Country Profile

The Netherlands  By: Sarah PerryNetherlands [Image 1]

I. Location

The Netherlands is located in Europe between Germany, Belgium, and the North Sea. The Netherlands occupies just over 16,000 square miles. It is roughly twice the size of New Jersey.  Its capital city is Amsterdam which is located in the western part of the country. Other major cities include Rotterdam, The Hague, and Haarlem. [1]

[Image 7]

II. Economy

The Netherlands has free market economy. The Euro is the national currency of the Netherlands.  In 2011 the Netherlands had a GDP of 836.26 billion US dollars. According to, “Almost 80% of Netherlands’ exports are to European nations and nearly 70% of its imports come from European nations as well” (10). It is this trade system that maintains a healthy economy in the Netherlands. Germany, France, Italy, the UK, and Belgium are the main export partners of the Netherlands. The Netherlands mainly exports food as they have a fair agricultural income. They also export fuel, machinery, and chemicals. The Netherlands imports a lot of machinery to process their natural resources. They also import clothing, fuel, chemicals, and transport equipment. Germany, China, Belgium, the UK, Russia, and France are the Netherlands main import partners. [8]

Netherland's Export Partners Netherland's Import Partners[Image 8]

III. Physical Geography

A. Water

The Netherlands has a great deal of water. In fact, 2,951 square miles of the Netherlands is taken up by water. The mouths of The Rhine, Meuse, and Schelde, three of the most prominent rivers in Europe, are located in The Netherlands. In order to regulate the excess water in The Netherlands canals were built. Most cities in The Netherlands are built around these canals; Amsterdam is a prime example of this.

Canals in Amsterdam:

[Image 5] [Image 4]       

Water has played a great role in the Netherlands history, economy, and culture.  It was a combination of rivers, the North Sea, and canals that allowed for economic prosperity during a time known as the Golden Age (the 17th century).  Much of the Netherlands wealth came from maritime trade, fishing and the hunting of whales as well as the trading of spices brought monetary affluence. Because of the amount of water the Netherlands has, beautiful canal systems were built for travel, trade, defense, and water management. The canals now are a large factor in culture as they are mainly used for recreation. Parades, tour boats, canoes, etc. can be found on the canals. Numerous of the Netherlands holidays and celebration occur on and around the canals. It is for all of these reasons that water has and continues to play a large role in the Netherlands.

B. Land

The Netherlands really means wetlands. Roughly 50% of The Netherlands lies below sea level and the rest is barely above sea level, rarely more than 300ft above (3). If it weren’t for dams and pumps the Netherlands would go from looking like this:[Image 2]

To looking like this:

The_Netherlands_compared_to_sealevel[Image 6]

C. Climate

Most regions of the Netherlands have similar climates because it is a relatively small country. The Netherlands temperature fluctuates from 62.6 °F –68.0 °F in the summer. In the winter the temperature is between 35.6 °F -42.8 °F. According to Weather Online, “The Netherlands has a temperate maritime climate influenced by the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, with cool summers and moderate winters”.(5) The Netherlands tend to be humid due to its mass amount of water. It rains nearly every day, so the type of clothing that the Dutch wear is directly resulted. Many wear waterproof clothing and carry umbrellas. The weather in the Netherlands also affects their agriculture which in turn affects their economy. Like the climate in any place, the climate in The Netherlands has a major influence on the country’s culture and economy. [5]Utrecht [Image 3]

IV. Political History

A. How Were the Netherlands Founded

In 1648, The Dutch United Provinces obtained sovereignty from Spain via the Peace of Westphalia. They then became a leading commercial and maritime power throughout Europe during the 1800s, the Golden Age. At this time The Netherlands, “were considered a republic they were governed by regents, an aristocracy of city merchants, rather than by a king or by nobility. In principle every city and province had its own government and laws”. (4) It wasn’t until 1815 that the Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed after the decline of Napoleonic French control. Originally the country was made up of what are now The Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium. Belgium and Luxembourg broke away from The Netherlands in 1830. It was at that time that the Netherlands took the boundaries that we know today. [4]


The Netherlands was neutral during WWI but were not so lucky in WWII. Germany invaded and occupied the country in May of 1940, just a year after the war began. Many Jewish people were sent from the Netherlands to concentration camps. Anne Frank and her family lived in the Netherlands at the time of the invasion and were able to remain hidden for some time there. “At the beginning of World War II around 140,000 Jews lived in the Netherlands. In the course of the war the Nazis succeeded in deporting approximately 107,000 Dutch Jews. Around 102,000 of them perished” (7). WWII ended in Europe on May 8th 1945. [6]

C. Government

The Netherlands has a constitutional monarchy. Queen Beatrix will be queen until April 30th 2013. She is abdicating the thrown because she believes that the thrown should be left in the hands of a new generation. Her son Prince Willem-Alexander will become King upon her withdrawal. The Netherlands adopted their constitution in 1815. Their national symbol is the lion. [1]

