“In Europe I always have fun bike riding in Amsterdam.” -Ezra Koenig
Europe is the world’s third most populous continent with over 741 million inhabitants. The European continent is one filled with history, culture and diversity. There are many different languages spoken and various cultural distinctions that can be observed while traveling through the continent.
Not only is Europe rich in history and culture but also in tourism.
Fresh croissants in Paris, savoury ravioli in Napoli, gyros and spanakopita in Santorini, fish & chips in London and paella in Valencia are all reasons tourists flock to Europe during every month of the year.
Tourists from all over the world do extensive research before planning their trip in order to decide what activities and countries they wish to discover during their trip of a lifetime.
The Netherlands has become a major touristic destination in recent years with many individuals wishing to ride bikes along the canals in Amsterdam or visit the expansive and awe-inspiring tulip fields in Keukenhof Gardens.
Whether your trip to Holland is purely business or simply pleasure, it would be wise to be up to date on facts and basic information about the Netherlands. Superprof is here to tell you that there is no need to buy any Lonely Planet book in order to be informed about Holland because we will now provide readers with 10 interesting facts about the Netherlands.
To understand the quirks of the Netherlands, it’s helpful to get an overview of the country and its inhabitants. Below are some facts about Holland taken from Holland.com.
Surface area: 41,528 km² (18.41% water)
Total population: 17 million
Population density: 488 people per km2
Capital city: Amsterdam (inhabitants: 834,119 in 2014)
Government: The Hague
Official languages: Dutch, Frisian (only spoken in Friesland)
Type of government: Constitutional monarchy – parliamentary democracy
Religion: 44% No religion, 29% Roman Catholic, 19% Protestant, 6% Muslim, 1% Hindu, 1% Buddhist
National holidays: King’s Day (27 April) Liberation Day (5 May)
Despite the fact that you can get by in most of Holland with English alone due to the vast tourism industry, the Netherlands is also a constitutional monarchy that spreads itself across Europe and a few territories in the Caribbean Sea which might suggest why there are multiple official and non official languages and dialects to get to grips with. Papiamento is just one example.
However, most people in Holland speak Dutch. But did you know that this language was once called Netherlandic? Unsurprisingly, the language is still called Nederlands in Dutch, and is almost a branch of the German language.
Babbel states that ‘the word “Dutch” comes from its Medieval name, Dietsc or Duutsc, which more or less equates to the modern German word Deutsch, meaning “language of the people” (in contrast to the academic and religiously elite language, Latin). Old Dutch branched out around the same time as Old English and is spoken, both natively and as a second language, by roughly 27 million people today. In the greater Kingdom of the Netherlands, Standard Dutch is used for all official matters.’
The Netherlands is one of the few geographic locations in the world with people living below sea level. A recent estimate has found that 26% of the country’s area and 21% of the country’s population is below sea level. Another important fact to point out is that only about 50% of the Netherlands land is one metre above sea level.
No wonder the Netherlands is known as the “low countries!”
The country is extremely flat and has suffered from great floods in the past such as the St. Lucia flood in 1287 and the North Sea flood in early 1953 that have caused serious damage to infrastructure and killed many people.
Since the middle ages, the Dutch have found solutions for their flooding problems. The solutions to the floods and being below sea level included the construction and creation of outer sea-dikes, inner canal and river dikes. The creation of additional dikes to reduce flooding was realized with the Delta Works project that has been acknowledged by many as an engineering marvel and one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
It is suggested that due to global warming in the 21st century, the rise in sea level will affect the Netherlands. The reinforcement of coastal defences such as dunes and dikes has already been planned to deal with these environmental issues.
Amsterdam, Holland’s primary tourist destination, is built entirely on water, which is why some buildings you see look a bit wobbly or lop-sided. If you think about it, the soil underneath is very swampy hence why lots of constructions are built on long poles dug deep into the ground to provide them with some stability and prevent them from sinking into the ground and disappearing!
At one time, wooden poles were used but they’ve now switched to concrete to avoid the poles degrading. What a process building a house must be… we wouldn’t want to have to apply for permission from the building regulators in this city!
If you already feel short and out of place in your own country I don’t recommend going to the Netherlands! This is due to the fact that men and women in the Netherlands are the tallest in the world when it comes to average height.
Men have an average height of 1.825 m and women have an average height of 1.69 m. This is the world’s highest average and is a stark contrast in comparison to men and women in Indonesia who have an average height of 1.58m and are the world’s shortest people.
