The Netherlands

Here you can familiarize yourself with the Netherlands in advance, the country where you will later stay for at least ten days. This page has interesting facts to offer for when you don’t know the Netherlands yet.

Wooden shoes and tulips

For a lot of people wooden shoes and tulips are the first things they think about when the hear about the Netherlands.

A wooden shoe is a type of footwear made completely from wood. Traditional wooden shoes were often worn in heavy labor. Today they remain in use as protective clothing in agriculture. Although wooden shoes are sometimes negatively associated with cheap and folkloric footwear of farmers and the working class, they are our heritage. Wooden shoes are also used in dance. When worn for dancing an important feature is the sound of the wood against the floor. This is one of the fundamental roots of tap, but with the tap shoes the taps are free to click against each other and produce different sound to wooden shoes. Nowadays you will not see may wooden shoes in our streetlives. In the old days they were part of the daily clothing. A long with those clothes, the wooden shoes are almost all banned to musea or special tourist attractions.

The tulip is a perennial, bulbous plant with showy flowers in the genus Tulipa, of which up to 109 species have been described and which belongs to the family Liliaceae. Although tulips are often associated with the Netherlands, commercial cultivation of the flower began in Turkey. It is unknown who first brought the tulip to Northwestern Europe, the most widely accepted story is that it was Oghier Ghislain de Busbecq. Carolus Clusius planted tulips at the Imperial Botanical Gardens of Vienna in 1573 and later at the Leiden University's newly established Hortus Botanicus, where he was appointed director. There he planted some of his tulip bulbs in late 1593. As a result, 1594 is considered the official date of the tulip's first flowering in the Netherlands, despite reports of the flowers being cultivated in private gardens in Antwerp and Amsterdam two or three decades earlier. These tulips at Leiden would eventually lead to both Tulip mania and the commercial tulip industry in Holland.

Windmills and water

A windmill is a machine which converts the energy of wind into rotational energy by means of vanes called sails or blades. Originally windmills were developed for milling grain for food production. In the course of history the windmill was adapted to many other industrial uses. An important non-milling use is to pump water either land drainage.
The Netherlands is a geographically low-lying country, with about 20% of its area and 21% of its population located below sea level, and 50% of its land lying less than one metre above sea level. Most of the areas below sea level are man-made, caused by centuries of extensive and poorly controlled peat extraction, lowering the surface by several meters. Even in flooded areas peat extraction continued through turf dredging. As from the late 16th century land reclamation started and large polder areas are now preserved through elaborate drainage systems with dikes, canals and pumping stations. Most of the country is very flat, with the exception of foothills in the far southeast and several low-hill ranges in the central parts.

At the table

The Dutch live in close-knit families and enjoy each other's company. Dutch families like to get together around the table at meal times and catch up on what they've each been doing. But what do they eat? Here's the lowdown on a few Dutch favourites:

Stamppot: a very down-to-earth meal consisting of mashed potatoes with carrots, usually served with 'rookworst', a juicy sausage. 
Haring: a real Dutch delicacy is eating a raw herring (fish) with raw onions! You pick the fish up by the tail and slide it into your mouth
Patat: patat is the Dutch word for chips - in the Netherlands these are very thin and served with mayonnaise, not tomato sauce! 
Vla: a thick, sweet pudding made mainly from milk. It comes in many different flavours including vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.  
Poffertjes: small, fried pancakes served warm, with lots of powdered sugar sprinkled on top. 
Hagelslag: a kind of powdered chocolate which the Dutch spread on their bread.


Facts about The Netherlands

Did you know that

  • "the Netherlands" and "Holland" are used to describe the same country?
  • one quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level?
  • the Netherlands has approximately 488 inhabitants per square kilometre?
  • with only 0.008% of the world's area, the Netherlands is the world's third largest agricultural exporter?
  • the Netherlands has at least 15,000 km of cycle tracks?
  • Dutch is also spoken in Belgium, northern France, Suriname, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba?
  • the Netherlands still has about 1,000 traditional working windmills?
  • the Dutch are the tallest people in Europe?
  • Amsterdam is entirely built on poles?
  • the Netherlands has nearly 1,000 museums, with 42 in Amsterdam alone?
  • almost every Dutch person has a bicycle and there are twice as many bikes as cars?
  • the Netherlands is the world's eighth largest exporter?
  • people in Holland eat raw herring with onions on top?
  • about 30% of all Dutch babies are born at home?
  • you can see 22 paintings by Rembrandt and 206 by Van Gogh in Amsterdam?
  • the Netherlands' highest point is 323 metres high and is therefore called a "mountain"?
  • Saint Nicholas’ Eve on 5 December is the number 1 tradition of the Netherlands?
  • There is no country in the world where more liquorice is consumed than in the Netherlands (on average 32 million kilos per year)....and on average, the Dutch eat 14.3 kg of cheese per year?
  • you'll find a bunch of flowers in almost every Dutch living room?
  • Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, but The Hague is the seat of government?
  • most Dutch people speak at least one foreign language?
  • of those languages can also be Frisian, another language only spoken in the province of Friesland?
  • after Scandinavians, the Dutch are the world's biggest coffee drinkers?
  • more than 170 different nationalities live in Amsterdam?
  • the Netherlands has one of the youngest populations in the EU?
  • The Dutch saying “Act normally and that’s crazy enough” fits the Dutch like a glove?
  • when your plane arrives at Schiphol, it lands 4.5 metres below sea level?
  • the Netherlands has the highest cable density in Europe?
  • Amsterdam has 1,281 bridges?
  • when Dutch schoolchildren pass their exams, they hang a Dutch flag and a school bag outside their homes?

Learn to speak Dutch

English Nederlands Listen to the Dutch words
Goodmorning Goedemorgen
Goodevening Goedemiddag
Good Afternoon Goedeavond
Sleep well Welterusten
Nice to meet you Leuk je te ontmoeten
Thank you Dank u
Your welcome Graag gedaan
Where is the toilet? Waar is de toilet?
I'm sorry Het spijt me

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