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The Netherlands

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OFFICIAL NAME: Kingdom of the Netherlands

POPULATION: 15,800,000 (463 per km)

AREA: 41,160 km

COASTLINE: 451 km

LOCATION: Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between Belgium and Germany

STATES: 12 provinces; Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, Noord-Brabant, Noord-Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland, Zuid-Holland 

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EXTERNAL DEPENDANT AREAS: Aruba, Netherlands Antilles 

INDEPENDENCE: 1579 (from Spain) 

CAPITAL CITY: Amsterdam

SEAT OF GOVERNMENT: The Hague

OTHER CHIEF CITIES: Rotterdam (the largest port of Europe), Utrecht, Groningen, Eindhoven, Haarlem, Maastricht, Tilburg, S'Hertogenbosch, Venlo, Nijmegen, Leeuwarden, Delft, Gouda

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NATIONAL COLOURS: Orange

NATIONAL ANTHEM:                                  "Wilhelmus van Nassouwe"

Wilhelmus van Nassouwe
Ben ik, van Duitsen bloed,
Den vaderland getrouwe
Blijf ik tot in den dood.
Een Prinse van Oranje
Ben ik, vrij onverveerd,
Den Koning van Hispanje
Heb ik altijd geerd.

Mijn schild ende betrouwen
Zijt Gij, o God mijn Heer,
Op U zo wil ik bouwen,
Verlaat mij nimmermeer.
Dat ik doch vroom mag blijven,
Uw dienaar t'aller stond,
De tirannie verdrijven
Die mij mijn hart doorwondt.

TRANSLATION:

"William of Nassau"

William of Nassau am I, of Germanic descent;
True to the fatherland I remain until death.
Prince of Orange am I, free and fearless.
To the King of Spain I have always given honour.

You, my God and Lord, are my shield, on You I rely.
On You I will build; never leave me,
So that I may remain pious, Your servant at all moments,
Dispelling the tyranny that wounds my heart.

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Netherlandic (Dutch), Frisian

CURRENCY: 1 Netherlands guilder, gulden, or florin (f.) = 100 cents 
From 1st January 2002, The Netherlands will introduce the euro as its national currency.

HEAD OF STATE: Queen Beatrix van Oranje Nassau

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HEAD OF GOVERNMENT: Prime Minister

GOVERNMENT: Constitutional monarchy
The Netherlands government is a bicameral multi-party legislature. The lower chamber has 150 members elected for 4 years and the upper chamber has 75 members indirectly elected for 4 years.

CLIMATE: Temperate, marine climate with cool summers and mild winters. The average maximum temperature ranges from about 4C in January to an average maximum of 20-21C in July and August. Rain is pretty common at any time of the year and winters can be very cold and wet with the possibility of snow. Average minimums in Winter are around -1 to 0C. Strong Northerly winds are also frequent in Autumn and Winter.

GEOGRAPHY: The Netherlands is bordered by Germany in the east, Belgium in the south, and the North Sea to the north and west. One fifth of the country is below sea level and large areas have been reclaimed from the sea. These areas, known as polders, are very fertile and excellent for agriculture. The land is mostly flat but south in the province of Limburg, you will find hilly areas. Canals and rivers flow throughout the country and it is not unusual to see large ships sitting higher than you. There are also small pockets of forest throughout the country, the largest being in Arnhem. There are large lakes in the north and centre of the country, and fabulous coastal dunes. The Netherlands is located at the mouth of three major European rivers (Rhine, Maas, and Schelde). The name Nederland means low land or country and much of the land of the Netherlands was brought downstream by the rivers, with some being pushed into ridges by glaciers. There is a saying, "God made the world, but the Dutch made Holland" because without the human intervention and incredible hydro-engineering of the Dutch, half of the country would now be under the North Sea. The Dutch have managed to reclaim 550,000 acres of land from the sea just in the past century while the Delta Project in Zeeland (thirty years in the making) is a storm control system that is unequelled in the world.

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TIME: GMT + 1 (GMT from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).

ECONOMICS: Major industries are the service industries, banking, electronics, agricultural industries, and shipping. The Netherlands is one of the largest exporters of farm produce with the main products being meat, vegetables, dairy products, and flowers. The only mineral to be found in any significant size in the Netherlands is natural gas, which supplies much of the country's energy. The Netherlands are active in the production of plastics, pharmaceuticals, steel, and petrochemicals. One of the country's largest companies is "Phillips" which originated and is based in the city of Eindhoven. Rotterdam is the busiest port of the world when measured by freight handled and Schiphol airport is also one of the world's largest and busiest. Unemployment in the Netherlands is 2.5% while the GDP growth rate is 3%. The country's economy is very strong and stable and the Netherlands is the sixth largest exporter in the world.

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ELECTRICITY: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. 2-pin European-style plugs are in use.

SPECIAL EVENTS: NEW YEARS DAY
EASTER MONDAY
QUEEN'S DAY April 30
NATIONAL LIBERATION DAY  May 5
ASCENSION DAY
WHIT MONDAY
FIRST CHRISTMAS DAY December 25
SECOND CHRISTMAS DAY December 26
Carnival also provides a couple of public holiday in the southern states of Brabant and Limburg


SOCIAL CONVENTIONS: It is customary to shake hands in the Netherlands, however, it is also common for greetings to be three kisses on alternate cheeks. It is customary to give the hostess of a dinner, party, etc, a small gift. Tipping is not common but it is generally acctepted to leave some change when paying at restaurants and the like. Casual clothing is normal but more formal wear is required in better restaurants and business or social functions.

THINGS TO DO IF YOU VISIT THE NETHERLANDS: Everyone enjoys a visit to the red light districts but be warned to leave your camera at home, tourists and their cameras have been known to end up in the canals. Keukenhof, the spring tulip gardens, are definitely worth a visit in May. They have the most wonderful displays and colours and a photographer would be in heaven here. Amsterdam is the wonderful place that people dream it will be but there are so many historic and charming cities in Holland that are also worth a visit if you have the time. Visit one of the cheese markets like Alkmaar, these are very interesting. Another interesting part of Dutch culture to explore is a working windmill. These are usually open to tourists on the first Saturday of every month. Go Dutch and rent a bicycle for the day and take a ride through the wonderful countryside. Visit the Delta Expo in Zeeland with all the information on the Dutch fight against the sea and how they have learned to protect themselves from the flooding. Check out one or both of the Van Gogh museums (Kroller Muller in Arnhem or the one in Amsterdam) and visit Burgers Zoo which is a wonderful new and different zoo.

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