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The Netherlands is a great country

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The Netherlands is a great country

The Netherlands is a great country to live and work in. Compared to many other countries, the Netherlands is a relatively prosperous nation. Its social security system is one of the best of its kind in Europe, there is a solid education system, and people’s standard of living is relatively high.

Who is in charge in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands has 17 million inhabitants, around 830,000 of which live in its capital, Amsterdam. The Netherlands is a democracy, meaning that all Dutch citizens aged 18 or higher get to vote for government representatives every four years. The largest political party in the Netherlands is the VVD (Dutch for ‘People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy’), and its party leader Mark Rutte is the country’s prime minister. The prime minister, the King, and the other ministers together make up the Dutch government. The current king of the Netherlands is Willem-Alexander, who is married to Argentine-born Maxima Zorreguieta; they have three daughters.

The Netherlands is a nation full of museums

The Netherlands is a nation full of museums; there are around 680 official museums throughout the country! The most famous museum in the Netherlands is the Rijksmuseum or ‘national museum’ in Amsterdam, which sees around two million Dutch and foreign visitors each year. The most famous painting at the Rijksmuseum is the Rembrandt van Rijn’s ‘The Night Watch’. If you enjoy visiting museums often, it might be a good idea for you to buy a Museumkaart (museum pass).

The Dutch are fond of traditions

Like people from many other countries, the Dutch are very fond of traditions. For example, Dutch people eat a traditional snack of rusk biscuits with anise seed sprinkles whenever a new baby has been born, and like to drink hot chocolate with whipped cream in winter. In terms of traditional foods, Dutch people generally also love cheese, ‘stroopwafels’ or syrup waffles, peanut butter, and liquorice.

The Netherlands also has a number of traditional national festivals, the most important of which are ‘Sinterklaas’, also known as St Nicholas’ Day, and King’s Day.

Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas is a celebration that is based on the story of Saint Nicholas of Myra, who was granted sainthood after his death in 342 AD. The main figure in this traditional Dutch celebration is Sinterklaas or Saint Nicholas, an old man with a long white beard and white hair, a red mitre and a red mantle. He rides a white horse and has a number of assistents called Pieten. Every year, Sinterklaas is said to travel from Spain to the Netherlands by steamship, filled with gifts. From then on, life within many families, at many schools and in many stores is all about Sinterklaas and everything associated with it, such as gifts, ‘pepernoten’ (traditional Dutch spiced mini biscuits) and alphabet letters made of chocolate. Sinterklaas is said to ride his horse across the roofs of people’s houses with his Pieten to deliver gifts for all children through the houses’ chimneys. Throughout the Sinterklaas period, children are allowed to put their shoes out by the chimney before they go to bed, containing a carrot for Sinterklaas’ horse. They will then sing a Sinterklaas song, and when they wake up the next day, Sinterklaas will have visited and exchanged the carrot with a gift or treat. The highlight of the Sinterklaas period is ‘Pakjesavond’ or gift night on December 5th. This is the night on which Sinterklaas visits people’s homes, ringing the doorbell to deliver gifts. Most Dutch children believe in Sinterklaas until they are around 8 or 9 years of age.

Though Sinterklaas is mostly a children’s celebration, a lot of adults celebrate Sinterklaas as well, giving each other selfmade surprise gifts and funny poems.

King’s Day

Another typically Dutch, massively celebrated annually event in the Netherlands is King’s Day. On April 27th, the birthday of king Willem-Alexander, everyone in the Netherlands is off work (and school) and the streets will be decorated with Dutch flags and orange ornaments, as orange is the national colour of the Netherlands. Street markets are organised in many Dutch cities, where both children and adults sell their used goods out on the streets. The king and queen and a large portion of the Dutch royal family visit a different Dutch city on King’s Day each year.

Dutch people love cycling

With nearly 35,000 kilometres of bicycle paths, the Netherlands could rightly be called a cycling nation. Nearly everyone regularly rides a bike, and children generally learn to cycle at a very young age. Dutch people go on cycling tours out in nature, but also use bikes for transportation to get from A to B. For example, Dutch primary and secondary school students cycle to school en masse, and many employees cycle to work every day.

The Netherlands is a tolerant nation

Compared to many other countries, the Netherlands is a relatively tolerant nation. Freedom of religion, legal marihuana, prostitution, abortion, gay marriage, transgender rights and euthanasia are considered to be perfectly normal topics of conversation in the Netherlands.

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