No. 33: The Queen

All hail Queen Bea!

All hail Queen Bea!

For a relatively down-to-earth group of folks, Dutch people certainly love all things royal. At the top of the royal list would of course have to be their beloved Koningin (queen, that is)!

Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard is the current Queen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Yes, my friends it is a kingdom and includes more than just the lowlands. In a sort of a twee-halen-een-betalen-way (buy-1-get-1-free), the Queen also proceeds over the exotic islands of Curacao, Sint Maarten and Arbua.

What better way to show the Queen some serious love then by throwing a massive, nation-wide, festive, rowdy, celebratory –and most importantly–orange F-I-E-S-T-A!

Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) is held every year on April 30th and has been celebrated for over 100 years, originating in 1891 to celebrate the birthday of Queen Wilhelmina. Things get a little tricky here, so stay with me: Queen Wilhelmina’s actual  birthday was  in August – but in 1948 the Queen’s Day holiday was re-scheduled to April 30th with the coronation of the new Queen Juliana, who’s b-day is indeed on the 30th of April. It appears that Queen Beatrix was not as egocentric, as she continued with the April 30th tradition, although her birthday is actually January 31st (a bit chilly for a street party, eh?).

A sea of orange

A sea of orange

In Amsterdam, Queen’s Day is a frenetic sea of orange.  The Dutch (+ thousands of orange-wanna-be tourists) turn oranjegekte (orange crazed) and take to the streets en-masse for major celebrations. It’s one day when Dutch people are allowed to drag all their household junk onto the streets and sell it, tax free. I don’t need to tell you that Dutch people like love a bargain – so this whole entire-city-is-a-flea-market-thing goes off real swell!

Bells sound, bands play, children perform, deals made, bargains found, copious amounts of alcohol consumed. All-in-all, its a rip-roaring, orange-wearing, national-pride-instilling kinda of day!

Of course this year marks the end of Trixy’s 33 year reign, and as a truly beloved Queen she will be greatly missed by the people of the Netherlands. Her son Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange, will be sworn in today (April 30th 2013) becoming the world’s youngest King at a mere 46 years of age and the first male monarch of the Netherlands since 1890. Can boys do it better? We have yet to find out!


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  1. Pingback: No. 17: Patriotic songs | Stuff Dutch People Like

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  3. What you’ve missed here s that all the dutch people primarily go to Amsterdam to look at the faces of those tourists that are in Amsterdam on Queens-day purely by accident, and who have the total shock and horror engraved upon their faces. It’s so much fun to see a 60 year old woman form Cleveland Ohio thinking: “I knew Europe was a cesspool, but that this was as bad as this????”.

    And basically: being at the Prinsengracht, looking at literally thousands of boats, each filled with loads of people having the most fun you can think off, listening to a vast array of great house music, then you can’t help but love the fact that you’ve had the great fortune of being in Amsterdam on Queen’s Day!

    • Man, I totally agree….almost as good is seeing the looks on the faces of businesspeople and tourists stumble on the celebration in cities worldwide!
      We went to the one in San Francisco this year and I have never seen Union Square so orange! It was great!

    • Hahaha, I had to read that a few times as well.

      (@SDPL: Twee halen, één betalen, is what you meant I think) :P

      • You wrote: Een halen, twee betalen (Buy one, pay for two)
        it has to be: Twee halen, een betalen (Buy two, pay for one)

  4. For one day “doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg” does not count!!! (just act normal, that is crazy enough). I love it. Spend my first Queen’s Day in Amsterdam this year (I know I’m not such a good Dutch person) and it was just fun allround, everyone was happy and the atmosphere was great (even with all the drunk people). The streets are overflowing with this sea of people clad in funny orange outfits <3

    • I second that. Last year was my first Q-day in A’dam. (And I’m Dutch.) I don’t believe in nationalism or ‘pride of ur country’ (what did I contribute?) but I was actually proud to be in AMS! :D

  5. I live in Amsterdam but I hate queensday. All these drunk loud obnoxious people, trash all over the place, people shoving you.. YUCK! Gaypride is such a better event in Amsterdam, less obnoxious and drunk people, better atmosphere in the city!

