When you think of Scandinavia, what comes to mind? Fjords and mountains? Viking ships and blonde hair? What about windmills and tulips?
…wait a minute, are we talking about the same place?
Well, it might come as a surprise to some, but the answer to whether the Netherlands is part of Scandinavia is not as straightforward as you might think.
In this article, I’ll delve into the fascinating debate of whether the Netherlands should be considered a part of Scandinavia or not. I’ll take a look at the geographical, cultural and historical differences between the two regions and explore the similarities that make them so often linked together.
From Viking ships to windmills and tulips, get ready for a journey through northern (or is it western?) Europe!
Table of Contents
Is the Netherlands part of Scandinavia?
No, the Netherlands isn’t part of Scandinavia. While the Netherlands is often grouped together with the Scandinavian countries, it is not technically considered to be part of Scandinavia from a geographical perspective, despite certain cultural and linguistic similarities and historical and political ties.
You can see why people would be confused about this. After all, the Netherlands is very close to Denmark, which is definitely part of Scandinavia. The tall, often fair Dutch also look pretty similar to the equally tall and equally often fair Scandinavians.
Nevertheless, you can’t say that the Netherlands is part of Scandinavia. In fact, there’s even debate as to whether Iceland or Finland are Scandinavian, so with those clearly Nordic countries being under a question mark, the Dutch definitely don’t make the cut.
You may also be interested in: Denmark vs Finland: Which Is Better to Visit (or Live In)?
Why is the Netherlands not Scandinavian?
The main reason the Netherlands isn’t considered to be part of Scandinavia is its location in Western Europe. While the Scandinavian countries are located in Northern Europe, the Netherlands is located in the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt rivers in the west of the European continent.
Don’t get me wrong, the Netherlands is still relatively far north. In fact, Copenhagen is only three degrees of latitude further north than Amsterdam.
However, the Netherlands doesn’t share a land border with any Scandinavian countries and is far more commonly grouped with the Benelux group of countries: Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Is Holland part of Scandinavia?
No, Holland is not considered part of Scandinavia, much like the rest of the Netherlands. North and South Holland are regions within the Netherlands that include Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam and nowhere in the Holland region meets any separate criteria to qualify as Scandinavian.
As mentioned, Scandinavia is traditionally made up of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. The Netherlands is located in Western Europe, with North and South Holland being some of the most westerly regions in the country.
While Holland and the other parts of the Netherlands may share some similarities with the other Scandinavian countries such as in terms of lifestyle and high standard of living, the Netherlands is not considered to be part of Scandinavia.
Keep in mind as well that the term “Holland” is often used interchangeably with the Netherlands, but it is important to note that Holland is only a region within the country and it doesn’t represent the entire nation.
Are Dutch people considered Nordic?
No, the Dutch people aren’t considered Nordic. The Netherlands isn’t on the Nordic Council, the members of which are Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. In addition, other organizations, such as the UN, do not include the Netherlands in the group of countries considered Nordic.
The Nordic Council is an organization that brings together the five above mentioned Nordic countries to promote cooperation and collaboration.
While being on the Nordic Council isn’t a prerequisite to being Scandinavian (after all, as mentioned, there are many who argue that neither Finland nor Iceland should be considered Scandinavian either), it does help.
Other organizations also don’t consider the Netherlands as being Nordic, noting that many people use the terms Nordic and Scandinavian effectively interchangeably. For instance, the UN only refers to five countries as being “Nordic”.
Were the Dutch Vikings?
The Dutch were not typically considered to be Vikings. While the Vikings were known for their raids and settlements in various parts of Europe, including Frisia in what is now mainly the Netherlands, they were primarily based in what is today Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
The Vikings, also known as the Norsemen, were seafaring warriors and traders from Scandinavia who were active during the Viking Age, which lasted from the late 8th century to the mid-11th century.
However, Dutch culture and identity formed as a result of a complex history of migration, invasion and cultural exchange that began before the Viking age and continued long after it.
It’s well established though that Vikings raids took place in Frisia. Frisia is a coastal realm located in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, that was at its largest from the years 650 to 734.
The Vikings established trade routes with Frisia and it’s thought they may have even settled in some areas, such as the island of Wieringen. This resulted in fairly basic forts being built along with cooperation with the citizens of Frisia. There has even been jewelry and weights found in the region that is almost certainly from the Vikings.
However, their arrival wasn’t always peaceful, as they were known to launch raids and attacks on coastal towns and villages. Notably, parts of the region were occupied by Vikings in the 840s, until sometime around 885 and 920.
