HIT #8 Random facts about the Netherlands that might surprise you

‘Hang In There’ is a weekly series hosted by our Marketing & Communication intern: Hang Vu. After 2 years of studying in the Netherlands, Hang wants to share her most honest experiences with other internationals who are also living in the Netherlands generally and in Eindhoven specifically.

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Last week, in HIT #7, we have been through several perceptions about the Dutch and clarified which are facts and which are not. Today, it is time to widen your knowledge a bit, or should I say: let’s correct some of the most common misunderstandings about the Netherlands. Many of my friends, who are currently studying in the Netherlands, think that they know all about this country. But when it comes to these facts, they still have to admit that they know nothing.

So, you can use these facts mentioned below in this blog post for a quiz night with your friends and family and see how many of them guess it right. Believe me, it is not as easy as it sounds.

#1 Holland and the Netherlands is not the same

Okay, first things first. Let’s start with one of the most popular misconceptions foreigners have. Who is still thinking that Holland is the same as the Netherlands, just a shorter to-say version? Well, the Dutch do not mind if you call their country Holland, but it is good for you to know that Holland is just a western region and does not represent the whole Netherlands. Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland are the two out of twelve provinces making up the Netherlands. The other ten provinces are: Flevoland, Gelderland, Noord-Brabant, Overijssel, Limburg, Friesland, Groningen, Utrecht, Zeeland, and Drenthe.

So, in a nutshell, Holland is a region belonging to the Netherlands, but it is not the right phrase to refer to the whole country. The Netherlands is the official and correct one.

#2 Tulips are not originally from the Netherlands

I heard about this truth from an influencer currently living in Amsterdam, and it shocked me for a few seconds. How could that be true in a country that is famous among tourists for its tulip season and tulip field? But here is a fact: the origin of the Dutch national flower is from Central Asia. It was a wildflower there before being cultivated in Turkey, then came to the Netherlands by the end of the 16th century.

At the beginning of the 17th century, due to a virus that the Dutch had not known at that time, tulips in the Netherlands had different unique colors. And just like that, the price kept getting higher and higher, and the tulip became a wealthy symbol in this country. You can easily recognize the appearance of tulips in paintings in this period.

tulips in the Netherlands
These colorful tulips used to be super pricey and cost a fortune to buy. Due to the ‘Tulip mania’, tulips could be used as a form of currency.

#3 Bikes are not invented by the Dutch

Ah-ha, another unexpected fact about a Dutch symbol revealed. The Dutch travel on their bike a lot and there are more bikes than people in the Netherlands, yes, these facts are true. But same as tulips, when something is popular in this country does not mean that it was invented here. It was recorded that Karl von Drais – a German inventor, debuted his invention of a two-wheel vehicle called the ‘swiftwalker’ in 1817. Back then, the precursor to the modern bike did not have pedals or gears, while the wheels were made of wood, iron rims, and leather-covered tires (far more different from today’s bicycles, right?).

Bikes have become more favorable in the Netherlands since the beginning of the 1970s when the number of traffic accidents caused by motor vehicles increased sharply, and cyclists had no priority. Moreover, with the Middle East oil crisis in 1973, people started protesting to require the Dutch government for better cycling infrastructure. Thanks to its even and flat topography, cycling soon became their all-time-favorite mean of transport!

#4 Kapsalon is a Dutch dish

Surprise, my international friends in the Netherlands! Sure, it is obvious that doner or doner kebab is a Turkish specialty. But kapsalon - a well-known fast-food dish in the Netherlands, which has doner on top of a layer of fries, covered with two slices of Gouda cheese, is actually a traditional Dutch fast-food dish, invented in Rotterdam in 2003.

Some of you might wonder, why was it named ‘kapsalon’, since it means ‘barbershop’ in Dutch? It all started with Nathaniël Gomes - a hairdresser in the Delfshaven district in Rotterdam. He asked El Aviva - the nearby shoarma restaurant, where he usually had lunch, to combine the regular combo of fries and doner (or shoarma) with his favorite toppings such as Gouda cheese and a salad mix of tomatoes, lettuce, garlic and sambal sauce. From Gomes’s regular request, El Aviva called it ‘the order for the kapsalon’, and it soon became popular as a street food among the diners in Rotterdam, then the Netherlands, and also Belgium. This fusion is a notable example of how diverse and multicultural Rotterdam is. Rotisserie Turkish meat, Dutch Gouda cheese, Indonesian sambal sauce, all the ingredients intersect and are well-combined in one aluminum tray called kapsalon.


written by Hang

As a travel freak who moved from Hanoi to Eindhoven, I love spending my day discovering new angles of this city and learning about the country from the locals. Hopefully, my articles would help you step-by-step entering the world of Dutch culture and make your every day in the Netherlands ‘a great stay’!