2017 Unox New Year’s Dive

As an Australian, it’s perfectly normal to me that Christmas and New Year’s involves the beach.  However here in the Netherlands, where temperatures are very chilly at this time of year, a dip into the ocean is the last thing on my mind.  Unox, however, has sponsored a tradition to dive into the icy sea on 1 January each year, as well as taking a dive in other locations in the Netherlands.

Here’s some photos from the 2017 edition.  I have to admit, I received these in a press release from Unox, I wasn’t actually there – I was home warm and dry on my couch!  Maybe one day I’ll join in.

Dutch press release from Unox:

SCHEVENINGEN, 1 januari 2017 – Vele tienduizenden mensen deden vandaag mee aan de Unox Nieuwjaarsduik. Op 142 plaatsen in het hele land renden deelnemers het koude water in. De stevige wind zorgde voor een gevoelstemperatuur van onder het vriespunt. Het evenement is volgens de organisatie veilig verlopen, mede dankzij de inzet van honderden vrijwillige lifeguards van de Reddingsbrigade.

Scheveningen was het decor van de grootste Nieuwjaarsduik ter wereld: 10 duizend mensen sprongen de Noordzee in om 2017 in te luiden. De duik had dit jaar een extra feestelijk tintje. Unox bestaat 80 jaar en trakteerde deelnemers en bezoekers van de duik, naast mutsen en erwtensoep, op een hartverwarmend oer-Hollands meezingfestijn, het ‘Nieuwjaars-kom-snert’.




Dutch Shuffleboard (Sjoelen) – a fun family game everyone can play in Australia

Sjoelen, or Dutch Shuffleboard, was invented in Holland sometime during the 19th century. It is a great family – friendly game that is easy to learn, but not so easy to master! Keep your family and friends entertained for hours as Sjoelen is the perfect addition to any party, workplace or family gathering! You can view an outline of how to play on Sjoelbak Australia’s rules page.

The term “Sjoelbak” actually refers to the board used to play Sjoelen. Sjoelbak Australia specialise in high quality authentic Dutch Sjoelbak boards that can last a lifetime, becoming a treasured family possession worthy of being handed down from one generation to the next.

Today, Sjoelen is growing in popularity and traction in many countries across the world, including Australia. Despite originating in Holland over two centuries ago, Dutch Shuffleboard remains a favourite game in schools, clubs, families and parties around the world. Discover the joy and competitive fun of Dutch Shuffleboard today and take a look at www.sjoelbak.com.au

A great Christmas present for a Dutch Australian!  Free shipping within Australia for a limited time.

Dutch, New Zealand and Australian universities join forces to provide Agriculture Education


MoU partners with Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands

Three of the world’s leading agriculture universities have combined their expertise to offer a specialist masterclass aimed at enhancing capacity within Australia’s horticulture industry.

The Masterclass in Horticulture Business will provide access to the best research from around the world by combining the expertise of the world’s number one ranked university in agriculture and forestry, the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, New Zealand’s specialist land-based Lincoln University, and the University of Tasmania, which is ranked in the top 100 universities globally for agriculture.

The partnership was formalised on 3 November 2016 with the signing of a Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between the three universities and funding partner Horticulture Innovation Australia.

Head of the School of Land and Food at the University of Tasmania, Professor Holger Meinke, said the masterclass offered tremendous benefits for the horticulture industry and had potential to become internationally renowned.

“Future growth and prosperity of horticulture depends on a resilient, adaptable and innovative workforce that is equipped to change with industry demands. The Masterclass aims to help industry take their businesses to the next level by providing access to the best research and understanding global trends in agriculture and horticulture, international business, innovation, value chains, governance and risk,” Professor Meinke said.

This sentiment was echoed by Lincoln University’s Professor Hugh Bigsby, who said: “Our partnership with Wageningen Academy, the professional training section of Wageningen University, is a boost for Lincoln University. The MoU is the beginning of a partnership that will reap tremendous benefits for our university. This will further strengthen our already strong partnership with the University of Tasmania.”

Best described as a mini-MBA, the 10-month Masterclass is available to 30 growers and people working in the supply chain looking to take their businesses to the next level. Enrolments will open this year ahead of its introduction in early 2017.

The MoU ceremony took place in the presence of Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands at Cockatoo Island, off the coast of Sydney.


Dr Alistair Gracie and Professor Holger Meinke from the University of Tasmania

For more information: www.utas.edu.au/land-food/masterclass-in-horticultural-business

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima in the Netherlands

I’ve seen so many great photos of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima in my Facebook newsfeed and sent to me by members of the Dutch Australian community, I’ve started collecting them in blog photos on this site to share.  There are three posts:

  • King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima in the Netherlands (this one)
  • King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima in Australia
  • King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima in New Zealand

Do you have photos of your own to share?  You must have either taken them yourself or have permission to share them online.   Then please contact me

King and Queen in Twente and Oldenzaal, 27th October 2016

Hi Renee,
I made this picture last week during the visit of our king and queen in my hometown Oldenzaal. I never was so nearby this couple. I was 4 times in Australia and love your country and follow you on Facebook .
Groet Bertus Harberink



2016 King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima visit to New Zealand program

State visit to New Zealand – program

At the invitation of the Governor-General of New Zealand, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Máxima will pay a state visit to New Zealand from Monday 7 November to Wednesday 9 November. The King and Queen will visit Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland. They will be accompanied by foreign minister Bert Koenders. Economic affairs minister Henk Kamp will head a parallel trade mission. Before arriving in New Zealand the King and Queen will pay a state visit to Australia from Monday 31 October to Friday 4 November.

