Here are some things that not too many people know about the Netherlands. (Even locals might be surprised!)
1. Orange Carrots - A Gift to Dutch Royalty
The carrots we see today are usually bright orange, but this wasn’t always the case. Back in the 10th century, carrots come in varieties of white, purple, and pale yellow. It wasn’t until the end of the 17th century that carrots got their distinctive color, thanks to the Dutch. After William of Orange (King William III) helped bring independence from Spain, Dutch farmers bred orange carrots to honor their King. The choice was clearly a hit!
2. Dutch Tulips Are Not Actually Dutch?
While the tulip has become an iconic symbol of the Netherlands, the flower is not native to this land, but actually to Turkey, Nevertheless, the Dutch adoration for tulips is very real. The urge to attain tulips as a symbol of high status led to the infamous 17th-century “Tulip Mania.” This period saw tulip prices skyrocket and then collapse, shocking Dutch society for some time. Tulip bulbs were finally bound to Dutch culture after World War II when they were used as a food source. The importance of tulips to the Netherlands today is indisputable, as it hosts the Keukenhof Gardens, the largest flower garden in the world known particularly for tulips.
3. The Birthplace of Gin
The invention of gin in the 17th century can be credited to the Netherlands. A Dutch physician named Franciscus Sylvius, who was actually a professor of medicine here at Leiden University, created gin (genever) as a diuretic medicine using juniper berries.
4. There's A Royal Pilot
King Willem-Alexander led a “double life” for more than two decades as head of state and as a pilot. Until 2017, he had been a regular guest pilot for KLM as his part-time job, though most people never notice when he’s on board. Could you be one of his previous passengers?
5. Your Birthday, Your Treat
In lots of cultures, your birthday celebration means you’re entitled to free treats, a cake, and other acts of generosity by those around you. This doesn’t include the Netherlands though, as birthday celebrants have to bring their own treats to share with others. If you’re inviting people out for food, you might be paying for that round too. So, when your birthday is around the corner, get your wallet ready for those extra expenses.
6. Don't Be Alarmed!
If this is your first time living in the Netherlands and you suddenly hear sirens going off everywhere one day, don’t panic. It’s probably just a test alarm, which is sounded every first Monday of the month at exactly 12:00 PM. Aside from the air sirens, an NL-Alert message is also sent to your phone. When this happens, just go about your day as usual, it’s (probably) not the end of the world.
7. The World's Biggest Fan of Licorice
On average, a Dutch person eats around 2 kg of licorice per year, which amounts to 32 million kg being consumed each year in the Netherlands. This makes Dutch people the number one consumer of licorice in the world! Licorice or “drop” is sold everywhere. While it is known for its distinctive black color, drop comes in all shapes and shades; one store might sell over 80 different assortments alone. So if you’re not a fan of the acquired taste of licorice, don’t be fooled by those colorful candies!