Friday, 26 August 2016

Almost Dutch?

Over the years my Dutch husband and I have touched upon the topic of me and Dutch citizenship. Every discussion has ended with the conclusion that I had nothing to gain from owning a Dutch passport in addition to my British one. Until Brexit. Brexit has changed everything. Maybe. Potentially. 

Although no one knows for sure what the future holds for the status of British expats like me living in the European Union I do know that there is a chance that Brexit will mean some kind of change to my residency status and/or working permissions within EU countries. And so, like many other expat Brits, I started seriously looking into obtaining Dutch citizenship so, given any eventuality, I will  still enjoy the same rights as my Dutch family.

The decision by Britain to leave the EU was taken two months ago but my application for Dutch citizenship is filed, in progress and awaiting the decision of the local mayor. It was filed a month ago actually. I didn't hang around! I could be about to get seriously Dutched Up!

The process has been painless, quick and much easier than I ever could have imagined. And because of the many questions I have had on Facebook about the process I am going through I decided to write this blog post and share my experiences.

Two Ways To Become a Dutch Citizen - The Theory

Firstly, there are two different routes to obtaining citizenship in the Netherlands - VERY DIFFERENT routes. There is the naturalisatie or optie route. So, to be clear, I am going through the optie route.

Requirements to Apply for Dutch Citizenship: Optie Process

To apply using the optie process you need to meet the following requirements:

  • You have been married to a Dutch citizen for at least 3 years
  • You have lived uninterrupted in the Netherlands for 15 with a legitimate residency permit
  • You have not been in prison during the last 4 years or recieved a judicial sentence such as community service or a considerable fine. (I was told that a fine for running a red light for example was not an issue. Murdering someone is not considered okay.)
  • You do not have more than one wife
  • You are prepared to pledge allegiance to the Netherlands
For a comprehensive list of requirements visit the IND's website.

Why the Optie Process Rocks

If you meet these requirements you qualify for the optie procedure which is good because it means:
  • You may keep your birth nationality, so long as dual nationality is accepted in your current passport holding country
  • Costs are lower than through the naturalisatie route (in my case €179 - the naturalisatie route cost is €840 so a significant difference)
  • An inburgeringscursus is not a requirement and so language skills are not tested 
  • The process is quicker, usually taking 3 months from filing the application with your local council (gemeente)
  • And that's the other advantage - the application is done at your local town hall and doesn't involve the IND. And if you have ever had any interaction with the IND you will know that it an advantage for sure

My Application Process - The Reality

So that's the theoretical stuff of IND listed requirements covered. And now the reality...... How did my application process go?

Appointment 1

Well, first step was to make an appointment online with my gemeente, where I am registered as living which in this case is Zoetermeer. The purpose of this initial meeting was to assess whether I met the criteria to become a Dutch citizen. I turned up at appointed time with my documents:

  • My passport
  • My wedding certificate
  • My legalised birth certificate with an official translation (this needs to be shown if you have not previously shown it to Dutch authorities - I took it with me in case but it was already registered in the system from when I arrived in the Netherlands)
You also need to show your residence permit. As I am (at least for the moment) a citizen from within the EU I officially do not need a residence permit, though I did initially have one. Back in 2000 there was a lot of uncertainty about where to actually have one or not so I applied for one. I renewed it once but didn't bother renewing it again when I had been here for ten years. This did actually cause a minor hiccup in the process. I was told that I had actually only been officially registered in the Netherlands for 14 ½ years, and not the almost 16 years it has been since I arrived on Dutch soil. I was told I would have to come back in December this year. Gulp. 

It turns out that although I arrived here in September 2000 the IND only got round to processing my residence permit in December 2001. (They lost my file when I moved from Voorschoten to The Hague so it was a few months in limbo until I realised I hadn't heard anything and The Hague came to the conclusion they knew nothing about an application for a residence permit....... Hence my comments about the IND above.) My husband piped up and pointed that as I am British I didn't actually need a residence permit, and so the IND blunder was irrelevant in my case and the date I first registered in Voorschoten was the date to use. We were back with September 2000 as the official  start of my residency in the Netherlands. Phew, the optie process was back on the table.

I had already also got over the hiccup of being asked to show which language tests I had passed by explaining I was talking about the optie process and not the naturalisatie process. Man, we had to be on the ball that morning!

