December 17, 2013

‘Selfie’ is the Dutch word of 2013

Filed under: IT,Literature,Online by Orangemaster @ 10:37 am

Another English word has become a Dutch word, as ‘selfie’ has been chosen by the Van Dale dictionary as the Word of the Year 2013. A selfie is a self-portrait taken with a digital camera, smartphone or webcam. A feature of the selfie when taken with a smartphone is that you can see the phone in the picture. The international media is currently swooning over a picture of Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt taking a picture of herself with Barack Obama.

Social media and IT have definitely changed Dutch vocabulary for good. In 2012 we had ‘Project X-feest’ (‘Project X party’), a local word from the name of a birthday party event on Facebook turned into a riot and in 2009 ‘ontvrienden’ (‘unfriend’) on Facebook, Twitter and other apps was the winner.

The Van Dale only started inventorying words of the year in 2007 and before that it was done by companies and blogs only going back to 2003. ‘Selfie’, ‘Project-X-feest’ and ‘ontvrienden’ are social media and IT related, while other words stem from traditional media such as ‘gedoogregering’ (a type of minority government that keeps things quiet) (2010). The crowd favourite at parties is ‘swaffelen’ (2008). If you don’t know it, click to read about it.


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November 16, 2013

Dutch social network Hyves quits, offers users chance to download data

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 2:20 pm

Popular Dutch social network Hyves will stop operations on 2 December, Parool reported last month.

Although the paper doesn’t mention why the site is shutting down, it’s likely because Hyves was haemorrhaging visitors to Facebook, which offers a similar experience but to an international audience. The international ambitions of Hyves can presumably best be summed up by its name, which is the English word (spelled slightly different) for a skin rash. Marketing Facts reported in March 2012 that Hyves led Facebook by almost 3 million unique Dutch visitors in December 2010. Twelve months later that number was reversed. (The Netherlands has approximately 16 million inhabitants, 10 million of whom were Hyves members at the site’s peak .)

Starting today Hyves allows users to download the photos, videos, messages and so on that they left on the site. The download window is only two weeks. Parool further reports that the Hyves servers currently hold over 1 petabyte in data. Although Hyves will stop as a general social network, it will try and continue as a gaming website.

Update 17 November 2013: Volkskrant reports that Dutch people in their late teens are abandoning Facebook in droves. Of those aged 16 – 19 who had a Facebook account last year, 52% had abandoned their account by this year. On the whole Facebook is still growing though. Volkskrant suspects young people simply do not want to share a network with older relatives.

(Photo of a bus stop ad by Patrick Nielsen Hayden showing how in 2009 Hyves was considered the prime application of a smart phone, some rights reserved)

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November 8, 2013

The trend of sharing unstamped train tickets through Facebook

Filed under: General,Online by Orangemaster @ 11:09 am

Sharing unstamped train tickets started with a Facebook page for Utrecht Central Station, the country’s biggest train station, with 9,400 likes and counting, and is spreading like wildfire to the rest of the country. Although many people now use a public transport chip card for train travel, paper tickets are still available until next year, and this trick works with paper tickets. It all started with a girl who took a picture of her train ticket and put it on Facebook to share it. Then three guys picked up the idea and started Facebook pages to do the same, with rumours of developing an app.

I plan to go from Amsterdam to Utrecht and back the same day. I buy a paper train ticket, get in the train, travel, and go back to Amsterdam in time for dinner. The train staff didn’t stamp my train ticket, so it can be used again for the same trip. The goal of the Facebook page is to share these tickets by leaving them somewhere at a train station, making someone’s else day, with a small treasure hunt as a bonus.

Technically a train ticket cannot be used twice and it is illegal to do so, but if nobody checks, nothing can be proven, and it’s been like that for ages. So why is it trendy now? Social media makes it easier to share these tickets and the prices keep going up, but not the service, so people are getting creative. As well, finding out that Dutch railways (NS) has been evading taxes to the tune of 250 million euro by buying trains through Ireland will make you stop your moral questioning since the NS is not burdened by any such feelings.

Then again, these Facebook pages are encouraging people to commit fraud, which won’t get the NS to check train tickets more often as they simply do not have the staff for it. The sharing is also not very convenient for one way tickets.

Either way, the message is clear: train tickets are too expensive and people are not happy with the NS.

(Links:,, Photo of train by Flickr user UggBoy hearts UggGirl, some rights reserved)

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August 30, 2013

Bad haircut shaming: funny or cyberbullying?

