Joey: Uh... Well, the Pennsylvania Dutch come from Pennsylvania...
Chandler: And the other Dutch? They come from somewhere near the Netherlands, right?
Joey: Nice try. See, the Netherlands is this make-believe place where Peter Pan and Tinkerbell come from.
Ross: Enough with the geography for the insane!
The Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland) is a country in Western Europe. It's famous for not only being flat, but in large part below sea level. It's also the country of cheese (Gouda, Edam), Delftware, windmills, tulips, clogs, some of the greatest painters the world has ever known, arguably the nerdiest hypnotist the world has ever known, blow-up dolls and cannabis.
Although the country's name is plural in many languages, the Dutch name for it is simply "Nederland", which would translate to "Netherland". "The Kingdom of the Netherlands", plural, consists of Aruba, Curaçao, the Netherlands, and Sint Maarten. Holland actually is the name of only two of its provinces (North Holland and South Holland), but is often used casually to refer to the entire Netherlands country, even by many Dutch people, as well as being the correct short form and de facto name for the country in the UK and in Holland/the Netherlands itself. The UK may be stuck in their ways, or getting revenge for many other countries having their official name listed as some translation of only England.
The country has engaged in a considerable amount of sea reclamation during the last few centuries (spawning the joke that "God made the world, but the Dutch made the Netherlands"), to the point that when QI asked "what is the largest man-made structure on Earth" serious consideration was given to accepting "the Netherlands" as the correct answer.
Let's just get it out of the way: most people's idea of the country is that it's a big giant Freestate Amsterdam, where everything is legal. This is far from true (the Netherlands in fact has its own "Bible Belt"), but the Netherlands is very liberal compared to most other countries. To sum up:
Things that are legal in the Netherlands:
- Buying small quantities of marijuana from licensed stores, which are not allowed to sell or serve alcohol. Consuming marijuana is legal in private.
- Abortion. Not a very controversial topic either, though more controversial than gay marriage (see below).
- Euthanasia, kind of. It's only legal in cases of terminal illness and when the patient is conscious and sound of mind to give consent.
- Gay marriage. In fact, it's the first country that legalized it, and there are no legal differences between gay and straight marriages. It should also be noted that this is not a politically controversial issue. Although some religious political parties are formally opposed to it, it's rarely if ever brought up in debate.
- Sunbathing topless. Most beaches additionally have a nudist section.
- Media is rated for sex, violence, swearing etc. and 16+ can't be shown on television before 10 PM note , but Kijkwijzer tends to rate milder in general against sex and nudity, compared to the MPAA in the U.S.A.
- Alcohol is legal to buy or consume for persons of 18 years and over. Supermarkets can sell beer (which, before you ask, isn't only Heineken), wine and port, but not strong liquor like vodka or whiskey. The official policy is that any person "looking to be under 30 years of age" has to show ID at supermarket check-out lanes when buying alcohol, and this is being more strongly enforced lately since government uses undercover underage(-looking) people as "bait" to check if supermarkets and bars adhere to this rule, and heavily fines them if they don't.
- The age of consent is 16. Sex education usually starts in elementary school (it depends on the school), and is formally taught around age 13 in high school biology class. It usually is what would in the U.S. be called "comprehensive" sex education as opposed to "abstinence-based"—except in those schools that have an explicit conservative-Protestant identity (yes, the Netherlands does have a Bible Belt).
Things that are prohibited in the Netherlands:
- Growing or selling large quantities (> 5 plants) of marijuananote . Please don't ask how the coffeeshops get their supply.
- Creating or selling most other drugs. As of 2009, magic mushrooms are illegal, however truffles are not.
- Consuming alcohol or drugs on the street, or even visibly holding an open can of beer. (This is, of course, fairly normal in most countries; any American who hasn't heard of someone getting a civil infraction or misdemeanor for "open intox" probably isn't paying attention.)
- Carrying any kind of weapon (not just guns, but also knives, clubs and fake guns) in public.
There's also a gray zone: things which are officially not allowed but tolerated. The Dutch word is "gedogen". The marijuana sales technically fall under this. The government doesn't ask where the coffeeshops get their nugs either, in other words.
