Ok, so before you look at the first picture and fail to spot any tulips and think I’ve lost my flower-identifying marbles, I haven’t. I know they’re not tulips but the title opportunity was too good to pass up.
Upon receiving the excellent news I have a new job, one of the families I tutor for were very kind to give me a bunch of flowers to say ‘gefeliciteerd’. You may accuse me of being a ‘typical woman’ when I admit that I like flowers, but I just prefer to think I’m living in the right country.
Fresh flowers are a regular part of Dutch shopping lists, just as ketchup is in the UK. (I know which looks better in a vase….) The floral industry in the Netherlands is big business; in 1995 Dutch growers produced over 8 billion flowers (why I can’t find a more recent statistic, I don’t know) and every year the average Dutch person spends €60 a year on flowers.
When we moved into our new house, there was a bunch of tulips waiting on the table and we were given a complimentary bottle of wine. (Although you could look at it as a very expensive bottle of wine, seeing as we had to fork out a fair amount in agency fees.)
One of the most common sights in Amsterdam is a Dutch person with a bunch of flowers: old, young, men, women. They carry them strapped on bikes, wedged in buggies, taking up seats on trains. I have to admit I did this last one on Saturday when I was taking my flowers home but the train carriage was largely empty so it wasn’t as selfish as it sounds.
No doubt you’re aware of the Dutch association with tulips, but it goes further than just a recognisable symbol on tourist tat. If you haven’t before seen any pictures of the psychedelic tulip fields, they’re pretty specular.
(The above picture is courtesy of the modestly titled http://www.buzzfeed.com/daves4/25-amazing-pictures-of-dutch-flower-fields.)
Carolus Clusius, Director of the Leiden Botanical Garden, planted the first tulip bulb in the 16th century and since then flowers’ve become more and more ingrained in Dutch culture. They’re one of the country’s main export products, both the Tulip Museum (Callum: “Popular”?! Well, there certainly is one, that much I can’t dispute) and floating flower market are popular Amsterdam tourist attractions.
(Above picture is from http://www.planetware.com/picture/amsterdam-flower-market-of-amsterdam-nl-nl097.htm)
The love of flowers has permeated the world of football; during the 1980s and 90s famous Dutch football players Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard were known in Italy as ‘the tulipani’, aka ‘the tulips’.
Even the Pope recognises the Dutch abilities to grow beautiful blooms; every year Dutch growers contribute flowers to the Easter Mass decorations at Vatican City and the Pope says “Bedankt voor de bloemen”.
Ultimately, I think the best example of how Dutch culture and flowers have become synonymous is a piece from a downbeat post-impressionist: Van Gogh’s ‘Zonnebloemen’.