April 11, 2015

Dutch people may be tall because of natural selection

Filed under: Health,Nature by Branko Collin @ 2:46 pm

dutch-doors-metro-centricThe Dutch are among the tallest people in the world. According to the Guardian, Dutch men average a height of 1.84 metres and women a height of 1.71 metres.

Although no-one knows exactly why this is, it has long been held that health and well-being may have something to do with it.

Cue Gert Stulp, a 2-metre-tall Dutchman working at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine who says the impressive rise of 20 centimetres in the past 150 years may have to do with natural selection. Writes Science:

[Stulp] and his colleagues turned to a database tracking key life data for almost 100,000 people in the country’s three northern provinces. The researchers included only people over 45 who were born in the Netherlands to Dutch-born parents. This way, they had a relatively accurate number of total children per subject (most people stop having children after 45) and they also avoided the effects of immigration.

In the remaining sample of 42,616 people, taller men had more children on average, despite the fact that they had their first child at a higher age. The effect was small—an extra 0.24 children at most for taller men—but highly significant. (Taller men also had a smaller chance of remaining childless, and a higher chance of having a partner). The same effect wasn’t seen in women, who had the highest reproductive success when they were of average height. The study suggests this may be because taller women had a smaller chance of finding a mate, while shorter women were at higher risk of losing a child.

The result is that if tall-making genes exist, they get passed onto the children of tall men.

See also: Why are the Dutch so tall?

(Photo by Metro Centric, some rights reserved)


April 5, 2015

‘Cancer’ most hurtful word of abuse among Dutch youth

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 3:27 pm

flower-randy-robertsonThe top 5 of hurtful words in the Netherlands among 18 to 25-year-olds is, according to a recent study:

  1. Kanker (cancer)
  2. Godverdomme (god damn me)
  3. Hoer (whore)
  4. Neger (negro)
  5. Tering (tuberculosis)

The study was commissioned by Bond Tegen Vloeken. A whopping 71% of those interviewed considered the word ‘kanker’ to be hurtful.

Bond Tegen Vloeken is a Christian organisation that wants people to stop using their gods’ names in vain. In their press release they use the word scheldwoorden instead of krachttermen, a distinction the English language doesn’t seem to make to this Dutchman. The former means ‘words with which you abuse others’, the latter are words of pain or anger that aren’t directed at anyone in particular.

Of the top 5, the words ‘kanker’, ‘tering’ and ‘godverdomme’ are considered krachttermen, although the first two can easily be used in compound terms of abuse, e.g. ‘kankerhoer’.

(Photo of a delicate little flower by Randy Robertson, some rights reserved; link: Telegraaf)

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January 10, 2015

Things the Dutch do while riding a bike

Filed under: Bicycles by Branko Collin @ 1:58 pm

dutch-cycling-marken-wagenbuurCycling is an everyday mode of transport in most of the world, but nowhere do people choose to ride their bikes to work, school, football practice and bars as much as in the Netherlands.

This preponderance of cycling has led to many habits that have become a part of the fabric of life in this country. In the video above, Mark Wagenbuur shows examples of cycling hand in hand, of cycling with suitcases, of rear rack rides and of transporting large objects with your bike.

The video is part two of a series of two, so if you cannot enough of this sort of thing, part 1 is here. In a separate blog post Mark Wagenbuur talks a little about the background music he uses for the two videos.

(Photo: crop of a frame of the video)

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April 20, 2014

New Greetings from Holland

Filed under: Photography by Branko Collin @ 9:21 am


In 2009 four organisations decided it was time to reboot Dutch travel postcards, the ones containing cheese, windmills, cows, cheese, wooden shoes, cheese, cheese, tulips and cheese, amongst others. Have I mentioned cheese?

They asked the public to come up with new iconic images of the Netherlands and some 8,000 people responded by sending in photos, often reproducing, referencing or riffing off the same old icons. The resulting postcards were displayed in a travelling exhibition called Nieuwe Groeten Uit… and writer-photographer Hans Aarsman and writer Anna Woltz collected a selection of the cards in an almost-postcard-sized book of the same name.

Hans Aarsman told his publisher Nieuw Amsterdam in the video interview shown here: “You see a lot of family photography. For instance, there is picture of a father and son peeing off a boat together, taken from the back—you just know the mother took that photo. […] You [to Woltz, ed.] wrote about how people photographed their pets, believing the result to be iconic images of the Netherlands. And the funny thing is sometimes that is true.”

The Nieuwe Groeten Uit… exhibit was organised by the short-lived Nationaal Historisch Museum and by FOAM, ANP Historisch Archief and BankGiro Loterij.

(Source photo: Flickr / Nationaal Historisch Museum)

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December 24, 2012

Elfstedentocht fever explained

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 8:32 am

It is dreary and wet and not that cold, and this year the weather report even predicted the dreariness and not-coldness to last beyond the apocalypse, the perfect time to read about the mad panic that would sweep the country if winter were coming:

And then abruptly and over the protestations of our doubts it becomes apparent that the fate of our very society is placed into the hands of a tall, blond, probably very sober and severe man most likely called Siebe or Wiebe or Hidde or Fedde.