The claim that "Everybody in the Netherlands speaks English" is very accurate. This is mainly because the Dutch and English languages have similar grammatical and word structure (as both English and Dutch are from the Germanic language familynote ) and the fact that early education requires children to learn English, and English is a mandatory subject until high school graduationnote . Two other foreign languages, usually German and French though in some schools Spanish, Chinese or Arabic are options too, are required to be taken for at least 2 years in high school and optionally for up to 6 years - which makes the Netherlands one of the most polyglot countries in Europenote . Latin and classical Greek are included for students that are at the top tier of the Dutch school system. At Universities / Colleges, Dutch is the standard for "Bachelor" level but English is required by law at "Master" level University for the lectures to given in, and assignments to be written in (probably Justified because University Master programmes typically have a lot of foreign students). English serves as a de facto secondary language in the Netherlands, with Dutch people regularly using English words in otherwise Dutch sentencesnote . Fluency is probably helped by the fact that on TV and in movies subtitling is generally preferred over dubbing, regardless of a work's original language. Dubbing a work into Dutch is usually reserved for small kids (preschoolers)' media, though as of late more Video Games are using dubbing as well.
The Low Countries, an area that's roughly the modern Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, were originally a bunch of counties, duchies and other statelets within the Holy Roman Empire. They were (more or less) united into a single polity by the dukes of Burgundy and emperor Charles V (who was born in Flanders and was a native Dutch speaker, no less). A few decades later, Charles abdicated and the Low Countries fell into the hands of his son Philip II, who succeeded his father as the king of Spain, making the Low Countries part of the Spanish kingdom.
Spanish rule wasn't overly popular in the Low Countries. The problems and political issues in the Low Countries were generally quite different from those in Spain (something which the Spanish king didn't always realize...) and the fiercely Catholic Spanish had little tolerance for Protestantism, which was quite popular in the Low Countries. The popularity of iconoclasm among said Protestants didn't really improve Philip's opinion of them either. And, in an attempt to finance the many wars they were fighting at the time against enemies like England, France and the Ottoman Empire, the Spanish decided that it would be a good idea to impose a few more taxes in the rich Low Countries.
...which didn't exactly work out. The old stereotype of the inhumanly greedy Dutchman came from somewhere, and the particularly notorious ten percent income tax known as the "tiende penning" was every bit as much of a reason to rebel against the king as the persecution of Protestants. This all led to "The Eighty Years' War" (1568-1648; unlike most wars with names along this line it actually lasted the specified number of years), a complex series of conflicts, complete with a twelve year armistice, that's also known as the Dutch Revolt and Dutch War of Independence. The Dutch nobles and burghers ended up proclaiming their independence in 1581, resulting in the Republic of the United Provinces, a.k.a. the Dutch Republic. And in spite of the fact that over half of the provinces either remained loyal to the Spanish Crown (the members of the Union of Atrecht) or were reconquered by the Spanish (like the county of Flanders, and particularly the city of Antwerp), the Republic still managed to remain an economic powerhouse and develop into a naval power capable of threatening Spanish and Portuguese fleets and colonies as far away as South America and Indonesia. They were also heavily involved in the Slave Trade, and indeed at one point was the global leader until being surpassed by the English in the 1700s. Much like England and France, slavery was banned within the Netherlands but enforced in the colonies and it existed there until 1863, long after its cessation by England and France, and around the time of The American Civil War.
The war ended in 1648, when Spain officially recognized the Republic's independence and renounced its claims on the northern provinces. At the same time, they also officially left the Holy Roman Empire. But by that time, the British had already become accustomed to call their inhabitants "Dutch". This word, from "diet" ("people"), originally applied to the inhabitants of the entire Holy Roman Empire north of the Alps. In modern Dutch, however, it's never used by the Dutch to describe themselves; the word "Duits" can only mean "German" (compare the German word for "German": "Deutsch".)
The Dutch Republic was an interesting beast. Nominally a loose confederation of quasi-independent states, it was in practice dominated by Holland. To further complicate matters, although each province was in theory free to appoint anyone "stadtholder" (commander of its armed forces), in practice every province gave the position to the head of the House of Orange-Nassau. As a result, the Princes of Orange (from French lineage) were generally accorded quasi-royal status by the monarchies of Europe, which is why William III of Orange was judged to be an acceptable husband (and co-ruler) for Mary II of England (and, not incidentally, that his father was considered an acceptable husband for an English princess; yeah, William and Mary were first cousins). The structure of the United Provinces also had an impact on later federalist political theory: the founders of The United States looked to the Dutch Republic as a model, basing the Articles of Confederation on it: the Confederation Congress (one state, one vote) was modeled on the Dutch States-General, as was the practice of having some lands administered directly by the federal legislature (in the Netherlands these were called Generality Lands; in the US, Territories). As it happened, the first part only really worked in the Netherlands because of Holland's domination over the other provinces, and was quickly dropped (albeit modified in the form of the Senate), but the territorial system worked out rather well and was retained. Both of these innovations, with modifications, later spread to other federal regimes (e.g. Canada, Australia, Mexico, and India).
