February 4, 2016

Rutte sends spelling mistake into space

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 12:04 pm

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who isn’t known for his command of English, has made sure everyone in the galaxy knows his written English isn’t out of this world either.

While visiting California, Rutte was invited by a satellite manufacturer to send a message into space with his signature on it. He wrote down “Peace and prosparity”, instead of ‘prosperity’. In his defense, in Dutch the ‘e’ and ‘a’ of English sounds the same to many Dutch people. But he’s the PM and someone in his entourage (does he have one?) could have said something.

Of course, this small mistake is a vast improvement on his predecessor Jan Peter Balkenende who apparently addressed George Bush as ‘your presidency’. Then again Bush apparently also thought JP was from Belgium because a lot of European countries look the same.

(Link:, Photo by Petra de Boevere, some rights reserved)

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January 24, 2016

Almost no more free plastic bags in shops

Filed under: General,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 6:10 pm


As of 1 January 2016, free plastic bags, the thin ones given out by shops and markets, are illegal. We get it: there’s plastic bags in our seas and forests and it has to stop. However, there are exceptions, as my local baker can still give me a thin plastic bag with my bread. The exceptions have to do with food that otherwise couldn’t be reasonably protected like bread, fresh fruit and vegetables or raw fish. Sealed plastic bags at airport tax-free shops and in the plane remain legally free as well.

For quite some time the Dutch have been used to carrying around plastic shopping bags or cloth ones for buying food, and no fuss is made about having to pay around 0.10 euro for a good one at supermarkets. In October 2015 shops in the UK had to stop dispensing free thin bags and now charge 5p (0.06 euro) for one, something that you’ll hear British people complain about a lot. Exceptions in the UK are pretty much the same as here. Recap: the UK pays 0.06 euro for the crappy thin ones, while for 0.10 we can get one that’s three-four times the size, way thicker and actually reusable.

Instead of getting rid of the next to useless thin bags in the UK and replace them with good ones, charging for something that wasn’t quality in the first place is a bit odd. If you read these stories though, you’d think paying 5p was equal to giving away your first born.

Time to start carrying the big ones around like we do and stop the plastic soup. Simples.

In 2014 an Amsterdam district decided to ban disposable plastic bags, and once again the world didn’t end.

(Link:, Photo by Kate ter Haar, some rights reserved)

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January 6, 2016

How to miss out on millions in the lottery

Filed under: General,Weird by Orangemaster @ 11:37 am

Lottery story No. 1: young man from Sittard, Limburg buys four tickets for the New Year’s Eve lottery draw and figures he’s won because the draw is done based on your exact postal code (numbers and letters).

However, he had a standing order with the bank for his tickets and it didn’t go through because he didn’t have enough money in his account. He wants to sue, but he’ll probably lose.

The jackpot was 43.9 million euro, half of which was divided among 15 winners and the other half divided among other people in the same postal code, save the letters.

Then there’s lottery story No. 2: a man from Amsterdam thought he had won 2.1 million euro, but his ex wife had something to say about it.

Married for 30 years, a couple separated, the man moved out of their home while going through the divorce, but sometime after he had moved out, the postal code of their home was the winning lottery number.

Although the couple was still married but separated and not living together, the man didn’t jointly pay for the ticket, his wife argued. He took her to court and lost.

They had played the lottery together for 30 years, but once he moved, he stopped paying his share. She proved that they had actually been living separately for four years and that he had moved in with his new, younger girlfriend.

The judge took the woman’s side purely because the man had not paid for the lottery ticket and that he had already moved out and moved on.

Moral of both stories: make sure you’ve actually paid for your lottery tickets.


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January 4, 2016

Duindorp wins bonfire battle, sets new world record

Filed under: General,Nature by Orangemaster @ 11:03 am


On 31 December the battle of the Christmas bonfires in South Holland was heatedly contested between Duindorp in the North and Scheveningen in the South, both on the beach. Current world record holder Duindorp ignited its fiery rivalry against Scheveningen to win by 50 metres in height, with a fire that was 4,000 cubic metres.

Duindorp took the win with a stack measuring 33.80 metres in height as compared to Scheveningen’s stack of 33.30 metres, which made all the difference, setting a new world record, confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records who I guess kept warm and took notes.

