What Is The Netherlands Best At? 10 Things You Didn't Know

January 27, 2021

People from the Netherlands are not only the best non-native English speakers in the world. They have a lot more to offer and are the best at many things. Now, you may be wondering "what is the Netherlands best at?". As a Dutchman, I will explain these things to you in this article!

The Netherlands is globally progressive and the best in several areas. They are this in the areas of water management, education system, agriculture and horticulture, infrastructure, global trading, inventing things, exporting flowers, making cheese, producing and exporting beer, and yacht building.

The Netherlands excelled in diverse fields. Hence there is so much more to know about their achievements and contributions to the world. In this article, you will find 10 things the Netherlands is best at.

What is The Netherlands Best at?

From economy to education to culture the Netherlands is doing better than other countries on a significant number of points. Here I’ve listed 10 of them. So without further ado, let’s find out what the Netherlands is best at.

1. Building Sophisticated Water Management Systems

The Dutch built the best water management system in the world, to keep water out of the Netherlands. But this sophisticated system took centuries of building. Since the 15th century, the Dutch built dikes and windmills to safeguard against floods and pump water out of large areas to make space for new land.

Around a quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level. Thus floods and loss of life used to be common here. In the superstorm of 1953, several dikes broke down and the Zeeland province was flooded. During this disaster around 1836 people lost their lives. 

In response to this catastrophe, the resilient people of the Netherlands started the Delta Works Project, the most advanced and largest water management system in the world.

They constructed countless collections of water locks, storm barriers, bridges, and dikes that are interconnected over the Zuid-Holland area. Other than Delta Works, the Dutch built fine water management systems in the Rotterdam port and intricate water locks and canals around Amsterdam.

The American Society of Civil Engineers and the Quest Magazine considers The Delta Works as one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. This water management system was built to withstand the fiercest waves and storms. But due to climate change, the Netherlands is adding new improvements to The Delta Works and starting new projects to combat rising sea levels and floods. 

The Netherlands took on projects like “Room for the Water'' to adapt to rising sea levels. They plan on creating inland water reservoirs that consist of flood catchment zones. Instead of obstructing floodwater from entering, these zones will “catch” it and let it flow normally inside.

At present, the Netherlands share their knowledge of water management with different countries of the world. Today you can find Dutch engineers or companies in major water management projects around the globe. Several Dutch companies are involved with water management projects in Florida, Indonesia, Dubai, and Italy. 

The Eastern Scheldt barrier is part of the Dutch water management system:

What Is the Netherlands Best At - Oosterschelde kering

2. Perfecting Their Education System

The Netherlands has a high standard of education and hence it has one of the world’s best education systems. The Dutch education system is non-traditional and focuses on creating skilled well-rounded individuals rather than mass-producing children with A+ grades. 

The state-funded primary schools provide nearly free education for Dutch students. All students between 5 to 16 years of age must complete their education. There are privately owned schools and international schools too.

During the last year of primary school, Dutch children have to make the CITO test. This test, together with the advice of the teacher, determines at what level you will start in secondary school.

English is a compulsory subject in all secondary schools in the Netherlands. Also, a second foreign language is compulsory at some school levels. There are even secondary schools in the Netherlands that have bilingual programs. The exam structure of the secondary schools prepares the Dutch children for higher education, this can be Mbo, Hbo, or, University.

Higher education in the Netherlands is research and profession-oriented. Higher education is again bilingual, both English and Dutch are used in classes. Universities are research funded to benefit the industries of the Netherlands. 

Of the 41 most prosperous countries, the Netherlands has the happiest youth. According to global research by UNICEF, our country is at the top of the ranking when it comes to mental and physical health, social and learning skills, among other things.

As you can see, the Dutch education system plays a role in children's happiness. The schooling system in the Netherlands is not rigid. It does not impose discipline or manners amongst children, rather it allows them and their curiosity to grow organically. The education system of the Netherlands thus helps to develop highly skilled individuals who can think out of the box. 

3. Agriculture and Horticulture

The Netherlands may be a small country, but it is a giant in the agriculture industry. After the United States of America, it is the largest exporter of food and agricultural goods in the world. All of this is possible due to high-tech agriculture and horticulture. 

By irrigating land using polders, the Dutch created farmlands for themselves. More than 60% of the reclaimed land was used for agriculture. Through agriculture, the Dutch mostly grew crops, potatoes, and cereals.

Due to clever growers using high-tech greenhouses, the Dutch can grow semi-tropical fruits that usually would not grow here. Every year the Netherlands exports agricultural produce worth 65 billion euros (78.7 billion dollars).

Through horticulture, the Netherlands is mostly producing flowers and some fruits. 24% of the global horticulture trade is the Dutch contribution. Add flowers to the equation, the contribution increases to 50%.