The fact of being the tallest people in the world has not always been the case with the Dutch. In the mid-18th century, the Americans and other Europeans towered over the Dutch in terms of height. Nevertheless, in the past 200+ years, the average height for men of Dutch descent has grown 20cm while the American average only grew 6cm.
Scientists attribute DNA, nutrition, social equality, some of the best healthcare in the world and the regular consumption of dairy products as reasons for the Dutch being so tall.
According to a 2017 estimate by the World Bank, there are approximately 508 people per square kilometre. This makes the Netherlands one of the most densely populated countries in the world and the most densely populated country in Europe when excluding the particularly small nations of Monaco, Gibralter and Vatican City. We exclude these countries because they have fewer than 1 million inhabitants.
There are over 17 million people living in the Netherlands in a geographical territory of 41,500 square kilometres.
The most heavily populated areas in the Netherlands are the functional urban areas of Amsterdam with approximately 2.5 million residents, Rotterdam with about 1.42 million inhabitants and The Hague that has 850,000 people living in the metro area.
Despite being densely populated the Netherlands has much space for agriculture, green areas and fields.
When people think of the Netherlands they think of fields of tulips everywhere, however, they are originally from Turkey. (Source: pixabay)
What do you think of when you the word Holland comes to mind? Many people would say tulips because they have been a staple part of the Netherland’s culture for centuries.
The vast majority strongly believe that tulips originated from Holland and that they have been an everlasting symbol for the Dutch people. However, what if I told that tulips did not originate from the Netherlands, would you believe me?
Well, believe it or not, tulips are not native from the Dutch country. Tulips were imported from Turkey at the beginning of the 16th century but have always played an important part in Dutch culture. For example, Tulip Mania, that lasted from 1636 to 1637, left many in poverty after the prices of tulip bulbs were more expensive than houses and due to this fact, the market collapsed.
Tulip bulbs were rediscovered during the last months of WWII when starving people used them as a food source. In the modern-day Netherlands, the Dutch celebrate National Tulip Day which is always the third Saturday in January.
While people in the Netherlands either speak Frisian or Nederland, as we’ve discovered, they rank as the highest country in the world on the English Proficiency Index (EPI) narrowly beating out Denmark and Sweden. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 Dutch people speak English as a second language. That’s around 90% of the population!
The Dutch are very talented when it comes to learning languages because according to an EU language report, 94% of the population could speak at least two languages and this towers above the European average of only 54%.
The Dutch are taught English at a very high level in school and via conversation. It is also important to note that more than half of the population speak German making many residents of the Netherlands trilinguals.
Cycling is an extremely important part of Dutch culture. Fun fact, there are more bikes than people in the Netherlands. (Source: pixabay)
According to recent statistics published, there are over 18 million bicycles which are 1 million more than the total amount of residents living in the Netherlands. Cycling is an extremely important aspect of Dutch culture.
The Dutch love to cycle in order to get to work, school, to the shop or they do it just for fun in order to observe a beautiful new landscape. It is estimated that Dutch people cycle an average of 2.9kms per day and use their bikes for a quarter of all trips they may need to take.
The Dutch have also invented a bicycle known as the bakfiets which is a combination between a wheelbarrow and bike. It’s not necessarily the prettiest thing you’ll ever see but it is extremely practical for bringing kids to school and moving heavier things around.
Just to get an idea of how many bikes there are in the Netherlands Groningen Station has over 10,000 places available to park your bike!
Pale lager, witbier, herfstbok, lentebok and IPA’s are all popular brews in the Netherlands that will leave beer experts spoiled for choice and extremely content.
Major Dutch beer brands include Heineken, Amstel and the less commonly known but equally enjoyable De Molen.
Before 2010, the Netherlands was the largest exporter of beer in the world until Mexico surged pass with more international sales. Nevertheless, Holland has remained comfortably in the second spot for years and according to a 2017 estimate report, it is responsible for 13.6% of all the beer exports in the world earning over $2 billion in profits.
Other European countries such as Belgium, Denmark and Germany export a lot of beer as well.
A third of the Dutch beer exported is sent to the United States. It is safe to say that Americans love a cold pint of Heineken on a hot summer night!
During most the 17th century, also known as the Dutch Golden Age, the Dutch economy was gigantic and was considered one of the best if not the absolute top in the world.
In 1602, the Dutch East India Company was founded as the first multinational company in the world to meet the demands of trade by creating trading posts and establishing colonies all over the world. They were also the first to issue stocks in the year of their founding in 1602.
This lead to the establishment of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange which is the oldest stock exchange in the modern world.
Due to these advancements, the Dutch Republic was unparalleled in terms of progress and economic gain throughout the 17th century.
