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Astride the delta of five major rivers in northwest Europe, the Netherlands built its historic wealth on maritime trade. Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port.
Geography: Mainly flat, with 27% of the land below sea level and protected by dunes, dikes, and canals. There are a few low hills in the south and east.
Climate: Mild, rainy winters and cool summers. Gales from the North Sea are common in fall and winter.
People and Society: The Dutch have a long history of welcoming immigrants from former colonies and refugees seeking asylum. However, lack of integration is now raising fears about the failing asylum system, immigrant crime, and militant Islam. Population is mostly urban and the density is high. The state does not try to impose a particular morality on its citizens. Laws concerning sexuality, narcotics-taking, and euthanasia are among the world’s most liberal.
The Economy: Major trading hub. High-profile multinationals. Diverse industrial base: chemicals, machinery, electronics, and metals. Costly social welfare system.
Insight: In 2002, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia
Official Name: Kingdom of the Netherlands
Date of Formation: 1648
Capital: Amsterdam and The Hague
Population: 16.6 million
Total Area: 16,033 sq. miles (41,526 sq. km)
Density: 1267 people per sq. mile
Languages: Dutch*, Frisian
Religions: Roman Catholic 36%, other 34%, Protestant 27%, Muslim 3%
Ethnic Mix: Dutch 82%, other 12%, Surinamese, Turkish, and Moroccan 6%
Government: Parliamentary system
Currency: Euro = 100 cents