In this article I discuss 13 fun facts about the Netherlands that you probably didn’t know yet. Learn everything about beer, languages, bicycles, tall people and much more. Now that you know these facts, you can surprise your friends and family with your knowledge about the Netherlands.
You may have heard of both ‘the Netherlands’ and ‘Holland’, but did you think these are two names for the same? Or maybe you always thought that Holland and the Netherlands are two different countries? Don’t be ashamed, there are few people who know how it really is like, and you are one of them now! The Netherlands has 12 provinces. Of these, 2 are called North-Holland and South-Holland, which together are called Holland.
Why the Netherlands has been confused for centuries with only two of its provinces can you read in this article: The difference between Holland and the Netherlands.
You probably already knew that the Dutch language is spoken in the Netherlands. But in addition to Dutch, there is another official language: Frisian. This is spoken in one of the northernmost provinces by around 400,000 people. Frisian is the language that is most related to English.
If you want a nice challenge and at the same time contribute to the preservation of the Frisian language, you can learn Frisian for free on this website.
The Netherlands is the best non-native English-speaking country in the world, this has been researched by EPI. This means that a large part of the population speaks the English language at a relatively high level. Whether you order in a restaurant or ask for directions to a stranger, chances are that you will be understood. I have also often experienced that in a group of Dutch people and 1 non-Dutch person, everyone speaks English out of solidarity. In addition to English, many Dutch people also speak other languages fairly well, such as German, French and Spanish (in this order).
But how is it possible that Dutch people are so linguistic? Well, this can be traced back to many centuries ago, where the Dutch were at the forefront of international trade. Speaking several languages was an advantage for trading. You can say it is in our blood.
Nowadays, children are exposed to foreign languages from an early age. Children learn their first English words in already in primary school in high school most students are also taught German and French. In addition, optional courses are sometimes offered such as Latin, Spanish or Mandarin (a Chinese language). At universities there are entire studies in English. Besides educations there are many English TV shows on Dutch TV. Unlike many other European countries, these are not dubbed, but subtitled. In addition, the music on the radio is mainly in English.
The fact that Dutch people speak other languages so easily does not mean that it is not greatly appreciated when a non-Dutch person tries to speak a few words of Dutch.
In addition to flowers, the Netherlands is also a beer country. Brands such as Heineken, Amstel, Grolsch and Bavaria, all of Dutch descent! The Netherlands is one of the largest beer exporters. You will find a wide variety of beer products within the Netherlands; from pale lagers to monastery beer.
Enrich your trip to the Netherlands with beer: visit a brewery or do a beer tasting. The possibilities are endless. You can contact me for a beer-themed travel itinerary.
Are you looking for a gay-friendly holiday destination, then the Netherlands is a good choice. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to allow same-sex marriage in 2001. LGBT rights in the Netherlands have been some of the most progressive in the world. Meanwhile, the rest of Western Europe has made a big catch up. And still there is much to be gained in terms of gay acceptance.
The Amsterdam Gaypride, which is held annually in the first week of August, is world famous. It is an exuberant event with a boat parade through the city canals. For more information about events or gay friendly hotels or bars, visit the Travelgay website.
The Netherlands is a country of giants, it has the tallest people in the world. Women are on average 1.71 meters tall, men 1.84 meters tall. And residents of the Northern Netherlands are a little bit longer, 1.5 centimeters compared to residents of the Southern Netherlands. Quite special to bear in mind that the Dutch at the beginning of the 19th century were on average 1.67 meters long. In 150 years we have grown no less than 20 centimeters!
Flower Bulb Export
Perhaps you already knew that Dutch people love flowers, especially tulips, but did you know that the small Netherlands is the world’s largest flower exporter?
The largest flower auction in the world is in Aalsmeer, a village near Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. If you want to see this special world with your own eyes, you can book a tour. You have to get up early for it, but it’s worth it. More information can be found on the FloraHolland website
There are more bicycles in the Netherlands than there are residents. In the cities 70% of the travel movements are made by bicycle. As a pedestrian, you should not make the mistake of walking on the bicycle path. Bicycle path? Yes, for cyclists’ safety, (red-colored) paths have been laid out for cyclists, and cyclists often get priority over motorized vehicles.
The Netherlands is perfect for cycling, because of the flat landscape. Almost the entire population owns a bicycle. Cycling is very common to get from A to B, but it is also very common to cycle for recreational purposes; on a nice day many people go out for a bike ride. Lots of people even go on vacation on their bikes.
When you visit the Netherlands you can rent a bicycle at one of the many bicycle rentals through the country.
My suggestion for a long distance cycle route would be the Roman Limes Route: Hiking and cycling – Roman Limes Route
The favorite Dutch candy is licorice (we call it ‘drop’ in Dutch). We eat an average of 2 kilograms per year and that makes us the largest licorice consumers in Europe, closely followed by the Scandinavian countries. Licorice is sold in all kinds: sweet, salty, super salty, salmiak, combined with winegums, you can find this and more in the supermarket.
Do you want to know what else Dutch food you should try? Read the article ‘Traditional Dutch Food’.
Everyone knows Santa Claus, but did you know that the name is derived from a Dutch holiday called Sinterklaas? Sinterklaas is a saint who looks a bit like Santa Claus in appearance. According to the story that children believe in the Netherlands, Sinterklaas comes by boat from Spain to the Netherlands every November. He brings presents that are put into shoes by the servants who are called Zwarte Piet.
Learn more about Dutch holidays: Holidays and festivities in the Netherlands
The Netherlands literally means low lands. In fact, it is so low that a third of the country is below sea level. The Dutch have proved to be water masters with their many dikes and dams that protect the land against the sea. The Delta Works in Zeeland and the Afsluitdijk in the north are examples of this. The Dutch are also masters in creating land, for example, the province of Flevoland was made in an inland sea at the end of the 20th century.
The Netherlands is famous for the clogs, the wooden shoes. But don’t expect to see someone wearing them. You can buy clogs at some shops in the Netherlands. From all the clogs at least 90% is bought by tourists. In rural areas, some people still wear clogs, especially during their agricultural work.
There are many world famous Dutch artists, think of Andre Rieu, Golden Earring. But what the Netherlands excels in the most is Dance music. DJs like Hardwell, Afrojack, Tiësto, Armin van Buuren and Martin Garrix are examples of Dutch artists who have become world famous. If you are a fan of electronic music you can visit the Amsterdam Dance Event, a music festival in October in Amsterdam.