I have to admit this: before I had this very crazy idea of going to the Netherlands to do my master’s degree, I had absolutely zero interest in Dutch culture and quirks. Which should make you wonder what exactly drew me to going there.
Sure, I always knew that the Netherlands is the land of windmills, clogs, and tulips. I also always knew it was home for van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Armin van Buuren and anyone with van in their last name- but that is as far as it goes.
Now, since my travel date is rapidly approaching, I’ve taken it upon myself to excessively read any and every article on Wikipedia that has to do with the country I’m headed to, and the result was that I’ve really had some large misconceptions about what is and what isn’t Dutch.
In the spirit of my new-found knowledge and interest, I’ve compiled this first list just to show you how ignorant I was only a few days ago.
Maybe because I’m not a consumer of this very popular brand of beer (or beer of any kind for that matter), I always thought Heineken was a German product. Turns out, the brewery began operating in Amsterdam in 1864 before moving onto world domination. The original location remained functional until 1988 until it was turned into a museum. Still, I refuse to believe it’s a Dutch product because of beer’s association with Oktoberfest in Germany.
The name alone makes this very popular electronics company sound English. Come on, don’t argue with me, Philips is a very popular English surname, which would explain my flawed reasoning. But no, it’s as Dutch as windmills, with its humble beginnings being traced back to the Philips family of Eindhoven in 1891. Much like Heineken, the company has gone global and its products are found in almost all households worldwide.
I’ve never heard anyone refer to this giant oil company by its official name Royal Dutch Shell, otherwise this would not have made my list. For no apparent reason, I always thought Shell was American. I wasn’t that off though because one of the company’s subsidiaries Shell Oil Company is American. So how exactly is this company Dutch? Well, it began as the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company in 1890 but then merged with the Shell Transport and Trading Company Ltd from the UK in 1907. To this day, it maintains its headquarters in the second capital of the Netherlands, The Hague.
As if owning almost 400 brands all around the world wasn’t enough, this worldwide company which specializes in food and personal care products is actually two. And neither are from France, where I had thought the corporation originated from. Actually, the case is very similar to that of Shell where a merger between the Dutch Unilever, founded in 1930, and the English Lever Brothers, which was known for producing soap. Many transactions later, the company became what it is known today, with Unilever N.V, operating in Rotterdam, while Unilever PLC is in London. I must say that I’ve always loved their logo as it manages to represent everything they stand for, without ever indicating that it is actually two divisions.
I’ve indicated this as a bonus entry because the story behind its parent company Reed Elsevier is very similar to that of Shell and Unilever- a merger between a Dutch and an English company- and I don’t want to sound redundant. But the inner nerd in me who used Elsevier’s journals to perfect every paper and project during three years of college just had to give it an honorable mention. Since I was too busy concentrating on looking for the perfect sources, I never really gave its origins much thought, but based on this previous list, I’m not so surprised. This publishing house, known mostly for its scientific journals, began in 1880 and takes up its HQ in Amsterdam.