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Welcome to the Netherlands! The Netherlands is a tiny country located between Germany and Belgium. Despite its size, it still houses a population of over 16 million people. Most of the people live in the "Randstad" metropolitan area, located in the West of the country around the region called Holland. In contrast to the mainly protestant north, the south people of the south has a largely catholic heritage which give them trong ties to for instance Belgium. In the North life is less hectic since there are less big cities. The province of Friesland has their own history and language. Most people of the Netherlands speak Dutch although most people are also proficient in English and one or more other European language(s).
Most Dutch people don't feel very connected to the traditional touristic stereotypes of wooden shoes, tulips and windmills. Still they are a unmistakable part of the Dutch history and heritage. No single country has been so active in creating their own land from the water. The culture of the Netherlands is for a big part shaped by a open and tolerant society. The Dutch became famous for being tolerant on Drugs (especially socalled 'softdrugs' and XTC), were the first to allow gay people to marry and are quite progressive in medical issues as abortion. From the 17th century Amsterdam was a multi-cultural society, nowaydays most cities in the west have a mixed population with people from our former colonies (Indonesia, Suriname, the Dutch caribic islands), immigrant workers from Morocco and Turkey, refugees and lately more and more western expats.
There are a lot of meetings all around the Netherlands. Due to the small size of both the Netherlands and the hospex community, people from all over the country usually attend these meetings. Cities near to the border (like Maastricht, Groningen and Enschede) even tend to coorporate with nearby cities across the border. Netherlands meetings often take up a full evening, day or even weekend, can be attached to cultural events (the celebration of Sinterklaas, Christmas King's day, New Year's Eve or personal events (birthdays, going away parties), and often involve a few hosts opening their homes to large groups of people. Larger events also attract travellers from France, England and Germany.
All over the country:
- Kingsnight: April 26th
- Kingsday: April 27th
- Liberation day: May 5th
Most tourists stay in Holland (the provinces North and South Holland). This area is very densely populated and has most famous tourist spots.
- the the tourist enclave and cultural capital Amsterdam.
- modern multicultural city life and architecture in Rotterdam.
Advise from couchsurfers for everyone who wants to leave the ´beaten track´:
The cities below are cities that don't recive a lot of tourists but have an active Cs-community, so it's always easy to have a good time in there.
All the big cities in the west together form a horseshoe, therefore the name 'Randstad'. In between this horseshoe there is a quiet rural part called the green hart, perfect to bike around in and to cool down from the busy citylife.
Plenty of pretty small historic cities can be found in these regions:
- Rivierenland: near the big rivers (Between Rotterdam, Utrecht, Nijmegen and 's Hertogenbosch). The first cityrights were granted in this region to cities like Dordrecht, Gorinchem, Wijk bij Duurstede, Tiel, Zutphen & Deventer.
- Zeeland: the Islands in the southwest. A lot of Germans go to the beaches in here in the summer, but the Island around Zeeland also have a lot of nice old cities that look like cities in Flandres (Middelburg, Sluis, Brielle, Domburg).
- Friesland: the northern province with it's own culture, language, flag and national sport and nice historic cities like Leeuwarden, Franeker, Hindeloopen, Sneek, Harlingen, Sloten, etc)
- kop van Noord-Holland: Holland north of Amsterdam, also known as west-Friesland. In the Dutch golden age this area was very rich, you can still see traces of this in cities like Enkhuizen, Hoorn, Alkmaar and Edam). There are also a lot of old and interesting polders in this area.
- the South of Limburg: because of the hilly landscapes and distinct, bourgondic culture this region feels like a foreign country to a lot of Dutch people.
- The Islands in the North (Waddeneilanden): Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog
Exotic couches and people who would like to get more guests
If you would like to get more guests or tell about a beautifull (exotic) couch you know, you can put your profile name in here.
- Gerard Bosman lives in a small town near Rotterdam, on a central spot in the Randstad. He loves to show the people, also young backpackers, around and explain them about how the Dutch manage to live so far below the sealevel.
- If you're into WWOOFing or would like to find out about squatted farms, check out Spruit's profile. He lives in a beautiful place in the middle of the Randstad.
