Diplomats tell us what Kiwis need to know about their homelands

The thing you probably know about my country is ...

that it is flat and full of people (almost 17 million in an area about one seventh the size of New Zealand).

But the thing you really should know is ... that more than a quarter of the Netherlands lies below sea level. We Dutch don't lose any sleep over this but we are at the forefront of the struggle against climate change and sea-level rise.

Over there, we think Kiwis are ...


Hobbits and sheep. Just kidding, the kiwifruit and the kiwi bird have been familiar for a long time, and since the Rugby World Cup everyone knows the All Blacks and the haka. And Dutch tourists tell stories at home about the friendly and relaxed nature of the people of New Zealand.

On a short visit, you should ... visit Amsterdam (my native town), even if you've got only a day - history, culture (the glorious Rijksmuseum), canal boat trips for a perfect view of great 17th century merchants' houses, good food and drinks. Our capital city is only a short train ride from Schiphol international airport.

On a longer visit, you should ... also investigate our relationship with the sea. Rotterdam seaport, one of the largest in the world, and the Delta Works - a system of mighty sluices, dykes and storm surge barriers, protection against the sea for Zeeland, the province after which New Zealand was named; or admire medieval and Golden Age architecture in Delft and Utrecht (which has canals, too, fringed with laid-back cafes and restaurants).

Our national sport is ...

football although we're quite good at darts as well. Our national winter sport is ice-skating.

The one food thing you really should try is ... young herring, which in summer you can buy at stalls in the streets.

Make sure you avoid ...

the motorway. Auckland's rush hour is kid's stuff compared to the traffic jams in the west of the Netherlands.

The weather is ... not as bad as its reputation. In summer we have about two-thirds of the sun hours in New Zealand and temperatures like those in Wellington (not as windy, mind).

Best way to get around ... in towns, nothing beats a bike.

A handy phrase you should know is ... "Hoe gaat het?" meaning: How are you? (literally: How goes it?).