Expat Life Tag

Greg Shapiro Audiobook Preview – THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER

Greg Shapiro Audiobook Preview – THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER
17 May 2022

My third book THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER: 25 Years of Expat Tales came out in 2020.


And now that the lockdown is over, I’m getting serious about an audiobook. In the meantime, you can hear me doing a reading of my Origin Story in the Netherlands – in the link below.

From Chapter One: ‘Amsterdam Day One.’

The question was: “Would you be willing to give up your acting career in Manhattan to do comedy in Amsterdam for a start-up theater called Boom Chicago?” Since I was living on tips and paying rent via credit card, the answer was an immediate YES. When you’ve tried being broke in New Amsterdam, you might as well try being broke in Old Amsterdam. 

In 1994, my idea of Amsterdam was the one shared by most Americans, I suppose: Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Anne Frank – and then sex & drugs and downhill from there. In America, if we hear about the Netherlands at all, it’s that Dutch people are all drug-doing, drug-dealing, baby- killing, grandpa-murdering, left-handed pedophiles. Once I got here, I realized it’s not true! According to most Dutch people: “That’s Belgium.” 

Before leaving Schiphol Airport, I took care of my To-Do List of Now- Anachronistic technology. I went to a place called the GWK Currency Exchange to trade my US Dollars into a totally made-up currency called Guilders. Even at the time, Guilders seemed whimsically antiquated. One of the coins they gave me said ‘2-and-a-half.’ I supposed it was from back in the days when people counted on their two-and-a-half fingers. I also bought a public transport pass called a ‘strip card,’ since access to Dutch trams somehow involved ‘stripping.’ The alternative was ‘Riding Black’ – which to me sounded like a stripper name. And lastly, I procured a phone card for making phone calls at these things called ‘public phone booths.’ These triangular, glass enclosures were also known as ‘phone boxes,’ or – in Dutch – pissoirs.

WANT TO READ MORE?
HollandBooks.nl 

OR
Listen to me reading from my book here on the ARTS TALK RADIO podcast:

The EU Needs a Late Night Comedy Show | a TED Talk by Greg Shapiro

The EU Needs a Late Night Comedy Show | a TED Talk by Greg Shapiro
6 April, 2022

Now that Europe’s best-known comedian is busy doing his Winston Churchill impression in Ukraine, Europe needs a new Head Comedian. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has given a big boost to European unity. Time to capitalize on our common sense of community?

Now more than ever, the EU needs a late night comedy show.

Granted, this argument is one I’ve been making for years. In fact it was in 2021 that I made this TED talk for TEDx VU Amsterdam: ‘The EU Needs a Late Night Comedy Show.’

It has been proven: Comedy helps cognition, especially in younger demographics – exactly the ones we need to engage. In America, a majority of 18-35 year-olds say they get most of their news from late night comedy programs, like The Daily Show. And for good reason! Jokes engage emotion. Emotion aids cognition.

More specifically, a study from the University of Pennsylvania concludes that humor helps people remember news better. And it makes them more likely to share the news with others. (watch the video)
Maybe there’s a reason for the popularity of comedy shows like The Daily Show, The Late Show, and Late Night with Seth Meyers (my former colleague).

WHY IS THERE NO LATE NIGHT COMEDY SHOW FOR THE EU?
In a way, there is. In 2017, Dutch late night comedian Arjen Lubach achieved international success with his viral video ‘Netherlands Second,’ (for which I provided the voice). There are German late night comedians like Jan Boehmermann and Oliver Welke.

Personally, I’ve hosted my a late night comedy show in the Netherlands: COMEDY CENTRAL NEWS: Because Dutch News is News Too. I’ve even hosted a YouTube version of a show called THE UNITED STATES OF EUROPE: Giving EU leaders the respect they deserve by ridiculing them on a regular basis.

My mission was to create a network of EU comedy correspondents. I would still love to make this dream a reality. All I would need is a generous subsidy from an intra-governmental agency that’s happy to throw away money on hopeless projects in arts & culture.
…THAT’S THE VERY DEFINITION OF THE EU. 

If you fund it, I will come.

The United States of Europe: MAKING FUN OF THE EU, THE AMERICAN WAY. 

