Stereotypes of the Netherlands

Stereotypes of the NetherlandsInspired by the New Jersey map, and used as a fun exercise in both mapmaking and summing up my own knowledge of my home country. Obviously this is no hard science (or whatever form of science, for that matter), but, you know, it’s a map. Maps are cool.

  • Annexed by Germany: North sea beach. Ze Krauts have got their own beaches, but apparently ours are nicer. We don’t mind them, but they do have the funny tendency to dig holes in the sand to mark their territory. Still an improvement over their previous methods. The most well-known seaside town is Scheveningen, which is coincidentally a nice shibboleth to determine whether someone is Dutch or German.
  • Arrogant schmucks (and ignorant tourists): Amsterdam. Loud, obnoxious, and claiming to be the center of the universe (also known as “almost every capital city ever”). We generally like tourists, apart from those who don’t see the differences between sidewalk and bike path, and those who think the Netherlands consists of Amsterdam and some windmills and tulip fields.
  • At least we’ve got a naval base: Den Helder. Hometown of the Dutch navy, which makes it sound way more spectacular than it is. Seriously, don’t bother going to Den Helder. Except for boarding the ferry to Texel. Texel is nice.
  • Backyard to the big cities: Groene Hart/Green Heart. Thinly populated, rural, and completely surrounded by cities like Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. Filled with lakes, small rivers and marshes, and therefore ideal for all kinds of recreational activities. If we’d make an effort and fill it up with housing projects, we could create a metropolitan region that outranks the San Francisco Bay area. However, since most people like it the way it is, we now have a nice soggy backyard with no industry of significance.
  • Beach holiday territory: Waddeneilanden/West Frisian Islands. Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog. Less Germans, so more room on the beach for us. Great place for cycling and camping, as long as the wind blows in the right direction and you know how to properly set up a tent.
  • Better off as an island: Urk. Used to be an actual island, and still is for all intents and purposes. Very religious. Very conservative. Close community. Lots of fish.
  • Bible belt: what it says on the tin. Conservative protestants all the way from Zeeland to Drenthe. First place to aim your frustration at during measles outbreaks, because of their dislike for state-run vaccination programs.
  • Broke Commies: East Groningen. The only area where the Communist party still has some foothold. Also the poorest region of the entire country. No industry, no tourism, and nothing to do but emigrate to Germany.
  • Catholic carnival country: North Brabant. Also known as the area “below the rivers”. Apart from Limburg the only province with a catholic majority, known for their “Burgundic” behaviour (i.e. bon vivants, who enjoy their beer and their festivities.) Local dialect that approaches Flemish.
  • Cheeseheads: North Holland/Zaan district. Together with South Holland the only area that actually warrants the ethnic slur. Very industrious ever since the Dutch Golden Age.
  • Corrupt unintelligible backup-Belgians: Limburg. Experts in cronyism, nepotism and pastry. The jury is still out on whether the Limburgers or the Frisians are the most unintelligible people, but at least the Frisians are honest about it and admit they’re speaking a different language.
  • Flat and dull: Flevoland. Reclaimed from the sea in the early fifties. The project itself was spectacular, the end result less so. Flat, empty and windy. So we crammed some windmills into the area, and now everybody is happy.
  • Frat boy city: Leiden. This one gets a bit lost in translation. Americans have frat boys, we have“corpsballen”. The hazing and the beer consumption is still there, though. They can be found in any university town, it’s just that Leiden has no other significant claim to fame.
  • Friendly neighbours (and farmers): Twente. Home to agriculture, the Grolsch beer brewery and the concept of “noaberskop”.
  • Frugal and first to drown: Zeeland. Putting the “New” in “New Zealand” since 1645. Industrious and sober people. Used to be the first potential victim to being swallowed by the sea. After that actually happened, they decided to build some world-famous dams, and now they’re pretty much safe. Good on ya, Zeeland!
  • Fruit pickers: Betuwe/Rivierenland. Lots of rivers, plenty of fertile ground for fruit orchards. At some point they decided they needed a mascot, so they came up with a young boy with a body made out of berries.
  • Greenhouses everywhere: Westland. Seriously, not kidding.
  • Incestuous fishermen: Volendam. Incredibly tight-knit fishing community, known for their traditional clothing. For some reason responsible for half of Dutch pop music production.
  • Little Havana: Nijmegen. In Dutch known as “Havana aan de Waal” (Havana-upon-Waal), after the river on which it is situated. Politically left-leaning ever since the sixties and seventies.
  • Look, we’ve got mountains: South Limburg. Proud owner of the Vaalserberg, at 322m (1059 ft) the highest point of the Netherlands. Too bad we have to share it with both Belgium and Germany.
  • Motocross (and farmers): Achterhoek. Rural area, home of the Zwarte Cross and other mud-related activities.
