First rule: There are no rules. These resources are completely free and at your disposal. Use as much, or as little, as you want. Study casually, or work to create a portfolio of academic work that will blow the socks off of the educational establishment.

Feel free to adapt the materials for your own purposes. We expect families, business people, backpackers, college students, high school kids, middle aged vacationers, and retirees who are on a late life adventure to take these materials and run with them. We’d be very happy for teachers or travel group leaders to add these materials to their study abroad packets as well.

The nature of open source is collaboration, so please feel free to contribute when you become aware of resources we haven’t listed, or you have project ideas that we haven’t developed. Send us your work and inspire others to reach higher and deeper as they travel!

Our goal with this project is to inspire adventure and further education through experiential learning around the world. Please send us a note and let us know how you used these resources!

Buffet Style Learning

Does the menu look overwhelming? Looking for a formula to use as a skeleton for your studies in the Netherlands?


  • Two books
  • Two films
  • Three articles
  • One Problem & Solution or Project Option
  • One Cultural Assignment

Table of Contents

Book Recommendations


dutch-coatesWhy The Dutch Are Different: A Journey Into the Hidden Heart of the Netherlands

by Ben Coates

Stranded at Schiphol airport, Ben Coates called up a friendly Dutch girl he’d met some months earlier. He stayed for dinner. Actually, he stayed for good.

In the first book to consider the hidden heart and history of the Netherlands from a modern perspective, the author explores the length and breadth of his adopted homeland and discovers why one of the world’s smallest countries is also so significant and so fascinating. It is a self-made country, the Dutch national character shaped by the ongoing battle to keep the water out from the love of dairy and beer to the attitude to nature and the famous tolerance.

Ben Coates investigates what makes the Dutch the Dutch, why the Netherlands is much more than Holland and why the color orange is so important. Along the way he reveals why they are the world’s tallest people and have the best carnival outside Brazil.

He learns why Amsterdam’s brothels are going out of business, who really killed Anne Frank, and how the Dutch manage to be richer than almost everyone else despite working far less. He also discovers a country which is changing fast, with the Dutch now questioning many of the liberal policies which made their nation famous.

dutch-amsterdamAmsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City

by Russell Shorto

Tourists know Amsterdam as a picturesque city of low-slung brick houses lining tidy canals; student travelers know it for its legal brothels and hash bars; art lovers know it for Rembrandt’s glorious portraits.

But the deeper history of Amsterdam, what makes it one of the most fascinating places on earth, is bound up in its unique geography-the constant battle of its citizens to keep the sea at bay and the democratic philosophy that this enduring struggle fostered. Amsterdam is the font of liberalism, in both its senses. Tolerance for free thinking and free love make it a place where, in the words of one of its mayors, “craziness is a value.” But the city also fostered the deeper meaning of liberalism, one that profoundly influenced America: political and economic freedom. Amsterdam was home not only to religious dissidents and radical thinkers but to the world’s first great global corporation.

dutch-blueGirl in the Blue Coat

by Monica Hesse

Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person–a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.

Beautifully written, intricately plotted, and meticulously researched, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice.

dutch-boomThe Hiding Place

by Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the twentieth century. In World War II she and her family risked their lives to help Jews and underground workers escape from the Nazis, and for their work they were tested in the infamous Nazi death camps. Only Corrie among her family survived to tell the story of how faith ultimately triumphs over evil.

Here is the riveting account of how Corrie and her family were able to save many of God’s chosen people. For 35 years millions have seen that there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still. Now The Hiding Place, repackaged for a new generation of readers, continues to declare that God’s love will overcome, heal, and restore.


by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

One of today’s most admired and controversial political figures, Ayaan Hirsi Ali burst into international headlines following the murder of Theo van Gogh by an Islamist who threatened that she would be next. She made headlines again when she was stripped of her citizenship and resigned from the Dutch Parliament.

Infidel shows the coming of age of this distinguished political superstar and champion of free speech as well as the development of her beliefs, iron will, and extraordinary determination to fight injustice. Raised in a strict Muslim family, Hirsi Ali survived civil war, female mutilation, brutal beatings, adolescence as a devout believer during the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four troubled, unstable countries ruled largely by despots. She escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands, where she earned a college degree in political science, tried to help her tragically depressed sister adjust to the West, and fought for the rights of Muslim women and the reform of Islam as a member of Parliament. Under constant threat, demonized by reactionary Islamists and politicians, disowned by her father, and expelled from family and clan, she refuses to be silenced.

Ultimately a celebration of triumph over adversity, Hirsi Ali’s story tells how a bright little girl evolves out of dutiful obedience to become an outspoken, pioneering freedom fighter. As Western governments struggle to balance democratic ideals with religious pressures, no other book could be more timely or more significant.

dutch-pearlGirl with a Pearl Earring: A Novel

by Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier transports readers to a bygone time and place in this richly-imagined portrait of the young woman who inspired one of Vermeer’s most celebrated paintings.

History and fiction merge seamlessly in this luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening. Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of sixteen-year-old Griet, whose life is transformed by her brief encounter with genius . . . even as she herself is immortalized in canvas and oil.

dutch-hiddenHidden Like Anne Frank: 14 True Stories of Survival

by Marcel Prins & Peter Henk Steenhuis

Jaap Sitters was only eight years old when his mother cut the yellow stars off his clothes and sent him, alone, on a fifteen-mile walk to hide with relatives. It was a terrifying night, one he would never forget. Before the end of the war, he would hide in secret rooms and behind walls. He would suffer from hunger, sickness, and the looming threat of Nazi raids. But he would live.

