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.

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?








Aussie Oktober in Het Scheepvaartmuseum Amsterdam – 29/30 October 2016


Aussie Oktober weekend in Het Scheepvaartmuseum: Speedrondleiding ‘Australië op de kaart’ (scroll down for English)

Op 31 oktober begint een officieel staatsbezoek van Koning Willem Alexander aan Australië.

Vierhonderd jaar geleden, op 25 oktober 1616, zag de Nederlandse VOC-schipper Dirk Hartogs van het schip de ‘Eendracht’ onverwacht een onbekend land aan de horizon opdoemen. Hij ging aan land, plaatste er een paal met daaraan een tinnenschotel met inscriptie en voer verder naar zijn einddoel Java. Deze schotel zou het eerste Europese voorwerp zijn dat op het grondgebied van Nova Hollandia (later ook wel Australië genoemd) is achtergebleven.

In het weekend van 29 en 30 oktober toont Het Scheepvaartmuseum hoe Australië langzaam aan zijn vorm heeft gekregen op de wereldkaart van 1482 tot 1753. De kaarten- en atlassencollectie van Het Scheepvaartmuseum behoort tot de internationale wereldtop van de cartografie tot 1800 en naast een bezoek aan de tentoonstelling De Atlassen neemt de museumgids u mee naar de bibliotheek, die speciaal voor u geopend wordt, om Dirk Hartogs Eiland en Eendrachtsland op een facsimile te bewonderen.

De speedrondleidingen (in het Nederlands en Engels) vinden plaats tussen 12.00 en 16.00 uur en zijn gratis met een geldig museumentreebewijs


Aussie October weekend in Het Scheepvaartmuseum: ‘Australia on the map’ turbo tour

Monday 31 October marks the beginning of an official state visit to Australia by King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.

Four hundred years ago, on 25 October 1616, Dirk Hartog, a master on the ship ‘Eendracht’ (‘Unity’) of the Dutch East India Company, unexpectedly sighted an uncharted land on the horizon. Once ashore, he left behind an inscribed pewter dish affixed to a post, and then set sail to his final destination of Java. This dish would be the first European object left on the territory of ‘Nova Hollandia,’ which would later also come to be known as ‘Australia’.

On the weekend of 29 and 30 October, Het Scheepvaartmuseum will be exhibiting how Australia gradually took on its shape on the world map between 1482 to 1753. Het Scheepvaartmuseum’s maps and atlases belong to the world’s top collections of cartographic artefacts up to 1800. In addition to a visit to the exhibition The Atlases, the museum guide will take you to the library – specially opened for visitors – where you will be able to admire a facsimile of Dirk Hartog Island and mainland Australia, named ‘Eendrachtsland’ after his ship, the ‘Eendracht’ (‘Unity’).

Available in Dutch and English, the turbo tours will take place between 12 noon and 4:00 PM and are free for holders of a valid museum entrance ticket.


AMSTERDAM - De nieuwe tentoonstelling 'De Atlassen' wordt geopend tijdens het afscheid van de directeur Willem Bijleveld.

AMSTERDAM – De nieuwe tentoonstelling ‘De Atlassen’ wordt geopend tijdens het afscheid van de directeur Willem Bijleveld.

King Willem-Alexander Speech from the Throne 2016

2016-09-20 12:27:59 DEN HAAG - Koning Willem-Alexander leest, met aan zijn zijde koningin Maxima, de troonrede voor op Prinsjesdag aan leden van de Eerste en Tweede Kamer in de Ridderzaal. ANP ROYAL IMAGES SANDER KONING

2016-09-20 12:27:59 DEN HAAG – Koning Willem-Alexander leest, met aan zijn zijde koningin Maxima, de troonrede voor op Prinsjesdag aan leden van de Eerste en Tweede Kamer in de Ridderzaal. ANP ROYAL IMAGES SANDER KONING

On 20 September 2016, the King delivered the Speech from the Throne. The speech sets out the government plans for the coming year.

Here is the link to the Dutch version of the text and you can watch the YouTube version here:

Below is the English translation from www.government.nl

Members of the States General,

Over the past few years the Netherlands has got back on firmer ground. The financial and economic crisis is behind us. We live in a prosperous and attractive country, which compares favourably with other countries. We have good public services and good infrastructure, and the rule of law is strong. There is a lot to be proud of and to build on.

Yet in the maelstrom of daily life, we feel a sense of disquiet and unease that is symptomatic of our times. With everything that is going on in the world, it’s understandable for us as a society to feel anxiety and cling to what we know. After all, the international terrorist threat, instability on Europe’s external borders, the refugee issue and economic uncertainty on the global markets are real problems with a big impact on daily life.

However, this is not the first time in our country’s history that we have had to look for solutions in the face of threatening and unpredictable developments. And it won’t be the last time that we join together to find those solutions. The recently deceased former Prime Minister Piet de Jong, who elevated his sensible approach to unrest and change almost to an art form, spoke often in his day of the need for ‘steady progress’. ‘It is the government’s job’, he once said, ‘to look ahead to what the future has in store and to make, without delay, the necessary changes to seize the opportunities it offers.’

