If I were to ask you to think of four things that spring to mind when I mention The Netherlands (Holland), what would those four things be?
Like many countries, Holland has a variety of stereotypes that are connected to it. I’m from Scotland and much to your disappointment perhaps, I’m not ginger, I don’t play the bagpipes, I don’t like whisky (though if it was the only thing going, I might be persuaded) and I’ve only ever tried a deep fried mars bar once (promise!)
Even though those stereotypes don’t directly apply to me, I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t see where they came from. A lot of them are true to some degree (but a lot are also very untrue – we’re not all drunks and overweight).
So – back to Holland.
Four things? Were you thinking something along the lines of everyone’s tall, they wear clogs, tulips flood the land and everyone cycles?
A large part of my childhood was spent living in Holland so I can confirm that similar to Scottish stereotypes – a lot of them have truth behind them and a lot of them just really don’t!
So let’s clear a few things up:
Everyone’s tall? Actually, the Dutch have become the tallest people in the world in the last 150 years, with the average man standing in at over 6 feet (185 cm). Perhaps that’s down to their diet which is packed with iron, vitamin K and powerful antioxidants.
They all wear clogs? Contrary to popular belief, only a very small minority still wear clogs – mainly rural workers. Clogs are however a huge part of Dutch heritage and can still be bought in different shapes and sizes all throughout the country. They’re popular with tourists and serve as a great gift! When I left Holland, I received a clog which was signed by all of my classmates – granted, it’s about two foot sizes too small for me now but it’s a memorable gift that remains true to my heart.
As for Tulips? They’re not everywhere you turn but Holland is often referred to as the ‘land of tulips’ – 7 million tulips bloom annually in Keukenhof, the world’s largest flower park. It’s spectacular to witness – even those who are not fazed by flowers, will be pleasantly surprised by this immaculate display. A must-see in my eyes!
And last but not least, cycling – it’s not like everyone has swapped cars for bikes but cycling is very popular in Holland – the country boasts 25,000 miles of traffic free cycle routes. Amidst the flat landscape there are sand dunes and therefore cycling can be either leisurely or high intensity depending on what you are looking for.
Whilst reading this, you may have thought of other Dutch stereotypes – windmills, cheese, their infamous coffee shops (not to be confused with your local Starbucks) and of course the bright (red) lights of Amsterdam.
Is that all Holland is about though? A few tulips and a couple blocks of cheese? I can place hand on heart and say it most definitely isn’t! There is SO much else on offer in this beautifully scenic, friendly, and lively place.
To truly appreciate it, I would encourage you to experience it for yourself. And don’t just stick to Amsterdam, there are many other spectacular cities which are equally as enjoyable.
Photo via: PublicDomainPictures