The Kingdom of the Netherlands or simply Netherlands is a fascinating country to travel to. It is a land that is heavily associated with windmills. Once there were over 10,000 windmills in the Netherlands that were erected to keep the country dry. Nowadays there are about 1,150 complete and working windmills that can still be seen in the country. Netherlands is also a country were bicycle ownership is very high, with about 12 million bikes. The Dutch use it for transportation as well as for exercise. In fact it is typical to see bicycle riders in the streets of the Netherlands. Once a traditional footwear, the all-wood clogs or klompen are now basically tourist souvenirs but are still worn by people working in farms or when gardening.
Despite its relatively small size, the Netherlands is the most densely populated country in Europe and is the seat of international cooperation, with The Hague, its seat of government also being the location of the Supreme Court of the world. When planning to travel to Europe do not miss out on exploring a wonderful country with the most ingenious system of dikes and dams in the world and its vast number of historic sites and natural wonders. Or just simply lose yourself in the myriad of colorful tulips in bloom at the Keukenhof Park.
In this Country Profile
:: Background of Netherlands ::
During the medieval times, what is known as the Netherlands now had been under different rulers, including the Romans, Franks, Saxons, Frisians, the French and the Germans. It also came under the rule of the Vikings during the 9th to the 10th centuries. Under these different rules, the culture of the Netherlands began to take shape and the people began to learn about trading and a more organized lifestyle. The powerful Habsburg of Austria possessed Netherlands and the other Low Countries in Europe. And by 1555 Philip II of Spain was installed as the ruler of the Netherlands. Social, religious and political reforms were introduced most of which did not favor the citizenry. Protestants, particularly the followers of Calvinism were persecuted.
In 1572 Prince William of Orange or William the Silent led a group of pirates to revolt against the Spanish by capturing Dutch towns from the sea. The Spanish fought with resistance and the war raged for several years until the several provinces belonging to the Low Countries signed the Union of Utrecht in 1576. Four years after Netherlands declared their independence from Spain and formed a republic in 1588, after the last resistance of the Spanish was weakened and the Spanish Armada defeated when the English sent help. However, during the tumultuous times while they fought the Spanish, William of Orange was assassinated in 1584.
After their independence from Spain, the Dutch became able seafarers as well as a commercial power, gaining foothold in Africa and Asia, establishing the Dutch East India Company in 1601, the Dutch West India Company in 1621 and formed a colony in what is known as New York today, previously called New Amsterdam in 1625. They also formed a colony in Africa in 1652. Between these times, Dutch voyagers and explorers were able to discover new countries, including Australia in 1606 and Tasmania in 1642. Spain recognized Netherlands’ independence in 1648.
Trade rivalry with Britain resulted into three wars. Several wars with different countries exhausted the Dutch and the country went on a decline leaving the British and the French to exert commercial trade dominance. The country was neutral during the First World War but was not able to withhold Germany’s invasion during WWII.
From the devastation, the Depression and economic slump, the Netherlands was able to overcome all the trials and is now one of the ten leading exporting countries in the world. It ranks 16th among the world’s largest economies. It is one of the largest exporter of food products, supplying most of the needs of the world for tomatoes, chilies, apples, cucumbers and cut flowers.
:: Geography of Netherlands ::
The Netherlands is situated in the estuaries of the Rhine and its distributaries, the Maas, also called Meuse and the Schelde. The country belongs to Western Europe and is between Germany and Belgium. Half of the Netherlands faces the North Sea. Geographic coordinates are 52° 30’ north and 5° 45’ east.
Most of the land surface of the Netherlands proper is under water and what can be seen of the total land mass has a total of 41,543 square kilometers. Even then the total land surface is only 33,893 square kilometers while the surface covered with water is about 7,650 square kilometers. Compared to other states in the US, the Netherlands is slightly smaller if the size of New Jersey is twice combined
The land boundaries of the Netherlands are quite long. They stretch for a total of 1,027 kilometers, with the eastern part bounded by Germany a bit longer at 577 kilometers, and the rest or 450 kilometers is shared with Belgium on the south side.
