Cake and Eddie Veltman’s Quiche scoring the honours.

A huge congratulations to all our winners and a huge thank you to all our entrants for your fantastic baking efforts! And also a big thank you to our judges who helped decide our winners … See you at the next bake off.

 

Maarten and his award winning cheesecake!
Maarten and his award winning cheesecake!

Introspection: why it matters to teach children to think about their thinking

By Lana Kristine Flores-Jelenjev

When I was teaching psychology to college freshmen one of the questions I often asked my students was “what is your favourite color?”. Soon enough after they answered that question, I then proceeded to the next question, WHY?

How about you? what is your favourite color? Why do you like it? What about that color that speaks to you?

Perhaps we can also use another question, when out on a date and your partner asks you, where do you like to eat?  Or what?  How much of a struggle do you have with making such a decision?

Now let us put it on a bigger scale, when was the last life-changing decision that you made? How long did you deliberate on it? How did you come about making that major decision? How did you know that it was indeed the right choice?

The ability to weigh options and make decisions are skills that as adults we sometimes grapple with. But if we look closely to what those skills are and the building blocks that are needed for them- one essential factor is present. These skills are based on our ability to introspect.

Some people might think that time used reflecting on one’s self is time wasted. But nothing could be further from the truth. Knowing yourself and having awareness of yourself is very important. Introspection and its byproduct, self-awareness are essential to any decision-making (be it small or life-altering), focus, prioritization and action. It is the reason why there are a lot of self-help and psychology books aimed at finding and knowing one’s self.

Another way that we can emphasize on the importance of introspection is through this activity. Think about a behaviour that you do quite easily or naturally, like opening a can of soda. When you pull the tab, what else do you do? Do you put the tab all the way back or do you let it up? Why do you do this? Habit? How did it become a habit? How did the daily things you do become so? How did you form thoughts, ideas and ideals about friendships? About justice? About parenting? About anything you value? There must be a reason why you cry foul over certain issues, or why you say, there are certain issues that you can let go. Introspection is the core in which we learn to understand ourselves better.

Now let’s do another scene and this time consider other people, when was the last time you paid attention to the way your child think? Hopefully not in a belittling way, but seriously, when did you say to your child, I like how you think? Or I like how you solved that problem?  It can even be as simple as “I like how you did that”

These questions are essential in teaching children that not only are we aware of their actions, we are also “present” as parents in our interaction with them. Asking these questions and saying these dialogues open up the opportunity for children to be reflective as well. Asking themselves, “what did I do? What did I come up with? What did I solve?

Perhaps as adults we tend to think of children specially younger ones as not fully capable of introspection because if we think hard about it, when do we really see the first signs that children can reflect on their mental state? Children’s ability to notice and reflect on their own mental states and experiences, and go further up a notch, be able to attribute such states to others, seem to be too big to expect from young children. UC Davis researchers Simona Ghetti, assistant professor of psychology at UC Davis and Kristen Lyons, a graduate student in psychology at UC Davis proved this notion wrong with their studies on metacognition in early childhood.

Their study showed that preschoolers aged 3-5 are capable of pointing to a photo of a confident-looking face when they felt confident that they had the correct answer to the question gave, and, they were also able to point to a photo of a doubtful looking child when they were not as confident with their answer.

This study provides a clear picture of how children use introspection, showing them more capable of such a skill than what we gave them credit for. Results of the study showed that children can introspect about their doubts or more specifically their awareness of their uncertainty for that moment.

Wouldn’t it be grand if, children grew up mastering such a skill? Self-awareness is a prerequisite for a wide range of milestones and decisions. For example,  how to choose the best career? Or why get into a relationship with someone? What can you do to make yourself happy? At the heart of all these questions is our ability to introspect and find the answers.

Like with adults, children need the tools to help them hone their introspective skills. Here are some dialogue prompts that you can try at home to start engaging your child in thinking about his/her thinking:

  1. What makes you say that?
  2. What are you thinking?
  3. How did you feel?
  4. What could this person be thinking?
  5. What could this person be feeling?
  6. What made you excited today?
  7. What was the best part of your day?
  8. What was the least that you liked about your day?
  9. Why do you like it? (best followed by what makes you say that?)
  10. Tell me something that made you happy today (use the other emotion words like frustrated, sad, angry)

Remember, that as much as these prompts are for your child/children, it is also for yourself. Find the time to share your thoughts with your child or the entire family during family conferences. Let everyone know what you are thinking and feeling and make it visible. Through this children realize that the chatter that goes on in their head is pretty normal and sharing it with their family is important. It also gives each other the opportunity to talk about not just what excites them or makes them  positive but most importantly the deep, dark and ugly thoughts that keeps them awake at night and uncertain. Self-awareness is also about building self-esteem and by being able to share these negative thoughts, we also give our children the chance to reflect on their fears and face them.

 

Lana is a child development specialist focused on sharing her expertise with parents on engaging activities to do with young children at home. She is also an education consultant that emphasizes on the importance of using gifted pedagogy in the regular classroom. She writes in her blog Visibly Engaged issues that parents and teachers can relate with and shares articles that they can benefit from. Lana also recently opened her webshop Smart Tinker that promotes the use of educational toys and how it promotes multiple intelligences (M.I.)in children. She is currently writing a book on how to promote M.I. at home through simple yet engaging activities.

Getting to Know – Greg Shapiro

Meet Greg Shapiro, International comedian, actor and author, and long term sufferer of ‘Multiple Nationality Disorder’.  Greg recently visited Almere with his ‘Greg Shapiro Presents : Brendon Burns’ show which gave audiences a taste of what was to come on November 7th – Superburger, The man with split nationalities! – where he discusses at length his struggle with MND, Dutch culture and also his new book, ‘How To Be Orange’.   

Greg meets Bu, the International Almere Bear.
Greg meets Bu, the International Almere Bear.

 

1. The Netherlands is an interesting country to live in – what’s your favourite part of living here?
Biking! I love the fact that our family car has 2 wheels, and you don’t necessarily have to spend half your day in a car just to get your daily work & shopping done.
2. Do you describe yourself as an expat, and international, or something else?
I’m an expat. I’m the textbook definition. I came from Chicago, moved to Amsterdam – and stopped.
3. What advice would you offer to a complete stranger who wants to move to the Netherlands?
Do it! it feels foreign and familiar at the same time. Especially if you’re from the US. The Dutch have a history of individualism, capitalism, liberalism. So many factors that define America actually started here. I feel much more at home than I’d ever expected.
 
4. What has been your biggest challenge since moving here? 
The Dutch language is an aesthetic car crash.
5. If you had to leave tomorrow, what would be the one thing you would take with you?
My beautiful, blond, half-Dutch family. And stroopwafels.
6. What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate it? Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?
Can’t wait for Queen’s Day to become King’s Day. Someday, I hope to take part in the tradition of sticking your head through a big target and yelling at Dutch people until they pay money to throw eggs at you.
7. You describe yourself as having ‘MND – Multiple Nationality Disorder’. Tell me a little more about that.
It’s about moving to a different country and getting culture shock – but also getting culture shock when you get back home. It’s about Dutch people who’ve lived abroad, moved back and don’t recognize it anymore. It’s for the 3rd culture kids with multiple passports. When you never feel 100% at home anywhere – that’s ‘Multiple Nationality Disorder.’
8. You mention in your book about speaking Dunglish – and being fluent in ‘Google Translate Dutch’. Tell us about a time where your Dutch went horribly wrong…
I once did a performance in Dutch about what a humiliating experience the Dutch language is – for the speaker and the listener. I tried to get my all-Dutch audience to realize that their language is an aesthetic car-crash, and – as a civilization – they deserve better. They didn’t get it.
 
9. Most of us who come here have to do some level of Inburgeringscursus to maintain our residency. What was the most useful or interesting piece of information you learned in your course? What was the most useless?
The most interesting bits of my assimilation course came from the unexpected quarters, like when the woman from Turkey explained that the headscarf was banned when she was growing up so that – for her – when she wears a headscarf in the Netherlands, it’s not a symbol of oppression, but a symbol of liberation. Still, the instructor told us on the exam just write ‘symbol of oppression.’
10. Finally, you’ve visited Almere, you’ve filmed a movie in Almere … tell us your favourite part of Almere!
I quite liked the show I did at the top floor of the World Trade Center. Flevoland is a modern miracle, and you can see the whole thing from up
there.
Greg’s book – “How to be Orange” is available through http://shop.puuree.com/content/book-how-be-orange for the astoundingly low price of  €14,95.  Do yourself a favour and read it!
Want even more hilarity?  Check out Greg’s Show at De Nieuwe Bibliotheek, Almere on November 7th –  tickets available here http://gregshapiro.nl/content/de-nieuwe-bibliotheek

Getting to know us – Sarah Leonard

We all know the lady behind the numbers and the money at International Almere, but how well do we really know her?  Find out more about Sarah!

Where were you born?

I was born in Maidstone, Kent, England in 1973, yes  that makes me 40 very soon.

Where have you lived?

I spent a few years living with a friend in Belton  Lincolnshire, this was to save me travelling every weekend to party  and drink  my weekends away, this was the rebel years of my life, I  never went to uni so this was my time to be wild.

Where can we find you online?

Contact with me is easy, I can be found on Facebook,  yes I have a mobile phone but most of the time its switched off, that’s  not normal I here you say, but I like it that way.

Almere is an inter­est­ing and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of liv­ing here.

We came to Almere as my partner Kay brought a apartment  here, he brought it just from  plans on paper, we came over to  see the progress of the build about every 12 weeks, he lived in Ermelo  at the time with his parents and I was still in the UK, his sister lives  here so we knew what we was coming to, Kay gave me the key to the apartment  after I had finished doing a 5km race of life event for cancer around  my local park, in them days I was fitter and thinner.

Almere is a good place to live for us as Kay works  in Amersfoort so the train takes his strain on the daily commute, there  are lots of nice places within 1 hour drive and you can be in Germany  or Belgium in 90 minutes. Camping is a big part in our lives so it perfect  to be so close to major motorway links. Kemphaan is great and there  are many open parks so there is no need to stay in the concrete jungle.

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?

Eating so is not something we do very often, but the  places we enjoy are an the Van de Valk hotel live cooking and brunch,  Yamas and Athene in Tussen de vaarten.

Would you define your­self as an expat, an inter­na­tional, or some­thing entirely different?

Expat or international, well for me not any of these  I just think of myself as a Brit living abroad.

How long do you plan on liv­ing here for?

I think that we are pretty much staying here for a  long as I can see, Kay’s works in the private health care insurance system  and we don’t really have that in the UK so he would need to find a  job there doing something else that pays good money, travel cost and  flexi working hours. We have our apartment for sale at the moment, we  will stay in Almere.

Tell us how you found Inter­na­tional Almere?

The way I found International Almere was via a friend  of a friend, I never really used computers before I came to Holland,  so had no idea of Google, search engine etc, My friend came to visit  her friend who lives in Amsterdam so I went to meet them both for lunch,  she told me them about a group that she was in and to join up, so I  came home found the web site and asked to become a member, I was asked  to write a small piece about myself, so that’s what I did, I had many  welcomes and hello from people but the only person that lived in Almere  was Connie, She told me come meet the local group on Friday night at  Jordaan, This took me 2 months to pluck up the courage to go, that night  I took my partner  for support, I arrived at the place went to  the bar to order a drink and then stood there with my dumbo ears trying  to listen for the English people, I was nervous and really wanted to  leave but then in came Connie all bubbly so I made my move to introduce  myself, I was introduced to the small group of woman, lucky for me I  was not the only new person that night so it was a bit easier, our partners  went to another table and chatted together as at that time it was no  men allowed. I enjoyed by evening and everyone was nice and friendly,  one person stood out the most Gina smith, as she comes from the same  town as me in England but we have never met before, so I have never  looked back and have enjoyed many a night out.

Have you been to any Inter­na­tional Almere events?  Which was your favourite?

I have been to most of the events that International  Almere host, I don’t really have a favourite  as they are all  good in there own way and you always meet new people.

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?

My advice to anyone  reading  this is to come along and meet us all, it’s a big step at  first but really we are all in the same position and making friends  helps ease the journey. Trust me there is someone here that you can  connect with, if the first night you don’t find them, just keep coming  they will be there in the end. I would not have stayed here if I didn’t  make good friends at the group.

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?

The biggest challenge for me when I moved here was  not working, I worked a lot in the UK and enjoyed my work very much,  so sitting at home was not my thing, and the hardest of all was on a  Sunday when back in the days when I arrived nothing was open, supermarkets  , shops all closed, and I was used to just going out shopping on my  days off. I now work at Letterland international school  doing  the lunch duty, and I have been treasurer for this group now for just  under 2 years.

 If you had to leave tomor­row and could take only one thing – any­thing – from Almere, what would it be?

I would take sate sauce as Kay can’t live without it!

What is your favourite Dutch tra­di­tion, and how do you cel­e­brate?  Do you still cel­e­brate hol­i­days and tra­di­tions from your home country?

Dutch celebrations are not really done in my home  as we don’t have children, and Kay’s family do not do anything apart  from birthdays when I have to go and sit in the circle, and eat cake.  Christmas for me is the best I have a big tree and love to decorate  my home, I have spent only 2 Christmas days here and not really enjoyed  either, so sorry I go home to my family and open my presents, and then  enjoy shopping in the sales after.

Family is the biggest thing I miss from home, but  I am lucky as I can get home very quickly if needed, and I have a special  tariff on the phone so I can call for only 10 cents for as long as I  like .I got my 74 year old father to use Facebook so he can also keep  tracks on me and look at my photos. Marks and spencers is now here so  I can get some home comfort food when I feel  the need.

Sarah Leonard - the lady behind the numbers on our 'Getting to Know Almere' event :)
Sarah Leonard – the lady behind the numbers on our ‘Getting to Know Almere’ event 🙂
Sarah and her partner, Kay on one of their many camping trips!
Sarah and her partner, Kay on one of their many camping trips!

 

Want to see yourself here? Fill out the form!

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Date Saver! 20th September is the Bake Off!

bake_off_main
International Almere is organising a BAKE OFF! We have so many talented bakers, so why not let them have the chance to display their baked goods, and you to have the chance to taste them!
So save the 20th September in your agendas because it’s going to be a tasty night! So come along for drinks downstairs and taste some goodies upstairs!
For €5 per entry for non- members and €4 for members, you can enter your home made (from scratch- no packet mixes!) baked goods. If you want to enter two different products,  you are more than welcome, but its still a per entry price.
Now for those of you interested in tasting these delicious delights it’s only going to cost you €2 and you can taste them all! After you have tasted your fill you get to vote on which baked good you think is the best!
As an entrant you need to email your chosen recipe, so please don’t entre grandma’s secret sponge cake. All of these collected recipes from the entrants will be turned into a cookbook that will be available for purchase at a later date. So we know you have always wanted the recipe for Carly’s rum balls? You can wait to bake Maarten Muijs’ cheese cake? Well soon, that might just be possible!
THE PRIZES!
1st PRIZE – €40 gift voucher towards the workshop of your choice at the “Leukste Taartenshop” in Almere Haven (http://www.deleukstetaartenshop.nl/) PLUS The front cover and starring recipe of the first International Almere Cookbook (available soon!)
2nd PRIZE – A gift pack (also from the Leukste Taartenshop) valued at €15
So get your baking hats on  because you need to get your entry form in together with the recipe and your payment to International Almere by 13th September!
Bank : ING
Name: Ver. International Almere
Account: 5570680
There are no facilities to warm food at the Apollo available, so please take this into consideration when you decide what you want to enter.
Whilst we can’t tell you what to enter, there are a few guidelines.  Baked goods in this example are cookies, cakes (cupcakes, cakepops, etc included), fruit pies, mini quiches, slices etc. We don’t have the facilities for serving or heating meals, so please no lasagnes, stews etc.  The rule of thumb is that if you can serve it for afternoon tea, a high tea etc – that is perfect.
Please send an email to stephanie@www.internationalalmere.com  with  the following subject line “Entry for Bake Off”
Your email must contain the following:
Your name
The Name of the Recipe
The full recipe (this is for both entry into the cookbook and to address any dietary concerns).
Get baking!

How well do you know Almere?

The date – 1st September, 2013.  The challenge – with your team, find all the pictured landmarks on your page and take a photo with your team.  The result?  A fun, family day out with lots of laughs and lots to learn about our awesome city!

Meeting at the Belfort’s awesome mosaic tile seats and clocks – 30 people divided into 6 teams and were given their pictures and instructions.  And so, the race was on!

Did you know that Almere has a marker that indicates how far below sea level we are?  Where can we see all the pipes and cables that connect Almere to all it’s facilities?  Can you find the hidden beach in the city?  And where is that giant hand???