This is just one of the true stories told in Hidden Like Anne Frank, a collection of eye-opening first-person accounts that share the experience of going into hiding to escape the Holocaust. Some were just toddlers when they were hidden; some were teenagers. Some hid with neighbors or family, while many were with complete strangers. But all know the pain of losing their homes, their families, even their own names. They describe the secret network that kept them safe. And they share the coincidences and close calls that made all the difference.

dutch-anneAnne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

by Anne Frank

Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annex” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

dutch-collideWhen Ways of Life Collide: Multiculturalism and Its Discontents in the Netherlands

by Paul M. Sniderman & Louk Hagendoorn

n 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was brutally murdered on a busy Amsterdam street. His killer was Mohammed Bouyeri, a twenty-six-year-old Dutch Moroccan offended by van Gogh’s controversial film about Muslim suppression of women. The Dutch government had funded separate schools, housing projects, broadcast media, and community organizations for Muslim immigrants, all under the umbrella of multiculturalism. But the reality of terrorism and radicalization of Muslim immigrants has shattered that dream.
In this arresting book, Paul Sniderman and Louk Hagendoorn demonstrate that there are deep conflicts of values in the Netherlands. In the eyes of the Dutch, for example, Muslims oppress women, treating them as inferior to men. In the eyes of Muslim immigrants, Western Europeans deny women the respect they deserve. Western Europe has become a cultural conflict zone. Two ways of life are colliding.

Sniderman and Hagendoorn show how identity politics contributed to this crisis. The very policies meant to persuade majority and minority that they are part of the same society strengthened their view that they belong to different societies. At the deepest level, the authors’ findings suggest, the issue that government and citizens need to be concerned about is not a conflict of values but a clash of fundamental loyalties.

dutch-shadowRembrandt’s Shadow

by Janet Lee Berg

October 20, 1942. Benjamin Katz and his frightened family stand at the train station in occupied Holland, unsure if they would be taken to their freedom—or the death camp. Sylvie, his granddaughter, who was six years old at the time, would later recall the madness as they wondered if their desperate last minute escape would work. When the German officer received the order to allow the escape he said, “I would have much rather been given the order to kill all of you.”

Their entire art collection had long made them a prime target of Adolf Hitler and his greedy henchmen. Now they had one big trade—a Rembrandt in exchange for twenty-five lives.

Based on a true story, Rembrandt’s Shadow is the story of two women from different generations—each with their own distinct horrific memories—who find themselves at odds when forced to confront the here and now.

dutch-tulipTulipomania : The Story of the World’s Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused

by Mike Dash

In the 1630s, visitors to the prosperous trading cities of the Netherlands couldn’t help but notice that thousands of normally sober, hardworking Dutch citizens from every walk of life were caught up in an extraordinary frenzy of buying and selling. The object of this unprecedented speculation was the tulip, a delicate and exotic Eastern import that had bewitched horticulturists, noblemen, and tavern owners alike. For almost a year rare bulbs changed hands for incredible and ever-increasing sums, until single flowers were being sold for more than the cost of a house.

Historians would come to call it tulipomania. It was the first futures market in history, and like so many of the ones that would follow, it crashed spectacularly, plunging speculators and investors into economic ruin and despair.

This is the history of the tulip, from its origins on the barren, windswept steppes of central Asia to its place of honor in the lush imperial gardens of Constantinople, to its starring moment as the most coveted–and beautiful–commodity in Europe. Historian Mike Dash vividly narrates the story of this amazing flower and the colorful cast of characters–Turkish sultans, Yugoslav soldiers, French botanists, and Dutch tavern keepers–who were centuries apart historically and worlds apart culturally, but who all had one thing in common: tulipomania.

dutch-cowNever Turn Your Back on an Angus Cow: My Life as a Country Vet

by Dr. Jan Pol

Dr. Jan Pol is not your typical veterinarian. Born and raised the Netherlands on a dairy farm, he is the star of Nat Geo Wild’s hit show The Incredible Dr. Pol and has been treating animals in rural Michigan since the 1970s. Dr. Pol’s more than 20,000 patients have ranged from white mice to 2600-pound horses and everything in between.

From the time he was twelve years old and helped deliver a litter of piglets on his family’s farm to the incredible moments captured on his hit TV show, Dr. Pol has amassed a wealth of stories of what it’s like caring for this menagerie of animals. He shares his own story of growing up surrounded by animals, training to be a vet in the Netherlands, and moving to Michigan to open his first practice in a pre fab house. He has established himself as an empathetic yet no-nonsense vet who isn’t afraid to make the difficult decisions in order to do what’s best for his patients—and their hard-working owners. A sick pet can bring heartache, but a sick cow or horse could threaten the very livelihood of a farmer whose modest profits are dependent on healthy livestock.

