Thinking about where to go on your next holiday?
With its iconic windmills, gorgeous fields, and wonderful canals, The Netherlands is a great choice you may want to consider.
Worried about your Dutch level? Don’t be.
By learning a few core phrases (Dutch expressions that make up the majority of everything Dutch people say every day), you should be able to engage in simple but meaningful conversations.
Below, you will find a list of essential Dutch phrases that you need to learn and practice before you travel to Amsterdam.
Dutch people are known for their great level of English and their great predisposition to use this language when talking to tourists.
For this reason, it’s easy to get lazy and think that there is no real reason to learn Dutch before visiting the Netherlands. We disagree. Learning a few basic Dutch phrases is a nice courtesy towards your hosts, and it shows them that you appreciate their culture. In this way, you can turn what would be a simple conversation into a fun way of impressing the locals and making new friends.
Wanna play it safe? Use Hallo, a basic but popular greeting you can use in any context.
A bit more informal, this greeting is more appropriate for casual conversations.
Normally used when you enter a store, a hotel, or a bar, these rather formal Dutch phrases can be used both with acquaintances and with people you don’t know. You can shorten Goefemorgen to Morgen, and Goedenmiddag to Middag.
Now, this is one of the most confusing Dutch phrases for foreign learners. Dag literally means “day” (as in “good day”), but it is a “goodbye” word. In fact, it’s the most universal greeting of its kind, as you can use it in any conversation, whether formal or informal.
This cheerful phrase is used by restaurant or shop workers as customers leave the place. It’s casual, yet suitable for people you don’t know. It’s also figurative, so you can also use it after a bad date even if a second one is out of the question.
While Dutch people are not extremely formal, they do appreciate politeness. For example, passing someone you know without at least waving and saying Goedemorgen or Goedemiddag can be seen as standoffish.
While basic etiquette is pretty much the same as in English-speaking countries –covering your mouth while yawning, knocking on the door before entering a room– there are a few Dutch phrases that you should learn if you want to impress locals with your manners.
This is the formal version of “Thank you,” so you should use it with people you don’t know very well.
This one, which changes “u” by “je”, is a more informal phrase for “Thank you.” Alternatively, you can use Bedankt, which is an equivalent for the casual “Thanks.”
As it happens with “thank you,” there is a formal and an informal way of saying “please.” Use Alstublieft in formal contexts. For example: Alstublieft, meneer, kunt u mij de weg naar de Erasmusbrug vertellen? (“Please, sir, can you tell me the way to the Erasmus Bridge?”)
Need a more casual word for “please”? Then use the phrase above instead. It’s the one you would need for things like Meer jenever, alsjeblieft. *hik* (More jenever, please. *hiccup*)
Want to call a stranger’s attention so you can ask her how to get to a specific place? Use Pardon, but make sure you don’t make it too French!
Use titles for people in professional positions or simply for people that you need to address in a formal way, as when approaching someone in the street to say something like Meneer, uw pruik gaat eraf (“Sir, your wig is coming off”).
Yes, the word for sorry is the same as in English, but with a long “o” and a rolled “r”.
While being able to say “hello,” “please,” and “thank you” is a great first step, if you really want to get people to know you, you’ll have to make more of an effort.
If you have already booked your flight to Amsterdam and you don’t have time to learn Dutch at a language school, don’t sweat it. With the Dutch phrases below, you will be able to show interest and keep the conversation going.
It’s always nice to ask people how they are before inquiring about their profession or relationship status, don’t you think?
By the way, the most common answers to these questions include Prima (Fine), Niet slecht (Not bad), and Het gaat goed met me (I’m doing great).
Oh, by the way, don’t forget to ask what their name is…
Or tell them yours…
Or show some extra courtesy…
Remember that Amsterdam is a very cosmopolitan city. So don’t be surprised if you end up meeting someone from other parts of the world. To tell them where you come from, say Ik ben van… (I’m from…)
(Make sure you don’t ask this one to someone who looks like they could be offended by the question.)
Now, it may happen that someone overestimates your Dutch skills and starts speaking really fast. If that’s the case, ask this question to make them slow down.
Still don’t get everything they’re saying? You may need them to repeat key words and phrases.
Okay, so you want to give up, don’t you? It’s alright, at least you tried.
Socializing is a big part of traveling, but it’s not the only one. When you’re on vacation, you do lots of things every day. Whether you’re into shopping, trying typical restaurants, or just sightseeing, here are a few Dutch phrases you should memorize before traveling.
Use this phrase to order whatever you want to have in a bar or restaurant. Here are a few options:
- Ik wil graag een biertje.(I’d like a beer.)
- Ik wil graag een fles water.(I’d like a bottle of water.)
- Ik wil graag de dagschotel.(I’d like the dish of the day.)
- Ikwil graag een portie friet. (I’d like a portion of fries.)
Wanna keep things a bit more formal? Replace Ik wil graag for Mag ik een? and wow everyone with your manners.
Use this one to ask for a second (or third, or four) round of whatever it is you’re having.
While we strongly believe trying local food is one of the pleasures of traveling, this phrase might come in handy if you’re traveling with your children.
Whether you’re at home or in a small town in The Netherlands, when you gotta go, you gotta go.
Had enough drinks already? Say De rekening to ask for the check and in a few minutes you’ll be good to go.
Would you like to go beyond Dutch phrases and start working on your fluency? Learn Dutch with a qualified native teacher for free! Explore our Free Trial Dutch Classes and get your first lesson at no cost. We’ll match you with a professional tutor who will prepare a course tailored to your needs and interests. Contact us on our website to get started!