About the Netherlands
The Netherlands is situated in the north-west of Europe, bordering Germany to the east and Belgium to the south. It covers an area of 13,297 square miles, not including surface water. ‘The Netherlands’ means ‘low lands’ and refers to its location: almost one quarter of its land mass lies below sea level. The Netherlands is a flat country: it has virtually no differences in altitude in the shape of hills or mountains.
The Netherlands has 12 provinces. Its capital is Amsterdam: a densely populated city which attracts many tourists. Other densely populated cities in the Netherlands are: the Hague (South Holland province), Utrecht (Utrecht province) and Rotterdam (South Holland province).
The Dutch (Nederlanders)
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch. Dutch is spoken throughout the country, including schools and the media. Learning English at school is considered very important. Children are taught the English language from a young age. English is also often used in the media. In general, the Dutch have sufficient command of the English language to make themselves understood. Children also learn other languages such as German, Spanish and French at school, although their English tends to be better. Dutch is also the standard in Flanders, Belgium and the former Dutch colonies: the Antilles and Suriname. In addition, Afrikaans is derived from Dutch. Of course, a number of ‘dialects’ can be distinguished in the Netherlands. The second language of the Netherlands is Frisian, which is spoken in Friesland.