I thought about that but can you imagine trying to get people to agree on how to spell Chinese names? I know there is an English transliteration of Chinese, and presume there is probably a Russian one, and a French one and... but then I realised you would have to take into account just whose perspective you are considering. So, let's say we all agreed to adopt the country's native name for itself. Okay, how do we spell the name for China? India (several languages/writing systems)? Bangladesh? Myanmar? Rwanda? And so on? Whose writing system do we agree to use? And what about the people from those countries? Do they get to choose how to spell the names of the countries? What if China wants to spell them all using their system? What about all the cities? Where do you draw the line? What about tribes that don't have a writing system, like the guys in Africa who speak the Click language, or the ones in New Guinea? I bet there are tons of other problems I am not touching on, but just think of what would happen at airports and train stations, anywhere where people are traveling from one country to another. It would be the tower of Babel all over again (not that I believe that ever happened). It would just never work. It seems like a good idea until you start to think about the logistics. I agree, though, that it is weird how some names don't seem to be connected to the country or city that they name, but history and just the way language changes over time has its way of forcing the issue, and once the name is there, it's pretty much stuck. For example, no matter how hard I try, I can't get Americans to understand (or care) that Holland is not the name of the country. It's almost like they are just too lazy to say The Netherlands. I bet they'd like Nederland better since it's shorter! I find myself using it quite often just so I don't have to explain what I mean. Another thing that bugs me is the way everybody and their dog insist on calling Brugge Bruges, which, as a native of that part of the world, just really bothers me. I'm no Vlaams Belang, not by a long shot, but Brugge is in Flanders, always has been, and we speak Vlaams/Dutch, so the name should be Brugge, not the French name. But, like I said, history has its say, and since French was the language of aristocracy and politics, Bruges it is. I can kick and scream until I'm blue but it won't change a thing. Erm...better crawl back to my cave now, before someone gets sick.
When I was a young lad I remember reading an article about how conflicted people get trying to translate Classics into another language. For example, if you are writing a piece about Giuseppe Verde, you certainly aren't going to call him Joe Green, or J.S. Bach as John Creek.
But think about it: You read a Russian classic and the guy is strolling down Glavnaya Ulitsa... ooh! How Russian! It gives a distinct exotic flavor and feel, it sets the tone; yet to a Russian he's walking down Main St - there's nothing exotic about it.
If you have the time, Google the many attempts to translate Lewis Carroll's 'Jabberwocky'. It's mostly nonsense words/sounds - yet it is brilliant and beautiful. See how certain sounds and rhythms are chosen to please the target language's audience. Fascinating (at least to me).
One consolation for your Brugge irritation, you're not alone in your irritation. Similar things happens to many geographical names, also to ones that people could easily pronounce correctly, for instance the Dutch capital Emsterdem. ;)
BTW you could try to persuade English speakers to say Bruhhe, easier for them than Brugge and closer to the local dialect. :)
I'm Dutch, but not from Holland, I don't mind Pays Bas and similar names. That's simply a translation of the correct name, they are calling the country what it is: a low land.
Variations to Holland make me feel that one part of the country is more important, that the rest doesn't matter, it's calling non-Hollanders Hollanders. I think this is the main frustration to most Dutch that are not from Holland. By and large I noticed that Hollanders don't really mind, but I guess many of them wouldn't like to be consistently called Limburger or Fries, because that's what they are not.
I have to say though that that's probably one of the reasons why is more common to say "Holanda" (i say it in spanish because i can only speak for the place i'm from), it's just weird to say "Países Bajos" because it doesn't sound like a name in spanish.. for example we don't call Iceland "País de Hielo", we call it "Islandia".. so i don't get why with The Netherlands they had to translate the name instead of using something like Nederlandia, i think it would've prevented all the confusions and mistakes
(also i think i know how the non-Hollanders feel, for me as a chilean is quite annoying when people call the USA "America" or their people "americans".. as if there weren't americans in the rest of the continent)
Some do, but mainly Hollanders (so people from the two Dutch provinces called Holland). A big difference in the use of these words is that abroad there is not much confusion if you call it Holland or the Netherlands, but in the country itself if you refer to Holland, people will usually think you refer to the two provinces Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland, not to the whole country. The usage of Hollander in Dutch is similar, those are the people from the two provinces.