Published on June 24, 2008
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Amsterdam – Given the Netherlands’ diminutive size, it is surprising how many publications here are geared toward expatriates. But, bearing in mind that there are about one million settlers of varying nationality in the country at any one time, it is a market not to be ignored.
The newspapers, magazines and newsletters aimed at foreigners are true niche publications. Each seems to appeal to a different group of expats: those who have recently arrived in The Netherlands, those who have lived here long enough to follow Dutch current affairs or those who work, or study, here. There are also millions of tourists who traipse through the Low Countries, particularly Amsterdam. Every year updated freesheets and ad-heavy city guides are available, specifically pitched toward weekenders and holidaymakers.
Amsterdam Weekly is one of the most notable and immediately visible English-language newspapers. It focuses on events and issues going on in the Dutch cultural capital. It is aimed at immigrants, as well as full-fledged Amsterdammers, who live in the city and want to read about events, people and happenings in their area.
The award-winning free cultural paper, which started in 2004, has braved recent financial difficulties with creativity and honesty – and in doing so has been able to attract a new investor so that it will be able become bigger and better, and open the door for another English-language publication.
When Amsterdam Weekly’s original investors decided to pull out in order to focus on other projects, the newspaper decided to be open with its readers about its financial problems. Thus began the newspaper’s “For Sale” campaign, in which it asked readers to help “unf*ck” it. Individuals and groups were able to buy 2x2cm blocks of the newspaper and, for three weeks in a row, only the blocks that were bought got printed, with the rest of the space on the page left blank.
This unique and innovative campaign attracted a new investor, Yuval Sigler, a magazine publisher from Tel Aviv who publishes Time Out in Israel. Now, not only will Amsterdam Weekly continue to be published, but an Amsterdam edition of Time Out will hit the streets this autumn. As new advertisements in the Weekly announce: “We’re unf*cked”.
Todd Savage, Amsterdam Weekly’s publisher, has a particular audience in mind for the newspaper: “We see it as an English paper about Amsterdam, so our subject is Amsterdam, not so much the particular lives of foreigners living here. Our core readers are internationals living in Amsterdam, but we’re also trying to reach and be interesting to Dutch readers. I always believed that if we started a paper in English and made it interesting and useful enough that we would attract Dutch readers as well.
“We think of it as a post-expat paper because we’re looking to reach people who [have settled here] and want to get to know the city better. Foreigners living here don’t want to always carry the identity of an outsider; they want to get as close to the inside as they can, and we believe that Amsterdam Weekly can help them with that.”
Other English-language and expat publications are geared more toward readers who have just moved to The Netherlands. As Todd says: “Other expat publications are more service-oriented, perhaps, or explain the basics more from an outsider perspective. ... We’re more focused on Amsterdam, while other English publications are more about the experience of the reader. They’re more about providing services and information and are more tailored to their readers’ lives.”
This is certainly true for the magazine put out by expat volunteer organisation ACCESS, which touches on important topics — including childcare, health and integration — which are often difficult to approach for someone new to the Dutch lifestyle, not to mention the bureaucracy.
On the more upmarket end of the scale, XM is a relative newcomer, and claims to be the country’s first glossy, monthly magazine in English dealing with lifestyle issues in The Netherlands. It also caters to those who have been in Holland for a few months, who have figured out tax, work permits, schools, etc, but need to know what’s next. XM attempts to answer this question by offering profiles of Dutch celebrities and community leaders, covering sports and entertainments and providing factual information on topics which might not immediately leap to mind, but which are important in understanding the country and culture.
Taking a wildly different approach is DutchNews.nl, a website which gives English translations of the major news stories in the main newspapers each day. This is not so much aimed at educating foreigners in the Dutch way of life as it is trying to keep immigrants up to date on national politics, major crimes and so on.
These four are merely a drop in the ocean of English-language journalism in the Netherlands, which has the potential to expand further as the international community in the country grows.
These publications serve an important role in helping expats for whom English is the mother tongue, or at least the linguistic common denominator, get to know their adopted home. For the Dutch, there is a certain cosmopolitan cachet attached to reading the local news in English – a symptom of Netherlanders’ international mindset, not to mention their curiosity about what foreigners have to say about them.
Liz Farsaci wrote this article with Stephen McMullin.
Tags: amsterdam, amsterdam weekly, english, foreigner, language, magazine, newspaper, the netherlands,
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