Thank you to the students of the International School Almere for their hard work on this project – without you we would not have had such a successful event.  Thank you to the families who made it out today – how much fun was it?

 

The crowds at the Apollo after!
The crowds at the Apollo after!
Who is this bear?
Who is this bear?
The pipes of Almere
The pipes of Almere
That giant hand!
That giant hand!
Finding the way!
Finding the way!
Tree hugging!
Tree hugging!
Group picture!
Group picture!
Gerard and Irma find their way ..
Gerard and Irma find their way ..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do expat women get judged more?

TEM logo
This is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot, but only now have I found (hopefully) the right way to put it into words. The question I’ve been asking myself is whether expat women experience more judgment than women who don’t live abroad. I think there is no definite answer to that question, but I’ll try to look at this from different perspectives.

First of all, women (and oh yes, men) everywhere get judged and shamed every day. I don’t know anybody who didn’t experience being judged at some point. Especially when you’re a mom, suddenly the whole world is watching you, to see whether you are raising your child “the right way”- whatever that means.

In case of expat women, on top of the regular parenting judgment, there is judgment based on cultural differences. Different cultures have different ideas of how a child should be raised, and expat women often raise their children differently from societies they live in- which again results in judgment. Schools, languages, friends, the topic of integration are also all common to expat women, and may also be a source of judgment.

Then, I think that expat women may experience judgment on more than one level. For example, they may be judged by people from their countries of origin, their new home country (and by their husband’s country) and by the expat community, all at the same time. Many women, who are already struggling with their new life abroad, may find this really hard. On the other hand, expat communities are often very open-minded, tolerant and less judgmental.

Then, it may depend on your country of origin. So, you may feel more or less judged, based on where you come from and where you moved. If you felt judged in your home country, you may be relieved and empowered by not feeling the social pressure anymore. It may be more difficult for you if it’s the other way round.

Another aspect is the subjective feeling of being judged. So often we feel judged even though the other person doesn’t mean it that way. Especially if we’re already struggling with some aspect of raising children, an innocent comment can make us feel judged and unsure of our decisions. Expats (and women here are no exception) often feel like outsiders wherever they go. Hence, judgment may not affect them as much- because they have learned to cope with it.

So, are expat women judged more? I don’t know. While writing this, I have realized that the problem is not in being an expat or being a woman. The problem is in judgment. So, maybe, I should ask other questions: Why are women being judged? Why is anybody being judged? How can we deal with judgment? And what can we do to stop it?

Do you have any ideas? Have you felt judged as an expat? How did it make you feel, and what did you do about it? Please share your experiences in the comments!

[box size=”large” border=”full”]Meet Olga Mecking, our regular contributor at International Almere, who is an expert in multilingual life in the Netherlands.

Olga is a Polish woman, living in the Netherlands with her German husband and 3 trilingual children. In the past, Olga has lived in several countries (including Germany, Canada and the Netherlands), and learned to speak 5, that’s right, 5 languages.

She studied German philology at the University of Warsaw, then followed by a MA in Media Cultures at the University of Bremen. Olga blogs at The European Mama and we recommend you check her out on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.[/box]

 

The Dutch Circle Party Guide

Invader StuIt would be impossible to be an Expat living in the Netherlands without knowing about Invading Holland. It’s much like The Undutchables; a must-read for us all. Invading Holland is a light-hearted look into life in the Netherlands with hilarious anecdotes about having your bike stolen, an addiction to Speculoos and signs to look out for that you might be becoming Dutch…

Earlier this month, Stu, the voice behind Invading Holland won a Bloggie, which is the bloggers’ equivalent of The Oscars. It’s not a big deal, it is THE big deal.

Now, to the article.

Anyone who has lived in Holland for any length of time has most likely encountered a Dutch circle party and those who have not will eventually, it is inevitable. A Dutch circle party (the name is not a euphemism) can be best described as a ‘party’ that involves sitting in a circle all afternoon and chatting while drinking tea and eating cake. Anyone who only considers a party to be a party if someone is passed out in the corner, people are making out in the kitchen and the cops have been called at least three times is going to be sorely disappointed.

When attending a Dutch circle party it is important to know that when other attendees shake your hand and announce ‘Gefeliciteerd’ they are not introducing themselves. It might start to seem like you are being introduced to a very big family or that Gefeliciteerd is a more common name than Smith but they are in fact wishing you, “congratulations”.

“Gefeliciteerd.”

“Stuart. Nice to meet you Mr and Mrs Gefeliciteerd.”

This is because it is custom for the Dutch to congratulate everyone at the party and (as I discovered) is not because they are unsure about who the birthday boy or girl is (don’t try to be helpful by pointing).

Once you have successfully found a place to sit with in the circle (not necessarily with the people you arrived with and most likely with people you don’t know at all) you will be offered a drink and some cake. If you desire a drink with a little extra kick it is advisable to secretly conceal a hip flask of alcohol about your person since the strongest thing to be served at most Dutch circle parties is chamomile tea.

Circle PartyIt is also custom for there to be a minimum of 3 or 4 generations of family present at a Dutch circle party (the maximum limit is only set by the average human life span). This makes it entirely possible to go from a conversation about life as a member of the Dutch resistance during World War 2 to which Sesame Street character is best and why (It’s best to avoid getting these two conversations mixed up, Dora the Explore was never part of the Dutch resistance).

However, since a lot of these conversations will be in Dutch and thus impossible for a non-Dutch speaker to follow it is best to find something of interest to do to pass the time such as; staring at a wall, listening to the clock tick, trying to guess how much Dutch ‘worst & kaas’ you can eat or simply going to your happy place.

However, you must also stay alert! As a non Dutch speaker it is possible to go from being unintentionally ignored to suddenly having the entire room focus upon you within a split second as everyone waits silently for your answer to a question that you might not have heard because you were too busy watching a bug crawl across the window. This can happen because a Dutch attendee simply wanted to practice their English, ask you what brought you to Holland or simply know the current prices of the UK housing market. Whatever the reason, everyone in the room suddenly wants to hear the English speaker talk and they never seem to realize what a shock to the system this sudden intimidating attention can be or that testing us on our Dutch under the watchful eye of a room full of native speakers is not necessarily the most comfortable of situations.

But do not worry. Most Dutch circle parties have a set end time at a very respectable hour which the host or hostess will politely remind you of by starting to clean up around you.

PARRTTTYYYY!!!!!

This post orig­i­nally appeared on Invading Holland and has been repub­lished with full permission.

Comment below with your funniest Circle Party experience to win one of Stu’s Circle Party Survivor t-shirts.  The post with the most number of likes will be announced the winner.  This competition is open to residents of the Netherlands only and only comments on this article below will be eligible for the prize.  Good luck!

UPDATE: We have a winner! Stephanie Ernst-Milner, Stu’s Circle Party tshirt is all yours! We will be in touch to give you your shirt as soon as possible, so check your email!

Thanks very much to everybody who entered and submitted stories. We haven’t laughed so hard in ages.

And thanks again to Stu for such a wonderful post and a wonderful prize.

Children

Multilingual parenting ideas that got thrown out of the window — Part Two

If you haven’t already, check out part one in this series here.
This happens to every parent. You wanted to breastfeed only to find that your milk didn’t come in. You wanted to co-sleep only to find that your child hates it. Or you hate it. You wanted to only give your child organic home-made food only to find that your child actually eats sweets. And so the list goes. It is just so normal and very human.
Here is part two of Olga’s confession.  She didn’t achieve everything that she had planned before having children as far as their multilingualism was concerned.  What has fallen by the wayside for you as a parent (multilingual or otherwise)?

 

Having everybody on board

I hoped that if I just were dedicated and educated- and persuasive enough, I could persuade everybody that what I’m doing is beneficial to my children. Little did I know that I would be dealing with some extremely unhelpful and judgemental people. Knowledge and dedication to the cause is not something I’m lacking but I’m too tired to waste my time with people who can’t help or support me even though I know that what I’m doing is right. Sometimes the best way to deal with these sort of people is to ignore their comments and advice, and not to try argue with them.

 

My high expectations

I set out on this multilingual journey with the utter conviction that my children will be poster children. After all, I am bilingual myself, and I for everybody to read and be inspired, and hence my children should act accordingly, right? Wrong. Again, I had to adjust my expectations to Klara’s slow speech and language development. But you know, it doesn’t feel like a failure. Instead, I am proud that my children speak all three languages. I am proud that they’re catching up and progressing. In fact, I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I just need to make sure my children are fine.

 

Having a language plan

I can’t think of one instance where a plan proved useful. On the contrary, they fool my brain into thinking that I have done something when the only thing I did was actually writing things down. And while I can understand the usefulness of a language plan for some families, it wouldn’t work for us. We’re just trying to work out things for ourselves, and react accordingly to circumstances. It doesn’t mean however, that we don’t think about the future. Our choice of school proves it. The fact that I’m keeping to speaking to them in Polish proves it. Another thing plans do is that they make you feel like we have control over everything, and we don’t.

 

The idea that if I do things right, I would get the right results

I strongly believed that, just like in all things parenting, if you do things the right way, you will get the right results. And I believed that the same goes for raising multilingual children. Except, parenting isn’t mathematics. Sometimes you do all the right things and still get no results. You could do mistakes and your children could still turn out great. So, no, doing right things right doesn’t guarantee results. We are so desperate to believe that we can control how our children will end up, that we forget we really can’t. So, I can do my best, and hope for the best, but this is all I can do.

 

The idea that it would be easy and natural

I have long ago heard that being a parent- and especially being a mom comes naturally. I have read about the mother’s instincts that will tell me all I need to know about raising children. And you know what happened when I had children? My mother’s instinct proved to be very shy and didn’t tell me anything. I had to learn everything from the beginning. Of course, I spoke Polish to my children, but talking to them still felt weird. They didn’t reply, they didn’t answer, and talking like that just wasn’t my thing. It wasn’t natural at all to force myself to say, for the zillion-th time, “yes, this is a table”. Of course, it’s a stupid table! It wasn’t at all natural to me to change my way of talking so that my children can understand me. Argh! Sometimes I wanted to bang my head on the table. Luckily, now it’s getting better. Now I can finally talk to Klara more naturally. So I know it’s getting better, but I was in for a shock at the beginning.
 
 

[box size=”large” border=”full”]Welcome to Olga Mecking, a new regular contributor at International Almere, who is an expert in multilingual life in the Netherlands.

Olga is a Polish woman, living in the Netherlands with her German husband and 3 trilingual children. In the past, Olga has lived in several countries (including Germany, Canada and the Netherlands), and learned to speak 5, that’s right, 5 languages.

She studied German philology at the University of Warsaw, then followed by a MA in Media Cultures at the University of Bremen. Olga blogs at The European Mama and we recommend you check her out on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.[/box]

 

This post originally appeared on The European Mama and has been republished with full permission.

New Life

Multilingual parenting ideas that got thrown out of the window – Part One

This happens to every parent. You wanted to breastfeed only to find that your milk didn’t come in. You wanted to co-sleep only to find that your child hates it. Or you hate it. You wanted to only give your child organic homemade food only to find that your child actually eats sweets. And so the list goes. It is just so normal and very human.

The same happens to multilingual parents. It has certainly happened to me. So here’s my confession. I didn’t achieve everything I had planned to before I had children as far as their multilingualism is concerned. Here’s a list of things I either wasn’t able to do or they didn’t happen until much later.

Reading from birth

As a certified book addict, I wanted to convey my love of books to my children. I was dead serious on reading to them from the day they were born, to turn them into as enthusiastic readers as I am. And then Klara was born. And you know what? I was busy doing other things. Like recovering from birth. Like dealing with a crying newborn and trying to figure out what she wanted. Like resting. Reading aloud to her just didn’t happen. I tried again later. Again, nothing. As it turns out, I resented it (I’ve always hated reading aloud), and Klara just wasn’t interested. Books are for playing, and not for reading, don’t you know? And mom, please shut up, I’m trying to explore my surroundings here. But we had tons of books waiting for her to be ready, and she played with baby books a lot. She also often saw me on the couch with a book in my hands. Now, she loves it when I read to her, and I enjoy it because we can both chose books that are fun for us and talk about the stories. On the other hand, Julia loved when I read for her, so I did that. She loved being held and cuddled, and reading went greatly with that. So, not all is lost!

High-quality time in Polish every day

I was so set on making every day a day full of high quality Polish language input. And then I found that having a child is actually beyond exhausting. There was crying, sleep deprivation, and my deep need for me-time. But whenever I had time or strength, I jumped on the opportunity. I talked to her. I took her with me wherever I went and explained, explained and explained. And I talked, and talked and talked some more. At the end of the day I was even more exhausted and took the next day to relax. Luckily, my husband helped a lot with the quality language input. Also I think that while multilingualism is important, there are other things that are important as well: like letting the children play by themselves. Like being silent for a while and resting. Like just holding your child. Multilingualism is not all. And I think that quality time doesn’t always mean talking. I already see that wherever I spend a lot of time with my children (talking or not), they are more likely to speak Polish.

Consistency

I was going to be so consistent! I would only speak Polish, sing Polish songs, read Polish books and never talk another language with my children. I would also make sure that everybody else behaves the same. And what happened? I still only speak Polish with my children. But some of their favourite songs are in German/English or Dutch. Some of their favourite books are in German- even though I translate them. I also sometimes have to translate something into German so that the girls can ask their father something. The girls hear me speaking English, Dutch, German and Polish on a daily basis. But I keep thinking that maybe they will see that multilingualism is cool that way.

Polish as their primary language

I really thought that Polish will become the girls’ primary language. After all, they spent a lot of time with me at home, and if only I spoke enough Polish, they’d pick it up. And after all, I am their mom, so that would automatically make my language their language? Wrong. It didn’t happen. Instead, German is becoming Klara’s favourite. Maybe it was due to my not being able to provide enough good quality Polish in input. Or maybe because Klara’s daddy’s girl. Or maybe because children just make language choices that are different from ours. Who knows? The important thing to me is that they speak it.

Saturday school in Polish and Polish playgroups

I was desperate to find another source of Polish for my children, besides myself. I even became part of a Polish-speaking mom’s group. We met once a month at one of the mom’s places, and it was good. But the children were much younger than Klara, and it was important to me that she had somebody to talk to. And, as it happened, most of the moms went back to Poland, and the group was no more. I then found a Saturday school, and for a while I was convinced that this was the way to go. But well, a Saturday school, as fun as it may seem, is just that: a school that you attend on Saturday. Also, while it is every second Saturday, the children get kicked out if they miss class more than twice. We were pretty sure that with our travelling schedule Klara would surely miss more than two classes, so we decided not to go through with this. If we wanted to, we can still do it later, but since children in the Netherlands start school early- at the age of 4- we thought that maybe we should give her a break. After all, speaking Polish should be fun, not a chore!

 

What about you?  Did you have any multilingual (or even everyday) parenting ideas that went out the window?

 

Stay tuned next week for part two!

 

[box size=”large” border=”full”]Welcome to Olga Mecking, a new regular contributor at International Almere, who is an expert in multilingual life in the Netherlands.

Olga is a Polish woman, living in the Netherlands with her German husband and 3 trilingual children. In the past, Olga has lived in several countries (including Germany, Canada and the Netherlands), and learned to speak 5, that’s right, 5 languages.

She studied German philology at the University of Warsaw, then followed by a MA in Media Cultures at the University of Bremen. Olga blogs at The European Mama and we recommend you check her out on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.[/box]

 

This post originally appeared on The European Mama and has been republished with full permission.

utrecht

Utrecht: Come Visit

Utrecht is gearing up for the big celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht this week. Banners are strung in the streets and the Domtoren is getting the finishing touches for the big light show that will launch on 11 April. The list of events that will be taking place this year is impressive.

 

Utrecht, come visit
Utrecht, come visit

 

There’s plenty going on in Utrecht, even when we’re not celebrating the end of a war, but I still get people writing to me as if I live in Amsterdam. While Utrecht is only 20-minute train ride from Amsterdam, it’s still its very own city and a unique one, too. To remind you, here are a few of my past posts where I talk about how great Utrecht is and why websites and magazines and more should pay attention to Utrecht (and other cities in the country) not just Amsterdam. Nothing against Amsterdam, but in such a small country, why not check out a few other cities while you’re at it!

Reasons to Visit

Ranting, You’re Doing It Wrong

An Open Letter (of sorts) to Travel Publications

Coming up this weekend, hopefully, will be some more gargoyles and maybe a mention of the Domplein trees that have pulled up roots and moved. However, this weekend is also the spring beer festival over at Leidig Erf, so who knows what will actually get done. Anyone else going to the festival on Saturday?

