|National motto: Je Maintiendrai|
(French, I will maintain)
(+Frisian in Friesland)
|Capitals||Amsterdam, The Hague¹|
|Prime minister||Jan Peter Balkenende|
- % water
|Ranked 131st |
- Total (2002)
|Eighty Years' War |
|Currency||Euro², Dutch euro coins|
|National anthem||Het Wilhelmus|
|(1) Seat of government|
(2) Prior to 1999: Guilder
Under Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain the region was part of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands, which also includes most of present-day Belgium. After gaining formal independence from Spain in 1648, the Dutch, as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, grew to become one of the major seafaring and economic powers of the 17th century, referred to as the Golden Age in the Netherlands, establishing colonies and trade posts all over the globe.
After being incorporated in the French empire under Napoleon, a Dutch kingdom was formed with present-day Belgium and Luxembourg in 1815. The Belgians soon gained independence however (1830), as did Luxembourg. During the 19th century, the Netherlands were somewhat behind on the neighbouring countries.
After remaining neutral in World War I, the country was occupied by Germany in May 1940, to be fully liberated only in 1945. After the war, the Dutch economy prospered again, being a member of the economic Benelux and European Economic Community unions. The Netherlands also became a member of NATO.
Head of state, since 1980, is Queen Beatrix of the House of Orange-Nassau. Formally, she appoints the members of the government. In practice, a coalition government is made after the results of the elections are known (a process which might take several months), after which the government formed in this way is officially appointed by the queen.
The parliament consists of two houses. Elections for the 150 members of the Lower House (Tweede Kamer, or Second Chamber) take place every four years, or earlier when the Lower House has taken a no-confidence motion against the government. The less important Senate (Eerste Kamer, or First Chamber) is chosen every four years after the provincial elections by the just chosen members of the provincial parliaments. Together, the First and Second Chamber are known as the Staten Generaal, the States General[?].
Political scientists consider the Netherlands a classic example of a consociational state.
The Netherlands are divided into 12 administrative regions, called provinces (provincies):
A remarkable aspect of the Netherlands is the flatness of the country. About half the country is less than 1 meter above sea level, and large parts of it are actually below sea level (see map showing these areas (http://www.minbuza.nl/default.asp?CMS_ITEM=MBZ302750)). The highest point, the Vaalserberg, in the southeasternmost point of the country, is 321 m high. Many low areas are protected by dikes and sea walls. Parts of the Netherlands, for example almost all of Flevoland province, have been reclaimed from the sea - these areas are known as polders.
The predominant wind direction in the Netherlands is southwest, which causes a moderate maritime climate, with cool summers and mild winters.
The Netherlands have a prosperous and open economy in which the government has successfully reduced its role since the 1980s. Industrial activity is predominantly in food-processing, chemicals, petroleum refining, and electrical machinery. A highly mechanised agricultural sector employs no more than 4% of the labor force but provides large surpluses for the food-processing industry and for exports. The Dutch rank third worldwide in value of agricultural exports, behind the US and France. The Netherlands successfully addressed the issue of public finances and stagnating job growth long before its European partners.
As a founding member of the Euro, the Netherlands replaced its former currency, the guilder, on January 1, 1999 along with the other adopters of the single European currency, with the actual euro coins and banknotes following on January 1 2002.
|Data: International Data Base (http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/ipc/idbpyrs.pl?cty=NL) (2000)|
The Netherlands are one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with more than 400 inhabitants per square km.
There are two official languages, Dutch and Frisian. The latter is only spoken in the northern province of Friesland, and it is the language which most resembles English. In addition to Dutch and Frisian, several dialects of Low Saxon are spoken in much of the north; they have no official recognition. At the national borders in the south, the Dutch language shifts into other varieties of Low Franconian speech, which may or may not be best classified as Dutch, most notably West Flemish.
The main religions are Catholicism (18% in 1999) (dioceses (http://188.8.131.52/kerkprovincie/bisdommen/index)) and Protestantism (15%). 63% of the Dutch don't consider themselves to be members of a church. The part of the country south of the three rivers is (or was) generally Catholic, with the northern part Protestant (mostly of the Dutch Reformed Church).
The Dutch are known as a tolerant people. Their image abroad is mainly based on trade, tulips, windmills, wooden shoes[?], cheese and Delftware pottery. More recently the socially libertine Dutch policies on recreational drugs, prostitution, gay marriage and euthanasia have received international attention; Amsterdam is widely perceived abroad as a 'naughty' city. See also Drugs policy of the Netherlands .
Many famous painters originate from the Netherlands. The 17th century, when the Dutch republic was prosperous, produced many great painters such as Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen and many others. Famous Dutch painters of the 19th and 20th century are Vincent van Gogh and Piet Mondriaan. M. C. Escher is a well-known graphics artist. A both famous and infamous Dutch master art forger is Han van Meegeren.
In the Golden Age, Dutch literature flowered as well, with Joost van den Vondel[?], P. C. Hooft[?] as the two most famous names. Important 20th century authors include Harry Mulisch, Jan Wolkers[?], Simon Vestdijk[?], Cees Nooteboom[?], Gerard van het Reve and Willem Frederik Hermans. The Diary of Anne Frank was also written in the Netherlands.
Also of interest: Sport in the Netherlands.
|Date||English Name||Local Name||Remarks|
|January 1||New Year's Day||Nieuwjaar|
|March/April||Easter||Pasen||The Dutch celebrate two days of Easter.|
|April 30||Queen's day||Koninginnedag||Originally, Koninginnedag was celebrated on the birthday of the queen,|
Queen's day is now celebrated on the birthday of the current queen's mother,
as this gives better weather.
|May 4||Remembrance of the dead||Dodenherdenking||Remembrance of those who died during the Second World War.|
|May 5||Liberation day||Bevrijdingsdag||Celebration of the 1945 capitulation of German forces in World War II.|
|40 days after Easter||Ascension Day||Hemelvaartsdag|
|7 weeks after Easter||Pentecost||Pinksteren||The Dutch celebrate two days of Pentecost.|
|December 5||Saint Nicholas's Eve||Sinterklaas||A predecessor of Santa Claus, Sinterklaas gives presents to the children.|
|December 25, December 26||Christmas||Kerstmis||The Dutch celebrate two days of Christmas.|