1. Holland and the Netherlands are the same place
Some people are confused about the difference between Holland and the Netherlands. In fact, Holland (North and South) comprises the two most populous provinces in the country. The Netherlands itself has only existed since 1581, while cities like Amsterdam have been around since 1275 — and many others even well before that. Historically, there was more power given to these provinces or city states, thus the most powerful of these provinces was Holland (which contains Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam). So, when traders went to far off lands, they typically said they were from Holland. The Netherlands came around a bit later and the two actually became synonymous with each other.
2. The Dutch invented the Corporation
The Dutch East Indian Company (or VOC as it’s known in Dutch), was the first publicly traded company offering shares of its profits to its shareholders. The VOC was able to raise funds to produce ships, buy goods, and hire new employees. This was one of a few reasons the Dutch went through a ‘Golden Age’ economically, roughly spanning the entire 17th century. High profits lead to more money spent on the arts seeing the likes of Dutch Masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer appear onto the scene.
3. The Dutch are the tallest nation in the world
Perhaps it’s because they drink a lot of milk, or perhaps it’s because most of them are already below sea level, but the Dutch are the tallest nation in the world. (Followed by Montenegro and then Denmark). The average Dutchman is now 183cm (6ft) tall, while the average Dutch woman reaches 170cm (5ft 7in)!
4. The Dutch uphold tolerance
Why have the Dutch become known as a nation of tolerance? Historically, the Dutch had to work together to keep what land they had above ground. This caused neighbors who may typically disagree to put aside their differences to complete the task at hand. The polder model, as it’s known in Dutch, became another national philosophy. Each person’s viewpoint is considered and discussed in business. The starting point is typically what the parties agree on instead of what they disagree upon.
5. Half of the country is at one meter above sea level or lower
Working together, Dutch communities have reclaimed nearly 30 percent of their land from swamps, tidal lagoons, lakes, and even the sea itself. Previously uninhabitable areas were able to be cultivated, turned into farmland, or planted with the famous Tulip. A series of dikes, polders, and sea walls have been built across the country in order to protect it from rising waters. From ocean storm surges to melting glaciers in the Alps, the Dutch have dealt with (and conquered) water in ways that most cultures have not. This knowledge is now a major export for Dutch engineering companies.
6. The world’s largest Robot is in the Netherlands
Since Antoni van Leeuwenhoek invented the first microscope, the Dutch have been inventing and creating machinery to help understand the world around them. The world’s largest working robot, the Maeslant Barrier, works as a giant gate to stop flood waters from rushing into the mouth of the Rhine river just outside of Rotterdam. It is almost as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall!
7. The Dutch are voracious readers
Early adapters of the printing press, at one time the Netherlands was known as the book trading capital of the world. “Learned young, when you’re old it’s done (Jong geleerd is oud gedaan),” is a common saying amongst the Dutch and a reason why the Dutch don’t shy away from discussing and educating on sensitive topics even from a very young age.
8. Home of the world’s longest ice skating race
Occurring once every roughly 15 years, the ‘elfstedentocht,’ or 11 Cities Ice Skating Competition, takes place once the weather is cold enough for the canals to freeze over throughout the Province of Freisland. Competitors have 24 hours to finish 120 miles (200 Kilometers) of skating between 11 scenic villages in the remote Dutch Province of Friesland.
9. Coziness is a way of life
Gezelligheid is the prevailing national philosophy. So what is it? Almost everything in life (according to the Dutch) needs to be cozy, comfortable, organized and convivial. The philosophy permeates through the culture and is used as its own verb. How was the party? Gezellig! How was the new restaurant? Also, Gezellig. How about your conversation with your boss? Gezellig. Begin to understand what makes something truly Gezellig, and you’re well on your way to becoming more Dutch.