The woman helping me wandered off at one point to get her colleague to help her clarify the whole date of residency issue. She brought her back to the desk and scare number three followed. The colleague assisting asked whether my British passport contained my maiden name or my married name. By the look on her face it was obvious one of the choices was going to be a problem. Argh. 

Luckily I gave the right answer.... had my married name been on my British passport things would have been trickier. My maiden name on my passport made things 'makkelijker'. I counted my blessings and I didn't ask why. 

Hip hip hooray - I could tick off the boxes and was eligible for the optie process. The lady helping me asked when I would like an appointment for. I stared. My husband stared. She stared. Huh? I have an appointment now. I'm sitting right here. Right now. But no, I needed a second appointment to actually make the application. Of course, Dutch efficiency. So I made a new appointment.

Appointment 2

And so ten days later I trundled back, my bag filled with every piece of documentation I could possible ever need in any situation. I was determined there would not be a third appointment. 

After a very strange incident at the 'take a ticket' machine in which I had to apparently guess that the council had registered my appointment using random birth date details (entering my actual birth date resulted in an error screen) I did finally have my queue number. 

Within minutes my number flashed up on the screen and sent me to a desk number that didn't exist. I got back in line, spoke to the most unfriendly receptionist the council could possibly find to be told the room I was looking for was upstairs. Of course it was. My psychic powers were a little off that day. But I found the room, took a seat and took a deep breath, psyching myself up for the next barrier.

Easy as Pie. Or Should That be Pastei?

It didn't come. No hurdles. No gedoe. I was back downstairs in less then ten minutes, much to my family's surprise who were waiting for me in the library. 

I was helped by a friendly woman who had the application and declaration forms ready for me to read though and sign. This was the reason a second appointment was needed - so that everything could be pre-prepared! She went through a few points (like telling me a parking ticket or driving through a red light weren't seen as major felonies), checked I understood what I was reading through and getting myself in to, told me where to sign, took my money and that was that. 

She informed me that a judicial check would take place - and if I wasn't found to be a wanted hardened criminal and I could expect an invitation to a ceremony from the mayor in around three months. Then she sent me off with a smile.

De Naturalisatieceremonie

That ceremony she told me about is compulsory and it's where I'd be told what it means to be a Dutch citizen, pledge allegiance (by saying the 'verklaring van verbondenheid') to the Netherlands, confirm that I do actually feel a bit Dutch (which in all honesty I do) and . Once I have attended this ceremony I would then be a Dutch citizen. And my husband has promised to throw a big Dutch style party with bitterballen, a huge circle and very frothy beer. And of course you're all invited. 

Watch this space.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Explore Paleis Soestdijk

Whilst a new purpose is being considered for Soestdijk Palace, it is open to visitors. And it's well worth a visit.

It used to be the working palace of Queen Juliana, the mother of Princess Beatrix, the grandmother of the current king of the Netherlands.

From the smoke stained walls of Prince Claus's study to the family photos of princesses in their childhood prime, the palace gives a fascinating, historical glimpse into the life of the Dutch monarchy. 

The grounds are beautiful to walk around and there's a speurtocht for the children, which gets them uncovering places and facts about the palace and the family that lived in it.

If you haven't been then go whilst you can!

I'll let the photos do the rest of the talking!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Saying Goodbye to My Consultatiebureau

I started working here eight years ago and I can still remember the day you walked in for the very first time – a newborn baby in your arms. A brand new mother,” said the lady at the front desk of the consultatiebureau to me at the end of my last visit.

I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have set foot inside my local consultatiebureau since 2007. But the woman who has weighed and measured all three of my sons over the space of eight years gave me reason to stop and reflect on my visits there; the same woman who remembers the name of my eldest son despite his last consultatiebureau visit being four years ago.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Little Steps to the Basisschool

If you are living in the Netherlands your child can start attending primary school at the age of four. All three of my children are now in various stages of primary school but for each one of them making the leap from peuterspeelzaal to the basisschool was a big one. So here's my story about how we tried to make it easier.

Monday, 1 August 2016

5 Popular Dutch Children's Books

There are a lot of books in our house, and they are something that generally escape my rare but thorough decluttering frenzies. Our bookshelves are filled with both English and Dutch books (with the occasional French and German title). When it comes to Dutch children's books there are some which are incredibly popular which you will generally see everywhere - like these 5.