As for the southern provinces, also known as the Southern Netherlands, they remained under Spanish control for a few decades more, after which they were inherited by the Austrian branch of the house of Habsburg. (To further complicate matters, in the 18th century it was very common to refer to the Spanish, later Austrian Netherlands as simply "the Netherlands", while the Republic of the United Provinces was often shortened to "Holland".) After about 80 years of Austrian rule, they were conquered by Revolutionary France in 1794, which also conquered the Dutch Republic a few months later. The Austrian Netherlands and the Bishopric of Liège were incorporated into the French Republic, while in the north the House of Orange was deposed and driven into exile and in 1795 the former Republic of the United Provinces became the Batavian Republic, so named after a Germanic tribe that had inhabited the area in the days of the Roman Empire.
Then Napoleon Bonaparte tried to set up a puppet state called the "Kingdom of Holland" (which was technically the first Dutch kingdom), but that didn't really work out the way he wanted (for one thing, his appointed stooge, brother Louis, took Dutch interests to heart over Napoleon's, also helped with his own money and hands at the gunpowder disaster in Leiden), so he eventually just put an end to the kingdom and made the Netherlands part of the French Empire.
After the final defeat of Napoleon and the end of the first French Empire, Great Britain and Prussia decided that there should be a strong, independent country on the northern border of France. Prussia wanted to incorporate the new Dutch state into the German Confederation, but the Dutch and the British didn't really like that idea, so they eventually agreed to unify the northern and southern Netherlands into the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, with only Luxembourg (which then consisted of the later grand duchy as well as the Belgian province of the same name) becoming part of the German Confederation.
This arrangement worked for about a decade, but it became painfully obvious that the northern and southern Netherlands had grown apart since the Eighty Years' War. A lot.
Mainly thanks to religious differences between the Protestant north and the Catholic south, king William I's authoritarian reign and stubborn unwillingness to accept criticism, and the fact that the primarily French-speaking citizenry of the south was underrepresented in the kingdom's government, a revolution broke out in the south - the Belgian Revolution, which resulted in the formation of the kingdom of Belgium and the grand duchy of Luxembourg.
Since the fall of Napoleon's empire, the Dutch royal house has been the house of Orange-Nassau, and the colour orange is strongly connected with the Netherlands. Dutch sports teams play in orange, and the Dutch flag was originally orange, white and blue. The orange was changed to red because that's what the orange turned to after a few years—or at sea, a few months. After seeing a stadium full of Dutch football fans wearing orange kit while they wave red, white and blue flags, your eyes may never be quite the same again.
It stayed out of World War I (but had to deal with about one million Belgian refugees fleeing the German invasion), and was invaded by Germany in World War II (and its Indonesian colonies were invaded by the Japanese). Over 100,000 Jews were sent to the camps, Anne Frank among them.
The Netherlands today is a democratic constitutional monarchy. It used to be famous for a political system called "consociationalism", where the different religious and social groups of the country each had a veto over national policy, but this worked so well, the nation no longer needs it; this didn't keep the Dutch political scientist Arend Lijphart from advocating the implementation of similar systems in other conflict-torn countries (with varying degrees of success). Its former prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende resembled Harry Potter, except for completely lacking the ability to get out of scrapes (besides his bout with necrotizing fasciits, which he thankfully survived).
The Netherlands used to have a large colonial empire, with the largest and most notable colony being the Dutch East Indies, i.e. Indonesia. Another very important one, even though it was lost to the British in the Wars of the French Revolution, was the Cape Colony in South Africa. To this day more people speak Dutch-derived Afrikaans as their first or second language in the Republic of South Africa than any other of the eleven official languages of that country.
