1) Almost a third of the Netherlands is below sea level.
The Netherlands is a country with a love-hate relationship with water. For centuries we have been fighting flooding by means of dikes and windmills that pump the water away. The coastline of the Netherlands is over 450 km long. In addition, 3 major rivers flow through the Netherlands: the Rhine, the Maas and the Schelde. It is therefore quite special that we still keep our feet dry. The Netherlands has about 4000 polders. (drained lakes) In the 17th century, the Dutch first started to reclaim land. De Beemster and De Schermer were the first 2 polder projects in the Netherlands. Due to increasing prosperity in the 17th century, the population increased. As a result, additional agricultural land was needed to produce more food. Draining lakes turned out to be the perfect solution. In the 17th century the land was drained by means of windmills, later steam and electric pumping stations were added
2) The Stockmarket is a Dutch invention
The first company that worked with shareholders is the Dutch V.O.C. (United Indian Company) in 1602 the VOC issued shares for the first time to pay for overseas trade. The VOC is often referred to as the world’s first multinational company, with offices in Europe, Asia and Africa. The first shares were mainly issued to conquer a place on the world stage with the Netherlands in terms of colonization, and making a profit was not the motive at first. The great rivals of the Netherlands: Spain and England had been engaged in colonial activities for some time. A lot of wealth was amassed with this and so the Dutch also wanted a piece of the “cake”. Initially little profit was made, but slowly the influence of the Netherlands increased on the World stage, and in 1605 there was great profit for the first time. made when a ship with a rich cargo returned from Mallaka. In 1606 the strait of Mallaka (now Malaysia) was conquered and this heralded the beginning of the success of the VOC. In the Hollywood cracker Oceans Twelve, George Clooney’s crooks steal the oldest share in the world from the Amsterdam Maritime Museum. In the real world, this wouldn’t be a smart move. Because the document is unique, it cannot be traded on the black market.
3) In the Netherlands there are more bicycles as residents
The Dutch together cycle about 15,000,000,000 km per year, which is 880 km per person. Especially in the center of the big cities, the bicycle is the ideal means of transport: You are fast, manoeuvrable, and it is also healthy. There are 37,000 km of cycle paths in the Netherlands, and the infrastructure in the Netherlands is fully equipped for cyclists. Separate cycle paths ensure that vulnerable cyclists are separated from other (motorized) transport. According to the latest estimate of the cyclists’ association, there are 22.8 million bicycles in the Netherlands. The Netherlands has 17 million inhabitants, which means that a Dutch person has an average of 1.3 bicycles. This is unique in the world, nowhere else there are more bicycles as residents.
4) The Dutch are the tallest people in the world.
Dutch men are on average 1.84m and women on average 1.71m. There is no other country where the average heights are higher, which makes us the tallest people in the world. How come we are so tall? The Netherlands has been a prosperous country since the 17th century, it was possible to eat healthy and varied, in addition, the hygiene standard was higher than in many other countries. A good diet with lots of milk and cheese in combination with better hygiene ensures that the Dutch keep growing bigger.
5) Cannabis is not legal in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is often seen by foreigners as the Sin city in terms of drug policy. It is also often thought that most Dutch people smoke weed, and we are high all day long. This is of course a lot more nuanced. The Netherlands is known for its liberal drug policy, but this does not automatically mean that everyone is also on drugs. The Dutch government divides drugs into two categories:
- List 1: hard drugs that are considered harmful and often very addictive such as: heroin cocaine, Ecstasy, GHB, Ketamine
- List 2: soft drugs that pose less risk, such as cannabis
In the Netherlands, list 2 soft drugs have been tolerated since 1976. Contrary to popular belief, this means that it is still prohibited to use or sell soft drugs. However, this law is little enforced, it has no priority. When you walk in public with a joint on the street in Amsterdam, you will at most be on a warning, but technically the officer can also fine you. It is illegal to use or carry cannabis. A coffee shop owner can sell cannabis if he follows the rules:
• Max 5 grams per customer
• No minors
• No alcohol sales
• Not more than 500 grams of stock in the store
However, growing cannabis is not allowed, which makes it difficult for coffee shop owners to do their shopping. The cannabis is only available illegally, so they buy it illegally and then legally sell it. Above, Silverster Stallone tries to explain the Dutch drug policy in Pulp Fiction.
6) The Netherlands is built on stilts.
