The Netherlands, Holland, the Dutch. What’s the Difference?

It’s confusing, even for us natives. Do we live in the Netherlands, or in Holland? Are we Dutchmen, Hollanders, or Netherlanders? And all those Antillean islands that are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, what’s that about? This superfast video explains it all.

Some might remember the Seinfeld episode “The Butter Shave” in which Jerry and George ask similar questions:

George: “What is Holland?”
Jerry: “What do you mean, what is it? It’s a country, right next to Belgium.”
George: “No, that’s the Netherlands.”
Jerry: “Holland is the Netherlands.”
George [irritated]: “Then who are the Dutch?”

Confusing indeed. The Netherlands, Holland, The Dutch – what’s the difference? YouTube video creator C.G.P. Grey took a swing at it, and came up with the following explanation:

“The correct name for this tulip growing, windmill building, hagelslag eating, containership moving, ocean conquering nation, is the Netherlands. But confusion is understandable. The general region had been renamed a lot over a thousand years, including as the Dutch Republic, the United States of Belgium, and the Kingdom of Holland. But it’s not just history that makes this country’s name confusing.”

Two of the twelve provinces in the Netherlands cause trouble: North Holland and South Holland.

“These provinces make calling the Netherlands Holland like calling the United States Dakota. Though, unlike the Dakotas, the two Hollands are the most populated provinces, and have some of the biggest attractions, like Amsterdam and Keukenhof. Chances are, if it’s Dutch and you’ve heard of it, it’s in one of the Hollands. Even the government’s travel website for the country is, officially because it sounds friendlier, but unofficially it’s probably what people are actually searching for [on Google].”

(Now you also know why Isle of Holland is called Isle of Holland, and not Isle of the Netherlands: because it sounds friendlier…)

According to C.G.P. Grey, the confusion boils down to a simple conclusion:

“This country is called the Netherlands, its people are Dutch, and they speak Dutch. There is no country called Holland, but there are provinces of North and South Holland.”

After this, Grey explains what status the Antillean islands of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba have in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It sure makes your head spin, but in the end it’s all crystal clear. Or is it?


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