Books about the common roots of UK, US and Dutch societies

In my previous post I promised to share two books I’m currently reading.

Recently, on occasion of their return to Texas, we offered a farewell dinner to an expat couple that had resided with us as long stay guests. They concluded their stay in The Netherlands of over three years with the observation that there are more similarities in character between Americans and Dutch that they would have believed. They also pointed me to a recent book of Russell Shorto, The Island at the Center of the World, that gives some background explanation.

It is an epic story about the discovery of New Amsterdam and it’s early years as a settlement of the Dutch West Indies Company (in Dutch Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie). The book is based on historic material kept under dust for ages, but popped up in Albany, New York, of all places. For over 25 years there sits a historian who is in the process of translating over 12,000 Dutch language documents dating back to the first half of the 17nd century. The Dutch were too tidy and destroyed most of their West India Company’s archives so it is a sort of wonder this new material popped up. It is known as The New Netherland Project or NNP. Do visit their site as they have a wealth of material!

I learned Englishman Henry Hudson discovered New Amsterdam on commission of the Dutch East India Company (VOC or Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie). On a former trip he had discovered Newfoundland on commission of the British Muscovy Company, in search of a northern passage to the India. He had hoped that via the rivers Hudson or Connecticut he could reach the great lakes and from there there was a passage to India.

Going Dutch by Lisa Jardine

When buying The Island at the Center of the World I stumbled on the book Going Dutch, How England Plundered Holland’s Glory, by English writer Lisa Jardine.

Coincidentally Robbert Russo penned an insightful column for the New York Times Going Dutch about how an American looks at Dutch society.

Lisa uses the subtitle more as a eye catcher than as a flag covering her cargo: She describes the early 17nd century more from a view of an art historian. How thinkers, architects, landscape architects, sculptors and painters from the low countries influenced the English courts. How members of the Royalists party got refuge in The Hague during Cromwell’s reign and how the various European courts especially those who were not in the Roman Catholic league like the Spanish were related, intermingled and intermarried and tried to cooperate in their struggle against the Spanish. All up to the year 1688 when William and Mary took over the English throne.

It is really fun to read the two books together. If you’re interested in Dutch, US and/or UK history both books are a must read!

10 Questions for (22): Carrie Marshall of My Several Worlds

Happy to continue the 10 Questions for: Series with Carrie Marshall of My Several Worlds.

Carrie on the Cover of DT (Discover Taipe)

1. Who are you?

My name is Carrie Marshall and I’m a Canadian expat living in Asia. I’ve been bouncing around Asia for the past six years and currently call Planet Taiwan my home.

Wow. For such a simple question, you would think it would be easier for me to answer. I wear a lot of hats. I’m an avid travel junkie and culture vulture. I’m a photography aficionado. I love the arts, and I express myself creatively through my writing, photography, music, jewelry design and painting. Currently, I’m working as a writer, editor, and voice talent for an international multimedia magazine company. I am also an ESL teacher. I have been teaching English conversation, grammar and creative writing courses to junior and senior high school students in Taiwan for the past three years.
I caught the travel bug in 1991 while traveling through South America shortly after graduating from high school. After a few short jaunts here and there during my university years, I decided to make the plunge and move abroad. In 2003, I moved to Changchun in Northern China to teach English as a Second Language. By night, I moonlighted as a lead singer with a Filipino rock band.

Carrie and Alter Ego

In 2004, I fell in love with an American from Iowa, and we started traveling the world together. We moved to the beautiful island of Taiwan in 2006. You can read about our world travels and our adventures in the glittering metropolis of Taipei at My Several Worlds.

2. What do you like about what you do?

I love challenges. When it comes to me, there will always be something to work on, something to fix, something to improve on, and something to change. I am constantly pushing boundaries and moving forward. I believe a person’s greatest challenge lies in their ability to adapt. If you can do that, then you can do anything.

Asia allows me a great amount of freedom. I have time to pursue things here and explore interests that I didn’t have time for back home. For example, I study Chinese and for my first three years in Asia, I lived in a culture that virtually forced me to learn the language. I’ve taken lessons in kung fu, tai chi, belly dancing and traditional Chinese painting. I’ve also had professional opportunities here that arenn’t as easily available back home. Over the past six years in Asia, I’ve sung professionally, acted in television programs and commercials, done radio work, book editing, and modeled.

3. What don’t you like about what you do?

Like anyone who’s been away from their home for a long time, I miss my family and friends. Every once in awhile, I wish I were back in my own culture, where I understand everything that is going on. In general though, we’re pretty happy with how we’re living and what we’re doing.

I also worry that my experiences abroad may not be viewed by others back home in a positive light. I hope my language studies can be put to good use in North America. I hope my experience abroad will be considered an asset, but realistically, unless I remain in education, publishing or the travel business, my experience probably won’t count for much.

