Home Moving to the Netherlands Society & History 10 things you didn’t know were Dutch
Last update on June 09, 2021
Written by Everything in English

The Dutch can be credited to many more inventions than Gouda and Edam yellow cheese wheels and ‘Big Brother’.

Some things are just so well-known worldwide that they can’t be Dutch, right? Or the name sounds so non-Dutch that they must be from abroad. Well, embrace yourself for these 10 surprises of things you thought were international, but are actually Dutch. Here is a list of 10 things that many people don’t know originated in the Netherlands.

1. The world’s longest-running international radio show: the Happy Station Show

Not only is it Dutch, it’s even the most well-known English spoken radio programme on Dutch radio. The Happy Station Show was introduced by Philips on their PCJJ radio station in 1927, and is still running, though currently on a Taiwanese radio station. After WWII, the show moved to Radio Netherlands Worldwide until 1995, when RNW cancelled it. In 2009 however, the show returned on the Taiwanese PCJ Radio and it is currently still running.

2. The compact cassette

Everybody knows the CD was invented by Philips, but hardly anyone remembers nowadays that so was the compact cassette. Probably because very few people still use compact cassettes. Yet it turned out revolutionary for the music industry. After all, ‘free music’ became suddenly available to everybody because they could record their own mix-tapes with music from the radio, rather than buying a record in the store. Hence, indirectly, the Dutch contributed to the invention of music piracy.

3. Still-life painting

A still-life painting by Balthasar van der Ast
Balthasar van der Ast

Now obviously the Dutch weren’t the first artists painting still lifes. Still life painting has existed for as long as painting has existed. However, Dutch artists started making still-life paintings and hence made it a distinct genre and professional specialisation. At least, according to Wikipedia anyway.

4. Orange-colored carrots

Carrots are actually not orange. Carrots were originally black, red, yellow or purple by nature. Orange colored carrots were invented by a group of farmers from Hoorn, who cross-bred yellow carrots with red ones. Some early forms of genetic technology, you could say. Claims are the color orange was chosen to honor the House of Orange, though the fact that orange carrots taste somewhat sweeter might have something to do with it as well.

5. Elstar apples

Another nature-hack, this time by farmers from the eastern Gelderland village of Elst, after which the apple was named. The Elstar isn’t even that old yet, ‘invented’ in 1950. They are often used for the production of apple sauce, but are also very nice to eat as a healthy snack.

6. The atlas

All Dutch know the Bosatlas from school, a book with maps and demographics of different places. The very first atlas widely published was the Atlas Novus, published by Amsterdammer Willem Blaeu in 1635. But even before him, Abraham Ortellius wrote the very first atlas in 1548.

Now this might raise some discussion on whether or not the atlas is actually a Dutch invention, as Abraham Ortellius was in fact born in Antwerp, which was the Netherlands back in those days but is currently part of Belgium. However, since he personally never knew Belgium, we’ll consider him Dutch for now.

7. WiFi

Chances are you are using it now, since WiFi has widely replaced cables for connecting computers with routers and the internet. But WiFi also enabled other, smaller devices to connect to one’s home network, such as phones, portable internet radios and MP3-players. Imagine having to connect an ethernet cable to your iPad Nano. WiFi however was invented long before it became widely available, just like the internet itself for that matter. In 1991, Vic Hayes invented the precursor to 802.11 when he worked for the Nieuwegein-based NRC Corporation. This IEEE 802.11 is what is called WiFi today, though technically WiFi is actually a brand name. WLAN is a more general name for IEEE 802.11.

8. Python and VIM

Many of us may never have heard of these, but they are two important Unix-components. Python is a programming language invented by Guido van Rossum in 1989. Many large organizations such as Google, Yahoo, CERN and NASA use it. Vim is a plain-text editor written by Bram Moolenaar in 1991. Where Windows-users use Notepad, Linux users have Vim, which automatically highlights code and shows errors. It is the most popular plain-text editor among Linux users.

9. Big Buck Bunny

Look at it! Such an adorable, heavily obese bunny! This 10-minute cartoon triggers both empathy and laughter. Who came up with such a fantastic story? Well, Sacha Goedegebure did. Mainly to promote Blender, which is free software to create such animations, and which by the way is also Dutch. But seriously, they should have given Buck his own TV-show.

10. Capitalism

Many people think this to be American, but capitalism is actually a Dutch invention. ‘The United Provinces of the Netherlands were the land in which the capitalist spirit for the first time attained its fullest maturity’, according to Wikipedia. So next time you complain about capitalism or the free-market economy, just remember: we have ourselves to thank for it!