The Netherlands is bounded by the North Sea to the north and west, Germany to the east, and Belgium to the south. If the Netherlands were to lose the protection of its dunes and dikes, the most densely populated part of the country would be inundated by the sea and by rivers. The highly developed part of the Netherlands, which generally does not lie higher than about three feet (one metre) above sea level, covers more than half the total area of the country. About half of this area (more than one-fourth of the total area of the country) actually lies below sea level.
The climate of the Netherlands is temperate, with gentle winters, cool summers, and rainfall in every season. Southerly and westerly winds predominate, and the sea moderates the climate through onshore winds and the effects of the Gulf Stream.
The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with an estimated 17,134,872 people in 2020. Popular belief holds that the Dutch are a mixture of Frisians, Saxons, and Franks. Research has made plausible the contention that the autochthonous inhabitants of the region were a mixture of pre-Germanic and Germanic population groups who, in the course of time, had converged on the main deltaic region of Western Europe. There emerged from these groups, in the 7th and 8th centuries, some major polities based on certain ethnic and cultural unities that then came to be identified as Frisians, Saxons, and Franks.
Most wild Dutch plant species are of the Atlantic district within the Euro-Siberian phytogeographic region. Gradients of salt and winter temperature variations cause relatively minor zonal differences in both wild and garden plants from the coast to more continental regions. The effects of elevation are negligible. Vegetation from coastal sand dunes, muddy coastal areas, slightly brackish lakes, and river deltas is especially scarce in the surrounding countries. Lakes, marshes, peatland, woods, heaths, and agricultural areas determine the general floral species. Clay, peat, and sand are important soil factors for the inland vegetation regions.
Animal life is relegated by region according to vegetation. Seabirds and other sea life, such as mollusks, are found especially in the muddy Waddenzee area and in the extreme southwest. Migrating birds pass in huge numbers through the Netherlands or remain for a summer or winter stay. Species of waterbirds and marsh and pasture birds are numerous. Larger mammals, such as roe deer, red deer, foxes, and badgers, are mostly restricted to nature reserves. Some species, such as boars, beavers, fallow deer, mouflons, and muskrats, have been introduced locally or reintroduced. Some reptiles and amphibians are endangered. Numerous species of river fish and river lobsters have become scarce because of water pollution. There is a diversity of brackish and freshwater animals inhabiting the many lakes, canals, and drainage ditches, but the vulnerable species of the nutritionally deficient waters have become rare.
The Netherlands has the highest concentration of museums in the world. Some of the most famous Dutch painters are Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Steen, and Mondrian. No visit to the Netherlands would be complete without a stop at the world-famous Vincent van Gogh Museum.
The Anne Frank House is where Anne Frank, her family, and their friends hid from the Nazis during WWII. With educational exhibits the museum provides insight to what they experienced.
The Heineken Experience: This self-guided tour provides visitors the opportunity to explore the world of Heineken through interactive exhibits, a tour of historical brewing facilities, and beer tasting.
The Netherlands is known for its canals, picturesque towns, castles, and historic buildings. Canal cruises explore the unique and wonderful waterways of Amsterdam and the Netherlands.
Flushing canals are done at night, twice a week under normal conditions and four times in periods of hot weather. Flushing is done by opening Amsterdam’s system of sluices in such way that fresh Amstel water pushes the "older" water out into the IJ.
The mix of sand and clay is perfect for tulip agriculture. The Keukenhof Garden has more than 800 varieties of tulips over 32 hectares (almost 80 acres) of land. Visitors explore beautifully manicured gardens, pathways, and unique artwork.
Amsterdam's Artis Zoo has interactive exhibits and more than 900 species of animals, including an aquarium, a butterfly exhibit, a planetarium, and an insectarium (live insect exhibit).
The 13,000-acre Hoge Veluwe National Park in Gelderland is one of the largest nature reserves in the Netherlands. It has interesting wildlife and landscapes and can be toured independently or with a guided tour.
The world-famous "Holland Spring Flower Parade" attracts global tourists. It features beautifully designed floats with brightly coloured flowers. Live music and activities take place in the town centre of Noordwijkerhout.
The Netherland has numerous castles and historical monuments. A popular activity is touring the 17th-century Palace Soestdijk, once home to members of the Dutch Royal Family.
