Dutch habits: we’re happy!

As most of you probably already know by now, I am a huge music fan. Maybe you have even seen me perform during one of the many gezellige Happy Hours at the Holland stand at meeting conventions all over the world? And in case you missed it, I even wrote a song about adding some orange to your world. What can I say? Music just makes me happy.

But truth be told, it’s not only music that makes me happy. There must be something in the Dutch water, because Holland consistently makes it to the top ten of happiest countries in the world.* Well, maybe it’s not so much the water, but more about the way we live our lives in Holland. Let me introduce you to some of the Dutch habits that might shed a light on why the Dutch are so happy.

Part-time work

The Dutch are different

The Dutch are different

Yes, I can confirm that the rumors are true. The Dutch not only mastered the art of painting, but also the art of part-time work. More than 50% of the Dutch population works part-time, which in our book means less than 36 hours a week. The reasons for working part-time for both men and women are very diverse, often personal and even go back in history. But in the end it all comes down to this: it’s all a matter of balance. The Dutch have a rather laid-back approach to work and know that there is more to life than work alone. But, don’t get me wrong now! This doesn’t mean that the Dutch are lazy. Quite the contrary! The Dutch are renown for their strong business skills, directness, no-nonsense approach and getting-things-done attitude. We just like to work efficiently so that we have more time for the important things in life.

Let’s borrel!

Like borrelen, for example. We sure do love a good borrel, no matter where in the world we are. There actually isn’t a word in the English language that would sufficiently translate the meaning of the word borrel. Essentially, a borrel is a more or less informal social gathering while having a drink (or two), some Dutch finger food like cheese or bitterballen and enjoying good company. There are Friday afternoon borrels, after work borrels (which can take place any day of the week really), during work borrels, Sunday morning borrels, after sports borrels, …. You name it, we can always find a reason for a good borrel. In fact, a borrel often takes place after an important (business) meeting and is a great and informal way to further discuss plans, strategies or even close business deals. Some people say the best business deals are sealed by the water cooler, in Holland it’s during a borrel!

Borrelen during Happy Hour at the Holland stand

Borrelen during Happy Hour at the Holland stand

Do you want a taste of a great Dutch borrel? Then make sure to come visit me during Happy Hour at the Holland stand at one of the many international events I’m visiting. Next up: IMEX Frankfurt. See you there?!

We are truly gezellig!

A borrel is also a great means to experience some true, Dutch gezelligheid. Just like borrel, there is really no proper way to translate this extremely commonly used word into the English language. It’s also very hard to describe what gezelligheid is exactly. Gezelligheid, often used as a verb pointing out that something is gezellig, is essentially a feeling that can describe a range of (positive) emotions. For example, a borrel – especially after a hard day’s work or a successful business meeting – is generally perceived as gezellig. Meeting your best friend for coffee is always gezellig. Even having a business dinner can end up being very gezellig (on top of hopefully being successful). Going on vacation is definitely gezellig. But also attending a post tour after a convention surely is gezellig. Even US president’s Barack Obama’s trip to Holland to attend the NSS top in The Hague in 2014 has been ‘truly gezellig’.

I dare say that the word gezellig is likely the most commonly used word in the Dutch language. Here’s a fun challenge: learn to pronounce it as best as you can and then tell the next Dutch person you talk to that it was truly gezellig meeting them. Let me know how it went, will you?

It’s all about the balance

While there is no scientific research showing that these habits do in fact increase the general state op happiness of the Dutch people, these habits surely play an important role in our everyday lifestyle. And like I mentioned before, the Dutch are pretty good at making sure their work life balance doesn’t get out of hand.

I’m curious, have you experienced any of these Dutch habits while visiting Holland or doing business with the Dutch? Or are there any other habits that you’ve come across that struck you as typically Dutch? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

*World Happiness Report 2016 Update


5 Apps that makes travelling so much easier!

Travelling is fun, but it requires some flexibility from the traveller. Foreign languages, different timezones, new cities. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. Have a look at these apps, they make travelling so much easier!


Jet Lag App
When you are travelling for business, you don’t have time to be jet lagged. The Jet Lag App helps you adjust your sleeping pattern before and after your flight. Very easy to do, because the app can be connected to your calendar.

Is that meal expensive or just within the budget? Get real time currency information with the latest rates and start to calculate (even offline!).

