For most people outside the Netherlands, the first thing that comes to mind when they think the country is being stoned to death while sitting in a coffee shop eating pot brownies. The truth is, that the Netherlands is a lot more to offer than just that. The Netherlands has a rich history and culture that demands to tell. These are the 10 things you didn’t know about the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is truly the land of giants. With average heights of women being. 171 centimeters, or 5 feet, 6 inches tall, and men standing in the average of 184 centimeters, or 6 feet tall. The Dutch are the tallest people in the world and scientists have been studying just why that is. One thing that is interesting is that the Dutch experienced a total gain of 20 centimeters or 8 inches in the last 150 years, compared to 6 centimeters for Americans or 2.3 inches.
The stunning fact is that prior to this growth spurt, Americans were actually taller. There have been many theories as to why this is the case. Most scientists pause it natural selection as the reason. Which explains simply means naturally tall people seeking out other nationally tall people. Having many offspring with them leads to offspring that are tall. Over time the majority of Dutch people then became taller than most people because that is the overwhelming genetic trend. Interestingly enough, this is leading to Dutch people asking for more legroom on planes and greater door height to complement their gigantic stature.
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9: Harsh Language of Netherlands
Everyone talks about how harsh the German language sounds, but it really doesn’t hold a candle to Dutch in that department. Most people have never been exposed to the Dutch language, so they don’t really know what it sounds like. The truth is if you’re not Dutch and you have a sore throat, you might want to stay away from those Dutch lessons. At least until you’ve recovered and even if you don’t know the languages, you can hear the difference.
Compare these examples in German and Dutch in a sentence meaning, good afternoon, how are you doing? First the German “Guten tag, wie geht es ihnen?” With the Dutch “Goedendag, hoe gaat het mey u?” The G in Dutch is pronounced “chh or khh” and Dutch has lots of “khh” which can get really tricky as a foreigner for example. If you need to pronounce a G together with a CH sound, such as in the Dutch word “Geschiedenis” meaning history. Compare that with the German, “Geschichte” and you’ll see why the myth of the harsh German language is largely fictional. Still, if you decide to learn the Dutch language, make sure you are not sick and if you’re ready to give your throat and mouth a real beating.
The Dutch language has real flavor, which is why when the Dutch swear, they do it with style. Maybe one of the most unusual qualities of the Dutch language is that when the Dutch swear some of the strongest curses of those related to sickness and disease. Kanker (cancer), kolere (cholera), tyfus (typhus), Mongool (mongoloid) with the last one referring to someone with down syndrome, the Dutch really love their diseases. Sometimes they used in incredibly flexible context, such as “Krijg de Kanker”, meaning get cancer or even when it’s not an insult such as in “Kankerlekker”, literally means cancer tasty but meaning good tasting or sometimes even very attractive.
“Lijer” is a slang form of the word lighter, which means sufferer. It can be used as an insult by itself or in conjunction with fabulous diseases. Such as Kankerlijer, which means, you guessed it, cancer sufferer. No one really knows why the Dutch are so fond of diseases in their language, but you have to give it to them. It really makes them stand out.
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7: Doe Normaal
The Dutch tend to be fixated on the status quo, or normalcy. There’s a simple but common expression about the Netherlands which goes like this, “Doe Normaal”, literally meaning “do normal”. But translates better is just act normally. Bragging, showing off too much, being overly emotional, or expressive in public, acting in a weird or foreign manner. All these things are frowned upon because at the end of the day the Dutch people are pretty conformist. Probably not so much as to give the Germans a run for their money. Still, no one wants to be seen as weird. Doe Normaal is sort of a way of life for the Dutch people. It’s one you best live by if you want to live in the Netherlands.
For most people, it’s hard to think of a national dish that comes to mind when they think about the Netherlands. The truth is, you probably won’t find one of these truly unique in terms of conventional food. There is one food item you won’t find anywhere else and that is “Hagelslag” or literally “blow of hale” in English. The food is both simple and elegant with the key element bean sprinkles. Most often of the chocolate variety on a bread roll, sometimes combined with butter. In the United States and other places, you only put sprinkles on ice cream, but the Dutch are ahead of the game and have gone one step further.
