The first mermaid school for adults has opened in the Netherlands in Zeist, we kid you not. For all you wanna-be mermaids and mermen out there, if you’ve been harbouring a secret desire to grow a tail and channel your inner Dory or Nemo, now’s your chance to grab your ‘sea’ cup bra and book a spot!

At Dijnselburg swimming pool, you can learn how to swim with a tail, hold your breath under water and free dive safely. Before long you’ll be gracefully swishing past the coral with a flick of your very own fishtail.

All mermaid jokes aside, it is not too surprising that this delightfully bonkers course is available in the Netherlands. The Dutch love their swimming, which is to be expected, considering the 4,400 km of navigable rivers, canals and lakes in the Netherlands. All this readily available water is easily accessible to children, so with true Dutch parental responsibility and practicality, it’s pretty standard to ship the kids off to learn to swim at the recommended early age of 4 or 5 years old.

You may have noticed at every water-based activity in the Netherlands there is a clear divide between the armband sporting toddlers and the rest of the kids (who all appear to be able to swim extremely well at a very young age). It seems that the Dutch become proficient swimmers well before they leave junior school. Have you been requested by a militant caring lifeguard to put armbands on your toddler in the ankle-deep splash area of your swim pool? I have. The rule is simple. Got your swim diploma? Then you don’t need to wear armbands to join in any swim related activity. No zwemdiploma? Armbands on please!


To gain their zwemdiploma, kids are registered for swimming classes at their local swim pool, where they work through the standardised programmes – A, B and C. Once they are qualified they can join in with any swim related activities, safe in the knowledge that they are confident in the water. They will have also gained, most importantly, enough swimming skills to save themselves should they topple into a canal or take a tumble off a boat. As well as this, if they’ve got their A and B diploma, they can even advance on to qualify in mermaiding!

The next time you are walking over a bridge, glance down – you never know – there may be a sleek, fishy tailed Dutchie swimming around in the canal water under you (that is, unless they’ve not got their zwemdiploma, and in that case they’ll be sporting a pair of giant, yellow armbands to go with their fishy tail). Hop in and have a swim with them, they are very friendly. Just don’t invite them for sushi.

Typed in ARIAL not Ariel. Last mermaid joke. I promise!


Guest blogger: Rebekah Lawler


Rebekah Lawler is an Irish writer, living in Dutch suburbia. She spends her days zooming around in her battered bakfiets with the two smalls, fascinated by all the Dutchness around her.