Nine Dutch words every foreigner in NL uses, even if they don’t speak Dutch

There are some Dutch words which just sneak in to the conversation either because we use them so much or because there is no equivalent in our own tongues.

These should not be confused with 10 Dutch words which made it into everyday English or 11 false friends. Here’s a list of nine Dutch words every buitenlander drops into the conversation.

Lekker: the proverbial first word everyone seems to learn and which describes just about everything which is positive. Even people who say they don’t speak a word of Dutch will use the odd ‘lekker’.



Borrel: For some reason, we don’t go for drinks, we always have a borrel. And if you are young expats working in an international environment you may even have an vrijmibo

Btw: Always pronounced bee tee wee and meaning tax, not ‘by the way’.

There is no escaping accijns


Atv: Unlike btw, atv is often pronounced in the English way (by English speakers), as in ‘I’ve got an ei tee vee tomorrow. Lucky you.

Gemeente: perhaps it is because foreigner have so much to do with the good folks in the town hall, but everyone talks about the gemeente, never the council.

Makelaar: Those other good folk who find houses for extortionate fees.

Bel: When you have been in in the Netherlands a few weeks, everyone seems to stop phoning. We bel, as in ‘I’ll bel you tonight’.

Bellen on a bicycle?

Bellen on a bicycle?

Horeca: As in working in the horeca… its a terrifically handy term – hotel, restaurant cafe – and one which the rest of the world could easily adopt.

Apotheek: Another word that just sneaks in, even though there are plenty of respectable foreign language equivalents.

Feel free to contribute more… we know this is just the start.


1 thought on “Nine Dutch words every foreigner in NL uses, even if they don’t speak Dutch

  1. Pavlin Stoychev

    I have 3 more words: Kip and Sap – they are short, sound nice and “in your face” every day when you shop food or drinks. Also Storing – all NS users have experienced the power of this word


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