The Netherlands: National Symbols 

Many of the tulips found for sale around the world were grown in the Netherlands. The climate and soil are ideal for growing certain varieties of flowers.

There are traditional cheese markets in Alkmaar, Gouda and Edam that remind us of the origins of a flourishing cheese trade. "Yellow gold" is the nickname for Dutch cheese.

Indonesian food
Indonesia and the Netherlands have a historical link. The relationship began during the spice trade. The Netherlands established a trading post in what is now Indonesia. Later they colonized the area and called it the Dutch East Indies. Indonesia was the largest former Dutch colony. The colony ended in 1945 when Indonesia gained its independence. In the early 21st century, the Dutch government declared a desire to increase economic relations between the two counties. Due to the shared history, it is quite common to find Indonesians and Indonesian food in the Netherlands.


Dutch pancakes are light and airy. They are a cross between a French crêpe, a French soufflé and a US American popover. Unlike US pancakes, which are usually served with maple syrup, the Dutch often eat their pannekoeken with powdered sugar and lemon juice.


Because it is so flat, the Netherlands is located at what is called "sea level." The people of the Netherlands are in a constant battle with the sea and rain. When the tide rises or when there is a strong rain, significant parts of the land are at risk for flooding. For this reason, it has 1,500 miles of dikes, a tidal barrage and additional innovative technologies to help from getting flooded. A dike is a man-made mound of earth or concrete that is built to create a barrier to prevent the water from passing that point.


Large Ports

Europort, just west of Rotterdam, is the world's busiest port.


Because the country is so flat and so small, an efficient way to get around is by bicycle. Biking on dikes is a popular form of transportation to and from school.



The Netherlands is famous for having many windmills. Windmills were necessary to drain the land—which was often flooded because most of the land is below sea level. Today electric pumps are used to "reclaim" (get back) land that is beneath the sea. The windmills are now national monuments.

While windmills were mostly used to drain the land, they were also used for many other jobs. The wind was a clean and inexpensive source of energy. Windmills were used to grind grains to make flour, cocoa, dyes and mustard. There was a time when almost everyone depended upon windmills to help with their work. Windmills came in all sizes—from tiny ones to great big ones that had a workshop and space in which the miller's family would live.

Dutch windmills have their own language. Messages of joy, sorrow and danger are shown by the position of the arms and the way the sails are attached. During the war, windmills were a way to relay messages. Today windmills tell us if there has been a birth, death or special occasion by the way their arms are positioned.

Today, there are windmills in the Netherlands in which people still live. The largest group of windmills can be found at Kinderdijk where all the mills turn their sails on Saturday afternoons in the summer. You can see the windmills by walking or bicycling on paths atop the dikes or by taking a boat ride along the canal.


Wooden shoes are another national symbol in the Netherlands. They keep feet drier and warmer than other kinds of shoes. In some places, wooden shoes are still worn by farmers, seamen or anyone who works outside in the damp climate. They are usually made from the wood of the poplar or willow tree.

In most parts of the Netherlands, wooden shoes are not usually worn in the house. They are left at the door—either on their sides or propped up against the house so they remain dry on the inside. When they get muddy, they are scrubbed and put on sticks to dry.

It was a custom for a groom, especially a fisherman, to give wooden shoes to his bride. In the town of Marken, the seaman would do his best to decorate or carve the shoes to make them as beautiful as possible.

There are many folktales and customs associated with wooden shoes. One folktale from North Brabant says that if you leave your wooden shoes on the floor pointing toward your bed, it will give a nightmare a chance to get into the bed while you sleep.