2018 Embassy Festival, The Hague

On 1 September 2018, we attended the colourful cultural Embassy Festival in The Hague.  This was the fourth year we have attended, and it didn’t disappoint.  To make it even more special, I was the lucky winner of their Facebook competition for an overnight stay in a suite at the Mecure Hotel Den Haag Central.  A huge thanks to them for our amazing view and the great opportunity to have a very rare night away, even if it was in our own city.  My mum was here for a visit from Australia, so she and the girls came to check out the festival and our suite, then she took them home.


The Embassy Festival really is an amazing example of what world harmony can really look like.  With around 50 stands showcasing the food, drinks, products, traditional dress and tourism of their countries, it is a truly unique experience.  Even just simply pointing out the names of each country to our children is a great learning experience.  The festival gives them a tiny taste the many, many sights, sounds and smells our world has to offer – without expensive airfares!  What I love most is that it is all in an atmosphere of interest of and respect for each other.  Whether you attended the festival or not, even a peek at the Embassy Festival website gives an impression of the variety of global culture that was there.

I had a lot of delicious food and drinks – I have to admit though that now I am sharing these photos, I don’t actually remember which stands/countries it was all from!  I know the first is my daughter enjoying Finnish food (a type of cinnamon bun).  The rest became a bit of a blur (and I don’t think the margarita and strawberry daiquiri  were to blame!)

Our only two complaints were that firstly, it was a very crowded. Great to see it so popular (I’ve been telling my friends, students and colleagues about it for years!) but when attending with two kids and my mother, it was a bit hard to keep track of everyone, move around and see what was at the stands.  Secondly, as an asthmatic, I also had the issue I often have in crowds – regularly breathing in cigarette smoke.

That said, it was still a fantastic festival and we enjoyed a few hours wandering around and literally exploring the world.  A huge thanks to the organisers for making the festival both free and such an amazing experience.

It finished at 8pm, and we stopped off at the Pathe to see some American culture on the way back to the hotel (Mission Impossible Freefall!) before enjoying this great view from the Mecure Hotel Den Haag Central.

See you next year?

My blog posts for previous years are here:

The festival website is here:


Their facebook page has plenty of photos:


My own photos are here:





Attention Australians divorcing in the Netherlands

This is one of a series of guest posts from GMW lawyers in The Hague, offering information on legal matters in English.

If you’re an Australian who got married in Australia, but now lives in The Netherlands, you may think that if you get divorced, it will be under Australian law. Actually Dutch law could still apply when you get divorced – and that has consequences for how you can divide your property. International divorce lawyer Marjet Groenleer highlights key considerations about the division of property for Australians divorcing in The Netherlands.

Which law will apply to your divorce?

Even though you were married in Australia, and even if you married an Australian, Dutch law could apply to your divorce, and to the division of your property when you get divorced in the Netherlands.

Does that really matter?

Yes. If Dutch law applies to you, then all assets or property that you and your ex own will automatically belong to a “matrimonial community” or “community of property”.  This means you will have to share those assets 50/50 when you get divorced.

Your assets are not just your houses, stocks or cars – they may include an inheritance you received, or even gifts from your parents.


If you were married after 1 January 2018, your inheritance and gifts will be automatically excluded from the community of property, as Dutch law changed on this date.

If you married before 1 January 2018, the only way to exclude your inheritance and gifts from the community of property is

  1. if you have a prenuptial agreement in which you exclude inheritances or gifts from the community of property.
  2. If your parents (or others from who you inherit or receive a gift) have a so-called exclusion clause in their will.

If you do not have a prenuptial agreement and there is no exclusion clause, you will have to share your inheritance with your ex.

What is an exclusion clause?

An exclusion clause is a clause in a will that expressly states that  an inheritance should not fall into any marital community of property.

If such a clause exists then, for instance, an inheritance received during the marriage will not become part of any community of assets and property into which the heir(ess) is married. Even if you get divorced under Dutch law.

An exclusion clause is typically Dutch, so you may not have heard this term used in other countries, but it could still work to your benefit.

