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?
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?
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 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!?
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?
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.