Holland vs. the Netherlands: What’s the Difference?!

January 7, 2016

“Let’s go to Holland.”

“Oh, the Netherlands?”

“Well yeah because Holland is in the Netherlands.”

“Isn’t Holland also the Netherlands? The Dutch live there right? Why are they called Dutch if they’re from the Netherlands?”

It’s not new to know that people often use the names Holland and Netherlands interchangeably like United States to America (debates may ensue). However, using either words to describe one country isn’t technically correct. To give you a quick answer, just remember: Holland is a province and the Netherlands is the country.

Photo Credit: Paradiso's

Photo Credit: Paradiso’s

The Netherlands, if you’re not familiar with it, is a country in northwestern Europe known for its canals, tulips, windmills, chocolate sprinkles, and bicycles. What’s more to know about the Netherlands is its divisions. Its twelve provinces are: Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderlan, Groningen, Limburg, North Brabant, Overjissel, Utrecht, Zeeland, North Holland, and South Holland. Now you’ve seen the list of provinces and you may have noticed the last two: North Holland and South Holland.

Photo Credit: indigo_jones

Photo Credit: indigo_jones

North Holland and South Holland put together is the region of Holland which has always been the most important region in the country. This is the region where you’ll find the popular cities such as Amsterdam in North Holland, and The Hague and Rotterdam in South Holland. Since the 9th century, this region is the main location of major ports and centers of commerce and it continued to be so even when the Kingdom of Netherlands, or the Netherlands, was established in 1584. Foreigners were so used to the name Holland, that even the other provinces under the Netherlands were considered as part of Holland.

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And here comes the “Dutch” part. Most of the locals call the country “Nederland” and they prefer to be called as “Nederlanders” – not Dutch. Blame the birth of the term “Dutch” to the English who’ve used the word Dutch (from the Middle Dutch word diet meaning people) to describe people from the Netherlands and Germany. That’s not all. They even have the phrases “High Dutch” for the people living in the mountainous area of what is now southern Germany, and “Low Dutch” for those living in the flatland now known as  the Netherlands. Still confused?

To sum it all up, here’s a summary:

Holland is composed of North Holland and South Holland, the two out of the twelve provinces in the Netherlands. The people of the Netherlands refer to their country as “Nederland” and to themselves as “Nederlanders”. However in English, the language uses the term “Dutch” for the people of Netherlands.