Do you think you know the Netherlands? Take care… we believe that we can still surprise you with some amazing facts about this unique low-lying country. Even if the Netherlands isn’t very big, it’s still home to some amazing world records, inventions and curiosities.
How many of these facts are you familiar with?
1. There are over 1,000 historic windmills
To this day, windmills are an integral part of the Dutch landscape. The winged giants first appeared in the Netherlands in the 17th century, and by the 19th century their number had risen to around 9,000. Currently more than 1,000 historic windmills have been preserved and you can visit many of them.
These mills were traditionally used to grind flour, but were later also used to press oil, grind color pigments, saw timber and to drain water from low-lying areas known as polders.
2. The Dutch find everything lekker
Lekker (“delicious”) is a word that the Dutch simply love to say at every opportunity. And not just at the sight of local delicacies such as stroopwafels, liquorice, herring or French fries. In the Netherlands, the weather, weekends, clothing, activities, comfy furniture or even someone you find attractive can also be lekker.
In this country, this affirmative all-rounder expression not only means “yummy” but can also mean anything from “pleasant” and “great” to “cosy” or “attractive”. Lekker makkelijk (“nice and easy”) as the Dutch would say!
3. The Dutch invented shares
It’s impossible to imagine modern economic life without stocks or shares. This was how the “Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie” (VOC or Dutch East India Company) trading company was founded on 20 March 1602, as an association of traders doing business overseas.
They financed their fleet of ships in advance by issuing registered bonds – the world’s first shares of company stock. Two years later, the first VOC ships set sail to import spices, tea, silk and precious stones.
4. The Netherlands is the world’s safest country for cycling
According to a 2008 study from Rutgers State University of New Jersey, there’s nowhere in the world safer for cycling than in the Netherlands. Even without helmets, the Netherlands has fewer injuries per million kilometers cycled than all other countries analyzed, including Denmark.
This is thanks to the nation’s 35,000 km of high-quality bike paths and the fact that a bicycle is considered a legitimate vehicle that deserves as much respect on the road as a car, if not more.
5. We have the Dutch to thank for orange carrots
Carrots are bright orange, as every child knows. What fewer people know is that this wasn’t always the case. A few hundred years ago the “original carrot” was all kinds of different colors, ranging from light yellow to dark purple.
In the 16th century, Dutch carrot growers started to bring order to this “chaos” by breeding the orange carrot as we know it today. Was this choice of color motivated by patriotic devotion to the royal House of Orange? We can only guess…
6. Over half of the Netherlands is a farm
Speaking of farming: agriculture and horticulture are a big deal in the Netherlands. Even though the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, more than half of the land is covered by agricultural activity.
Despite its small size, the nation is a serious competitor to giants like China and the USA. In 2017, the Dutch were the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural produce after the USA, with a record turnover of 92 billion euros.
7. The Dutch made a whole province by themselves, from scratch
It’s hard keeping up with the lowlanders: less than 100 years ago the Zuiderzee, just north of Amsterdam, was a wild sea bay prone to disastrous flooding. Today that exact same area is now occupied by the calm IJsselmeer lake and the completely new province of Flevoland, home to almost 420,000 inhabitants.
8. Dutch men are the tallest in the world
Is it because a quarter of the country is below sea level that Dutch gentlemen feel the need to grow so tall? With an average height of 1.82 m (almost 6 ft), the tallest types in the world live here. And Dutch women are not far behind, growing to an average height of 1.69 m (5 ft, 6 in) and occupying second place worldwide.
Over the past 200 years, Dutch men have increased their average height by as much as 20 cm (8 in). According to researchers, this is not only due to genes, but also to factors such as prosperity, a good health system and high dairy consumption.
9. Birthday wishes for the whole family
If you’re invited to a birthday party in the Netherlands, and the relatives of the birthday person greet you with expectant eyes, this can only mean one thing: they’re waiting for you to congratulate them as well. In the Netherlands, it’s not only customary to congratulate the person who has the birthday, but also the whole family!
10. Amsterdam sits on a forest of piles
Since Amsterdam’s soil is so soft and muddy, all of the city’s buildings rest on top of wooden or concrete piles up to 11 meters (36 ft) in length that have been driven deep into the moist earth.
Even some of the trees in Vondelpark are reinforced from below with wooden pillars to prevent them from sinking into the soft ground. And did you know that there’s almost a whole forest under the Royal Palace at Dam Square? It was built on over 13,600 wooden piles!