Posts Categorized: The Netherlands

Dutch day at the Shanghai World expo

A few weeks ago I was asked by the Dutch ministry of Foreign affairs to help with a special project. During the time it was a big secret that during the Dutch National day at the World Expo in Shanghai (18 May), the crown prince of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander would visit with his wife, Maxima Zorreguieta. A very exciting thought to help out with a royal event like this! I can’t really disclose what I did, but as complimentary gratitude, I received tickets for the event. The day started with a reception at the Expo site and ended with a special show of the “Netherlands Dance Theatre II” in the shanghai theatre.

We visited the expo for the first time. At around 3pm, we arrived at the dutch pavilion. The Dutch pavilion has an open architecture – you can walk through. (So one of the few without lines on the expo) and instead of a hall, allows people to walk by. (Hence the name Happy street) It shows typical Dutch artifacts like the process of making cheese, ice skates, Miffy, but also modern things like Armin van Buuren (dutch DJ) and our princes Maxima. They also put stone sheep everywhere which proved to be useful as seats as well.

For the day, the whole area was closed down to the selected people that had an invitation. It felt like the entire dutch community from Shanghai was present. Also some VIP’s including the earlier mentioned Dutch royalties, but Suna and I also ran into Dutch rapper Ali B. Funny to meet him here.

The catering was superb. from Champagne to special dutch kroketten that included Beijing duck filling and Chinese shrimp. I still prefer the classic dutch croquette’s. After the reception at the expo, there was a show by the Netherlands dance theater in the Shanghai Theater. The contemporary dance was interesting to watch. There were expressive scene’s with two intermissions. The royal members were welcomed with a big applause. I wonder how this royal appreciation was received by the Chinese. It was a special day which I won’t forget soon!

Celebration of Dutch Queen’s day in Shanghai 2010

Whilst Shanghai is upside down due to the opening of the Expo with many world leaders flying in, the dutch in Shanghai held a separate party: ‘Queen’s Day’ a Dutch public holiday celebrating the birthday of the Queen of the Netherlands and supposed to be a day of national unity and “togetherness”. To celebrate, Suna and I visited the Millennium hotel. The honorary guest at the reception was Jan Peter Balkenende, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Balkenende is visiting to open the Dutch pavilion at the world expo tomorrow, we talked briefly and he is a very friendly patient man. Similar to when I met Maxime Verhagen (demissionair minister of foreign affairs), I noticed politicians are much relaxed meeting people abroad. Suna wondered whether something like this would be possible in any other country. In Korea for example, people wouldn’t be able to even ask these kind of things. Happy Dutch Queensday everybody!


For Tiroler ski, Muju Korea is Austria’s top export project

Last week we spent some time at Muju (무주) Ski resort in S-Korea. An Average area, with 25km of beginner and advanced ski slopes – aimed to host the 2010 winter Olympics, including four ski jump’s, fun park and half pipe. But that wasn’t what struck me most. It was the export of culture in this multi-million dollar ski resorts in the far east that blew my mind. Note before I continue: Obviously, this is a positive review. It’s probably the Korean eye for service for a great price that will demise this place to a packed tourist place within a few years, complete with screaming children, angry visitors and high prices… oh, well. Although the resort was sold to a US consortium for 130 million dollar in 2001, it struck to me how well the Austrian’s packaged and consigned the ski experience to Korea; including tiroler management and staff. Austrian’s have been doing this for over 15 years in Asia, with some minor projects in Korea, Japan, India and China.

Austrian styled:Tirol (!) Hotel, condo’s, castle,spa’s, Apres ski facilities. Austrian exported: beer,Austria Snow Sports Academy, Swiss/Austrian (Doppelmayr) made Funitel and Hybrid lift’s.,Ski rental gear, Ski/Snowboard gear (from sweaters to helmets), Preparation bully’s (I counted five, but their should be more), Artificial snow machine’s,Ski lights, slope accessories etc.

