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10 surprising facts about the Netherlands

Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, delving into some intriguing facts about the Netherlands can enhance your understanding and leave you ready to dazzle others at your next trivia event. Get ready to challenge your Dutch knowledge with these 30 surprising facts about the country.

Don’t call the Netherlands ‘Holland’

There’s often confusion surrounding whether to use ‘the Netherlands’ or ‘Holland’ when referring to the country. Let’s set the record straight: the Netherlands comprises 12 provinces, while Holland specifically encompasses two provinces: North Holland (Noord-Holland) and South Holland (Zuid-Holland). Historically, Holland held significant economic sway, leading to its common usage as a stand-in for the entire nation, albeit inaccurately. However, in January 2020, the Dutch government officially retired the nickname ‘Holland,’ opting instead for ‘the Netherlands’ to better represent the country internationally. So, there you have it!

The Netherlands has the highest population density in Europe

According to United Nations data, as of August 2020, the Netherlands boasted a total population of 17,140,098. With a land area spanning 33,720 square kilometers, the country’s population density stands at 508 people per square kilometer. This positions the Netherlands as the second-most densely populated country in the EU, trailing only Malta, and ranks it among the most densely populated nations globally. Notably, approximately 92.5% of the population resides in urban areas. Moreover, over 40% of the total population inhabits the Randstad region, which encompasses the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht.

The Netherlands is the lowest-lying country in Europe

Well, while this fact may not come as a complete surprise, considering that the word “Netherlands” translates to “lower countries,” it’s still astonishing to realize that more than a quarter (26%) of the Netherlands lies below sea level. Even more impressive is the fact that approximately 60% of the population resides 5 meters below sea level. The country’s highest point is a hill in Vaalserberg, South Limburg, standing at 322.5 meters above sea level. Conversely, the lowest point is Zuidplaspolder, situated 7 meters below sea level. Notably, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport also sits 5 meters below sea level. Fortunately, the Dutch have developed sophisticated methods, including windmills, pumping stations, polders, and dikes, to effectively drain the land, ensuring the safety of its inhabitants. Phew!

The Netherlands is the sixth happiest country in the world

In the 2020 World Happiness Report, the Netherlands secures its position as the sixth happiest country globally. This comprehensive study evaluates 156 nations, considering various factors such as healthy life expectancy, freedom, trust, corruption, and social support. The Dutch populace exhibits high levels of social and institutional trust, along with robust social connections, contributing to their overall happiness. Notably, the Netherlands outperforms neighboring countries like Germany (ranked 17th) and Belgium (ranked 20th). The report identifies only Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway as happier nations. Certainly, this is cause for celebration!

The Dutch are the healthiest in the world when it comes to diet

In addition to their status as one of the happiest nations worldwide, the Dutch also excel in maintaining a healthy diet and nutrition. According to the Oxfam Food Index, which assesses 125 countries, the Netherlands clinches the top spot for offering abundant, nutritious, healthy, and affordable food, surpassing countries like France and Switzerland. Despite indulging in some indulgent Dutch snack foods, residents display commendable dietary habits, including a penchant for consuming vegetables. This inclination aligns with the Netherlands’ position as the world’s second-largest exporter of vegetables. Nonetheless, enjoying an occasional plate of bitterballen is unlikely to have significant repercussions, right?

The Dutch are the most physically active European country

In addition to their high marks in health and happiness, the Dutch stand out as the most physically active population in Europe. As reported by the Euro Barometer, approximately 56% of Dutch individuals engage in sports activities on a weekly basis, surpassing the European average of 40%. This trend is largely attributed to the exceptional infrastructure found throughout the country, facilitating walking and cycling for both commuting and leisure. With its renowned flat terrain, the Netherlands boasts an impressive network of 20,000 kilometers of fietspaden (bicycle paths), making cycling a particularly enjoyable pursuit. With countless picturesque Dutch cycling routes to explore, it’s no wonder the Dutch embrace this mode of transportation with such enthusiasm.

The Dutch invented the first stock market in the world

Here’s an intriguing tidbit about the Netherlands: remarkably, the world’s first stock market was established by Dutch legislators and businessmen in 1602. This innovative move aimed to finance the Dutch East India Company and its extensive trade expeditions originating from the Netherlands. Coinciding with this, the Amsterdam Stock Exchange was founded in the same year, earning recognition as the oldest modern exchange globally. Additionally, the Netherlands led the way in Fairtrade certification, introducing the Max Havelaar certificate in the 1980s. Kudos to the Netherlands for these groundbreaking contributions!

 There are more bicycles in the Netherlands than people

Indeed, it’s a fact. The Netherlands boasts over 22 million bicycles, outnumbering its 17 million residents. Among these, the ingenious bakfiets stands out, merging a bicycle with a spacious container at the front for transporting children, pets, and groceries. Some sources indicate that Dutch individuals pedal an average of 2.9 kilometers daily, relying on bicycles for over a quarter of their journeys, a sharp contrast to the mere 2% usage in the United Kingdom. Others suggest that, on average, a Dutch cyclist covers 1,000 kilometers annually through 250 to 300 trips. However, the prevalence of bicycles comes with a downside—high rates of theft, especially in Amsterdam, where it ranks as the most common crime. With over 100,000 reported bike thefts annually in the Netherlands, it’s wise to exercise caution when parking your wheels.

The Netherlands has the highest English proficiency in the world

Planning to relocate to the Netherlands without any Dutch language skills? Well, you’re in for a pleasant surprise! This astute nation excels in English proficiency, outshining all other non-native English-speaking countries. According to the EF English Proficiency Index, the Dutch lead the pack, narrowly surpassing Denmark and Sweden. Remarkably, between 90 and 93% of the population can converse in English as a second language. What’s more, an impressive 94% of Dutch citizens are bilingual, far exceeding the EU average of 54%. Nevertheless, it never hurts to polish your Dutch language skills while you prepare for your move.

One-fifth of the population in the Netherlands is foreign-born

If you thrive in multicultural environments, the Netherlands offers just that. Over three million residents hail from non-Dutch backgrounds, constituting roughly one-fifth of the population. Moreover, more than half of these immigrants (1.7 million individuals) originate from non-Western countries such as Turkey, Suriname, Morocco, the Antilles, and Aruba. This diverse blend is especially prominent in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, where nearly one-third of the populace is of non-Western descent. Thanks to this rich cultural tapestry, major Dutch cities abound with delectable ethnic cuisines awaiting discovery.



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