If you watched the women’s World Cup this past weekend, or happen to have been thinking about gouda cheese or tulips or Northern European geography, the Netherlands is probably on your radar right now. But while the World Cup called it the Netherlands, then why is the government’s travel website…Holland.com? Why do people seem to use the terms interchangeably? Is there a difference between the two? Let’s get into it.
First things first: the country itself is called the Netherlands, and it’s part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Kingdom of the Netherlands was founded in 1579 as a union of various provinces and cities that resisted Spanish rule. One of those provinces—and in fact, the most dominant one—was Holland.
Now, the Netherlands is divided up into 12 provinces, two of which include North (Noord) Holland and South (Zuid) Holland. The most famous cities in the Netherlands—Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague—are all in the Hollands, which may be why people still get the two terms confused. People who live in the Hollands are called Hollanders, and people who live in the Netherlands (including the Hollands) are all called Dutch. Also: they speak Dutch, not Netherlandese or anything like that.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands also includes the islands Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maartin, all of which can be found in the Caribbean. (Sint Maartin is actually the southern half of the small island of Saint Martin—the northern half is French.) These three islands are self-governing countries within the Kingdom. The Caribbean islands Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, on the other hand, are not self-governing like their neighbors, and are instead just considered cities within the Netherlands itself. Their inhabitants are considered Dutch citizens and vote in Dutch elections, just like any Hollander would.