The state visit to New Zealand will focus on confirming and expanding the two countries’ long-standing and wide-ranging bilateral ties. The Netherlands and New Zealand have a long shared history, which stretches back to 1642 when Abel Tasman was the first European to reach New Zealand. In 2017 both countries will celebrate 375 years of relations. The state visit will also draw attention to the role that the approximately 150,000 New Zealanders of Dutch descent have played in the country’s cultural and economic development. Receptions for the Dutch community will be held in both Christchurch and Auckland.

The trade mission will centre on horticulture, life sciences & health, smart cities, sports and agri-food. There is great potential for deepening economic ties between the Netherlands and New Zealand, on agri-food in particular. Almost 60 businesses will participate in the mission.

Monday 7 November – Wellington

The state visit will begin with an official welcome ceremony at Government House in Wellington. The ceremony will include traditional Maori elements, such as a haka powhiri (dance of welcome) and hongi (greeting). It will be followed by a meeting with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy. At Pukeahu National War Memorial Park the King and Queen will lay a wreath and visit the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. On a guided tour of the Great War Exhibition they will learn more about New Zealand’s role in the First World War. This exhibition at the Dominion Museum was created by New Zealand film director Sir Peter Jackson.

In the afternoon the King and Queen will speak with Prime Minister John Key and the Leader of the opposition, Andrew Little. They will also visit Park Road Post Production, a production company with a leading role in the development of the New Zealand and international film industry, in the field of digital visual effects in particular. This is where the sound and pictures for films including The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and King Kong were edited. In the evening the Governor-General and the King will each give a speech at the state banquet at Government House.

Tuesday 8 November – Christchurch

On the second day of the state visit King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima will travel to Christchurch. They will begin the day at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, which runs an extensive breeding programme for the endangered New Zealand kiwi. After this the cultural and economic achievements of the Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous inhabitants, will be highlighted. The King and Queen will visit the communal meeting place (marae) and the economic headquarters of the Ng?i Tahu Iwi, the largest Maori tribe on the South Island. The tribe practises sustainable and innovative agriculture, with a central role for the wellbeing of nature and the community. In the afternoon the King and Queen will visit the city of Christchurch. This visit will focus on the effects of the earthquake in 2011 and especially on the reconstruction and redevelopment of the city.

Wednesday 9 November – Auckland

At the start of the third day the King and Queen will visit the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o T?maki to view exhibits that celebrate the two countries’ shared history. The gallery owns two etchings portraying the meeting between Abel Tasman and the Maori in 1642. The royal couple will also view the series of portraits of Maori leaders painted at their own request by the artist Gottfried Lindauer (1839-1926).

The King and Queen will subsequently attend part of an economic conference on the future of food. This one-day event will bring together representatives of Dutch and New Zealand knowledge institutions and businesses to promote collaboration in the agri-food and horticulture sectors. At a lunch with participants from the trade mission and members of the New Zealand business community the King and Mr Kamp will each give a speech. Finally the King and Queen will visit the training vessel Spirit of New Zealand. While serving as the crew on this boat on five-day sailing trips, groups of young people aged 14 to 15 develop competences like cooperation, communication and leadership.

Source: www.royal-house.nl


Why I now celebrate Halloween in the Netherlands

2016 Halloween

I grew up in Maleny, Australia on the side of a mountain, in a very beautiful but rather isolated area.  Trick or treating was just not feasible.  I knew little of Halloween apart from that it was “big in America” and was aware that kids dressed up and went door to door.  I think when I moved to Brisbane as a young adult, I may have gone to one or two Halloween parties but was never really “into it”.  We lived in Australia while the children were young but I don’t remember really observing it beyond maybe some cute crafts or something at daycare.

When I first moved to the Netherlands in the early 2000’s, I don’t remember Halloween being observed.  However the last few years, as our children have grown, it’s become a part of our annual family calendar here in The Hague and seems to (becoming) quite popular.  This could possibly be because of a commercial push (Action had an entire Halloween catalogue, Xenos always has a Halloween section and even Hema gives it a push) but it seems Halloween is becoming more widely adopted in the Netherlands as this 2015 Nu.nl article describes (in Dutch).  They certainly already have the pumpkin supply part sorted, with lots of different varieties available at this time of year.

2016-10-31-19-06-27 When we moved back from Australia to the Netherlands in 2011, I was actually quite “anti-Halloween”.  If you’ve read previous blog posts such as my 2013 post about Kinderpostzegels, I hate people knocking on my door.  I didn’t like or understand the creepy Halloween costumes, and the “evil” scary side of it all.  With very young children, I was worried it would frighten them and wanted to protect them from this.  Beyond that, I thought “it’s not a Dutch or Australian thing” and just didn’t want to take part.  However, now I have totally changed my mind.  (also about the Kinderpostzegels by the way but that’s another story!)