On January 3 in Amsterdam families and friends got together on the Museumplein with the Rijksmuseum as a backdrop to burn Christmas trees, a tradition that kicked off in 2009 and is now an annual event. Back then the pile of trees slowly being added to the bonfire caught fire and the fire brigade had to intervene. Nowadays there’s a fence around the bonfire and the police are there as well for crowd control.


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December 29, 2015

Different kinds of noise: looking back on 2015

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 7:46 pm

oliebollen-andy-smithThe year 2015 was the year of ‘concerned citizens’ who made a lot of noise whenever different looking asylum seekers threatened to appear. However, that didn’t stop us from finding some great stories in 2015.

One way to escape this annoying din is by taking an airplane and flying above it, except that planes taking off and landing actually produce a lot more sound than you’d think. For this Schiphol Airport came up with an ingenious landscaping solution.

We like to write about beautiful things when we can. Did you catch the video of opera singer Ambrož Bajec-Lapajne undergoing brain surgery? In order to check whether the surgeons were keeping important areas of the brain intact, the tenor sang parts of Schubert’s lied ‘Gute Nacht’ during the operation.

Jolene Carlier designed a cool little popcorn maker and Hendrik Willem Mesdag once wrote a sweet love letter on the back of a tiny landscape painting, discovered only this year.

A friendly civil servant in Utrecht thought his parks were too clean for the team building exercise brewer InBev had in mind for some of its employees, so he put some litter back in. Just what politicians, multinationals and pundits alike needed – they all fired up their outrage engines.

Single and same-sex parents are still experiencing many problems not only raising children, but also getting them in the first place. Single women are systematically excluded from IVF treatments and gay couples find that the world gets increasingly smaller when it comes to surrogacy (external link, Dutch). Currently three baby hatches in the country, with plans for more, allow mothers to safely abandon their baby.

The oldest living bonds in the world were issued in the Dutch Golden Age to pay for dikes and other works that control the flow of water. An American university travels once every generation to Houten to collect a few euro in interest from the local water board and to keep their bearer bond alive.

It was also a good year for dogs who got their own money. Unfortunately for them, it’s counterfeit money.

(Photo of oliebollen by Andy Smith, some rights reserved)

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December 28, 2015

Mover reconstructs homes of dementia sufferers in nursing home

Filed under: General,Health by Orangemaster @ 2:06 pm


Mover Donny Zwennes from The Hague offers a very special moving service to the elderly with dementia: he makes sure their new surroundings are exactly the same as they were in their home. Some of his clients have no idea that they’ve moved, and that’s exactly what Zwennes wants to offer. He calls it ‘duplicating’.

Zwennes takes pictures and notes all the things that need to be moved and where they were. Once he gets to the nursing home, he ignores the best place to put people’s belongings and puts things back exactly as they were, which is excellent for dementia sufferers. He also listens to their stories about that one lamp and that painting above the bed, allowing him to know what objects clients are most attached to.

According to the AD newspaper, the country’s first Alzheimer’s café was opened in The Hague, a place where Zwennes’ father handled the sound installation. It is also where he learnt about the specific problems of dementia sufferers and their families. Zwennes quickly realised that moving the elderly with dementia was a specific problem as well as a niche market. To this day, he’s the only mover in the country that offers such a personalised service.

(Link:, Photo by Frank Mayne, some rights reserved)

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December 25, 2015

24oranges HQ closes shop for a day

Filed under: Food & Drink,General by Orangemaster @ 1:23 pm


The 24oranges tree is the same every year, but decorated slightly differently. I found it years ago abandoned on Queen’s Day (now King’s Day) in a big blue IKEA tote bag and it does the job just fine. This year it has candy canes I bought in the UK (not a Dutch thing) and some baubles made by friends.

Today’s menu is wild mushroom stew Bourgignon, which means red wine is involved, and home made almond shortbread cookies. Oh, and the fantastic French cheese that someone brought from France and left me to eat upon returning to France for the holidays, you know who you are.

Branko will again have a Top 10 list of this year’s favourite stories before the end of the year. Thanks for the comments, the likes and following us on Twitter. We’ll try and be more present on instagram (if only we could toggle between accounts!) in 2016 and we’ll keep uploading great Dutch pics on Flickr.

