Four ways the Dutch and Swedes are the same (but different)

The Dutch and the Swedes have a few things in common, but of course, they’re not quite the same.

The Dutch are often associated with eating raw herring and cycling wildly across their flat country.

Perhaps you thought the Dutch were one-of-a-kind? Let me tell you about four ways in which the Dutch and Swedes are the same, yet also different.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Population

For starters, the size of the population in both countries is quite different.

The Netherlands has 17.8 million inhabitants in an area of 41,526 km². This means that around 508 people live within 1 km². This fact makes the Netherlands one of the most densely populated countries in Europe.

netherlands-population-density-2020
Image: nerdy.maps/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Meanwhile, Sweden has a population of 10.5 million in an area of 447,435 km². This means that 25 people live within 1 km².

Sweden: Population Density, 2000
Image: SEDACMaps/Flickr/CC2.0

Though the population density of both countries is quite different, the people have some things in common.

Dutch and Swedes are neither considered taller nor shorter than each other — they’re both rather tall nations. Something else we have in common is that most of us are blonde or blue-eyed.

READ MORE | Eat your cheese: How the Dutch became ridiculously tall

And although we live in countries where it almost always rains, but we love life.🌦️

🐟 Herring

Did you think that only Dutch people love eating herring? Think again! There are absolutely more herring lovers in the world, including the Swedes.

Swedes love to eat pickled herring with herbs. They eat herring for Christmas, Easter, Midsummer and, of course, all months in between. 😋

The herring is eaten with a dark crispbread called knäckebröd, eaten with family or friends at home. It is very rare to see a Swedish person eating herring in public areas.

Hmmmm Surstromming
Hmmmm Surstromming. Image: Lapplaender/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

The Dutch prefer eating herring fresh and raw. The rawer, the better. Right? Since the Netherlands has a bigger population, they have more herring-eaters than Sweden.

The Dutch grab the raw herring by the tail, slurring it through chopped onions. The next step is to hold it upside down over their mouth and chew it all in 2-3 bites.

READ MORE | The complete guide to eating herring in the Netherlands (without traumatising yourself!)

For whatever reason, Dutchies also seem to prefer eating herring in public places, such as crowded markets.

🚲 Biking

Both Dutch and Swedes love to bike. However, we tend to have different biking routes and use different biking methods.

As you read above, the Netherlands is a small country with a big population. This, of course, means that there is less space for bikers.

READ MORE | 17 reasons why biking is king in the Netherlands

The Dutch often bike on the same road as cars, in a space roughly one metre wide. Sure, there are fietspaden, but most of the time, you’re on the same road as cars.

dutch-person-biking
For us, the Netherlands will always be the true bike capital! Image: Depositphotos

Meanwhile, Sweden has special roads just for bikers. These roads are separated from the car roads and can be up to two or three meters wide.

Compared to the Swedes, the Dutch like to bike wildly — at a really high speed and often ignoring red lights.

READ MORE | How to use your bike like a real Dutchie: from trampling pedestrians to running red lights

Sometimes Dutch bikers have more rights than actual cars. And it is considered normal to bike with many kids in the bike basket.

On the other hand, Swedes are much safer, and the majority of them prefer biking with helmets.

⚽️ Zlatan Ibrahimović

Last but not least, the Dutch and the Swedes share the almighty football player Zlatan Ibrahimović. In 1999, he debuted for the football club Malmö FF and from then on, he became an icon for Sweden.

Swedes love him both for his skills and personality. Zlatan is a self-confident fighter on the field. Some Swedes want his face to be printed on Swedish bills.

READ MORE | 11 Dutch sports that are 100% weird (but wonderful)

After Zlatan’s debut in Malmö FF, he signed to play for AFC Ajax in the Netherlands. Score! Ibrahimović was a very popular soccer player in the Netherlands, and the Dutch still love him. (Who doesn’t?!).


So there you have it population size, salty fish, biking and football fans, the same but also not the same.

What Dutch habits are similar or different to where you come from? Let us know in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2016 and was fully updated in October 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image: Fluff/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

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