The Netherlands is a country in north-west Europe. It lies between the North Sea to the west, Germany to the east and Belgium to the south.
“The Netherlands” literally means “low countries” and that is a very appropriate name: more than a quarter of the land lies below sea level. Over many centuries its people – the Dutch – have built a remarkable system of sea defences to protect themselves from flooding, and about one-fifth of the land is reclaimed from the sea, lakes or marshland. Many of the windmills for which the country is famous operate pumps that drain this land.
The temperate maritime climate keeps average temperatures between 17-20˚C in summer and 2-6˚C in winter. Rainfall is common throughout the year, with some snow in winter. In the flat landscape, there is often plenty of wind to keep the mills turning.
Despite all the new land, the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world: its 16.8 million people live in an area of 41,500km2 (404 per km2). In recent decades, immigration has boosted the population; people of over 200 different nationalities now live here. The official language is Dutch, but about three-quarters of the population speak some English. An open attitude towards people from other countries has always been a trademark of Dutch culture.
The nation’s capital is Amsterdam, although The Hague is the seat of the government. The country is a constitutional monarchy. The current head of state is Queen Beatrix, but political power rests with parliament. General elections are usually held every four years, and the nature of the voting system means that governments are always multi-party coalitions.
The country is a member of the European Union and, like many other member states, its currency is the euro. Several important international institutions are based in The Hague, including the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.
More information about The Netherlands: www.studyinholland.com