For her own use and benefit absolutely

In countries like Australia, a sentence like “for her own use and benefit only” is frequently used in wills. Such a sentence could work to your advantage.

Under Dutch law, this could be considered an exclusion clause which could prevent your inheritance falling within a marital community of assets and property.

In a recent case, the courts of appeal in Arnhem-Leeuwarden had to decide whether this qualified as an exclusion clause when a wife received an inheritance from her Australian uncle during her marriage (ECLI:NL:GHARL:2018:3767). In this case, the uncle’s last will and testament contained the sentence mentioned above.

First, the courts of appeal considered that the will should be interpreted according to Australian law (referring to international private law legislation laid down in EU-regulations and international treaties).

Further, the court found that because the uncle had deliberately added this sentence to his will, even though in Australia inheritances by default stay out of any marital community, that the uncle had clearly expressed his wish to leave the inheritance solely to the wife.

The court therefore decided that this qualified as an exclusion clause. The result was that the wife did not need to share her inheritance with her ex.

How can you ensure you don’t need to share your inheritance?

There are two ways to protect any future inheritance. The first is to go to a notary and make a prenuptial agreement in which you exclude gifts and inheritances from any marital community, as mentioned above. The other option is to make sure that any future testators have an exclusion clause in their wills.

Dealing with the reality of divorce in The Netherlands

Getting divorced in another country and having to navigate the impact of a new legal system can add an extra pressure during to an already stressful situation.

When you face divorce in The Netherlands and you’re unsure about your rights, consider getting legal advice from a lawyer who specialises in international divorces. They can help you get a clear picture of your rights, advise you on the applicable law, and help you find a solution.

If you have a question about getting divorced in The Netherlands, or you’d like to discuss your situation, please contact Marjet Groenleer.

Marjet Groenleer is an attorney-at-law and associate partner at GMW lawyers in The Hague. She has been active in family law for more than 15 years, focused on international divorces and is a trained divorce mediator.

Marjet has particular expertise in the international aspects of family law, and is familiar with several foreign legal systems. She is an expert in dealing with complex financial and multi-jurisdictional cases of an international family breakdown. Many of her clients are expats in The Netherlands for the various international organisations and companies based in The Netherlands, specifically in the area of The Hague (such as EPO, Estec, OPCW, NATO, the tribunals, ICC, Shell, etc.)

Marjet worked as a lecturer in International Civil Law for several years and at the Court of Appeals in The Hague in the family law sector. Today, she is a deputy judge in the Court of Appeals in Amsterdam and publishes regularly in professional journals.

About GMW lawyers

GMW lawyers is a law firm based in The Hague that has one goal: to achieve the best result for you.

Since 1989, GMW lawyers has been helping international and local individuals, companies and organisations to solve their legal problems.

Having lawyers who have been expats themselves, GMW lawyers has a strong understanding of the issues expats can face. Their legal experts work together in teams, using their extensive personal and professional experience to deliver the best possible solutions. In this way, they can provide service and guidance in more than one field of expertise.

GMW lawyers can assist you with questions about family law and estate planning, employment and pensions, property and tenancy, liability and company law.

Learn more about GMW lawyers on their website: www.gmw.nl/en

2018 Zomervakantie – days 6 to 12 Lake Garda Dutch camping

We left the Austrian Alps in the morning on day 6 of our Zomervakantie and headed for Italy.  Around 11am, we arrived at Camping Lido, situated on Lake Garda, Italy.  My husband had booked a “camping”, which is a very popular type of holiday for Dutchies.  What I didn’t realise, and was actually quite shocked by, was the number of Dutch people we would be surrounded with. Playing Dutch music and eating Dutch food. Not that I have anything against the Dutch.  It’s not what I expected though in Italy.

The first thing I noticed when we arrived was the heat.  As soon as we stepped out of the air-conditioned car, it was hot and humid.  We knew it would be hot at that time of year, but this was actually quite hard to take, even as a Queenslander!  The next, was the noise.  It was a crowded campsite, with music absolutely blaring from the pool.  I soon learned that this would become the “new normal” for the week, with both the heat and noise being at very high levels from about 10am-11pm every. single. day.

