Posts Tagged ‘the Netherlands’

Dutch dilemma? It’s all in a name

March 16, 2009
Wessel is a citizen of the Netherlands

All Dutch citizens carry passports from “the Netherlands,” not “Holland”

Don’t mention Holland to my Dutch family unless you mean it or you’ll get this smarty-pants answer:  I’m not from Holland.

Wait, how can a Dutch citizen not be from Holland?

Because the Netherlands has an identity crisis.

Yes, the country is officially, legally, and historically named the Netherlands. Or, in Dutch, Nederland, as in “low country.” Hence the NL country abbreviation you see on car stickers. The country is bordered by Belgium, Germany, and the North Sea. To the west, across the water, is England. (And, for the record, the Netherlands is not part of Scandinavia, as some people mistakenly think.)

So what’s with the name Holland?

Well, two things, one official and one not. 
The provinces of North and South Holland are in the west of the Netherlands

The provinces of North and South Holland are in the west of the Netherlands

The Netherlands has 12 provinces. Two of those are North Holland and South Holland on the west coast. Until 1840, they were one province, called Holland. Their residents were, and still are, Hollanders. The country’s largest and most well-known cities are in Holland — Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague.

So, Holland has always been the most powerful and populated part of the Netherlands. But it’s only a part of the country. (This conundrum has similarities with the whole United Kingdom / England / Great Britain thing, which we won’t even get into here, will we?)

Dutch guilder that was in use before introduction of the euro in 2002

Dutch guilder that was in use before introduction of the euro in 2002

As you can guess, my Dutch family members are not from those provinces, therefore they’re not from the official Holland. They’re from the province of Drenthe, in the northeast, which is more rural and has the country’s lowest population density. (Americans, think Nebraska with canals.)

Holland is used as the commercial name for The Netherlands

Much to the Koks’ dismay, “Holland” is used on most Dutch souvenirs

Making matters even worse for them, the name Holland has, unofficially, been used interchangeably with the Netherlands for many years now. Many Dutch people from all provinces say they’re from Holland. Even the country’s tourism website, run by The Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions, is called Holland.com. Personally, I’ve met several non-Hollanders who refer to their country as Holland.

So, while my famiy’s provincial sensitivity is understandable, I do think they’re fighting a losing battle, and one that does not appear to have all that many soldiers these days. But, as a family member through marriage, I feel compelled to join in and fight the good fight, too. I hereby dedicate this blog post to the Familie Kok and their fellow non-Hollanders. Lang Leve Nederland!

Tiptoe through the tulips with us

February 13, 2009
Dutch tulip fields nearby the Keukenhof in the Netherlands

Tulip fields nearby the famed Keukenhof display garden, south of Amsterdam

Why buy roses when you can have tulips? I love wild roses and garden roses, but the kind sold in stores leave me wanting … for tulips. So when you’re shopping for your sweetie for Valentine’s Day, consider the tulip, the best Dutch treat on the planet. I’ve long admired tulips, but now that I’m in a half-Dutch household, it’s our official flower.

Flowers are cut for preservation of the tulip bulbs

Most Dutch tulip farmers cut the blooms in order to later export the bulbs

Here’s a short history. The tulip was originally a wild flower, growing in Central Asia, and first cultivated by the Turks as early as 1000 AD. It was introduced in Western Europe and the Netherlands in the 17th century by Carolus Clusius, a biologist from Vienna. He became director of the Hortus Botanicusthe oldest botanical garden in Europe, one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe, at the University of Leiden, where, incidentally, I studied Dutch in 2005. (Notice I didn’t say I learned it.) His plantings marked the beginning of the incredible tulip bulb fields still famous in Holland today. If you’ve never seen them, add that to your life list.

200902_21_tulips

This year's Valentine's tulips

In case you were wondering, the word tulip comes from the Turkish word for turban. The Dutch word is tulp and the plural is tulpen. (Wow, I remembered!)

Wessel and I bought our Valentine’s tulips today. Orange, the Dutch national color. What color did you get?