Cultural Characteristics in the Netherlands Part I

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When you think of the Netherlands, you most likely think of endless fields of tulips or smoky coffee shops. However, this image does not even begin to do justice to our diverse neighboring country. An optimal mix between modern and traditional buildings, a broad cultural landscape and an application-oriented study system are also part of Dutch culture, for example.

Germany has a close friendship with its third most important trading partner. Representatives from business, politics and culture meet regularly for an exchange and a better mutual understanding. In the field of education, too, there is close cooperation with the federal states near the border.

Our neighboring country is both a popular travel and study destination. There are numerous cultural specialties to discover in the Netherlands. The mutual visit is primarily promoted by the typically Dutch openness and curiosity. Be it the large windows in the apartment buildings without curtains or the birthday calendar on the toilet – the Netherlands is convincing with its sympathetic down-to-earth attitude.

Origins of Dutch culture

In the course of history, the most diverse nations and cultures developed on the European continent, which are closely interwoven to this day. Due to its geographical location, the Netherlands was often seen as a buffer state against the expansion of France and Germany. At the same time, the trade-loving nation earned the status of “gateway to Europe”. The constant contact with other peoples influenced the Dutch culture significantly.

An extensive trade network brought prosperity and cultural diversity to the Netherlands. Even the first Celtic and Germanic tribes exchanged various goods with their Roman neighbors. Between the 12th and 16th centuries, the Netherlands expanded its economic ties in Europe with the Hanseatic League. With overseas trade, the relatively small country finally headed for the Golden Age.

The influential trading company “Vereinigte Ostindische Compagnie” in the 17th century was a high point of Dutch expansion. In addition, the Netherlands networked itself as a colonial power all over the world, so that as a result many people found a new home here. For example, in the course of the independence struggle in Indonesia and New Guinea in the middle of the 20th century, many Papuans and Indonesians emigrated to the Netherlands. During the sixties, many guest workers came from Italy and Spain, but also from Eastern Europe, Turkey and Morocco. Today the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean still belong to the European kingdom.

These diverse cultural influences from outside shape the Netherlands to this day, so that the people are considered open and tolerant. It does not seem surprising, therefore, that the principles of international law were developed by the Dutch scholar Hugo Grotius.

Where different cultures come together, different worldviews or religions are also represented. Historically, the iconoclasm in particular shaped the Christian faith in the Netherlands in the 16th century. However, the constitution guarantees schools and universities freedom in the direction of teaching. Due to this cultural peculiarity in the Netherlands, Catholic, Jewish or humanistic schools, for example, are among the diverse educational opportunities in the Netherlands, a country that belongs to European Union according to globalsciencellc.

One institution that unites all people in the Benelux is the popular royal family. In 1814/15 the country became a monarchy and about 100 years later a full democracy. While the king or queen in the Netherlands is neutral with limited power, they still speak out on political issues.

Traditions, holidays and symbols

Due to the close ties to the royal family, King’s Day on April 27 is one of the most important holidays in the Netherlands. The date depends on the birthday of the head of state. Also on Prinsjesdag, the third Tuesday in September, the Dutch gather in the streets of The Hague to cheer the royal family in a golden carriage. On this day the monarch gives his speech from the throne with the political guidelines for the coming year.

May 4th is national memorial day in the Netherlands. At the National Dodenherdenking the Dutch commemorate the victims of war and peace operations, which underlines the close cohesion of the population.

The special atmosphere of the Nederlandse Gezelligheid found exemplified in the common drinking coffee, the kopje koffie 10-11 indicator morning. This Dutch tradition is similar to afternoon tea in Great Britain and is thanks to the Dutch sailors who brought tea and coffee to Europe. Conversely, the Netherlands continues to export herring all over the world to this day. On Flag Day in June, the Dutch welcome the new herring in Scheveningen and start the new season every year with a traditional street festival.

In our neighboring country, Christian holidays such as Easter, Ascension and Pentecost are an integral part of the calendar. A cultural peculiarity in the Netherlands is the importance of Sinterklaas on December 5th. This day is more important than Christmas and was originally based on Nicholas of Myra. The Amsterdam teacher Jan Schenkman changed the festival in the middle of the 19th century and introduced the component of rewarding and punishing. Today Sinterklaas traditionally travels with the controversial figure of Zwarte Piet by ship from Spain to distribute gifts.

Many of the typical symbols for the Netherlands are an example of the nation’s global network. The tulip, the bulb of which is used by Dutch merchants as an object of speculation, was brought back from Mongolia by seafarers in the 16th century. The Delft ceramics are based on Chinese porcelain. In their national anthem, the Wilhelmus, the people sing about the German origins of the royal family. And the clogs, the typical wooden shoes, are still used by many in France, Switzerland and Denmark to this day.

Cultural Characteristics in the Netherlands Part I

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