Though I have been inducted into the Dutch holiday village type holiday by my husband in the past, where until now, we’d booked a cabin or cottage, this was my first time in a “rent-a-tent”.  In peak season, cabins in Italy were just beyond our budget and I thought I could cope ok with camping.  I was wrong.

I’m writing this blog post some time afterwards, where I’ve had time to think it though and process it all.  Let’s just say it’s my first and last time spending a week at a “Dutch camping”.  After absolutely hating it, I’ve had to completely reassess my own expectations of a holiday.  I THOUGHT I didn’t mind camping, that I was quite a social person and didn’t mind a bit of noise.  However after even just the first night at this campsite, I was looking at flights out of there.  I stayed though, and learned more about myself and the Dutch camping experience.

I’ve since had many conversations with “both sides of the Dutch camping scale” – and possibly will receive more comments on this post too.  For the camping fans, they seem to love the “gezelligheid” and say it’s great for the kids.  Here’s my take on those two.

Camping and Gezelligheid

I truly did my best to see this side as well, and yes, it was nice to meet a few other people and there is a level of “camaraderie” when camping.  However, my experience was that many of the people staying there had limited consideration for other campers.  I know some was beyond their control – screaming babies and very, very loud snorers are unavoidable I guess.  The chain smoking, barking dogs, late night talking and loud Dutch music was something perhaps more controllable.  That was another of my main issues.  Why drive 12 hours to Italy, to then consciously surround yourself with all things Dutch?  Tents were REALLY close together and my husband admitted that after a lifetime of camping since he was a kid, this campsite was one of the noisiest he’d stayed at.  Moving to a “quieter” spot was not an option, it was fully booked and we were restricted to the “area” we prepaid.  Different areas of the campsite are owned/run by different – mostly Dutch – companies.  Like I said, I thought I was social but I’ve come to realise that I really, really need a good night’s sleep and some time on my own each day to be able to be that.  Beyond the other campers, the fact the campsite themselves charge a small fortune to “sleep” there (130 euros a night for a rent a tent in peak season), but then blast booming music every night until 11pm ruined the week for me.  I’m all for gezelligheid but I also really value at least bit of my own space and air and a decent sleep each day.  After a week’s camping there, going back to my own bedroom was just bliss.

Kids and Camping

In terms of the kids (aged 9 & 11) – yes, they had fun.  It was great to see them running off to the pool with their cousins as we met my husband’s sister and her family there.  I still struggle sometimes with the degree of freedom that is generally given to Dutch kids but as I hate swimming and the pool, I wasn’t going to spend the day hanging out there watching them.  This worry did add to my stress, but there were at least lifeguards on duty and the girls quickly made friends. And, can you believe, we ran into old classmates of both girls – from the Netherlands, staying in the same campground in Italy!  My concern for the kids though is that is was just constant, constant, constant activity and noise.  Between the pool, slippery slides and the “animatie” (kids shows) and other music/shows through until 11pm every night, they rarely got any kind of down time.  Yes, they had fun.  However I think kids need to learn how to unwind and relax a little on holidays too.  They did enjoy the day trips and took some books to read, but in terms of the “kids love camping” argument, I think kids can have fun in plenty of other ways too.

Looking for the positive

So what did I enjoy?  Honestly, not a lot.  Particularly when I ended up getting sick.  Not having your own toilet nearby is an inconvenience when camping, but when you’re not well, it’s hell.  I also struggle to understand why we left a perfectly good house at home, with all the conveniences, to pay for a very very hot tent, amidst constant noise.  I found I came back more stressed than relaxed.

We enjoyed a BBQ by our tent one evening which was nice, but I didn’t like having to carry all our greasy dishes so far elsewhere to wash.  Our daughter shattered a glass over her hand doing so, but luckily wasn’t hurt badly.  The camp shop had a few tasty Italian foods, but alongside a large selection of Dutch food!  I did have fun at the local Italian supermarket, and discovered the delicious Limoncello.  It certainly crossed my mind that getting and remaining drunk may help me cope with a week camping, but unfortunately alcohol can tend to make me feel quite sick and in this case, even more miserable.

