Do you know it's Dutch?

Do you know it's Dutch?

The Netherlands may be a small country, but it has a long and full history. It is already famous for so many iconic things, like Gouda cheese and fields of tulips, however, there are a wealth of things (and people!) with Dutch roots that many of us don’t even know about.

Let's dive into some the things we can thank the Netherlands for:

1. Santa Claus

While the character of Santa Claus may be very different from his Dutch equivalent, Sinterklaas, we do have the Dutch to thank for his name!

Both characters are based on the historical figure of Saint Nicholas. But the modern name Santa Claus comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas. Stories of Sinterklaas were taken by Dutch settlers to the USA, where the name and the character evolved into the Santa Claus we know and love now!

2. Shell Oil

This global oil company’s full title is actually Royal Dutch Shell PLC, and is headquartered in The Hague. It was created in 1907 through the amalgamation of a Dutch and a British oil company, and in the merger, the Dutch got 60 percent ownership.

Shell was ranked the third-largest company by revenue in 2018, with a revenue of 396.556 million dollars and a profit of 23.352 million dollars in that year.

3. Rene Descartes’ writings

Rene Descartes is a famous French philosopher, known for major works such as  "Principles of Philosophy," in which he presented his concept "I think, therefore I am". However, most don’t know that Descartes moved to the Netherlands in 1628, where he worked at a number of Dutch universities. While here, he produced many of his major works in mathematics and philosophy. 

Descartes is not the only significant expat to have lived in the Netherlands - check out some more here.

4. National anthems

A country’s national anthem has long been a symbol of pride and unity. But did you know that the Netherlands was the first country to have a national anthem!?

Wilhelmus van Nassouwe, commonly known as just Wilhelmus, dates back to at least 1572. The 16th-century lyrics were then put to music in 1626 and the anthem was born. Wilhelmus has a whopping 15(!) verses, but don’t worry, these days only the first verse is sung so you don’t need to know the whole thing. 

5. Gin

Who doesn’t love a gin and tonic on a warm summer evening? Well, that's another thing to thank the Dutch for. The earliest versions of the modern drink date back to the 16th century, when it was produced as a medicine. Back then, the drink was called jenever, after the juniper berries that were added to it for taste. Jenever evolved into gin when the British discovered it in the 17th century and decided to make it their own.

6. The Kardashians

While many of us know this incredibly famous and successful family originally come from Armenia, they actually do also have Dutch roots. Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner is of European descent and is half-Dutch. This means that all the Kardashian daughters - Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kendall, and Kylie - are a quarter Dutch!

The Kardashians aren’t the only celebrities with Dutch connections. British politician Nick Clegg’s mother is Dutch, and he spent a lot of time in the Netherlands as a child visiting his grandma (he also speaks fluent Dutch!).  Award-winning actress Audrey Hepburn also has Dutch roots, and was descended from Dutch aristocracy. Read all about Audrey’s life in the Netherlands here.

7. The stock market

The Amsterdam Stock Exchange opened in 1602 as a way to fund the East India Company’s lengthy trade-based trips out of the Netherlands. Set up by Dutch legislators and businessmen, it was the first to offer a trade in stocks and bonds of companies.

People of all social and economic standing were invited to invest in the voyages, and this investment ultimately allowed for the growth of the Dutch economy in the 17th century. According to experts, this economic progress in the Netherlands laid the foundation for the development of the idea of capitalism.

8. The Vengaboys

While the name of this band might not ring bells, their hits “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom” and “We’re going to Ibiza” definitely will. The Vengaboys are a Eurodance band based in Rotterdam that formed in 1997.

The band reached the top of the charts in over 25 countries around the world and was nominated for a number of awards including MTV Best Breakthrough of the Year.

9. Fair Trade

The Netherlands is known for its trading empire during the Dutch Golden Age, but the country's trading legacy lives on with the invention of the first modern-day fair trade label. Set up by two Dutch fair trade advocates in 1988, the Max Havelaar label allows any company around the world to sell free trade goods and have them certified by a trusted organisation.

Fair Trade isn't the only significant invention to come out of the Netherlands though. Check out 10 more quirky and important Dutch inventions here!

How many of these Dutch things did you know about? Is there anything missing? Let us know in the comments!

Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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