The other day, while reading the blog A Letter from the Netherlands, I was surprised to learn that the general public can only fly the Dutch flag on 5 specific days of the year (or 6 if you live in the Hague). This is yet another Dutch rule that is contrary to the way I was raised in the USA, where you can fly the flag for pretty much any reason you want. I know Germans were encouraged to not be patriotic after WW2, but I’m not sure why the Dutch have this rule. It got me to start looking for other interesting (to me) facts about my new home.
* The official Head of State is Queen Beatrix, but the country is actually ruled by a coalition government. Unlike Queen Elizabeth of the UK, Queen Beatrix actually does have some power.
* Of all European countries with over 1 million residents (i.e. Monaco and the Vatican don’t count), The Netherlands has the highest population density, about 480 people per square kilometer.
* Netherlands (or, in Dutch: Nederland), means “Low Countries.” About half of the country sits right at sea level. Amsterdam Airport Schipol is the only major international airport that sits below sea level.
* The Dutch are the tallest people in the world. Being 6’7″, I fit right in.
* The Dutch invented Gin, though it’s called Jenever here.
* The Dutch were the first to breed orange carrots, supposedly in honor of the House of Orange, which is the ruling family.
* The Netherlands has 2 capitals: Amsterdam (which is the official capital), and The Hague (which is the seat of government). The Queen has a Palace in Amsterdam, though she rarely uses it.
* Things that are legal here that are not legal in many other countries: soft drugs, prostitution, abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia.
* There are 1,180 windmills in the Netherlands
* Holland is an area of the Netherlands. Calling the whole country “Holland” would be like calling the US “Carolina” or “Dakota,” or calling the whole of the UK “England”
* The Dutch are the world’s leading exporter of Tulips
* KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is the longest running national airline in the world.
* The Netherlands has the highest level of foreign direct investment per capita in the world.
* There are roughly 15,000 km of bicycle paths throughout the country.
* There are roughly 1,000 museums in the country, 42 of which are in Amsterdam
* The Netherlands compromises only 0.008% of the world’s surface, yet is the 3rd largest agricultural exporter, and 8th largest overall exporter in the world. (Thank you, Tulips!)
* After Scandinavians, the Dutch drink more coffee than any other nationality.
* The Netherlands has one of the youngest populations in the EU.
* Amsterdam has 1,281 bridges. Venice, by comparison, has 409.
* Amsterdam’s soil is so sandy that pretty much every building is sitting on wooden piles. Centraal Station itself sits on 8,600 piles.
* After Hurricane Katrina, the USA turned to the Dutch on help rebuilding the levees and protection systems.
* At its lowest point, Amsterdam sits 6.7 meters BELOW sea level, meaning that if global warming were to cause the oceans to rise just a little bit, Amsterdam could be washed away.
* 70% of the world’s bacon comes from the Netherlands!
* Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe, and in the top 3 worldwide.
* Though IKEA is known as Swedish, it is actually headquartered in the Netherlands.
* The World’s Second Largest Company is Dutch: Royal Dutch Shell (aka, Shell gas stations)
* The “ING” in ING Bank stands for International Netherlands Group.
* One of the largest electronics companies in the world, Phillips, is Dutch.
* The colors of the Dutch flag are familiar to Americans, Brits, and many others: Red, White & Blue. However, the color most associated with the Dutch is orange, since their monarch is from the House of Orange.
* Amsterdam is named after a Dam in the Amstel River: Amstel Dam eventually became Amsterdam. Dam Square (home of the Royal Palace) was originally the site of the Dam, though it has been filled in long ago.