15 things I love about the Netherlands

It has been four months since I have moved to the Netherlands and it has been such a wonderful ride. I’ve had the blog to keep me busy, Erwin to keep me warm, and technology to keep me connected to my family and friends. I have never lived outside of Lebanon for more than a month, so this part of life now is all about discoveries: a new culture, language, food, climate, people, friends, places….and most importantly comes the discovery of self through these new challenges.

Let’s just say I have been blessed, after all it is not like I have moved to hell on earth. On the contrary, I have been living for the past four months in one of the happiest nations on this planet. It is hard not to fall in love with the Netherlands.

Here are my 15 reasons on why I love it so very much.

My husband

I know he is not a thing, but I cannot help myself. He is the reason I moved to the Netherlands, he is my home whatever that home is.

1- Bicycles

“We arent cyclistes, we are Dutch”. As you all should know, the Netherlands is the biking nation. And it is not just in Amsterdam. Every city, every town, every block or street has people riding their bikes all peacefully and happily weather it is 0 degrees or 40!

Dutch bikes

Even before they walk, Dutch children are engaged in a world of cycling. As babies or toddlers they are travel in special seats on cargo bikes. The Dutch tend to cycle without wearing any helmets because they are protected by the well designed infrastructure and  cycle-centric rules. Wearing a helmet while cycling means two things in the Netherlands; either you are a tourist, or a professional cycliste.

Bicycles are used to transport children to schools, pets, groceries, and even home furniture.

Only in the Netherlands
Photo credit goes to Peter Eijking


2-Dykes

Sunsets by the dikes

Those Dutch dykes represent the power to overcome your demons…at least for me.

The Netherland’s deadliest enemy is water and has always been. Two third of its area is vulnerable to flooding. In fact, about 2000 years ago, most of the Netherlands was covered by extensive peat swamps. Despite many notorious floods which changed the contours of the Netherlands, the current sea defences are stronger than ever.The Dutch solution to water was to live with it and not fight it ***Very wise don’t you think***.

Dykes were built around lakes and they were given the name polders. For a polder to be made dry enough for framing or building they had to be drained of water. The earliest pumps were connected to windmills and driven by the wind. As more and more lands were added to the Netherlands through polders more and more windmills were needed. Soon the Netherlands became known as the land of windmills.

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3-Windmills

Windmills

The windmills were built in the 1400’s and though they look pretty scenic, they are actually the symbol of a serious life and death battle that has stormed the Netherlands. It is the emblem of this eternal fight between the Dutch and their lands against the sea.

4- Tulips

So windmills and tulips are the most iconic Dutch emblems. But did you know that Tulips came from Turkey (The Ottoman Empire)?

The Turkish name for the tulips was lale, but another Turkish word for it was , dubland or “turban” . It is the origin of the English name of the flower because of it’s shape which looks like the Ottoman Sultan turban.4481753125_ace0a13122.jpg

Although they came from Turkey, the tulip has become the symbol of the Netherlands and are cultivated in great fields of beautiful color, and tulip festivals flourish throughout the country in the spring.

Tulip season is the period from January until the end of April/May  in which most tulip varieties are available at the florists, supermarkets, flower stands and great fields and parks (e.g: Keukenhof).

Tulip season is a great reason and time to visit the Netherlands.

Tulip fields

The Dutch people took their love of tulips abroad when they settled, and tulip festivals are now found in New York (originally New Amsterdam) and Holland, Michigan, where the connection to their Dutch roots is very strong.

 5-English speakers

Dutch is not the easiest language on Earth, and although I have officially started to learn it, it still doesn’t make my life easier. What actually does is that most Dutch speak English pretty well and as soon as they notice that I am struggling with my newly learned few Dutch words, they automatically switch to English. Magical solution..Thank you!

6-Pet Friendly

Most families in the Netherlands own at least a dog, including us.

Pug
Our Hooch

Dogs must be registered at the local town hall (gemeente) and an annual tax must be paid to the tax office (Belastingdienst).

