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The Netherlands is often called Holland. However, Holland actually refers to only two of the Netherlands' twelve provinces – the two western, coastal provinces of North and South Holland. Its official name is the Netherlands, which translates from the Dutch 'Nederland(en)' as 'low countries'. Contrary to common belief, it's not a reference to the fact that a large part of the country is below sea level. Actually, it's a geographical reference from the 13th century to the lower parts of northern western Europe. Its residents refer to themselves as the 'Dutch'.
Facts about the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a small country that covers an area of 41,450 km² (16,038 sq mi), 27% of which is below sea level. With a population of over 17 million, it's one of the most densely populated countries in Europe.
The country is a democratic kingdom in which power is shared by its ministers and parliament.
The country is divided into twelve provinces and each province has its own commissioner, executive and council. Its economy is one of the world's Top 20. The Netherlands was a founding member of the European Union (EU) and uses the euro (€) as its currency.
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, a West Germanic language, closely related to German and also resembling English. Dutch is also spoken in Belgium and in Suriname. Friesland (in Frisian: Fryslân) is the only one of the twelve Dutch provinces with an officially recognised regional language.
The Dutch are known for their mastery of foreign languages. Most have a good grasp of English and/or German, and to a lesser extent French or Spanish.
If you're living in the Netherlands, it's important to have a basic understanding of the Dutch language. This will allow you to converse more easily with your colleagues, supermarket employees, etc.
The Netherlands has several public holidays:
- New Year's Day
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- King's Day (Koningsdag, 27 April)
- Liberation Day (5 May)
- Ascension Day
- Whit Monday
- Christmas Day
- Boxing Day
On Liberation Day, you only get a day off once every five years (in 2020, 2025, 2030, and so on). On Good Friday, most people have to work, but many schools are closed. It is customary to get all other public holidays off work, but it depends on your employment contract.For additional information about cultural and social life in the Netherlands, please visit Holland.com, where you'll find a calendar of events and exhibitions.