At present, the Netherlands Government is trying to promote more sustainable farming and control the number of livestock. In doing so, they are focusing on low energy greenhouse farming, vertical farming, and organic farms.

The Netherlands through its constant endeavor for sustainable farming is proving to be the best in the agriculture and horticulture sector. 

What is the netherlands best at - Agriculture and Horticulture

4. Building Strong Infrastructure 

According to the World Economic Forum (2018), the Netherlands has the best infrastructure in Europe. The seaports, airports, cycling roads, expressways, railways, and various energy supplies make up the infrastructure of the Netherlands. The fine water management system of the Netherlands is a part of its all over strong infrastructure.

The transport network, water, and energy supplies of the Netherlands are the best in Europe. Globally, the Netherlands has the 3rd best network of road transport in the world. Regarding electricity supply, it is the best in the world.

The airport and seaports of the Netherlands are also great. The seaport connects the Netherlands with Belgium and Germany. But the airport of the Netherlands also plays an important role in international trade. All this contributes to the strong infrastructure of the Netherlands.

The railway network interconnects the whole of the Netherlands. Again along the cycling pathway, people can reach one part of the country to the other safely.

The Netherlands built a strong infrastructure to provide a high standard of life to its citizens. In return, the citizens pay high taxes in time for a comfortable life. 

5. Trading Globally

Today the Netherlands is one of the richest countries in the world. Not only is the Netherlands wealthy as a nation, but the Dutch population is one of the richest in the world. To be exact, the Netherlands is the 14th richest country in the world.

The GDP of the Netherlands as of 2020 is € 47.496 ($ 58.341). This is the number you get when you divide the “gross domestic product (GDP)” by the number of inhabitants per country.

Since medieval times, the port of Rotterdam helped to create trade relations of the Netherlands with the rest of the world. It was a vital center of trade in Europe and still is today. The Netherlands earns millions in revenues through the Rotterdam port alone. Today both the Rotterdam and Amsterdam ports create various trade opportunities for the country.

The Rotterdam port connected the Netherlands with its wealthy and powerful neighbors. The Netherlands has important trade relations with Germany, Belgium, France, Denmark, and Luxembourg all through the port. The economies of these countries are also partly dependent on the port of Rotterdam. 

Through the ports, the Netherlands exports various foods, machinery, tulips, chemicals, agricultural products, cheese, tomatoes, apples, and much more. They also export high-quality chocolate, sausages, and beer.

In 2019 alone, the Netherlands earned 496 billion euros (600 billion dollars) from exported goods. Their main customers are Belgium, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the United States and, Asia. 

What is the netherlands best at - Port Rotterdam

6. Inventing Things

Other than building the world’s best water management system, the Dutch invented many other great things throughout history. Did you know that Dutch scientists had a hand in inventing the Wi-Fi you are using right now? 

Starting from the audio and video formats we grew up with to the Wi-Fi we use now, the Dutch played a role in making them. In 1962, the cassette format was invented by the Dutch tech giant Philips. 

Later along with Sony in 1979, Philips invented the CD. Together they worked on a video format too and came up with LaserDisc. This led to them inventing the DVD format in 1995 followed by the Blu-ray disc in 2006. Along with Swedish and Australian scientists, they developed wireless local data transfer technologies such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. 

The inventor of the microscope and telescope is disputed over. It is disputed that Dutch Hans Lipperhey or Zacharias Janssen invented the telescope a year before Galileo Galilei. Again, it is disputed that Antonie van Leeuwenhoek or Hans Jansen invented the microscope in 1595. Even if old records are settled, the fact still stands that at one point in time, the Dutch too were a part of the new age of scientific exploration.

Hundred years after the Dutch invented the first stock market, they invented fair trade. In 1988, the first-ever fair trade label Max Havelaar was established by the Dutch. The label was based on Multatuli’s 1859 book of satire about the vicious coffee trade on the island of Java.

Nowadays the Netherlands is still trying to invent new things. Many technical universities collaborate with large companies such as Philips or KLM. Together they try to improve the world by, for example, using solar energy or designing more efficient aircraft.

These were just a few examples to show that the Dutch are always developing new technologies, and have thus made world-famous inventions in the past. The next time you set up your WiFi, chances are you will have to think back to the Dutch and this article.

7. Exporting Flower Bulbs

The Netherlands is best at producing and exporting flowers. The country is a lead exporter of flowers, plants, decorative trees, and bulbs. Around three-quarters of the flower bulbs in the world are exported from the Netherlands.

The flowers most exported from the Netherlands are tulips. Each year more than 2 billion tulips are exported from the Netherlands to different parts of the world. Tulips are sold in Aalsmeer, Naaldwijk, and Rijnsburg in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands also has the biggest flower auction in the world. Here buyers from all over the world can bid on batches of flowers and plants, after which they are shipped to the relevant buyer.

