About the Netherlands

900px-Flag_of_the_Netherlands.svgThe Netherlands  (Dutch: Nederland) is the main constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is a small, densely populated country, lying mainly in Western Europe, but also including three islands in the Caribbean. The European part of the Netherlands borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, sharing maritime borders with Belgium, the United Kingdom and Germany. The largest and most important cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. Amsterdam is the country’s capital, while The Hague holds the Dutch seat of government and parliament. The port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe – as large as the next three largest combined.

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 General information

The Netherlands is a low-lying countr y with around a quarter of its territory at or below sea level. Many parts of the Netherlands are protected from flooding by dykes and sea walls and much of the land has been reclaimed from the sea. The Netherlnds has a long coastline with the North Sea and borders Belgium to the south and Germany to the east.

The most important sectors of the Netherlands’ economy in 2012 were public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (22.7 %), industry (19.4 %) and wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (18.6 %).

The Netherlands’ main export partners are Germany, Belgium and France, while its main import partners are Germany, China and Belgium.


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The Netherlands and Holland

Holland? Or the Netherlands? And what’s the difference between the two? The Netherlands is  often referred to as Holland. Nevertheless, the official name of the country is the (Kingdom of the) Netherlands. The Netherlands consists out of twelve provinces. Two of them, Northand South Holland, are the two provinces that together make Holland. Due to the maritime and economic power of these provinces in the 17th century, the Netherlands became known worldwide as Holland. To make matters even more confusing the inhabitants of the Netherlands are called Dutch.


Internationally, ‘Holland’ is often used to indicate the Netherlands. Holland is also the brand that is used to promote business and leisure trips to the Netherlands. We have chosen Holland as brand name because Holland is internationally well-known, popular and an accessible name for our country. Furthermore Holland stands for all our country’s positive elements, the elements that attract foreign leisure and business travellers. Holland also sounds more hospitable than the rather official ‘the Netherlands’.

  • peopleThe Netherlands has the highest population density (493 inhabitants per square km – water excluded) of any European country with over 1 million inhabitants. Worldwide, only Bangladesh and Taiwan, among major countries, have a higher density of population.
  • The ‘Netherlands’ mean “Low Country” in Dutch. About half of its surface area is less than 1 metre above sea level. Its highest point is 321 metres (1,053 ft) above sea level.
  • Dutch people are the tallest in the world, with an average height of 184 cm for men and 170 cm for women.
  • A 2007 UNICEF report on child well-being in rich countriesranked the Netherlands as the best country for children to live.
  • Dutch people have the lowest incidence of lactose intolerance of any country – only 1%.
  • The village of Giethoorn, in the province of Overijssel, does not have any roads. All transport is done by water over one of the many canals. It is known as the “Venice of the Netherlands”.


  • historyNew York City started as Dutch colony called New Amsterdam. Many places names in New York remind of the Dutch origins of the city, such as Flushing in Queens (famous for Flushing Meadows), named after Flushing in the Dutch province of Zeeland.
  • The Dutch national anthem, Wilhelmus, is the oldest in the world. It was written and first used from 1568, although it was only officially adopted in 1932. The national flag of the Netherlands dates from 1572 and is also the oldest tricolour flag.
  • Gin was invented in the Netherlands under the name of Jenever. It was first sold as a medicine in the late 16th century.
  • Orange-coloured carrots appeared in the Netherlands in the 16th century. Before that carrots were white, yellow, black, purple or red. Orange carrots are said to have been bred in honour of the House of Orange, who led the Dutch Revolt against Spain and later became the Dutch Royal family. Orange is still the official colour of the Netherlands and a sign of patriotism. The Dutch national football team wears a bright orange shirt. And the country’s largest financial institution, the ING Group, makes abundant use of the national colour on its logo and on the decoration of its banks.
  • The Dutch were the first Europeans to discover Australia and New Zealand in the 17th century. Australia was then named “New Holland”. New Zealand was named after the province of Zeeland.Tasmania was named after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman (1603-1659).
  • The island country of Mauritius was named in 1598 in honour of Prince Maurice of Nassau, the Stadtholder of the Netherlands at the time.
  • Although the Portuguese were the first Europeans to “discover” tea in East Asia, it was the Dutch who introduced the beverage commercially to Europe in 1610. Tea didn’t reach England until the 1650’s.
  • Indonesia was a Dutch colony until 1945. Jakarta was then called “Batavia”, after the Latin name for the Netherlands. Dutch language is still spoken by a minority of Indonesians.