The northern and western sections of the Netherlands face the North Sea, giving the country a coastline that stretches for 451 kilometers.
While the Netherlands has a territorial sea claim of 12 nautical miles, its contiguous zone extends to 24 nautical miles, with an exclusive fishing zone covering an area of two hundred nautical miles.
Generally, the prevailing climate in the Netherlands is temperate, which means that the weather is variable but typically bring basically cool summers and with little snow falling, so the winters are mild.
The Netherlands is a generally flat country and with most of the area below sea level will the higher regions are just about one meter above sea level. This geographical situation contributed to the name given to the country. A large portion of the land surface of the Netherlands is still under water, with ongoing reclamation that gives the nation quite a rugged appearance. These reclaimed parts are called polders, which are very rich soil that are suitable for agriculture. There are some hills located in the southeast, most of which are man-made so that parts of the land can remain dry. Rain falls almost daily and heavy storms cause flooding, hence the inhabitants created an ingenious way to keep their residences, families and livestock dry when flooding occurs.
For a basically flat country, the Netherlands still has a spot that is considered as the highest point in continental Netherlands, the Vaalserberg, or Mount Vaals that is 322 meters high. There is another high point in the Netherlands, Mount Scenery located in Saba, a special municipality of the Netherlands and belong to the larger Kingdom of the Netherlands. The mountain rises to a height of 862 meters. Saba is an island in the Caribbean, which together with Bonaire and Sint Eustatius comprise Netherlands Antilles that was dissolved in May 17, 2010. The lowest part of the Netherlands is the Zuidplaspolder that is seven meters below sea level.
Arable land is one of the natural resources of the Netherlands. Others include peat, salt, limestone, sand, gravel, petroleum and natural gas.
Over twenty-two percent of the land in the Netherlands is arable and part of it or 0.77% is planted with permanent crops. The rest of the lands in allocated for other various uses.
Flooding is the main natural hazard that the country faces, being geographically low lying. However, the government of the Netherlands had already planned to prevent major flooding, like those that occurred in previous years, the last of which was the major flood that occurred in 1953 with the construction of the Delta Works.
Current Environmental Issues
The Netherlands is becoming increasingly industrial and as a result of that is now facing environmental problems related to industrialization such as the presence of heavy metals, organic compounds as well as phosphates and nitrates that pollute the water. Acid rain is also another environmental issue. Included in the current environmental problems is the rising air pollution issue brought about the number of refining companies and increasing ownership of vehicles
International Environmental Agreements
Like most nations around the world, the Netherlands also entered into several international environmental agreements. Even if the country has signed the selected agreements, it has yet to ratify any of these agreements. These selected agreements include Antarctic-environmental protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Antarctic-marine living resources, law of the sea, marine life conservation, marine dumping, ship pollution and whaling. Other agreements it has entered into are desertification, environmental modification, climate change-Kyoto protocol, climate change, biodiversity, Kyoto protocol, endangered species, ozone layer protection, hazardous wastes, wetlands, and tropical timber 83 and 94. As air pollution is a worldwide environmental issue, the Netherlands also signed agreements dealing with air pollution, air pollution-nitrogen oxides, air pollution-volatile organic compounds, air pollution-sulfur 85 and 94 as well as air pollution-persistent organic pollutants.
:: People of Netherlands ::
The people, language and culture of the inhabitants of the Netherlands are called Dutch. Some specifically call the males from the country as Dutchmen (singular: Dutchman) and the females as Dutchwomen (singular: Dutchwoman) but the generic Dutch to refer to both genders is acceptable.
As of September 2011, the population of the Netherlands according to Statistics Netherlands is 16,709,440. Population growth is in the low percentage, estimated in 2011 to be at 0.371% with women’ fertility rate also in a low figure, placed only at 1.66 children born for every woman of child-bearing age in 2011. Net migration is also low, estimated at 2.33 migrants for every 1,000 inhabitants.
Citizens of the Netherlands are predominantly in the 15 to 64 age group, representing 67.4% of the population, broken down into 5,732,042 males and 5,624,408 females. Seventeen percent of the population on the other hand is still in the zero to fourteen age group, comprising 1,466,218 males against 1,398,463 females. According to the 2011 estimates, the males in the 65 years and over age group total 1,141,507 while the number of females is remarkably higher at 1,484,369. Collectively these data figures represent 15.6% of the total population of the Netherlands.
While the median age for the entire population of the Netherlands is 41.1 years, the females slightly edge the males, with their median age placed at 41.9 years as against the males’ 40.3 years.
Birth and Death Rates
According to the demographic estimates done in 2011, the national birth rate in the Netherlands is about 10.23 births for every 1,000 citizens while the death rate is a bit lower at 8.85 deaths for every one thousand members of the population.
Infant Mortality Rate
The statistics for male infant mortality rate in the Netherlands is slightly higher than the female, with 5.08 deaths for every 1,000 live births as against only 4.07 deaths for female infants. For the whole country the average is 4.59 deaths for every 1,000 live births.
Life Expectancy at Birth
The females outlive the men in Netherlands, with their life expectancy estimated to be about 82.44 years, while the males only have a life expectancy of 77.06 years, giving a national average of 79.68 years.
It may be a fact that the women have a slight edge over the males in Netherlands in some aspects like life expectancy and infant mortality at birth but still the there is a slight variance in favor of the males when it come to sex ratio across different age brackets. At birth and under 15 years of age, the ratio is 1.052 males for every female. There is a tiniest increase in the 15 to 64 years age group, at 1.02 males for every female, then it goes lower to 0.76 male for every female in the 65 years and over age group. For the total population, the estimated average for 2011 is 0.98 male for each female.
HIV / AIDS
Just like in many countries, HIV/AIDS is a such a great problem. Luckily it is not that rampant in the Netherlands, with only about 0.2% incidence in adults, according to the estimates done in 2009. Also from that study, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the Netherlands based on reported cases is 22,000. The cases are very well managed, with less than 100 deaths related to the disease occurring in the country as of the 2009 estimates. This is because the Netherlands has instituted drug policies that help restrict the use of drugs and the spread of HIV/AIDS, providing care and treatment to patients. The country also provides clean environments for drug dependents where they can have access to healthcare and test if they are infected with HIV.
Various ethnic groups comprise the population of the Netherlands, with the Dutch dominating at 80.7%. There are also several people from different EU countries that are now residents of the country and their number accounts for 5%. Indonesians are also present in the Netherlands, with about 2.4% of the population. The rest are other from other countries that have been under the Dutch, such as the Turkish with 2.2%; some 2 % each from Suriname and Morocco and 0.8% from the Caribbean. There are 4.8% belonging to some other ethnic groups.
The dominant religion in the Netherlands is Roman Catholic and about 30% of the population follows of this religion. The Dutch Reformist has about 11% following and the Calvinist has about 6%. Other forms of Protestant religions have 3% following while the Muslims are around 5.8%. The rest of the population professes not to follow any religion and they comprise about 42% while 2.2% follow other religions that they failed to identify during the census.
While several dialects are spoken in different parts of the Netherlands, Dutch is one of the official languages of the country, spoken by almost 90% of the country’s population. Frisian, the other official language is spoken by 2.2% or about 350,000 people, mainly in Friesland. Less than 1% of the population also speaks Arabic and Turkish.
Education in the Netherlands is compulsory from age 5 to until age 16. From age 16 they can go to school part time, although this is still compulsory. Literacy is high at 99% and higher education is heavily subsidized by the government. Both males and females spend a total of 17 years in school on the average.
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