If you live outside the Netherlands then you know Nijntje as Miffy. I wasn't really a fan of Miffy, but since having children I do appreciate the magic of Nijntje. The series is a fun read for the little ones because of the rhyming language.

The books are written by Dick Bruna who is just about a household name in the Netherlands. I'd be surprised if there's a Dutch adult alive who doesn't know his name. There's even a Miffy museum to visit here.

You can find a Miffy book for just about every topic and any occasion you can think of so they always make great gifts.

My favourite is actually a book my husband gave me: translated it means "the writer".

I'm not sure how far Miffy has travelled around the world so let me know in the comments if she's made it to your neck of the woods.

Dolfje Weerwolfje

I'd go as far as to say that Paul van Loon has made his mark on the Dutch children's book market in a way that no other modern time writer has. Dolfje Weerwolfje is a national reading pastime. The stories follow the adventures of a boy who changes into a werewolf three nights a month - and a white werewolf wearing glasses at that. There are many adventures to follow and I know that my eldest is doing his best to work through the entire series.

There's a film, an upcoming musical and more merchandise than you could ever hope to collect, should you be so inclined.

Researching for this post I have actually learnt that elsewhere in the world the series is known as Alfie the Werewolf (available in the US and the UK or from the Book Depository) so that's another series discovered for me to read in English with my 6 year old!

Jip en Janneke

My youngest is nuts about Jip en Janneke. Every night papa has to re-read the adventures of the two Dutch kids who live next door to each other, and this is the third time around because my eldest two worked their way through the series too.

Written by Annie M. G. Schmidt, and illustrated by Fiep Westendorp, these tales are classics for sure. Despite being published in the 1950s, Jip and Janneke are still the best known children's book characters in the country.

The illustrations are black and white and certainly iconic - and some of the books are available in English like Two Kids from Holland. (US link here)

Pluk van de Petteflet

I couldn't mention Jip en Janneke without talking about Pluk too; written by the same writer with the pictures drawn by the same illustrator, Pluk is almost as iconic as Jip and his friend.

Pluk van de Petteflet tells the tale of a boy (Pluk) who rides his little red engine around looking for a place to live - he hears of a room free in the Petteflet tower and promptly moves in. He soon makes lots of friends to have lots of adventures with.

Pluk has also been translated into English - known as Pluck - and his adventures can be read in Tow-Truck Pluck (US here or available from Book Depository).

Dummie de Mummie

This is a hugely popular series of books written by Tosca Menten. My eldest is about to start reading a Dummie de Mummie adventure that he got from the library. The series started in 2009 and a book has been published every year since.

The book is a series of adventures about a Mummy called Dummy.....

The books are available in original language in the UK, and in German from Book Depository - as far as I know are only available in English in Australia but feel free to correct me on that.
Welcome to our Olympics for Kids series! The Olympics are a wonderful opportunity to teach kids about the world and explore cultures together. Today, you can find more about other travel posts about various countries thanks to our participating bloggers:
Book review: Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboahw - Multicultural Kid Blogs Latino Kids Lit Featuring Mexico - Mommy Maestra Children's Books Featuring Chile - La Clase de Sra. DuFault 5 Popular Dutch Children's Books - Expat Life with a Double Buggy Kids Books Set in Jamaica - Kid World Citizen Children's Books Set in South Africa - Colours of Us Children's Books about the Amazon - Hispanic Mama Portuguese Favourite Books for Under 6's - the piri-piri lexicon Explore Brazil with Your Child: Read, Cook, and Craft - Pack-n-Go Girls
Don't forget that you can also download our Summer Games Unit activity pack to learn more about the world and have fun during the Olympics.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Flying the Dutch Flag

Should you be in the Netherlands on King's Day you'll notice flags out in force in the Dutch streets, hanging from flag poles attached to the houses. We don't have a flag holder on our house, nor do we own a Dutch flag to hang even if we did... but I did stumble upon "general flag instructions in Zoetermeer" on the internet and was quite surprised by the rules around flag flying around here.

Monday, 25 July 2016

7 Places to Explore in the Netherlands Beyond Amsterdam

There is so much more to the Netherlands than Amsterdam, despite the bulk of the tourists heading to the Dutch capital. Exploring beyond Amsterdam is definitely worth it. Here are 6 Dutch places that should be on your travel itinerary if you come to the Netherlands.

