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June 28, 2016

Dutchman petitions Unicode for rainbow emoji flag

Filed under: General,History by Orangemaster @ 6:00 am

Amsterdam resident Maurice Beljaars had first petitioned Twitter and then Unicode for a rainbow emoji flag, which would add a nice touch to any LGBTI-related news, instead of just using an ordinary rainbow.

Beljaars explains that the rainbow flag has been the international symbol of the gay community since the late 1970s. Unicode has already felt it was important to add recent emojis such as the croissant, cowboy and selfie, so why not the rainbow flag? Google employees have also recently made requests for emojis that better represent women in actual jobs rather than in superficial beauty situations and not too long ago many emojis with people in them became available in different skin tones.

(Link: www.nu.nl, Photo of Gay flag by sigmaration, some rights reserved)

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June 15, 2016

Shops open until 10pm in Eindhoven goes too far

Filed under: Food & Drink,General by Orangemaster @ 10:24 am

Having some shops open until 10pm is something many people in the Netherlands, especially expats, don’t know the uphill battle it was and may have helped push through without knowing it. The fight to have any kind of shop open past the regular Dutch hours of 6pm was won about 10 years ago when Albert Heijn decided to have supermarkets in major cities open from 8am to 8pm, something if I remember correctly political party D66 (Democrats), a party that traditionally caters to expats, were very much in favour of. At the time it upset a lot of smaller shops that claimed they could not compete, the same argument used for shops not being open on Sundays, but without the sorry Christian excuse that usually comes with it.

Rob van Gijzel, the Mayor of Eindhoven (Labour) would love to accommodate the expat population of his city by having all matters of shops in the city centre open until 10pm. His goal is to make Eindhoven more attractive to ‘knowledge workers’ who come from cities with millions of residents and who aren’t used to shops closing at 6pm on weekdays and 5pm on weekends, with the exception of ‘late night shopping nights’ until 9pm, usually Thursdays or Fridays. And of course this means the Dutch get to shop more conveniently as well. But the stakeholders are against the 10pm opening hours, saying “it’s a bridge too far”.

Back in 1996 when I came to work here as a PA for the summer, I lived in Delft and worked in Hoofddorp. I finished worked at about 17:30 and it was completely impossible to buy any supermarket food after 6pm: there were no Albert Heijn To Go’s at train stations back then. The Dutch would tell me to buy all my food for the week on Saturdays like everyone else, but how could I buy seven days’ worth of food for two (I had a roommate – we switched weeks) without a car or even a bike, never mind that our small student fridge couldn’t fit all the food? He had time during the day as a student – I didn’t.

Here’s what I had to do to get food for dinner: I would take the train to Hoofddorp as usual, but get off in Leiden since my connection was always a 25-minute wait. Supermarket chain Via (now defunct) was right next to the train station and open at 7am. Opening early was the trick back then to avoid the arguments about being open late. I would have 25 minutes to shop for dinner and catch my train to get to work. Then I would go to the office’s restaurant and ask to use their fridge to store my food. They laughed, but understood my logic. I’d bring the food home in the train and have food for dinner.

When I told my roommate how retarded opening hours were as compared to what I knew he said it will change some day, and it did. It could change some more though, so yes 10pm for at least food would make a lot of our lives easier and provide more jobs to people. Yes, some supermarkets are open until 10pm now, thanks to Albert Heijn and expats whinging about it. Go Eindhoven!

(Link: www.deondernemer.nl, Photo of an endive potato mash with meatless sausage by Jasja Dekker, some rights reserved)

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June 14, 2016

Expats find it tough to befriend the Dutch

Filed under: Food & Drink,General by Orangemaster @ 7:48 am

dutch_flag.jpg

An online survey carried out by rtlz.nl and Dutchnews.nl with 1,123 respondents (including myself) revealed to anyone who hadn’t heard this before that expats find it really difficult and even ‘almost impossible’ to make friends with the Dutch, and tend to stick with other expats, which doesn’t help them integrate.

Many expats in the Netherlands come from Germany and England, two thirds of which are men and have an average age of 34, often considered an age at which people already have their groups of friends. An additional explanation is that since many expats don’t stay for long (three to five years), the Dutch won’t bother making new friends with people that won’t be there in a few years.

Work remains the number one place to make friends and sports clubs, the second. In fact, the Netherlands is often compared to a big sports club you need to be a member of in order to integrate. And of course learning Dutch will also help any expat loads, although when everyone around them constantly switches to English, it’s a major obstacle.

