The Netherlands is a nation of very independent-minded people who are often characterized by their international outlook, tolerance of others’ beliefs, and love of personal freedom. The Netherlands has an excellent public transportation system, from the seaside to tiny villages to the ultra-hip capital of Amsterdam; and people also ride bikes everywhere. Half of the country lies below sea level on land created by walling off the North Sea with dikes. The Dutch love to ice skate on the frozen canals in the winter.
The Dutch have a strong sense of family. Children help with the housework and respect the family’s rules. Parents expect to know when their children are going out and where they are going. In a large number of families, both parents work. Family time is mostly at dinner, on weekends and vacations. Family members are often very busy with their own schedules during the week.
The Dutch depend on their bicycles to go anywhere; a 16 km (10 mi) trip by bike would not be uncommon. Because Holland is such a small country, access to bigger towns and cities is easy. Some regions are very rural, particularly in the north.
Dutch teenagers like to watch TV, read and get together with friends. The most popular sport is soccer. After school, kids go to hobby clubs or sports clubs (soccer, tennis, volleyball or field hockey), take music lessons, etc. In winter, skating is popular as are water sports in summer such as sailing, surfing and swimming.
Dutch food is simple and nourishing, and represents a mixture of European cooking styles. A typical meal consists of potatoes and gravy with vegetables in season and meat or fish. In winter, it is common to make a heavy dish of potatoes mixed with vegetables. Many people also eat pasta and rice (Chinese or Indonesian).
Breakfast during the week can be a bit haphazard as individual family members fend for themselves, depending on their schedules. There is usually bread and cheese, marmalade or peanut butter. Often on Sundays, the family will eat a special breakfast together. Dinner is important. It is a time when most families get together to talk and socialize.
Dutch is spoken throughout the Netherlands, and Frisian is also spoken in the northeast province of Friesland. 30% of the Dutch are Roman Catholic, 11% are Dutch Reformed, 6% Calvinist, 3% Protestant, 5.8% Muslim and a small percentage belong to other churches; the rest are unaffiliated with any religion. Religion plays a relatively small role in the lives of many Dutch people whether they identify with a specific religion or not.