4. Please tell us all about your blogs and your aims with them?

My Several Worlds was created in January 2007 as a personal blog with feature articles on culture, English as a Second Language (ESL), and travel and living in Asia. Since then, it’s developed into a travel, culture and photography site.

I created Taiwan Photographers in August 2007 in the hopes of creating a network of photographers in Taiwan who might be willing to exchange ideas and information about photography. Since then, it’s become an award-winner, recently winning Best Photography Site in Taiwan.

5. Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

Nothing beats Japan for out-of-time and out-of-space adventure. You really do feel like you’re on a different planet at times.


Laos is incredible for eco-trekking. Traveling is a pure pleasure in this friendly and vibrant country.

I like China for its diversity, for its ancient history and for the people. I also like it for the fish-out-of-water experience that I’m sure all travelers who have been there can relate to. I lived in China for three years and I like to think that I came of age there. Every day was an adventure, and I loved it, but at the same time, it was one of the most disorienting and difficult times of my life. Try to imagine a normal day in your life back home and change every little thing about it and you might get an idea of what life was like in China for me during my first year. I wasn’t expecting to be on parade all the time. People were constantly coming up and touching me. I learned to hate living on the first floor. People would stand at my window and watch me inside my home. They dug through my grocery cart while I was shopping. Every little thing was a challenge, from riding the bus and mailing a letter, to ordering food and making phone calls.

The language and culture barriers were the biggest challenges to overcome while living in China. However, I made significant efforts to learn about my new environment and those efforts have paid off. Those years in China stay close to my heart, and I truly believe that you haven’t seen Asia if you haven’t been to China.

6. Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

Only two places pop into my head. In terms of quality, personal service, and an all-around positive experience, I would say that both of these places went above and beyond normal expectations.

Nefatari Villas in Ubud, Bali was, by far, the nicest and most accommodating place we’ve ever stayed at. The staff spoiled us completely and catered to our every whim. They really went out of their way to make our stay extra special. When they learned that John was going to propose to me during our stay there, they bent over backwards to help us celebrate our engagement in a traditional Balinese style. It didn’t hurt that our villa was gorgeous. We stepped out of time into our own private yard with a plunge pool and a huge outdoor bathroom and jacuzzi bath.

The Peace of Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia is a private villa owned and operated by photographer Dave Perkes. In addition to the friendly service, we were taken on a personal guided tour around the floating village of Kompong Khleang, Dave was also happy to help us arrange further travel accommodations, ensuring that the rest of our stay in Cambodia was safe and comfortable.

7. Your top 3 most memorable food experiences to date and why?

Japan is a paradise for people with big appetites who are passionate about Japanese cooking. We are both huge admirers of this cuisine, so we weren’t afraid to try new things and thoroughly enjoyed eating everywhere we went. Eating is just as delightful as exploring in Japan.

While John and I were staying at Nefatari Villas, the staff prepared a traditional Balinese meal for our engagement and served it in the center of a Balinese water garden by candlelight. They had constructed a billowing white canopy and garnished it with wild orchids to add some romance. The atmosphere and the sumptuous food went straight to our heads. It was the most romantic night we’ve ever had.

A company dinner in Northern China remains firmly ensconced in my memory for helping me get over my fear of eating strange and weird foods. That dinner was one of the most interesting dinners I’ve ever eaten. Fried silkworms, deer embryo, crispy baby quail and turtle soup were a few things on the menu that night.

8. Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?

We stayed at a terrible hotel on Khao San Road in Bangkok one night. Our bus arrived in the wee hours of the morning, and it was the only place we could find that still had vacancies. It was dirty, hot, and infested with cockroaches. At least it was cheap. It’s gone now.

We were married in December at the Moon Palace Spa and Golf Resort in Cancun, Mexico. Thankfully, our wedding day went off without a hitch. It was beautiful and I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life. However, we were quite disappointed with Moon Palace. The staff was rude and impatient. The service was slow and no one seemed to know what was going on. We were bombarded for two days with phone calls and notes on our door about time shares. We booked tours and spa appointments at one desk and arrived at the destination only to find out there was no record of our booking. Our room bill was charged for steaming my wedding dress when the service had already been paid for. It took three days to have the charge removed from our account. Moon Palace is supposed to be the Number #1 resort for destination weddings and golf packages. It ended up being a big waste of money. I would not recommend staying there.

The bus we took from Thailand to Siem Reap goes down in our travel annals for all-time horrible experiences. In addition to being on a bus on the dry, dusty backroads of Cambodia with no air conditioning and broken seats for fourteen hours, we also had to deal with numerous breakdowns and barely anything to eat. The bus stopped once at some crappy restaurant out in the middle of nowhere. We were fed stringy, dry, hard mystery meat. That’s all we had to eat for over 24 hours. On the other hand, these kinds of experiences make the best travel stories, so I’m not going to complain too much.