Science and Culture

  • 19516_large_phillips-healthcareThe Netherlands has spawned many world-class painters, such as Rembrandt, Jan Vermeer, Jan Steen, Vincent van Gogh or Piet Mondriaan.
  • The microscope, the telescope, pendulum clock and the mercury thermometer are all 16th or 17th century Dutch inventions.
  • The Dutch company ‘Philips’ invented the audio tape (in 1967), the video tape (in 1972), the Compact Disk (in 1982) and the CD-ROM (in 1985).
  • There are 1180 windmills in the Netherlands.
  • Tulips were imported from the Ottoman Empire and became very popular in Holland in the early 17th century. Nowadays, the Netherlands is the world’s first producer and exporter of tulips.
  • Keukenhof Park is the largest flower garden in the world.
  • Smith & Jones in Amsterdam is Europe’s first and only addiction clinic, treating everything from compulsive gambling to alcoholism, and from eating disorders to video game addiction.
  • As of 2010, the Netherlands had the highest percentage of broadband subscriptions in the world, with 38% of the population connected.


More about dutch people and culture


The Netherlands is famous for its achievements in the arts and has brought forth many famous artists: Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Mondriaan, Appel (painters) and Berlage, Koolhaas and Rietveld (architects), to name a few. There are hundreds of outstanding museums, exhibitions and festivals to visit and promising artists from all over the world still come to the Netherlands to work or study.

It is hard to say anything general about Dutch culture – or what the Dutch are like. The best thing is probably to come and find out. Some remarks often made by foreign visitors are: the Dutch in general are very modest in showing their appreciation for anything or anybody, including themselves. They are often considered very open and direct in their social interaction and can therefore seem blunt. Their views, like their policies, are often looked upon as being very progressive. This doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate their traditions such as the celebration of the Queen’s birthday and the feast of Saint Nicholas.


Dutch society is home to over 190 different nationalities living in its many cities and villages. For decades, the country’s historical ties with other parts of the world have brought people of non-Dutch origin to settle in Holland, which makes the Dutch generally open-minded, freedom loving and tolerant towards foreigners. This cultural diversity has made Holland a place where knowledge, ideas and cultures from all over the world come together. Although Dutch is the national language, the majority of the population also speaks English and very often another foreign language, such as German or French.


The Netherlands is a ’self-service country’. The Dutch try to manage most things themselves, which makes them very independent and organized. Another distinctive characteristic of the Dutch is their openness and direct manner of acting and speaking. You will notice that you can say exactly what is on your mind, as the Dutch are not easily offended. Dutch society is organized in a non-hierarchical way. For example, teachers tend to be very accessible and true interlocutors for their students. You will be on familiar terms with everybody in almost no time.


The Netherlands has two official languages: Dutch and Frisian. Frisian is spoken by approximately 440,000 people in the northern province of Friesland. Most Dutch people have a good command of English and another language like Spanish or German. Due to immigration many residents are also fluent in Turkish or Moroccan languages.

English is necessary to succeed in most higher education establishments (including the universities). Some schools and university programmes even use English as their main and only language – Dutch is not used at all. Dutch is also spoken in parts of Belgium, Suriname and the Dutch Antilles.

Dutch cuisine

The Dutch do not have a tradition of fine cooking, and hot meals are generally limited to one a day, traditionally in the evening. A typical breakfast consists of sliced bread with cheese, sliced cold meat and/or jam. Most people have sandwiches for lunch with the addition of perhaps soup, a salad or fruit. For the evening meal, potatoes and vegetables are accompanied by a serving of meat or fish. This traditional diet is also quite economical. In recent years, however, Dutch tastes have become more international and refined. You will find a large variety of products (pasta dishes, rice, curry) in the regular supermarkets, and many restaurants offer a wide range of international dishes.


Holland has a huge religious diversity: you will find churches, mosques, synagogues and Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh places of worship. Christianity has the longest tradition, with the first Christian missionaries arriving about 1600 years ago. A sizeable part of the population describes itself as non-religious, however, and Dutch churches lost much of their influence during the second half of the twentieth century. You will have plenty of opportunities to practice your own religion if you wish. Ask the student affairs office at your host institution to help you locate places of worship.

The table below shows you which religions are most common in the Netherlands.

In the past people’s religion or political beliefs determined their choice of in school, trade union, political party and even which in leisure association to join. This ‘pillaring’ in Dutch society has reduced in recent years. Church and state are separate in the Netherlands.

Population 18 years and older, by religion (2007)
Catholic 28%
Protestant 19%
Muslim 5%
Other 4%
None 44%