V. People

A. Ethnicities

80.7% of the Netherlands is Dutch. The other 19.3 % of the country is made up of people of the European Union (5%), Indonesians (2.4%), Turkish (2.2%), Surinamese (2%), Moroccan (2%), Caribbean (0.8%), and other (4.8%). [1]

B. Language and Literacy

The official language in the Netherlands is Dutch but many people can also speak English. Also, Turkish, Arabic, and Frisian are spoken. Roughly 2.2% of the residents in the Netherlands speak Frisian as their primary language. Of the 350,000 people who speak Frisian in the country most are located in the Northern Province known as Friesland. There it is recognized as an official language. Just like in the United States, 99% of the people over the age of 15 are literate in at least one language. [1] [8]

C. Religions

The Netherlands has no national religion. 42 % of people in the Netherlands are secular. The largest of the segments of religious people are Roman Catholics, which makes up 30% of the country. The remaining 28% of the country is made up of Protestants (20%), Muslims (4.8%), and other religions (2.2%). [1]

D. Population

The Netherlands has a population of 16,805,037 according to estimates in July of 2012 (1). It is the most densely populated country in Europe. It inhabits roughly 1,259 people per square mile. The state of Missouri has a population of 5,988,927 and a population density of 85.92 per square mile (2).   Basically the Netherlands is about 14 times denser in population than that of Missouri! For Missouri to become as dense in population as the Netherlands it would need to inhabit roughly 83,844,978 more people than it already does. Both Rotterdam and Amsterdam have a population of just over 1 million people each. [1]

VI. Culture

A. Queens Day

The National Holiday Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day is a nationwide celebration of the queen’s birthday in the Netherlands. It is basically a giant party which starts the night before and goes on throughout the rest of the next day. Also there something called an Orange Craze. According to the official queens day website, “Everywhere in the city you’ll see orange banners, orange coloered foods and drinks and… people dressed in Orange” (9).The color orange refers to the name of The Netherland’s royal family, The House of Orange.Queen's Day Amsterdam[Image 9]

B. Interview with Irene

Name: Irene Ruigrok

Age: 18

City: Amsterdam

Country: The Netherlands

Ethnicity: Dutch

Religion: no religion

Q- What kind of music do you listen to? Who are your favorite artists/bands?

A-     Alternative, pop, rap, hip hop, R&B, dub step. My favorite artists are Foster the People, Lana Delrey, The Fleet Foxes, and Lady Gaga. We listen to a lot of American music in Holland. The radio in the Netherlands is pretty much the same radio as here.

Q- What is the common cuisine in the Netherlands? What, if any foods, do you eat in the Netherlands that we do not have here in the US? How are proportions different?

A- We like easy, practical, and plain food in the Netherlands. We boil potatoes, have a lot of vegetables, and some meat. That’s about it. I was really amazed because here you don’t eat something if you don’t like it, but in Holland you eat things that you don’t like because they are healthy. It is the way parents raise their children. When a child doesn’t like say Brussels sprouts parents will say, “Eat it”. And the parent won’t stop making a certain food just because the kid doesn’t like it. Also there are no leftovers at my house. We make food every day and eat all of it, do the dishes and do it all again the next day. There really is not any food that we eat in the Netherlands that people don’t here in America, however we do eat a lot more fish. The proportions are way, way, way, way, way smaller. Your small drink is what we call large, your medium we call a bucket, and large is kinderbad, a child’s size plastic pool. I would say that we normally order drinks that are the size of your kid’s drinks here in America.

Q- Do you have any societal traditions in the Netherlands that we do not have here in the United States?

A- The only one I can think of offhand is that before we start eating we always say “eet smakelijk” (eat tastefully/ enjoy your meal).

Q- What sports are popular in the Netherlands?

A- Soccer, field hockey, and volley ball are very popular sports. My family members are all rowers, including me. We love to row on canals and the Amstel River, but most people do not row. Most people just love their soccer.

Q- Do you have different Holidays in the Netherlands than we do here?

A- Queens Day. People dress up all orange, wear stuff, and when you are older you get to party and drink on the streets. That is the only day you can have a huge garage sale.  So everyone gathers in parks, and neighborhoods and sells there trash. We never have garages sales any other time a year. When you are young you go to the garage.

Yard Sale Wares on Queen's Day[Image 11]

St. Nicholas Day is December 5th and it’s really a weird holiday. In Holland you have St. Nicholas and he kind of looks like Santa. You put your shoes next to the fireplace, and the story is if you sing a song and write a letter of what you’d like, and you put an apple or a carrot for the horse (not a reindeer) St. Nicholas will bring you candy and presents. He brings helpers with him when he delivers the presents. The helpers throw your presents down the chimney. Also St. Nicholas is from Spain, he is very old and generous. He gives all the kids candy and presents. We celebrate Christmas as well so normally the presents are split between the two days instead of receiving them all at once. Western St Nicholas, Dutch Sinterklaas [Image 10]

Q- What type of recreational activities do people your age in the Netherlands enjoy?

