The official form of Dutch is known as Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands (ABN), literally general civilized Dutch, or standaardnederlands. The written form of ABN is considered the official spelling of the language. It is monitored by the Taalunie, an organisation backed by the Dutch and Belgian governments. Every 10 years or so there are changes to the official spelling – not always for the better – which means buying new dictionaries and school books. Years ago, if you wanted to advance socially in the Netherlands, you had to speak ABN, but regional accents are now more acceptable.
The ABN Amro banking group was formed as the result of a merger between Algemene Bank Nederland (ABN) and the Amsterdamsche-Rotterdamsche Bank (Amro) in 1991. With operations all over the world, ABN Amro was the subject of a bitter and expensive takeover battle in 2007. Bought by a consortium for €71bn, its empire was then broken up and shared out between the partners. But Fortis, which bought the Dutch units, got into financial trouble during the credit crisis and, together with ABN Amro itself, was nationalised in late 2008.
The Algemeen Burgerlijk Pensioenfonds (Dutch civil service and teachers’ pension fund) was set up in 1922. Today it is one of the biggest pension funds in the world with invested assets of €200bn. The ABP is currently building up pensions for 1.1 million workers, holding pensions for 760,000 people who have left the service and making pay-outs to 670,000 retirees. Based in Heerlen, the ABP has branches in Amsterdam and New York. Hit hard by the credit crisis, the pension fund has frozen pensions and been forced to take steps to bolster its assets.
The name of the Biblical patriarch Abraham, who reached the ripe old age of 175, is applied to men in the Netherlands when they reach the age of 50. Women are known as Sarah who, according to the Bible, lived until she was 127. Turn 50 at work, and you may find the company lift plastered with posters announcing that ‘Fred is Abraham’. Fiftieth birthday celebrations in the Netherlands often include songs pointing out the birthday boy is old, grey and past it.
The Algemene Bond Uitzendondernemingen (Dutch association of temporary employment agencies) was founded in 1961 to improve standards for temp agencies and their workers. With more than 310 members, ABU represents 650,000 temporary employees which is around 65% of the sector. ABU’s website also offers information in English and Polish. A good move considering how popular Polish temps are – and how often they are paid less than the minimum wage. This way they understand their rights.
The Achterhoek (literally, back corner) is the name given to the far eastern part of the province of Gelderland which stretches into Germany. It lies between the IJssel and Oude IJssel rivers and is predominantly rural with lots of farms and forested areas. This makes it a popular place for weekend breaks. The towns of Doesburg and Zutphen are old Hanseatic cities with well-preserved centres. As far as Amsterdammers are concerned, people from the Achterhoek are stereotypical country bumpkins.
The Adviescommissie voor Vreemdelingenzaken (advice committee for foreigner affairs) is an independent committee set up in 2001 to advise the government on immigration issues, particularly immigrants’ legal rights. The committee is currently looking into the implications of people having multiple nationalities by comparing the situation in six different EU countries. Dual nationality is very much frowned upon in official Dutch circles.
ADO (Alles Door Oefening or everything through practice) is the main football club in The Hague. ADO has never matched the successes of the other big city clubs Ajax (Amsterdam) and Feyenoord (Rotterdam) although it did win the national title in 1942 and 1943, as well as the league cup in 1968 and 1975. A year later the club made it through to the quarter finals of the European Cup Winners Cup. In 2008 the club was bailed out of financial difficulties by the local city council and opened its new 15,000-seat stadium.
Aedes is the umbrella organisation of the 500 or so Dutch housing corporations which rent out, maintain and manage 2.4 million homes – over one-third of the country’s housing stock. Housing corporations mostly focus on the rent- controlled sector but are also branching out into more expensive homes. Social housing rents can only rise in line with inflation. Housing corporations have recently been under fire for paying their directors well above recommended levels.
The Algemene Energieraad or energy council (the word ‘general’ is dropped in both the English and Dutch name on its website) is an independent body which advises the government and parliament on energy policy.
The Autoriteit Financiële Markten is the main watchdog for the financial services sector. It covers all financial services (savings, investment, insurance and loans) with ‘the aim of ensuring the efficient operation of the financial markets’. Which makes one wonder what it was doing in the run up to the 2008 credit crisis. The AFM came into being in March 2002, replacing the old securities board STE.
The Algemene Inspectiedienst or general inspection service operates on behalf of the ministry of agriculture, nature management and food quality and is charged with making sure rules are not broken. It has regularly been in the news in recent years due to its involvement in tracing and containing outbreaks of bird flu, BSE and other animal diseases. These have often led to the large-scale slaughter of poultry and livestock.
The Adviesraad Internationale Vraagstukken (advisory council on international affairs) is an independent body which advises the government on foreign policy in relation to human rights, peace and security, development aid and European integration. It was formed in 1998 following the merger of three other government advisory bodies. Each aspect of its work has its own committee. Of course.
The Dutch secret service or Algemene Inlichtingen en Veiligheidsdienst falls under the home affairs ministry. It is charged with ‘identifying threats and risks to national security which are not immediately apparent’. It carries out operations at home and abroad, working together with over 100 different organisations. The AIVD employs 1,100 people, all of whom are sworn to secrecy about their work.
The Algemene Beschouwingen are the general debates that always follow the publication of the budget on the third Tuesday of September (Prinsjesdag). First comes the two-day general political debate during which MPs attempt to score points. Next comes the general financial debate during which the government’s finances are looked at in more detail and the opposition parties come up with all sorts of suggestions for change. Some of these will be adopted in the name of consensus. In the weeks after this there are debates on the budgets for the individual ministries.
In theory this word means ‘not Dutch’, but in practice it means ‘not western’ or ‘not white’. The third generation children of Turkish and Moroccan immigrants are still known as allochtoon despite being born and brought up in Holland. Every official organisation seems to have its own definition of the term. Efforts to stamp out the use of the word, which has derogatory overtones, are always dismissed as being too politically correct.
AMA stands for alleenstaande minderjarige asielzoeker (unaccompanied under-age asylum seeker) and refers to the estimated 15,000 children and young people under the age of 18 who are claiming asylum in the Netherlands. AMAs are usually housed in refugee centres until they are 18. Then official financial support is withdrawn and they are encouraged to go back home. Many AMAs simply disappear from the system. In 2008, a police investigation showed that hundreds of AMAs had been brought to the Netherlands to work as prostitutes.
AMC stands for Academic Medical Centre and not Amsterdam Medical Centre, as everyone thinks. It is one of the largest hospitals in the country, housing the medical faculty of the University of Amsterdam and several other institutes. The AMC has just over 1,000 beds and deals with 60,000 patients a year, plus 350,000 out patients.
Founded in 1961, Amcham – a much needed abbreviation for the American Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands – describes itself as a non-profit, non- governmental, non-political, voluntary organisation of companies and individuals who invest in and trade between the US and the Netherlands. American companies directly employ over 210,000 people in Holland and are the source of almost 5% of gross national product, Amcham says.
News agency Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau was set up by the Dutch newspaper association in December 1934 as a non-profit-making foundation but became a limited company in 2001. By 2007 the papers had sold their shares to private investors. Today ANP employs 250 people, including 160 journalists, and produces news for mobile phones and radio as well as newspapers.
ANW (Algemene nabestaandenwet) is the law covering benefit payments to widows, widowers and orphans. The number of people claiming ANW fell to 118,000 in September 2008, some 8,000 down from a year earlier, according to the national statistics office. Tougher criteria introduced in 1996 for people born after 1950 are the cause of the decline.
The ANWB (Algemene Nederlandsche Wielrijders Bond) began in 1883 as a road safety organisation for cyclists, promoting the use of bicycle bells. It has since grown into a massive motoring organisation with four million members, offering roadside repairs (the yellow vans of the Wegenwacht), travel information and insurance. It now also faces competition from RouteMobiel, a private company offering services similar to those of the ANWB.
Teaching union AOb (Algemene Onderwijsbond) has some 79,000 members at all levels of education, making it the biggest Dutch teaching union.
AOW (Algemene ouderdomswet) is the state old age pension for those over 65 (this may be raised to 67 in the future if the cabinet proposals are accepted). Everyone pays pension premiums. A single person’s pension is equal to 70% of the minimum wage (€686.78 a month in 2009), plus extra money for housing, health insurance, etc. To qualify for the full AOW you must have lived in the Netherlands since the age of 15. For every year you have missed, 2% is cut from your pension.
The Algemene Programma Raad (general programme council) is a legal body set up to advise cable television provider UPC on which programmes to include in its output for the greater Amsterdam area. The 13-member council draws up its plans every year, though all it can actually do is make recommendations. The final decision rests with UPC, making the APR pretty redundant really.
When it was launched in 1999, the APX was called the Amsterdam Power Exchange. The choice of an English name suggests it may already have had cross-border ambitions for its energy trading activities. By 2004 Amsterdam Power Exchange had outgrown its moniker, having taken over and expanded various electricity and gas trading platforms in Britain and Belgium. But it is still known as the APX Group.
Arbo is a contraction of the word arbeidsomstandigheden (working conditions). If you see the prefix arbo on a word, then it has something to do with health and safety at work. For example, the Arbowet is the law on occupational health and safety, and an arbodienst is a company which advises on health and safety issues.
ASML was founded in 1984 as ASM Lithography, a joint venture between Philips and Advanced Semiconductor Materials International (ASMI). ASMI pulled out of the partnership and in 1995 ASML was floated on the stock exchange. It claims to be the world’s leading manufacturer of chip making machinery but has been hit hard by the credit crisis. Based in Veldhoven, it has a global workforce of some 6,500 staff.
Aso is short for asociaal (anti-social) and can be attached to a lot of words to give them a whole new meaning. Thus an asobak (anti-social car) is the term used for a sport utility vehicle (SUV) which is way too big for narrow Dutch city streets. Asodorp, which translates as ‘village for the anti- social’, is the nickname given to a move by Amsterdam city council to control a group of highly disruptive tenants by housing them in refurbished containers surrounded by a high wall.
ATV stands for arbeidstijdverkorting and literally means a cut in working hours. However, what ATV amounts to in practice is an extra day’s holiday a month. People who are officially employed for a 36 or 38 hour week often actually work 40 hours. They then compensate for the overtime by taking an extra day off, giving them 11 or 12 extra days vacation days a year. Schools are often closed on certain days when teachers collectively take their ATV, much to parents’ irritation. This is the widely used short form of astublieft or ‘please’, not just in text message speak but everywhere – it’s very rare to see the word written out in full. Don’t confuse it with the AUB, or Amsterdams Uitburo, the city’s what’s on and ticket service.
Set up in 1027, the Algemene Vereniging Radio Omroep is the Netherlands’ oldest broadcasting company. Unlike most Dutch public broadcasters, the AVRO is without political or religious affiliations. Its aim is still to ‘stimulate freedom’ by giving the public ‘a broader view’.
The AWBZ (Algemene wet bijzondere ziektekosten) is a collective health insurance policy administered by the government to pay for hard-to-insure treatment and services such as nursing homes and residential care for disabled people. In 2009, the AWBZ had a budget of €22bn and the government decided to restrict spending on extra services – such as help with shopping – to incapacitated people because costs were spiralling out of control.
Alkmaar football club AZ was formed in 1967 when the professional clubs Alkmaar ’54 and FC Zaanstreek merged to create AZ ’67 (the ’67 was dropped in 1986). The club’s heyday was in the late 1970s and early 1980s but it was relegated to the first division in 1988. In 1993, businessman and banker Dirk Scheringa became the club’s chairman and five years later AZ returned to the premier division, taking the title in the 2008/09 season.
This term comes from government efforts to keep a lid on civil service and public sector pay. Since 2005, government departments and organisations have had to list who earns more than the prime minister – the so-called Balkenende standard – named after former prime minister Jan Peter. That standard – around €228,000 including pension payments – is now enshrined in law and work is about to start on reducing the pay packets of high earners, like the central bank chief and head of the the financial services authority AFM.
The bachelor and master degree system, which the Netherlands adopted in 2002, is known in academic circles as the bama. Students can follow a bachelor curriculum at both university and at HBO college, but the master degree is more restricted. Some 20% of the students starting a bachelor course in 2002 completed their degree in three years, around 40% took four years. Dutch students used to be able to spend half of their lives studying for a degree.
Beta might be the second letter of the Greek alphabet, but in the Netherlands it is used to mean science in relation to education. Thus schools and universities talk of beta- onderwijs (science education), beta students and a betafaculteit (science faculty). The arts and humanities are known as alfa subjects. Holland is constantly grappling with a shortage of students wanting to study beta subjects – perhaps they should change the name.
The Betuwelijn is a 160 km freight-only railway line between Rotterdam port and the German border. First mooted in 1994, the railway was given the green light in 1996 and finally became operational in June 2007, after endless delays. The final cost of the project was over €4.6bn. The government expects 150 freight trains a day to use the railway once it really takes off. It hasn’t yet.
The bevolkingsregister (population registry) is where you are required, by law, to register your address. Proof of residency is needed for many official transactions, such as applying for a parking permit. It is also where births, marriages and deaths are recorded. During World War II, the registry files were a rich source of information for the Nazi occupants, especially as they listed everyone’s religion. They still do.
Every year, as May 5 begins, a torch is lit from the everlasting Liberation Flame (bevrijdingsvuur) which burns in front of the Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen where the German occupiers negotiated their surrender at the end of World War II. The torch is carried by a team of runners, cyclists and inline skaters to Liberation Day festivals all over the country. The ceremony began in 1948 and the original flame came from Bayeux in France.
The Wet bevordering integriteitsbeoordelingen door het openbaar bestuur (fortunately shortened to Bibob in most instances), came into force in 2003. It gives local authorities the right to refuse grants, permits or building contracts to organisations or businesses suspected of involvement in crime. It is mostly used to check the integrity of people in the sex industry, such as brothel owners, and in the soft drugs trade. The Bibob bureau has carried out hundreds of integrity checks and, in the majority of cases, concluded that there were criminal links. Amsterdam’s most famous brothel, Yab Yum, was shut down because of the Bibob law.
At least 43 people were killed when an El Al cargo plane ploughed into two blocks of flats in Amsterdam’s south- eastern district of Bijlmermeer on October 4, 1992. The disaster (ramp) is remembered at a special ceremony every year based around ‘the tree that saw everything’ – a tree which survived the huge fire caused by the crash.
Bijstand (welfare) is a social security benefit for people with no income who are not claiming unemployment benefit (WW), incapacity benefit (WAO) or a state pension (AOW). Since 2004, local authorities have been responsible for paying welfare benefits and helping people back to work. In 2009 the basic benefit for a single adult was €615.15 a month plus holiday pay and health and housing subsidies.
The Dutch use of the prefix bio in bio-industrie may make you think of green fields and happy lambs, but in fact it means factory farming. Bio-vlees, on the other hand, is short for biologisch vlees and is organic. Confusing indeed.
The Bureau Krediet Registratie is a central register of people’s debts with information about the credit worthiness of over 10 million people and their 30 million loans. The BKR is based in the central town of Tiel – which is also the centre of the fruit growing industry.
The Dutch foundation for visual arts, design and architecture (BKVB) is the body responsible for giving grants to individual visual artists, designers and architects. Its objective, according to its website, is to nurture excellence in visual arts, design and architecture in the Netherlands. The BKVB also operates a number of artist- in-residence studios and has a small exhibition space for the artists it supports.
BN’er stands for Bekende Nederlander, or famous Dutch person. It is the title given to a host of soap stars, entertainers and other personalities who fill the gossip columns and turn out in droves to film premieres. Top- ranked BN’ers include football wife Estelle Gullit, anti-wrinkle queen Vanessa and tv show host Paul de Leeuw. The quickest way to become a minor BN’er is to date a former soap opera star.
The Bob is the person who sticks to one beer and drives everybody home from wherever they have been partying. It is widely assumed that Bob stands for Bewust Onbeschonken Bestuurder (which literally translates as ‘deliberately not drunk driver’) but it doesn’t. In fact, Bob was simply a name originally used in a Belgian anti drink-driving campaign. Unlike a lot of Dutch road safety efforts, Bob has been a success and the word has entered into everyday use in both the Netherlands and Belgium.
