Netherlands //

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The Netherlands has a population of just over 16.6 million people. Of these, some 790,000 live in the capital, Amsterdam, 620,000 in Rotterdam and 500,000 in Den Haag (The Hague). “Holland” comprises just two of the twelve Dutch provinces: Noord-Holland around Amsterdam, and Zuid-Holland around Rotterdam and Den Haag.

One-fifth of the Netherlands is made up of water. Without protection, two-thirds of the country would be regularly flooded. The lowest point in the Netherlands – at seven metres below sea level – is also Europe’s lowest point.

With 20 million bikes in the country – 1.25 for every inhabitant – the Netherlands has the highest level of bicycle usage in the world. However, one bike is stolen every minute of every day around the country.

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy presided over by Queen Beatrix, who was crowned in 1980. The country’s bicameral parliament sits in Den Haag and comprises an Upper House or First Chamber of 150 directly elected deputies and a Lower House or Senate of 75 senators.

Every year each Dutch person eats four kilos of Dutch liquorice or drop, which comes in a never-ending supply of sweet, salty and flavoured varieties. Often sold in pharmacies, it was once believed to have medicinal properties, and is as Dutch as tulips and clogs.

The Dutch concept of gezelligheid has no direct translation, but loosely speaking it means cosy, convivial or fun – and it’s the mission of Dutch folk to create a gezellig atmosphere or enjoy a gezellig time on most occasions.

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