How the Dutch & Scandinavians Are Connected (Complete Guide)

Last Updated on Categorized as Facts

I’ve loved visiting the Netherlands throughout my life, and despite being unique in many ways I can’t help to notice how similar it is to the Scandinavian countries Denmark, Sweden, and Norway (+ Finland and Iceland in some cases). It might be the uniquely mutual love of herring, the same freakishly tall average height, or the many shared words and phrases I’ve overheard when hanging out with primarily Dutch-speaking groups of people, both in the Netherlands and abroad. Either way, there’s arguably some form of connection!

Since the links seem so strong despite no formal connection, I wanted to find out more about how Netherlands and Scandinavia actually are connected. Let’s start off with getting our bearings and looking at where the two are located, then we’ll dive into the many similarities.

So How are Dutch People Similar to Scandinavians?

The Dutch and Scandinavians share many characteristics and traits in the modern age; average length, diet, pop culture, secularism, English proficiency, and a strong love of bikes. They also share a Germanic ancestry, originating from the Nordic Bronze Age culture (from southern Scandinavia).

While modern-day Dutch and Scandinavians can be a diverse bunch due to multiple immigration waves from the rest of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East during the last millennia, we can still see clear ancestral links between the two regions in their modern-day populations, using modern genealogical analysis and data.

Map of Europe showing how common a combined set of germanic Y-DNA haplogroups are, meaning the prevalence of Nordic Bronze Age ancestors in modern-day populations.

We can also see this genetic link between the Dutch and Scandinavians when we look at another DNA study mapping out where in Europe modern-day Scandinavian and Dutch ancestors originated from. Here we see both regions have a large proportion of Nordic ancestors, and a similar amount of Eastern and Central European ancestors.

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They do however differ in one area, as the Netherlands has around 4 times more southern European ancestry than the Scandinavians do, who in turn have around 50% more Nordic ancestors (not surprising as they are Nordic).

Netherlands Ancestral Component

S Jutland (Denmark) Ancestral Component

Source: G Athanasiadis et. al. 2016

Let’s continue by looking at where the people who founded and live in the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway originally came from, to get a clearer sense of how they are related.

The Dutch and Scandinavians Have Common Germanic Ancestors

The Dutch are believed to mostly hail from three Germanic tribes (the Frisians, Low Saxons, and Franks) while the Scandinavians mostly hail from another group of Germanic tribes (Norwegians, Swedes, Geats, Danes, Jutes, and Angles). As mentioned, all of the Germanic tribes are believed to hail from a common ancestral bronze age culture based in southern Scandinavia (the Nordic Bronze Age culture).

The demographics of each region are ultimately much more complicated than that, but this common ancestry has likely contributed to the common traits and similar cultures we can see today.

Common Traits Between the Dutch and Scandinavians

  • 🦒 Among the tallest people in the world
  • 👱🏼‍♀️ Majority of population has light hair
  • 👩🏼‍🦰 Similar proportion of population has red hair
  • 🧿 Majority of population has light eyes

The populations of Netherlands and Scandinavia share many genetic traits, especially those that are unique for Northern Europe (i.e. light hair and eye colors). There is also a stark similarity in average height, where the Netherlands and the Nordic countries repeatedly place towards the top globally speaking.

Here’s a closer look at the data behind these conclusions:

CountryFemale avg. height Male avg. height Global rank
Netherlands170 cm / 5 ft 7 in184 cm / 6 ft 0½ in1st
Montenegro170 cm / 5 ft 7 in183 cm / 6 ft 0 in2nd
Estonia168 cm / 5 ft 6⅛ in182 cm / 5 ft 11½ in3rd
Denmark169 cm / 5 ft 6 in182 cm / 5 ft 11½ in4th
Bosnia167 cm / 5 ft 5¾ in182 cm / 5 ft 11½ in5th
Iceland168 cm / 5 ft 6⅛ in181 cm / 5 ft 11¼ in6th
Sweden167 cm / 5 ft 5¾ in180 cm / 5 ft 10⅞ in12th
Norway166 cm / 5 ft 5⅜ in180 cm / 5 ft 10⅞ in13th
Finland166 cm / 5 ft 5⅜ in180 cm / 5 ft 10⅞in17th
Average height per country. Showing top 5 + the Nordic countries. Data: Rodriguez-Martinez 2020
Prevalence of light eyes in Europe. Data source: Peter Frost
Prevalence of light hair in Europe. Data source: Peter Frost

What Values Do Scandinavia & the Netherlands Share?

