“”George: What is Holland?
Jerry: What do you mean, "what is it?" — it's a country, right next to Belgium!
|—Seinfeld|Holland The Low Countries Belgium's Canada Hitler's left turn The Netherlands is a small, mostly urban, and very liberal European nation located west of Germany on the North Sea. Historically, it has been known for legal weed and hookers its vast trade wealth, ingenious system of land reclamation, Protestant theologians, strong welfare state, and (in a similar vein) its staunch Calvinism. In the modern era it is noted, in varying degrees depending on what social philosophy you subscribe to, for its notoriously egalitarian social mores and its enviable standard of living and permissive abortion laws.
Although the country is commonly called "Holland", technically, Holland is only the name of two of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands, namely North-Holland and South-Holland. However, "Holland" has historically been the dominating part of the country economically and politically, and continues to draw most foreign attention.[note 1]
“”There are only two things I can't stand in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures, and the Dutch.
|—Michael Caine, Austin Powers in Goldmember|
How the Dutch went from being one of the most dour people ever to walk the face of the earth to being as extremely liberal as they are today is probably a long story, but it might be important to realize that most Dutch don't see their state as very liberal or progressive in the way some Americans do.
The Netherlands was a hodgepodge of cities and principalities until united under the Duke of Burgundy in 1433. When the Burgundian Duchy passed to Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor, so did the Netherlands. Charles was succeeded by his son Philip II of Spain, and so the Netherlands became a Spanish territory. Charles had been born in the Low countries city of Ghent, but Philip had only lived there 4 years and was uninterested in the area. When the reformation came to the Netherlands the resulting friction with Catholic Spain resulted in the 80 years war (1568-1648), and the independence of the northern provinces of the Netherlands as the Dutch Republic, more or less the same area of the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands. After Holland became independent, the majority of the Dutch people became Calvinists. The Dutch were tolerant of minorities and religious groups that moved there to escape persecution in their own countries.
The Netherlands is a beautiful country with a rich heritage and much to see. It was the home of Vincent Van Gogh, Descartes, Spinoza, Anne Frank and many others, and has many miles of picturesque countryside, along with a great selection of museums and other cultural landmarks. You can spend many years in the Netherlands and still not see it all! But you're going there just to smoke weed, aren't you?
Half the Netherlands has been concreted over in recent years. Some have suggested, the wrong half.
Since the 1950s Christianity has declined in the Netherlands. Most people do not believe in a personal god. Euthanasia with safeguards is allowed, and “soft drugs” is sort-of tolerated (it's complicated, more below). In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to recognize gender-neutral marriage. In terms of religion and religious controversies, the Netherlands' most notable citizens include the Islamophobic campaigner Geert Wilders, feminist (yet weirdly anti-asylum) Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the murdered filmmaker Theo van Gogh.
Interestingly enough, the Netherlands do have a "Bible belt" where people still are more religious and vote for religious parties. Those parties have on some occasions been highly influential despite their little share of the vote, as Dutch governments are almost always coalitions of two, three or even more parties and getting the support of a few religious nutcases for an important vote can be the difference of a government collapsing or continuing in power.
Creationism is not particularly influential and has hardly ever reached politics (apart from an Intelligent Design-related incident in 2005). Books such as Modern Science in the Bible by Ben Hobrink have had some influence, but this is mostly limited to the aforementioned Bible belt. There have been occasional creationist conferences, such as Geloof jij het? (Do you believe it?) in 2013, but these went largely unnoticed. More recently, several creationists and minor creationist organisations (including Wetenschep and Weet magazine) united in the new Logos Institute, a wannabe hub for Young Earth creationism.
Wiet en hoeren
As any Dutchman abroad will immediately notice, the Netherlands are mainly known abroad for niche-products like 'whores' and 'weed'. Meeting a foreigner (especially from the Anglophone countries) will often result in well-meant but ultimately awkward jokes about the Dutch people's apparent godlessness and marijuana abuse. Foreigners might think it's one big theme park over there: this may or may not have something to do with the 1994 'documentary' Sex, Drugs and Democracy, a film that presents the Netherlands as some kind of cooky caricature of a functioning country, where disabled people can visit Affirmative action brothels while smoking weed on government benefits and everybody's loving it!
