The Netherlands is a country located in Northwestern Europe. Translated in English, Netherlands literally means ‘lower countries’ which is attributed to its low land and flat geography. The largest cities in the Netherlands are Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Eindhoven and Amsterdam which is the Netherlands’ capital city. As of 2017, the Netherlands had an estimated population of 17, 093, 000 people.
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, which is spoken by the vast majority of the inhabitants. Besides Dutch, West Frisian is recognised as the second official language in the northern province of Friesland. However, the English language has a formal status in selected areas of the Netherlands with almost 70% of its population claiming that they can converse in English. English is a mandatory course in all secondary schools.
Christianity was the predominant religion in the Netherlands until the late 20th century with an apparent decline in religious practices and adherence. The Statistic Netherlands reported that more than 50% of the total population identify as non-religious and the other half of the percentage being Christians with the higher percentage, followed by Muslims and then Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
The Netherlands is recognized for pride having a good number of famous painters from the 17th century right through the 20th century such as Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen, Vincent van Gogh and Willem de Kooning. Equally, the Netherlands has produced great philosophers and scientists like Erasmus of Rotterdam, Spinoza, and Antoine van Leeuwenhoek - who was the first to observe and describe single-celled organisms with a microscope.
The Netherlands today, is regarded as a liberal country with a long history of social tolerance giving their drug policy with the legalisation of cannabis, legalisation of euthanasia and being the first nation to legalise same-sex marriage. The Dutch are big on the concept of sustainability and environmental health and have 40% of their electricity generated from sustainable sources. Cuisines in the Netherlands are simple and straightforward and have been shaped primarily from fishing and farming. Dutch meals are relatively high in carbohydrate and fat with breakfast and lunch typically being bread with toppings. Dinner mostly consists of potatoes, meat and vegetables.
The Netherlands is a very safe country overall, but just like every other country in the world, major cities in the Netherlands have their fair amount of pickpockets, occasional violence and theft. The Netherlands has a temperate maritime climate influenced by the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, with cool summers and moderate winters. Daytime temperatures vary from 2°C-6°C in the winter and 17°C-20°C in the summer. The best time to visit the Netherlands weather wise is from mid-April to mid-October. July and August are the peak months for visitors.
The best places to stay while visiting the Netherlands are Amsterdam (which is relatively not cheap), Haarlem and Leiden (can be relatively cheap).
Getting around in the Netherlands is stress-free as the different transport system are effectively functional and efficiently maintained. Cycling in the Netherlands is a ubiquitous mode of transport and almost as many kilometres covered by train are covered by bicycles. It's easy to access trains, buses, cars for rent and tour boats for both transportation and tourism.
The Netherlands is known everywhere as the land of windmills, canals, and tulips, and visitors certainly will find these as great tourist attractions. Besides these, the Netherlands has so many captivating attractions like:
- Jordaan and Amsterdam’s canals
- The Rijksmuseum
- Anne Frank Museum, Amsterdam
- Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
- The windmills of Kinderdijk
- Hoge Veluwe National Park
- Zeeland’s Spectacular Dikes
The free-spirited and tolerant nature of the Dutch people insinuates that their gleeful and outgoing people with so many festivals scheduled every year such as:
- Nieuwjaarsduik: This is also known as the New Year’s day dive and is celebrated on the 1st day of every year in over 60 locations where people take a dive into the North Sea at Scheveningen and are presented with a cup of meaty pea soup afterwards.
- Rotterdam International Film Festival: This Dutch festival has built an international reputation over three decades for presenting quality independent films.
- Carnival (Mardi Gras), Masstricht: This Dutch town stages one of Europe’s biggest and most lively carnivals.The 'Prince of Fools' and his entourage lead the city and the celebrations, with increasing numbers of people preparing costumes, materials and floats for the grand Carnival parade (Boonte Störrem).
- Festival of trees (Boomfeestdag): On the third Wednesday in March each year, the Netherlands celebrates this festival nationwide by encouraging children in Basisschool to plant trees in parks, streets, squares and rural areas.
- Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag): Flags fly high as the Netherlands celebrates freedom and democracy with a range of Liberation Day events taking place around the country. The Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany in May 1940 and many died in the period before liberation on 5 May 1945.
Some interesting facts about the Netherlannds include;
- The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and the world’s largest outside Asia.
- Dutch people are the tallest in the world with an average height of 184 cm for men and 170 cm for women. T
- he Netherlands is the most densely populated nation in Europe. About 30% of all Dutch babies are born at home.
- The Netherlands is the largest beer exported in the world. It is the healthiest country in the world for diet.
Common Questions Travellers Ask About Netherlands
Question: Do expats need to speak Dutch?
Need would be too strong a word, and it depends on how long expats intend to stay. The answer is yes for those who want to settle in the Netherlands. Most Dutch people can and are happy to speak English, but the language is an essential tool for expats who wish to establish local relationships and navigate Dutch culture.
Question: Are the Dutch friendly?
Answer: Expats in the Netherlands often criticise the Dutch for being closed to new arrivals. People make appointments to visit each other and the office culture can be difficult to penetrate. It’s more common for expats to make friends with other expats. Having children or a big passion for a sport or activity makes it much easier to meet others.
Question: Do I have to have health care insurance in the Netherlands?
Answer: Just like everyone in the Netherlands, you have to have health care insurance.
Question: I visited the Netherlands before with a tourist visa. When can I come back to the Netherlands?
Answer: In any given period of 180 days you are allowed to remain maximum of 90 days in the Schengen area. So if you stayed in one of the Schengen countries for 90 days continuously, you have to wait a minimum of 90 days before you can enter the Schengen area again.
Question: Can I also apply for a residence permit if I am in the Netherlands on a tourist visa?
Answer: No. In order to stay in the Netherlands more than 90 days, you have to apply for a special visa. This is the Regular Provisional Residence Permit. You are not allowed to be in the Netherlands when applying for the Regular Provisional Residence Permit.
Question: How do I find a house in the Netherlands?
Answer: In the Netherlands, you can find a house either through a housing cooperative or through a private landlord.