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Why are the Dutch so tall?
March 8, 2011 7:23 PM   Subscribe

Why are the Dutch so tall?

People are quite tall in the Netherlands. A lot of people remark on that fact, and wonder why it is the case.
posted by Meatbomb (90 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's because of the stairs.
posted by pompomtom at 7:26 PM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think they're very tall.
posted by The World Famous at 7:31 PM on March 8, 2011


Because the buildings are short.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:33 PM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I hate those tall bastards.
posted by Mister_A at 7:38 PM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Keep it up and they will have to change the name of the country
posted by Forktine at 7:38 PM on March 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Why is everyone else so short?
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:38 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because otherwise they'd just have their high-up heads floating eerily above their own down-below necks.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:39 PM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


so that they can peek over their dykes.
posted by Salmonberry at 7:39 PM on March 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


So they can see the ocean.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:42 PM on March 8, 2011


Keep it up and they will have to change the name of the country

Talland?
posted by saturday_morning at 7:42 PM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I see these articles cover the idea of growth hormones in dairy in the 50s-70s before they outlawed the practice, but when I was a kid I was obsessed with becoming tall (my parents are slightly above average) and I became a psycho about getting tons of sleep after I read it was when growth hormone was released. So from the age of 11 to about 16, I would seriously sleep almost 10 hours every night. I used to force myself to sleep around 9pm in high school, it was actually kind of nuts.

Anyway, I grew to be several inches taller than my brother and the rest of my family and later found out it could have possibly been due to my pituitary tumor, but I still think gobs of sleep was a help.

Did the Dutch after WWII have a huge increase in leisure time like we saw in the States? Could increased sleep become the norm?
posted by mathowie at 7:44 PM on March 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Not to mention the good looks and multilingualism. But hey, they are tall.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:46 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't this a double?
posted by nathancaswell at 7:49 PM on March 8, 2011


Ahhhh it was deleted.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:50 PM on March 8, 2011


It is inexplicable, isn't it, when you consider that there are no hills they have to try to look over. So it can't be evolution.
posted by ardgedee at 7:54 PM on March 8, 2011


I heard lots of sleep causes pituitary tumors.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:54 PM on March 8, 2011


There was a decent New Yorker article about this a while back. It's not the height, but the change in height in just 100 years, that is so interesting.
posted by Nothing at 7:54 PM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Their bodies are trying to grow taller in reaction to anticipated global warming. It has something to do with morphic resonance. And quarks.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:04 PM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Aren't they half windmill?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:12 PM on March 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Not all Dutch are tall. Yeah, there are a lot of them out there, but a lot of them are built like brick shithouses too.

Guess which side of the genetic divide I landed on. 5'9" doesn't help on internet dating one fucking bit, I tell you that.

Who, me, bitter? Fuck almighty...

posted by Capt. Renault at 8:14 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some combo of generous social benefits + good genes + universal health care + rich country + lots of protein and Vitamin D in their diet + no nationwide cataclysmic stressors since WWII.
posted by aerotive at 8:15 PM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Munchies?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:16 PM on March 8, 2011


Low lands. Tall people.

Optical illusion.
posted by jet_manifesto at 8:20 PM on March 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


I heard it's because of natural selection, in the olden days, when the dykes would burst, all the short people would die.
posted by xdvesper at 8:25 PM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


The bright orange jerseys make them look taller than they really are.
posted by rocket88 at 8:29 PM on March 8, 2011


I seriously love the direction this thread is going.
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:29 PM on March 8, 2011


Q: Why are the Dutch so tall?


A: ¿qɯoqʇɐəɯ əɥʇ əsnɐɔəq
posted by special-k at 8:30 PM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Keep it up and they will have to change the name of the country

Also the name of the people.
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:31 PM on March 8, 2011


Maybe it has something to do with their music.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:33 PM on March 8, 2011


The prisoner "sleeps with one eye open” to avoid falling out of his too-small bed, the lawyer said, and keeps his use of the toilet "to the absolute minimum" because it is so tiny and low.

I'm guessing a clue the answer is somewhere in that sentence.
posted by heyho at 8:34 PM on March 8, 2011


I feel like "Why are the Dutch so tall?" should be the first line of a song, maybe something like a folk song that you sing on a bus full of kids on the way to camp.
posted by jabberjaw at 8:35 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I heard it's because of natural selection, in the olden days, when the dykes would burst, all the short people would die.