One night, when I was too hot and stressed to sleep (and couldn’t block out the snoring in a neighbouring tent), I found a wonderfully quiet spot to look at the moon and stars at 2am by myself.  I realised that being out in nature is one of the best parts of camping, but that this kind of campsite did that a complete disservice.

My effort of learning some Italian to speak while in Italy was a bit wasted, I only spoke to a few Italians on the entire holiday.  I did meet a lovely Irish family – “I found someone who is speaking English!”  my husband declared to me and despite the fact we both spoke the same native language (amongst a sea of Dutch campers), they were lovely people too.  A music quiz by the pool on the last evening with them was fun.

I read several novels cover-to-cover, something which I rarely find time for but not an activity I would particularly miss if I didn’t do. So many people seem to relax by reading novels, and maybe I’m reading the wrong books but I always end up feeling a bit like I wasted my time. Our tent had very little shade so it was too hot to relax and enjoy reading a book for most of the day anyway.  I tried the swimming pool but have never really been a pool person, certainly not in that level of chaos and noise.  Not long after I was at the pool one day, one swimmer was sadly airlifted to hospital after hitting his head on the side.  I feel sorry for whoever it was but am glad it wasn’t my children.

Wifi was available but too slow to be any use.  I didn’t miss it particularly, though it may have been handy to be able to access my meditation podcasts!

The location on the lake was lovely, though it was hard to find a place which wasn’t saturated with noise or smoke to enjoy it.  I sat at the end of the pier for a while one day until I was joined by a group of bomb-diving Dutch teenagers, complete with their floating speaker blasting Dutch music!  I didn’t at all begrudge them having fun, and did consider jumping in with them but imagine they would have thought I was a bit weird.  I did experience some amazing sunsets by the lake though despite all the noise, and really wish some of the other people around me had stopped to take it in as well.

Staying where we did was handy in terms of location to take day trips to places such as Verona and Simione, both beautiful spots.  We also had fun at a Medieval dinner.  I’ll write seperate blog posts about these.

My favourite evening was heading out for a tasty Italian dinner at a local restaurant with my sister in law and her family, after which all the kids stripped to their underwear and dived into the lake!  They didn’t want to walk all the way back to the tent to get their swimmers, and these are the kind of great memories that good holidays are made of.  Right afterwards, we were hit with a huge storm.  I have to admit I was kind of hoping the campground would be flooded or tents blown away!  It did at least cool things down a little, and was one of the nicest nights in our tent as the heavy rain drowned out much of the noise.


By the last day, I actually had to laugh when I woke up with a spider centimetres from my face in the tent!  Somehow my foggy morning brain knew I wasn’t in Australia and it wasn’t likely to be a dangerous one…and at least it wasn’t a snake.

Overall, I did my best to stay positive and allow my husband and kids to have a great time, but I can now say from very much first hand experience that it’s not my kind of holiday.  Before I left, I read a great blog post:

Holiday tips for highly sensitive people

I tried to put some of these practical tips into practice, but as you’ve read above, the environment didn’t really support that.  We did forfeit our last night and head home a day earlier at least!

The day we returned home, I saw the devastating news that an Italian bridge collapsed, killing around 43 people.  We didn’t drive in this area, but it reminded me to put things in perspective.  Yes, I had a tough week, where I got minimal sleep and was not the best version of myself at all.  However we all returned home safely.

On the other end of the spectrum, alongside the Dutch camping fans, I’ve had many friends and colleagues tell me later “Oh I’d NEVER do that!”.  I think as my husband was raised doing these kind of holidays, he has fond childhood memories he’s trying to recreate for our children and I appreciate that.  However I’ve certainly come to better make the most of the simple pleasures at home.

My husband and I actually met on a camping trip on Fraser Island.  I had fun on that trip, and remember sitting outside on my own at night under a stunning, starry sky.  Even with the danger of dingos stealing your food, potential for snakes and spiders to infiltrate your tent, having to dig a hole as a toilet, and being with backpackers who weren’t exactly quiet, being out in a beautiful beach location overnight spoke to my soul.  One of my favourite holidays ever was a weekend camping trip to Belgium many years ago.  We went with friends whose good company kept me calmer, and I again had quiet time to think under starry skies.  I’d definitely try camping again, but only for a night or two, and as a trade off to enjoy being out overnight in an amazing natural – preferably quiet – location, under the stars.

