10 Things Foreigners Should Know About the Netherlands

10 Things Foreigners Should Know About the Netherlands

In case you missed my announcement, this post is a part of my monthly series wherein locals from all over the world will be writing about 10 fun and interesting facts about their home country! (To keep an eye out for the succeeding countries that will be featured next, you can click and save the link from the banner below…)

Foreigners Should Know

For today — as the title goes — we will be learning about the Netherlands from Lotte Eschbach, a local who is my guest writer for this piece. Now, I have visited this beautiful destination for numerous times already and I can tell you that there’s absolutely MORE to the Netherlands than its world-famous capital of Amsterdam (and its Red Light District and “Coffeeshops”).

Take it away, Lotte!

BIO & INTRO

Lotte EschbachMy name is Lotte, born and raised in the Netherlands but trying to explore as much of the world as possible despite having a full-time job. In 2015, a lifelong dream came true: a 5-month trip around the world and it was the best thing I have ever done! Travel had changed me, it made me reconsider my priorities and made me value different things in life… And that is the reason why I created the ‘Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog’: to inspire other people to travel and help them plan their trips!

In 2016, I also started a new section on my blog called ‘Lotte goes Local’. This part of the blog is dedicated to my home country: the tiny but beautiful Netherlands! I will share hidden and off the beaten track places about the Netherlands, how to get around, the typical Dutch food such as ‘bitterballen’ and so much more!

…I hope I can make you fall in love with the Netherlands. ;)

Now for a brief introduction: the Netherlands is a tiny country (~41.000km2) in Western Europe with a population of over 17 million. Amsterdam is our official capital and Dutch is the official language. We like to call ourselves ‘the Dutch’ and are known around the world for our cheese, mills, and flowers. With over 400 people per square kilometer, the Netherlands also has the highest population density in Europe and is the 5th highest population density in the world.

Additionally, there are other things that you should know about the Netherlands and its people…
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10 Things Foreigners Should Know About the Netherlands

#1 FACT: Dutch people are the worst in the world when it comes to queuing!

Train Queue

I travel by train every day. I have done this ever since I was 14 years old and I commute to my work by train every single day (well okay, not on the weekends off course, that would be stupid). But it never really struck me as strange that the Dutch way of entering a train is to push as hard as you can to secure yourself a seat… Even if that means that people getting out of the train are having an impossible time to do so. But after living in London for 4 months, I realized that this behavior is actually quite strange. Some might even call it rude.

The British on the other hand have practically invented queuing. When I was queuing for a day ticket for Wimbledon, I received a 25 page booklet titled: ‘The Guide To Queuing’. LOL.

Anyway, if you are visiting the Netherlands, I would like to apologize for our non-existent queuing behavior. It’s just really not our thing.

#2 MYTH: Everybody in the Netherlands is high all the time!

Coffeeshop

I love meeting people from all over the world during my travels and one question that always comes up is “Where are you from?” As soon as I mention that I am from the Netherlands, people will start asking if I have marihuana or if I often go to a ‘coffee shop’ and how often. Well… I go to a ‘coffee shop’ almost every day — to get coffee! NOT drugs.

Truth be told, most Dutch people do NOT even smoke weed.

By the way, just a heads up: if you’re ever going to the Netherlands (to places like Amsterdam), if you are looking for coffee, go to a café. If you are looking for weed, go to a coffee shop.

» READ: First Timer’s Guide: The Amsterdam Coffeeshop Experience

#3 FUN FACT: Dutch people are the tallest in the world

Tall Dutch People

Did you know that Dutch men measure on average a whooping 1,84 meter (6+ feet)? Whereas women are at an average of 1,70 meter (5.6 feet)? (So maybe, I’m not fully Dutch since I am only 1,65).

There is a theory that this is caused by the huge amount of milk we drink — which is on an average of 320 liters per person each year!

#4 TYPICAL DUTCH: Paying for your own — and only your own!

Going Dutch

Apparently, this is also a very ‘Dutch’ thing. I realized this during my recent trip to Paris where the friends we were staying with insisted on paying for pretty much every drink that we had.

In the Netherlands, if you go to a bar with friends, it’s very common to pay only for the drinks you had. And if you’re with a very gutsy group, you might even split the bill equally! Meaning you might end up paying €1 or €2 more than you actually drank… Imagine that!

Keep this in mind before you go out drinking with a Dutch person;-)

Aileen says: There is actually a term for this and it’s called “Going Dutch” which perfectly describes what Lotte has described here – each person pays for themselves, rather than paying for anyone else; otherwise, the bill will be split equally. This can also be called as Dutch date, Dutch treat, and “doing Dutch”.

