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Netherlands Facts & Trivia: 10 Things Foreigners Should Know


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Dani Jin



Welcome to the Netherlands, a country known for its tulips, windmills, and delicious cheese. In this article, we will explore some interesting facts and trivia about the Netherlands that every foreigner should know. From its unique geographic location to its vibrant culture, the Netherlands is a country that offers a diverse and enriching experience to all who visit.


Located in Northwestern Europe, the Netherlands is bordered by Germany to the east and Belgium to the south. It is also situated along the North Sea, making it a country with a rich maritime history and a strong connection to trade and transportation. The Netherlands is renowned for its extensive network of waterways, canals, and iconic dykes that have been instrumental in its relationship with water.


With a population of over 17 million people, the Netherlands is a relatively small country, but don’t let that fool you. The Dutch are known for their warm and welcoming nature, making it easy for visitors to feel at home. The country prides itself on its multicultural society, which is reflected in its diverse population. The Dutch are known for their tolerance and acceptance, making it a wonderful destination for individuals from all walks of life.


The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. This means that while the country has a monarch as the head of state, the actual governing power lies with the elected representatives and the prime minister. The Dutch monarchy, currently led by King Willem-Alexander, plays a largely ceremonial role in the governance of the country.


The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, a West Germanic language that is spoken by the majority of the population. However, don’t worry if you don’t speak Dutch, as English is widely spoken throughout the country. The Dutch education system emphasizes the importance of language learning, and many Dutch citizens are fluent in multiple languages.


Geographic Location

The Netherlands is situated in Northwestern Europe, bordered by Germany to the east and Belgium to the south. It is known for its unique geographic location, with a significant part of the country lying below sea level. This is due to its extensive system of dykes, polders, and canals, which have been crucial in reclaiming land from the sea and managing water levels.


The country is often referred to as “The Low Countries” because a large portion of its territory is situated below sea level. This unique geographical feature has shaped the Dutch landscape and influenced various aspects of Dutch culture and way of life.


Despite its relatively small size, the Netherlands is home to diverse landscapes, ranging from flat polder landscapes in the west to rolling hills in the east. The country also boasts stunning coastal areas along the North Sea, with beautiful sandy beaches and picturesque dunes.


The Netherlands is famous for its iconic windmills, which are not only a symbol of the country but also serve practical purposes. These traditional windmills were historically used for drainage, grinding grain, and sawing timber. Today, while many windmills have been replaced by modern technology, they are still a prominent feature of the Dutch landscape and a popular tourist attraction.


The Dutch have a strong connection to water, with countless canals and rivers crisscrossing the country. Amsterdam, the capital city, is known as the “Venice of the North” due to its network of canals, which provide a picturesque backdrop for the city’s charming architecture and vibrant atmosphere.


The Netherlands is also well-known for its national parks and nature reserves, offering opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and birdwatching. The Hoge Veluwe National Park, located in the province of Gelderland, is the largest national park in the country and is home to diverse flora and fauna.


Overall, the geographic location of the Netherlands provides a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and engineering marvels, making it a fascinating destination for both locals and tourists.


Population Size

The population of the Netherlands is approximately 17 million people, making it one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. Despite its relatively small size, the Netherlands has a thriving and vibrant population that contributes to its rich cultural fabric and diverse society.


The country has experienced steady population growth over the years, mainly due to immigration. People from around the world are drawn to the Netherlands for its high standard of living, strong economy, and excellent educational and healthcare systems.


The largest city in the Netherlands is Amsterdam, which also serves as the capital. Amsterdam is known for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, historic architecture, and vibrant cultural scene. It is a melting pot of cultures, with residents from various nationalities and backgrounds, all contributing to the city’s diverse and dynamic character.


Other major cities in the Netherlands include Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht. Each city has its own unique charm and offers a range of opportunities for work, education, and entertainment. Rotterdam, for example, is renowned for its modern architecture and bustling port, while The Hague is home to the Dutch government and many international organizations.


The Netherlands has a high standard of living and is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world. This can be attributed to various factors, including good healthcare, excellent infrastructure, a strong social welfare system, and a high level of personal freedom and individual rights.


It is important to note that the Netherlands is also a diverse nation, with a multicultural society. People from various ethnic backgrounds and nationalities have made the Netherlands their home, enriching the country’s culture and contributing to its vibrant social fabric. The Dutch are known for their tolerance and acceptance, creating a welcoming environment for people from all walks of life.


Overall, the population size of the Netherlands may be relatively small compared to other countries, but it is a country that is bustling with energy, diversity, and a strong sense of community.


Constitutional Monarchy

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. This means that while the country has a monarch as the head of state, the actual governing power lies with the elected representatives and the prime minister.


