Interview: Diederik van Hoogstraten

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In a relatively new cafe called Thyme in Santa Monica, we meet NRC journalist Diederik van Hoogstraten. In the USA his first name is often pronounced as ‘’Dée-drick’’. In addition to NRC he also writes for magazines like Elsevier, Vrij Nederland, VPRO Gids and in the past he worked for a Dutch newspaper called De Volkskrant. He studied at the University of Utrecht, Columbia University in New York and the San Francisco State University. He wrote a book with the title ‘The Running Dutchman’, which has now become his nickname. Recently he became a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. He is one of the international journalists who help to decide the winners of the Golden Globes.

Do you ever use a different name at Starbucks?
At Starbucks I mostly switch between Eric, Daniel, and Andy. They’re good friends of mine and live back home in The Netherlands and in New York.

What is the first place you visited in the USA?
At a young age I was fascinated by America, so after I completed my Journalism degree at the University of Utrecht I moved to New York. I was 22 at that time. I immediately thought America was a great country! I had the feeling I could be completely myself. I enjoyed the freedom and anonymity far away from home. Also, I truly love the space in this country. The roads for example, amazing! New York was a great experience, but stayed with my Dutch roots by working at a Bike shop in Brooklyn for a while.

So, why did you move back to the Netherlands in 1998?
Somehow it had not yet worked out to make a living as a freelancer, so I moved back to the Netherlands. I started working for the magazine Elsevier and within no time I became the Chief of Foreign News at a relatively young age. I learned a lot from the legendary editor Hendrik Jan Schoo. I always knew I wanted to go back to the States though. Mostly in the month of December I was thinking like, ”what am I doing here?!”. When the airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 I made the decision to go back to America; by this time I had been back in Holland for three years. I quit everything that I was doing and packed my bags. The Volkskrant and Elsevier said they would be interested in my stories. That’s all I had.

Never wanted to work for an American Newspaper or Magazine?

I didn’t want to start all the way at the bottom, in my first language I could do the stories I really wanted to pursue. I had an offer to work for a newspaper in Alaska, but you could only reach the office by airplane. Now I think I should have done that. Sounds like a great adventure, and I would probably be able to fly and own an airplane by now!

How did you manage to stay in the USA?
After all the hustle with immigration lawyers, translating my articles in English etc. I was able to prove my expertise in my field of work, which eventually led to a Green card.

Do you think the Dutch (in general) have good chance to be successful in Los Angeles?
Yes! The Dutch are stubborn, but open minded and ambitious. I think the Dutch have a good reputation and are well known as hard workers and not afraid to take on challenges. You do have to adapt to the American way of life. In general, people have positive reaction when you say ”I’m from Holland”, so that’s a good sign.

How did you become a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association?
It’s not an easy process. You need to prove you’re a working journalist in Hollywood, then build support within the association. It took me about a year to go through the process. Then I was be voted in – a big honor and a great opportunity.

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After all these years you’re still in the USA. Are you living the American Dream?
I’m married to a beautiful woman from Texas, I live in Santa Monica, and I still enjoy working for Dutch media. I became a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press, I interviewed Benicio Del Toro the other day, and I got a new motorbike… A BMW S1000, so, yes pretty much!

That doesn’t mean the ‘Biking Dutchman’ stops dreaming.

”Now I cover the entertainment industry, that’s why I live in LA. I’m just starting a new ‘Inside Hollywood’ column in NRC and a new running book coming out soon. And maybe I’ll dive into screenwriting one day…”

Recommendation of a must see in LA?
Griffith Park offers excellent trail hiking and stunning views over all of LA. It’s beautiful and a must see for everyone.

Interview by Hidde de Vries

More about Diederik:
NRC Column: Inside Hollywood
Blog: The Running Dutchman
Book: The Running Dutchman: Confessions of a Wanderer
Twitter: @dvhoogstraten

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