How to Be Dutch: THE QUIZ. All the questions that SHOULD be on the Dutch Citizenship Exam, according the expat expert who has been living in the Netherlands for close to 30 years. Critics loved The American Netherlander: 25 Years of Expat Tales. Now comes the perfect companion: the Shapiro Dutch Quiz Book.
How to Be Dutch makes you redefine the Netherlands you thought you knew.
“If Dutch people are so tolerant, why are they still judgmental as hell?”
“How should American parents react to a Dutch bedtime story called Sammy the Super Sperm?”
“If the Netherlands is the ‘Drug Capital of the World,’ why is it so hard to get antibiotics?”
Reviews for How to Be Dutch: THE QUIZ (original printing, 2016)
‘How to Be Dutch plays deftly with clichés and knows how to transcend them. Even if you’ve never been to the Netherlands, Shapiro’s experiences will entertain.’ Access Magazine
‘Humorous columns, funny illustrations, hilarious photos and observations. Very nice book.’ Netherlands Library Council
‘A perfect toilet book.’ TROUW
‘Difficult topics are tackled with facts, sharp insights and often hilarious, personal anecdotes. At each turn of the page, you find yourself both laughing about and appreciating the Dutch. Greg Shapiro treats you to his version of the Dutch Assimilation Test. First, he analyzes the actual exam questions: “Every question tells a story,” Shapiro explains. And then he unveils “The Questions That Should Be on the Quiz.” How to Be Dutch is accompanied by entertaining cartoons by illustrator Floor de Goede and hilarious photographs by the author.’ DutchNews.nl
Greg Shapiro Wrote the Foreword for this Dutch Dictionary
13 November, 2023
Flashback to 2008: Our good friends at DutchNews.nl were writing a guide to Dutch abbreviations, called the Dictionary of Dutchness: from ATV to ZZP’er. And I was asked to write the Foreword.
Here it is again:
Welcome to this fine collection of bizarre words and phrases in the world’s best Nether-language: Dutch.
Many people will no doubt want to use this book as a practical guide to practical Dutch. But please consider its true value – as a sometimes hilarious exercise in explaining the charming and ridiculous abbreviations in the Dutch language.
Dutch people are among the tallest in the world. Fittingly, the words they use are often just as ‘long.’ If you have ever wondered how onroerendezaakbelasting can exist as a word, read on. If you have ever suspected that some short simple words like aso are actually hiding longer, more threatening words, then this book is for you.
The Dutch language seems obsessed with taking long words and then making them small and cute. Maybe that’s because Dutch culture has a minderwaardigheidscomplex (minority complex). Or – to make this word smaller and cuter too – MiWaCo (pronounced “me wacko”).
Even the famous Dutch fast food outlet FEBO is named after the location of its first-ever shop on the Ferdinand Bolstraat. They could better have named it FerBol – since the contents of a Dutch kroket resemble something a cat coughed up.
If I got any more passionate about this book, the vloekmonitor would call me a TBS-er, and I’d never get a VOG. To find out what I just said, read on!
Warning: By reading this guide to the Dutch language, you risk becoming more knowledgeable about Dutch than the Dutch themselves, who always lose to the Belgians on the TV quiz show Tien voor Taal.
In closing, when I say the Dutch language is charmingly ridiculous, please don’t believe me. Believe the thousands of Dutch people who feel the same way. But if you want them to admit it, you’ll have to first throw some Dutch language at them. Hopefully this book will help. And once they start answering back in Dutch lingo, this book will give you some idea of what the hell they’re talking about.
VULTURE.COM – The Best Comedy Books of 2023 (So Far) by Brian Boone, who writes about comedy
“As far as generationally significant, tone-setting, comedian-developing institutions go, Second City and Upright Citizens Brigade, and their many affiliates, get almost all the attention and credit. But there’s a third, and until now, largely unheralded player, and that’s Boom Chicago. Many of today’s most thoughtful, emotionally and politically driven comedians honed their chops at Boom Chicago, an American theatrical and improvisational comedy troupe that primarily operates in Amsterdam. Jordan Peele, Seth Meyers, and Amber Ruffin are all veterans, and it’s where Brendan Hunt and Jason Sudeikis met and first worked together. Ted Lasso wouldn’t have happened without the frenetic, patient, performer-driven lab-like atmosphere of Boom Chicago. The mock-self-aggrandizing of the subtitle — The 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History — belies how Boom Chicago just is that important to 21st-century comedy. The baby-faced photos of current legends are fun, but the book’s tone of fascination and how the sausage is made provides a compelling account of how improv is crafted, and how Boom Chicago’s approach informed so much of its participants’ later work.”
“Large swatches of the book look and read like an oral history, in which prominent and not so prominent BookChicago alums prattle on, reminiscing about moments in BoomChicago’s rise from a ragtag group of improv comedians performing in 1993 in the back of dive bar to hothouse for creating future celebrities to a bone fide part of Dutch comedy world. As oral histories go, it’s not bad stuff.”