Reminiscent of the classic books of James Herriot, Never Turn Your Back on an Angus Cow is a charming, fascinating, and funny memoir that will delight animal lovers everywhere.

dutch-richesThe Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age

by Simon Schama
Schama explores the mysterious contradictions of the Dutch nation that invented itself from the ground up, attained an unprecedented level of affluence, and lived in constant dread of being corrupted by happiness. Drawing on a vast array of period documents and sumptuously reproduced art, Schama re-creates in precise detail a nation’s mental state. He tells of bloody uprisings and beached whales, of the cult of hygiene and the plague of tobacco, of thrifty housewives and profligate tulip-speculators. He tells us how the Dutch celebrated themselves and how they were slandered by their enemies.

dutch-airforceDutch Naval Air Force Against Japan: The Defense of the Netherlands East Indies, 1941-1942

by Tom Womack

December 7, 1941, opened up a new theater of war in the Pacific and a new threat for what was then the Netherlands East Indies. The Dutch, with their Naval Air Force or Marine Luchtvaart Dienst (MLD), made a significant—and often overlooked—contribution to the Allied effort. With their 175 aircraft, the MLD in Southeast Asia outnumbered American and British naval air reconnaissance forces combined. Three months of intense fighting left the Dutch bereft of thousands of naval personnel and over 80 percent of their aircraft.

This work details the actions of MLD during the Japanese invasion of the Netherlands East Indies. Beginning with a look at the origins of the MLD, it provides an overview of the force, including an analysis of its aircraft, equipment, personnel and training. Operations of the United States Navy and Royal Air Force seaplane units are included in order to provide a thorough history of the campaign. Final chapters cover the MLD’s ill-fated attempts at evacuation of the island battleground and offer an overall review of the MLD’s performance. Appendices contain such information as Allied and Japanese aircraft specifications, squadron tables of organization, and MLD bases and operational areas. The result is by far the most comprehensive English-language account of the Allied naval air war in the Netherlands East Indies.

dutch-soccerBrilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer

by David Winner

Brilliant Orange is a book about Dutch soccer that’s not really about Dutch soccer. It’s more about an enigmatic way of thinking peculiar to a people whose landscape is unrelentingly flat, mostly below sea level, ad who owe their salvation to a boy who plugged a fractured dike with his little finger.

If any one thing, Brilliant Orange is about Dutch space and a people whose unique conception of it has led to one of the most enduring art, the weirdest architecture, and a bizarrely cerebral form of soccer–Total Football–that led in 1974 to a World Cup finals match with arch-rival Germany and more recently to a devastating loss against Spain in 2010. With its intricacy and oddity, it continues to mystify and delight observers around the world. As David Winner wryly observes, it is an expression of the Dutch psyche that has a shared ancestry with the Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, Rembrandt’s Th Night Watch, maybe even with Gouda cheese.

Finally here in paperback, Brilliant Orange reaches out to the reader from an unexpected place and never lets go.

dutch-bikesIn the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist

by Pete Jordan

Pete Jordan, author of the wildly popular Dishwasher: One Man’s Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States, is back with a memoir that tells the story of his love affair with Amsterdam, the city of bikes, all the while unfolding an unknown history of the city’s cycling, from the craze of the 1890s, through the Nazi occupation, to the bike-centric culture adored by the world today

Pete never planned to stay long in Amsterdam, just a semester. But he quickly falls in love with the city and soon his wife, Amy Joy, joins him. Together they explore every inch of their new home on two wheels, their rides a respite from the struggles that come with starting a new life in a new country.

Weaving together personal anecdotes and details of the role that cycling has played throughout Dutch history, Pete Jordan’s In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist is a poignant and entertaining read.

dutch-tulipTulip Fever: A Novel

by Deborah Moggach

In 1630s Amsterdam, tulipomania has seized the populace. Everywhere men are seduced by the fantastic exotic flower. But for wealthy merchant Cornelis Sandvoort, it is his young and beautiful wife, Sophia, who stirs his soul. She is the prize he desires, the woman he hopes will bring him the joy that not even his considerable fortune can buy.

Cornelis yearns for an heir, but so far he and Sophia have failed to produce one. In a bid for immortality, he commissions a portrait of them both by the talented young painter Jan van Loos. But as Van Loos begins to capture Sophia’s likeness on canvas, a slow passion begins to burn between the beautiful young wife and the talented artist.

As the portrait unfolds, so a slow dance is begun among the household’s inhabitants. Ambitions, desires, and dreams breed a grand deception—and as the lies multiply, events move toward a thrilling and tragic climax.

In this richly imagined international bestseller, Deborah Moggach has created the rarest of novels—a lush, lyrical work of fiction that is also compulsively readable. Seldom has a novel so vividly evoked a time, a place, and a passion.

dutch-vangoghThe Letters of Vincent van Gogh

by Vincent Van Gogh

Few artists’ letters are as self-revelatory as Vincent Van Gogh’s, and the selection included here, spanning the whole of his artistic career, sheds light on every facet of the life and work of this complex and tortured man. Engaging candidly and movingly with his religious struggles, his ill-fated search for love, his intense relationship with his brother Theo and his attacks of mental illness, the letters contradict the popular image of Van Gogh as an anti-social madman and a martyr to art, showing instead that he was capable of great emotional and spiritual depths. Above all, they stand as an intense personal narrative of artistic development and a unique account of the process of creation.
The letters are linked by explanatory biographical passages, revealing Van Gogh’s inner journey as well as the outer facts of his life. This edition includes the drawings that originally illustrated the letters.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

dutch-too-farA Bridge Too Far: The Classic History of the Greatest Battle of World War II

by Cornelius Ryan

A Bridge Too Far is Cornelius Ryan’s masterly chronicle of the Battle of Arnhem, which marshalled the greatest armada of troop-carrying aircraft ever assembled and cost the Allies nearly twice as many casualties as D-Day.

