From Birth to Death: 10 Less Known Facts about The Netherlands

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1. BIRTH: Dutch midwifery care is unique in the world.

  • In the Netherlands, maternity is organized in a primary, secondary and tertiary care model. The primary care, for low-risk women, is formed by midwives and GPs. (GPs are responsible for only about 0.5% of all births). The secondary care consists of obstetricians and specialized ‘clinical’ midwives in general hospitals and the tertiary care comprises obstetricians in academic hospitals.
  • 70% of Dutch midwives work independently from obstetricians, are the sole care providers for low risk women and are primarily responsible for the system of risk selection. That means the midwife is autonomous in her actions and decisions.
  • Most women in The Netherlands remain under the care of a midwife during pregnancy and childbirth. If they want to go straight to a gynecologist, they must first get a referral from the GP.
  • The midwifery training is a four-year fulltime education, which leads to a bachelor’s degree.
  • Almost 30% of women choose to give birth at home (2013), which makes the Dutch tradition of a free choice of place of birth including home birth quite unique in the western world.

Source: The Royal Dutch Organization of Midwives, the KNOV

2. CONSTITUTION: The oldest in the world after the American Constitution.

March 2014 marked the 200th anniversary of the Dutch Constitution and this is how they celebrated it:

Celebrating 200 years of constitution by staging street performances

Celebrating 200 years of constitution by staging street performances

3. DRUGS: Contrary to popular belief, all drugs are forbidden in the Netherlands.

It is illegal to produce, possess, sell, import and export drugs. However, the government designed a drug policy with tolerates smoking cannabis under strict terms and conditions.

Toleration policy regarding soft drugs
 The sale of soft drugs in coffee shops is a criminal offence but the Public Prosecution Service does not prosecute coffee shops for this offence.  Neither is the possession of small quantities of soft drugs. These quantities are defined as follows:

  • No more than 5 grams of cannabis (marijuana or hash);
  • No more than 5 cannabis plants.
Toleration criteria for coffee shops
The most famous coffee shop network in The Netherlands

The most famous coffee shop network in The Netherlands

  • Must not cause any nuisance;
  • Are not permitted to sell hard drugs;
  • Are not permitted to sell cannabis to minors;
  • Are not permitted to advertise drugs;
  • Are not permitted to sell large quantities (over 5 grams of cannabis) in a single transaction.

Municipalities determine whether to allow coffee shops to operate within their boundaries, and if so, how many.

(Source: Government of the Netherlands)

4. PROSTITUTION: In 1988 The Netherlands was one of the first countries in the world to recognize voluntary adult prostitution as a normal occupation.

Prostitution as such has not been a criminal offence since 1830, provided it was voluntary and that no minors were involved. Brothels, however, were illegal until 1 October 2000.

It is now legal to run a business where men or women over 21 years old are voluntarily employed as sex workers. The person running the business must satisfy certain conditions and obtain a license from the local authorities.

5. THE WORD THAT DEFINES BEST THE DUTCH CULTURE HAS UNKNOWN ROOTS. Yes, I’m talking about the word “bicycle”.

The Dutch word for bicycle is fiets and nobody really knows why. In most languages, the etymology is obvious – the English bicycle, meaning “two wheels”, the French vélocipède, meaning “fast feet”, the German fahrrad, meaning “ride wheel”. This was originally the case in Dutch as well – the bicycle was officially known as a rijwiel or “ride wheel”.

Some people say the word fiets came from E. C. Viets, a bicycle-maker in the 1880s, but it appears that the term was in use ten years earlier. Others suggest it is a corruption of the French word for speed, vitesse or even the French word for bicycle vélocipède. Still others say that it’s an onomatopoeic word that simply sounds like a fast-moving bicycle: ffts. It has also been suggested that the word fiets is derived from vietsen, meaning “to move quickly” in Dutch dialect.

6. THEY LOVE COFFEE. Ok, this is one of my favorites and I probably contributed a lot to world 4th place in 2013.

After the Scandinavians, the Dutch are the world’s biggest coffee drinkers. Also, The Dutch were the first to import coffee to Europe on a large scale back in the 1600s and 1700s and were the first to add coffee into the fair-trade movement in 1988 with the Max Havelaar brand.

Top 5 Coffee Consuming Countries in 2013

  1. Finland: 9.6 kg per capita
  2. Sweden: 7.9 kg per capita
  3. Norway: 7.2 kg per capita
  4. Netherlands 6.7 kg per capita
  5. Slovenia: 6.1 kg per capita

7. INTIMACY IS WELL APPRECIATED:  The Netherlands has the highest population density of any European country with over 1 million inhabitants.

I’m talking about almost 500 inhabitants per square km. Worldwide, only Bangladesh and Taiwan, among major countries, have a higher density of population.

8. DUTCH PEOPLE ARE VERY DEEP: more than a quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level.

In addition to that, 50% of its land lies less than one meter above sea level.

Schiphol is actually 4.5 meters below sea level.

Luckily, the Netherlands is not in a tsunami-prone part of the world.

9. THEY ALSO HAVE GIANTS. Oh, at least this is how I see them.

Dutch people are the tallest in the world, with an average height of 184 cm for men and 170 cm for women. That I could have told you without reading any statistics… This is how I feel every day:

Near an open air exhibition from the City Center, The Hague

Near an open air exhibition from the City Center, The Hague

10. DEATH: Euthanasia is legal for 12 years and since 2012, mobile euthanasia units were introduced.


  • Netherlands is one of the 3 counties in the EU where euthanasia is legal. The other ones are Belgium and Luxembourg.  Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Albania, Colombia, Japan and in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Vermont, New Mexico and Montana.
  •  More than 100% was the increase in the number of Dutch people that exercised their right to end life by medical euthanasia, throughout the 12 years since legislation was changed to permit it. 
  • In 2012 they introduction the of mobile euthanasia units allowing patients to die voluntary by lethal injection.
  •  Around 3 per cent of all deaths in the Netherlands are now by euthanasia. 
  •  Around 80 per cent of people who request euthanasia die at home. 


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Julie is the editor of She's a Romanian girl, stranded in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

For how long, she doesn't know yet. But what she does know is communication and psychology. already a bachelor in psychology, she is now also preparing to be a life coach. This is due to her genuine interest in people and the every day joy to be there for those who have questions about themselves. Working in communication for the last 4 years has helped her pursue the life-long dream of writing. But her secret love was and will always be painting, along with piano and shoes, because yes, every girl has her thing.

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