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Many Dutch people mistakenly believe Piet Jansen to be the most common first and last names in the Netherlands. Yet, in reality Piet Jansen is far less prevalent than you might think… and outside of the Netherlands, even the most conventional of Dutch names are considered exotic!
Rather than the name Jansen, De Jong, closely followed by De Vries, are actually the most widespread surnames in the Netherlands. Indeed Jansen only makes third place in the list of most common Dutch surnames although, as the name can also be spelled ‘Janssen’, if you count both names together, then it does in fact come first.
Unlike surnames (which you automatically inherit from birth), Dutch forenames are hugely subject to fashion. From the seventeenth century, right up until the end of the nineteenth century, Jan was the most common boys name and Maria the most common girls name in the Netherlands. This only began to change in the twentieth century, when boys were increasingly called Johannes and girls Johanna (source: Genealogie online). However, it wasn’t until the 1950s that proud Dutch mothers and fathers became increasingly inventive, giving their newborn boys and girls more original names, such as Linda, Kim, Astrid, Monique, Marcel en Richard. Many of these more modern first names came from abroad and were encouraged by the rise of television and radio, the influx of immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s and a sharp increase in foreign holidays. Today, these names seem hopelessly out-dated – in the 3rd quarter of 2013 the most popular Dutch first name was Sem for baby boys and Tess for little girls.
Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?