The Netherlands, on the coast of the North Sea, is twice the size of New Jersey. Part of the great plain of north and west Europe, the Netherlands has maximum dimensions of 190 by 160 mi (360 by 257 km) and is low and flat except in Limburg in the southeast, where some hills rise up to 322 m (1056 ft). About half the country’s area is below sea level, making the famous Dutch dikes a requisite for efficient land use. Reclamation of land from the sea through dikes has continued through recent times. All drainage reaches the North Sea, and the principal rivers—Rhine, Maas (Meuse), and Schelde—have their sources outside the country.
The official language is Dutch
Land area: 13,104 sq mi (33,939 sq km); total area: 16,033 sq mi (41,526 sq km)
Population (2012 est.): 16,730,632 (growth rate: 0.452%); birth rate: 10.89/1000; infant mortality rate: 3.73/1000; life expectancy: 80.91
Capital and largest city (2009 est.): Amsterdam (official),1.044 million; The Hague (administrative capital), 629,000
Other large cities: Rotterdam, 1.008 million
Monetary unit: Euro (formerly guilder)
The predominant wind direction in the Netherlands is south-west, which causes a moderate maritime climate, with cool summers and mild winters, and typically high humidity. This is especially true close to the Dutch coastline, where temperatures can be more than 10 °C (18 °F) higher (in winter) or lower (in summer) than in the (south) east of the country.