Happy Holidays, and for anyone who is working, have a good day and take care!

UPDATE: we took a few days.

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December 15, 2015

‘Cheat software’ is the Dutch word of the year 2015

Filed under: Automobiles,General,Technology by Orangemaster @ 10:40 am

Inspired by the Volkswagen emissions scandal, ‘sjoemelsoftware’ (‘cheat software’) was crowned Dutch word of the year 2015 today, with 48% of the votes. The definition is ‘software to positively influence the test results of a device, like software used in cars to make carbon dioxide emissions appear more favourable’. Since compound words work well in Dutch, the word ‘sjoemel’ can be coupled with a whole bunch of other words to imply something has been tampered with to defeat a device, a bit like a copper penny in the electricity meter.

Dutch kids have been creative this year, coming up with ‘Tinderellasyndroom’ (‘Tinderella syndrome’), with 34% of the votes for youth word of the year. The word means ‘young people who cannot flirt in real life and depend on mobile apps like Tinder’. What’s odd is that ‘Tinderella’ in English already was a woman found on Tinder presumably by a man, while the Cinderella complex defines an unconscious desire for women to be taken care of by others, usually men. ‘Tinderellasyndroom’ would appear to imply that boys can’t flirt, if we assume that boys usually initiate flirting online in the heterosexual sphere. I would read this new word as mainly boys looking for passive, willing women on Tinder-like apps instead of in real life.


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December 7, 2015

Vote for the cheesiest business slogan of the year

Filed under: Fashion,General,Weird by Orangemaster @ 10:55 am

In November we had a bad university slogan festival, now it’s back to business with voting for the worst Dutch business slogans 2015. Last year’s winner roughly translates as ‘A carpenter hammers, a dentist drills… but we’re nicely located in Velsen-Noord’, which rhymes in Dutch, but that’s all it does. The 2013 winner, Jan De Cock uses “It’s De Cock that makes the man’ for his men’s clothing shop, which has actually worked for him rather than against him.

Dunglish seems to work wonders dumbing down slogans quicker than a scooter speeding over a bike path. A bakery boasts ‘Ik cake al naar je uit’, roughly ‘I’m caking (looking) forward to seeing you’, where cake and the Dutch ‘kijk’ (‘looking’) sound similar. My current favourites sans Dunglish is ‘Iedere paal gaat er in’ from a company that builds fences, which very roughly means ‘Every pole will go in’. A few of the contenders are straight up sexist but not funny in a 1970s kind of way, while some of them highlight excremental values.

The time to learn idiomatic Dutch is now.


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December 4, 2015

PostNL wants to play neighbourhood watch

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 12:07 pm


Postal workers in the Netherlands don’t have it easy. Over the years, they’ve been sacked in the thousands and have seen their wages dwindle as they went from proper employees to ‘forced freelancers’, giving PostNL reasons to pay them less than minimum wage, but still dictating their terms. Postal workers are students, pensioners and moms who work part-time on bikes delivering mail and are the opposite of the unionized postmen of yesteryear.

If making sure they were at the bottom rung of the employment ladder wasn’t enough, their monopolistic employer client PostNL announced that postal workers could also act as neighbourhood cops and report irregularities to the city like bad behaviour, dog poop and trash out on the wrong day. PostNL would probably ask the city for money to do the city’s job and the postal workers would probably have more to do without it being reflected in their earnings. The city of Schiedam is apparently giving this a go until half December to see if it really makes a difference.

Postal workers are to send pics of the offending people, dog poop or bins to the city using their mobile phone with a ‘special app’. What if they refused to do it or just claim they never see anything wrong and get a bit more money for doing their work? They are freelancers after all, but freelancers with no freedom to negotiate terms. Citizens are already able to report irregularities in their neighbourhood, so why get postal workers to do what citizens already do gladly for free? Because PostNL wants to make even more money off the city and can do so while looking like they care about dog poop. I also don’t picture too many people intervening in case of violence: they’ll more likely be a target than anything else and it’s not their ‘job’.

Blogger Luuk Koleman asks why not get the neighbourhood cops to deliver the mail while they do their rounds? That’s because being a neighbourhood cop is an actual job with a salary and a collective labour agreement.

(Links:, koelman)

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