You are in the Netherlands, also known as Holland. The Netherlands is a small country in Europa, situated West of Germany and North of Belgium and France. On theNorth and West side, the country is bounded by the North Sea. Major cities are Amsterdam (the capital), The Hague (the seat of the government), Rotterdam (one of the largest harbour’s in the world) and Utrecht (a university town in the middle of the country).
The name The Netherlands (‘Nederland’ in Dutch) literally means: lower countries. This is due to the low and flat geography. 26 percent of the country lies beneath sea level and is mostly man-made. The Dutch claimed land from the sea by ‘impoldering’ it.
The highest point is 322 meter and lies in the South of the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is a small but highly populated country. It’s surface area in square kilometres is: 41.526 km² and the country has almost 17 million inhabitants. This makes it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Even though the Netherlands is so densely populated, it has no cities with a population over 1 million. The capitol Amsterdam and the other 3 largest cities: , Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht can be regarded as a single metropolitan area, called the Randstad ("rim city" or "edge city"). The Randstad has about 7 million inhabitants and the cities lay around an agricultural area, called ‘the green heart’.
The Netherlands is a Kingdom (Dutch: Koningkrijk der Nederlanden), a sovereign state and a constitutional monarchy. Apart from the Netherlands, also the Caribbean countries Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten belong to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is ruled by the House of Orange, named after a city in France. King of the Netherlands is His Majesty King Willem-Alexander. He holds the throne since 2013, when his mother Queen Beatrix abdicated. Before King Willem-Alexander, his mother Queen Beatrix, grandmother Queen Juliana and great-grandmother Queen Wilhelmina reigned the Netherlands. King Willem-Alexander is married to Her Majesty Queen Maxima, who is originally from Argentina. They have three daughters: Their Royal Highnesses Princess Amalia, Princess Alexia and Princess Ariana. The eldest, Princess Catherina-Amalia is in first line to the Dutch throne. She bears the official title Princess of Orange. The King and his family does not live in the capitol, Amsterdam, but in The Hague, which is also the official residence of the government and the parliament.
The monarchy of the Netherland is constitutional, which means that the role and position of the monarch are defined and limited by the constitution of the Netherlands. More information on the royal family can be found at http://www.royal-house.nl/.
Laws and Rules
The Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy. The civil rights are registered in the Grondwet (constitution). The first chapter of the Constitution which includes the fundamental rights is recently translated into Arabic. By the end of November 2015 the complete Constitution will be translated.
The Constitution was already available in English, Spanish and French.
Four important principles are:
- Freedom of Religion
- Freedom of Speech
- Protection of Privacy
Each inhabitant of the Netherlands has the right to equality and it is forbidden by law to discriminate anyone by gender, race, sexual orientation, religious believes or age. During a law procedure or lawsuit everyone is entitled to an attorney. If you don’t have the money to hire an attorney, legal costs will be paid by the state. More information on the Dutch democracy can be found here.
Although in the Netherlands a lot of people live in a small piece of land, everything is well organised and most cities and towns look neat and clean. The only way the Dutch can manage this is because all inhabitants pay a fair amount of taxes and there are rules for everything. For example: you can only put your garbage bins outside at a certain day and time. If you take it outside on any other day, you can get a fine. As a newcomer to the country you will soon find out that there are a lot of rules you people would like to have each other to stick to this rules. The Dutch are quite outspoken and will tell you when you break an official or unspoken rule.
The official languages of the Netherlands are Dutch and Frisian. Frisian is only spoken by people from the province of Friesland, in the North of the Netherlands and these people speak Dutch as well. Most people speak or at least understand English. Children start learning English at primary school. Foreign films and programmes on television are subtitled, not dubbed, so broadcasted in their native language which is often English. More about the Dutch language. You will find more information about how to learn Dutch at FAQ.
The dominant religion in the Netherlands has always been Christianity, but since the late 20th century there is a decline of religious adherence.
Figures vary but about 25% of the population is identified as Roman Catholic, 16 percent as Protestant, 5% as Muslim and 6 percent as ‘other’ (including Hindus, Jews, Buddhists). The Dutch Social and Cultural Planning Agency expects that in 2020: 72% of the Dutch will state not to feel connected to any religion. All inhabitants of the Netherlands are free in their choice of religion. But religion is in generally considered a personal matter which is not supposed to be propagated in public.
Public holidays are still based on Christian events though, like Christmas and Eastern.
List of Dutch national holidays
The Netherlands has a moderate maritime climate. This means: cool summers and moderate winters. Daytime temperatures varies from 2 – 6 degrees Celsius in winter to 17 – 20 degrees in spring in summer. These are averages. Temperature can rise up to 30 degrees Celsius in summer and drop in autumn and winter several degrees below zero.