In the Philippines, we call this as ‘KKB’ or kanya-kanyang bayad. Apparently, in Middle Eastern cultures, this kind of practice is seen as being extremely rude since a host who extends the invite is expected to pay the bill. And well… somehow, this kind of outlook is adopted by us in the Philippines too; but we’re not so firm about it, that’s why people will often mention KKB to warn others not to expect otherwise when they’re invited, haha!

#5 Dutch Engineering: the Deltawerken

DeltawerkenPhoto by Vladimír Šiman / CC
As a country that lies 25% below sea level ,we are at a continuous battle with the ocean. Okay… I may be exaggerating a little, but it is true that maintaining the dikes is a very high priority in the Netherlands.

Did you know there are 80.000 kilometer of dikes in the Netherlands? But it’s not only the dikes that are protecting us from the sea because we also have the Deltawerken (or Delta Works) which are even sometimes called as an ‘eighth wonder of the world’ — but mostly by Dutch engineers I think, since they are very proud of this project.

The crown of their clever engineering work is the Oosterschelde Storm Surge Barrier (Oosterscheldekering), a series of enormous sluice gates that can be closed during storms or extremely high tides. The barrier is three kilometers long and consists of 65 concrete pillars.

I have to admit that is pretty impressive!

» READ: Netherlands’ Delta Works: One of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World

#6: Bicycles… soooooo many bicycles!

Netherlands Bicycles

You know that Katie Melua song about 9 million bicycles in Beijing? Well, there are about 19 million bicycles in the Netherlands! …For 17 million people.

Yup, we sure love our bikes!

On average, each person in the Netherlands rides his or her bike 300 times a year and cycles about 878 kilometers. There is roughly 35.000 kilometer of bicycle tracks and the prettiest one would have to be the 600 meter long path near Eindhoven, which is an ode the ‘Sterrennacht’ (The Starry Night), a painting made by the famous Dutch painter Van Gogh who lived in that area of the Netherlands.

#7: Orange is our national color

Dutch Orange

The Dutch royal family is officially called ‘the House of Orange-Nassau’ and their traditional color is… orange (duh).

The Netherlands are a monarchy and the current King is Willem Alexander. He is married to Queen Maxima who was listed in the Vanity Fair Best Dressed list of 2014! Together, they have three daughters: Amalia, Alexia and Ariane. So the next Dutch monarch will be a queen (again). Anyway, the reason I wanted to tell you about orange being the national color is because there is…

#8: Oranjegekte (Orange fever) during international football championships

orangjegektePhoto by Screenpunk via Flickr / CC
Usually, Dutch people are very down to earth. There is a Dutch saying ‘Doe maar normal, dan doe je al gek genoeg’ which translates into something like ‘Just act normal, that’s already crazy enough’.

I say this usually too, but….

NOT during the European or World Football Championships! Because then, that’s when we go totally nuts!

The whole country will be decorated in orange: orange hats, T-shirts, scarfs, dresses and any other clothing item imaginable. But not just clothing! The entire streets are also decorated with orange flags, orange balloons and other orange adornments. The whole country watches the football matches and we are absolutely euphoric when we win.

…On the other hand, we enter into a collective depression if we are eliminated. 2016 is a sad year for the Netherlands because for the first time since 1984, the national team didn’t make it through the qualifications of the European Championship that will be held in France next year.

#9: Typical Dutch Breakfast

hagelslag

Children in the Netherlands are among the happiest in the world according to UNICEF, and I totally understand, because do you know what they eat for breakfast?

Chocolate sprinkles! (Called in Dutch as hagelslag)

Yes, you read that correctly: Dutch children eat chocolate for breakfast. Every day! Who wouldn’t be happy, right?

#10: We celebrate Sinterklaas more instead of Christmas

Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas is a Dutch traditional feast celebrated with family and friends on the 5th of December. Children get lots of gifts (if they have been sweet), eat pepernoten, and then eat letters (usually the first letter of their name) that are made of chocolate!

Another Sinterklaas tradition is writing a poem for the person you are giving a gift to and these can be pretty hilarious as it is customary to make a little fun of that person. But usually, it ends with a sweet note though as we give well wishes for that person in the year to come.

TRIVIA: If we have Santa Claus, the Dutch have Sinterklaas or Sint-Nicolaas. He doesn’t have reindeers but he does have a white horse called as ‘Amerigo’. He doesn’t have dwarves, but he has ‘Zwarte Piet’ who is usually portrayed by a man in blackface with black curly hair dressed in colorful attire.

