Author - AABC

Member Spotlight: Stephanie Ward

Each month we'll feature a different AABC member in our new Member Spotlight, this month Stephanie Ward. Would you like to be featured in a future edition of our Member Spotlight? Get in touch with Veronica at


1. Who are you? (introduce yourself)

I’m an Okie (that’s someone from Oklahoma) who has lived in the Netherlands since 1999. Moved here for a Dutch guy and we’re still together and happier than ever. I love nature, water (looking at it and swimming in it) and tacos. I’m also one of the strange people who loves marketing. I love to help other Small Business Owners find marketing strategies that fit for them so they can love it enough to take action and grow their businesses. Connecting with people and creating and sharing ideas are also passions of mine.

2. When and why did you join the AABC?

I joined the AABC right after I started my business in 2002. This was way back when the events were during lunch and were held at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam. At my first event I remember feeling nervous when they announced that all of the first time visitors would have the chance to briefly introduce themselves (this is still the case by the way). I didn’t have anything prepared and to this day I still have no idea what I ended up saying. A lot has changed since then and now I can easily answer that question and I also help other people figure out how to answer it in a memorable way. I joined the club because I knew networking would be one way to connect with people and build relationships. And it’s been a fun journey for the past 15 years. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go and there are still some diehards like me who have been around forever. At yet every event there are always new people who come to check it out and they are always made to feel welcome and included. It’s an open and friendly group with a diverse mix of business people. Anyone can attend as a guest, come see for yourself sometime. I’d be happy to introduce you around.

3. Tell us about your business and how we can work with you.

I’m a Business & Marketing Mentor and I help Small Business Owners and entrepreneurs increase their visibility and connect with more ideal clients. If you’d like more clients for your business, be sure to grab a copy of my Free Special Report, 7 Steps to Attract More Clients in Less Time at my website: If you could use some support in growing your business I offer many ways to work together. You can check them all out here. And if your business is registered with the KvK, and you’d like to get more clients outside of NL, you may qualify to apply for a voucher worth 2,400 euro to work with me to help you expand your business internationally. Get the details on that here.

4. What are your tips and/or advice about doing business in the Netherlands?

Most of my clients, and the people in my Tribe, are Global cats or locals who think internationally. Many of them live in the Netherlands and the rest of them live all over the world. The Dutch are very direct, so if your clients are mainly Dutch then you can feel confident also using a direct approach with marketing your business. And direct doesn’t mean in your face or rude, that kind of marketing is never a good thing. I always recommend that no matter what the culture is, it’s imperative to listen first and to give value first when you connect with people. Photo credit: Cristina Stoian Share this article:

Engage Your Audience from the Stage

By: Sangbreeta Moitra,
“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.”― Friedrich Nietzsche
Last week, I was talking to a friend in business development who has to give a high-stakes talk at a conference. He said, “Of late, my audience is just off. They don’t respond to my one-liners or humour. Fingers crossed for a better audience next time!” I’ve had that in the past too. A talk or presentation that was prepared for hours, with the perfect amount of witty humour, storytelling and rhetoric devices for audience engagement, that worked brilliantly at several conferences… fell completely flat at others. Zero audience engagement. No smile, no response. And worst of all, you have to continue speaking until you finish, to the wall of silent faces. Ever faced that? Why does it happen? Even with the best speakers, even with the help of top coaches, why doesn’t the audience always respond the way you want to your amazing prepared speech? Here’s the secret. It is not the audience that should be receptive to you. YOU should be receptive to THEM. It is unwise to expect the same reaction to the same content from different people in front of you. Their culture, sensitivities, attitude, perception, perspectives, mood and most importantly, collective energy as an audience are completely different. I faced this last year. Gave a talk on leadership communication at a corporate event and it was my ‘ideal’ audience. They laughed, cheered, clapped at all the right points. It was a fabulous experience. Repeated the same talk at another event and they didn’t even chuckle at what I thought was a very, very ironically funny communication issue. What then? Should I continue my talk as prepared, and hope that they respond to me? NO. Doesn’t matter which industry you’re from, and what your talk is about, if your audience engagement tactic is not working, SWITCH IT. Modify it on stage, at that moment, to reel your audience back in to your story. What do I mean? Different speakers have different styles. Let’s say you’re dramatic; theatrical hands and exaggerated anecdotes gets you going. Or, you have a serious presentation with some interactive segments. Either way, your audience isn’t responding. Interrupt your session right there with an active audience moment- talk TO them. Different tactics: If you’re bold, humorously acknowledge that your front row is not impressed with your Oscars-worthy story. Or, if you know someone in your audience, have a quick gag (joke) referencing him/her, that usually gets the crowd going. Example: Barack Obama (and his speechwriters) deserve an award for superb audience engagement. Within the first few seconds of his Correspondent’s Dinner, he makes fun of the event and then himself and then different people in the audience. “Welcome to the White House Correspondents Dinner. The night when Washington celebrates itself. Somebody’s gotta do it!” The speech is filled with different techniques of rhetoric questions, self-depricating humour and direct references to members in the audience. It worked like a charm. Now, this speech was created the way it was. For you, be prepared to pull the rabbits out of the hat. If audience-related humour isn’t working, you have to be flexible to jump into an anecdote. If the anecdote isn’t working, switch to self-referenced or relatable situations of humour for your audience. Be prepared to share a personal story, if your audience isn’t moved by your pure corporate results-driven slide deck. Ultimately, be flexible and be receptive to the needs of your audience. Change it up on stage, find their sensitivities until you hit bull’s eye and you will create a speech that’s remembered forever. The legacy is all yours to create.