Are you a (Dutch) camper?


2018 Zomervakantie – day 5 Reuttener Seilbahnen

We had a relaxed morning at the lodge and then walked for a short distance to the Reuttener Seilbahnen.

Our accommodation gave us a 50% discount card for the return journey making it around 30 euros for a family.

What a delight at the top to hear the cowbells as we stepped out of the cablecar! Then to discover a fabulous obstacle/experience course for families – they encouraged you to take your shoes off (which we didn’t) and walk over different surfaces such as sand, grass, gravel, water and dirt. It really was a picturesque scene to be high in the mountains, watching families just enjoy walking together.

There was a choice of three restaurants/cafes near the peak, we walked downhill a little and chose one that ended up being very family friendly….neat kids “alpine lounges”, a trampoline and a few animals including bunnies and shetland ponies. We shared a tasty apple strudel and had some “worst” (sausages) for lunch. The garnish came as a surprise, I thought it was grated cheese and put around a large spoonful in my mouth – but it was a kind of spicy cabbage I think!

I’m really glad we talked the girls into walking down the mountain instead of the cablecar. It took us around an hour and a half, and was quite challenging on my hips and knees, but was a really lovely experience. Not only was it a gorgeous sunny day, with lots of wildflowers in the fields, you get a real sense of satisfaction looking back on a huge mountain and realising you walked the whole way down!

Afterwards, we were quite tired, so took an afternoon nap. Around 3.30pm we decided to go back for a swim in the lake, at the request of our youngest. On the way there, we saw a lot of cars parked alongside the river leading to the lake, and people all along the banks so we decided to join them instead. We talked to a local lady who said so many people were out this afternoon not only as it was weekend, but it was the warmest the river water had been since around 2003 (at about 22 degrees). It sure felt colder to me and I didn’t swim, but Bas and the girls actually swam across the river, which was a decent distance but with a very mild current. Again, we were surrounded by majestic mountains and the water was glorious shades of blue and green.

Back to the lodge for dinner – leftover pizza from last night! We were joking that it was crazy to be eating pizza in Austria when we were headed to Italy tomorrow…..

Now, we’re all writing our journal entries, me as this blog post, the girls in their diaries. The lights are twinkling on the nearby mountain tops, illuminating the local castle ruins. We didn’t make it to those but perhaps next time.

More information:

2018 Zomervakantie day 4 – Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles

Almost 15 years ago, my husband proposed to me on a walking path overlooking Neuschwanstein Castle. Today, we took our children there! We didn’t quite make the exact spot – the girls were hot and tired, and it was very crowded with a queue to get over the bridge to walk further up the mountain. However we had a very special day visiting both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles.

Both are VERY popular, and being here at the height of the tourist season meant that we hit the crowds as soon as we parked. However it’s all well organised, and my husband was smart to prebook our castle tour tickets online. We still needed to actually pick up the tickets but that queue was much shorter. In fact they warn that tours often book out so if you do plan on seeing these castles, book ahead and plan plenty of time.

We had a 10.55am tour for Hohenschwangau first, and had to pick up the tickets by 9.55am at the latest in the ticket office in the small town. This went quickly so we then spent some time hanging out at the lake.

You can take a horse and carriage ride up to both castles which did look fun, but because of queues, cost and concern for the horses working in the hot sun all day, we decided to walk. To Hohenschwangau, it took us around 20 minutes, it’s quite steep but manageable. This is the “yellow” castle and is where King Ludwig lived as a child. The tour takes around a half hour and is offered in different languages – our English guide was friendly and explained things well, he’s probably done this hundreds and hundreds of times! The facts and dates are all a bit much to absorb, but as you can only visit the castles on a tour, it’s necessary to follow along – in this castle there are around 25 per group.

Next we walked up a steeper slope to Neuschwanstein, stopping for an ice cream along the way, so it took us over half an hour. It was also one of the hottest days of the year, hitting 31 degrees.