An old nursery rhyme says: “Amsterdam, that great city, stands on a hundred piles. And if that city falls over, who will pay for it? ” In reality there are more than 100. Only the palace on Dam Square already has 13659 posts. (mnemonic: 365 days a year, put a 1 in front and a 9 behind and you have the number of poles of the palace) This was necessary because most of the western Netherlands consists of peat bog. This soft, swampy surface is difficult to build on, so every structure must be founded with piles. These are driven into the ground until the depth is reached with a firmer sandy bottom. In the 21st century, houses are still founded on stilts in many parts of the Netherlands. In the past these were wooden posts, nowadays concrete posts are used. Little has changed in the driving process itself since the 13th century: A large crane with a heavy weight is set up on the construction site, and it drives a pile into the ground. In the past this was done with manpower, later steam engines took over the heavy lifting. Today modern driving in machines are used.
7) The Dutch flag was not always red-white-blue.
Today we know the Dutch flag as a Red White Blue flag, but that has not always been the case. Originally, the flag was a symbol of the population. The color red represents the people, white the church, and blue the nobility. In other western countries this symbolism was also often used, and because of this, for example, the French flag has the same colors. In the mid-16th century, Stadhouder William I changed the top lane from red to orange. He liked this because his last name was “van Oranje”.(from Orange) In practice, however, it turned out not to be that practical. Orange fabric was hard to come by at the time, and the orange fabrics that existed quickly faded. Another big disadvantage was that it was less visible from a distance. At the time, flags were mainly used in shipping, so it was useful to have a clearly visible flag. Red is brighter and contrasts better with the sky and the sea. This was the main reason for changing it back again. The area surrounding New York was under Dutch rule during the time of the orange flag. The flags of New York, The Bronx and Albany, among others, are based on the orange-white-blue Dutch flag.
8) There are still more than 1000 historic windmills operating in the Netherlands
There are approximately 1100 windmills and 100 watermills in the Netherlands, which is a total of 1200 working mills. Utrecht has the fewest mills and South Holland the most. Most water mills are located in the province of Limburg. About a hundred years ago, more than 10,000 mills were still in full operation. They sawed wood, ground grain, made paper, and extracted oil from seeds. Polder mills pumped the water from the lower polders and kept our feet dry.
9) The Netherlands and Holland are not synonyms.
It is often thought that the Netherlands is the same as Holland. However, this is not entirely true. Holland is only part of the Netherlands. The Netherlands consists of 12 provinces, North Holland and South Holland are 2 of these 12 provinces. But because the important big cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague are all located in this area, people often talk about Holland. It is the busiest part of the Netherlands with the most inhabitants. Most Dutch people come from Holland, but not all Dutch people are automatically Dutch.
10) The Tulip does not come from the Netherlands.
Our national flower is of course the tulip. But did you know that the tulip has not traditionally been a Dutch flower at all? In the 16th century, the tulip bulbs were imported from the Ottoman Empire. (nowadays Turkey) The tulip became extremely popular during the golden age. The flower was often seen in paintings and during festivals. The tulips became more and more expensive and even became a way of investing money. In January 1637, tulip bulbs were sold for more than ten times the annual salary of an experienced craftsman and were worth about the same as an Amsterdam canal house. A tulip bulb was seen as the ultimate status symbol until the tulip market collapsed as a result of the “tulip mania.”
11) The highest “mountain” in the Netherlands is 323 meters high
The Netherlands is a flat country, there is little difference in height, and a large part of our country is below sea level. So when there is land slightly higher, it is quickly called a mountain. Our highest “mountain” is the Vaalserberg and it is located in the extreme southeast of the Netherlands in the province of Limburg. At the Vaalserberg is also the 3-country point: where the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium border each other.
12) The Dutch national anthem is the oldest national anthem in the world
The Dutch national anthem “het Wilhelmus” is the oldest national anthem in the world that is still sung in the original way. The Japanese national anthem may be older, but its melody has changed over the years. The text of the Wilhelmus was written around 1570 and the current melody was added around 1600. It is written as if the words come from the mouth of William of Orange: The father of the fatherland of the Netherlands.
13) The capital of the Netherlands is Amsterdam, but the government is based in The Hague.
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands while the government, parliament, and also the king reside in The Hague. In most countries, the city where the government and the king are located is also the capital. The Netherlands is an exception to this.
14) Clogs were not only worn in the Netherlands.
