What is a gemeente?

By Dmitry Kann 2 min read This post in Russian 0414

I’d like to start filling my newborn Glossary with the term gemeente.

Gemeente usually means one of the two things: a municipality or a local town hall.

Municipality

A gemeente is the smallest administrative unit in the Netherlands. The cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam also had sub-units called deelgemeente in the past, but in 2014 the number of administrative layers in the country has been reduced to only two.

Currently the Netherlands is divided into provinces, which, in turn, are subdivided into municipalities, a.k.a. gemeentes. As of 1 January this year the European part of the country is made up by 355 municipalities.

All continental Dutch provinces and municipalities. Map by gemeentenatlas.nl.
All continental Dutch provinces and municipalities. Map by gemeentenatlas.nl.

Next to these continental units there are also three Antilles territories, which bear a special status.

Local council

There was a specific purpose for splitting up the country into gemeentes: each of them has a local government that defines rules applicable there.

Every gemeente has a mayor (burgemeester), a number of aldermen (wethouders) representing a local legislative body, and a council (gemeenteraad), whose members are elected by the inhabitants.

Town hall

This is arguably the most common meaning of the word: town (city) hall, i.e. a place where the locals settle matters like marriage, birth registration, or construction permit.

The correct name for it is, however, gemeentehuis, stadhuis, or raadhuis. The word huis here means “house”. ■

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