This post originally appeared on A Flamingo in Utrecht and has been republished with full permission.

[box size=”large” border=”full”]Meet Alison, a woman from the southern US, who now finds herself in the Netherlands, thanks to an Italian boyfriend. Alison a native Floridian who has spent time in North Carolina, New Orleans and New York, before continuing herlove affair with the letter N and moving to the Netherlands. She is an art historian by degree, an editor by profession, and a photographer in her mind.

Alison writes at A Flamingo in Utrecht, and you can find her on Facebook, Flickr and Twitter.  We recommend that you do.[/box]

Getting to Know Us: Zejna Kaunic

Time to meed Zejna, our favourite photographer. In her short time on this earth Zejna has experienced a lot and has as diverse a family as one could possibly. Go ahead see yourself (see what I did there?).

Where were you born?
I was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina back in 1983. This was Yugoslavia back then.

Zejna Sarajevo

Where have you lived?
I have lived in Sarajevo, het Gooi, Baarn and Almere.

 

Where can we find you online?

You can find me on Facebook (Zejna Kaunic) and I have a Facebook page for my Photography company (See Yourself Photography). I also have a Hyves page that i never use, and also a Linkedin profile. But I am by far most active on Facebook.

Www.facebook.com/SeeYourselfPhotography

Www.syzkphoto.nl

 

Wedding photo

What brought you to Almere?
Well my mom and I came to Holland in 1992 due to the war in my home country as refugees.  After living in a refugee camp here in Holland for almost 2 years, and the war in my country was not near its end so returning was not an option, my mom got an apartment assigned to her in Almere haven. This was back in 1994.

 

My mom met my step dad at the NT2 course when he opened the door for her during a lunch break. There is romance in integration. Don’t lose hope people!  Afterwards we moved a few times to Almere Muziekwijk and Almere Buiten. When I moved out of the family house I decided to stay near everybody so I’ve lived in Waterwijk and Kruidenwijk too.  I’m a super – Almerian!

 

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.

I like the city centre that is near where there is a variety of shops to shop from but also the quite living among green gardens and nature parks. I like that everything is well connected via public transportation, I like the fact that Utrecht, Lelystad, Amsterdam and Schiphol are really near!

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?
I had to go to a Dutch school and learned the language there just from being in the class. I also met kids and they became my friends. I think that was that for the biggest part. Just being a part of everyday life doing what everybody does. So this is my advice to all newcomers, participate and go out and mingle and all will be all right. But it took me quite a few years to accept the fact that we would be staying here and not returning home to Bosnia. There is a crucial difference in moving to another country because you want to or because you have no other option. But now I’m pretty well adjusted, at least I hope so after 20 years spent here.

 

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?
I like bagels and beans in the new part of the city centre because they serve great fresh juices and bagels. I like the all you can eat concept of Atlantis. And I love the Mexican-hot pizza of New York pizza (haha).

 

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?
An international from an international and diverse new-found family! Because my mom and I are from Bosnia and speak this language with each other, my step dad is from Iraq as is my stepbrother, they speak Arabic with each other, we (mom, dad and I) speak English and my brother and I speak Dutch with each other. Just imagine our dinner table, 4 languages at all times. My fiancée is half Dutch half Caribbean he speaks Dutch and Papiamento. My best friend is a Korean girl. So International multicultural it is! And proud of it!

Zejna and fiance

How long do you plan on living here for?
I think I will be living here for a while, maybe even forever. Although I have a secret wish to move to a sunny climate one day.

 

Tell us how you found International Almere?
Back in 2010 Connie (IA) and Katy from NELCA came across me on Hyves and asked me to help them with a charity project. I took pictures that were made into a calendar and the money collected from the sales of this calendar was donated to cancer research. After that we stayed in touch. I also photographed Sonja and Julians’ wedding in 2012, met a few international Almere members there too and came across some old friends. I bought a bike from an IA member. And did some family shoots as well. So eventually I met quite a few members here and there.

 

Have you been to any International Almere events?  Which was your favourite?
I went to magic mike ladies night! Wohooo. Got my ticket from Connie but she wasn’t able to get in because it was sold out. The silly thing is that I sat between everybody but was too shy to really speak with anyone. So this was a funny favourite moment… I sponsored the Christmas dinner but didn’t go. This is one that I would like to join in the future or the bbq in the summer.

 

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?
If you are an international, IA is a great place to meet people, ask your questions and feel a part of a community. There is no need at all to feel alone, everybody is welcome and all the members are super helpful!

 

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
The weather. But this is Holland in general. I feel that Holland has fall for 9 months a year, and spring, summer and winter for the 3 months that are left. So the grey, rainy everlasting weather knows to get its toll on me from time to time. I need more sun! Also good job opportunities. Although most people know me as a photographer, I actually majored in pedagogy. I used to work for a quality kindergarten and did photography on the side along with a photography study. Loved to combine my 2 passions, photography and childcare. But the overall childcare system has changed a lot over the past year especially in Almere. I am now officially overqualified to work at a kindergarten and probably too expensive due to the economic crisis. So that’s a shame. Also the company that I used to work at has been sold and no longer exists.  I am a firm believer that our government should not cut down and economize on (preschool) education

Zejna motorcross

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?
My mom! Haha. Can’t go without mama! And my camera(s)… oops that’s more than one thing!

 

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate?
I love Queens day. Soon to be kings day. I love the overall celebration, the atmosphere and love love love the free market. Love to walk around and look at and buy old stuff.

 

Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?

I do. We celebrate Bajram. This is also known as Aid well known to Turkish and Arabic people. We visit family and friends and eat a lot of sweets like baklava. Children are supposed to wear new clothes and congratulate adults and then they receive some pocket money.

I like to go to Bosnia on 1st of May. This is the day of labor (arbeid in Dutch). Everyone is free and people go to their weekend houses, barbecue and eat, drink and sing all day. (Not quite the same if you do it here). Food and friendship is something very important in Bosnia, one and another compliment each other.

More in the Getting to Know Us series:

Getting to Know Us:  Caroline Mackie

Getting to Know Us:  Juliette Kuijpers Ter Weijden

Getting to Know Us:  Gerard Danks

Getting to Know Us:  Stephanie Ernst-Milner

Getting to Know Us: Nicole Peetsma-Epker

Getting to Know Us: Carly Bridgeman

Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle

 

[box style=”rounded”]Would you like to take part in the Getting to Know Us series? We would love to hear from you!

Drop us a line by filling out the form below and we will be in touch with all the details:

 

[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"][/box]

Getting to Know Us: Caroline Mackie

Meet Caroline, a Scot who has lived in the Netherlands longer than she has ever lived in Scotland.  You’d think that would diminish the accent, right?  Not a chance.  And as a huge fan of the Scottish accent, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Caroline also has the loveliest Westie named Luna.  I’ve been plotting ways to steal her for quite some time….

Caroline at an IA party
Caroline with the Scottish contingent – Petra and Carol Ann
Where were you born?

I hail from Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

Where have you lived?

Well, I grew up and worked in the city centre. Also lived a WHOLE TWO MONTHS in Copenhagen once upon a century. It was a tossup between there and Amsterdam where we’d move to. Amsterdam won, although I have never actually lived there.

Where can we find you online?

Facebook of course… then I do HAVE a twitter account but can’t get my head around the necessity for it so very rarely visit it – @carolinemackLWD. And my own business website – I’m now a busy bee with translating:
LWD Translations and Editing

What brought you to Almere?

After a 13 year rental stint in Weesp where our kids basically grew up, we wanted to buy, and Almere was the only reasonably priced option in the vicinity at the time, 20+ years ago (I’ve been here a while). I had only been to Almere once before, when they opened the train line and gave a free trip! It was just sand, sand and more sand then… nightmare! But we were pleasantly surprised and have been in the same house since moving here.

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here
The real Caroline
Photoshop? No way!

Well, I USED to say… it’s easy to leave and go to Amsterdam hehehe. But I really do think there are so many advantages to living here. Great shops – when you include all the ‘industrial’ estates, you hardly need Amsterdam at all these days. Lots of job ops too (I’m pretty sure!) I KNOW it’s great for kids, lots of green, water and wildlife. Loads of schools to choose from too. I’m not sure anything is missing nowadays. Ok so there are no OLD buildings but it makes up for that with new some pretty cool new ones.

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?

Probably not really a question for me, being here for so long. But I have to say, what IA does is just terrific. I could certainly have used just such a bunch of folks 33+ years ago! We should however encourage (even) more ‘integration’ – especially in the area of Dutch language. Maybe one night a month when everybody HAS to speak Dutch… or something? (well, not ‘HAS to speak…’ but… ‘should be encouraged to learn’). Maybe have everything labelled in Dutch at any meet-ups? Have everyone feel free to offer a suggestion ‘how to say it in Dutch’ blabla… Use our Dutch (speaking) members more and not let them get away with using our meets for them to speak and improve their English!

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?

I’m not all that discerning really, although know what I don’t like. The fact that they allowed a Macdonald’s on stadhuisplein is already a huge thorn in my side every time I pass it. I have honestly not often been in a restaurant where I had anything bad to say about the grub. SERVICE on the other hand…

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?

I HATE the expression ex-pat and its blatant misuse but that’s me again. So, no, I’m not an ex-pat. And I read only the other day of a survey showing high percentages of PEOPLE LIVING IN NL not considering themselves European which I can’t quite get my head around. I’m a Scot, living abroad. I will never be Dutch (even if do ever get my Dutch passport… don’t start me!) Having lived here in NL longer than I ever have in Scotland, I’m a bit of a puzzle really. But that’s the way of it.

How long do you plan on living here for?

We DID only plan on ‘a couple of years’… ‘until the kids go to school’… ‘until the kids go to secondary’…hehehe. Here for the duration now. We’re only a 1 hour flight away… so lucky compared to those from USA, or AUS…PERU ffs! I leave now? I’m in my daughter’s in Glasgow before bedtime (she grew up here from 6 months old and went to be an au pair for six months… 14 years ago!) Practically speaking, the same if we lived in the same country in different cities and travelled by public transport, which we do as neither of us drives.

Tell us how you found International Almere?

I was out at a ‘promote your business’ type of affair, in Amsterdam, and met a Scottish lady, Deirdre. She pointed it all out to me… who knew?! She also introduced me to Mrs. Matamoros, for which I am forever grateful and am annoyed we all didn’t know each other long ago already (although I was practically in at the start… well near anyway… of IA).

Have you been to any International Almere events?  Which was your favourite?

I turn up at the odd event… and was well impressed with the Christmas do.

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?

Do it! Especially if you have kids. Wish I could convince my elder girl who lives in Amsterdam but that’s not going to happen. I still have hopes for my girl in Glasgow. She grew up in NL and lived in Almere from age 14 and might just come back from Glasgow yet.

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
Caroline with her “long suffering” husband

‘Nother one not really for me but I can imagine myself turning up as a newcomer now…must be daunting! Tip though, persevere with the language, it’s bloody wonderful when you know it. Some fabulous literature too… they don’t tell you that much at school anywhere outside NL (or maybe they do now, things will have changed since I went to school)! Insist on folk speaking Dutch to you and before long, your Dutch will be waaay better than (most folks’) English (which is after all the lingua franca we all use). Watch Sesame Street even if you don’t have kids!! I honestly learned loads on there, after I got over Bert and Ernie sounding ‘wrong’ (I now think the originals sound ‘wrong!!’ but that took a while).

I always wonder how I would have fared if I’d gone to say… Spain, or CHINA, instead of NL. I mean who the heck emigrates to ‘Holland’ from the UK?! Well ok, quite a few folks but… it’s just not a language you hear much… or if I did, I thought it was German! – in fact I was here for about a year before I realised the difference in sound from German to Dutch… embarrassingly bizarre I know, but true.

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?

I honestly don’t know! Assuming, for the exercise we’re not talking ‘husband’ etc. I know I really wouldn’t miss the wispelturig (it’s a word! Look it up!) attitude of the Dutch, but if I was going from here TO Scotland, I could list a bunch of things that’d get my goat about folks there too so… really don’t know.

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate?  Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?

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I am somewhat of a ‘traditionaphobe’ if I’m honest. Although, that’s not entirely true… I just don’t honestly LIKE ‘all things orange’ and the ‘ouwejongens krentebrood’ nonsense. I was thrown into Sinterklaas only a couple of  weeks after coming here, and thought it was great… until I realised there was then no SANTA here (at the time anyway). And now it’s all mixed up and ruined for me really. I get livid when they start it all up mid-October (if we’re lucky and they’re late!). Valentine’s Day, and Hallow’e’en were also non-existent here until not all that long ago and ‘they’ just do it all wrong so it bugs me. I should probably just embrace it all eh? And will perhaps do so… eventually… for my grandchildren’s sake. Maybe not though, don’t quote me. But please Nederlanders, you’re NOT all royalists, you’re just NOT… you just really like an excuse for a piss-up, which is fine by me too  OH and while I’m on a rant a bit… I find it so sad that Wilders is given credence specifically in ALMERE How embarrassing! So much for the ‘traditional’ tolerance of the Dutch.

There was a time when flights were really, really expensive and a fortnight’s holiday in Southern Spain with the four of us was cheaper than one of us going to Scotland for a week. And we all know that when we go ‘home’ we want to take presents, eat out a lot and generally look the big-shot traveller and play happy families, visiting the whole time and not really seeing the place at all. So the choice was simple and there was a period of 10 years when I didn’t go ‘home’ to Edinburgh at all. I finally got there… I was like an addict needing a fix by that time…. And while I did have a great time, I found that when I came BACK to HERE, I was ACTUALLY coming home. So I suppose home is where you hang your hat… lay your head… where your heart is… blablabla. It takes a while, and you can take the girl out of xx but you can’t take xx out of the girl… yeah, all that. We often wonder how we’d be if we’d stayed in Edinburgh. Impossible to tell but we’ve done ok, have to say, despite quite a few setbacks – could have been better, could have been worse too. It has to be worked at a little, you have to let go a little and you have to also dig in a little and make yourself at home, wherever you are on this planet. Here endeth the gospel according to Caroline.

More in the Getting to Know Us series:

Getting to Know Us:  Juliette Kuijpers Ter Weijden

Getting to Know Us:  Gerard Danks

Getting to Know Us:  Stephanie Ernst-Milner

Getting to Know Us:  Nicole Peetsma-Epker

Getting to Know Us:  Carly Bridgeman

Getting to Know Us:  Becky Riddle

 

[box style=”rounded”]Would you like to take part in the Getting to Know Us series? We would love to hear from you!

Drop us a line by filling out the form below and we will be in touch with all the details:

 

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Getting to Know Us: Gerard Danks

Meet Gerard, the first bloke in our Getting to Know Us series.  Born in arguably the most beautiful of all English counties, Gez (as we lovingly like to call him) like many of us here at International Almere moved to Almere for love. Together with his lovely girlfriend and fellow team mates in the Upsidedowners, Gez is famous for reigning supreme at the hugely popular International Almere Friday Night Quiz.

More about Gez:

Where were you born?
A hospital in Truro, Cornwall, UK.

 

Where have you lived?
All over the UK, nearly! Mevagissey, St Austell, Exeter, Swansea, York, Warrington, Bristol, Blackwood, Maes-Y-Cwmmer, Oostzaan and now Almere!

Where can we find you online?
Realistically, only Facebook. I have a Twitter account (@cmdrstarion) which I might look at once a week.

 

What brought you to Almere?
Prior to Almere, Irma (my girlfriend) and myself were in a rented flat in Oostzaan. I’d been living over here for nearly two years at the time and we needed a bigger place to live. We ended up looking in Almere for houses, as they were reasonably priced for the size, it’s relatively central for visiting Irma’s family, and we’re handily not far from a train station with a direct link to Schiphol.

 

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.
I like how, as a new city, there’s been a lot of thought put into the infrastructure. For example, the bus lanes and cycle paths being separate from the normal roads, plenty of green places (even the rooftop lawns in the middle of town!), and ease of connection to the rest of the country. Though a direct road to Harderwijk wouldn’t go amiss, instead of having to drive up to Lelystad first!

 

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?
I wouldn’t say I’ve been ‘made’ to feel at home, rather, I just feel at home here. The pace of life and the city is very similar to what I grew up with in Exeter. I couldn’t see myself living in Amsterdam (certainly not downtown Amsterdam!) – too hectic and full of klote toeristen and their bloody trolley cases!

