Since the 1990’s Dutch product designers have gained worldwide recognition. Under the wings of Amsterdam based design collective Droog, products of designers such as Hella Jongerius, Marcel Wanders and Jurgen Bey have travelled the world. Dutch design is simple and powerful and often combines unusual materials. Also, Dutch designers are known to always inject some humour into their designs, resulting in a lamp made out of empty milk bottles and a bench made from an old tree.
You might not think it when looking around our streets, but the Dutch are quite fashionable. Viktor & Rolf is probably the best example of our fashion sense, or at least the most popular. This couple has taken the fashion world by storm the past decade. More recently, Iris van Herpen, who successfully combines technology with fashion, is getting a lot of attention. Her work can be seen in galleries and museums across the world. Other famous fashion designers include Marlies Dekkers (who design lingerie worn by Lady Gaga amongst others), Michael van der Ham (who often collaborates with Topshop) and Margareta van den Bosch (who used to be the head-designer of H&M).
Number one national sport in The Netherlands must be football or soccer. You can find talented Dutch footballers playing in teams all across Europe. Our national team holds an interesting world record: there is no other team that has played as many world cup finals as the Dutch without ever winning one. Fortunately, we do have a history of great players and coaches that have made their mark on European football, like Johan Cruijf, Ruud Gullit, Patrick Kluivert, Edwin van der Sar and more recently Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart en Guus Hiddink.
Nowadays there are still a lot of talented painters to be found in The Netherlands, but the ones that are still best known lived a few centuries ago like Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals, Rembrandt van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh. The fact that we appreciate these painters so much today says nothing of their reputation in the past: most were struggling to get by and they all died poor. If you are interested in the works of the painters from these times, check out any of the museums on visual arts in Amsterdam where all the big names are represented, like the Van Gogh Museum or the Rijksmuseum.
We are a relatively small country, but we are rich in good schools that attract a lot of students from abroad. Take for instance the very popular Design Academy in Eindhoven that offers one of the best design educations in Europe. The Technical University in Delft is similar, but they offer a more technical approach to design than Eindhoven. There are in total 14 universities in The Netherlands, of which three have a more technical approach and one that focuses on life sciences. All others offer a variety of studies with a broad orientation.
One thing the Dutch have had to learn to be able to live comfortably here is to manage all the water that is always present here. A big part of the country lies below sea level and would flood if it wasn’t for the dunes and the Delta Works. After the big North Sea flood of 1953 the Delta Works were constructed to protect the province Zeeland from the water. With success. The Delta Works are considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The same goes for the Zuiderzee Works, that were constructed to improve flood protection but also to create extra land for agricultural purposes.