I'm from the Netherlands. English has taught me to say "I'm Dutch". But through many travels I've noticed that non-native English speakers confuse this with "Deutsch", which is German for, well, German. Perhaps those people are more familiar with the German language, where my nationality would be "Niederländisch". In my passport, my nationality is "Nederlands".

I really think the English have messed this up, somehow:

Language: English Dutch German
Country Netherlands Nederland Niederlande
Nationality Dutch Nederlands Niederländisch
Country Germany Duitsland Deutschland
Nationality German Duits Deutsch

I don't quite understand how we became the Dutch. And in fact, the Netherlands is a small country which is not known in all the corners of the world. I've even met a number of people that don't know Amsterdam (famous) is the capital of the Netherlands (not so famous) Let alone such a country exists. Therefore I think this is the source of misunderstanding when I say "I'm Dutch".

For all clarity I would like to refer to my nationality to be "Netherlands", which closely resembles the one from my passport: "Nederlands". So my question: would that be a very strange thing to do?

I'm asking in relation to writing a CV for application to remote jobs, where I'm unsure of the nationality and world-knowledge of the receiving party.


1 Answer 1


The names for Germans and Germanic peoples is a bit of a mess. The word Dutch is from Low German and in the Middle ages referred to all of those people in what is now Northern Germany, Flanders, and the Netherlands. With changing national identities the word "Dutch" came to be used for the language spoken in the Netherlands, and by extension for the people living there. (While at the the same time, the word "Holland" came to be used in Britain as the informal name of the country)

Yes this is messed up. (But then look at the words for German in French, Russian and Finnish and you'll see that English is not the only language that has difficulty with naming the German peoples)

As for your situation, remember language serves to communicate. If you are better understood by saying "I'm from the Netherlands" instead of "I'm Dutch" then that's fine.

As an adjective, you could have "Netherlandish". It isn't common and "Dutch" is the preferred term. But if this gets you out of having to say "I'm Dutch, but Dutch from the Netherlands, not Deutch" hundreds of times it is allowed.

In a CV:

Nationality: Netherlands

You are just naming the country to which you are a citizen, not talking about national identity. Just as I would put "United Kingdom", rather than English or British.

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