Little Notes on Culture and History in the Netherlands

Dutch people are known for being forward, and practical. Only 39% of the country claims to be religious, which is one of the lowest in Europe, and they were one of the first European nations to legalize gay marriage, weed, and prostitution.

So, what is the deal with Amsterdam?

(c) ABR 2017

I’ve read plenty of blog posts that claim that Amsterdam is a chalk full of stoners and clouds of weed smoke, but that was not my experience. The central part of the city was the only place that I smelled the pungent plants, and we had more encounters with run of the mill drunk people, rather than stoners. In any case, it is the tourists that frequent the cafés that provide weed most, rather than the locals. So, yes, while weed and prostitution are legal in the city, it is really the bikes, canals, and brick buildings that characterize Amsterdam.

If you want to learn more about cool things to do in Amsterdam, be sure to read No Man Before’s Undiscovered Amsterdam.

How is driving in the Netherlands?

(c) Wikimedia Commons

Overall, very similar to the United States. There is one major difference that I noticed while traversing the roads of this lovely European country, however, and that is in regards to the left or fast lane. In the Netherlands this is a passing lane in the true sense, particularly in the case of highways. If you sit in the fast lane without need, aka going too slow, you may get a ticket and you will definitely get tailgated. This is rude in the US (and illegal in some states), but you really can’t get away with in the Netherlands. Be polite and get over when you are done passing.

The Van Gogh Trail (c) ABR 2017

The other thing that you should be aware of is the fact that many Dutch drivers will change lanes with only a very small amount of room between vehicles. So, be ready to be cut-off and just get used to it. So many people do it that I don’t think you should even bother to consider it rude, but definitely drive defensively. Leave enough room between you and the people in front of you, just in case someone decides to pop into your lane suddenly.

Why do Dutch people love windmills so much!?

A tiny windmill (c) ABR 2017

Back in the day windmills helped the Netherlands become a world power by assisting them in ship building, and by allowing them to produce goods that were used around the world (in particular, paper). Windmills became so common throughout the Dutch countryside that people used the position of the sails to communicate with one another. In fact, this form of communication was utilized for warnings about Nazi movements in WWII. Newer forms of power eventually led to the disappearance of many windmills, but as we all know, wind power is making a come back as a renewable form of energy. Thus, they are a new symbol of hope for the Netherlands and the world.

What is Tulip Mania?

(c) Pexels

There are three souvenir staples in Holland- windmills, clogs, and tulips. Of the three, I think tulips will most likely color any trip you take to the Netherlands the most. Some of you lucky fiends will get to visit during Tulip season and see these flowers in their glory, but even if you are like me and miss it, there will be no lack of tulip bulbs and wooden baubles in the shape of the flowers. So, what is the deal with tulips and the Netherlands? Well, these beautiful flowers have an interesting history in Holland, as they created what some consider to be the first economic bubble that we have recorded accounts of. Basically, when these flowers were introduced to the Netherlands during the “Dutch Golden Age,” they became extremely popular and even more expensive. This funny “bubble” of worth and expense popped when the price and market for the flowers collapsed in 1637. Luckily, unlike the economic bubble that most of us have lived through, Tulip Mania had little to no effect on the overall well-being of the Netherlands at that time. Despite the popping of the Tulip bubble, the Netherlands is still in love with this beautiful flower, and this gives us the opportunity to see the country’s beautiful countryside carpeted with brilliant colors the likes of which only seem possible in fantasy worlds like Oz.


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  1. Ruth

    I am not sure why people do not dig deeper into Amsterdam. I went when I was out of college and most of the people on my group were interested on the drugs or the sex museum (which seems to be a rip off). But, I think the city is trying to clean up its image a bit. I thought tourists are not allowed on the coffeehouses anymore. Do you know if that is true? Anyway, I would love to go back to the city!

    • I don’t know for sure about that last one, but I do know that has been an ongoing legal battle, because the tourists are really the best source of income for the coffee shops selling weed.

