13 August 2012

I Thought You Lived in Belgium?

When I first interviewed for my current job I thought it was in Belgium.  Even after it was offered I still wasn't clear on where I was going.  So I told people I was moving to Belgium.  Then I found out I was going to the Netherlands.  Many people still ask me how Belgium is.  I live in the Netherlands. Belgium is about 15 min away (but not as close as Germany which is 2.2 miles from my house).

People also ask me if Belgium and Holland make up the Netherlands. Or, what's the difference between the Netherlands and Holland.  Or, why does the country have two different names.  And who are the Dutch? To clear it all (well, some of it) up...

Belgium and the Netherlands are two different countries.  The Netherlands (Nederland is what the country is called in Dutch (Dutch, in Dutch, is Nederlands)) is commonly referred to as Holland.  There are two particular provinces (out of 12) in the Netherlands, North Holland and South Holland, each having a major shipping port (Amsterdam and Rotterdam, respectively).  Prior to joining up as a single kingdom (the Kingdom of the Netherlands...yes, there's a Queen here), sailors from one of these provinces would say they were from Holland.  Being lazy, as we tend to be, Holland is just easier than Netherlands.  Even Nederlanders (what the Dutch call themselves) call the country Holland sometimes.  Nederland means "the low lands."  Much of the country lies below sea level.  That's a topic for another post.

As for why we call the inhabitants of the Netherlands and their language Dutch...per Wikipedia...
Historically, the English did not distinguish inhabitants of the Low Countries by 'nationality'. In the 15th and the first half of the 16th century, all persons from Germanic lands were called Flemings, Theotonici, Doch, or sometimes Germani. In the second half of the 16th century, all Germanic speakers or inhabitants of the Holy Roman Empire were called Dutch or Douch.

To recap:
  • The country is Nederland (sometimes referred to as Holland).
  • The people are Nederlanders (sometimes referred to as Hollanders).
  • The language is Nederlands  (sometimes referred to as Hollands).
  • I do not live in Belgium. Belgium is not part of the Netherlands.  Half of Belgium does, however, speak Nederlands (which they refer to as Vlaams and is known in English as Flemish).

Any questions?


1 comment:

  1. We have Dutch family friends and I remember being so confused bu this when I was about ten until he explained 'Holland' is more like a nickname, like the way we sometimes call America 'the states'.

    But recently I was reading an article about the town of Baarle-Hertog which is in Belgium where the border has kind of gone a bit crazy mixed up with Baarle-Nassau .. have you been there?
    It all got confusing to even read but it's basically to do with enclaves inside each other and it's so messy that the border literally runs in the middle of homes and restaurants. could you imagine being like 'oh my kitchen is in Belgium but by bathrooms in The Netherlands' ..so maybe those people who ask if they are one or the same aren't as crazy as they seem!!