 

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?
Can’t go wrong with Rhodos, in my opinion. It’s the Greek just opposite Almere Centrum station. The first time I came over to The Netherlands to visit Irma, we tried to go to a tex-mex place in Zaandam, but it was fully booked. As a back-up, we managed to get into a Greek, about 10 minutes walk from where she lived. I’d never had Greek food before, and wasn’t even sure what it entailed. But Irma assured me I’d like it, as it was mainly grilled meats. I found out that night that I liked Greek food, and ever since I’ve always had to go “one more time, just to make sure”. Rhodos is nice and handy too. Being right by the rail station, it’s only a few stops from us so we can both have a drink and not worry about who’s driving home.

 

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?
I’d most likely say expat. Though ‘european’ comes to mind as well. I wouldn’t go so far as international though, having never been outside of Europe.

 

How long do you plan on living here for?
For good! Or possibly till Irma kicks me out. (Love you really!)

 

Tell us how you found International Almere?
Kind of through the quiz nights. Irma had seen the IA website, and about the quizzes from there. We’d initially read that there was an email sign-up for the quiz, then Irma saw via Twitter that it was “just turn up”. So, last April, we did. And you’ve not been able to get rid of us since!

 

Have you been to any International Almere events?  Which was your favourite?
I think I’ve been to every quiz night since April, even being score-master once and quiz-master once! I’ve also been to a few Friday Night Drinks, and the Christmas Meal just gone.

 

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?
Just do it and take the plunge!

 

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
That’d have to be finding work. I’ve not got any decent qualifications to speak of, and being nearly 38 most shops would rather some spotty college kid that only gets paid half of what it’d cost to hire me. I did work for 18 months in the Staples warehouse as an order picker, but the work dropped off, and there was no budget to keep any of the temp staff that started at the same time as me. After the required 6 month break, it hadn’t picked up enough to warrant taking me back on, either.

 

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?
Ooohh, toughie. Um, IA? Can I take IA with me?

 

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate?  Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?
Hmm. I’d say birthdays. Yes, the (in)famous “Dutch Circle Party” (don’t use that when speaking to Dutch people though – they won’t have a clue what you’re talking about!). I had the same birthday as my maternal grandmother, and it was generally during or near a school holiday. So either my parents and I would be staying up there, or they’d come to our house. Dutch birthdays are pretty much the same (though less cake + candles), so I actually enjoy them!

What do you miss from your homeland?
Waterfalls. Sounds a little silly, but I kinda like them. And The Netherlands is somewhat lacking in the vertical landscape necessary for them. Mother’s cooking is another, but I guess I’d miss that even if I was back in the UK in a place of my own. What I have found though, is I think I’d miss more from here if I ever needed to move back to the UK (or elsewhere). Little things, like bittergarnituur. Go to a pub in the UK, and you can generally get snacks like crisps and nuts, or a full blown meal. But sometimes you’re out, and you want something to eat that’s somewhere between those two extremes, and bittergarnituur fits that bill! Bitterballen, vlaametjes, leverworst, all those small nibbles that you can get. The Netherlands scores big points in my book for those!

 

More in the Getting to Know Us series:

Getting to Know Us: Stephanie Ernst-Milner

Getting to Know Us: Nicole Peetsma-Epker

Getting to Know Us: Carly Bridgeman

Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle

 

[box style=”rounded”]Would you like to take part in the Getting to Know Us series? We would love to hear from you!

Drop us a line by filling out the form below and we will be in touch with all the details:

 

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Upcoming Workshop – Access Cancerlink

Access Cancerlink

From ACCESS:

Kyrin Hall, in co-operation with ACCESS Cancerlink, presents a workshop on nutrition and cancer.

Open to anyone who wants to learn more about healthy eating and anti-cancer diets, this workshop is especially for cancer survivors, cancer patients or anyone who has experienced cancer in a loved one or close friend.

Presenter: Kyrin Hall
Date: Thursday, 04 April 2013
Time: 19:00 to 21:00
Venue: ABC Treehouse
Voetboogstraat 11, 1012XK Amsterdam
Cost: 10 euro
Contact: Aine Campbell
e-mail cancerlink@icconnections.org or call (and leave a message) 06 2259 0772

Kyrin Hall has worked as consultant and educator in the health and wellness industry for 12 years. She produces and presents a weekly health programme for Sky TV- the ACTIVE channel, contributes to Breakfast radio 99.4 FM and writes for many health magazines.

A Canadian-trained naturopathic doctor, Kyrin has also studied food science and orthomolecular medicine and is a senior yoga teacher with vast experience.
For more information see www.kyrinhall.com.

No Impact Week 2013

NLBE-1-240x240The No Impact Week is a one-week carbon cleanse that allows participants to experience the difference lowering their impact can have on their quality of life, their community, and their planet. The No Impact experience is about discovering how living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle can increase personal fulfilment  health, happiness, and time with family and friends. Beginning Sunday March 10 participants will work through a series of eight daily challenges, from decreasing trash production and home energy use, to eating locally and sustainably. The week will wrap up with a day of Giving Back on Saturday March 16 & an Eco-Sunday of rest on Sunday March 17.

If you are an English-speaking resident of the Netherlands or Flanders that wants to take up the challenge of No Impact Week together with the other participants of No Impact Week 2013 from March 10-17, please do so! Register via this link and then send us an e-mail with a request for the English manual. We will then send you the manual used for No Impact Week in the United States. The content (especially the links) will differ, but the experience will be the same.

As most of the other participants understand English, please also participate in the discussions on Facebook! And, please send us your blogs, questions, ideas, etc.

PS Check out the news-item on No Impact Week 2010 by The Hague ExpatTV on Youtube

The No Impact Project is an international, environmental, non-profit project, founded  in the spring of 2009. It was inspired by the No Impact Man book, film, and blog. The No Impact Project was conceived by Colin Beavan, aka No Impact Man, following the success of his blog, book, and film, which chronicle his family’s year-long experiment living a zero-waste lifestyle in New York City. Central to his thesis is the notion that deep-seated individual behaviour change leads to both cultural change and political engagement. Living low-impact provides a clear entry point into the environmental movement. This thesis is the bedrock of the No Impact Project.

Follow No Impact Week: @NoImpactWeekNL

Tweet using hashtag #NoImpactWeek
Like No Impact Week NL and BE on Facebook

The original article can be found here and has been republished with the full permission of the No Impact NL and BE team.

Getting to Know Us: Stephanie Ernst-Milner

As a ginger leftie*, Stephanie was lucky to make it through childhood, let alone across the globe to Almere – thank goodness you’re not a generation older hey Steph..?

Where were you born?
In a town called Gladstone, in Central Queensland, Australia. Please don’t hold it against me, I escaped.

 

Where have you lived?
Around Queensland mostly, growing up in Gladstone, followed by a long stint in Brisbane. I also lived on Moreton Island for a while for work.

 

Where can we find you online?
http://svernst78.livejournal.com/, Facebook … and most of those fail websites. You know, the ones where people type things into their phones and autocorrect kicks in …

 

What brought you to Almere?
A plane. Boeing 737 owned by Cathay Pacific, followed by a trip on the wonderful NS rail network. I’m kidding! I followed my husband here. The restraining order still hasn’t been approved …

 

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.
Amazingly enough, it isn’t the bitterbollen and stroopwafels! I love the architecture here – and I love going up to La Place and seeing the rooftop gardens. We are so lucky to live in a city that is so accessible and pretty!

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?
It really wasn’t until we got our own home here that I’ve felt truly at home. It was hard adjusting to living in the middle of a city when I come from a small town and even when I lived in the big smoke, I was in a semi rural area. So my greeting to Holland was Koniginnedag, followed by Liberation Day, followed by Euro Cup … you can kind of see I didn’t sleep much for a few months. However, I have made some wonderful friends here who have helped me out so much, so I am grateful to International Almere for being here for someone like me. It’s a big step to quit your job, leave your family and come to a country where you don’t know the language, and be welcomed by a group of amazing people who are experiencing or have experienced the same things as you and offer their support and friendship.

 

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?
People are going to judge me when I say Kwalitaria – but really, for quick, cheap meals they can’t be beaten. Especially on those nights where you really can’t be bothered to cook. Lido holds a very special place in my heart – it’s where we had our second marriage celebration, and the food is just spectacular. You also can’t beat the Sushi Grill places … seriously – challenge yourselves and see how many rounds/dishes you can do. Between 2 our personal best is 4 rounds, 29 dishes …
And let’s not forget Yamas! That little Greek waiter who speaks a crazy combination of Dutch/French/English/Greek is just too cute for words, and the food? AMAZING!

 

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?
I really define myself as me. I guess that sounds a wee bit trite and pretentious, but I don’t believe we all fit into boxes. I think anyone who has made the decision to move to another country really has a challenge on their hands. So we adapt and change small things about ourselves and our upbringing to accomodate the differences in our lives. Some people embrace change, some don’t. Wow … I think I went on a tangent there….

 

How long do you plan on living here for?
Indefinitely. The mortgage monster has bitten hard, so we’re here for a while. Does that frighten anyone? *insert evil laugh here*

 

Tell us how you found International Almere?
As a hardcore Googler, one day I was intrigued by the city described as “The Ipswich of Amsterdam” by my husband. We had confirmation his job was here, so I started a heavy session of Google. When I typed in “Expat Group Almere” a link came up for International Almere’s Facebook page. It was here that I learned that it wasn’t like Ipswich, Queensland at all. Noone wore flannel shirts and ripped jeans, noone drove hotted up Toranas and Falcons, and certainly noone had 2 heads. Instead I found a beautiful city full of people like myself!

 

Have you been to any International Almere events?  Which was your favourite?
Many! I loved the Aussie Style BBQ, the picnic, and just recently started going to the Quiz nights. Go Team Gingernuts!

 

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?
Go for it. Embrace this city because it is a fantastic place to live (after all, we now have Primark!), it’s readily accessible to most places within NL and even across the borders, and with a support group like IA in the mix, you will seriously fall in love with this city.

 

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
Getting over my morbid fear of anything orange, stamppot, paardenworst, wooden shoes and open front curtains.. Seriously, I really couldn’t get over people walking past my house and looking into my kitchen for around 3 months. Then I started leaving the window open to torture then with the smells … and then I just started waving back and giving a cheerful “Goedenavond!”

 

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?
Hmm. Tough question. My bike probably. I’ve fallen in love with it.

 

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate?  Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?
I had my first Sinterklaas here last year, and it was a load of fun. I still have my poem stuck on my fridge! I’m sure I will enjoy Koninginneday much more this year as I’m not right in the middle of it, or trying to sleep through it, although I may be traumatised by the orange overload …. I’m also looking forward to Sint Maarten’s as well – it must be cuteness overload! Other than that, pass me the bitterbollen and the beer, and Proost!

 

More in the Getting to Know Us series:

Getting to Know Us: Nicole Peetsma-Epker

Getting to Know Us: Carly Bridgeman

Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle


[box style=”rounded”]Would you like to take part in the Getting to Know Us series? We would love to hear from you!

Drop us a line by filling out the form below and we will be in touch with all the details:

 

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*the ginger comment is meant entirely in fun, I apologise to anybody who does not see my intended humour – Stephanie jokes about this herself…

International School Almere, through the eyes of its students

A crucial element of the Middle Years Program curriculum at International School Almere is Community and Service.  Each student in the program undertakes a community oriented project which is aimed at providing a service to their community, to help the student to develop an understanding of their place in the world and how they can contribute to help make the world a better place.

We would like to introduce Aimee and Naomi, two MYP3 (or grade 8) students from ISAlmere who as part of their community and service project are writing a short series of informative articles for You, the International Almere community.

The first in the series is an article the two students have written together describing the school itself:

[box border=”full”]The International School Almere is a really friendly school. You will notice there are people from grade 7-12 who are friends with each other. In each grade everyone is really close to one another; it’s good to know there is always someone there for you.

At this school we have parties and we recently had a Christmas ball, one of the students was the DJ and a few other students were in charge of the lights. The student council and grade 10 decorated the halls and the drama room and helped set everything up.

There are school trips as well. The 7th graders go on an introduction camp to get to know each other more. Last year they went to Belgium and this year they went somewhere near Amsterdam. On the school trip last year, grade 7-9 went to Manchester, England and grade 10-DP 2 went to Rome.

Each year has a mentor. The mentors are there to help students and guide them through their education. Every week there is a mentor class where the students meet up with their mentor and talk about their issues.

Morning assembly is on Thursday. The students should be at school at 8:30 to attend morning assembly. During morning assembly we talk about issues involving the school, community and service, upcoming school activities and other things that the teachers have to notify us about.

At International School Almere, they require the students to do community and service and finish it by the end of the year. Community and service is about helping others in the community and not getting paid for your work. There are different amount of hours and requirements for each grade. [/box]

 

If you would like to know more about ISAlmere, please check out their website here.

Coming soon, Aimee and Naomi will tell us what it’s like to be an international teenager in Flevoland, which we can’t wait to share with you..

Getting to Know Us: Nicole Peetsma-Epker

Meet Nicole, International Almere’s secretary.  Our interview with Nicole is the latest in our Getting to Know Us series here at International Almere.

Nicole stepped into the hugely challenging IA secretary role at the end of last year and most visibly is responsible for our newsletter (have you signed up for it?  If not, run, don’t walk HERE) along with ensuring that everything in the background of the ever-expanding group runs smoothly.

Over to you Nicole!

Where were you born?
I was born in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada.

 

Where have you lived?
I have lived in Simcoe ON, Fenwick ON and here in Almere. 

 

What brought you to Almere?
I came to Almere because it is where my husband lives.

 

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.
What I love about Almere is that it is one of the biggest cities in The Netherlands. Yet, it doesn’t feel cramped at all.  Plus, living in Almere Haven, it is quite pretty and peaceful.

 

How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?
The best feeling of feeling like home is when my friends surprised me at the airport when I came back from Canada the first time.

 

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?
I really don’t have a favourite place here in Almere.  I like most places.  Le Baron does hold a special place though.  It was the first place I went out to eat at when I was first here.

 

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?
I consider myself an International.

 

How long do you plan on living here for?
For the near future the plans are to stay here.  But hubby and I would like to live back in Canada one day.

 

Tell us how you found International Almere?
I found IA by surfing the net.  I had met Christina at V&D one day and my son saw that her son had a maple leaf on his coat.  So we started talking – she is also from Canada and told me about the international group.  But when I got home I had forgotten it.  So I felt like a stalker trying to find this group! LOL

 

Have you been to any International Almere events?  Which was your favourite?
I go to most Friday night drinks and Quiz nights.  I love the Quiz nights the best!

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?
I say go for it!  It’s a great city.  We may not have the old architecture, but you are close enough to other cities to see it when you want.  Best part, for being such a new city, we have a ruin! LOL (Almere Castle).

 

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?
My biggest challenge was getting over the fact of having neighbors.  I’m a country girl.  Plus, having to get over the fear of taking public transit on my own.

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?
Um… Tough question…Bus, bike and car lane system.  I really think it’s great how it’s all separated.  (for the most part). 

 

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate?  Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?

My favorite Dutch traditions are Queens Day, Sinterklaas and New years.   As for celebrating traditions from Canada, we don’t really do much of that here.  I will start though J So that my kids know those traditions too.

 

More in the Getting to Know Us series:

 
Getting to Know Us: Carly Bridgeman

Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle

 

[box style=”rounded”]Would you like to take part in the Getting to Know Us series? We would love to hear from you!

Drop us a line by filling out the form below and we will be in touch with all the details:

 

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The Expat Company

Local Business, Global Focus: The Expat Company

Welcome to the first in a new series of posts focusing on businesses in our local community; Local Business, Global Focus.  Here we will feature local businesses that are in the Almere area that are geared towards servicing the international community and most importantly, you.

Meet Georgina, from The Expat Company.

Tell us about The Expat Company

International Recruitment

The Expat Company started its services in 1995 and has offices in Almere (back office), Leiden, Breda and Heerenveen. We thrive to source relevant candidates that match and meet your requirements within todays changing jobmarket climates. The personal profile of an applicant is their most important asset. Companies want good communication skills, entrepreneurship, creativity, confidence. Our candidates are pre-screened and interviewed before producing a shortlist that best meets your needs.
How can we find you?
Our team has specialized consultants with extensive recruitment experience and knowledge of the targeted branches or markets. We can asses on the availability and advice on the the suitability of specialist candidates for your positions.

You can visit our office by making an appointment by calling 036-5302000 or emailing tec@expatcompany.nl

Our website is expatcompany.nl and you can join our linkedIn group Expat Company – international vacancies in The Netherlands and find us on Twitter here.

What made you decide to work with expats?

We are not only working with Expats, but also with the locals. Mostly of the time we are working with people who have an international background and/or speaks several languages. Our name has its origins from the word “expatriate” because The Expat Company works to a large extent for European or EMEA head offices of large international companies.

When somebody first arrives in Almere and the Netherlands, how can you help that person, or family, hit the ground running?

We offer several services like our recruitment and spouse career program (coaching program to guide the spouse to find a suitable job in the most efficient way). Our business partner (t&a Relocation) offers immigration and relocation services.

What makes you the company to go to in your field for expats living in Almere, in comparison to a Dutch equivalent?

We have the expertise regarding the Expats. We have gained many years of experience and built up knowledge through the years. We understand the Expats as our consultants have lived and worked abroad themselves as well.

What is the number one question your customers ask you?

“Do you have vacancies for non-Dutch speakers?”

Share a titbit about The Expat Company that we won’t find on your website or in social media.

All the consultants are from abroad or have worked and lived abroad themselves.

What’s coming up in your agenda that’s interesting for Almere expats?

We are offering a custom made program for our expats (partial on individual basis and partial on group basis). This program is called the LABOR MARKET SUPPORT PROGRAM in the Netherlands. If we have enough candidates to complete the group the program will take place at the end of January or in February 2013.

 

[box style=”rounded”]Would you like to take part in the Local Business, Global Focus series? We would love to hear from you!

Drop us a line by filling out the form below and we will be in touch with all the details:

 

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2012 International Almere Holiday Dinner Sponsor Roundup

We want to share a final round of thanks to all our wonderful sponsors who have helped to make the 2012 International Almere Holiday a reality.  We truthfully could not have put this event together without the generosity of so many companies and people.  By having dug deep and put your hands into your own pockets you have been able to help keep the cost of the event affordable for us all.

Click through the gallery of sponsors below and you can find all the related links at the bottom of this page.

Thank you so much!

 

The Expat Company

Wereldvlaggen

Suitcase Talen

PVM Notarissen

Rosa’s Fashion

Apollo Hotel Almere City Centre

Expat Mortgages

Erly Thornton Saxophonist

Soap Treatment Store

Basket Bee

Stack Exchange

Amma

All Seasons Kapsalon

 LWD Translations and Editing

Spaans Les Mestral

Ijspressi

Lott’s Diamonds

Prolingua Discover Dutch

Carrie-Lynn Salikin Visual Artist

ABCDE Almere Baby Club 

Evado

See Yourself Photography

Young Almere

 

Getting to Know Us: Becky Riddle

Becky in Almere Buiten, July 2012

Welcome to our new Getting to Know Us series where we meet our members and learn a bit more about one another.

Kicking it off is International Almere’s first ever Life Member, Becky Riddle.

Becky first moved to Almere from England six years ago when an opportunity arose  with her husband’s work.  Since she arrived she has been involved with – and a huge influence on – the local expat community here in Almere.  So much so that when the opportunity arose to honour the extraordinary contribution of a member of our little community, Becky was the obvious choice.  Becky has been instrumental in shaping International Almere into what it has become today and has also taken the ABCDE Playgroup from strength to strength.

Becky has since taken a step back from her responsibilities to the international community here and is now busy focusing on new, more personal projects, of which we cannot wait to hear more about.

 

Now, more about Becky…

 

Where were you born?

Wolverhampton, United Kingdom. (year: undisclosed!)

Where have you lived?

Various places in the UK and Holland

Where can we find you online?

Sophie Snail Adventures (a blog of children’s stories – my new hobby so not much there at the moment!) Check it out here: Sophie Snail Adventures

What brought you to Almere?

I followed my husband

Almere is an interesting and unique city to live in, describe your favourite part of living here.

All of it! The people, the architecture, the ease of access to so many diverse things to do and see. It is a rich city in lots ways.

Becky and her husband Neil
How have you best been made to feel at home since you arrived?

Through the people I have met.

Where is your favourite place to go out or eat out in the city?

Oooh, lots…which shall I pick? With my family I love to go to the Kemphaan – get back in touch with nature, have a snack and you can enjoy a different experience every time you go. With my husband I like to go out to eat, socialise with friends and going to the cinema. I like ‘de Brasserij de Bergerrie’ for food.

Would you define yourself as an expat, an international, or something entirely different?

I would define myself as me, where-ever I may be.

How long do you plan on living here for?

The foreseeable future. We have no plans to move.

Tell us how you found International Almere?

I have been aware of International Almere since they were a little acorn.

What advice would you offer to others who are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Almere?

Get in touch with International Almere and start meeting people! Other people are the key to settling in here…someone somewhere will have an answer to most of the questions and challenges you face and it’s always good to have people to share your experiences with. Makes the move much easier than it could otherwise be.

What has been your biggest challenge since arriving in Almere?

Mmmmm, being a parent and having to re-educate myself in the way the various systems/people here work compared to what I have been used to (and in turn educating the Dutch in my ways!).

If you had to leave tomorrow and could take only one thing – anything – from Almere, what would it be?

My family.

What is your favourite Dutch tradition, and how do you celebrate? Do you still celebrate holidays and traditions from your home country?

I love Sint Maarten. I love to help the children be creative making lanterns, watch them sing around the neighbourhood, then their excitement when they get a treat  (I also rather enjoy several traditional Dutch treats myself such as oliebollen and stroopwafel – lekker!) We still celebrate Easter and Christmas and if I can find the right cut of meat I’m fond of a traditional English Roast Dinner followed by Apple Crumble!

Becky’s daughters celebrating Sint Maarten

[box style=”rounded”]Would you like to take part in the Getting to Know Us series? We would love to hear from you!

Drop us a line by filling out the form below and we will be in touch with all the details:

 

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Great Snakes! – Tintin takes the top honour

Andrzej, decked out as Tintin took out best costume (men) prize at Saturday night’s International Almere Halloween Party.

Carina ran away with the ladies’ prize as a Ghostly Grand Dame, with Hanna singing for seconds as (a dead) Amy Winehouse.

Robin was threatening as Darth Maul and Marcella was the winner of the Horror film tag line quiz.

 

For all the photos that captured the moments, click on Darth Maul below to go to the gallery.

 

Robin does Darth Maul

A great time was had by all, thanks so much for coming out and the huge amount of effort that was put into everyone’s costumes.

Until next year….

Special Offer: The Guest Card

The Guest Card is the largest expat community in the Netherlands and was started as a joint initiative with the City of The Hague to help internationals with starting their lives in the Netherlands.  In 2012, The Guest Card is celebrating their 5th birthday, and their expansion to other areas of the Netherlands, including the Amsterdam area.

As part of their birthday celebrations, The Guest Card is giving away free membership to everybody at International Almere.  The card offers loads of discounts and exclusive deals especially for international people living in the Netherlands.

Here are some of what is on offer:

–          Get discounts at restaurants, theatres, museums, shops and more

–          Be introduced to the best service providers for internationals

–          Get invited to exclusive parties & events

–          Shop at Sligro with your personal Sligro card and experience wholesale shopping

–          And much more…

 Normally the membership costs €12,- for the main subscriber and €6,- for an additional partner card.

You can use this coupon code for your free registration: IA

 Get your free membership here

Go ahead and take advantage of this great offer.  It will be worth it, especially the Sligro membership.  Plus, the more International Almere members, the greater the opportunity for the team at The Guest Card to work with more local Almere businesses and service providers to get a better deal for us.

Updated: Holiday Dinner

Updated 29 November 2012:

 

Due to the enormous response, the 2012 International Almere Holiday Dinner has sold out completely!

 

We are starting a waiting list in case of any cancellations, so if you would like to be added to the list email connie@www.internationalalmere.com as soon as you can with your name and how many people you wish to add to the list.

 

If a space comes available for you, Connie or Sarah will be in contact personally.

 

Good luck!

 

Holiday Dinner time is drawing near and we hope that you are as excited as we are!

The Holiday Dinner has become the most loved annual event on the International Almere calendar, a great family favourite and this year is already shaping up to be just as much fun as always.

Make sure you keep an eye on this post as we will keep adding information as it comes, ok?  For now, here are the basics:

Date: Saturday 15th December 2012

Time: from 4pm (16.00)

Location: TMG Party Centrum Almere Buiten  (Map)

Price: €7.00 per adult and €5.00 per child (12 and under.  Babies under 2 are free)

RSVP and pay by: Friday 30th November

As we have done in previous years, we ask that each family brings a favourite dish from their home country (Carolyn’s famous Mac and cheese anyone?) and we will start asking soon what everybody would like to bring so we can track dishes and make sure we don’t have an overload of one type of food and a gaping hole where the yummy sweets should be, for example.

We will also have some great activities for the kids, including a visit from Santa and gifts for the small ones (under 10)!

We also have great big plans for a fabulous musical act and prizes throughout the night.  There will also be a cash (only) bar with very reasonable prices.  You don’t have to worry about paying Leidsplein rates for your beer!

Please don’t forget to RSVP to the Facebook event page, or you can email info@www.internationalalmere.com.  For this event we do need to have payment in advance and are not able to accept payment at the door, so here’s how you can pay:  via bank transfer to Ver. International Almere (VIA) at 5570680 or IBAN- NL89 INGB 5706 80 and BIC- INGBNL2A

 

We also want to take a moment to thank our awesome team of volunteers in advance who will be working tirelessly over the next couple of months to ensure you have a wonderful time!

Upcoming Event: HALLOWEEN

In 2010 International Almere hosted its first ever Halloween event.  It was a huge success, so much so that in 2011 the party had to move to a bigger venue!  Now Halloween is almost upon us again it’s time to get creative and pull on our costumes, carve pumpkins and scare the daylights out of one another.

Saturday 3rd of November, International Almere is hosting the annual Halloween party at the Apollo Hotel in the Almere city centre from 8pm.

There will be prizes for best costumes and the competition will be tough as some people have been working on them for months already!

Send us your favourite Halloween tracks and we’ll dance the night away; keep­ing the ghosts and goblins at bay!

Tickets are €8 per person and RSVP by 28th of October.

Please pre-pay (we won’t be selling tickets at the door for this event) by transferring money to: Ver Inter­na­tional Almere Acc No: 5570680.

 For more details, check out the Facebook event page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grocery Shopping – Dutch Style

It’s actually a blessing in this country that there is some sort of competition between supermarkets without domination by two major players. I have to say that groceries here are much cheaper comparatively to Australian prices, although fruit and vegetable variety is a little more limited, with a much heavier inclination toward the seasonal, rather than all year availability.

Anyway, I thought I would share my views on supermarket shopping here in my experience.  Please note these are my views, and do not reflect the views of many sane people out there who probably enjoy the whole grocery shopping experience.

When you walk into your local supermarket – whomever out of the many choices we have here, you are greeted by the standard and usual things you’d expect to see – the trolley stand (usually full, you must get that 50 cent investment back should you need use one!) and the always empty basket stand, the tobacco/post office/flower desk that also masquerades as “customer service”, and the usual promotional material advertising the latest “bonus” buys, special “korting” and of course, the freebie with each 10/15 euros spent – more to come on that one.

If you value your sanity, you avoid Wednesday afternoons (early school finish) and Saturday afternoons (OMG! It’s Saturday afternoon! We must SHOP!) as these seem to be the busiest times. The checkout queues are ridiculous, the shelves are empty and it seems that every unclaimed child in the city is lurking, waiting to jump out unexpectedly in front of your trolley and force you to make manoeuvres only seen in Formula 1 racing.

Product layouts are a little confusing but I am getting used to it. If it means you find your eggs in the coffee section, so be it. After 6 months of living here, I’m now able to find most things with ease, but some still defy logic.  Seriously, who puts sugar next to coffee?? It belongs with baking stuff! And don’t start me on the miles and miles of cheese.  As a registered cheese-o-phile, I have taken it upon myself to sample each and every variety available – much to the dismay of my arteries and my posterior.

So once you consult your list at least 6 times, ensure you’ve walked every aisle in desperate search of the basic items you need – locating these in unusual places, and filled your basket, you are now ready to take on the checkout, young Padawan.

At all supermarkets here, you bring your own bags. You unload onto the conveyor belt, careful to spread your groceries over as much of the belt as possible so the person behind can’t unload just yet. If you can successfully place the divider at the very end of the belt, you have done your job well. The scanner will greet you with something that resembles ‘Hallo!” then proceed to process your goods at high speed and send them flying down the chute at the end where you can play a bizarre form of catch and stuff into your bag. (Best done with 2 players – one to catch, one to pay). You then are asked if you want a receipt – hand over your cash, and then juggle the change whilst you’re trying to place the last few items (usually stuck at a really odd angle or just out of reach) before the next person’s stuff comes flying down at alarming speeds.

Of course, you could have the joys of the “PINKASSA” lane – where either you are told several times that this is PIN only in tones that are not exactly dulcet, or you get stuck behind the little old lady who has unloaded her entire trolley onto the conveyerbelt, had everything processed and then tries to pay in cash.

After your purchase, you are then usually asked if you are collecting “zegels” (Nee) and if you are collecting the – FREEBIE OF THE MONTH!!

Dierenkaartjes. The latest supermarket craze.

Why did this get capitalisation and exclamation marks, I hear you ask.  Never, in my life, have I seen anything quite like this sensation.  Most supermarkets, except those designated as budget ones, have some sort of regular promotion that if you spend a certain amount, you will receive a small freebie.  Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen animal cards, football stickers, mini groceries … and that’s just a few.  Seeing the animal cards “dierenkaartjes” are the current promotional product, I’ll focus on those as the sample, however, it’s much the same as all the rest.

To earn your dierenkaartjes, you must spend 10 euros.  For each 10 euros you spend you receive 4 cards.  Of course, there are special promotions that get you extra cards, and the obligatory album that you can purchase to hold your well earned prizes.

Here comes the scary part.  People are crazy for these cards.  I’m not just talking kids, I’m talking grown adults.  As I write, I’m looking at my desk and seeing specially designated piles of cards I’m holding onto for various people. But that’s not the only thing. Adults hold swap meets to collect the cards they haven’t gotten. Kids stand outside the supermarket asking people for their dierenkaartjes as they leave.  I’ve seen checkout operators cop mouthfuls of abuse for forgetting to ask if their customer is collecting dierenkaartjes. There is a national obsession over whichever collectable is in store, and most people will not rest until they are the proud owners of a complete collection.

There must be some level of prestige associated with a complete collection, judging by the snatchy-grabby behaviour of the locals when it comes to the freebie of the month.  I am yet to see someone decline cards at the checkout, because I’m sure that if that happens, a hush would fall over the entire store, perhaps some tomatoes hurled, maybe even a neon sign from the roof questioning the person’s intelligence, or maybe even those sirens we hear on the first Monday of the month fired up, warning us that someone just said no to dierenkaartjes, and now, the world really will end …

 

What are your thoughts on shopping in the Netherlands?  Are you a sucker for a good freebie?

 

Thanks to Stephanie for writing this piece especially for International Almere.  
You can (and should) visit Stephanie’s own musings on life in Almere at An Aussie in Almere.

Upcoming Event: National Mom’s Night Out

Back in July Nomad Parents staged their first ever National Mom’s Night out at about half a dozen locations around the country.  Here in Almere fourteen mums came together and had a fantastic evening out, so when Nomad Parents approached us about hosting another one, we jumped at the chance.

Here’s what the girls at Nomad Parents have to say:

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“Motherhood is an around the clock job with little opportunities for a break. When you are an expat mom, finding a way to get a little “me time” can be that much harder because you may not have a good social network to support you. Going out on your own seems overwhelming, going out with your partner seems impossible (where do I find a sitter I can trust?) and meeting up with friends requires that one of you organize an event. So what is a mom to do to get a break?

“On Thursday, October 25th we are offering up a solution: Come out and join us for the National Mom’s Night Out. We have organized the time, date and location so all you have to do is show up. If you have some friends, bring them along! If you don’t know anyone, come and meet someone new! There are events happening all over the Netherlands so that you can find one close to you. We’ll keep things fun with great conversation and giveaways.”

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Come along and join us at the Apollo Hotel Almere from 8pm on Thursday 25th October. You can also RSVP to the event here.

Continue reading Upcoming Event: National Mom’s Night Out

2012 Annual General Meeting Agenda Friday 02 November

Below you will find the agenda for the International Almere Annual General Meeting (AGM).  Here are a few notes on the voting process with regards to the motions that will be passed (or not).  Everybody is welcome to join and participate in the AGM, however to vote it will be necessary to register and become an official International Almere member.

How does the membership work?  As we have created our statutes in 2012 we are as yet to have an official membership list.  It has been determined in the statutes that to become an officially listed member, we will request a membership fee.  However, the long term fee is to be agreed upon at the 2012 AGM and the by-laws will be amended to reflect the decision (as we have built the possibility for change into the by-laws).

As the by-laws are yet to be approved, we as a board have agreed to request a small membership fee of €2.00 from those who wish to vote and become listed members.  This fee would then be deducted from the agreed membership fee for 2013, effectively making it free to vote at the 2012 AGM.

We will have a hard copy of the statutes and the by-laws for you to read at the meeting, however they are also  linked to the Facebook event page and can be found here:  Statutes, By-laws.

Please note that the AGM will kick off at 19.00 sharp at Apollo Hotel (apologies, I listed the incorrect time in the October newsletter).  However, if you wish to vote, please make the effort to arrive early to complete the registration form.

If you have questions regarding the AGM or the voting process, please send an email to nerissa@www.internationalalmere.com

 Agenda

1.  Welcome Location:  Apollo Hotel, AlmereDate and time:  Friday 2nd November 2012, 19.00 (7pm)Explanation of the voting procedure
2.  Chairwoman’s report An overview of the previous twelve months, including by-laws, achievements and lessons learned.
3.  Treasurer’s report An overview of the financial report (available to view in its entirety on request) including income and expenditure in the previous twelve months.
4.  Goals for the coming year Outlining fundraising goals, planned events and suggestions for new additions to the event calendar, expansion of the board (including nominations), membership package, potential charity aims, working towards a five-year plan, and finding a semi-permanent home for International Almere.
5.  Motions Election of new board members, agreeing a membership package, acceptance of by-laws and other motions raised during the previous discussion.
6  Any other business Any relevant issues as yet to be covered in the discussion.
7.  Close Invitation to join in the bar for a drink as it is the First Friday of the month.

Afrikadag Almere is back!

And this year International Almere is getting into the thick of it and running an Africa Quiz.

On the back of our hugely popular Friday Night Quiz (every second Friday of the month a the Apollo Hotel) we have been asked to run two quiz sessions throughout the day and we have been very busy coming up with fun, interesting and hard questions.

The quiz will cost €1 per person to enter and there will be a beautiful Oware game up for grabs for the winner of each session.  We will be asking the questions in both Dutch and English.  Quiz 1 will be held at 14.30 and quiz 2 at 16.30, both at the Podiumtent Centrale Tuin.  There is a 25 participant limit on this one for each session, so make sure you’re on time!

Afrikadag is a hugely popular event, founded in 1999.   The goal of Afrikadag-Almere is to bring people together with the art and culture of the African continent. To offer a more enriching image of Africa through theater, dance, music and literature.  

In 2012 the programme is no exception.  There will be fashion, Senegalese dance and percussion, jewellery making and henna painting workshops, African Batik workshops, and an interactive performance by master drummer Henri Goabi plus much, much more!

Check out the website (click the poster below) and be sure to come along to de Kemphaan on Sunday 16 September and enjoy an entertaining and educational day out.

 

 

 

Yoga, the Art of Breathing and Food

(image from Evado’s website)

Our wonderful Holiday Dinner sponsors Sandra and Eva from Evado Yoga Fit Wellness have added a slew of English speaking activities to their autumn calendar that we know you do not want to miss out on, from a combined yoga and food workshop, to meditation, to the art of breathing.

Check out the upcoming events here:

21 September – Balancing Soul Food

28 September – How to connect your breathing in your yoga practice

29 September – Interactive one-to-one breathing

29 September – How to bring mindfulness in action in our modern lives

30 September – Yoga Wonderfull

30 September – Teaching balanced vinyasa and hatha yoga suited to the individual

If you don’t know much about Evado yet, check out their Website, their Facebook page, or find them on Twitter.  Keep an eye out for more English language classes in the near future.

 

 

 

National Mom’s Night Out

The amazing moms who joined the first ever National Mom’s Night Out in Almere

Remember last week we mentioned the National Mom’s Night Out?  Well on Thursday 26 July, fifteen lovely ladies slapped on the heels and lipstick and kicked off the first ever nationwide event in style.

We gathered at International Almere’s favourite stomping ground – Apollo Hotel in Almere and sipped our mojitos, chardonnays, beer and espresso while pouring over the contents of our goodie bags and sharing kiddie war stories.

We all had a wonderful time and thanks to the wonderful Lynn Morrison of Nomad Parents for organising.  I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I cannot wait for then next one.

Keep an eye out for upcoming Nomad Parents events, hopefully the next one will be some time in October.

Don’t forget to head over to Facebook and Like Nomad Parents, or follow on Twitter here.

National Mom’s Night Out – Thursday 26 July

 

Motherhood is an around the clock job with little opportunities for a break. When you are an expat mom, finding a way to get a little “me time” can be that much harder because you may not have a good social network to support you. Going out on your own seems overwhelming, going out with your partner seems impossible (where do I find a babysitter I can trust?) and meeting up with friends requires that one of you organize an event. So what is a mum to do to get a break?

On Thursday, July 26th we are offering up a solution: International Almere, together with ABCDE Playgroup and Nomad Parents invites you to come out and join us for the National Mom’s Night Out at the Apollo Hotel in Almere. We have organized the time, date and location so all you have to do is show up. If you have some friends, bring them along! If you don’t know anyone, come and meet someone new!  This is a national initiative, with events happening all over the Netherlands at the same time.  We’ll keep things fun with great conversation, giveaways and goody bags.

You can find all of the details at: http://www.nomadparents.com and of course join the Almere Facebook event.

 

See you from 8pm, Thursday 26 July at Apollo (Koetsierbaan 2, 1315 SE Almere)!

A Day at the Zoo

 

On Saturday we went to the zoo….That’s my husband and his parents and you’re right, there’s a dog too, that’s Buffy, she’s our kid.  We went to Ouwehands Dierenpark in Rhenen.  The Netherlands has many zoos or Dierenparks as they’re called here.  Each one is just a little bit different.

Oudehands is one of the few that allow dogs in, for 2.50 your dog can spend a fun day out with you and you get 2 poop sacks to clean up any unexpected accidents, a good deal cause in the 5 hours we were there, Buffy only went once…so we even left with something for our money.

 

 

 

Buffy wasn’t too interested in most of the animals, but when she was, she could get a good look, most of the walls are low enough for a dog to look over or those glass petitions or open fencing for them to look through.  There are numerous water dishes throughout the park, we brought our own though which I think is always a good idea, so they have thought about  four footed needs as much as providing many choices for refreshment for the people which was average priced.

We were allowed in most of the buildings which is also nice…when she wasn’t we just took turns with waiting outside with her.  So we all could enjoy the whole park.

It’s  missing a few prominant animals, like rhino’s and hippos, but other than that, the zoo is beautiful, not too big that you had to run through it, we did it in 5 hours and did some back tracking to make sure we did see everything.  The enclosures are amazing and they’re currently building a HUGE primate building which will hold the big 5 in primates so we’ll definetely go back once that’s finished.

We hadn’t been to this zoo for several years which makes it worth taking a trip back.  Zoos are magical, or at least I find them to be, we get a glimpse into the average day in the life of animals, many of which are becoming endangered at an alarming rate.   As a “clicker” I love taking pictures and to be so close to reach out and touch some of the animals, petted a dier and a turtle, makes taking pictures of them a snap!

I can’t recommend enough going to the zoo, with or without your dog, below I’ve listed most of the zoos in the Netherlands and the star next to them means you can bring your dog.  So this summer vacation, if you’re not leaving the country, why not visit some zoos, there’s many to chose from:

*Ouwehands Dierenpark Rhenen

http://www.ouwehand.nl/Basis.aspx?Tid=168&Lid=222&Lit=TEKST&Stijl=02&Sid=808

Artis in Amsterdam

http://www.artis.nl/en/artis-royal-zoo/

*Dierenpark Amersfoort

http://www.dierenparkamersfoort.nl/english-information

Dierenpark Emmen

http://www.dierenparkemmen.nl/dierenpark-emmen

Blijdorp in Rotterdam

http://www.diergaardeblijdorp.nl/?lang=EN

Safaripark Beekse Bergen near Tilburg

http://www.safaripark.nl/

Dolfinarium is near Haarderwijk

http://www.dolfinarium.nl/en/dolphin/park_play/interactive_map.html

Taman Indonesia, near Giethoorn

http://www.taman-indonesia.nl/index.php?pagina=Home

Europa Dierentuin is now Dierenrijk in Eindhoven

http://www.dierenrijk.nl/

Gaia Zoo in Limburg

http://www.gaiazoo.nl/welcome

Overloon Zoo

http://www.overloonzoo.nl/

Owl dierenpark, not just owls, you can pet kangaroos here too, near Gorinchem

http://www.depaay.nl/nieuw/index.php

Wissel Zoo near Epe

http://www.wisselzoo.nl/

Burgers  Zoo in Arnhem

http://www.burgerszoo.eu/?ce=1

 

 

Body Worlds: Amsterdam

Body Worlds by Carrie Lynn Salikin (aka Elfie Von Elf)

http://www.bodyworlds.com/nl/amsterdam/english.html

See it now in Amsterdam until June 17th.

For more information on other displays by Gunther von Hagens (born Gunther Liebchen, 10 January 1945)

see http://www.bodyworlds.com/en/exhibitions/current_exhibitions.html

June 1st, I went toAmsterdam to visit the Body Worlds exhibition. I have a keen interest in medicine and the human anatomy, so I found this quite interesting.

I’ll start by pointing out the negative. There were Dutch and English signs, however, a majority of the English descriptions were tucked away behind the displays and nearly impossible to read. Some of the displays (the ballerina sticks out in my mind) didn’t even have an English description. What happened to the translation?

In addition to the admission price you can pay 3.50 euro for an audio tour that further explains the majority of the displays. I did not find this worth my money. The entire exhibition contains very basic information about the displays and the additional recordings don’t offer much more than repeating what the signs already say.

Photos are not allowed to be taken indoors, however a few people chose to ignore this rule.

Be warned, there is an adult section. However, they give you no information on what that section is about. There is just a sign of no photos allowed and a sticker warning for adults only. If you are of a sensitive nature, do not enter this section. To the left of the doorway you will find information on reproducing and how this all works; quite explicit. To the right is a large section about coming into this world and the various stages. As the exhibit involves real specimens, this may not be something everyone can handle viewing.

On to the positive, this is simply amazing art and medical information and everyone young and old should check this out. To see the human form in its entirety is pure beauty and magic. You can clearly see the tension in the muscles making this very raw and very real.

Seeing the  differences between healthy organs and unhealthy organs really makes you feel more health conscious. It is a real eye opener to see the differences between an overweight and a healthy body and the effects obesity has on your organs and bones.

There is a section about how much families in various parts of the world are spending on food every week and what they are eating. I spent nearly 45 minutes on this alone. This was really interesting.

The displays are based upon a process called Plastination.  It is a technique or process used in anatomy to preserve bodies or body parts, first developed by Gunther von Hagens in 1977. The water and fat are replaced by certain plastics, yielding specimens that can be touched, do not smell or decay, and even retain most properties of the original sample.

I think there is room for improvement in the displays. I would have liked to have seen more variation in the illnesses or bone deformities compared to healthy organs and bones. However, since this is ground breaking research and somewhat controversial, one has to take baby steps to allow for more extensive displays.

At the end of the tour there is a place where you can buy various souvenirs. In addition there is a specific area where taking pictures is allowed and the staff is more than willing to take photos of you and your friends with your camera.

The location of the display is within walking distance from the Amsterdam Zuid train station and there are several restaurants nearby if you are hungry afterwards.

So if you have the time to spare, I truly recommend checking out the exhibition as for me it was something I will never forget.

 

 

August Fundraising Update

 

 

 

 

We’re still hard at work with the  International Almere Holiday Dinner 2012 fund raising. We are already at about 50% and will continue to do our best to raise the complete amount needed, so stay tuned for more.

I cannot stress enough, that we need your help in this. If you have a personal relationship with a business or shop, please take the time to ask them for help when you are there next. Everybody has 20 EUR to spare, especially for good customers. You can also leave behind the flyer: Sponsorship Flyer Xmas

Our new sponsors since the last update are:

  • Apollo Hotel City Center – http://bit.ly/pc2nnP
  • Evado – Yoga, Fit, Wellness – http://www.evado.nl/

And let’s not forget our dear sponsors from the last update:

  • The Expat Company – http://www.expatcompany.nl/
  • Carly’s Young Almere
    Need I say anything more? The club for young expats in Almere! Stay in touch on Facebook
  • Caroline’s LWD Translations & Editing
    For all your Dutch-English-Dutch translation needs http://www.lwd-vertalingen.com
  • The Steiner-Meunier Family
    As our first private sponsors, thank you very much indeed!
  • Martha Mghendi
    With a very generous private donation, make sure to give her a big hug next time around.
  • Expat Mortgages – If you have read my post about buying a place in the Netherlands, you will already know that you can trust these guys to get you a fair mortgage deal – no matter where you are from. http://www.expat-mortgages.nl/

You can find all these companies on our International Almere 2012 Holiday Dinner Sponsor Board.

We need lots more sponsors, so if you know a company that would be interested, please point them to the sponsorship information or let us know via info@www.internationalalmere.com

Together we can make this work,

The International Almere Team

 

Libelle Zomer Week May 2012

 

 

Libelle Zomer Week: China Town May 2012 by Carrie Lynn Salikin (aka Elfie Von Elf)

On May 13th, 2012 I had the priviledge of heading out to the Libelle Zomer week with a few friends – several of them being from our lovely International Almere group. This was my first Libelle Zomer week and I was really looking forward to it. I had heard from various sources that this was quite the event. In all honesty I wasn’t let down and had one heck of an amazing time.

Where to start? I was expecting wall to wall people with little to no ability to get to the stands, but to my surprise even with the large groups of people, everyone just sort of went with the flow and gave a great deal of respect to one another. Was it because we all had the same motivation? Was it because it was the last day of the event? Regardless of the reasons – checking out the vast selection of stands was not exhausting or impossible. Truly this was a pleasant experience.

Be warned – bring your wallets. Even if you have no intention of spending money – oh how you will. There is something there for everyone and truly some amazing deals were found. Several stands sold quality surprise bags. There were stores I knew quite well and a lot of new products and stores were brought to my attention.

Transportation to the event was also quite well organized; from trains to busses to more than adequate parking, at what we considered a reasonable fee of 6.50 euros per day.

The event itself was tidy; no overflowing garbage cans or trash on the ground. Bathroom facilities were more than plenty and also very clean for an outdoor event. My only minor complaint: the food selection was quite limited. I had come with an expectation of trying various asian cuisine due to the signs posted everywhere “China Town”. However this was not the case. In the beginning we passed one loempia stand and a soup stand and for the rest of the time we came upon several La Place restaurants serving plenty of sandwiches. But for the cost of a sandwich I can recommend: pack your own.

Thankfully later on in section 3 we found ourselves plenty of sample food stands (the only time in the event things got a little chaotic, perhaps we were all crazed with hunger by this point). But once we had our fill of various food samples from rice, to chicken to salads with dressings, potato chips, raspatat etc., we were more than happy to continue on our way.

Alcohol samples seemed to be a large part of the theme, but a lot of variety and amazing deals. My husband found himself rather taken with the chocolate wine and could not help but pick up a bottle.

Will I return again? I can say without a doubt: yes! Our group of friends easily found each other time and time again when we went our own ways.

For more information on the Libelle Zomer Week “China Town” please vist the following website: http://www.libellezomerweek.nl/

Education in Almere

Starting a new school, in a new country, is a huge change for anyone.  However, you’ll always have the tingling excitement on your first day when you walk in and see all the faces of your classmates you’re going to spend seven hours with five days a week!

High schools following the international baccalaureate (IB) are very different from your usual public high schools. Comparing it to Scottish education, school is a more laid back place to be. I have joined theInternational School Almere in MYP4 (Grade 9), this is part of the middle years program. The middle year’s program is for students aged eleven to sixteen. The MYP encourages students to be open-minded, reflective thinkers.

MYP uses ‘continuous assessments.’ This is where you are graded in many different ways over the whole year. This could be through debates, investigations, experiments and reflections. Exams aren’t sat until you’re in the diploma years. The Diploma program (DP) is for students aged sixteen to nineteen. DP is taught over two years and prepares students for university.

During the IB, students are encouraged to develop community awareness by taking part in a community and service project. Community and service projects help to show you the importance of taking responsibilities and allow you to find new skills and talents while making a positive difference on others lives.

This year for my community and service I had to complete twenty hours. I helped at Zumba lessons with four to six year olds. Zumba is dance and aerobics. It includes hip hop, samba, salsa, martial arts, and some bollywood moves. It showed me how hard it is to look after young children and I have much more respect for teachers after being in their position! It was a really enjoyable activity and I plan to continue helping next year too. I also helped in the flevoland hospital and the school science lab. This showed me that even the smallest things like changing the magazines in the waiting rooms and cleaning a class room can make a huge difference. Writing this blog is also part of my community and service project which I hope attracts more expat teenagers and show adults how we see Almere.