They actually get the Little Dutch Boy to take his finger out of the hole every 20 years or so just to keep the gene pool pure.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:38 PM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


a lot of them are built like brick shithouses

I've always understood that phrase to mean something completely different.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:38 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


A short person is someone who is shorter than you. A tall person is someone who is taller than you. Check it out sometime when you're walking around -- it's an inescapable subjective truth.

As a Dutch-surnamed-guy, let me just say the view from up here is great.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:40 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Guess which side of the genetic divide I landed on. 5'9" doesn't help on internet dating one fucking bit, I tell you that.
Wait, you think 5'9" is short?

I need someone to get some bored graduate student to spend five years making a chart that will prove that I'm not out of my gourd for thinking that people in the Midwest of the US are taller than people on the East Coast. I'm 5'3", and in New York I feel like I'm kind of the shorter side of average for a woman. Here in the Midwest, I am like the person version of one of those miniature dog breeds. I am the human toy schnauzer of the Heartland.
posted by craichead at 8:44 PM on March 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


craichead, that's definitely true in parts of the midwest - it's a joke about Minnesota on How I Met Your Mother for a reason. I always figured its because of the Scandinavian lineage, though, which brings us on back.
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:46 PM on March 8, 2011


craichead: the east coast squishes you both in mind and body. It's the lack of space.

Welcome to the good part of the country.

i kid!
posted by leotrotsky at 8:50 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Every flood, the short ones among us drown.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:51 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe it has something to do with their music.

It's probably the trance.
posted by empath at 8:53 PM on March 8, 2011


I need someone to get some bored graduate student to spend five years making a chart that will prove that I'm not out of my gourd for thinking that people in the Midwest of the US are taller than people on the East Coast.

No, you're totally right! I grew up in Iowa and was what I thought a fairly middling height (5'10", female) until i moved to NYC and was suddenly this freaking amazon next to all my 5'3" colleagues. I was never the tallest girl in my class growing up and I'm not the tallest of my siblings either. It was so weird.
posted by makonan at 8:56 PM on March 8, 2011


xdvesper: "I heard it's because of natural selection, in the olden days, when the dykes would burst, all the short people would die"

In the deleted thread, ricochet biscuit said more or less the same thing: "I predict in a few million years we will see the nostrils of the Dutch migrate to the tops of their heads ..."

To which I replied: Great, then we'll drown when it rains.
posted by bwg at 8:56 PM on March 8, 2011


Somewhat related: in 1908, the United States Immigration Commission got Franz Boas, the "father" of American anthropology, to study Changes in the Bodily Form of Descendants of Immigrants (extended edition), including stature. He understood that better nutrition could explain their overall increase in height, but (oh well) speculated that a decrease in childhood diseases was a bigger factor.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:06 PM on March 8, 2011


I feel like "Why are the Dutch so tall?" should be the first line of a song, maybe something like a folk song that you sing on a bus full of kids on the way to camp.g

Why are the Dutch so tall?
When the country is so small?
Why do they hate the Krauts?
Is it cause of the umlauts?
Well if you want to know,
I guess you'll have to go,
but if you do, well listen pal...
please don't fall in some canal!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:06 PM on March 8, 2011 [16 favorites]


My friend who is of Dutch descent is freakishly tall. He didn't grow up there.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:33 PM on March 8, 2011


To stay ahead of those pesky Serbs.
posted by joost de vries at 9:47 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


craichead - Wait, you think 5'9" is short?

While 5'9" is a *tiny* bit over the USA *average*, it appears to be a particularly weird number on online dating sites. It seems like people who are from 5'6" to 5'8" claim to be 5'9" and people who are 5'9" claim to be 5'10"+

It really sucks to be us boys who are actually 5'9" and are comfortable reporting ourselves as 5'9".

... and yes. In my mind, people from Iowa tend to be freakin' GIANTS.

Oddly, though, the first three native Iowans I met; my football playing roommate freshman year, a wrestler dude across the hall, and another dude down the hall were all quite a bit shorter than me, some random Chinese boy from Canada.
posted by porpoise at 9:54 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


To get to the other side.
posted by tamagogirl at 10:21 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


My Dutch friend's standard response to the question he gets asked by random strangers all the time is "Mo I don't play fucking basketball". I asked it too the first time I met him.
posted by arcticseal at 10:48 PM on March 8, 2011


No. Not all random strangers are named Mo.
posted by arcticseal at 10:49 PM on March 8, 2011


If you're tall and you like bikes you may be a latent Dutchman.
posted by joost de vries at 10:56 PM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wonderful! Used to be that the Montenegrins and certain sub/groups from Scotland, Borerers and Highlanders were the tallest Europeans. Funny because a lot of Netherlanders I have met were only of average height,
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:57 PM on March 8, 2011


Not all Dutch are tall. Yeah, there are a lot of them out there, but a lot of them are built like brick shithouses too.

