What? We can’t share our pride about the best, little country in the world? Well, we’re doing it anyway! In celebration of Holland’s first place in the Good Country Index we’ve made a little something, something. We hope you’ll enjoy this article and specially made video and discover something new and interesting among the seven things the Dutch are great at!
#1 Happy Children – It’s Fun to be Young in Holland!
The Dutch persistently rank as one of the highest in “Child happiness”, the United Nations for example rated Dutch children the happiest in the world in their 2013 UNICEF child happiness index of the 29 most wealthy, industrialized nations!
There were several categories assessed, the Netherlands ranked the top five in each of those: material wellbeing; health & safety; education; behaviours & risks as well as housing and environment. Holland scored highest for both behaviours and risks and education too!
The researchers also spoke to children themselves to find out how they themselves feel about their lives, without just using scientific data. Guess what? 95% of kids said they were happy! What’s not to love about that?!
#2 The World’s Second Biggest Food Exporter
Yep, a country so small you can drive through it from its Northern- to its Southern-tip (the largest distance) in just about two hours if you don’t hit any heavy traffic. Somehow the Dutch still manage to crank out enough food to “Feed the World” with so little space!
In comparison, the US is the largest food exporter, it’s also a mere 230(!) times bigger than Holland. Can you imagine that medal ceremony? On the highest block stands a buff American guy (or girl!) waving an even bigger flag – next to them stands nothing but a tiny little Dutch flag, on a toothpick, that gently waves back and forth. That little flag is being held by a stubborn, but very happy, little ant – that’s Holland for you!
The Dutch have built their own little agricultural powerhouse, no bigger than Maryland, upon some of the most fertile soils in the world, carefully divided into countless farm plots and all of them are conspicuously irrigated by means of the typical Dutch ‘polders’. Another great help for the Dutch are their high-tech green houses, some stretching endlessly along the horizon, which has allowed clever growers to still bring in (semi-)tropical fruits that would otherwise never grow in Holland’s temperate but turbulent climate.
For what it’s worth, the Dutch are also trying to improve upon the difficulties of growing so much food, for example the authorities are trying to both shrink the (massive) amounts of livestock the country holds and to make their presence cleaner for the environment and more enjoyable for the animals themselves. The Netherlands has such a large amount of livestock that the total Dutch population is outpopulated – sometimes many times – by just about every category of livestock!
Regardless, the Dutch are proud of their achievement and agriculture is still an important part of the Dutch economy and technological advance will almost certainly hit early in the Dutch agricultural sector.
Be sure to try delicious Dutch vegetables such as Asparagus!
#3 Lowest Rate of Teen Pregnancies in the EU – Abstinence is Not Key.
You know how it goes, “If you don’t want babies, don’t have sex!”, “If kids are exposed to sex ed, they’ll want to have sex and get pregnant!” – well, if there’s one country proving the world wrong in that regard, it’s the Netherlands!
The Dutch don’t believe in forbidding things, or keeping things secret and hushed up, in little Holland it’s all out in the open. The Netherlands has been giving teens, even children, sex education for decades – giving them a heads up about what it’s all about and what the risks are. No, don’t worry – they’re not showing them porn!
But I do remember one of my elementary school teachers suspiciously having his back turned to class while he put something on the school board. When he stepped away, with a big grin on his face, it was a condom duck taped to the board! Hilarity and excitement ensued among our twelve years old selves – and we actually learned about the importance of being safe, being sure and how to say “No” and most importantly: What the risks were. And guess what? None of us felt ‘weird’ or awkward, we simply accepted the facts as they were given to us.
Coming home, your parents would laugh at your exciting story and tell you that if you ever had any questions, they’d be around! We had more sex-ed classes in high school, even a visit from the Rutgers Foundation – set up in the 70’s to spread awareness of anti-conception – who gave us a clear understanding of what was going on with us internally and externally. And though we had a good laugh or two, we became even more aware that even though sex was fun, it could come with a price tag. One that screams, cries, vomits and poops…
The point is that the Dutch have proven that sex education and an open attitude help young men and women understand things ahead of ‘experimenting’ without any guidance – teens try things out because they can. If you give them a heads up about matters, you’ll be surprised how many of them do listen! If it works for Holland, don’t you think it’d work elsewhere too?
#4 Growing Tall – Dutch Men Largest in the World.
Do you like tall men? Welcome to Holland! Where men grow to astounding heights! Yours truly stands less than an inch shy of six feet tall which actually makes me just below average in the Netherlands! In fact, some of my college buddies were so tall, I only reached to their shoulder! Yes, really – and it’s not an uncommon sight in the streets of Dutch cities to meet men, and the occasional woman, of such height.
The reason behind Dutch length isn’t just being genetically lucky, it’s all about food and good health. The Dutch have been able to provide themselves, and especially their youngens, with a proper diet, a healthy environment and great access to medical care.
Other then a short, but harsh, Hunger Winter after WWII, the country has persistently become healthier and focused on trying to improve things for each successive generation just a little. With success, the Dutch have gained 20 centimeters (8 inch) of the last century and a half!
The Dutch are known for drinking milk, which sucks for those of us who are lactose-intolerant, but it has helped spur those Dutch bones to grow and strengthen like few others in the world. Even if you are lactose-intolerant, if you have Dutch genes you’re still likely to be lucky enough to inherit some of that growth capacity from previous, recent generations. Unless you want to be short of course, then no…
Truth be told, it’s not all milk and nutrition of course, like most people the Dutch too are easily attracted to tall counterparts. Tall (usually) means healthy, and healthy meant better fertility – and as such tall people reproduced easily and wide and have taken over most of the Dutch population.