There is a strange and tangential association where Holland shaped the culture and politics of Northern Ireland. When Great Britain ran out of home-grown royalty with a plausible claim to the throne in the late 1600's, the Dutch prince William was invited to become King of England. The new King William of the House of Orange had to fight a war in Ireland to assert his claim to kingship there. In what was at least part a religious war with the Catholic pretenders, the Stuarts, Prince William of Orange fought a decisive battle at Boyne Water. His men wore orange sashes in the Dutch national colour to distinguish themselves, whilst the orange-sashed William himself rode an iconic white horse. to this day Prince William on his white horse is acclaimed as saviour of Protestant Ireland and the orange sash is still proudly worn on parades as a mark of Ulster Protestant identity. Even the national flag of the Republic of Ireland acknowledges the country also has a Protestant identity - one third of the tricolour is Dutch Orange.
Large ethnic groups in the Netherlands from the former colonies are Indonesians (for a large part Ambonese), Chinese and Surinams (which consists of descendants of the people who were employed in the colony there).
The Ambonese sided with the Dutch government during the "Politionele Acties" (the euphemism for the Indonesian war of independence) in return for an independent state. The resulting treatment by the government resulted in protests by the Ambonese youth in the 60s and 70s, culminating in several hostage situations. This is still a lingering sore spot among the older generations, the younger people are quite happy to live here and only support the retaking of Ambon in spirit.
The Chinese are a mixed bag of descendants of people who got stuck here during the depression in the 1930s, former workers from the colonies, people who sought political asylum and people who came here seeking their fortune. They are the "great unknowns" despite being here for over 70 years now and having set up a lot of successful businesses. Their number is actually unknown due to their insular nature.
The Surinam people are mostly stereotyped as people from African descent, which is true for the most part, but there's also other ethnic groups. Hindus, Chinese workers and Javanese People were also a common sight in the colony and some of them came over when the colony gained its independence. There is additionally a large group of Indonesian people that has lived in the Netherlands for generations, most prominently in The Hague.
A strong Jewish subculture first appeared in Amsterdam in the 1600's, as Holland was one of the first European nations to openly welcome people of different religions, particularly Portuguese Jews and French Huguenots. The modern Dutch Jewish culture can mostly be found in Amsterdam, with Rotterdam as a close second.
The present-day Netherlands has a large Muslim population, though the majority of them are the descendants of Turkish and Moroccan guest workers rather than immigrants from the former colonies. Religious and social tensions are almost exclusively focused on Turkish and Moroccan labour immigrants, who were supposed to just stay a few years and help the ailing textile industry. It was originally felt that they didn't need to learn the language, since that would only encourage them to stay. Nowadays, the heavy industries are gone but the low-education labour immigrants are still there.
The Netherlands also has a "homegrown" linguistic minority in the Province of Frisia (also called West Frisia by foreignersnote because East and North Frisia are in Germany). Frisian, which is spoken there and on the North Sea coast and islands of Schleswig-Holstein, is the language most closely related to (Old) English.
A founding member of The European Union and NATO, it is also home to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the latter also being the origin of the famous Hague Conventions.
Amsterdam is the largest city and capital. However, the King lives in The Hague, Parliament meets in The Hague, the courts and Embassies are also all in The Hague. Rotterdam houses the largest port of Europe and is therefore an important center of commerce in the Netherlands. These cities, together with Utrecht and smaller towns in between, form a large urban area called the Randstad. It has more than 7 million inhabitants.
As of April 30, 2013, The Netherlands' monarch is King Willem-Alexander.
Culinary Traditions and Influence
Foods / dishes typically or originally from the Netherlands, some of which have also become known outside of the Netherlands:
- Stroopwafels, literally syrup waffles, two layers of waffle with syrup in between. Not to be confused with Belgian waffles (or what in the U.S. is simply called "waffle"), that have entirely different structure and ingredients, and lack inside syrup. Stroopwafels have become kind of a well-known export product, being sold in other countries. In the Netherlands, they're also sold warm and freshly-baked on the street.
- Pancakes, entirely different than the American ones (much thinner, much larger (to the point they ususally are larger than a pizza is), and less sweet-tasting). They're served in joints called Pannekoekenhuis (litt. "Pancake House"), which often offer at least 100 different varieties of them - the plain way for them to be served is only with either powdered sugar or with syrup, but they can be ordered with virtually anything, from apple slices to ham and / or cheese or any meat and / or vegetable you'd like.
- A snackbar is a fast-food take-out joint serving, mostly, fries note with either croquettes or frikandel. Almost ironically, croquettes are actually French in origin, contrary to what many Dutch people themselves are aware of.
