Ten essential Dutch expressions

You many be learning Dutch, you may be ignoring the language altogether or you may be a fluent speaker. Here is a handy list of 10 Dutch expressions which everyone needs to know.

1. Heb ik wat van je aan? When you look at a Dutch person fixedly they may ask you if they are wearing something of yours. This is not meant kindly so take care not to stare.

2. Daarom, (pronounced: derooom: This means ‘exactly’ and is an expression of concurrence. However, it usually has nothing to do with what the other speaker has just said. It’s either an excuse to take over the conversation or a ploy to mask the fact that you have been fast asleep for the last five minutes. Watch an excellent demonstration of Daarom usage here

3. Krijg toch de tering/kanker/typhus ‘Get TB/cancer/typhoid’ – take your pick – is an examples of the Dutch predilection for wishing nasty diseases on people. Sometimes followed by ‘achter je hart’ (behind your heart).

4. Ik zeg maar zo, ik zeg maar niks, (I’ll just say I say nothing) typical example of Dutch poldering: prudent, non-committal, on the fence.

5. Dat kan niet. It can’t be done, impossible. Phrase familiar to expats faced with Dutch bureaucracy.

Mr Wilders shows how its done

Mr Wilders shows how its done

6. Doe effe normaal (behave). Made famous by Geert Wilders (above) who said it to the prime minister in parliament, this expression is indicative of the Dutch wish to appear ‘normal’ and not stand out.  Also: Doe maar normaal, dan doe je gek genoeg (Normal is crazy enough)

7. Doe je dat (bij je moeder) thuis ook? (do you do that at home too?) Used by suicidal train staff when they see three thugs with their feet on the opposite seats.

8. Op één been kun je niet lopen. (You can’t walk on one leg)  An excuse for having another one.

9. Kinderen die vragen, worden overgeslagen (children who ask won’t get anything). A good Calvinistic tradition that has fallen into disuse.

10. Hoge bomen vangen veel wind (High trees catch a lot of wind) People who distinguish themselves often attract criticism. See: Doe effe normaal.

4 thoughts on “Ten essential Dutch expressions

  1. Leo

    11. Nog een met de jas aan. (Just one more before I’m going home) When you should go home be but hang around for one more beer. Can be used multiple time according to your liking.

  2. paganphotoprod

    12. Ben je in de kerk geboren?/Zeker in een kerk geboren!; Are you born in a church?/Must be born in a church! used when somebody doesn’t shut doors when leaving a room.

    13. We stoken niet voor de kat zijn kut/viool!; another doozie regarding leaving doors open; We are not heating for the cats cunt/violin.

  3. Mavadelo

    Die is niet goed in zn bovenkamer (he is not well in his upstairs room) meaning he is nuts.
    Doe maar normaal dan doe je al gek genoeg (just behave normal you will already behave crazy enough) guess the translation says all


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