9. Can you offer the readers 3 travel/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?

Taipei Temple Logo

Taipei is a dynamic mix of ancient culture and tradition wrapped up in modern lifestyle. We’ve been here for three years and we’re still finding things to do. I especially like the modern arts movement here. There is some kind of music concert, play, ballet, opera, or art exhibit going on somewhere in the city at all times. I also consider this to be a city of festivals. People seem to be celebrating something every month.

Where to find food: The train station, night markets, and department stores are usually cheap, clean and delicious.

Where to go: Don’t miss a Taiwanese night market. They’re loud, pulsing areas full of shoppers and adventurous gastronomes. This is where you should go if you want to try eating some truly unique dishes.

I also recommend heading to a local temple. You can find one tucked away on every block. Longshan Temple is an excellent choice if it’s your first time in the city. You’ll be astounded by the riot of colors and textures, and intrigued by the stories these mythical characters tell.

There are plenty of hiking trails in and around the city. Yang Ming Mountain is just outside the city and provides a beautiful respite from the concrete jungle. The hot springs and spas in Beitou are famous for their healing qualities and for adding a little romance to the air. Taipei 101 will give you an unprecedented view of the city.

Where to stay: If I had my choice of accommodation in Taipei, I’d definitely stay at the majestic and opulent Grand Hotel. Perched atop Yuan shan Mountain, it lends a magnificent view across the Taipei Basin and city of Taipei. The Grand Hotel is one of Taiwan’s best-loved and most recognizable landmarks, and is a symbol of ancient Chinese history and culture. It’s impossible to miss on the skyline with its palatial dimensions soaring high in the sky. In fact, everything about the Grand Hotel, both inside and out, is brilliantly blown out of proportion and designed to make your stay there a memorable one.

10. Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?

Thank you Carrie! The part of the world you live in is almost terra incognita for me. Love to learn a bit about it. BTW I Love your WP theme…might copy it:-)

10 Expat Blogs about The Netherlands

Expat Blog Logo

Clearing up and posting old drafts:

Expat Blogs are a wonderful source of information about a destination through the eyes of a foreigner. Here are 10 of them relating to The Netherlands.

Through Expat Blogs, a community of expat bloggers that charts the various expats in various countries, I found some interesting foreigners blogging about The Netherlands.

  1. A Touch of Dutch, “I’m a happily married American woman and have been living/working in the Netherlands for 6 years. I’ve decided to finally put together a blog for family/friends and everyone to share what life’s like living/working halfway around the world.” And, dear readers this Blog is a Gem with tons of information!
  2. Doe Maar Gewoon English with a very Dutch Title:”The adventures and misadventures of living in the Netherlands. Thoughts on Dutch culture, food, the joys of the public transport system and life in general.”
  3. Sethy’s Blog, “We are both expat from Malaysia and France. This Personal blog aims to keep contacts with our family staying in Malaysia and France. Via this blog we are trying to compare/comment the different style/way of live of our three countries.”
  4. Suze abroad, Suzanne from Down Under has been musing away from 2003. I fully second her sometimes hilarious mutterings and especially her post about The Dutch Midwife Mafia, as we have been confronted ourselves by some grave errors in this area recently. It is not only the midwifes, but also the gynecologists who are really old fashioned here sometimes. In a way they dependent on the midwifes, so they keep their mouths shut and go with the (wrong) flow. Because of this anomaly in Dutch Health system Suze decided to go back to Australia for the child delivery and to live there. Suze had been living in Utrecht.
  5. Sara de Mul – Living in Dutchland is a British woman blogging about living in Amsterdam. Sara has some interesting facts on her Blog. Unfortunately she updates very in frequent, one explanation could be she is really into learning Dutch. Kudos for that, because the Brits I know are very hesitant about learning Dutch.
  6. From Arkansas to Amsterdam A good idea: Here all members of the family have their own section on the Blog.
  7. Orange Journey, “Orange is the color of the Dutch Royal Family. The lineage of the current dynasty — the House of Oranje-Nassau — dates back to Willem van Oranje (William of Orange). But while the color orange has royal roots in the Netherlands, today it symbolizes a broader pride in the country and in being Dutch. We (Mr. and Mrs. Awaara) moved here in June, 2007 and first lived in Oranjastraat. Here it starts our journey in this orange country.”
  8. In Search of Dutchland, “In Search of DutchLand is a blog that chronicles and romanticizes the adventures of a 26 year old Pilipino-American living in The Netherlands. It is a refuge that attempts to illustrate her waking up to a “Dutched” reality complete with personal observations of cultural idiosyncrasies, narcissistic ramblings, and lingering homesickness.”
  9. Gone Dutch, “Life and travels of an American expat living in Rotterdam.”
  10. Reasons Not to Blog. “American living in The Netherlands since 2004. Since then, reading too much, not writing enough, and pursuing sometimes disparate, sometimes desperate academic and personal goals.”

