- About us
Are you already living in the Netherlands or did you just arrive? Maybe you are planning on working and living here in the near future. Like every other country, we have our own traditions, foods, jokes, sayings, famous buildings and cities. All mixed with some oddities of course. To help you to get to know us Dutchies a bit better, we took the liberty of listing 10 fun facts about the Netherlands. Enjoy some of the peculiarities of this little country, with over 17 million inhabitants, which you are, or going to be, part of.
Dutch people are well-known for their English language skills. In fact, the Netherlands has one of the worlds highest levels of English proficiency (second place in 2018) among non-native speaking countries. But why does almost 95% of the Dutch speak this ‘high’ level of English? In short, the countries’ economy depends immensely on international trade. Also, the early start of English lessons (primary school), and the use of subtitles and no audio dubbing are the main reasons for our high degree of English. But English is not the only foreign language we master. On average, Dutch people speak 3.2 languages. Sounds weird, right? How is someone ever able to speak 0.2 part of a language? 😉
Originally, all old buildings in Amsterdam were built on wooden poles, drilled about 11 metres deep into the layers of peat and clay. These wooden poles were placed to protect the building’s foundation from sinking. Due to the subsoil, these buildings are affected by land subsidence. It is almost fair to compare Amsterdam to the sinking city Venice, built entirely on poles as well. When visiting Amsterdam, make sure you visit the largest and most prestigious building built on poles, the Dutch Royal Palace. This palace is built on no less than 13,659 wooden poles. Imagine that, while walking through those imposing halls.
With an average height of 184 cm (men) and 170 cm (women), we are among the tallest people in the world. Scientists believe it is because of our DNA and (fairly) healthy diet. According to an Oxfam report, we have the most plentiful, nutritious, healthy and affordable food. Let’s just say it is because of all the greens and of course our cycling habits.
After 123 years, a king (King Willem-Alexander) rules the Dutch lands again. When Queen Beatrix abdicated in 2013, she ended a female reign of three generations. A reign which started in 1890. For the first time in over a hundred years, Queens Day changed to King’s Day. But our next head of state will again be a woman. Emancipation at its best.
We Dutch are very font of a few Dutch traditions. One of these traditions is the celebration of our sovereign’s birthday. Maybe it sounds silly to you, but believe us when we say, we will never accept the abolition of this tradition. To be honest with you, we like to celebrate a lot, but when it comes to the royal house we celebrate almost every positive occasion. Coronations, royal weddings, birthdays, childbirths, all reasons to dress in orange, put the flags out and raise a glass or two (probably more).
According to foreigners, wooden clogs are one of our main characteristics. But in fact, the only reason why people associate wooden clogs with the Netherlands is because of the discovery of the oldest clog (1230 a.d.) in Nieuwendijk during excavation work. Research shows wooden clogs were worn all around the world. So it is not even typically Dutch and nowadays nobody in the Netherlands wears them anymore. Years ago we switched to more comfy footwear, sneakers and such. However, we do produce clogs by millions each year. Not for ourselves to wear, but to sell to tourists who bring them home as souvenirs.
Research has shown that Dutch people are very happy. Only people from Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and Finland are more content with their lives. Their level of happiness literally goes through the roof! But we Dutch people do not have much to complain about either. As research shows, we are one of the six most happy people around the world. Nothing to complain about you might think. But let us talk about the Dutch weather and discover for yourself the main issues of being a Dutchie.
Dutch carrot growers developed orange carrots a few hundred years back through careful breeding of existing varieties. The familiar orange colour only appeared in the 17th century, which, in the grand scheme of things, is not that long ago. Before the orange carrot, the colours varied from pale yellow (almost white) to dark purple. But why orange? Well, to honor the royal family that ruled the Netherlands, the Orange-Nassau dynasty, and in particular of William I, Prince of Orange. Needless to say it had nothing to do with the favourite colour of William I, Prince of Orange.
Are you familiar with the search for the vast ‘Terra Australis Incognita’? Many seafarers and explorers took daring journeys to discover the unknown southern land. Nobody ever discovered this giant continent, but instead between 1633 and 1652, Dutch explorer Abel Tasman laid eyes on an island in these unknown waters. Tasman did not name his new discovered country himself. A Dutch mapmaker gave the name New Zealand to this island full of Maori.
We Dutch like to put a stamp on a lot of things. For example, the neighborhood Brooklyn was named after a Dutch city called Breukelen, and the birth name of New York was New Amsterdam, after our lovely capital city Amsterdam. We know, during the Golden era we were so modest.
We have a bit of a strange relationship with their national anthem. Most Dutch people are proud of their origin and will sing the national anthem whenever the music starts. But it just so happens that we only sing the first verse, sometimes followed by the sixth verse.
The melody of the Wilhelmus originates from a Catholic hymn about the siege of Chartres in 1568. The melody as sung today comes from the collection Nederlandtsche Gedenck-clanck (1626) by Adriaen Valerius. In the eighteenth century, it became the song of the Orangists (the supporters of the House of Orange) during the Orange Revolt, but was not yet the official anthem. In 1932 it officially became the Dutch national anthem.
The official lyrics of the Wilhelmus is written in Old Dutch. If you like, you can find the lyrics on the website of the Royal House, including an English translation. An additional fun fact, watch the first character of every verse, it becomes the name ‘Willem von Nassov’ (William of Nassau), the first king in the royal line of Orange-Nassau.
Many people talk about “Holland” when they actually mean “the Netherlands”. But, Holland is just an area in the Netherlands consisting of the provinces North Holland (Noord-Holland) and South Holland (Zuid-Holland). Historically, Holland was the region that contributed most to the kingdom’s economy and wealth. So it became a common name to indicate the entire country.
The Netherlands is the conglomeration of all provinces, the country of William of Orange-Nassau and the country on which the national anthem applies.
But we do understand you mix up ‘the Netherlands’ and ‘Holland’. We ourselves, choose to use ‘Made in Holland’ instead of ‘Made in the Netherlands’. So no grudges there.
IWe do understand that you want to know more about Dutch traditions and lifestyle, or just maybe you want to experience it yourself! Of course, you can have a glimpse of the Netherlands and its culture by visiting Amsterdam, The Hague or watching the tulips bloom in Keukenhof. But where is the real fun in that? Going Dutch all the way, by working or living in the Netherlands, is a much better idea!
Have you just graduated and are you highly educated? The Dutch orientation year gives you the possibility to work and live in the Netherlands. A perfect combination of experiencing our culture and gaining some work experience.
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