The ’’’Netherlands’’’ is a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which consists of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba in the Caribbean. The Netherlands is a parliamentary democratic constitutional monarchy, located in Western Europe. It is bordered by the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east.
The Netherlands is often called ’’Holland’’. This is formally incorrect as North and South Holland in the western Netherlands are only two of the country’s twelve provinces. As a matter of fact, many Dutch people colloquially use ’’Holland’’ as a synecdoche, being well aware of the widespread use of this name. For more on this and other naming issues see terminology of the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is a geographically low-lying and densely populated country. It is popularly known for its traditional windmills, tulips, cheese, clogs (wooden shoes), delftware and gouda pottery, for its bicycles, its dikes and surge barriers (nowadays called water management), and on the other hand, traditional values and civil virtues such as its classic social tolerance. But primarily, the Netherlands is a modern, advanced and open society. An old parliamentary democracy, the country is more recently known for its rather liberal policies toward recreational drugs, prostitution, homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia. The Netherlands is also one of the most densely cabled countries in the world; its internet connection rate is 87.8%, the 2nd highest in the world.
A remarkable aspect of the Netherlands is its flatness. Hilly landscapes can be found only in the south-eastern tip of the country on the foothills of the Ardennes, the central part and where the glaciers pushed up several hilly ridges such as the Hondsrug in Drenthe, the stuwwallen (push moraines) near Arnhem and Nijmegen, Salland, Twente and the Utrechtse Heuvelrug.
The Netherlands is low-country on the North seashore. It is bound to Belgium in the north and Germany in the east. Windy and rainy weather is due to warm flow. It is the cause of mild winter and quite cold summer. People are constrain to impolder coast because of wet leaks. This process evokes inception of polders - dried flats, which are typical for The Netherlands.
The official language is Dutch.
The Netherlands is divided into twelve administrative regions, called provinces, each under a Governor, who is called ’’Commissaris van de Koningin’’ (Commissioner of the Queen), except for the province Limburg where the commissioner is called Gouverneur (Governor) which underlines the more "non-Dutch" mentality. All provinces are divided into municipalities (’’gemeenten’’), 458 in total (1 January 2006). The country is also subdivided in water districts, governed by a water board (’’waterschap’’ or ’’hoogheemraadschap’’), each having authority in matters concerning water management. As of 1 January 2005 there are 27. The creation of water boards actually pre-dates that of the nation itself, the first appearing in 1196. In fact, the Dutch water boards are one of the oldest democratic entities in the world still in existence. Total area of 41 500 km2.
|Flag||Province||Capital||Largest city||Area (km²)||Population|
|North (Noord) Brabant||Den Bosch||Eindhoven||4,916||2,419,042|
|North (Noord) Holland||Haarlem||Amsterdam||2,671||2,613,070|
|South (Zuid) Holland||The Hague (Den Haag)||Rotterdam||2,814||3,455,097|
More than 25% of the area of the Netherlands is below sea level, so an effective system of water control is needed to keep the land dry and habitable for the many people, 60% of the population, that live in these low lying areas. Sea water can, however, flood the land via estuaries and inlets and as a result of infiltration, and an excess of melt and rainwater in Central Europe can cause the great rivers to burst their banks. Modern pumping stations work day and night to drain off excess water.
As a founding member of the Euro, the Netherlands replaced (for accounting purposes) its former currency, the "Gulden" Guilder, on January 1, 1999, along with the other adopters of the single European currency. Actual Euro coins and banknotes followed on January 1, 2002. One Euro is equivalent to 2.20371 Dutch guilders.
The Netherlands has a prosperous and open economy in which the government has reduced its role since the 1980s. Industrial activity is predominantly in food-processing (for example Unilever and Heineken International), chemicals (for example DSM), petroleum refining (for example Royal Dutch Shell), and electrical machinery (for example Philips). In the northern place Slochteren one of the largest natural gas fields in the world is situated. So far (2006) exploitation of this field resulted in a total revenue of €159 billion since the mid 1970s. N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie still is the largest public-private partnership P3 world-wide following the global energy-transition of 1963 from coal to gas, coupling oil and gas prices. With just over half of the reserves used up and an expected continued rise in oil prices, the revenues over the next few decades are expected to be at least that much.
The Netherlands has the 16th largest economy in the world, and ranks 10th in GDP (nominal) per capita. Between 19 98 and 2000 annual economic growth (GDP) averaged nearly 4%, well above the European average. Growth slowed considerably in 2001-05 due to the global economic slowdown, but accelerated to 4.1% in the third quarter of 2007. Inflation is 1.3%. Unemployment is at 4.0% of the labour force. By Eurostat standards however, unemployment in the Netherlands is at only 2.9% - the lowest rate of all European Union member states. The Netherlands also has a relatively low GINI coefficient of 0.326. Despite ranking only 10th in GDP per capita, UNICEF ranked the Netherlands 1st in child well-being.