Rtlz.nl brought up a nice cultural example, which was if a Dutch person invites you over to their place at 8 pm, many expats expect it to include dinner because many of them eat at 8 pm or later, like the Spanish. The unwritten rule is that the Dutch eat at 6 pm and have had dinner, so don’t expect a meal. The funny thing is, the trains are full of Dutch people not eating dinner at 6 pm, so I dare say this unwritten rule needs to go. I was recently invited at 8 pm by Dutch folks, ate dinner before I came over and then was unexpectedly served dinner again because they wanted to accommodate the non Dutch folks, but hadn’t told anybody. I guess communication is key, but let’s call it an improvement for both sides.

(Links: www.rtlz.nl, www.dutchnews.nl, Photo by Quistnix, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 1.0)

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June 6, 2016

Parts of Zeeland cut out of Dutch map

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 10:12 am

Even though the Netherlands is a small country, many institutions apparently don’t know what their country looks on a map, seeing as they have cut out the region of Zeelandic Flanders four times in one year. The mistake has been spotted with a rugby union, a funeral insurer, a website for beach hangouts and more recently amusement park De Efteling.

According to Wikipedia, “Zeelandic Flanders (‘Zeeuws-Vlaanderen’) is the southernmost region of the province of Zeeland in the south-western Netherlands” and is “bordered to the south by Belgium”. Barely any trains go there and you’ll need to drive or take a bus to get to part of it, but that’s still no excuse.

In an attempt to encourage Chinese tourists to come to De Efteling, Zeelandic Flanders was left out (see what that looks like) of a video, although they’ll correct their mistake soon. For them it was painful because one of their newest attractions, The Flying Dutchman, named after Willem van der Decken, hails from Zeelandic Flanders. As well, the rugby bond omission is also painful since it was made by a club from Middelburg, the capital of the province of Zeeland.

(Link: nos.nl, Photo of Mussels by HarlanH, some rights reserved)

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May 11, 2016

Van Gogh painting replicated using plastic bottles

Filed under: Art,General by Orangemaster @ 1:41 pm

A painting by Vincent van Gogh, ‘The Starry Night’, has been replicated by a Taiwanese company using four million colourful plastic bottles with the goal of promoting recycling.

Taking up 53 hectares of the Starry Paradise park on the outskirts of Keelung City, the installation was opened to the public early this year to mark the 125th anniversary of van Gogh’s death.

“We were thinking of combining the idea of environmental protection with PET bottles and this landscape to create a piece of art, so that everyone can get to know another side of recycling,” explained Aisin Yeh, of the Unison Developing Co. Ltd, which undertook the project.

The project cost USD 2.6 mln and took four months to complete, according to the video. Have a look:

(Link: www.reuters.com)

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May 3, 2016

King’s Day was also about collecting urine

Filed under: General by Orangemaster @ 9:41 am
Urilift

Some 23,000 litres of urine were collected at three locations during King’s Day in Amsterdam this year in order to make phosphate fertiliser. The urinals were placed at the Nassau Festival, Kingsland and in Vondelpark, and the old 1928 Olympic Stadium collected some urine as well. The urine was then brought to a phosphate factory in Amsterdam-West.

By collecting urine in urinals where no additional water is used, the urine stays ‘pure’. The phosphate is needed to produce fertiliser, which is apparently becoming increasingly more difficult to acquire from natural sources, so much so that urine may one day be the only solution.

And so the urine produced after – I’m just guessing here! – the drinking of quite a bit of beer by men is being turned into manure. Phosphate in Amsterdam has been collected from sewage since 2013, enough to fertilise some 10,000 football pitches.

(Link: nos.nl, photo: urilift)

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May 2, 2016

John Cleese opens Silly Walks tunnel in Eindhoven

Filed under: Architecture,Art,General by Orangemaster @ 3:34 pm

SillyWalks

Hundreds of fans of British comedy legend John Cleese huddled in the cold today to greet the man who played a bowler hatted civil servant working for the The Ministry of Silly Walks. Handshakes and autographs were handed out by the 76-year-old actor, invited by Studio Giftig to officially open the renovated Dommel tunnel where graffiti artists have painted all kinds of references to the famous Monty Python sketch.

Cleese showed up in some sort of Australian slippers with no socks, having said that nobody would show up to such a ‘meaningless event’, but he was apparently surprised by all the fuss. Cleese didn’t perform any silly walks himself, also claiming he never was a fan of the sketch in question. Don’t let that rain on your parade and watch the full sketch.

(Link: www.ad.nl, Screenshot of YouTube sketch)

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April 26, 2016

Tourists still missing King’s Day due to date change

Filed under: General,History by Orangemaster @ 11:06 am

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Three years into the switch from Queen Beatrix to King Willem-Alexander and from 30 April to 27 April (26 April if it’s a Sunday), tourists are apparently still booking holidays for King’s Day three days too late based on crappy intel, and booking agencies aren’t exactly warning them. Why would tourists have any reason to think a national holiday has moved back three days?