Finally, I few things that I noticed while out there:

  1. A lot of Korean, but also Chinese and Indian visitors, many of them can board/ski very well
  2. The resort guests are very friendly to each other, I’ve seen people bow to each other after a collision on the hill.
  3. Unlike in the Alps, professional gear is not equal to skills on the slope.
  4. I’m used to hit the slopes early, continue until four in the afternoon and then go Après-ski, but for a land with shopping malls close at 5am, the slopes are available for 18 hours a day, starting at 6:30.
  5. Excellent service at the resort, free warm tea handed out by Korean girls wearing German clothes, tissue dispensers around the slope
  6. Our hotel room was quite space-full, not to oexpensive, and we had a calming view on the slopes from our bed

Dutch culture trade in Korea, or Korean trade in the Netherlands? Jealous of the austria’s project opportunities (My German aczent © sucks), I started looking what the Netherlands (my homecountry) could export (and monetize) on. Koreans and Dutch embassy diplomats mentioned that Dutch are famous for their tulips, (cliche I know)… But putting up tulip show’s is big business, and the Netherlands is one of the rare area’s where the bulbs come from. Proof of concept can be found in Shanghai, where a 100 hectare (3 times bigger then the annual one in The Netherlands) tulip show is being held for the 6th time this year. What other concepts could do well in Korea? Football related events (All Korean men know the Dutch football team, but for that goes that most Shanghaiinese do as well) and beer – a beerfest? (there are German Beerhof’s spread around the country), Dutch artifactual buildings, like the one (although close) in Japan (pictures), what else could do well? I think that for project developers, there are more Korean trades to be ‘sold’ to Europe these days, including common things like Jimjilbang and Samgyeopsal; both increasingly popular in the US. Also, the concepts of restaurant ringers – allowing one to order or get bill with a button on the table, video on demand and key-less doors are things that should be standardized in European countries by now.

Ice Skating Madness at FlevOnIce in The Netherlands

Ice Skating with the familyI’m back in the Netherlands for a short business trip and it’s very cold outside. Sadly, it’s not cold enough to ice-skate on the lakes and rivers yet. Ice-skating is a favorite sport in the Netherlands. Not only are we proud of our famous ice skaters, when there’s a cold winter all Dutch people will go crazy to go ice-skating. During a really cold winter, everyone looks forward to the Elfstedentocht; (11 city marathon race of almost 200 km) that is, if it takes place. I’m a member of the Elfstedentocht union, hoping to skate the Elfsteden tocht some day, but due to global warming, there might never be one again. Due to this heat, many Dutch people travel to cold, cold Austria for the “200 km alternative elfstedentocht” at the white lake/Weissensee with the mountains. But since last year, Dutch people don’t have to drive for eleven hours to have an authentic ice skating experience. Henk Ketelaar, a 66 year old entrepreneur founded a unique five kilometers long natural ice ring, Flevonice Biddinghuizen is still artificial ice, but it’s very close to the real deal. To celebrate a succesful (busy) week, with my American colleges Richard Yu and Lily Tidrow, we’ve met with my parents for some ice skating on this particular track. I’ve seen many artificial tracks, but this track was just something else. It was just 1°C (38°F) degree outside, and with the cold wind and sunny background. For lunch we had hot chocolate and Dutch Pea Soup.

When your name is announced at the Airport

Imagine sitting at the gate, waiting for your plane from Amsterdam to Shanghai to arrive and you hear your name announced over the speakers. This happened to me yesterday.

Yesterday I took the train to the airport of Amsterdam, and checked in like normal, passed security check and ordered some fruits. When I found a place to sit, I started to work on my laptop. After some time, I suddenly heard my name over the sounds of my earbuds. I took them out and heard my name being broadcasted throughout the terminal… I was shocked! The first thought I had was: “This never happened to me before”, then “Maybe something is wrong with my ticket!”… I quickly packed my laptop and made my way to the service desk. When I arrived – breathing heavily – I immediately enquired what the problem was, the lady behind the counter told me that someone called Zuidgeest (name of friend of mine) claimed to have my keys in his possession, she reached the phone to me and told me that he was on the other side of the line. “These guys can’t have my keys, I haven’t seen them yesterday!” I paused for a second and realized that this friend couldn’t have my keys, apparently they were willing to lie to get in touch with me… so I played along, intrigued with their act. The lady behind the counter that handed me the phone was very supportive and felt intensely for me. She warned that my plane would leave soon, but that when I hurried, I might have enough time to see them and then pass security again. For a black Saturday Schiphol was as quiet as a library, and I decided to go out and buy my friends a beer. We laughed, they like to play a practical joke every once and a while, but I didn’t see this joke coming. Touche my friends, touche..