The other day, a reader left a comment saying that, while they enjoyed the blog, they had issue with the blog title. "My country is called The Netherlands," they said. "Holland doesn't exist."
This certainly peaked my curiosity as I have heard many a Dutchperson refer to this country as 'Holland.' So I decided to do some digging around.
The Netherlands is the official name for this tiny European country. But, as it was explained to me by a few of the Dutch I questioned, although they use the name Nederland to refer to their country in their native language, they more often than not chose to refer to it as 'Holland' as soon as they switch to English.
Why? To avoid merry-go-round conversations like this:
"So, where are you from?"
"The Netherlands? Never heard of it. Where's that?"
"Oh! Ok, I know Holland!"
The sad truth is that, outside of the Netherlands, the country is best known as Holland.
Even the official tourism site known as Lekkerweg.nl uses the domain Holland.com for the global version of the site.
"Discover traditional Holland," the site reads. "This is the official website of Holland, where you can find all the information so you can get to know our country a little better."
If you peruse other tongues, you'll notice that their names for the official language of the Netherlands all have some form of the word 'Holland' as their stems: hollandais in French, holländisch in German, olandese in Italian, holandês in Portuguese, and holandés in Spanish.
Each of these languages also has two names for the country: one being a translation of Low Country or Low Lands and the other being a translation of Holland.
And what about the chant "Hup, Holland, Hup" ("Go, Holland, Go") used so frequently by the Dutch at sporting events?
Or the snazzy new "Holland editie" ("Holland edition") M&M bags in honor of the upcoming World Cup games?
Of course I can't forget the television show "Ik Hou van Holland" ("I Love Holland"), where famous Dutch take part in a trivia game including questions on Dutch culture and Dutch language.
Does Holland exist?
Technically, yes. It refers to the region divided between the provinces of North and South Holland right here in the Netherlands. Here's an interesting blurb from Wikipedia:
"Holland is a name in common usage given to a region in the western part of the Netherlands. Moreover, the term Holland is frequently used to refer to the whole of the Netherlands. This usage is unofficial and ambiguous but generally accepted. From the 10th century to the 16th century Holland proper was a unified political region, a county ruled by the Count of Holland. By the 17th century, Holland had risen to become a maritime and economic power, dominating the other provinces of the Dutch Republic. Today, the former County of Holland consists of the two Dutch provinces of North Holland and South Holland, which together include the Netherlands' three largest cities: country capital Amsterdam, seat of government, The Hague, and Rotterdam, home of Europe's largest port."Whew, what a confusing debate! Then it hit me. Perhaps it's a bit far fetched, but here goes...
It's not just a Dutch issue.
People call me American and say that I come from America. But, in fact, I come from the United States of America.
Just like Holland is only a part of the Netherlands, the United States are only a part of America. As is Canada and Argentina, and Brazil and all the other countries in South America. (North) America is the continent that I come from, not the country.
Now, that's if you want to get picky.
(Update: Just found this article on Expat Daily News' Central America blog. Talk about relevant!)
So which is it?
In short, I have no answers. This topic will always remain an enigma, feel about it as you may. Certainly people have their opinions and preferences.
As for me, I prefer to call it The Netherlands.
So why have I titled my blog Clogs and Tulips: An American in Holland, you ask? For no other reason than it's catchier and easier to write than Clogs and Tulips: An American in The Netherlands. That's me alright, just another lazy United Statesian.
Which name do you use to refer to the Lowlands? How do you feel about the debate? Do you have any insights to add? If you are Dutch, does it upset you to hear people refer to the Netherlands as Holland or the Lowlands? What name do you use for your country outside of the Netherlands?