The Dutch monarchy has a long history that dates back to the 16th century. The current monarch is King Willem-Alexander, who ascended to the throne in 2013 after the abdication of his mother, Queen Beatrix.


While the King holds a largely ceremonial role in the governance of the country, he does have some constitutional responsibilities. The monarch represents the unity and continuity of the nation and acts as a symbol of Dutch identity. The King also performs various ceremonial duties, such as opening the Dutch parliament each year and attending state visits and official functions.


The day-to-day governance of the Netherlands is conducted by the elected government, led by the prime minister. The prime minister is the head of the government and is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the country. The Dutch government operates on a multi-party system, with various political parties representing different interests and ideologies.


The parliamentary system in the Netherlands ensures a high level of political stability and accountability. The Dutch parliament consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) and the Senate (Eerste Kamer). Members of the House of Representatives are elected by the public through a proportional representation system, while members of the Senate are appointed by the provincial councils.


The Netherlands has a strong tradition of democracy and a high level of political participation. Elections are held regularly, allowing citizens to have a say in the decision-making process. The Dutch government operates on the principles of transparency, accountability, and the rule of law.


Overall, the constitutional monarchy in the Netherlands combines the rich traditions of the monarchy with the democratic values of the parliamentary system, ensuring a balanced and stable form of government for the Dutch people.


Official Language

The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, a West Germanic language that is spoken by the majority of the population. Dutch is also recognized as an official language in Belgium and Suriname. It is a language that shares similarities with other Germanic languages, such as English and German, making it somewhat familiar to speakers of those languages.


Dutch is known for its unique pronunciation, with a combination of guttural sounds and rolling “r”s. However, don’t worry if you don’t speak Dutch, as English is widely spoken and understood throughout the country. In fact, the Netherlands consistently ranks highly in English proficiency among non-native English-speaking countries.


The Dutch education system places a strong emphasis on language learning, and many Dutch citizens are proficient in multiple languages. English is taught in schools from an early age, and it is not uncommon to find Dutch people who are fluent in English, especially in urban areas and among younger generations.


English is commonly used in business settings, academic institutions, and the tourism industry. Signs, menus, and other forms of public communication often have English translations, making it easy for foreigners to navigate and communicate in the Netherlands.


However, it is always appreciated when visitors make an effort to learn a few basic Dutch phrases. The locals are generally delighted when you try to speak their language, even if it’s just a simple “hello” (hallo) or “thank you” (dank je wel).


Learning a few Dutch words and phrases can also enhance your cultural experience. It allows you to connect with the locals on a deeper level and shows your appreciation for their language and culture. Don’t be shy to ask for help or clarification when navigating unfamiliar territory, as most Dutch people are more than happy to assist you.


So, while Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands, the widespread knowledge of English and the cultural openness of the Dutch make it a friendly and accessible country for non-Dutch speakers.


Bicycle Culture

When it comes to bicycle culture, the Netherlands is renowned worldwide. Cycling is deeply ingrained in Dutch society and is a significant part of the country’s transportation infrastructure and daily life. Whether it’s commuting to work, running errands, or simply enjoying a leisurely ride, bicycles are a popular and practical mode of transportation for many Dutch people.


One of the reasons behind the Netherlands’ strong bicycle culture is its well-developed cycling infrastructure. The country boasts an extensive network of dedicated bike paths, separate from motor vehicle traffic. These bike paths are well-maintained and offer cyclists a safe and efficient way to navigate through cities, towns, and countryside areas. With over 35,000 kilometers of dedicated cycling lanes, you can easily explore the Netherlands on two wheels.


The Dutch government has also implemented various initiatives to promote cycling and prioritize it as a sustainable and healthy mode of transportation. Cities and towns often have bike-friendly policies, including bike-sharing programs and secure bicycle parking facilities. Many public transportation systems allow bicycles on board, making it convenient for commuters to combine cycling with other modes of transportation.


Cycling is not only practical but also beneficial for personal health and the environment. It is a great form of exercise that helps improve cardiovascular fitness and contributes to overall well-being. Additionally, cycling produces no emissions, making it an eco-friendly alternative to cars and public transportation.


Bicycles come in many forms in the Netherlands, from the traditional Dutch-style bikes with upright handlebars and comfortable seats to modern e-bikes that provide an added boost of electric assistance. Dutch bikes are designed for comfort and functionality, with features like built-in lights, sturdy racks for carrying groceries, and even specially designed bikes for transporting children.


The Dutch take pride in their cycling culture and actively promote it to locals and tourists alike. You’ll find bike hire services readily available, allowing visitors to experience the country from a cyclist’s perspective. Exploring cities like Amsterdam or Utrecht by bike not only gives you a sense of local life but also allows you to discover hidden gems and scenic routes that may not be accessible by other means of transportation.


