November 17, 2015

American series go Dutch, and hit and miss

Filed under: Bicycles,General by Orangemaster @ 4:25 pm

Screen shot 2015-11-16 at 6.45.28 PM

There is no lack of examples of American series and films trying to make something Dutch only to have it looking and sounding German. The bad remake of ‘Kidnapping Mr. Heineken’ had the wrong colour bottles and actor Mike Myers had a terrible Dutch accent in his 1990s Austin Powers movies, but at least he was joking.

As some of you know, the current season of the American series ‘Homeland’ was entirely filmed in Germany, and lot of it in Berlin. However, the latest installment, episode 7 of season 5 has some scenes set in Amsterdam, in the Zeeburg district, which had issues that most viewers probably wouldn’t get and don’t really have to because the story flows well.

First, the screenshot above. The Zeeburg district has been part of East Amsterdam since 2010. Houseboats and a canal were a good idea, but the architecture isn’t Dutch, and if that’s not a problem, the German yellow construction sign should be, as it reads ‘bau’ (‘construction’ in German) instead of ‘bouw’ in Dutch (hard to see here). You could have told me this was Denmark and I would have bought it without the sign. The reference to Flevopark in the east was spot on, but the street called Tolstraat is in another district. No separate bike paths could be seen, and streets and houses were way too big to be in Amsterdam. Oh, and the yellow license plates had too many letters on them to be Dutch ones, but points for the blue one on the taxi.

This fall another American series, ‘The Vampire Diairies’, took a trip to Amsterdam in their first episode of season 7 and got a lot of things wrong, but were not trying too hard. Two main characters are seen drinking beer with a windmill on it, which is fake but funny and then they order whisky which comes in glasses I’ve never seen here. The Dutch license plate on the car was fine, but the cars didn’t look very European, there were no separate bike paths and the street was too large. The cafe looked slightly European though.

And since I like trilogies, I caught an old episode of NCIS, season 8 episode 9 that was set in Amsterdam. It had an actual pan of an Amsterdam canal and a tight shot of a cafe that looked vaguely European. The joint one of the characters was smoking was not realistic because you just don’t light one up at an ordinary cafe terrace despite the rumours, and the weather was way too nice. Again, suspension of disbelief came in handy and the story was fine.

Bonus: find out what a Berlin blog thinks about what Homeland gets right and wrong.

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November 14, 2015

Play bullshit bingo with Dutch university slogans

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 10:45 pm

The Platform for the Reform of Dutch Universities (H.NU) lets all of us vote on the ‘stupidity ranking 2016’ with Dutch university slogans. Amusingly, the voting is in Dutch, but there’s enough Dunglish and misused English that many of you can join in. It’s three points for the dumbest slogan, then two points, then one point. The platform has also included the local parody version of some of them, which makes it even more fun.

The problem with these slogans, which resemble useless city marketing ones, is that they don’t relate to education. They’re too vague, trying too hard to sound like American or British universities or trying too hard altogether. One sticks out above the rest in our view, it’s the RUG with ‘Born Leaders Reach For Infinity’ that has the flow of an acronym, but the appeal of an overflowing bin bag with rotten food begging to be taken out.

(Link: platform)

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November 12, 2015

Law firm compared to escort service because of women

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 12:00 pm

An Amsterdam legal firm made up entirely of women was compared to an escort service in a tweet by a well-known legal business publication based solely on a recent firm picture. The tweet reads “Marketing question: legal firm or escort service?” and was met with astonishment and disgust by men and women alike. The photo has five of the firm’s lawyers sitting on and around a couch surrounding the managing partner, Marielle Van Essen.

Van Essen said she could not understand why colleagues would imagine it’s OK to call them prostitutes. “We like to look good, that’s all. If other people want to wear a sloppy suit, they can. This is what we do.” On Twitter there are parodies popping up, with pictures of policewomen being compared to hookers and doctors to whores to drive the point home. Many people commenting also wonder if it was a case of the dumb, young white male intern trying to be funny, but the publication has refused to comment or rectify anything. Trashing lawyers because they’re women is someone’s idea of normal in 2015 and it shouldn’t be.

