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Iran




Netherlands

 
همه چیز درباره هلند


The Netherlands All about
The Netherlands is a great place to live. While some run-down, inner city areas have their problems with crime, there are hardly any ‘no-go’ areas. Most public spaces are pleasant and relaxed, although in many cities, especially Amsterdam, the cyclists are so numerous that pedestrians have to keep their wits about them! Anyone in the Netherlands for a longer period will enjoy having a bike and making use of the country’s cycle path network, both in and out of the cities.
At rush hour, public transport can be extremely crowded. There is a complex network of trains and buses with frequent connections, and people staying in the Netherlands for any length of time can benefit from all kinds of discount travel cards. The Netherlands is also one of the few continental European countries where most of the locals are quite comfortable speaking English.
The Netherlands is internationally oriented, with large immigrant communities from all over the world. The Dutch love of foreign culture is further reflected in the wide range of international fare on offer in its concert halls, cinemas, video stores, theatres, cafes and restaurants.
The Netherlands is no longer the dominant trading nation it was in the seventeenth century, but trade and distribution are still cornerstones of the Dutch economy. Compared to other European nations, the Netherlands transports a relatively large amount of goods by sea, river, road and air. The major rivers (the Rhine, Maas and Waal) are still crucial transport arteries.
There has also been a strong increase in passenger travel, although in terms of kilometres per person the situation in the Netherlands does not differ much from other developed European countries.
Many Dutch people get to work, school or the supermarket by bicycle – the Netherlands is truly a cyclist’s paradise. Still, the amount of traffic in urban areas is a major issue. Apart from the introduction of road tolls, which many motorists understandably oppose, one environmentally friendly way of fighting congestion is developing flexible, intelligent public transport systems which can compete with cars. The Dutch have also come up with their own solutions: living closer to work, cycling even more often and arranging flexible working hours.
In the course of the twentieth century, the population of the Netherlands more than tripled in size, from five million in 1900 to ten million in 1950, to almost sixteen million in 2000. As in many other European countries, there was a baby boom immediately after the Second World War, and it continued to the middle of the 1960s. Since then, population growth has slowed down, although not as much as in some other countries. The problems associated with an ageing society are therefore less acute in the Netherlands than in Germany, Sweden and Belgium. All the same, the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to rise from an estimated 14% of the total population in 2005 to over 23% by 2040.
One of the reasons for the relatively sharp increase in the birth-rate after the Second World War was that traditional gender roles – the man goes out to earn a living, and the woman stays at home and cares for the children – remained the norm longer in the Netherlands than they did elsewhere. The vast majority of married women did not work outside the home and had sufficient time to look after their own children. In recent decades, Dutch women have narrowed the labour gap at a staggering speed – mainly by working in part-time jobs. Work or study in the Netherlands.
Foreign nationals who wish to live, work or study in the Netherlands need to have a residence permit. This does not apply to residents (or their partners) of 25 of the 27 European Union member states, or of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. All citizens of countries which joined the EU in May 2004 can work or study in the Netherlands without a permit. Foreign students who do not come from one of these countries generally need to apply for a visa for a stay of more than three months. To do this, they first need to obtain an entry visa, known as an authorization for temporary stay (MVV). Dutch universities or colleges can assist students with this procedure, and sometimes processing of applications can be accelerated. Detailed information can be found at www.nuffic.nl.
In principle, foreign workers need a work permit. The employer should submit an application to the head office of the network of Centres for Work and Income (CWIs) in Zoetermeer. The CWI head office will then assess whether the employer has been sufficiently diligent in attempting to recruit a candidate from the Netherlands or the EU.
Refugees who have been granted entry to the Netherlands do not need a work permit. The residence permit generally includes permission to seek employment. For non-EU citizens, the procedure for obtaining a residence or work permit can be complex and time-consuming. For this reason, the government is working to simplify the rules, especially for foreign workers who can fill existing gaps in the job market.

Culturral Diversity
For a country only a third the size of the American state of Virginia, the Netherlands has astonishing cultural diversity. The better one gets to know the country, the less its image as a dour, Calvinist land beside the North Sea rings true, especially after a visit to Amsterdam, with its cosmopolitan flair. A keen listener will notice that the accent varies considerably from northern Friesland to southern Limburg. There are also striking differences in landscape, architecture and lifestyle.
This regional variety can be traced back historically to divergent patterns of land ownership, religion and urban planning. The influence of neighbouring countries is noticeable along the Dutch borders. The province of Limburg has a strongly German flavour, whereas Zeeuws-Vlaanderen and southern Brabant are more Belgian in style. Until the occupation by French revolutionary forces in 1795, the Dutch Republic was very much a confederation of cities and provinces that were, to all intents and purposes, self-governing. The time-honoured tradition of religious tolerance and immigration have also contributed to the cultural diversity of the Netherlands.
At the end of the nineteenth century, radical Calvinists (Gereformeerden) and later Roman Catholics and Social Democrats formed distinctive social ‘pillars’: self-contained enclaves with their own independent organisations for every type of social service. In effect, these pillars were complete cultural republics with their own schools, hospitals, broadcasting companies, sports clubs and housing associations. From the 1960s onwards, the pillars lost much of their ideological significance, but cultural diversity was given a new dimension by the immigrants who came to settle in the Netherlands.
Social interaction in the Netherlands is characterised by two main features: liberal individualism and a sense of community. The Dutch demonstrate their individualism by being direct and outspoken. They like to be frank and to get to the point, which means they sometimes come across as inconsiderate. Their typically ‘up-front’ approach may be the reason they are good at doing business; at least you always know where you stand with the Dutch. Perhaps not surprisingly, some foreigners find this candour downright rude.
However, there is more to the Dutch character than just outspokenness and egalitarianism. They have an engaging, sociable side, too. The word gezelligheid – which roughly translates as ‘sociability’ or ‘togetherness’ – sums it all up. The Dutch generally enjoy family life, which is one of the cornerstones of their culture. They like to make their surroundings congenial, whether it’s the living room, garden or a camp site. A typically Dutch home is well stocked with snacks and drinks, and the windowsills are full of flowers and ornaments. For most Dutch people, socialising at home with their family and friends is one of the most important things in life.