Filed under: Fashion,Online by Orangemaster @ 7:00 am

I was on my way to the hairdresser’s once when a Dutch friend warned me as a joke not to get one of those easy to manage short haircuts that tired women over 30 get after they’ve given up on their looks. Today I am pretty sure he meant the ‘daring’ haircuts featured on the Facebook page of Henk’s Fashion.

Henk’s Fashion has chosen to make fun of Dutch women with certain types of short haircuts that are deemed unflattering at least by the 13,500 people who have liked their Facebook page so far. And then there’s those cockatoo mullets and matching white capri leggings that also fit the bill, style-wise.

While the Facebook page is meant to be funny, it does point fingers at people and has been deemed akin to cyberbullying, even though it is legal to use Facebook photos of others on Facebook according to the social network site’ own terms and conditions. Whether or not the photos used are from Facebook is difficult to check. I would very much like to understand why some women (we could use a page for the men as well) get a haircut that is arguably unflattering, but also a stereotype in gender, age, background and social status.

(Link:, Photo of Hair salon by Travel Salem, some rights reserved)

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May 29, 2013

Trash bags in Amsterdam get their own Facebook page

Filed under: General,Online by Orangemaster @ 10:19 am

Following the trend of protesting or trying to shed light on issues by setting up a Facebook page, a resident of Amsterdam’s De Pijp district who lives on the Van der Helstplein (Van der Helst square) has had enough of the heaps of trash accumulating there and has set up a Facebook page called Van der Helst-belt.

The square is full of restaurants and cafes, which would explain the preponderance of trash, but not why it isn’t picked up often enough or on time. The other problem is that people tend to put out their trash every day, which goes against the rules of that area.

Trash is a complicated business in Dutch cities. In Nijmegen for example, unless it has changed recently, residents pay extra money to use city-approved trash bags, which you buy at the regular store, so basically you pay for what you throw out. In places like Amsterdam, you pay a flat fee per year depending on the make-up of your household. In my co-blogger ultraposh neighbourhood it’s a Wednesday-Saturday affair, while in my lesser yet decent part of town, I can go across the street anytime and put it in one of the three underground bins.


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February 1, 2013

Maybe the Dutch king should have a beard

Filed under: History,Online by Orangemaster @ 1:31 pm

Yet another Dutch Facebook page has recently made its online entrance, and this time it’s roughly called ‘No king without a beard’ (‘Zonder baard, geen koning’).

Crown-Prince Willem-Alexander soon to be the country’s first king since 1890, will be the only one without a beard if he doesn’t grow one soon.

Besides the fact that beards were trendy for Dutch kings in the 19th century and the fact that beards are totally in at the moment, the photoshopped picture of Willem-Alexander with a beard is quite flattering as it slims down his pudgy face. At 100,000 likes, the page admins will present the RVD (Netherlands Government Information Service) with an official request for the future king to grow a beard.

Amusingly enough Tsar Peter I (aka Peter The Great) of Russia in an attempt to force Russian men to look more European imposed a beard tax in the late 17th, early 18th century: “Peter’s visits to the West (which included the Netherlands) impressed upon him the notion that European customs were often superior to Russian ones. He commanded courtiers and officials to cut off their long beards and wear European clothing. The men who sought to retain their beards were required to pay an annual beard tax of one hundred rubles.”

Mustaches were OK though and it seems that trends change from one century to the next.

UPDATE: Beard tokens, based on the one carried by beard tax payers, are in and you can buy them online (tip: TheBloodTheSweatTheBeards). The Russian inscription ‘деньги взяты’ literally means ‘money has been taken’, and the letter ‘я’, (‘ya’), the backwards ‘R’ but with an extra leg on this medallion was in fact turned into the backwards ‘R’ when Peter The Great reformed the alphabet in 1917-1918.

(Links:,, Photo of Willem-Alexander by FaceMePLS, some rights reserved)

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January 21, 2013

Message to Kane: stop making music

Filed under: Music by Orangemaster @ 3:45 pm

Dutch rock band Kane is being targeted by a Facebook page in Dutch called ‘A million haters can’t be wrong: at a million likes Kane will stop. We’re assuming.’

Branded as the Dutch Nickelback, a Canadian band that has no unique qualities of its own either according to its online reputation, Kane’s music although in English generally does not take a stance on anything but lovey-doveyness.

“They use slogan-like lyrics with no depth of meaning and nothing they do hasn’t already been done before by countless native English-speaking bands,” says a Dutch friend. “Some people have a lot of ambition, but no talent. Kane is an example of a collection of people with a lot of ambition, but no talent, ” Dutch weekly HP/DeTijd wrote after hearing about the Facebook page.

