Holland v. the Netherlands

God Bless Holland, err, the Netherlands.

I should have cleared this up a long time ago. Now that some friends and readers have questioned my interchangeable use of the names “Holland” and “The Netherlands,” I realize in retrospect that I ought to have addressed this basic question in the early days of my blog.

Better late the never. So, what is the name of the country I live in?

Technically it is incorrect to refer to the Netherlands (the official name of the country) as “Holland” because, in fact, Holland is only one part of the Netherlands. Holland is merely a sub-region of the Netherlands, consisting of the two provinces of North Holland and South Holland in the centre-west of the country where major cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague are located. So, referring to the Netherlands as Holland is like calling the United Kingdom England. Blasphemy.

Holland is a subset of the Netherlands

But I’m exaggerating – it’s not nearly that bad. In fact, many Dutch people themselves (including Dutch people who are not from the two Holland provinces) refer to the Netherlands as Holland. (I have never, on the other hand, heard a Scottish or Welsh person refer to themselves as being from England.)

National sports teams are cheered on with “Holland!” and the official website of the Netherlands Board of Tourism is… www.holland.com. Holland is certainly a much more internationally recognised brand name than the Netherlands. Perhaps this is because Holland rolls off your tongue, whereas the Netherlands tends to trip it up.

This widespread use of the name Holland is why I use it interchangeably with the Netherlands in this blog, even though it’s inaccurate strictly speaking.  To confuse things further, the term “Low Countries” can refer not only to the country that is the Netherlands, but also Flemish-speaking Belgium and possibly even Luxembourg, which are also low-lying and nearby.

P.S. In researching this blog post, I also learned that capitalizing the “t” in the Netherlands is grammatically incorrect, as it is for the United States and the United Kingdom. So in fact I have been mistakenly writing The Netherlands this whole time. Oops.


About Home Strange Home

I first left the US in 1999, when I was 18 years old. Since then, I’ve spent 13 years living abroad - 3 in Canada, 7 in Europe, and 3 in Africa. Now I've finally returned to the US on a one-way plane ticket. I arrived home in late January 2014 and set foot in the US for the first time in nearly 2.5 years. In Home Strange Home, I blog about the ups and downs of my re-acculturation experience.
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