OFFICIAL NAME: Kingdom of the Netherlands
FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Constitutional Monarchy
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: Dutch, Frisian
Map of Netherlands
The Netherlands is the most densely populated country in the European Union. Animals have had to squeeze into changing habitats around the dams, dikes, and canals. Some bird species have found a haven in the watery swamps. The government has created sanctuaries to allow plants, birds, and small animals to thrive.
Wooden windmills helped to drain water from the land for over 600 years. Today there are other sources of flood control and sources of power. The Dutch plan to have 10 percent of the country’s energy needs supplied by renewable energy, including wind turbines, by 2020.
PEOPLE & CULTURE
Many of the residents ride bicycles for transportation in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and other cities. There are three times as many bicycles as there are cars in the Netherlands.
The Dutch believe in moderation and have a respect for the law. People in the southern part of the country are said to have a more relaxed outlook than their countrymen in the north.
The Dutch are on average the tallest people in the world. Men are six feet tall (182.5 cm) and women are 5 feet 7 inches (170.5 cm). Researchers point to a healthy diet and good medical care as the main factors that lead to a tall population.
Tourism is important to the country, and many visitors come to see Dutch art, architecture—and the flowers. Tulips are a major industry, and the Dutch produce billions of bulbs a year—more than any other country.
The name Netherlands means “low countries.” The country is sometimes called Holland, but the name only applies to two provinces, North and South Holland, which border the North Sea in Amsterdam and The Hague.
The Netherlands is a small country sandwiched between Belgium and Germany in Western Europe. The North Sea, located to the north and west of the Netherlands, is continually battering the land.
The Netherlands is larger than the state of Maryland, but smaller than West Virginia.
The Dutch have a saying: "God made the Earth, but the Dutch made Holland." The North Sea would have washed away the Netherlands if the Dutch had not erected defenses to protect their land. Over the centuries, the Dutch have built series of canals, dams, dikes, and pumping stations to keep the sea and rivers back.
Today more than 1,491 miles (2,400 kilometers) of dikes shield the low, flat land—almost half of which lies below sea level—from the North Sea. Without the existing dikes 65 percent of the country would be flooded daily.
Photograph by Scanrail, Dreamstime
The Netherlands is republic with a constitutional monarchy. The Dutch monarchy dates back to Prince William of Orange in the 16th century. Queen Beatrix is the reigning monarch.
The Dutch parliament called the States General has two houses. The 150 members of the Lower House are elected by the people every four years. The Upper House has 15 members who are elected by local councils for a four-year term.
The queen or ruling monarch appoints ministers who become part of the cabinet.
Because the Netherlands has no mountain ranges or natural borders, it was not able to protect itself from invading neighbors. Foreigners occupied the country for much of its history.
The Romans, Celtic tribes, Germanic groups, Scandinavian Vikings, the Franks, Austrians, and the Spanish ruled parts of the Netherlands for centuries. In the late 1500s, the Dutch tried to overthrow their Spanish rulers. They fought in the Eighty Years’ War and finally gained independence in 1648.
During the Napoleonic Wars, France’s Napoleon took over Holland and put his brother Louis on the throne. In 1814, the people claimed independence from France and for 25 years, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands were joined together as one country called the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
In 1839, Belgium and the Netherlands became independent and Luxembourg became independent in 1890.
During World War II, Germany occupied the Netherlands for five years and killed many people who resisted the Germans or tried to help the Dutch Jews.