Yeah, I feel like I'm owed a cosmic lottery refund. I said in the other thread that at 176 cm (5'9'') growing up in the Middle East I was taller than average, I didn't even realise I was short until I spent some time living at home in The Hague.
posted by atrazine at 11:30 PM on March 8, 2011


Maybe US average heights have been reduced by immigration.
And lack of health care.
posted by Cranberry at 11:32 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's the metric system; everyone seems taller at getting on for 200 centimetres.
posted by Abiezer at 1:49 AM on March 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Dutch hight thing is only since recent times ... height is generally linked to nutrition and wealth, both of which have increased in the Netherlands beyond normal since WWII.

But nutrition is the big one ... there was a famine in 1944-5 in the Netherlands ... many people died, others were reduced to eating tulip bulbs. Since then the Dutch have been focussed on good nutrition ... and, you know, they produce a lot of milk, meat and potatoes internally.

Feed the entire population well for 60 years, and add a egalitarian social welfare state and significant wealth, and you have really tall people.
posted by jannw at 2:04 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


They're not tall, they're high
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:12 AM on March 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


If it ain't Dutch it ain't much.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:24 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do I speak double Dutch to a real double dutchess?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:25 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pass the dutchie.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:25 AM on March 9, 2011


They are becoming the high ground they do not have.

It's true, though. My Dutch buddy is 6'6". Every time I'm in Amsterdam I seem to be speaking into people's chests, which can cause problems with the women.
posted by Decani at 3:51 AM on March 9, 2011


So from the age of 11 to about 16, I would seriously sleep almost 10 hours every night.

This is the recommended amount of sleep for children under 16 and how much all of our children have always gotten.
posted by DU at 4:36 AM on March 9, 2011


...I would seriously sleep almost 10 hours every night.

Beneath the moonlight, the serious moonlight.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:41 AM on March 9, 2011


they produce a lot of milk, meat and potatoes internally

Painful, but handy.
posted by Summer at 4:49 AM on March 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm sure the Dutch have great nutrition, healthcare etc, but so do all the countries surrounding it. So it can't be that.
posted by Summer at 4:50 AM on March 9, 2011


I often like to get tall when I visit the Netherlands.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:07 AM on March 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


I've always understood that phrase to mean something completely different.

'Brick shithouse' isn't necessarily tall, is it? Broad and dense generally, no? Like one of the tall people compacted. Cinder block in clothes is what I meant.
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:49 AM on March 9, 2011


I've always understood that phrase to mean something completely different.

'Brick shithouse' isn't necessarily tall, is it? Broad and dense generally, no? Like one of the tall people compacted. Cinder block in clothes is what I meant.


Capt. Renault, I believe what BitterOldPunk was referring to is the specific use of 'brick shithouse' as a way to describe a woman who is full-bodied and voluptuous, which is how it's pretty much exclusively been used in the US in modern times. It's the only way I've ever heard it used, anyway. But, looking into the matter briefly, I just came across this:

But not everywhere. In Australia and the UK, at least, "built like a brick shithouse" still most commonly refers to well-built men.

The article I pulled that from is here.

So, there you go. I'll just leave you with this classic, which, being geared toward radio play, left out the "shit" part... "the lady's stacked, and that's a fact, ain't holdin' nothin' back, she's a Brick House".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:33 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure this is a great thing. Living in the Midwest I know a number of tall women, and a lot of them have serious back, joint, and foot problems which are widely attributed to being so freaking tall but with normal-female-sized bones. Meanwhile, very tall men seem to end up very wide too, maybe because they learn eating habits while growing so rapidly. I wonder if the Dutch have the same problems?
posted by miyabo at 6:42 AM on March 9, 2011


Dutch demography statistics show (link in Dutch) that the increase of average height has been slowing down recently.
People in the North are on average 2 cm taller than in the South. This may have to do with how far the Spanish (17th century) or even the Romans came in occupying the Netherlands...
Also higher educated people are 2 cm taller on average. It's a pretty big difference in height given that the Netherlands are so small.