In this compelling work of history, Ryan narrates the Allied effort to end the war in Europe in 1944 by dropping the combined airborne forces of the American and British armies behind German lines to capture the crucial bridge across the Rhine at Arnhem. Focusing on a vast cast of characters—from Dutch civilians to British and American strategists to common soldiers and commanders—Ryan brings to life one of the most daring and ill-fated operations of the war. A Bridge Too Far superbly recreates the terror and suspense, the heroism and tragedy of this epic operation, which ended in bitter defeat for the Allies.

dutch-coffeeThe Coffee Trader: A Novel

by David Liss

Amsterdam, 1659: On the world’s first commodities exchange, fortunes are won and lost in an instant. Miguel Lienzo, a sharp-witted trader in the city’s close-knit community of Portuguese Jews, knows this only too well. Once among the city’s most envied merchants, Miguel has suddenly lost everything. Now, impoverished and humiliated, living in his younger brother’s canal-flooded basement, Miguel must find a way to restore his wealth and reputation.

Miguel enters into a partnership with a seductive Dutchwoman who offers him one last chance at success—a daring plot to corner the market of an astonishing new commodity called “coffee.” To succeed, Miguel must risk everything he values and face a powerful enemy who will stop at nothing to see him ruined. Miguel will learn that among Amsterdam’s ruthless businessmen, betrayal lurks everywhere, and even friends hide secret agendas.

dutch-miepAnne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family

by Miep Gies

For the millions moved by Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, here at last is Miep Geis’s own astonishing story. For more than two years, Miep Gies and her husband helped hide the Franks from the Nazis. Like thousands of unsung heroes of the Holocaust, they risked their lives each day to bring food, news, and emotional support to the victims.

She found the diary and brought the world a message of love and hope.

It seems as if we are never far from Miep’s thoughts….Yours, Anne

From her own remarkable childhood as a World War I refugee to the moment she places a small, red-orange, checkered diary — Anne’s legacy — in Otto Frank’s hands, Miep Gies remembers her days with simple honesty and shattering clarity. Each page rings with courage and heartbreaking beauty.

Kids Book Recommendations


dutch-skatingThe Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands

by Louise Borden

In 1941 Piet, a young Dutch boy from Sluis, gets the assignment of a lifetime: He must skate along the frozen canals of the Netherlands and across the Belgian border, in order to guide two neighborhood children to their aunt’s house in Brugge, where the children will remain for the duration of World War II. Their father has been taken by German soldiers, and the children are no longer safe in Sluis — but the journey with Piet, past soldiers and enemies, is fraught with danger.

Along the treacherous path to Belgium the three children skate using every bit of speed, courage, and strength they can muster. All the time they try to appear like innocent schoolchildren simply out for a skate, for if the German soldiers discover their escape plan, the children will be in grave trouble. During the journey Piet thinks about his hero, Pim Mulier — the first person to ever skate the Elfstedentocht, the famous and prestigious Eleven Towns Race that takes place in his country. For years Piet has dreamed of proving that he is a skater as brave and strong as Pim Mulier — but he had never imagined that his test would fall under such dangerous circumstances.

dutch-who-anneWho Was Anne Frank?

by Ann Abramson
In her amazing diary, Anne Frank revealed the challenges and dreams common for any young girl. But Hitler brought her childhood to an end and forced her and her family into hiding. Who Was Anne Frank? looks closely at Anne’s life before the secret annex, what life was like in hiding, and the legacy of her diary. Black-and-white illustrations including maps and diagrams provide historical and visual reference in an easy-to-read biography written in a way that is appropriate and accessible for younger readers.

dutch-vangoghVincent Van Gogh: Sunflowers and Swirly Stars

by Joan Holub

Brad explores the ups and downs of van Gogh’s life and art in this colorful report, featuring Brad’s funny cartoons alongside reproductions of classic paintings like Starry Night.

dutch-amsterdam-kidsMission Amsterdam: A Scavenger Hunt Adventure

by Catherine Aragon

Mission Amsterdam takes your young travelers through the famous sights of the Dutch capital, engaging them with an exciting scavenger hunt as you explore city landmarks together. Say “tot ziens” (goodbye) to a trip filled with the stress of keeping everyone entertained. Instead, say “hallo” (hello) to a memorable vacation, with your kids actively engaged in exploring the landmarks of Amsterdam with you.

Imagine, not only will your kids want to sightsee, together you’ll uncover the intriguing histories of sights like the Van Gogh Museum, Royal Palace, Rijksmuseum, and many more. Mission Amsterdam ensures a fun trip for everyone with a captivating, spy-theme scavenger hunt packed with fun activities and the fascinating stories behind the city’s landmarks.

Mission Amsterdam is a must-have book for kids visiting Amsterdam!

dutch-treeThe Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window

by Jeff Gottesfeld
The tree in the courtyard was a horse chestnut. Her leaves were green stars; her flowers foaming cones of white and pink. Seagulls flocked to her shade. She spread roots and reached skyward in peace.

The tree watched a little girl, who played and laughed and wrote in a diary. When strangers invaded the city and warplanes roared overhead, the tree watched the girl peek out of the curtained window of the annex. It watched as she and her family were taken away—and when her father returned after the war, alone.

