The Netherlands

Princess Máxima of the Netherlands

Máxima Zorreguieta is living proof that little girl’s dreams of becoming a princess or queen can come true.

She was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1971 to an upper-middle class family. She attended an English-style school (incidentally, she shared a desk with my good friend Isabel for two years. At school we don’t have individual seats but two-pupil desks) and later got a degree in Economics at the Universidad Católica de Buenos Aires.

Máxima  got a job at Deutsche Bank in New York as vice-president of institutional sales and reportedly did very well. In April 1999, she went to Seville on holiday and met Crown Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands during the Seville Spring Fair. He didn’t tell her the truth about his identity at first. When Prince Willem-Alexander finally came clean, she thought he was joking. Well, who wouldn’t?

Her trademark smile (

When the couple announced their engagement in March, 2001, there was some controversy because Máxima ’s father had been Minister of Agriculture during the military dictatorship in Argentina and some members of the Dutch parliament objected fiercely. After long debates and an in-depth investigation, the Parliament allowed the couple to wed with a caveat: Máxima’s father could not attend the wedding. Her mother didn’t attend either in solidarity with her husband.

Crown Princess Maxima Zorreguieta leave the Church February 2, 2002 following their wedding in Amsterdam, Holland. (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)

The wedding, held on 2 February, 2002, was a bitter-sweet moment. Máxima married the love of her life but her beloved father wasn’t allowed to give her away; she walked down the aisle by herself. The couple has three daughters, Catherina-Amalia, Alexia and Ariane. Máxima makes a point of teaching her daughters Spanish (they had an Argentinean nanny) and all about her native country’s culture.  Like most Argentinean children, they love milanesas (I do too).

The royal family (

On Tuesday, 29 January, 2013, Queen Beatrix abdicated in favour of her son Willem-Alexander and Máxima will become queen consort. Their eldest daughter, Catherina-Amalia, will now be heir apparent.

Máxima has won the hearts of the Dutch people with her kindness, big smiles, spontaneity and Latin flair.  Long live Queen Máxima ! ¡Viva la reina Máxima!


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Camila O’Gorman, the romantic heroine of Argentina

An Argentinean wedding

The Netherlands – a country of many names


February 1, 2013 Comments disabled

Picture Postcards: Traditional dress in The Netherlands

“Cheese Maidens” as labelled by the photographer Jurvetson on Flickr. Don’t you wonder if those shoes are comfortable?

Read more:
The Netherlands: A country of many names
Spring in the Netherlands: The tulip mania, old and new
From Argentina to The Netherlands for Love Blog

June 24, 2012 Comments disabled

Gabriela: Born in Pakistan, raised Dutch and French, now living in Canada

Today, we have the pleasure of hearing from Gabriela van Rij. Gabriela’s life has been, by definition, a cross cultural one. She was born in Pakistan, but raised in Europe and North America by her adopted diplomatic family. Currently, Gabriela lives in Canada, and works with a multicultural team promoting her book, With All My Might, which chronicles her life story and experiences and shares how she overcame adversity and came to terms with her own identity.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How would your friends or family describe you?

I am a self-made woman that has worked hard to get where I am today. Family is very important to me however, being adopted has not always given me the family I had wished for. My friends are terrific and mean the world to me, I have had them in and out of my life throughout which is amazing to me. Long lasting friendships with individuals from various cultures have become a surrogate family for me.

Where do you live? Where are you from? If those are different, can you tell us a little about what inspired your move?

I live in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I am originally from the North of Pakistan and lived most of my life in Europe and North America. I never knew any better than to be on the move in a diplomatic family. It teaches you to adapt for survival. What is even more important is that you learn to depend on yourself and that home is where you are. Living in Canada is quite amazing and diverse. Vancouver is an enormously safe place compared to some places in the world.

If you would describe yourself as multicultural, tell us a bit about what culture you most identify with and why. If you have kids, what culture do they most associate with?

I have identified most of my childhood and teenage years with the Western culture, but the older I get the more the fingerprint and identity of the ingrained and inherent culture come out which is Asian. I identify with the Western culture as that is the one I know the best. I have a child who is multicultural and has two ethnicities. It is not always easy for them either to identify which is which. I feel that most of them welcome more the Western world as they perceive it as better. This tends to be very true, at least for now, with my own daughter. She tends to feel European as do I.

 Can you describe a typical day for you?

