10 Things I Wish You Knew about the Netherlands

by - 3:00 PM

One of the questions I've been frequently asked in my blogging career is: 'Are you really Dutch?' Now I have no idea why I'd lie about that. I'm about as Dutch as they get, but you don't want to know how often I've had to explain that no, my country didn't start World War II; I'm Dutch, not German. And no, I'm not Scandinavian; Denmark is a different place alltogether. Most of the time a mention of my home country of the Netherlands is met with question marks. People in general know very little about this place. We fly under the radar most of the time and I'm not ashamed to admit that that makes me a little sad every now and then. After all, we have a lot of awesome things that make us so unique. Those things are all things I'd love to share with you. Inspired by Steph's 10 Things I Wish You Knew about South Africa, I present you: 10 Things I Wish You Knew about the Netherlands!

#1: Half of the country shouldn't even be there
More than half of the Netherlands is below sea level. My hometown is approximately 2 meters below sea level and that's nothing special in the western provinces. Centuries ago the place was a swamp. My people built dams, pumped the water out and created land this way. If our dams break, more than half of the country will be flooded. Luckily we're the absolute masters of building dams.
Still not impressed? What if I told you our twelfth province, Flevoland, isn't even a century old? We built Flevoland from scratch by getting rid of the Zuiderzee, our inland sea. Pretty damn impressive, don't you think?

#2: A few Caribbean islands are officially part of the Netherlands
I have to be honest with you: when I say that half of my country shouldn't be here, I do not take the Caribbean islands into account. Aruba, Saba, Sint Maarten and Curaçao are a few of them. They're remnants of the colonial age and their place within the country has changed significantly since then. Some are now Dutch counties, others have become semi-independent. It's a bit of a weird situation, since most people in the provinces are barely aware of the fact that these islands are part of the country, while people on the islands don't always identify as Dutch. Either way, on paper it's all the same country, so if you go to Curaçao you can say you've visited the Kingdom of the Netherlands!

#3: We are a constitutional monarchy
Yes, our official name is the Kingdom of the Netherlands. We have a king, queen and a whole bunch of princes and princesses. Call us old-fashioned, but it's worked for us for centuries. You see, our king doesn't have all that much to say. We've been a constitutional monarchy for well over a century, which means we used the constitution to limit the king's power and make sure the Dutch people would live in a democracy. In fact, we limited the king's influence so far that I wouldn't be able to name one of his official tasks if my life depended on it. Except for visiting a random Dutch city on King's Day and giving a Christmas speech, but I don't think that counts. So basically we're a democracy hanging on to the traditions that come with being a kingdom.

#4: Our official languages are Dutch and Frysian...
... and depending on your location, also English and Papiemento. Those last two are only official languages on the islands, Frysian only in the northern province of Friesland. Dutch is official everywhere, of course. And even though my country is minuscule, we have loads of dialects and heaps of accents. Most westerners can't make sense of the southern dialects, whereas we use a ton of expressions southerners have never even heard of. It's an amazing situation for someone who loves languages as much as I do.

#5: We're basically one with our bicycles
If you can't ride a bike, are you even Dutch? Seriously, we learn to ride a bike at such a young age that the bike basically becomes an extension of our body. Our cities are filled with brave and reckless cyclists who will not hesitate to take right of way, even when they shouldn't be taking right of way. We own the roads. Remember this and you'll be safe in the Netherlands: never mess with the cyclists!

#6: We are weird when it comes to religion
Sure fire way to tell if you're in the southern provinces of the Netherlands: if there are random chapels and Jesus statues by the side of the road and at crossroads, you're in the south. The southern provinces are Catholic, the northern provinces like protestantism better. And when it comes to other religions we can be assholes, especially when we talk about Islam. We are completely fine with shutting an entire town of from the outside world because you can't repair its bridge on a Sunday, but hijabs send our religious nutcases into hysterics. It's a sad situation for atheists and agnostics like me.