The tree died the summer Anne Frank would have turned eighty-one, but its seeds and saplings have been planted around the world as a symbol of peace. Its story, and Anne’s story, are beautifully told and illustrated in this powerful picture book.

Film Recommendations


Holland’s Barriers to The Sea

The Delta Works in the Netherlands (Holland) is the largest flood protection project in the world. This project consists of a number of surge barriers, for examples:

1- The Oosterscheldekering is the largest of the 13 ambitious Delta Works series of dams and storm surge barriers and it is the largest surge barrier in the world, 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) long. The dam is based on 65 concrete pillars with 62 steel doors, each 42 metres wide. It is designed to protect the Netherlands from flooding from the North Sea.

2- The Maeslantkering is a storm barrier with two movable arms; when the arms are open the waterway remains an important shipping route however when the arms close a protective storm barrier is formed for the city of Rotterdam. Closing the arms of the barrier is a completely automated process done without human intervention.

The Dutch Sex Industry’s Terrifying Underbelly

Lover Boys (2013): When Holland legalised prostitution it was supposed to clean up the sex trade. But 13 years on, this report reveals the murky world that lies behind the windows and offers a damning indictment of the system.

Behind the shiny windows, filled with young scantily-clad women, of Amsterdam’s sex trade lies a murky world. It’s one run by the so-called ‘lover boys’, who lure young girls into relationships only to groom, beat and brutalise them into selling themselves for sex. As Tom, who’s in Amsterdam on a mission to recover his daughter Sonia who was groomed by sex traffickers, points out, legalisation has offered a gateway for criminals: “These people are the underworld: prostitution, drugs, trafficking. All the areas that you would not expect your daughter to be anywhere near.”

And Now, What’s Next? | A Reflection About Education In The Netherlands

The short-documentary “And now what’s next? A reflection about education in the Netherlands” shows teachers, parents, children and people working in the field of education sharing their thoughts, feelings, wisdom and views on education.

Amsterdam’s Coffee Shops – Cannabis Selling Establishments Documentary

Amsterdam’s Coffee Shops: A varietry of Amsterdam’s coffeeshop owners speak in this short documentary about the cannabis selling establishments in the Netherlands and their history.

M.C. Escher Documentary

This is a fantastic documentary about M.C. Escher’ life produced by CINEMEDIA in co-production with Nederlandse Programma Stichting (NPS) and Radio Netherlands Television (RNTV) in 1999. [ All M.C. Escher works are copyrighted by Cordon Art B.V., Baarn, the Netherlands, and The M.C. Escher Company, B.V. All Rights Reserved

Have The Netherlands’ Liberal Laws Encouraged Radicalization?

Holland has become the new European centre for Islamic extremists. Terrorists are exploiting its liberal laws to enlist new recruits and launder money.

Speaking Walls – Legal Graffiti in Holland

Short documentary about the legal working Dutch graffiti artist ‘Joax’ (Arend Maatkamp). We did film him while writing on legal spot in Delft/Holland and got some interesting insights to the legal and illegal graffiti scene when interviewing him in the harbour of Rotterdam.

Mercy or Murder? – Holland

The Netherlands now looks set to be the first country in the world where euthanasia, or mercy killing, is legal. MPs have voted to legalise a practice which has traditionally been tolerated. The Upper House now has to ratify the new law which could be in Place by next year. But the debate has polarised Dutch society, where many still oppose euthanasia.

BBC News Why do so Many Dutch People Cycle>

There are more bicycles than residents in The Netherlands. In cities like Amsterdam and The Hague up to 70% of all journeys are made by bike.

This is because of a vast network of cycle paths that are clearly marked, with smooth surfaces, separate signs and lights, and wide enough to allow side-by-side cycling and overtaking.

Johannes Vermeer – Girl with a Pearl Earring

By watching this video you’ll learn the major facts about ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Dutch baroque artist Johannes Vermeer. The painting will be visually analyzed and the common interpretations are explained.

‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ is one of the most famous works of Western Art. What makes this painting so special are it’s luminosity, it’s bright colors, the exotic elements and above all the enigmatic appearance of the girl.

The 20-Year-Old With a Plan to Rid the Sea of Plastic

Boyan Slat’s story is not quite that of a 20-year-old Wunderkind who magically found a potential fix to a longstanding problem. It’s perhaps more accurately described as a combination of personal dedication and trial and error. When going through his old prototypes for a technology that would passively scrub oceans of plastic, he’s almost embarrassed of his early concepts.

“But that’s what science is really,” Slat said. “It’s a work in progress.”

The crowdfunding campaign behind Slat’s Ocean Cleanup Project was announced with strong bidding, no matter: “With two million dollars we can make a theoretical concept come true.” With just two days left in his campaign, Slat successfully collected the funding for his project, bringing him one step closer to realizing a vision of plastic-free oceans.

Amsterdam Prostitutes: The Facts about Window Prostitution in Amsterdam

Around 1,000 prostitutes work in Amsterdam on any given day, and a few hundred of them work behind the windows in the Red Light District. The others work in clubs, brothels, for escort services or from home. Totally, the city has about 400 such windows, with the big majority of them located at the Wallen in the Red Light District.

