5 things you need to know about The Netherlands that nobody will ever tell you

Be careful, this story is full of generalizations. If you are allergic to that, please move on and don’t bother reading, it will definitely itch.

Since it’s vacation time, I’d like to share about my country and hope that it expands your horizon; geographically, but also culturally. To do that, I will start with the worst things first.

# 1. You make the decisions about your life, not the government

In my country drugs are legal, we have legalized prostitution, we’re the first country in the world to legalize gay marriages (since 2001) and legalized euthanasia. Well, you might think that’s pretty bad,
but in my country it’s not the government who make the decisions.
To take drugs, marry someone from the same-sex or end life early. It’s the people that make the decisions. And just as people have the choice to make a bad decision, they have a choice to make good decisions. We trust people to make the right decision for themselves.

So far, cocaine use is 5 times higher in the USA, and twice as many Americans than Dutch aged 12 and over have experienced marijuana.

Gays have not created more gays, but gays are an accepted part of the population in our country and euthanasia isn’t an alternative for suicide neither did it extinct the Dutch race.

So, yes those things are true about the Netherlands. But it’s your personal choice if you want to enjoy it or enjoy one of the other things our country has to offer.

#2. The lock is more expensive than the bike

One of the things to enjoy would be: the bike. We have more bikes in our country than we have people. Stealing bikes is one of the most popular criminal activities, especially in the city. Therefore it is more important that you buy an expensive lock than an expensive bike. We don’t have mountains in my country so city bikes are sufficient. And because of the always-existent scare of your bike getting stolen, you’ll buy a very good and expensive lock and a 2nd hand bike.

And believe me, I have seen my bike being stolen, someone drove off with my bike right in front of me, during clear daylight, with lots of people around me on a busy marketplace. Hmm… not too good.

Bakfiets in Amsterdam with commercials by fietsfabriekMy favorite way of transportation is my ‘bakfiets’, it’s a tricycle cargo bike, which also serves as advertising for my Dutch company:
It holds 4 kids on 2 benches, who wear seat belts when traveling. And we don’t wear biking helmets, actually only the Mormon missionaries wear those.
Our car is parked outside of Amsterdam, and funny as it is, the chance of your bike getting stolen is much bigger than your car getting stolen.

#3. We’re the 5th largest investor in California.

We’re a small country. The Netherlands is about 10 times as small as California, and we have 16 million people. Other than that our country is the 5th largest investor in California (after Germany, Japan and the UK).
Dutch companies you might have heard of are: Shell, Philips, ING, Aegon and Unilever (the company that produces Dove and Axe). For a small country, those companies are pretty big.

Our country has a history in trading and export, we were the first to settle and colonize New Amsterdam, that later became New York, after we traded it for Suriname with the British. I still regret that decision, cuz you would have all spoken Dutch if that trade never happened. Still, our reach has been wide, but our country stays small.

#4. Dutch people are tall, don’t brag and very tough on themselves

My country grows the tallest people in the world. Dutch people are on average 2 inches taller than the Americans. The average height in the Netherlands for adults is 6 foot 1 (1.85m). With my 6 foot (1.84), I’m even a bit on the short side. That’s where my heals can help me out. ?

We’re tough, most of all for ourselves. We criticize ourselves a lot, and also medically we aren’t the weaker ones. Dental numbing shots are not the norm but an open question. And 90% of baby’s are born at home with the help of a doula, no injections, no nothing. I delivered 2 babies myself that way and they came out just fine. I was doing fine too, oh yeah it did hurt, but we consider that part of the process.

Bragging is not Dutch. We’re the first to point out things that need and can be improved upon, but if you ask us for the best meal, our country’s hero, or what’s the best place to visit, we will not be able to do it.

#5 We are very happy people

Dutch kids are the happiest in the world, American kids are ranked 20th in the world.
For happiest people we are ranked #5 in the world after the Scandinavian countries.

Why are we so happy? Researchers say that citizens in countries with a good health care system, a high GDP per capita and with good access to education are the happiest. Also 75% of Dutch women work part time, this is the highest figure in Europe, the average in Europe is 32%. With mom being at home a lot and being there for you, that makes a child happy. Children in the Netherlands are used to a highly protected and highly positive caring environment. The Dutch family is very communicative and open.

Because the parents are more relaxed, the problems in the Netherlands with teenagers and drug use for example are less severe than in countries where they are seen as more of an issue.

A 16-year-old schoolgirl from Amsterdam agrees:
“You can smoke at 16, you can buy pot in the store next to the school. You can do what you like and because it’s not illegal, it’s not that interesting for us to provoke our parents with it.”

If you’re a happy child that gets the attention you need, you don’t need to provoke your parents with anything.

So, these are the 5 things you need to know about The Netherlands that nobody will ever tell you. I hope you have expanded your horizons and consider a visit to our country some time.

And I’ll end with a statement that is made up by Dutch people living in the US who could finally let go of the not-bragging part of our culture: If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much.

This Speech has been given as a Toastmasters Project #2 Speech on July 22, 2010

  • Eponymeous

    The United States has 20 times the population. Also


    It seems drug use is not as okay as the years go by.

  • Matthijs

    @ Eponymeous

    “The United States has 20 times the population.”

    Figures given (Cocaine use being 5x higher in the USA) are per x inhabitants. So it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about 16 or 300 million people… That’s just a general rule of statistics ;).

  • skatsje

    I’m American and as for the happiest people in the world and problems with people on drugs, I’m all in agreement. I’ve been saying what that 16 year old Dutch girl said since I was around her age. If America didn’t make everything under the sun so taboo or “forbidden” they wouldn’t have all the issues that they do. If my country were to actually look at how other countries work and implement some of the ideas to our own system, we’d be a lot better off.

  • Fun facts of Amsterdam:
    Did you know that…

    …1.5 miles is the average distance travelled daily per person by bike.
    …There are 175 nationalities in Amsterdam.
    …Amsterdam has 6 windmills, but only 1 can be visited.
    …Schiphol Airport is 4 metres below sealevel.
    …Each year 8.000 bikes are reclaimed from the water of Amsterdam canals.

    I’ve find these fun facts here: http://www.amsterdamredlightdistricttour.com/fun-facts

  • Moondance

    I am not dutch but you really shouldn’t say that no matter where you live everyone is different if we judge everyone like that it is going to be a really hatefull world (just my opinion you don’t have to do anything with it I am sure you have your reasons for hating that country )