Dutch, The Netherlands or Holland?

As we have travelled for almost 7 months already, there are a few things that are the same, no matter in what country or continent you’re in. Coca-cola for instance, or a Big Mac. However, on a more personal note, there seems to be a global confusion about who we (the Dutch) really are. Off course, all Dutch are used to the fact that most Americans seem to think that Amsterdam is the capital of Denmark or the coast-line of Germany, and the word Dutch is often used in some non-flattering way (dutch treat, dutch oven). But, it’s beyond that. Even custom officials seem to be confused when we enter a country. We come from The Netherlands, but we also frequently use the term “Holland”. But than we write down “Dutch” as a nationality on our immigration form. The same goes for the language. Why is it called “Dutch” and not “Netherlands” or something similar? This much names for the same people and language is just a little bit too much for most non-Dutch.
So, in order to create some order amongst the chaos, I’ll try to explain. And because it’s mostly the non-Dutch that are confused (mostly, not always), I’ll try to explain in English as well.

Well now, let’s start with the easy part. Holland is a province within the country of The Netherlands. In fact, Holland doesn’t really exist. There is a North-Holland province and a South-Holland province. Both of which contain the majority of the people of The Netherlands. Speaking of which, The Netherlands consists of 12 provinces in total.

So why doe we still use Holland? Especially when it come to soccer? And although there must be a million scientifically correct reason’s, I must be honest: most likely it is because of the bad English pronunciation of most Dutch people. The ‘th’ in The Netherlands is too difficult to pronounce for some, so they use Holland in stead. It’s shorter, and more easy to shout when you’re standing in a stadium filling yourself up with beer because your country is losing the World Cup Final….again.

Then, there is the Dutch thing. That has to do with our language, which existed a few centuries before our country came into being. People in this region started speaking a different language than the at that point popular Frankisch (of which German evolved). And they called the language Dutch, which is similar to Dietz (old German). So in short, our language and people were called Dutch before our country officially became The Netherlands.

So, there are multiple names for the same people from one country. And they use a different name for their language and nationality. And we’re not sorry about it to be honest. It even comes in handy at some point. While on Sabah, we stayed with a local familiy in their ramshackled house. It was a lot of fun, and when asked which country we are from, our host felt relieved. Minutes before that, he was telling us about a local species of monkey, which is called: The Dutch Monkey. Apparantly, the animal bares some resemblence to the Dutch colonists and therefor locals have given it this famous nickname.

Labuk Bay Proboscis monkey sanctuary

I don’t see why to be honest 😉  Anyway, our host was happy we were from the Netherlands, not from the Dutch. Off course, we did not really feel the urge to give the man a lecture on Dutch history.

And although genetically mankind has more resemblence to the Chimpansee, the’re is only one monkey that bears a stunning resemblance to us, whether Dutch or non-Dutch. It is even called ‘man of the forest’ in the local language. But most people know it as the Orang Utan. Having seen a huge bunch of all kinds of monkeys in Africa, including Chimps, I admit I was a little blasé about it beforehand. But when riding a boat through the wild jungle or even walking around in the sanctuary in Sepilok, seeing them from up close and personal is quite the experience. It is something really, really impressive. It’s just like looking in the eyes of one of our ancestors. It even made me think of some of my friends and old colleagues, or is that just me?

Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre