The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with a population of approximately 16.3 million people. It consists of 12 provinces. The country borders Germany in the east, Belgium in the south, and the North Sea to its north and west. Sixty percent of the population lives in the western part of the country. The formal name of the country is “The Netherlands.” “Holland” is the name of the western part of the country, but is used to refer to The Netherlands as a whole. “the Netherlands” literally means “the low countries”. Large parts of the country lie below sea level, and these parts of the Netherlands would be under water if were not for the system of dikes and dams that prevents the land from flooding. The sea’s proximity and warm North Atlantic Gulf Stream provides a temperate maritime climate. This offers mild winters and cool summers. Below freezing temperatures are unusual, but wind and clouds are a common feature. The weather, often a topic of discussion, is very unpredictable, and therefore an umbrella is essential.
The kingdom of the Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, and the monarch is the head of state. The role of the queen is mainly representative and ceremonial. The executive branch of government is composed of the royal head of state, and the Council of Ministers led by the Prime Minister. The legislature is formed by Parliament together with the Sovereign and Ministers. The Dutch parliament is made up of two houses, the upper and lower house chambers. Judicial power is given to the Supreme Court. The Netherlands has a system of proportional representation that is similar to most continental West-European countries. This guarantees some representation even to the small minority parties.
There are more than 25 official languages spoken in the European Union. Dutch is a Germanic language, and spoken everywhere in the country. The majority of Dutch people speak at least two foreign languages, with almost everyone understanding and speaking English.
Dutch Culture and Society
The Dutch are very well informed about world affairs. The Dutch media offers wide news coverage, and books and periodicals from other countries are extensively used in higher education. The people of the Netherlands form a very diverse society. Many religions and persuasions are represented. The main religious groups consist of Protestants and Roman Catholics. Religions like Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism are growing in number. Diversity is especially evident in larger cities. Immigrants have come from various parts of the world, particularly Surinam, Morocco, Indonesia, and Turkey.
The Dutch have a unique, occasionally misunderstood, approach to social interactions. One such characteristic is their great respect for privacy. Furthermore, they have a very direct way of speaking, particularly when expressing their opinion. Compliments are not often given and can be difficult to recognize. This is largely due to their critical nature, which, to the Dutch is often a sign of interest. However, this may sometimes seem rude to those unfamiliar with their culture. Additionally, when meeting new people, it is expected that you introduce yourself; the Dutch acquaintance may then introduce you to other people.