The Netherlands is, of course, a beautiful country. With a lot of misconceptions. I found the 35 biggest misconceptions about The Netherlands and will explain them to you. As a Dutch person, I must admit that some misconceptions about The Netherlands are more annoying than the other and some are myths. So, here’s to no more misconceptions about my beautiful country, The Netherlands.
Disclaimer: If you manage to get it wrong after this I will hunt you down.
1. ‘Dutch people smoke weed all the time’.
Ahhh, how refreshing to hear this one sentence. Not like I have never heard it before. Oh, wait. I have. Of course, there are some people who smoke weed. However, here comes the misunderstanding, because it is tolerated (not legal, keep this in mind) we don’t find it exciting. Therefore, the addiction rate is actually way lower in The Netherlands than in many other countries where weed is illegal. I, for one, have never smoked weed, or smoked in general, in my entire life. And I know many others who have never smoked weed. So no, Dutch people do not smoke weed all the time.
2. ‘Weed is legal and I can smoke it everywhere.’
This is another misunderstanding about The Netherlands. Weed is tolerated, meaning that the police can spend their time catching the bigger fish and do more important things. Having up to five grams of weed is tolerated, anything above that is illegal. Besides this, all other soft -and hard drugs are illegal. You cannot smoke weed everywhere, it is only allowed in the shops. Not even in Amsterdam, however, because many tourists in our capital city smoke outside the coffee shops it is way too much work for the police to tell all of them they are not allowed to do that.
3. ‘Dutch people are cheapskates and always go Dutch.’
We see splitting the bill as equality. If I am on a date with a guy I will feel uncomfortable if he wants to pay the entire bill. To me, it seems like he thinks that I cannot pay for myself. We favor social equality and directness, therefore it would be disrespectful to not even ask for splitting the bill. Also, about being cheapskates, my country is actually very generous as there is a lot of money going to development aid. Onto the next misconception.
4. ‘Dutch people are rude.’
For people who come from countries where people are very warm and touchy, or where they beat around the bush a lot, it can seem that way. This is definitely a misunderstanding of foreign people about people from The Netherlands, and a cultural difference. We are just really straightforward people who value honesty and hate bullshit. Beating around the bush is not popular here. If you do that, we will call you out for it. Overly friendliness is something we see as fake.
For instance, in the USA and UK, many people ask ‘how are you’ to the cab driver or anyone else that helps them. People respond with ‘I’m fine, how are you?’ This is where it gets weird to people from The Netherlands. We don’t see why you should know how we are as we don’t know you. Telling someone you’re ‘fine’ just to be polite is a bit odd when you feel like your world is about to fall apart. We only ask people how they are when we care about them. We see the ‘how are you’ part as intruding.
5. ‘All Dutch people wear clogs.’
We will wear it for you guys if you buy the clogs afterward. Some farmers still wear clogs, but not in general. However, I find them to be quite comfy but maybe that’s just me. #farmgirl
6. ‘Giethoorn is a theme park with opening times.’
Oh my god. Hell no. Seriously, it is a village. No one will just build a village in the hope tourists will enter your garden, to look through your window to see whether there are real people inside the house. Yes. This happens. Please. If you go to Giethoorn, and the rest of my country, be a nice and polite tourist. The kind of tourist that you would want to have in your own country as well. Not the intruding version, just have some damn respect. It is someone’s property you’re walking on. Get off.
7. ‘The Netherlands and Denmark are the same country.’
If you know where this funny misconception comes from please let me know in the comments below, because I have no idea. We, The Netherlands are located in Western Europe and share a border with Germany and Belgium. Denmark, on the other hand, is located in Scandinavia and borders Germany and Sweden.
8. ‘Danish and Dutch people are the same.’
I mean… We both start with a D in English so I guess you are right…
9. ‘Everyone drinks a lot of beer.’
When the sun is shining, a lot of people will drink a little in the parks or on chairs outside cafes. But in moderation. When people go out, many will take a beer as it is the cheapest beverage in the clubs. So no, we do not get drunk all the time. That is a misconception.
