Holland is situated in the west of Europe. To the east, Holland borders Germany, to the south Belgium and to the north and west, the North Sea. Once you arrive, you will be struck immediately by the landscape. The country is extremely flat. There are a few hills in the southeast corner of the country, but even those hills barely infringe on the broad, unbroken expanse of sky that is so characteristic of the Dutch landscape. Water is everywhere – lakes, rivers and canals. More than 16 million people live in an area of a little more than 41,000 square kilometres.
Innovation and culture
Holland manages to combine history and traditional culture with innovation, modernity and an international orientation. The country that uses a simple tulip to symbolize its export industry is itself the largest non-English-speaking importer of English books. The Dutch population, after making a slow start, now seems to have one of the highest percentages of internet users in the world. With the same ease that the Dutch have taken to the high tech world, they are equally happy taking a quiet stroll along the historic canals that run through town. This contrast is typical of Holland, there is no contradiction between the two.
14 Study in Holland
Even in the early 17th century, Holland was an advanced country, with much of its wealth coming from trade. Located in the delta where several major European rivers flow into the North Sea, Holland was ideally situated to become a centre of trade and transport for all of western Europe. The 17th century was the Golden Age in Dutch history, not surprising when you realize that Dutch ships carried 90 per cent of all the goods in Europe. Today, international trade is still the main engine of economic growth in Holland. In fact, Holland is one of the world’s ten leading exporting nations. Rotterdam has the largest port in Europe and until 2004, when it was overtaken by Shanghai, also the largest in the world. Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is one of Europe’s major airports. Holland is home to several internationally renowned banks, including ING and Rabobank, both of which are in the world’s top 20 companies in their field. Philips is a Dutch company, and approximately half of Shell and Unilever are in Dutch hands. But there are also less known, though no less important, Dutch multinationals. Take Enraf Nonius, for example, the world’s market-leader in physiotherapy and rehabilitation equipment. The carillon is a Dutch invention, as is the reality TV show Big Brother, the CD, which was developed by Philips, and the world famous DJ Tiësto.
Exporter of agricultural products
Holland exports agricultural products to the whole world. It has a 7.7 per cent share of the global market. Nicknamed Europe’s vegetable garden, it is the world’s leading exporter of vegetables, while Dutch flowers hold a 60 per cent share of the world market. High-tech production methods and modern management have brought high yields, top quality and healthy revenues to Dutch agriculture.
Holland lies on a flat, low delta and a quarter of the land is below sea level. Because of its precarious location, it has one of the best barrier dams in the world. Several Dutch companies are involved in water conservation projects and land reclamation throughout the world.
An international living environment
The Dutch are accustomed to dealing with people from around the world, and above all, to working with them. Groups of people with non-Dutch backgrounds have been living in Holland for decades as a result of historical ties with other parts of the world. English is spoken by most of the Dutch. But German and French are spoken, too. Holland lies at the point where the German, British and French cultures meet. This is evident as soon as you turn on the television. In this well-cabled country, programming from the neighbouring countries and beyond can be received in nearly every household. Cinemas show films from around the world in their original languages. Alongside the usual church towers and synagogues, the minarets of mosques can increasingly be seen in the large cities. You can dance the salsa every bit as easily as in Latin America. And Asian, Mediterranean and fast foods are becoming as familiar as wholesome Dutch fare. The result of all of this is that Holland is a place where knowledge, ideas and cultures from all over the world come together.