All is not what is seems with the following words.
1. The English translation for witlof is chicory, you know the white leaves (bit of olive oil, tiny amount of mustard and lemon, and a handful of walnuts) with the bitter taste. It is also called Belgian endive which is where the confusion begins for andijvie (mix almost raw with mashed potatoes and fried bacon) which is translated as curly endive, is, although from the same family, an entirely kettle of endives.
Here’s a mnemonic device in case you find yourself at the vegetable stall in the market and it’s too far to point: Witlof is white. Don’t ask for ‘chicorei’ in your desperation: it is something else entirely which we won’t go into because it’ll only add to the confusion.
2. Half negen is 8.30 in the Netherlands whereas in Britain is means half past nine. Many a relationship must have been nipped in the bud because of this.
3. Eekhoorn, in spite of of sounding like acorn (well, sort of) does not mean acorn. It means squirrel. Squirrels do like acorns but these are called ‘eikels’ in Dutch. A squirrel which can’t find its acorns could be called a bit of an ‘eikel’ which doubles up as ‘dickhead’ in English
4. Isolatie is both insulation and isolation. ‘Het dak is goed geïsoleerd’ means that the roof is well-insulated not that it is up there all alone.
5. Zonde is not so much a false friend as a duplicitous one. It means both sin and wastefulness. Are you throwing these vegetables away?, a frugal Dutch friend might say. Wat zonde! She/he isn’t calling you a sinner for doing it (but she/he’s not far off).
6. Schuld is another example of that classic Dutch Calvanism, meaning both debt and guilt. No wonder the Dutch don’t like credit cards.
7. An ondernemer is not an undertaker – as in the appocryphal story about the Dutch minister who got this wrong on a foreign trip. An ondernemer is an entrepreneur – or someone who undertakes things. A begrafenisondernemer, however, is an undertaker. An undertaker can be an entrepreneur at the same time.
8. Actueel means topical in English, not actual. Actual is ‘feitelijk’
9. Chef in Dutch means boss, but never in a restaurant kitchen.
10. Dapper in Dutch means brave, not neat and spruce.
11. Ask your Dutch hairdresser for a pony and you will get a fringe cut to your eyes, not have your hair pulled back into a tail at the back of your head.
Got more examples – do let us know.