“when it comes to comedy in Holland, Boom Chicago is a winner.”
“Much of the book takes the form of conversations between Boom stalwarts and this unusual format works brilliantly,”
“a must-have for Boom fans and, indeed, those interested in comedy in general.” It says a lot about Amsterdam that for thirty years it has sustained, nay, gloried in and cherished an English speaking comedy venue. I don’t know about New York and Chicago but there has only been The Comedy Store in London that exceeds the longevity that Boom Chicago has enjoyed in the Dutch city. …when it comes to comedy in Holland, Boom Chicago is a winner.
..this book is, inevitably, a stroll down memory lane. And fascinating stuff it is too. In the lengthy introduction by founders Andrew Moskos and Pep Rosenfeld we learn how Boom Chicago was born and how, against the odds, it survived and grew to maturity.
Much of the book takes the form of conversations between Boom stalwarts and this unusual format works brilliantly, being much more personal and illuminating than a straightforward narrative. So, there are contributions from all the usual suspects, most of whom will be familiar to fans of Boom. To jog their memory there is a list of alumni from 1993 to 2023 which, according to a quick count is in excess of one hundred and thirty.
Boom Chicago presents The 30 Most Important Years in Dutch History is clearly a must-have for Boom fans and, indeed, those interested in comedy in general.”
22 March, 2023 ArtsTalk Magazine reviewed my book again! This time it was for their online supplement, and it’s an all-new review.
My third book debuted in 2020: THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER: 25 Years of Expat Tales.
Greg Shapiro: The American Netherlander. Book Review
by Michael Hasted. November, 2022
“The book is full of apposite observations, canny advice, witty asides and some nice cartoony illustrations. It could well have been entitled The Netherlands – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly because, like the Dutch, it does not pull its punches.
“Greg takes us, chapter by chapter, through the different aspects of Dutch life and how to cope with – sorry – appreciate them. We learn of course about about sex and drugs and the ubiquitous coffeeshops. We find out more about bike etiquette. And …serious though it is, the Zwarte Piet subject is treated in an easygoing, unpreachy, unjudgmental manner.
“The last section of the book re-utilizes Greg’s previous book How to Be Dutch: the Quiz. This section is both funny and informative. Again, this is broken down into sections like bikes, health care, politics and … err… Zwarte Piet.
Book Review ‘Shapiro funny, informative’
“There is even a ‘Oh, I never knew that’ section which lists, in rhyming couplets, things we never knew were Dutch. Like half the place names in New York City, LED lights, multinationals Philips and Shell, the microscope, the discoverers and namers of New Zealand, etc etc.
“To round it all off there are pages of photos of shop signs taken by Greg over the years, showing how Dutch can produce names and words that we English speakers find amusing. For example a hair dresser called Down Under Hair or the Bad Hotel or the Dutch senator called Tiny Kox. You’ve got to love ‘em.
“The American Netherlander provides us with lots of information about the Dutch persona and way of life and is the result of not only Greg’s personal experiences and insights but a lot of thorough research as well . Oh and the laughs, don’t forget the laughs.”
Full disclosure: Inez de Goede (aka Inez Shapiro) is my wife – and manager. And now she is a published author! I am so proud – allow me to brag a bit.
Droomhuis is (currently) in Dutch: “an ‘Escape to the Country’ story – with a dark edge.”
A woman drives to France on a mission to clean up the old family vacation house. The abandoned house is full of triggers for her anxiety issues. (What must have happened there?)
Flash back to the little girl in the mid-70s, whisked away by her mother and step-father to the middle of nowhere to start their lives anew. But what was the mother thinking? Next we hear the perspective of the mother. These three voices take turns telling the story, unraveling the mystery of what exactly happened to the step-father?
Don’t speak Dutch but still want to help? See below.
THE MAKING OF
It was like 2002 when Inez first finished her book, as an autobiography about growing up in France. Eventually she rewrote the book as fiction, and we like it way better now. But who would publish it? After finishing the rewrite, Inez took a year or so to gather up the courage to ask a contact at a publishing house: Uitgerverij Orlando, specializing in Dutch female writers. Publisher Jacqueline Smit agreed to read the manuscript, but she promised to tell the truth if she didn’t like it. Jacqueline later said “I was desperately afraid that the manuscript would be amateurish, and I’d have to say so. But after reading one page, I was overjoyed: ‘this woman can write!’”
Another Orlando writer is Racheda Kooijman, who bought the book at the launch party. She started reading it and literally could not put it down. At the end of the next day she wrote “My house is a mess, and I didn’t get groceries. But I had to finish this book!”
Author Stella Bergsma also wrote a review:
‘De wereld heeft meer verhalen nodig van vrouwen. Zeker over het grensoverschrijdende gedrag van mannen. Dit is zo’n verhaal. Zintuiglijk en poëtisch geschreven. Kwetsbaar en krachtig. Ongemakkelijk en onvermijdelijk.’ – Stella Bergsma
“The world needs more stories from women. Especially from women who tell the truth about sexually abusive men. This is such a story. Sensual and poetic. Vulnerable and strong. Challenging and unforgettable.”
