Being short in the Netherlands: a short guide for the vertically-challenged

The Dutch are famous for being super tall, which is hard to miss when there are so many towering people around you — they even have something called Klub Lange Mensen, or Tall People’s Club.

Tips and guides about visiting the Netherlands are aplenty: where to go, what to see, and what to eat. But I have yet to see a simple guide to help short people navigate this wonderfully tiny country inhabited by tall people. 📏

It’s obviously a very serious issue that deserves our collective attention — especially my attention since I stand at a towering 5’3” (160cm). On a good day, I’m 5’3″ and 1/4. According to the World Population Review 2023, the Netherlands is still the world’s tallest nation, with the average height in the country for men being 183.78 cm, and 170.36 cm for women; true competition between them and me. 😀

I know the plight of being a short person all too well; therefore, I fancy myself an expert on the subject. So gather ’round short people, I present to you the short person’s guide to the Netherlands.

Make friends with shorter people

What better way to feel a little less short than making friends with people who you stand level with? You won’t have trouble shaking hands or seeing eye-to-eye, so to speak. Try joining expat/international hangouts where you’ll surely meet people who come from countries that aren’t as vertically blessed as the Dutch — we short people have to stick together!

Conquer your bike

Make sure you practice climbing those Dutch roadster bikes. For the inexperienced, these bikes roll with large wheels and daunting tall seats.

But there’s a way to get on that two-wheeler and ride like a pro. The trick is to position the pedal in a way where you can step on it, lift yourself up onto the seat and start pedalling. 🚲

Buying a kid’s bike (like I did) is always an option — it’s a shame-free zone here!

Short-girl-biking-in-the-Netherlands-with-blue-dress-in-Amsterdam
Conquer your bike as a short person! Image: Depositphotos

Give yourself a boost

I noticed during my time in the Netherlands that everything is placed a little higher, which makes sense — like when I realized I couldn’t reach the top shelves in a Dutch kitchen. So I suggest keeping a step ladder in your home and wearing platform or high heel shoes. 👠 Without these boosts, your legs will probably start to give out after too much standing on your toes to see through the peephole in your door.

I generally did a lot of tiptoeing and jumping up and down, like when I could only see my forehead and the top of my head in the bathroom mirror until I got an extra one. On the bright side, my legs certainly got a nice workout.

Give-yourself-a-height-boost-with-high-heels-in-the-Netherlands-woman-putting-on-heels-in-her-living-room
Why not give yourself a little height boost with some high heels? Image: Depositphotos

Exercise those neck muscles

The Dutch are people you can look up to, literally. If you’re going to socialize with the Dutch, whether it be in a relaxed, social setting or in the workplace, expect to look up to the skies pretty often. ☁

Those neck muscles are going to get a good workout, so you better practice at home. Try it in the mirror; you’ll want to practice doing this with style and elegance.

Woman-with-red-hair-massaging-her-stiff-neck-tired-from-looking-up-because-she-is-short-in-the-Netherlands
Constantly looking up as a short person when you’re talking to a tall Dutch person is tiring; massage that neck! Image: Depositphotos

Last resort

If you still find yourself fumbling with door handles or feel that your legs just can’t take any more tiptoeing, then it’s time to hop on a train and go to Belgium. 😆

Are you a short person living in this land of very, very tall people with tips to add to our guide? Tell us in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in September 2013, and was fully updated in February 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Freepik

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15 COMMENTS

  1. So funny when you told about the bathroom mirror and kitchen! Because i’m a 6.2 ft Dutch women and still i find myself bending over to see into a mirror or standing with my legs spread apart at the kitchen countertop to avoid back aches in my very own Country! 🙂 So to me it feels like, although we have the tallest people, my country doesn’t really keep us tall people in mind very often. 🙂

  2. I laughed out loud, because just about everything here is my reality. I’m not quite 5’2″ – I barely see my forehead in the bathroom mirror, the convection oven door opens over my head (this has led to some interesting moments in cooking), and I have to contort my body to wash the dishes since the counter comes up to my sternum. Even the stairs are steeper to accommodate those longer legs – walking upstairs is like scaling a mountain. I’ve started telling people that I live in the land of giants. Thanks for posting this, it was a hoot.

  3. Hahaha, this has got to be my favourite piece on DutchReview! I love it, it resonates with me like it’s nobody’s business :p
    Especially now that I’m dating a (freakishly tall) Dutch guy, I feel even smaller than normal.

  4. And bringing a stepstool into the bathroom so I don’t swing my legs while on the toilet. “Hovering” is not possible at 5feet 1.

  5. When I go to the supermarket and want something from the last shelf, I no longer care, I just shamelessly step onto the first shelf (or “in” the fridge) to reach the contents of the last 😉
    (and by “last” I meant “top” 🙂 )

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