#7: We are known for being down-to-earth
Now this one doesn't apply to me personally, but Dutch people are known for being down-to-earth. We're not easily spooked, brush weird things off and think logically. 'Act normal, that's already crazy enough' is an expression we use that perfectly represents the Dutch down-to-earth mindset. It makes us valuable in crisis situations and, in my opinion, completely boring when it comes to haunted places and urban legends: we have none.

#8: We only show true idiocy during a football World Cup
That down-to-earth mindset I mentioned? Yeah, you can throw that right out of the window as soon as the Dutch football team goes to a big international tournament. Okay, I know the team has sucked so bad since 2014 that we didn't even make it to the 2018 World Cup, but if we make it to the next tournament, the Dutch will collectively lose their mind. Entire streets turn orange, our national color. Trees get more decoration thrown on them than the average Christmas tree. Flags will be everywhere, the regular ones and the tiny party flags in red, white and blue are strung from house to house. Supermarkets hand out mascots in red, white, blue and orange. Football is the only possible topic of conversation. This insanity lasts as long as our team is competing. A week after they're out, it's like none of this ever happened and everyone goes back to acting normally, because that's already crazy enough.

#9: There's an age-old rivalry between Amsterdam and Rotterdam
Now that we're on the topic of football: football supporters from Amsterdam and Rotterdam hate each other and the other city so bad that it's seeped through into other aspects of life as well. This goes so far that grown men from the Rotterdam area refuse to say 'the A-word' and call our capital '020', its area code, instead. And even though I support a southern club, I do enjoy the discussion on which city is better. Of course Rotterdam has a better university, has better street art and is more important for our economy. I'm biased though: I'm from the Rotterdam area, what did you expect me to say?

#10: You know wifi? You can thank the Dutch for that
Yeah, we make some pretty cool things here. Not just wifi, oh no. Gouda cheese? Dutch. Hagelslag, chocolate sprinkles to put on your bread are Dutch of course. We were the first to legalize gay marriage. We're pretty good at introducing the world to good things. And we make the things you love even better. You like art? Have a look at the Dutch masters. Best DJs in the world? Man, that list would be nothing without the Dutch. Melisandre and Daario Naharis from Game of Thrones? Dutch actors. You're welcome ;)

So you see, we might be small (though we're literally the tallest people in the world), but we're pretty awesome. I haven't even told you about all our amazing cookies yet, but I don't want to overwhelm you with our general amazingness. I hope you'll get to visit the land that shouldn't actually be there. If you do, let me know. I'll be more than happy to give you a local tour of awesomeness.

x Envy

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8 Fellow Ramblers

  1. Wow! I had no idea about most of this. ^^ Especially that half of the country is below sea level. I have, however, heard of the mad cyclists lol. Although very much not the Netherlands, my sister visited Rome, Italy many years ago, and she came back with survival stories about crossing the roads that remind me exactly of Dutch cyclists, except with cars. XD

    That is a fantastic saying: "Act normal, that's crazy enough." Ohh.. Totally going to use that one day.

    1. It's not like us to shout facts from the rooftop and we kind of assume that people don't want to know about our country anyway, so that's why most people don't know these things.
      Rome is hell when you're trying to cross a street, hahaha. Our traffic is a little more organized and a whole lot safer.
      Don't live by that saying though! It can be so limiting to live that way...

  2. Hi, thanks for sharing this informative facts I have to confess not knowing most of them, I think one of the common known facts is about the bikes.

    1. I think that's the first thing most people learn about my country, hahaha.

  3. Woah the Netherlands sounds like such a cool place ☺️ Great post ❤️

    1. That's because it is a really cool place ;)

  4. Wow you've really opened my eyes about the Netherlands. I visted Amsterdam a few years back and loved it so much! I want to visit more of the Netherland now, thank you for sharing 🌸💗✨

    With love, Alisha Valerie. x
    www.alishavalerie.com | www.twitter.com/alishavalerie

    1. Amsterdam is a good place to start, but it's definitely not all there is to the Netherlands. The east and south are beautiful, Rotterdam and Utrecht are amazing cities... I could go on and on and on, but you should really come and see it all for yourself!


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