Saint Martin/Sint Maarten

I occasionally like to visit this site’s statistics to have a look at all you lovely readers come from. I’m always amazed and grateful to see people from all over the world (I’d love to know if the two visits from Greenland were two different people, or the same person visiting two different pages).

It was interesting to notice that I’ve had a few visits from both Saint Martin and Sint Maarten.

You may know about the Caribbean island of Saint Martin. It was divided between France (Saint Martin, in the north) and the Netherlands (Sint Maarten, in the south) by the Treaty of Concordia in 1648.

I find it fascinating that the two entities share the same name, but are distinguished by that name being in different languages. And of course the island itself is called Saint Martin, so you’ve got three distinct entities all with the same name.

It also of course reminds me of Belgium, another land separated between Dutch and French speakers, only with much less sunshine.

I wonder if this oddity of nomenclature has ever caused any odd mishaps. Has anyone ever though they were going on holiday to Saint Martin, but then found out that they’d actually booked a hotel in Sint Maarten? You hear stories about that all the time, like people booking flights to Birmingham, Alabama, instead of Birmingham, England. Though it probably wouldn’t be such a big deal if you ended up in a hotel in Sint Maarten instead of Saint Martin, as you could probably just take a taxi over the border.

I think if I were a travel agent though I’d probably be needlessly cruel with English-speaking tourists and force them to pronounce either Saint Martin or Sint Maarten in the appropriate accent.

But of course, these are supposed to be English-language thoughts, so I should share a new term I’ve learned: collectivity. The official name of Saint Martin (the French part of the island) is the Collectivity of Saint Martin, one of five French overseas collectivities along with French Polynesia, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna. If you want to know what exactly being an overseas collectivity involves, well, I won’t bore you with the details. The English language is full of different terms for different types of overseas regions which aren’t exactly countries in their own right: crown dependencies and so on. That’s all fascinating in itself, but perhaps a post for another time. I’ll simply say, if you’re reading this in Saint Martin or Sint Maarten, bonjour/hallo!

3 thoughts on “Saint Martin/Sint Maarten

  1. Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada came as a complete surprise to one couple who thought they were heading to Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

    Some years ago, my sister and her family were visiting me in a suburb of Sydney (NSW, Aus). To check their route to the airport, I typed my suburb and Sydney airport into a well-known maps/route website. It suggested driving overland to Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, kayaking to Japan, Hawaii and Seattle, then driving via Chicago and Toronto to Sydney (CB Is, NS, Can), estimated travel time 55 days. My second attempt, using ‘Mascot Airport’, cut the travel time down to 45 minutes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the second option was the best! I had a similar, though less dramatic, experience recently. On holiday in the Basque country, I wanted to drive from San Sebastian to Guernica (west of San Sebastian). The journey started taking me east, but I thought maybe I had to double back to get on the motorway. Once I saw the signs for France though, I knew I was headed the wrong way entirely, but I decided to see where it’d take me. It turned out you couldn’t just put a town or city into the satnav, and it took me to a bar called Guernica in Bayonne in France (still only 30 mins away). I’d wanted to go there anyway, so I stayed for a pleasant afternoon!


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