And our Siebe will look very sternly into the camera and solemnly proclaim ‘no’, because that’s his favourite word, further tests need to be performed, the thickness of the ice will be continuously monitored, and same time tomorrow. And the next day will be the same, the press conference live on every network, a solemn ‘no’, and DAY TWELVE OF THE PANIC CRISIS.


And all the nation’s eyes will have turned North, to a province so obsessed with ice they just went ahead and called the place Freezeland, like a theme park for masochists, and our man Siebe will appear again, with all the journalists in the land having run out of questions to ask him, and it’s just as well, because he makes a face as if he is about to be forced to eat something disgusting, and says,

and says, and says … you will have to read the rest of Paul G. Hunt’s wonderful explanation of how Dutch Elfstedentocht fever works to find out.

(Photo by Paul van Eijden, some rights reserved)

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December 12, 2011

Brabant accent the sexiest

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 8:45 am

Members of dating website Parship have voted the Brabant accent the sexiest, the site reported last month.

The Southern accents (Noord-Brabant and Limburg) are both characterized by ‘soft’ gs (both voiced and unvoiced) that are produced by pronouncing the g more forward in the mouth.

The accents from Limburg and Amsterdam ended second and third in the poll, with men preferring the former and women the latter. The Amsterdam accent is characterized amongst other by a tongue tip r and the devoicing of initial consonants: “de zon in the zee zien zakken” (to see the sun sink into the sea) becomes “de son in de see sien sakke”.

A sample of both the soft and the hard g can be heard in the suddenly prescient and salacious 2010 carnival hit song by Jos van Oss (Oss being a place in Brabant) Ik heb een zachte G, maar ook een harde L (I have a soft G, but also a hard D), in which the male singer sports a Southern G and the female singers have a hard G.

(Photo by Ali Nishan, some rights reserved)

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October 9, 2011

Asparagus most popular vegetable among the Dutch, French beans second

Filed under: Food & Drink by Branko Collin @ 1:27 pm

Radio show Vroege Vogels (Early Birds) held a vegetable popularity contest during the Week of the Vegetarian restaurant which ran from October 3 through October 9.

Perhaps surprisingly the top four comprises, in the following order, the asparagus, the French bean, chicory and Brussels sprouts (asperge, sperzieboon, witlof and spruitje in Dutch).

In total more than 30,000 votes were cast for 62 vegetables, the show’s website reports. Asparagus and the French bean finished 42 votes apart, the former receiving 1873 votes. Traditionally asparagus is eaten white in the Netherlands. Since the plant starts turning green the moment it breaks through the surface, it is grown in long mounds and dug out as soon as it cracks the top of its bed.

See the Dutch vegetable top 40 of 2011.

(Photo by Wikipedia user Janericloebe who released it into the public domain)

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April 18, 2011

One in five Dutch men would like to own a gun

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 9:35 am

Maybe that title should be: popular science magazine sees women as second-class citizens whose opinions need not be known. The magazine, called Kijk (Look), asked over 1,700 ‘respondents’ if they would like to own a gun if such a thing were legal in the Netherlands, and 16% of the men said yes.

Possible gun lovers lurk both in cities and in the country, and are both high income and low income earners, according to Kijk. Preferences do follow political divisions, though. Christian democrats could not care less about owning guns, only 6% of them would want to. Of the extreme right wingers of the PVV on the other hand 29% feel they need to be packing in order to feel safe.

(Photo: one of the few times that I ever wore a helmet. I had long flowing hair back when I was performing my military service, so I tried to avoid wearing my helmet. The gun, by the way, was a FN FAL, just shortly before they were replaced army-wide by Diemaco C7s.)

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March 27, 2011

Gays marry less than straights

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 12:39 pm

April 1 marks the tenth anniversary of gay marriage in the Netherlands. In that period some 15,000 same-sex couples got hitched here, making 1 in 5 same-sex couples married. Four in five heterosexual couples are married, AD reports.

Jan Latten of Statistics Netherlands told the paper that gays marry for the same reasons as straights—love, children and security—, that the relative number of divorces between the groups are virtually the same, and that both groups have the same preferences for wedding months: “spring and summer”.

See also:

(Photo by CarbonNYC, distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

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March 12, 2011

Why are the Dutch so tall?

Filed under: Health by Branko Collin @ 12:20 pm

Somebody at Metafilter asked themselves this question, and then set out to find the answers. Why are the Dutch so tall?

The New Yorker had a long exploratory article in 2004 in which economist John Komlos argued that health and well-being may have something to do with it. And last November, Al Jazeera looked into the consequences of being the tallest people on Earth: these days, Dutch building codes prescribe door heights of at least 2.30 metres, instead of the skimpy 2.10 metres that used to be the norm.

The average Dutch man is 1.81 metres tall, by the way, and the average Dutch woman 1.67 metres, and those numbers are still increasing. How much is that in feet?

(Photo by Metro Centric, some rights reserved)

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