While Frisia remains a strong maritime region, known for its shipbuilding and fishing industries, this isn’t a direct influence of the Vikings, given that this was a seafaring region anyway. That said, there was definitely Viking presence in the area during the main years of the Viking era.
At the same time, this doesn’t mean that the Dutch can be considered Vikings. Plenty of modern countries recorded Viking raids, but they can’t be considered as being specifically Vikings. The same is, accordingly, due for the Netherlands
Do the Dutch have Viking blood?
While Viking settlements (and raids) would have certainly resulted in some Viking blood being found in the Netherlands, it’s not accurate to say that, in general, the Dutch have Viking blood. This is much more certain for people based in Scandinavia, particularly Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
It is believed that the Vikings may have had a significant impact on the Netherlands, as they are known to have traded and settled in the region. There is also clear historical evidence of Viking raids having taken place.
However, it is important to note that the Vikings were not the only group of people to settle in the Netherlands during the early Middle Ages, and the region has a long history of immigration and cultural exchange.
It is possible that some Dutch people may have ancestors who were of Viking descent, but it is also likely that the Dutch people are a product of a diverse range of cultural and ethnic influences.
Even today, the Dutch culture is a melting pot of various influences from all over Europe, and the Dutch language, which is part of the Germanic family, has been influenced by French, Latin and Germanic languages.
In conclusion, while the Vikings may have had an impact on the Netherlands through trade and settlement, it isn’t accurate to say that the Dutch have Viking blood. The Dutch culture, like many others, is a product of a diverse range of cultural and ethnic influences.
Can Dutch people live in Scandinavia?
Yes, Dutch people can live in Scandinavia. Denmark, Finland and Sweden are part of the European Union (EU), which allows for freedom of movement for citizens of EU member states. In addition, Iceland and Norway are members of the European Economic Area (EEA) and thus also provide freedom of movement.
This means that Dutch citizens have the right to live and work in any of the Scandinavian countries without the need for a visa or special permission.
The one exception is the Faroe Islands. While it is part of Denmark, it’s a self-governing country and thus not part of the EU. This means that freedom of movement is not provided there.
Can Scandinavians live in the Netherlands?
Yes, Scandinavians can live in the Netherlands. As the Netherlands is an EU member state, citizens of Finland, Denmark, and Sweden, as EU members, have the right to live and work in the Netherlands without the need for a visa or special permission. Nationals of Iceland and Norway can also go to the Netherlands without a visa.
See the full set of requirements here as provided by the Dutch government.
Fortunately, many of the cultural and other similarities, as I’ll go through below, between the Netherlands and Scandinavia also make it very easy for Scandinavians to find work in the Netherlands as well as to assimilate with Dutch culture.
How to get from the Netherlands to Scandinavia?
You can travel by train, bus, car or plane between the Netherlands and Scandinavia. The two are very close, with Amsterdam and Copenhagen (the closest Scandinavian capital) being around 500 miles (800 km) apart from one another, although the Netherlands doesn’t share a border with a Scandinavian country.
I always prefer the train to travel in this part of the world. It’s well priced, you end up in the center of your destination city, you don’t need to mess around with airport security and you can work using the train’s WiFi as you continue along your journey, meaning you can travel during the day without having to take a day off!
Of course, you can also fly, with dozens of flights from the Netherlands to various Scandinavian destinations each day.
But given the very short distance for a plane and the focus on sustainability in this part of the world, it’s definitely better to try to take a train, if you can.
Similarities between the Netherlands and Scandinavia
High standard of living
The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries are known for their high standards of living and strong welfare systems. They have low poverty and unemployment rates, and their citizens have access to high-quality healthcare, education, and social services.
The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries have strong economies, which are characterized by low inflation, low unemployment, and high GDP per capita. They are also known for their high levels of productivity, innovation, and international trade.
Modern and progressive societies
The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries are considered to be modern and progressive societies.
They have a high level of gender equality, progressive policies towards LGBTQ+ rights, and a strong focus on environmental sustainability. They are also known for their political stability and strong democratic institutions.
Cultural and historical ties
The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries have cultural and historical ties that date back to the Viking Age. They have similar cultural traditions and share a common Germanic heritage.
Additionally, the Dutch language is part of the Germanic family of languages, which is also the family of languages spoken in several of the Scandinavian countries.
The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries share a similar climate, characterized by cool summers and relatively mild winters. This makes them suitable places to live and work.
High level of English
Both the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries have a high level of English proficiency, making it easy for people to communicate and conduct business in English.
The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries place a high value on work-life balance, with a strong emphasis on leisure time and the importance of spending time with family and friends.
This is reflected in the laws and policies that protect employees’ rights to paid vacation time, sick leave and parental leave.