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The Difference Between Holland and the Netherlands

August 28, 2012

Most people around the world have heard of both the Netherlands and Holland. If you were to ask them to describe either, undoubtedly their definition would probably be the same for each, something like… a small country in northwestern Europe famous for its windmills, dykes, tulips, wooden shoes, Gouda cheese and fondness of bicycles.  But in reality, Holland and The Netherlands refer to two different things.  

Even as a good student in geography, I admit that I too assumed they were one and the same. And to be honest,  growing up in the New York City area, I heard and learned the name Holland long before I became aware of the Netherlands. As many people know, New York was originally a Dutch settlement (New Amsterdam). There are numerous landmarks throughout New York with Dutch names as reminders. One of these is a tunnel which connects Manhattan island with Jersey City, New Jersey. Just about every traffic report I can remember as a child passenger in my parents’ car would mention the Holland Tunnel. Additionally, and coincidentally, the street directly in front of the elementary school I attended was named… Holland Avenue

And while there are many examples of New York area businesses, streets and even towns which have the term Holland in them, there are none I am aware of that use the name Netherlands. Wait! I take that back.  There is one theatre, formerly referred to as the Neil Simon Theatre, which was renamed several years ago to the Nederlander Theatre

But like many expats and international residents who move to this little European country with a long name, I soon learned that Holland and the Netherlands are not one and the same. The short and sweet of it is that one refers to a country, the other to a region in the country.

For a slightly more thorough definition, the difference between Holland and the Netherlands can be understood this way:

The Netherlands – a small, northwestern European country bordered by Belgium on the south, Germany on the east and the North Sea on the west and north. It has a population of roughly 16.7 million people and a land mass of 13,000 square miles (about 1.5 times larger than the state of New Jersey). Approximately 20% of the land is below sea level.

Holland – the name of a region in The Netherlands which historically and financially has always been the most important to the country. While it includes just two of the twelve Dutch provinces, it is home to almost 40% of the Dutch population. Major cities in Holland include Amsterdam, Haarlem and Amstelveen (in North Holland) and Rotterdam, The Hague, Gouda and Delft (in South Holland). North Holland is the second largest province in size, while South Holland is the most populated province with 3.6 million residents. While this may seem impressive,  it still means that more than 60% of the Dutch population ARE from The Netherlands, but ARE NOT from Holland.

Another interesting fact is that you don’t have to travel to Europe to visit the Kingdom of The Netherlands. You could do that while in the Caribbean. Yes, unfortunately that means there is also a difference between the terms The Netherlands and the Kingdom of The Netherlands

Kingdom of The Netherlands – a sovereign state and constitutional monarchy. The Kingdom of The Netherlands is made up of four countries: The Netherlands, Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten. The head of state is Queen Beatrix.

And just in case you wanted to top off that Trivial Pursuit knowledge, you can find more interesting tidbits about South Holland here, and The Netherlands here.




by H2H. Find out more about H2H here.

2 Responses to “The Difference Between Holland and the Netherlands”

  1. Holland is de Province, where most the harbours are located. Contact with countries over the sea, would in most have contact to people from that province. Province names are found on the papers of the cities the ships come from. Well known cities in the Province of Holland are Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Harlem.

    Historians always refer to the Low Countries, because the Low Countries is a decent translation of the Dutch word “Nederland”. “Nederig”- means low or humble, -”land” means land. The provinces have always been creating different lands. Belgium has even in the paste been the name of what in the article is referred to as The Netherlands. The provinces are now named Belgium and the Netherlands, but just after Napoleon Bonaparte died on the island of Helena, it was one country. In Fact, the Kingdom of the Netherlands has lost Belgium since around 1830.

    Nice and maybe even important information is that the division between North and South is some what historical, and that for a while the North was named The States, as the USA is sometimes as referred to today. The Dutch Senat has the Dutch name Staten Generaal, that translates into General States, while the Dutch Bible translation is names the States Translation. The States is what the first name was of the Netherlands. It seems some moved…

    The Dutch also refer to themselves as Hollanders, that is, we from Holland. Although live in several other provinces. Soccer supporters will not place “nederland”, but Holland every where. The Dutch Republic.

  2. That’s an interesting point you bring up about football (soccer) fans supporting the national team as Hollanders and not the term Nederlanders. I never noticed.

    Thanks for your comments.