miyabo I haven't heard any such stories. I'm under the impression that there's a possibility of back joint and foot problems with people who are outliers. While the height of the Dutch being a bit greater is more a feature of the whole population.
posted by joost de vries at 8:03 AM on March 9, 2011


The difference in height between regions of the country is really incredible, especially given that it's a small country with great transportation links. I mean the whole country's only a 3 hour drive across, in the US that's considered practically next door!
posted by miyabo at 8:43 AM on March 9, 2011


Dante thought that the Frisians were 'tall of body'.
posted by goethean at 9:27 AM on March 9, 2011


I'm not sure this is a great thing. Living in the Midwest I know a number of tall women, and a lot of them have serious back, joint, and foot problems which are widely attributed to being so freaking tall but with normal-female-sized bones.

There are a lot of heritable disorders that can go along with being tall, like Marfan's and Ehlers-Danlos (both of which are joint-fucker-uppers, not to mention their many other nasty effects, like blindness and sudden death) and whatnot; two tall parents, particularly if they're of a similar gene pool (e.g. Dutch), are a really shitty match in terms of preventing such disorders in offspring. Thanks, mom and dad!

And, of course, things like osteoporosis are more common among women and the tall, so tall women are that much more likely to just crumble into dust at a certain age.

As a somewhat tall person with a tall person's syndrome, I personally don't see why tall people are so often held up as automatically more attractive than short people, let alone people of average height. We're all inbred freaks!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:26 AM on March 9, 2011


I need someone to get some bored graduate student to spend five years making a chart that will prove that I'm not out of my gourd for thinking that people in the Midwest of the US are taller than people on the East Coast.

I was born and raised in MN. I now live here again. I am 6'7" which is not silly here, but was very noticeable to people when I lived in Kansas and have travelled elsewhere. I actually have heard "That dude's a giant!" "You're HUGE!!!" and even ""Do you have some sort of glandular issue?" when outside the upper midwest, but never here.

I have a bunch of scandanavian heritage, so that may indeed be part of it, but at the least I can say from my (limited) experience that people outside of the upper midwest notice my height much more than they do here. This is fine with me because I'd very much rather blend in...

And if you ask me "Dude! Do you play basketball??!??" Be prepared to be answered with "No, why are you a jockey?"
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 10:58 AM on March 9, 2011


I never noticed they were especially tall, but their feet are way too small for that height. In general, European feet are smaller than American feet. Much to my feet's displeasure.
posted by Goofyy at 11:28 AM on March 9, 2011


I lived in Holland for a year, and I didn't think the Dutch were particularly tall. I'm only 5'9, and I was still taller than most women I encountered.

In other news:

...the specific use of 'brick shithouse' as a way to describe a woman who is full-bodied and voluptuous, which is how it's pretty much exclusively been used in the US in modern times.

I have never heard the term used like that.
posted by bingo at 1:05 PM on March 9, 2011


...the specific use of 'brick shithouse' as a way to describe a woman who is full-bodied and voluptuous, which is how it's pretty much exclusively been used by Rick James. FTFY. And even he described it as 36-24-36, which isn't exactly "full bodied."

To everyone else, it's a burly man that can win fights by just standing there.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:15 PM on March 9, 2011


Sys Rq writes: ...the specific use of 'brick shithouse' as a way to describe a woman who is full-bodied and voluptuous, which is how it's pretty much exclusively been used by Rick James. FTFY

So, listen, Sys Rq, buddy, next time you wanna do that cute little FTFY thing, you might wanna have some kind of clue what you're talking about. Otherwise, you go round fixin' things that ain't broke, you see? And that doesn't make you look smart. And I know you wanna look smart, don'tcha? It's the Commodres, not Rick James. So you jes' skeedaddle back on up to my thread where I made a handy link for you to see, and you just take a gander at it, y'hear? While you're at it, read the handy link I also included, and you'll learn that it wasn't just Rick James the Commodores who used it that way. By a long shot.

See, I'm here to educate you on this kind of thing, man, but, really, you gotta look at the links, friend, if'n you wanna get yerself educated.

bingo writes: I have never heard the term used like that.

