Isanya Köhne

Many of you have already gotten a taste of what the Netherlands is; wet, small, cozy, our shops close at 6PM, there are many cows, and we eat sandwiches for lunch. These characteristics are the ones you see when you scratch just the surface. But even though the Netherlands might be small, it has much to offer, especially for an Erasmus/international students like you! 

Let’s start with a little bit of history. The Netherlands technically means ‘lower lands’ as about 26% of our country is below sea level (PBL, n.d.). We have been battling the seas for years, which ultimately also made us great seafaring people. Many know that we have got a rich history when it comes to sailing across the seas. Other than battling the water, the Netherlands today is much different than the Netherlands from ages ago. Our small western European country has become immensely popular amongst foreign people. Many like to travel our cities and go and watch the Northern sea. 

But not only travellers come seek our country. Over the last few years, the amount of international students coming to the Netherlands for their exchange, masters, or full bachelor degree has immensely increased. In 2018, we had about 90.000 international students studying here country wide according to Nuffic (2019). This guarantees that you will never go through your experience of living abroad alone! The Netherlands has always been very diverse when it comes to cultures, but the many international students like yourself only make our country more fruitful. In an ever-globalizing world, the Netherlands is one of the top runners when it comes to international education (Expatica, 2019). Other than internationally recognized degrees, many English taught courses, and innovative teaching methods, this is the place to be, so you chose right! 

Now let’s dive into some of the more interesting facts about your new home. As mentioned before, the size of a country does not equal how interesting it is. The Netherlands has some pretty quirky facts if you pay attention. 

1. We have the tallest people in the world
​You have probably already met twenty of them during your stay, the Dutch giants. Statistics show that the Netherlands has the tallest people, both men and women, in the world. According to Smith (2017), the average is roughly 1,84 for men and 1,70 for women. Some dare say it is to keep our heads above water and others say it is due to all the dairy we consume. Even though some of them might be a bit taller than you, we can confirm that even though they can be very straightforward and blunt, the Dutch are very friendly.

2. We consume the most liquorice in the world
Next to our famous stroopwafels, the Dutch are all about what we call ‘drop’. Yearly we consume about 30 million kilos (!). Liquorice comes in many different varieties and not every single one’s loved by everyone. If you have not tasted this sweet or sour candy yet, we suggest trying it, and do not give up on the first one, there might be a flavour in there that you like. 

3. We were the first to legalize same-sex marriage
In April 2001, The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. The Netherlands has a generally tolerant attitude to LGBTQI+ people. During regular times, you will not notice anything extravagant organized but around times such as the pride month, the Netherlands changes its colours to those of a rainbow. Here, everyone gets to be who they want to be. 

4. There are more bicycles than people here. 
You are either dreading or loving it that you most definitely need to buy and ride a bike here on your study abroad. For the Dutch, bikes are from cradle to grave. We start at a very young age and during life upgrade to a few bigger or more modern versions, but bikes are a must. It is the most used form of transportation for people of all ages. Do not be afraid to head out by bike, but do make sure that you know the traffic rules. As bikes are so immensely popular amongst our people, there are certain rules specially for cyclists such as not being on your phone when cycling!

5. The Netherlands has 18 ESN sections
If you are an Erasmus student, you surely have heard of ESN, Erasmus Student Network. This organization helps Erasmus, and International students in their new home country by organizing different activities and help them where needed. With the help of all volunteers, ESN makes the experience of these students, unforgettable. And did you know that ESN The Netherlands consist of 18 lovely sections. Here they come:
ESN BredaESN DelftESN GroningenESN INHolland DiemenESN INHolland HaarlemESN Inholland RotterdamESN LeeuwardenESN NijmegenESN RotterdamESN The HagueESN TwenteESN UtrechtESN VU AmsterdamESN WageningenISN AmsterdamISN LeidenISN Maastricht and I*ESN Tilburg!

We wish you a very great stay here in our small country and encourage you to seek out many more quirky facts that make the Netherlands as interesting as it is. Go explore, head to the North, head to the sea, taste the food, and meet the people. Explore as much as you can and let us know through our channels what you have encountered! 

References:
Business photo created by Kireyonok_Yuliya
Expatica. (2019, August 20). Study in the Netherlands: A guide to Dutch universities - Expat Guide to The Netherlands | Expatica. Retrieved from https://www.expatica.com/nl/education/higher-education/study-in-the-netherlands-a-guide-to-dutch-universities-104928/
Nuffic. (2019, March 29). Nuffic publiceert nieuwe cijfers internationale studenten. Retrieved from https://www.nuffic.nl/actueel/nuffic-publiceert-nieuwe-cijfers-internationale-studenten/
Smith, O. (2017, August 6). Mapped: The world’s tallest (and shortest) countries [Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/maps-and-graphics/the-tallest-and-shortest-countries-in-the-world/