Immigration and Integration
The Netherlands has long been a densely populated country. It is now home to about a million people who were born elsewhere. The government has never encouraged immigration. Indeed, shortly after the Second World War, it even encouraged people to emigrate because of ‘overpopulation’. But the Netherlands still became the country of destination for many foreign ‘guest workers’ (particularly from Turkey and Morocco), as well as refugees and asylum seekers.
Tolerance for alternative views has for centuries been practised in the Netherlands, and the characteristic Dutch consensus culture welcomes input from all parties. Indeed, religious tolerance was a significant force behind the Dutch Revolt in the sixteenth century.
In the 1990s, Frits Bolkestein, then leader of the right-leaning liberal VVD party, put immigration and integration on the political agenda. A few years later, in 2002, immigration and integration were the main issues in the programme of a new party founded by Pim Fortuyn, an academic and populist politician. In the election which was held a few days after his assassination, his party won an astounding number of seats.
Nowadays immigration is frequently debated, not surprisingly in a country typified by consultation and discussion. Dutch society is a remarkable mixture of individualism and community spirit. The Dutch set great store by not only tolerance and individual liberty, but also solidarity. Certain questions are raised time and again. To what extent must the new arrivals adapt to this new culture? Are the Dutch really all that tolerant or is their tolerance just a beneficial side-effect of their love of individual freedom?
Government policy is now to impose clearer, more specific requirements on newcomers and prospective immigrants.

The Rule of Law
The rule of law, which allows individuals access to the courts, is very important to the Dutch. Since the courts are above party, they can depoliticise tensions in society – an important advantage in a country where minorities have had to live alongside the majority for centuries.
Over the last 20 or 30 years, the rule of law has come under increasing pressure. Judges have proved to be fallible, the justice system has become overloaded, and public opinion favours harsher sentencing than it used to.
The Largest Agricultural Producer.
The Netherlands is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world and the third largest exporter of agricultural products. This success story began at the end of the nineteenth century, when a lengthy, global agricultural crisis saw most countries imposing protectionist measures. By contrast, the Netherlands invested heavily in innovation and agricultural education. Throughout the last hundred years, the sector has been rationalising and cultivating new skills and knowledge. As a result, Dutch farmers today are agricultural managers, spending a good deal of their time at their computers. Wageningen University, once an agricultural college, is now a specialist in the life sciences, though it remains one of the most important centres of agricultural expertise in the world.
Agriculture is a diverse sector, from arable farming in the coastal clay regions of Groningen and Zeeland, to the peat soil grasslands of the Randstad’s Green Heart. A great deal of intensive farming takes place in the densely populated west. The Westland is the largest and most advanced greenhouse culture area in the world. The ‘glass city’, as it is sometimes known, is a stone’s throw away from the global port of Rotterdam. Similarly, the Netherlands’ famous bulb fields are situated between The Hague and Amsterdam.
Agriculture has been under great pressure in recent years. Because of increasing demand for housing, office space and recreational areas, as well as increasingly stringent environmental regulations and falling prices, many farmers have been forced to close their businesses. Meanwhile, some farmers are switching to more labour-intensive organic production. Since 1990, the agricultural sector’s share of the economy has halved, from 4.1 to 2%.

Doing Business with Dutch
Dutch business people are renowned for their intercultural skills. In general they are sensitive to other cultures and often make a point of learning about foreign customs and traditions. Yet while they do their best to be considerate of their foreign colleagues, the Dutch have their own cultural characteristics which have been known to cause the occasional misunderstanding.
The Dutch, and therefore Dutch business people too, are strongly inclined towards an informal approach. They are quick to use given names, and they don’t appreciate the strict, hierarchical style found in some more traditional companies. The Dutch don’t take themselves too seriously and this extends to their perception of others too. Their golden rule, and a popular Dutch expression is: ‘Just act normal!’ (‘doe maar gewoon’)
The Dutch love of simplicity and moderation is also a noticeable part of their business culture. Dutch managers and professionals are effective, tenacious negotiators. In a flash, the implicit message in ‘just act normal’ can change to: ‘just be reasonable!’ Whereas negotiators from other cultures tend to be cautious, the Dutch can be surprisingly direct. That said, the Dutch don’t appreciate getting down to business before coffee has been served and pleasantries exchanged.