It is important to note that cyclists in the Netherlands follow certain traffic rules and etiquette. It’s common for cyclists to hand signal their intentions, and it’s important to be aware of pedestrians and give them right of way. Respect for other road users is a fundamental aspect of Dutch bicycle culture.


So, if you visit the Netherlands, don’t miss the opportunity to experience the country’s vibrant bicycle culture. Hop on a bike, enjoy the freedom of cycling, and discover the beauty of the Dutch landscapes and cityscapes in the most authentic way.


Tolerance and Diversity

The Netherlands is known for its strong tradition of tolerance and acceptance, making it a welcoming and inclusive country for people from all walks of life. This commitment to tolerance and diversity is deeply rooted in Dutch history and has shaped the country’s social fabric.


The Netherlands has a long history of being a haven for religious freedom. In the 17th century, during the Dutch Golden Age, the country became a refuge for those seeking religious tolerance, including Jews, Huguenots, and other persecuted groups. This heritage of religious acceptance has laid the foundation for the modern-day spirit of inclusivity in the Netherlands.


Today, the Netherlands is recognized as one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly countries in the world. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2001, and the country has implemented various laws and policies to protect LGBTQ+ rights and promote equality. Pride events, such as the Amsterdam Pride Parade, attract visitors from around the globe, celebrating diversity and promoting acceptance.


Furthermore, the Netherlands has embraced multiculturalism and has a diverse population. People from various ethnic backgrounds and nationalities have made the Netherlands their home, making it a truly multicultural society. This diversity can be seen in the vibrant neighborhoods of major cities, where different cultures and cuisines coexist, creating a rich tapestry of traditions and customs.


The Dutch value open dialogue, and the freedom of expression is highly regarded. It is common to have open and frank discussions about societal issues, including controversial topics. This commitment to open dialogue allows for the exchange of ideas and perspectives, fostering a culture of intellectual diversity and understanding.


In addition, the Netherlands has implemented policies to promote equal opportunities and combat discrimination. Anti-discrimination laws protect individuals from discrimination based on factors such as race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. The Dutch government actively works to create an inclusive society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.


Being tolerant doesn’t mean that the Dutch society is without challenges, as no society is perfect. However, the Netherlands’ commitment to tolerance and diversity sets a positive example for embracing differences and fostering inclusivity.


Whether you are a visitor or a resident, you will experience a warm and accepting atmosphere in the Netherlands. It is a place where people are encouraged to be themselves and celebrate their cultural, religious, and gender identities without fear of discrimination or prejudice.


Overall, the Dutch commitment to tolerance and diversity has shaped a society where inclusivity and acceptance thrive, making the Netherlands an enriching and welcoming destination for people from all backgrounds.


Legalized Drugs and Prostitution

The Netherlands is often known for its liberal approach to certain aspects of social policy, including the legalization of drugs and prostitution. While these policies may be controversial, they reflect the Dutch commitment to harm reduction, public health, and the rights of individuals involved in these industries.


In the Netherlands, the use and possession of certain drugs, such as cannabis, is decriminalized. This means that while the sale and consumption of cannabis are regulated and tolerated, it is not completely legal. Coffee shops, licensed establishments where adults can purchase and consume small quantities of cannabis, can be found throughout the country. The goal of this policy is to separate the cannabis market from more harmful drugs and to prevent the criminalization of users.


By adopting a regulated approach to cannabis, the Netherlands aims to focus law enforcement efforts on more serious crimes and reduce the associated harms of drug addiction. It also allows for quality control and consumer safety, mitigating potential risks associated with unregulated drug markets.


Similarly, prostitution is legal and regulated in the Netherlands. The goal of this approach is to ensure the safety and well-being of sex workers, protect their rights, and combat human trafficking and exploitation. Sex workers have access to health services, legal rights, and the ability to work independently or choose to be employed in a licensed brothel.


Prostitution in the Netherlands is heavily regulated, with specific laws outlining the working conditions and requirements for those involved in the industry. The aim is to prevent exploitation and promote the health and safety of sex workers. Regulations include mandatory health checks, legal age limits, and support for those wanting to leave the industry.


While the Dutch approach to drugs and prostitution may be seen as permissive, it is important to note that the regulation and legalization do not equal endorsement or promotion. The government’s goal is to ensure harm reduction, public safety, and the rights of those involved in these activities.


It is worth mentioning that the policies regarding drugs and prostitution are not the same in every part of the Netherlands. Local municipalities have some discretion in implementing these policies, and approaches may vary in different regions.


Overall, the Dutch approach to legalizing and regulating drugs and prostitution reflects a commitment to harm reduction, public health, and individual rights. While controversial, these policies have shaped a unique social landscape and contribute to the Netherlands’ reputation as a country that values personal freedom and the well-being of its citizens.