  • ⚖️ Equality & egalitarianism
  • 🗳️ Democracy
  • 🗽 Liberty & Human Rights
  • 🤥 Honesty
  • 🔒 Privacy
  • 😌 Informality
  • ⏰ Punctuality
  • 🔮 Forward-thinking

Scandinavia and the Netherlands are in a similar location along the North Sea coast in Europe, and like most countries in the area share many cultural and political values and characteristics.

In the modern age the two regions each have their unique values and norms, but ultimately share most of those associated with western democracies in general.

How is Scandinavian & Dutch Culture Similar?

  • 🎬 Similar media consumption and pop culture
  • 🆗 Both countries understand and speak English well
  • 🐟 We eat similar food (for the most part)
  • 💻 Both countries have a very high amount of PCs per thousand people
  • 📱 Both have a high amount of mobile phones per 100 people (127.57 vs 134.8 in 2019)
  • 🌐 Both have a high amount of broadband subscriptions per 100 people
  • 🔌 Both consume a high amount of electricity per capita
  • 👩‍🎓 Both have well-educated populations (11.4 vs 12 years of schooling on average)
  • 📿 Both countries are culturally diverse
  • 👑 Constitutional monarchies

The similarity in cultures in Scandinavia and the Netherlands can be traced back to a common ancestral culture dating back to the bronze age, followed by a closely intertwined history (like most of Europe).

Scandinavians visiting the Netherlands have an easy time adapting and recognize many aspects of daily life, and its a known fact that the Dutch practically invade Scandinavia in the summer time in search of open spaces and unpredictable summer days.

It’s easy to see similarities between the two regions in person too, as a visit to the Netherlands is going to share a lot of similarities with a trip to Scandinavia; temperate climate, coastal cities with renaissance style buildings and canals, herring and tall people everywhere, and a very good understanding of English.

So while the Dutch and Scandinavians may not reflect on it that much, the two regions share a strong connection and many modern day cultural and political values that are more apparent to outsiders.

The Dutch people are believed to originate from the same Nordic Bronze Age culture as the Norse (a.k.a. Vikings), a common ancestry that ultimately connects all Germanic cultures and languages. Furthermore, parts of the Netherlands have been tied politically and culturally to Scandinavia since before the Viking Age.

Frisians especially share a political, cultural, and linguistic past with Scandinavia that goes back long before the Vikings started raiding the North Sea coast in 810 CE.

Later on, the Franks also attempted to stop the Viking raids by giving the province of Frisia as a fiefdom to the Viking King Sigfrid in 882 CE, further weaving the two even closer together.

Did Vikings Speak Dutch?

Vikings spoke what we today call Old Norse, which originated from the modern Scandinavian languages Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. They are however all Germanic languages, just like Dutch, meaning the people living in Viking Age Netherlands could have some sort of basic understanding of the Norse languages.

Is the Netherlands Scandinavian?

The Netherlands is not part of Scandinavia, despite sharing the same Germanic roots as the Scandinavian people and many similar modern-day ancestral and cultural traits. Netherlands is however part of the Benelux region (sometimes called the Low Countries), which also includes Belgium and Luxembourg.

Benelux (the Low Countries) vs. Scandinavia

Benelux (the Low Countries)Scandinavia
CountriesBelgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg (🇧🇪🇳🇱🇱🇺)Denmark, Norway, Sweden (🇩🇰🇳🇴🇸🇪)
LanguagesDutch, French, German, Luxembourgish, West FrisianDanish, Norwegian, Swedish, Sami
Language familiesGermanic (4), Romance (1)Germanic (3), Uralic (1)
Population29 554 77121 495 140
Total Area75 149 km2 (29 015 sq mi)817 191 km2 (315 519 sq mi)
GDPUSD $1.580 trillionUSD $1.136 trillion
GDP per CapitaUSD $48 359USD $52 863
CurrenciesEuroDanish Krone, Norwegian Krone, Swedish Krona
ContinentEuropeEurope
Sub-regionWestern EuropeNorthern Europe

The Benelux region and Scandinavia do share some common characteristics on top of the geographical proximity, both including 20-something million people, speaking mainly Germanic languages, and having a GDP per capita around $50 000 USD. No wonder people mix them up a bit from time to time!