About the author

Sangbreeta Moitra is an award winning Keynote Speaker and Corporate Storyteller based in The Netherlands. She works with top corporates to help professionals find value, confidence and a powerful speaker & leader within themselves. Alongside, she functions in a leadership role as a Global Manager in the pharmaceutical industry. Follow her on LinkedIn here and contact her at Share this article:

Starting a Business in the Netherlands?

Avoid these simple mistakes to ensure that doing business is enjoyable and not a headache!

By: Adam Kiolle , Blenheim Attorneys As a legal advisor to small and medium businesses in the Netherlands, I help my clients through some of the most exciting and some of the most frustrating parts of doing business. In this blog, I share three simple tips to help you avoid some of the most common problems that I come across in my practice. Doing business can be one of the most rewarding things there is. There is nothing more exciting than starting a business, closing big deals and – if things go well – signing on investors, merging with or acquiring other companies, or even selling your business. I love advising on these kinds of processes. Unfortunately, there are also times when I am called on to help my clients with some of the more frustrating parts of doing business: disputes with customers, business partners, investors or, occasionally, competitors. One of the most striking things about so many of these disputes is how easily they can be avoided by observing these three golden rules during the start-up phase.

1. Think about and choose the right entity or form for your business;

In the Netherlands, there is a business entity to suit every small or medium business, from simple sole traderships, partnerships and “v.o.f.”s, to the well-known B.V. Things to take into account when selecting a business form are costs of establishment, the number of people involved, protection from liability and the ability to accommodate investors.

2. Think about and enter into clear, written(!) agreements with your business partners

If you are going into business with a partner or partners (even if it is your best friend), it is important to lay out your ground rules clearly from the very outset and to make sure that you have a record of them in writing. This can help to prevent misunderstandings and avoid disputes when it comes to working out how to share profits or making strategic decisions down the track such as bringing in outside investors, or selling or dissolving the business. Depending on your situation, you can do this using a partnership agreement or shareholders’ agreement.

3. Make sure that you have clear, written agreements with your suppliers and customers

In the same vein as the last point – make sure that you have evidence of your understandings with your suppliers, customers and other third parties who you do business with. It is a lot more difficult, time-consuming and costly to settle disputes in the absence of a written contract that clearly stipulates the nature and duration of your business relationship, as well as each party’s rights and responsibilities. Eliminate doubt with a good set of general terms and conditions and individual agreements such as service contracts, distribution agreements, sales contracts etc.

In short:

Some of the most costly and frustrating legal disputes are at the same time the most easily avoided. Taking the time to do some planning and making sure that you have a written record of your agreements when starting your business and commencing collaborations with third parties can save you some serious headaches and expense down the line. You don’t even necessarily need to involve a lawyer although, depending on your circumstances and the complexity of your business or deal, it may well be wise to seek legal advice. Adam is an English-speaking lawyer practicing commercial and corporate law at Blenheim Attorneys, Amsterdam. Share this article:

Member Spotlight: Noa Rawlinson

Each month we'll feature a different AABC member in our new Member Spotlight, this month Noa Rawlinson. Would you like to be featured in a future edition of our Member Spotlight? Get in touch with Veronica at


Who are you?

