Category Archives: Misc

These are all the posts that we really wanted to say but had absolutely no idea where to put it. So we put it here. Whatever works.

Translations of “Almere Deze Week” edition 11 April 2018

Almere Deze Week is a weekly newspaper with local news for the inhabitants of Almere. It is published in Dutch. Below you find a selection of the articles of this week’s edition translated into English for the community of International Almere. Long articles have been summarised. All articles have been translated with the permission of the editors of “Almere Deze Week”. The board of international Almere wishes to thank Courtesie (www.courtesie.nl) for their quick and accurate work to translate the articles into English, so that the international community of Almere can be informed and feel connected with the city they live in.

The original articles in Dutch can be found in the hard copy version of “Almere Deze Week” and online via this link: www.almeredezeweek.nl . The page numbers behind the titles refer to the pages of the newspaper where the articles can be found.

Below you find 8 articles with the following titles:

  1. Flights to Lelystad Airport not over Almere (page 3)
  2. Poort Residents erect Poort Platform (page 7)
  3. Open days at new Hindu temple (page 19)
  4. Three venues for a musical King’s Day (and King’s Day eve) (page 23)
  5. Flevoland sees strong growth in tourism (page 29)
  6. ‘Premier league’ sailing (Eredivisie Zeilen) (page 35)
  7. Living Water lab (page 35)
  8. Blue parking zones around center extended (page 41)

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Flights to Lelystad Airport not over Almere (page 3)

by Robert Mienstra

ALMERE – “None of the departure or landing routes from Lelystad Airport lie above Almere”, says Jurgen van Avermaete of Air Traffic Control Netherlands (LVNL) at Schiphol Airport. This negates statements made by ‘aviation journalist’ John Assman in this newspaper last week. The published map is also definitely not correct, according to Van Avermaete. “The routes shown just aren’t right”.

Van Avermaete indicates maps showing the correct routes. “The local flight routes, the so-called B+ route, and the final route design from the connecting routes to higher-altitude airspace can be seen. Almere just doesn’t appear here.

“Landing traffic flies to one of the starting points of the local approach routes. These starting points are located near Steenwijk or Lemelerveld. The aircraft then follows the local flight route, the continuous, blue line on the map”, Avermaete explains. “When landing in a north-easterly direction, the aircraft descends in a south-westerly direction until it passes Zeewolde and then turns towards the airport. The planes therefore turn before they reach the A27. The motorway forms the border of Almere. So the planes do fly over the Zeewolde part of Oosterwold, but not over Almere.”

Number of flights

“Lelystad Airport will grow by up to 10,000 aircraft movements per year until 2023, which is an average of 28 movements per day”, says Avermaete, “14 aircraft taking off and 14 aircraft landings. The latter approach Almere, but turn before the A27. The departing aircraft depart in a north-easterly direction from Lelystad. So they are far from Almere. Departing planes make more noise than those descending. So aircraft taking off will not cause any disturbance at all in Almere.”

Altitudes

Flights above Knardijk take place at an altitude of 900 meters. The descent to the A27 is to 500 meters. Then the planes turn towards Lelystad. “Incidentally, the landing route from Almere is used approximately 40 percent of the time, depending on the direction of the wind”, says Van Avermaete.

The aircraft fly beneath the air traffic to and from Schiphol Airport.

(Netherlands Air Traffic Control schematic depiction of landing and take-off routes at Lelystad Airport. Photo: LVNL – Netherlands Air Traffic Control)

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Poort Residents erect Poort Platform (page 7)

By Dominique Voss

POORT – Residents of Poort want to contribute ideas about the future of their neighborhood. Which is why some twenty Poort residents went from door to door in November to collect signatures for the establishment of a citizens’ platform. The kick-off was last Tuesday, at a walk-in meeting in Sterrenschool De Ruimte. “Together we’ll make Poort a better neighborhood”, said one of the initiators, Ernest van der Linden.

The Platform will meet a few times per year to discuss a number of general themes, such as safety, green and facilities. “You can come up with your own proposals and ideas, but you don’t have to. You are also not obliged to show up every time”, says Van der Linden. During the walk-in meeting residents were able to indicate per theme which topics they considered important. At the end of the evening the board was filled with post-it notes and stickers. Residents could also register to become members of the platform. This was done by more than sixty Poort residents. “Really great”, said Van der Linden, “The more people, the better”.

