When driving…watch out for the bike!

Posted on 29. Jul, 2015 by in Culture, Dutch Vocabulary

The latest integration project I have started is driving. While I learned to drive many many years ago, getting a driver’s license in the Netherlands is quite a process. Because I am a Dutch resident, I am required to take the driving exam even though I had a driver’s license in Texas and in Mexico. Some expats with the 30% tax exemption rule simply exchange their license for a Dutch one, but I am not so fortunate.

The first part of the driving exam is the theory. Although you can start taking driving lessons before you take the theoretical exam, it is important to study the theory first since this helps you learn the rules. There are plenty of books at bookstores and libraries to study, but nowadays, driving schools offer access to a website where you can watch videos of what to do and what not to do.

The material to study varies. The theoretical exam covers questions about snelheid, parkeren, alcohol en drugs, inhalen, and wegmarkeringen. Different streets and signals tell you what to expect or what you can and cannot do, and this is very important to learn. The following video shows some sample questions. Can you answer these?

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Once you have studied and feel prepared enough to take the exam, you need to register at the Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheid via their website. LET OP! You should visit their website directly by typing www.cbr.nl rather than googling CBR. There are plenty of websites that offer to sign you up for your exam charging you an extra fee without even knowing it. The exam is available in Dutch and English, but you can also pay a translator to translate the questions into your own language. The following video explains the registration and exam process.

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Once you have passed the theoretical exam, you can continue with your driving practice until your instructor tells you that you are ready for the test. And while you practice driving, make sure you always watch out for the bikes!


Related vocabulary:
de snelheid- the speed
to park
to over take
de wegmarkeringen- the road markings
het rijbewijs
– the driving license
de rijschool– the driving school
verstandig– sensible
voorzichtigheid– caution
verplicht– required
de verlichting– the light
aangeven– to indicate
voor laten gaan– let go before/ give way to
de voetganger– the pedestrian
de rotonde– the roundabout
het grootlicht– the long lights (LET OP: The English version of the CBR exam translates this as big lights, however, in the U.S. the term “long lights” is used)
de volgorde– order or sequence
de versnelling– the gear
de koppeling– the clutch

Tulip-mania…in French?

Posted on 22. Jul, 2015 by in Culture

I am a big book nerd and moving to the Netherlands gave me an excuse to look for books about the Netherlands. The latest book in my list was The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas. I know the choice seems bizarre because Dumas is a French writer, and, to make matters worse, never visited the Netherlands. So….is the novel any good?

The Black Tulip is about one of the icons of the Netherlands: the tulip. The tulip is probably the most recognized icon of the country. To this day, people come to the Netherlands and seek this colorful beauty in the Keukenhof, at flower shops, and inside the countless souvenir shops around the country. When this flower was brought to the Netherlands, it was considered the most pure and majestic flower, something like proof that God existed. Flower growers everywhere began experimenting with the bulbs seeking new color variations. In no time, bulbs became a sort of currency reaching the value of a house. As was to be expected, the bubble eventually burst and many people ended up in bankruptcy.

Dumas’s novel is not so much about the Tulip bubble, but, more specifically, about one man’s search for the black tulip. Cornelius, the protagonist, is nephew to two political leaders of the country. Because of his uncles’ opposition to King William, they are sent to jail and later are killed by a mob. (The preface of the book explains that this part of the story is based on real events). Cornelius becomes victim to an injustice because of his family ties just as soon as he is able to alter three bulbs that will bloom into the sought after black tulip.

With the help of Rose, the daughter of his jailer, Cornelius is able to continue with his bulb plans. Rose, whose flower name is no coincidence, falls in love with Cornelius and even becomes jealous of his love and devotion to the black tulip. Cornelius thus most choose which flower he loves most. The novel concludes with a parade in honor of the black tulip, however, the ownership of the tulip is under scrutiny and Rose and Cornelius must fight for what is rightfully theirs.

Overall, I found Dumas’s novel very interesting and full of details about Dutch life. Many of Dumas’s friends visited the Netherlands and, it is said, that Dumas based his novel on many of the stories he heard about the low lands. Cornelius and Rose quickly become the protagonists readers love and hope get a happy ending. A bigger story in The Black Tulip is the craze surrounding economic bubbles. While the novel doesn’t discuss the financial repercussions, it does touch on the emotional aspect of the tulip bubble– the desire for that priced item, and what people are willing to do to get that.

The following video explains the tulip bubble or as it is called in the Netherlands de tulpenmanie.

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Related vocabulary:

de tulp– the tulip
de roos– the rose
de manie– the mania, craze
de economie– the economy
de tulpenbollen– the tulip bulbs
stijgen– to rise
de zeepbel– the bubble
het aanbod– the supply
de vraag– the demand
barsten– to burst




One Year After Flight MH17

Posted on 17. Jul, 2015 by in News

One year ago, the Malaysia plane flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down in a rebel area of Ukraine. All 285 passengers and 15 crew members were killed. To make matters worse, the recovery of bodies and evidence was stalled because of the unrest in the area. A week later, the first remains returned home to the Netherlands in what was, at least for me, the greatest sign of camaraderie, respect and patriotism I have seen in the Netherlands.

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A year after the MH17 tragedy, there are still many questions. Both the aviation and the criminal investigation are still underway, and it seems it will be a long process. In the meantime, the families of those who died are trying to heal their wounds. The questions that remain are Who did it? Why? Did those responsible know it was a passenger plane and not a military plane?

Today, the families gathered to remembered their loved ones. Because the plane crashed into a sunflower field, many arrived at the ceremony with sunflowers instead of roses. In Ukraine, people also gathered to remember the victims, carrying sunflowers and showing camaraderie with all those affected by this terrible tragedy. My prayers are with the family of the victims. May the victims rest in peace and live in the hearts of their loved ones.

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