Wow, nothing I do is typical; I get up early (between 5:30 and 6) and throw on clothes and go for either a long walk or jog on the seawall with my dog. Then I get ready for work at my consulting job and work 3 hours for one specific client before my We Open Door’s team gets in. On a rather interesting side note my team is multicultural.  I have been fortunate enough to employ individuals that embody my own uniqueness and diversity.  My team is comprised of one young lady from Chile, one young lady from Australia, one man from Vancouver originally from Italy, one young man from India, and two agents from the US.  Upon the arrival of my four-member office team we work solidly to promote my book With All My Might and before I know it is 4:30 PM and I should be writing my children’s book.

 What is the best part of living in your country? The worst?

The best part is the enormous diversity and safety. The worst is that every culture seems to stay on it’s own and that true diversity of mixing the cultures still has to be created.

 What books or films would you recommend someone who’d like to know more about your country?

I am not sure which movie you need to see to appreciate Canada. But the Winter Olympics in Vancouver 2010 showed the world that they were strong and resilient and that they support the dream of the athletes. What amazed me is that in these events every ethnicity, every one of all walks of life come together for one common good “the athlete”. No racism, no bullying, nothing, just a coming together of nations for the good of the athlete! Incredible experience! Canada you rocked!

 What language or languages do you use on a day to day basis?

I use French and English daily, and I try to keep up my Dutch.  But from a promotional standpoint I also incorporate Spanish on a large scale.  I am preparing to release my book With All My Might in Spanish and will do so at an event in Las Vegas in mid June.

Tell me about a national hero in your country. Who are they and what are they admired for?

Having four countries that I call home makes it very difficult to choose anyone “hero.” Pakistan is rich in history and culture. The Dutch are known for their dikes and engineers. The French are known for their food and wine. Canada has produced some of the most famous entertainment personalities and athletes (especially in the arena of hockey) that are widely known in the US.

Tell me about your favorite holiday, and what cultural traditions you practice to celebrate on that day.

Every national day of most of the above countries I celebrate usually at the embassies. I celebrate the French, the Dutch, the Belgians, the Germans, the US and the Canadian national holidays. As these are the countries I know best. I would say the 4th of July will always be special together with the national Queens day in the Netherlands. Tradition in Holland is to drink bitter drink that is orange to celebrate the house of Orange. The Dutch are traditionally not very shy and party like crazy on that day. The French 14th of July is amazing and a bit traditional.

 Describe a favorite typical meal from your country.

The Dutch are not very known for their cooking. They are known for the pancakes, which is a sweet dish. The French cuisine is one of my favorites as it heightens all your senses. Amazingly enough the Indian/Pakistani cuisine I have come to appreciate very much. I could live of ‘tidka dahl’, which is a yellow lentil dish nice and spicy.

What’s something that visitors are often surprised by when getting to know your country/culture?

They are surprised the Dutch are so open.

They are also surprised that in Vancouver everyone is overly polite.

The Americans are always surprised the French are truly rude and shout.

But all of these quirks is what makes up a culture and gives us the true flavor of multiculturalism.

May 31, 2012 3 comments

From Our Contributors: Week of May 28

Our contributors have updated their personal blogs. Go have a look!

Hydrangea garden in Japan

Mike, our contributor from Japan, published a photo essay on a lovely hydrangea garden: Treasure in a Flower Garden: A Photo Essay

There is a village on the Motobu Peninsula of Okinawa, Japan called Izumi. Today Doc Graff and I went to check out the Hydrangea flowers.

Anu, our contributor from India, visited a miniature railway museum in Pune (Maharashtra, India).

My fascination with model railways goes back a long way. From the time I read in books about people setting up their own model railways in their lofts to when I grew older and heard of actual miniature villages with working models of trains running through them. Unfortunately, the nearest I could get to a miniature train was one going round and round in a track.

Aledys Ver, our contributor from the Netherlands, writes about how to go about getting your ice-cream in the Netherlands.

After nine years of living in the Netherlands you would think that by now, I have seen the country from top to bottom and been to every possible corner – it is quite a small country, after all.

Liz, our contributor from Australia, writes about two must-see movies set in Asia.

Because Asia is a place so close to my heart I’m a sucker for any show, movie, book, blog or anything set in my favourite continent. So I was pretty excited when I found out about Wish You Were Here, an Australian-made movie partially filmed in Cambodia (specifically, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville)

Ana, contributing editor from Argentina, lists a few things to do in Buenos Aires for free.

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May 29, 2012 Comments disabled

The Netherlands – a country of many names

Even though it is quite a small country with a total area of 41.543 square kilometres, the Netherlands belongs to a select number of countries around the world which are known by many different names. So, what is the right way to call it – is it “Holland”? Is it “(the) Netherlands”? Are these two names interchangeable or not? Let’s shed some light on this matter.

