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Netherlands rel87.jpg
Netherlands location.PNG
Capital Amsterdam
Government Constitutional monarchy
Language Dutch (official)
Monarch Queen Beatrix
Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende
Area 41,526 km² (18,41% water)
Population 2009 estimate 16,515,057
GDP per capita $35,078
Currency Euro (€) (EUR)
International dialing code 31
Internet top-level domain .nl

The Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland) is a country in the European Union in northwestern Europe, north of Belgium and France. It is a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Koninkrijk der Nederlanden). It is bordered by Belgium and Germany, and has a total population of 16,5 million (2009). Its system of government is constitutional monarchy. The country is often referred to as "Holland", this was originally the name of two densely populated provinces of the country (North-Holland and South-Holland), the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague all lie in these provinces that have always been the most influential regions in the Netherlands. The language is Dutch and the people are referred to in English as Dutchmen or the Dutch.

The major ethnic groups in the Netherlands are Dutch 94%, Surinamese 2%, Asians 2% and others 2%. GAYYYY

Major cities

Amsterdam, named for the Amstel river, is the largest city, and the capital of the Netherlands. Amsterdam is ringed by an extensive system of concentric canals. The seat of government, however, is located for historical reasons in The Hague (Den Haag or 's Gravenhage in Dutch. ).

Eindhoven is the location of the giant electronics corporation, Philips (full name: Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.), with annual revenue equivalent to about $40 billion. (The U.S. corporation General Electric has revenues of about $150 billion, but much of it is from non-electronics businesses). The Eindhoven area is known for its high concetration of high-tech industires, which include ASML, the world primary producer of lithography system for the production of semiconductors, and Océ, a leading producer of printers and copiers.

Groningen is home to many branches of KPN, the former state company of Post, Telegraphy and Telephony. It had its headquarters in Groningen when it was still state run, and move to The Hague since. KPN stands for Koninklijke PTT Nederland, or Royal PTT Netherlands. Groningen is also home to Gasunie (Gasunion), a public-private partnership that exploits the natural gas reseves in the province of Groningen and the adjoint North Sea.


The Netherlands is the home of the Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell, whose full name is Royal Dutch Shell or Koninklijke Nederlandse Shell. Other well known Dutch or partly Dutch multinationals are Unilever, a company owning many household brands, ING Group, a banking group, Ahold, an international chain of supermarkets, Reed Elsevier, a publishing house, Nielsen Company, owner of the Yellow Pages, and Randstad Holding, a company providing human resource services. The famous Dutch East India Company, known in Dutch as Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC, which dominated trade in with South-East Asia in the 17th century, is regarded as the first multinational in history.


The Netherlands has long been famous for its production of flowers, and also for a related economic event, the "tulip mania" of 1636-1637. A classic example of a "bubble," tulips were traded on stock exchanges, and bid up to fantastic prices by people who understood that the prices were crazy but hoped to sell at a profit to even crazier investors. Many people mortgaged their homes for a single tulip bulb and in one case an entire brewery was exchanged for a few bulbs. As with all bubbles, when bidding began to lag people tried to sell and the bubble burst with disastrous consequences. Since then the Dutch have been renowned for their carefulness with money and have established a significant presence in the banking and financial sectors.

Drug policies

The Netherlands is noted for its low-crime rate (although comparable to other western European nations) and libertarian legislation. Examples are licensed prostitution in designated areas of major cities, such as Amsterdam's Red Light District, the legal soft drugs sold in the country's many coffee shops, abortion rights, same-sex marriages and euthanasia.

Consuming and carrying (for personal use only) the "soft drugs" (marijuana, hashish and hallucinogenic mushrooms) were made legal in the Netherlands in 1976 in a final attempt to stop drug-related crime in the 1970s. Soft drugs can be legally purchased by individuals over 18 in the famed (licensed) coffee shops, that do sell coffee as well, but are prohibited from serving alcohol. The Dutch policy regarding soft drugs (and previously prostitution) is called "gedoogbeleid" (condonement policy). This means that although certain behavior is officially prohibited by law, a condonement clause prevents law enforcement agencies from persecuting this behavior. This clause is, legally speaking, not a law and can be reverted much easier than a regular law.