The book ball marks the launch of the Boekenweek, a week- long campaign for Dutch literature. The invitation-only event, first held in 1946, is attended by the publishing elite, plus a sprinkling of starry-eyed first-time authors. Held at the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam, it always gets wide media coverage, presumably because it’s the only way all those would-be-novelist journalists can actually get in.
The boerkini or burqua bikini is the word coined by the Dutch press to describe the all-concealing bathing suit favoured by strictly religious Islamic women. Some swimming pools banned the garment because it could give rise to ‘uneasy feelings’ in other swimmers – but the equal opportunities commission said this was discrimination. After all, most Dutch swimming pools also have special nudist hours.
Bokitoproof was voted best new Dutch word of 2008 in an online poll organised by the Van Dale dictionary. The word is derived from gorilla Bokito who escaped from his Rotterdam zoo enclosure last year to savage a woman. It means ‘resistant to destructive behaviour and vandalism’. Comadrinken – drinking yourself into a stupor – was voted the second most popular new word.
The main part of the Bollenstreek – bulb region – stretches behind the sand dunes west of Leiden to just south of Haarlem and is particularly suitable for growing flowers because of its sandy soil and mild climate. The bulb growing industry has been concentrated here since the 16th century when rich families from Amsterdam and The Hague began to cultivate tulips – with all the madness that entailed. Dutch growers export some four billion bulbs every year.
Bond van Oranjeverenigingen
The Bond van Oranjeverenigingen is the umbrella organisation of the country’s 400 royalist clubs (named after the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange, which is seen as a symbol of Dutch pride). These fervent monarchists busy themselves mainly with organising festivities. They also promote the role of the royal family which they claim is a binding factor in Dutch society and plays a vital role in the country’s parliamentary democracy.
It might sound like a chart-topping band but Bonjo (Belangen Overleg Niet-Justitiegebonden Organisaties) is an independent association representing 70 voluntary organisations that work with and lobby on behalf of (ex) prisoners and their families. Set up in 1984, Bonjo also functions as a link between the justice ministry and these organisations and works to secure subsidies for its members.
Launched on the back of international concerns about deforestation, Boomfeestdag used to be known as ‘plant a tree day’ but the name was changed to ‘tree party day’ in 1980. In March every year some 150,000 children plant around 100,000 trees and bushes to celebrate this day. Since the event began, more than 10 million trees have been planted on Boomfeestdag.
The ubiquitous Bosatlas takes its name from Groningen school teacher Pieter Roelf Bos who produced the first school atlas back in 1877, coinciding with the introduction of geography as a school subject. Still an essential textbook for all pupils, the traditional Bos atlas is now in its 53rd edition. You can also buy ‘my first Bos atlas’, junior editions, world editions, history editions or check it out online.
The Bouwfraude (construction industry fraud) scandal broke in 2001 when Ad Bos, a senior manager with building firm Koop Tjuchem, exposed his company’s system of double book-keeping. The ensuing investigation into corruption and fraud spread to hundreds of companies and a number of government officials. After a long and complicated court case that ended in 2005, building firms agreed to pay total fines of €230m.
Bovag is the sector organisation for the motor trade and also includes petrol stations, garages, car wash operators, driving schools and car rental companies. In total it represents 11,000 companies with a total turnover of €50bn a year and a workforce of over 80,000.
BPM stands for Belasting van personenauto’s en motorrijwielen (motor vehicle tax) and was introduced in 1993. If you buy a car, motorcycle or delivery van in the Netherlands, or officially bring in a vehicle from abroad, you have to pay. The BPM rate on a new car is around 45% of the net list value, netting the treasury over €3bn a year. In 2009, the tax on environmentally-efficient cars was slashed to encourage greener driving.
The BSN or burgerservicenummer (citizen’s service number) is a unique code assigned to all residents in the Netherlands (whether you are Dutch or not) from November 2007. The nine-digit number has replaced the Sofi (sociaal fiscaal) number used on tax forms but it will also cover medical care, education and more or less every other point of contact with the authorities. Whoever said ‘I am not a number’ did not live in the Netherlands.
Value-added tax, or belasting over toegevoegde waarde, was introduced in the Netherlands in January 1969 and has since grown into the most important source of tax revenue for the government. Btw now accounts for over 30% of treasury tax income. The Netherlands has two rates, 6% for culturally-related events, books and sport and 19% for everything else.
Not a left-over from World War II but the nickname given to Amsterdam’s top security court house in Osdorp where high profile cases are heard. It was first used in 1997 during the appeal process of drugs dealer Johan V, alias the Stammerer. The bunker was hit by a mortar bomb at the start of the trial of crime boss Willem Holleeder in April 2007. It has since been renovated and fortified.
Burgernet (citizens’ network) was launched in November 2008 by the home affairs minister as an ‘unique cooperation between citizens, councils and police to improve safety where you live and work’. The idea is to use the eyes and ears of the 16,500 members of the public who have signed up (so far) to track down people wanted by the police. Descriptions of suspects are distributed by phone
Buza is a handy way of shortening the name of the foreign affairs ministry Buitenlandse Zaken. The ministry dates back to 1798 when the first foreign affairs agent was appointed by the government. It now has two ministers – one for foreign affairs and another for development aid – as well as a junior minister who is in charge of European issues. The ministry employs over 2,000 civil servants and has 150 foreign operations outside the Netherlands.
BV stands for Besloten Vennootschap and is the Dutch equivalent of firms that have Ltd after their name in Britain or Inc in the US. It means the enterprise in question is a limited liability company. To set up a BV you need capital of at least €18,000 and a declaration from the justice ministry saying it has no objections, which is why ’empty BVs’ are often in demand. The term ‘BV Nederland’ is often used to describe corporate Holland or Dutch industry, as in ‘BV Nederland welcomes tax cuts’.
Clothing group C&A traces its roots back to 1841 when brothers Clemens and August Brenninkmeijer started trading in linen goods and textiles in the Frisian town of Sneek. They opened their first shop selling ready-to-wear clothes in the town 20 years later, spawning an empire which today operates all over Europe. The Brenninkmeijer family is said to be the richest in the Netherlands.
CAK-BZ is short for Centraal Administratie Kantoor Bijzondere Zorgkosten – central administration office for exceptional healthcare costs. The job of the CAK-BZ is to register and administer patient fees for AWBZ (non-hospital healthcare) services and the financing of AWBZ institutions (nursing and residential homes). It also has a role in administering patient fees for the WMO (home helps). And you get a lot of acronyms for your money as well.
A canon is a listing of (often 50) essential names, events and facts which illustrate how a location, such as a city, has developed. Canons (with the emphasis on the first syllable) are very fashionable at the moment – it seems every town has one – but their contents are always controversial and the subject of much public debate.
CAO stands for collectieve arbeidsovereenkomst (collective labour agreement). CAOs are a fundamental element of Dutch industrial relations and cover pay, working hours, conditions, bonuses, perks, training etc. The agreements are traditionally negotiated in the autumn by unions and employers. In theory at least they are binding to the whole sector. They are particularly disliked by foreign companies who say they are too rigid and make it hard to fire people.
The roots of carnaval stem from the Catholic period preceding Lent, the ‘feast’ before the ‘fast’. The carnival festivities – complete with lavishly decorated floats, oompah-oompah music and LOTS of beer – hit the streets in February. And although traditionally a festivity for the Catholic south, the party is slowly spreading northwards. Think Mardi Gras or Rio – but then without the naked flesh and the sun.
The College bescherming persoonsgegevens (CBP) is Holland’s privacy watchdog, charged with making sure the data protection act is doing its job properly. It also makes recommendations to the government, mediates in disputes and handles complaints. The CBP’s work covers everything involving personal details, from medical and school records to the new public transport payment system and video surveillance cameras. Most Dutch people have few objections to all their personal details being known by those in authority.
The Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen (central driving test organisation) is responsible for the theoretical and practical driving tests for both the ordinary public and professional drivers. The CBR runs around 500,000 tests a year via its 200 centres. You can only learn to drive through an authorised driving school in the Netherlands and the waiting list for a test can run into months.
The Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek compiles official statistics on just about anything you could care to name. Calling itself Statistics Netherlands in English, the organisation is an autonomous government body, supplying information to ministries, businesses and all sorts of national and international groups. If you want to know the national average wage or how many wild rabbits there are in Holland, the CBS has the answer.
The Christen Democratisch Appel (Christian Democratic Appeal) was officially formed in 1980 through the merger of three other ‘confessional’ parties. The CDA (or one of its predecessors) was part of every government between 1918 and 1994. Then, after eight years in opposition, the party bounced back in 2002. The Bible is seen as a source of inspiration rather than a dictate. Politically, the CDA is viewed as middle of the road.
The CGB or Commissie Gelijke Behandeling is an independent commission set up in 1994 to promote and monitor compliance with Dutch equal opportunities legislation. Anyone can take a case to the commission which looks at discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, age, sexual orientation and handicap. Its findings are non-binding but the commission claims the courts back its position in over 70% of cases. Despite the fuss about racial and religious discrimination in the Netherlands, the CGB deals with more complaints about ageism than anything else.
The chipknip is a smart card which can be uploaded with virtual cash via special machines at banks. It is designed to pay for small items and parking meters. The banks, which spent years developing the system, hoped it would lead to a phasing out of cash but the public has been reluctant to embrace it. However, with more and more automatic payment machines accepting cards only, the chipknip is being forced into people’s wallets.
ChristenUnie is the mildest of the three Dutch Christian parties and often described as left-wing. ‘In socio-economic terms we are left of centre but you cannot categorise ChristenUnie in terms of left and right,’ said leader André Rouvoet in a newspaper interview. Biblical principles dictate party policy. The ChristenUnie is opposed to abortion and euthanasia and ties itself into knots over homosexuality, which it prefers to ignore.
The Centrum Informatie en Documentatie Israel is a Dutch initiative set up in 1974 and describes itself as ‘Holland’s prime source of information about Israel and the Jewish people’. CIDI also keeps a number of archives on the European Jewish community and Israel as well as monitoring anti-Semitic attacks in the Netherlands.
The Citotoets, or Eindtoets Basisonderwijs (its official title), is a three-day multiple choice test taken by around 85% of children in their last year at primary school. The result is used to determine which sort of secondary education is suitable for individual children but it is much criticised for being too rigid and based on rote learning. The Cito organisation was founded in 1968 by the government to measure educational achievement. However it was privatised in 1999 – which means a private firm is setting educational standards.
The CNV (Christelijk Nationaal Vakverbond) is Holland’s second biggest trade union federation with 11 member unions under its umbrella representing 340,000 individual workers. It was founded in 1909 when every sort of organisation – from unions to newspapers – had religious or political affiliations.
The Centraal Orgaan opvang Asielzoekers (central agency for the reception of asylum seekers) is responsible for looking after asylum seekers. The COA provides accommodation during the asylum procedure and prepares asylum seekers for either staying in the Netherlands or returning to their country of origin. It manages some 70 refugee centres which are home to some 20,000 men, women and children.
Cobra was Europe’s post World War II avant-garde art movement which takes its name from the initials of its members’ capital cities: Co-penhagen, Br-ussels and A-msterdam. It was founded in 1948 and lasted until 1951. The art is semi-abstract expressionism with brilliant colour, violent brushwork and distorted figures. Dutch members of the movement include Karel Appel and Anton Constant.
The COC claims it is the oldest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organisation in the world. The name does not come from anything sexual, but from Cultuur en Ontspannings-Centrum, or ‘centre for culture and leisure’, the pseudonym the organisation initially adopted after its foundation in 1946. The organisation is now a widely respected political lobbying and educational institution.
The Code Tabaksblat is the corporate governance code of conduct for listed companies and takes its name from former Unilever chairman Morris Tabaksblat who chaired the committee which produced it. The code, published at the end of 2003, is based on the comply-or-explain principle. All firms are required to include a section on corporate governance in their annual reports. Issues such as executive pay and golden handshakes are still hot topics.
Not to be confused with a cafe or a Starbucks-style coffee bar, a coffee-shop Dutch style is a place where small quantities (up to five grammes) of cannabis can be bought. It might also sell coffee, but not alcohol. The Netherlands has some 700 coffee shops, located in 100 local authority areas. To qualify for a licence, coffee shops must not be close to schools, owners must pass integrity checks and those under 18 must be kept out. Fat chance.
The combination chicken or combikip was mooted as a possible solution to the killing of millions of day-old chicks – a necessary evil because of the Netherlands’ highly intensive poultry industry. The chicks are killed because they are male – which means they cannot produce eggs and are also not the right breed to be eaten. MPs have called on farm ministry experts to look into the possibility of developing a breed of chicken where the female is a good egg layer and the male produces a lot of meat. A very pragmatic Dutch solution.
Comité 4 en 5 mei
The 4 and 5 May committee’s main function is to organise and raise awareness of the commemorations which take place on these two days. On May 4 (Remembrance Day) the dead of World War II and all subsequent military conflicts are remembered. On May 5 (Liberation Day) the liberation of the Netherlands by Allied troops is celebrated. The committee also carries out surveys into public attitudes to these events and related themes, such as freedom.
The very first Corus chess tournament took place in 1938 and was known at the time as Hoogovens chess because that was the name of the steel group back then. The event, started by a group of steel workers, went international in 1946 and by the 1960s was considered by some to be the best chess tournament in the world. The competition, which takes place in January, is now held in the tiny seaside resort of Wijk aan Zee, just north of the steelworks and attracts hundreds of participants. There are competitions for amateurs as well as professionals. Previous winners include chess legends such as Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short.
The COT institute for security and crisis management provides support to the public and private sectors on security matters and crisis situations. It also carries out related research. For instance, for Microsoft, it looked at the shortcomings in information sharing which can influence crisis management. It also offers advice and training and ‘assists organisations to prepare for the unthinkable’.
Government think-tank Centraal Planbureau calls itself the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis in English, which sounds much less Soviet. The CPB is an independent research institute which draws up analyses of economic policy for the government and NGOs and publishes economic forecasts. The organisation was launched in 1945. Its first director was Jan Tinbergen who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 1969.
The Stichting Collectieve Propaganda van het Nederlandse Boek (literally the foundation for the collective propaganda of the Dutch book) is the rather dictatorial sounding name of the lobby group representing publishers, book-sellers and libraries. It dates back to 1930 when the first Day of the Book was held. The annual Book Week has been held since 1932 – part of the CPNB’s efforts to boost reading and book buying.
The College voor Zorgverzekeringen (health care insurance board) is an independent mediator between the government on one hand and health insurers, care-providers and citizens on the other. Its main tasks are to advise on funding and budgets, provide guidelines for new and existing legislation, and monitor government plans. It also recommends what should be covered by insurance policies. While health insurance in the Netherlands is administered by the private sector, the government decides what it should cover. Not exactly free market.
The Centrum voor Werk en Inkomen (centre for work and income) is the rather grand name given to job centres. If your boss wants to fire you, he must go to the CWI to apply for permission. If you end up unemployed, this is where you will go to sort out your social security benefits and look for a new job. The CWI also operates training schemes to help you get back into work. While everyone still talks about the CWI, its official name is now the much more user-friendly UVW WERKbedrijf.
The political party Democraten 66 was formed in 1966 with the aim of reforming the Dutch democratic system. Describing itself as a progressive, social liberal party, D66’s political fortunes have had their ups and downs. In the 2006 general election it almost disappeared from parliament and won just three seats. But new leader Alexander Pechtold has since revitalised the party’s fortunes, winning plaudits for his opposition to the rhetoric of anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders.