Hagelslag is more than just-food. It’s part of the Dutch essence because why else would they take Beschuit or biscuit and slap on pink or blue sprinkles when a new baby is arrived, with pink for girls and blue for boys. This tradition is a testament to the importance of Hagelslag in the Dutch culture and heritage. It shows that when it comes to the Netherlands there’s just no separating the food and its people.
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5: Germans in the Netherlands
The Germans and the Dutch have always had an odd relationship. Up until very recently, it’s been a rather bad one. These relations were particularly under strain after World War II. Since the German invasion against the Dutch was met with some of the fiercest resistance and greatest resentment of any country. For years there was visceral hatred felt towards the Germans. A Guardian article relates the following, “commentators in the British media may indulge in a fair share of German bashing but that’s nothing to what I grew up with.
Growing up in the Netherlands in the 70s and 80s, the anti-German feeling seemed as natural as cheese, skating, and gay rights. Germans really were “the other” humorless closet-fascists who destroyed the magnificent port of Rotterdam. Then occupied and pillage our country for five years, murdering 80% of our Jews”. The times have changed and increasingly the Dutch have warmer feelings towards the Germans than ever before. As the saying goes, “time heals all wounds,” even those apparently of the greatest conflict to have ever occurred.
4: Geert Wilders
Even people outside of the Netherlands have heard of the iconoclastic politician Geert Wilders, the founder, and leader of the “Partij Voor de Vrijheid” or the Party for Freedom or PVV, as it’s usually referred to. Wilders is a controversial political figure in the Netherlands. He is best known for his opposition to the religion of Islam. Having gone so far as to have suggested, the battling of the Quran in the Netherlands. Due to his views on Islam, Wilders is under 24-hour protection by armed bodyguards. Since his views put his life in danger.
Some of his proposals have included but are not limited to placing a 5-year moratorium on the immigration of any non-western foreigner. And replacing article one of the Dutch constitutions guaranteeing a quality under the law with one stressing the cultural dominance of Christian and humanist culture. Dutch people tend to have mixed feelings about Wilders. Because apart from his views on Islam and Europe, not much else stands out about him, except for his platinum blonde dyed slick-back hair maybe.
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3: Slave Trade in the Netherlands
The Dutch people have always had the reputation of being savvy merchants and businessmen. When it came to the Atlantic slave trade, this was no exception. One of the primary centers of this thriving business was a so-called “Slavenkust” or slave coast. Which refers to the numerous trading post of the Dutch West-India company. Which were found in present-day Togo, Benin, Nigeria, and Ghana? The main purpose of these outposts was to supply African slaves to the plantation colonies in the Americas. Fortunately, slavery was officially abolished in 1863 in the Netherlands and with it went the country’s participation in the Atlantic slave trade.
2: Friesland in Netherlands
Parts of the Netherlands aren’t really about the Netherlands. In fact, one unique region that is technically part of the Netherlands but has its own culture and history is Friesland. Friesland is located about as north as you can get in the Netherlands. It is probably best known for the fact that it’s home to its own unique and special language. It is closely related to Dutch but also different enough to warrant separate classification. The unique status of Frisian makes the people in the Provence speak it outliers in Dutch society. Frisian is also the most closely related language to English in the entire world, followed by Dutch as a close second.
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1: Explorers of Netherlands
Usually, everyone thinks of the Portuguese or the Spanish when it comes to exploration of the world’s oceans and discovering new lands. Depending on how you measure it, the Dutch may have been the greatest explores ever. Master shipbuilders and cryptographers, the Dutch managed to be the first Europeans to discover such far-flung places as Svalbard, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Sakhalin, and Easter Island. In fact, the Dutch were successful in almost mapping out 3/4th of the entire Australian coastline. Traditionally, the first European explorers of Australia are thought to be English. Say what you want but the legacy of this pioneering spirit lives on the Dutch people today. Which makes this small nation the amazing country it is.
So, that was our today’s list of 10 things you didn’t know about the Netherlands? What do you guys know more about the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below. Don’t forget to check out our other top lists and we’ll see you all next time.