As someone living in the Netherlands for nearly three years, I often say that I live in Holland when asked where I live. You might be wondering what is the difference between Holland and the Netherlands. (Will the real country please stand up?) Some people actually ask me how many countries exist in Holland or the Netherlands. You’re about to get schooled in all things that you need to know about Holland before your trip to the Netherlands, so you don’t sound silly.
I’m writing this post as someone who is deeply frustrated by explaining to people the difference between Holland and the Netherlands and as someone who routinely writes about travel in Holland (and the Netherlands more generally). I get a lot of questions about this, so I figured it was time to set the record straight. I realize that a lot of Dutchies say that they’re from Holland, but it’s often due to the fact that it’s tiring to explain the difference and everyone knows Holland.
The difference between Holland and the Netherlands
So, people have asked me how many countries are in the Netherlands. There’s only one country in the Netherlands: the Netherlands. Holland is not a country, but a region of the Netherlands that is made up of two provinces where most of the population of the Netherlands lives. (Provinces are similar to counties.) The Netherlands is made of twelve provinces and the ones specific to Holland are Noord Holland and Zuid Holland. Each province has their own form of government and aid in maintaining regional infrastructure, helping encourage investments in the region, etc.
Here’s a map showing you where Holland is located within the Netherlands. Find Amsterdam and the Hague to locate Holland….
I live in the Hague and I used to live in Amsterdam, which are both part of Holland. That said, I will say that I’m living in Holland as I’ve lived in both the Noord Holland (North Holland) and Zuid Holland (South Holland) provinces. Someone who lives in Maastricht (in Limburg) would not be living in Holland. (I should mention that not all Dutchies are sticklers about this difference and sometimes will say Holland just to make things easy as they think that people can’t locate their hometown.) I’ve met quite a few people from the eastern part of the Netherlands who do not appreciate when people ask them if they’re from Holland.
Side note: I absolutely love exploring the beautiful cities in Holland. You’ll find so many charming cities in Holland. My favorites include Haarlem, Leiden, Amsterdam (of course), Delft, and The Hague! Outside of Holland, you’ll also find a lot of beautiful Dutch cities, including Maastricht, Sneek, and Breda.
Why is Holland used more than the Netherlands?!
Over 17 million people live in the Netherlands (as of 2017), however over six million of these people live in Zuid and Noord Holland. Given that nearly 35% of the the Netherlands lives in the provinces that compose Holland, you can imagine that the likelihood that you meet someone from Holland abroad is pretty high.
Similarly, Amsterdam is in Holland. Amsterdam has been the economic hub of the Netherlands, so Holland tends to be well known as many of the most famous Dutch exports come from Holland, including Gouda cheese, Edam cheese, and tulips.
What do you call someone from Holland and the Netherlands?
Actually, in Dutch (and in English), you’d call someone from Holland a Hollander. This only applies to people from Noord Holland and Zuid Holland. Someone from the Netherlands is called Dutch although you’d say in Dutch Nederlander. That fact that we call people from the Netherlands Dutch in English has historical roots. Dutch shares a linguistic past with Germany, so English speakers used to group them together using the word for “nation” in old English.
That said, some groups in the Netherlands will typically identify themselves first as from a specific province. For instance, we met a couple from Friesland (up in the North of the Netherlands) who identified as Frisian. Friesland has historically had a distinct culture identity and language although it’s part of the Netherlands.
I hope that this little mini article clarified the difference between Holland and the Netherlands, so you know which one to use!
[learn_more caption=”Inspired to visit Holland?” state=”open”] Click for tips on the best cities to visit in the Netherlands