When in the Netherlands, tourists visit the Keukenhof Gardens to admire the sea of tulips there. Other than tulips, flowers like crocus, hydrangea, and Dutch roses are also grown here in abundance. 

The Netherlands transforms into an ocean of flowers between March and May. In March, the crocus flowers are in bloom, followed by hyacinths and daffodils. The signature tulips bloom and show their true colors from April till the half of May. When all the flowers are in bloom, you can take a stroll or cycle around the flower fields in some parts of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands also sends thousands of tulips to Canada every year for free. Wondering why this is? Check out our article about it!

8. Making Cheese

Since the Middle Ages, cheese making has been an integral part of the culture and economy of the Netherlands. Hence, it is of no surprise, that the Dutch are one of the best manufacturers of cheese around the world. The Gouda cheese of the Netherlands is world-famous. 

The Dutch Gouda is a yellow cheese made from cow’s milk. It can be of several types such as the “jong” and “belegen”. The "belegen" (aged) has a sharp flavour, in contrast, the "jong" (young) Gouda cheese has a creamier and softer texture.

One of the largest exports from the Netherlands food industry is Gouda cheese. Other than Gouda, Leiden cheese, goat cheeses, and several other types of cheeses are available in the Netherlands. 

If you are visiting the Netherlands, other than Gouda, you should try out the Edam cheese. It is a red-hued and round-shaped cheese that originated from the quaint town of Edam. Like Edam, Gouda is also the name of a town in the Netherlands. 

If you are a real cheese lover, then it is certainly advisable to visit one of these villages during your trip around the Netherlands. Here you can see how the cheese is made and there are also museums where the history of cheese making is told.

9. Manufacturing and Exporting their Own Brand of Beer 

Back in the 16th century, the Dutch and the Belgiums invented jenever. This would eventually become the precursor to what the English know as "Gin". Jenever became very popular in England and the British would even have based the name Gin on Jenever.

Besides Jenever, the Netherlands has a huge contribution to the beer industry. Thus it is no wonder that at present, the Netherlands is the largest exporter of beer in Europe. In 2019 alone, Dutch brewers exported beer worth 1.7 billion euros (2.1 billion dollars)

Popular beer brands such as Heineken, Amstel, and Grolsch are all Dutch. Every year nearly 40% of beer is exported to the US from the Netherlands. If you ever visit the Netherlands, you should definitely try out some of the famous Dutch beer brands.

In recent years, the number of breweries in the Netherlands has increased exponentially. Today there are over 700 beer breweries in the Netherlands. Thus the Dutch are the best at brewing their own brand of beer and exporting it everywhere.

We are mainly talking about pilsner and not other types of beer. Countries such as Belgium and Germany are much better at brewing specialty beers, although the Netherlands has started to catch up.

The Dutch are good at producing beer

10. Yacht Building 

If you are not into yachts, you may not know that at present, the Netherlands is one of the lead manufacturers of the best quality yachts in the world. As of now, the Dutch luxury brand superyacht company, Feadship is one of the best yacht manufacturers in the world. 

The high reputation of the Netherlands as yacht manufacturers dates back to their glorious past of boat building. So, high-quality ship work is not a new craft of the Dutch. Moreover, the word “yacht” originated from “jacht”, a Dutch word that means hunt.

Some of the best luxury superyachts are manufactured in the Netherlands, from Dutch companies. Leading superyacht companies such as Oceanco, Lurssen, Amels, Heesen, Feadship, and Vitters, are all Dutch yacht builders.

Dutch yacht builders are not only reputable for manufacturing high-quality shipyards but also for completing projects on budget and time. Moreover, they incorporate innovative and high technology in their yacht building. Thus they are keeping up with all the new trends of the world. 

Many custom-made yachts from Dutch companies are iconic and have won various international awards.

Conclusion 

The people of the Netherlands are resilient and adaptive. Hence it is of no surprise that they are the best at so many things. Whether making cheese or building sturdy infrastructure, they can excel at anything they put their minds onto.

I hope you found the answer to “what is the Netherlands best at?” in this article. Mostly I hope that the people of the Netherlands inspired you. It is the unified effort of the whole nation throughout the ages that has brought them to the position they are at present.

If you are interested in what the Dutch people are known for, then please see our interesting article about that topic.

Would you like to learn more about the Netherlands in a fun way? Then check out our "54 interesting facts about the Netherlands" article.

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Written by

Leo van den Berg
As a Dutchman I am extremely proud of the beautiful country in which I live. My goal is to convey my passion and love for the Netherlands to as many people as possible.

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