Friday, 22 July 2016

5 Dutch Foods You Need to Try

Food is an important part of a country's culture. Every country has different foods associated with it. Think British and you think fish and chips. Think Indonesia and you think nasi goreng. Think Germany and you think sausage. You get the picture. If I say the Netherlands what food springs to mind? Probably cheese. But there's much more to taste than cheese in the land of the Dutch. Here are five Dutch foods worth trying - and some of them you can make yourself at home.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Olympisch Stadion in Amsterdam

The Netherlands has hosted the Olympics once, back in 1928, and as a legacy to that the Olympisch Stadion (Olympic Stadium) stands in Amsterdam and still provides the backdrop for significant sporting events.  

The Olympisch Stadion, designed by Jan Wils in typical Amsterdamse School architectural style, served as the main stadium for the summer olympics of 1928, hosting field hockey (the first event to be played there), football, cycling, athletics, gymnastics, korfball and equestrian jumping. 

Notable about the 1928 Olympics is that it saw the (re)introduction of the Olympic Flame, which was kept burning in the Marathon tower next to the Olympisch Stadion throughout the games.

To say the stadium's use and history since the Olympics of 1928 has been varied and rich is an understatement: 
  • The Olympic stadium served as the home ground for the national Dutch team once the Olympics were over.
  • Amsterdam's football team Ajax used it for games needing floodlights (which their own football ground didn't have) or when the expected crowd was too big for their own stadium, which tended to be the international games. Ajax continued using the Olympisch stadium until 1996 when the Amsterdam Arena was completed. 
  • The stadium was used as the start and finish point of the 1954 Tour de France.
  • Every October the stadium is the start and finish of the Amsterdam marathon. 
  • In 1995 and 1996 the Amsterdam Admirals played at the Olympisch Stadion in the World League of American Football with the stadium hosting the World Bowl of 1995.
  • In 2005, the sports museum 'Olympic Experience Amsterdam' opened.
  • The 2016 European Athletic Championships were hosted there last week - the biggest event hosted in the Olympisch Stadion since the 1928 Olympics!

And to think, in 1987 the Amsterdam city council wanted to demolish the stadium! Thankfully it was saved and given monument status in order to protect it for the future. 

In the same year renovations on the stadium began, to return it to its original state. When it was first built it could house around 31,000 spectators. A second tier was later added to give the Olympisch Stadion a capacity of 64,000 in order that it could compete with Rotterdam's new stadium, which was completed in 1937 (De Kuip, the home of Eredivisie club Feyenoord and coincidentally the venue my family and I just visited to see Monster Jam!) 

After the renovations were complete the stadium capacity was reduced to just over 22,000 and its primary use became track and field events. It was re-opened in 2000 by 'Prince' Willem-Alexander, who is now King of the Netherlands.

There has been talk of the Netherlands bidding for the 2028 Olympics, to mark the one hundred year anniversary of the 1928 Olympics hosted in Amsterdam. The Dutch government, however, put any potential bid project on hold because of the cost implications of hosting an Olympic games. There is still a possibility that the idea will be revived - but we won't know for sure until 2019 when the bidding to host the 2028 Olympics starts.....
Welcome to our Olympics for Kids series! The Olympics are a wonderful opportunity to teach kids about the world and explore cultures together. Today, you can find more about Olympic history and famous athletes from various countries around the world. Judoka: Rafaela Silva - Multicultural Kid Blogs South Africa's First Olympians - Globe Trottin' Kids Chile: Important Names and Winners - La clase de Sra. DuFault  Female Athletes to Watch in 2016 - Use Resources Wisely Jefferson Perez: The Only Olympic Medalist in Ecuador - Hispanic Mama Fastest Man/Woman in the World - Kid World Citizen Olympisch Stadion in Amsterdam - Expat Life with a Double Buggy Baron Pierre de Coubertin & the modern Olympics - La Cité des Vents   Don't forget that you can also download our Summer Games Unit activity pack to learn more about the world and have fun during the Olympics.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Football in the Netherlands: The Men in Orange

The UEFA European championship has just finished, with weeks of football matches being played at the highest level. England crumbled, Iceland amazed, France dominated until Portugal surprised them, and Germany, being Germany, just kept winning, until they didn't. And where was the Netherlands? Where was the orange that usually decorates the stadiums at major football events? Nowhere. The Dutch team failed to qualify for the Euros 2016, and that hit fans of the boys in orange hard. 

