The Netherlands, or ‘Holland’, is a small, densely populated country in Western Europe, bordering Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, sharing maritime borders with Belgium, the United Kingdom and Germany. The largest and most important cities in the Netherlands are Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam. Amsterdam is the country’s capital, while The Hague holds the Dutch seat of government and parliament. The port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe – as large as the next three largest combined.
The Netherlands’ name literally means ‘Low Country’, inspired by its low and flat geography, with only about 50% of its land exceeding one metre above sea level. Most of the areas below sea level are man-made. Since the late 16th century, large areas (polders) have been reclaimed from the sea and from lakes, amounting to nearly 17% of the country’s current land mass.
With a population density of 406 people per km² – 497 if water is excluded – the Netherlands is a very densely populated country for its size. Only Bangladesh, South Korea and Taiwan have both a larger population and a higher population density. Nevertheless, the Netherlands is the world’s second largest exporter of food and agriculture products, after the United States. This is due to the fertility of the soil and the mild climate.