BOOK PRESENTATION GREG SHAPIRO + Great First Review
Presenting Greg Shapiro’s third book, THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER: 25 Years of Expat Tales. The first copy was given to reviewer Michael Hasted of ARTS TALK MAGAZINE. Watch as Shapiro gives Hasted approximately 30 seconds to read the book before conducting his interview.
Good news: the interview was good. And the book review was excellent. THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER
One silver lining to the corona cloud has been that it has forced us all to be pragmatic, stoic even, encouraging us to be resourceful and find new ways of doing things. Performers, especially those who depend on live audiences, have had a very hard time. You can’t act in a vacuum, there’s no point in singing alone in your room and you can’t tell jokes to yourself. So, it’s good to have another string to your bow.
The American Netherlander is Amsterdam-based comedian Greg Shapiro’s third book. Put together over the past nine months when gigs were cancelled or greatly restricted, Greg has brought together his two previous books, added a lot of new material and presents us with a memoir of his life in his adopted home, along with a comprehensive guide to living in it. The book is full of apposite observations, canny advice, witty asides and some nice cartoony illustrations. It could well have been titled The Netherlands – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly because, like the Dutch, it does not pull its punches and is proud to tell it like it is, warts and all.
We start off with the back story about how the author first came to The Netherlands twenty-five years ago to work in and help establish the Boom Chicago comedy venue in Amsterdam. He nicely describes the culture shock and disavows numerous stereotypes and preconceptions. He discovers that what he had grown up in the States believing to be Dutch Apple Pie was in fact nothing like the genuine article and that the chunky real thing made his American usurper mere apple pulp fiction. After a while, as he marries and settles down, he loses track of his identity and begins to suffer from MND – Multiple Nationality Disorder.
Greg takes us, chapter by chapter, though the different aspects of Dutch life and how to cope with, sorry, appreciate them. We learn, of course, about sex and drugs and the ubiquitous Coffee Shops. We find out more about bike etiquette and how the Dutch fail to reconcile their desire for personal freedom with the necessity of conforming and keeping a low profile.
But there is a more serious side too with the vexed and contentious issue of Zwarte Piet being covered in some detail along with the problems of immigration.
If you are an expat in The Netherlands, Zwarte Piet will already have raised your eyebrows by an inch or two. If you are elsewhere in the world you will find the phenomenon of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) hard to believe in this day and age when black live really do matter.
The Dutch have Santa Claus with the best of ‘em, or Sinterklaas as they call him, but that’s of no matter. The difference is that while most Santas are content to have a horde of helpful elves and reindeer as acolytes, old Sinterklaas rides a white horse and has a swarm of black helpers dressed up in gold and red velvet. Piet is a sort of black Robin to Sinter’s bearded Batman. These kids are unashamedly blacked- up à la Al Jolson and parade around with their sacks dispensing candy to the children – but politically correct they certainly are not. Greg examines the question in some detail and is able to see the Dutch point of view. This year the big parades of 5th December were cancelled and it seems the Dutch might surreptitiously use that as an opportunity to phase out Black Pete. Some have started calling him Sooty Pete instead . . .
Serious though it is, the subject is treated in an easy going, unpreachy, unjudgemental manner by Greg and he gives us an insight as to how the phenomenon was considered normal and acceptable and how it might continue and/or change.
The last section of the book re-utilises Greg’s previous book How To Be Dutch: The Quiz. This is both funny and informative. Questions are posed and you have to select one out of three possible answers. The correct answer is given and an explanation of why it is. Again, this is broken down into sections like bikes, health care, politics and . . . err . . Zwarte Piet.
There is even a Oh, I never knew that section which lists, in rhyming couplets, things we never knew were Dutch, like half the place names in New York City, LED lights, multinationals Philips and Shell, the microscope, the discoverers and namers of New Zealand etc etc.
To round it all off there are pages of photos of shop signs taken by Greg over the years, showing how Dutch can produce names and words that we English speakers find amusing, For example a hairdresser called Down Under Hair or the Bad Hotel or the Dutch senator called Tiny Kox. You’ve gotta love ‘em.
The American Netherlander provides us with lots of information about the Dutch persona and way of life and is the result of, not only, Greg’s personal experiences and insights but a lot of thorough research as well – oh, and the laughs, don’t forget the laughs.
This book works on the level of allowing other expats to smugly sit back with a knowing smile on their faces but also as a guide book exploring the mores of a tiny nation that has contributed more to civilisation and to its fund of knowledge over the past five centuries than most people are aware of or care to acknowledge.
Nicely laid out with lots of cartoons on classy coated paper Greg Shapiro’s The American Netherlander is recommended on all levels. Michael Hasted 8th December 2020
FOR ONLINE REVIEW & INTERVIEW, GO TO ARTSTALK MAGAZINE: