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THE NETHERLANDS

The Netherlands (in Dutch: Nederland) is the European part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Dutch: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden). The Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch, located in north-western Europe. It borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east.

The Netherlands is often referred to as Holland, although this is incorrect as that name refers to only a small part of the country: the provinces of North Holland and South Holland, two of the twelve provinces in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated and geographically low-lying countries in the world (its name literally means 'Low-lands') and is famous for its dikes, windmills, wooden shoes (clogs), tulips, bicycles and perceived social tolerance. Its liberal policies are often mentioned abroad. Amsterdam is the official capital as stated by the constitution, and capital of the province of North Holland, but The Hague (capital of South Holland) is the seat of government, the home of the monarch, and the location for most foreign embassies as well as the International Court of Justice.

FUN FACT
People in the south are 2 cm shorter than those in the north
(1.81 m on average for men, 1.67 m for females). 

Population 
The Netherlands has a population of roughly 17 million, which is growing annually at 0.43%. More than 40% of the population live in the two western provinces of North Holland and South Holland. These provinces contain the three largest cities of the country: Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. The population is ethnic Dutch. Much of the foreign population is made up of Indonesians (2.2%),Turkish (2.3%), Surinamese (2.0%), Moroccans (2.1%), Antilleans and Arubans (0.8%), and 8.36% others.

Language
The official language is Dutch. Frisian is also spoken in the north-eastern province of Friesland. English, German, and French are commonly understood and spoken in the Netherlands, and are taught in all secondary schools.

Religion
Roughly 28% of the population is Roman Catholic. Most Catholics live in the southern provinces of Brabant and Limburg. About 16% are Protestant (mostly Dutch Reformed), 6% are Muslim. The royal family belongs to the Dutch Reformed Church. The Netherlands, like many European countries, is a secular society tradition of maintaining the separation of church and state. For information about where to go in Maastricht to practice the religion of your choice, contact the Ecumenical Student Chaplaincy. www.innbetween.nl 

Climate
Someone once peered up at the Dutch sky and glumly summarized it as follows: 'Just look at that. It always looks as if it has just rained, is about to rain or is raining.' Unfortunately this is rather true. Those who are already suffering from culture shock will find that the dreary Dutch skies do not do much to uplift the spirit. The Netherlands has a marine west coast, or oceanic, climate, meaning that the relatively constant temperature of the water moderates any seasonal changes the climate might try to induce on the temperature. The Netherlands depend on an Easterly wind (Siberia) for its good, cold, blue skied winters and a southerly wind (Spain) for a nice, dry, sunny summer. But rest assured, these days do occur - and actually quite a few per season. In fact, Maastricht - being at the southernmost tip of the country - is usually a few degrees warmer in summer than the rest of the Netherlands!

Voltage 220V
Students coming from countries that have a different voltage system than the European (220 V) should either bring a voltage transformer or buy one upon arrival at one of the many department stores.

THE CITY OF MAASTRICHT

Maastricht gained international fame as the host of the European Summit in 1991, where the Treaty of Maastricht (signed in 1992) was adopted as the formal foundation of the European Union. Located in the southernmost tip of the Netherlands, this city has a reputation of being a little foreign even in its own country. Many tourists visit Maastricht to go shopping, taste its savoir-vivre atmosphere or to visit one of the 1660 monuments in Maastricht.

 Maastricht, arguably the oldest city in the Netherlands, used to be an industry and trade city. Ceramics, paper and glass have dominated the economy of the city for decades and still do to some extent. Some famous company names in these sectors are MOSA, Sphinx, Sappi and ENCI. During the last decade Maastricht has become predominantly a science and service city. Nowadays, the most important industries in Maastricht are the financial and business services industry, trade/hotel and catering industry, and the education/health care sector. Some large companies situated in or near Maastricht are Vodafone, DHL, Daimler, DSM (global science-based company active in health, nutrition and materials) and SABIC (manufacturer of chemicals, fertilizers, plastics and metals).

Furthermore, the city has also developed strongly because of the presence of a research University (Maastricht University) and a University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool Zuyd). Although Maastricht is not a very big city (120.000 inhabitants), it is usually buzzing with people day and night, many of which are students. There are hundreds of shops, bars, cafés, restaurants, pubs, clubs, galleries, theatres etc.

FUN FACT
Maastricht has the highest café density of the Netherlands:
1 café per 350 inhabitants versus 1 per 900 on average