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The Dutch are generally an affable race, with a good sense of humour and a keen sense of how to enjoy themselves, whether it be relaxing in the countryside or partying hard in the big cities. Despite their country’s puritan past, they are known for tolerance, or at least turning a blind eye. Known as being largely flat (much of the country lies below sea level, and another great swathe is made up of ‘polder’, or land reclaimed from the sea), The Netherlands is an ideal destination for those who enjoy pursuits like cycling or walking without over-exerting themselves. But it is a cultured land as well, as the seemingly endless list of great Dutch artists testifies.

Practical Information

Area: 41 528 km² (16 034 miles²)

Capital: Amsterdam Population: 739 295

Population: 16.5 million

Currency: Euro (EUR symbol Eur) = 100 cents

Government: Constitutional monarchy since 1848.

Tipping: All hotels and restaurants include 15% service and VAT. It is customary to leave small change when paying a bill.

Legal drinking age: 16 to drink beer and wine, 18 to drink spirits

Time zone: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October)

Languages: Dutch

Additional descriptions

Netherlands: Social customs

It is customary to shake hands. English is spoken as a second language by many and is willingly used; many Dutch people will also speak German and French. Hospitality is very much the same as for the restRead more of Europe and the USA. It is customary to take a small gift if invited for a meal. Casual wear is widely acceptable. Men are expected to wear a suit for business and social functions. Formal wear may be required for smart restaurants, bars and clubs. Evening dress (black tie for men) is generally specified on invitation.

Netherlands: Food and local specialties

‘Typical’ Dutch food tends to be wholesome and hearty, rather than elegant. Large towns, however, have a wide range of restaurants specialising in international dishes. Indonesian cuisine, a spicy legacyRead more of Dutch colonisation in the East Indies, is particularly good in The Netherlands. The national specialties are: A Dutch breakfast usually consists of fresh bread, cheese, cooked meats and sausage, butter and hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles), jam or honey and often a boiled egg. Lunch is generally similar. Broodjes (sandwiches) are a common daytime snack, served in the ubiquitous sandwich bars - broodjeswinkels. Poffertjes (pancakes) served with butter and sugar are a teatime favourite. Matjes (salted herring) is widely available from street stalls, and smoked eel is another seafood speciality. Holland is famous for its cheeses, among them the Goudse, Edammer and Leidse varieties, also obtainable with flavourings such as caraway seed and cumin. Coffee, tea, chocolate and fruit juice are drunk at breakfast. The local spirit is jenever (Dutch gin), normally taken straight and chilled as a chaser with a glass of beer, but it is sometimes drunk with mixers. It is available in numerous flavours. The most popular beer brands in Amsterdam are Amstel and the ubiquitous Heineken, which is also produced in the city. There are also a number of smaller breweries producing specialist beers and ales for the connoisseur, including the Trappist Brouwerij De Koeningshoeven. Dutch liqueurs are excellent and include Curaçao, Parfait d’Amour, Triple Sec (similar to Cointreau) and Dutch-made versions of crème de menthe, apricot brandy and anisette.

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