The Netherlands is a relatively small, low-lying country in North-West Europe, with the north and west of the country lying along the coastline of the North Sea, with the south of the country bordered by Belgium and the east of the country bordered by Germany. The Kingdom of the Netherlands also includes a number of Caribbean islands.
The Netherlands, which covers a total area of just over 16,000 square miles (almost 30,528 sq. km) and has a population of approximately 11 million people, is often called “Holland”, although North Holland and South Holland are just two of its 12 provinces.
Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands, although there are some regional languages and dialects also recognized in their respective areas.
The Netherlands, a notable 25% of which is below sea level, is extremely flat and features hundreds of miles of coastline, sea-dykes, sandy beaches, rivers and canals, fields of colorful tulips, and vibrant towns and cities of culture, all with their own plazas and squares, parks, historic buildings and museums.
The Netherlands is the world’s 10th richest economy by GDP. Foreign trade has always been of great importance to the country, although in recent years there has been a shift from food products to industrial products. Key Dutch exports today include manufactured goods and machinery, data processing equipment natural gas and petrochemical products, chemicals and foods (including meat and vegetables)/
These days, there is not really a specific Dutch cuisine, with standard meals of meat, potatoes and vegetables interspersed with the foods of India, China, Surinam, Italy, Greece and Turkey. Typical Dutch dishes, however, are pea soup with sausage, winter stews of meat, potatoes, vegetables and gravy, herring with pickles, and â€“ for desserts – sweet pancakes and waffles.
The influence of the country’s colonial history and heritage is still seen in its culture, customs and food, with the legacy of the 17th century Dutch East India Company (what is today Indonesia was the most important of the Dutch East Indies territories) and the Dutch colonies founded during the 19th century living on through Indonesia fairs and festivals, convenience stores, literature and culture. Culture flourished during the Dutch Golden Age, with bringing with it buildings of great architectural significance and painters such as Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Jan Steen and Frans Hals. It was not until the 19th century that Dutch art really became internationally acclaimed again, with the emergence of Vincent Van Gogh and others. The 20th century produced the influential De Stijl artist Piet Mondrian, while the 20th century saw COBRA movement artists such as Karel Appel and Corneille and the prolific graphic artist M. C. Escher making their mark.
The Netherlands has always had its own folk music and dance forms, although more recently its music scene has been significantly shaped by emerging hip hop and rap artists of African or Middle Eastern descent, as well as by purveyors of electronic music, with several Dutch DJs ranking among the world’s best.
All major towns and cities contain a variety of museums and art galleries. Amsterdam in particular contains museums such as the Rijksmuseum (home to several masterpieces by 17th century artists such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jan Steen and Frans Hals), the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House, marking the home where Anne Frank hid while writing her diary during World War II.
Famous Dutch people today include the photographer, music video and film director Anton Corbijn the supermodel Doutzen Kroes, and the movie director, screenwriter and producer Paul Verhoeven (known in particular for RoboCop, Total Recall and Basic Instinct).