WATCH:

English Language Amsterdam Election Debate – Hosted by Greg Shapiro

English Language Amsterdam Election Debate – Hosted by Greg Shapiro
7 March, 2022

Hey Expats & Internationals! You might be able to vote in the Amsterdam City Council Elections – aka the Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen.
Basically, if you’ve been living here long enough you can pronounce the term Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen, then maybe you can vote in the Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen.

Election Day is next Wednesday, 16 March. And on 9 March I hosted the ONLY English-language election event in Amsterdam. Here are some highlights.

As the host, I started out with a comedy version of the basics: If American politics is quite Bipolar, then Dutch politics has Multiple Personality Disorder. Even in Amsterdam – with only 45 seats in city council – there are 15 different parties. And there are 26 parties running in the upcoming election! That means there are 11 parties that have never existed before – and may never exist again. That’s the nature of Dutch politics: the smaller the country, the more they like to disagree.


Onstage last night we had three parties from the current city council coalition: GroenLinks; D66 & Labor PvdA. We also had VOLT – who have never campaigned for city council before. And we had VVD who are in city council – but not in the ruling coalition.


As the host, I welcomed the 100+ people in the audience, and I subtly switched from my native English to ESL ‘English as a Second Language.’ That also helped the five politicians on the panel, who were each rather nervous about their level of English. As expected, everyone’s English was FINE… with a few exceptions.

“If you live in an old house, you need isolation. The city needs to provide isolation. Isolation for everyone!” I quickly pointed out that in English it’s called INSULATION. That’s very different. 

HOUSING
There’s more housing coming! Pre-fab houses, 3-D printed houses, and floating houses. And if you’re smart you’ll get a floating house, because this city is going to be underwater soon.

SUSTAINABILITY
Thanks to Putin, everyone in Europe is now desperate to get off of fossil fuels. GroenLinks wants more solar, more insulation and even 6-7 wind turbines on Amsterdam land. I had to ask Rutger from GroenLinks “Why has Amsterdam been cutting down so many trees?” And admitted “It’s bad for optics,” but the truth is many trees that were planted 30 – 40 years ago were not well planned, and now their root systems are destroying canal walls, city streets and foundations. They’ve been replanting new, proper trees. But that doesn’t stop Thierry Baudet from putting tree stumps in his campaign photos.

ARTS / DIVERSITY
Well, since GroenLinks & D66 chose to hold this event at Podium Mozaiek, I guess that shows they support diversity as well as the arts. Anything is better than the place they had four years ago – the Marktkantine. Yuck.

Remote Meetings Are Dead – Long Live Hybrid Meetings! Greg Shapiro

Remote Meetings Are Dead; Long Live Hybrid Meetings!
7 March, 2022

In February I was called upon to do two separate events for Janssen Pharmaceuticals in Belgium – both remote meetings. Now that Covid restrictions are lifting in the Netherlands and Belgium, you might expect a return to 100% live events ! And you’d be wrong. Looks like hybrid meetings are the New Normal.

The first remote meeting was an expat event, and I was asked to make a 20-minute tailored video.

Would there be enough material about cultural quirks in Belgium? Oh, yes. But how far should I go in making fun of Belgium? I started out with “Who knew one country could drink so much beer? Even the children drink to excess – at least that’s what I assume since the national mascot is a boy urinating.”

I sent in my video – via WeTransfer. Would they approve? Would they even watch it before plopping it into their meeting? I didn’t hear anything back… until after the day of the meeting. The subject heading said “LOVED IT!” Phew. “We used your video at our event yesterday and it was great. It really hit the right note and was enjoyed by all. We hope to see you again – hopefully F2F next time.”

Indeed, we were hoping for F2F Face to Face next time. But the next time was a hybrid meeting. Which was fine! The second Janssen remote meeting was produced by Co-MANA, who created a pop-up studio in Belgium. There was a giant LED wall, with projections that could change themes for the two-day event.

 

There was a dedicated screen with a dedicated link to the internal Janssen team leaders. There was a live monitor. And there was a prompter screen, which doubled as a link to the Q&A moderator. And we ended with a live band, who played during the interactive quiz.

It would have been nice to have the team leaders on location, as well as the band. Heck, it would have been nice to have a fully live event. But if Hybrid Meetings are the new normal for now, i gotta say this meeting was great. 

