Here is a random fact. The Dutch overall are the tallest people in the world. The average height of a Dutchman is 6-foot 1 inch. So, this begs one question; where on earth did all those Dutch genes disappear on me? No, that wasn’t the question I was thinking of but is another side issue because of my mish mash of Dutch, Irish, and Polish blood. The real question is how come they make their houses and buildings so small? Seriously, tallest people in the world, smallest houses in the universe, I don’t quite see the connection. It’s not the citizens fault though; they do a fine job of expanding their living area into every imaginable space of land available to them. But they get such small plots of land. I guess the dykes and canals do take up a lot of space, and that’s not even mentioning the windmills.
They have a funny law here, if a boat has been standing on a waterway for more than 50 years it can permanently stay there. The best part though is that they can then modify the boat however they want. I’ve seen some multi level house boats with columns, gardens, verandas and all sorts of other things. The only thing missing is the helicopter landing pad.
Consequently, some of the biggest houses in the Netherlands are actually house boats. Weird but kind of cool. See what I mean about expanding their living area. I don’t know why they need such small plots of land though, I mean if they run out they can always make more. Most of Holland is in fact reclaimed land and is below sea level. The old saying sums it up “God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland”.
Anyway, getting back to them being tall, I think I figured out how everyone can tell I’m a foreigner. I’m about a foot shorter than most Dutch guys. Even when I say something in Dutch they all just answer in English, it’s so annoying. I went to a shop looking as Dutch as I could, I didn’t even say anything, and the teller asked the person I was with which other country I was from! It must have been the height, either that or the clogs I was wearing. I thought they all wore them here, maybe just in winter…
I went to the Madurodam in The Hague which is a huge model with the most famous buildings in Holland built in miniature. That restored my confidence in my stature again, I could literally crush the International Court of Justice with my foot if had I wanted to. Oh, the power. The models were really interesting and now I can say I’ve seen all the famous buildings of Holland without actually going there.
I’ve also been for a lot of bike rides, yes ones where you actually have to pedal. I haven’t bought a motorbike yet. You can see so much by bike though. Because the houses are so small they’re all bunched together, and you can be out of the city limits within minutes. It’s so different than New Zealand though, you don’t have to wear a helmet, the bikes look funny, and it’s so flat! The only hills are speed bumps and bridges.
Through my biking I’ve noticed another thing about the Dutch. They really love telling complete strangers how to do things. Whether its “ride when the light is green” (yes, they have lights and roads just for bikes here), or “use your arm to signal” they really are very nosy. I even saw our neighbour trying to listen in on one of our conversations. It was probably made easier since she also lives only a meter away. But they do also have a real sense of community and are very helpful if you ask them.
My observations on Holland so far: Flat, insanely orderly, old, small, and has lots of water. And the people: Generous (contrary to popular opinion), also insanely orderly, helpful, tall, and nosy. I love it here, although the weather is worse than England’s.