However, visiting sex-workers in the Netherlands is not very different in social stigma than elsewhere in the Western world and most of the Dutch just work regular jobs and do regular things. It's mostly tourists who frequent Amsterdam's Red Light District, mind you. The Netherlands aren't even that liberal any more when it comes to prostitution, with several Red Light Districts across the country coming under increasing pressure by association with organized crime and forced prostitution.
The "legalization" of "soft drugs" such as weed and hallucinogen mushrooms has always been a complicated story. First off, it's never been actually legalized, owning any amount of weed is still punishable by law, but rather it's "tolerated": the police and will not apprehend you for owning small amounts, and they allow "coffee"shops with a permit to sell it with certain restrictions. It has never been legal or tolerated to actually grow weed in any form, and the police have always acted against producers of weed. This leads to the rather bizarre situation where it's okay to own weed, it's okay to smoke weed, and it's okay to sell weed, but it's not okay to actually grow the stuff. Everyone agrees this is rather strange, but such is the nature of compromises.
In the last few years, there's been a pretty hard-line policy against the illegal growth of marijuana to the point where some people have started to say that some US states are actually have more liberal drug policies. It's been estimated that roughly 40% of the Dutch policy and justice departments are currently being used for drug felonies.  But it's not like there's a war on drugs going on or anything.
The "toleration" of the so-called "soft-drugs" has also been restricted in the last few years. Hallucinogen mushrooms are once again illegal since 2008 after a French tourist who was allegedly under the influence of mushrooms jumped from a bridge. It's very uncertain if she actually was under the influence of any drugs, but it was enough reason for some hardliners to push through the legislation. There have also been some attempts to prevent non-Dutch people to buy drugs from coffeeshops by introducing a "weed-pass", for which only Dutch citizens could apply. The entire project project was a failure and only served to increase the amount of street dealers and drug-related violence . How surprising! In a rare display of reality-based politics, the project was abandoned in 2012.
Research by the Institute of Health and Environment (a government bureau) in 2011 and 2012 showed that about 25.7% of Dutch above 15 had ever smoked weed in their life, albeit only once, and about 7% of the Dutch population had smoked weed in the last year. While this may sound like a lot to some, it's a perfectly average number for a European country.
- "They said, 'fly to Amsterdam', where the people laughed but the press went mad" - Complete Control, The Clash.
- Jools Holland is an English piano playing kind of musician, but pretty much a telly presenter these days. He used to wear a piano jacket.
- The Holland Tunnel goes nowhere near Holland, but it does go below sea level.
- Eggs Benedict.
- "In Amsterdam there lived a maid...who was always takin' a sailor's pay/I'll go no more a-roamin' with you, fair maid." - Traditional (English) Morris Song
- Back of an envelope - H.O.L.L.A.N.D. - Hope our love lasts and never dies
- John Wayne's nickname was "Dutch" even though he was 'Mercan
- "Going Dutch" (from "Dutch treat") means paying your own way on a date.
- A Dutch Oven is a big heavy cooking pot that you can put on a fire, or put inside a conventional oven. And that's all it is. The phrase has no other meaning whatsoever.
- "Dutch Courage" is gin.
- Gin is called Jenever and comes in two styles, oude and jonge. Both are a potential source of headache.
- "Double Dutch" is totally unintelligible.
- The boy who put his finger in the dyke (Who is American folklore and little known in the Netherlands itself).
- Belgium - Once part of The Netherlands, but went their own way. Still speak a sort of funny Dutch (and endlessly argue about whether they should be speaking French or
- Eighty Years War - The Netherlands' long struggle for independence against Spain.
- Geert Wilders - Although most Dutch would prefer that he could be listed at the bottom of another country...
- Reformed Political Party - Also something most Dutch aren't particularly proud of.
- See the Wikipedia article on Religion in the Netherlands.
- Dutch trains now run on wind power. It does not get any more Dutch than that.
- If you are still confused, CGP Grey explains it all in signature style.
- S09E01: The Butter Shave
- See the Wikipedia article on Fitna (film).
- The Murder of Theo Van Gogh
- Blancke, Stefaan (14 November 2010). "Creationism in the Netherlands". Zygon. Journal of Religion and Science 45 (4): 795-816.
- Red Nederland, legaliseer drugs