Flat Earth

The big FAQ you never asked for

Finally, an article that provides answers to assorted questions that nobody ever asks.

“*bleeped out* magnets, how do they work?”
FAQing magnets, how do they work?

The Netherlands


The Netherlands is my home (and that country where people tell me to go back to my own country).

What is the difference between Holland and the Netherlands?

The Netherlands has twelve provinces. North Holland and South Holland are the provinces that are the most populous, prosperous, and popular. The other ten provinces are not Holland.

Confusingly, the Dutch do sometimes call their country Holland when they’re abroad, e.g. during football championships.

And unless you’re a Chinese tourist virtually all major tourist attractions can be found in either North or South Holland, so it’s not very surprising that for a long time the Netherlands marketed themselves to the world as “Holland”..

Why are people from the Netherlands “Dutch”?

The Netherlands is called the Netherlands and not , so why are their people and language “Dutch”?

The answer to this question can’t be found in contemporary Dutch, because the Dutch call themselves Nederlanders (“Netherlanders”) and their language Nederlands (“Netherlands”).

We’ll have to go back in time for this one.

In the Middle Ages the Dutch and German were collectively known as the Dutch. Those from the flatlands were called the Low Dutch, while those from the more hilly areas were referred to as the High Dutch. Over time, the two peoples grew apart. The Germans kept calling themselves Dutch (or rather: Deutsch). The Dutch eventually chose a different name for themselves, but apparently the English didn’t really give a shit.

Why is orange the national colour?

The Dutch flag is a tricolour of red, white, and blue. So why do the Dutch wear orange on King’s Day and at major sports events?

It’s because the Dutch king is a member of the House of Orange!

Confusingly, Orange is just some random-ish place in France, and has nothing to do with the colour orange. But who cares?

Why isn’t there any orange in the Dutch flag?

That actually used to be the case.

The original Dutch flag, known as the , used the colours orange, white, and blue. Unfortunately, the orange tended to fade to red over time. The Dutch, as always, thus decided that red, white, and blue would become the official colours.

The original colours live on in the flag of New York City, which was originally founded by the Dutch in 1624 (and eventually ceded to the English – twice).

Why does the Dutch flag look like a rearranged version of the French or Russian flags?

It’s actually the other way around: the French and Russian flags are likely a rearranged version of the Dutch flag.

The French based their flag on the Dutch tricolour when they founded their first republic, because being a republic was kind of what the Dutch were known for back then.

The Russians adopted the tricolour when they saw the Dutch flag on a ship, which is also something that the Dutch were known for back then.

Dutch food


People who joke about English cuisine have clearly never visited the Netherlands.

How do you eat a tompouce?

There is no good way to eat a tompouce. It’s not you, it’s the tompouces.

Tompouces are an absolute disaster from a UX perspective, and whoever invented them should be ashamed of themselves.

What is the difference between patat and friet?

There is none.

Both words refer to the same thing (chips or fries) and are derived from the word “patates frites”, which is Belgian French for “fried potatoes”.

The southern parts of the Netherlands, which are closer to , generally use the term “friet”, while the northern parts of the Netherlands prefer “patat”.

What is the difference between mayonnaise, frietsaus, and whatever it is that they serve at McDonald’s?

The Dutch often eat their fries with mayonnaise.

Frietsaus is a cheaper substitute for mayonnaise that contains less fat and tastes slightly sweeter. If you order fries at a snackbar, you’re probably getting frietsaus rather than mayonnaise.

Confusingly, McDonald’s restaurants in the Netherlands have their own frietsaus that looks and tastes completely different. It’s commonly known as Amerikaanse frietsaus (American frietsaus), .

China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong


I may have glossed over some details that may or may not be controversial.

What is the difference between Beijing and Peking?

北京 is the capital of the People’s Republic of China.

Because very few westerners know how to write or read “北京”, foreign words and names like these are typically romanised into a form that consists entirely of characters from the Latin alphabet.

Under the pinyin romanisation system that is currently in use, 北京 is written as “Beijing”.

“Peking” is an older romanisation. Not only is it the result of a different romanisation system, it is also based on the pronunciation of 北京 in a different dialect. It is rarely seen in English nowadays, although it still lives on in names like Peking University and Pecking duck.

Is China communist?

Yes, but also no.

The country is ruled by the . The CPC largely does the same things as communist parties in other countries, i.e. it is socialist, structured like a communist party, patriotic, and not very keen on “western hobbies” like freedom of speech.

For visitors and citizens it’s just another capitalist society though, albeit with fewer personal freedoms than most other East Asian countries. Few people actually care about that.

Is Taiwan an independent country?

Yes, but also no.

As a visitor or citizen you would not be able to tell that Taiwan is not a “real” country. That’s because Taiwan (officially known as the Republic of China) has almost everything it needs to qualify as a “real” country.

What it lacks is official recognition from other countries. This is kind of a biggie from an international relations perspective, but Taiwan seems pretty content with how things are going right now.

Is Hong Kong a Chinese city?

Yes, but also no.

Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. This means that it is part of China. Since countries cannot be part of another country, Hong Kong is generally described as a city.

In practice it feels more like a small country however, as it has its own government, laws, currency, media, official languages, , and a crazy amount of undeveloped land.

Which languages are spoken in Hong Kong?

The official languages are English and Chinese, specifically Cantonese. Some are also reasonably proficient in , but not everyone.

Technically, about half of the population also speaks English, but few can do so intelligibly.


Which online service providers should just shut up and take your money?

Should I use Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube Music?

Spotify is the only music streaming service that I really like. Its ability to connect to almost any device out there is absolutely magical.

Apple Music can show you lyrics and lets you play music on multiple devices at the same time via AirPlay, but I’m not a huge fan of its user interface. Its desktop client in particular is a steaming pile of shit, even on macOS. It’s so bad that I still use the free version of Spotify (with ads) even though I currently have an Apple Music trial subscription.

YouTube Music is nice if you happen to have YouTube Premium, I guess. But it doesn’t have a native desktop client, lacks some important features that other platforms do have, and Google doesn’t exactly have a very good track record when it comes to keeping services alive.

Should I get Netflix or Prime Video?

This partially depends on what you want to watch, of course. Some movies and series are only available on Netflix, while others are only available on Prime Video. , which gives it a slight advantage if cost is a major issue for you.

Netflix’s content and apps are much better though, not least because its apps treat you as a person rather than an opportunity for upselling.

Should I use GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket?

Pretty much , so if you want to participate in the FOSS community this is pretty much the only viable choice.

GitLab is nicer for free private projects than GitHub, but its smaller community makes it harder to grow your FOSS projects organically.

Bitbucket is primarily popular in enterprise environments because of its integration with other Atlassian products. I personally think it’s rubbish and I don’t know anyone who uses it outside of work.