DAF might be one of the biggest producers of trucks in the world and wholly owned by the US corporation PACCAR, but its heritage is firmly rooted in Eindhoven which is still the company’s HQ. This is where the brothers Hub and Wim van Doorne started a small engineering firm and blacksmith’s workshop in 1928. In 1932 the firm decided to focus on making trailers and the name DAF was born (Van Doorne’s Aanhangwagenfabriek or van Doorne’s trailer factory). The first truck was made in 1949 along with a new name – DAF (Van Doorne’s Automobiel Fabriek).
Damrak is the somewhat tacky street full of cheap hotels and souvenir shops which runs from Amsterdam’s central station to Dam square. But the word is also used as a synonym for the city’s stock exchange as in ‘the mood was sombre on the Damrak today’. The stock exchange is actually located on the adjoining Beursplein (bourse square).
The DBC (Diagnose Behandel Combinatie) is an extremely complicated system used to calculate healthcare costs. Each potential step in a course of treatment (there are over 30,000) has been given an average price. The aim is to make it easier to compare hospital charges. In practice, doctors say they spend too much time filling in forms, insurers say there is too much fraud and patients are too often paying for treatment they have not had.
De Wallen is one of the names given to the red light district in Amsterdam’s city centre. The name comes from the area’s location in the oldest part of the city, in the narrow alleys between the old town walls or burgwallen. The position of the wall can be traced along the neighbourhood’s canals such as the Oudezijds Achterburgwal. The red light district has existed in this location since the 14th century. In 2008 the city council began efforts to take the area up-market to attract a better class of tourists.
The Deltaplan is the name given to the massive complex of dams, storm barriers and sluices built in the south of the country after the 1953 flood in which nearly 2,000 people died. Today the term is used by officials to describe any major effort to combat a potential disaster. So, the Deltaplan Inburgering aims to increase the integration of foreigners and the Deltaplan Gezinsvoogdij is to boost child protection.
DGA is short for directeur-grootaandeelhouder (director/ major shareholder) – a term applied to a company director who also owns shares in the firm. To qualify for tax advantages, a DGA must own at least 5% of the shares. If a DGA controls at least half of the shares, and cannot therefore be sacked, he or she is also exempt from social security payments.
DigiD stands for digital identity, an official log-in code which gives you access to all sorts of online government services. The code acts as a sort of digital signature on transactions which involve either money or confidential documents. For example, people who do their tax returns by internet need a DigiD to prove they are who they claim to be.
DNB is the widely-used abbreviation for De Nederlandsche Bank (Dutch central bank) which was founded in 1814. The bank is a public limited company run by a president and up to five executives, all of whom are crown appointees. The bank’s main role is to ensure the financial stability of the country. It also acts as a watchdog over financial institutions and advises the government on financial policy. The DNB has come in for a lot of flack recently from people who say it failed to do its job properly in the run-up to the 2008 economic crisis.
Dodenherdenking (remembering the dead) takes place every year on May 4, the eve of the anniversary of the signing of the German surrender in Wageningen on May 5 (Liberation Day) which marked the end of World War II. Those who died in all subsequent wars are honoured in memorial services and wreath-laying ceremonies across the Netherlands. The events culminate in a two-minute silence in the evening.
Dotteren is the wonderfully straightforward Dutch word for ‘percutaneous coronary intervention or angioplasty’ – the process of restoring blood flow through the heart by using a stent or inflatable balloon to widen the arteries. The word comes from Charles T. Dotter, the American doctor who is credited with inventing the first ever stent (which was implanted in a dog) in 1969. Perhaps the rest of us could take the word over, and honour the inventor.
Drie Dwaze Dagen
Drie Dwaze Dagen (three mad days) is the catchphrase used since 1984 by the Bijenkorf department store for its three- day sale. The chain takes on 2,000 temporary staff to help its 4,000 regular staff cope with the demand from around 1.5 million shoppers. Some 1,600 different items are picked out for stunt prices during the event.
DSB Bank stands for Dirk Scheringa Beheer Bank after its founder and owner Dirk Scheringa, a former policeman who set up his first (tax consultancy) firm in 1975. DSB grew rapidly by focussing on consumer credit and has in the past been under fire for dubious sales techniques. But by 2008 it had built up a 17% market share. The bank’s logo features an ice-skater, reflecting Scheringa’s other passion – he has twice completed the famous Elfstedentocht skating race.
De Wereld Draait Door (the world goes on turning) is not a weekday soap but a tv chat show which picked up television’s most prestigious award, the Gouden Televizierring, in 2008. Some 45% of the public vote went to DWDD which is broadcast daily on Nederland 3. Its presenter Matthijs van Nieuwkerk is regarded as a bit of a sex symbol
E-Quality is yet another government research bureau. As the somewhat silly name implies, this one aims to provide information and advice for government ministries and social organisations on emancipation, the family and diversity.
The senate (or upper chamber of parliament) has 75 members who are elected by the members of the provincial governments. The senate’s main duties are legislative but it also plays a role in scrutinising the actions of the government. Formally it can only accept or reject legislation, but the debates held in the Eerste Kamer are considered to be important because they contribute to the interpretation of law. Senators do occasionally reject legislation, which wins them big newspaper headlines.
EHBO is the short form of Eerste Hulp bij Ongelukken or first aid. First aid boxes are known as EHBO boxes and people in fluorescent jackets with the letters EHBO on the back are there to help with cuts, bruises and other injuries at all big events. Fortunately, the red cross on a white background is a universal symbol for the EHBO brigade.
Not to be confused with its more famous European counterpart (European Investment Bank), the Dutch EIB stands for Economisch Instituut voor de Bouwnijverheid or economic institute for the construction industry. Set up in 1956, it carries out research into the housing market and government regulations and all sorts of other issues of interest to the construction sector.
The eigenwoningforfait is an extra tax on home owners and is based on the property’s official local authority valuation (WOZ). In 2009, home-owners paid 0.8% of the WOZ value of their homes in extra tax – up to a maximum of €9,150. The tax was introduced years ago as an income equaliser because home owners were considered to be better off than tenants who pay rent. The actual effect of the eigenwoningforfait is to all but wipe out any benefits from the Netherlands’ very generous mortgage tax relief system.
EIM Business & Policy Research, to give it its full title in English, is an independent research group which has been around for 75 years and produces a lot of reports for government bodies. It does not say what the initials stand for but it should obviously not be confused with the EIB, which writes reports for the construction sector.
The Elfstedentocht (11 city tour) is a gruelling 200 kilometre ice skating race around the 11 cities of Friesland and attracts 15,000 amateur skaters as well as pros. But the last time the race took place was in 1997. Every year, if it freezes for more than a few days, speculation begins about the chances of the great event taking place. Non-skaters can follow the route by car, bike, on foot or on horseback.
The government wants all of us to have our own EPD (elektronisch patiëntendossier) or digital medical record. The idea is that by keeping files online, doctors, specialists and pharmacists will be able to access them easily and so reduce medical mistakes. That is the theory at least. But there are big doubts about privacy and people can opt out of the system. By early 2009, some 300,000 people had refused to give permission for their records to be put into the system – including most doctors, which must mean something.
The European Space Agency draws up and implements Europe’s space programme and related technology. Its HQ is in Paris but its main operational centre is in Noordwijk where it has a large complex including a golf course and swimming pool as well as state-of-the art technology labs. ESA is the biggest foreign employer in the Netherlands with a workforce of over 1,900 people.
A familiedrama is not a tv saga revolving around a particular family but a convenient term used by Dutch newspapers to describe a domestic tragedy, usually involving a parent killing his or her children and possibly partner and then committing suicide. The Netherlands has been stung by a number of family murders over the past couple of years and the press has been criticised for devoting too much coverage to such tragedies.
The often-derided Febo snack bar chain takes its name from the location of the first outlet, opened on the Ferdinand Bolstraat in Amsterdam in 1941. Founder Johan de Borst, who trained as a baker, died in May 2008 at the age of 88. Febo is a coin-operated snack bar – you drop a coin into a slot which allows you to open the door to the deep-fried food of your choice. Delicious.
The FIOD-ECD (Fiscale Inlichtingen en Opsporingsdienst- Economische Controledienst) is the finance ministry’s special investigations unit. As well as dealing with tax fraud, the agency investigates bankruptcy, fraud and money laundering. And, says its website, it ‘contributes to the fight against organised crime and terrorism by mapping out money flows of criminal and terrorist organisations’, often together with a sister organisation abroad.
Fitna is the Arabic word chosen by anti-Islam campaigner and MP Geert Wilders as the title for his much publicised 17-minute video compilation. The ‘film’ aims to show how the Koran incites violence and terrorism. Arabic scholars say there is no direct translation of the word Fitna. Among their suggestions: creation of disorder and mischief, oppression, sedition, rebellion, confusion, test or trial [of faith]. Fitna was released in April 2008 but failed to generate much in the way of international protest.
The Nederlandse Financieringsmaatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden (Dutch finance company for developing countries) is a bank which supports the private sector in developing countries and emerging markets. The FMO gives loans for what are considered high-risk projects and has investments in some 40 countries totalling €4.2bn. The Dutch state owns 51% of the FMO while the Dutch banks have a 42% stake. The rest is in the hands of the business community, unions and private investors. The FMO booked net profit of €48m in 2008.
The Federatie Nederlandse Vakbewegingen is the Netherlands’ biggest trade union federation with 16 affiliated unions representing 1.2 million members. It was formed in 1982 when two other federations (the Catholic workers union NKV and the NVV) decided to merge. The biggest individual unions within the federation are the Abvakabo (which represents the public sector) and Bondgenoten (general workers). Strikes are rare in the Netherlands and FNV boss Agnes Jongerius is considered one of the most powerful women in the country.
As soon as two or three political parties have decided they can form a government following an election and have drawn up a coalition agreement, it is the job of the formateur to put together a cabinet. This is the last stage of the coalition formation process. The formateur approaches potential ministers, allocates responsibilities and keeps the monarch, currently Queen Beatrix, informed of progress. The formateur usually goes on to become prime minister.
Funshoppen is the self-made Dutch word for ‘recreational shopping’ or retail therapy which, according to the national statistics office, is an increasingly popular pastime. Some 20% of women’s leisure days and 10% of men’s days out are spent trailing round the shops for enjoyment.
Gasbaten, or gas windfalls, are a source of extra income for the treasury and come from the sale of natural gas from Dutch reserves. Because gas prices are related to oil prices, the government benefits when oil prices are high. Income generated by exploiting the gas reserves is always earmarked for spending on infrastructure.
The Gemeentelijke Basisadministratie Persoonsgegevens is the body which registers and manages the personal details of the Dutch population. By law everyone has to provide their details – name, date of birth, nationality – to the GBA. MGBA refers to a new programme to modernise the way GBA information is managed – that is, to make it easier for others to find out all about you.
Gedogen, which roughly translated means ‘turning a blind eye’, is the classic Dutch way of dealing with controversial subjects or minor infringements of the law. So, for example, the police turn a blind eye to small amounts of cannabis or a firm may be allowed to break environmental laws because it is expedient to do so. Some people argue it is impossible to explain this concept to anyone who is not Dutch.
GeenStijl – or ‘no style’ – is a weblog with big ambitions. It was set up in 2003 and was taken over by the Telegraaf group in 2008. Populist, unashamedly right-wing and politically incorrect, the site is dominated by wet t-shirt- loving lads with pseudonyms such as Pritt Stift and Erectus Enormus. In 2009 it collected enough public support to launch its own television station.
Gehaktdag or mince day is the name given in political circles to the third Wednesday in May when ministers present their departments ‘ annual reports, summing up their successes and failures. The somewhat strange label comes from the idea that if ministers have not done well, the opposition and the press will make mincemeat of them. Ministers always complain that the day, formally known as verantwoordingsdag (responsibility day) is not taken seriously.
The task of the Gezondheidsraad (healthcare council) is to advise MPs on public health issues, usually at the request of the minister. But it can also draw up unsolicited reports to alert the government to specific issues which it considers of national importance. The council has three main areas of expertise: healthcare; health and nutrition; and health and the environment. It was set up in 1902 because the nation’s health was considered too important to be left to local authorities.
The Netherlands has 33 GGDs, or regional health authorities, which oversee services run by local councils such as vaccination programmes and baby clinics. So what does GGD stand for? According to the GGD website, sometimes it stands for Gemeentelijke Gezondheidsdienst (council health service). But in some places the first G stands for Gewestelijke (regional) or Gemeenschappelijke (community). And in Utrecht they use the name GG&GD, in which the third G stands for Geneeskundige (medical).
Gipsvluchten (which literally translates as plaster flights) are flights that bring injured skiers back from their winter sport holidays. Every year over a thousand skiers are brought back from holiday on around 150 special flights. The first plane- load of passengers with limbs enshrouded in plaster casts usually touches down in the Netherlands a couple of days after the ski season opens.
The Gouden Griffel (golden slate pencil) is one of Holland’s top youth literature awards and gives the prize-winner €5,000. The name comes from the phrase ‘tien met een griffel’ (10 out of 10 and a slate pencil) which harks back to the early days of education when children who did particularly well at school were given a new pencil as a reward. While slate pencils are quaintly old-fashioned, it’s unlikely that ‘Golden Laptop’ would catch on.
The Gouden Kalf (Golden Calf) is Holland’s top film award. The winners are announced at the closing gala of the Netherlands Film Festival. The name is attributed by some to film-maker Wim Verstappen.’You have bears in Berlin, lions in Venice and squirrels God knows where. So what is more logical than a calf in Utrecht?’ he is quoted as saying. The award, a 33cm bronze statue of a calf, was designed by the Utrecht artist Theo Mackaay.
The Groene Hart (green heart) is the rural region hemmed in by Utrecht, Amsterdam, Leiden and Rotterdam. It contains some of the oldest villages in the Netherlands, with a landscape made up of old farms, willow-bordered ditches and early polders (areas of reclaimed land). Numerous infrastructure projects, such as the high-speed train link to Brussels, have been delayed because of their impact on this sensitive region.
GroenLinks (Green Left party), which has been led by Femke Halsema since 2003, was officially formed in 1990 out of a grouping of four small, left-wing and green parties – the CPN, EVP, PPR and the PSP. GroenLinks won eight seats in the 2006 general election. The party’s core ideals revolve around environmental sustainability and social justice. Elizabeth Taylor look-alike Femke Halsema is a tough debater and has been described by more right-wing parties as ‘a true liberal’.
The Groot Dictee der Nederlandse Taal (great Dutch language dictation test) is always broadcast live on television from the senate (upper house of parliament) where 30 celebrities from politics, sport and entertainment plus 30 ordinary folk (winners of a competition in the Volkskrant and the Flemish newspaper the Standaard) battle it out. Is it pannekoek or pannenkoek? Much to the horror of the Dutch, the Belgians very often win.
A growshop sells everything you need to create your own indoor marijuana plantation – from innocent-looking lamps and fertilisers to seeds and automatic watering systems. Holland has over 300 growshops and research shows that over 80% of their owners have connections to the (criminal) industrial marijuana production circuit. Police are now calling for the introduction of growshop licences and have been clamping down on their operations.
Goede Tijden Slechte Tijden (good times, bad times), known as GTST, is the Netherlands’ longest running soap opera. For years, some two million people tuned in to each episode but this figure has halved in recent years. GTST, a breeding ground for Dutch celebrities, was first seen on Dutch tv in October 1990.
Before you can play golf on any course in the Netherlands, you need to pass your GVB or Golf Vaardigheids Bewijs (golf proficiency certificate). The exam is made up of written questions about golf etiquette and the rules of the game plus a four-hole practical test. A weekend course under professional supervision costs upwards of €250. GVB also stands for Gemeentelijk Vervoersbedrijf or municipal transport firm.
Hangjongeren (youths who hang around) is a handy Dutch word to describe groups of teenagers who loiter on street corners and in shopping centres, often getting up to no good. In fact the word has now become synonymous with juvenile delinquency. The Netherlands has also had several incidents of nuisance caused by hangouderen – pensioners who hang around in shopping centres without buying anything and making annoying remarks to passers-by.
The Historische Automobiel Vereniging (historic automobile association) was set up in 1964 and is a club for owners of cars and motorbikes older than 30 years. The club’s 1,100 members spend their time lovingly restoring their vintage vehicles and meeting up for chats over a cup of coffee (koffieklets seems to be a popular pastime) and touring the countryside in all their glory.
Havo (hoger algemeen voortgezet onderwijs) literally means ‘higher general continued education’. It takes five years to get a havo diploma which prepares school leavers to go on to an HBO college rather than a university. Around 30% of school pupils are in a havo stream at secondary school. After three years of havo education, pupils specialise in science or the humanities.
It is hardly surprising that the alarmingly named Nederlandsche Vereeniging voor Handel en Industrie op het gebied van Scheeps- bouw en Watersport (Dutch association for trade and industry for shipbuilding and water sport), is known by everyone as Hiswa. The organisation was founded by a group of boat builders and dealers in 1932 with the main aim of organising exhibitions to stimulate shipbuilding and water sports. There is still an indoor show every March at the Amsterdam RAI exhibition centre and an outdoor version in September. Meanwhile, the tax office has recently started asking the owners of fancy boats how they managed to pay for them…
The Hofstadgroep is the Dutch secret service nickname given to a loose collection of Muslim extremists, nine of whom were convicted of terrorist offences in March 2006 and sentenced to between one and 15 years in jail. The group is said to include Mohammed Bouyeri, who murdered film-maker Theo van Gogh, and Samir Azzouz who was finally convicted of plotting terrorist attacks in 2007 after twice being acquitted.
The Hoge Raad (supreme or high court) dates back to 1831 and is the body that examines whether lower courts have observed proper application of the law in reaching a decision. At this stage, the facts of the case are no longer subject to discussion. Rulings are made by three or five high court judges and are based on confidential discussions. The high court’s most important role is to establish jurisprudence in the areas of criminal, civil and tax law.
There are two types of degree courses in the Netherlands: the academic-based courses offered by universities and the more vocationally-based courses (HBO or hoger beroepsonderwijs) offered by Hogescholen (colleges and academies). The HBO council prefers the term ‘university of applied science’ to describe hogescholen, while the Dutch international education organisation Nuffic calls them ‘universities of professional education’.
The Hoi Institute for Media Auditing, to give it its formal English name, keeps a close eye on developments in the newspaper and magazine sector and publishes quarterly circulation figures. Some 90% of Dutch newspapers are sold by subscription rather than in kiosks or by newsagents.
Hollandse Nieuwe is the name given to young herring caught between mid-May and the end of June which have a body fat percentage of at least 16%. The fish are gutted and salted but the pancreas containing an enzyme which helps the fish to ripen is left in place. New herring are also known as maatjes, said to be a corruption of maagden (virgin) because their sex organs are not yet developed. The start of the new herring season is always a major media circus.
Willem Holleeder (born in 1958) is considered one of the Netherlands’ biggest crime bosses. Nicknamed The Nose, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 1984 for his role in the kidnapping of beer magnate Freddie Heineken. After his release in 1992, Holleeder became a central figure in the Dutch underworld. Found guilty on several counts of blackmail in 2007, he is also suspected of ordering several underworld killings.
Horeca is an extremely handy Dutch word for describing the hotel, restaurant and café trade (ho-re-ca) – broader in context than ‘catering industry’ and much more punchy. The horeca sector has its own massive trade fair, Horecava, in which the ‘va’ stands for vak (profession). The word horeca is already used in Portugal and Lebanon and is gaining acceptance elsewhere, as a quick Google search will show.
The formal agreement to build the HSL, or high-speed railway link from Amsterdam to Paris, was reached in 1989. Twenty years later, the Dutch section is more or less complete – at a cost of over €7bn. After years of procrastinating, commercial transport using the HSL track was set to start in September 2009. Of the 125km from Amsterdam to the Belgian border, only 85kms can take trains travelling faster than 160kph.
Unlike its English counterpart, a Dutch huilbaby or cry baby is not someone who makes a huge fuss about not very much, but a baby who cries a lot. According to Dutch child- rearing experts, to be classed as a huilbaby, a child has to cry for three hours a day, three days a week for three weeks in a row. According to the press, one in 10 Dutch babies is a huilbaby.
Liberal VVD party leader Mark Rutte came up with this term during the parliamentary debate on the 2008 budget. A HWN’er or hardwerkende Nederlander (hard-working Dutch person) is someone who gets up at 7am, works all day, gets stuck in traffic on his or her way home and arrives just in time to put the kids to bed. Suddenly, all the parties embraced the term to describe the ‘victims’ of the government’s spending plans.
The Informatie Beheer Groep (information management group) is the body currently charged with administering student loans and grants and organising national school exams and integration tests. The IBG is set to disappear in 2010 when it will be swallowed up into the Centrale Financiën Instelling (CFI or Central Finance Agency) to create a single, ‘more targeted’ body with greater ministerial control. For graduates, a letter from the IBG means it is time to start paying back that student loan.
The Instituut Collectie Nederland is the organisation responsible for managing the state’s art collection which consists of over 100,000 items. Much of the artwork comes from legacies but the collection also includes pieces recovered from the Nazis and art created under artist subsidy schemes. The ICN’s main tasks include advising on the preservation and management of collections, carrying out research and training restorers. The ICN is part of the culture and education ministry.
This is the difficult-to-spell payment method developed by various Dutch banks to make online payments via your own bank (ABN AMRO, Fortis, ING, Rabobank and SNS). It is, says the iDEAL website, a ‘fast, reliable and efficient’ way to buy all sorts of products and services on the internet. Pity that no-one has come up with a way to avoid us clicking through endless pages to get to the book, CD or flight we want only to be told there is a system error and would we please go back and start again.
Best known of the Dutch restaurant guides, Iens.nl began in 1999 with 60 tasters. Now some tens of thousands of people submit their views and opinions and these are compiled into website reviews and put into the database which covers 17,000 restaurants. Online users can key in up to 50 different requirements when looking for a place to eat, from Braille menus to accessibility by boat.
If someone is ijsvrij – literally ice free – it does not mean they have been defrosted, but that they have been given an extra day’s holiday to enjoy some skating. Traditionally school children and workers would be given a day off if the roads were too dangerous because of snow and ice or it was too cold to work. But since the end of the last century, some companies have been giving staff time off for skating as a gesture of generosity.
Inburgeren is the process of integrating into Dutch society. Most people from outside the European Union now have to pass an inburgering exam and a language test to get a residence permit. The aim is to make sure immigrants understand Holland’s customs and culture as well as the language. This may be why the official information film for new immigrants includes topless women and men kissing. The immigration service website www.inburgering.net gives enormous amounts of information as to how to go about becoming integrated – all of which is in Dutch.
The Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst (immigration and naturalisation service) is responsible for the implementation of Dutch immigration policy. This means that the IND assesses all applications by foreign nationals who wish to stay in the Netherlands or become nationals. A complicated and difficult job – and one which is very politically sensitive. Often under fire for red tape, the IND has made great strides in making its website user-friendly.
The informateur is a senior statesman who looks into possible government coalitions in the days after a general election. The informateur is appointed by the monarch (Queen Beatrix) who makes her choice after consulting a wide range of advisors. The informateur holds talks with party leaders to sound them out on potential partnerships and, once a likely coalition has been identified, reports back to the monarch.
Financial services group ING or Internationale Nederlanden Group was formed in 1991 with the merger of Nationale Nederlanden and NMB Postbank. But the company – which today describes itself as ‘a multinational with Dutch roots’ can actually trace its origins back to 1743. ING has a global workforce of over 120,000 and some 85 million customers worldwide. Nevertheless, the company has not been immune to the credit crisis and saw its €9bn profit in 2007 become a €729m loss in 2008.
ipv and ivm
These letters stand for in plaats van (instead of) and in verband met (in connection to) and are used in letters and business communications.
Jan Modaal is the average Dutchman beloved by statisticians and politicians. His wife does not work and his children are aged six and 11 – a family set-up which dates back to the 1970s. Mr Average had an annual income of around €36,000 in 2009, taking home around €2,500 a month. Ministers use him to illustrate the effect of economic policies, but critics say he is an unrealistic picture of today’s households.
Joep Bertrams is one of the Netherlands’ most talented political cartoonists whose sharp, witty – and sometimes cryptic – drawings are regularly to be seen in the Het Parool newspaper and on the current affairs tv show Nova. He has won numerous awards and his work has been published on the hallowed pages of the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Newsweek and La Monde. Betrams is also responsible for the drawing on the cover of this book for which the authors are eternally grateful.
The Jongeren Organisatie Vrijheid en Democratie (youth organisation for freedom and democracy) was founded in 1949 and has been the official youth wing of the right-wing free market Liberal party (VVD) since 2000. Among former members of the JOVD who have gone on to bigger things are VVD stalwarts Ed Nijpels, whose claim to fame include stints as parliamentary party leader, environment minister and mayor of Breda, and former defence minister Frank de Grave. And perhaps the greatest of them all, the indefatigable former deputy prime minister Hans Wiegel who after 20 years away from national politics remains immensely popular with (potential) VVD voters.
The parliamentary chairman or chairwoman (there have been two women) has the unenviable job of keeping the other 149 MPs in order during parliamentary business, making sure they moderate their language and don’t make over-long speeches. The biggest perk of the job is that you are one of the queen’s three advisers.
The kantonrechter is a judge who deals with civil law cases involving up to €5,000 – such as rent arrears – as well as employment issues. He or she sits alone and also deals with minor criminal offences such as public drunkenness and speeding. These judges hear cases in one of the country’s 19 district courts.
Founded in 1927 as the testing centre for the Dutch electricity industry, KEMA is now a commercial enterprise. Its core business is still the testing and certification of electrical goods but it also provides independent applied research and consultancy services through an international network of agencies.
Kennismigrant (knowledge migrant) is the term applied to a specific category of highly-skilled immigrants. The scheme was introduced in 2004 to allow highly-qualified non- European nationals easier entry to the Netherlands to work. By May 2009, some 13,000 people had arrived in the country via the scheme.
Kennisnet (knowledge network) is the public support organisation for IT in education. It represents the interests of the education sector, offers help in the choice of IT products and services and provides educational products and services for keeping learning up-to-date. That is the theory anyway.
One of the joys of being employed by a Dutch company is the annual kerstpakket (Christmas box) distributed to staff in the days before the Christmas festivities. Around 4.7 million people get one every year, most of them worth just under €35. Above that amount and the gift is subject to tax. Kerstpakketten are notorious for their tins of chicken ragout. Themes, such as tea-tasting, are on the increase.
The Kijkwijzer (viewing indicator) is a set of minimum age limits for viewing films, tv shows and playing computer games. The limits are described as ‘guidelines’ but cinemas can face prosecution for not adhering to the rules. The Kijkwijzer currently has four age categories: suitable for all ages; suitable for those over six; suitable for those over 12; and suitable for those over 16. A new category (minimum age nine) is expected to be added shortly. The censorship system also uses pictograms to warn viewers that a film contains certain types of content, such as sex, violence and coarse language. The Kijkwijzer claims that 90% of parents heed its recommendations.
The Kinderboekenweek (children’s book week) is a much loved annual tradition that has retained its popularity despite dire warnings that kids aren’t interested in reading any more. And with a history of over 50 years, it’s survived a trend or two. The event, held in October every year, kicks off with the children’s ball where the prize for the best Dutch children’s book is awarded.
Kinderpostzegels (literally child stamps) date back to 1924 when the Dutch government decided to issue special stamps with a surcharge which would be used to help disadvantaged children. A charity was set up to allocate the funds. Today 250,000 children sell the stamps door-to-door every autumn when a new series of stamps is issued. Half of the proceeds go to children in need in the Netherlands, the rest to foreign projects.
The letters KK in housing adverts stand for kosten koper. This means that all the costs involved in buying a house such as the cost of transferring ownership in the land registry, of drawing up the contract by a notary and the 6% property transfer tax, are to be paid by the buyer. This adds around 10% to the price of a house. Quite a hefty amount but fortunately some of this is tax-deductible.
The Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij voor Nederland en de Koloniën or KLM was founded in 1919 and made its inaugural flight in 1920 to London. It now owns stakes in a number of airlines including Transavia and Martinair. The Dutch flagship carrier was taken over by Air France in 2004, with little political fuss. The KLM group as a whole has a fleet of over 140 aircraft but has been hard hit by the recession and has cut thousands of jobs.
The Korps Landelijke Politiediensten is the Dutch national police force which focuses on countrywide issues such as organised crime, terrorism and protecting the royal family and diplomatic service. It also carries out more mundane national duties such as traffic control and railway policing. As well as the KLPD, the Netherlands has 25 regional police forces which tackle local crime.
The Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (KNAW) calls itself the Royal Dutch Society of Arts and Sciences in English. The organisation, which aims to ‘promote the quality of scientific and scholarly work’ can trace its roots back to 1808 and is located in a splendid 17th century mansion in Amsterdam known as the Trippenhuis.
The Koninklijk Nederlandse Hockey Bond (Dutch hockey association) was founded in 1898. Located near Utrecht, the association is active in both field and indoor hockey. The KNHB represents 310 clubs and has a total membership of around 185,000, making it one of the largest sports associations in the Netherlands. The Dutch national teams are among the best in the world.
The Koninklijke Nederlandsche Maatschappij tot bevordering der Geneeskunst is fortunately always referred to as the KNMG and is the umbrella organisation of Dutch doctors. The KNMG draws up and controls quality standards within the profession and provides doctors with information on legal, ethical and medical matters.
The Koninklijk Nederlands Meteorologisch Instituut (royal Dutch meteorological institute) was set up in 1854. The organisation provides weather forecasts and warnings. It also operates an expertise centre for research into weather, climate and seismology. Based in De Bilt, the KNMI has a workforce of 500. It also has several commercial rivals, which it kindly links to on its website.
The Koninklijke Nederlandse Redding Maatschappij (royal Dutch rescue society) was founded in 1824. The lifeboat service is still run by volunteers – almost 1,000 of them. The organisation is fiercely independent and entirely funded by donations and bequests.
The Koninklijke Nederlandse Schaats Bond or KNSB is the umbrella organisation for skating associations throughout the Netherlands. It was founded in 1882 and covers all types of skating, from long and short distances and outdoor marathons, to figure skating and dancing on ice. The Netherlands has 24 artificial ice rinks and its speed skaters are among the best in the world.
The Koninklijke Nederlandse Voetbal Bond (Dutch football association) is the official body responsible for all aspects of amateur and professional football in the Netherlands and was set up way back in 1889. Today it has 1.1 million members and employs around 500 people, including referees, trainers and coaches. Together with local clubs, the KNVB organises over 30,000 matches a week. It also has a training academy in Zeist where the association is based.
The Koninklijke Vereniging van Nederlandse Reders (Dutch shipping companies association) has some 315 members, representing 95% of the sector. The number of vessels sailing under the Dutch flag doubled between 1996 and 2003, and has since stabilised at around 750.
Koek en zopie
If there is outdoor skating, there is always koek en zopie – a stall, often set up by people whose homes border the water, selling koek (biscuits) and zopie (something to drink). Today zopie is usually hot chocolate or thick pea soup, but according to the Telegraaf, the word comes from zuipie – tipple – and in the 17th century it meant a generous slug of jenever (Dutch gin).
April 30 is Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) and was the birthday of Queen Beatrix’s mother, Juliana. When Beatrix succeeded her mother in 1980, she decided to keep the celebrations on the same day, which is a public holiday. She also scrapped the formal file-past at Soestdijk palace and introduced ‘meet and greet’ visits instead. Traditionally, citizens do not need a permit to sell goods on the street on Queen’s Day which is why the streets turn into a giant flea market. The traditionally happy popular celebration ended in tragedy in 2009 when seven people were killed when a car mowed into a crowd watching the royal parade in Apeldoorn.
The title koninklijk or royal is awarded to a select group of Dutch companies and institutions which are at least 100 years old and considered to be of national importance. The title is bestowed by the monarch, but a gentle hint to the mayor or queen’s commissioner is enough to start the ball rolling. Around 150 companies in the Netherlands currently hold the title.
Korfbal is a ball game similar to netball in which men and women play alongside each other but separately – a team consists of four men and four women who can only attack or defend against people of the same sex. Korfbal was invented by Dutch schoolteacher Nico Broekhuysen who adapted a game he saw in Sweden in 1902 by replacing the hoop with a basket (korf). It is now played in 50 countries.
KvK stands for Kamer van Koophandel or chamber of commerce, a nationwide organisation with 21 regional offices. The KvK’s main task is to run the official trade register which currently includes some 1.4 million companies, associations and foundations. All companies must be listed. For a fee, interested parties can check the register to find out if the company or organisation they are doing business with is legitimate.
The Landelijk Aktie Komitee Scholieren (LAKS) is an organisation of, for and run by secondary school students. LAKS is best known for its hotline for complaints about exams – it gets around 80,000 a year. Some of these are a little bizarre. For example there was a call from a girl who said the exam supervisor was so handsome he put her off her work. Then there was the Protestant boy who refused to answer a question about homosexuality and two complaints from pupils with such difficult maths questions that their calculators seized up. Yeah right.
A LAW is a Lange Afstand Wandelpad or long-distance footpath which uses red and white horizontal stripes to indicate which way to go. The Netherlands has some 24 LAWs, which have to be over 100km to qualify. The longest (400km) is the Zuiderzeepad which runs from Stavoren in Friesland to Enkhuizen on the IJsselmeer coast.
Leefbaar Rotterdam is a local right-wing populist party which rose to fame with Pim Fortuyn, the maverick politician who was murdered in 2002. Under Fortuyn, Leefbaar Rotterdam became the biggest party on the council, winning 17 seats in 2002. In 2009 it has 14 seats and is the second biggest party in Rotterdam but is not part of the ruling coalition. Initially Leefbaar Rotterdam was against the appointment of Ahmed Aboutaleb, the city’s first mayor from an ethnic minority, but later grudgingly accepted him.
The levensloop (literally ‘course of life’) ruling was set up in 2006 to allow workers to build up tax-free savings directly from their pay cheques to fund time off work – such as a sabbatical or leave to look after ageing parents. The scheme was meant as an alternative for the popular save-as-you- earn spaarloon system. However, only 10% of workers have joined up – and they say the aim is primarily to enable them to retire earlier.
The Libris literature prize, named after the Libris book shop chain, started in 1994 and is awarded every year to a writer of a Dutch language novel. The winner is picked by a jury from a shortlist of six and receives €50,000. The five runners-up get €2,500 each. The Netherlands has dozens of literature prizes but the Libris (modelled on Britain’s famous Booker prize) is considered one of the most prestigious.
Lintjesdag (literally ‘ribbon day’) is the day that thousands of royal honours are dished out to the great and the good. Every year several thousand orange-blue-white ribbons with medals are awarded to individuals who have made a special contribution to society. The Order of the Dutch Lion, which now has three grades, was introduced in 1815. The Order of Oranje-Nassau, with six grades, was introduced in 1892 for foreigners and ‘the lower classes’.
Loesje is a poster artist whose distinctive signature and dry, quirky words of wisdom about current events have appeared on walls and hoardings all over the country for the past 25 years. In fact Loesje is a collective of volunteers and paid employees, with local branches which comment on local issues and own-language operations in Germany, Sweden and Slovenia.
The prefix lok (derived from lokken or to tempt) is one of those prefixes that can be stuck in front of all sorts of words when describing tricks used by the police to lure crooks into committing a crime. For example, a lokauto is a car fitted with a camera, a lokfiets is a bike with a transmitter, lokgraffiti is graffiti used to attract other graffiti artists and a lokhoer is a policewoman pretending to be a street prostitute.
A loverboy is the modern Dutch word for an old-fashioned pimp – a young man who seduces a girl into a relationship with sweet words, lots of attention and expensive gifts. Once she is totally dependent on him, he persuades her to become a prostitute, using violence if necessary. Naturally the girl sees little or none of the money she earns. Stung by criticism that loverboy sounds too nice, some experts are now using the word pooierboy or ‘pimp boy’ instead.
The Land- en Tuinbouw Organisatie Nederland is the Dutch farming sector lobby group, representing some 50,000 farm-related businesses from dairy farmers to market gardeners. The Dutch farming sector is highly intensive. At any one time, the country has over 11 million pigs, 94 million chickens and 800,000 or so veal calves. Vegetables (often grown in greenhouses) and cut flowers and plants dominate the non-livestock side. The LTO says that agriculture accounts for 10% of the Dutch economy, 20% of exports and provides an income for 660,000 people.
Literally ‘luxury absenteeism’, luxeverzuim is the name the papers have coined for taking children out of school outside the official school vacation to take advantage of cheaper flights and holidays. Every year thousands of parents get an official warning for starting their holidays too early and the fines can run into thousands of euros. Truancy inspectors have now taken to hanging around airports at holiday time looking for children they think should be at school.
Mainport is the Dutch word for a transport hub. Both Schiphol airport and Rotterdam port describe themselves as ‘mainports’ in English. Schiphol has air, road and rail connections while Rotterdam has access to road, rail, sea and inland shipping. The word has been adopted and adapted in the Eindhoven region which describes its high- tech and knowledge-based industry as a brainport.
The Koninklijke Marechaussee (military police) is a police organisation but has had the status of an independent military force since 1998. The organisation says it is the country’s visiting card because its employees control passports at Dutch airports and harbours, in international trains and (sometimes) at road borders. Visiting dignitaries are welcomed to the Netherlands by a line-up of military police in ceremonial dress. Along with border security, they are also charged with implementing immigration laws.
The type of education known as middelbaar algemeen voortgezet onderwijs (intermediate secondary education) or mavo for short, should have been incorporated into the new VMBO or trade school system when it was introduced in 1999. However, it appears that there are still 115 mavo schools left in the Netherlands and new ones are now being opened by people who say the VMBO system has created schools which are just too big and unmanageable. It takes four years to complete a mavo curriculum.
MBO or middelbaar beroeps onderwijs (vocational education and training) is the highest level of education reached by around 40% of the working population. At any given time there are over 600,000 students in the MBO sector, 485,000 of them taking part in regular courses and the rest following adult education programmes. The government invests about €2.6bn (12% of the education budget) in MBO schools and colleges. You need an MBO diploma for jobs such as a nursing assistant or hairdresser.
The ME or Mobiele Eenheid is Holland’s elite riot police squad whose members are recognisable by their white helmets, batons and shields. The ME is used to control crowds at football matches, demonstrations and any other events that mayors (who are formally the head of their regional police force) decide need special policing. Should you come across a unit of ME blocking a road the chances are that they are clearing a squatted building.
Medelander (literally co-countryman) is a word invented by the politically correct to describe someone who lives in Holland but whose parents were born abroad – a rather contorted way of avoiding the dreaded allochtoon word. Should not be confused with moe-lander which is someone who is living and working in Holland but comes from either central or eastern Europe (Midden- en Oost-Europa).
Mediwiet is the nickname given to marijuana which is grown for medical purposes by two government registered producers and distributed to patients via pharmacies. Some health insurance companies will pay towards the drug. The production and supply of marijuana for medical and scientific use is registered by the government’s Office of Medicinal Cannabis. There are three varieties available and five grammes costs between €41 and €46. Coffee-shops are said to be cheaper.
On 13 September 1997 Meindert Tjoelker was kicked to death in Leeuwarden by a group of young men whom he had tried to stop from vandalising a bike. The local police chief described Tjoelker, who was about to get married, as a victim of zinloos geweld (senseless violence). The phrase has now become standard to describe pointless acts of violence. The foundation against senseless violence uses a ladybird as its symbol.
The annual Macro Economische Verkenning (MEV) or macro- economic outlook is published by the government’s economic policy advisor CPB on the third Tuesday of September (budget day) every year. It contains all the forecasts which ministers have used to work out their spending plans and calculates what the effect of those policies is likely to be. Most years, at least some of the figures are leaked to the press in advance.
Set up in 1974, the MHP (Middengroepen en Hoger Personeel) is the third biggest trade union federation in the Netherlands and represents 160,000 professional and managerial staff. As such, the white-collar union tends to be less strident in its political stance than the FNV and CNV which are the traditional combatants in the battle between bosses and workers.
Milieudefensie is a national environmental organisation founded in 1971 and which now has 80 local groups. It not only lobbies on behalf of the environment at home but also thinks the Netherlands should take the lead in the global fight against climate change. This, it says, is because the Netherlands is a rich country which lies at or below sea level and so has a lot to lose.
A trade fair for the gold tap brigade featuring the latest in luxury goods, cars, holiday houses – you name it, it’s there. Devised by the magazine publisher Gijrath Media Group, the first fair was held in Amsterdam in 2002. The concept has now expanded to those other bastions of good taste: Shanghai, Kortrijk (Belgium), Cannes and Moscow.
The Militaire Inlichtingen en Veiligheidsdienst (MIVD) is the Dutch military intelligence and security service. It’s a secret service responsible for gathering information on areas where Dutch troops are to be stationed (for example, on peacekeeping missions), investigating problems involving Dutch army officers and counter espionage. The defence ministry is politically responsible for the MIVD.
MKB stands for midden- en kleinbedrijf or small and medium sized businesses (often known as SMEs in English). MKB Nederland is the branch organisation which represents the interests of 186,000 entrepeneurs and negotiates on their behalf with European, national and local governments, trade unions and other organisations. Its headquarters are in Delft but it also has five regional offices and one in Brussels.
The Milieu- en Natuurplanbureau (environmental assessment agency) is a typical quango with an impressive vocabulary. This is needed to explain that it ‘supports national and international policy-makers by analysing the impacts of societal trends and policies on the environment’. And of course the MNP also ‘acts as the interface between science and policy’. So now we know.
The abbreviation mr stands for meester in de rechten or master of law and is the official form of address for anyone, male or female, who has the title. So do not be surprised to see a letter from mr. Nicola Smit or the like. If you are addressing several meesters, the form of address is mrs. Nicola Smit and Jan Groen – which is even more confusing. The Dutch short form of Mrs is Mw.
A machtiging tot voorlopig verblijf is an authorisation for temporary residence in the Netherlands and is the stamp most non-European Union nationals need in their passport to enter the country for longer than three months. An MVV must be applied for in the country of origin. But the stamp only gets you into the country. You then need to apply for a residence permit (verblijfsvergunning) and probably go through an inburgeringscursus (citizenship course) as well.
Breda’s premier division football club NAC was set up in 1912 as a merger between NOAD (translated, the letters stand for ‘Never Give Up Always Keep Going’) and ADVENDO (‘Pleasure Through Enjoyment and Usefulness Through Relaxation’). The resulting name was Noad Advendo Combinatie or NAC. Unless you want to write it all out in full – and then you probably have the world’s longest football club name.
The Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij was set up in 1947 to explore for gas and oil in the Netherlands and the Dutch section of the Continental Shelf. The company, now owned 50/50 by Shell and ExxonMobil, produces 75% of all gas extracted on Dutch territory (50 billion cubic metres in 2008) and around half the oil (430 million cubic metres).
NAP stands for Normaal Amsterdams Peil or the normal water level in Amsterdam, which is slightly lower than sea level. NAP is used as a base to measure how high or low water levels are. So when the river Rhine is high, it is described as a certain number of metres ‘above NAP’. The lowest point in the Netherlands, in Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel, is 6.76 metres below NAP. Scary.
The Dutch society for the preservation of nature (Natuurmonumenten) was founded in 1905 to stop Amsterdam turning the Naardermeer lake into a rubbish dump. The lake, now under threat from road construction, was its first purchase. Today, the organisation has a membership of over 900,000 and manages 95,000 hectares of land spread over 370 reserves. Its aim is to preserve nature, the landscape and related cultural heritage.
The Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC) describes itself as ‘the leading marketing and promotion organisation of the destination Holland’ which ‘manages, develops and exploits the destination brand Holland’. And you thought it was all about museums, holidays and trade fairs. The tourist board has a workforce of 170 plus 15 offices and representatives abroad.
The Nederlands Centrum van Directeuren en Commissarissen (centre for directors and non-executive directors) has some 4,500 members belonging to the country’s biggest firms. Its main objective is ‘to improve professional performance by means of sharing personal experiences in an open and inspiring atmosphere and in providing information’. The organisation also publishes the magazine Management Scope, organises lectures and lobbies parliament.
The office of the Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding (NCTb) or counter-terrorism coordinator was set up by the government in 2004. Its job is to oversee the 20 or so different organisations involved in combating terrorism in Holland, ranging from the secret service to the immigration department. Every so often the NCTb announces what terrorism alert the Netherlands is currently operating under – minimal, limited, substantial or critical. The agency also analyses intelligence and draws up policy.
Nijmegen football club NEC was founded in 1900 and claims to be the first in Holland to be set up by workers. Its name comes from Nijmegen Eendracht Combinatie or Nijmegen united combination. NEC is a premier division stalwart but has never won a major trophy.
The Nationale Hypotheekgarantie or national mortgage guarantee was introduced in 1995 to encourage home ownership and currently covers premises valued up to around €320,000. The guarantee means that if people default on a NHG mortgage, a special home ownership fund (the WEW) will pay off the debt. Almost 50% of homes bought under the guarantee limit are financed by NHG.
The Nationaal Instituut voor Budgetvoorlichting (Nibud) is a non-profit organisation set up during the recession of 1979 to provide consumers with independent advice on managing their household spending. It also compiles statistics about how different social groups spend their money. The annual pocket money review is dreaded by many parents throughout the country.
New Year’s speeches (Nieuwjaarstoespraken) are traditionally used by company bosses, mayors and police chiefs to outline the coming year’s hopes, plans and targets. As such, they form a staple source of news stories in the first few days of the New Year when other news is thin on the ground. However, these speeches rarely contain anything earth- shattering and are rarely front-page news.
The Dutch institute for multi-party democracy was founded in 2000 by seven Dutch political parties to support the development of young democracies. It currently works with 150 parties in 17 countries, helping to develop programmes and work with other interest groups and the media.
The NIOD or Nederlands Instituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie (institute for war documentation) was officially set up a few days after the liberation of the Netherlands in May 1945 although the idea to create a national archive of documents relating to the Nazi occupation of the country was conceived a year earlier. Public appeals were made asking for diaries, correspondence and photos. Anne Frank referred to the call for documentation in her diary entry on 29 March 1944, with a wry comment that her own diary would be in great demand.
The Nederlandse Mededingingsautoriteit (competition authority) says its mission is to ‘make markets work’ and ensure ‘healthy competition’. The organisation, which has a workforce of 400, carries out investigations into cartels and looks at proposed mergers and acquisitions to see what effect they may have on the market. The energy and transport sector watchdogs (DTE and Vervoerkamer) also fall under NMa control.
The Nederlands Olympisch Comité * Nederlandse Sport Federatie was formed in 1993 when the country’s two leading sports bodies merged. The NOC dates back to 1912, the NSF to 1959. More than 90 sport federations, representing 30,000 clubs, are affiliated to the merged body – which could definitely do with a snappier name. Every year it hands out some €37m in grants to sports clubs and organisations. The money is raised through the Lotto lottery.
The Noord-Zuidlijn (north-south line) is the new 9.7 km underground rail link that will provide 200,000 passengers a day with ‘fast, safe and comfortable’ transport from Amsterdam North to the WTC railway station in the south of the city in 15 minutes. The project dates back to 1989 but construction only began in 2003 and has been dogged by financial and technical setbacks including the collapse of a number of homes along the route. By June 2009, the price had been hiked to €3.1bn and the completion date put back to 2017.
The Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (Dutch broadcasting foundation) is the country’s public broadcasting organisation which provides news and sports coverage and is sometimes compared to Britain’s BBC. Unlike the other Dutch public broadcasters, funding and air time for the NOS is not based on its membership (it doesn’t have any). NOS was formed in 1969 and employs 700 journalists. It’s flagship is the evening tv news show at 8pm.