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Overall

About the Netherlands

If you’re from the Netherlands like Lotte, do you agree with the 10 points that she wrote about? (I may not be Dutch, but after several trips, I can totally agree to almost all of what she says!) Nevertheless, the Netherlands truly is a wonderful and interesting country and it’s a joy to be able to learn more about it!

NOTE: This series will happen monthly so keep an eye out for the next country that I’ll be featuring!

Foreigners Should Know

How about you?

  • What do you think about this blog series?
  • If you’re Dutch, do you agree with the points that Lotte made above about the Netherlands? What else can you add?
  • If you’re a foreigner, what points do you find interesting or intriguing?

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41 comments

  1. I liked dutch people. There is something strange and attracting, I met some of typical-looking of them - bright hair & eyes, tall and thay are very surprised you know their language (if you try to speak dutch))).

    Reply
    1. True! :D Though I think most people in foreign places are happy when foreigners try the language. ;)

      Reply
  2. Interesting list, thank you :)

    Regarding number four, i can really recognise that behaviour as we got the same here in Sweden. Everyone is mashing sure just to pay their part, even on a date with your girlfriend. :)

    Reply
    1. Really? That's a nifty trivia to know about Sweden then! In my country (the Philippines) it's different :)) everyone assumes you pay for the people you invite, unless you state otherwise haha

      Reply
      1. It is always interesting to see these differenses. As a Swede I usually consider it weird not to pay my own part. It might also be due to the cost of eating out or drinking in a bar, we would never meet eachother in case someone needed to pay for everyone in the group. :)

        Reply
  3. I hear you. I am so sick of being called a pothead. It gets really old. I so prefer coffee as well. :-)

    Reply
    1. Haha I know! Truth of the matter is, it's usually the tourists who do most of the coffeeshop/weed thing :))

      Reply
  4. Cool blog series!
    I’m Dutch myself and I can really appreciate this list. There is definitely more to our little country than coffee shops and prostitution indeed! I have to agree with a lot of things that were mentioned, but I strongly disagree with #1! Of course, during rush hour there might be a little pushing and shoving involved when boarding a train but in general people wait their turns patiently. I’ve noticed this was far worse in other countries, Spain for example and not to mention China, where people didn’t even let other passengers depart the train but all tried to get in simultaneously when the train halted. But overall, a very nice blogpost! Another cool thing about the Netherlands is that most people are bilingual. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t speak English as a second language, most people are fluent in it. Besides that most people speak French or German too. Another cool Dutch thing is the celebration of Kingsday! Flea markets, loads of drinks, celebrations, and orange fever all the way.

    Reply
    1. Thanks for your input Anna! Great to know about those other things too :D I haven’t seen the rush hour yet in the Netherlands, but my guest poster Lotte who is a local like you had observed this. But surely, China is one thing — and the country where I’m from, the Philippines has also one of the worst queuing behavior haha!

      Reply
    2. Hey Anna,

      Juj, a fellow Dutchie:-) Definitely more to the Netherlands than ‘Drank & Drugs’. Regarding #1, maybe it depends on the time and place, but every morning when I board the train at Utrecht Central (granted, the busiest train station of the Netherlands) it amazes me how impatient people are…

      Anyway, glad you like the post!
      Lotte

      Reply
  5. Thanks for the opportunity Aileen! It’s so great to read the comments and see that people like the post:-)

    Reply
    1. It's absolutely my pleasure to have you! :) It's always wonderful to know about other countries!

      Reply
      1. Agreed, that's the best part of travel:-)

        Reply
  6. At 1.7m I guess I’m the height of an average Dutch :) Thanks for this fun collection of facts and myths, and I guess if we’ll be traveling around on bikes I might as well let the kids have chocolate sprinkles for breakfast.

    Reply
    1. You bet that you should, haha! I really love the Netherlands :D

      Reply
  7. Thoroughly enjoyed this post. I love traveling the Netherlands and of course, visiting Koffeehouses. LOL I am glad to have learned about the Dutch engineering, I had no idea and I've yet to ever encounter chocolate sprinkles, though that is cute. ;) I really love the beauty and cultures of the Netherlands and those tulips are just exquisite. ;)

    Reply
    1. I’m happy to hear that you liked this! Personally, I’m also very excited for the next countries on this series. And yeah, the Delta Works are truly amazing. I’ve seen it myself and it was quite a feat!

      Reply

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