Football is a national Dutch sport. It's one of the most popular sports in the country, if not the most popular. And that's saying something because the Dutch are incredibly competent at sports, excelling in a number of different events - such as ice skating competitions and hockey. The Dutch medal count at the last winter Olympics tells you a lot about their sporting prowess on ice. It's all very impressive in a land so small. 

So the lack of orange in this years European football tournament was a massive dissapointment. In fact, it was such a disappointment that the Dutch appeared to try and pretend there was no football competition at all this year...... the oranjegekte was certainly missed!

It's in stark contrast to the success of the Dutch team in the 2014 World Cup finals where they came home with the bronze medal, and in 2010 when they were runners up to Spain. Back in 1988 the Dutch were European champions. 

So since 2014 things have gone seriously downhill with the Dutch national football team and for a country with a rich footballing history, and an attractive top class national football league it's been a time for soul searching and questions.

The national team played their first international game in 1905, against Belgium in front of a crowd of 800. These days the national team can pull up to 8 million television viewers when they compete in the Euros or a World Cup (note that is not far off half the population of the Netherlands). 

The next international games that the Netherlands play will determine whether they qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. And the nation is hoping that this will end more successfully than their bid to play in the 2016 Euros..... Football runs through the veins of many a Dutchman, woman and child.

The KNVB (Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbal Bond (Royal Netherlands Football Association)), the national football union, had 1,227,157 members as of 2015. The union obtained it's royal status in 1929, but the origins of the organisation date back to 1889. 

Paid football was introduced in the Netherlands in 1954 and women's football became an official part of the KNVB in 1971. 

The national league of the Netherlands, the Eredivisie, came to be in 1956, although the national championship had been competed for officially since 1898. Once the Eredivisie was established the best teams from across the country started playing against each other, dispersing with the regional leagues that had existed up until that point. Ajax was the first winner of the Eredivisie, and much to the distaste of football fans in Rotterdam, the Amsterdam based team has also won it many times since.

18 clubs compete for the national title in the Eredivisie, and it has a good reputation in the international footballing arena. It's been a breeding pool for many top Dutch players such as these names:

Johan Cruijff, Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Ronald Koeman, Dennis Bergkamp, Philip Cocu, Frank de Boer, Edwin van der Sar, Clarence Seedorf, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Rafael van der Vaart, Dirk Kuijt and Robin van Persie. 

I grew up spending many of my Saturday afternoons, and Tuesday evenings, on the terraces of Vicarage Road, the home of Watford FC in England. When I moved to the Netherlands I didn't start supporting a local club until my eldest son was eight. I'd already taken him to his first English Premiership game to watch Watford, but until last season we hadn't got involved with any Dutch club.

That has now changed. I have the football bug once more and for many of the Eredivisie home games of ADO Den Haag at least one of my sons and I can be found in the Kyocera Stadion in The Hague. We'll be there next season too. We'll be hoping for success for our local team - and for the national team too.

Welcome to our Olympics for Kids series! The Olympics are a wonderful opportunity to teach kids about the world and explore cultures together.

Today, you can find more about other sports/games from various countries thanks to our participating bloggers:

Exploring Indonesian Badminton - Multicultural Kid Blogs
Popular Summer Sports in USSR - Creative World of Varya 
Handball, France and the Olympics - Lou Messugo
Capoeira: a martial art with a great beat - Brynn in Brazil
The big 3: soccer, rugby, cricket - Globe Trottin' Kids
Copa América: We Are the Champions - La clase de Sra. DuFault 
Football in the Netherlands: The Men in Orange - Expat Life with a Double Buggy 
Summer sports in Latvia - Let the Journey Begin
Valuable Lessons From The Olympic Sports to Kids - Hispanic Mama
Fencing with Ibtihaj Muhammad - Kid World Citizen
Puerto Rican Olympians - Discovering the World Through my Son's Eyes   

Don't forget that you can also download our Summer Games Unit activity pack to learn more about the world and have fun during the Olympics.