The Vereniging Nederlandse Organisatie Vrijwilligerswerk is the association which represents the 5.6 million people who do volunteer work in the Netherlands. Volunteers are allowed to ‘earn’ €1,500 a year tax-free as expenses.
The first Dutch railway was built in 1839. Today Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch rail) is a 100% state-owned company which operates as a commercial enterprise – in other words it has to give its government shareholders a dividend and is allowed to pay its bosses market rates. But the government keeps a lid on fares. The NS moves one million people around the country every day and is also involved in providing some rail services in Britain. Trains which are up to five minutes late are considered on time.
The Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging (national socialist movement) was founded in 1931 by Anton Mussert and became distinctly anti-Semitic in 1936 under the influence of Meinoud Rost van Tonningen. The party sided with Germany in World War II and at its height, in 1943, had over 100,000 members. The party was outlawed when Germany surrendered in May 1945. Mussert was executed in 1946.
Set up in 1952, Nuffic describes itself as the ‘Netherlands organisation for international cooperation in higher education’ and acts as an intermediary between the higher education sector in the Netherlands and in other countries. The organisation’s motto is ‘linking knowledge worldwide’. ‘What we love about knowledge is that you cannot give it away. You can only share it with others,’ says Nuffic wisely on its website.
The Nederlandse Vereniging van Banken (Dutch banking association) was set up in 1989 to represent the common interests of the country’s banks. It has almost 100 members as virtually all banks operating in the Netherlands, including branches of foreign banks, belong to the NVB. The association has been much more in the public eye since the economic crisis and supports a code of conduct for limiting bonuses for bank bosses.
The Nederlandse Vereniging van Makelaars is the biggest Dutch estate agents association, claiming over 4,000 affiliated brokers. It operates the Funda.nl property search website and provides endless statistics on the state of the property market. Members of the NVM have to have proper qualifications. Every year it throws out members who refused to take compulsory refresher training courses.
The Nederlandse Vereniging van Participatiemaatschappijen (Dutch venture capitalists association) represents some 41 private equity groups. The aim of the association, launched in 1984, is to professionalise the private equity sector and stimulate a positive investment climate. Dutch private equity firms had invested capital of €23.3bn at the end of 2008 spread across 1,300 companies.
The Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld en geluidsdragers, thankfully abbreviated to NVPI, was set up in 1973 to represent recording companies. Since then it has expanded to cover film distributors and entertain- ment software producers. As well as lobbying for a more productive business environment, the NVPI works to protect the commercial interests of its members by taking on pirates.
The Nederlandse Vereniging voor Volkskrediet (NVVK) or association for public credit was set up in 1932 with the aim of counteracting the excessive interest rates charged by loan sharks. Today it acts as an intermediary between private individuals with debts, local authority lenders and private institutions, helping people to get out of debt and manage their money properly.
NXP is a semi-conductor producer which was spun off by electronics giant Philips in 2006. The company had a workforce of 31,000 but recently sacked thousands of employees because of the recession. Philips still holds a 19.9% stake in the firm, which makes chips for a range of electronic devices, including mobile phones, ID systems and cars.
The Nederlandse Zorgautoriteit, launched in October 2006, is the official supervisor of the Dutch health service. Hospitals, doctors, health insurers and long-term care homes all fall under its watchful eye. According to the organisation’s website, the accent is on making sure the consumer – read patient – gets what he or she paid for in terms of price, efficiency and quality.
The Openbaar Ministerie (public prosecution service) decides whether or not a criminal offence should be taken to one of the Netherlands’ 19 district courts. If the case goes ahead, the OM prosecutes. The OM can also reach out-of-court settlements. In addition, it levies fines for all sorts of minor infringements of the law.
The Onderwijsraad (education council) was set up in 1919 and is an independent advisory body which makes recommendations to the government, MPs and local authorities on education policy and legislation. The council has recently recommended more mixed ability schools and tougher exam standards, saying children whose scores in the Dutch, English or maths final school exams are ‘inadequate’ should be considered to have failed.
If you keep seeing groups of young people cycling round in silly outfits and looking only slightly embarrassed in September, don’t worry. What you are witnessing is the process of ontgroening which literally mean ‘de-greening’, a traditional initiation ceremony for new students hoping to get into a particular student society. The ceremonies can get out of hand – alcohol poisoning being one of the most common complaints.
Opta (Onafhankelijke Post en Telecommunicatie Autoriteit) is the government watchdog for the post and telecommunications industry. Established in 1997, it aims to ensure all parties adhere to the law and to promote competition, choice and fair prices. If a telecom provider holds an excessively strong market position, Opta can also take measures to reduce this. And it does.
The Ondernemingsraad (works council) is an elected body of employees which advises and consults management on major corporate decisions. The councils have been a fixture in most Dutch workplaces since being introduced in the 1970s. Companies with at least 50 workers are required by law to have an OR.
Oranje (the colour orange rather than the fruit which is sinasappel in Dutch) is the nickname given to Dutch national sports teams (most commonly football and hockey) thanks to their orange kit and the colour of the hats, banners and scarves of their supporters. The nickname comes from the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange, founded when Willem I inherited the title from the French noble family. The colour has now become a symbol of Dutch pride.
The OV (openbaar vervoer) chip card is replacing the paper strip-card and ticket system on Dutch buses and trams and should be operating nationwide by 2010. The smart card can be loaded with ‘money’ and the cost of each journey will be automatically deducted. Cards can either be personalised or anonymous and pre-paid cards will also be available. That is the theory, at least.
The ov-fiets or public transport cycle is a bike-hire scheme based at bus and railway stations. Sign up to become a member and you can pick up a bike from around 125 locations across the country and return it within 20 hours for less than €3.
Onroerendezaakbelasting (property tax) is levied by local councils on all residential and business premises and is paid by the owners rather than users of a property. The amount is based on the value of the property in line with the wet waardering onroerende zaken (property valuation law) which is known as the ‘WOZ value’. Local councils are free to set the tax rate themselves. The money raised by the OZB accounts for some 8% of local authority spending.
The phrase ‘purple crocodile’ has become a symbol for unnecessary bureaucracy and a ‘more-than-my-job’s-worth’ mentality among officials and has given its name to a variety of initiatives to slash red tape. It comes from a 2005 Ohra insurance advert in which a mother could not reclaim her daughter’s blow-up crocodile from a swimming pool attendant until she had filled in numerous forms.
Pabo stands for pedagogische academie voor het basisonderwijs and is the name given to teacher training colleges specialising in primary education. Students must have at least a havo high school diploma to be admitted and the course takes four years. For the last few years, Pabo students have been under fire for poor standards in maths and the Dutch language and efforts are being made to toughen up the admission process.
Paddo is the street term for hallucinogenic mushrooms – paddestoelen in Dutch. Although dried magic mushrooms have always fallen under the opium laws and are banned as a hard drug, fresh mushroom sales were only banned in 2008, much to the fury of smartshop (see Smartshop) owners. The law was tightened up after a string of mushroom related incidents and at least one death involving a tourist.
December 5, ostensibly the birthday of St Nicholas, or Sinterklaas (Holland’s equivalent to Father Christmas) is the main occasion for giving presents in the Netherlands. Gifts are often wrapped up in extremely elaborate packages (pakjes) known as ‘surprises’ and accompanied by long poems which point out the foibles of the recipient. The origins of Sinterklaas and his helper, known as Zwarte Piet, is always the subject of hotly contested debate. Although not an official holiday, many businesses close early on December 5.
Papadag is the increasingly popular term to describe the day of the week which some fathers take off from work to look after their offspring – often as part of the paternity leave allowance. According to the national statistics office, around 13% of young fathers take advantage of their legal rights to spend one day a week looking after their children. Mothers complain that the washing, ironing and other chores never get done on papadag.
The Pieter Baan Centrum (PBC) is the psychiatric assessment clinic used by the prosecution service. This is the deeply unpopular institute where people suspected of serious crimes are often sent for observation. The clinic, in Utrecht, is an official prison. The centre carries out around 200 psychiatric observations a year. In 2009 it carried out its first posthumous investigation, examining the state of mind of Karst Tates, the man who killed seven people when he drove his car into a crowd of people watching the royal parade on Queen’s Day.
Newspaper publishing group PCM takes its name from the 1994 merger of the Perscombinatie (which publishes the Volkskrant, Trouw and Parool newspapers) and Meulenhoff & Co (book publisher). In 1995, the Nederlandse Dagblad- unie (publisher of the NRC and Algemeen Dagblad newspapers) was also taken over by PCM. In 2005 British venture capital group Apax took over the publisher but pulled out two years later, leaving the company with debts of some €400m. In 2009 a majority stake in PCM was sold to the Belgian publisher Persgroep.
Pepernoten are small round ginger nut biscuits traditionally handed (or thrown) around in the run up to the Sinterklaas celebrations on December 5, usually by St Nicholas’ Zwarte Piet helpers. Some say the biscuits are an ancient fertility symbol, others say they refer to the money that St Nicholas gave to three girls too poor for a dowry. Cinnamon, ginger and cloves are essential ingredients, other recipes also include nutmeg, aniseed and cardamom.
Pepernotengeld (the literal translation is ‘mini ginger nut biscuit money’) is cash that is liberally distributed to different projects (like the biscuits during the Sinterklaas celebrations) but does not really exist. First used by companies involved in the construction sector fraud scandal, pepernotengeld now allows politicians to score by saying they are allocating ‘extra’ money to a particular problem.
The persoonsgebonden budget is an amount of money which people – particularly the elderly and physically-handicapped – can claim from the government to spend on services as they see fit. Think of help with going shopping, for example. But the rules for spending it are so lax that fraud is easy and the government is planning major reforms. In one case which came to light in early 2009, a man continued to claim the budget for his mother even though she had died five years previously.
The Pensioenfonds voor de Gezondheid, Geestelijke en Maatschappelijke belangen or PGGM was founded in 1969 when a number of small health service pension funds merged. With some €90bn under management, PGGM is the country’s second biggest pension fund. It has some 670,000 members and pays pensions to around 240,000 people. The organisation is based in Zeist and has a workforce of around a thousand.
The Personal Internet Page or PIP is the government’s latest attempt to go digital. The idea is for all citizens to have their own government website which they can use to do anything from filling in tax returns to applying for a tree-chopping licence. Sounds great. But experts have pointed out that digital technology is only as good as the humans behind it… as the debacle with 430,000 lost digital tax forms in 2008 shows.
The aim of so-called pluk-ze (pluck from them) legislation is to allow justice ministry officials to seize the ill-gotten gains of convicted criminals and show them that crime does not pay. In 2008 the authorities claimed back €23.4m – just a fraction of the estimated €18.5bn which is money-laundered through the Netherlands a year. The law dates back to 2004 and is now being amended to allow the authorities to keep an eye on the finances of big-time criminals after they have served their sentence. This means crooks will have to prove that, for example, the brand new Ferrari they’re driving around in was earned from an honest day’s work.
The Publieke Omroep or public broadcasting system is funded by the state and advertising. Public broadcasting companies (including AVRO, BNN, EO, KRO, NCRV, TROS, VARA and VPRO) provide programmes for three television and five radio stations as well as digital channels. They have a specific religious, political or social slant and their airtime is allocated according to how many members they have.
The Postbank’s roots date back to 1881 when the government set up the Rijkspostspaarbank to encourage people to save money. Renamed Postgiro, then Postbank, it was privatised in 1986, merged with NMB Bank in 1989 and then became part of ING. In 2009 ING merged the Postbank (7.5 million account holders) into its own banking network. Although everyone still uses the name, Postbank no longer exists officially.
A prachtwijk – literally a ‘splendid’ or ‘jewel’ neighbourhood – is one of the 40 urban renewal areas earmarked for financial help over the next few years. A total €2.5bn will be spend boosting employment, renovations and community involvement in these neighbourhoods which were previously known as ‘problem’ or ‘Vogelaar’ areas (after Ella Vogelaar, the former minister who came up with the idea) but have now been given a positive spin.
Always on the third Tuesday of September, Prinsjesdag is the day on which the government presents its annual budget. The queen plays a prominent role, travelling to parliament in a golden coach, where she delivers a speech outlining the government’s vision for the coming year. Then it is the finance minister’s moment of glory as he explains how he is going to spend tax-payers’ money. Most of the spending plans have actually already been leaked by the press in the weeks before budget day. The occasion is almost as famous for its hats as for its financial implications.
The Provinciale Staten are the governments which manage regional affairs, such as planning and transport, in the 12 Dutch provinces. They are directly elected every four years. The provincial governments are headed by the Commissaris van de Koningin or Queen’s Commissioner, a crown appointee. The 75 members of the senate (upper house of parliament) are chosen by the Provinciale Staten members.
This Dutch counter-culture movement was founded in 1965 by anarchist Rob Stolk, left-wing intellectual Roel van Duijn and anti-smoking activist Robert Jasper Grootveld. The Provos made a name for themselves with so-called Saturday night ‘happenings’ against commercialisation which were staged around the statue ‘t Lieverdje, a gift to the city of Amsterdam from a cigarette manufacturer. The movement enjoyed their moment of world fame when a member threw a smoke bomb during the wedding procession of princess Beatrix and prince Claus in 1966. The Provo movement was disbanded in 1967.
The letters that form the name of Eindhoven football club PSV stand for Philips’ Sport Vereniging (association) – the club was set up in 1913 for workers at the Philips factory. Outsiders first played for the club in 1928. PSV took the first of its many national titles in the following year. The club’s golden era was in the late 1980s when it won the Dutch league title six times between 1986 and 1992.
PTA does not stand for parent teachers association (known as the MR or medezeggenschapsraad in Dutch) but the distinctly unglamorous name given to Amsterdam’s cruise ship terminal – Passenger Terminal Amsterdam. Sandwiched between a concert hall complex and a hotel, the PTA itself is a striking glass building resembling a huge curling wave. The terminal’s quay is 600 metres long.
The Partij van de Arbeid (Labour Party) was formed in 1946 and immediately became a part of the post World War II coalition government. Joop den Uyl and Wim Kok are among its former leaders. The party is now led by ex-Shell executive Wouter Bos and saw its fortunes slump at the 2006 election, losing 10 of its 42 seats. The party has 60,000 members and its symbol is a red rose surrounding a fist.
The Partij voor de Vrijheid (Freedom Party) was formed in 2007 by Geert Wilders, once an MP for the free market Liberals (VVD). Wilders – famed for his odd, peroxide blond hair – has for years been a staunch campaigner against the ‘Islamisation’ of the Netherlands. His party’s website states that the PVV is for ‘better schools, lower taxes and a halt to immigration’. The PVV, which Wilders runs with an iron fist, took nine out of the 150 seats in the lower house of parliament in the 2006 general election and is expected to do much better in 2011.
The Quote 500 is an annual listing of the richest people in the Netherlands and is compiled by business magazine Quote. The list always causes controversy. And there is always a dispute about how much money the Dutch royal family actually has. Some entrants have even gone to court to prevent publication, arguing that inclusion puts them at risk from kidnappers.
Raad van State
The Raad van State (council of state) has two main roles: it advises the Dutch government and parliament on legislation and governance and is also the country’s highest administrative court. It has a workforce of some 600, of whom 300 are lawyers. Every year, the Raad van State produces around 650 advisory opinions on legislation and hears thousands of legal appeals. Queen Beatrix is the council’s president.
The exhibition and convention company RAI started life in 1893 as the RI (Rijwiel-Industrie or ‘bicycle industry’). The ‘A’ for automobile was added in 1900. Today the Amsterdam organisation consists of 11 exhibition halls with a combined area of around 87,000m2, plus 22 conference rooms, seven restaurants and an underground car park for over 3,000 cars. The RAI’s official pay-off line is ‘inspiring people’.
The Randstad is the urban conglomeration which includes the four main Dutch cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) and is the country’s economic motor, where most of the population lives. The urban sprawl is also notorious for its traffic jams and bad air quality. The other Randstad is a leading temp agency.