Everyone at school has different backgrounds and cultures and you make friends from all over the world. Knowing that the majority of your school have all gone through the same experience as you is really comforting. Everyone is really accepting. I visited my school for an afternoon before I moved here almost a year ago and after the visit I couldn’t wait to start.

For me, moving country and school has improved my geography. It was never my strongest subject but I now know about countries such as Indonesia, which I had never heard of, and I can even say a few things in Russian and Japanese!

chloe xoxo

Christmas Spirit – a tad early

Today, I spent a few hours talking to entrepreneurs in Almere who would like to help us by sponsoring the International Almere Holiday Dinner 2012World Handprints.

Why is that necessary?

The World Trade Center has moved away from Almere and with it, we lost the sponsorship for 2012. This means we rely on the help of private sponsors to support International Almere.

I am very happy to announce that we have the first four companies have agreed to sponsor International Almere:

You can find all these companies on our International Almere 2012 Holiday Dinner Sponsor Board.

We need lots more sponsors, so if you know a company that would be interested, please point them to the sponsorship information or let us know via info@www.internationalalmere.com

Hohoho,

Sonja

 

Lady on bike

Working Through Culture Shock

In only the last six months or so I’ve noticed a shift in my perception and attitude to life here in the Netherlands.  Confrontations or situations that earlier would have left a black cloud hanging over my head for an entire day (or a week, sometimes!) no longer seem to bother me for much longer than a couple of minutes.  Often these days I’ll have a near miss on my bike with an idiot in a car on the way to work and by the time I arrive at the office it has been forgotten.
I have been wondering to myself if perhaps, finally, I’m transitioning through the stages of culture shock.  It is generally understood that culture shock passes within a few months (certainly within a year), but I talk to people here in the Netherlands who are clearly still struggling, often after a few years.  I certainly have been!According to Wikipedia culture shock has four distinct phases; Honeymoon, Negotiation, Adjustment and Mastery.  In the honeymoon phase everything is lovely and new, bright and shiny, exciting and fascinating.  The negotiation phase tends to kick in once one realises that life isn’t actually all roses.  Differences between the home culture and new culture become glaringly apparent, and the differences are often difficult to deal with.  Language, social interaction and perhaps one of the big issues for people coming to the Netherlands is the attitude within primary health care and its magical wonder drug, paracetamol, can become overwhelming.Eventually the negotiation phase fades and the adjustment stage will begin. Wikipedia states that this usually happens between the six and twelve month mark, although if my own experience is anything to go by, it can take much, much longer.  In the adjustment phase one will develop more of a positive outlook and deal with issues as they arise instead of getting bogged down in the differences and difficulties that they would have during the negotiation phase.Finally, the mastery phase.  Basically full integration.  This does not mean losing one’s own cultural identity, but becoming comfortable enough in the new country that they finally feel at home and at ease.I had been struggling along in the negotiation phase for a very long time.  So long in fact, that I don’t even remember the honeymoon phase.  Perhaps my honeymoon phase was in the time when I was just a regular visitor, rather than a resident.  I do remember marvelling at the ING building in Amsterdam Zuid on my first trip and traversing the Oosterschelde and Afluitdijk respectively was an incredible experience for me.

ING building, Amsterdam.  Pic
But, I have so many memories of incidents and hurdles that really bogged me down.  Regular tantrums in the supermarket for not being able to find the “right” products.  Horror and anger that would last for days at a perceived slight from an encounter in public.  Throwing my homework across the room and refusing to continue at the tone of some to the integration coursework.  Uncontrollable tears when I break three wine glasses in one day because I’m just useless and can’t do anything right (that was a merry Christmas, let me tell you).  All things that should in all seriousness be water off a ducks back.  But they just weren’t.  Everything was so much harder.  I would take everything personally.  My husband has been unbelievably patient with me for a very long time and it’s really only now that I’m coming out the other end that I realise just how trying I must have been (who am I kidding, still am!).Why has the transition into adjustment finally come about after so long?  I really think that it has to do with all of the health dramas I’ve had in the past year.  As a consequence of being ill, I’ve had to put myself out there and speak Dutch.  I’ve had to be proactive in interacting with others.  I’ve had to take a good look at myself and my own attitude.Once I realised which stage I was at in culture shock I seemed to immediately recognise patterns and move through to the next phase.  It was like a light switched on in my head.  I’m happier more than I have been in almost four years of living here in the Netherlands.  I can finally have a meaningful conversation with my mother in law as I am much more confident with my level of Dutch.  When I encounter antisocial behaviour (daily) I’ll just think “sukkel” and forget about it almost immediately.  It’s almost to the point where I can just laugh almost everything off.By no means does my new outlook make me reflect and think that my old attitude was ridiculous and invalid.  I don’t doubt that others around me believe(d) that I was behaving like a crazed harpy, but that makes my own feelings no less important or relevant.  Life has been a real struggle for me in the last few years.  I could not count the amount of hours, days or probably even weeks that I’ve spent wishing that I could be in Australia, or even anywhere else if I’m honest.  I do truly believe that there are real social and behavioural issues that need dealing with here in the Netherlands which have been a huge factor in how I’ve felt.  The bubble mentality is so ingrained that it is very obvious that many, many people think only of themselves.  You can enter any supermarket or stand in any queue and experience it.  My husband’s grandfather, who is quite possibly the most lovely man you could meet turns into a shoving monster when he’s put into a queue for free food.  His appalling behaviour has to be seen to be believed!What happens now?  I keep moving up.  I seem to be slowly evolving into more of a glass half full type of person and I’m liking this new outlook.  I’m not walking around with a dark cloud hovering over my head any more.  I can finally see and appreciate my life and how damned good I have it.

I’m going to master this culture shock if it kills me.
Which stage are you at in the four phases of culture shock? How have you coped? How long has it taken you to see the light at the end of the tunnel?
(The original post can be found here)
Hema Almere Stad

A-Z of The Netherlands: A is for Almere

(about My A-Z challenge)

A is for Almere, of course. The city I chose to live in The Netherlands, I was still in Portugal.

Almere is the youngest city of The Netherlands. Situated in Flevoland, the most recent province of the country, its first house was finished in 1976. Named after the early medieval name of the Zuiderzee, this garden-city is now the 7th largest municipality in The Netherlands with 191,495 citizens (9 May 2011). Almere offers contemporary architecture, several parks, woods and lakes, an exciting cultural environment and a relaxing and balanced life. Annemarie Jorristma-Lebbink, a former minister, has been the mayor of the city since 16 August 2003. Her party (VVD) is the same one of the current prime-minister, Mark Rutte.

Almere is Contemporary Architecture

Almere Centrum (where we lived in the first two years)

From Almere (III)

Tussen de Vaarten (our current neighbourhood)

Two Face, by the Dutch NIO Architecten.

From A-Z

The New City Center

The Citadel (2006)

A shopping complex by the French architect Christian de Portzamparc.

A complex of 100 to 100 metres which is divided into four quadrants by two intersecting streets (for pedestrians). Above the car parks there are 50 shops. On top there are 46 colourful houses, and an apartment complex including 6 apartments and a parking lot for its residents. The terrace of La Place restaurant (on the top floor of warehouse V&D) provides a unique view of the Citadel.

From Almere (III)

 

From Almere (III)

The Lakeside Tower (2007)

A building in front of the Weerwater Lake, of the architect Bjarne Mastenbroek (SeARCH, Amsterdam).

From Almere (III)

The Smaragd (2007)

Apartments and a store (Hema) designed by Gigon and Guyer.

From Almere (III)

The Skyline of Almere

The Wave (2005) by the Dutch architect René van Zuuk.

A dramatic wave-like facade, covered with silver anodized aluminum plate.

From A-Z

 

From A-Z

 

From A-Z

Side by Side (2007)

Two residential towers by the Dutch architect Frits van Dongen.

The towers facades were made of light blue coloured industrial glass. In the base of the towers, there’s a winter garden, sauna and gym, especially for the residents. Moreover, there’s a private swimming pool (you can see it from the outside), overlooking the lake Weerwater.

From A-Z

Silverline

An apartment tower designed by the Dutch Claus and Kaan Architects.

The top of this apartment tower surprisingly leans over lake Weerwater. However, the reason for this is simple: because most people like to live at the top or bottom of a tower, the top and foot of ‘Silverline’ is maximized, while the least interesting middle section is minimized.

From A-Z

Urban Entertainment Center designed by the British architect William Alsop.

A block of approximately 4,000 m2, which includes the hotel rooms, floats eight metres above street level. It has a beautiful facade of cedar. This section is supported by columns. The entrance to the hotel is a blob with a brass cladding.

From A-Z

Muzinq / Discotheque NOX

A pop centre with three halls, one accommodating 1200 persons.

From A-Z

Almere Buiten

The Eilandenbuurt houses.

They remind us the Dutch Antilles and the maritime history of The Netherlands.

 

From A-Z

Almere is Cultural Life

Almere’s library (2010)

A building by the Dutch architects Meijer en Van Schooten.

De Nieuwe Bibliotheek was considered the Best Library of The Netherlands in 2010.

 

From Almere (III)

Theater and Arts Center (2006)

A building by the Japanese architects Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA) that was officially opened by Queen Beatrix in 2007. Simplicity, transparency and light is what this building is about. From a single storey surface of 100 to 100 metres, three halls (1050, 350 and 150 seats respectively)  extend into the lake Weerwater. The building users are the theater and the arts center, De Kunstlinie, that offers courses, workshops of music, visual arts, theater, literature, dance and multimedia.

From A-Z

The Pasion Buena Vista Show, May, 2009 in Almere’s Theater.

From A-Z

Almere’s Selexyz Bookstore.

Bookstore of the year 2008-2009.

From A-Z

Almere is Fun

A lounge in the city center to enjoy the sun.

From Almere (III)

Enjoying Queen’s Day in the several terraces of the city center.

From Koninginnedag 2011

Selling old stuff in the streets on Queen’s Day. Everybody can do it and it is a fun and nice way to get rid of the stuff we don’t need anymore.

From Koninginnedag 2011

The restaurant Boat House in Noorderplassen.

I like to go there specially to watch the sunset.

From A-Z

Stoomboot Rondvaart

A very nice trip in a luxury steamboat.

From Stoomboot Rondvaart Almere Haven 2011

Almere Strand (beach)…

From A-Z

Skating in the Weerwater lake nearby the Theater.

From A-Z

An old passion…boats!! Muiderzand Marina in Almere 🙂

From A-Z

Almere happens

Midland Classic Show

A fantastic exhibition of old cars…

From A-Z

Smaak Parade

A delicious event. We can taste cheeses, wines, and many delicacies.

From A-Z
From A-Z

Almere Haven Festival

In the oldest part of the city, a brocante en antiek markt.

From A-Z
From A-Z

Historisch Festival Almere

Also in Almere Haven nearby the beach.

From Historisch Festival Almere 2011

Almere is gezellig

A city where it is a pleasure to live.

From A-Z

 

From A-Z

 

From A-Z

Swans in the sidewalks. 🙂

From A-Z

Almere is Nature

The fantastic nature reserve of Oostvaardersplassen.

And if you like to watch birds in particular, this is the ideal place to be.

From Almere (III)

 

From Oostvaardersplassen

A sunset in Almere Pampus.

From Almere (III)

There is much more to enjoy, like De Kemphaan, The Beatrix Park, and many other wonderful places.

In the video below, you will be able to watch more amazing buildings, woods and nice places in Almere to relax and enjoy with your family and friends.

Almere in motion

I hope you have enjoyed this trip to Almere, our adopted city.

Take your train in Schiphol Airport and in 30 minutes you are here. Enjoy your stay!

Have fun! Veel plezier!!

PS: Do you think that we chose well? 😉

 

Visit Sandra’s sensational blog Presépio com Vista para o Canal for more fabulous posts like this one.

 

Source of the information about Almere’s architecture: http://www.almerenjoy.nl/architectuur_stadshartEN.htm)

Do you know the answer to….!

Well, they do….Last night was our first ever Mr. Bright’s Quiz Night Event!!!   What a great time!  34 people came out to pit their teams wits against anothers.  We had 8 teams and below you can see their winning order.  The questions were not easy and though we found a few “foutjes” it was all great fun!  A special thanks to our MC’s Carly & Mike!  And of course a HUGE THANK YOU to Apollo Hotel City Center for their sponsorship of the night and offering up the winning team a round of drinks and the  Apollo bears for our least successful team!

Last Nights Ranking:

1 – Norfolk & Chance

2 – The Twisted Monkeys

3 – The Fellowship

4 – Team Apollo

5 – The Dolphins

6 – FCA

7 – Noet

8 – Oostvaarders

 

 

 

 

Almere Buiten Red Houses

My Story: Let’s buy a place…

Almere Buiten Red Houses
© Andrea de Poda

Most of us, when coming to the Netherlands, rent  a place somewhere. It’s the best way to start up new – get to know the country, the area and not too committal for the first few months. But somehow that rented place is never quite ‘home’ and sooner or later most longer term expats are looking into buying a place. Continue reading My Story: Let’s buy a place…

Money

The Dreaded Blue Envelope

What is the most feared and dreaded part of living in the Netherlands?  The aspect that would make even the Prime Minister quake in his boots?  The police?  The cheese?  The dijks bursting?  If you suggested any of these, you’d be wrongity wrong wrong wrong.

So what is it then?  Ask any Dutchie and they’ll tell you.  It’s receiving the Blue Envelope.  What’s the Blue Envelope?  Why is it so feared?  Let me explain.

The Blue Envelope is the Belastingdienst (Tax Office) getting in contact and most residents will receive them multiple times a year – income tax and road tax to name just two.  You may have recently (or are about to receive) your Jaaropgaaf (group certificate, or end of year tax report) from your employer in the mail, which is the sign that you need to get yourself organised to submit your yearly tax return.  We could go on and on about the intricacies of the Dutch tax system, but it is so complex (and so boring) that we will just keep it as simple and as hassle free for the average person as possible (average being employed and needing to submit a tax return).

In the Netherlands the tax year runs from January to December, unlike some other countries.  For example, Australia’s tax year is from July to June, and the UK is the year beginning April 6.  Also here in the Netherlands you are expected to lodge your tax return by April 1.  The Belastingdienst (tax office) can issue you a fine if you don’t submit your tax return on time, although you can apply for an extension.  It’s not likely that you’ll receive a fine in the mail after April 1, it’s more likely that you’ll be caught in one of the police blitzes that we often see here – where the police work together with the tax office to pull people off the freeway by running their car registration and then hitting them with all their unpaid fines/tax declarations.  It’s an enormous fundraiser for the government.

When it comes time to complete your tax return, you’ll find that in principle the process is very easy.  All you really need to do is go to the belastingdienst.nl website and download the aangifte (form) from here.  This year, there is an option to wait until between March 1 and April 1 where you can download a partially completed version of the aangifte, which will have automatically populated data regarding your wage income and tax value of your home if you own yours.  Once you’ve completed the form, all you have to do is submit it electronically.  You will have calculated either how much you owe or are owed, so there won’t be any more (nasty) surprises.

You will also find out that the tax system is categorised into three “boxes.”  The first box is for your primary income (salary, home etc), the second is for major shareholdings, and the third is taxable income from savings and investments (savings accounts, investment properties etc).  It will depend on your personal situation if boxes two and three are even relevant.

It’s also interesting to note, that if you moved to the Netherlands during 2011 and only worked a portion of the year, you do not have to lodge a tax return this year.  You are allowed to leave it until next year and submit a form for tax year 2011 and 2012 at the same time.

Something that we have so far neglected to mention is the DigiD (digital ID).  To submit your tax online, or through a third party (accountant, tax adviser), you need to have a DigiD.  Sounds easy.  Ha!  To apply for a DigiD you first go to the website and fill in the required details including your BSN (personal identity number used to connect you to all government systems), and personal information.  You will then choose a username and password and once completed, a letter will then be sent to you (in the post) with a code that you need to activate back at the DigiD site within 20 days.  If you don’t activate it, or you forget your username and password in the mean time, you will need to start over.

It’s a very common complaint amongst expats and internationals that dealing with the Belastingdienst is a complete nightmare.  All of the information is in Dutch only, and there are many comments and complaints that telephone advisers refuse to speak English and there are no options to choose other languages when calling for advice (as there are in other countries when dealing with their respective tax offices).  So what happens when you don’t speak the language?  For many of us that means finding an accountant, or contacting one of the many expat tax specialists who can do this for us.  All you need to do is Google “expat tax Netherlands” to see the many, many companies who offer their services.