Despite being densely populated and small in size, the Netherlands is one of the world’s biggest agriculture exporters. They constantly compete with bigger countries such as China, the United States and Germany for exporting the most agricultural and horticultural goods.
2016 was an unprecedented year for the Netherlands when they were the second biggest agriculture exporters after the United States reaching a record high amount of 94 billion euros worth of goods exported to other countries.
Agriculture accounts for 21% of all Dutch exports. Seeds, apples, tomatoes, cucumbers, flowers and plant bulbs are all very popular exports. It is important to note that the Netherlands exportation of plant bulbs such as tulips accounts for two-thirds of the world’s total.
Agriculture employs 4% of those working in the Netherlands due to the fact that a lot of the work is done with machines.
Gouda, Edam and Maasdam cheeses are all famous internationally. (Source: pixabay)
Gouda, Edam, Maasdam and Leyden. The Netherlands produces extremely savoury cheeses that are enjoyed by people all over the world. The Netherlands is the second biggest exporter of cheese in the world after Germany. The most recent number recorded was over $3.4 million in profits in annual exportation. The majority of cheese exported was shipped to Germany.
Gouda is arguably the most popular Dutch cheese that is exported to other countries. It originates from the city of Gouda and is one of the oldest types of cheese in the world that is still in production today.
Many Dutch kinds of cheese, especially Gouda, can be eaten in a sandwich, on their own or with Dutch mustard as a popular snack.
There are many Dutch cheese markets that are still being operated mainly for the enjoyment of international tourists.
Amsterdam is already a colourful city, but it is also known as a rainbow city, being very accepting and welcoming to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. Amsterdam was the first capital city in the entire world to allow gay marriage, offering legal same-sex marriage ceremonies back in 2001.
Guardian Australia reported that ‘The director of LGBT rights group COC Nederland, Koen van Dijk, told [them] that according to official statistics in the Netherlands some 90% of people now have a positive attitude of LGBT people, up from 53% in 2006. In that time the proportion of people who wanted to repeal marriage equality fell from 22% to just 6%.’
Amsterdam is famous for its gay and lesbian-friendly attitude, and the nightlife most certainly reflects this. The gay scene in Holland’s capital city is one of the largest in Europe and boasts well over 100 LGBT bars, clubs, saunas, shops, and hotels. Below are just a few of them and range from bars attracting a mixed crowd to full-on drag shows!
Holland is a beautiful place to visit with a lively culture, stunning architecture, delicious food, friendly people, plenty of windmills and many interesting facts to discover. If you fancy visiting some of the monumental windmills for yourself, then take a look at the choice below!
De Gooyer is a traditional grain mill built in the early 16th century and, back then, it was among the tallest buildings in the country. It is made up of a rectangular stone house that once acted as a watermill with its main body and sails above it. Remaining in Amsterdam, the mill has been moved several times from its original position but can currently be found in the eastern part of the city by the docklands. De Gooyer appears on the label of a craft beer in Amsterdam due to the brewery setting up home in the bathhouse beneath the windmill.
Molen de Adriaan
Upon the eastern canal is the beautiful Molen de Adriaan, orginally built in the 18th century by a rich local merchant. The windmill has a fascinating history – in the 1930s, it was all but destroyed by a storm that swept through Haarlem but the community decided to rebuild the windmill as the skyline had something missing. The building is now a local attraction and museum containing several exhibitions portraying the history of the Netherlands, with a particular focus on its milling technology.
The Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout
During the 18th century, a system of noneteen windmills were built, making it the largest concentration of historic windmills in Holland. It is recognised today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and buses regularly travel to the area from Rotterdam carrying dozens of tourists.
Situated on the western side of Zaandam, a small but picturesque city near Amsterdam, colourful mills grace the rolling countryside. These windmills weren’t built here, however. Most of them were located elsewhere in the Netherlands and transported there during the 20th century. Even today they still function, producing dye, timber and other goods. Also in the city are some beautiful cottages and quaint bakeries.
The Windmills of Schiedam
In the 18th century, the city of Schiedam built twenty windmills to grind down grain for their jenever distilleries and factories. They were impressively tall due to a lack of wind inside the city. Five of the huge monuments can still be seen in Schiedam and a museum telling their story can also be visited.
Molen de Valk
The foundations of Molen de Valk have been the home of a windmill since the 17th century. The model we know now was built in 1743 and has been working for the mostpart of its life. In 1996, the interior was turned into a museum detailing its significance to its surroundings.
Plan your trip right away to uncover the unique magic of the Netherlands!