First mooted in 1988, the RandstadRail light rail system was to be the answer to traffic jams in the Rotterdam, The Hague and Zoetermeer area. Work finally began on the project in 2002 after years of debate over its route and financing. The cost was put at nearly €1bn. In October 2006, it was decided to open just one of the three routes – from Monstersestraat in The Hague to Zoetermeer. The first derailment took place five days later.
The Regeerakkoord (coalition agreement) is the deal worked out between the political parties that are forming a new government. The document smoothes over differences in party standpoints on controversial issues and outlines their common strategy and main policies for the coming four years. The agreements used to be fine-tuned down to the smallest detail but have become less rigid in more recent years.
Reljeugd is the handy Dutch collective noun for young trouble-makers or hooligans. The word features prominently in newspaper headlines these days, often coupled with ‘Moroccan’ as a qualifier, as in ‘MPs fed up with Moroccan reljeugd’. Reljeugd should not be confused with reli-jeugd – or religious youngsters – who are often orthodox Christians.
Rijksbegroting & Miljoenennota
The rijksbegroting (state budget) sets out how much money each ministry has been allocated for the coming calendar year and the government’s spending priorities. A close cousin to the rijksbegroting is the miljoenennota which is the background story to the figures and outlines the economic and financial situation in the country. The finance minister formally presents the miljoenennota on the third Tuesday in September but most of it has usually been leaked days or even weeks in advance.
The Rijkswaterstaat (also known as RWS) is the body that carries out the policies of the traffic and water management ministry. Its jobs include protecting the country from flooding (not unimportant in a land where two-thirds of the population live below sea level) which it does by maintaining Holland’s 2,500 kms of dams and dykes. The RWS is also responsible for managing the country’s traffic… as the organisation itself says, Dutch roads are ‘the busiest’ in the world.
The Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM) is the government’s public health and environment institute. It carries out research into public health and health care, the effects of food and drink on health and the environment and how to handle large-scale disasters. The swine flu epidemic has kept it pretty busy in 2009.
The Raad voor Maatschappelijke Ontwikkeling (council for social development) is an independent body that advises the Dutch government on social issues. The council examines and explains the significance of new social developments and makes recommendations. It takes ‘the modern citizen’ as the starting point in its deliberations – whatever that means.
The Raad Nederlandse Detailhandel is the umbrella organisation for the Dutch retail trade and lobbies on economic and social matters at a national and European level. It also represents retailers in talks on pay, social security and pensions.
The Netherlands has 46 ROCs (Regionale Opleidings Centra or regional training centres) which offer a complete range of vocational training for both teenagers and adults. The ROC concept was developed in the 1990s when vocational education was revamped: smaller colleges merged to create much broader institutions. Until then, vocational training had been taught at hundreds of specialised trade schools.
Rover’s official title is Vereniging Reizigers Openbaar Vervoer (public transport passengers’ association). The organisation has a jolly website with all sorts of tips for passengers and sections outlining its stance on all aspects of public transport. Rover was set up as an independent lobby group in 1971 and represents the interests of the three million people who travel by train, bus and metro every day.
A rugzakje (little rucksack) is the term used to describe the lump sum given to children with special needs or learning difficulties to help them attend normal schools. The amount of money the school is given depends on the needs of the child – a deaf child, for example, will get cash to pay for extra classroom help. Ordinary schools are entitled to refuse special needs children.
The Raad voor Cultuur (council for culture) advises the government and parliament about all things cultural, from theatre to art education in schools and libraries. The council was created in 1995 to take over from a range of art and culture related organisations.
RvC also stands for Raad van Commissarissen or supervisory board which operates alongside the management board in the traditional Dutch two-tier corporate structure. The job of the corporate RvC is to monitor the activities of limited companies through a system of checks and balances on management policy. They also appoint and fire the company’s executives. Currently only companies created from mergers with foreign firms have a single board, such as Reed Elsevier, Shell, Unilever and Fortis.
The Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst (state information service) is basically the royal family’s press office. The RVD announces royal news and guards the privacy of the queen and her offspring against the prying eyes of the media. In 2009 the RVD took the US press agency AP to court for breaking the (voluntary) Dutch media code by publishing ‘unofficial’ holiday photos of prince Willem-Alexander and his family. The RVD also runs the royal family’s official website which includes information on finances, biographies and a history of the House of Orange. It is also the official PR organisation for the government. An interesting combination.
The Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau (socio-cultural planning office) might sound like something out of Soviet Russia but is, in fact, the government’s main social policy advisor. The SCP carries out research on behalf of the government and ministries. It officially falls under the education and culture department. The SCP also produces reports on social and cultural trends.
The Stimuleringsregeling duurzame energieproductie is a subsidy introduced in 2008 to encourage power producers to go green. The SDE replaces the MEP green energy subsidy system, which was suddenly axed in 2006 when the government realised it had already swallowed €1.5bn in subsidies over three years.
The Sociaal Economische Raad or SER is one of the government’s most important advisory bodies. The SER is composed of employers, trade unions and lay members and investigates policy ideas for the government. In 2006 it published a paper calling for an increase in the number of people in work from 79% of the working population to 80%. The report took almost one year to draw up.
The Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij is the most orthodox of Holland’s fringe Christian parties and has two seats in the 150-member parliament. The party believes that the country should be governed ‘entirely on the basis of the ordinances of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures’. The SGP does not believe women should play an active role in politics and has lost state funding as a result. It is also against homosexual rights, abortion and euthanasia.
Despite its literal translation (cigar farmer), a sigarenboer has nothing to do with agriculture. The sigarenboer is actually the corner shop which sells newspapers, magazines and tobacco products. The suffix ‘boer’ is often used in Dutch to signify a shop which sells a specific product such as fish (visboer) or vegetables (groenteboer). Probably the best translation is the word ‘monger’ as in fish or ironmonger.
Sint Maarten or Martinus, bishop of the French city of Tours some 1,600 years ago, is remembered every year in the Netherlands with a festival reminiscent of Halloween. Once a Catholic celebration, Saint Maarten has been revived in recent years as part of a concerted effort to bring back Dutch traditions. At dusk on November 11 (the day the Saint officially died), children go from house to house carrying lanterns and singing songs in return for sweets. Every year there are stories in the newspapers about children who have had their sweets stolen from them.
The Sociale Inlichtingen- en Opsporingsdienst (SIOD) was set up in 2002 to give the social affairs ministry its own investigators to focus on social security and work related fraud. The SIOD has its own criminal investigations unit, known as the CIE, and works closely with the tax office, labour inspectorate and the economic affairs ministry investigators known as the FIOD-ECD.
Stichting Ideële Reclame is the foundation for idealistic advertising and was launched in 1967 when the advertising industry was asked to promote the need for a more humane society. Since then the cream of the advertising world has contributed its services to tv, radio and print campaigns focusing attention on a wide range of social issues from loneliness among the elderly to online bullying.
Slachtofferhulp Nederland is an independent victim support service which counsels people involved in accidents and other disasters. Its 300 paid professionals and 1,500 volunteers operate from a network of 75 offices through- out the country. They offer practical, legal and emotional support to victims and their families and to emergency service staff. The organisation is financed by the government.
A smartshop is a shop which sells legal hallucinogens such as cacti and herbs. The shops are said to be smart because these products are supposed to stimulate the mind and improve memory. Many also sell marijuana seeds. Smartshops are largely unregulated but in Amsterdam in particular the authorities have been cracking down after several were found to be selling illegal drugs.
SMS (Short Message Service) is the abbreviation the Dutch use to describe the text messages sent by mobile phones. The maximum size for texts is 140 bytes which is why a whole new SMS language is emerging consisting almost exclusively of abbreviations.
The Sint Nicolaasgenootschap is the organisation responsible for maintaining the illusion of Sinterklaas (the Dutch version of Father Christmas or Santa Claus) – from his ‘arrival’ by boat to the Netherlands in November (shown live on tv) to his ‘return’ to Spain in the first week of December. As well as working with the official Sint (actor Bram van der Vlugt has played the role for over 20 years), the SNG offers courses for hulp (assistant) Sints and Zwarte Pieten, the Sint’s controversial blacked-up assistants.
The term sociale partners is a convenient way of referring to the trade unions and employers organisations when they are involved in dialogue over work-related issues and reforms. The term is popular in much of Europe. In the Netherlands, the social partners are often consulted by the government through their foundation STAR.
The Socialistische Partij, with its tomato logo, was very much the party of its former leader Jan Marijnissen who was consistently voted the most charismatic Dutch party leader until he resigned in 2008. Marijnissen, a former factory worker and Maoist from Oss, headed the SP since it broke into national politics in 1994. At the 2006 general election, the SP boosted its seats in parliament from nine to 26 but has struggled to maintain its place in the spotlight under new leader Agnes Kant.
The spaarloon is a company-run save-as-you-earn scheme which allows employees to save around €600 a year directly from their salaries and claim back income tax. The money has to stay in the bank for at least four years. The nationals statistics office says two-thirds of the working population has a spaarloon account with total savings of around €2.7bn.
A spookrijder (literally a ‘ghost driver’) is a motorist who drives on the wrong side of the road. This usually happens on motorway slip roads – hence the no-entry boards with the text ga terug (go back). Spookrijders cause some 75 accidents a year in the Netherlands and an average of two fatalities. People convicted of driving in the wrong direction can be fined upwards of €640.
The staatssecretaris is not a secretary of state in the US sense but a junior government minister. Junior ministers are members of the cabinet but not members of the council of ministers. They tend to be from a different party to the minister and usually take responsibility for one particular aspect of their ministry’s work, such as sport or culture within the education, sport and culture ministry.
The Stichting van de Arbeid (STAR or Labour foundation) is made up of 10 representatives from both the employers organisations and trade unions. Founded in 1944, the body is an important consultation forum for labour relations. Every spring and autumn, the STAR meets government officials to discuss plans for the national budget and forthcoming round of pay talks.
The stemwijzer (vote indicator) is an online system to help people decide which party to vote for – a useful invention considering the plethora of political parties in the Nether- lands. For the 2006 election, the stemwijzer listed 30 different questions, including ‘should there be a ban on new mosques?’ and ‘should animal rights be incorporated into the constitution?’. The user ticks the ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ box and at the end, the system processes the data and comes up with the name of the party you should vote for.
Ster is the marketing and sales organisation of the public broadcasters and is responsible for selling advertising space on tv, radio and websites. The letters stand for STichting EtherReclame (foundation for on-air advertising). Ster’s income reached €226m in 2008
A stichting is a foundation or a trust set up to promote either a good cause or a specific objective, such as developing open source IT or protecting sand dunes. Stichtingen are not supposed to make a profit, but some are very rich indeed. These are over 130,000 of these foundations.
It has become normal for any senseless but shocking death to be commemorated by a stille tocht or silent march. Friends, family and others march to the place where the incident took place, usually carrying torches. One of the most controversial was held in 2004 for a bag snatcher who was run over by his victim.
Suikerfeest literally means ‘sugar party’ and is the Dutch name for Eid ul-Fitr, the celebration which marks the end of the 30-day Muslim fasting period of Ramadan. There have been calls for Eid ul-Fitr to be made a public holiday in the Netherlands but this has not gone down well among those who fear the Netherlands is being taken over by Islam.
The Sociale Verzekeringsbank (social insurance bank) dates back to 1901 when it was set up to administer accident insurance. Today it delivers a string of national insurance benefits. These include the state pension scheme set up in 1957 and child benefit which was launched in 1941. The SVB has 4.6 million clients.
Swaffelen – a new word meaning ‘to deliberately tap male genitalia against an object’ – was voted Word of the Year in the 2009 poll held by language lobby group Onze Taal and the publishers of the Van Dale dictionary. Second in the internet poll was wiiën (to play games with a Wii computer) and third was bankendomino (which means a string of bankruptcies among banks).
TBS (terbeschikkingstelling) is the compulsory detention of convicted criminals in special psychiatric hospitals. TBS is initially for two years but may be extended. It is always added on after prison sentences. For example, a parent may be sentenced to three years in prison for murdering a child followed by eight years TBS. Approximately 93% of people in TBS clinics are male and the courts order around 250 TBS sentences per year.
Taxicentrale Amsterdam was formally set up in 1995 to replace two separate associations of taxi drivers, the VVOT and the VZTe, which in turn had replaced four organisations in the 1970s. TCA had a monopoly in the capital until the official taxi licence was abolished in 1998 – a decision which led to the so-called taxi wars and a string of legal problems. TCA now represents 1,900 drivers and is seen as one of the good guys in the ongoing struggle to sort out the mess caused by the liberalisation of the taxi market.
Theo van Gogh
Controversial film-maker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Dutch Islamic extremist in November 2004. His violent death caused shock waves not only in Holland but throughout the world and left the Dutch reputation as a tolerant multicultural society in tatters. The legacy of ‘Van Gogh’ (as people now often refer to the event) has been a further hardening of attitudes against the Netherlands’ Muslim community (5% of the national population according to official 2009 figures). Political commentators like to refer to the period ‘before Van Gogh’ and ‘after Van Gogh’.
Transport en Logistiek Nederland is the lobby group for the Dutch transport sector. It represents 12,000 companies which employ 300,000 people and is considered one of the mainstays of the Dutch economy. And, to emphasise its calls for better roads and fewer traffic jams, TLN is keen to stress that the transport sector pays €5bn in taxes every year.
The TNO is never known by its formal name which is Nederlandse Organisatie voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek (Dutch organisation for applied scientific research). It was set up by a parliamentary act in 1930 and its role is to ‘make innovation possible by translating scientific knowledge into practice’. Although independent, the TNO works closely with the government and is its main scientific research institute. It is based in Delft and employs 5,000 staff.
Dutch postal services are no longer operated by TPG Post but TNT Post. It is the latest name change for one half of the former state-owned Staatsbedrijf der Posterijen Telegrafie en Telefonie (PTT) which became Koninklijke PTT Nederland. KPN bought Australia’s TNT in 1996 and merged it with its postal arm PTT Post. In 1998, KPN split into two: TNT Post Groep became TPG and its telecommunications arm became KPN. And now it’s TNT Post. Confusing.
A Tokkie is the Dutch equivalent of American trailer trash or a British chav – someone who is loud-mouthed, anti-social and badly-dressed. The name comes from a working-class Amsterdam family who hit the headlines in 2003 after being involved in a very public spat with its neighbours. They went on to become television stars and featured in advertising campaigns which traded on their bad name.
Former hard-line integration minister Rita Verdonk set up her new populist political movement Trots op Nederland (proud of the Netherlands) after being booted out of the Liberal party in 2007. TON was officially launched in April 2008. Its logo resembles a football badge to emphasis the ‘passion and pride’ that supporting the national team generates, says Verdonk. The party’s main focus is on preserving the national identity.
The Trimbos Institute is the Dutch national institute of mental health and addiction. An independent foundation, Trimbos is famous for its well-respected research on all sorts of mental health and addiction problems, from dementia in the elderly to the strength of locally-grown cannabis and teenage drinking. Formed in 1996, it is named after psychiatrist Kees Trimbos who pioneered mental health treatment in the Netherlands.
You have to look hard on its website to find out that UWV stands for Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen. The organisation prefers to profile itself as ‘the office for reintegration [into the labour market] and temporary income’. The UWV decides whether you are eligible for unemployment, disability or sickness benefits, makes these payments and keeps an eye on the benefit funds. But to actually make your claim or find a new job, you have to visit a CWI, or centre for work and income.
A wonderful Dutch invention which always surprises newcomers, vakantiegeld (holiday money) is the equivalent to 8% of your annual salary and is paid out at the end of May, just in time for the summer break. Holiday money was enshrined in Dutch law in 1969. People claiming social security benefits also get holiday money because everyone is entitled to a break.
Everyone who works on a freelance basis or is self-employed needs a Verklaring arbeidsrelatie (VAR). To obtain this bit of paper, you must fill in a form from the tax office every year. If your application is successful, the tax office sends you a declaration which you must pass on to your clients so that they have proof that they do not have to pay your taxes and social security premiums.
