Canada and the Netherlands: the ultimate BFF’s

Back in high school, I never understood why I had to study history. I thought all those dates, were just random numbers strung together with the purpose of confusing my poorly-focused brain

Over time, my interests have evolved and undoubtedly matured — so I’ve dusted off a piece of history that I think is quite interesting given that firstly, I am a Canadian, secondly, I lived in the Netherlands for almost a year.

The Birth of a Special Relationship

The bombing was also known as the Rotterdam Blitz. Image: Unknown author/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Let’s rewind the clock 70 years to a bleak and tragic time in history: World War II. Unfortunately, the Netherlands’ goal to stay neutral was shattered as Nazi Germany invaded the tiny, flat country on May 10, 1940.

The day after Rotterdam was bombed on May, 14 — leaving many dead and even more homeless — the Dutch surrendered to German troops to avoid similar attacks on other Dutch cities.

The special case of the birth of Princess Margriet

Princess Juliana holding Princess Margriet, 1943. Image: Yousef Karsh/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

After the German occupation of the Netherlands, the Dutch royal family ruled in exile from the United Kingdom. The following month, Princess Juliana brought her daughters Princess Beatrix and Princess Irene to Ottawa, Canada for safe harbour.

On January 19, 1943, Princess Juliana gave birth to her third daughter, Princess Margriet, at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The Canadian Government temporarily declared the hospital ward an international territory. This meant that Princess Margriet would inherit Dutch citizenship from her mother as opposed to dual citizenship — which would have affected her right to the throne when the time came. Now that’s what I call special treatment!

Canadian forces liberated the Netherlands

Canadian infantrymen partying with Dutch civilians like it’s 1945. Image: Tylerweatherill/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

In 1945, the First Canadian Army led the liberation of the Netherlands. On May, 5 (Bevrijdigingsdag) Nazi German forces would fully surrender in Wageningen.

The Canadian Tulip Festival

Tulips at Parliament Hill, Ottawa. Image: Chiacat/Depositphotos

As a show of appreciation for Canada’s involvement in aiding the Netherlands during the war, Princess Juliana gave the people of Canada 100,000 tulip bulbs. 🌷 When she became Queen of the Netherlands in 1948, she continued sending thousands of tulips every year during her reign. Princess Juliana sure knows how to take a bouquet of flowers to the next level — romantics, take note.

This tremendous gift sparked great interest among Canadians and quickly became a popular tourist attraction.

The world-renowned Armenian-Canadian photographer Malak Karsh saw an opportunity to truly celebrate the tulips and what they represented. At Malak’s suggestion, The Ottawa Board of Trade gave birth to The Canadian Tulip Festival. The first one was held in 1953. Every year the festival takes place in the month of May, which is obviously quite fitting.

The Canadian Tulip Festival attracts 600,000 visitors each year. Image: YAYImages /Depositphotos

Unfortunately, I haven’t attended this festival in years. For me, it remains a distant childhood memory. This year is no different (although this time, I was itching to go). Alas, life gets in the way, but at least I get to write about it and look at pictures of pretty flowers. I’m allergic to them anyway so I guess I should count myself lucky to avoid a pollen-fuelled assault on my sinuses. 🤧

Another Canadian connection

The connection between the Dutch and Canadians doesn’t end there. When I was living in Amsterdam from 2012-2013, I encountered a lot of things that surprised me.

One of those things was the abundance of Canada Goose jackets being worn by tall Dutchies. Seeing those jackets floating around the cobble-stoned streets of tiny Amsterdam with its canals and skinny houses shattered my assumptions that these puffy jackets were only worn by Canadians. Oh, how wrong I was. I didn’t realize that there are tons of retailers in the Netherlands and other countries that sell them.

Canada even outsourced the production of passport covers to a company in the Netherlands. The contract was awarded to an Ottawa-based company, who then sub-contracted it out to a Dutch company. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at that. I think I’ll laugh.

Visa policies

Work hard, play hard. Image: poznyakov/Depositphotos

Putting wintery fashion aside, I would be remiss not to mention visas. Both nations have more relaxed policies regarding travel to and from each country. Canadians travelling to the Netherlands can stay there for up to three months without a visa and Dutchies can travel to Canada for up to six months without a visa.

While I was living and working in the Netherlands, I was there on a Working Holiday Visa, a program that is exclusive to a few countries, including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Its purpose is to give young people of the aforementioned nationalities an opportunity to stay in the Netherlands for up to 12 months while working to support their extended vacation filled with sightseeing, eating and partying. Okay, that’s not the official wording but that’s basically what it’s for. My main intention was to find temporary work rather than vacation, although that was obviously a huge part of my stay. Work hard, play hard, right?

Final thoughts

I’m sure there are thousands of connections between the two countries but I think you get the point.

I must admit, I’m still bitter that it took me five months to get my residence card (which gave me a huge headache)…I thought being a Canadian was going to give me an advantage. Damn you Dutch government, we were supposed to be bros. I will, however, commend your nation for bitterballen and its love of biking. For that, this Canadian will always have a tiny bit of Dutchness in her heart.

What are your thoughts on the special relationship between the Netherlands and Canada? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Mikeloiselle /Depositphotos

Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in May 2014, and was fully updated in October 2021 for your reading pleasure.

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  1. Then allow dual citizenship.. As a dutch person who lived in each country exactly for 18 years.. As you mentioned Holland is the pain in this case, not Canada.

  2. You wrote this several years ago but I have to comment since my son is traveling in Holland right now. I was born in Santpoort, Velsen and have lived in Canada since I was 4 years old. I am so happy you wrote the truth about CANADA-HOLLAND being the ultimate BFFs. LOL it’s so true. We share the same laid back approach, we don’t take ourselves inappropriately serious, lean on the generous side, and share a similar sense of humor. it’s wonderful to “get” each other so quickly. I also lived in Ottawa for four years and was really touched at how … over 70 years later … the Dutch still send the tulip bulbs every year for the tulip festival.


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