My name is Noa Rawlinson, I am a Dutchie and naturalized U.S. citizen who lived in the United States for close to ten years. I am a Certified Public Account, registered and licensed in the State of Florida. This is the State in which I spent most of my twenties together with my Floridian husband. I returned to Holland in late 2011 and I continued the business I set up in the United States: I am a U.S. tax preparer and since my return I have focused my efforts on preparing U.S. tax returns specifically for U.S. persons residing in the Netherlands. With the estimated 35,000 Americans living in the Netherlands who by virtue of the United States’ citizen based taxation regime need a U.S. tax return every year, business is steady and I am very proud to be able to continue servicing my community.

When and why did you join the AABC?

I joined AABC pretty much right after my arrival in the Netherlands. I searched for an organization in which I would fit: a mix of business and everything American. Although I lived quite a ways away from Amsterdam, I was excited to find out more about the club after some online research. I remember my first AABC event in the beginning of 2012 vividly. The first person I met at the event was John Milhado, who would later join me as a member of the AABC’s kascommissie (audit committee). The event was held at restaurant De Ondeugd in the Pijp, which is no longer operating under that name today. Many of the people I met that evening make up an important part of my business network and I am very grateful to the club for this fact.

Tell us about your business and how we can work with you.

As mentioned earlier, I focus on U.S. tax preparation for individuals and businesses in the Netherlands who are subject to U.S. taxation. You may consult with me on how to structure your administration and finances to make sense for both countries. My background of living both here and in the U.S. makes me also able to relate personally to individuals who are going through that same thing. On the entrepreneurial side, I have a few things to say about starting business in the U.S. or being a U.S. person starting a business in the Netherlands. Although I am usually busy preparing tax returns, I can always find time for an initial consultation. I have found that my (potential) clients get a big benefit from getting a general overview before diving into all the details.

What are your tips and/or advice about doing business in the Netherlands?

As a Dutch person who has developed my business habits in the United States, I am still sometimes disappointed with the Dutch idea of what customer service should be. But in the course of time I have learned to accept this as an unchangeable reality and once I stopped fighting it I have becoming happier and more effective in business. It’s all about understanding. As is true in business everywhere, it’s the relationships between individuals that make or break a business deal. I would invest some time in getting to know the Dutch culture, customs and habits. Expect to always be asked “why?” – Dutch people are curious and do not like to leave anything open for guesswork. Although the Dutch are seen as direct and sober, they like learning about all things that are new to them, open to fresh ideas, internationally oriented and are genuinely interested in others. And the most important tip: don’t forget to smile! Photo credit: Alex Blanco Share this article:

The Dutch School Attendance Law

By: Annebet van Mameren, New2nl Last year there was a lot of commotion on the playground of a small town in the south of the Netherlands. What happened? A family from the school had gone skiing and had posted some photos of their holiday on Facebook. This had upset some dutiful (or maybe jealous) parents who had felt the need to inform the truancy officers. As a result, the family was fined 400 euros. Only people who are familiar with the Dutch School Attendance (Leerplicht) Law would understand what the issue was here. Children may only miss school under very specific circumstances, and a skiing holiday isn't one of them. The parents had told the school that their children were sick, while the smiling pictures told another story. To stop you as an international parent from winding up with a hefty fine, it is important to understand this Leerplicht Law. Written in 1969, the law dictates that children aged 5 to 16 (or 18 if they don't have a diploma yet) must attend school during term time (unless they are unwell, of course). To be precise, the plicht (obligation) takes effect on the first day of the month following a child’s fifth birthday. The Dutch summer holiday lasts for six weeks, and children are off for an additional six weeks, spread out over the year. You are only supposed to go away during these official school holidays. This law is taken seriously; just before and after the main school holidays, truancy officers at Schiphol airport check whether school-aged children have official permission to miss school. If not, the usual fine for the parents is 100 euros per day. In case of multiple offences, the parents might even have to appear in court. After all, they have broken the law. There are a few exceptions to this strict law: work commitments, family events, religious celebrations, and on the grounds of age (for 4 and 5 year olds). Below you will find a brief description of each of them, and how you can apply for these exceptions.

