Facts about the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a small country that covers an area of 41,450 km² [16,038 sq mi], 27% of which is below sea level. With a population of over 16 million, it's one of the most densely populated countries in Europe.
The country is a democratic kingdom in which power is shared by a king or queen, its ministers and parliament.
The country is divided into twelve provinces and each province has its own commissioner, executive and council. Its economy is one of the world's Top 20. The Netherlands was a founding member of the European Union (EU) and uses the euro (€) as its currency.
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, a West Germanic language, closely related to German and also resembling English. Dutch is also spoken in Belgium and in Suriname. Friesland [Frisian: Fryslân] is the only one of the twelve Dutch provinces with an officially recognised regional language.
The Dutch are known for their mastery of foreign languages. Most have a good grasp of English and/or German, and to a lesser extent French or Spanish.
If you're living in the Netherlands, it's important to have a basic understanding of the Dutch language. This will allow you to converse more easily with your colleagues, supermarket employees, etc.
The Netherlands has two national holidays – King's Day [Dutch: Koningsdag] on 27 April and Liberation Day [Dutch: Bevrijdingsdag] on 05 May. However, most businesses are open on 05 May. Employers also recognise several other holidays – New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Whit Monday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Whether you'll get these days off work or not, depends on your employment contract.
You'll find a list of the Top 10 Dutch traditions below:
- Celebrating St. Nicholas [Dutch: Sinterklaas] – patron saint of children, sailors and many others besides (05 December).
- Decorating Christmas trees.
- Selling second-hand items at King's Day [Dutch: Koningsdag] flea markets (27 April).
- Eating deep-fried doughnuts [Dutch: oliebollen] on New Year's Eve (31 December).
- Celebrating carnival [Dutch: Carnaval].
- Eating rusks with blue or pink aniseed sprinkles [Dutch: beschuit met muisjes (literally 'little mice')] to celebrate a birth.
- Blowing out candles on birthday cakes.
- Going door to door with lanterns and singing songs on St. Martin's Day [Dutch: Sint Maarten] (11 November).
- Eating herring.
- Painting Easter eggs.
For additional information about cultural and social life in the Netherlands, please visit the Holland.com website, where you'll find a calendar of events and exhibitions.