This is not the first time that residents of Poort have taken action. For example, a number of them founded Friends of CascadePark in 2012. Some, therefore, had doubts about the platform. “We’ve talked to the municipality so many times and every time it turned out to be a disappointment for us. I don’t really believe in it anymore”, one resident explained. He is glad that residents of Poort continue to be involved though. “I want to see progress first, then perhaps I’ll join”.

Municipal elections

Voter turnout at the municipal elections was at its lowest in Poort and this confirms the view that many Poort residents do not feel that their voices are being heard. “It is precisely for this reason that the PoortPlatform is desperately needed”, Van der Linden emphasized. “By working well together, we can find solutions.”

Alderman Tjeerd Herrema said on Tuesday evening that the municipality has a great interest in the establishment of the PoortPlatform. “We would be crazy not to do anything with this. Poort is still developing robustly, but there are also already quite a lot of people living there. A good idea on paper is not necessarily a good idea for the neighborhood. That calls for a different approach.”

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Three venues for a musical King’s Day (and King’s Day eve) (page 23)

CITY CENTRE – The musical program on King’s Day eve (and King’s Day) has been greatly expanded this year. There will be three stages in the Almere city center: at the Grote Markt, the Stadhuisplein and the Belfort restaurant square.

Now a King’s Day eve tradition, the annual ‘Tweak Kingsnight Dance’ is a big dance party, with DJs presenting the best dance hits at the Grote Markt from 19.00 to 24.00. DJs Kai and Antonio Loren will once again have the whole square up and dancing.

New this year on King’s Day eve is the ‘Orange Podium’ at Stadhuisplein. Under the direction of DJ Jeroen Hamer several singers will perform the greatest Dutch hits. There will be performances by Mart Hoogkamer, Danny Lit, Mario Broerse and Vince Collet. The program runs from 18.00 to 24.00.

The Belfort restaurant square will have live music on the terrace from 13.00 to 20.00 with the band Winnetoe doing covers of Nederpop hits (including Doe Maar numbers), Lisa Imhoff & Sander Hoek and guitar/singer duo G’wine On Stage.

The Orange Stage at Stadhuisplein will host continuous entertainment from 12.00 to 18.00 from live bands such as the Karaoke Live Band (yes, you can sing!), Mr. Mudd (jazz/blues/funk) and a number of great cover bands.

The Grote Markt hosts the main stage, with many famous artists. From 13.00 to 16.00 there will be the traditional ‘Grote Markt Loves A’dam’ program, featuring a performance by Peter Beense, the Netherlands’ most frequently booked Amsterdam singer. DJ Franky B. (Cooldown Café) will be running the musical program and presenting a fine selection of Amsterdam/Almere talents. At 16.00 ‘The Big Orange Hitfest’ will start here, with the biggest hits of the past decades being performed by DJs and, mainly, artists – non-stop until 22.00. There will be performances by Def Rhymz (‘Doekoe’, ‘De Bom’), K-Liber (‘Viben’), DJ Galaga (‘What do we say to the DJ?’) and the OJKB DJ team. The 6-person mash-up band, Popgunnn, will also be presenting a stunning hit show.

For more information see the Koningsdag Almere Facebook page and www.koningsdaginalmere.nl.

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Open days at new Hindu temple (page 19)

INDISCHE BUURT – The Hindu temple, Shri Vishnu Mandir – at Tempo Doeloestraat 250 in Almere Buiten, will host open days on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 April, from 11.00 to 18.00. Everyone is welcome to visit the temple.

As part of the opening ceremony, a fourteen-day Shri Vishnu ‘puran katha’ will be held from 30 April, which is an Indian way of telling a religious story. It starts at 18.00 and there will be a pooja every day, a ritual in which Hindus venerate a deity, Parvachan and Aarti and high priests. There will be an opportunity for everyone to offer persaad and daan.

For more information visit www.shrivishnumandir.nl or call 036-5217600.

Friday 20 April is the official inauguration of the temple. This will not be open to the public.

Almere is at last witnessing the opening of the Golden Temple of Shri Vishnu. The temple was previously planned to open in November 2015.

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Flevoland sees strong growth in tourism (page 29)

FLEVOLAND – The number of guests staying in Dutch overnight accommodation grew considerably last year, according to the latest figures from Statistics Netherlands (CBS). This growth is also reflected in the figures for Flevoland. Flevoland is increasingly becoming a destination for both Dutch and international overnight visitors.

