Amsterdam is the city of bicycles! As soon as you set foot in the Dutch capital, there's no escaping them. And why would you want to? Cycling is the perfect way to get around such charming and compact city. Amsterdam is virtually unique in having all the advantages of a big city – culture, history, good food, entertainment and extensive public transport – but with relatively few of the drawbacks. The city is small, there are plenty of quiet spots where you can kick back and relax and, thanks to its canals, it has relatively little traffic. Yet, it still has plenty to offer!
The Netherlands, often referred to as Holland, is a small country with approximately 16 million inhabitants. It's centrally located 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 city’s main engine of economic growth. As an exporter, the Netherlands ranks sixth in the world and third in terms of agricultural products. It also occupies sixth place on the list of global investors. 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 second largest in the world, 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 speak 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. Once you arrive in the Netherlands, you’ll discover that many European capitals are within easy reach. Brussels is two hours’ away by train, and a short flight from Amsterdam will take you to Paris, Madrid or Berlin. If you would like to read about Dutch culture as seen through the eyes of two American authors, The Undutchables by Colin White and Laurie Boucke makes an entertaining read.