The politics of the Netherlands take place within the framework of a parliamentary representative democracy, a constitutional monarchy and a decentralised unitary state. The Netherlands is described as a consociational state. Dutch politics and governance are characterised by a common strife for broad consensus on important issues, within both the political community and society as a whole.
Major political institutions are the monarchy, the cabinet, the States General (parliament) and the judicial system. There are three other High Colleges of state, which stand on equal footing with parliament but have a less political role, of which the Council of State is the most important. Other levels of government are the municipalities, the waterboards and the provinces. Although not mentioned in the constitution, political parties and the social partners organised in the Social Economic Council are important political institutions as well.
It is important to realise that the Netherlands does not have a traditional separation of powers: accordingly the States-General and the government (the Queen and cabinet) share the legislative power. All legislation has to pass through the Raad van State, and the Social-Economic Council advises the government on most social-economic legislation. The executive power is reserved for government. Note however that the Social-Economic Council has the special right to make and enforce legislation on several sectors, mostly in agriculture. The judicial power is divided into two separate systems of courts. For criminal law the independent Hoge Raad is the highest court. For administrative law the Raad van State is the highest court, which is ex officio chaired by the Queen.
The Netherlands has an international outlook; among other affiliations the country is a founding member of the European Union (EU), NATO, the OECD, and has signed the Kyoto protocol. Along with Belgium and Luxembourg, the Netherlands is one of three member nations of the Benelux economic union. The country is host to five international(ised) courts: the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. All of these courts (except the Special Tribunal for Lebanon), as well as the EU’s criminal intelligence agency (Europol), are situated in The Hague, which has led to the city being referred to as "the world’s legal capital".
Head of State: Beatrix van Oranje Nassau - Queen, Head of Government: Jan Peter Balkenende (CDA) - Prime Minister, Governing Parties: CDA, PvdA, CU
Last national elections 2006
Last European Parliament election June 2009 See: • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament_election,_2009_(Netherlands) • http://www.europarl.europa.eu/parliament/archive/elections2009/en/netherlands_en.html
The Netherlands had a lot of famous and successful people. First, we mention Dutch painters who are known all over the world. Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt van Rijn are the most considerable. You probably know some of their artworks (Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee painted by Rembrandt or Still life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers created by Van Gogh). In the Dutch Golden age in 17th century we can find notable architects, such as Jacob van Campen. His best known works are The Royal Palace in Amsterdam and The Paleis Noordeinde.
|Vincent Van Gogh – source|
If you go further into the Dutch culture, you will find it very liberal, tolerant and democratic. Typical sign of the average liberal state of mind that Dutch people possess is legal use of cannabis. Adults are allowed to buy and use it in specialized "coffee shops" in all major cities. This law exists to prevent the marginalization of soft drug users thereby exposing them to harder drugs. Trafficking in hard or soft drugs outside licensed premises is illegal.
|Rembrant Van Rijn - source|
The Netherlands today is among the most secular countries in Europe. An estimated 49.6% of the population (2007) call themselves non-religious. The remaining Dutch are 15.7% Protestant, 27% Roman Catholic, and 5.3% Muslim.
When Dutch people meet each other for the first time, they usually don’t wait to be introduced. Instead, they extend their hand for a handshake, make eye contact, say their name, and listen for the name of the other person. However, on social occasions, people who already know each other also shake hands if they have not seen one another for a while. When good friends or relatives meet, they will often exchange three kisses on the cheeks.
While meeting Dutch people it is also recommended to be aware of recent political events in the Netherlands and in your country because Dutch people tend to switch conversation over to political matters. Regarding this issue, do not forget that one’s choice of privileged political party is personal information, thus it might not be polite to ask your partner about it. During the conversation, make it clear that you are aware of the country’s official name (The Netherlands), although even Dutch themselves usually call it Holland. Among the things that should be avoided in conversation, one can find for example criticizing the Dutch Royal Family, religion, sex and legalized prostitution and whining about your personal financial income. On the other side, welcomed topics to talk about are one’s home country or city, one’s accommodation and trip and already mentioned politics.
Young people usually go to discotheques, clubs, or bars (cafés) quite often to socialize and to be with their friends. They usually go out during the weekends, however in many student cities Thursday night is the time to party.
Some Basic ’Do’s and Don’ts
- Do: be punctual - whether it is an appointment at the dentist or an invitation to a friend’s house.
- Don’t: drop in unannounced to visit your Dutch friends. Make an appointment to visit first.
- Do: shake hands when meeting someone new or when visiting someone in an official capacity – such as your doctor or dentist. It is also quite usual to shake hands again as you leave. On social occasions, three kisses instead of a handshake are normal.
- Do: offer coffee! Serve proper brewed coffee is best. Have plenty of milk (or better yet Dutch "koffiemelk") and sugar on hand too. They do also love tea though.
- Do: adapt to the dog loving culture.