But what if you don’t want to pay someone to do all of the work for you or you want to learn how to lodge your return?  We have managed to dig up some links in English that should help you (at least a bit).  First of all, there is information on the Belastingdienst website in both English and German although the information is primarily aimed at non-residents and there is not a form to complete your tax return if you are a resident and don’t speak Dutch.  In this case, Google Translate will become your very best friend as you work through the form.

There is however, comprehensive information on how to obtain and use your DigiD in English, which can be found here.

Now, we haven’t even touched on the various toeslagen (rebates) that are available throughout the year.  Depending on your income, you may be eligible for Zorgtoeslag (health insurance rebate), Huurtoeslag (rental rebate) and Kindertoeslag (childcare rebate).  Nor have we mentioned the Gemeente Belasting or Water Belasting.  Stay tuned for more information about those hot topics.

 

How do you cope with Blue Envelope Day?  Do you have a trusted accountant who you leave in charge of your tax return?  Do you speak Dutch and would like to volunteer your language skills to other International Almeerders who would otherwise struggle through their return, putting it off until the last possible minute?

Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

And in the immortal words of the Belastingdients themselves:  “leuker kan ik het niet maken, maar hoop wel makkelijker!”

Champagne Glasses

Dutch New Year: Oud en Nieuw

Oud en Nieuw consists of Oudejaarsavond (New Year’s Eve) on December 31 and Nieuwjaarsdag (New Year’s Day) on January 1 which is a public holiday.

Champagne Glasses
© Tim Baker (FlickR: timmygunz)

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is usually spent enjoying a party with friends and family or going into town to see open-air concerts and the fireworks around the city. Fans of loud banging noises will have a field day, as overzealous children of all ages set off crackers. The red cracker papers turn the streets bright red. I’m told that the tradition of setting off fireworks and crackers has something to do with old pagan customs of driving away demons, so that the New Year could begin with a clean slate. At the stroke of midnight, firework displays brightly color the sky and the cacophony of people wishing each other aGelukkig Nieuwjaar (Happy New Year) can be heard all around.

New Year’s Day

It has become traditional (for some crazy die hards) to take a Nieuwjaarsduik at noon on New Year’s Day. This involves taking a dip in the freezing cold North Sea at Scheveningen beach in the Hague. The swimmers are rewarded with a steaming cup of Dutch winter soup, usually erwtensoep, a thick split pea soup with smoked sausage.

Traditional Oud en Nieuw treats include:

  • oliebollen
  • appelflappen
  • erwtensoep
Cocktail Glasses

Friday Night Drinks

Cocktail Glasses
© alphaducentaure (FlickR) - Important note: contrary to what one might think, these cocktails are non alcoholic

Our Friday Night Drinks are an informal meeting of expats in Almere and surrounding areas. We meet up to chat and laugh and now and then it lasts until the wee morning hours. It doesn’t matter if you want to come for the full show or just for half an hour to check us out. The important thing is that you DO come – we love to meet new people!

Every first Friday of the month, the first round of drinks is on our sponsor Apollo Hotel.

Check out the Event Calendar to find out more about the location!

Everyone welcome, regardless of what your drink of choice is!

 

Carly and Maria at Halloween 2011

Young Almere – Wild Youth

Carly and Maria at Halloween 2011
Carly and Maria at Halloween 2011

Then you really want to get in touch with Young Almere. Initiated by Australian Carly Bridgeman, Young Almere is an essential part of all International Almere events. Carly organizes many last-minute activities, like going out for dinner or to the movies. The Facebook page of Young Almere is also a good spot to find like minded expats for anything you might want to do – and if it’s just a coffee in town.

You can find Young Almere on Facebook or check out the event calendar for Young Almere Events (the pink color code)!

Sinterklaas

Saint Nicholas: Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas
@copy; Esther Wieringa (Flickr: wester)

The Dutch have their very own tradition in December, Sinterklaas. This man should not be mistaken for Santa Claus or Father Christmas even if they do have kind of the same job. Sinterklaas does not come from the North Pole and he does not have reindeers, brownies or a red cap with a tuft. Sinterklaas lives in Spain and he has a white horse. Instead of the brownies he has Zwarte Pieten, Black Piets, who assist him on his journey, little helpers with dark skin and colourful clothes.

They all board a ship sailing from Spain to a port (different every year) in the Netherlands and when arriving, they are welcomed by the mayor and citizens. They arrive sometime in mid November just in time for the annual parade which is the start of the “Sinterklaas season”. The following weeks are spent to the assessment of the behavior of the children during the past year. In short, if they have been naughty or nice. He keeps this information in a large leather bound book, with gold print. They get to sit on his lap and then he asks them about their behavior during the year. And you can not lie to Sinterklaas, can you? That is why naughty children go straight into the sack and have to go back to Spain with Sinterklaas.

The eve of December 5th is a special day for all Dutch children. This is when Sinterklaas rides around the country on his white horse. Children put shoes under the chimney and they also place a piece of carrot in them as a reward for the horse. Sinterklaas stops at the roof of the houses and send a Piet down the chimney to put some kind of gift in the shoes. This is often a piece of chocolate in the form of the receiver’s first initial and pepernoten, small hard cookies. This is a very busy time for Sinterklaas, in the day he visits schools and other places and in the evening people’s homes. He knocks on the door and hand out gifts from his sack.

Of course he needs a bit help sometimes, so kind souls dress up in a red cape with golden embroidery over white clothes, fix themselves a nice white beard and put a mitre-shaped red hat with a golden cross on their heads and grab a golden shepherd’s staff to go with that. These clothes are much similar to the ones worn by bishops. This because the model of Sinterklaas is said to have been Saint Nicholas, a bishop from Myra in Turkey born in 271 AD. There are numerous legends about his good deeds. One story is that he saved three little girls from being sold by their poor father. By throwing three golden pieces for their dowry through the window he saved them from a future in despair. It just happen to be that the gifts landed in the stockings that the girls had hung up by the fireplace to dry. Another story say that he brought three children back to life after they had been chopped up by a butcher. He just put the pieces together and prayed and suddenly they were alive without a scratch. He is also the patron saint of the sailors after calming a storm at sea and when doing that he saved the lives of many people, including himself. Old scripts say that Saint Nicholas died on the 6th of December in 343 AD, that is why he is remembered this time a year. His relics have been the subject of some disagreements, but they are said to be in Bari in Italy since 1087.

Saint Nicholas connection to shipping might explain why Sinterklaas is said to live in Spain. In the 17th century the Netherlands was a major shipping nation and the country had close connections with Spain. This would also explain the dark colour of the skin of the Zwarte Pieten, since Spain naturally gets more sun than northern Europe. Another explanation for it could be the constant climbing up and down sooty chimneys.

The celebration of Sinterklaas is foremost for children and families, but some friends also celebrate with giving each other gifts. Short humorous rhymes or poems are attached to the gifts and they often have a personal touch. There are a number of popular songs about Sinterklaas and the stories surrounding him. Special food that is close connected to the celebration are Speculaas, a spiced cake filled with almond paste. Marzipan is another appreciated goodie.

On Christmas, the 25th and 26th of December, Father Christmas visit some families and bring gifts. Others just do not care for the fellow and all the fuss around him.

(Source: Holland.nl)

Children with dodgy lanterns

St. Martin’s Day: St-Maarten

Children with dodgy lanterns
© Servien (Wikipedia Commons)

St. Martin’s Day on November 11th, is today mostly known for children running around the neighbourhood with dodgy lanterns and calling on you with off-pitch songs (the shorter the better). You will then have to pay them off if you want them to leave to sing at the neighbour’s door. Commonly, these payments are made in the form of sweets – however, unreliable sources have informed us that the giving of fruit will drastically reduce the singing masses in the following year.

Historically, hiring fairs were held where farm laborers would seek new posts. The feast day is November 11, the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, who started out as a Roman soldier. He was baptized as an adult and became a monk. It is understood that he was a kind man who led a quiet and simple life. The most famous legend of his life is that he once cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying of the cold. That night he dreamed that Jesus was wearing the half-cloak Martin had given away. Martin heard Jesus say to the angels: “Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptised; he has clothed me.” (source: Wikipedia)

HRH Queen Beatrix

Queen’s Speech: Prinsjesdag

“Prinsjesdag”: The Speech from the Throne

HRH Queen Beatrix
© Max Mayorov (Flickr: mcsdwarken)

This is the day on which the Queen addresses a joint session of the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament in the Ridderzaal or Hall of Knights in The Hague. The Speech from the Throne sets out the main features of government policy for the coming parliamentary session. The occasion is prescribed by the constitution, article 65 of which states: ‘A statement of the policy to be pursued by the Government shall be given by or on behalf of the King before a joint session of the two Houses of the States General that shall be held every year on the third Tuesday in September or on such earlier date as may be prescribed by Act of Parliament’.

The Speech from the Throne has no fixed order of sequence: over the years it has varied considerably as regards length and content.Until 1983, the annual session of parliament was opened on the third Tuesday in September. However, the revision of the constitution in that year changed the length of a parliamentary session from one year to four. This means that Prinsjesdag is no longer the official opening of the parliamentary session.

Origins of the name

Prinsjesdag or Prince’s Day was originally instituted to mark the birthday of Stadholder Prince William V (8 March). In the 18th century it was one of the country’s most popular public holidays. In the Patriot era (1780-1797) it provided an opportunity for demonstrations of loyalty to the House of Orange. This is probably why the name was chosen in the 19th century for the ceremonial opening of Parliament.

The third Tuesday in September

The constitution has long stated that the opening of parliament should take place on a fixed date, but it was only with the revision of 1887 that it was laid down that it should be the third Tuesday in September. Originally, in the first half of the 19th century, it had been the first Monday in November and then the third Monday in October. When annual budgets were introduced by the 1848 revision of the constitution, more time was needed to debate them and so the opening date was brought forward by a month. But Monday was unsatisfactory.

Many members of parliament from distant parts of the country found it difficult to reach The Hague early on Mondays. So that they did not have to leave home on a Sunday, the 1887 revision of the constitution moved the opening of parliament to a Tuesday. Even though Prinsjesdag has not represented the official opening of the parliamentary session since 1983, the third Tuesday in September still remains in the constitution as the day on which the Speech from the Throne is delivered.

The Hall of Knights

The Speech from the Throne is delivered in the Ridderzaal or Hall of Knights in the Binnenhof in The Hague , which was built by Count Floris V of Holland in 1280. However, from 1815 to 1904, the Speech was given in the assembly room of the Lower House. After an extensive restoration at the beginning of the 20th century, the Hall of Knights – now with a gothic throne on the dais and the flags of the provinces hanging from the ceiling – once again became a worthy setting for state ceremonial.

Just before 12.30 p.m., the members of the two Houses assemble, sitting opposite the throne and on its left and right side. The ministers and state secretaries and the Council of State are on the left. They and the members of parliament all sit in the ‘enceinte’, an area enclosed by unobtrusive wooden barriers symbolising the fact that the head of state is in conference with parliament and the Council of State. The presence of the Council of State dates from its standing at the beginning of the 19th century as the most important body advising the head of state. Although its nature has changed considerably since then, it has retained its place at the ceremony in the Hall of Knights because it is still the Crown’s supreme advisory body. Indeed, under the constitution the Council of State may, if necessary, exercise the royal prerogative.

Elsewhere are the seats for the members of the other High Councils of State, senior civil servants, high-ranking officers of the armed forces, senior members of the judiciary, the Queen’s Commissioner in the province of South Holland , the mayor of The Hague , the representatives of foreign heads of state and specially invited guests.

Shortly before 1 p.m. the Speaker of the Upper House, who presides over the joint session, opens the meeting, and then appoints a number of ushers from among the members of the two Houses for the Queen and her entourage.

The procession to the Binnenhof

On the stroke of one, the Queen, normally accompanied by other members of the royal house, leaves Noordeinde Palace for the Binnenhof, escorted by court dignitaries and a military guard of honour. The Queen travels in the golden coach.

The route taken to the Binnenhof has changed over the years. The procession used to pass through the Stadhouderspoort or Stadholder’s Gate, between the Binnenhof and the Buitenhof, as it was high enough to allow the golden coach to pass underneath it. But when the flagstones were renewed in 1925 the road was raised somewhat and the gate became too low. Since then the golden coach has approached the Binnenhof from the other side, past the Mauritshuis through the Middenpoort (Middle Gate) and Grenadierspoort (Grenadiers’ Gate), though even these gateways are barely higher than the tip of the crown on the top of the coach.

Guards of honour and military bands stand outside Noordeinde Palace and at the Binnenhof. From the moment the procession leaves the palace, salutes are fired at one-minute intervals to let the people know that the head of state is on her way to the joint session of the States General.

Ceremony in the Hall of Knights

When the Queen arrives in the Binnenhof the band by the steps strikes up the national anthem. The Queen and the other members of the royal family salute the flag and mount the steps of the Hall of Knights, above which hangs a canopy. At the entrance to the Hall they are received by the ushers. The Speaker announces the arrival of the head of state, the sign for everyone present to rise. The Queen then proceeds to the throne, from where she delivers her speech.

After the Queen’s closing words, the Speaker cries ‘Long live the Queen’, which is followed by three cheers from everyone present. The first time this happened was in 1897, when the young Wilhelmina accompanied her mother, Queen Regent Emma. This brings to an end the joint assembly of the two Houses; it is a purely ceremonial occasion, with no political discussion.

The royal party is escorted to the door, and the Speaker declares the session closed. The guard of honour forms once again in the Binnenhof as the Queen leaves the Hall of Knights, and the procession returns to the palace.

(Text originally from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but has been removed from their site and can thus not be linked to anymore.)

Candles

Memorial Days

Dodenherdenking

May 4th is Memorial Day in remembrance for the people who have fought and died during World War II, and wars in general. There is a remembrance gathering in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam and at the National Monument on the Dam Square in Amsterdam. Throughout the country, two minutes of silence are observed at 8:00 p.m.

Bevrijdingsdag

Candles
© Jeffrey James Pacres (Flickr: jjpacres)
May 5th is Liberation Day to mark the end of the occupation by Nazi Germany during World War II. Though this is a national holiday, not everyone has this as a free day every year. This is down to company policy – at least once every 5 years ( 2015, 2020, 2025 etc.) everyone gets the day off from work. Festivals are held at most places in the Netherlands.

Shops may have irregular hours both of these days

Easter Eggs

Easter in the Netherlands is Paas

Good Friday- Goede Vrijdag

Good Friday is public holiday in the Netherlands. However that does not mean that you will get off from work. I never got the logic of that, but new places, new rules. Banks are usually closed and many shops will be shut or close early on Good Friday.

Easter Eggs
© Boby Dimitrov (Flickr: bobydimitrov)

Easter Sunday – Paas Zondag

Easter Sunday is a proper public holiday in the Netherlands. Some stores will be open on Easter Sunday, but the majority will stay closed.
Children spend the morning decorating Easter eggs with brightly colored paint and hunting chocolate eggs that have been hidden by the Easter Mummy… uhh… make that the Easter Bunny.

Traditionally, an Easter brunch is held on the Sunday. The table is decorated with the freshly painted Easter eggs, candles, spring flowers like daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, and a vase with decorated willow branches (paastakken). Hanging from this ‘Easter tree’ are chocolate eggs and ornaments like butterflies, bows and bunnies. The brunch consists of a Paasstol (a fruited Easter loaf with a center of soft almond paste), butter shaped like a lamb or bunny, bread rolls, hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, smoked eel, and other more typical Dutch breakfast items.
In the east almost every village lights an Easter bonfire on some hill or high point. People begin collecting wood for the fires weeks in advance, each area tries to outdo each other by building the biggest and best fire than its neighbors.

Easter Monday – Paas Maandag

Easter Monday is a public holiday in the Netherlands and most likely you will get the day off – unless you work in one of the many stores that are open Easter Monday. If they are open, they commonly open later and/or close earlier than usual. Public transport services generally operate a slightly reduced service, but there may be no public transport in rural areas. There are some restrictions on the sale of alcohol on Easter Monday. There may be some congestion around shopping malls specialized in furniture or garden supplies and popular visitor attractions and on routes back from popular short break destinations.

Weather permitting, Dutch families often spend the day at an amusement park or cycling in the countryside. Bad weather Easters often mean big business for shopping centers and furniture stores. Foodwise, leftovers from Easter Sunday are usually enjoyed. They may also perform household maintenance or seasonal tasks in their gardens, take a walk along the coast, and ride on a cycle while admiring the first signs of spring. Easter fires (paasvuren) are lit in some villages in the northern and eastern parts of the Netherlands.