Work reasons

With seasonal work, work in the tourist sector, farming, and other jobs that peak in high season, you may not be able to go away during the school holidays. In this case, you can ask for maximum of 10 days off every school year for your child. You’ll have to fill out a form called an Aanvraagformulier vakantieverlof (LPW art. 11f). You can request it from your school’s admin department, or it may be available on the school's website. Together with this form you need to submit a statement from your employer. Parents who are self-employed must submit a self-written declaration with a plausible explanation as to why they have to work during the school holidays. You have to put in your request with the headteacher at least eight weeks before your planned departure. Also keep in mind that your child may not be absent during the first two weeks of the new school year.

Family events

Families with relatives in other countries often miss each other most on special occasions, be they happy or sad ones. Parents want to be part of these occasions, with their children, but how does that work with school? For these situations the truancy officers have created another form, called an Aanvraagformulier verlof wegens gewichtige omstandigheden (LPW art. 11g). Gewichtige omstandigheden stands for ‘significant circumstances’ and these are tightly specified. They include moving house, a wedding, a family member's milestone wedding anniversary, and when a family member is terminally ill or has passed away. Here, 'family members' means first-, second- or third-degree relatives (for example, parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, uncles, and aunts). The maximum duration of leave has been set out in the law, for example a maximum of 5 days for a wedding abroad. If a relative is seriously ill, the duration of the leave is established together with the school's headteacher. If this leave exceeds 10 days, the headteacher has to forward your request to the truancy officers, who will take the final decision. The last valid listed reason on the aforementioned form is ‘other reasons the headteacher deems important’. This is a bit subjective, and sometimes you have some wiggle room here. Try to figure out what the headteacher of your school finds important enough. In any case, it has to be an important family celebration that is taking place on a specific date over which the parents have no influence. For example, a family reunion, or visiting a newborn cousin, is not specific enough. The headteacher would ask why they need to happen on the days specified, and would generally turn the request down. To give you an idea, our children were allowed five days off when we went to their grandfather’s 80th birthday celebration in the US. We had arranged for him to celebrate his birthday in the week after our children’s May vacation, and we combined it with the 75th birthday of my husband’s uncle who had invited the entire family. So in this case we were allowed to stay a bit longer on the other side of the pond. For all requests you have to submit proof, for example a wedding invitation. However, you don't need to prove that you are related to the bride or groom. Take the time to fill out this form correctly, as you only get one shot. Don’t call the event a family reunion first, and then suddenly declare that your father is getting married for the 5th time after your first request has been rejected. It is also very important to choose your words carefully, for instance avoiding using the word ‘holiday’ on the form!

Religious celebrations

A pupil has the right to take a day off when they have obligations arising from their religion or belief. This is only valid for the day of the celebration. So you may not take off the whole week in order to celebrate Eid with your family in your home country. On the officially recognised Christian holidays, all schools, including non-religious ones, and schools of other faiths, are closed.


Most children begin school the day after their 4th birthday, which means that for the first year they are not legally obliged to attend school. However, once your child has started school, s/he is expected to attend every day. If you feel that your child needs to miss a day, you should inform the teacher, so they know where your child is. If your child is going to be absent for multiple days, you should still fill out the above-mentioned forms. In this case it is very likely that your request for an extended absence will be granted.

Exceptions for 5-year-olds

Not many parents are aware of the exceptions for 5-year-olds. A 5-year-old child may miss a maximum of 5 hours of school per week. You could use this exemption when attending full school days is still too tiring for your child, or, for example, so they can take swimming lessons during the day, when the pool is not crowded. If there is a special reason, you may ask the headteacher to grant your child a maximum of 10 hours off per week. I’m sorry to tell you that you may not accumulate these hours over multiple weeks. Furthermore, the exceptions all end once your child turns six. “Why is the law this strict?” I can hear you cry. “In my country, my children can just go on holiday whenever we want”, you might say. Or: “For my child, a few missed days of school is neither here nor there”. Maybe that is all true, but some children would actually miss a lot of vital education if they stayed away for a while. For example, for those pupils whose parents have less formal education and/or don't speak Dutch, it might be hard for them to catch up The law is the same for everyone. The headteacher cannot make an exception for one child, but not for the other. ‘Regels zijn regels’ ('rules are rules') is a phrase that you’ll often hear in this context. Furthermore, for continuity for the teacher, and from a social perspective, it is important that the pupils experience all celebrations and events together. They start and end the year together, and the school's Christmas lunch is a memorable event that they will keep on talking about in the months that follow! . You should also be aware that the school is obliged to report all non-valid absences. If the headteacher gives permission for a invalid reason, the school can get fined. In other words, they don’t have a lot of leeway. If you are frustrated by the Leerplicht Law, this hopefully at least provides you with a bit of context.

