The Netherlands is known across the world for its canals, tulip fields, windmills, red-light districts and coffee shops. While the Netherlands may be a tiny country, there are lots of things visitors (and sometimes locals) don’t know about this flat land. Here are seven facts about the Netherlands (that you might not know):
7Some of Amsterdam is built entirely on poles
Due to the soil in Amsterdam consisting of a thick layer of fen and clay, some buildings in the city are built on wooden poles that are fixed in a sandy layer that is approximately 11 meters deep. Since the old days, the houses in Amsterdam were known to have been built on wooden foundation piles that are driven deep into the clay, peat, and water until they reach the first layer of solid sand.
Even some of the trees in Vondelpark are supported on wooden piles to keep them from sinking into the marshy ground. Amazingly, the Royal Palace at Dam Square is built on no less than 13,659 wooden poles.
6More than a quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level
In addition to that quarter, 50% of its land lies less than one meter above sea level. The Schiphol airport area is actually 4.5 meters below sea level. Luckily, the Netherlands is not in a tsunami-prone part of the world and they are one of the best nations at dredging and putting up measures against flooding. There’s nothing to be scared of if you can’t swim.
5Gin was invented by the Dutch
It was not only invented by the Dutch but also introduced to the British as well. Not a lot of people know that gin was invented in the 16th century, and reportedly became a popular drink in Great Britain after William of Orange (King William III) occupied the English, Scottish and Irish thrones. A popular story for the term ‘Dutch courage’ is allegedly derived from when gin was used by Brits and the Dutch during the Thirty Years’ War.
4The Netherlands has the best engineers in the world
We mean when it comes to building and maintaining dykes. They are so good at it that an entire province in the Netherlands is known to be made up of land reclaimed from the sea. This province is called Flevoland and is largely made of land reclaimed from the Zuiderzee in the 20th century.
3The special case of the birth of Princess Margriet
In 1943, Dutch Princess Margriet was born in Canada’s Ottawa Civic Hospital, as the Dutch royal family escaped the 2nd World War in Europe. The maternity ward where she was born had to be declared an international territory so she could inherit her Dutch citizenship from her mother, Princess Juliana. Every year, to show their gratitude, the Dutch royal family sends 10,000 bulbs to Ottawa for the tulip festival.
2Amsterdam Stock Exchange is the oldest stock exchange in the world
Some people argue that the origins of stock exchanges can be traced back to Antwerp (1460), but many more consider the Amsterdam Stock Exchange to be the oldest in the world.
It was established in 1602 by the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC) which issued the first shares on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. It was the first company to issue stocks and bonds. It was renamed the Amsterdam Bourse and was the first to formally begin trading in securities.
1Why orange is the most popular colour in the Netherlands
All through history, orange has been a huge part of Dutch culture. This is because it is the colour of the Dutch Royal family. The lineage of the current dynasty (the House of Orange-Nassau) is traced back to William the Silent or Willem van Oranje (William of Orange) as he’s called in the Netherlands. The Wilhelmus (Dutch national anthem) is written in his honour.
I’m sure after reading this, you’ll definitely impress your Dutch friends with your new knowledge of the Netherlands.
Which number on the list was the most interesting for you? Tell us in the comments!
Feature Image: Damrak/Supplied
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in March, 2018 but was fully updated in December 2020 for your reading pleasure.