Are the Dutch Considered German or Scandinavian?

The Dutch are not considered German or Scandinavian in culture or ethnicity, but they do have German as well as Scandinavian ancestry through the three Germanic tribes that originally settled the Low countries: the Franks, Low Saxons, and Frisians. Around 2.4% of the Dutch population also directly identify as German.

Are Dutch and the Scandinavian Languages Mutually Intelligible?

The Dutch and Scandinavian languages are both within the Germanic language group but are not mutually intelligible. They do however share plenty of words and grammar, and ultimately both stem from a Proto-Germanic language that developed in southern Scandinavia during the Bronze Age.

The Scandinavian languages are North Germanic, while Dutch is considered West Germanic, which goes back to the split and expansion out of Scandinavia for what would later become the Germanic tribes.

West Germanic Tribes such as the Frisians, Franks, and Saxons expanded westward along the North Sea coast, and North Germanic Tribes such as the Danes, Swedes, Geats, Norwegians stayed in Scandinavia (well, sort of… after all Vikings have Germanic roots too).

Quick Answers:

Denmark and the Netherlands do not have any formal relations and are not part of the same geo-political region, but they do share a common history and ancestry through the Germanic tribes that originated from southern Scandinavia during the Bronze Age.

Both areas followed the Norse gods up until the Christianization of Europe, and Frisia upheld political, cultural, and commercial ties with the Scandinavian countries long before the Viking Age began.

Can Dutch People Understand Danish?

Dutch people can generally not understand Danish, nor can Danes understand Dutch especially well. That said, the two languages are part of the Germanic Language Group so they do share some words, sounds, and grammar that make it fairly easy to learn the other’s language.

Is Sweden Part of the Netherlands?

Sweden is not part of the Netherlands as it is its own country located in Scandinavia. The two countries do share a common history and ancestry through the Germanic tribes that originated from southern Scandinavia during the Bronze Age.

Both places worshipped the Norse gods up until the Christianization of Europe, and Frisia and Scandinavia were tied together politically, culturally, and commercially before the Viking Age began.

Can Swedish Speakers Understand Dutch?

Dutch people can generally not understand Swedish, and Swedes don’t understand Dutch either. The two languages are, however, both part of the Germanic Language Group so they do share words, sounds, and grammar that make the languages fairly easy to learn for both.


Sources:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/45020171

http://www.cell.com/AJHG/abstract/S0002-9297%2807%2962002-3

https://academic.oup.com/genetics/article/204/2/711/6046829

https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2018/01/weodata/weorept.aspx?sy=2016&ey=2023&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=0&pr1.x=71&pr1.y=8&c=137%2C124%2C138&s=NGDPD&grp=0&a=

https://spraktidningen.se/2015/06/tva-sprak-tva-forsvar/

https://www.olandsbladet.se/kulturnoje/motet-mellan-svenskar-och-hollandare-kulturkrockar/

https://www.sprakbruk.fi/-/svensk-nederlandsk-sprakkontakt

https://si.se/app/uploads/2021/04/arsrapport-2020.pdf

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By Karl Andersson

As a native Swede with a Finnish mother, Karl identifies as both Nordic and Scandinavian. He left Sweden at 19 to explore the world, and stayed abroad for almost 8 years—during which he backpacked, worked every job there was, earned a degree from UC Berkeley, and met the future mother of his children. He ultimately returned to his native Malmö with his love, where they now have 3 Swedish-American boys eager to explore the world.

3 comments

    1. Hi Emily!

      Linguistically speaking Finns are a Finno-Ugric people, while Scandinavians are a North Germanic people. And since language generally is the preferred way to categorize cultures and ethnicities in the scientific community, I personally don’t consider my Finnish relatives (or Finns in general) to be Scandinavian, but I certainly consider them and Scandinavians to both be very Nordic.

      It is a bit more complicated than this in reality though (especially in the English-speaking world, where they generally pretty much equate Nordic and Scandinavian as one and the same, minus Greenland and Jan Mayen Islands), and I dive a bit deeper into whether or not Finns are Scandinavian in a separate article. Check it out if you’re interested!

  1. Here’s an odd one I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around I am 1/4 dutch thanks to my dad’s side where he is half dutch. I found it odd when he did a DNA test it gave no genetic ties to western Europe despite the fact that I know my Oma is dutch. It did however give him a large amount of Scandinavian heritage and I am unsure as to why.

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