The Netherlands, often referred to as Holland, is a small country with 16 million inhabitants. It's centrally located in Europe between metropolitan centres such as Paris, Berlin and London. Even as far back as the early 17th century, the Netherlands was an advanced country, with much of its wealth coming from international trade. Today, international trade is still the country’s main engine of economic growth. As an exporter, the Netherlands ranks seventh in the world. In addition to its proximity to some of Europe’s major urban centres, the Netherlands’ location on Europe’s coastline has also had an enormous influence on the country’s economic development. The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe, so it is no idle boast to describe the Netherlands as the gateway to Europe.
Dutch society is multicultural. People from other parts of the world have been living in the Netherlands for decades, thanks to the country’s historical ties with other nations. Although Dutch is the national language, the majority of the population speaks English and very often another foreign language, such as German or French. There is also a huge religious diversity. The Netherlands is a very safe country in which to study, with low levels of violence and street crime.