Europe, Netherlands, Travellers

Netherlands vs Holland: The Dutch unravelled

When travelling abroad, I have heard the most unbelievable things about my country, the Netherlands. Ranging from “Neverland is not a real country, it’s from Peter Pan…” to “I heard about this country that is below the sea level. Like Atlantis!”, there is a lot of confusion around the Netherlands. Therefore,  I believe it is time for a little geography lesson. Because does anyone know the difference between the Netherlands and Holland? What is the name of the language we speak? What do you call an inhabitant of the Netherlands? And also, isn’t Amsterdam a country? No, listen up. Let’s start with the most important one: Amsterdam vs The Netherlands vs Holland.

Netherlands vs Holland vs AMSTERDAM

Let’s start with the first misconception. Amsterdam is the capital city of a country we call the Netherlands. You can find the city of Amsterdam in a province called North-Holland. You might know Amsterdam’s rival city, Rotterdam. Rotterdam is in the province South-Holland. Besides these two provinces, the Netherlands consists of ten more. So saying that you are going to “Holland” is about as meaningful as saying you are travelling to Brandenburg when you are visiting Berlin in Germany. 

The Netherlands vs Holland. What is the difference between the Netherlands and Holland?
The Netherlands consist of twelve provinces. Two of them are North and South Holland. “Holland” therefore only refers to two provinces, rather than the country as a whole.

Netherlands vs Holland vs DUTCH

The language we speak in the Netherlands is called Dutch. Do not confuse this with “Deutsch”, which means “German” in German. To make things a little easier, we also call the inhabitants of the Netherlands Dutch. Thus, I am Dutch, I speak Dutch, and I live in the Netherlands. There you go . Easy, right?

Nederlands or Dutch according to Hashtag Explorers
The Dutch are known for all of the above (do you know what they mean?)

Netherlands vs Holland: Dutchies’ word for Dutch in Dutch

“So why did the Dutch come up with so many different words for their country, language, people, etc?” is a question people ask me many times when I go abroad. Well, we didn’t. It is the English that made it difficult. In Dutch, the country is called “Nederland”, the language is “Nederlands” and the people are “Nederlanders”. So the real question is why the English made everything so damn complicated. 

The outback of the Netherlands really is this pretty

Netherlands vs Holland: Neverland or Atlantis?

I probably wouldn’t believe this if I had not heard them myself, but there are actually people that confuse the Netherlands with Neverland (maybe Joey from Friends had something to do with this…). Long story short: Neverland is a fictional island in the Peter Pan series, the Netherlands is an actual country. And this real country is under sea level. Which brings me to the next mythical place we get confused with.

I might have to blame the Neverland-association on Friends

During my exchange in Singapore, I met a guy from Taiwan who had heard about “this country that is under sea level. Like Atlantis!”. I swear I am not joking. Just like Neverland, Atlantis is a fictional island that is said to be under water. Even though about a third of the Netherlands is under sea level (including where I live), this doesn’t mean we actually live underwater. We have extensive flood control measures taken, and therefore we have dikes, dams, floodgates, and even a storm surge barrier. Check out the Delta Works next time you’re in the Netherlands!

Atlantis Hashtag Explorers
This is what you will not find in the Netherlands

Netherlands vs Holland: Drugs myths unravelled

The very last topic I want to touch upon are drugs. As you probably all know, drugs are tolerated in the Netherlands. I need to stress that this doesn’t mean that drugs are legal. Instead, we have a policy of tolerance regarding soft drugsSoft drugs are for instance hash and weed. Not tolerated are hard drugs, such as cocaine, amfetamine, xtc or heroine.

While on White Beach in Boracay, the Philippines, I overheard an American tourist preaching his ‘wisdom’ about drugs policies in the Netherlands to a group of unknowing tourists. He claimed that drugs were legal only in Amsterdam, but not in the rest of the country. Let me assure you that this is not true. First of all, as I just explained, (soft) drugs are not legal, but tolerated. But more importantly, the same rules apply in the whole country. You can find a coffeeshop in even the smallest of cities, so you do not need to go to Amsterdam for this. 

Coffeeshop Bulldog in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Now we have all of this confusion out of the way, I hope you will all come and visit my country sometime. Because the Netherlands vs Holland, whatever you call it, it is a beautiful country. Or if you don’t want to visit the Netherlands, you might want to make your way down to the capital city of Spain, Madrid. Read my tips for your visit to Madrid here.

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Melissa is the founder of Hashtag Explorers. She is a Dutch, chocolate loving, book reading, enthusiastic, and open-minded world traveller. Melissa enjoys her time researching new travel destinations or learning new languages. Her strong desire to experience new cultures and meet new people has led to creating #Explorers. If you cannot find her in The Hague, where she is working as a Marketeer, she is probably exploring the rest of the world, where she is reliving memories from the times she lived in Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Singapore, and Malta.