Thanks to the location of North and South Holland on the estuaries of two major European rivers, the Rhine and the Maas, these two provinces are still very important for the economy. With Rotterdam being Europe’s biggest seaport, and Amsterdam Schiphol one of Europe's biggest airports, the Netherlands is an important gateway between Europe and the rest of the world.

The Dutch
The Dutch are the native inhabitants and dominant ethnic group (81%) of the Netherlands. They are also the tallest people in the world. The average Dutchman stands at 1,82 meters, while women average nearly 1,69 meters.
The dominant religious identification of the Dutch is Christianity (both Catholic and Protestant). Dutch society used to be strictly organized along religious or ideological lines with every grouping having its own schools, newspapers, trade unions, clubs and so on. Although modern Dutch society has become increasingly secular, traces of the old system can still be seen today in the media, interest groups and the education system. Dutch society is egalitarian, individualistic and modern. Education, hard work, ambition and ability are valued; things considered non-essential or excessive are not. The Dutch are proud of their cultural heritage: a rich history in art, architecture and technological advancements, and involvement in international trade and affairs.

The Netherlands is a founding member of the EU, NATO and the OECD, and has signed the Kyoto Protocol. The Hague area is home to more than 80 international organizations (including NGOs) working in the fields of peace, justice and security. The Netherlands also hosts five international courts in or near The Hague: the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. This has led to the city being dubbed ‘the legal capital of the world’.

The Dutch language
Dutch is the native language of more than 22 million people in the Netherlands and Belgium. In north-western France, around 60,000 people speak a Dutch dialect.
Dutch is used widely in government and education in the former colony of Suriname, and in Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, which are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In Indonesia, many lawyers and historians speak Dutch owing to historical ties. Afrikaans, which is spoken in South Africa, is an offshoot of Dutch. Dutch has also influenced other languages, especially in shipping, waterworks and agriculture.
Dutch is taught at around 250 universities around the world. In French-speaking Belgium, northern France and Germany, many pupils choose Dutch as their second language. In 1980, the Netherlands and Flanders founded the Nederlandse Taalunie (Dutch Language Union), which promotes Dutch worldwide and draws up rules for spelling and grammar.
In the province of Friesland, they speak a separate language: Frisian. This officially recognized language is the native language of around 400,000 people. It is similar in some ways to English and the Scandinavian languages. Dutch is used in schools throughout the country, including Friesland.

Facts and statistics
The total land surface area is 33,948 km². This excludes all inland and territorial waters wider than 6 meters. If all the water surface area is included, the Netherlands’ total area works out at 41,526 km².
The Netherlands’ North Sea coastline is longer (642 km) than its border with either Belgium (407 km) or Germany (556 km).
About 60% of the population lives below sea level.
The highest point in the Netherlands is the Vaalserberg in the province of Limburg. It is 321 meters above sea level.
The lowest point in the country, located in the Prince Alexander Polder northeast of Rotterdam (Nieuwerkerk a/d IJssel), is 6,76 meters below sea level.
Head of State: Queen Beatrix
Type of state: constitutional monarchy
Seat of government: The Hague
Capital: Amsterdam
Population: 16,7 million
‘Non-Western’ non-natives: 1,86 million
‘Western’ non-natives: 1,5 million
Number of households: 7,39 million
Average life expectancy men: 78,5 years, women: 86,2 years
Religion: 6 out of 10 persons profess to being religious
Healthy to very healthy: 81,4%
Countries of origin of asylum seekers: mostly Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan
Labor force: 7,82 million
Unemployment: (Jan. 2011) 409,000
Unfit for work: 826,000
Inflation: 2,3% (2011)
Economic growth 2010: 1,7%
Expected growth 2011: 1,5%
Gross National Product per capita: €34,661
Most important trade partner: Germany
Average income: € 32,500 gross (prediction 2011: € 33,000)
Average price of a house: €237,000

Islamic Side:


Muslims in the Netherlands

There are approximately one million Muslims in the Netherlands, which is about 6% of the population. Groups from Morocco and Turkey account for more than 75% of the Muslim population. A great many strands of Islam exist within the Dutch Muslim community. Muslims play an active part in Dutch politics. The Muslim Democrat (Islam Democraten) Party, for example, has a seat on The Hague’s municipal council. Several members of parliament and the mayor of Rotterdam are also Muslim.
Article 1 of the Dutch Constitution says: ‘All persons in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted.’ Muslims have the same civil, social and political rights as other Dutch residents, including the right to practice their religion freely, to build mosques and to establish religious organizations. The Dutch Constitution also guarantees the right of Christian and Muslim schools to be fully financed from public funds.

With approximately 1 million practicing Muslims in the Netherlands (6% of the population), Islam has become one of the country’s main religions. Mosques have been built in most of the larger cities by communities of immigrants from Turkey, Morocco and Indonesia. It is projected that by the year 2020 Islam will be the second largest religion in the Netherlands, with 7% of the populace Muslim and 10% Catholic. The Dutch public is also gradually learning more about Islam – enough to make allowances for colleagues, employees, fellow students and pupils who fast during Ramadan, for example. In recent years many Muslim community organizations have started inviting non-Muslims to participate in Eid-al-fitr feasts at the end of Ramadan.

​Economical and Cultural Side​:

The Dutch Economy
The Netherlands is one of the world’s top ten economies in export volume and ranks among the top twenty for GDP, despite being geographically one of the smallest countries in the world.

Gateway to Europe 
The Netherlands owes its high rankings in large part to its advanced transport infrastructure – with the port of Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport as its hubs – and its highly developed telecoms infrastructure. Rotterdam is Europe’s largest seaport and the fourth largest in the world in terms of container activity, while Schiphol is Western Europe’s fourth largest airport. Together, they have helped build the Netherlands’ reputation as ‘the gateway to Europe’.

Investment from abroad 
The Netherlands has long been viewed as an attractive investment opportunity. The country offers an excellent entry point to business in the European Union because of its stable and flexible labor market, its central geographical location and excellent infrastructure, its well-educated and multilingual work force and the considerable expertise available here. 

Just as many companies decide to set up European operations in the Netherlands, foreign visitors are also often enticed to stay and find jobs and accommodation, particularly since the EU’s internal borders have opened. The Dutch government has introduced tax measures that make it attractive for expats to work here, and bureaucratic requirements have been simplified, making it easier for employers and employees to acquire the right papers. 

An open economy is a dependent economy 
The Netherlands has developed into a well-diversified economy, with strong services and business sectors. The Dutch economy has been a free-market system for the last two decades, with the government actively reducing its role to regulation and taxation. The economy is also characterized by moderate unemployment and a sizeable current account surplus. 
However, a range of factors influence its performance. One is the relative significance of trade, which accounts for 60 percent of GDP. This makes the Netherlands – despite the relative resilience of its economy - highly dependent on the health of the wider global economy and therefore susceptible to its fluctuations. Another factor – one that may mitigate the effects of any upswing in the world economy – is the relatively high cost of labor (wages and pension contributions). The global economic downturn adversely affected the Dutch economy, which went into recession in 2009, contracting by 4 percent. It is expected that the economic recovery will be slow, with estimated growth to be around 1,5 percent until 2013.

International trade 
Around 80 percent of Dutch exports go to other nations within the EU, and 70 percent of goods imported into the Netherlands come from the EU. Germany is the Netherlands' most significant export and import partner, receiving around 25 percent of the Netherlands’ exports and supplying around 17 percent of the Netherlands’ total imports. 
Trade activity is highly developed, with special focus on food processing, chemicals, oil refinery and electrical machinery. The agricultural industry is highly mechanized, and although the sector employs a very low percentage of the work force, it produces large surpluses for export and ranks the third highest worldwide in terms of exports. One of the most famous Dutch exports is flowers. The Netherlands exports four billion flower bulbs a year, mostly tulips. 60 percent of these go to Germany, the UK, France and Japan. The US tops the list of individual customers, importing some 900 million bulbs a year.
The government does not discriminate between foreign and domestic companies, allowing foreign investors access to the same privileges and obligations as their Dutch counterparts. The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) assists foreign firms to invest in the Netherlands. 

