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ABOUT THE NETHERLANDS
About The Netherlands
Your 'student' experience in the Netherlands is bound to be quite enriching. It is indeed a small country in comparison to so many others. However, it has made a significant impact on the world in several ways. This is why several international companies have their headquarters in the Netherlands.
You will always feel welcome here. Almost four million people from amongst a total populace of almost 17 million are foreigners. This multi-ethnicity has been in evidence for hundreds of years. Locals and foreigners find it easy to gain employment here.
The Dutch go out of their way to be friendly and receptive. They converse comfortably in English with people from overseas. The Netherlands ranks third in the world for English (as a second language) proficiency. This proficiency helps the Dutch to satisfy their curiosity about alien cultures.
The official languages of the Netherlands are Dutch and Frisian. However, the former is more popular than the latter. Other known languages include English, German, Dutch Low Saxon, French, Gronings and Limburgish. Urban dwellers pick up languages more easily, since they encounter diverse cultures oftener than rural dwellers do.
The Netherlands has one of the highest population densities in the world. Over 17 million people reside in just about 41,500 square kilometers of area. This works out to about 500 individuals occupying one square kilometer of area. Yet, not a single city boasts of even one million inhabitants!
Admittedly, the population spread over a limited area is wise. According to OECD's Better Life Index, the Netherlands ranks the globe's fourth best nation in certain areas. The employment ratio is high. Families generally enjoy a good work-life balance.
Although households are generally well off, the Dutch frown upon ostentatious lifestyles. The Dutch believe in an egalitarian society and normal behavior. Surprisingly, their national anthem focuses on anti-eccentricity! Despite complex social norms being restrictive, global surveys declare Dutch children to be the happiest in the world.
The Dutch are able to remain stress-free, due to their heavy concentration on physical activities. A vast majority go in for weekend sports that keep them fit and healthy. Many even go in for daily, weekly or monthly non-sports physical activities. They are the most active of all EU nations.
Dutch art and designs may stun your sensibilities! The patterns are often humorous, minimalist or quirky in nature. However, there is no denying that they are definitely attention grabbing. The Netherlands has almost 1,000 museums displaying unique Dutch culture in diverse forms.
Like everyone else, the Dutch love to celebrate special occasions. One is the Feast of Sinterklaas on December 5 every year. Well-behaved, small children receive beautifully wrapped, surprise gifts. The givers also pen poems hinting at the presents inside.
April 27 is King's Day, that is, the king's birthday. Wearing orange-colored clothes, people organize jumble sales, free markets, etc. The king's family visits two rural areas, which organize programs displaying local folklore. The night prior to King's Day is a musical night, wherein talented musicians perform across the country.
The Netherlands is akin to an alluvial plain with minimal differences in altitude. Famed as the lowest nation in Europe, approximately one-quarter of its land mass lies below sea level. Well-built and well-maintained dykes and dunes serve to keep the sea away from the reclaimed land. Holland lies at the mouth of three rivers – Schelde, Rhine and Meuse.
These 'low lands' are located in Western Europe. Their boundaries include the North Sea in the west and north, Germany in the east and Belgium in the south. The highest part of this nation is Vaalserberg, merely 322 meters above sea level. The lowest point is Zuidplaspolder, around seven meters below sea level.
The Netherlands comprises of 12 provinces. The country's four largest cities and their interconnected towns, form the Randstad metropolis. Utrecht is the transportation hub, while Rotterdam is the port city. Amsterdam is the capital, but the Government loves to host meetings only at The Hague.
The terrain is generally flat, with a few low-lying hills scattered here and there. The Dutch have created these artificial polders/hills. There are numerous navigable canals spread across the Netherlands. Ocean-going vessels opt for the North Sea Canal, in order to reach Amsterdam's port.
You may tour the Netherlands by inter-city and intra-city trains, buses, trams or bicycles. Avoid taking a taxi unless it is an emergency. This mode of transportation is extremely expensive. If you desire to savor the unique flavor of the Netherlands, opt for traversing the canals by boat!
Take part in an organized biking tour with a planned itinerary. You will be able to cover over 20,000 km of paths.
Observe wild deer and other animals in their natural surroundings at Hoge Veluwe National Park. There are attractive sand-drifts too. Similarly, you should not miss the spectacularly colorful floral displays at Keukenhof. This 32-hectare area is the largest global flower garden, open between March and May.
Get a whiff of historical times at the Netherlands Open Air Museum, Zaanse Schans and Themapark Archeon. There are antique farms, shops, houses and windmills. You will also love the Helene Kroller-Muller's art collection displayed at the museum with the same name. Do not miss the vast exhibit of original artworks at the Van Gogh Museum either.
Some Dutch towns are akin to charming picture postcards. One of them is quintessential Eden, where you can eat Dutch cheese to your heart's content. Purchase beautifully designed white and blue pottery at Delft. Climb the nation's only mountain located at Maastricht.
You will enjoy exploring the 17-century buildings and parks at historic Leiden. The Pilgrims resided at this small town, before moving over to the U.S. Dotted with glorious canals, Giethoorn (Venice of the North) is slow-paced. The peaceful city center is devoid of noisy automobiles.
The metropolis is a complete contrast to these towns. Amsterdam is the hub of tourism, with diverse contemporary attractions. Rotterdam has famous harbor locks, splendid shops and marvelous architecture. The Hague has the beach, the International Criminal Court and the Queen's office.
The Netherlands is an extremely secular nation, permitting the presence of diverse places of worship. However, Roman Catholicism has always predominated over other religions. This is because of the influence of Christian Missionaries, who visited Holland over 1600 years ago. Even the conversion of Constantine, the Roman Emperor, played a significant role.
Islam is confined to a minority, but of significant size. Moroccan and Turkish immigrants were responsible for the spread of Islam. Global terrorist attacks, however, are leading to tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims today. Generally very liberal by thought, the peaceful Dutch are fiercely resistant to the birth of a harmful multi-culturist society.
The Jewish community forms an extremely small minority in the Netherlands. Over 140,000 had traveled to the Netherlands as refugees, running away from extreme persecution. However, the populace was reduced to 35,000 during the Holocaust. Amsterdam boasts of a large number of synagogues.
You are welcome to practice Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, etc, too. Modern Holland offers freedom of religion, as well as freedom from religion. Various movements (Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment), scientific progress and globalization have led to the spread of large-scale atheism. Regardless, you are forbidden to engage in hate speeches or hate crimes.
Politics & Economy
The Netherlands has had a royal presence ever since 1815. Queens from the House of Oranje- Nassau were the dominant rulers until 2013. In 2013, Queen Beatrix handed over the royal crown to Willehm-Alexander. The queen consort, Maxima (Argentinean) helps Willehm- Alexander handle royal affairs.
The king was born on April 27, 1967. The Dutch celebrate his birthday with gusto. Every bit of clothing is a brilliant shade of orange. Even the clothing accessories are of the same color.
The king is helped in his duties by a Parliament. Provincial councils elect 75 individuals to be part of the upper chamber. Around 150 people are members of the lower chamber. Elections to the lower chamber take place every four years.
The executive body is known as the Cabinet. No one can be a member of both, parliament and cabinet, at the same time. The constitution came into being in 1848. Specific amendments have been undertaken in 1983.
Very pro-Europe by nature, the Netherlands became a founding member of the EU. In 2002, it changed its national currency from guilder to Euro. The nation is Eurozone's fifth largest economy. Its EU deficit ceiling (3%) is witnessing a reduction, due to budget cuts and austerity measures.