Pilot schools

In 2011, eleven schools in the country were designated pilot schools, which are allowed to experiment with more flexible holidays. The parents love this initiative, but as for most schools the results have gone down and the pressure on the teachers has increased, the school inspectorate isn't overly positive. Nevertheless, the pilot has been extended to 2018, and is now with 20 schools. Who knows, maybe it will become easier to take time off in the future - at least a few days here and there. As a parent I would be very grateful to say the least! You can find more info on the 'leerplicht' (in Dutch) here. Share this article:

How to stop feeling like a wimp and acting like a jerk

By: Steven Lips, Expatica Communications. Lately, I have been feeling like a wimp when meeting new people from the States at networking events. At two recent networking events with people from the US (not at the AABC, of course), the following occurred: I met a guy at the bar; shook hands with him; introduced myself by saying my name; and looked him in the face. Then it started. The guy started to pitch himself in a way that totally took me by surprise. It was as if he was facing the Dragon’s Den jury and I was on that jury. In 10 sentences, he pitched me all his glories: his education, the fact that he started three companies that he sold successfully, and his latest endeavour of running a very successful new start up that is changing the way people are participating in social media. I was stunned by his effort to pitch his best him to me. I just mentioned my name.

‘Pitch and ditch’-ready

That same evening, I met a bunch of other American entrepreneurs and sales representatives. The level of confidence with which they told me about their accomplishments struck me, as did the ease with which they left the conversation when I told them I am not a business owner or marketing decision maker. The fact is that they did something I have always had a hard time with: pitching my accomplishments and leaving conversations when there isn’t a clear opportunity for short-term business. This insight made me feel like a sissy.

Was I really a wimp or did they act somewhat like a jerk?

After these encounters with ‘pitch and ditch’- ready Americans, I wanted to have a better understanding of what happened. Therefore, I browsed the internet, which gave me some interesting insights in the similarities and the differences in the way Dutch and Americans connect with others in a business networking setting. At Expatfocus, I found an article that explains the Dutch networking culture:
“The Netherlands has a formal business culture in which honesty and courtesy are highly valued. Contacts and networks are very important, and you should try to arrange introductions through a third party.” “A brief, firm handshake, with good eye contact, is the normal business greeting. Don't smile too much as this may be seen as insincere.” “The Dutch communication style is fairly quiet and reserved, but also direct and frank. The Dutch have a very analytical approach and will examine your proposals in great detail. You will be taken at your word, so don't make promises you can't keep, and avoid hard sell or exaggerated claims.”

How about the American networking culture?

Looking for advice on how to connect with Americans, I came across an interesting blog by a professor at Brandeis International Business School. He wrote that MBA students at the Brandeis International Business School learn to network the American way: go to networking events and meet people; speak about your accomplishments; impress people with your skills; and become your own best advocate.

Let’s sum up the biggest differences between the Dutch and Americans

Dutch: be direct, realistic, avoid being regarded as a braggart. US: pitch yourself, be your own best advocate, mention your biggest accomplishments.

One question that will bridge the gap

What is my solution to help Dutch people stop feeling like a jerk and Americans feel like a wimp? How can we meet each other in the middle? I believe we can find that golden touch point of two cultures with one small question. One that we should drop directly upon meeting someone new. And that question is:
“How can I help you reach your business objectives today?”
Or, less focussed on business:
“What is it that you are looking for today”?
This will open a new world of opportunities for all parties involved in the conversation. It allows you to pitch your company, to ask for advice, and to focus on helping each other instead of dancing that awkward, ugly "are you money" dance.

