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) about “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, and some of them were just unreal things for which the Netherlands is 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 also been during this time that I have learned about the most bizarre and weird traditions of this country.
Here you have some of the most common things the Netherlands is famous for.
What is the Netherlands known 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 permanently high. When you visit parks such as Vondelpark or any other green areas in the city, you WILL smell pot.
Even though some teenagers 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 consumed mainly by visitors.
The red light neighborhood in Amsterdam
Also, along 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 they have lots of business.
The red light district is one of the most famous landmarks in the Netherlands.
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 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, 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 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 must 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, they will go on bike trips on the weekends. 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 which the Netherlands is known is Van Gogh. Everybody knows the Starry Night and the Sun Flower paintings. And obviously, everybody knows that he sliced his ear off.
However, 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.
The Van Gogh museum is one of amsterdam’s most famous attractions and a great place to visit in Amsterdam in Winter. This way you can learn about one of the most popular painters in history and escape from the cold winter weather of the Netherlands.
There are no curtains, and the windows are huge
This is something most people who have visited the Netherlands have found shocking and then told 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 families or simply watching TV.
Before moving to the Netherlands, I lived for quite a few years in Belgium. Although they are neighbors, their cultures 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 oversized windows and fewer curtains.
The Netherlands is known for being a very tolerant country
Because both drugs and prostitution are legal, the Netherlands 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. One of the most popular ones is Tomorrowland, although multiple festivals are 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
I recently learned 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 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 is known for being a country of farmers!
I mean, they do drink and produce tons 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 primary producers of very well-known cheeses. For example, one of the world’s most famous cheeses is named after one little town in The Netherlands: Gouda.
A similar example is Edam, also typical of 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 some countries from the South of Europe (Spain and France for example) 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 a substantial 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 so that, statistically, they are the country with the tallest people in the world.
If you plan on visiting and have more than 1.75 meters, expect no problems. But if you are below that, you may not see yourself in restaurant bathroom mirrors. I am talking from personal experience here.
Home of the handsome and pretty
As mentioned in the previous section, most people in the Netherlands 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, but they are 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 most cases, this type of pottery has a white background and designs made in a very characteristic and unique blue.
Another very typical thing that the Netherlands is known for is the tulips. There are infinite famous pictures of neverending fields covered in stripes of different colors. Every year, there are hectares of these camps 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 incredibly cheap.
What is the Netherlands famous for? Not (only) Holland! I know, I know, but the truth is that many countries used to call the Netherlands: Holland. Well, many people still do. So, what is Holland?
Holland os a geographical region and former province of the Netherlands. It was unified unther the Holy Roman Empire as a county and late rose to become a world power, dominating the other provinces of the Dutch republic.
So, for much time the term Holland came to mean the whole country not only the original historical province. Today, the Netherlands have 12 provinces, and two of them are part of what was Holland. thus, there’s North Holland, and South Holland.
In the last decades the Netherlands have been trying to educate people to call the country its now official name “Netherlands”. If you should only use Holland when meaning the historical province, or one of the two contemporary provinces.
So, Holland still exists, but the Netherlands is more than only Holland. Holland is a part (an important part) of the Netherlands.
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