Ten of our favourite acronyms

The Dutch love acronyms. They love them so much there is even a book explaining them all. You will need to know lots in order make sense of what is going on around you. Here are some of our favourites:

ATV stands for arbeidstijdverkorting and literally means a cut in working hours. However, what ATV amounts to in practice is an extra day’s holiday a month. People who are officially employed for a 36 or 38 hour week often actually work 40 hours. They then compensate for the overtime by taking an extra day off, giving them 11 or 12 extra days vacation days a year.  Yippee

A BN’er is a Bekende Nederlander, or famous Dutch person. It is the title given to a host of footballers’ wives, soap stars, entertainers and other personalities who fill the gossip columns and turn out in droves to film premieres.

How to spot a BN'er

How to spot a BN’er

CAO stands for collectieve arbeidsovereenkomst (collective labour agreement). CAOs are a fundamental element of Dutch industrial relations and cover pay, working hours, conditions, bonuses, perks, training etc. And holidays.

A Dutch institution,  the Febo snack bar chain takes its name from the location of the first outlet, opened on the Ferdinand Bolstraat in Amsterdam in 1941. Febo is a coin-operated snack bar – you drop a coin into a slot which allows you to open the door to the deep-fried food of your choice. Delicious.

Horeca is an extremely handy Dutch word for describing the hotel, restaurant and café trade (ho-re-ca). The horeca sector has its own massive trade fair, Horecava, in which the ‘va’ stands for vak (profession).

Crucial in a country below sea level, NAP stands for Normaal Amsterdams Peil or the normal water level in Amsterdam, which is slightly lower than sea level.

How low can you go?

How low can you go?

NAP is used as a base to measure how high or low water levels are.  The lowest point in the Netherlands, in Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel, is 6.76 metres below NAP. Scary

The Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions (NBTC) describes itself as ‘the leading marketing and promotion organisation of the destination Holland’ which ‘manages, develops and exploits the destination brand Holland’. And you thought it was all about museums, holidays and trade fairs. Not to be confused with the NCTb, which is the Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding (NCTb) or counter-terrorism coordinator.

The first Dutch railway was built in 1839. Today Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch rail) is a 100% state-owned company which operates as a commercial enterprise.

Five minutes late is officially on time

Five minutes late is officially on time

This means it has to give its government shareholders a dividend and is allowed to pay its bosses market rates – but ministers can still get cross about how the whole system breaks down as soon as it snows. Which it does. Every year. Every time.

The Openbaar Ministerie (public prosecution service) decides whether or not a criminal offence should be taken to one of the Netherlands’ 19 district courts. If the case goes ahead, the OM prosecutes. Pronounced O M not ohm to presumably give more gravitas.

ZZP’er stands for Zelfstandige Zonder Personeel (independent without staff) and is the moniker given to the 700,000 people (2012) who work in the Netherlands as self-employed, freelancers or one-person companies.  Becoming a ZZP’er is a good way of hiding the fact you have lost your job.

Note: Nearly all acronyms which start with K are royal (koninklijk) and which start with W are laws (wet). Thus the WAO has been replaced by the WIA and the WAjong. Got it?

Thanks to our friends at DutchNews.nl for freedom to quote from A Dictionary of Dutchness.


2 thoughts on “Ten of our favourite acronyms

  1. Mavadelo

    Maaike that would be Oh Vay. A nationwide complaint about the NS in winter is fall/winter is described as “er liggen zeker blaadjes op de rails (there must be leaves on the tracks


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