Advise on how to be a good guest in the Netherlands:
This one is from an integration course and doesn't apply to overnight visitors, but more to coffeetime guests. It probably only applies to the older generation of Dutchies. It definitely doesn't apply to CouchSurfers, for neither guests nor hosts,
- If the host says he will start preparing dinner, this isn't an invitation to join dinner (unless explicitly said), but a sign for you to leave.
- When visiting a Dutch family at tea time you will likely be offered a biscuit from a large tray or tin full of biscuits. Be considerate and only take one or very few.
- Even though smoking cannabis is depenaltized, this doesn't mean all Dutch people do and that you can smoke where ever you want. That is why most Dutch people smoke at home or somewhere private. Don't assume your host smokes or can get you some.
A good and funny book about the Dutch and dutch customs is the UnDutchables
- Traveling by bicycleis easy and very common both within cities and across the country. There are separate paths for bikes linking cities and villages, as well as directional signs (in red) indicating major bicycle routes. If you are bicycling at night, you must have a white light on the front of your bike (or yourself) and a red light on the back. You can find more info on biking in the netherlands (including routes) in here. Renting bikes is possible at most big trainstations (where intercities stop).
- There is a very well-developed internal train network, and the country's small size means that the major destinations are often within 20 - 80 minutes of each other. The train system is privatised. The biggest railroad company is the NS, of which the state is the only shareholder. Regional private companies include Syntus in the east of the country, Arriva which operates mainly in the North and near Dordrecht, Connexxion in the centre and Veolia in the South east. Tickets bought at NS vending machines/desks are valid for all trains in the Netherlands, exept high speed trains. With the introduction of the public transport card (ov chip card) most stations don't have service balies anymore. You can buy your tickets at the machines, even international ones.
- To plan your international train trip, check NSinternational. The further you book in advance, the better the price.
- International high-speed trains stop at the major cities, and there are direct trains to and from such cities as Paris, Brussels and Cologne.
- If you travel by bus or metro more than once, it is advisable to buy a OV-chipkaart, which is a magnetic card. See this website for more information. The card is usable for all public transport in the Netherlands and can be recharged. Check on the website where the closest service point is near you.
- Eurolines bus service makes daily trips from Belgium, France, Germany and the UK as well as semi-regular service from Poland and other countries.
- 9292ov is a website where you can plan your trip using public transport in the Netherlands. You can also exclude ways you don't like to use for example the tram and it will adjust your trip. It will also give you the price of you trip.
- Ferry lines are operated on Hoek van Holland, Rotterdam and IJmuiden.
- The islands in the north are best reachable by this ferryservice
- In the South-West you can get a ferry from Vlissingen to Breskens. This ferry is only for cyclists and people by foot nowadays because of the tunnel that has been developed between Vlissingen and Terneuzen for cars.
- There are a lot of roads of good quality in the Netherlands and no tollways. The speed limit is 100 km/h on freeways during the day (after 19h it's 120), 50 in and 80 outside of cities. The old cities are mostly hard to reach by car, overcrowded and expensive to park in. Don't travel in de Randstad by car in rushhours, there are allways a lot of trafficjams.
- Due to the small size and relative dense population hitchhiking is really easy in the Netherlands. The country is quite friendly to hitchhikers with even special spots in some cities. Lifterhalte is a wiki about hitchhiking with a very usefull map with some good hitchhking spots. Some other good spots can be found in here. Because of the free public transport cards students get, a lot of Dutch are not used to hitchhikers.
- The Netherlands main airport is Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, a busy international airport with a trainstation conveniently located underground. From Schiphol, travel to locations within the Randstad can be accomplished within 1 hour, and major destinations throughout the country can be reached within 3 hours.
- Some low cost carriers such as Easy Jet, Berlin Air, Sky Europe, Wizz Air and Ryan Air also fly into the airports at Maastricht/Aachen, Eindhoven and Rotterdam. Public bus systems connect these airports with the NS stations. Easyjet stopped flying to Maastricht/Aachen but there are several main-carriers flying to Schiphol.
- The general alarm number is 112.
- If you don't have an emergency but do need the police, you can call this nr: +31 - 34 357 8844
- While biking in the Netherlands is a nice way to get around, be sure to bring good locks for your bike if you bring your own. Bike theft occurs, mostly in metropolitan areas.
