The Dutch and their Dutch

Dutch is a strange language. Many expats live in the Netherlands for years and never truly get to grips with it. There are so many unwritten rules that you simply cannot learn everything from a textbook. You can ask Dutch people to explain why a word is written in a certain way or why a verb is conjugated like it is and sometimes they won’t be able to explain it to you. It just is how it is.

You can learn the basic rules and I would advise anyone to take a language course as soon as they have settled in if they are planning on staying here. But, should you want to get down to the real nitty-gritty of the language it’s simply a case of immersing yourself in Dutch culture and surrounding yourself with Dutch speaking people. And by that I mean, Dutch-speaking people who actually speak Dutch to you!

As there is one small problem here, Dutch people love to speak to foreigners in their language. It’s that Dutch confidence thing again that often gets misinterpreted as arrogance (say no more). The number of times I have heard Dutch people saying ‘’Oh I speak French, I studied French for 2 years when I was 13, I’ll do the talking’’, eh what? As a B.A graduate in French, I would never be so presumptuous. It is however always quite entertaining to hear that person then proceed to give directions or order a meal in their best ‘mastered’ French.




I know a lot of expats who get along nicely with just the basic survival words in Dutch. Here are a few; lekker (can be used almost everywhere), gefeliciteerd (be sure and use this almost everywhere), leuk (everything is leuk), zo (just put it at the start or end of your sentence, nobody will notice), hoor (ahem, no explanation needed here, but please pronounce it properly), dus (if you have nothing left to say). But, if you want to integrate and really enjoy a decent conversation in Dutch then get practicing and don’t ever tell anyone you speak English, French, German etc.

If you can’t beat them, join them.


Tracy Rozemeijer-Sexton
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