Overview of the Netherlands

A brief history and quick geographic overview of the Netherlands...


The Netherlands has a large border with the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to south and Germany to the east. The surface area is 41,528 Km2, with over 20 percent of the country below sea level, mainly in the north and the west.

There are excellent road, rail and waterway infrastructures making it a major gateway to the rest of Europe. Quality road and public transport networks mean that getting around the county is also easy.


The Dutch United Provinces declared their independence from Spain in 1579. During the 17th century they became a leading seafaring and commercial power, with settlements and colonies around the world. After a 20-year French occupation, a Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815. In 1830 Belgium seceded and formed a separate kingdom. The Netherlands remained neutral in World War I, but suffered invasion and occupation by Germany in World War II.

Politics and Government

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with a royal family and a parliamentary system. King Willem-Alexander is the head of state with a coalition government made up of ministers and the King.

The country was a founding member of NATO and the EEC (now the EU), and participated in the introduction of the euro in 1999. It forms the Benelux Economic Union together with Belgium and Luxembourg.


The Netherlands has a prosperous and open economy, with stable industrial relations and moderate unemployment and inflation. It depends heavily on foreign trade and has an important role as a European transportation hub. It is the second-largest producer of food behind the US.

The Netherlands is one of the leading European nations for attracting foreign direct investment and is one of the largest investors in the US.


The Netherlands has a maritime climate with southwest winds predominating.

The annual average maximum temperature is 13.7 C (56.7 F) with an annual average minimum of 5.7 C (42.3 F). The coldest months are January and February, with high summer falling in July and August.

It rains throughout the year with a total annual average of 793mm. Winter days are short with an average of 50 hours of sun per month in November, December and January. May, June and July see a lot more sunshine with up to 200 hours per month.


The Netherlands - although very densely populated - has relatively low rate of violent or armed crime; theft of property and vandalism make up the bulk of the crime statistics. Recent statistics show that while the overall crime rate is stable, violent crime has dropped and vandalism is on the increase.

The Central Bureau for Statistics publishes information on crime rates.

Foreign Residents

The Netherlands has many large multi-national operations which employ foreigners. These are mainly based in the Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and, to a lesser extent, Eindhoven which is a growing technology centre. As a result, there is a sophisticated network of support for foreign nationals provided by government, by not-for-profit organisations, by international schools and expat groups. The Hague alone has 316 international businesses which are responsible for 49,000 jobs.

The Dutch government has made it relatively easy for 'knowledge migrants' to live and work in the country. EU nationals (including those from the United Kingdom and Ireland) have the right to live and work in the Netherlands and make up a significant part of the foreign work force.

The office of Immigration and Naturalisation (IND) publishes facts and figures relevant to foreign nationals and immigration.


The Netherlands is a major tourist destination in Europe. Information on cities, towns and tourism can be found in local Tourist Information Centres, known as VVVs. Most towns have a VVV that can provide local maps of the region and inform visitors of places of interest to visit.

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