When you think of wooden shoes, you quickly think of the Netherlands, our country is known for its wooden footwear. But did you know that a wooden shoe has not traditionally been something typically Dutch? All over the world shoes were made of wood. It was a cheap way to make footwear. This was often done in combination with other materials such as leather. The Scandinavian clog is a well-known example of this. But the French clog, for example, also has a leather strap. Leather was scarce in the Netherlands. There were few cows and only the richer people could afford leather. This ensured that people in the Netherlands started to make clogs that were made entirely of wood. A wooden shoe turned out to be perfect for the Dutch climate thanks to its waterproof and insulating properties, and so the clog remained popular over the years. These “special” shoes were later noticed by foreign visitors, giving the Netherlands the reputation of clog country.
15) The Dutch company Philips is the inventor of the most important sound and data carriers of the past century.
Both the audio tape (1967), the video tape (1972), the Compact Disk (1982) and the CD-ROM (1985) are Dutch inventions. Hundreds of billions of CDs and DVDs have already been sold. And especially the step from audio tape to Compact Disk is seen by many as the greatest and most important invention of Philips.
16) In the Netherlands, people drink an average of 79 liters of beer per person per year.
In the past, beer was by far the most popular drink in our country. Because beer could be filtered, it was cleaner and safer than water, which was often seriously polluted at the time. In the 17th century people drank an average of 300 liters of beer per person per year. Children also drank beer, as it was the cleanest form of drinking.
Nowadays we drink beer mainly because we like it. According to research by Karen Holdings in 2019, the average Dutch person drinks 79 liters of beer per year, which puts us in 13th place. Most beer is consumed in the Czech Republic, they have been number 1 in this list for 27 years: a Czech drinks twice as much as the Dutch. The top 3 is completed with Austria on 2 and Romania on 3.
Dutch beer is also highly appreciated abroad. We are the largest beer exporter in Europe, and worldwide only Mexico produces more beer than the Netherlands. Beer brands such as Heineken, Amstel or Grolsch are known worldwide.
17) The Netherlands was the first place in the world where same-sex marriage was legalized.
Since 2001, it has been legal to marry someone of the same sex. In fact, there is no separate same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is equivalent to a traditional marriage, and the legal consequences are the same.
18) The Netherlands has introduced the orange carrot to the world.
It seems obvious to us that a carrot is orange. But that has not always been the case. Before the 17th century, carrots had a variety of colors, from purple to white. This changed in the 17th century. An orange carrot contains more beta-catotene. This ensures that you can see better. This was not so interesting in the 17th century and therefore not the reason to make the carrot orange. The change of color had a political reason. In the 16th century, the Netherlands began to revolt against the Spanish rulers. Under the leadership of William of Orange, war was waged against the Spaniards for 80 years. In 1648 the Spaniards were finally defeated and the House of Orange came to power. William of Orange became a true “pop star.” Willem Frederik, the son of William of Orange, and his wife Amalia had thought that the Netherlands needed an “orange madness”. So just like the World Cup and King’s Day nowadays, but in the 17th century. Orange wuppies and football shirts did not yet exist of course, so the 17th-century Dutch took a different approach. Orange trees were planted around palaces and public buildings. And when the occasion asked for a gift, it quickly became an orange gift such as: marmalade or orange liqueur. This orange madness caught on with the population, and the carrot farmers decided to grow only orange carrots in a very patriotic way. It turned out that orange carrots had a better taste, and they also had less unsightly stains. This caused other carrot colors to quickly disappear. In the 17th century, the Netherlands was the largest exporter of carrots in the world, which ensured that the orange carrot eventually conquered the whole world.
20) Bluetooth and Wifi are Dutch inventions.
In 1994, Ericsson was looking for an inexpensive way to establish a wireless connection between mobile phones and other devices. Dutchman Jaap Haartsen worked at Ericsson, and he developed this technique. The name “bluetooth” refers to the Vikings king Harald Blåtand. This was originally only the working title, but due to lack of inspiration, it also became the definitive name.
The Dutch engineer Victor Hayes is responsible for the technology behind WiFi. This technique has been the standard for wireless internet since 1997. Wi-Fi was actually pronounced “waifi”. But these days, sayings like “wie-fie” or “wajfaj” are more common.
21) 1 million people still wear clogs in the Netherlands every day.
