the Netherlands? Holland? Dutch?


The Kingdom of The Netherlands signifies to four countries:
The Netherlands are by far the largest in surface and population in Europe. In Dutch: ‘Nederland’, means: ‘low country’, which makes sense, since one third of the country is below sea level.

The other three countries are the Caribbean sovereign island states Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten. Since 2010 the Caribbean islands Saba, Sint Eustatius and Bonaire are so called ‘special municipalities’, officially called ‘public bodies of the Netherlands’. Being outside of Europe, they are considered as part of the European Netherlands. 

Nederland, the European part of the kingdom, consists of 12 provinces. Two important provinces are: Noord Holland and Zuid Holland, North and South Holland. These two provinces are generally more urbanized than the other provinces. 6,5 million of the 17 million inhabitants of The Netherlands live here. This is where the economic heart of the country beats. Features in these two provinces are:

  • The largest port in Europe in Rotterdam;
  • An important airport hub in Amsterdam;
  • The government seat in The Hague;
  • A lot of industry.

This is not new. Already by the 17th century, Holland became a global maritime and economic power, dominating the other provinces of the Dutch Republic of those days. This is why the name Holland is frequently used to refer to the whole of the country of the Netherlands, not just by aliens, but also by the Dutch.

Only in English we call the Dutch people and language Dutch. Neighboring European languages refer to the name of the country Nederland / Holland to indicate the language (niederländisch in German and néerlandais in French) or the Dutchmen (Holländer in German, Hollandais in French).

The English term Dutch historically comes from the word Nederduits or Niederdeutsch (‘low country German’). The inhabitants of a big area between the North Sea and the Baltic coast, originally spoke various branches of the same language. Today there is a sharp linguistic divide between Dutch and German, coincident with the administrative border between both countries.

Today the Dutch and Germans use the terms ‘Nederlands’ and ‘Duits’ (in Dutch) and ‘niederländisch’ and ‘deutsch’ (in German) to refer to both languages and nationalities.

Apart from Dutch, there is another officially recognized language in The Netherlands. The main language (besides Dutch) in the Northern province of Fryslan is Frisian. Frisian is very different from Dutch and is not only used in informal situations, but also part of the school curriculums and used in democratic bodies, newspapers and regional public service broadcasters, literature etc.

Dutch is also the main language of the Northern part of Belgium, but the Dutch language area is still relatively small in comparison with e.g. English. However, there are many dialects throughout both countries, that are so different that people who live less than an hour drive from each other may have difficulties to understand the mutual dialects. But the dialect of the two Holland provinces is ‘the king's Dutch’ that everybody is supposed to understand.

Constitutional monarchy with a house of representatives (150) and a senate (75).

The monarch (King Willem-Alexander) is the head of state, but has only a ceremonial function. The prime minister is the head of the government.

General elections:
House of representatives (every four years, or earlier in the event of a government fall).
Provinces (every six years). Provincial representatives designate the members of the senate.
City councils (every four years).

The Hague is the seat of the national government, but Amsterdam is the capital.

17 million.
Official languages: Dutch, Frisian. Paiamento, English.
Official religion: none
+ 55,1% secular
+ 23,7% roman katholic
+ 10,2% protestant,
+ 5% islamic,
+ 6% others
Urban/rural population: urban: 90%, rural 10%
Life expectancy at birth: male: 80, female: 83 years
GNI per capita: 40.000 euro / 49,000 USD

Compulsory health insurance for everyone of approx. 100 euro monthly. Government allowance to the insurance premium for people with low incomes.

Longest distance within the country 440 KM = 274 Miles.
Highest point (near German border): 322 m = 1056 ft above sea level.
Lowest point (close to Rotterdam): 6,76 m = 23 ft below sea level.
One third of the country is below the sea level. The area`s with the most dense population and of the highest economic importance are mainly below sea level.

Local and national water authorities take care of:
The maintenance of 725 km = 450 miles coast line;
The riversides of the Rhine and Muese that carry water from Germany and France to the low lands;
Numerous large and small bridges over which the roads and railways pass;
A huge waterway network with locks, dams, giant storm and surge barriers and dams like the 30 km = 19 mile long ‘Afsluitdijk’, that was completed in 1932 to close the Zuiderzee (now IJsselmeer) from the North Sea.
Tax payers in the Netherlands contribute to these costly works with an annual ‘water authority tax assessment’.