Welcome to the Netherlands, the land of multi-colored tulip fields, bicycles and historically liberal public policies.
The Netherlands has been shaped by its proximity and relationship to the water. Over 50 percent of the Netherlands lies below sea level. The Dutch rely on a system of dikes, dams, lochs, and mechanical pumps to protect their country from flooding, and its cities have beautiful canals running around and through them.
The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, led by the king or queen, and the prime minister. This little country plays a leading role in the European Union.
The official language is Dutch; however, most Dutch people speak fluent English, and often speak Frisian, French or German as well.
An average family in the Netherlands has 2-3 children, with both parents working. It is common for members of the family to get around by bicycle, and the Dutch often lead very active lifestyles.
Though the Netherlands tends to have very liberal attitudes and national policies, Dutch people are often more conservative than people might expect.
Dutch meals are generally light and basic, with an emphasis on dairy products. Breakfast is usually toast or bread with jam, cheese, meat, and tea or coffee. Lunch is often an open-faced sandwich, with dinner usually being a larger meal, containing meat, potatoes, and fresh vegetables.
Dutch school is free and required between the ages of 5 and 16.
At age 12, students enter a “track” of secondary education. They may choose between a four- or five- year high school, vocational education, or a six-year pre-university program.
Vocational and high school level graduates often go on to apprenticeships in the workforce. Only the top students attend a university.
Many Dutch teenagers play soccer, tennis, field hockey, or volleyball. Musical instruments are also popular, including the guitar, piano, and drums.
Styles of dress are the same for teens around the world: jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, and sweatshirts.
Dutch teens start dating between the ages of 14-16, and often go out in groups. Going to movies or out dancing are popular activities. It is fairly common for couples to live together before or instead of getting married.