NETHERLANDS - BASIC FACTS

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
 

 

Drenthe Assen Emmen 2,641 486,197
 

 

Flevoland Lelystad Almere 1,417 374,424
 

 

Friesland (Fryslân) Leeuwarden Leeuwarden 3,341 642,209
 

 

Gelderland Arnhem Nijmegen 4,971 1,979,059
 

 

Groningen Groningen Groningen 2,333 573,614
 

 

Limburg Maastricht Maastricht 2,150 1,127,805
 

 

North (Noord) Brabant Den Bosch Eindhoven 4,916 2,419,042
 

 

North (Noord) Holland Haarlem Amsterdam 2,671 2,613,070
 

 

Overijssel Zwolle Enschede 3,325 1,116,374
 

 

Utrecht Utrecht Utrecht 1,385 1,190,604
 

 

Zealand (Zeeland) Middelburg Middelburg 1,787 380,497
 

 

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.