Let’s put it into practice

People like to help each other. We like to add points to our Karma score. We just need to ask how we can best help each other. So, let’s stop feeling like jerks and wimps. Let’s stop pitching, bragging, and shying away from speaking out loud. Ask everyone you meet today the connecting question: 

“How can I help you?” Share this article:

Member Spotlight: Albert Both

Each month we'll feature a different AABC member in our new Member Spotlight, this month Albert Both. Would you like to be featured in a future edition of our Member Spotlight? Get in touch with Veronica at

Who are you? Introduce yourself

My name is Albert Both and people also know me as Mr. Dutch Brainwash. I have my own company Talencoach (languages coach) and I show people how they can learn and speak Dutch faster than they ever imagined. For this purpose I developed my own techniques, such as Dutch Flow Now and Dutch Brainwashing I am Dutch for 100% I grew up in a small village Broek op Langedijk, close to Alkmaar. There you can find many fields with cabbage and the colors are as beautiful as the tulip fields. There is one big difference, the smell…. I came in Amsterdam to study and then I stayed… It feels that I have been living in Amsterdam for centuries

When and why did you join the AABC?

I joined the AABC in 2005 I think, quite some time ago. At that time there was still a lunch format. The people that come to AABC are always great and… now there are borrels, so in that sense the AABC got a lot better :). The AABC is a great place, because it is easy to meet new people. Not only clients, but also I work together with people that I met at the AABC. This is how I found Expatica, I am Expat & Fire Fly Coaching. I personally prefer to work with people that I have met before and that is why the AABC can be really wonderful. It is also a great way to combine business and gezelligheid.

Tell us about your business and how we can work with you.

I help people to learn Dutch fast and to speak much more Dutch than they could ever imagine while having fun Many people believe that the Dutch language is extremely hard, and although there are always challenges when you learn a new language, it is not true. Dutch could be the closest language to English and in its essence it is like a German light The first thing that you need is a different mindset. Once you have this, then speaking Dutch gets so much easier… When it comes to speaking Dutch, many people have many limiting beliefs. But… when you open your mind you can discover for yourself that it is not that difficult to talk about anything that you like, in Dutch! I have free eBooks and a free workshop Finding Dutch Flow so that people can start to feel inspired and then, if they really like it, they could even be Dutch Brainwashed. This means that you really dive into Dutch for 7 days in a row. You’ll have a great adventure when it comes to learning and discovering new exciting things. It is not only about language… it is also about structured and creative thinking and many other things. People that follow the Dutch Brainwash somehow notice a great sense of accomplishment. When all of a sudden you just know that you can learn and speak a new language, and certainly when you get in touch with your ability to learn new things, then somehow it makes life different! This is what I love about my job, because any time that I work with people, I just know that speaking more Dutch will have a great positive impact on their lives…

What are your tips and advice about doing business in the Netherlands?

I think it is much easier to do business if you really enjoy life. I think that Holland could be a great place for business because in general, people do like new ideas and they are quite easy going. At the same time, it is important to be patient and it helps if you like to meet new people and if you are genuinely curious. In Dutch there is a word that does not exist in English, which is gunnen. It is the opposite of being jealous. It means that you feel happy when good things to other people. Therefore we also have the word gunfactor. It means that people like you and even if you charge more than the competition, they still prefer to work with you. I think that gunfactor is extremely important… Another tip that I have is: make sure that you recognize compliments. If a Dutch person says goed (good) or interessant (interesting) it could mean: I really really love it! Not always of course, but just make sure that you are open to that possibility as well. And then, make sure that you always feel great about what you do. Sometimes it is easy not to ‘forget’ the real value that we give to others and… always remember that you could give far more value than you ever imagined to other people, by just being you…. Photo credit: Magpeye Photography Share this article:

Housing Survey ICAP

Finding a decent place to live can be a major headache in Amsterdam, and a costly one at that. The International Community Advisory Panel, set up to try to improve the dialogue between the international community and Amsterdam officials, is carrying out a new survey on housing - to identify bottlenecks and hopefully bring about improvements. The results of ICAP's previous survey on education are currently being finalised. We can tell you over half of the city's international residents want to send their children to an ordinary Dutch school and 70% get no help from their employer in paying for education. The more people who take part in ICAP's housing survey, the more weight it will have, so please take a few minutes to fill it in - in complete confidence of course. You can find ICAP's housing survey here. Share this article: