10 Dutch Words You Seriously Need to Know For Living in the Netherlands

By: Linda Dell'Omo

As an educated linguist, languages are a sort of obsession for me. I take pride in speaking the local language when travelling, even if it's just a few words. For that reason, I have always imagined that I could never live in a country and not speak its language.

Sadly, this is what is happening in the Netherlands. I absolutely do not speak Dutch - not yet, at least. The excellent level of English spoken everywhere (from the office to the shops, and even on the bus) makes you feel no urgency to learn the local language.

What is strange is that even Dutch people do not recommend this challenge: "too difficult", "useless", "not worth the effort" are the most common reactions when I said that I am studying Dutch.

After getting these comments, of course my first question to any expat I met here was: "can you speak Dutch?”. Most of them admitted that they did not even try, or that they abandoned the challenge after a while, with no great success. Everybody agreed that Dutch is a difficult language. I must confess that it is, especially for those who do not have a background in Germanic languages. But nothing too easy can be fun, so why not give it a try?

So, here is a list of the ten words you will need to master if you want to understand a little of the Dutch culture and make your everyday interactions funnier, even if you are just a tourist.

1. Dank je wel!
This one is very important! Dank je wel (dahnk-ye-vel) means "thank you" and can be literally translated as "thank you indeed". The formal version is dank u wel (dahnk-oo-vel). It is of course very polite to use the local expression when you what to say thanks. It is guaranteed to get you a smile!

2. Sorry
Wondering how to say "sorry"? Well, this is easy ;) Although you should pronounce it with a shorter and rounder R, as if you were trying to sound French. It is ok to use it both as "excuse me" and "I am sorry". A big smile is always the perfect match to this word!

3. Mag ik een ... alstublieft?
This one is very useful if you want to order something at the bar or the restaurant. The translation is "May I have a ... please". Just fill the dots with any word of your choice, even if it's English: the waiter will think you are very cute. The pronunciation is not difficult, but you'll need to use the scraping "ch" sound of the German languages (mach-ik-ein-...-alshtublif). Some words you may use with it are koffie, bier (bee-er), haring...

4. Wilt u de bon?
"Do you want your receipt?" is something you will be asked very often if you go shopping at the supermarket. For some unknown reason, Dutch cashiers will always print your receipt, but will only give it to you upon request. If you want your receipt, just say "ja" or "ja, alstublieft".

5. Hoe gaat het?
This means "how are you?" and is pronounced "hu-haat-et". The usual reply is "alles goed!" and you may also add "en met jou?" (en-met-yaw) – that is "everything is good, and you?".

6. Lekker VS Mooi
Lekker means a lot of things, but the main meaning is “tasty", and can be used both for food and...hot babes (but be informed, it is VERY informal!). You can for example say "dat is lekker" about the food in your plate, or "jij bent lekker" if you want to say..."you're hot!". Dutch people use lekker a lot.

Mooi means "nice" or "beautiful". You can for example admire a view or a painting and say that it is "mooi", but you can also use it compliment someone (without being allusive this time!).

7. Fiets
Pronounced "feets", it means “bike”. This is the very essence of the Netherlands! As this is the best and cheaper way to move around and visit a city, I highly recommend that you rent a bike during your stay. Fietsverhuur is a bycicle rental and huurfiets is a rental bike. Now you can go practice your "mag ik een huurfiets alstublieft" skills!

8. Doei!
Pronounced as "doo-ee", this is the Dutch equivalent of "bye bye". It has a very cute sound and I love to say it all the time, both to friends and strangers, for example when I am leaving a store. It's informal, but use it without shame: it will make you sound so adorable!

9. Wiet
Wiet (veet) is of course...weed. In fact the Dutch word comes from the English one. You will be surprised to find out that not many Dutch like to smoke weed. Almost everybody has tried it, but most of the people in the coffee shops in Amsterdam are foreigners.

10. Jenever
A juniper-flavored traditional liquor, typical of the Netherlands and Belgium. You can actually find it in many flavours and levels of sweetness. A nice place to drink Jenever in Amsterdam is Wynand Fockinck, a distillery that also has a (often very crowded) tasting room. Traditionally, the little tulip-shaped glass in which the Jenever is served will be filled up to the border, so you should drink it without using your hands or lifting it, in order not to spill it: the correct way to do it is bending your back to apply your mouth to the glass.

