Summer Holiday in France: The Dutch Know Their Way Around

Europe has reopened its borders to tourists. But what is the situation in the major European holiday countries? 

It's almost summer vacation. Europe has reopened its borders to tourists. But what is the situation in the major European holiday countries? What should you pay attention to? We ask Dirk-Jan Nieuwenhuis, the deputy ambassador in Paris.

Dirk Jan, the borders are open again and the Dutch can go on holiday. How do you view that?

'We are happy that the borders are open again because France is the number one holiday destination for Dutch people in the world. And that will be all the more the case this year because many Dutch people do not want to travel far away. Then France is a safe choice: it is close by, people have often been there before and the country is in many ways comparable to the Netherlands. You can go anywhere again, the lockdown is over. France also has everything to offer, there are mountains, there is the sea, there are also a lot of cultures. In that regard, it is not surprising that so many Dutch people come every year.'

France has been in the so-called 'confinement' in recent months. It was stricter than the Dutch 'intelligent lockdown'. What was it like to work in Paris?

'It was a very strange experience to work at the Dutch embassy in Paris during that 'confinement'. You have to imagine that we worked very hard on a virtually empty embassy. In the consular area, for example, people had to return to the Netherlands. But the provision of information also had to be kept up to date: what is France doing, what is the Netherlands doing? This happens in many different areas. Things also came to a standstill: many cultural activities were canceled and visiting delegations were of course canceled.

I also put a lot of energy into contact with employees. I thought it was important to ensure that our employees remained involved in their work, that they could enjoy working from home, but above all to ensure that everyone remained healthy.'

Does the consular department have a lot of work for Dutch people traveling in France?

'If you compare the numbers of tourists with the efforts that we make as a consular department, it's not that bad: the Dutch know their way around here. There are almost three million individual visitors to France by Dutch people every year, but there are also people who have their second home here. If you compare that number to people knocking on the door of the embassy for consular assistance, the vast majority of trips take place without our intervention. We are ready for people who do need consular assistance.'

What should you pay attention to when traveling to France?

'Make sure you are well prepared for your trip. That means travel insurance and a valid passport. For people with a second home, this sometimes falls short, because in the long run, you will put into perspective the difference between a return ticket to Rotterdam and the car trip to the Morvan. It is precise because of the coronavirus that it has become clear that it is of a different order. France is close by, but it is a different country. So make sure you have a travel document and a copy on your phone in case you lose your passport. And also make sure you have your bank details in case you lose your wallet.'

What should you not do?

'The French generally have a different view on drug use, don't take drugs into France, and don't use them. The penalties are significantly higher, and it is not allowed to turn a blind eye. Also, keep in mind that not all authorities speak English in addition to French. That is fundamentally different compared to, for example, Germany or Belgium. Make sure you can make yourself understood by means of a translation booklet, but it can also be done via an app.  

Yusuf Rodiah

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What a njve place

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