The Vereniging ter Bescherming van het Ongeboren Kind (association for the protection of the unborn child) was launched in 1971 ‘with the aim of offering women who did not want to be pregnant an alternative to abortion’. The VBOK claims to have 100,000 members and operates nine information centres nationwide. It has a paid workforce of 50 and around 750 volunteers. The organisation says it guided 335 women through unwanted pregnancies in 2006.
V&D stands for Vroom en Dreesmann, one of the largest department store chains in the Netherlands. The empire was created in 1887 when Amsterdam shop owners and brothers-in-law Willem Vroom and Anton Dreesmann joined forces. There are now some 60 shops nationwide employing nearly 12,000 staff. The stores have undergone several revamps in recent years in an effort to shake off their old- fashioned image. V&D is part of the Maxeda retail group.
The Vereniging van Effectenbezitters (shareholders’ association) is an independent organisation representing investors and promoting investment in all forms of stocks, bonds and other securities. The VEB is not afraid to take legal action to defend its members’ interests when it thinks big business is misbehaving. Launched in 1924, the association has over 30,000 members.
The Vereniging Eigen Huis or home-owners association is a vociferous lobby group. Set up in 1974 and with nearly 700,000 members, it claims to be the biggest organisation of its kind in the world. In 1974 the average house in the Netherlands cost just under €40,000 compared with around €280,000 in 2009.
VER stands for Vereniging Exploitanten Relaxbedrijven or the ‘association of relaxation company operators’ which is an interesting euphemism for the organisation representing brothel and sex club owners. The VER was set up in 1991, nine years before brothels were legalised.
The first Vierdaagse, or four-day march, was held in 1909 as a way of keeping the army fit after the introduction of motor vehicles. Now mostly civilians take part, walking 30, 40 or 50 km a day over a period of four days. There are all sorts of variants on the theme, such as the Avondvierdaagse, which involves walking in the evening and is mainly done by primary school children. The biggest march is in Nijmegen and starts on the third Tuesday of July. It attracts some 45,000 walkers.
Drive past a massive new housing estate on the outskirts of a city and the chances are you are passing a Vinexlocatie. The name comes from a 1993 government report entitled Vierde nota ruimtelijke ordening extra (supplement to the fourth white paper on spatial planning) which led to a government agreement to foster the building of 634,800 new homes by 2015. Vinex locations are often criticised for their uniformity and the lack of basic facilities such as shops.
As well as public buildings, many Dutch private homes have their own flagpole and fly the flag on ceremonial days. Strict protocol applies. The rules for public buildings are divided into ‘limited flag days’, such as royal birthdays, and ‘extended flag days’, like Liberation Day (May 5), when all public buildings fly the flag. On royal birthdays the custom is to fly the red, white and blue national flag alongside an orange pennant representing the House of Orange.
The vloekmonitor (swearing monitor) was launched in 2003 by a religious association set up to register the use of bad language on Dutch television. After years of growth, the amount of swearing and insults on tv actually went down in 2008. Comedy Central is the worst offender with an average of 8.6 cases of bad language an hour.
VMBO stands for voorbereidend middelbaar beroeps onderwijs (preparatory mid-level vocational training) and is the type of secondary school 60% of the population attend. Teenagers not considered bright enough to get a degree go to a VMBO school, but the system has been widely criticised for putting such a broad group under one roof. White middle-class parents do all they can to avoid VMBO schools for their kids.
The Vereninging van de Nederlandse Chemische Industrie represents some 600 firms and organisations active in the Dutch chemical sector, of which Shell, DSM and Akzo Nobel are the biggest. With 75,000 workers, the sector generated sales of some €45bn a year (roughly 3% of gross domestic product) and accounts for 20% of Dutch exports. The lobby group plans to double that within the next 10 years.
The Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten (local government association) is a shrinking organisation. At the beginning of 2009, the Netherlands had 441 local authorities, down 17 on 2006 as a result of mergers and new boundaries.
The VNO-NCW is the somewhat clumsily-named federation of Holland’s big businesses, a lobby group representing 115,000 firms and 8,500 individual entrepreneurs. The name comes from the merger of the secular VNO and Christian employers’ organisation NCW in 1996. The VNO-NCW and trade unions are known as the social partners.
The VO-raad (secondary schools council) represents schools when educational policy is being drawn up and lobbies the government. The council has an independent chairman and a nine-member board which aims to reflect all the different types of secondary schools. Current hot topics include teachers’ and head teachers’ pay, the drop-out rate and free text books.
The Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie or VOC (Dutch East India Company) was established in 1602 when it was given a 21-year monopoly to trade with Asia. It went on to trade throughout Asia for two centuries before being dissolved in 1798. The VOC is often described as the world’s first multinational corporation. It was also the first company to issue stocks. These days government ministers like to invoke the VOC spirit to try to spur the Netherlands on to greater things.
The voedselbank (food bank) is a relatively new phenomenon in the Netherlands. It is a place where people on poverty- line incomes (maximum of €200 in disposable cash a month) can pick up groceries donated by local shops. There were 110 food banks in the country at the beginning of 2009. The food bank umbrella group SVN has called for tougher rules on the way food banks are operated following several cases of fraud.
A VOG (Verklaring omtrent het gedrag) is a certificate of good behaviour that is supposed to prove that someone does not have a criminal record which would prevent him or her from doing his/her job. You need a VOG if you are a teacher or a taxi driver and may need one if you work with money or sensitive information. But VOGs are not compulsory for volunteer work with children or for health service workers.
Celebrities such as finance minister Wouter Bos, princess Laurentien and former Dutch footballer Patrick Kluivert are among the great and the good who took part in the 2009 ‘reading aloud days’ (Voorleesdagen). Launched in 2004, this annual event is the brainchild of the foundation which promotes Dutch books (CPNB) and is designed to encourage parents to read to young children.
Vrom is the snappy way insiders refer to the ministerie van Volkshuisvesting, Ruimtelijke Ordening en Milieubeheer (ministry of housing, spatial planning and the environment). The ministry was created in 1982 when environmental affairs were added to the work of the planning and housing departments. Vrom now has some 3,800 civil servants and an annual budget of €4bn.
The current charity fund VSBfonds was created in 1990 when the VSB bank merged with two others to form the financial services giant Fortis. But the fund’s roots actually go way back to 1784 when six socially progressive citizens set up a charitable fund to educate the masses under the slogan ‘knowledge is the way to personal and social development’. By 2007 the VSBfonds was one of the country’s biggest corporate charitable foundations with a budget of €60m, but two years and a credit crisis later its budget has been slashed to just €26m.
The VU or Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam was founded in 1880. At first it was only open to orthodox Protestants – the word vrije (free) refers to freedom from state and church interference. Since the 1960s, the university has been open to everyone but still ‘retains Christian standards’. Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende and finance minister Wouter Bos were both educated at the VU in Amsterdam which has around 19,000 students.
Every year in the run up to the New Year celebrations, the police make dozens of arrests and seize thousands of kilos of illegal fireworks under the vuurwerkwet (fireworks law). This states that fireworks may only be sold to the public from licensed locations during a few days prior to December 31. If you want to buy fireworks at any other time of the year, you need a special licence. Importing them from Belgium, as lots of people do, is illegal.
The Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (people’s party for freedom and democracy) is a tricky party to place outside the Dutch political sphere. Supporters of the free market as far as the economy is concerned, the party is traditionally liberal on social issues. But some party stalwarts are worried about the VVD’s recent shift to the right, including a tough stand on immigration. The party has 21 of the 150 parliamentary seats in the lower house and is headed by Mark Rutte. It is the fourth biggest party in Dutch politics. In the European parliament, the VVD is part of the liberal alliance.
The Dutch road safety lobby group Veilig Verkeer Nederland (VVN) operates at every level of society, from promoting road safety in primary schools to advising the government on new legislation. VVN has a network of 4,500 volunteers and some 70 paid experts nationwide. Among the activities the group organises are the national ‘play on the street’ days to encourage more child-friendly cities and anti drink- driving campaigns.
The first local Dutch tourist office or VVV (vereniging voor vreemdelingenverkeer) was established in the southern town of Valkenburg in 1885. There are now over 100 tourist offices spread all over the country and these are easily identified by their logo – three white Vs on a blue background. The Amsterdam VVV has changed its official name to the English: Amsterdam Tourism and Convention Board (ATCB).
The Voedsel en Waren Autoriteit is the government body responsible for making sure the food we eat is safe and keeps its beady eye on the whole food chain – from raw materials to consumer products. It also makes sure laws on the sale and consumption of alcohol and tobacco are adhered to. Animal welfare and tracing diseases such as bird flu is part of the VWA remit too.
VWO (voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs) is the highest level of Dutch secondary education and is followed by some 15% of all pupils. A VWO education takes six years, with pupils specialising in the arts or sciences after three. There are two streams: atheneum or gymasium. Gymnasium pupils take Latin and Greek in addition to the 14 or so other VWO subjects on the curriculum.
Government ministers, members of parliament and local authority councillors who are out of a job following an election are entitled to generous unemployment benefit packages called wachtgeld (literally ‘waiting money’). For example, MPs are entitled to 80% of their €86,000 plus salary for the first year and 70% for a maximum of six years. They are still entitled to a top-up even if they find a new job which pays less than they earned as MPs. Government ministers, MPs and councillors can claim wachtgeld even if they resigned.
Walvis is not only the Dutch word for whale. It also stands for wet administratieve lastenverlichting en vereenvoudiging in sociale verzekeringswetten. Introduced in 2006, its name reflects the aim of this law: to simplify the bureaucratic hassle and rules connected to social security contributions and make it easier for firms to calculate wages.
This is the law on ‘work and income according to ability’ (wet werk en inkomen naar arbeidsvermogen) and covers people who became unable to work from January 2004. It replaces the old and somewhat notorious invalidity benefit system WAO (see above). Workers fall under the WIA after two years on sick pay. Their income depends on how disabled they are considered to be and how much work they can do.
The Dutch national anthem, the Wilhelmus, is said to be the oldest national anthem in the world. Written from the perspective of William of Orange, it dates from the 16th century but only officially became the Dutch anthem in 1932. The opening stanza appears to refer to William as being of German blood, but this is disputed by some experts. William of Orange also rather strangely sings of his allegiance to the Spanish king.
Set up in 1896, the Tilburg premier league club Willem II is one of the oldest football clubs in the Netherlands. It was originally called Tilburgia but was re-named Willem II some 18 months later after the Dutch king of 1840-49 who was a local hero. The club has won the national title three times (1916, 1952, 1955). In more recent times it enjoyed glory days under trainer Cor Adriaanse at the end of the 1990s. The team’s nickname is tricoloures because of its official red, white and blue striped shirts.
Woekerpolis literally means ‘profiteering policy’ and is the rather telling nickname given by the media to investment- based savings schemes in which between 25% and 86% of the premium is spent on costs (life insurance, commission and other costs) rather than investments. Some 6.5 million of these policies have been sold over the past 15 years. All the big financial services groups offered them and are now busy forking out court-ordered compensation to policy- holders. In 2008, the financial services ombudsman ruled that policyholders faced with costs over 3.5% of their total premium should get compensation.
WON (Wet Onafhankelijk Netbeheer or independent network law) is the legislation forcing energy firms like Nuon, Essent and Eneco to divide themselves into two: a commercial company to produce and sell power and a local government-owned distribution company which owns the grids. The energy firms lost a long battle against the introduction of the WON in 2008.
Every year thousands of home owners submit a formal protest about the official valuation of their property under the Wet Waardering Onroerende Zaken (property valuation law). The WOZ is used to calculate how much local property tax (OZB) has to be paid to local authorities and is based on the highest price someone would be prepared to offer for the property. The new government plans to also use it to calculate how much rent landlords can charge for rental property.
The Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid (scientific council for government policy) was established in 1976 to advise the government on ‘future developments of great public interest’. The WRR takes a scientific approach to issues with a social aspect.
The werktijdverkorting or shorter working hours scheme allows companies which have been hit by a calamity to reduce working hours or lay off staff on full pay for a maximum of 24 weeks. The company pays 70% of the employees’ wages with the difference made up by the state- run unemployment benefit fund. The scheme was originally set up to cover firms hit by fire or natural disasters but in 2008 the definition was widened to include companies affected by the economic crisis.
WW stands for werkloosheidswet or unemployment benefit which was being claimed by around 250,000 people in mid- 2007. To qualify you must have worked for 26 of the last 36 weeks. For two months you get 75% of your last earned salary, thereafter 70% up to a maximum of €185.46 a day (from January 2009). You are entitled to one month’s benefit for every year in work, to a maximum of 38 months. It’s a complicated system but this is hardly surprising as tinkering with the WW is a popular way for governments to cut public spending.
XTC is the Dutch way of spelling the party drug ecstasy. Ecstasy is the only hard drug to have gone up in popularity in the Netherlands over the past 10 years and around 1% of the population now uses it at least once a year. In early 2007, Haarlem police raided what was said to be the biggest ecstasy laboratory ever found in the country, capable of producing a whopping 100,000 pills an hour.
The zalm norm has nothing to do with fish (zalm means salmon in Dutch) but is the strict fiscal policy introduced by former finance minister Gerrit Zalm which is still adhered to by the current government. Its success is in its simplicity – the cabinet allocates a fixed budget to each department. Extra spending is only allowed if the minister can make cuts in his or her own expenditure. And the treasury’s financial windfalls are only allowed to be used to reduce taxes or the national debt.
The ‘sixes culture’ refers to the tendency of Dutch students to put in no more effort than the minimum necessary to score six out of 10 in exams – which is enough to scrape a pass. Efforts are being made to change this, for example by guaranteeing university places to high-scoring students.
On 13 September 1997 Meindert Tjoelker was kicked to death in Leeuwarden by young men whom he had tried to stop vandalising a bike. The local police chief described Tjoelker, who was about to get married, as a victim of zinloos geweld (senseless violence). The phrase is now used to describe all pointless acts of violence. The foundation against senseless violence uses a ladybird as its symbol.
The clocks go forward by one hour at 2am on Sunday morning on the last weekend in April, marking the beginning of zomertijd (summer time), internationally known as daylight-saving time. The Netherlands scrapped the principle of summer time in 1939 but reintroduced it in 1977 at the height of the oil crisis. Without this changing of the clock, it would start getting light at 3.30am by mid-June. The clocks go back again in the last weekend in October (wintertijd).
The Zuidas, or South Axis, is a new business district clustered around Amsterdam’s A10 ring road. A number of office blocks have already been built but grandiose city council plans to massively increase the size of the project – including roofing over the motorway and railway line – were abandoned because of the recession and private sector reluctance to get involved.
Literally a booze shed, a zuipkeet is a place where youngsters, many below the official drinking age, go to drink beer and premixed cocktails, often to excess. Some 30% of local authority areas, mainly in rural areas, are thought to be home to at least one zuipkeet. Ministers want to see local councils clamping down on these drinking dens in an effort to reduce teenage binge drinking.
Nothing raises more Dutch hackles than criticism of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), the black helpers who accompany Sinterklaas (Father Christmas) and distribute ginger-nut biscuits to children. The character first appears in a 1850s book as the Sint’s Moorish page, wearing the familiar bloomers and earrings, but without a name. The name came in a later book, and his black face is now said to be due to the soot he picked up climbing down chimneys to deliver presents rather than any racial significance.
The education ministry officially classifies a school as zwart (black) if more than 70% of its pupils have low-skilled or non-western parents. There are over 300 official black schools in the Netherlands, mainly in the big cities. A black school is not necessarily ethnically segregated.
ZZP’er stands for Zelfstandige Zonder Personeel (independent without staff) and is the moniker given to the 700,000 people (2012) who work in the Netherlands as self-employed, freelancers or one-person companies – be they long- distance lorry drivers, accountants or plumbers. Some 80% of companies are founded by people who started out as a ZZP’er, according to economic affairs ministry figures.