The Netherlands is one of Europe’s most visited nations, with the city of Amsterdam attracting millions of visitors every year. Despite this, however, numerous myths about the country continue to persist even in light of information to the contrary. From the name of the country to its reputation for vice and cannabis consumption, much of what people think they know about The Netherlands is inaccurate or even untrue.
One of the most common misconceptions about the Netherlands is that it is called “Holland” and many people use the two names interchangeably. This is, of course, incorrect. The term Holland refers very specifically to a region in the west of the country that is comprised of the provinces of North and South Holland; there are ten other provinces in the Netherlands. The Holland provinces do contain some of the country’s largest cities, including Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Haarlem, which may explain some of the confusion over the name.
Much to the displeasure of many natives, the Netherlands has developed a reputation as having something of a seedy side. Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District receives millions of visitors every year, due in part to the country’s legalisation of prostitution. While it is true that prostitution is accepted in Amsterdam, it is worth bearing in mind that it is also tightly regulated so that many of the problems most commonly associated with the sex industry, such as increased crime and violence, are not a serious issue in the city. Far from being seedy, Amsterdam’s Red Light District is actually one of the oldest and most beautiful parts of the city.
The Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, is notorious for its liberal drug laws, so much so that the city has become synonymous with its “coffee shop” culture to many people around the world. Many people, however, make the mistake of assuming that the possession and use of drugs is legal in the Netherlands, when in fact it is only softer drugs that are tolerated. Even then, substances such as cannabis and magic mushrooms are only decriminalised and remain technically illegal. Many Dutch people, however, have become dismayed at the influx of drug tourists and legislative changes may see Amsterdam’s coffee shops closed to foreigners by the end of 2012.
In the meantime, many tourists will most likely continue to use Amsterdam holidays as an excuse to indulge in what they can’t legally do at home. Whether the changes to drug legislation in the Netherlands will survive into the long-term or not, this looks to be one Dutch myth that will soon to be put to rest for the time being.
Jennifer Adams is a part of the digital blogging team who write about subjects like lifestyles and travel, such as Amsterdam holidays on behalf of a growing number of airline brands. To keep up to date with the latest in travel news.