- Kale, before becoming a global food rage in the 21st century, has been a staple of Dutch winter dishes for centuries. Traditionally, cooked with potatoes which are then thoroughly mashed and mixed with it, and then served with a sausage (rookworst).
- The aforementioned rookworst is traditionally served either with the kale-potato-mash (if it's a dinner), or within a bun similarly like a hot-dog is (if it's lunch or a snack).
- Erwtensoep or, colloquially, snert is (green-)split-pea soup. It's very thick, made from green split peas, celeriac, potatoes and small pieces of the aforementioned rookworst again. It's a staple of winter cuisine and especially goes together with cold weather and skating.
- Beschuit is rusk - a dry biscuit, round of ca. 3 inch diameter, that can be eaten as an alternative to bread. It stems from the origin of the Netherlands as a sea-faring country, as they used to be taken on ships centuries ago, since they can be conserved virtually eternally.
- Muisjes (litt.: "little mice", because their shape resembles those) are aniseeds covered in a sugar coating. Eaten as a sweet topping on buttered bread or on the aforementioned beschuit / rusk. Beschuit met muisjes, rusk with muisjes, is traditionally eaten when a baby is born by the new parents with visitors for the baby (pink-and-white muisjes for a baby girl, blue-and-white muisjes for a baby boy).
- Regarding alcoholic drinks: beer is popular; the most popular brands are Heineken and Grolsch - both successful export products, of course. Though in the 2010's, the Dutch tend to consume more and more Belgian beers. The de facto Dutch strong liquor is jenever - a gin made of juniper. By now old-fashioned, but still loved by old people, is advocaat - a drink of eggs and brandy that's yellow and thick and has a custard-like taste (an alcoholic version of eggnog).
- Dairy in any form is consumed a lot: cheese, milk, quark, yoghurt note .
- The most divisive and notorious taste of all: Dutch liquorice. In Dutch called "drop", it's a much more salty, much more "umami", much more flavoury, and not-sweet-at-all form of what's outside of the Netherlands known as "liquorice". It is notorious for evoking either a major Squick! / "that's disguisting!" response if one hasn't been exposed to it from about early childhood on, or a Squee! response if one has been. Though only a minority of Dutch people might be really addicted to it, many revere to it as a means to alleviate a flu or a cold.
- Agent 327
- Alfred J. Kwak
- Alles Is Liefde
- The Assault
- The Netherlands appears as a character in the manga Axis Powers Hetalia
- Bassie & Adriaan
- The Black Sheep
- A Bridge Too Far
- Diamonds Are Forever
- The Discovery Of Heaven
- Douwe Dabbert
- The parts of The Fault in Our Stars that aren't in Indianapolis
- The Flying Dutchman
- Girl with a Pearl Earring
- The last third of The Goldfinch takes place in Amsterdam
- Good Times Bad Times
- Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
- Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates
- The Human Centipede
- In the JAG, episode "People v. SecNav", they go to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
- The Flemish De Kiekeboes' albums "Kiekeboe in Carré" and "De Zes Sterren" take place in Amsterdal.
- De Lift
- Little Sophie and Lanky Flop
- Michiel de Ruyter
- One episode of NCIS focuses on Director Vance's first mission as an agent, which took place in Amsterdam. It's where he and Eli David first met and became friends.
- Ocean's Twelve includes the caper crew visiting Amsterdam. The city-setting was subverted though by the fact that prominent scenes of the movie that take place in Amsterdam Central Train Station, in reality were shot in Haarlem Train Station instead - because while Amsterdam Central Train Station looks pretty on the outside, the inside looks completely generic (at least at the time the movie was shot - it's been thoroughly renovated since) while Haarlem Train Station's interior and tracks look/(ed) majestic.
- Play The Game. Possibly the most Dutch fanfic in the world, it not only contains a lot of spoken Dutch, but also some Dutch spoken. Which makes sense- the guy who inspired that series, Nimja, is a real-life Dutch hypnotist.
- The Pluto cartoon "In Dutch" (1948)
- Soldier of Orange
- Tom Poes
- Turkish Delight
- The Flemish Urbanus album De Laatste Hollander
- Van der Valk
- The Vanishing
- Van Helsing, Dracula's enemy, is a Dutchman
- Van Kooten En De Bie: Between 1964 and 1998 the Netherlands' most famous satirical duo.
- Vet Hard
- William of Orange
- Jackie Chan's Who Am I? (1998)
The Dutch flag