The Netherlands is the main constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is a rather small country (41,543 km2) located in Western Europe where it shares borders with Germany and Belgium. The other parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands are our Caribbean islands: Bonaire, Sint-Eustatius and Saba (yes, we do have Caribbean islands). The capital of the Netherlands is Amsterdam, although The Hague also plays an important role as it holds the Dutch seat of government and parliament.
With a population density of approximately 500 inhabitants per square kilometre, the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries on earth. Our Central Statistical Office predicts that the Netherlands will hit its 17 millionth inhabitant around the 25th or 26th of March, 2016.
The official language spoken in the Netherlands is Dutch; although during your visit you will experience that almost everyone is able to speak English. Even French and German are widely spoken because of our educational laws concerning learning foreign languages at school.
The Netherlands is a highly developed country. We are ranked in the top 20 of countries with the highest income per capita and we are ranked in the top 20 of largest economies in the world. That is not so surprising considering the companies that come from the Netherlands. You might be surprised how many companies you know come from our tiny country. A few examples are: Heineken, Philips, Shell, KLM and Unilever.
Transport in the Netherlands is of high quality. The road network is considered one of the best networks in the world. Rotterdam has the largest port of Europe, Amsterdam has the well-known airport named Schiphol, which is one of the most busy airports in Europe. Public transport is also very important because of the rather small distances between major cities. Trains, subways and trams are frequent and reliable. Although, the most typical transportation method for Dutch people is of course, the bicycle. With an average of more than one bicycle per capita, many special tracks and roads are designed for cyclists and bicycle parking facilities are everywhere. You could say that the bicycle is a Dutch tradition.
The Netherlands is also quite famous for their tradition of football. Every generation is involved in football in the Netherlands. It is usual for the younger generation to attend football from the age of five years. As a small country, The Netherlands has a great history of football and football players. The best Dutch football player ever is widely considered to be Johan Cruijff. Many even put him among legends as Maradona and Pelé. Other great players are Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Dennis Bergkamp and the still active player, Arjen Robben. The Netherlands won the European Championship in 1988. The Netherlands has never won a World Cup but they have played in three finales. During the World Cup of 2014 we even have achieved a third place! For the younger generation Dutch people, the lost World Cup Finale in South Africa in 2010 against Spain, is still freshly remembered.
Famous Dutch intellectuals are Erasmus of Rotterdam; the university of Rotterdam is even named after this person. Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, the man who invented the microscope. Christiaan Huygens, Spinoza, Multatuli and many more. With pharmaceutical sciences in mind, it may be nice to know that the Boerhaave Museum in Leiden is full of physical and chemical sights.
The Dutch are known for their culture, especially our painters are widely known. Rembrandt van Rijn, who painted ‘The Night Watch’. Johannes Vermeer, who painted ‘The girl with the pearl earring’ and ‘The Milkmaid’. And of course Vincent van Gogh, Mondriaan, and Escher. Nowadays his paintings are worth millions. Moreover, we are known for our famous DJs. Tiësto, Hardwell, Armin van Buuren and Afrojack are just a few names. Of the five best DJs in the world, four are Dutch!
‘The low countries’
‘The Netherlands’ literally means ‘the low countries’. That is because our country lies extremely low, approximately 50% of The Netherlands is below sea level. In 1953 there was a huge flood in which almost 2000 people drowned. As a result of this flood the ‘Delta Works’ were born, a large project of civil works which was developed to protect our country against floods. Many consider the ‘Delta Works’ as wonder of the modern world. Countries today still use Dutch companies and advice for projects involving water. For example, we are now constructing dikes in New York!
Costume or regional dress is traditional clothing that was worn in Dutch communities through a large part of the population. Wooden shoes and cheese girl costumes are a few examples of such typical Dutch dressing. There are a number of towns and regions in the Netherlands where still daily costumes are being worn for ordinary everyday dressing, generally only by older women.
‘Friet’ or fries with sauces like mayonnaise are typically Dutch. The Dutch invented many combinations of sauces to go with the fries. a popular one is ‘patatje oorlog’, which loosely translates to ‘fries at war’, which has mayonnaise and satay sauce accompanied by onions. Another famous one is ‘patat speciaal’, which means ‘fries special’. It also has mayonnaise but this time it is accompanied by a sort of spiced ketchup (curry) and also onions. A portion of fries is often combined with a fried snack. There is a wide variety of fried snacks. The best known are the ‘kroket’ and ‘frikandel’.
Other typical foods are our ‘stroopwafels‘, pancakes and ‘poffertjes’, which are like mini pancakes. Typical Dutch fish dishes are herring with onions and ‘kibbeling’. If there is one typical Dutch thing you want to do besides riding a bicycle or complaining about the weather, you should try to eat herring the Dutch way.
And last but not least, Dutch cheese. The Dutch produce cheeses that are known all around the world. For example; Gouda cheese and Edammer cheese.