Will be followed (I hope)

Something to say about life in The Netherlands

Something to say about Living in The Netherlands

When traveling I am in favor of primary city hopping and I usually try to get information about 4 distinctive areas of interest:

  1. How to travel from A to B? Like: by plane, train, car or by boat? (I hate buses).
  2. How is B looking? Maps, pictures and descriptions (what you usually look for in a paper guide)
  3. How are the people of B?
  4. Things to do in B? Bars, restaurants, theaters, musea, scenic parts

With respect to all areas it is very easy to get tons of information via the Internet except for question 3: “How are the people of B?”. The more I surf around, the more I believe the expat Blogging community is the community to revert to: They give you a wonderful insight in the idiosyncrasies of the people you will meet in B.

One example of what I mean with idiosyncrasies can be found in this post : 51 Tips: An irreverent guide to international travel behavior from the Los Angeles Times (via The Worldhum Travel Zeitgeist): a simple list of do’s and don’ts in various countries.

One of my aims with this Blog is to make foreigners more aware of how the Dutch are. Therefore, I like to introduce you to an expat living in The Hague: Jenn in Holland, living in The Hague, who describes her adventures sometimes in a hilarious way in her Blog Something to say about Life in The Netherlands. Enjoy reading.

Expatica: Dutch 2006 English Language News Re(ar)viewed


The site of Expatica is devoted to the expats living in The Netherlands (or, if you wish Holland), Belgium, France, Germany and Spain and serves them in the English language with plenty advice about the respective countries, advice that is also useful for the foreign traveler.

Some highlights I find interesting:

  • 18 January 2006
    The Dutch put Australia on the map Australia celebrates Dutch ties
    Australia, the land first put on the map by Dutch explorers, has opened a year of celebrations to mark the 400-year history between the two countries. Australian Ambassador Stephen Brady outlined the jubilee events for the year during a press launch in the ‘Des Indes’ hotel in The Hague. The countries have been linked since the Dutch East Indies vessel ‘Duyfken’ sailed from the port of Batavia (now the Indonesian capital Jakarta) four centuries ago to map out the unknown territory south of the Dutch Indies.
  • 3 March 2006
    Suitcase loss costs KLM EUR 200,000
    Airline KLM is fined EUR 200,000 for losing a passenger’s suitcase and damaging his credibility more than seven years ago. Dr José Tiongco was traveling with KLM as an envoy of the Philippine authorities in November 1998. He was scheduled to give a lecture at a conference held by the World Health Organisation in Kazakhstan. He flew from Amsterdam to Frankfurt with KLM but his suitcase did not follow him. This meant he had give his lecture in jeans, t-shirt and sneakers — something that damaged his credibility, the judge agrees.
  • 25 August 2006
    Dutch release 12 ‘terror jet’ passengers
    Dutch justice officials have released the 12 passengers arrested when the cabin crew of an American plane bound for India thought they were acting suspiciously. The Northwest Airlines flight to Mumbai, with 149 passengers, was escorted back to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport by two Dutch F-16 fighter jets. The 12 Indian men were taken into custody and questioned by prosecution officials. The men were released from the detention center at the airport later in the evening.
  • 10 November 2006
    Mass emigration slows Dutch population growth
    In the first nine months of this year, almost 100,000 people left the Netherlands to settle elsewhere, 12,000 more than the same period last year. About half of the emigrants were Dutch natives, the national statistics office CBS says. If the trend continues, more than 130,000 people will have left the country by the end of this year. For the third successive year, the number of emigrants substantially outnumbers immigrants. The net effect means the Dutch population was reduced in the 2004-06 period by 75,000. In the preceding three years, there was a positive net migration of 75,000.
    (Note by GJE:) And this on a total population of approximately 16.5 mio in this densest populated country of the world.
  • 30 November 2006
    Amsterdam orders prostitution windows shut
    Red light windows to close
    A large amount of the window prostitution in Amsterdam’s red light district will be shut down as the city council gets tougher on criminal activities. Amsterdam City Council said investigations had revealed about one-third of the prostitution sector is allegedly involved in money laundering. About 100 of the 350 prostitution windows in the Dutch capital’s red-light district will be forced to close by the end of the year. The operators of the sex windows can still appeal, however, against the city council’s decision to withdraw their permits. A total of 33 permits were revoked.

Finally a link to an expat blog of a lady from the Philippines: Dutched Pinay which means Philippine becoming Dutch who is reviewed here on Expatica.