For the Netherlands’ chapter of our famous things across the globe series, we have asked our fellow travel blogger Jenn (who lives in the Netherlands) of “the solivagant soul” What is the Netherlands famous for? This is her awesome answer!
I moved to the Netherlands two years ago for work. Back then, I knew some things about the country. Some of them were true, some of them were just unreal things for which the Netherlands are known for. Interestingly, it has been in these last couple of years that, when traveling, I have learned the most about what other people think of my current home country. And it has been also during this time that I have learned about the most bizarre and weird traditions from this country. Here you have some of the most common preconceptions about the Netherlands.
Things the Netherlands is famous for
First and foremost: Pot and other drugs
Everybody in the Netherlands spends their day smoking pot in a park.
Since marijuana is a legal drug here in the Netherlands, there is the misconception that everybody here is high on a permanent basis. When you visit parks such as Vondelpark or any other green areas in the city, you WILL smell pot. Even though there are some teenagers that are often high, the reality though, is that most of the people doing drugs in these locations are tourists. Some locals will do drugs if they are attending a festival or having a special event, but soft drugs are mostly consumed by visitors.
The red light neighborhood in Amsterdam
Also in the lines of legalized activities that are illegal in other areas or countries, we have prostitution. Most people visiting the Netherlands will wander through the red light district in Amsterdam. And many people will remember this above anything else. For a first time visitor, it is kind of a shocking vision. The prostitutes will be behind the glasses sitting on a stool, under a red light, just showing themselves to people walking the streets. I do not think that many locals attend these places as much as tourists do, but I know that they have lots of business.
The windmills in the Netherlands are famous worldwide. After the slightly bent houses in the canals of Amsterdam, these are the second most common landscape associated with the country. The history behind the windmills in the Netherlands is simple. This is a flat country and there are always very intense winds. And half of their country is below sea level. Because of this, in order to be able to cultivate the wetlands, they decided to use windmills to drain these areas and gain more surface for farming. Later on in history, they started using them too to grind wheat and for other purposes, but their high abundance was initially linked to the necessity of gaining land to the water.
The Netherlands has more bikes than people
Given that this country is almost flat and that people have the mindset to be as healthy as possible, it is hard to find Dutchies that do not own a bike. In fact, most people will cycle to work if it is close enough. However, since this is a relatively small country, some people need to commute by train daily. As a result, they will have a bike to go from home to the train station. Then, a second bike to go from the train station to work. And of course, on the weekends, they will go on bike trips. For that purpose, they need special mountain bikes. If you have kept the count, that adds up to three bikes per head. So yes, that is many more bikes than people.
Something else by which the Netherlands is known for is Van Gogh. Everybody knows the Starry Night and the Sun Flower paintings. And obviously everybody knows that he sliced his ear off. And that is about how much the rest of the world knows about him and his connection to the Netherlands. But, if you want to learn more about van Gogh, you can visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
There are no curtains and the windows are huge
I think that this is something that people who have visited the NLs have found shocking and then told to other people. And it is 100% true. I will always be shocked when walking through the streets of any town or city in the Netherlands and seeing people having dinner with their family or simply watching TV.
Before moving to the Netherlands, I lived for quite a few years in Belgium. Although they are neighbors, their culture and style of life are very different. I was told then, that Dutchies have these big windows and no curtains because of historical differences regarding their religion. While Belgians are traditionally Christian, Dutch people are protestant. Then, because protestants said they had nothing to hide (in contrast with the Christians), they built their houses with larger windows and fewer curtains.
The Netherlands is a very tolerant country
I think that because both drugs and prostitution are legal, the country is seen as a very tolerant place. And they are right. Besides drugs and sex, the Netherlands is known for being one of the most supportive countries regarding the LGBT community. Pride is a week-long event where families go out to the streets to celebrate for days and the whole city goes a bit crazy. And all of it under an umbrella of fun, love, and respect.
They have massive festivals all summer long
Many people visit the Netherlands for the first time to attend a music festival. I think one of the most popular ones is Tomorrowland, although there are multiple festivals going on every week from mid-April until late September. People in the Netherlands love attending concerts and most groups with an international tour will make, at least, one stop here. And if you like any type of genre, earlier or later, there will be a festival tailored to your likes.
The Netherlands is a country of farmers
Something I just recently learned is that most of the Globe think that the Netherlands is mostly a country of farmers. And it is the reality. I did not know about this up until a couple of months ago when watching an American movie they made a joke about it. I then went back to a few friends I have spread across a few continents and they all confirmed my suspicions: the Netherlands are known for being a country of farmers! I mean, they do drink and produce tones of milk and cheese, so it would make sense. And actually, this takes me to my next point.
Land of cheese
The Netherlands is famous for being one of the main producers of very well known cheeses. For example, one of the most famous cheeses around the globe is named after one little town in The Netherlands: Gouda. A similar example is the Edam, also typical from the town of… you guess it right, Edam.
Everyone in the Netherlands speaks English
Even though there is a misconception from American tourists that no one in Europe speaks English, a well-known truth about the Netherlands that the rest of Europe knows is that they are exceptionally good at languages. While people from the South of Europe are known for being unable to speak English, which is often not true, we all know that Dutchies are by far some of the best. Most of them speak two languages growing up fluently and an important proportion of people under forty speak three or four.
They are all tall
The Netherlands is also widely known for having an exceptionally tall population. So much that, statistically, they are the country with the tallest people in the world. If you plan on visiting and have more than 1.75m, expect no problems. But if you are below that, you may not see yourself in the bathroom mirrors in restaurants. I am talking from personal experience here.
Home of the handsome and pretty
Most people in the Netherlands, as mentioned in the previous section, are quite tall. If you combine that with the high abundance of blond people with blue eyes, that love to do sports… well, you have a killer combination. They may not be the warmest and kindest people out there, but they are definitely some of the prettiest.
The blue tiles or Delftware
Not as known as maybe the rest of the previous points is the Delftware. This is a type of pottery mostly produced in the Dutch city of Delft. It is similar to the famous tiles from Portugal (the azulejos) and it has been around for the last four centuries give or take. In the majority of cases, this type of pottery has a white background and designs made in a very characteristic and kind of unique blue.
Finally, a very typical thing that the Netherlands is known for are the tulips. There are infinite famous pictures of neverending fields covered in stripes of different colors. Every year, there are hectares of these camps all around the Netherlands housing enough tulips to serve the whole continent.
In addition to this, the Netherlands is also known for being the country where most of the flowers in Europe are produced. And it is because of that, that buying flowers and bulbs in this country is so extremely cheap.
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