Overnighting, international tourists are the biggest growth category in Flevoland. The total increase in the number of guests was 24% in 2017 as compared to 2016.  Guests from neighboring Belgium and Germany are in the majority, followed by Asia. Germany is the leader with, in 2017, a 22% growth in the number of guests as compared to 2016. German visitors typically prefer bungalow parks and hotels and locations near water.

Tulip campaign

In addition to local promotion, Tourism Flevoland also focuses to a large extent on German visitors. For example, a promotional campaign is currently being run in cooperation with NBTC Holland Marketing for the coming Flevoland tulip period. In addition to campaigns, Tourism Flevoland focuses on press & PR. Next spring, various journalists and bloggers will tour Flevoland. “In this way, and in collaboration with the tourism industry, we can let them personally experience the most beautiful places and stories of Flevoland”, says Rinkje Tromp, marketing manager at Tourism Flevoland.

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‘Premier league’ sailing (Eredivisie Zeilen) (page 35)

Eredivisie Sailing (a top-level regatta) will be held on the Weerwater in Almere Centrum from Friday 13 to Sunday 15 April. Eredivisie Sailing is competitive sailing at the highest level. The Esplanade, in the heart of Almere Centrum, will offer the best view of the eighteen teams of Dutch sailing associations that will compete for the coveted title. These will be short races, close to shore, between the best Dutch sailors and boats. There will also be interesting explanations, digital animations and fun activities for children. In short, sailing at the highest level! The Eredivisie Sailing event in Almere Centrum is free of charge.

For more information visit www.eredivisiezeilen.nl

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Living Water Lab (page 35)

Do you love technology and do you want to explore physics, chemistry and biology in a fun way? The Living Water Lab will be set up on the Esplanade during Eredivisie Sailing (the top sailing event in Almere Centrum). The lab is a mobile laboratory, where you can do all kinds of fun, scientific experiments using everyday materials. Put on a real laboratory coat and get to know about water awareness, spatial adaptation, climate change, litter and much more – in a fun way. The environment is also addressed. In this way you’ll learn how important water is, and that clean tap water is not something you can take for granted. What happens, for example, when the weather is very dry, or when it rains a lot, and for a very long time? There are brief worksheets for all experiments, including step-by-step descriptions. Admission is free. Be early to ensure your place!

Friday 13 April, from 15.00 to 17.30.

Saturday 14 April, from 10.15 to 17.30

Sunday 15 April, from 10.15 to 16.00

For more information go to www.almerecentrum.nl

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Blue parking zones around center extended (page 41)

STAD CENTRUM – The ‘blue parking zones’ in the city center (Stad) were extended from the start of this month. This took place after research by the parking authority (Parkeerbedrijf) showed that a number of streets in Stedenwijk and Filmwijk were subject to significant parking problems.

Parkeerbedrijf received complaints from residents in various residential areas around the city center concerning parking problems and therefore carried out research. A survey was conducted in the relevant street. Residents could indicate whether they were experiencing parking over-demand in their street. In addition, residents’ evenings were organized and parking demand was measured at different times of the day. The study revealed that a number of streets in Stedenwijk and Filmwijk are subject to significant parking problems and these affect residents.

In the Filmwijk the blue zone has been extended on Cinemareef, Hollywoodlaan and Marty Feldmanstraat. In Stedenwijk the blue zone has been extended on Dokkumlaan, Harlingensingel, Makkumstraat, Staverenstraat, Workumstraat, Lemmerstraat and Drachtenstraat.

The blue zones in Stedenwijk and Filmwijk will be further extended.

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Note: All of the above articles were originally written in Dutch and published by “Almere Deze Week”, edition April 11, 2018. They were translated for International Almere by Courtesie International Business Affairs www.courtesie.nl

Translations of “Almere Deze Week” edition 21 March 2018

Almere Deze Week is a weekly newspaper with local news for the inhabitants of Almere. It is published in Dutch. Below you find a selection of the articles of this week’s edition translated into English for the community of International Almere. Long articles have been summarised. All articles have been translated with the permission of the editors of “Almere Deze Week”. The board of international Almere wishes to thank Courtesie (www.courtesie.nl) for their quick and accurate work to translate the articles into English, so that the international community of Almere can be informed and feel connected with the city they live in.

