Where Is the Netherlands, and Why Does This Country Confuse so Many Of Us?

Where Is the Netherlands, and Why Does This Country Confuse so Many Of Us?

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When I met my Dutch partner almost four years ago, I had never heard of the Netherlands. All I heard about was Holland and Amsterdam. I am not alone in this thinking. When I visit other countries, even in Europe, saying that I live in the Netherlands confuses the hell out of people. I’ve even resorted to saying that I live in Holland, to make it easier for people. But I don’t, I live in Noord Brabant. So why does the name of this country confuse so many of us and where in the world is it?

Where Is the Netherlands?

The Netherlands is a country in the European Union. Its neighbors are Germany and Belgium. Countries the majority of us know and don’t get confused by. I mean, duh, bratwurst is from Germany and Belgium is famous for its chocolate. Then what happened to the Netherlands? It’s also famous for a lot of things, but not by the Netherlands name. Tulips, windmills, and bicycles are some of the most famous items the Netherlands is known for. Wait, I meant Holland, oops.

What Language Is Spoken in the Netherlands?

Sometimes I get asked if I speak Deutsch. No, I don’t. Because Deutsch is Germany. I have even been asked if I speak Danish. Not really sure where people get that idea from. Danish is the language spoken in Denmark. The most common language that is spoken in Amsterdam, Holland, and the Netherlands is Dutch. In the Dutch language, the word Dutch translates to “Nederlands.” I am learning to speak the language spoken here, which is called Dutch in English or Nederlands in Dutch. Confusing, huh.

Famous Dutch Things

Here is one of the biggest but not well-known Dutch companies: Unilever. If you have never heard of Unilever, think again. Ben & Jerry’s, Dawn, Hellmann’s, Vaseline, Skippy, Lipton, TRESemme, and VO5 are all owned by Unilever. The list goes on and on. The next time you think this commonly confused country isn’t that important, check out your WiFi. Yep, WiFi was was brought to the world by a Dutch guy, Victor Hayes.

Pennsylvania Dutch Misunderstanding

I am about to confuse you a bit more. In the United States of America, there is a community spread out throughout the country called the Amish. They originally come from Germany and Switzerland. They often live off the grid with no modern technologies like cars or electricity. Can you guess the language they speak? If you guessed Pennsylvania Dutch, you are correct. But wait, they aren’t from the Netherlands so why do they speak Dutch? They don’t. A long time ago, someone misinterpreted the word Deutsch, which means German. They started calling the language the Amish spoke: Dutch. The correct word for the Amish language is Deutsch.

The story of the Amish language isn’t special. This happens a lot. The Netherlands is a country. Holland is a province in the country of the Netherlands. The capital of the province of North Holland is Haarlem.

What Makes up the Netherlands?

The Netherlands mainland is made up of 12 provinces: Zeeland, South Holland, Limburg, Friesland, North Brabant, North Holland, Gelderland, Drenthe, Overijssel, Flevoland, Groningen and Utrecht.

Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. Each province has a capital. The Netherlands also has six islands in the Caribbean: Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius.

Holland Is the Country’s Original Name

One of the reasons why the name Holland is so commonly known is because the country was originally called Holland. As the years went by, so did the wars. This country called Holland eventually gained a lot more land and was renamed, the Netherlands. The full name for this country is actually called The Kingdom of the Netherlands. We have a monarchy, but the monarchs don’t have much power nowadays. They are usually just used to negotiate deals because many countries still find great importance in a monarchy. They also have other duties.

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The featured photo was taken by Natália Korányi.

What shocked you most about this post?

15 thoughts on “Where Is the Netherlands, and Why Does This Country Confuse so Many Of Us?

  1. Holland is a province in the country of the Netherlands. Partly correct.. there is no province “Holland” ! 😉
    Two provinces North- and South-Holland!

  2. And what about Frysk? You said that the language spoken in Amsterdam, Holland and the Netherlands is Dutch, but that’s not 100% correct. Frysk is what we speak in the north (ten minste Friesians). The reason why you might get asked often if you speak or understand Danish if that Frysk has some danish in it as that it is comprised of Dutch, English, German and Danish.

    A little research won’t hurt you.

      1. So that makes it ok to inform people incorrectly about my country? If you want to inform people, do it the right way please!

      2. Please realize, no matter how many people here speak it, Frisian is an official dialect of this country.

  3. The Netherlands “Owns” four islands? That doesn’t sound strange to you? There are actually 6 islands that make up the kingdom of the Netherlands. You forgot Sint Eustatius and Saba. Please change that wording because Colonial times are over.

  4. When you think of famous Dutch things.. you don’t even think of Heineken, Phillips or Shell?

    Not sure I would call those things but you know companies.. and Unilever just buys out the original company..

    And never in my life have I been asked if I spoke Danish..

  5. You write all your blog posts as if they are facts. Just because you only heard of the Netherlands 4 years ago doesn’t mean that’s the case for everyone. For someone that proclaims to be a writer, it would be prudent of you to do some more research and speak from your POV.

    Where do you get your information that very few people speak Frisian, any more? Simply not true.

    Also now that you know it’s the Netherlands why don’t you educate other people instead of continuing to call it Holland? Your average Dutch person doesn’t call it Holland…

    Keep in mind you live in a small town in the country and that colors a majority of your experiences.

    If you’re going to continue to write these blogs I would really encourage you to tell the reader about YOUR experience instead of lumping everyone and everything into one.

  6. Really, Holland is the country’s original name? It is obvious your not a historian. You could just as well say that Gelre is it’s original name, or Brabant. The Netherlands is a country with a long history, lots of wars, inherantances, royal marriages etc. kept dividing, altering, adding, losing, changing the regions, and borders that belonged to what you might call the Netherlands now. And yes Holland is an old name found in its history but the call Holland the original name for the Netherlands is throwing centuries of history away.

  7. Wow. Instead of these seemingly native inhabitants of the Kingdom of the Netherlands being supportive and kind by using a friendly, polite and welcoming tone with a foreigner who is merely trying to acclimate to their new surroundings while trying to correct you on minutiae, they are being incredibly rude! You would think ANY positive exposure of a country that is so far off the main path would be appreciated, but no. I have visited the Netherlands and can tell you that they, as a people, don’t treat outsiders very well at all. For a populace who claims to be highly educated, they would be wise to attempt to improve their EQ (emotional quotient) for even the most intelligent man will not be well received if they do not know how to deal with people without offending. The Dutch are well know around the world for being direct and brutally rude. I feel so very sorry for you to have to live among such uncivilized people. I enjoyed your article wherein you never did claim yo be an authority on all things Dutch. You tried and you speak fondly of your new home. I’m sorry you are being treated poorly. There is no excuse for that. Keep writing and ignore people full of criticism and hate. You meant well and that is obvious to anyone. It’s fine to point out inaccuracies and you were gracious in your acceptance of feedback, but the delivery of your detractors leaves much yo be desired. You can always do further research but a jerk will always remain a jerk. Have a wonderful day!

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