Netherlands idiosyncratic facts for would be expats

Published:  19 Mar at 6 PM
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For the second year running, the Netherlands is the world’s sixth-happiest countries for expats.

Finland hit the number one spot, with Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland following, with the Netherlands’ happiness quotient impressive for a small European country. At the least, its winter weather doesn’t create freezing cold and darkness for more than half the year as do four of the top six. Recent reports and several other expat surveys give the Netherlands credit as a tech start-up hub, but also complain about the excessively high cost of accommodation in the majority of its cities.

For those considering relocating to this very flat land, they may be surprised at the number of idiosyncrasies making up the total Netherlands experience. For example, the charming capital of Amsterdam is built on soil which is far too soft to support even a single storey building. For centuries, Dutch architects got round the challenge by simply sinking more than a million massive wooden piles and building the foundations around them. Nowadays, they’re steel, but the ingenious method’s the same.

Everyone knows cycling is the way to get around in the Netherlands, but many would be surprised to learn the Dutch own more bikes per person than in any other world country. According to a survey, every single Dutch citizen owns 1.3 bicycles, meaning that 85 per cent of the entire population have at least two bikes each as the remaining percentage don’t have any! Cycling, as many expats find out, is very, very healthy.

For new arrivals looking for a friendly pub in which to get over the stress of cycling everywhere, a visit to the northern city of Groningen is just what’s needed. The Drie Gezusters (Three Sisters) pub is world-famous, not for its beer but for its size as the largest public house in the entire sub-continent of Europe. It’s also a natural heritage site, thus justifying regular visits.

Vertically-challenged expats might not be best pleased to find the Dutch race is, on average, the tallest in the world, with men measuring around 1.84 metres and women not far behind at 1.70 metres. The Netherlands has been famous for decades for its permissiveness after having legalised same-sex marriage in 2001, although sceptics at the time believed the relaxing of the rule was simply to attract more same-sex couples to arrange weddings in the country, thus increasing tourist numbers.

Perhaps the most weird and wonderful fact about the Netherlands is that 26 per cent of its land mass actually lies below sea level by as much as six metres, and another 50 per cent is only one metre above sea level! The country’s amazing Delta combination of dykes, locks, dams, sluices, and storm surge barriers is regarded as the eight wonder of the world and contributes largely to Dutch happiness by keeping the North Sea in its place.
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