The Grote rivieren, literally translated Great (or Large) rivers, is a landform in the Netherlands. In addition, it is commonly used as a figure speech to denote a divide in Dutch culture linking to the broader Dutch-Flemish culture.
Geographically the term refers to the bisection of the Netherlands by the rivers Nederrijn, Lek, Waal, Merwede and Meuse. This bisection is 25 km. wide and 150 km. long, and was used by the Roman Empire as a border.
By use of the colloquialism above/below the great rivers the boundary created by the rivers is highlighted in a cultural sense. The major divergence here is the difference between the predominantly Protestant north and predominantly Catholic south. In addition, dialectical differences (such as the use of the so-called Hard G in the north and the soft G in the south) as well as historical economic development are included in the expression. Although differences are often exaggerated, they display that whilst often a divide is made between Dutch (i.e. the entire Netherlands) and Belgian/Flemish culture, the major cultural divide within Dutch-speaking areas is located within the Netherlands itself, between northern Dutch culture (i.e. the entire Netherlands except Noord-Brabant and Limburg) and southern Dutch culture (i.e. Flanders and the Dutch provinces Noord-Brabant and Limburg). These cultural divergences play a part in the daily life within the Dutch-speaking region and are factors in personal identification among its inhabitants.
- Nederlandse en Vlaamse identiteit, Betekenis, onderlinge relatie en perspectief. Civis Mundi, 2006. (Dutch)
- 'Though in everyday speech people like to speak of 'Hollandic' (the entirety of the Netherlands, red.) and 'Flemish' spheres as main cultural antagonists, the true cultural boundary is situated in North-Brabant and Dutch Limburg'. As quoted from Ons Erfdeel based on Nederlandse cultuur in internationaal verband, Prometheus, Amsterdam, 1995. (Dutch)