10 Interesting Things You Didn't Know About The Netherlands
Reinier van der Windt
Aug. 8, 2023
4 min read
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The Netherlands, often known as Holland, is a country renowned for its charming canals, windmills, fields of tulips and progressive society. But there are many lesser known facts that shed light on the fascinating identity of this captivating European nation. In this article, we explore ten intriguing aspects of The Netherlands that you might not be familiar with.
While the iconic windmills and tulips often steal the spotlight in The Netherlands, the country is equally famous for its extensive network of bicycle paths and its enthusiastic cycling culture. With around 22 million bicycles for a population of roughly 17 million people, cycling has become ingrained in Dutch life. The flat landscape and well developed cycling infrastructure not only make it a convenient mode of transportation but also reflect the Dutch commitment to sustainability and healthy living.
The unique geography of The Netherlands presents an ongoing challenge in dealing with the sea. With a significant portion of its land situated below sea level, the country has devised an intricate system of water management to safeguard against flooding. Around one third of the country's land has been reclaimed from the sea using impressive engineering solutions like dykes, dams and polders. The Delta Works, a massive system of dams and barriers, stands as a testament to the Dutch people's resilience against the forces of nature.
Amsterdam, known for its charming canals, also holds an important distinction as the birthplace of the world's first official stock exchange. Established in 1602 by the Dutch East India Company, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange laid the foundations for modern stock markets. This financial innovation not only influenced global economic systems but also cemented Amsterdam's status as a historic trading center.
The Netherlands is well known for its progressive social policies, including its unique approach to cannabis. While it is not fully legalized, the country takes a pragmatic stance by allowing regulated sale and consumption of small amounts in designated "coffeeshops." This strategy aims to minimize criminal involvement and create a controlled environment for cannabis use while contributing to their reputation for forward thinking.
Although Dutch is the official language, The Netherlands prides itself on its linguistic diversity.Frisian, a language that has its origins in Old English and Old Norse, holds official recognition in Friesland. Furthermore, the Dutch are renowned for their proficiency in English, with a significant portion of the population being fluent in the language. This multilingualism highlights the Dutch commitment to international engagement and openness.
King's Day or Koningsdag serves as a vibrant testament to the deep rooted national pride and unity among the Dutch people. Celebrated on April 27th to honor the monarch's birthday, this day becomes a lively spectacle filled with orange—the color associated with the royal family. Street festivities, flea markets and an atmosphere brimming with festivity characterize this occasion, showcasing the Dutch ability to transform even royal celebrations into collective expressions of joy.
The Netherlands boasts an impressive legacy of innovation that spans across various domains. From pioneering microbiologist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek to those responsible for Bluetooth technology, the Dutch have consistently pushed boundaries when it comes to expanding human understanding and unleashing creativity. This spirit of innovation is evident in their architectural prowess, urban planning endeavors, as well as their dedication towards sustainability and renewable energy solutions.
While not globally acclaimed like French or Italian cuisine, Dutch gastronomy offers distinctive and delightful surprises. Stroopwafels are a delightful treat consisting of thin waffles filled with a delicious caramel like syrup. They are widely loved by people. Stamppot is a well loved traditional Dutch meal that combines mashed potatoes with vegetables such as kale or sauerkraut. Its comforting and nourishing qualities make it a go to dish, especially during the colder months. Haring, which is raw herring fish served with onions and pickles, represents the Dutch preference for bold and hearty flavors in their street food. Moreover, the historical connection between the Netherlands and Indonesia has resulted in a vibrant fusion of flavors in Dutch cuisine.
The Netherlands boasts several UNESCO World Heritage Sites that highlight its rich historical and cultural significance. The Canal Ring of Amsterdam, the unique Wadden Sea ecosystem, Schokland and Surroundings and the iconic windmill network at Kinderdijk serve as remarkable examples of the country's architectural prowess, hydraulic engineering excellence and commitment to preserving its cultural heritage.
While much of the world celebrates Santa Claus, The Netherlands has its own festive figure: Sinterklaas. The Dutch Sinterklaas tradition adds a touch of enchantment to the holiday season. Celebrated on December 5th, Sinterklaas is an adored character who travels all the way from Spain to bring gifts to children in the Netherlands. The figure known as "Black Pete" (Zwarte Piet), often depicted with a blackened face originates from stories suggesting that he enters through chimneys to deliver presents. While this tradition has sparked discussions about cultural sensitivity and historical interpretation, many Dutch see it as a joyful celebration of generosity and eager anticipation.
To sum up, The Netherlands has an allure that extends well beyond its famous imagery. With its ongoing struggle against the sea and its lively cycling culture, the country's charm is found in its diverse identity. The Netherlands rich history, vibrant culture and dedication to progress shape its story within the nation as well as on an international scale. Whether you're discovering Amsterdam's picturesque canals or immersing yourself in the festive atmosphere of King's Day, The Netherlands warmly welcomes you to discover its hidden treasures and embrace the harmonious blend of tradition and contemporary elements it offers.
The Netherlands is a beautiful and welcoming country with a rich cultural heritage, stunning nature, and a relaxed and friendly way of life.
Hey there! I'm Rainier and I'm the person behind Roaming with Rainier. I've always been really into traveling and photography. I've been fortunate enough to visit incredible destinations and there are still so many more on my bucket list. My plan is to explore breathtaking places around the world and share my experiences through articles and reviews.