The northwestern European nation of the Netherlands has a long and interesting history that has shaped its diverse culture. The explorative nature of the Dutch people and regional differences of the nation have also helped enrich its culture.
Ethnicity, Language, and Religion in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has a population of around 17,151,228 individuals. The Dutch constitute 76.0% of the population. Dutch is the country's official and most widely spoken language. Frisian is the official language in the country’s Fryslan province. 23.4% of the population practices Roman Catholicism. Protestant Christians account for 14.9% of the population. Islam is the religion of 5.1% of the population. A large section of the Dutch people (50.7%) do not adhere to any religion.
The Sinterklaas (a figure based on Saint Nicholas, a patron saint of children) is a prime traditional festivity of the Netherlands. It is celebrated every year on December 5. The festivities include feasting and the exchange of gifts. Another Dutch tradition is that of serving beschuit met muisjes (a type of Dutch biscuit) to people who visit a mother and her new-born baby. The Dutch also celebrate Saint Martin's day on November 11. On this day, children go from door to door with candles and paper lanterns and sing songs in exchange for treats.
The cuisine of the Netherlands is influenced by its location in the fertile North Sea river delta. Thus, fishing, farming, and overseas trading has shaped the Dutch cuisine. The traditional cuisine of the country can be described as simple or “rustic” with little dependence on meat and the use of a variety of vegetables. Bread with cheese was typically consumed for breakfast and lunch. Meat, seasonal vegetables, and potatoes featured in the dinner. Today, the Dutch cuisine has gathered many refinements and is more cosmopolitan in nature. International cuisines are available in all the major cities of the Netherlands. Dutch cheeses and Dutch pastry are renowned.
Literature, Art, and Craft in the Netherlands
Until the end of the 11th century, there was hardly any Dutch literature in the written form. It was all in the oral form, mainly as poetry, folktales and legends. Dutch written literature developed from the 12th century onwards. In the initial stages, published literary works were mainly in the form of romantic stories or biographies of the noblemen. Later, literature with a middle-class tone was written. Dutch religious literature also developed in parallel. The Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus was one of the greatest writers of the northern Renaissance. Political literature began to be written in the 18th and 19th centuries. Eduard Douwes Dekker was a renowned Dutch writer of this time. He is most famous for a satirical novel that denounced the abuses of colonialism in the Dutch East Indies. Today, the Dutch literary works cover many genres.
Dutch art has been praised across the world and the country has produced some of the world’s best artists and painters. Dutch Golden Age painting dominates the history of Dutch art. It developed during the 17th century and influenced the whole of Europe. Van Gogh (a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter) and Rembrandt (a Dutch painter and printmaker) are two of the world’s most renowned figures in the world of art. Today, the works of these great artists can be viewed in the many museums and art galleries across the country.
Performance Arts in the Netherlands
The country has multiple music traditions that range from ballet to classical and folk. The traditional musical genre of the country is called levenslied and involves songs with a simple rhythm and melody that are based on light but sentimental themes. The barrel organ and the accordion are used to play the levenslied music. Contemporary Dutch rock and pop music are also quite popular in the country. Some of the world’s best electronic dance music DJ’s are from the Netherlands. The Amsterdam dance event is one of the globe’s biggest dance festivals celebrating electronic music. The Dutch also have their own distinct cabaret version. The Dutch film industry is also doing very well.
Sports in the Netherlands
The Dutch play a number of sports. Nearly 4.5 million people in the country are registered to one of the thousands of sports clubs existing there. Football is the most popular sport in the Netherlands. The other popular sports include volleyball, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, tennis, etc. A number of native sports have also managed to survive the test of times. These include fierljeppen, klootschieten, korfball, kolven, etc. Athletes from the Netherlands have won numerous medals in both the Summer and the Winter Olympic Games.
Life in the Dutch Society
Although the law of the Netherlands grants equal freedoms and rights to both men and women, gender-based inequalities are still quite prominent in Dutch society. The situation can be explained by going back in time to the World War era. Since the Netherlands did not directly participate in World War I, it did not experience a massive loss of men to the war. In other countries like England, women adopted the role of men in the domestic sphere during the World Wars while the men engaged in fighting. However, such a requirement was not felt in the Netherlands. Thus, the women in the country took more time to enter the workforce than those in other Western European countries.
Marriages in the Netherlands are most often based on romantic relationships. The choice of a partner is, however, usually class-based. Cohabitation prior to marriage is common. Same-sex marriages are also recognized by Dutch law.
Most households in the country are nuclear in nature but single-parent households are also rising in numbers. Although traditionally men held the principal authority in the household, the trend is shifting towards the equality of marriage partners. The average family in the country has one or two children. In families where both parents work, small children are often kept in a day-care facility till their parents are back. Corporal punishment is discouraged by Dutch society. Education is valued and the Dutch children are known to be successful students.