Greg Shapiro New Comedy Show LISTPUSHER at Utrecht Int’l Comedy Festival

Greg Shapiro New Comedy Show LISTPUSHER at Utrecht Int’l Comedy Festival
3 March, 2022

Based on my experiences as a real-live (fake) politician – I’ve created a new 30-minute show called LIST PUSHER.

“List Pusher?” What’s that?

THE ORIGIN STORY
A friend of mine on Amsterdam city council asked me “Could you help us on our campaign to reach out to the expats and internationals?” And I said yes. The upcoming city council elections – the gemeenteraadsverkiezingen – are the one time expats and non-Dutch citizens can vote. Basically, if you’ve lived in the Netherlands long enough to pronounce the term gemeenteraadsverkiezingen, then maybe you can vote in the gemeenteraadsverkiezingen.

But then he asked “this time what if we don’t just have you as a volunteer – but as a symbolic candidate on the candidate list?” And – here’s how my big my ego is – I said “But wait – what if I win? If everybody votes for me, will I have to be on city council?” The answer is technically yes – but I’d be candidate 49 on a list of 50. The so-called Lijstduwer – the ‘List Pusher.’ So now I’m a pusher man. Telling expats “The first vote is free.”

WHO SHOULD I VOTE FOR
Before I could become a candidate for this party, I had to make sure it was the right party for me. Politically, I’m not too far right, but also not too far left – kind of in the middle. So I found the online voting guide called Stemwijzer. They have 30 questions, and you agree or disagree, and at the end they tell you which party is for you. As an experiment, I clicked ‘No opinion’ for every question, and the party they gave me was: D66. Because they’re right in the middle. And I thought “YES! That’s the party for me.”

(Also D66 are pro-Europe, pro-gay rights, pro-bilingual education and pro dual citizenship. You should vote for them. But don’t vote for me! I know what happens when they put a comedian in charge – the next thing you know you’re fighting off Russian missiles.)

VOTE ABM: (anyone but me)!

And come see my show:
LIST PUSHER. UTRECHT INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL
Friday 4 March
Saturday 5 March

https://utrechtinternationalcomedyfestival.nl/
https://www.ticketmaster.nl/event/big-binge-of-comedy-friday-tickets/275019

GREG SHAPIRO – HOUSE EXPAT OF DUTCH POLITICS

GREG SHAPIRO – HOUSE EXPAT OF DUTCH POLITICS

26 Jan., 2022

After utterly failing to appear on Dutch TV reality shows like Wie Is de Mol and Expeditie Robinson, I have decided to take part in the biggest reality show of them all: Dutch politics.

In March of 2022, the Netherlands will hold nationwide local elections, and I will be appearing on the list for D66 in Amsterdam. Every candidate list has a leader at the top: the lijsttrekker (list-puller). My position on the list is more symbolic. I will appear at the bottom of the list – what is known as a lijstduwer (list pusher). Yes, I’m your pusher man.

Unlike other Dutch elections, the local elections (Gemeenreraadsverkiezingen) allow non-Dutch citizens to vote. And that is why Amsterdam D66 contacted me – to shamelessly exploit my connections in the expat and international community. To remind people – like you – you can vote! And you don’t have to vote for my party. There are a number of websites where you can answer a questionnaire to find out which party is right for you. (see below) As long as you vote!
After all, the D in D66 stands for Democrats. If you vote, I’m happy.

Why D66? Well, it started in 2014 when my friend Jan Paternotte (D66) asked me to join the team. Paternotte was actively supportive of dual citizens like me. He was also strongly pro-Europe (like me). So I said yes. Also, Jan helped promote my book, so I know he has excellent judgment and taste.

Since then, (since 2006 honestly) I’ve been known to help out on D66 campaigns. So much so that Amsterdam’s Het Parool describes me as ‘Expat à la Maison’ …
https://www.parool.nl/amsterdam/het-gevecht-om-de-stem-van-de-expat-is-begonnen-in-amsterdam~b48e0a9d/

…or ‘House Expat.’ Sounds a little bit like ‘House Elf,’ or worse… But I’ll take it.