The main reason for this policy is to try to split the market for "soft drugs" from the one for "hard drugs", this to avoid that users "upgrade" from soft to "hard drugs" (the latter are still illegal). So in short, the law tries to prevent citizen's exposure to hard drugs by providing a legal context in which to purchase cannabis. The policy also allows the police to focus on the war on hard drugs and criminal trade, and avoid the exhaustive bureaucratic costs associated with low-profile possession busts. In fact, most major cities in the world have similar non-prosecution policies, but the Dutch one is the only nationwide one.

Growing marijuana and hashish for commercial purposes is still officially illegal (it is legal to own up to four plants per household), causing coffee shop owners to rely on illegal homegrown products. Only two state run companies are exempted from this rule in order to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes. Leftist movements have stated that the government should make its mind up: "either make growing marijuana and hashish legal, or ban soft drugs altogether".

The legal status of soft drugs has had no significant adverse effects on Dutch society. This is probably due to the fact that it has become a more or less socially accepted drug like alcohol and tobacco, removing the need for dealers and effectively terminating cannabis' status as an anti-establishment symbol, and in effect diminishing its' popularity somewhat amongst youth.

Queen's Day

April 30th is known as Queen's Day (Koninginnedag) - the national holiday to mark the official birthday of the monarch. This is actually the birthday of former Queen Juliana (Queen Beatrix's mother) but has been kept as the official holiday because of the better weather (Queen Beatrix's actual birthday is 31 January). Queen's Day is the one day of the year when ordinary Netherlanders are permitted to sell goods on the streets without a license. Consequently the whole country is turned into a gigantic flea market (garage sale). The primary effect of this is that people buy goods they do not want or need, solely in order to sell them the following year. In an act of patriotism, most of the populace wear orange colored clothing (the national color) to identify with the Royal House Of Orange-Nassau.

Those not involved with selling their surplus belongings celebrate the national holiday at outdoors parties in the cities or with fine weather, spend the free day on a terrace of a pub, or cycle in the national Fietsen op Dijken tour around the nation's dikes.

Anne Frank

Anne Frank was a famous Jewish girl who hid from Nazis in the house of friends in Amsterdam. She wrote a diary which was later published and became a best seller. Her family left Germany in 1933 because of the Nazis, but the Nazis caught up with her and sent her to Belsen death camp where she died before end of war in 1945. Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam is now a popular tourist attraction.



See also



Current conditions

  • Delsen, Lei. Exit Polder Model? Socioeconomic Changes in the Netherlands (2002) online edition
  • Mathijs, Ernest, ed. The Cinema of the Low Countries. (2004). 268 pp.
  • Vuijsje, Herman. The Politically Correct Netherlands: Since the 1960s. (2000). 244 pp.
  • White, Colin, et al. The Undutchables: An Observation of the Netherlands, Its Culture And Its Inhabitants (2005)

History surveys

  • Arblaster, Paul. A History of the Low Countries. (2006). 298 pp.
  • Blom, J. C. H. and E. Lamberts, eds. History of the Low Countries (2006) 504pp excerpt and text search; also complete edition online
  • Hooker, Mark T. The History of Holland (1999) 264pp excerpt and text search
  • Israel, Jonathan. The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477-1806 (1995) a major synthesis; complete online edition; also excerpt and text search
  • Kossmann, E. H. The Low Countries 1780-1940 (1978)
  • van Oostrom, Frits, and Hubert Slings. A Key to Dutch History (2007)
  • Pirenne, Henri. Belgian Democracy, Its Early History (1910, 1915) 250 pp. history of towns in the Low Countries online free
  • Rietbergen, P.J.A.N. A Short History of the Netherlands. From Prehistory to the Present Day. 5th ed. Amersfoort: Bekking, 2002. ISBN 9061094402
  • Vlekke, Bernard H. M. Evolution of the Dutch Nation (1945) 382 pp. online edition

Online resources


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