Dutch culture and the Netherlands

IntroductionInspired by the topic introduced by director Wu of “Centre of Netherlands Education” we will write our report on the Netherlands and its Dutch culture. In this report various topics about this country and its culture will elaborately be discussed. As we have one Dutchman on our team, we should be able to explore the different topics to a greater depth. First of all we will discuss some of the Dutch history. For this, we have selected a more specific topic that is by far the most interesting and influential in many years of Dutch history:

The Dutch Golden age. Subsequently, we will talk about the geography of the Netherlands. Also, its population, the Dutchmen, will be discussed. Furthermore, we will explore some more of the Dutch history by looking at the colonies and their, to us very interesting, presence in Taiwan. Also, the typical Dutch capital, Amsterdam, will be discussed. We will end the report with an overview of typical Dutch tourist attractions, areas that are must-visit and some of the Dutch delicacies.

The Dutch golden ageThe Dutch golden age is a period in the Dutch history in which the Dutch society’s economy, trade, art, science and army rapidly enhanced to become one of the world’s best. The Dutch golden age took place around the 17th century and basically started after fighting off the Spanish occupation. With the start of the VOC, the world’s first multinational company, the Dutch builds a huge amount ships and sailed all around the globe. In many countries, especially in Asia, they did extremely profitable trade. Lots of money was going into the country and the economy flourished.

Furthermore, the freedom, tolerance and open-mindedness also contributed to the Dutch success in this time. Artists and scientists were able to “express” whatever they wanted without “obstructions” of rules by government or churches. This was all influenced because the Dutch got in touch with “different thinking people” at a very early stage. These days, those believes are still clearly noticeable. Famous artists and scientists from this time include: van Gogh, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Huygens, Spinoza and van Leeuwenhoek.

The geography of the NetherlandsThe Netherlands are a country located in the northwest of Europe with Belgium and Germany as neighbor countries. Its total size is 41.549 km² and is so one of Europe’s smallest countries. Approximately the half of the Netherlands landmass is located less than one meter above the sea level and around one fourth is under the sea level. Netherland’s flat regions are protected from storm surges through dikes which have in total a length of 3.000 kilometer. The highest point of whole Netherlands with 877 meters is the Mount Scenery, located on the Caribbean island “Saba”.

The highest point of the mainland itself, “Vaalserberg” is in its very south on the borderline triangle of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany which is 322, 5 meter above the sea level. Some parts of the Netherlands were created artificial through land reclamation like for example nearly the whole province “Flevoland”. Around one fifth of the landmass is covered with water; the biggest part is called “Usselmeer” a former bay which was poldered with a 29 kilometer long dike in 1932.

On the left: map of the Netherland without using dikes.On the right: map of the Netherlands with rivers and provinces.

The most important rivers of the country are the “Rhein“, “Maas“and “Schelde“. These rivers separated the country in north and south and meet each other in the delta of “Rhein-Maas” – the biggest and most central region of the country. The flow of the river “Rhein” becomes dendritic next to a German province borderline called “Nordrhein-Westfalen” The “Maas” river entered in the past next to the city “Groninchem” in the river “Waal” but was in 1904 artificially moved and so cut from the “Rheinsystem” and flows now through the delta “Bergsee” and “Ammer” in the former sea bay “Hollands Diep”.

Population in the NetherlandsThe Netherlands is the 21st most populated country in the world. In 2011 its population grows to 16,663,831.

The exhibit shows population density per provincein Netherlands in 2006. Netherlands is populated in 81% by Caucasian Dutch population of Germanic or Gallo Celtic descent. Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS) recently released a data, it reveals the Dutch population growth of 86 thousand people in 2009. The total population of the Netherlands is 16.5 million. Though there are almost 160 thousnads people emgrated oversea per year and aging of population cause the growth of death rate, in 2010 still have 60 thousands forieners moved to Netherlands. Exotic Emigrant in Netherlands

In recent decades, the raise of the average level of education reduce the unemployment rate and the income of the exotic ethnic in Netherlands and Dutch are increasingly raise as well. The data shows that the exotic emigrant population grows from 16% to 20% in last decade in Netherlands.

