As well as scoring major points for health and happiness, the Dutch are also the most physically active population in Europe. According to the Euro Barometer, around 56% of Dutch people play sports on a weekly basis, compared to the European average of 40%. This is largely owing to the fantastic infrastructure throughout the country, which allows people to walk and cycle for work or fun. The famously flat country boasts 20,000km of fietspaden (bicycle paths) making cycling in the Netherlands an extremely pleasant activity. And with so many beautiful Dutch cycling routes to choose from, who can blame them?
Now, here’s a rather surprising fact about the Netherlands. Amazingly, the first stock market in the world was invented by Dutch legislators and businessmen back in 1602. This was done as a means of funding the Dutch East India Company and its long trade-based voyages from the Netherlands. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange was also created in the same year, and many consider this to be the oldest ‘modern’ exchange in the world. The Dutch were also the first to develop Fairtrade certification, launching the Max Havelaar certificate in the 1980s. Nice one, Netherlands!
8. There are more bicycles in the Netherlands than people
Yes, it’s true. There are over 22 million bicycles in the country and only 17 million residents. This includes the clever (if not so elegant) bakfiets which combine a bike with a large container at the front to transport children, pets, and shopping. Some sources claim that the Dutch cycle an average distance of 2.9km per day and use bicycles for more than a quarter of all trips. This compares to just 2% in the United Kingdom. Others suggest that on average, a Dutch person cycles 1,000km a year in about 250 to 300 trips. The downside of having so many bikes is that theft is very high; particularly in Amsterdam where it is the most common crime. Over 100,000 bikes are reported stolen each year in the Netherlands, so be careful where you park your wheels.
9. The Netherlands has the highest English-proficiency in the world
Are you moving to the Netherlands but can’t speak a word of Dutch? Then boy are you in luck because this clever nation is better at speaking English than any other non-native country. According to the EF English Proficiency Index, the Dutch are top of the class in English, narrowly beating Denmark and Sweden. Between 90 and 93% of the population can speak English as a second language. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, around 94% of Dutch people can speak two languages, which is well above the EU average of 54%. Still, there’s no harm in brushing up on your Dutch skills in the meantime.
10. One-fifth of the population in the Netherlands is foreign-born
If you enjoy living in a multicultural society, then you’ll feel right at home in the Netherlands. More than three million of the country’s residents come from a non-Dutch background, accounting for roughly one in five people. Furthermore, more than half of the country’s immigrants (1.7 million people) are of non-Western origin. They mainly come from Turkey, Surinam, Morocco, Antilles, and Aruba. This multicultural mix is particularly felt in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, where almost one in three people are of non-Western origin. Thanks to this cultural diversity, you will discover many delicious ethnic foods in major Dutch cities.
11. The Netherlands has one official language
Dutch is the sole official language of the Netherlands, although English is also spoken by the majority of the population. It is estimated that less than 400,000 people speak Frisian, which is also an official language in the northern province of Friesland. That means, ironically, far more Dutch people speak English than Frisian. Limburgish, Dutch Low Saxon, and Gronings are also minority languages, although these are often only heard across the Dutch-German border where they belong to a common Dutch-German dialect continuum. Interestingly, the Netherlands also has its own Dutch Sign Language, Nederlandse Gebarentaal (NGT), which is used by around 15,000 people.