My eVault
You probably have a drawer at home with all your insurance policies, receipts, warranties and important documents like passports and visa’s. My eVault is the award winning app that digitalises your ‘drawer’ so you have all the important info on the go!

Where is the nearest ATM, gas station, hospital? AroundMe helps you explore your direct neighbourhood. The best thing about the app? It is super easy to use, and the information you are looking for is just a few clicks away!

Having some time to kill during your stopover or in between meetings? Why not learn the local language with this app. It’s way more fun than playing a game or wandering at the airport!

The best business journals (for travel)

You don’t have to be taking minutes to walk around with a beautiful business journal. Not only is it a great tool to write down important stuff, collect creative ideas and doodle during your free time. It can also be a travel journal, so you don’t forget your adventurous travels. I have collected my top 5 business journals that are more than appropriate for business ánd travel:

Whether you’re into travelling, wine, doodling or fashion. Moleskine has a journal for you. How about this cool travel journal including luggage tags? Not for you? Then you can always choose a neutral Moleskine journal.

Moleskine travel journal

Don’t we all recognise the chique white star logo of Montblanc? Pens, wallets, notebooks. Their stationery is popular all over the world. The Montblanc notebook is classy, sophisticated and lasts a life time. I’m hoping they will make one in orange!

Montblanc journal

Busy bees don’t go anywhere without their Filofax. The smartest Filofax has room for your tablet, smartphone, pens, business cards and a writing pad. How is that for an organised situation?


This budget note pad comes in all colours, sizes and prices. Do you want your journal lined? Choose a cover with a cultural heritage reference or pick a neutral appearance. Paperblanks also offers agenda’s, day planners, address books and boxes.


Fred de la Bretonière
Oh, you pretty little things! With this writing case from Fred de la Bretonière your meeting is a succes before it even started. Which one is your favourite? Dark brown, black or camel?

Fred de la Bretoniere

Business travel etiquette

Travelling for business reasons can be great. You get to go to places you’ve never been before and experience all kinds of different cultures, foods and climates. But there are a few unwritten rules you should keep in mind. I collected a few do’s and don’ts about business travel etiquette for you. I’m curious about your travel tips. Will you leave them in the comments?

business travel etiquette

Be prepared
There’s nothing more annoying than bringing the wrong kind of creditcard, clothes or business information. Prepare in advance. Should you bring a VISA or MasterCard? What season is it at my destination? Which language do the people speak? Asking yourself these simple questions can avoid a lot of problems.

Read about the country & culture
People in other countries have a different cultural context. Words, but also hand gestures can have a total different meaning then you’re used to. Going for business abroad usually means eating and drinking with local people. Read up about food etiquette before you go to dinner. It shows respect for the local culture and makes for a great conversation starter.

Stay fit & healthy
You can’t always choose what you’ll eat and how much you sleep during business travels. Therefore travelling can be quite tiresome. So try to stay fit and healthy as much as you can. Hydrate, keep moving during your flight doing little exercises and sleep when you can. And… of course choosing those vegetables over the fried chicken will help as well.. 😉

The importance of privacy
Travelling with fellow colleagues can be a lot more fun than travelling solo. But being around each other for a longer period of time could lead to irritation. This can be easily avoided by respecting the privacy of others. When people sleep during the flight, leave them. When they look like they want to be left alone, they probably want to be left alone. Giving each other space will make your trip a lot more relaxed!

Keep ‘business’ in mind
Even when you find yourself on a white beach with a beautiful sunset, keep in mind why you are here. It is not a vacation. You are here for work reasons. Of course business can be mixed with pleasure, but keep it neat. Don’t drink too much, don’t get too informal with your colleagues and respect people and things around you.

What are your favourite business travel tips? Will you leave them in the comments?

Meet me at #IMEX13 and win a trip to Holland

Are you counting the last hours as I am? Only two days left until IMEX America opens the doors to the show floor and I’m so excited to meet many old and new friends again. This week I tried to make a lot of buzz to inform you all about the prize you can win at our booth this year: my Holland crew has decided to offer you a trip to Holland.  In this post I will explain a little more about the contest and the prize.


Let’s create a masterpiece

Holland is the home of many remarkable artistic talents. Great master like, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Vermeer have changed the world of art with their paintings. During IMEX 2013 we offer you the unique opportunity to create a masterpiece yourself by taking a picture of you and me. For hosted buyers, this picture is the ticket to enter the Facebook competition.

Tag and WIN!