Dutch economic performance in 2011
In 2011, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had a trade surplus with the Netherland of € 2 billion. It exported € 3,8 billion, and imported € 1,7 billion. The bilateral trade volume between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands reached approximately € 5,5 billion in 2011. 
In 2011, the Netherlands had a trade surplus with the all the country of the world of approximately € 40,7 billion. It exported € 404,5 billion, and imported € 363,8 billion. The trade surplus with EU partners reached € 107,9 billion. It exported € 301,7 billion, and imported € 193,8 billion. Germany remains the Netherlands’ most important trade partner (and the Netherlands Germany’s second most important). The Netherlands had a trade surplus with Germany of 36,4 billion. It exported € 97,3 billion, and imported € 60,9 billion.
The trade deficit with non-EU countries reached € 67,3 billion. It exported € 102,7 billion, and exported € 170 billion. Dutch exports to Argentina (cattle feed), Taiwan, South Korea, and Brazil increased the most, while exports to Indonesia, Greece and Norway decreased most noticeably.​

​Political Side​:

​Royal family Members

In the Netherlands, the royal family and the Royal House are not the same. The royal family is the Orange-Nassau family, not every member of which is a member of the Royal House. By Act of Parliament, the members of the Royal House are the monarch (currently, Queen Beatrix), the former monarch (on abdication), the members of the royal family in the line of succession to the throne (The Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, Prince Constantijn and their children, Princess Margriet and her two elder sons) and their spouses. Members of the Royal House who marry without the official approval of parliament lose the right to succeed to the throne.

Political role 
The monarch, together with the ministers, form the government. It was determined in 1848 that the ministers, and not the monarch, would be accountable for acts of government. Laws passed by parliament are signed by both the monarch and the accountable minister.

The Dutch political system
The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. This means that the government includes not only the ministers and the state secretaries, but also the monarch (currently Queen Beatrix). The monarch is also the head of state. The constitution determines how the powers are divided between the Queen and the other institutions of the State. For example the parliament has certain rights which allow it to check the power of the government. The ministers are accountable to parliament, but the Queen, who has no political accountability, is not.
The government (ministers and state secretaries) prepares and implements legislation, oversees local government, carries out the day-to-day business of government and maintains international relations. The number of ministers tends to change from one government to the next, but the numeric distribution of members of government must reflect the representation of the coalition partners in parliament as closely as possible. Otherwise one of the coalition partners might feel sold short, which could eventually lead to the fall of the government.

The parliament 
The Netherlands is a representative democracy and its parliament is made up of two houses. The Senate has 75 indirectly elected members, who only have the power of veto in the legislative process. The House of Representatives has 150 members elected directly by the people. It scrutinizes the government and proposes legislation. Members of both houses serve a four-year term.
The two houses have four rights: the right to` set a budget; the right of interpellation; the right to put questions to ministers and state secretaries; and the right of inquiry. The House of Representatives has two further rights: the right of amendment and the right to propose legislation.

Direct elections to the House of Representatives are held every four years. The Netherlands uses the system of proportional representation for all elections, national and local. This means that a party that wins 10% of the vote also occupies 10% of the seats in a representative assembly. Voters vote for a party that submits a list of candidates. It is also possible to vote for a particular candidate. Seats are allocated to political parties in proportion to the votes cast. For example, the House of Representatives has 150 seats; in order to win a seat, a party has to have won at least 1/150 of all votes. Candidates who receive more than 25% of the party’s votes are guaranteed a seat in parliament. Any remaining seats are allocated to the candidates in the order in which their names appear on their party's list.