A- I go rowing and I go hang out with friends. We never hang out at home we always go out. Friends do not go hangout at each other’s houses or have sleepovers in Holland. We go swimming, shopping, and picnicking. We don’t really go out for dinner a lot but we always find something to do.

Q- In what ways do people treat each other? Racism? Difference of Religion? Ages?

A- We are kind of racist as a country towards Moroccans. Moroccans are our problem group. If something bad happens we always say that it is the Moroccan’s fault. There is this very stereotypical image of them as being bad people. We are also very selfish. When it’s bad weather which it usually is people are kind of crabby. There are a lot of people who have no manners. Like when we go through a door we don’t hold it open for the person behind us. We just let it close and let them open it themselves. But for the most part the majority of people are tolerant of each other. We pretty much speak the same way to all people regardless of their age. The only difference when talking with people of different ages is the way you say you. If it’s formal like when talking to a grandparent you say “u” pronounced “ooo” and when it’s informal like to a friend it is “jij” pronounced “yie”. I personally like to speak more respectfully to my elders but the language is essentially the same.

Q- How do you think that the freedom of gay marriages affects the views of people in the Netherlands? Are the majority of people accepting of the LGBT community?

A- I would say a lot of people accept it. There are actually a lot of gay people that come to live in Holland because it is so free and it’s accepted. There are only a few that don’t accept it because we don’t have a lot of religious people that live in Holland. It’s only old people that are religious. Like if you go to church there are hardly any people my age there. Also they are still even more liberal so even some of the people who are religious accept the LGBT community.

Q- How do you think that the low drinking age effects people’s actions in the Netherlands?

A- When you turn 16 you can buy alcohol. They were thinking about rising the age to 18 but I haven’t seen if they decided to do that are not. In America when people turn 21 they go out and get shit faced. That doesn’t really happen in Holland because you are allowed to drink for the most part before you turn 16 anyway. Like your parents will give you wine or something when you are younger and the law isn’t as strictly enforced as it is in America.

Q- Tell me about gun laws in the Netherlands? How do you personally feel about them?

A- Guns are illegal in Holland. We don’t have any guns that are legal. Police wear guns but that’s it. There are some people who have illegal guns. I love that guns are illegal. We don’t have the crime that you have here in America. Nobody goes in to schools and kill our children. It is just safer without them.

Q- Do you feel that women are treated equally in the Netherlands?

A- For the most part it is about the same as it is America. I would say that we have a very emancipated society because when you think something you say it, you just scream it out loud. When you don’t agree with something you let people know. So in most ways we are treated pretty equally. The only thing I can think of that is unfair is that women don’t get paid the same amount for the same job that guys do. But I think that is a worldwide problem, not one limited to Holland.

Q- At what age do most people in the Netherlands get married?

A- I would say about 30. I was very shocked about people here saying, “Well I’m getting married at 18!” That’s when our life hasn’t even started yet. I think that we are very smart by waiting. Also most people live with their spouses before they get married.

Q- Are there arranged marriages in the Netherlands?

A- No.

Q- At what age are people considered independent/adults?

A- We are considered independent at 18. We usually stay with our parents for a while after that. Our houses are very expensive and we don’t have enough houses because there is not enough space for the amount of people we have in the country, and now there are so many immigrants coming in as well. So we normally stay at home until we can afford to move out for good.

Q- Have you been to the red light district?

A- Yes, it a very big tourist location. But I think in some ways it’s educational as well. I remember my parents took me when I was very young. We don’t have any taboos. It’s all pretty open so it would be normal to see a sex shop or a prostitute when you are young.

Q- You were in Boston during the bombing a couple days ago. Do you think that anything would ever happen like this in the Netherlands?

A- We have a very safe country. We don’t have any guns, we don’t have any terrorist. Because, I was thinking about that when Boston was bombed. I think because America is seen as such a wonderful, strong, powerful country everyone wants to attack it. It gives terrorists a sense of power to do something like this to America. But in Holland, what is Holland? You can barely see it on the world map! Nobody knows where it is, so we don’t get attacked!

VII. Sources

4 “A Brief History of the Netherlands.” N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

5 “Climate of the World: The Netherlands – Weather UK –” WeatherOnline. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

3 “Geography of the Netherlands.” HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

7 “The Killing Machine.” Holocaust a Call to Conscience. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

11 “The Netherlands.” 2013 Index of Economic Freedom. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

“Netherlands.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

8 “The Netherlands.” British Broadcasting Corporation. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

“The Netherlands.” Encyclopedia of the Nations. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

“Netherlands- Location, Size, and Extent.” Encylopedia of the Nations. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

10 “Netherlands Trade, Exports and Imports.” Economy Watch – Follow The Money. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

6 “The Netherlands in World War II.” The World War II Multimedia Database. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

2 “Missouri.” N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

9 “Queensday Amsterdam 2013.” Queen’s Day Amsterdam. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

1 “The World Fact Book: Netherlands.” The Central Intellagence Agency. N.p., 16 Apr. 2013. Web. 20 Apr. 2013.

VIII. Images













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