Article Recommendations

Free Coffee and Half Price Bike Repairs: Amsterdam Rewards its Recyclers – The Guardian

Dutch MP Vote to Ban the Burka in Public Places – The Telegraph

The Dutch Solution to Floods: Live With Water, Don’t Fight It – The Guardian

Europe’s Largest Electric Public Bus Fleet in Dutch Cities – Dutch Daily News

Brexit Slowing Down Economic Growth in the Netherlands – Dutch Daily News

The Netherlands Could Be the First Country to Ban Gas, Diesel Vehicles – Global News

For Safe and Effective Drug Policy, Look to the Dutch – OSF

Only in the Netherlands Do Addicts Complain About Free Government Heroin – Vice News

Prostitution in the Netherlands: ‘Paying for Sex? It’s Strictly Business’ – The Guardian

The Audacity of Tolerance: A Critical Analysis of Legalized Prostitution in Amsterdam’s Red Light District – Humanity in Action

Human Trafficking and Legalized Prostitution in the Netherlands

Unfinished Business – Women’s Rights in the Netherlands – CEDAW

Farming in the Netherlands – Polder and Wiser – The Economist

The Netherlands: An Interventionist Agricultural Policy Intended to Reduce Regional Inequalities – AGTER

Urban Agriculture in the Netherlands – RUAF

Rise of the Right: ‘Anarchist’ Media in the Netherlands – Al Jazeera

Netherlands Rolls Out ‘Solar Road’ – Al Jazeera

Right to Die: Netherlands, Belgium Ignite Global Debate on Euthanasia – Al Jazeera

Netherlands Tests Free Basic Income for the Unemployed – Al Jazeera

Seaweed Farms – The Next Logical Step in Food Security – Holland Trade & Invest

The Netherlands Raises the Bar on Sustainable Fishing – The Guardian

Project Options:



The Netherlands has a very long history. The first people arrived more than five thousand years ago. Choose and era to study more in depth or do a timeline overview of Dutch history to try to get a sense of the scope and sequence of the arc of the story:

  • Dutch pre-history and the arrival of the first people
  • The Bronze Age
  • The Iron Age
  • The Middle Ages
  • Development of the Dutch language
  • Arrival of Christianity
  • The Eighty Year’s War
  • Dutch Golden Age
  • Dutch Exploration
  • Slave Trade
  • Evolution from Empire, to Republic, to Kingdom
  • The Industrial Revolution
  • The World Wars
  • The EU

Netherlands in WW2

Dive deep, or study only one or two aspects of the following:

When did the Dutch enter WW2 and why? What were the pivotal moments of the war for the Dutch? They fought on two fronts: at home, and in the Dutch East Indies, where they had colonial responsibilities. What were the differences between the two wars? How were they interdependent?

Study the German occupation of The Netherlands. What was life like for individual people under occupation? Tell some of the individual stories you encounter. Describe the resistance movements.

Anne Frank

Perhaps the most famous Dutch casualty of WW2, Anne Frank’s story is widely read around the world. If you have not read the story already, please do so. Also follow up with the story of her protector, Miep and the story of her Father, Otto Frank; he recorded some of his recollections long after the war, as he survived.

Visit the Anne Frank Haus in Amsterdam. Experience, first hand, what it would have been like to be trapped in this place for years on end.

Painters & Artists

The Netherlands has a rich artistic history. Take the time to learn more about and appreciate the work of various Dutch artists while you are in the country. Look up their individual museums, and visit the National Galleries as well.

  • Escher
  • Rembrandt
  • VanGogh
  • VerMeer
  • Utrecht
  • Steen
  • Hobbema
  • Bosch
  • Appel
  • Hals

Among many other painters and artists.


The Netherlands has also produced a number of famous and historically significant musicians. Have a listen to some of their work, attend a performance or two in the major cities if you can. But, also delve into modern Dutch music. What is popular and why? Who are the current movers and shakers in the Dutch music scene? Some Dutch musicians you may have heard of and want to investigate further include:

  • Willem Breuker
  • Eddie Van Halen
  • Taco
  • Eva Simmons
  • Janine Janson
  • Herman Brood
  • Jan Akkerman
  • R3hab

Which others have you discovered?


It’s no secret that the Dutch love their tulips. If you are lucky enough to visit in the spring when they are blooming, the tulip fields are a sight you’ll never forget. However tulips are more than just a pretty flower to the Dutch, they are an important part of the history and culture of this country.

What was Tulip Mania? In what ways have tulips contributed to Dutch culture (then and now)? Discover the story of eating tulip bulbs. How did the tulip become one of the symbols of the Netherlands?


No matter where you go in the Netherlands you’ll see windmills, as art, and architecture. Why is the windmill so important to Dutch culture and why do we see it here so much more than other places in the world? What is the history of the windmill in the Netherlands? What were they used for? Are any of them still used? Trace the evolution of the windmill from the early constructions to modern usage for power generation and water pumping. What else have windmills been used for in the past? What else are they used for now?


It is likely that you’ll see more bicycles in the Netherlands than you have ever seen in your life. The Dutch have an amazing love of their bikes and they’ve developed an elaborate infrastructure to support bicycle transportation, from “bike highways” to multi-story parking garages, just for bikes.

