Holland or the Netherlands?

International friends ask me quite often: what is the right name for your country, should it be Holland or the Netherlands? Interesting question – it´s fine to use both terms, but they do not actually mean the same thing. Or better said, they do not refer to the same piece of land.

Let´s start with the right one, the Netherlands. The term is the right description for the country and should be used officially. When you´re talking about the Netherlands, you´re talking about all twelve provinces. Holland is just the term for a small part of the country. Only the two most western provinces, North-Holland and South-Holland, are part of Holland. The rest of the country can´t be described like that, although it happens very often. Especially in the international world, the term Holland is more common than the Netherlands. People from the eastern and southern parts of the country are sometimes a little bit irritated with the term Holland, since it only describes the part mentioned above. Among them, ´Hollander´ (Dutchman) is either an invective, when they speak of the people who live in the western part, or they feel insulted, when they themselves are described as a ´Hollander´.

So Holland is just a small part of the Netherlands but the most important one. 6 million people live in its two provinces (16,5 million in the whole country) and therefore it is the most densely populated region of the country and of Europe. Many people live in this part because it is the economical, political and cultural centre of the country.

But the use of Holland or the Netherlands is not that strict after all, since the Dutch use the two terms at the same time and then they mean the whole country. Even in something as patriotic and emotional as soccer we use the term Holland far more often than the Netherlands. Our national yell to support our orange-coloured heroes goes ´Hup Holland Hup´, because it has such a nice alliteration. ´Hup Nederland Hup´ just doesn´t work.

Maybe it is confusing to have two names for the same country, but at least we do have one national colour. That is, without any doubt, orange. And that brings me directly to another question, which I will answer next week.


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1 thought on “Holland or the Netherlands?”

  1. Aaaaahh – thank you! I was tweeting with some-one from the Netherlands this morning, and I looked it up and got totally confused about the whole Holland/Netherlands thing! Great timing!!

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