Here’s the English version:
https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2022/01/every-vote-counts-political-parties-in-amsterdam-target-the-expat-voter/

And here’s the questionnaire to determine which of the – way too many – parties is right for you.
|https://verkiezingen.stemwijzer.nl/

HAPPY VOTING!

Greg Shapiro New Video Series: ‘DutchNews of the Week’

Greg Shapiro New Video Series ‘DutchNews of the Week’
7 December, 2021

“The headlines are from DutchNews.nl; the punchlines are from me.” So begins every episode of my new weekly video series ‘DutchNews of the Week.’

DutchNews.nl already has a daily newsletter and a weekly podcast. So I thought: “Why not a weekly video as well?” And, in the spirit of Branded Content, I decided to just start making the videos first, on my own. Then – instead of saying “What would it be like if I made these videos…” I can now say “Here, look at these videos.”

It’s like “Better to ask forgiveness than permission.” First I make the videos. Then I approach the client. “If you like it, pay me to make more.” (And if you hate it, pay me to stop…) (wink emoticon)

As it turns out, the founder of DutchNews.nl is a friend of mine: Robin Pascoe. What do you know: she likes the videos. (Robin is the woman who used to write for the English version of the Financiele Dagblad. There are other Dutch news sites in English, but DutchNews is my favorite.)

I love humor as a tool to make news items more relatable and more memorable. At first, I wanted to make videos that went a bit in depth for every major story of the week. The videos were still about 3 minutes long, like this one. WATCH:
https://youtu.be/IKIjvmmO4Rs

But I soon realized a couple things about social media. 1) Current events videos do not age well on YouTube. 2) If you want to post videos on other media – like Twitter and Instagram – you can only post 60 seconds max. And so the new format was born: Set-up / Punchline. Just like ‘Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live.

So keep an eye on your socials. If it’s a Friday – and if I have the time that week – then I’ll be posting to Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

And if enough people like it, I might just use the same technique for Politico.eu. But this time I might try to make content for their YouTube channel as well. They have a YouTube channel, but it suuuuuucks.

Wish me luck.

Greg Shapiro Hosts TFG Event at Prinsenhof Delft

Greg Shapiro Hosts TFG Event at Prinsenhof Delft

I was asked to host an annual dinner for an IT trade association at a historic location: the Prinsenhof in Delft. Where Willem van Oranje – the founder of the country – took his last breath in 1584. Even if my event would be a disaster, it couldn’t be worse than that.


The IT association was called The Future Group, which I immediately made fun of: “Good name! Sounds vaguely evil, without hitting it over the head.” I reminded everyone of the famous Google motto: ‘Don’t be evil,’ as opposed to Facebook’s motto: “Be evil enough for Facebook AND Google.” Just before the event, the ’Facebook Papers’ were released – revealing that Facebook knew its product was addictive and refused to change it. “How could Facebook not be addictive? It was created by Mark Zuckerberg! Berg meaning ‘mountain’ & zucker meaning ‘sugar.’ And how did he respond to the accusation? By launching ‘Facebook Meta.’ “The Metaverse. Like Facebook, but worse.” It’s always a risk to try out all-new material in front of a corporate crowd. But luckily this stuff killed.

I was warned that there would be a special challenge in hosting the evening.
The celebrity chef would be Yuri Verbeek: a creative genius in the kitchen – who had a tendency for overheating onstage. I’d never met him. But I was impressed by his set-up in the pop-up kitchen. 

 

 

 

Yes, Yuri had a whole cookbook he wanted to promote.

Yes, he had a whole new concept for every course. Yes, he had a nervous energy onstage that seemed to freak people out. But as for me, I have a high tolerance for weird energy. I decided on a dual-pronged strategy: let him talk as long as he wanted; and tell the technician to kill the mic if I signaled. Turns out – I didn’t need to kill the mic. Yuri did great!

By the end of the night, people liked the show – but they loved Yuri. “How did you get him not to be so long-winded?” I followed a classic bit of Dutch advice: “Doe normaal.” 

The event hall is the covered atrium of what once was a Catholic cloister. It was inspiring to stand on the stones that Willem van Oranje may have once stood. I’d never visited the Prinsenhof Museum, and it’s a good one.