Voting as a non-Dutch national 
If you are a European Union citizen, you can vote in municipal elections under the same conditions as Dutch nationals. You must be at least 18 years of age on the day of the election and you must be a resident of a particular municipality on the day on which the candidates are nominated. If you are a non-EU national, you may vote under the same conditions as long as you have been a legal resident of the Netherlands for a continuous period of at least five years. If you are a member of consular or diplomatic staff, you are not allowed to vote in the Netherlands, nor is your spouse/partner or children (if they are members of your household).

Political parties
The Dutch House of Representatives is elected by proportional representation. There are currently ten political parties in the House. Traditionally, the three largest are the Labor Party (PvdA), a social democratic party that has its roots in the trade union movement; the Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA), a merger of three confessional parties that bases its ideas on religious principles; and the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), a right-leaning liberal party that gives high priority to individual freedom. However, following the most recent election (June 2010), the third largest party is the PVV, the rightwing Freedom Party, with the CDA now relegated to fourth place.

The other parties 
The major winner of the 2010 elections was the rightwing Freedom Party (PVV), gaining 15 seats. One of the great winners of the 2006 elections – the Socialist Party – became one of the major losers of 2010, dropping from 25 to 15 seats. Some of the smaller parties are the Green Left Alliance (Groen Links), the left-leaning liberal D66, conservative Protestant parties such as the Christian Union (CU), and the Animal Rights Party (PvdD). 
The Green Left Alliance started out as a merger of various parties representing a combination of greens, pacifists and communists. Its popularity was at a height in 1998, when it won 11 seats in the elections. The party focuses on environmental issues and a fair division of power, knowledge, property, labor and income.
D66, a left-leaning liberal party founded in 1966, has fluctuated in popularity in accordance with the political climate. It has persistently campaigned for the introduction of a ‘first past the post’ voting system and the election of mayors. In 2010 the party made a comeback, going from 3 to 10 seats. 
The Christian Union, founded in 2000, is a merger between two religious parties. It aims to balance the tendency towards materialism and individualism by focusing on mutual responsibility within society. The party became part of the ruling coalition after the 2006 general elections when the CDA and PvdA needed another partner to create a majority.
A newcomer in 2006 was the Animal Rights Party, which primarily focuses on pursuing a more animal-friendly policy, for instance by abolishing factory farming. It also focuses on other issues, such as economy, the environment, traffic, culture, health and wellbeing.
The Freedom Party (PVV), founded in 2006, revolves around Geert Wilders. In 2004 Wilders left the VVD because he refused to accept their support for the admission of Turkey to the European Union. He founded a new party focused on stopping what he sees as the ‘further Islamisation of the Netherlands’. The party combines economic liberalism (tax cuts, limiting government benefits and subsidies) with a conservative policy on immigration and culture, such as a five-year stop on immigration from non-western countries. Since August 2007 he has been calling for the Koran to be banned in the Netherlands. These views, and his controversial 2008 short film Fitna, have led to serious threats being made against him. He receives government protection.

Forming a government 
Because there are so many political parties in the Netherlands, the government is usually a coalition. A person called an informateur (‘mediator’) is appointed to consult with each party regarding possible coalition partners. Generally, several weeks to months pass while negotiations take place between parliamentary party leaders who think they can form a coalition that will command a majority in parliament. In the meantime, the prime minister tenders the resignation of the entire government to the Queen, who responds by requesting it to stay on as a caretaker government until the new government is formed. When the leaders reach agreement, the Queen invites a formateur to form a government. This way, the government that is formed will have a governing program approved by the majority of the members of parliament. As head of state, the monarch formally appoints the ministers and state secretaries. If a political crisis causes the government to fall before the end of its four-year term, this same process of bargaining will take place once new elections are held.

Three levels of government 
The Netherlands has not only a central government, but also provincial and municipal governments and water authorities. Central government occupies itself with matters of national interest. Provincial governments concern themselves with social work, cultural affairs, environmental management, spatial planning, energy and sport. Municipal authorities deal with traffic, housing, social services, health care, sport, culture, the water supply, public schooling and recreation. The provinces and municipalities fund these activities from the government funding they receive and from local tax revenue.​