Netherlands

 The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, consisting of twelve provinces in western Europe and three islands in the Caribbean. The European part of the Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east; and shares maritime borders with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. The country is a parliamentary democracy organised as a unitary state. The capital city of the Netherlands, mandated by the constitution, is Amsterdam, however, the seat of government is located in The Hague. The Netherlands in its entirety is often referred to as "Holland", which in strict usage, refers only to North and South Holland, two of its provinces. The former usage is considered incorrect or informal, depending on the context, but is generally accepted when referring to the national football team.

The Netherlands is a geographically low-lying country, with about 20% of its area and 21% of its population located below sea level, and 50% of its land lying less than one metre above sea level. This distinct feature contributes to the country's name: in Dutch, English, and in many other European languages, its name literally means "Low Land" or "Low Countries." Most of the areas below sea level are man-made, caused by centuries of extensive and poorly controlled peat extraction, lowering the surface by several metres. Even in flooded areas peat extraction continued through turf dredging. From the late 16th century land reclamation started and large polder areas are now preserved through elaborate drainage systems with dikes, canals and pumping stations. Much of the Netherlands is formed by the estuary of three important European rivers, which together with their distributaries form the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta. Most of the country is very flat, with the exception of foothills in the far south-east and several low hill ranges in the central parts.


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