In return, small dog parks are built for them to do whatever they need to do.

In fact, the Netherlands is also the only country in the world that has a political party aimed at improving animal well being. They actually have seats in parliament.The positive attitude towards pets sometimes goes as far as pets being welcomed, whereas small children are less accepted.

Dogs of any size are allowed on the public transportation system including trams, metro, busses and trains. Dogs are allowed for free on all types of transportation except for trains which charge a 3 euro dog day ticket fee.

7-Dutch people are happy people

The Netherlands rank fourth on a list of the World’s most contended nations. Analysis has shown that the real reason behind this happiness is less intensive work time schedule compared to other Western nations. In fact, The Economist reports that more than half of the Dutch workers are employed part-time (26.8% of men and 76.6% of women) and work less than 36 hours per week.

Besides that, a recent law was passed guaranteeing both men and women the right to request that a job have relaxed hours. Since then, the  so-called “daddy day”(one day a week to tend to home responsibilities) has become more widespread.  Another 9% of men fill a full time schedule into four days workdays.

As for the Dutch children, they have been rated the most fortunate children in Europe and the happiest. Their parents go out of their ways to please them, and teachers expect less of them than some of their European counterparts.

After all, happy adults raise happy children.

8-Beers

Heineken might be the Netherland’s most popular export beer, and Mr Freddy  Heineken might be one of the most iconic Dutch Celebrities, but some of the best beers can be found at smaller craft breweries not only in Amsterdam but all over the country.

Click here to check out where you can get some of those delicious beers. I will add to this list one called Oersoep which I have previously mentioned in another article.

9-The three kisses custom

I come from a country where a salutation kiss comes by three. It gets confusing to me when in different countries, some salutation kisses are one, others are two, others are none…. except in the Netherlands they are three as well. Thank God, no awkward moments there!

10-The canals

Amsterdam canals

I have previously mentioned in a different post that I love canals cities including Amsterdam of course. Except when it comes to the Netherlands, canals are not exclusive to Amsterdam city.

You can find here a list of a few more Dutch cities famous for their canals. And you can see below a few others in pictures.

dutch canals

11-Chocolate & Peanut Butter for  breakfast

and Pancakes for dinners: 

As mentioned above, Dutch people are one of the happiest on Earth. It might be the work conditions as analysed by the Economist. I do agree that they are the happiest, but I believe the real cause of their joy is food related: the Dutch have chocolate (Hagelslag) and peanut butter (Pindakaas) for breakfast and Pancakes (Pannekoeken) for dinner. Not everyday, but hey if that is not happyland, I don’t know what is.

 12- Christmas comes once a year, except if you live in the Netherlands.

In fact, the Dutch festive season officially starts with the arrival of Sinterklaas and his legion of Zwarte Piet helpers in mid-November. He arrives by boat from Spain to a different Dutch city every year in an event broadcasted live on television.

Sinterklaas

It’s always time for selfies

 Despite the arrival of Sinterklaas earlier in the month, a second bearded man, also dressed in red, makes his way to the Netherlands on Christmas Eve. ****double the fun*****

It’s the country to be jolly, lala lala lala lala!

13-Kaas aka Cheese

Whether it is for breakfast, lunch or dinner, at a picnic,  in a sandwich, in cubes, fried in a croquette, as a snack, with coriander or cumin, anytime of the day is a good time to have those Dutch delicious cheeses.

Enough said, they had me at cheese!

14- Drop or liquorice 

The Netherlands has the highest consumption of liquorice in the world, with each person eating more than 2000 grams per year! Dutchies truly love their liquorice or drop as it is known in the Netherlands.

I always have been a big fan of liquorice. I’ve even made a habit of having some before drinking water to induce some flavor to the H2O.

Although very different from the usual liquorice, I am shocked when I hear stories of non Dutchies trying it for the first time and finding it “disgusting”.

To each his own. I can only talk about myself here and I must confess, I am not  Dutch but I love love love love those drops… even the salty ones!