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The Netherlands has played an incredibly important role in European history. Whether it was the role as part of the Carolingian Empire in the Middle Ages, as a hotbed of intellectual and religious freedom during the Reformation, or its role as a naval and trading power during the Age of Exploration, the Netherlands has always been a quiet power.
Although most of its large empire was gone before the end of the eighteenth century, the Netherlands nevertheless remained an incredibly important part of Europe's economy for decades to come. Despite invasions and occupations, the modern Netherlands has a leading role in the culture of modern Europe.
Quick Facts about The Netherlands
- The name 'Netherlands' means 'low country', a perfect description of a nation that lies almost entirely just at or below sea level.
- The world's legal capital, the Hague, is located in the Netherlands.
- The Queen of the Netherlands is actually from Argentina.
- The national anthem of the Netherlands, written in 1568, is the oldest national anthem in the world.
- On average, Dutch mean are the tallest in the world.
Located on the coast of the North Sea, the Netherlands only borders two countries by land. To the south lies Belgium, while to the east lies Germany. The coastal location of the Netherlands does mean that the country also shares a maritime border with one other nation - the United Kingdom.
The island territories of the Netherlands share borders with numerous Caribbean islands and nations, as well as with the United States.
The Netherlands encompasses about 16,040 square miles, making it the 131st largest country on the planet. The bulk of the Dutch holdings are in the European Netherlands, located in northwestern Europe. However, the Netherlands also have substantial island holdings in the Caribbean Sea.
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, and it is spoken by about ninety-eight percent of all people living in the country. There are also several regional languages spoken, including West Frisian, Papiemento, and Dutch Low Saxon.
English is widely spoken in the country, both as a first language in some of the island territories and as a second language within the Netherlands proper. Outside of English, German and French are the most popularly spoken second languages.
Weather & Climate
The climate of the Netherlands is largely influenced by its proximity to the North Sea and to the Atlantic Ocean. As such, it has a temperate maritime climate that trends towards cool summers and fairly moderate winters.
The small size of the country means that there is not a lot of variation in the weather. Even rainfall is largely distributed evenly across the country as well as throughout the year. While there can be dry periods around April, the weather in the country is typically fairly mild and pleasant regardless of the time of year.
The Netherlands is both a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The head of state is the reigning monarch of the Netherlands, who is responsible for advising the cabinet. The real executive power in the country, however, is held by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers.
The States General of the Netherlands, the country's legislature, is divided into a House of Representatives and a Senate. House members are directly elected, while Senators are elected by provincial calendars. While the Netherlands does have a unitary government, it is split into twelve provinces that are responsible for dealing with local issues within certain bounds.