The Netherlands - an introduction

Living in Europe | Access to the culture of the host country/language courses | Netherlands

"With a surface area of more than 41,000 km2, and a population of around 17 million people, the Netherlands is one of the world’s most populous countries. A quarter of the Netherlands’ land area lies below sea level. The low-lying areas consist mainly of polders, flat stretches of land surrounded by dikes where the water table is controlled artificially.

The Netherlands, which shares it borders with Germany and Belgium, is often referred to as “Holland”, the identity of the two western coastal provinces, North and South Holland, which are at the core of the country and have played a dominant role in the history of the Netherlands. Thanks to their location on to the Rhine-Maas estuary, these provinces are very important for the economy. They also contain the country’s principal administrative and commercial cities – Amsterdam, The Hague (Den Haag) and Rotterdam. Together with Utrecht, the capital of the province of Utrecht, they form the combined area of what is known as the Randstad conurbation, with a population of around 7 million.

Today, the Netherlands comprises 12 provinces: North and South Holland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Overijssel and Flevoland (reclaimed from the Ijsselmeer) in the centre, Friesland, Drenthe and Groningen in the north, and Zeeland, North Brabant and Limburg in the south.

Dutch is the mother tongue of more than 22 million people in the Netherlands and Belgium, whilst in the Dutch province of Friesland some people speak another language, Frisian.

The Netherlands is in the time zone of UTC+1. However, during summertime (March to October) the clock is changed to summer time UTC+2.

The Netherlands has a temperate marine climate with cool summers and mild winters. The most distinctive feature of the country geographically – but also logistically and economically – is the Rhine-Maas delta with its seaport of Rotterdam, the largest in the western world. It is here that one finds a break in the weather pattern, with a milder continental climate to the south and a more vigorous weather pattern dominated by North Sea winds to the north.

Dutch society used to be strictly organised along religious or ideological lines with every grouping having its own schools, newspapers, trade unions, clubs, etc. Traces of this can still be seen today in the media, interest groups and the education system. Although churchgoing is on the wane, there are two large religious groups in the Netherlands: Roman Catholic and Protestant together with minorities of for example Muslims, Jews and Hindus throughout the country. However, nearly half of the population has no affiliation to any religious body." -Currently around 70% of the population is nonreligious-

"As an open economy, the Netherlands is susceptible to international developments and is based on consensus. The Netherlands has a long tradition of negotiation, which lives on in close and regular contacts between trade unions, employers’ organisations and government. It is a member of all the major international organisations."

Source and more information: Passport to trade - a bridge to succes