So here’s why I now celebrate Halloween:

1.  My kids want to

The girls are now 7 & 9 years old and this year and last, looked forward to Halloween literally for months. It’s something they talk about with their friends at school, though I keep meaning to check whether it’s actually something discussed in the Dutch school curriculum.  Both girls, of their own initiative, planned their own costumes, practiced face paint and counted down the days this year.  “Don’t you find it too scary?”  I asked them, to be answered with a resounding “NO!” from my youngest.  She is a Minecraft fan and  quite happily rattles off sentences which include words like “flesh eating zombies” or something like that.  She’s also slightly obsessed with vampires are the moment.  On one hand, it (briefly) worries me.  However taking into account that she otherwise seems a perfectly happy, healthy little girl, I’m going to not worry and just go with it.  My eldest was actually slightly more hesitant and is a bit more emotional in general, but even she was keen to dress up as a witch.  I could overanalyse it all but in general, I think it’s a fairly healthy outlet for them to explore and play out some of their fears and fantasies.  And for whatever reason, they simply find it fun.  I do think that next year, I will take some time to research a bit more about the history and story behind Halloween and discuss this with them as well.


2.  My husband wants to

When you marry someone from another culture, it’s kind of hard to get the same perspectives and enthusiasm for various annual celebrations.  My Dutch husband grew up with Sinterklaas, Sint Martin and Koningsdag for example, that bring back fond memories for him and which he’d now like to recreate for his children.  He didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween but he finds joy in celebrating it with his daughters.  It’s actually him that decorates the house, organises the snoepjes/candy/sweets (whatever you want to call them!) and delights in trick or treating with the girls.  So if he wants to, who am I to stand in the way?  And it’s even more fun when we make it a whole family thing.  Next year, I’m going to try to make him actually wear a costume though instead of just scary gloves & a hood. Any suggestions on what I could transform an almost 2 metre tall Dutch man into? (even if just for Halloween)!


3.  I have several friends who celebrate

Living in an international community in The Hague/Delft means that I have friends of several nationalities and quite a few American friends.  They grew up with Halloween and I absolutely love the effort they put into organising costumes, food, decorations and parties.  I am consciously raising Global Citizens and if I can celebrate with friends who come from cultures that embrace a certain celebration that my family and I can be part of – I’m in!  Each year, Delft Mama organises an awesome Halloween party and I’m also getting to know some American friends in my neighbourhood who totally rock Halloween!  Not only that, I now have a few Dutch friends that have wholeheartedly adopted the tradition as well, so it’s becoming something we look forward to doing together each year.


4.  It brings our neighbourhood community together

This is my absolute favourite part.  Two years ago, we bought a house in De Bras neighbourhood, which lies in a lovely area between Delft & The Hague.  Turns out, it’s one that really “gets into” Halloween!  We have a great neighbourhood association who organise a “tent” each year with drinks, snacks and essentially a location for people to come together.  I loved running into friends there tonight and simply enjoying the atmosphere (even though I was too busy taking photos to actually grab some mulled wine!)  Then, we spent about an hour and a half walking around the neighbourhood and it’s so much fun discovering surprises in each street.  The neighbourhood association came up with a system where you can put a flyer in your window if you’re taking part in the trick or treat, but it’s usually pretty obvious by the decorations and lights outside the houses participating.  We trick or treated from about 6pm-7.30pm and I heard kids out there until about 8/8.30pm.  Things have pretty much wound down and as I type this the neighbourhood is quiet again by 9pm.   We decorate our house and buy a bowl of sweets and meet friends at our place, then walk with the kids for a while, then my husband came home earlier to hand out sweets (and scare kids by jumping out!).  Some of our neighbours really go all out and though I’ve only taken part twice now, it has been a great opportunity to talk to new people I haven’t met before as well as say hello to other neighbours.



5.  I need to have some more fun

I have always been a fairly serious and conservative person, and currently juggle work, study and parenting.  As I get older (I’ve passed the big 40 now!) I’m learning that life can be and should be FUN!  My girls have been awesome teachers in this respect, and I’m getting better at just letting go and having some fun (even if I do over analyse it later in a blog post!).  I must admit I didn’t make a huge effort with my outfit this year, and “dressing up” for the past few years has pretty much revolved around my favourite medieval dresses I’ve worn several times now to the Abbey Medieval Festival.

I did buy an awesome mask this year though and teamed this with a cool necklace I haven’t worn for ages and a black dress I hadn’t yet found an occasion to wear.  Despite the fact I didn’t really have any idea what exactly I was dressed as, it didn’t seem to bother anyone and I had fun!  What should I dress as next year?


It was also fun to walk around the neighbourhood in the dark, it’s starting to get quite cold at night but how cool do these autumn leaves look at night!


So that is a very detailed analysis of why I now celebrate Halloween!  Do you?  Why/Why not?