This government took office in the firm belief that healthy public finances and a strong economy form the basis of a sound, compassionate welfare system, good healthcare, good education and high-quality public services for generations to come. With each major change that has occurred, the aim of government policy has remained the same: ensuring a future in which progress, innovation and economic growth can continue to go hand-in-hand with protection, solidarity and looking out for each other, in the best traditions of our country.

A few years ago, these achievements were under pressure. The economy was shrinking, the budget deficit was almost 4% and the number of people seeking work peaked at 700,000 – around 8% of the labour force. In addition, house prices had fallen substantially, the affordability of the state pension was under threat, and annual healthcare costs were rising much more quickly than national income.

The fact that our country is now in significantly better shape than it was a few years ago, and is back in Europe’s leading group, is a collective achievement. The Netherlands succeeded in bridging political differences and reconciling different social interests. Never before had so many major reforms been introduced at the same time, often with the support of opposition parties and civil society organisations. It happened in healthcare and education, in the labour market and the housing market, in the state pension system, the energy sector and the financial sector. In the process, a great deal was asked of people. Many had to make financial sacrifices, and great demands were made of people’s willingness to accept changes in their daily lives. Without the perseverance, hard work and enterprise of the Dutch people, the outcome would have been less positive.

For several years, the Dutch economy has been steadily growing again. And in spite of Brexit, it is forecast to grow by 1.7% in 2017. The housing market has rallied and increases in healthcare costs have been reined in. The budget deficit will fall to 0.5% next year and the national debt is also falling quickly towards 60% of our national income.

This is providing more room for manoeuvre. Fewer homeowners are in negative equity, making it easier for people to move. Tenants will enjoy greater financial leeway thanks to an increase in housing benefit. Entrepreneurs that have confidence in the future will be more prepared to invest in employees and renew their businesses. And families will have more money to spend.

More and more people are getting back into work. Since 2014, an additional 225,000 jobs have been created in the Netherlands. Unemployment has been gradually brought down to 5.8%. More jobseekers over the age of 45 have found a job – a welcome development. The number of young people in work is at its highest for seven years. Good progress is being made implementing agreements with employers on creating more jobs for people with a work disability. Labour participation is also growing because more and more Dutch people are willing and able to play an active part in the labour market. This does mean, however, that the number of people without work is declining less quickly than was hoped. Tackling unemployment – particularly long-tem employment – therefore remains a top priority.

The government has agreed a number of targeted measures with employer and employee representatives. For example, the rules on seasonal work are being relaxed and unemployed people over 50 will be given more intensive support in finding work. For people aged 21 and over, the young person’s minimum-wage rate will be abolished in two stages, because young people also deserve a full wage. Employers will be compensated to offset any negative impact on employment.

The risks and uncertainties facing our open and internationally oriented economy mainly come from abroad. We feel the impact of lower growth in emerging markets like China and Brazil. The prospect of Brexit is a new source of uncertainty in Europe that affects the Netherlands directly. The United Kingdom is an important trading partner and Brexit will cost jobs in our country too. The government’s aim is to maintain its strong economic ties with the UK.

Cooperation in Europe is essential for the Netherlands’ open economy. Within the European Union, the Netherlands will continue to focus on growth and jobs. The Netherlands has a direct interest in a stable euro, a robust and effective banking union, and a strong and fair single European market, with equal pay for the same work in the same place.

Positive financial and economic developments are slowly but surely providing renewed scope for growth in incomes and targeted investment in the future. It is extremely encouraging that purchasing power will grow again both this year and next for people in work, the elderly and people on benefits. This means the government will again ensure a balanced distribution of purchasing power. Healthcare benefit will be raised. A € 200 million stimulus will make it easier for young parents to arrange childcare, enabling them to combine work and family responsibilities. It is important that children who are at risk of growing up in poverty can take part in school trips, join a sports club and have the chance to take music lessons. € 100 million will be set aside for this purpose. Planned cutbacks in long-term care for the elderly and people with disabilities totalling half a billion euros will be scrapped. In education, extra money will be made available to promote equal opportunities. The allowance for specific educational expenses in secondary vocational education, for example for work clothes, tools and software, will be increased.

The energy transition, sustainability, accessibility and education are all areas which require major investment. Besides the major players, small and medium-sized enterprises too need to be able to obtain finance for new growth. The government will submit proposals to better support investment of this kind where necessary.

Investing in the future also means tackling problems like those that have arisen in the earthquake-affected area of the province of Groningen. Their impact is far-reaching and the government intends to work with all concerned in Groningen to find solutions. Safety risks are being limited by halving gas production compared with 2012 and by reinforcing homes and other buildings.

The consequences of climate change necessitate substantial investment and innovations in renewable energy sources like wind, water and sunlight. Commitments on clean and affordable energy are laid down in the Energy Agreement for Sustainable Growth. Not only is this good for the environment, it also provides jobs and opportunities for Dutch businesses.