To back up this Dutch phenomenon of trying to sound American through self-effacing behaviour, famous Belgian artist Ton Barman of the band dEUS, quickly earning European fame already back in 1991, had this to say about the differences between Dutch and Belgian artists (and I paraphrase):

“Dutch artists seem to feel more of a need to mimic Americans, while in Belgium it’s not cool to sound that what at all. A band like Kane would flop in Belgium, as it has no self-awareness, no irony and is too serious. Sure dEUS has some Captain Beefheart and Velvet Underground in it, but it also has some Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg. The Dutch unfortunately aren’t lucky enough to be lodged between the French and Dutch culture like we are, which is very important.”

There are tons of excellent Dutch bands who sing in many languages and dialects, but this wanting to be more sterile than a hospital operating room can’t be a good thing for posterity.

(Links: ‘A million haters can’t be wrong: at a million likes Kane still stop. We’re assuming.’, Barman quote)

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December 27, 2012

‘No flowers for the Pope’ on Facebook gaining momentum

Filed under: Online,Religion by Orangemaster @ 2:50 pm

After weeks of debating the ‘Zwarte Piet’ tradition during Sinterklaas, which involves blackface considered a tradition here but racist abroad, a steady number of Dutch people on Facebook are now pissed off at the Pope.

The Pope’s famous Dutch saying, “bedankt voor de bloemen” (“thanks for the flowers”), is often the first thing that pops to mind if you mention the Pope to a Dutch person. The Facebook page Geen bloemen naar de Paus (‘No flowers for the Pope’) wants to stop sending flowers to the Pope at Easter and is venting its anger at the Pope’s heteronormative Christmas speech, which angered Foreign Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans who lashed out in the media at the Pope’s ‘homophobia’:

“If every person is unique, as the Pope’s representative said in Dublin last week, then why should that unique person not have the right to stand up for their own sexual orientation? Marriage between two people of the same sex is having respect for the uniqueness of the individual.”

I for one will never, ever get over the amount of child abuse reported from the Catholic church since I was old enough to understand what it was.

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriages, although some controversy remains over municipal officials who refuse to marry gays and lesbians on religious grounds.

Regardless, to quote a gay friend back in the 1990s inspired by the American’s first Bush administration: “Hate is not a family value”.


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February 29, 2012

Acquired by Facebook while not even a member

Filed under: IT,Online,Photography by Orangemaster @ 11:07 am

Today, Dutchman Dirk Stoop is the Product Manager at Facebook in charge of photos, as photos are the main reason people use Facebook. When Facebook first started allowing users to tag each other in photos in 2006, suddenly 70% of users came back every day, while 85% came back every week.

In July 2011 Stoop starting working for Facebook when his software company Sofa B.V. was acquired, with the goal of having Stoop work for Facebook.

The funny part is that Stoop himself only joined Facebook in April 2011 and is now in charge of what makes Facebook a huge success. Yes, you could file this posting under ‘Zoek de Nederlander’ (’Find the Dutch person’).

(Link:, Photo of Facebook friends by Dan Taylor, some rights reserved.


December 16, 2011

Lorrainville, an album that started with a game on Facebook

Filed under: Dutch first,Music,Online by Orangemaster @ 11:05 am

You had to pick a random article from Wikipedia, a random quote off the Internet and a random picture from Flickr and turn it into an album cover. Here’s the one that literally struck a chord with Dutch producer from Zwolle, Guido Aalbers. He got a whole group of musicians together to write songs and perform live, including singer Anneke van Giersbergen and guitarist Erik Neimeijer just for this one-off project. Last night they played their one and only sold out gig at the Hedon in Zwolle, which I was lucky enough to attend. The room was so full that the doors of the concert hall were left open and the audience spilled into the bar area! The whole show was streamed live on Facebook as well.

Listen to Lorrainville – You may never know what happiness is. (This link may not be up for too long, so go and listen now).

All the songs are in English and have a touch of Americana. English-language coach to the Dutch stars Buffi Duberman asked me if I could help her get some sort of letter of recognition from the wee village of Lorrainville (pop. 560) in Québec and we managed to get the Québec Delegation in Brussels to write up a formal letter in Dutch to recognize this unique album, which was given to Guido Aalbers during the show.

If you Google Lorrainville today, you’ll get the album before the actual village! Read all about Lorrainville.

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