  • Multicultural skyscraperfest: Rotterdam. Used to have a nice traditional city center, then we had some Germans over and the whole thing got a bit out of hand and now it’s mostly post-war highrise. Has the highest percentage of foreigners from non-industrialised nations, one of whom made it to the mayor’s office.
  • Murderers and socialists: Oss. In the early 20th century infamous because of the brutal killings by the Oss Gang, now mostly known as the hometown of Jan Marijnissen, chairman of the Dutch Socialist Party. Which is not half as spectacular as the whole murder thing, but the local tourist office probably prefers it this way.
  • Not Friesland: Leeuwarden. Capital of the province of Friesland, but they don’t speak the same languageand they don’t support the same football club, so no one in Friesland takes them seriously.
  • Philipstown: Eindhoven. Owes much of its growth and image as a high-tech city to the Philips company, even though they moved their headquarters to Amsterdam in the late nineties.
  • Politicians and hooligans: The Hague. Home of both the Dutch government and the football club ADO Den Haag, which tends to have some crowd control issues on match days (although it’s not half as bad as it used to be). The violent core has a longstanding rivalry with Ajax Amsterdam, who in turn care more about their rivalry with Feyenoord Rotterdam.
  • Posh and pompous: Gooi area. Situated between Amsterdam and Hilversum (the country’s main broadcasting centre), Het Gooi is the home of the rich and famous. Decadent, opulent and affluent, and rather keen to show it. The villas are nice, though.
  • Sadistic wet bastard: North Sea. Great for international trade, awful for keeping your feet dry.
  • Stoic farmers: Groningen. Most popular local phrase to express unbridled enthousiasm for a specific event: “Could be worse.” Strong dislike of Friesland, a feeling that is entirely mutual.
  • Streams (and farmers): Salland. Had to look this one up, no one cares about Salland. But apparently they have a lot of waterways and such. So yeah, streams. Must be nice for cycling or something. Go Salland!
  • Stubborn blond speedskaters: Friesland/Frisia. Probably the first province to secede from the rest. Strong regional identity, incomprehensible dialect which is pretty close to English. When they’re not speedskating, they are sailing in a skûtsje. When they’re not sailing in a skûtsje, they are jumping over a ditch using a pole five times their body size by sticking it in the ditch and climbing to the top hoping they reach the other side in time.
  • Suicidal kids: West Friesland. Not a part of Friesland, oddly enough. No significant industry, no higher education, lots of drug use and one of the highest youth suicide rates in the country.
  • Too far away for any practical purposes: City of Groningen. The only university town in the entire north. Generally considered to be quite nice, but a two and a half hour drive from the main metropolitan areas and therefore off the radar.
  • Too poor to live in Amsterdam: Almere. Commuter town for the capital. Built in the seventies and eighties, and it’s showing.
  • Train delay central: Utrecht. Great place once you look past the train station and the adjacent shopping mall, but also a crucial railway hub for the country. If something train-related breaks down here, you’ll notice it all the way to South Limburg.
  • Wait, people live here?: Drenthe. Back when the Dutch called themselves the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, Drenthe was actually province number eight. Since they were dirt poor, however, no one bothered to count them in (or give them voting rights in the senate, for that matter). Great place for a compulsory holiday with your parents. They’ve got ancient rocks, and…yeah, no, that’s it. They’ve got rocks. Oh, and a Nazi camp. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.
  • Why did we drain this area again?: Noordoostpolder/North East Polder. Flat area, also drained in the early 20th century, and the closest we managed to get to a flat SimCity model. We sprawled some villages here and there on the flat soil and hoped that it would amount to something, but it really doesn’t. Did I mention how flat it is?
  • Woodland, wildlife and bike lanes: Veluwe. The largest national park of the Netherlands, and the only place where you genuinely can get lost in the woods. You know, until you stumble upon one of the numerous bike paths used to get across the car-free zone, like, ten minutes after you got lost. Has more camp sites and bungalow parks than the entire country of Switzerland. We like our caravans, man.
  • You’re ours now, bitch!: IJsselmeer/Lake Yssel. Used to be an open sea, complete with tides and salt water and shit. Then we decided we didn’t like it, built a dike around it, and started waterskiing on its face.

2014-09-01 10.47.46

This one blew up in an unimaginable way. Views in the hundred thousands if not millions, national and international coverage both online, in the paper and on tv, and an interview or two. Absolutely mental.

After creating the image, I posted it on Reddit (both in r/TheNetherlands and r/MapPorn). The map quickly found its way to Facebook, and from there on to bigger publications. GeenStijl, NRC Handelsblad, Trouw, Dagblad van het Noorden, and of course the hilarious news item at Editie NL. I’m still not quite sure how to top all this…