Arts and Culture
The Netherlands has produced many world-famous painters. By far the most renowned was Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669). The works of the great Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) demonstrated that the Dutch School excelled at subtle refinement as well as realism, and since their rediscovery by a Frenchman in the nineteenth century, they have enjoyed increasing fame. Other world-class painters, such as Frans Hals (1583-1666) and Jan Steen (1626-1679), also rose to prominence in the Golden Age.
The ‘Second Golden Age’ also produced a number of outstanding Dutch artists. The post-Impressionist Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) had a profound influence on the modern conception of the tormented artist. His personal development is well documented in his many letters. In fact, Van Gogh was a highly talented writer as well as a supremely gifted painter.
Another painter of note was Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). His abstract arrangements of primary colours and straight lines inspired the other members of the movement known as De Stijl, including the renowned architect Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964).
The modern Netherlands is home to leading figures in all the fine arts, including famous names like Marcel Wanders (b. 1963) and Hella Jongerius (b. 1963) (in design) and Rem Koolhaas (b. 1944) (in architecture). In photography the younger generation, featuring such luminaries as Rineke Dijkstra (b. 1959), is enjoying international acclaim.

The Netherlands and Europe
The Netherlands was one of the six founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1952 and the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957, the forerunners of the European Union, which came into being in 1992. The Dutch were enthusiastic about the ideal of European unity, which gave the country something to cling to following the horrors of the Second World War and the loss of the Dutch colonies in southeast Asia shortly thereafter.
That enthusiasm appears to have waned in recent years. But the Dutch ‘no vote’ in the 2005 referendum on the European Constitutional Treaty was not a rejection of Europe as such. The Netherlands has no desire to leave the European Union. What the referendum did do was send a clear message: the Constitutional Treaty did not sufficiently reflect the attitudes and aspirations of the Dutch people. They wanted a European Union that would solve specific cross-border problems without undermining national sovereignty and identity.

The Netherlands and the rest of the World
In the Golden Age the Dutch Republic played a pioneering role as the world’s first modern economy. At that time the Dutch helped lay the foundation for the integration of the global economy, gaining valuable know-how in doing business with a variety of cultures in the process. This experience has served them well to this day.
It would be something of an exaggeration to regard globetrotting Dutch tourists as the direct descendants of the explorers of yore. The famous winter encampment on Nova Zembla, the search for a maritime passage to the Orient, the establishment of an exclusive trading relationship with the Japanese, the founding of New Amsterdam (later to become New York) – these historical events, and others like them, go to show that the cosmopolitan ‘world of Peter Stuyvesant’ began in a little country on the North Sea. Even now, Dutch farmers are starting new businesses in Russia and the United States.
This open-minded view of the world explains why multiculturalism has informed Dutch government policy since the 1970s. That multiculturalism, which also has roots in the country’s colonial past, continues to shape the culture of the Netherlands.

International Legal Organization
Promoting the international legal order is the cornerstone of Dutch foreign policy. Historically speaking, a small country like the Netherlands saw this course of action as the best way to keep its larger neighbours at bay, thus following a strongly legalistic tradition that had existed since the seventeenth century. Even before the First World War Dutch soldiers were sent to pacify Albania, and in the 1930s Dutch troops oversaw the implementation of a plebiscite in Saarland, which voted overwhelmingly in favour of becoming part of Nazi Germany. The Dutch government holds the UN in high esteem, and the Netherlands complies with European law. Of course, as a nation of merchants, the Netherlands supports the further expansion of the World Trade Organisation.
This internationalist outlook is shared by those who see the Netherlands as an impartial advocate of human rights and humanitarian aid. The Netherlands’ reputation is also shaped by its colonial past, when missionaries brought Christianity to the ‘natives’. A certain percentage of GNP is earmarked for development aid; this percentage remains constant, even during budget cutbacks.

Globalization
Since the sixteenth century, the Netherlands has contributed to the development of the modern world to a degree that few other nations can match. One reason for this is the fact that during all that time, the country’s independence has almost never been in question. This independence was the result of both the country’s own efforts and, more particularly, the European balance of power. Despite the Netherlands’ unmistakable cosmopolitanism, the Dutch have always been oriented towards domestic concerns.
With the collapse of the European colonial empires after the Second World War, that inward-looking world came to an end. Since the 1950s the entire Western world, including the Netherlands, has been caught up in an accelerated process of economic and cultural modernisation and fusion, now known as globalisation.
These days, it is the rest of the world that is changing the Netherlands. The arrival of immigrants has altered the cultural landscape. The 1970s were dominated by the multicultural ideal, the belief that the Netherlands was being enriched by immigration. In recent years, more and more Dutch people have begun to worry that the country is losing its cultural identity. In keeping with the long-cherished Dutch belief that conversation and debate are the best way to resolve problems, efforts are being made to bring together the various groups involved to discuss their concerns.
 
 



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