10. ‘Holland is the same as The Netherlands.’
There is a problem with this as even the name of our official tourism board is called Holland.com… Way to go. So it is easy to make this mistake. But no, it is not correct. Noord (North)-Holland and Zuid (South) -Holland are the names of two provinces out of the twelve that we have in The Netherlands. In many languages our country is referred to as Holland, therefore not everyone knows the correct name of our country which is The Netherlands. In general, we do not mind if you say Holland. However, keep in mind that there are ten more provinces.
11. ‘Everyone is blonde, tall and has blue eyes.’
I’m not exactly helping as I am all of those. However, we are a pretty multicultural country so it is not true. In Rotterdam for instance, we have around 170 nationalities. However, if you head to the northern parts of The Netherlands you will see many people and kids who are. I am from a small village in the North and went to the most nearby village to primary school and kindergarten. Our class photo existed out of blonde heads only.
12. ‘The main area for tulips is South of Amsterdam. Nearby Lisse and De Keukenhof.’
Wrong. It used to be there, however nowadays it is located in De Kop van Noord-Holland (the top of North Holland). Meaning, up North from Amsterdam, not South. The Southern part is touristy, the Northern part not at all. If you want to know where the tulipfields are located and where to go to in De Kop van Noord-Holland, this is an article that will help you with that.
13. ‘People in The Netherlands get euthanized without them knowing. They also wear wristbands with do not euthanize me please.’
Fuck you, Rick Santorum, I hope you will rot in hell. Because spreading lies as untrue and awful as those are just not okay. I feel not sorry for my use of language at all. You might get away with it in other countries but we, being as straightforward and direct as we are, do not put up with that bullshit of yours. This is actually really offensive. We have a strong law on euthanasia, which in my opinion is sometimes too strong, however, I’m not going to talk about that more here. The law states that the patient must suffer unbearably and the doctor must be sure that they are making an informed choice. Only a few thousand, or 2,8% of deaths, in the Netherlands are with the help of euthanasia each year.
14. ‘Hans Brinker is a national hero.’
Who even is he? If this question doesn’t say enough then the next line will. He is not a national hero. He didn’t save the country from flooding by putting his finger in a dike. I never understood where it came from, but apparently, it was written in a book. Books are not always non-fictional people.
15. ‘All Gouda and Edam cheese is produced in The Netherlands.’
Actually no. The name Gouda Holland or Edam Holland are produced in The Netherlands. This way people can recognize the real cheeses as this is a protected trademark since 2010.
16. ‘Dutch women are hard to approach.’
Only if you use bullshit. We will see right through you and don’t put up with that.
17. ‘Dutch women are easy.’
First, we are hard to approach and then we are easy. Doesn’t seem right and makes you look like a total idiot. What is true is that we are very liberal, therefore sex or anything of that sort isn’t only meant for men to enjoy but also for women.
18. ‘Dutch women don’t take care of themselves.’
Unless we wear clothes with mold on our shoulders and jeans covered with mud I think we are fine. Taking care of yourself is perceived differently in every country and therefore has a different meaning. We do not walk on high heels often, but have you ever tried walking on high heels over our streets? Do you want us to have broken ankles? Also, wearing a tight dress with high heels just isn’t comfortable. I’m also cycling to work or to the station, ain’t nobody got time for that other shit. We like being comfortable, therefore jeans and sneakers are a big thing in The Netherlands. When it comes to make-up, we like it natural. Just use your best features and enhance them a little. Nothing more needed.
19. ‘Dutch people go crazy during sports events.’
Well okay, this isn’t a misconception about The Netherlands, this is more of a fact. I have to agree. And I love it. The more orange the better.
20. ‘I went to Amsterdam and it is the same as the rest of The Netherlands.’
No. Since when are capital cities a representation for the rest of the country? That is saying that Washington DC is the same as the whole USA or that London is the same as the UK, or Jakarta as the rest of Indonesia. See what I’m trying to tell you? Great.
21. ‘I saw coffee shops everywhere in the country.’
Really? Where have you been walking around? The red light district of Amsterdam? Because in fact, you have to actually look for them to find them.