There you go, now you are ready to visit the Netherlands like a boss. By the way, did you know that the word boss comes from the Dutch baas? And there are many other English words that were coined from the Dutch. Isn’t that amazing? And now that you have started learning your first words...don't you feel like learning more?

Happy Dutch speaking!

About the author

Expat Blog ListingLinda Dell'Omo is an Italian expat living in Netherlands. Blog description: Expat life, Dutch society, Italian culture. All of this and much more: practical tips, bureaucracy, life and work hacks. My name is not Alice, but Linda. And I am not lost in Wonderland, but in the country of tulips and windmills.
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Contest Comments » There are 23 comments

Hayley wrote 10 years ago:

Awesome list! I agree with the first 8, but maybe that's because I don't smoke weed or drink Jenever ;-) Good luck with learning the language... I'm also learning Dutch, but I still live in the UK so it's a bit tricky. Hopefully I'll pick it up much faster when I move there (later next year) but in the meantime it is nice to at least be able to order food and drinks in Dutch, they seem to appreciate it! Ps - there's a small typo on point 7: bycicle.

Olga@The EuropeanMama wrote 10 years ago:

Great list-very helpful! I speak Dutch but found your list really good! I would also add: "hoor" as a filler word that you can add anywhere you want, hoor.

Giuseppe Mariano wrote 10 years ago:

I am also going to move to the Netherlands very soon so I'd better start learning these words :) Thanks!

Joost wrote 10 years ago:

Nice column Linda! Great and funny to see how expats see our language and culture. Enjoy the gezelligheid and oliebollen around the upcoming feestdagen!

Marco wrote 10 years ago:

Cool list Linda!Engaging and funny at the same time..Let's try now to write a small paragraph including all the words you mentioned.. ;-)

Matteo wrote 10 years ago:

Dank je wel Linda for this “mooi” post! We look forward to seeing you at “inlander” party! Doei :)

Claudia wrote 10 years ago:

Thank you Linda for this helpful article. I will start to learn dutch!

Andrea wrote 10 years ago:

ahahah very nice and useful, I will definitly have to try to move in there and try one of these, my preferred is Lekker VS Mooi :D thaaank you linda

Margherita Giancotti wrote 10 years ago:

Great post Linda! I have been living in the Netherlands for one year and I totally agree with what you wrote! I think my knowledge of dutch right now (not proud of it at all!!) stops at the first word! So DANK JE WEL, I will start with this list!

Claudia wrote 10 years ago:

hallo linda, artikel echt interessant en leuk. l? Nederland is een prachtig land! veel succes!

Martina Babini wrote 10 years ago:

Nice post! Very useful post Linda. I will keep all these infos in my pockets if i ever decide to move to Netherlands.

Roberto Sasso wrote 10 years ago:

go girl go! we all are waiting for further articles! i'm lovin' it :D

Miche wrote 10 years ago:

i'm not completely sure about "sorry", but the rest seems legit ;o) thanks for this, i'll make sure i keep up to date with all of your posts so that i'm ready for when i'll come visit!!! you still owe me drinks :oP

Danila Bigazzi wrote 10 years ago:

"Mag ik een bier alstublieft" and "Dank je wel!"... now I'm perfectly able to come to the Netherlands and visit my friends who live in Amsterdam... thanks a lot! :P

Manu wrote 10 years ago:

this is a very good start. I'm waiting for more update into your learning :) good luck.

Sergio wrote 10 years ago:

Very nice and well written article! I don't speak a word of Dutch but it was interesting to have a little insight about it, and you did it in a very clear and light way.

Leo wrote 10 years ago:

very good job mongolinda, now you'd better start studying hard so that you can write another list soon!

Michele wrote 10 years ago:

It was fun reading this list :) I would also add "schatje" for those who have a girlfriend in the Netherlands ;)

Dani wrote 10 years ago:

Very helpful Linda! Now I'm curious, what other English words come from Dutch?

Gaetano Pessa wrote 10 years ago:

I can finally start to speak Dutch! After 3 months I do not know a word! Possible that there is a language with all these consonants?

Francesca wrote 10 years ago:

Thank you, now I'm finally ready to go to amsterdam, speaking dutch words of love with the man of my life.

Laura Pieratti wrote 10 years ago:

from Italy with love: with love, dear Linda. that's not fair! too far away from us. huge hugs from Frullino

Patrizia wrote 10 years ago:

Good job! I'd like it very much. Very ice and well written text!!!

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