It is well known that the Netherlands is the country of clogs. But did you know that today 1 million Dutch people still wear wooden shoes every day? These are often not long walks, but short walks around the house. When you put on your clogs for 10 seconds to take out the trash, you are already 1 in a million. The clog is still popular in the garden, on the camping site and of course on the farm. Farmers are the most intensive users of clogs, the benefits of the clog are very useful on the farm. A clog is waterproof which makes it ideal in the wet Dutch meadows. A clog is sturdy and suitable as a safety shoe, when a cow stands on your toes you are protected. The wood insulates, keeping your feet warm in the winter and keeping your feet cool in the summer. In addition, you can easily put them on and off so that it stays tidy inside the house.
22) King Willem Alexander is the first king after 123 years.
King William III died on 23 November 1890. After a reign of more than 40 years, he was the last successor in the male line of Willem I. After him, a queen ruled for 123 years: Wilhelmina, (1890-1948) Juliana, (1948 – 1980) and Beatrix. (1980 – 2013) Since April 30, 2013, after 123 years, we have a king again, King Willem Alexander.
23) In the Netherlands, 86% also speak English as a second language. This is the highest of all non-English speaking countries.
Good English is generally spoken in the Netherlands. 86% of the population can have a conversation in English. We may have a “Dunglish” (Dutch-English) accent, but in no other non-English speaking country English is spoken as well as in the Netherlands. We stay ahead of the Scandinavian countries. There are several reasons why we speak English so well: Popular music, movies, or video games are often in English, so you will soon encounter them. Dutch is a relatively small language area, so it is not very interesting for developers to make a Dutch version of their product. When Dutch is not available, many Dutch people choose the English version. In addition, series and films are not dubbed in the Netherlands, in most countries a film or series is dubbed with voice actors. In the Netherlands we work with subtitles, the sound of the film is always the original audio, so you often hear the English language. Children growing up in the Netherlands are confronted with the English language from an early age. In addition, Dutch and English are related languages. Together with German they belong to the Germanic branch, so many words show similarities, making the language easier to learn.
24) The pendulum clock is a Dutch invention.
Christiaan Huijgens was born in The Hague in 1629, he came from a prosperous family, his father was a diplomat for the House of Orange. It soon became apparent that the young Christian was talented, at the age of nine he already had conversations in Latin, he was taught mathematics, logic, Latin, Greek, French and Italian. At the age of 16 he went to study law and mathematics in Leiden. Initially it was intended that after this he would become a diplomat, just like his father, but science appealed to him more. In his scientific career he made important discoveries, he invented the pendulum clock. For centuries this remained the most precise method of perceiving time. He also made important improvements in the design of the telescope. He became the first to observe that Saturn has rings, and he also discovered Titan: the moon of Saturn. He also made important discoveries in probability theory, he was the first to come up with a theory about light waves, and he devised the principle of a steam engine. He had made a gunpowder engine that detonated controlled gunpowder. Denis Papin, with whom Huijgens also collaborated, used these principles for the first steam engine.
25) The microscope is a Dutch invention.
Antoni van Leeuwenhoek was born in 1932 in Delft, he came from a middle class family. His father was a basket maker, and his mother worked for a brewer. He was baptized as Thonis Philipszoon, but he called himself Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (Lioncorner) because his parental home was on the corner at the Leeuwenpoort (Liongate) in Delft. When he was 15, both his parents had died and he started training as an accountant / cashier with Scottish textile merchant William Davidson. At a young age he developed a keen interest in physics, mathematics, astronomy and chemistry. In 1953 he started his own textile trade. As a textile merchant he first came into contact with a magnifying glass. These were used by textile traders to show how beautifully fine the fabric is made. The idea of combining two lenses already existed, but no one had ever succeeded. Where others made microscopes in which the lenses move in relation to each other, it was van Leeuwenhoek’s idea to keep the distance between the 2 lenses the same and to be able to change the distance from the lens to the object to be controlled. With his microscope he could magnify up to 270x, the best microscope until then could only magnify 30x. Because he was the first to magnify 270x, he also made a number of discoveries with his microscope. He saw “a great crowd of animals.” The sperm cells move (with their tail) and that is why they are the life carriers according to him. He is the first to detect red blood cells and the first to detect aquatic micro-organisms. He dissected a lice’s eggs and found lice embryos here, thus invalidating the theory of spontaneous generation.
26) The Netherlands has raised the best DJs in the world.