Education System

The Netherlands is renowned for having an excellent education system that prioritizes high-quality education, innovation, and inclusive learning environments. The country places a strong emphasis on providing equal opportunities for all students and preparing them for a globalized society.


The Dutch education system is highly organized and structured. It consists of several levels, including primary education, secondary education, and tertiary education. Education is compulsory for children aged 5 to 16, and parents have a range of school options to choose from, including public, private, and international schools.


Primary education in the Netherlands focuses on building a solid foundation in basic subjects such as mathematics, language, and social sciences. Education is child-centered, and a nurturing and inclusive learning environment is emphasized. Teachers play a pivotal role in guiding students and fostering their social and emotional development.


After completing primary education, students transition to secondary education. This phase is characterized by a greater degree of specialization, with various tracks and educational paths available to meet students’ interests and goals. These tracks include vocational education, general secondary education, and pre-university education. The Dutch education system values practical skills, and vocational education prepares students for specific vocational careers.


The Netherlands has a strong focus on developing students’ critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity. The curriculum emphasizes interdisciplinary learning, project-based assignments, and collaborative work, fostering the development of well-rounded individuals who can adapt to an ever-changing world.


When it comes to tertiary education, the Netherlands offers a wide range of institutions, including research universities, universities of applied sciences, and vocational schools. Higher education in the Netherlands is highly regarded globally, with many universities ranking among the top in international rankings. The country attracts a significant number of international students each year, offering a diverse and multicultural learning environment.


The Dutch education system places importance on student well-being and providing support services for students with special needs. Inclusive education is valued, ensuring that all students have the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. Additionally, the system promotes parent involvement and communication with schools to foster a strong partnership between educators and families.


The Netherlands also excels in research and innovation. Collaboration between educational institutions, research organizations, and industries is encouraged, leading to groundbreaking discoveries and technological advancements. The country is at the forefront of various fields, including engineering, agriculture, sustainability, and medicine.


The commitment to education extends beyond formal schooling, as the Dutch have a lifelong learning attitude. The Netherlands offers various adult education programs and initiatives to promote ongoing skill development and personal growth throughout people’s lives.


Overall, the Dutch education system is renowned for its quality, inclusivity, and emphasis on preparing students for an ever-changing world. By providing a strong foundation, encouraging critical thinking, and fostering innovation, the Netherlands ensures that its students are equipped for success in their future endeavors.


Beautiful Dutch Architecture

The Netherlands is famous for its stunning and diverse architecture, which is characterized by a unique blend of historic charm and modern innovation. From iconic windmills and historic canal houses to contemporary architectural marvels, the country offers a visual feast for architecture enthusiasts.


The historic cities of the Netherlands, such as Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Delft, showcase beautiful examples of Dutch architecture. One of the most notable architectural styles is the Dutch Renaissance, which flourished during the 17th century. This style is characterized by intricate gables, decorative facades, and ornate detailing. The canal houses, with their tall and narrow structures, epitomize this style and can be found lining the canals in many Dutch cities.


Another prominent architectural style in the Netherlands is the Dutch Golden Age architecture. This style emerged during the 17th century and is characterized by beautiful symmetry, elegant proportions, and classical influences. The Royal Palace in Amsterdam, originally built as a city hall, is a stunning example of Dutch Golden Age architecture and is open to the public for tours.


Besides the historic buildings, the Netherlands is also known for its modern and innovative architecture. The country is home to groundbreaking architects and designers who have left their mark on the Dutch landscape. The Dutch architectural movement known as De Stijl, led by artists such as Piet Mondrian and Gerrit Rietveld, embraced geometric forms, primary colors, and minimalist aesthetics. The Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an iconic example of De Stijl architecture.


The Netherlands is also known for its unique contemporary architecture. The Rotterdam skyline, in particular, is a testament to the country’s modern architectural prowess. The city is filled with striking buildings, such as the Cube Houses, the Markthal, and the Erasmus Bridge. These innovative structures push the boundaries of design and reflect the progressive and forward-thinking nature of Dutch architecture.


Another architectural highlight in the Netherlands is the extensive collection of windmills that dot the landscape. These iconic structures have played a vital role in the country’s history, serving purposes such as water management, milling, and land reclamation. The Kinderdijk windmills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are a must-visit destination to witness the beauty and engineering of these historic structures.


Whether you are strolling along the canals of Amsterdam, exploring the modern architectural wonders of Rotterdam, or admiring the windmills in the countryside, Dutch architecture never fails to captivate and inspire. The distinctive blend of historic and contemporary styles creates a unique visual tapestry that tells the story of the Netherlands’ rich cultural heritage and its innovative spirit.