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Councilor Herrema: ‘Stopping Floriade is irresponsible’
By Robert Meinstra

Almere – Last week the PVV (a Dutch political party) published the research done by agency Rebel, from which the party concluded that stopping Floriade would be less costly than proceeding with the world horticultural exhibition. Councilor Tjeerd Herrema (PvdA) called this conclusion irresponsible.
 He said that stopping would cost 24 to 74 million euros, so stopping was not an option for his party. In fact, stopping would be irresponsible.
He also said that Rebel had based the hotel bookings on the current number of beds available, while various hotel initiatives are being considered which would double the number of beds in Almere. And that there were other benefits.
He said Rebel had concluded that there was a risk that stopping would create higher costs and produce no income. The central question in the report was whether a proper risk analysis had taken place and the answer to that was yes and that it was precisely in line with his party’s conclusion to continue with Floriade.

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Half of 45+ residents employed, thanks to Almere reintegration method
By Robert Mienstra

Almere – “Two years ago the municipality, together with the Dutch Employee Insurance Agency (UWV), started an employment program for citizens over 45 with social or unemployment benefits. Of the 295 participants 154 (52%) found paid employment. In 2015, however, only 15% of this group had been successful in this regard. Though it’s a big mistake to think that this improvement came from economic growth”, says councilor Froukje de Jonge (from the Dutch political party, CDA).
 She explained that despite the feeling that there were many work opportunities, the 45+ group were discriminated against and the number of them on benefits was growing, nationally. Almere’s approach solved this problem.
The council and UWV devoted time to discovering and correcting the social, self-worth and financial issues of the 45+ age group, enabling them to re-train and to find jobs again – a significant number of which were technical.

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No coffee shop for Meridiaanpark
By Marcel Beijer

Buiten Centrum – The decision that there will definitely be no coffee shop in the Meridiaanpark in (Almere) Buiten was made by a majority of the municipal council on Thursday. An alternative location is not currently to be found.
The executive board of the council saw this as the only location for a coffee shop in Buiten and had earlier decided that legal marijuana outlets should be situated in every district of Almere. This resolution was discontinued due to energetic local protest, subsequently supported by parties ChristenUnie and PVV who tried unsuccessfully to block any further consideration of a fourth coffee shop.
It was decided to suspend the decision until a suitable location in Buiten presented itself.

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Oostvaardersplassen protestors charged

Oostvaardersplassen – Protestors looked on as park wardens shot a weakened red deer in the Oostvaardersplassen on Saturday, 17 March. This resulted in a riot, following which police arrested three people.  
Wardens had issued warnings to onlookers after which some left. It took three shots to kill the animal according to protestors. According to the wardens the animal was dead after a single shot.
Issues had previously arisen about supplementary winter feeding for the animals with little feed being available, illegal feeding taking place from unknown sources and Flevoland province calling in the help of vets to advise on and supervise feeding.
The Van Geel Commission is currently working on a new policy framework (report due end March 2018) for the area, on behalf of the province, with Bosbeheer pointing to the need for careful integration of objectives regarding nature, public access and the welfare of the large grazing animals.

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Almere keeps getting greener

Almere is a green city. Statistics published on groenmonitor.nl provided by Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra) indicate that we are actually the greenest city in the Netherlands. Almere’s typical green-blue combination of forest, lakes, parks and wetlands is seen as one of the city’s key characteristics, making it distinctive in the region and offering an attractive, healthy environment for living and business.       
We aim to improve this, making the city greener and even more attractive for residents, visitors and fauna by investing in the green-blue context of Almere, together with national and provincial government, Staatsbosbeheer, Stichting Flevo-landschap, local organizations and residents. To further our green aims, an annual program of activities and projects, Groenblauw, is drawn up and submitted to the city council.
This shows, via 2017 results and 2018 plans, that tangible results are being achieved.

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What happens to your vote

The voting locations will close on 21 March at 21.00 hours, after which election night continues at the city hall. Many politicians and involved residents will meet to hear the first results – and it’s an especially exciting night for the candidates. Did your party make it to the municipal council – and will you make it, personally? How many party members will there be to share the future workload? Who will be elected from among the opposing parties? And yet the elections are just the beginning . . .

Counting
There are 115 voting locations in Almere, which count and deliver their results to a central voting office at the city hall.

Division of seats
There are 45 council seats in Almere. These are divided among the various parties. You are welcome to attend election night at the city hall to see the parties’ representation on the council unfold.

Who sits on the council?
Once the allocation of seats to parties is known, the selection of individual representatives can start. These are not necessarily the people at the top of the election lists, but those who will gain the most preferential votes.

