The Country and the People
The Netherlands comprises an area of land with a surface area of some 42 000 square kilometres located on the North Sea around the Rhine/Meuse estuary. By some standards this area is not particularly large, and the Netherlands is often referred to, even by the self-deprecating Dutch, as a ‘small’ country. Granted, the area is about twice the size of Wales or half of Scotland, and also equal to the size of the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. Yet a definition of size that relies only upon land mass is far too limited. Even though just over 4000 square kilometres of this area is uninhabitable, as it is covered by the water of rivers, canals, and lakes, the remaining space is utilised with great efficiency to provide homes for 15 million people. With an average of more than 400 people per square kilometre, it is one of the most densely populated countries of the world. In terms of inhabitants it has 1.5 times the population of Belgium or Sweden, twice that of Austria or Switzerland, and more than Norway, Denmark, and Finland combined.
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