Canada and the Netherlands: the ultimate BFFs

Not many countries share as close of a connection as these two countries. From world war ties to a shared love for tulips, the Netherlands and Canada have many unique and surprising bonds.

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, and secondly, I lived in the Netherlands for almost a year.

The story begins

Let’s rewind the clock 75+ years to a bleak and tragic time in history: World War II. Unfortunately, the Netherlands’ goal to stay neutral is shattered as Nazi Germany invades the tiny, flat country on May 10, 1940.

photo-of-rotterdams-city-centre-after-the-bombing-of-1940
The bombing of Rotterdam, also known as the Rotterdam Blitz. Image: Unknown author/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The day after Rotterdam was bombed on May 14, 1940 — leaving many dead and even more homeless — the Dutch surrendered to German troops to avoid similar attacks on other Dutch cities.

The birth of Princess Margriet in Canada

Following the German occupation of the Netherlands, the Dutch royal family decides to rule in exile from the United Kingdom. The following month, Princess Juliana brings her daughters, Princess Beatrix and Princess Irene, to Ottawa, Canada for a safe harbour.

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

On January 19, 1943, Princess Juliana gives birth to her third daughter, Princess Margriet, at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The Canadian Government temporarily declares the hospital ward an international territory.

This means that Princess Margriet inherits Dutch citizenship from her mother as opposed to receiving dual citizenship — which would affect her right to the throne when the time came. Now that’s what I call special treatment!

Canadian forces liberate the Netherlands

In 1945, the First Canadian Army leads the liberation of the Netherlands along with the Allied forces. They freed most of the Netherlands from almost five years of Nazi German occupation and provide the population with food and medical supplies.

photo-liberation-of-the-netherlands-1945
Canadian infantrymen partying with Dutch civilians like it’s 1945. Image: Tylerweatherill/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

On May 5 (Bevrijdigingsdag), Nazi German forces fully surrender in Wageningen.

READ MORE | Liberation Day in the Netherlands: what you need to know about May 5

The following months got the name the “Canadian Summer”, marking a time of peace and hope in the Netherlands.

The Canadian Tulip Festival

White-pink-tulips-Parliament-Hill-Ottawa-Canada
Tulips at Parliament Hill, Ottawa were a gift by the Dutch Queen. Image: Depositphotos

As a show of appreciation for Canada’s involvement in aiding the Netherlands during the war, Princess Juliana gifted 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.

READ MORE | The Dutch and tulips: how did tulips in the Netherlands become a thing?

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.

Bed-of-yellow-tulips-Canadian-tulip-festival
The Canadian Tulip Festival attracts 600,000 visitors each year. Image: YAYImages /Depositphotos

At Malak’s suggestion, the Ottawa Board of Trade gave birth to the Canadian Tulip Festival. The first one was held in 1953. Since then, the festival takes place every year in the month of May, which is obviously quite fitting.

Sharing winter fashion tips

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

People-biking-with-winter-jackets-in-Amsterdam
The Dutchies and Canadians love thick winter coats alike. Image: Depositphotos

One of those things was the abundance of Canada Goose jackets worn by the 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.

Visa policies between Canada and the Netherlands

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.

READ MORE | Can I work in the Netherlands? Complete guide to work permits and visas to land a Dutch job

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

young-woman-backpacking-train-station
Work hard, play hard is the motto between Canada and the Netherlands. Image: Depositphotos

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?

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!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in May 2014, and was fully updated in May 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos

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8 COMMENTS

  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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