22. ‘Dutch and Deutsch are the same.’
Say this to a Dutch person and there is a big chance you end up with a broken jaw. Dutch is the English name for Nederlands. Deutsch is the German name for German. In Dutch, the word German means Duits, and Dutch Nederlands. In English, it is German and Dutch. So how can it be the same?
23. ‘Dutch people ice skate to work.’
No. We don’t ice skate to work. Or do we Katie?
24. ‘The entire country is so cute.’
That is because we only choose to show you beautiful places as the uglier parts are not really worth a visit. But, unfortunately not the entire countries exists out of gabled houses and picturesque canals.
25. ‘English is the primary language here.’
We speak Dutch as our first language in The Netherlands. English is our second. German and/or French our third or fourth. However, in other parts of The Kingdom of The Netherlands Dutch and Papiamento are the first languages (Aruba, Bonaire). On Curacao; Dutch, Papiamento, and English are the official languages. And on Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius they are both Dutch and English.
26. ‘Dutch people speak Danish.’
Where does this misconception come from? Dutch is a language, so is Danish. In The Netherlands, we speak Dutch and that is one of the countries where Dutch people live. In Denmark, they speak Danish and are called Danes or Danish.
27. ‘Everyone lives in Amsterdam.’
Sure. If you think that our country suddenly has less than one million people. Instead of 17 million.
28. ‘Tulips come from The Netherlands.’
Surprisingly no. They originate from Turkey, however, we improved them and started growing them. So nowadays the tulips are part of our identity.
29. ‘Everyone uses bikes all the time.’
It is true to some extent, but because we have one of the best public transport systems on the planet (even though we, Dutch people, always complain about it) we use trains and busses a lot. We are not going to cycle every morning and evening from the Northern part of the country to the Southern for work.
30. ‘The Netherlands is part of Scandinavia.’
Now I understand the blonde, tall and blue-eyed stereotype doesn’t really help us with this one. But we are part of Western Europe, not Scandinavia.
31. ‘The Netherlands is basically Germany.’
Oh boy. You did not. Never say this to a Dutch person. How would you feel if someone tries to rip your country and thus your identity apart? Exactly. It is pretty insulting and rude. We have our own identity, our own country, our own people, our own Kingdom, our own passport, our own language,… I can go on for hours. So. What were you saying again?
32 ‘Dutch people have no sense of humor.’
We have an excellent sense of humor if you ask me. It is just that our Dutch humor doesn’t always translate to English, which is logical as they are two different languages. However, this doesn’t mean that we do not have any sense of humor. Just look at these two videos and talk again.
33. ‘Everyone in The Netherlands is in red light districts a lot.’
No. Actually, most people like to avoid them.
34. ‘Amsterdam and The Netherlands are the same place.’
How are they the same thing? Amsterdam is a capital. It is the capital of the country The Netherlands. Amsterdam is not a country. I feel sorry for your high school teachers, but they need to be fired.
35. ‘Many people live in windmills.’
Some people live inside an old windmill, but not many people do.
35. ‘Dutch people are cold.’
We are more reserved than some other countries, yes, but it doesn’t mean we are cold. Yet it is another misconception about The Netherlands that I hear a lot. Like I said before, honesty is something we value a lot. If we give a compliment you know that we really mean it and are not saying it to be nice. And at last, we like to wait and see how a person turns out. Then we know whether we can trust them or not.
Isn’t it great how all of a sudden, your worldview has changed 180 degrees? We are not as bad over here The Netherlands as people say we are, just different. And isn’t that what traveling is all about? Exploring new cultures, meeting new people and seeing other countries where other norms and values are important. Now you know all these misconceptions about The Netherlands and can tell people the truth – or point them to this article – when they start spreading bullshit about my country.
Did I forget to explain another misunderstanding about The Netherlands, let me know in the comments below. Also don’t forget to share this article with people who have a somewhat different view of my country and think it is a Disneyland 2.0. You can also pin this blogpost so you will forever remember who taught you what The Netherlands is truly like.