Undutchables and Blue Lynx are job agencies that offers jobs to internationals in many languages. If you already speak dutch (or english for some jobs) try Monsterboard. For English speaking jobs, try JobinAmsterdam. Their are also sites like (http://www.maxers.nl Maxers) where you can find your new Job in Netherland.
The country is famous for being below the water level. About half of the country has a state-controlled water level. In the west a lot of parts are reclaimed land; socalled 'polders'. The deepest are a little north of Rotterdam, some parts are more than 6 meters below sea level. Two polders appear on the world heritage list, kinderdijk (east of Rotterdam) and de Beemster (north of Amsterdam).
The Netherlands formed the northern border of the Roman empire for some ages. The north was conquered once, but got independent again short time later. Not much is left of the Romans. The places where they built fortesses are often marked, but most of that is artificial. Some cities evolved from the Romans. Nijmegen is the only city founded by the Romans, Maastricht and Utrecht evolved from Roman fortifications.
In the early medival times the west of the Netherlands was mainly a swamp. People only lived on the high parts around the rivers and on hills (terpen) in the North. After the year 1000 people started to make the swamplands into polders with grassfields. Cities appeared around the rivers ('s Hertogenbosch, Utrecht, etc) and in Friesland. Most wealth was in the western provinces of Belgium which also belonged to the low countries (= Netherlands)
In the 16th century the all the provinces of the Netherlands (the present Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg), by intermarrying, came under the rule of Spain. The cities of Flanders were wealthy tradings cities by that time. At the same time all over Europe, people started to protest again the decadence of the Catholic Church. Protestantism was quite popular in the southwest of the Netherlands. After the icony clash in 1566 the Catholic Spanish intensified repression against protestants. Lower dutch nobility started to protest against this repression, but were not taken serious by the Spanish. The provinces in the North make a coalition in Utrecht in 1567. William of Orange became the unofficial leader of the protestant rebellion. After a failed attempt, the rebellion really started with the takeover of the small coastal city of Brielle. Slowly more and more cities joined the insurge.
After 80 years of war the north became the protestant republic of Dutch provinces, the south remained catholic under rule of the Spanish. The north conquered two catholic provinces, Brabant and Limburg, but also in the north there were lots of catholics left. The catholics were allowed to remain catholic, as long as the leading protestants didn't have to see anything that reminded them to catholicism. The centre of the region moved from Antwerpen (previously a protestant city, but conquered by the Spanish) to Amsterdam. Amsterdam became more wealthy then Antwerpen ever was and became the centre of a strong naval, colonial power. The VOC (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie) started trading posts in Afrika, India, China and Japan en conquered big parts of Indonesia while the WIC (West Indische Compagnie) started selltements in present day New York, Recife (Brasil) and the carribean islands and got rich by Piratery and slavery.
In the 18th century the Dutch republic was a big example for the formation of the United States but was allready for a long time in decline. After losing wars with England the Dutch lost their role as world power. The Dutch were completely overrun by the enthousiasm of the revolution in France and became a French province aroun 1800. The French totally reformed state organisation drasticly.
When the French left the other monarchies in Europe upgraded the family of Orange to a royal family. the Netherlands became a kingdom joined with Belgium. Belgium left this union in 1830, but the kingdom remained.
The Dutch tried to be neutral in both world wars, but only succeeded in that in the first. In the second the country was invaded by Germany. The war only lasted a few days and stopped after the Germans totally destroyed Rotterdam. It took 5 years untill the country was liberated. The south was allready liberated in 1944, the whole winter lasted with a frontline on the rivers, causing famine in the urban regions in the North. By mistake the allied forces destroyed the city of Nijmegen (they ment to detroy a German city).
After the sober fifties, the Dutch became very wealthy in the sixties after finding gas supplies in the North. The cultural revolution of the sixties had a big impact on the Netherlands, making the country known for it's liberal, progressive laws and making Amsterdam one of the hippie capitals of the world. Because of shortage of low education workers, a lot of workers from mediterranian countries were reqruited. Together with the independence of most colonies (and the migration of lots of their inhabitants), this made the Netherland a multicultural society. After being mostly known for the country with liberal laws on drugs, gay-rights and etnical medical matters after the millennium the country was more and more polarised. Right wing politicans criticise the lack of authority and two political murders gave the Netherlands a reputation of a country looking for it's identity and unsure of what the future will bring. velo:Netherlands visa:Netherlands