  6. can only think about the taloids here … they make a good way up for our Royal family stories, queens day and so on.
    Can everyone still remember Charles his teabag letter to Camilla (in my mind springs “rooibos tea to gine a hint”). Or William taking the helicopter from the RAF for a private party… I was in malaysia when he got married … even there it was on every channel. Nice sentimental. I think we all have some patriotic love?

    • Patriotic love, probably, but as of yet, I have never met a Belgian as crazy about the royals as the Dutch or English are!

      • I agree, but that’s the problem with Belgium. This country doesn’t exist really, it is divided within Flanders and Wallonia. But there stil exist one Belgian: the king !

      • The Belgian royal family is a disgrace. No kingdom, no glamour, just a bunch of not very smart people who get caught. I still remember Boudewijn abdicating for a day because he didn’t want to sign the abortion law. At least Bernhard had the good grace of being a real scoundrel.

      • Belgium is a political construction, not a state. And still a work in progress, according to Flemish friends.

        After cessation from the Netherlands, Flanders (Flemish) and Wallonia (French) were fused together, resulting in what we now know as Belgium. This wasn’t to be a happy union: back in 1961, the country even stood on the brink of civil war!

        The original idea was to create a buffer state in order to keep regional powers France and Germany out of each others’ hair. But this went a little awry in 1914-1918 when major differences were slogged out on Belgian soil, in the main. And when history repeated itself some twenty years later.

        The powers-that-be at the cradle of the young country decided that monarchy would be its best bet. And so a King was recruited, from the ranks of European nobility – without any input from the Flemish or the Wallons, of course – and plonked inside the Royal Palace in Laken.

        It’s because of this that there’s never been much love lost between Belgian royals and their subjects – with the exception of Queen Astrid (who died young), King Boudewijn and Queen Fabiola (very popular, she, in her day; he a little less so) and King Albert (much respected for his wisdom). But two of the three Leopolds would currently be regarded as thieves and murderers on a massive scale. And the former Crown Prince Philippe (now King) is heartily distrusted, in wide circles of Belgian society.

  7. Hahahahaha… I’m laughing so hard here! Perfect description! But indeed you forgot to mention about the boats and the “Pee” stands… I was so surprised to see every guy just putting their “boy” out of their pants and going right there in the middle of the fun! No door, no privacy, no shame!! Four stands in one! I had to take a picture of my husband last year! Nobody would ever believed me!!!

  8. Used to live in Amsterdam and Loved Queens day. Last year we brought some English friends with us and they where amazed by the number of people having blast.
    One commend though. If you try to inform people on the date and the 30th of April is on a Sunday they will be a day late and missed the entire thing. We Dutch do not get drunk on a Sunday so than it moves to the 29th of April.
    Great Blog! Love to read it!

  9. and what about Bonaire?? Isn’t that one of the Antilles islands?
    I was always taught ABC……..Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao

    • The status of the islands changes every few years. They used to be one political body, with the seat of government (the governer`s chair, so to speak) on Curaçao, then Aruba – which, contrary to the other island still has some ‘ab original’ inhabitants – gained the ‘status aparte’. Now, if I got this right, all the bigger islands have their own government and the three smaller islands, Bonaire, Saba & St Eustatius are Dutch ‘gemeenten’ and are basically ruled by city councils.

  10. Yes, the Dutch are a constitutional monarchy. But Beatrix is not the queen, although she is called that. By constitution, the head of state is the king, but nowhere in the constitutionis it stipulated that the king has to be male. Therefor, Beatrix is king.
    She would have ruled Luxemburg as well, but the Luxemburgers were somewhat more strict in the sex requirement, so when Wilhelmina ascended the throne, the personal union with Luxemburg was broken.
    The spouse of the head of state is technically the queen. Fortunately, the monarch presides over the roll of nobility and can change titles as and when she sees fit, or there would have been a Queen Hendrik, a Queen Bernhard, and a Queen Claus.

    The reason the Dutch have their garage-sales in the streets is not because they don`t have to pay taxes that day (you can sell old junk without paying taxes anytime of the year) but because on that single day they don`t have to acquire a street-vendor`s license in order to do so. (The rest of the year they will have to sell their junk from their garage, or on Marktplaats.nl .)
    This basically means: No Consumer Protection. Stay away from ‘kip-saté’ unless the sign says ‘sateh ajam’ and even then, don`t buy it after noon.
    Of course, the best part of koninginnedag is the preceding koniginnenâg.

