Holland or the Netherlands?
The official name is the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It consists of the Netherlands itself and the six islands of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. The country’s formal name is Nederland, meaning 'low country'. This refers to the fact that much of the land is at or below sea level. The Netherlands is also called 'Holland'. Strictly speaking, North and South Holland are only a part of the Netherlands; there are eleven other provinces, of which Groningen (where the main town is also called Groningen) is one.
With 16 million inhabitants on 41,000 square kilometres, the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The Dutch society is multi-cultural. Groups of people with Dutch backgrounds have been living in Holland for decades as a result of historical ties with other parts of the world. There is also a huge religious diversity.
The country is a constitutional monarchy. It is politically stable and always has coalition governements.
Protected by dikes
Part of the country is below sea level, protected by dikes. Dikes were already built by monks in the early middle ages. Water has not only given the Dutch trouble, it has also brought them wealth through commerce. Part of this prosperity is founded on the transit trade, but the Netherlands also export more home-produced dairy products than any other country in the world. Another spin-off of its watery location is that the Netherlands are foremost in hydraulic engineering.
From the middle ages onwards, the country has been part of the cultural mainstream of Western Europe. This has left an enormous heritage, not only in painting (Rembrandt, Van Gogh), but also in old architecture. The flowering of the arts has always gone hand in hand with a vivid interest in the sciences. Today, Dutch society is well-educated, open, egalitarian, tolerant and not afraid of unorthodox solutions. Young graduates are capable of dealing with new developments and novel problems. So it is not surprising that its higher education has a good name abroad.
The official language is Dutch, however, most Dutch have a relatively good command of English. The majority of the Dutch population speaks English. Therefore, English may be seen as the second language in the Netherlands.
The weather in the Netherlands
In winter (from December to February), the temperature is about 1-4 degree Celsius. In summer (from June to August), it is usually warm and dry with the spells of cool and wet weather. The yearly average temperature ranges from 9.0 to 10.4 degree Celsius (January: 2.0-3.8; July 16.5-17.7)