What is it about bike culture that just “works” in the Netherlands? Why? Who rides bikes? What sorts of things are transported by bike in the Netherlands (besides people)? Document some of the interesting cycling set ups you see and record the things that impress or surprise you. What does this bicycle culture mean for the Netherlands in terms of efficiency, energy consumption and the global move towards more sustainable forms of energy use and transport? Are there lessons we can apply to our homes in other countries from the Dutch experience?


Even though the Netherlands has a relatively small population it has one of the top twenty economies in the world. The Dutch are famous for their innovation and it shows itself in all areas of their economy, an example (above is an article) is the development of seaweed farms towards sustainability in our food sources. Investigate the ways in which the Dutch are contributing to the following industries, according to your interest:

  • Agriculture and Horticulture
  • Chemical Industry
  • High-tech Development
  • Energy
  • Life Science
  • Logistical Industry
  • Water Initiatives and Solutions

The House of Orange: Dutch Monarchy

The Netherlands is a Constitutional Monarchy. This means that, while there is a King and Queen, their power is limited by the constitution and an elected government.

Who are the Dutch royal family? Why are they referred to as the “House of Orange?” What is the (short) history of the monarchy in the Netherlands? What happened to the royal family during WW2? How did this forge closer ties with Canada? What is the role of the royal family today? Who are the key figures? Ask questions and try to figure out what the national sentiment towards the concept of monarchy is in the modern era. Do the Dutch love their monarchy? Or are they ready to do away with it?

The Hague

The third largest city in the Netherlands and the seat of Dutch government, the Hague plays an even greater role on the world stage. This city is also where the International Court of Justice and Criminal Court are located. What does that mean? What is the purpose of these courts on the world stage? Which are some of the famous cases tried here? How does one get “sent to the Hague” for prosecution? Who does the prosecuting? Where does the power of the international court come from? How were the Dutch chosen to house the international courts?

Profiles of …..

Conduct a series of at least five interviews within a country. The point of the exercise would be to get a well rounded view of what it is like to live in the Netherlands from a variety of ages, incomes, employments and experiences. This could be conducted as video, or as text. Do an in depth analysis of the experience/information.

People you might profile:

  • Farmers
  • Teachers
  • Restaurant owners/workers
  • Clergy or Nuns
  • Government officials
  • Doctors or nurses
  • Cafe owners
  • Street vendors
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Drivers
  • Artists or musicians
  • Laborers
  • Cab drivers
  • Long term expats

Problems & Solutions



Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands and Amsterdam’s red light district has become a tourist destination. However, legal and regulated does not mean without issues. Spend some time examining the industry and identify ways that legalization has improved the situation, for sex workers, for clients, for the government and for society. Also identify problem areas that remain. Examine pimping, human trafficking, abuse and other difficulties. If possible, interview people involved in the industry, as service providers and as consumers. Tell some of the first hand stories that you encounter. What is your opinion, after your research, of the legalized sex industry in the Netherlands?

Drugs Use

Contrary to popular belief, drugs are NOT legal in the Netherlands (that’s Portugal!). Rather, coffee shops have been licensed to sell small amounts of “soft drugs” for consumption on location. How has this drugs law changed the culture of the Netherlands? What are the common misconceptions around the legal aspects of drugs use in the country? How has legalizing some drugs but not others influenced recreational drug use in the country? What is the prosecution focus of the law enforcement agencies? Talk to Dutch people about the drug culture that actually exists in their country as opposed to the popular conception of it internationally. Try to identify the statistics that demonstrate the success or failure of their national approach.


About 20% of the population of the Netherlands are immigrants. The history of immigration to the Netherlands is an interesting one, particularly in the years since WW2 which has seen wide political swings where attitudes and legislation surrounding immigration have had a heavy impact on the culture and immigrant acceptance.

What is the current climate towards immigrants? Are there differences in how immigrants from different countries or people groups are treated? Are some better accepted than others? How do the Dutch perceive their ethnic diversity? Ask questions that get to the root of the attitudes the Dutch have towards their immigrant population. Are they welcoming? Are the difficulties? Speak to both Dutch nationals and immigrants to the country about their experiences surrounding immigration. Tell some success stories of immigrants. Highlight the initiatives that are solving the social problems surrounding immigration.


Fishing is a major industry in the Netherlands, with its location on the North Sea. What are the major problems facing the fishing industry? What are the environmental risks and impacts of the fishing industry on the seas and on the fish themselves? Are there any health associated risks for consumers?

What kinds of reforms and policy changes have been made (or are underway) attempting to ameliorate the situation? How has the Netherlands lead the field in improvements in the industry towards sustainable fishing practices? Which specific initiatives had an impact, both in the reeducation of the population and changing consumption habits, as well as within the industry for fisheries? Where has progress been made? Where is progress still needed? Are there any ways in which the Netherlands lags behind other industrialized nations in the fishing industry?


Almost half of the land area that is the Netherlands is at or below sea level. This puts most of the country at severe risk of flooding. Over the centuries the Dutch have come up with some very innovative solutions to the flooding problems and they’ve become famous for their land reclamation schemes and their water management infrastructure.

What are the big challenges facing the Netherlands currently where flooding and water management are concerned? How does Climate Change affect this? What are the Climate Change related concerns, both long and short term? What solutions are being employed, or are in development, to combat these growing threats?

Point to some of the leaders in the field of engineering as appied to water management in the Netherlands. Highlight some ofthe best solutions in action right now.