After your visit, you will receive a card with all instructions to join the competition. As a first step, I invite you to visit my Facebook page. Find the photo we took together in the album IMEX America 2013 and tag yourself. To win the first prize you need help. Ask all your friends, colleagues and family members to like your photo. The prize is yours, if you get the most ‘Likes’.


The first prize is a trip to Holland for two people, including flight with KLM (economy class), 3 nights in a Suite of Sofitel Legend The Grand in Amsterdam plus breakfast. You will receive two tickets for the Rijksmuseum, so that you can discover the Dutch masterpieces yourself. My friends from ITBholland would also like to show you the lovely city of Amsterdam on a guided tour.
The top ten participants will receive their photo on a canvas, as a personal take-home masterpiece.

Will I see you in Vegas?

Check my previous blogpost to get an impression of what you can expect from your trip to Holland. It would be great to meet you at my booth at IMEX America. Will you come?

Amsterdam for big meetings: site inspection in the capital part 2

Here we are again, back in Amsterdam. During my last site inspection to the Dutch capital I focused on facilities for small meetings. But Amsterdam has also much to offer for  mid-sized meetings (up to 500 particiants) and big meetings (up to 2500 participants).

Blog Holland Amsterdam Inspection

International Meeting Point

Big, international corporates will feel very comfortable with the cosmopolitan flair of Amsterdam. The city has attracted workforce from 180 different countries , creating a fountain of inspiration by mixing their various cultures, visions and ideas. As a consequence, the city has set a European benchmark to inclusion and integration. More than 80 percent of the locals speak English and over 40 percent have a university degree or higher professional education. The capital remains an attractive destination for multinational corporates. In the last report of the European Cities Monitor, Amsterdam scored rank 4 in the list of top business cities and is narrowing the gap to London, Paris and Frankfurt.

Blog Holland Amsterdam Science Park

Technological Hotspots

Companies in IT and technology will feel right at home in the Dutch capital. The Amsterdam region is home to the worlds largest, most stable digital exchange platform, which attracts ICT companies from across the globe. Science Park Amsterdam hosts more than 80 ICT and biotechnology companies, while the BioMed sector includes over 60 Life Science companies. The intensive research and development in the ICT and Life Science cluster is strongly linked to business and industry.

Transport options for everyone

International visitors can travel to Amsterdam by plane or train. Check my previous blogpost to learn more about accessibility. But how do your get your numerous participants safely from the airport to your venue? Four weeks ago, exhibition centre Amsterdam RAI hosted the congress of the European Society of Cardiology, which was visited by 30,000 participants. Next to shuttle busses running from and to Schiphol Airport, the organization hired all rental bicycles in Amsterdam to offer a green and healthy transport alternative.


Venues for big meetings

Amsterdam as many great venues for mid-sized and big meetings. Here are my personal recommendations:

Amsterdam ArenA
Amsterdam Marriott Hotel
Beurs van Berlage
Mövenpick Hotel Amsterdam City Centre
Park Plaza Amsterdam Airport
NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky
Amsterdam RAI
Novotel Amsterdam City

130929 Blog Holland Amsterdam ArenA

After your meeting

For those participants who are not too tired, Amsterdam has more than enough entertainment opportunities. Fans of science and technology can take a voyage of discovery in Science Center NEMO, a scientific playground for young and old. From NEMO, it is just a short walk to the National Maritime Museum which offers a glimpse on 500 years of maritime history. Night owls can check the varied live music programme of the Melkweg or the special club nights of Paradiso.

Lazy folks can take a seat at one of the various cafes at the Nieuwmarkt or, during summer time, relax at the Vondelpark.


Hidden Secrets

If you want to avoid the crowded touristic spaces, I have some special tips for you. You can find more hidden gems of Amsterdam on my page of the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions.

Fort Island IJmuiden, an ancient fortress, which is part of the Defence Line of Amsterdam and only accessible by boat

Samhoud Places, a special restaurant with  extraordinary dishes you have never tasted before

visit the Nine Streets,  a shopper’s paradise full of jewellers, art galleries, boutiques and vintage stores

More information?

For more questions about meeting activities in and around Amsterdam you can contact my friends from Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board.

Or do you want help with the organization of your meeting? I know many DMCs  that are situated in Amsterdam like Partners & Sam!, Delta AmsterdamITBholland, KUONI Destination Management Benelux, Ovation Holland and Holland Destination Marketing.