The star of the show is the staircase, where Willem was gunned down in 1584, at the start of the Dutch Revolution. You can see the bullet holes still in the wall. And – thanks to a clever animation – you can see how the assassin crept up and fired at Willem, before he collapsed on the floor. 

Luckily, the Future Group was a great show. I killed onstage, but no one died.

Greg Shapiro ‘How to Be Dutch’ at NBTC Netherlands Bd of Tourism & Conventions

Greg Shapiro ‘How to Be Dutch’ at NBTC Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions
3 June, 2021

I remember when the NBTC was simply called the NBOT ‘Netherlands Board of Tourism.’ (That’s when I did my first events for them back in the 2000’s.) These days, it’s the ‘Netherlands Board of Tourism AND CONVENTIONS.’ Which is handy, because – during a pandemic – tourism you can’t do easily online. But conventions, yes!

As the Corona rules loosen, it’s time to ask: What is the future of conventions and events? Back to Live and In-Person? More online? A bit of both? Will conventions and events ever be the same? The NBTC organized an online event in early June. As it happened, it was right before Step 3 of Loosening the Dutch Corona restrictions. So, if they had rescheduled by a few days, then they could have had up to 50 people in a live audience. !
The fact they did NOT reschedule perhaps proves their point: the role of online and hybrid events is here to stay.

As it happened, I was glad they went with the online setup. The stage was inspired by the TV show Even Tot Hier, with the audience projected onto an enormous back wall. So yes, I could see the audience on two big monitors under the livestream camera. And also the audience could see themselves behind me. Okay, maybe it’s not a great recipe for laughs – being able to see yourself and get self-conscious every time you laugh. But I got laughs anyway!

I was asked to give a reading from my book The American Netherlander: 25 Years of Expat Tales. It’s a module I like to call ‘Culture Shock Therapy.’ And we had a ‘bubble’ set – everyone on set had to have a negative Covid test. And between the speakers and the crew, there were just enough live bodies to be able to play to audible laughs.

Thanks to Host Sophie Hoytema for recommending me for the gig. Thanks to Producer Paul Gruijthuijsen for making us look great. Thanks to the location CitySense in Utrecht. And thanks to NBTC’s Eric Bakermans for having me – and for making the photos of my performance!


Greg Shapiro Masterclass: CULTURE SHOCK THERAPY

Greg Shapiro Masterclass: CULTURE SHOCK THERAPY

“Hi! My name is Greg Shapiro, or you can call me Gregory. Or – in Dutch – ‘Krek.’ That’s my name in Dutch: Krek Tja-piero.’ Prime example of Culture Shock: When you move to a different country and realize ‘Wow – I’ve been pronouncing my name wrong my whole life.'”
There are plenty examples of Culture Shock in the Netherlands. Like having a Dutchman introduce himself and say “Hello, my name is Freek. I am Freek, and this is my colleague Tjerk.” But if you can keep a sense of humor about it, you experience Culture Shock THERAPY: when you realize that  cultural differences can be hilarious.

“I am a bit of both: a bit LOUD AMERICAN and a bit ‘Doe Normaal‘ Nederlander. And yes I am tweetaliggggg. But I don’t like to speak Dutch, because it makes my mouth feel sad. What is it about Dutch people and their Harde G? It makes you sound like angry, choking zombie people. Like that TV show The Walking Dead. Or – since it’s the Netherlands – it’s more like The BIKING Dead.”
And here’s another example of Culture Shock Therapy. As soon as I started learning Dutch, I realized “Oh, you don’t need to yell the whole time.”

“Other cultures might say things like ‘Wow, you look good! Have you lost weight?’ Dutch people will say ‘Wow, you used to be so fat!'”
Dutch people are known for being DIRECT. Which is an indirect way of saying RUDE. If Americans have a reputation for being politely indirect, and the British have a reputation for being politely indecipherable, Dutch people pride themselves on being brutally honest – sometimes at the expense of politeness, or tact, or respect for human dignity. But at least you know where you stand. And HOW you stand – which is much shorter, once their comments cut you off at the knees.

Greg Shapiro (Zondag Met Lubach, Boom Chicago, Comedy Central) is The American Netherlander. He has performed his masterclass in Dutch Culture Shock Therapy for heads of state, the King of the Netherlands and once for the Business Class section of a KLM 747 to Chicago.