  2. damecacao

    This is so interesting. I haven’t been to Europe in over 4 years now (yes, I’m counting the weeks, too), and the tone of this article brought me back. I always love to read about a new culture– hopefully one day I can experience Amsterdam for myself! But maybe not a coffee shop… 😉

  3. Kyla Matton Osborne

    I do hope that if the wind power craze hits the Netherlands, it will see a return of more traditional windmills and not the horrible wind farms that are cropping up here in North America.

  4. Gorgeous! I’ve only made it to Amsterdam and the Hague so far, but planning to explore more of the Netherlands. Thanks for this post!

  5. stephaniebatz

    This post was refreshing. We too heard bad things about Amsterdam so it’s nice to hear you had a good experience there. It looks beautiful! Can’t wait to go.

    • Like I said, the hardest part was dodging all the bikes. XD Plus, the rest of the Netherlands is absolutely amazing. You will have a great time there.

  6. I enjoyed reading your blog. I have seen only Amsterdam through television and travel mags. I think it will be expensive for me to travel there as it is very far from my country and I also need to have a tourist visa to get there. This is also the first time I have learned that gay union and weeds are legal to them. I wonder what type of government they have in there and crime rates too. I don’t hear much news about Amsterdam.
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    • I don’t know the specifics about their government, but I think crime rates are relatively low. They have tried to be practical, and with the weed situation, it is an ongoing conversation, but they seem to do a great job figuring it out.

  7. Erica

    People cut me off with little space all the time in Los Angeles. It drives me crazy because I’m really scared of ending in a crash. So I would have to bite my tongue a lot in the Netherlands. Other than that, I think I would really like it there. The tulips are so beautiful

    • Yeah, it’s definitely hard! The nice part of being a tourist is that you can slow down a bit since you aren’t trying to get to work. That helped me leave more space between myself and the other cars so it wasn’t as scary.

  8. I have always wanted to go to Amsterdam. It looks lovely.

    Sondra xx

  9. So true about Amsterdam. My fiance has been there and he also said that more tourists are getting high than locals.

  10. It’s so funny to me that people do seem to think they are going to be walking around in clouds of smoke in Amsterdam, and that the red light district consumes the entire city. There’s so much art and culture to be found.

    • Yes! So true! Art, culture, history, amazing architecture! Amsterdam has a little bit of everything. And if you want to avoid the weed and red light area, it isn’t that hard.

  11. It’s a shame that Amsterdam has a bad rap because of marijuana and prostitution. There is so much to see. But if you are drunk and high you will miss it all. I’m glad you had a great time. Great pictures

    • I agree! That’s kind of how I feel about most places in regards to being sober, but then again, I enjoy by hiking and other really active modes of travel.

  12. I don’t know much about Netherlands so I’m curious. With weeds and prostitution considered legal, is it a safe tourist destination?

    • Very safe! Like I said, it is really a matter of practicality. The idea was that if these things are legal, they can be made safer for everyone. It seems to work rather well for the Netherlands, although, like anywhere, there are still issues to be addressed.

  13. Oh, great to know about the history of Netherlands! And I think the whole world is benefited from the glorious beauty of tulips.

  14. Interesting! I’ve never traveled outside of the US, but when my husband was in the army, he traveled all over. He always talks about how different the traffic is.

  15. Besides the tulips and windmills, I did not know any of the other things you mentioned. I didn’t even know that prostitution was legal. That is probably the craziest.

    • I think there are good arguments for the legalization of prostitution, but I definitely know that Amsterdam isn’t perfect in that regard. The situation there has led to (at least in the past) some issues with human trafficking.

  16. I actually did not know that much about Amsterdam and that people had negative opinions about it. Might have to find out more about this city!

    • Definitely! People might have some bad opinions about it, but there is alot there besides stuff that is more contentious. Like an Anne Frank museum and lots of art!

  17. Anastasia Golovko

    Nice article. I agree with you on everything about the city and the Netherlands. I think the best time to visit is in the very end of May. That’s when you can catch tulips still in bloom and their biggest holiday.

  18. I have never been to the Netherlands and would like to make it someday. I love the photo of the tulips just gorgeous. Looks like a fabulous trip

  19. Thanks for sharing us some deeds about Netherlands. That Van Goh train and the tulips flower farm are something i want to explore 🙂

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