The Netherlands, commonly referred to as ‘Holland’, is a beautiful, historic and culturally rich country located in north west Europe. The North and South Holland only make up 2 of 12 provinces in the country, but there is much more to this wonderful country than that which lies within the two Holland provinces.
Geographically the Netherlands is a notoriously flat country, with large expanses of open countryside undisturbed by hills or even small inclines. For this reason, the Netherlands is particularly popular with cyclists, as the flat land and spectacular scenery makes for easy and enjoyable cycling. Bikes are also very popular amongst the environmentally conscious Dutch, a fact that becomes immediately obvious as soon as you visit any town or city.
The Netherlands generally has a similar climate to the UK, with mild summers and winters. Being located on the coast means that the Netherlands also experiences a far degree of wind, which is why the iconic Dutch windmills are so widespread. Traditionally used for distributing water and grinding corn, today the windmill is one of the many symbols of the Netherlands and Dutch culture, with colourful paintings of countryside windmills being readily available throughout the country. There are around 1,000 windmills still surviving in the Netherlands, 200 of which are still working.
In addition to windmills, the Netherlands is also home to beautiful countryside and sights of natural wonder, with 20 national parks and many other nature reserves. Of course one of Holland’s most famous exports is the tulip. Although not originally native to the country, these are now an integral part of the Dutch culture and economy. There are fields upon fields of tulips carefully cultivated in the Dutch countryside, which are sold and distributed across the globe.
However, the Netherlands isn’t just about windmills, tulips and of course wooden clogs. The country is well known for its cuisine, particularly dairy products. The majority of Dutch cheese is hard or semi-hard, with Edam and Gouda being the best known of the many Dutch cheeses available. The Dutch are also known for their delicious wholemeal breads and hearty, wholesome cooking, as well as a love of coffee, cake and pastries. Food is an important part of many Dutch traditions, with specific dishes and pastries being eaten to mark certain occasions.
The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch and the vast majority of the people living in the country will speak this as their first language. However many Dutch people also speak Frisian, which is spoken mostly in the north and west of the country and is a combination of English, German and Dutch. There is also much emphasis on the learning of foreign languages in Dutch culture; the vast majority of Dutch people speak excellent English, around 70% speak German and many other languages are widely taught.
Article by Michael R Browne for Linguarama:
With Linguarama you can immerse yourself in a language and take a foreign language course abroad, for example study Dutch in Holland, or take a language course closer to home.