Appointment
Council members are appointed once all voting and preferential voting is complete and after confirmation of their credentials by the outgoing council.

Swearing in
The outgoing council retires, in full, on Tuesday 27 March. All new councilors who have approved credentials are sworn in on Thursday 29 March.

Forming the council’s executive board
The new executive board is formed from the newly elected council and the formation process is mostly led by the winning party in the election.

Executive board appointment
Once party negotiations to form an executive board agreement are finalized the members of the executive are named.

To work!
Now the real council work begins – to which the councilors are committed for four years.                       

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Welcome to the Greenhouse – on Saturday 7 April

Buitenvaart – Kom in de Kas (Welcome to the Greenhouse) will give Almere’s residents an opportunity to get to know the surprising world concealed under greenhouse glass. Ten Almere-Buiten businesses will take part, opening their doors from 10.00 to 16.00 to let people experience the beauty of greenhouse horticulture.    
A wide variety of food and decorative products are grown under glass in Almere-Buitenvaart. This is the Netherlands’ largest, urban, horticultural area and increasingly focuses on the connection between city and horticulture. Not to be missed is Onze Volkstuin, in which residents have joined their efforts and formed a unique kind of family business that feeds their passions for both gardening and organic vegetables.
A clown, gardening and horticultural info, sweets and an interactive detective game guarantee fun for children. Download the Kom in de Kas app to start the treasure hunt now.
Read more at www.buitenvaart.nl

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20 Almere organizations join to combat overweight and obesity

City Centre – The organizations together with councilor Rene Peeters signed the Almere Healthy Weight Pact on Friday, 16 March and will act jointly to combat (potential) childhood overweight and obesity.
This was the second signing of the pact and added 12 parties to the original 8. These public, private and voluntary organizations give priority to fighting childhood obesity as well as establishing a closed chain of detection, support and long-term care.

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Visit Lambs’ Day at the Vroege Vogelbos

Vroege Vogelbos – After the cold winter months everyone’s looking forward to the Spring – and to celebrate it Stad & Natuur has invited everyone to Lambs’ Day on Sunday, 25 March.
From 12.00 to 16.00 visitors can enjoy a variety of workshops, demonstrations, theatre and, of course, lambs! The various activities are also supported by the Almeerse Wolunie (wool union) and ‘Kunstbus’.

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Staatsbosbeheer is organizing the 23rd Open Day at the Buitencentrum in Almeerderhout on 2 April.
There will be fun activities and demonstrations for the whole family.
Read more at:
www.kemphaan.nl

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Almere’s waste to become green concrete 

Almere – Almere council and the recycling company, De Vijfhoek, have agreed the implementation of the winning plan from the Upcycle City competition held last year. This means that De Vijfhoek will start to implement the ‘Almere circular economic area development’ plan.
De Vijfhoek will invest in application research, in processing gas digestate waste and in technology to make ‘green concrete’. An important aspect of the plan is the collaboration between De Vijfhoek, Theo Pouw BV, Millvision, and Groen Gas Almere in order to utilize Almere’s waste streams, each other’s waste (gas digestate), mutually exchange heat and make green CO2 available to local gardeners.

Sustainable concrete plant    
De Vijfhoek’s investment in the plant is key to the project. The plant will make construction concrete consisting of 30 to 50% (and rising in coming years to 80%) recycled material. Non-construction concrete will ultimately consist of 100% recycled material.

Agreement
This involves co-financing of 2,410,830 euros for three years by the Fonds Verstedelijking Almere, with the condition that three times that amount is invested by the consortium. The investment covers all aspects of the development and construction of the large-scale, green concrete plant.

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Swap a paving tile for a plant

Almere – Between 24 March and 24 June residents of Almere will get a free plant in exchange for one of their own garden paving tiles. The city council hopes that residents will plant more green in their gardens, as a result. 
 Greener (front) gardens benefit bees and insects, reduce urban heat retention and help rainwater to enter the ground. Tiles can be exchanged for a flower voucher (valid at local garden centers) at the two recycling stations in Almere Buiten and Almere Poort or at the Upcyclecentrum in Almere Haven.
More information: www.growinggreencities.nl

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Note: Alle of the above articles were originally written in Dutch and published by “Almere Deze Week”, edition March 21, 2018. They were translated for International Almere by Courtesie International Business Affairs www.courtesie.nl

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   

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.

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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

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!)

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Free Financial Education Seminar

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

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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!

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!

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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!)

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