I was talking to my best friend in Québec on the phone recently, telling her about how royally excited I get about the flea market that is the Netherlands on King’s Day. I explained the tourists mishaps that keep happening and she said “what kind of country changes the day of a national holiday?” A country that celebrates it on the birthday of their King or Queen, rather than a set date. Canada Day is celebrated on July 1 for the signing of the British North American act in 1867, so the only moving going on on that date is the Province of Québec (follow the link to get the joke, you’ll thank me).

As luck will have it, Wim-Lex just happens to have his birthday close to 30 April, on 27 April, so that was an easy move. However, the date did not move for Queen Beatrix because her birthday is in January, so we’re inconsistently consistent. According to Wikipedia, on Princess Wilhelmina’s accession to the throne in November 1890 the holiday became ‘Koninginnedag’ (‘Queen’s Day’), first celebrated on 31 August 1891. In September 1948, Wilhelmina’s daughter Juliana ascended to the throne and the holiday was moved to Queen Juliana’s birthday, 30 April. The holiday was celebrated on this date from 1949 until 2013.

Moving the holiday wasn’t new, but it hadn’t been moved in a while and moves when it’s easier, a bit like in the Province of Québec.

(Link: www.waarmaarraar.nl)

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April 21, 2016

Shop experiment serving wine turns to sour grapes

Filed under: Food & Drink,General by Orangemaster @ 10:06 am

Having a glass of wine at the hair salon and at some clothing shops in Amsterdam started as an experiment in January 2016. Rotterdam started in February and called it ‘Project Blending 010’ (why in English, don’t know – 010 is the area code for Rotterdam) and other places in the country called it ‘blurring’ (why in English, still don’t know) because the law says serving alcohol without a liquor license is illegal. So yes, the whole thing was illegal but tolerated – sound familiar?

The Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) kicked off the experiment, but the Union of Liquor Store Owners (Slijtersunie) recently decided they were done being tolerant and decided to officially report the VNG to the authorities for breaking the law. The VNG is ‘surprised’ because talking it out is usually the Dutch way, but you can imagine there’s a lot more selling of alcohol at salons and shops than there is selling non-alcohol related products at the wine store. The experiment let shops serve and sell alcohol, while establishments that usually sell alcohol could sell shop products.

A lot of us were already having a drink with the lovely people who patiently cut our hair before any of this became a thing. And yes, it would probably help to make any kind of shopping more enjoyable. Maybe it’s time to change the law instead of forcing one group of Dutch businesses to have their turf invaded by another.

Or they could have a drink and talk it out till the cows come home Dutch style, who knows.

(Links: www.binnenlandsbestuur.nl, www.z24.nl, www.telegraaf.nl, Photo of Hair salon by Travel Salem, some rights reserved)

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April 13, 2016

Dutch woman is world’s first-ever Professor of Fatherhood

Filed under: Dutch first,General by Orangemaster @ 10:04 am

In a few days Professor Renske Keizer of the University of Amsterdam, 32, will become the world’s first and only ‘Professor of Fatherhood’. Mother of three children herself, she researches the effect fathers have on children in different family configurations and opposes the ‘glorification’ of motherhood in the Netherlands, which constantly downplays the role of fathers in Dutch families regardless of their contribution.

Keizer explains that fathers of low income families play a lesser role than those of high income families and that a lack of affordable childcare, lack of paid and unpaid paternity leave and many other 1950s relics skew the balance between mothers and fathers, with fathers getting the short end of the stick. While Dutch fathers have voiced a desire to want to work part-time like most mothers do but cannot because they are expected to work full time and Dutch working mothers making less than working fathers, it’s tough to foster any change without taking a hard financial hit.

Dutch women entered the job market in the 1970s, decades later than their western counterparts, and the obstacles facing them today stem from the ingrained idea that women don’t need to work to support their families or develop themselves. “Men work to take care of their family, that’s their role. Many women see work as something that conflicts with what they do at home, clean and take care of the children. That’s Dutch culture. You’re a bad mother if you bring your children to daycare more than three times a week, but not a bad father. Society needs to make a change.”

Keize is attempting to see if being a father contributes to raising children in a unique way, but warns that maybe it does not. She explains that generally fathers speak to their children more like adults, while mothers tend to speak to their children more on their level in part because mothers tend to know their children’s capabilities better. However, fathers play a major role in increasing children’s vocabulary. The same goes with reading bedtime stories, something Keizer admits high income families do way more than low income ones: a mother reads a story as it is in the book, while dad makes stuff up as he goes along, triggering children’s creative thinking.

Keizer is also researching LBGTI parents and is very aware of the differences between white Dutch folks and other ethnic groups, hoping that she can attract more diversity to her study.

(Link: www.parool.nl, Photo by Eelke Dekker, some rights reserved)

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