After creating my post on facts about Belgium, I thought: “Why not make a post like that for every country I’ve visited?” and got to work. Next up in this series is a list of fun facts about the Netherlands. I’m hoping these random facts about the Netherlands will teach you something new about the country and make you curious enough to want to visit it.
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Interesting facts about the Netherlands
This post is part of a series of fun facts posts I’m doing for every country I have articles about here on the blog. Given their nature, these posts are research-based and even though a lot of time has gone into them, it’s still possible a mistake has snuck in. If you see something that looks incorrect, please let me know at sofie [at] wonderfulwanderings.com and I’ll look into it. Thanks!
1. Using “Holland” to talk about the Netherlands is wrong. Holland comprises the Dutch provinces of North and South Holland. It used to be the economically strongest region of the country, which is why it’s so known.
2. Neanderthal traces have been found near Maastricht, thought to trace back at least 250,000 years.
3. There are 20 national parks in the Netherlands, as well as hundreds of woods and lakes.
4. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage. It did so in 2001.
5. Did you know that Dutch isn’t the only national language in the Netherlands? Frisian or Fryslân, the language spoken in the province of Friesland, is too.
6. Only 50% of the Netherlands has land exceeding one meter above sea level, with most of the areas below being man-made.
7. Amsterdam is one of the most popular cities in the Netherlands and home to at least 200 different nationalities.
8. According to the United Nations World Happiness Report of 2013, the Netherlands was ranked fourth happiest country in the world.
9. The Dutch are the biggest licorice eaters in the world. They consume 32 million kilos of the stuff every year.
10. There are still over 1,000 traditional working windmills in the Netherlands. 19 of these can be found at the Unesco World Heritage Site of Kinderdijk.
11. KLM (Koninklijke Luchtvaartmaatschappij or “Royal Airline Company”), the Dutch national airline, is the oldest national airline in the world. It was founded in 1919.
12. What we now know as gin was invented as “jenever” in the Netherlands in the 16th century and originally used for medicinal purposes. Nowadays, gin and jenever aren’t exactly the same thing anymore and the name “jenever” can only be used for that kind of liquor made in Belgium, the Netherlands, two northern French departments and two German federal states. You can learn all about that at the Jenever Museum in Belgium.
13. There are almost no streets in the Dutch village of Giethoorn, but there are many canals, which is why it’s also known as the “Venice of the Netherlands”.
14. The Netherlands has the thirteenth-highest per capita income in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund. Perhaps that’s why it is such a happy country!
15. The audiotape, the videotape, and the CD were all invented in Eindhoven by the Dutch company Philips.
16. With over 4.2 million international visitors, Amsterdam is now Europe’s 5th-busiest tourist destination.
17. Amsterdam is entirely built on wooden poles 11 meters deep. This is due to its soil which consists of thick layers of clay and fen.
18. There are about 15,000 km of bike lanes in the Netherlands.
19. The Dutch people are the tallest in Europe with an average height of 1.81-1.84 meters for adult males and 1.67-1.70 (depending on the source) meters for women – which is probably just as well if things get a bit ‘watery’.
20. There are more bikes (over 18 million) in the Netherlands than there are people.
21. Planes at Schipol Airport Amsterdam actually land about 3 to 4.5 meters below sea level.
22. The Netherlands are famous for their tulips, but tulips originally didn’t grow there. They were imported from the Ottoman empire in the 17th century.
23. Today, the Netherlands is the biggest producer and exporter of tulips in the world.
24. But not just tulips. 75% of the world’s flower bulbs come from the Netherlands.
25. The Royal Palace situated at Dam Square is built on at least 13,659 wooden poles.
26. Home births are very popular in the Netherlands, with something like 30% of all Dutch babies born at home.
27. Almost 17% of Netherlands land area is reclaimed from lakes and sea.
28. The Dutch Max Havelaar certificate was the first fairtrade certificate in the world.
29. Because the land is so flat, the country’s highest point, which is 323 meters high, is actually referred to as a mountain. It’s located in Vaalserberg.
30. The lowest point is the Zuidplaspolder and lies seven meters below sea level.
31. The Dutch national anthem, the “Wilhelmus” is the oldest national anthem still in use. It was written in 1568 and used ever since, although it only became the official national anthem in 1932.