The Dutch coloniesDutch colony, also known as the Dutch empire, or the Netherlands maritime empire, includes the overseas colonies Dutch established from 17th to 20th century. Breaking away from Spain, the Netherlands enter maritime by virtue of seamanship and foreign trade through the Dutch West India Company and the Dutch East India Company, and began to establish its colonial empire.

“Dutch Golden Age” refers to the period of historical stages that the Netherlands became the European economic power and the core of culture in 17th century. In 1648, the Netherlands defeated Spain, then establish the United Province of the Republic, became the dominant sea power. The wealth in this era is handedly striving back by the Dutch East India Company (Dutch East India Company). The company sends its ships to the Far East in search of perfumes and valuables; zoned Cape of Good Hope, Indonesia, Surinam, the Antilles (Antilles) and New Amsterdam (New York) in its colonies, and established a trading post in the whole of Asia.

The Dutch colonies are mainly in the East Indies. After the failure of the war with Britain and France, the Netherlands overseas colonies began to shrink. During World War II, the East Indies occupied by the Japanese, greatly weakened the forces of the Dutch in East Indies. After World War II, the East Indies became independent one after another. When colony in North America, New Amsterdam (now New York), occupied by the British, the Dutch then focused on Asia. After rushing back from Taiwan by the Zheng Chenggong, the colony of the Dutch left with East Indies, Dutch Guyana, South America, and the Caribbean island of Aruba.

AmsterdamWhen Amsterdam was announced as the Dutch capital in 1983 (with the seat of the government remaining in Den Haag), it was a logical conclusion as it is not only the biggest city of the Netherlands but also its cultural center. In Amsterdam, the Netherlands show themselves in all their cultural diversity and present everything that has made the Netherlands famous in other countries. The city itself has a population of about 800,000 people, but there are far over one million people living in the wider Amsterdam area, also called “Groot-Amsterdam”.

It is divided into several districts, like the business district “Zuidas”, where many of the biggest Dutch companies settled their head offices. Thanks to its distinguished location at the coast of the Northern Sea with water routes into the inland Amsterdam became an important trade city during the medieval age. The first Dutch ships that were sent out to ship expensive goods like spices and fabrics to the Netherlands from India left the Amsterdam harbor and increased its outstanding position in worldwide trade and made it the richest city in Europe in the middle of the 17th century.

When the Dutch-French war in the end of the 17th century denied access to the import-export market and after the war was over in 1679 Amsterdam had lost its power as a trade city. However, in the fast emerging market of financial activities the city managed to become of similar importance, managing funds of the richest gentry for their wars. Despite this, Amsterdam became a poor city during the 19th century, only recovering when new trade routes to the United Kingdom and the USA were opened in 1876.

Afterwards, it regained its position in cultural and academic importance although it lost its dominance in trade to Rotterdam. The city has a very unique flair, a mixture of the charm of small villages and a vibrating metropolis. The little rivers, the “Trachten”, on which the imported goods were distributed from the harbor to the retailers, combined with a very old city center form a picture certainly worth a visit.

After all, the city center was announced to be a UNESCO world cultural heritage site in 2010. The Netherlands are known as a very liberal country which also shows in two of the main business branches being the sale of legal drugs like Marihuana and the other one being prostitution. The so- called “window-prostitution” has played a major role in the city´s history.

As of today there are still almost 500 of these small rooms left, that are rented by prostitutes for a small fee on a daily basis and where business is directly conducted behind closed curtains. Recent plans of the city administration show an attempt to halve the number of windows in order to restructure the districts reputation. These plans are viewed very suspicious by many Amsterdam residents and tourists as it is a major attraction and attracts many tourists every year. The coffee shops, whose name is quite misleading, have been emerging in the late 1970s.

These shops are licensed to sell legalized “light” drugs like Marihuana and mushrooms to anyone above the age of 18. The clerks even provide some sort of counseling and guidance when the customer is unclear about its choice. The decision to legalize these drugs has led to high revenue in taxes but hasn´t affected the other target, being reducing the drug abuse among young adults. Lately, stricter laws have been enforced to prohibit the sale of large amounts and the sale to non-Dutch customers, mainly due to the pressure of more conservative neighbor countries like Germany.