Likewise, Dutch health care is excellent and Holland has been at the forefront with vaccinations and other medical programs to banish such terrible diseases as Polio and Tuberculosis – all which has helped grow a healthier, taller populace.
#5 More Bikes per Capita Than Any Other European Country!
You like bikes? The ones with the peddles and the exercise? If the answer is yes, you came to the right place! The Netherlands has almost as many bikes as it has people. That’s no joke. In fact, many of us own multiple bikes, there’s one of them in the shed outside and two parked on the car port of my house. One for me, one for my mom, and one for a friend from Spain.
The Dutch like to cycle, really like to cycle, especially in urban areas many of the locals prefer using their bike over their car because it gets them there faster than gridlock on the A10 Ring Amsterdam or the A13 Rotterdam-The Hague.
In 2017 68% of Work- and School-Traffic in Amsterdam is by bike! It counts for 36% of all forms of traffic in the city. Of course it helps that Amsterdam, and almost all cities and towns in the country, are extremely ‘bike friendly’ – you have your own lanes, you often have right of passage, you can rent them, you have parking accommodations and if something went wrong with your bike, there’s a pretty good chance a fellow cyclist will show up and help you with that flat tire or broken light if possible.
Another added benefit is that cycling is great exercise, which is one of the secrets to the Dutch being relatively slender and healthy. You will see Dutch toddlers ride bikes with relative ease before they can even walk properly – the Dutch are, so to speak, born with a bike between their legs.
One warning though, please be careful in the big cities when cycling there as a tourist, the Dutch are experts at cycling and the other traffic expects them to be – there’s a lot of accidents involving inexperienced tourists on bikes, please don’t get hurt!
#6 The World’s Best Water Management Systems.
You probably figured there’s some dark secret behind the Dutch keeping all that water out, didn’t you? Well – it’s not as dark as you might think, even though we forged a deal with the devil, but it has cost us some real effort.
The Dutch have fought, with success, against the rivers, the lakes and the seas for centuries – using their iconic windmills as pumps to clear the area and re-shaping entire rivers, even part of the sea to make space. The Netherlands, largely, is below sea level – both because the Dutch directly build new lands from the sea but also because of digging out the many layers of ‘peat’ from the soils that was necessary for people to make it through the cold winters.
As a result the country suffered many floodings and loss of life, as recent as 1953 a major amount of dikes gave way during a super storm in the province of Zeeland, taking 2000 lives with it.
After this great catastrophe the Dutch, stubborn and steadfast as always, decided to turn the tides once and for all – quite literally in this case. They began construction on the world’s biggest, most advanced water management system known to mankind: the Delta Works.
The Delta Works are an almost endless collection of dikes, water locks, bridges and storm barriers that interconnect across the Zeeland/Zuid-Holland region. They are build to withstand storms and waves currently unseen in history – but with the rising seas because of climate change the Dutch are already planning on further improvements.
The Delta Works are considered one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Modern World’ by Quest magazine and the American Society of Civil Engineers.
There are also complex water management systems in the harbor of Rotterdam, intricate canals and water locks around Amsterdam and, of course, the ‘Afsluitdijk‘-causeway closed off the ‘Zuiderzee’ (Southern Sea) from the North-Sea and turned it into one of Europe’s largest in-land lakes and connected Noord-Holland province to Friesland for the first time.
Today the Dutch export their water management knowledge around the globe – if you ever visit the site of major water management projects around the world you are more than likely to bump into Dutch engineers at the scene, or find companies working on the project with Dutch names and histories. Currently Dutch companies are involved in such projects in Miami, Florida; Djakarta, Indonesia; Dubai, UAE and beautiful Venice, Italy is also hoping to protect its historic center with the help of their European friends.
So, if you have trouble with water, call a Dutchman! Or just put your finger in the dyke. Just your finger though, nothing else – don’t be a pervert…
#7 The Best Non-Native English Speakers on the Globe.
“Yes, but, also! That is also a ting I can do, also!” – Okay, sure, it’s not always the most easy accent on the ears but overall the Dutch speak their English very well and are almost always capable of understanding what you are trying to get across – that is, if you speak it properly too.
The Dutch also enjoy speaking the language, which can be very frustrating to newcomers who are trying to learn the local language. When a Dutchman capable of speaking English notices as much as a hint of an accent in your ‘finest Dutch’ many of them will automatically switch to English and will be reluctant to speak Dutch to you. Too much of a fuzz…
English is also spoken at most important places, such as higher educational institutes and there’s always people around capable of proper conversation in English in hospitals, police stations, city halls and public transportation facilities. Of course that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn Dutch, for an advancing career it’s vital and of course – friendships grow tighter if you can converse in the native tongue.
Here’s some Dutch for you:
To be fair, the Dutch do have a bit of an edge regarding the language. Not only have the Dutch and British dealt with each other, for better and worse, since forever with only the tiniest slither of water in between but the two also share a common history.
Dutch, English and German all belong to the same branch of languages “West-Germanic”, which originates from the root “Germanic”, and Dutch being in between Germand and the British isles as a result is actually quite close to English.
In fact, Dutch is the closest popularly spoken extant language to English in the world – in other words, apart from actual English itself, Dutch is the closest thing to it. There is Frissian however which is even closer related, also spoken in the Netherlands, but only has a few hundred thousand speakers in limited regions. Dutch however is spoken by 18 million Dutchmen and millions of Flemish in Belgium.
So, despite the fact that people like Louis van Gaal and others occasionally embarrass Holland on a nationwide scale with their English ability (or lack thereof), you should do fine with it in Holland. Above all the Dutch, curious and tolerant by nature, are almost always happy to figure out a way to communicate with you – whether your English is perfect or not.