Dutchies and their interesting relationship with water

Dutchies and their interesting relationship with water

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Softly said; the Dutchies have a very unique bond with water. Margreet from Taalthuis explains the relationship between the Dutch and water, complete with fun facts to help you feel a bit more at home in the Netherlands.

Water is both our best friend and our worst enemy. Water brings us economic prosperity, beautiful landscapes and the opportunity to practice water sports. However, the downside is that we continuously have to be alert and protect ourselves against the dangers of overstromingen (floods).

How important is water management? Some fun facts!

Before getting into our smart water constructions, let’s start with two fun facts:

  • A quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level.

Crazy right?! That means that - without our smart constructions - a quarter of the land we are using now for food cultivation, living, and so on, would actually be water.

  • The lowest point in the Netherlands is almost seven metres below NAP.

NAP stands for Normaal Amsterdams Peil (Amsterdam Ordnance Datum). Given that the average house has a height of 2,1 meters, this would mean the houses in Nieuwerkerk aan de IJssel (which has the lowest NAP) would be under water about three times.

So, now you understand why water management is so important in the Netherlands, let’s get into it.

The Netherlands and its storm surge barriers

Over the past centuries, the Dutch have been in a battle with water. Since water is strong, we had to be smart. Today, we have many advanced techniques to keep water under control. Stormvloedkeringen (storm surge barriers) are moveable flood barriers at river mouths. When the water levels are rising high, the barriers are closed. Think of the Afsluitdijk and the Europoort barrier, as well as, of course, The Delta Works!

The Delta Works (our most famous barriers) are sometimes even called het achtste wereldwonder (the eighth wonder of the world). The Delta Works were developed after the watersnoodramp (flood disaster) in 1953. During this disaster, many people died and an enormous amount of land was flooded and destroyed. Thanks to the Delta Works, the risk of another flood disaster has been reduced dramatically.

Dutch prosperity facilitated by water

Dutch water-related economische voorspoed (economic prosperity) started a long time ago. During the Golden Age, the Netherlands was seen as a trading power in the maritime industry. Our famous VOC ships sailed all over the world with different kinds of merchandise. Even after the Golden Age, we stayed an important player on the world seas, largely because of our container shipping and water transport. Rotterdam mostly contributed to this status, as it has one of the largest havens (ports) in the world.

Besides shipping and transport, our fishing industry is also contributing to Dutch prosperity. Internationally, the Netherlands is seen as an expert in the field of water management. Last but not least - and highly relevant - the Dutchies focus on innovations in duurzaam watergebruik (sustainable water use) and architectural alternatives for urban development on water.

Dutch water sports, events, museums and attractions

De waddeneilanden (Frisian islands) and Zeeland are Holland’s most suitable places for a water holiday. You can windsurf, kite, fish, sail, swim, row and so on. The waddeneilanden are also famous for wading through the mud: mudflat hiking!

Besides all these sporty water activities, the Netherlands has several impressive water events. Think of the World Port Days in Rotterdam and the world's largest maritime spectacle: SAIL Amsterdam.

Are the water sports and events a bit too much heisa (hoopla) for you? Well, the Dutch even know how to combine water with some more peaceful activities; visit the Dutch parts on the UNESCO World Heritage List (all but one have to do with water) or stroll through one of our interesting water-related museums.

Are you curious about Dutch culture? The diverse Dutch language courses by Taalthuis will not only make you familiar with the Dutch language, but also give you a taste of the culture and peculiarities that the Netherlands has to offer. Check out our Dutch language course offer and pick your favourite!

Margreet van 't Haaff


Margreet van 't Haaff

Margreet studied Dutch language and literature at Leiden University. She was a high school teacher and founded Taalthuis in 2006. Since then she teaches Dutch as a second language. Taalthuis...

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