This would be a non-topic if it was a bunch of men. It is free publicity, but the firm has more work than they can handle with Van Essen herself stuck at home with the flu as I write this.

(Link:, Photo of wilted tulip by Graham Keen, some rights reserved)

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November 11, 2015

Boffins launch app for Dutch regional accents

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 11:36 am

On 2 December the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO) together with science-oriented Dutch public-service broadcaster NTR will be launching the ‘Sprekend Nederland’ app that analyses groups of speakers and what they think of each other. Are some variants taking over or in fact disappearing? A lot of data has to be collected to be able to draw conclusions and Dutch speakers can contribute, including ‘ethnic varieties’ because even ethnic groups speak different types of Dutch depending on where they live.

The app needs to be installed on a smartphone so you can record a few sentences and contribute. Researchers point out that it would be nice if the kids made sure their grandparents joined in as well, a group that’s a bit less tech-savvy than most. And what about getting Dutch-speaking foreigners like myself? I wonder if I can join or if it’s for card-carrying Dutch people only. I’ve asked.

UPDATE: Anybody who speaks Dutch can contribute, ‘even with a different background’.

‘Patat’ or ‘friet’? They both mean ‘fries’, but people use one or the other depending on where they live. The research here is not about dialects, but about ‘regionally different versions of Dutch’. The scientists and app builders from Amsterdam, Utrecht and Nijmegen had never sought to analyse the diversity of Dutch on such a large scale before. They wanted to build an app that was scientific, but also appealed to the mainstream. The boffins also want to create a Flemish version, but that’s not in the cards yet.


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November 3, 2015

Sirens turned off near refugee centres

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 1:14 pm


Throughout the Netherlands on every first Monday of the month, the national alarm sirens are tested at noon sharp. It startles the odd tourist and you do get used to it as a resident. However, for the first time ever, the sirens were turned off last Monday in towns like Schagen and Tubbergen in order not to traumatise any refugees who would fear it signalled a bombardment.

On certain holidays the sirens aren’t tested either, but this is really a special case aimed at lowering the stress of Syrian refugees. It’s nice to hear something empathic in a country that has had groups of people committing violence against refugees and publishing a lot of baseless xenophobic rants.

Earlier this year we told you about the national alarms that will be phased out in 2017 by replacing them with a text message service. Until that happens, there will still be sirens going off.

(Link:, Photo of Air raid siren by Tim Geers, some rights reserved)

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November 2, 2015

Religious rural youth more violent than urban youth

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 3:10 pm


In his recently published article entitled ‘Taking the Conservative Protestant thesis across the Atlantic’ published in the British Journal of Criminology, Don Weenink of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences at the University of Amsterdam claims that ‘Conservative Protestant rural youth are more often involved in violent crimes than their counterparts in urban areas, who also use less violence than average’. Less violence is possibly correlated with a total lack of nightlife, which in turn could also explain all the drinking and drugs.

Weenink collected data from 8000 Dutch young people aged 15 to 30. According to him, drinking alcohol is often seen as harmless pleasure by parents and young people in rural areas, whereas in urban areas it is often associate alcohol use with antisocial behaviour. As well, Protestant villages in the Dutch Bible belt have young people taking matters into their own hands in conflict situations. We only know the Bible Belt as a place where quacks suggest grinding oysters shells as medicine and children suffer and even die of measles for ‘religious reasons’.

Religious places like Urk and Volendam, also fishing villages, are often pointed out by many as full of bored kids that drink until they drop and take lots of drugs, usually cocaine. In 2012 quaint Volendam has more people snorting coke than cities like Paris, London and Milan. According to a 2003 Dutch television documentary ‘Fish, drugs and rock n’ roll’, the youth become drug addicts and alcoholics at a very young age and their religious leaders either thump Bibles or suggest they spend Saturdays playing board games with their parents. The documentary tells of Urk youth going to church to take and deal drugs.