32. The Dutch national flag is also the oldest tricolor flag, dating back to 1572.
33. Rotterdam has the largest seaport in Europe.
34. The Dutch are estimated to have at least 18 million bicycles. In 2013 the Netherlands together with Denmark were ranked by the European Cyclists’ Federation as the most bike-friendly countries in Europe.
35. The Netherlands was a founder member of the Euro, swapping their “gulden” (guilder) to the euro on January 1, 1999.
36. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange Hendrik D-de Keyser is the world’s oldest stock exchange.
37. The Netherlands has produced many well-known painters including famous names such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Vincent van Gogh, and Willem de Kooning. There are at least 22 Rembrandt painting and 206 works by Van Gogh in Amsterdam alone.
38. There are 1,281 bridges in Amsterdam!
39. The microscope was invented in the Netherlands in the 16th century.
40. In Amsterdam, you can find Europe’s first and only addiction clinic, called Smith & Jones. It treats everything from gambling addictions to substance addictions and video gaming addictions.
41. The famous tulip garden Keukenhof is the largest flower garden in the world. Read about my visit to Keukenhof.
42. Well-known Dutch actors include Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner), Famke Janssen (the X-Men) and Carice van Houten (Game of Thrones).
43. The highest cable density in Europe is in the Netherlands.
44. Pedestrians are not allowed to walk on the specially-designated bike lanes, found all over the country.
45. When Dutch schoolchildren pass their exams, both a Dutch flag and a school bag is hung outside their homes.
46. Did you know that carrots didn’t use to be orange? They were black, yellow, red, purple or white. An orange variant was made in honor of the House of Orange, that led the revolt against the Spanish and later became the Dutch Royal Family.
47. That, by the way, is also why orange is the Dutch national color, even though the Dutch flag’s colors are red, white and blue.
48. A Dutch person will cycle 2.5 km per day on average and 900 km per year.
49. There are approximately 1000 museums in the Netherlands, 42 of them situated in Amsterdam.
50. The Netherlands has been a constitutional monarchy since 1815 and, since 1848, a parliamentary democracy. It has always had a coalition government.
51. The telescope was invented in the Netherlands in the 17th century.
52. Though Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, the seat of government is in the Hague.
53. New York City was first called “New Amsterdam” and was founded as a Dutch Colony.
54. Both Australia and New Zealand were discovered by the Dutch. Australia was named “New Holland”, after a Dutch province, and New Zealand was named after the province of Zeeland. The latter is a great place to spend a weekend, by the way.
55. The most popular tourist souvenirs from the Netherlands include clogs (wooden shoes), miniature windmills, cheese, and tulips.
56. Although it were the Portuguese who discovered tea in East Asia, it were the Dutch who started to import it commercially into Europe in 1610. By the way: tea didn’t get to the UK until about 40 years later!
57. A popular Dutch snack is raw herrings topped with onions.
58. Some well-known Dutch film directors include Fons Rademakers (The Assault), Jan de Bont (Speed) and Anton Corbijn (A Most Wanted Man).
59. Despite occupying only 0.008% of the world’s surface, the Netherlands is its third largest agricultural exporter.
60. Dutch foreign policy has always been characterized by its neutrality.
61. At only 1%, the Dutch have the lowest incidence of lactose intolerance of any country.
62. In Groningen you can find the biggest bar in Europe. The “Drie Gezusters” (“Three Sisters”) fits 3,700 people.
63. The Netherlands is the world’s biggest exporter of cheese; its dairy industry worth a mind-blowing €7 billion.
64. The Dutch have been making cheese since 400 A.D.
65. The Dutch wear rain suits in lieu of umbrellas because of the blustery winds.
66. The Netherlands was one of the six founding members of the European Union.
67. If all the dikes controlling the water in the Netherlands would be put one behind the other, they would make a chain of almost 80,000 km long.
68. The province of Flevoland was almost entirely won from the water and it would only take 48 hours for it to flood entirely if one of the dikes broke. Flevoland is about three times the size of Manhattan in New York.
69. 70% of the world’s bacon comes from the Netherlands.
70. In the Netherlands, 4/10 people work part-time. That’s the highest number in the European Union.
Learn more about the Netherlands
Want to learn more about the Netherlands? These books are a good place to start.
And that’s it for now! What did you think about these Netherlands facts? Did I miss something important? Did I get something wrong? Let me know, but please be gentle.
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