Thursday, March 27, 2014

Brief History of the Netherlands

Here is a timeline for the political history of the Netherlands. In 1579 the Dutch United Provinces declared their independence from Spain. During the 17th century their maritime industry helped drive them to become a leading commercial power with settlements and colonies around the world. In the late 1790, France gained power throughout Europe and occupied the Netherlands for 20 years, then in 1815 a Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed. Belgium seceded in 1815 and formed a separate kingdom. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I but suffered invasion and occupation by Nazi Germany in World War II.

The Netherlands has been a leader in cross border partnerships. In 1948 the Netherlands became a co-signatory to the Benelux Customs Union along with Belgium and Luxembourg. This later became the Benelux Economic Union in 1958 and Benelux Union in 2008. The Netherlands was also a founding member of NATO in 1949, the EEC (now the EU) in 1957, and the Euro in 1999. The Netherlands is also a member country of the Schengen area in which border controls with other Schengen members have been eliminated while at the same those with non-Schengen countries have been strengthened.

In 2010, the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved and the three smallest islands, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, became special municipalities in the Netherlands administrative structure. The larger islands of Sint Maarten and Curacao joined the Netherlands and Aruba as constituent countries forming the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

How careful should you be going to the Netherlands

Often, physical theft isn't the worse kind. Unfortunately, identity theft is on the rise worldwide. In this silent crime you may not even know that you have been a victim until much later. You can do a few things to protect yourself:
Recognized as one of the safest countries in which to live, the Netherlands has very little violent crime. Every year since 2004, crime rates have been dropping. In 2011 fewer than 167,100 crime cases were registered, a 13% drop from 2010. However, tourists can still be the target of pickpockets and bag snatchers. Occasionally, thieves may even end up breaking in hotel rooms and even cars.

Don’t become a victim

Anyone visiting the Netherlands should not be complacent about its low crime rates. Theft occurs mostly on public transportation systems, including the tram and trains, especially to and from the airport. The rules are the same everywhere.
  • Don't be alone at night in dark places
  • Don't go into isolated or poorly lit areas and don't use ATM's in poorly lit areas
  • Don't carry your wallet in the open and don't leave purses or bags open.
  • Don't carry more cash that you need that day, leave extra cash, credit cards, and personal documents at home or in a hotel safe
  • Don't leave your belongings in airports, train stations and other highly trafficked areas 
  • Don’t buy counterfeit merchandise. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into your home country, but by purchasing them you could also be breaking local law.
Of special note, bike theft has also been a perennial problem which the police continue to try to solve.  The Netherlands is a large bike populations where owners traditionally had parked with little fear of theft. Today, there are over 750,000 bikes stolen each year, elevating this crime to a national concern. On a side note, the Dutch are hoping that technology has the answer and are now moving forward with a plan to install a chip in each bike (like smart cards), and registering each in a national bike registry.

The criminals are getting smarter

  • Be observant of your surroundings. If you are using ATM's, public computers, or even your own smart phone or tablet, look to make sure no one can observe your pin, user name and/or passwords.
  • If you are using a public computer don't get sucked in with an offer to help with the local language and always log off and shut down before leaving.
  • Don't use a debit card connected to your primary checking and savings accounts. If these are lost or stolen, your accounts can be drained. Rather, use a credit card where your exposure is only your credit line.
  • Don't make a public display of your smart phone or tablet. Runners may "hit and flit" and you will not only have lost your gadget, but also all the information you have stored on it.

If you become a victim

If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime in the Netherlands, you should contact the local police to file a report and your nearest embassy or consulate for the following help:
  • Replace a stolen passport
  • Help you find medical care if you are the victim of violent crimes such as assault or rape
  • Put you in contact with the appropriate police authorities
  • Contact family members or friends
  • Help you understand the local criminal justice process and direct you to local attorneys, although it is important to remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
If you have an emergency, 112 is the number for emergency police, ambulance or fire When the operator picks up, you will be asked for the address and city where you are calling from and the nature of the emergency.  This is an emergency-only number.

For non-emergency services, 0900 8844 is the non-emergency number. You will be connected to your local police station. If you prefer to use the web, the url is
Have a safe trip and have fun!