The Netherlands and the Dutch

The Netherlands is a country in north-western Europe with a population of nearly 17 million. It is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The capital is Amsterdam and the seat of Government is The Hague.

The Netherlands is often called ‘Holland’, which is technically incorrect as North and South Holland are actually only two of its 12 provinces. The word ‘Dutch’ (or ‘Nederlands’ in Dutch) is used to refer to the people, the language and anything pertaining to the Netherlands.

According to Lonely Planet: “There are not many countries with so much land below sea level. There are not many - if any - countries this flat. There are not many countries with so much reclaimed land. There are not many countries this densely populated, and yet so liberal. There are not many countries with so much water and wind, or so many boats, sails, bikes, birds, dykes, polders, windmills, flowers, fish, bridges, cafés, cheese - and tall people.” (Introducing the Netherlands, 2010).

The Netherlands has a culture of openness and tolerance towards the rest of the world and towards each other. This attitude is reflected both in business and in social life. Most people know the Dutch as down-to-earth and direct in their communication.

Language

The official language in the Netherlands is Dutch, which is spoken by almost all the inhabitants. Another official language is Frisian, which is spoken in the northern province of Friesland. English is understood and spoken at a fair level by almost everyone in the Netherlands.

Climate

The Netherlands has a typical ‘marine climate’. In summer, fine, hot weather may last for weeks, but the weather can just as easily be cool and unsettled. In winter, spells of cold weather lasting from a week to two months or more may cause rivers and canals to freeze, but in mild winters this may not occur at all. Rainfall is well distributed over the year. The average daily temperature in January is around 5°C and in June around 20°C.