Official name of the Netherlands as it shows on passports.

The official name of the country in Dutch is Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, which literally means, “Kingdom of the Low Countries”;  a name that reminds us that the country was originally a confederation of independent provinces.  For the sake of abbreviation, the country is often referred to as Nederland in Dutch. In English the country is officially known as the “Kingdom of the Netherlands”, or for short, “the Netherlands”.  Sometimes the ‘t’ in the article “the” before the name is erroneously capitalised but this in theory should only happen at the beginning of a sentence.

“The Netherlands” is normally used in contrast to the “Kingdom of the Netherlands” to mark the difference between the territory that is in Europe and the kingdom that consists of the countries of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten (all three in the Caribbean) and mainland Netherlands.

Very frequently -though inaccurately- the Netherlands is also referred to as “Holland”, thus identifying the country with the most powerful province that formed the Republic of the United Netherlands in the period between 1581 and 1795.  Strictly speaking, Holland is only the central western region of the Netherlands which comprises two of the twelve provinces that make up the country – North and South Holland. Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is located in the province of North Holland; while The Hague, the seat of the Dutch government and parliament, is in the province of South Holland.

The twelve provinces of the Netherlands. Holland is the central western region of the country.

The name “Holland” is often used colloquially by the Dutch people themselves, especially when it refers to sports teams such as the football national team. During international football competitions like the World Cup or the European Cup, Dutch fans at the stadium normally cheer their team by chanting, “Holland! Holland!” instead of  “Nederland!” which would be more correct!

Yet another name which is commonly associated with the Netherlands is “Low Countries”.  This name was actually historically used to identify the region which lies around the big delta formed by the rivers Rhine, Scheldt and Meuse and it comprises present-day Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands. These three countries also form part of the “Benelux” [BE for Belgium, NE for Netherlands and LUX for Luxemburg] a customs union formed in 1948 which aimed to promote intergovernmental cooperation.

Confused? You don’t need to be! Here is a summary of all the names associated with the Netherlands:

Kingdom of the Netherlands: the official name of the country; it comprises mainland Netherlands (territory in Europe) plus the islands of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten in the Caribbean.

The Netherlands: short name for “Kingdom of the Netherlands”; it also refers to the territory in Europe.

Holland: the central western region of the Netherlands which comprises two of the provinces: North and South Holland.

Low Countries: the low-lying region in northern Europe around the delta of the rivers Rhine, Scheldt and Meuse which comprises the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg.

Benelux: the economic and political union comprising the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg.


Read more

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From Argentina to the Netherlands for love

Winter treats in the Netherlands



May 18, 2012 7 comments

From our contributors: week of May 13

There’s quite a bit of reading material this week thanks to our contributors, who wrote about interesting subjects in their personal blogs. Happy reading!

Keukenhof Gardens (credit: Aledys)

DeeBee, our contributor from France, posted The Colours of Spring: Bluebells. 

“In France Bluebells are known as Wild Hyacinths and are found mostly all over the country. They bloom between April and May depending on the weather and are of course perennial bulbs.”

Mike, our contributor from Japan, published Then and Now Photos: Shureimon a Torii in Okinawa.

Aledys, our contributor from the Netherlands, posted Last of the Tulip Days: a Visit to Keukenhof Gardens.
“Spring in the Netherlands can be a bit cooler and wetter than in other parts of Europe and we have been having quite a bit of rain and rather low temperatures lately; but despite the unspring-like weather, I just couldn’t stay away from the beautiful tulip fields in the Noordoostpolder and I even managed to visit Keukenhof Park a few days ago.”

Carrie, our contributing editor, The Challenge: 51 Wineries, toddler and (soon-to-be) newborn in tow

“Dave and I were talking this weekend and realized that when we live in a new place, we often don’t do any of the “must do” things in that place- be it touristy things (which to be honest, I usually avoid) but also all the wonderful, quirky things you are going to find in a new country or city that you just have to experience to really get to know the culture. And yet, when I am on a two week holiday, I usually see it all. Why? I know I will run low on time, and so I make a list. And thus we decided: we need a bucket list!

Ana, our contributing editor from Argentina, published Palacio de las Aguas Corrientes (aka the toilet museum)

“I must have walked or driven past this magnificent building a few dozen times but it never crossed my mind to go inside. As it so often happens with the attractions of one’s hometown, I never really paid much attention to what was inside the building and when it was built and what for. Now that I’m a tourist in Buenos Aires, I learned that there is a museum inside the Palacio de las Aguas Corrientes, owned by the water company, AySA.”

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From Our Contributors: Week of April 23

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May 15, 2012 Comments disabled