The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with some islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgiumto the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. It is a parliamentarydemocracy organized as a unitary state. The country capital is Amsterdam and the seat of government is The Hague. The Netherlands in its entirety is often referred to as Holland, although North and South Holland are actually only two of its twelve provinces.
The Netherlands is a geographically low-lying country, with about 20% of its area and 21% of its population located below sea level, and 50% of its landlying less than one meter above sea level.
Four of them are:
The European area of the Netherlands lies between latitudes 50° and 54° N, and longitudes 3° and 8° E.
The country is divided into two main parts by three large rivers, the Rhine (Rijn) and its main distributaries, the Waal and the Meuse (Maas). These riversfunctioned as a natural barrier between earlier fiefdoms and hence created traditionally a cultural divide, as is evident in some phonetic traits that are recognizable north and south of these "Large Rivers" (de Grote Rivieren).
The southwestern part of the Netherlands is a river delta and two tributaries of the Scheldt (Westerschelde and Oosterschelde). There is only one significant branch ofthe Rhine, the Ijssel river, discharging into the Ijsselmeer, the former Zuiderzee ('southern sea'). This river also forms a linguistic divide: people to the east of this river speak Dutch Low Saxon dialects (except for the province of Friesland, which has its own language).
The predominant wind direction in the Netherlands is southwest, which causes a moderate maritime climate, withcool summers and mild winters. This is especially the case with places within direct proximity of the Dutch coastline, which sometimes are over 10 °C (18 °F) warmer (in winter) or cooler (in summer) than places in the (south)east of the country.
Ice days (maximum temperature below 0 °C) usually occur from December until February, with the occasional rare ice day prior to or after that period.Freezing days (minimum temperature below 0 °C) occur much more often, usually ranging from mid-November to late March, but not rarely measured as early as mid-October and as late as mid-May.
Warm days (maximum temperature above 20 °C) in De Bilt are usually measured in the time span of April until October, but in some parts of the country such temperatures can also occur in March or even in Novemberor February (this is usually not in De Bilt, however). Summer days (maximum temperature above 25 °C) are usually measured in De Bilt from May until September; tropical days (maximum temperature above 30 °C) are rare and usually occur only from June until August.
The number of sunshine hours is affected by the fact that due to the geographical latitude the length of the days varies between barelyeight hours in December and nearly 17 hours in June.
The Netherlands has an estimated population of 16,742,993 (as of 12 August 2012). It is the 11th most populous country in Europe and the 61st most populous country in the world. Between 1900 and 1950, the country's population almost doubled from 5.1 to 10.0 million people. From 1950 to 2000, the population further increased from10.0 to 15.9 million people, but the rate of population growth was less than that of the previous fifty years. The estimated growth rate is currently 0.436% (as of 2008).
The official language is Dutch, which is spoken by the vast majority of the inhabitants. Another official language is Frisian, which is spoken in the northern province of Friesland, called Fryslân in that...