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Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) updated

The last time I wrote about Holland’s peculiar Zwarte Piet (Black Piet) tradition was five years ago. I think it’s time for an update. Sinterklaas is both a person and a holiday. On December 5th each year (the holiday), Sinterklaas (the person) brings gifts to children at their houses much like Santa Claus does in…

Expat wellness: Life as an expat

I haven’t written an article in a long time about expat issues, despite the fact that my articles about expat life still get regular readers. My posts about renouncing my citizenship, in particular, are in my top 10 nearly every day. So when I was approached by Aetna International to collaborate with them as an…

somewhere on my commute between Groningen and Leeuwarden after a dusting of snow

The Beauty of a Dutch Commute

A couple of times a week, I commute to my part-time job in Leeuwarden, in Friesland province. Sometimes I drive, but as much as possible, I like to take the train. I start by bicycling to the train station in the center of Groningen, parking the bike and boarding the train. The train trip takes about 35…

chocolate figures of Santa Claus, being sold in the Netherlands for Christmas

Christmas Compared

It’s almost Christmas, and I’ve been thinking a lot this year about the holiday as an event. Perhaps because I was much less busy this year than in previous years leading up to it, I’ve been noticing more. Note added at Christmas 2020: While I wrote this back in 2015, these observations still apply ……

Winterwelvaart, with the boats all lit up at night.

WinterWelVaart: Groningen’s Christmas Market

The Christmas markets in Germany are famous for their craft stalls, gluwein and generally Christmassy atmosphere. I’ve gone to several in past years; the one in Oldenburg is only about an hour away from my home here in Groningen. Though they’re much less well-known, Dutch cities, including Groningen, also run Christmas markets. WinterWelVaart Groningen’s is…

Zwarte Piet as portrayed on wrapping paper.

Zwarte Piet Updated

It’s that time of year again: Sinterklaas is approaching, along with Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). I wrote about this two years ago and then again last year, so I thought I’d add a short update today. Changes in Zwarte Piet The Zwarte Piet debate continues. Or rather, a vocal minority condemns it as racist while…

view of Groningen train station, with the Starbucks in the left wing

The most beautiful Starbucks?

You know how sometimes you get so used to what you see every day that you stop noticing it? I’ve walked by the Starbucks in the Groningen central train station hundreds of times in the course of commuting to and from my job up in Leeuwarden. I just didn’t pay much attention to it until…

view of Hooge der A with ships

Groningen walking tour

Groningen is the perfect place for an off-the-beaten-track weekend escape. Home to a world-class university, its young population makes it dynamic and hip, yet its small size keeps it friendly and relaxed. This walking tour could last from two hours, if you just stroll, to all day, if you take your time and stop to see…

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