The Netherlands is seen as the cradle of modern electronic dance music. In the past decades, countless Dutch DJs have made it onto the international stage, and everyone agrees that Dutch DJs are talented and knowledgeable. In addition, the Netherlands has a lively dance scene, which continues to grow in popularity.
Many important festivals in this genre also take place in the Netherlands. Think of Mysteryland, Dance Valley or the Amsterdam Dance Event.
Some well-known Dutch DJs are:
• Armin van Buuren
• Martin Garrix
• Ferry Corsten
• Nicky Romero
• Fedde Le Grand
• Don Diablo
27) Keukenhof is the largest flower garden in the world.
The Keukenhof is also known as “the garden of Europe” and is the largest flower garden in the world. The park is 32 hectares (79 acres) and around 7 million bulbs are planted every year. Keukenhof is located southwest of Amsterdam in the “Dune and Bulb Region.” Keukenhof is known worldwide for its tulip fields, but other flowers are also on display such as: daffodils, roses, irises and hyacinths. The flower exhibition is not open all year round. In a flower garden you obviously need flowers, and they only grow in the spring. Keukenhof is therefore open for 8 weeks from mid-March to mid-May. In those 8 weeks, almost 2 million people visit the park.
The Keukenhof as we know it today took place for the first time in 1950. Tulip farmers and flower exporters were looking for a way to display their products. The first year attracted 200,000 visitors. 69 years later in 2019, the park attracts 1,900,000 visitors.
28) Delft blue is an imitation of Chinese porcelain.
In the early 17th century, it is very popular with the nobility and the court to own blue and white Chinese porcelain. This porcelain was difficult to obtain, and because certain ingredients were not available in Europe, it could not be made in the Netherlands. In order to meet the enormous demand, the potters in Delft experimented with tin-glazed earthenware. This was milky white in color and was very similar to porcelain. After firing it was painted blue and white with oriental patterns and scenes. Later typical Dutch scenes were also depicted. In the 19th century there was a great sense of national pride, which made Delft blue in popularity again. It did not take long for Belgian and French potters to imitate it. The replicas were provided with the old mark. And so an imitation of Chinese porcelain itself was copied.
29) The Dutch eat more licorice than any other people.
Licorice is very popular in the Netherlands, 80% of the population sometimes eats licorice and together we eat 32 million kilos per year, which equates to 2 kg per person. Licorice is also eaten in Scandinavia and Germany, but not nearly as much as in the Netherlands. Glycyrrizine, which comes from the licorice extract in licorice root, is largely responsible for the characteristic liquorice flavor. It’s about fifty times sweeter than granulated sugar. Licorice has a very characteristic salmiac taste due to ammonium chloride. The Dutch are usually used to eating liquorice and can therefore appreciate the taste. However, this taste is not appreciated by everyone.
30) Gin was invented in the Netherlands as Jenever.
Gin is more popular today than ever, usually in combination with tonic. But did you know that the Dutch are the founders of gin? Benedictine Monks were probably the first to use the juniper in a distillation process. Medicinal properties have been attributed to the berry and the distillate is said to help against stomach, liver, intestine and kidney ailments. After the fall of Antwerp, many Flemish people fled to Holland. They took their knowledge about gin with them. When prosperity increased enormously in the 17th century, genever production got off to a good start. Especially in Schiedam a lot of Jenever was distilled. Prohibition was underway in Belgium at that time. For a hundred years, no alcohol was sold or produced in Belgium. This caused everyone involved in the production of liquor to move to Holland. The taste got better and more and more people were able to appreciate the Genever. During the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) many English soldiers stationed in the Southern Netherlands. The soldiers appreciated the drink, and the English army became a major consumer of Jenever. The word Jenever was difficult to pronounce with an English accent, so this became ginniver, which was later shortened to gin. The English soldiers used the drink to instill courage before going to battle, and also called the drink Dutch Courage. After the war they took their Gin with them to England, and the ginniver became extremely popular on the British island. When William of Orange III became the English king in 1688, production increased explosively. From that moment on, everyone was allowed to make liquor without a license. The drink was cheap and flowed freely. The home-brewed gin had a grip on London, crime increased enormously. Between 1720 and 1751, five “Gin Acts” attempted to reduce gin consumption. Gin was only allowed to be sold in cafes with a gin license, and the distilling was also regulated. This improved the quality of the drink. The first Gin palaces opened their doors around 1830, these were luxury cafes where people could enjoy a good glass of Gin. As a result, the Gin lost its image as a poor drink.