Country of the month: the Netherlands
How can I begin to describe my home country? The Netherlands is perhaps best known for being home to some of the tallest people in the world, the fact that there are more bicycles than people, and our delicious cheese. Let’s not forget the beautiful mills, the tulip fields and our addiction to liquorice.
April is the perfect time to visit the fourth happiest country in the world, as the tulips fields are in full bloom and the excitement for King’s Day, one of the biggest celebrations on the Dutch calendar, is almost tangible. This time of year encompasses the Dutch notion of “gezellig” which is the feeling of a cosy sense of belonging in a convivial atmosphere. Let me explain why you should discover what this fascinating country has to offer.
King’s day, or Koningsdag takes place every year on 27th April, mark it in your calendars.
The saying “Doe normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg”, meaning just act normal, that’s already crazy enough, typifies the Dutch attitude. However, on King’s Day everyone throws on some orange clothes and enjoys going a bit crazy. The celebration attracts thousands of visitors, from all over the world, giving an international buzz to the jovial crowds. Whether you plan to visit a flea market or decide to drink Heineken all day while “people watching” (something the Dutch are also very fond of), you will notice that King’s day is about being together and enjoying each other’s company.
Most people congregate around the canals in Amsterdam, where the biggest celebration is held, however, festivities take place across the whole country. Here is a list of what the country’s biggest cities have to offer across the course of the day.
The King’s Night warm-up parties are just as fun as the main event, if not more so, depending on how you choose to spend it. One of the most famous warm-up parties is the Life I Live festival in The Hague or Den Haag.
Find out more about King’s Day here.
Culture, cheese & tulips
With all the hype surrounding King’s Day, it is easy to forget that there are more traditions that you should immerse yourself in to get closer to the Dutch culture. Here are some ideas to get started:
- Visit Alkmaar’s cheese market – Alkmaar is one of the most famous cities for it’s delicious Dutch cheese. Every Friday from April through September the fascinating and colourful cheese market is set up. You can witness how the age-old tradition of trading cheese continues to thrive in the historical Waagplein square which has been used for almost 650 years.
- Check out Holland’s beautiful tulips – April and May are the best months to admire Holland’s breathtaking tulips in Keukenhof, an enormous garden full of flowers that flourish during springtime. You can also view these colourful beauties along the 100 km stretch known as the “Tulip Route”. This route is open to visit from Mid-April through to May. Find yourself immersed in more than 2500 acres of colourful tulip fields. Of course, the best way to do this is in the style of a true Dutchie, which means by bicycle.
- Visit some of Amsterdam’s famous museums – Amsterdam owns some of the country’s most famous museums, such as the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, the Anne Frank House and of course the Rijksmuseum. The latter showcases art from the Middle Ages until present day. Until the 17th of May, there is a special exhibition of the late works of Rembrandt van Rijn, one of the most important figures in European art and Dutch history. As many of his works belong to private collections, this is a unique opportunity to view his masterpieces.
Tickle your taste buds with Dutch cuisine
Try typical Dutch dishes such as stamppot (consisting of mashed up potatoes and vegetables) or erwtensoep (a traditional green pea soup with smoked sausage). If you have a sweet tooth, treat yourself to a stroopwafel, (two thin layers of baked dough with caramel in the centre). Is your mouth watering yet? If you really want to get in the Dutch spirit, eat liquorice which is incredibly popular with the locals, although it is not always appreciated by the expat community.
Holland and LGBT rights
The Netherlands is considered to be one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world on account of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights. It was the first country in the world to legalise gay and lesbian marriage. One of the biggest manifestations of this open-minded attitude is Amsterdam’s Gay Pride event (July 25th – August 7th), which attracts almost half a million visitors every year.
Already excited to visit this little but surprising country? You should be!
For practical information for expats check out the Netherlands country guide.