Zaanse Schans is a traditional village offering views of windmills, Dutch architecture, and more. Activities include chocolate making, cheese making, clog (wooden shoes) making, and more. Zaanse Schans is a wonderful place to become familiar with the traditional Dutch experience.
A 2007 Unicef report lists the Netherlands as one of the best countries for children to live.
Amsterdam has 1,281 bridges and is entirely built on piles. Most types of bridges can be found in the Netherlands, the main exception being rope-bridges.
No matter the economic climate, cutting the budget for maintenance of dikes is never done.
Amsterdam’s drinking water system was the first of the country, dating back to 1853. 70 percent of the water comes from the Rhine River and 30 percent from a polder (a reclaimed catchment area) in the Loosdrecht lake area.
Dutch drinking water goes through approximately twenty procedures of purification before reaching the tap. Tap water is of excellent quality.
Only 100 years ago the central Netherlands still had sand deserts.
Places of worship can be found all around the country even though the Dutch are quite secular; only 20 percent attend services on a regular basis.
One out of three Dutch people belong to a sports club. Most Dutch people can swim, skate, and ride a bike.
On cycling paths in sandy areas, crushed seashells are used as pavement. Crushed seashells minimize dust, reduce mud, and help provide good bicycling in both wet and dry weather.
Dutch citizens take their own bags to the supermarket to carry their groceries.
The Netherlands is the fourth largest investor in the United States.
In 1667 the Dutch exchanged their possession of New Amsterdam (later called New York) for the South American colony of Suriname.
The Hague is dubbed "the legal capital of the world" because five international courts are located nearby.
More than 80 international organizations are located in The Hague.
The Dutch healthcare system is one the best in the world.
The Netherlands’s relationship with water is unlike that of any other country in the world.
The main purpose for ditches is drainage. They also separate fields, designate properties, and keep cattle in place. Ditches are connected to larger water masses; ditch water is released into a river or canal and then flows to the sea. Approximately half of the Netherlands would not exist without ditches.
There are approximately 125 days per year without rain anywhere in the country.
In the past, the miller and his family could communicate news (birth, death, marriage, etc.) without leaving the windmill, by positioning the wings in a certain way.
Dutch people often wore an "inside shoe" in their wooden clogs. These were typically made from pluck or straw for the poor, and from soft and flexible goat leather (clog socks) for those who were more well to do.
The Dutch produce approximately six million pairs of souvenir clogs (wooden shoes) each year. Although you will still sometimes see them being worn in rural villages, fields, and farming areas, they are no longer commonly worn by Dutch people. Nowadays they are mostly sold as tourist souvenirs. Wooden clogs are traditional Dutch footwear dating back to the 13th century.
The dunes are Holland’s natural protection against the sea. That is why admission is restricted in most places.
At beaches, semi-nudity is generally accepted. There are also official nude beaches with signs stating, Naaktstrand.
Dutch bricks are made from river clay and baked.
Some buildings tilt. If the tilt is forward, it was done deliberately when the house was first built, to make rainwater drip from the wooden windowsills in order to preserve them. A sideways tilt usually indicates a serious problem.
Traditional Dutch houses do not have ceiling lights. Rather, they use lamps, which are considered more homey and gezellig. Traditional Dutch homes have very high ceilings. Often 2-pin power plugs are used. Travelers should invest in a travel adapter.
Marijuana is not as easily available as many tourists may believe. Some coffee shops and cafes in the Netherlands may sell cannabis (marijuana and hash), but there are strict "toleration criteria" that they must adhere to. As of 2012, they are not permitted to advertise drugs, to sell cannabis to minors, to sell hard drugs, or to sell over 5g of cannabis in a single transaction. Municipalities decide whether to allow cannabis coffee shops and cafes to operate within their boundaries, and if allowed the municipalities choose how many may operate. Each can also impose additional rules if they wish.
Since January 1, 2014, a person must be 18 or older to purchase alcohol, cigarettes, or soft drugs. Generally, public consumption of soft drugs is unacceptable.
Dutch police are not obliged to grant a phone call to those they detain.
The term "Go Dutch" originated in the Netherlands. Gender equality is important and it is common for dating couples to split the bill. Males and females play an equal role in a relationship. Also, many (not all) Dutch people have a reputation for being thrifty; therefore splitting a bill is preferred. However, most Dutch people are not miserly. They can be quite generous.
There is much more about the Netherlands. Please research further on your own, if you wish to learn more.