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The Netherlands is located in Western Europe and borders Belgium and Germany with a North Sea coastline. The formation of the Netherlands dates back to 1579 when the Dutch United Provinces declared their independence from Spanish control. The Kingdom of the Netherlands was formed in 1815, by which time the province of Holland had become a major commercial and trading power and had many overseas colonies and settlements. The country is still often referred to by the alternative name of Holland, a practice which reflects the dominant role the Province of Holland played in its historical development.
The Netherlands is a popular destination for expatriates from other western countries as well as many other immigrants from around the world, and there is a very big expatriate community. Its popularity with foreigners has been largely due to the tolerant and liberal attitudes of the Dutch towards people of all races, religions, political persuasions and sexualities.