Cultural Assignment Options



Chances are that when the Netherlands comes to mind you don’t immediately think of the food. If you stretch a little you might come up with some seafood dishes, pastries and good coffee as foods associated with the country. Maybe you remember that story from grade school history about the Dutch eating their tulip bulbs when there was nothing else.

What are the famous dishes of the Netherlands? What does street food consist of? What are the national drinks? Make a point of taking a tasting tour of the country and noting your favorites.

Make a record (or a video!) of all of the new foods you’re trying as you travel through the Netherlands.

Meaningful Connections

What is a meaningful interaction? You get to decide that. In general, it should be an interaction in which cultural exchange took place and you learned something. Often this will be with a local person; sometimes it will be with another traveler.

Sometimes these interactions look like very little on the outside but are totally life changing on the inside. Other times, they are rock your world amazing from every angle. It could be a meal shared, an afternoon’s excursion, a discussion that opens your eyes in some way, a self revelation that happened without any words exchanged at all.

Spend a day with a local individual or family. Document your experience in photos, interviews and the written word. The best way to interact with locals is to just start chatting with them at markets, on tours or on the street. You can also ask other travelers if they have met anyone who has offered some insight into life in the country. If you are a family who have children attending a local school then have a party, invite a parent to coffee, basically just open up your home to new relationships.

Take a Class

There are many options! Don’t be limited by this list:

  • Cooking
  • Language
  • Art or Crafts
  • Literature
  • Yoga
  • Dance
  • Music

Museum Visits

The Dutch have a deep sense of their history and have done a great job preserving it, in art, architecture and museum collections. Of course there are the big museums in the major cities, but there are numerous hole in the wall museums in the small towns in outlying areas. Make a point of these. Often the curators have a personal connection to the collections and will tell you stories for hours.

Be sure to visit as many museums as you can:

Save your ticket stubs!


Volunteering is a great way to get to know a local community and give back a bit to the places that you choose to travel. There are lots of ways to do this, both organized and arranged privately, as well as impromptu opportunities that will pop up.

If you’re looking for information on volunteer opportunities in the Netherlands, Expat Center Leiden has a site dedicated to helping you find one. Please be advised that TAP is not recommending these, only presenting them as a list of possibilities. Vet your volunteer options carefully.

Live local

Get out of the hostel, rent a place in a local village, or do a homestay. Through websites like Airbnb it’s easy to find places to live locally. Consider a co-living space to develop community with like minded travelers while diving a little deeper and going a little bit more local. Zoku, in Amsterdam, is one option.

Photo essay or a blog description of why living local was different than living in a hostel. How did this experience change the economics of your stay? What did you learn about the way locals live? What challenged you? What would you do differently next time?

Work Stay

Through an organization like WWOOF, HelpX, or Workaway you can arrange for an opportunity to work in exchange for your room and board in a number of capacities, from farm labour to hospitality. Lots of students make use of these experiences to lower the cost of their travels, while at the same time learning valuable skills or “trying out” various career areas that interest them.

Request feedback in the form of a short evaluation that can be used later for a CV or reference

Public Transportation Project

Take as many types of public transportation as possible. The river boats all over the country are fun, bicycle travel in Amsterdam and beyond, is a must. Rail travel is smooth and efficient.

Challenge yourself to take every type of public transportation available while you are in the Netherlands. Create a photo essay or videologue of your adventures. What did you learn?

Attend a Religious Observance

The Netherlands is a very secular society, in the public sphere, but privately, religions of many types are still practiced widely. The Netherlands was Christianized, along with the rest of Europe, during the Middle Ages. Immigrants have brought with them a range of religious practices. Take some time to attend various religious observances and see what you can learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. How does the religious climate in Australia compare with what you grew up with?

How to Create Your Own Course Work



Learn to ask for what you want. If you meet someone interesting, ask them to teach you. Ask them for an interview. Ask to shadow them for a day or a week. You’ll be surprised at how eager people are to share what they know and teach when someone shows actual interest. Learn to ask questions. Learn to take social risks by putting yourself out there as a learner.


You have an idea or an interest. Something surprises you on your journey and all of a sudden you have a burning desire to know more. Plan your attack:

      • Narrow your field of study to a particular question or topic.
      • Compile resources: Look for teachers. Who knows what you need to know? Or who can you interview to learn more? Are there books or videos on the topic you’re interested in?
      • Quantify it. How will you demonstrate what you have learned? A research paper, a video project, a photo essay, through art or music, a blog post, a published piece, an interview series, a mini documentary or do you have some other idea?


Produce a quality piece of academic work that reflects your experiential learning. The whole key to quantifying outside the box learning is to translate it into something that reflects the value of what you learned and how it contributed to your overall educational process.

Perhaps this will be as simple as a traditional research paper, depending on the depth and length of your study this could be as short as three pages or as long as a dissertation. Maybe you’ll produce a video for YouTube, or something grander, like a mini-documentary. Perhaps you’ll do something concrete instead, an art, or community action project and you’ll tell the story through a photo essay, or a series of blog posts. The possibilities are limited only by the resources you have at hand. Get creative. Think outside the box and truly experience your education.


Do You Have Anything to Add to This Resource Page?

We’re actively seeking to grow these resources in an open-source spirit. Please email jenn(at)bootsnall(dot)com with your edits or submissions of new information or materials.

Thank you!

Photo Credit: amophoto_au /