  11. Beatrix became queen on april 30th and the weather is really bad in january, so thats why Queensday is still in april.

  12. And the best thing off all is that if Koninginnedag is on a Sunday, we move it to the Saturday. :)

    • Thats because Dutch prozzies don’t like it when others party on their day of prayer.

  13. You said een-halen-twee-betalen which means get one pay for two. It’s the other way ’round.

  14. Pingback: Queen’s Day Weekend « Natsumi

  15. queensday is a big thing in the whole country not just amsterdam. a medium city like arnhem all the way in the east of the country got 180.000 visitors to their city centre yesterday. w00t!

  16. Queensday on a boat, in the sun, music, beer, orange paint all over your face, drunk, tired, dancing, people watching, a collection of 50 cents coins in your pocket to pay for the toilet at bar for the toilet lady (also typical Dutch?), preparing your orange outfit a month ahead as it can’t be the same as the year before! It also seems that it is for some reason, ALWAYS sunny on queensday!

  17. That reminds me of when I worked on the trams in Amsterdam some years ago. As we passed the Albert Cuyp market, I’d sometimes say: Ladies and Gentlemen, today is spruitjes (Brussels Sprouts) day. Eén (pondje) halen,- Twee betalen LOL.

  18. It is said that once Prince Willem-Alexander will be king of the Netherlands he will continue celibrating King’s day on April 30. Willem-Alexander is born april 27.

  19. Make #1: Kijken Kijken niet kopen (Only looking, not buying) Dutch people love to walk into many stores and just look around and not buying stuff.

  20. een-halen-twee-betalen is not really a good offer… (it means buy 1 and pay for 2). You must’ve meant 2-halen-1-betalen :)

  21. If you want to spell it out – do it right. Yes, we are a kingdom. But the official name is not ‘Kingdom of the Netherlands’ but ‘Verenigd Koninkrijk der Lage Landen’ (‘United Kingdom of the Low Countries’)
    but you are right in noticing Queen’s Day is a most remarkable tradition. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gh9Qd0yJ1t8&feature=related is also a great clip about it

    • Wrong, the name is Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, Verenigd Koninkrijk der Lage Landen has never even existed.

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  23. een-halen-twee-betalen-way
    urr, that translates into get one, pay for two…

  24. Pingback: No.9: Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag) | Stuff Dutch People Like

  25. Somewhat over a decade ago, I was working for a major London tourist attraction. And the day on duty may have been Koninginnedag (although I’m not altogether sure here: the European or World footie championship could just as well have been on, around the time).

    As I was supervising the section allocated to me earlier that morning, in walked this lad of 17 or 18, attired in a bright orange T-shirt, with parts of the Dutch national anthem printed on front and back, and wearing a sizable plastic windmill, in garish blue, on his head. There also was a rather odd item of clothing around his legs – but I can’t remember what exactly now.

    This, without a shadow of a doubt, was a DUTCH bloke. And his exotic apparel, so obviously out of sync with the ambiance, certainly attracted some funny looks. Oblivious of his own ridiculousness, however, the young man carried on regardlessly, in order to inspect the star turn in that room. But I thought I went through the floor for embarrassment!

    There is a time and place for everything. But not for some Dutch, apparently: regardless of the bare minimum of decorum expected or local sensibilities.

    There’s a word for this, in Dutch: ‘bot’. In English that would be ‘blunt’. Yt that kind of behaviour is best covered with the qualification ‘thick’. Most Brits will understand what I mean.

    Comparable attitudes I have often witnessed in visiting landsmen/women similarly clad – usually moving in packs. And this, in my opinion, is another defining Dutch character trait: as individuals they may be caring and responsible, domestically; but when abroad in a herd, they’ll often behave truly appallingly – even when no alcohol is involved.

  26. Now that’s a thing I wish we Dutch DIDN’T love.

    Always hated the monarchy, even when I was little.

    But there’s a minority of dutch people like me, who would prefer a republic.

    Although the way I envision that is exactly the same as it is now, minus some billionaire royals. (And NO replacement for them, they’re useless and just cost money.)