In view of the security situation, both close to home and in the wider world, in 2017 the government will again increase spending on the armed forces, the police, the administration of justice and the Public Prosecution Service. The defence budget has been gradually raised since 2014, rising to an additional € 870 million in 2020 on a structural basis.

The crime figures in the Netherlands are falling steadily and the government will continue to invest in improving safety and security. The 2016 budget already provided for a structural increase of € 250 million for this purpose, and from 2017 onwards an extra € 450 million will be made available on top of this. This will give the people who work day in, day out to ensure our safety – from neighbourhood police officers to special counterterrorism units, from public prosecutors to prison officers – more scope to carry out their tasks.

In the past year the world has again been shocked by appalling jihadist attacks, which have caused untold sorrow and human suffering. France, Belgium, Germany and Turkey are among the countries hardest hit.

We cannot and will not, in any way whatsoever, allow terrorists to threaten our freedom, security and democratic values. The plan of action ‘An Integrated Approach to Jihadism’ combines preventive and reactive measures. The government aims to eliminate the conditions that breed radicalisation, partly by promoting active citizenship in schools. It is becoming more difficult for would-be jihadists to travel to conflict zones, and their benefits are being stopped. Criminal charges are being brought against them and they risk losing their Dutch nationality if convicted.

Cooperation within Europe is crucial in the fight against terrorism. In the European Union, the Netherlands is working hard to improve information-sharing between European intelligence and investigative agencies, strengthen joint border control, stem the flow of terrorist financing, and enhance cybersecurity.

Outside Europe, the Netherlands continues to contribute military, humanitarian and political resources to the fight against ISIS in the conflict zones in Syria and Iraq. Our military and aid personnel there and elsewhere in the world are doing important work in difficult circumstances for the sake of international stability and people suffering oppression.

Working in close cooperation with the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom, the government conducted a successful campaign for non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. UN reform is an important theme for the government. In substantive terms its key priorities are combining peace, security and development in an integrated approach, preventing conflict and protecting civilians.

War and terrorism drive innocent people from their homes, condemning them to an uncertain future. During the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2016, many initiatives were launched to bring the flow of refugees from Syria and other vulnerable countries under control. This policy is based on three pillars: removing the reasons to flee by improving living conditions and countering violence in the area affected; reception in the region; and combating people smuggling via perilous sea routes. Dutch assistance includes € 260 million to enhance reception in the region.

Arrangements were agreed with the Turkish government in March this year to stem the flow of refugees and ensure it was better regulated. This has substantially reduced both the number of appalling deaths by drowning during improvised sea crossings between Turkey and Greece, and the number of asylum seekers coming to Europe. In the coming period attention will need to be paid to the further implementation of these arrangements.

The Netherlands is a country that offers everyone who is eligible the chance to integrate in our society and everyone who lives here the chance to feel at home. Asylum seekers who come to the Netherlands are offered decent but simple reception facilities. Last year we managed to do this thanks to the efforts of municipalities, support agencies and many volunteers. People who want to build a future in the Netherlands must be prepared to learn the language and make an active contribution. We expect everyone to make a conscious and positive commitment to our country and our way of life. The mandatory participation statement will enter into force in 2017. Allowing asylum seekers to do voluntary work is one way in which the government will promote participation and integration.

It is typical of our country’s character that private initiatives have arisen in many neighbourhoods and municipalities to encourage asylum seekers to interact with society. At the same time, it is understandable that there are concerns in society at large about the arrival of large groups of refugees. We wonder whether differences in our cultures and in our norms and values might be too great, and whether too great a strain might be placed on public services.

The Netherlands fought long and hard for numerous democratic values, including the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion. In our country, men and women are equal before the law, and we do not discriminate on the grounds of race, belief or sexual orientation. Everyone who wishes to live in our country must respect these values and abide by them. Nobody is asked to repudiate their own background or culture, but constitutional norms are inviolable, and intimidation and violence will meet with a firm response.

Members of the States General,

The Netherlands is a strong country in an unstable world. The results we have achieved together in recent years enable us to look forward with confidence. It would be unwise to underestimate the problems and international uncertainties facing the Netherlands. But history teaches us that ‘steady progress’ is possible by working together towards solutions, both in our own country and with our international partners.

This also holds true for your work in the parliamentary year that begins today. In discharging your duties, you may feel supported in the knowledge that many are wishing you wisdom and join me in praying for strength and God’s blessing upon you.

Snack like the Dutch: video by Radical Orange

In this video, produced by Radical Orange TV for ANYDOKO,  local Dutchman Bob shows you the best of Dutch snack culture from raw herring to stroopwafels. It’s all in the latest episode of Hawker Style, an original videos series exploring street food from across the globe.

Watch more episodes of Hawker Style: http://goo.gl/v3ziW1
Subscribe to ANYDOKO on YouTube: https://goo.gl/nxiwio

What’s your favourite Dutch snack food?