There are many things you have never heard. That doesn't mean they don't exist.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:36 PM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yup, "built like a brick shithouse" re women has been around a long time - @ Berklee in the late 70's, I had a required class in basic violin technique (composition majors had to know what they were writing for, on several representative orchestral instruments), and our teacher was a very shapely and compact babe. (As well as a saint for enduring what sounded like a roomful of dying cats.) One of my housemates, himself a cellist who knew all of the few string players there, remarked that, "yeah, she's built like a brick shithouse!" He wasn't a Commodores fan (in fact, at the time he was pretty pop-unaware), and I'd also heard the phrase a number of times in years prior.
posted by Philofacts at 6:48 PM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have never heard of "brick shithouse" referring to a voluptuous woman. In my neck of the UK where I grew up (Midlands), it was always used to refer to the a big guy who you wouldn't want to fight.
posted by arcticseal at 7:31 PM on March 9, 2011


American reporting in. As I had learned it, the term means "solidly built," referring to either solidly built dudes who could kick your butt or solidly built ladies with curves.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:59 PM on March 9, 2011


flapjax: I really couldn't give less of a crap who sang it. Your favourite abuser of idioms sucks.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:14 PM on March 9, 2011


Brick Shithouse re: voluptuous woman is definitely a USA thing.

Evveryone else who I've heard use that term not from the US uses it to mean, typically, a stocky well built dude, generally on the shorter side. Less commonly, just a well built dude but with thick decidedly-non-chicken legs in addition to broad shoulders, bug guns, and a deep chest.
posted by porpoise at 9:35 PM on March 9, 2011


flapjax: I really couldn't give less of a crap who sang it.

Yeah, well, in that case, stop "fixing that for me", alright, pal?

Your favourite abuser of idioms sucks.

As pointed out in my linked article (why, I'll be damned, you didn't go back and read that even after I told you you might wanna, now did'ja? tsk tsk...), and now by others upthread, the Commodores were not "abusers of idioms". They were using the idiom exactly as it is used in their cultural milieu. And, yeah, I'm not especially surprised that you think the Commodores suck.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:09 AM on March 10, 2011


Flapjax, did you read that article? It seems to contradict your argument, is all.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:36 AM on March 10, 2011


Flapjax, did you read that article? It seems to contradict your argument, is all.

The article states that the term was being used in America for shapely women as early as the 1930s. The Commodores song came several decades after that. The Commodores song may be the most famous usage of the term, but they were far from the first to use it that way.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:31 AM on March 10, 2011


Flapjax, did you read that article? It seems to contradict your argument, is all.

Um, no, it doesn't. Not at all.

From the article:

"When said of women, one 1938 source notes, the phrase usually meant a "heavy, cloddish, sexually unappetizing female." But even in the 1930s a few wiseguys were applying it to attractive women, and in the U.S. that usage has now supplanted all others."

Perhaps you should reread my comments above? You'll see that what I said does not contradict the article at all. You'll also note that I acknowledged that outside the US (Australia and the UK) the term refers to well built or stocky men, which I didn't know until reading this.

The moral of this story, perhaps, is that the world is a big place, and phrases like this take on different meanings in different places. Where I grew up (Alabama), it meant voluptuous, womanly (as is sometimes said) women. But you'll note one commenter upthread said it meant the same thing in California, so, hey, it wasn't just a southern thing, I reckon.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:34 AM on March 10, 2011


For what little it's worth, I live in the US and I've lived in other countries, and I read a lot of books, and I've never heard "built like a brick shithouse" to mean anything other than being solid, bulky, wide, etc. This meaning of voluptuous, which is evidently in use in some places, has never before come before me.

Language is neat, what can I say? But the article's statement that the voluptuous meaning "has now supplanted all others" is at least regionally not correct, and possibly things are more complex even than that.
posted by Forktine at 5:45 AM on March 10, 2011


So, hey, why are the Dutch so tall?

*flags 2/3 of the thread as derail*
posted by Sys Rq at 12:05 PM on March 10, 2011


The Dutch are tall. A five foot friend remarked, 'i turned round and the whole world had gone black except for a triangle. Then i realised i was looking through a man's legs'. They are that tall.
posted by maiamaia at 4:48 PM on March 10, 2011


I really thought the derail in this thread was going to be about how the Dutch are racist and insular, and they are tall because they hate immigrants, especially ones that aren't white. But, oddly, the derail about the proper usage of the term "brickhouse" and its use in describing a person.

Actually, I approve of this etymological derail. I mean, who really cares why the Dutch are so tall?
posted by jabberjaw at 11:44 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


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