The girls enjoyed seeing the castles but were understandably quite hot and tired, and weren’t very enthusiastic when Bas wanted to walk further to the spot overlooking the castle where we were engaged back on 24 August 2003. We headed in that direction though and he surprised me with a lovely necklace and earrings.

We discovered what I think was a mountain biking path back down to the village, and this was lovely and quiet compared to the masses of tourists on the main pathway. It’s a beautiful forrest that surrounds the castles, and there are many walking paths through this national forrest. We noticed that one of the lakes had dried up significantly but the trees were still lush and green.

Though Bas had hoped for a boat trip on the lake like we did 15 years ago, we were all too tired and headed back to our lodge for a rest. We stopped at a supermarket on the way to get some dinner and then “chilled” as the girls call it. I sat on the balcony for some time in the evening and watched satellites cross the sky, some lighting across the horizon behind the mountains, and even saw one blazing shooting star.

2018 Zomervakantie day 3 – Lichtenstein castle and the Austrian Alps

We left our apartment this morning and before heading for Austria, went to check out another nearby castle, Schloss Lichtenstein. I had actually never heard of it, but it’s lovely! In fact people may confuse it for the more famous Neuschwanstein, which we are visiting tomorrow. Arriving quite early, we bought a ticket just for the grounds. Looking back, if I ever return, I’d like to see inside this castle as well.

This was a designated travel day though, so we pile back into the car to head for Austria! We laughed at some of the place names along the way – my personal favourite was Gogglingen. Again, the girls pleasantly surprised us by being great travellers.

Bas had first done a bakery stop so we had food along the way!

Then, we entered the “Tirol” region in Austria. We noticed they were actually doing border checks in the opposite direction and there were long queues of cars. In our direction, things were clear, and Bas had done some great research to even be able to take a parrallel road to the main highway that was even quicker.

We arrived in the beautiful Austrian Alps accommodation a little early at 1pm – check in wasn’t until 2pm and they were still cleaning.So we drove for around another 20 minutes, passing another castle along the way with a long suspension bridge that I would have liked to try, but no way was one of our children doing that she said!

More amazing research by Bas, we went to a lake he knew was nearby, where the girls had a wonderful time snorkelling for a couple of hours. Bas also swam and I read a book in the shade and just took in this stunningly beautiful location.

Back to check into the lodge, which is very spacious. Popular as a ski lodge in winter, and for hikers in the summer, it’s a charming old-fashioned Alpine apartment at a reasonable price of around 120 euros a night. Look at this amazing view, where I could finish my medieval book, with castles on the mountaintops in the distance!

Bas and I enjoyed a drink on the balcony, I tried some Schnapps tasters but could only handle small sips, even with these tiny bottles – these things are 40% alcohol! We’ve found that our accommodation so far in Germany and Austria has had beer glasses in the cupboard as standard! ;). He tried a local beer, and see below for the amusement of having whole kegs in the supermarket! Isabella has taken a real interest in my DSLR camera and it’s been fun teaching her to use it, she was keen to try it out on the colourful local gardens. A short walk took us to a lovely view over the village where we are staying.

We’re here for 3 nights and it’s a lovely, peaceful place! Some noise from other tourists, but not too bad. Disappointing that the man downstairs seems to chain smoke, which drifts to our balcony, polluting this gorgeous pure mountain air! Apart from that though, this is a wonderful place to stay and looking forward to spending a few days here.

2018 Zomervakantie day 2 – Hohenzollen Castle

After day 1 mostly travelling from Den Haag, we booked two nights in Reutlingen, Germany, so that we had a day to explore.

For breakfast, just a few minutes from our apartment, we discovered bread heaven! I’m not a big bread eater but this stuff is amazing! We tested a few different options, all delicious.

We packed up some for lunch and headed for Hohenzollen Castle, around a 40 minute drive from Reutlingen.

This place is amazing!

We headed back to Reutlingen and my eldest and I went to check out the shops . Don’t you love localization of fashion?

Feeling pretty carb heavy, I made a simple vegetable stir fry for dinner.