How to tell if you are Dutch: www.zompist.com
About 95% of Dutch people speak English, which is unique for non-English speaking country, and it makes communication during your study in Holland comfortable and pleasant.
The Dutch educational system focuses on teamwork and is very interactive, which makes it easy to meet other international students. During your study in The Netherlands, you will develop an open mind and increase your international orientation.
Those who decide to live in a Dutch student house during their studies will see evidence of the independent, separate lives people lead. Resources are not shared among inhabitants in such a household: everyone keeps track of his or her own expenditure and consumption. Students cook individually for themselves, but in many student houses, the students cook and have dinner together. Food placed in a communal fridge is also not shared and if necessary, it is sometimes marked, signed carton of milk, or a pack of yoghurts being the typical example. This deeply rooted independence is something that newcomers are forced to learn to live with.
The Dutch workers are generally less competitive than other Westerners. They place high value on teamwork and consensus, and a person who tries too hard to excel will be criticized as a soloist and excluded from the working group.
Dutch workers generally prefer very informal dress such as jeans and t-shirt (no shorts). In some cases one can find company’s top executive wearing jeans, while his employees are dressed in formal suits. This is mostly a matter of Dutch top executives saving formal suits for business occasions outside their companies. Among the workers in financial industry, which is in The Netherlands the most conservative of all, the formal dress for men contains dark suit, a tie and white shirt. Formally dressed women wear typically dark suit and white blouse. While working, Dutch workers and executives almost every time remove their jacket, which shows their pragmatic approach towards work.
Dutch businesspersons do their work in an efficient and professional manner. Punctuality is important; dress is usually formal, with suits and ties as a standard. At the start of business meeting, business cards are exchanged and businessmen greet each other with a handshake. Titles and surnames are used, unless otherwise indicated. It is not unusual for women to hold high executive posts in Dutch business culture. Most Dutch people speak excellent English. Business hours are usually 8.30 AM to 5 PM.
The Dutch appreciate honesty and straightforwardness so make sure that you say what you mean, not for example "I’ll consider…" instead of "No". You will also be expected to keep all the promises you made, so do not make promises lightly and think through all aspects before making one. Dutch business culture is one focused mainly on quality before quantity, but it is recommended not to throw self-appraisals like "we are no. 1 in…". Focus on presenting valid empirical data about your background so they can make a picture about you themselves. They will certainly not buy any bluntness, deceptiveness or evasiveness.
This business culture values diversity in opinions, which tends to slower the decision-making process. However, once the decision is made you can be sure that Dutch will follow through every detail of the deal.
Short eye contact during the business meeting every now and then is considered as a sign of sincerity. If you have a problem with this and tend to look away while talking with someone, you risk being considered as a dishonest person.
The Netherlands is generally considered as Europe’s most national country. Among the things that characterize the country, one can find windmills, wooden shoes and tulips.
You can see most of the classical and well-kept windmills standing along canal shores in west and south-west part of the Netherlands. Especially famous is the set of 19 windmills in Kinderdijk (near Dordrecht). One of those is always open for tourist sightseeing. All of those windmills are revised in 19th century style.
|Kinderdijk windmills - source|
We can divide hard and ripe Dutch cheese into many categories. The youngest ones are called jong (young), and their ripening period is shortest. They are also the cheapest ones. The ones with the longest ripening period, thus the oldest ones are called oude (old). Their ripening period is over one year and they are the most expensive ones. Among the highest quality cheese, one can find for example belegen.
|Dutch cheese - source|
For foreigners the Dutch are famous for bicycle ownership. Almost everyone in the Netherlands owns one (according to statistics there is about 15 million bicycles in the Netherlands). Thus, the Netherlands is after China the second "bicycle superpower". Bicycles are popular here mainly for their positive environmental impact and manoeuvrability in traffic jams in big cities. Many Dutch people are protecting their bikes from theft by having a bicycle holder in front of their houses, since bicycle robberies are on daily agenda in the Netherlands. Thus should you plan a bicycle trip to the Netherlands, make sure that you equip yourself with a high-quality bicycle lock, or may be two
|Group of bicycles - source|
Tulips are undoubtedly the typical symbol of the Netherlands, even though one can find plenty of other kinds of flowers here as well. In total, there are about 300 unique kinds of tulips in the Netherlands. Should you wish to visit a flower fair, you can head to the Keukenhof exhibition area, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1999. It is located in the town of Lisse, halfway between Amsterdam and Den Haag.
|Tulips - source|
There are many interesting places to visit in The Netherlands. Among the most interesting ones are the capital city of Amsterdam and Europe’s biggest port Rotterdam. Holland is also known for its beautiful countryside, about 20 national parks and hundreds of national reserves including lakes, woods and dunes. You can also visit many museums which are included on the list:
You can visit some of those astonishing places by just clicking on one of the links below:
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This text was developed by using the sources described bellow.