(Link:, image an early 2000 Dunglish advert that wanted to say ‘if you drink more, you will think less, but managed to say the exact opposite)

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October 31, 2015

Bitcoin is VAT free in Europe, top court confirms

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 10:20 pm

bitcoin-key-fob-btc_keychainThe Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that Bitcoin is a currency and that trading in it is exempt of VAT.

Dutch Bitcoin exchange had to pay 21% VAT over their margins, but can now ask for a tax refund, according to CEO Rogier Fischer in Business Insider UK.

The ruling (PDF to press release) follows a year in which banks worldwide have been contemplating the use of blockchain, the electronic public ledger used for all Bitcoin transactions.

In 2013 Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem ruled that Bitcoin was not electronic money. Arnoud Engelfriet wrote last week that the European ruling brings Bitcoin “a step closer to being money”.

Dutch people still need to pay capital tax over the Bitcoin they own, because capital tax is calculated over the value of all possessions, not just over that of money.

(Photo by BTC Keychain, some rights reserved)

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October 25, 2015

Tiny revolver found in Amsterdam flat

Filed under: General,Weird by Orangemaster @ 6:12 pm

The flat of a deceased Amsterdam resident was recently being cleaned out by a neighbour and in the process they found a revolver no bigger than 4 cm (photo). The neighbour who found the gun told the police who in turn searched the home carefully and concluded the deceased was a collector.

The wee revolver was 28 millimetres in height and 40 millimetres long, and it was loaded. The police said it could wound someone, but not kill them.

Hopefully the gun collection will end up in a museum instead of being destroyed.

(Link:, Photo by Joe Loong, some rights reserved)

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October 21, 2015

Sarcastic video urges refugees to choose Denmark

Filed under: Bicycles,General,Sports by Orangemaster @ 1:09 pm

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Why come to the Netherlands when you can go to Denmark? Dutch television show ‘Zondag met Lubach’ made a video called ‘Do not come to Holland’ in English with Dutch subtitles. Spoiler alert: no mention of drugs or prostitution.

Firstly, don’t call the country ‘Holland’, especially when a lot of refugees are settling in outside the provinces of North and South Holland. The locals will think you’re trying to co-opt their karma points.

The ‘Dunglish’ voice-over was done by someone who had fun switching from an American over-the-top movie trailer style voice to a fake posh British accent you hear in safety instruction videos on KLM. It’s also weird to hear someone faking a British accent and then using the word ‘soccer’ instead of ‘football’.

The Dunglish translation of ‘there goes nothing above Groningen’ is cringeworthy: try ‘Nothing tops Groningen’ for a proper translation or ‘There’s nothing above Groningen’ to keep the Dutch humour flowing. The video does make up for it with “Come to Denmark: it’s the Netherlands, but somewhere else”, which is the very polite version of the talk down the pub as far as accepting refugees in the country at the moment.

For any kind of social commentary on how the Dutch government has cocked up the welcoming of refugees, read the Dutch papers. Or don’t.

(Image: screenshot of ‘Do not come to Holland’ video)

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October 16, 2015

The Netherlands seen as a network of light

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 3:48 pm


This week Post NL has issued a set of stamps designed by Daan Roosegaarde, depicting the Netherlands as a network of light seen from space, shaped by its cities and roads.

The Netherlands looks like a lit up jellyfish and reminds me of when you fly over the country at night. Roosegaarde says the stamps offer both literal and figurative enlightenment, with each stamp featuring a different part of the Netherlands. Roosegaarde was inspired by aerial photos taken by Dutch astronaut André Kuipers and satellite photos of the Netherlands, after which he incorporated his own interpretation into the images.

I suggest you look at André Kuipers’ Flickr stream if you haven’t yet, some of his pictures are definitely inspiring.

(Link and image:

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